Revelation 2—3: A Critical Analysis Of Seven Prophetic Messages -- By: Robert L. Muse
JETS 29:2 (June 1986) p. 147
Revelation 2—3: A Critical Analysis Of Seven Prophetic Messages
I. Scholarly Interest
Scholars have generally referred to the seven short paragraphs in Revelation 2—3 as “letters.” Most have based their conclusions on the command to John to “write” to the churches (cf. 2:1, 8, etc.).1 Early scholars like Spitta and Charles argued that the so-called letters predated the final writing and editing of the Revelation. Spitta suggested that Revelation 2—3 represented genuine letters that accompanied the body of Revelation to its destination. Charles advanced the idea that the separate letters were probably circulated near the end of Vespasian’s reign (A.D. 69-79) and eventually edited into the work. While John was shaping the final copy, Charles argued, the author made several additions to the letters in order to coordinate themes and motifs with the main idea in chaps. 4—22.2
W. Ramsay added his voice to the discussion by suggesting that Revelation 2—3 contained “literaw epistles” that were commonly used in John’s day.3 These epistles were never circulated separately but were written together in a “collection” according to the author’s plan. Thus we have in Revelation 2—3 a
*Robert Muse is professor of Biblical studies at Ontario Bible College in Willowdale, Ontario.
JETS 29:2 (June 1986) p. 148
traditional “Christian epistolary” genre that may have been influenced by the Pauline corpus in a collection form.4
Ramsay’s thesis is intriguing. But it has failed, generally, to produce evidence that the so-called “literaw” epistle genre was commonplace in early Christian literature. Likewise the “collection” argument (cf. Goodspeed) also lacks proof that a collection form, comparable to Revelation 2—3, ever existed in the early communities. More recently, Ford has suggested that Revelation 1—3 was composed sometime...
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