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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Revelation 2



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἀκκλησίας. See crit. note. Some think that this would be St Timothy, and go so far as to find in St Paul’s Epistles traits of his character analogous to those here noted. But even if the “Angel” here be a bishop, it is likelier that he would be one appointed by St Timothy, if not by St John himself. 2 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 4:21, compared with Titus 3:12, seem to prove that permanent residence in one diocese was not implied by the Apostolical commission which St Paul, toward the end of his life, gave to his disciples.

ὁ κρατῶν τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀστέρας. κρατῶν may, but need not (cf. Plut. Moralia 99 D κρατῶν ἐν τῇ ἀριστερᾷ τὸν ἄρτον), mean more than holding. Ephesus being the chief city and, to some extent, the mother Church of the district, the Lord addresses the Church there in the character of Lord of all the Churches: as though (to illustrate by the later organization of the Church) He addressed all the Churches of the province in the person of their Primate.

Verses 1-7

Revelation 2:1-7. THE CHURCH IN EPHESUS

The Seven Epistles are marked by certain features common to them all. [1] They are all dictated by the Lord Himself. [2] The command to write to the Angel of the particular Church. [3] One or more of the great titles of our Lord taken for the most part from the Vision in ch. 1. [4] An address to the Angel of the Church, always commencing with “I know,” describing the circumstances of the Church, exhorting to repentance or to constancy, and ending with a prophetic announcement. [5] A promise to “him that overcometh,” generally accompanied with a call to earnest attention, “he that hath ears,” &c. (See Alford.)

Verse 2

2. τοὺς λέγοντας ἑαυτοὺς ἀποστόλους καὶ οὐκ εἰσίν. The participle and the finite verb are combined in a way irregular but not difficult, which is hardly a Hebraism, but might come natural to a writer familiar with Hebraisms. Cf. for the sense 2 Corinthians 11:13 sqq. For the question who these false Apostles at Ephesus were see Excursus II.

εὗρες αὐτοὺς ψενδεῖς. Profiting by St Paul’s warning Acts 20:28-30. ψευδεῖς perhaps rather “false” apostles than “liars.” ψεύστης is used twice in St John’s Gospel, often in his Epistles, and once in the Apocalypse (Revelation 21:8) if Lachmann is right in following the reading of A: if ψευδέσιν be right there, it is as likely as not that for the Seer ψευδὴς meant a liar, as ψεῦδος meant a lie.

Verse 3

3. καὶ ὑπομονὴν ἔχεις καὶ ἐβάστασας with א AB2C (א* adds καὶ θλίψις πάσας after ἔχεις); P 7 read ἐβάστασάς με (is it possible that this is the original on which διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου is a gloss? P does not omit the latter) καὶ ὑπομονὴν ἔχεις; 1 and 152 ἐβάπτισας καὶ ὑπομονὴν ἔχεις; Text. Rec[78] ἐβάστασας καὶ ὑπ. ἔχεις; 33, 34, 35 omit καὶ ὑπομονὴν ἔχεις; 37 and Victorinus omit καὶ ἑβάστασας.

καὶ οὐ κεκοπίακες. 16, 37, 38, 39 arm[79] read καὶ κεκοπίακας; 1 καικοπιακας κεκοπίακας καὶ οὐ κέκμηκας. The reading of Text. Rec[80] is a bold and beautiful confiation of this and the Vulgate.

Verse 4

4. τὴν ἀγάπην σου τὴν πρώτην. It is to be remembered that these words have not in ecclesiastical (or indeed in any) Greek the same sentimental associations as in English; nevertheless it is not unlikely that conjugal love is meant: cf. Jeremiah 2:2, LXX. ἐμνήσθην ἐλέους νεότητός σου καὶ ἀγάπης τελειώσεώς σου. Christ is certainly its object; it might be inferred from τὰ πρῶτα ἔργα that it showed itself in love to the brethren.

Verse 5

5. μνημόνευε οὖνκαὶ μετανόησον. Here again it is possible to suppose that the contrast of tenses has the force it would bear in ordinary Greek, that the remembrance of the fall is to continue after the instantaneous change of purpose and conduct. Neither μετανοεῖν nor μετάνοια is used in St John’s Gospel or Epistles.

τὰ πρῶτα ἔργα ποίησον. Here too we may find a reason for the aorist; the Church is not merely to set about the first works, but to “perform the doing of them.” He does not say, “Love with the first love,” though the works were only valuable as proceeding from love: for to love, though depending on the state of the will, is not a directly voluntary act. But He says, “Do the first works,” for that is in thy power. Do again what love made thee do, that thou mayest learn to love again. The paradox is as true of spiritual graces as of natural virtues (Arist. Eth. Nic. II. iv. 1, 2) that the good habitual character is only gained by good acts, while really good acts are only possible as the product of the good character.

ἔρχομαι. Lit. “I am coming” the verb having of its own nature the sense of future time; cf. Revelation 1:4 and note. Possibly the distinction of tenses is intentional, the present here and Revelation 2:16; Revelation 2:22-23; Revelation 3:11-12 marking the immediate, and the future the subsequent action of the Speaker.

κινήσω τὴν λυχνίαν σου. i. e. make thee cease to be a Church. It seems scarcely relevant to point to the destruction of the city by the Turks, and its present desolation, as a fulfilment of this threat. We may presume that the Church of Ephesus did repent, as it was famous and prosperous, and fertile in saints, for centuries. It is likely enough that the Turkish conquest was God’s judgement on the sins of the Eastern Empire and its Churches: but we cannot conclude that the Church of Ephesus was in the 14th century more corrupt than e.g. that of Smyrna, because it was more entirely exterminated.

Verse 6

6. ἀλλὰ τοῦτο ἔχεις. This one point in which thou art not wanting. Compare Revelation 2:25, Revelation 3:2; Revelation 3:11, where faithfulness is conceived as a treasure possessed and to be guarded.

μισεῖς τὰ ἔργα. Compatible with love to the persons: cf. St Judges 1:23.

τῶν Νικολαϊτῶν. See Excursus II.

Verse 7

7. ὁ ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω. A repetition, with a merely verbal alteration, of one of our Lord’s characteristic phrases in His teaching while on earth: St Matthew 11:15, &c.

τί τὸ πνεῦμα λέγει. The Seer is in the Spirit and the Lord speaks to him, and through him to the Churches, by the Spirit; in the Gospel (Revelation 14:18) the coming of the Comforter is the coming of Christ.

τῷ νικῶντι δώσω αὐτῷ. The redundant pronoun after a participle is probably to be explained on the analogy of the redundant pronoun after a relative, Revelation 3:8, &c., which, though a natural colloquialism in Greek, or non-literary English, is probably due to the influence of Hebrew, where the relative is indeclinable and the pronoun therefore not superfluous. Cf. Language of the New Testament i. 59, ii. 84. A promise thus expressed, and an invitation to attention like that preceding it, are found at the end of each of these Seven Epistles—the invitation standing first in the first three, and the promise in the last four. From this change in the order, it appears that attention is invited, not to the final promise only, but to the whole Epistle to each Church, as the Spirit’s message.

ἐκ τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς. Throughout the book the Seer speaks of the wood of life, though Revelation 7:1; Revelation 7:3, Revelation 8:7, Revelation 9:4 he uses δένδρον of earthly trees. Cf. Genesis 2:9, as well as Revelation 22:2; Revelation 22:14; Revelation 22:19. The Tree of Life appears, though not under that name, in Enoch xxiv, where we are told that there shall be no power to touch it until the period of the great judgement.

ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ. The reading of Text. Rec[109], ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ παραδείσου, is no doubt from Genesis 2:9. “Paradise,” a Persian word, adopted in both Greek and Hebrew, means simply a park or pleasure-ground, and hence is used in the LXX. (not the Hebrew) of the garden of Eden: in 2 Corinthians 12:4, Luke 23:43, we have it used of a region of the spiritual world, inhabited by the blessed dead. Whether the Paradise of God, where the Tree of Life is now, is identical either with the earthly Paradise where it grew of old, or with the New Jerusalem, where it shall grow in the new earth under the new heaven, it would be rash to speculate, though St Irenæus reports, v. 36, 1, upon the authority of the Elders, that Paradise will be a special degree of glory between the New Jerusalem and Heaven.

τοῦ θεοῦ. So τοῦ παραδείσου τοῦ θεοῦ in Ezekiel 28:13; Ezekiel 31:8, ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ τοῦ θεοῦ and τοῦ παραδείσου τῆς τρυφῆς τοῦ θεοῦ ib. 9, ὁ παράδεισος τοῦ θεοῦ in Genesis 13:10; ὡς παράδεισον κυρίου, Isaiah 51:3. Some read τοῦ θεοῦ μου as in Revelation 3:12, but on the whole the omission has more authority, and the exact O.T. phrase seems likelier.

Verse 8

8. τᾠ ἀγγέλῳ. Supposed by many of the ancient commentators to have been Polycarp.

ὂς ἐγένετο νεκρός. See on Revelation 1:18.

ἔζησεν. Lit., “lived,” i.e. came to life, revived. So Revelation 13:14, and Matthew 9:18; John 5:25. The attributes of death and life are here especially ascribed to Christ, because the message He sends is a promise of life to them who die for His sake.

Verses 8-11


Verse 9

9. πτωχείαν. Means no more than poverty: πενία, the Greek word for ordinary poverty is unknown to the New Testament, and πένης only occurs once in a quotation from the LXX. (where πτωχεία is a synonym of θλίψις). Here the poverty is perhaps the effect of the persecution, Jewish converts being, as in Hebrews 10:34, deprived of their property when put out of the synagogue on their conversion: or perhaps rather the cause of the persecution being more intense here, the Christians being people of no dignity or influence, it was safe to attack them.

ἀλλὰ πλούσιος εἶ. Contrast 1 Timothy 6:17. Compare James 2:5.

βλασφημίαν. Probably rather in the sense of calumny, coarse slanders against them, than blasphemy against their Lord: though of course both may have been combined, as when Christians were ridiculed as worshippers of the Crucified.

ἐκ τῶν λεγόντων Ἰουδαίους εἶναι ἑαυτούς. ἐκ because the calumny is not only uttered by them, but originates from them, and is very likely received and repeated among the heathen. εἶναι belongs to the oldest text here (though not sup. Revelation 2:2), because Ἰουδαίους stands before ἑαυτούς, or perhaps because λεγόντων is in the genitive. No doubt the persons meant are real Jews by birth as well as by profession, but are denied to be worthy of the name. It is treated as still an honourable title, implying religious privileges; as by St Paul in Romans 2:17; Romans 2:28-29; Romans 3:1. Contrast the way that “the Jews” are spoken of in St John’s Gospel—always meaning the chief priests and scribes, the persistent enemies of the Gospel. Hence is drawn an argument, that this book could not be written after the Gospel by the same author: though if this book were written before the fall of Jerusalem, and the Gospel long after, the change in his point of view will be intelligible.

καὶ οὐκ εἰσίν. “And they are not”—the relative construction is not continued. For similarly broken constructions cf. Revelation 1:6 καὶ ἐποίησεν, and perhaps Revelation 1:18, sup. Revelation 2:3.

συναγωγὴ τοῦ Σατανᾶ. For an instance of the same severity from the same mouth, see John 8:44. While they claimed to be, as the old Jewish Church was, “the congregation of the Lord.” Synagogue is etymologically almost equivalent to congregation, and is, as St Augustin observes, a less noble word than that used for the Christian Church, Ecclesia, a summoned assembly: for while brutes may be “gathered together,” reason (and we may add, freedom) is implied in being summoned together. But the distinction between the two words is not always maintained: Israel is called “the Church” in Acts 7:38, and the assembly of Christian Jews is called a “synagogue” in St James 2:2, and almost in Hebrews 10:25.

Verse 10

10. ἃ μέλλεις πάσχειν. The words probably refer primarily to a persecution immediately impending; but they are no doubt meant to apply also to the subsequent persecutions of the Church there, especially to the famous one, under the Antonines, in which Polycarp the bishop suffered martyrdom, in A.D. 155. It will depend on the date assigned to this book whether Polycarp can have been bishop at the time of this message. It is to be noted that the Jews were specially active in urging his execution, though officially it was the act of the pagan magistrates.

ἵνα πειρασθῆτε. “That ye may be tempted” (rather than “tried” as A. V[110], R. V[111]): it is probably rather the Devil’s object (cf. Luke 22:31) in raising the persecution, than God’s in permitting it which is meant.

ἡμερῶν δέκα. Possibly because Daniel and his companions are proved ten days, Daniel 1:9-10; possibly a half-proverbial expression for a short time, as we might say “a week or two.” And no doubt the notion of a short and definite time is intended: but from the important significance in this book of definite numbers, and not least of definite measures of time, it is probable that something more is intended too—whether that the persecution would last ten years, or what, it would be rash to say.

γίνου. Lit., “become”—not implying that he was not perfectly faithful now, but= “prove thyself,” “quit thyself as.”

τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς, i.e. eternal life as a crown; so St James 1:12. The phrase is like “the crown of glory” in 1 Peter 5:4, and probably “the crown of righteousness,” 2 Timothy 4:8. As in the parallel promise, Revelation 3:21, the throne is in the fullest sense a royal throne, the crown here is probably a royal crown (so Trench, Synonyms), not a mere garland of victory. Throughout this book the imagery is Jewish, not Gentile, and all who are finally redeemed are kings, Revelation 5:10. Both the thrones and the crowns of the elders, Revelation 4:4; Revelation 4:10, might be ensigns of dignity less than royal, but not the crown of the Eider on the White Horse, Revelation 6:2. Moreover the Crown of Thorns for which all the Evangelists use the same word as here was certainly a counterfeit of royalty. On the other hand in Revelation 19:12 the King of kings and Lord of lords has on His head many diadems, the unmistakeable technical name for royal crowns, and there are diadems on the heads of the Dragon, Revelation 12:3, and on the horns of the Beast, Revelation 13:1.

Verse 11

11. οὐ μὴ ἀδικηθῇ ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου τοῦ δευτέρου. “Shall take no hurt from the second death.” This sense of ἀδικεῖν as “injure” (=hurt), with at the very most an evanescent moral reference, is characteristic of this book. In Thuc. ii. 71, when the Peloponnesians were about to lay waste the land of Platæa, the Platæans at the beginning of the chapter warn them that this would be unjust, and towards the end adjured them τὴν γῆνμὴ ἀδικεῖν. Xen. De Re Eq. vi. 3 warns those who have to do with a horse never to get straight before nor behind him, ἢν γὰρ ἐπιχειρῇ ἀδικεῖν “for if he should be after mischief” (a horse ought not to bite or kick) κατʼ ἀμφότερα ταῦτα κρείττων ὁ ἵππος ἀνθρώπου. These apparently are the oldest passages in which any approximation to this sense of ἀδικεῖν can be traced. For the second death, see Revelation 20:6; Revelation 20:14 &c. Here and probably in chap. 20 it seems to be spoken of as already known to the Seer and his readers, though we only know it from this book.

Verse 12

12. ὁ ἔχων τὴν ῥομφαίαν. Mentioned because He threatens to use it, Revelation 2:16.

Verses 12-17


Verse 13

13. θρόνος. A high seat, in post-Homeric Greek, always a seat of special dignity: the word, which was imperfectly naturalised in Latin, was fully naturalised in English as a seat royal. The Latin translations tend, though not consistently, to distinguish the “throne” of God from the “seats” of those who reign with Him. The Old or African Latin (as attested by Cyprian, Primas[112] and cod. flo[113]. and for Revelation 20:1Revelation 21:5 in a later modified form by Augustin) invariably employs thronus for God’s seat, with the single exception of Revelation 22:1. Satan’s seat in this sense is also rendered thronus and similarly the seat of the Beast in Revelation 13:2, but in Revelation 16:10 sedes. On the other hand sedilia or sedes are used of the elders or the saints (Revelation 4:7, Revelation 11:16, Revelation 20:4). But in an European form of text (represented by St Ambrose and cod. gigas (g) θρόνος seems to be translated by sedes even when it is God’s throne. St Jerome who aimed at a classical vocabulary seems to have intended to follow this type, but he falls back on the African rendering at Revelation 3:21 sedere in throno, and uses thronus in all similar phrases, still he uses sedes not infrequently of God’s throne Revelation 4:2 bis, 3, 4, 6 ter, Revelation 14:3, Revelation 22:1; Revelation 22:3, while he never uses thronus of Satan or of the Beast. A. V[114] reserves “throne” consistently for God’s seat, extending the Latin distinction between His seat and His saints’ seat to the distinction between His seat and Satan’s. R. V[115] rightly has “throne” everywhere, Luther everywhere has “Stuhl.” Why Satan’s throne and dwelling-place is localised at Pergamum is not clear. The old explanation was, that it was a great seat of the worship of Asclepius or Aesculapius, whose traditional image held a serpent, and who in many of his shrines (though not so far as we know at Pergamum) was worshipped under the form of a serpent. Recent excavations have suggested that the throne of Satan was the great altar of Zeus Soter, which Attalus set up to commemorate his victory over the Gauls—the last great triumph of Hellenism over barbarism. The altar was certainly very like a throne: it was approached by a flight of steps enclosed by a raised platform, supporting colonnades, forming three sides of a hollow square; the faces of the platform were carved with the Wars of the Gods and the Giants. To a pious Jew or Christian it might seem the chosen throne of the god of this world, as the worship of the serpent might naturally and excusably seem more direct and avowed devil-worship than any other idolatry. Neither in those days would reflect of himself that both the worship of Asclepius and the thank-offering of Attalus belonged to the better side of heathenism: nor if he had reflected would he have renounced his first judgement: even the better side of heathenism would have only proved to him that Satan could transform himself as an angel of light. As Antipas is the only Asiatic martyr mentioned, it is possible that Pergamum may have been a special seat of the Satanic spirit of persecution, if so this, so far as it goes, might be the safest explanation.

ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἀντίπας. If this reading be right Ἀντίπας is treated as indeclinable: it is equally likely that the final C arises from an accidental duplication of the following O, the rather that Ἀντίπα would be an unfamiliar genitive. A legend is given of the martyrdom under Domitian of Antipas, bishop of Pergamum: it can probably be traced up to the fifth or sixth century. But by that time the fashion had set in of the “invention” (half fraudulent, half imaginative) of relics and legends of martyrs: and it is more than doubtful whether anything authentic is known of Antipas except from this passage. Perhaps it is presumable that he was a Jew by birth; the name is a shortened form of Antipater. The latter, like Philip and other Macedonian names, had become common all over the Levant: but perhaps especially common among Jews, from its being borne by the father of Herod and (in this shortened form) by his son, the tetrarch of Galilee.

ὁ μάρτυς. Here, as often in this book, we seem to have a nominative in apposition to other cases, for Ἀντίπας does duty for a genitive. The word “witness” is perhaps used in its technical ecclesiastical sense of one who bears witness to the Faith with his life: cf. Revelation 6:9, Revelation 12:11 (“testimony”). So Revelation 17:6; Acts 22:20.

Verse 14

14. κρατοῦντας τὴν διδαχὴν Βαλαάμ. As we should say “who adhere to the practice taught by Balaam, of eating …” It is called doctrine, because it is a thing that was taught. For the fact of Israel being taught such practices, see Numbers 25:1-2 : for Balaam’s responsibility, ibid. Numbers 31:16. That of Balak is not directly mentioned in the Pentateuch, but is naturally inferred, as we find Moab and Midian united throughout the story.

Verse 15

15. καὶ σύ. As well as Israel of old.

ὁμοίως. “In like manner” (see critical note). This makes it certain that we are not to suppose two immoral sects prevailing at Pergamum. those who held the doctrine of Balaam and those who held that of the Nicolaitans: but one sect holding the doctrine taught by Balaam of old and the Nicolaitans now. The sense is: “thou hast with thee followers of Balaam: he taught God’s people to fornicate and to communicate in idol-worship, and the Nicolaitans with thee teach the same.” The passage gives no support to the theory that the Nicolaitans were so called from Balaam; the etymology of the latter name is doubtful, but according to a possible one Nicolaus (“conqueror of the people”) might be an approximate Greek equivalent to it. If not called after Nicolas the deacon, they no doubt were called after another Nicolas—as we hear from a tradition or conjecture, later than the one which traces them to the deacon.

Verse 16

16. μετανόησον. The Angel, i.e. the whole body of the Church represented by him, is bidden to repent: because not only are the Nicolaitans guilty of the sins their doctrine involved, but the whole Church (and more especially its bishop, if we suppose him to be intended) is more or less guilty, for having extended to them the toleration which the Church of Ephesus was praised for refusing.

μετʼ αὐτῶν. “Against them,” not “against thee”: the mass of the Church is faithful on the whole. But it is implied that if the whole Church does “repent,” and do its duty, these erring members will be reclaimed: and that it will be a loss to the whole Church, if they are not reclaimed but have to be destroyed.

ἐν τῇ ῥομφαίᾳ τοῦ στόματός μου. Cf. Revelation 1:16 n.

Verse 17

17. τῷ νικοῦντι. This form, which Westcott and Hort refuse to accept, might arise either from νικέω or from an old custom of misspelling or mispronunciation which need not have extended beyond the participle.

δώσω αὐτῷ. For the superfluous pronoun see Revelation 2:7 n. The conqueror shall receive the bread of God (St John 6:32 sqq.), instead of communicating at the table of devils (1 Corinthians 10:21).

τοῦ μάννα τοῦ κεκρυμμένου. This genitive after δώσω is the only example in the New Testament of a common Greek idiom, cf. Winer Moulton, p. 247, III. § XXX. 7 b. The reference is to the pot of manna kept in the Tabernacle, in or before the Ark (Exodus 16:34; Hebrews 9:4), and therefore “hidden” in the unapproachable Sanctuary. The Jews appear to have cherished an opinion that the Ark of the Covenant, and other sacred objects which were wanting in the Second Temple, had not perished with the First, but were concealed before its destruction (see e.g. 2 Maccabees 1:19 sqq., 2 Maccabees 2:4 sqq.), and were preserved somewhere in earth or heaven, to be revealed in the days of the Messiah. But we are not to understand that this book sanctions the first part of this belief, when Revelation 21:22 contradicts the second: passages like Revelation 11:19 do not imply that the earthly Temple or its contents have been removed to Heaven, but that, whether the earthly Temple stands or falls, there remains in Heaven the archetype from which it was copied, according to the revelations made to Moses and (through David) to Solomon. See Exodus 25:40; Exodus 26:30; 1 Chronicles 28:12; Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:23 sq.

ψῆφον λενκήν, καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν ψῆφον ὄνομα καινὸν γεγραμμένον. Whatever be the precise meaning of this figure, the white stone and the name are closely connected. This excludes the notion that the white stone is given as a token of acquittal because judges who voted to acquit the prisoner dropped a white stone, sometimes called the pebble of victory, into the urn; though the stone is white because that was the colour of innocence, of joy, of victory. The white stone is a gift in itself, not merely a vehicle of the new name, which it would be if the new name were the new name of Christ Himself, Revelation 3:12 (which may be identical with His hidden Name, Revelation 19:12), though this too is written upon those who overcome, as the Father’s Name is written on the hundred and forty and four thousand. The stone and the name are the separate possession of each to whom they are given. Most likely both are a token entitling the bearer to some further benefit. It is no objection to this that we do not find the technical Greek word for such tokens, for the “token” might be described without being named. The Greeks had feasts to which every feaster brought a token as a pledge that he would pay his share of the cost. Such a token might also prove his right to join the company. If so, it may be meant that when they who are worthy are called to the Marriage Supper each is called by the new name which he only knows; as each hears and enters, the white stone with the new name is his passport at the door. This would require us to believe that the hidden manna is given to strengthen the elect on the way (1 Kings 19:8; John 4:32). Possibly again the token gives the right to enter through the gates into the city (Revelation 22:14): in this case the angels at the gates may suffer none to pass who cannot name themselves by the new name and shew the white stone. It appears from Aristophanes (Av. 1199–1224) that foreigners (at least in time of war) had no right to be at large in a strange city without some token from its authorities. The parallel though suggestive is too remote in place and time to be convincing. The contemporary parallels of tickets for stated doles or occasional largesses are not exact. These, which might be thrown to be scrambled for, were marked with the amount of the gifts they represented, not with the owner’s name. If the word used of a “stone” could mean a gem as Victorinus supposes, the key to the passage might lie in Wetstein’s quotation from Joma 8 about the rain of pearls and precious stones which fell with the manna. The first readers of the Apocalypse had not to reflect with Bengel that they would know the meaning of the white stone and the new name if and when they overcame. Its symbolical language was plain at the time to those who had ears to hear. Perhaps the new and hidden name is a pledge that no enemy can have power upon him who receives it, for exorcists were supposed to have power over spirits good and evil by knowing their names, and this was only an instance of a widespread feeling which it is said led Cæsar to put a man to death for divulging the sacred secret name of Rome, which was Valentia. It is possible that some kindred mystery may attach to the names, Hom. Il. i. 403, xx. 74, which differ in the language of gods and men.

Verse 18

18. ὁ υἱὸς τοὺ θεοῦ. Here only in the Apocalypse. So designated, perhaps, because it is the power which He received from the Father which is the subject of the concluding promise, Revelation 2:28. Cf. Psalms 2 for ὁ υἱός μου and quotation in promise.

ὁ ἔχων = ὅς ἔχει: and so can be continued by the categorical clause καὶ οἱ πόδες αὐτοῦ ὅμοιοι χαλκ., cf. also τῷ λούσαντικαὶ ἐποίησεν, Revelation 1:5-6 n.

τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ. Which search reins and hearts, Revelation 2:23.

οἱ πόδες αὐτοῦ. Of strength to break the nations to shivers like a potter’s vessel, Revelation 2:26.

Verses 18-29


Verse 19

19. τὰ ἔργα σου τὰ ἔσχατα πλείονα τῶν πρώτων. In contrast to Ephesus Revelation 2:4. These words shew that the Church of Thyatira had already existed for some time. Yet it was made an objection to the book as early as the second century that no Church was then known to exist or to have existed at Thyatira.

Verse 20

20. ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ, ὅτι. “I have against thee, that,” as in Revelation 2:4. The reading of Text. Rec[116] (ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ ὀλίγα, ὅτι) is late and borrowed from Revelation 2:14.

τὴν γυναῖκα Ἰεζάβελ. There is some authority for the reading τὴν γυναῖκά σου Ἰεζάβελ, and even if the possessive pronoun be not rightly inserted in the Greek text, it is a question whether the article ought not to be understood as equivalent to one; though in this book we should certainly expect the possessive pronoun to be expressed if this were the meaning. If the sense “thy wife Jezebel” be right, the allusion must be to 1 Kings 21:25 : there is some one (or something) at Thyatira who is, to the Angel of the Church, such a temptress as Jezebel was to Ahab. No doubt, if we suppose the Angel to be the bishop, it is probable that his actual wife is intended; but even then the name Jezebel must have this meaning.

As a plain matter of verbal exegesis, “thy wife Jezebel” seems, in this context, the more natural translation. But it has its own difficulties. What analogy is there between a faithful servant of Christ, culpably tolerant of a bad wife, but not sharing her faults himself, and Ahab, who “did sell himself to work wickedness,” and “did very abominably in following idols”? It may be added, that except in Jehu’s taunt (2 Kings 9:22), which need not be meant literally, there is no evidence whatever of Jezebel’s unchastity: her behaviour towards her husband, as well as her influence over him, makes it probable that she was a good wife, in her own way.

On the whole, the best editors decline to adopt the reading which would make the sense “thy wife” certain: and this being so, it seems better to translate as the A. V[117] (“that woman J.”). Who “Jezebel” was—whether a real woman, or a personification of a sect,—is almost equally doubtful on any view: but it seems simplest to suppose a real person.

ἡ λέγουσα ἐαυτὴν προφῆτιν. Another nominative in irregular apposition. Possibly the participle with the article is regarded as equivalent to a relative with a finite verb.

τοὺς ἐμοὺς δούλους. This is the only instance in this book of a possessive pronoun: here St Epiphanius quotes τοὺς δούλους μου. ἐμὸς is used much oftener in the fourth Gospel than in the other three or indeed the whole Greek Testament, though in all the genitive is commoner. In the Gospel it is not possible to trace a distinction of meaning between ἐμὸς and μου: if there be a distinction in ordinary Greek the possessive pronoun is perhaps rather more emphatic than the enclitic genitive, meaning “the servants who belong to Me”; but this can hardly be pressed here.

πορνεῦσαι. In secular Greek an equivalent of either prostare or prostituere: it is to be taken literally; not (as so often in the Old Testament) as a metaphor for idolatry, since this is mentioned coordinately.

Verse 21

21. καὶ οὐ θέλει μετανοῆσαι ἐκ τῆς πορνείας αὐτῆς. א * 1 Text. Rec[106] omit καὶμετανοῆσαι; 1 Text. Rec[107] add καὶ οὐ μετενόησεν.

Verse 22

22. βάλλω. Lit. “I am casting” i.e. “am about to cast.” Cf. ἀναβαίνω, St John 20:17, and note on ἔρχομαι sup. Revelation 2:5.

εἰς κλίνην. See crit. note. Perhaps a bed of sickness, as “death” in the next verse is perhaps to be taken of pestilence, cf. Revelation 6:8.

μετʼ αὐτῆς. Possibly the sense is “I will cast them together with her into …,” but the sense “the partners of her adulteries” is at least equally natural. It seems probably intended, that she and they are to be separated in punishment: Francesca’s “Questi che mai da me non fia diviso” is rather a poetical sentiment than a moral one. But if Jezebel be understood to mean a sect rather than an individual woman, it will be possible to distinguish her “adulteries” as metaphorical from the literal “fornication “which she encouraged: if so, her paramours are the false teachers, her children their disciples.

Verse 23

23. γνώσονται πᾶσαι αἱ ἐκκλησίαι. Cf. All flesh shall know, Isaiah 49:26; All flesh shall see, Isaiah 40:5; Ezekiel 20:48. “All the Churches” though less extensive than “all flesh” (cf. John 17:2, and for the limitation John 14:22) must still be taken as widely as possible, it means not merely all the seven Churches of Asia but “all the churches in the world,” hardly as Alford adds “to the end of time.” We know nothing (and have no reason to think St Irenæus knew more) of either the repentance or the punishment of the children of Jezebel.

ὁ ἐραυνῶν. Compare καρδίας ἐτάζει Κύρ. 1 Chronicles 28:9, ὁ ἐτάζων καρδίας, 1 Chronicles 29:17, ἐτάζων καρδίας καὶ νεφροὺς, Psalms 7:9 [10], πύρωσον τοὺς νεφρούς μου καὶ τὴν καρδίαν μου, Psalms 6:2, δοκιμάζων νεφροὺς καὶ καρδίας, Jeremiah 11:20, ἐτάζων καρδίας καὶ δοκιμάζων νεφροὺς, Jeremiah 17:10, συνιῶν νεφροὺς καὶ καρδίας, Jeremiah 20:12, ὁ ἐραυνῶν τὰς καρδίας, Romans 8:27. The last passage suggests a common origin apart from the LXX. for a phrase which no doubt is ultimately derived from the Psalms and was almost proverbial in the Apostolic age.

Verse 24

24. ὑμῖν δέ. The form of address to the Angel of the Church is dropped, and the Church addressed directly. The sense is “to the rest of you in Thyatira,” or more literally, “to you, namely to the rest.”

οἵτινες οὐκ ἔγνωσαν τὰ βαθέα τοῦ Σατανᾶ, ὡς λέγουσιν. The heretics condemned in the preceding verses were doubtless a sect of those who called themselves Gnostics, probably at this time, certainly in the next generation. They contrasted their knowledge of “the depths” or “deep things of God” (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10), with the faith of the orthodox in the plain simple doctrines that were openly preached to the world: the Lord answers, that the depths of knowledge that they attained were depths, not of God, but of Satan. It is uncertain how far the quotation of their own language marked by ὡς λέγουσιν extends; it is hardly possible that they themselves actually gloried in a knowledge of the depths of Satan (yet cf. 2 Corinthians 2:11): but it is to be remembered that the Gnostic systems of the second century, and probably those of the first also, included a strange mythology of half-personified abstractions; and it may be that the Lord rather identifies one of these with Satan than substitutes the name of Satan for that of God. It appears from Irenæus that the Gnostics of his time talked of “the deep things of Depth” as well as “the deep things of God.” It is curious that the phrase “the depths of knowledge” is quoted from the great Ephesian philosopher Heraclitus: possibly it was owing to his influence, that such notions found a congenial home in Asia Minor.

οὐ βάλλω. See Revelation 2:22 n.

ἄλλο βάρος. ἄλλο refers forward to πλὴν so that the sense is “I will lay on you no other burden than to hold fast”; but, as in English, this does not exclude a reference backward to the sins taught by Jezebel. If so this passage confirms the rule of Christian Liberty laid down Acts 15:28.

Verse 25

25. ὃ ἔχετε. Comparing Revelation 2:6, we shall probably understand this “what ye have to your credit,” your present faithfulness and zeal: so that the sense will rather be like Philippians 3:16 than Judges 1:3. Cf. Revelation 3:11.

Verse 26

26. καὶ ὁ νικῶν καὶ ὁ τηρῶν. “He that overcometh and he that keepeth” are one; in most parts of the New Testament there would only be one article. This is the only passage where the promise to him that overcometh is introduced by καί. Here and Revelation 3:12 and Revelation 3:21 the writer begins with a nominative which has no regular construction.

τὰ ἔργα μου. “Such works as I do” is the sense, rather than “such as I approve.” Cf. John 14:12 “the works that I do shall he do also.”

Verse 27

27. ποιμανεῖ. Lit., “shall be their shepherd,” cf. Psalms 2:9 (LXX.), ποιμανεῖς αὐτοὺς ἐν ῥάβδῳ σιδηρᾷ. The word as pointed in the received Hebrew text means ‘bruise’ or ‘break them.’ Here and in Revelation 12:5, Revelation 19:15 St John follows the LXX., see note on Revelation 1:7.

ὡς τὰ σκεύη τὰ κεραμικὰ συντρίβεται. He is to rule the nations with a mastery as absolute as is expressed in crushing a potsherd. There is nothing in the Hebrew or in any known version to suggest the curious change of subject in “he shall rule … as the vessels are broken.” It puzzled Arethas who thought that ὡς would have been followed by a subjunctive in ordinary Greek.

ὡς κἀγώ. “As I also.” Of course the meaning is that Psalms 2:9 is assumed to be the promise of the Father to the Son; as is plain from the eighth verse.

Verse 28

28. τὸν ἀστέρα τὸν πρωϊνόν. The only illustration of this image is Revelation 22:16, where Christ Himself is called the Morning Star: and the meaning here can hardly be “I will give myself to him.” Some compare 2 Peter 1:19, others, perhaps better, Daniel 12:3 : taking the sense to be, “I will give him the brightest star of all, that he may be clothed (cf. Revelation 12:1) with its glory.”

Verse 29

29. ὁ ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω. For the position of these words see on Revelation 2:7.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Revelation 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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