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A PIE IN A VERY BLEAK SKY? ANALYSIS AND APPROPRIATION OF THE PROMISE SAYINGS IN THE SEVEN LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES IN REVELATION 2-3 MARK WAYNE WILSON

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A PIE IN A VERY BLEAK SKY? ANALYSIS AND APPROPRIATION OF THE PROMISE SAYINGS IN THE SEVEN LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES IN REVELATION 2-3 by MARK WAYNE WILSON submitted in accordance with the requirements for
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A PIE IN A VERY BLEAK SKY? ANALYSIS AND APPROPRIATION OF THE PROMISE SAYINGS IN THE SEVEN LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES IN REVELATION 2-3 by MARK WAYNE WILSON submitted in accordance with the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF LITERATURE AND PHILOSOPHY in the subject BIBLICAL STUDIES at the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AFRICA PROMOTER: PROF H A LOMBARD NOVEMBER 1996 SUMMARY This study of the promise sayings elucidates the motif of victory as the book's macrodynamic theme. Through intentional examination, the thesis finds the issue epitomized throughout Revelation on two levels-formally (re structure) and materially (re content). Jesus as Victor over death and the dragon desires the Asian believers to be prepared for his soon coming. The victors are promised eschatological rewards if they overcome various internal and external threats. In mapping out the dramatic scenario Chapter 1 explores afresh such background issues as authorship and audience. The pagan religious environment, represented by the Artemis and emperor cults, is demonstrated to be adversarial. Chapter 2 looks at four situations in Revelationthe rhetorical, historical, apocalyptic, and prophetic. Their composite exigences point to an early dating in the late 60s. Chapter 3 postulates that chiasmus is Revelation's macrostructure, and a chiastic model is proposed. Chapter 4 examines several proposed forms for the seven letters, such as edicts, oracles, and epistles. We conclude that they are a mixtum compositum-best called prophetic letters. Chapter 5 explores the sociological significance of victory in the Greco-Roman world. Through the use of language such as vlkaw and images like the palm branch, John motivates his audience toward the ideal of victory. Chapter 6 investigates the text of the promises and their cotexts as reflected intertextually in traditions of biblical literature. Local references are also determined to contribute to a multivalent interpretation of the promise imagery. Chapter 7 surveys the eschatological fulfillment of the promises, especially in the new Jerusalem. The rewards of spiritual provision, heavenly place, and divine person serve to incite the saints to victory. Chapter 8 investigates the appropriation of the promises for the time and the text world of Revelation. A multiplicity of functions for the promise sayings is established. This study shows that the promises function as prophetic parenesis to help the saints endure the coming tribulation. The possibility and reality of such a fulfillment and the appropriation of the promises allow us to postulate that these promises to the victors are not vain pies in a very bleak sky! KEY TERMS Book of Revelation, Revelation 2-3, Asia Minor, Seven churches, Appropriation, Seven letters, Prophecy, Apocalypse, Victor sayings, Local references, Promise and fulfillment, Persecution, Martyrdom, Rhetorical situation, Chiasmus, Form and function, lntertextuality, Co-textuality, Multivalence, Macrodynamic theme OPSOMMING Hierdie studie oor die belofte uitsprake in die briewe aan die sewe gemeentes in Openbaring 2-3 lig die motif van oorwinning toe as die sentrale tema van makrodinamiese omvang in Openbaring. Deur middel van 'n doelgerigte ondersoek bevind die studie dat die saak van oorwinning die twee brandpunte in die boek Openbaring vorm, naamlik, op formele vlak (re metode en struktuur van Openbaring en van die studie), en materieel (d.i. inhoudelik). Jesus as oorwinnaar oor die dood en oor die draak, koester die sterk begeerte dat die gelowiges van Asie gereed meet wees vir sy spoedige advent. Netsoos die profete van die Ou Testament waarsku Johannes die gemeentes oor die netelige situasie waarin hulle hulself bevind ten opsigte van die sosiale, politieke en religieuse situasie. In hierdie konteks word aan die oorwinnaars bepaalde beloftes van eskatologiese belonings gemaak as hulle die interne bedreigings van valse leringe en van vervolgings van buite sou oork6m. Deur vrugbare gebruikmaking van die perspektief van intertekstualiteit word die siening gesubstansieer dat Johannes se gehoor/lesers daarvan kennis meet neem dat hulle situasie geensins verskil van die lotgevalle van God se volk ender vorige vreemde onderdrukkers socs die Babiloniers nie. Hoe sal die gelowiges hierdie uur van toetsing deurstaan? Ten einde hierdie hele dramatiese scenario uit te stippel, ontgin Hoofstuk 1 opnuut die velde van agtergrond socs outeurskap, eerste gehoor/lesers, en hulle religieuse omgewing. Dit word gestel dat die heidense religieuse omgewing, socs verteenwoordig deur die Artemis en keiserkultus, baie vyandiggesind van aard is. Hoofstuk 2 bekyk en interpreteer vier situasies wat in Openbaring teegekom word, naamlik, die retoriese, historiese, apokaliptiese, en profetiese. Die samegestelde aard van hierdie noodsituasie wys heen na 'n vroee datering van Openbaring, naamlik, in die laat sestiger jare van die eerste eeu, v66r die verwoesting van Jerusalem. In Hoofstuk 3 word beredeneer dat chiasme die mees geskikte beskrywing vir die struktuurvorm van Openbaring is. Met chiasme as heuristiese instrument kan aangetoon word dat die beloftes en hulle vervulling in Openbaring 2-3 n beduidende rel in die struktuur van die boek speel. Hierop volg Hoofstuk 4 waarin moontlike literatuurvorms vir die sewe briewe voorgestel word, naamlik, edikte, orakels, en epistels/briewe. Daar word voorgestel dat dit beskou meet word as mixtum compositum wat goedskiks profetiese briewe genoem kan word en wat sewe samestellende uitsprake omvat. Hoofstuk 5 ontsluit die sosiologiese beduidenis van die idee en verskynsel van oorwinning in die Grieks-Romeinse wereld. In Openbaring hou dit in dat Johannes beide verbaal (re die gebruik van die Griekse werkwoord VLKaw) en beeldsprakig (re 'palmtak') sy gehoor ge-inspireer het ten opsigte van die ideaal van oorwinning. Hoofstuk 6 ontleed die teks van die belofte uitsprake, en die ko-tekste soos wat dit intertekstueel weerspieel word in bybelse tradisies. Plaaslike verwysings word oak in ag geneem ten einde tot 'n polivalente interpretasie van die belofte-beeldspraak by te dra. Hoofstuk 7 gee 'n analitiese oorsig van die vervulling van die eskatologiese beloftes, veral ten opsigte van die nuwe Jerusalem. Die belonings van geestelike voorsiening, 'n hemelse woonplek, en van 'n goddelike persoon dien om die heiliges aan te spoor tot oorwinning oar die verbete vyande. Hierop volg Hoofstuk 8 wat die toe-eiening van die beloftes binne die boek Openbaring en vir die tyd en tekswereld van die boek self ondersoek. 'n Veelvuldigheid van funksies, wat verkry word uit 'n multidissiplinere eksegetiese metodiek, word vir die belofte uitsprake vasgestel en beskryf. Hierdie studie toon aan dat die beloftes van oorwinning aan die sewe gemeentes in Klein Asie funksioneer as profetiese vermanings, waarvan die beeldspraak ontleen is aan 'n verskeidenheid van bybelse tradisies. Die vervulling hiervan kan reeds al in Openbaring gesien word. Dit toon verder aan dat, anders as in die geval van die gevalle Rome, die heilige stad genaamd Jerusalem op die oorwinnende bruid sal wag. Die moontlikheid en werklikheid van die vervulling en toe-eiening van die beloftes van Openbaring 2-3 regverdig dit om te postuleer dat hierdie beloftes beslis nie ydele 'koeke vir die hiernamaals' (d.i. pies in the sky ) is nie! Nee, die Openbaring aan Johannes was bedoel om 'n profesie van troos vir die volk van God te wees en dit funksioneer beslis as sodanig. PREFACE Completion of this thesis has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences of my life. Postgraduate study is always daunting, but to complete it in the midst of ongoing family and career responsibilities has been especially difficult. This achievement then is a corporate one, with many individuals and institutions having a part in its success. I would like to recognize some of these at this time. First, I would like to thank my promoter Professor H A Lombard for his supervision of this thesis. His knowledge of Johannine literature made him an invaluable resource for its completion. The hospitality of him and his wife Frieda during my visit to Pretoria was much appreciated as well as his willingness to 'detour' through Virginia during a sabbatical visit to the United States. His comments were always incisive and judicious and helped greatly to move the thesis to a satisfactory completion. During my master's study at Regent University Professor J R Williams cemented my interest in the book of Revelation and in eschatology. The friendship of him and his wife Johanna has been a special inspiration. Regent Professor CH Holman likewise provided my foundation in hermeneutics as well as use of his own doctoral thesis. Special thanks go to the Regent Divinity Dean H V Synan, Associate Dean J L Story, and the Divinity faculty for their support and encouragement. Thanks should also be given to Professor H L Lederle, former Unisa professor, who first recommended that I enroll at Unisa. And Professor W J Wessels, although a scholar of the 'other' testament, has been a valuable friend and contact at Unisa as well as host during my visit to Pretoria. The bulk of this thesis was written during an eleven-month study sabbatical in To stop life for this period would not have possible without generous financial support. Therefore I would like to thank the following: my parents Wayne and Idella Wilson; Michael Little, president of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN); Rod and Jo Williams; Bob and Janyce O'Brien; Bob and Frances Truitt; Harold and Sharon Rhoades, and David and Bobby Ritter. I wish to thank particularly the pastor, Rev Dr Charles Wickman, the session, and the congregation of my home church Kempsville Presbyterian for their ongoing support. They provided financial resources for three trips to Turkey and my trip to South Africa, as well as monthly support during my study sabbatical. It is impossible to name the many friends at KPC who prayed for strength and endurance during my six-year enrollment at Unisa. Thank you, all! Invaluable research assistance was provided by two libraries. C B Brand and M S Khosie, New Testament subject librarians at Unisa, provided occasional help from the South African side. Luwanna Baker and her interlibrary loan staff at Regent University bent over backwards to provide books and articles necessary for my research. A thank you to both libraries for your excellent personnel. Dieter Karr spent many hours assisting me with German translations. My gratitude goes to Gemma Aguilar for her assistance on an Italian translation. And thanks go to my wife for her willingness to help me on French translations. The challenge of producing a thesis from a distance of 8,000 miles has been greatly facilitated with the development of Internet. Jim Funari and his staff at CBN lent their computer expertise on numerous occasions to make the processing and flow of information at home and across the Atlantic much easier. John Parker, Jr, did a necessary computer upgrade for no charge as his contribution to this project. Hazel Full assisted in getting copies of the thesis shipped to South Africa. During my Unisa enrollment I have made six trips to the sites of the seven churches as well as a visit to the island of Patmos. Under the auspices of CBN Travel I have had the privilege of teaching scores of pilgrims about the early church in Asia Minor. To become acquainted firsthand with Revelation's life setting has added a special dimension to my research. Thanks go to Ruth Sims, Denise Wynn, and Maria Barone for catching the vision of Turkey's importance for Christian visitors. During my time of postgraduate study I have seen my four children-leelannee, Winema, Jim, and David-grow up, attend college, and leave home. Hopefully you were not neglected too badly and that my accomplishment will inspire your own future endeavors. I love you all! I especially want to thank my wife Dindy-a 'companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance' that comes with doctoral study. Without her prayer support and constant encouragement this project could not have happened. She gladly became the breadwinner during my study sabbatical. I rather like J M Court's words to his wife in his introduction to Myth and history in the book of Revelation: 'to have lived with me and a work on the Apocalypse is more than anybody should be expected to endure.' My sentiments exactly, Dindy. I have one final word of gratitude. The resources and inspiration to complete this degree ultimately came UTIO 0 WV KaL 0 ~v Kai. 0 E:px6µEVO~ Kai. UTIO TWV E:m& TIVEUµ1hwv a EVW'ITLOV LOU 9p6vou auwu Kai. UTIO 'Irioou XpLO'rOU, 0 µ&pcu~ 0 TIW'rO~, 0 TIPWTOLOKO~ 'rwv VEKpwv Kai. 0 &pxwv TWV ~aolaewv cf]~ yfj~ (Rv 1 :4-5). ABBREVIATIONS All abbreviations used in the thesis follow the pattern provided in Form and style in theological texts: A guide for the use of the Harvard reference system by J Kilian (2nd ed 1989, Pretoria: Unisa). I wish to thank Mrs Kilian for giving me her own desk copy, when the volume was out of print and unavailable for purchase. Stylistic matters not covered by Form and style follow the pattern provided in Reference techniques by M Burger (1992, Pretoria: Unisa). Italicized words are part of the original quotation unless otherwise noted. Greek translations are my own, unless otherwise noted, and are based on the Rahlfs edition of the Septuagint and the UBS 4 /Nestle-Aland 26 text. Old Testament references usually follow the New International version. All classical references are taken from their respective editions in the Loeb Classical Library, except those of Philo which are taken from the updated Hendrickson edition of his works. References in the Dead Sea Scrolls are taken from the updated translation by Martinez. The two-volume edition edited by J H Charlesworth provided references to the Pseudigrapha. Quotations from the early church fathers follow the standard edition edited by P Schaff and A Roberts. - A.1 GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE THESIS A.2 METHODOLOGY OF THE THESIS 1 1 CHAPTER 1: THE BACKGROUND OF THE PROMISE SAYINGS 1.1 INTRODUCTION 1.2 THE AUTHOR External testimony Internal portrait John as apostle Identification The use of ati6a-roa.oc; The greeting and closing The public reading of Revelation Letters to seven churches John as prophet Identification A prophetic experience A prophetic declaration A prophetic commission A prophetic act A prophetic curse Itinerant and resident prophets Conclusion 1.3 DESTINATION AND PROVENANCE The province of Asia The island of Patmos The seven churches The number seven Other churches in Asia The general religious background (a) The religious background of Ephesus (b) The religious background of Smyrna (c) The religious background of Pergamum (d) The religious background of Thyatira (e) The religious background of Sardis (f) The religious background of Philadelphia (g) The religious background of Laodicea (h) Conclusion The emperor cult in Asia (a) Introduction (b) The emperor cult in Ephesus (c) The emperor cult in Smyrna (d) The emperor cult in Pergamum (e) Conclusion 1.6 CONCLUSION CHAPTER 2: THE SITUATIONS OF REVELATION 2.1 INTRODUCTION 2.2 THE RHETORICAL SITUATION OF THE CHURCH The definition of rhetorical situation The rhetorical situation of the seven churches The church of Ephesus The church of Smyrna The church of Pergamum The church of Thyatira The church of Sardis The church of Philadelphia The church of Laodicea Conclusion The rhetorical situation of the heavenly church The church and the seal judgments (a) The fifth seal (b) The interlude after the sixth seal The church and the trumpet judgments The church and the dragon The church and the beast The church and the bowl judgments The church and Babylon The church and the wedding supper of the Lamb The church in the thousand years The church as the Holy City, the New Jerusalem Conclusion The rhetorical situation of the Asian church in intertextual perspective 2.3 THE HISTORICAL SITUATION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE Background The Roman Empire in Revelation Introduction Food sacrificed to idols The riches of Laodicea The Parthian threat The great multitude Apollyon the destroyer The temple in Jerusalem The flight into the wilderness The beast of The seven emperors O(a) The first emperor? O(b) The three civil war emperors? The name 'Babylon' The fire The luxury of Rome The Roman Empire in ancient literary sources The situation of the empire in the 60s The situation of the empire in the 90s The issue of perceived crisis Conclusion 2.4 THE APOCALYPTIC SITUATION OF JESUS The literary genres of Revelation The genre 'apocalyptic' The word 'apocalypse' The Apocalypse's superscription The identity of 'him' in 1: Other uses of oelkvuµl The Synoptic apocalypses Revelation 6 and the Synoptic apocalypses Synoptic omissions in Revelation Synoptic apocalyptic themes reoccurring in Revelation The meaning of 'this generation' The Lamb's role with the seven-sealed scroll Conclusion 2.5 THE PROPHETIC SITUATION OF JOHN The genre 'prophecy' Old Testament prophetic situations The use of intertextuality Moses Isaiah Jeremiah Ezekiel Daniel John's prophetic situation John's prophecy as prediction Conclusion 2.6 CONCLUSION CHAPTER 3: THE STRUCTURE OF REVELATION AND THE SEVEN LETTERS 3.1 INTRODUCTION The problem of structure Revelation 1: 19 as a structural key 3.2 CHIASMUS AS A RHETORICAL STRUCTURAL DEVICE The definition of chiasmus Chiasmus in ancient literature Chiasmus in classical literature Chiasmus in Old Testament literature Chiasmus in New Testament literature 3.3 LITERARY CHARACTERISTICS OF CHIASMUS Lund's seven laws Stock's rules Clark's criteria Blomberg's criteria 3.4 CHIASMUS IN REVELATION Chiastic examples The beatitudes The enemies of God The new Jerusalem Chiasmus as the macro structure E W Bullinger N W Lund E Schussler Fiorenza K Strand J Ellul Other interpreters M W Wilson Evaluation of the outline 3.5 CHIASMUS IN THE SEVEN LETTERS The portrayal of Jesus 3.5.2 A spiritual gauge for the churches: The heuristic value of chiasmus for exegesis The Nicolaitan problem Chiasmus in the Greek text The chiastic template in two letters The letter to Ephesus The letter to Pergamum The letter to Laodicea Intentionality in chiastic structure The seven promise sayings CONCLUSION 127 CHAPTER 4: THE FORM OF THE SEVEN LETTERS 4.1 INTRODUCTION 4.2 WISDOM INSTRUCTION 4.3 NEAR EAST COVENANTS 4.4 GREEK RHETORIC Rhetorical style Rhetorical form 4.5 SACRAMENTAL LITURGY 4.6 IMPERIAL EDICTS Definition Elements Examples An edict compared with the Ephesian letter Domitian's edict A banishment edict Conclusion 4. 7 PROPHETIC ORACLES The prophecies of Balaam The prophecies of Amos The prophecies of Ezekiel THE HEARING SAYINGS Co-texts in Revelation 3.5.2 A spiritual gauge for the churches: The heuristic value of chiasmus for exegesis The Nicolaitan problem Chiasmus in the Greek text The chiastic template in two letters The letter to Ephesus The letter to Pergamum The letter to Laodicea Intentionality in chiastic structure The seven promise sayings CONCLUSION 127 CHAPTER 4: THE FORM OF THE SEVEN LETIERS 4.1 INTRODUCTION WISDOM INSTRUCTION NEAR EAST COVENANTS GREEK RHETORIC Rhetorical style Rhetorical form SACRAMENTAL LITURGY IMPERIAL EDICTS Definition Elements Examples An edict compared with the Ephesian letter Domitian's edict A banishment edict Conclusion PROPHETIC ORACLES The prophecies of Balaam The prophecies of Amos The prophecies of Ezekiel 142 4.7.4 New Testament prophetic forms Conclusion 4.8 ANCIENT LETTERS Individual letters? Pauline letters? One letter or seven letters? Letter or epistle? Epistolary types Papyri letter forms Conclusion 4.9 THE SEVEN PROPHETIC LETTERS Letter divisions Aune's model The coming sayings Thyatiran letter divisions Hubert's analysis The seven beatitudes and the coming/promise sayings Faithful works and the promise sayings Conclusion 4.10 THE ADDRESS SAYINGS The
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