Persecution And The Purpose Of Revelation With Reference To Roman Jurisprudence -- By: Alan S. Bandy
BBR 23:3 (2013) p. 377
Persecution And The Purpose Of Revelation With Reference To Roman Jurisprudence
Oklahoma Baptist University
The idea that persecution against Christians in Asia Minor is background for the book of Revelation is commonly questioned in current scholarship. There is simply not any compelling evidence to support an official imperial persecution at the time of composition. As a result, one popular view is to interpret the references to persecution in rhetorical terms to create a sense of perceived persecution. This view maintains that there was no real persecution or that John may have exaggerated the feelings of persecution to emphasize his message. However, it is possible that Christians in Asia Minor experienced some form of a threat of persecution. The particular avenue for persecution came in the form of jurisprudence. This scenario is one in which tensions with opponents could have escalated to the point where the Christians may have been denounced before provincial magistrates. If placed on trial, Christians likely would have received an unfavorable outcome because as a group they lacked legal protection and had a tendency for the exclusive worship of Christ. The threat of standing trial for some aspect related to Christian faith and practice, set against the backdrop of the imperial cult, created type of crisis for believers in certain communities. John presented his vision of God’s ultimate justice and vindication as a means to promote fidelity to Christ even if it entails suffering temporary injustice.
Key Words: persecution, jurisprudence, imperial cult, John’s Apocalypse, seven churches of Asia Minor.
J. A. T. Robinson once famously quipped, “The Apocalypse, unless the product of a perfervid and psychotic imagination, was written out of an intense experience of the Christian suffering at the hands of the imperial authorities, represented by the ‘beast’ of Babylon.”1 Until the late 20th century, many scholars accepted Domitian as the second great persecutor of the church.2 Scholarship, however, has challenged the traditional view
BBR 23:3 (2013) p. 378
that the situation behind the book of Revelation boiled out of the cauldron of an empire wide persecution instituted by the emperor Domitian. The traditional view has fallen into disfavor due to the paucity of evidence supporting an official imperial persecution against Christians during his reign.3 The situation of the churches in Rev 2-3 also does not reflect persecution of the intensity ...
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