Jesus Speaks To Seven Of His Churches, Part 1 -- By: David E. Graves

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 23:2 (Spring 2010)
Article: Jesus Speaks To Seven Of His Churches, Part 1
Author: David E. Graves


Jesus Speaks To Seven Of His Churches, Part 1

David E. Graves

Relevance of Local References

Archaeology plays an important role in the exegesis of biblical texts, and this is certainly true of the messages to the seven churches in Asia Minor (Rv 2-3). One of the foremost proponents of this approach was Sir William Ramsay who began as an historical skeptic, but after visiting Asia Minor in 1890 testified to the reliability of Luke’s and John’s writings. He wrote of his trips,

I began with a mind unfavorable to it [the reliability of Acts]... but more recently I found myself often brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth (1966: 8).

His most famous work on Revelation is The Letters to the Seven Churches which is updated by Colin Hemer in his Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in their Local Setting. Both scholars document numerous allusions, commonly known as “local references,” in the seven messages1 (Rv 2, 3) to the Churches in Anatolia (modern day Turkey). They, along with other scholars, draw these “allusions” from geography, history and culture illustrated from archaeology, museum artifacts, coins (numismatics),2 and inscriptions (Ramsay 1994; Hemer2001;Scobiel993: 616-17; Wood 1961: 263-64; Porter 1987: 143-49; Harland 85-107). This only makes sense if, as Ramsay points out, “the letters were written by one who was familiar with the situation, the character, the past history, the possibilities of future development, of those seven cities” (1994: 28).

Round altar (ara) used in the Imperial Cult from the second or third century AD. Altars were usually decorated with the works of the most notable artists of the day. Most altars were erected outside in the open air and in sacred groves. Side Museum, Turkey.

Another priest of the Imperial Cult. This statue comes from Ephesus and dates from the first century AD. Notice the cord (crown) around his head, indicating his status as priest. Ephesus Museum.

Out of the possible fifty “allusions” which Ramsay documents (Hemer accepts approximately 30), this article will highlight only a few of the more likely candidates. One must not be too dogmatic a...

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