Jesus Speaks To Seven Of His Churches, Part 2 -- By: David E. Graves

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 23:3 (Summer 2010)
Article: Jesus Speaks To Seven Of His Churches, Part 2
Author: David E. Graves


Jesus Speaks To Seven Of His Churches, Part 2

David E. Graves

Sardis (Rv 3:1-6)

Sardis (modern Sart) was the capital of the kingdom of Lydia (680-547 BC), and exercised its power for over 1,500 years through the Alexandrian, Persian, Seleucid and Roman empires. It was a major fortified city (over 115 hectares—about 290 acres/1,150 Donum). Strategically located 60 mi (97 km) east of Smyrna with an acropolis rising 1,500 ft (457 m) on top of Mt. Tmolus, it overlooked the fertile Hermus plain (Mounce 1997: 92; Aune 1997: 218). Due to its location, fertile soil, gold deposits and textile industry (Pliny Natural History 33.66; Philostratus The Life of Apollonius 6:37), Sardis became a wealthy and self-sufficient city. Of all the seven cities, Sardis’ acropolis was the best protected, having a vertical rock face on three sides which formed a naturally defensible citadel. Mitten points out that due to erosion, the acropolis is about one-third its original size (1966: 55) and several major structures lie outside the city walls (Hanfmann and Waldbaum 1975). The lower city included, among other buildings, the impressive Gymnasium, temple of Artemis and large Jewish synagogue.

The main archaeological work at Sardis was carried out by the American Society for the Excavation of Sardis, under the direction of Howard Crosby Butler of Princeton University, in 1910-1914 and 1922; and by the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis, directed by George M.A. Hanfmann of Harvard University, from 1958 to the present (Hanfmann, Glueck, and Waldbaum 1975; for a bibliography, see Hanfmann, Mierse, and Foss 1983: xvii–xxxv).

The church at Sardis received the severest reprimand of the seven messages for accommodating its pagan surroundings. Caird refers to it as “a perfect model of inoffensive Christianity” (1993: 48). Christ, perceiving the true condition of their hearts, stated that they had a reputation of being alive (1,500 year history) but are actually dead (Rv 3:1); in fact, the city was declining by the first century. The possible allusion to the city’s history would have had a more powerful impact in Sardis than on other churches.

The imperatives “be watchful” (Rv 3:2 KJV) and “I will come like a thief and you will not know at what time I will come to

Looking into the Jewish synagogue, which dates to the third century AD. Its close proximity to the Gymnasium in the foreground indicates that the Jewish population in Sardis ...

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