Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;Ch. 2:1-3:22.] The Epistles to the seven churches. Views have considerably differed respecting the character of these Epistles, whether they are to be regarded as simply historical, or historico-prophetical, or simply prophetical. The point on which all, I presume, will be agreed is, that the words contained in these Epistles are applicable to and intended for the guidance, warning, and encouragement of the whole Church Catholic, and its several parts, throughout all time. The differing interpretations will here be only briefly alluded to. An account of them will be found in Vitringa, Apocalypsis Johannis, &c. pp. 27-58: and (but scantily, as most interpreters pass over them but slightly) in the introductions to the principal Commentaries.
Before commenting on each individual Epistle, I would notice the similar construction of all. This may be thus described. Each Epistle contains, 1. A command to write to the angel of the particular church. 2. A sublime title of our Lord taken for the most part from the imagery of the preceding vision. 3. An address to the angel of the church, always commencing with οῖδα, introducing a statement of its present circumstances: continuing with an exhortation either to repentance or to constancy: and ending with a prophetic announcement, mostly respecting what shall be at the Lord’s coming. 4. A promise made to ὁ νικῶν, generally accompanied with a solemn call to earnest attention, ὁ ἔχων οὖς κ.τ.λ.
1-7.] The Epistle to the church at Ephesus. See Prolegg. § iii. 7. To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth fast (cf. ver. 25, ch. 3:11) the seven stars in his right hand (cf. John 10:28), He that walketh in the midst of the seven candlesticks of gold (assertions of Christ’s being the Lord, the Governor and the Upholder of His Church, agreeably to the vision of ch. 1.: coming in suitably in this first Epistle, as beginning the complete number): I know (am aware of: not as Lyra, “id est, approbo.” The context determines this to be the fact here, but not this word. The ἔργα might be bad ones, see John 3:19) thy works (so in all the Epistles, except those to Smyrna and Pergamum) and thy labour (reff.) and endurance (κόπος and ὑπομονή form the active and the passive sides of the energizing Christian life. The omission of the σου after τὸν κόπον serves to bind the two together in one. They are epexegetic, in fact, of ἔργα; cf. 1Corinthians 15:58: these being the resulting fruits of κόπος and ὑπομονή, see ch, 14:13), and that thou canst not bear (reff.) evil men (on κακός and πονηρός, see note, ch. 16:2. These are here regarded as a burden, an incubus, which the Ephesian church had thrown off. The assertion is as yet general: it is particularized in the next clause) and didst try (make experiment of, rather than put to the test, which is δοκιμάζειν, 1John 4:1) those who call themselves apostles and are not, and didst find them false (this is deeply interesting in connexion with St. Paul’s prophetic caution, Acts 20:28-30. That which he foretold had come to pass, but they had profited by his apostolic warning): and hast endurance, and didst bear (them, while trying them; or perhaps the verb is used absolutely) for my Name, and hast not been weary (there is a seeming inconsistency in οἶδα τὸν κόπον σου … καὶ οὐ κεκοπίακες, which caused those who were not aware of St. John’s use of the last word (reff.) to alter the sentence as in var. readd. “Novi laborem tuum, nec tamen laboras, i. e. labore non frangeris.” Beng. ἀντὶ τοῦ οὐκ ἀπεκαρτέρησας, οἱονεί, οὐκ ἀπηγόρευσας, οὐ προδέδωκας, οὐκ ἐλιποτάκτησας διὰ τὸ ὄνομά μου, in Catena). Howbeit I have (nothing need be supplied: the following clause is the object to ἔχω) against thee (reff.) that thou hast left (deserted; or let go: see reff.) thy love which was at first (towards whom? Arethas, in Cat., understands τὴν πρὸς τοὺς πγησίον χορ-ηγίαν: Grot. similarly, “multum remisisti de prima illa cura circa pauperes:” Calov., “sedula cura et vigilantia cum fervore ac zelo pro verbi divini puritate adversus pseudoprophetas:” Eichhorn, strangely enough, “quod nimis morose et severe coerces improbos doctores:” Heinrichs, De Wette, and Ebrard think it is brotherly love which is meant. But there can I think be little question that the language is conjugal, and the love, as Aretius, Ansbert (“casti sponsi dilectionem abjecisti”), Vitringa, Züllig, Hengstenb., Düsterd., Stern (but applying it all to the bishop personally), al., the first fervent chaste and pure love of the newly-wedded bride: cf. Jeremiah 2:2.
τὴν πρώτην must not be taken as if it were comparative (priorem), but literally. In what particular the Ephesian church had left her first love, is not stated. Perhaps, as Ansbert, “dilectione sæculi æstuabat:” or, seeing that it is negative, rather than positive delinquency which is blamed, the love of first conversion had waxed cold, and given place to a lifeless and formal orthodoxy). Remember therefore whence thou hast fallen (the first fervour of love is regarded as a height, from which the church had declined. The Commentators cite Cic. ad Att. iv. 16, “non recordor unde ceciderim, sed unde resurrexerim”), and repent (quickly and effectually, aor.) and do the first works (the works which sprung from that thy first love: those resume); but if not, I (will) come to thee (a strong ‘dativus incommodi:’ = ἐπί σε, ch. 3:3. Not Christ’s final coming, but his coming in special judgment is here indicated), and will move thy candle-stick out of its place (i. e. as Aretius, “efficiam ut ecclesia esse desinas:” see the fulfilment noticed in Prolegg. § iii. par. 7. Some take it too vaguely,as Ewald, “gratiam et benevolentiam meam tibi detraham:” others, as Grot., misled by their acceptation of the first love (see above), “efficiam ut plebs tua alio diffugiat, nempe ad ea loca ubi major habetur cura pauperum:” others again, going quite wrong, owing to a fancy that the Epistle is addressed to the bishop, “tollam a te ecclesiam, ne illi ultra præsideas;” so Zeger, al. Koppe and Heinrichs give a modification of the true meaning which is hardly justified: “primariam episcopatus sedem Epheso aliorsum transferam”), if thou do not repent (shalt not have repented; i. e. by the speedy time indicated in the previous aorist).
6.] Notwithstanding, this thou hast (this one thing: there is no need to supply ἀγαθόν or the like: of what sort the τοῦτο is, is explained by what follows. We may notice the tender compassion of our blessed Lord, who, in his blame of a falling church, yet selects for praise one particular in which His mind is yet retained. This is for our comfort: but let us not forget that it is for our imitation also. μεταξὺ τῶν λυπηρῶν τίθησι καὶ τὰ πρὸς εὐθυμίαν ἄγοντα, ἵνα μὴ τῇ περισσοτέρᾳ λύπῃ καταποθῇ τὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας. Areth. in Cat.) that thou hatest the works (“non dixit Nicolaitas, sed facta: quia personæ sunt ex charitate diligendæ, sed eorum vitia odio sunt habenda.” Lyra. It would have been well with the church, had this always been remembered. τὰ ἔργα, see below, must be referred to the moral delinquencies of this sect) of the Nicolaitans (there has been much dispute who these were. The prevailing opinion among the fathers was, that they were a sect founded by Nicolaus the proselyte of Antioch, one of the seven deacons. So Irenæus (Hær. i. 26. 3(27), p. 105, “Nicolaitæ autem magistrum quidem habent Nicolaum, unum ex vii., qui primi ad diaconium ab apostolis ordinati sunt: qui indiscrete vivunt”), Tertullian (Præscr. Hær. 46, vol. ii. p. 63, “alter hæreticus Nicolaus emersit. Hic de septem diaconis qui in Actis App. allecti sunt, fuit.” He then describes his execrable impurities), (in two passages, which are worth citing, as I shall presently have to comment on them: 1) Strom, ii.20 (118), p. 490 P.,—τοιοῦτοι δὲ καὶ οἱ φάσκοντες ἐαυτοὺς Νικολάῳ ἓπεσθαι ἀπομνημόνευμά τι τἀνδρὸς φέροντες ἐκ παρατροπῆς τὸ δεῖν παραχρήσασθαι τῇ σαρκί. ἀλλʼ ὁ μὲν γενναῖος κολούειν δεῖν ἐδήλου τάς τε ἡδονὰς τάς τε ἐπιθυμίας, καὶ τῇ ἀσκήσει ταύτῃ καταμαραίνειν τὰς τῆς σαρκὸς ὁρμάς τε καὶ ἐπιθέσεις. οἱ δὲ εἰς ἡδονὴν τράγων δίκην ἐκχυθέντες οἷον ἐφυβρίζοντες τῷ σώματι καθηδυπαθοῦσιν: 2) ib. iii. 4 (25), p. 522 P.: περὶ τῆς Νικολάου ῥήσεως διαλεχθέντες ἐκεῖνο παρελείπομεν· ὡραίαν, φησί, γυναῖκα ἔχων οὗτος μετὰ τὴν ἀνάληψιν τὴν τοῦ σωτῆρος πρὸς τῶν ἀποστόλων ὀνειδισθεὶς ζηλοτυπίαν εἰς μέσον ἀγαγὼν τὴν γυναῖκα γῆμαι τῷ βουλομένῳ ἐπέτρεψεν· ἀκόλουθον γὰρ εἶναί φασι τὴν πρᾶξιν ταύτην ἐκείνῃ τῇ φωνῇ τῇ ὅτι παραχρήσασθαι τῇ σαρκὶ δεῖ), Euseb. (H. E. iii. 29, citing Clem., as above), Epiphanius (Hær. xxv. pp. 76 ff., where he gives a long account of Nicolaus and his depravation and his followers): so also Jerome (dial. adv. Lucif. 23, vol. ii. p. 197) and (de hæres. 5, vol. viii. p. 26), and many other fathers, citations from whom may be seen in Stern’s notes, h. 1.: also Areth. in Catena, referring to Epiph.
We have already seen, in Clem., symptoms of a desire to vindicate Nicolaus the deacon from the opprobrium of having been the founder of such a sect; and we find accordingly in the apostolical constitutions, οἱ νῦν ψευδώνυμοι Νικολαΐται are spoken of: and Victorinus of Pettau, in our earliest extant commentary on the Apocalypse, says, “Nicolaitæ autem erant illo tempore ficti homines et pestiferi, qui sub nomine Nicolai ministri fecerunt sibi hæresin,” &c. Thence we advance a step farther, and find another Nicolaus substituted for the deacon of that name. So in Dorotheus (cited in Stern) we find him described as a bishop of Samaria (ὃς ἐπίσκοπος Σαμαρείας γενόμενος ἑτεροδόξησεν ἅμα τῷ Σίμωνι). And an apocryphal Acts of the Apostles in Fabricius, Cod. Apocr. N. T. i. p. 498 (Stern), speaks of a Corinthian of this name, infamous for licentious practices. We come now to the second principal view with regard to this sect, which supposes their name to be symbolic, and Nicolaus to be the Greek rendering of Balaam, בָּלַע עָם, or, Chald., בְּלַע עָם, ‘perdidit vel absorpsit populum.’ Consequently the name Nicolaitans = Balaamites, as is also inferred from ver. 14. This view seems first to have been broached by Chr. A. Heumann in the Acta Eruditorum for 1712, and since then has been the prevailing one. (There is a trace in ancient times of a mystical interpretation, e. g. in , gloss. ord., who says, “Nicolaus, stultus populus, id est, Gentiles Deum ignorantes:” and Ambrose Ansbert, “si a proprietate ad figuram, ut solet, sermo recurrit, omnes hæretici Nicolaitæ esse probantur: Nicolaus enim interpretatur stultus populus.” What this means, I am as unable to say as was Vitringa: it perhaps arises from thus understanding בַּל עָם, ‘non-populus:’ cf. Deuteronomy 32:21.) But this is very forced, and is properly repudiated by some of the best modern Commentators: e. g. by De Wette, Ebrard, and Stern. (See also Winer, Realw. sub voce: Neander, Kirchengesch. i. 2. 774 ff.: Gieseler, Kirchengesch. i. 1. 113 note.) In the first place, the names are by no means parallel, even were we to make Balaam, as some have done, into בַּעַל עָם, lord of the people (Ἀρχέλαος): and next, the view derives no support from ver. 14 f., where the followers of Balaam are distinct from the Nicolaitans: see note there. And besides, there is no sort of reason for interpreting the name otherwise than historically. It occurs in a passage indicating simple matters of historical fact, just as the name Antipas does in ver. 13. If we do not gain trustworthy accounts of the sect from elsewhere, why not allow for the gulf which separates the history of the apostolic from that of the post-apostolic period, and be content with what we know of them from these two passages? There is nothing repugnant to verisimilitude in what Clem. relates of the error of Nicolaus; nor need all of those, who were chosen to aid the Apostles in distributing alms, have been, even to the end of their lives, spotless and infallible. At least it may be enough for us to believe that possible of one of them, which the post-apostolic Fathers did not hesitate to receive), which I also hate (this strong expression in the mouth of our Lord unquestionably points at deeds of abomination and impurity: cf. Isaiah 59:8; Jeremiah 44:4; Amos 5:21; Zechariah 8:17).
7.] Solemn conclusion of the Epistle. He that hath an ear (no fanciful distinction must be imagined between the singular, and the plural which is found in the Gospels (reff.): nor must we imagine with Hengst. that οὖς denotes the spiritual hearing or apprehension. We have precisely the same use of the sing. in Matthew 10:27, ὃ εἰς τὸ οὖς ἀκούετε κηρύξατε ἐπὶ τῶν δωμάτων: where the distinction will hardly be maintained), let him hear what the Spirit (τὸ πνεῦμα, speaking in its fulness, through Him to whom it is given without measure, to John who was ἐν πνεύματι, in a state of spiritual ecstasy and receptivity: cf. John 16:13) saith to the churches (Ebrard well notices that not a colon, but a full stop must be put here, as indeed might be shewn from the way in which the proclamation is repeated in ver. 29 and in ch. 3:6, 13, 22. It directs attention, not to that which follows only, but to the whole contents of the seven Epistles). To him that conquereth (the verb is absolute, without any object expressed as in reff. John and 1 John. So of Christ Himself in ch. 3:21), I will give to him (the personal pronoun is repeated both idiomatically and for emphasis) to eat (i. e. I will permit him to eat: not in the ordinary sense of giving to eat: see ch. 3:21, δώσω αὐτῷ.… καθίσαι of (the fruit of) the tree (see ref. Gen., from which the words come: and to suit which apparently the words μέσῳ τοῦ have been substituted for τῷ) of life, which is in the paradise of (my) God (the way to which tree was closed up after man’s sin, Genesis 3:24. The promise, and its expression, are in the closest connexion with our Lord’s discourse in Joh_6, as will be seen by comparing Genesis 3:22, μή ποτε ἐκτείνῃ τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ, καὶ λάβῃ ἀπὸ τοῦ ξύλου τῆς ζωῆς, καὶ φάγῃ, καὶ ζήσεται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα,—with John 6:51, ἐάν τις φάγῃ ἐκ τούτου τοῦ ἄρτου, ζήσεται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα. But we need not therefore say (as Ebrard: so also Calov.) that Christ is the tree of life here, nor confuse the figure by introducing one which in its character is distinct from it. Still less, as Grot., is the tree to be interpreted as being the Holy Spirit. See, for the imagery, ch. 22:2, 14, 19.
There is meaning in τοῦ θεοῦ (μου). The two former words as following παραδείσῳ, come from Ezekiel 28:13, and set forth the holiness and glory of that paradise as consisting in God’s dwelling and delighting in it: and the adjunct μου (John 20:17), if read, connects this holiness and glory with Him who is ours, and who has every right to make the promise in virtue of his own peculiar part in God.
On the whole image and expression, see Schöttgen, h. 1., who adduces many parallels from the rabbinical writings).
8-11.]The Epistle to the church at Smyrna. See Prolegg., § iii. 8. And to the angel of the church in Smyrna (in accordance with the idea of the angel representing the bishop, many of the ancient Commentators have inferred that Polycarp must have been here addressed. Whether this were chronologically possible, must depend on the date which we assign to the writing of the Apocalypse. He was martyred in a.d. 168, 86 years after his conversion, H. E. iv. 15) write: These things saith the first and the last, who was (became) dead and revived (see ch. 1:17, 18, and for this sense of ζῇν, reff. The words here seem to point on to the promise in vv. 10, 11): I know thy tribulation and thy poverty (in outward wealth, arising probably from the θλῖψις, by the despoiling of the goods of the Christians); nevertheless thou art rich (spiritually; see reff. To suppose an allusion to the name πολύκαρπος (Hengst.), is in the highest degree fanciful and improbable): and (I know) thy calumny from (arising from) those who profess themselves to be Jews, and they are not, but (are) Satan’s synagogue (these slanderers were in all probability actually Jews by birth, but not (see Romans 2:28; Matthew 3:9; John 8:33; 2Corinthians 11:22; Philippians 3:4 ff.) in spiritual reality; the same who ever where, in St. Paul’s time and afterwards, were the most active enemies of the Christians. When Polycarp was martyred, we read ἅπαν τὸ πλῆθος ἐθνῶν τε καὶ Ἰουδαίων τῶν τὴν Σμύρναν κατοικούντων ἀκατασχέτῳ θυμῷ καὶ μεγάλῃ φωνῇ ἐπεβόα: and afterwards when faggots were collecting for the pile, μάλιστα Ἰουδαίων προθύμως, ὡς ἔθος αὐτοῖς, εἰς τοῦτο ὑπουργούντων, Mart. Polyc. c. 12, 13, pp. 1032, 1042. This view is strengthened by the context. Had they been, as some have supposed, e. g. Vitringa, Christians, called Ἰουδαῖοι in a mystical sense, they would hardly have been spoken of as the principal source of calumny against the Church, nor would the collective epithet of Satan’s synagogue be given to them. Respecting the latter appellation, see some interesting remarks by Trench, N. T. Synonyms, § i. He brings out there, how ἐκκλησία, the nobler word, was chosen by our Lord and His Apostles for the assembly of the called in Christ, while συναγωγή, which is only once found (James 2:2) of a Christian assembly (and there, as Düsterd. notes, not with τοῦ θεοῦ, but with ὑμῶν), was gradually abandoned entirely to the Jews, so that in this, the last book of the canon, such an expression as this can be used. See also his Comm. on the Epistles to the Seven Churches, p. 95. See the opposite in Numbers 16:3, Numbers 20:4, Numbers 31:16,—συναγωγὴ κυρίου).
10.] Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer (in the ways mentioned below. ἅ indicates manifold tribulation, as there): behold [for certain (δή gives the tone of present certainty and actuality: see reff. It is in fact originally no more than a shortened form of ἤδη: see Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 245 ff.) ], the devil (Hengstb. after Züllig, would lay stress here on the import of the name of the great adversary, as connected with the βλασφημία above. But this again would be forced and unnatural, especially after the recent mention of σατανᾶ. Of course it is understood from the context, that the devil would act through the hostility of human agents, and among them eminently these Jewish enemies. Trench, in loc., remarks on the reference to the devil, as the primary author of all assaults on the Church, found in the Acts of the ancient martyrs: e. g. the Ep. from the Churches of Lyons and Vienne: the Martyrdom of Polycarp, 3, 17, pp. 1032, 1041: Martyr. Ignat.) is about to oast (some) of you into prison (literally: the constant accompaniment of persecution, Acts 12:4; Acts 16:23: not, as Heinr., put for all kinds of misery), that ye may be tried (by temptations to fall away: not, that ye may be proved,—“ut fidem suam inter maxima pericula probare eoque consummatam virtutem consummare possint,” as Ewald. This might be the end which Christ had in view in permitting the persecution: but ἵνα here rather gives the purpose of the agent in the previous clause, ὁ διάβολος): and ye shall have tribulation ten days (the expression is probably used to signify a short and limited time: so in Genesis 24:55; Numbers 11:19; Daniel 1:12: see also Numbers 14:22; 1Samuel 1:8; Job 19:3; Acts 25:6. Wetst. quotes Ter. Adelph. v. 1. 36, “decem dierum vix mihi est familia.” So Arethas in Catena, εἰς ὀλίγον χρόνον τούτων ἡ θλῖψις, καὶ οὐδʼ ὅσον δέκα ἡμέραις παραμετρεῖσθαι ἀξία. And so, recently, Trench. All kinds of fanciful interpretations have been given: so in Gloss. ord.,—“Deus suos ad bella mittens Decalogo armat” (another variety of which is, “tribulatio ecclesiæ durabit quamdiu observatio præceptorum Decalogi, quod est usque ad finem mundi:” so Lyra, altern.):—“x. diebus, i. e. toto hoc tempore in quo per septem dies contra tria principalia vitia pugnatur, avaritiam, cupiditatem, vanam gloriam.” Similarly Ansbert. And again, “significatur totum tempus usque ad finem sæculi, eo quod omnes numeri sequentes denarium sunt replicationes ipsius et partium suarum.” Lyra introduces “the year-day principle:”—“posset etiam aliter salvo meliori judicio exponi, ut per decern dies intelligantur decem anni, secundum illud, Ezech. 4:6, ‘Diem pro anno dedi;’ forte tantum duravit persecutio Smyrnensis ecclesiæ.” This has been taken up by Cluver. in Calov., Brightmann, al. , Haymo, and Joachim understand it of the ten persecutions from Nero to Diocletian: Perer., Ribera, and Corn.-a-lap., “decem, id est, multis, diebus:” , “quia, licet ista tribulatio pluribus diebus et mensibus duret, decem tamen diebus erit atrocissima:” and recently Ebrard understands the ten days of ten divisions, or periods, in the persecution). Be (γίνου, not ἴσθι, see reff.: new circumstances of trial requiring new kinds and degrees of fidelity; which does not remain as it is, but takes accession) thou (it is quite futile to attempt to distinguish in these Epistles between what is said to the Angel in the singular, and what is said to the Church in the plural. This is shewn by the former part of this verse,—ἃ μέλλεις πάσχειν.… followed by ἐξ ὑμῶν. Only where there is occasion to discriminate, is the plural used: cf. ver. 24 f.: but wherever the whole church is spoken of it is in the singular, under the person of its representative angel) faithful unto (reff. not, “until:” but “even unto,” i. e. up to the point or measure of: Let not thy faithfulness stop short of enduring death itself. Cf. Philippians 2:8) death, and (reff.) I will give thee the crown (τὸν στ., as being the well-known prize promised to the faithful: as in reff. Trench, in loc., has an interesting note on the question whether this is a diadem of royalty, or a garland of victory: and decides for the former, seeing that the στέφανοι of ch. 5 can only be royal crowns,—that the word is employed by all the Evangelists of the “Crown of thorns,”—and that the imagery of this book is not any where drawn from Gentile antiquity, but is Jewish throughout) of life (gen. of apposition: the life itself being the crown: see note, and distinction, on 2Timothy 4:8).
11.] Conclusion: see above, ver. 7. He that conquereth shall not be injured (οὐ μή gives great precision and certainty to the promise: there is no chance (οὐ) that he should be (μή).… See Winer, edn. 6, § 56. 3 note) by (ἐκ as proceeding out of as the source or origin) the second death (defined to be, in ch. 20:14, ἡ λίμνη τοῦ πυρός. In this he shall have no part, nor it any power over him).
12-17.] The Epistle to the church at Pergamum (see Prolegg. § iii. 9; Trench, p. 106). And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These things saith He that hath the sharp two-edged sword (this is the logical order in English of the epithet-predicates, τὴν δίστομον τὴν ὀξεῖαν. ἡ ῥ. ἡ δίστομος is the sword with two edges: and to the whole of this is added ἡ ὀξεῖα.
The designation of our Lord is made with reference to ver. 16 below): I know where thou dwellest; (viz.) where is the throne of Satan (it is not easy to say, what these words import. and Areth. say in the Catena, θρόνον τοῦ σ. τὸν Περγ. καλεῖ, ὡς κατείδωλον οὖσαν ὑπὲρ τὴν Ἀσίαν πᾶσαν. And so Vitringa and Bengel. But Vitr. himself asks, “an Satanas in illa superstitione (Æsculapii cultu) se magis prodidit Pergami, quam in Dianæ cultu Ephesi?” Grot. Wetst. al. fancy that σατανᾶς was the serpent form under which the god Æsculapius was worshipped at Pergamum. But even the fact itself is doubtful; and the interpretation halts, in that the text is not ὁ θρόνος τοῦ δράκοντος, instead of τ. σατανᾶ. Zornius, mentioned in Wolf, h. l., explains it of the famous Pergamene library, and the writings of the Sophists therein contained. A more likely direction in which to find the solution is that taken by Lyra, “id est, ejus potestas, infideles inclinando ad persecutionem ecclesiæ:” for above, ver. 10, the act of persecution is ascribed to the devil: and here we learn by what follows, that he had carried it at Pergamum to the extent of putting Antipas to death; which seems not to have been reached elsewhere at this time. Whether this may have been owing to the fact of the residence of the supreme magistracy at Pergamum, or to some fanatical zeal of the inhabitants for the worship of Æsculapius, or to some particular person or persons dwelling there especially hostile to the followers of Christ (Hengst., Ewald), must remain uncertain. The above view, with unimportant modifications, is adopted by De Wette, Ebrard, Stern (who combines the others with it), Gräber, Düsterd., al.—I may remark, that it is plainly out of the question to attempt, as has been done by some, to connect such an expression as this with the prophecies of the latter portion of the book, and to anticipate for the insignificant Pergamum a leading place in their fulfilment. The expression is relevant, as the context shews, merely to the then existing state of the city (ὅπου κατοικεῖ below), and not to any future part which it should take in the fulfilment of prophecy), and thou holdest last (reff.) my name (the profession of thy faith in Me) and didst not deny the faith of me in the days of Antipas (or, taking the other form of the text, ‘in which Antipas:’ see var. readd. As the shorter text runs, and probably also if we read the ταῖς of the Codex Sinaiticus, Ἀντίπας is regarded as indeclinable, which circumstance has apparently led to all the perplexing varieties of reading) my witness, my faithful one (or, if we omit the second μου, my faithful witness: the appositional nominative, see above, ch. 1:5. A motive for its use here may have been the nominatival form of the gen. Ἀντίπας. This consideration of itself would obviate the untenable objection which Düsterd. brings against the above account of the construction, viz. that there is no reason to suppose it to have been used except in the case of the Sacred Name, as in ch. 1:5: but see Düsterd.’s own text in ver. 20: and reff. there), who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth (of Antipas = Antipater (Jos. Antt. xiv. 1. 3),—after the analogy of Hermas for Hermodorus, Lucas and Silas for Lucanus and Silvanus,—nothing is known to us with certainty, except from this passage. Andreas says that he had read the account of his martyrdom: Ἀντίπας δέ τις τοὔνομα μάρτυς ἐν Περγάμῳ γέγονεν ἀνδρειότατος, οὗπερ ἀνέγνων τὸ μαρτύριον: and Areth. in Cat. says, οὗ καὶ τὸ μαρτύριον εἰς ἔτι σώζεται. Ribera gives the following account from Simeon Metaphrastes: “Pergami episcopum hunc fuisse tradunt, et ejus martyrium Metaphrastes Simeon scripsit, qui ad extremam eum senectutem pervenisse dicit, et cum res Christianorum propter Domitiani persecutionem magno in discrimine versarentur, nullo timore captum sæpius in publicum prodiisse et inter crudelissimorum tortorum minas intrepide sinceram fidei doctrinam ac Christi laudes prædicasse. Ita Christianis præsidio, dæmonibus terrori erat, qui ab ipso se fugari et sacrificiis suis privari fatebantur. Quare a præfecto urbis captus et in Christi confessione generose persistens ad Dianæ templum tractus et in bovem æneum, quem multo ante igne inflammayerant, conjectus, vitam in gratiarum actione precibusque finivit. Et tanta (inquit Simeon) præstitit virtute, ut locus hic ubi martyrium pertulit, in hodiernum usque diem miraculis excellat, et magnæ in eo fiant curationes.” The Greek and Roman menologies contain similar accounts at his day, April 11th. It is hardly possible to withhold indignation at the many childish symbolic meanings which have been imagined for the name, in defiance of philology and of sobriety alike. First is that of Aretius, ἀντὶ-πᾶς, the enemy of all, i. e. the child of God and enemy of the world; which has been taken up by Hengstenherg, who ought to have known better, and Antipas identified with the historic Timotheus. Such folly would hardly be credited, were it not before our eyes:—“Ist man big hieher gefolgt, so wird man es nicht zu kühn finden, wenn wir die Beramtlung ausstellen, das durch Antipas Timotheus bezeichnet werde. Die beiden namen ‘Furchtegott’ und ‘Gegenall’ stehen in inniger Correspondenz mit einander,” &c., Hengst. p. 190. This Commentator also finds remarkable meaning in the way in which the name is written in , Ἀντείπας. Then that of E. Schmidt and others, who hold Ἀντεὶπας to be = Ἀντὶπαπα: that of Cocceius, who makes Antipas represent the Athanasians, seeing that ἀντίπατρος = ἰσόπατρος = ὁμοούσιος. I mention such interpretations, to shew how far men may go wrong when once they surrender their judgment to their fancy in search of a mystic sense for plain history, On ὅπου ὁ σατ. κατοικ., see above).
14, 15.] Nevertheless I have against thee a few things (not “a little matter,” as Luth., Hengstb.; nor does ὀλίγα imply that more than one matter is blamed, as Beng.: nor is it used by litotes, to mean “graviter de te conqueror,” as Heinr. and Ebrard; nor is any reference to be thought of to the sins of Christ’s people having been removed by His atonement, and thus spoken of lightly by Him, as Aretius: but is used as a word of comparison with the far greater number of approved things which remained, and is plural, inasmuch as ὀλίγον would refer, not to the objective fewness, but to the subjective unimportance, of the grounds of complaint; which latter was not so. This use of the plural comes under the case treated by Winer (§ 27. 2), where only one thing is really meant, but the writer speaks of that one generically; e. g. τεθνήκασιν οἱ ζητοῦντες τὴν ψυχ. τοῦ παιδίου, Matthew 2:20, where Herod only is meant. And so De Wette and Düsterd.): thou hast there (in Pergamum: the locality is specified probably on account of the description which has been just given of it as the place where a faithful martyr had suffered unto death) men holding (cf. κρατεῖς τὸ ὄν. μου above) the teaching of Balaam (διδαχήν: not simply as De W., “doctrine corresponding to the character of the advice of Balaam,” but used in strict correspondence with ὃς ἐδίδασκεν following: that which a man teaches being his doctrine. And κρατεῖν this διδαχήν, is to follow the teaching), who taught Balak (the dat. seems to be a Hebraism, לִמֵּד לִ, Job 21:22: so Ewald, De W., Ebrard, Düsterd.: not a dat. commodi, “for Balak” to serve his purpose, understanding “men” as an object after ἐδίδασκεν, as Hengstb. Certainly it is not expressly asserted in Numbers 31:16 that it was Balak whom Balaam advised to use this agency against Israel: but the narrative almost implies it: Balak was in power, and was the most likely person to authorize and put in force the scheme. And so Josephus, Antt. iv. 6. 6, makes Balaam on departing call to him τόν τε Βάλακον καὶ τοὺς ἄρχοντας τῶν Μαδιανιτῶν, and give them the advice) to put a stumbling-block (properly σκανδάληθρον: see reff., and a minute investigation of the word by Trench in loc.: an occasion of sin) before (in the way, or before the face of) the sons of Israel, to eat (i. e. inducing them to eat. See var. readd.) things offered to idols (from Numbers 25:1, Numbers 25:2, it was not only participation in things offered to idols, but the actual offering sacrifices to them, of which the children of Israel were guilty. But seeing that the participation was that which was common to both, our Lord takes that as the point to be brought forward: “satis hic habuit Christus id dicere, quod illi Israelitæ cum Nicolaitis habebant commune.” Grot.) and to commit fornication.
15.] Thus thou also hast (as well as those of old: not, as the Church at Ephesus, ver. 6 (De W.). “Sicut Balac tenuit doctrinam pestiferam Balaam, sic apud te sunt aliqui tenentes doctrinam Nicolai erroneam.” Lyra) men holding (see above) the teaching of the Nicolaitans (the art. though not expressed, is in fact, in this later usage, contained in the proper name) in like manner (viz. in eating things offered to idols, and fornication. We may remark, 1) that it is most according to the sense of the passage to understand these sins in the case of the Nicolaitans, as in that of those whom Balaam tempted, literally, and not mystically. So , Andr., Areth., Ribera, Calov., Beng., Heinr. (doubtfully), Ewald, De W., Hengst., Ebrard, Düsterd., Trench, al.: 2) that the whole sense of the passage is against the idea of the identity of the Balaamites and the Nicolaitans; and would be in fact destroyed by it. The mere existence of the etymological relation is extremely doubtful (see above on ver. 6): and even granting it,—to suppose the two identical, would be to destroy the historical illustration by which the present existing sect is described).
16.] Repent [therefore] (Lyra, a-Lapide, Tirinus, Bengel, al., join the preceding ὁμοίως to this clause, understanding it, as well as the church at Ephesus, ver. 5.
The command is addressed not only to the Nicolaitans, but to the church, which did not, like that of Ephesus, hate them, but apparently tolerated them): but if not, I (will) come to thee (dat. incommodi, see above on ver. 5) quickly (here again, though in the common eschatological phrase, not of the Lord’s final coming; as indeed the language shews, for then He no longer πολεμήσει), and will make war with them (the Nicolaitans. This making war must not be understood as Grotius, “Prophetas excitabo in Ecclesia, qui id faciant quod Episcopus negligit, et fortiter se opponant Nicolaitis” (similarly Calov.)) with (ἐν, in, as armed with or arrayed in: but sometimes in the Rev. it is difficult to trace the proper meaning of ἐν, and it seems almost purely instrumental: cf. Winer, edn. 6, § 48, d) the sword of my mouth (many expositors (e. g., Grot., Wetst., Vitr., Beng., Stern, Hengst., Trench, al.) suppose an allusion to the sword of the angel, armed with which he withstood Balaam in the way (Numbers 22:23, Numbers 22:31), or to that and the sword by which those who sinned in the matter of Baal-peor (Numbers 25:5), and eventually Balaam himself (Numbers 31:8), were slain: but seeing that the connexion with ch. 1:16 is so plainly asserted by our ver. 12, it seems better to confine the allusion to that sword, and not to stretch it to what after all is a very doubtful analogy).
17.] Conclusion. For the former clause see on ver. 7. We may notice that in these three first Epistles, the proclamation precedes the promise to him that conquereth: in the four last, it follows the promise. To him that conquereth I will give to him (see above on ver. 7) of the manna which is hidden (on the partitive gen. see ref., and Winer, edn. 6, § 30. 7, b. In this manna, there is unmistakably an allusion to the proper and heavenly food of the children of Israel, as contrasted with the unhallowed idolofferings; but beyond that, there is an allusion again (see above on ver. 7) to our Lord’s discourse in Joh_6, where He describes Himself as the true bread from heaven: not that we need here, any more than in ver. 7 (see note there), confuse the present figure by literally pressing the symbolism of that chapter. Christ’s gifts may all be summed up in the gift of Himself: on the other hand, He may describe any of the manifold proprieties of his own Person and office as His gift. This manna is κεκρυμμένον, in allusion partly perhaps to the fact of the pot of manna laid up in the ark in the holy of holies (Exodus 16:33: cf. our ch. 11:19: not to the Jewish fable, “Hæc est arca quam … Josias abscondit ante vastationem templi nostri, et hæc area futuro tempore, adveniente Messia nostra … manifestabitur.” Abarbanel on 1Samuel 4:4, cited by Düsterd.), but principally to the fact that our spiritual life, with its springs and nourishments, κέκρυπται σὺν τῷ χριστῷ ἐν τῷ θεῷ, Colossians 3:3. See also Psalm 78:24; Psalm 105:40. The distinction between κεκρυμμένον, reconditum, and κρυπτόν, occultum, pressed here by Trench after Cocceius, does not appear to be warranted, further than that the participle represents more the objective fact, while the verbal adjective sets forth the subjective quality), and I will give to him a white stone (see, below), and on the stone (the prep. of motion betokens the act of inscribing) a new name written, which none knoweth except he that receiveth it (the views concerning this stone have been very various. Bede interprets it “corpus nunc baptismo candidatum, tunc incorruptionis gloria refulgens.” And similarly Lyra, “corpus dote charitatis decoratum, quod dicitur calculus sive lapillus, quia est extractum de terra, sicut et lapis,” adding, “nomen novum, quia tunc quilibet beatus manifeste et corporaliter per dotes corporis gloriosi erit ascriptus civitati cœlestium.” But both these are surely out of the question. Some have connected this with the mention of the manna, and cited (as Wetst., who gives it merely among others and expresses no opinion) the Rabbinical tradition, Joma 8, “cadebant Israelitis una cum manna lapides pretiosi et margaritæ.” Others again think of the precious stones bearing the names of the twelve tribes on the breastplate of the High-priest, the order for which was contemporary with the giving of the manna, Exodus 28:17; Exodus 39:10, and regard this as indicating the priestly dignity of the victorious Christian. So Ewald, Züllig, Ebrard: the last remarks, that as the hidden manna was the reward for abstaining from idol-meat, so this for abstinence from fornication. But, as Düsterd. observes, these are never called ψῆφοι. Again some, as Arethas, Grot., Hamm., Eichhorn, Heinr., have reminded us of the Gentile custom of presenting the victors at the games with a ψῆφος or ticket which entitled them to nourishment at the public expense, and to admission to royal festivals. Titus, they quote from Xiphilinus, Epit. Dion. p. 228, used to cast small pieces of wood (σφαίρια ξύλινα μικρά) down into the arena, σύμβολον ἔχοντα, τὰ μὲν ἐδωδίμου τινός, κ.τ.λ., which whoever got was to bring καὶ λαβεῖν τὸ ἐπιγεγραμμένον. Hence they regard the white stone as the ticket of admission to the heavenly feast. But it may be replied, 1) the feast is mentioned separately under the name of the hidden manna: and 2) the description of the writing on the stone, which follows, will not suit this view. Again, others, regarding the connexion of the white stone with the manna, refer to the use of the lot cast among the priests, which should offer the sacrifice (so Schöttg., quoting the Rabbis): or to the writing a name, at election by ballot, on a stone or a bean (so Elsner, and perhaps Victorinus, who says, “gemma alba, adoptio in filium Dei”): or to the “mos erat antiquis niveis atrisque lapillis, His damnare reos, illis absolvere culpa,” Ov. Met. xv. 41. So Erasm., Zeger, a-Lap., Aretius, Calov., Vitr., Wolf, al. Some expositors combine two or more of these expositions: as De Wette, understanding it as typical of justification and election; Bengel; Stern, who also notices the white stone as the mark of felicity, “Hunc, Macrine, diem numera meliore lapillo, Qui tibi labentes apponit candidus annos,” Pers. Sat. ii., and “O diem lætum notandumque mihi candidissimo calculo,” Plin. Ep. vi. 11. 3. But, as Düsterd. well observes, it is against all these interpretations, that no one of them fits the conditions of this description. Each one halts in the explanation either of the stone itself, or of that which is written on it. Least of all, perhaps, does the last apply: the verdict of acquittal would be a strange reward indeed to one who has fought and overcome in the strength of an acquittal long ago obtained, ὁ κύριος ἐχαρίσατο ὑμῖν Colossians 3:13. The most probable view is that which Bengel gives a hint of (“scribebant veteres multa in lapillis”), and which Hengst. (“Das hier in Betrachtkommende Moment ist allein das, dass man im Alterthume manches auf kleine Steine schrieb”) and Düsterd. hold, that the figure is derived from the practice of using small stones, inscribed with writing, for various purposes, and that, further than this, the imagery belongs to the occasion itself only. Taking it thus, the colour is that of victory, see ch. 3:4; 6:2; 4:4; 19:14. The name inscribed yet remains for consideration. It is in this, as it would be in every case, the inscription which gives the stone its real value, being, as it is, a token of reward and approval from the Son of God. But what name is this? not what name in each case, for an answer to this question is precluded by the very terms, ὃ οὐδεὶς οἶδεν, κ.τ.λ.: but of what kind? Is it the name of Christ Himself, or of God in Christ? This supposition is precluded also by the game terms: for any mysterious name of God or of Christ would either be hidden from all (so ch. 19:12, ἔχων … ὄνομα γεγραμμένον ὃ οὐδεὶς οἶδεν εἰ μὴ αὐτός), or known to all who were similarly victorious through grace. These very terms seem to require that it should be the recipient’s own name, a new name however; a revelation of his everlasting title, as a son of God, to glory in Christ, but consisting of, and revealed in, those personal marks and signs of God’s peculiar adoption of himself, which he and none else is acquainted with. “If the heart knoweth its own bitterness, and a stranger intermeddleth not with its joy” (Proverbs 14:10), then the deep secret dealings of God with each of us during those times, by which our sonship is assured and our spiritual strife carried onward to victory, can, when revealed to us in the other blessed state, be known thoroughly to ourselves only. Bengel beautifully says, “Mochtest Du wissen, was Du fur einen neuen Namen bekommen wirst? Uberwinde! Borher fragst Du vergeblich: und hernach wirst Du ihn bald auf dem weissen Stein geschrieben lesen.” Trench, in loc., after Züllig, suggests that the white, or glistering stone, may be the Urim, in which the most precious stone of all was covered by the twelve on which the names of the tribes were engraved; the writing on which no one knew. The suggestion is one well worth consideration).
18-29.] The Epistle to the church at Thyatira. See Prolegg. § iii. 9. And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These things saith the Son of God (our Lord thus names himself here, in accordance with the spirit of that which is to follow; ver. 27 being from Psa_2, in which it is written, κύριος εἶπεν πρός με Υἱός μου εἶ σύ, ἐγὼ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε), who hath his eyes as a flame of fire (connected with ver. 23, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἐρευνῶν νεφροὺς καὶ καρδίας) and his feet are like to chalcolibanus (for χαλκολ., see on ch. 1:15. There is here probably a connexion with ver. 27, ὡς τὰ σκεύη τὰ κεραμικὰ συντρίβεται, the work of the strongly shod feet): I know thy works, and (the four which follow are subordinated to the ἔργα preceding, as is shown by σου placed after the four, not after each one. The καί then is the subordinating or epexegetic copula, as in καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος, John 1:16. See Winer, edn. 6, § 53. 3, c) the love (ἀγάπη, standing first, is probably quite general, to God and man) and the faith (general again: not = faithfulness, but in its ordinary sense) and the ministration (viz., to the sick and poor, and all that need it: the natural proof of ἀγάπη and πίστις—πίστις διʼ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη, Galatians 5:6) and the endurance (in tribulation: or perhaps the ὑπομονὴ ἔργου ἀγαθοῦ of Romans 2:7) of thee, and (that) thy last works (are) more (in number, or importance, or both) than the first (this praise is the opposite of the blame conveyed by ver. 5 to the Ephesian church).
20.] Notwithstanding I have against thee that thou sufferest (ἀφεῖς from ἀφέω, see ref. Ex. and Winer, edn. 6, § 14. 3) thy wife (or, the woman) Jezebel (on the whole, the evidence for σου being inserted in the text seems to me to preponderate. It could not well have been inserted: and was sure to have been erased, from its difficulty, and possibly from other reasons, considering what was the common interpretation of the ἄγγελος. It does not create any real difficulty: finding its meaning not in the matter of fact at Thyatira, but in the history from which the appellation Ἰεζαβέλ is taken. In 3 Kings 20:25 (1Kings 21:25) we read Ἀχαάβ, ὃς ἐπράθη ποιῆσαι τὸ πονηρὸν ἐνώπιον κυρίου, ὡς μετέθηκεν αὐτὸν Ἰεζαβὲλ ἡ γυνὴ αὐτοῦ: from which text the phrase is transferred entire, importing that this Jezebel was to the church at Thyatira what that other was to Ahab. It is not so easy to determine who is, or who are, imported by the term. The very fact of the name Jezebel being chosen (for it is impossible, even were this the actual name of a woman, that it should be used here with any other than the symbolic meaning), coupled with τὴν γυναῖκά σου above explained, takes us out of the realms of simple fact into those of symbolism. The figure of “Jezebel thy wife” being once recognized in its historical import, it would not be needful that an individual woman should be found to answer to it: the conscience of the Thyatiran church could not fail to apply the severe reproof to whatever influence was being exerted in the direction here indicated. So that I should rate at very little the speculations of many Commentators on the supposed woman here pointed out. Düsterd., recently, remarks that ἡ λέγουσα has something individual about it. So it has: but may not this individuality belong just as well to the figure, as to the thing signified by it? The sect or individuals being once concentrated as Jezebel, ἡ λέγουσα would follow of course, in the propriety of the figure. On the whole, however, I should feel it more probable that some individual teacher, high in repute and influence at the time, is pointed at. The denunciation of such a teacher under such a title would be at once startling and decisive. Nor would probability be violated by the other supposition, that a favoured and influential party In the Thyatiran church is designated. The church herself is represented by a woman: why may not a party (compare the Jews, who are the συναγωγὴ τοῦ σατανᾶ of ver. 9) within the church be similarly symbolized? However this may be, the real solution must lie hidden until all that is hidden shall be known. See more below), who calleth herself a prophetess (the appositional nom. again: see reff.: and again with an indeclinable proper name, as in ver. 13. This clause perhaps points at an individual: but there is on the other hand no reason why a sect claiming prophetic gifts should not be indicated: the feminine belonging as before to the historical symbol), and she teacheth and deceiveth my servants, to commit fornication and eat things sacrificed to idols (hence the propriety of the name Jezebel: for both these were the abominations of the historic Jezebel: 2Kings 9:22, 2Kings 9:30 (cf. Jeremiah 4:30; Nahum 3:4): the latter indeed in its more aggravated form of actual idolatry, 1Kings 18:19. This specification of the mischief done shews us that this influence at Thyatira was in the same direction as the evil works of the Nicolaitans at Pergamum, ver. 14. The fact that this was the prevalent direction of the false teaching of the day, is important in a chronological point of view: see Prolegg., § iii. par. 6). And I gave her time (not, “in my pre-ordination of what is to be,” as the aor. in Mark 13:20, but denoting historically that which the Lord had actually done, in vain. Notice that the ἀφεῖναι, on which depended the time given her for repentance, is yet blamed in the church of Thyatira as a sin) that she should repent, and she willeth not to repent of (lit. “out of:” constr. prægn., so as to come out of: or the μεταν. itself is regarded as an escape. The construction (reff.) is confined to this book: we have the verb once with ἀπό, Acts 8:22; and the subst. μετάνοια, Hebrews 6:1) her fornication (πορνεία is here to be taken, as in all these passages, in its literal sense. Otherwise, if taken figuratively, it would be only a repetition of the other particular, idolatry).
22.] Behold (arrests attention, and prepares the way for something unexpected and terrible), I cast her (evidently against her will: but there is not necessarily violence in the word: it is the ordinary verb for being “cast” on a bed of sickness: see reff. and Matthew 8:6, Matthew 8:14) into a bed (ἀντὶ τοῦ, εἰς ἀῤῥωστίαν, Areth.: will change her bed of whoredom into a bed of anguish: see Psalm 41:3. So most Commentators. Perhaps the threat has reference to a future pestilence. Bede, Lyra, al., understand the bed to be “infernalis pœna,” the latter referring to Isaiah 14:11. Ansbert, curiously enough, “severitatis vel audaciæ lectum,” into which God casts his enemies before their destruction), and those who commit adultery (not now πορνεύοντας, but a more general term, embracing in its wide meaning both the πορνεῦσαι and εἰδωλόθυτα φαγεῖν, and well known as the word used of rebellious and idolatrous Israel, cf. Jeremiah 3:8, Jeremiah 3:5:7; Ezekiel 16:32 al.) together with her μετʼ αὐτῆς is not = αὐτήν, so that she should be the ‘conjux adulterii,’ but implies merely participation—those who share with her in her adulteries. These μοιχεύοντες μετʼ αὐτῆς, as interpreted by the tone with which the rebuke began, will mean, those who by suffering and encouraging her, make themselves partakers of her sin. And this rather favours the idea that not one individual, but a dominant party, is intended. See below) into great tribulation (this clause forms a kind of parallelism with the former, so that εἰς θλίψιν μεγ. is parallel with εἰς κλίνην. But it is not to be regarded as interpreting κλίνη. Her punishment and that of her children (see below) is one thing; that of the partakers in her adulteries, those in the church who tolerated and encouraged her, another, viz. great tribulation. This is forcibly shewn by the ἔργων αὐτῆς following), if they do not (aor.: speedily and effectually, shall not have done so by the time which I have in my thoughts) repent of her (not their: they are Christ’s servants who are tampering with her temptations and allowing themselves in her works, which are alien from their own spiritual life) works. And her children (emphatically put forward as distinguished from the last mentioned: q. d., “And as to her children, &c.” These are her proper adherents: not those who suffer her, but those who are begotten of her, and go to constitute her. Some Commentators have vainly dreamt of the slaughter of Ahab’s 70 sons, 2Ki_10: but they were not Jezebel’s children. The historical figure is obviously dropped here) I will slay with (in, but perhaps merely instrumental: see above, on ver. 16) death (the expression is probably a rendering of the Heb. מוֹת־יוּמַת, as in Leviticus 20:10, which the LXX render by θανάτῳ θανατούσθωσαν, and which there occurs in reference to adultery. But we need not, as Hengst., suppose a direct reference to that passage: for there is nothing of adultery here: we have done with τοὺς μοιχεύοντας μετʼ αὐτῆς, and are come to the judgment on τὰ τέκνα αὐτῆς): and all the churches (this remarkable expression, meaning not, all the Asiatic churches, but all the churches in the world till the end of time, lifts the whole of this threatening and its accompanying encouragements out of proconsular Asia, and gives us a glimpse into the œcumenical character of these messages) shall know (the fanciful Hengst. imagines a reference in γνώσονται to the false γνῶσις: but in so common and solemn a formula of the O. T., this must surely be out of the question) that I am he that searcheth the reins and the hearts (which, see reff. is the attribute of God: and therefore of the Son of God. Cf. ver. 18 above, and note. Grotius says, “Per renes intelliguntur desideria, ut et Psalm 139:13, Jeremiah 12:2, Proverbs 23:16: per cor, cogitata, 1Samuel 16:7, 1Samuel 16:1 Reg. 8:39 al.” But it seems doubtful whether so minute a distinctionis in the words; whether they are not rather a general designation for the whole inward parts of a man): and I will give to you (‘will render, in My doom of judgment.’ The strain of the Lord’s message is Suddenly changed into a direct address to those threatened) to each according to your works (ἔργα, not the mere outward products of the visible life, but the real acts and verities of the inward man, discerned by the piercing eye of the Son of God).
24.] But (contrast to those addressed before) to you I say, the rest who are in Thyatira, as many as have not (not only do not hold, but are free from any contact with) this teaching, such as (οἵτινες, as usual, classifies) have not known the depths (deep places, in the resolved form) of Satan, as they call them (it was the characteristic of the falsely named γνῶσις, to boast of its βάθεα, or depths, of divine things. Iren. ii. 22. 1, p. 146, speaks of those “qui profunda bythi adinvenisse se dicunt:” and ib. 3, p. 147, “profunda Dei adinvenisse se dicentes.” And adv. Valent. 1, vol. ii. p. 538 ff., should by all means be read, as admirably illustrating this expression. He there says, “Elcusinia Valentiniana fecerunt lenocinia, sancta silentio magno, sola taciturnitate cœlestia. Si bona fide quæris, concrete vultu, suspenso supercilio Altum est, aiunt.” We may safely therefore refer the expression οὐκ ἔγνωσαν τὰ βάθεα to the heretics spoken of. But it is not so clear to whom as their subject the words ὡς λέγουσιν are to be appropriated, and again whose word τοῦ σατανᾶ is, whether that 1) of our Lord, 2) of the heretics, or 3) of the Christians addressed. If ὡς λέγουσιν belong to the Christians, then the sense will be, that they, the Christians, called the βάθεα of the heretics, the βάθεα τοῦ σατανᾶ, and were content to profess their ignorance of them. So Andr., Areth., Heinr., Züllig, Ebrard: and so far would be true enough; but the sentence would thus be left very flat and pointless, and altogether inconsistent in its tone with the solemn and pregnant words of the rest of the message. If ὡς λέγουσιν belong to the heretics, we have our choice between two views of τοῦ σατανᾶ: either 1) that the heretics themselves called their own mysteries τὰ β. τοῦ σατανᾶ. But this, though held by Hengst.,—and even by Neander, Pfl. u. L. edn. 4, p. 619 note, as a possible alternative, and recently by Trench,—can hardly be so, seeing that the words surely would not bear the sense thus assigned to them, viz. that they could go deeper than and outwit Satan in his own kingdom: and seeing moreover, that no such formula, or any resembling it, is found as used by the ancient Gnostic heretics: or 2) that the ὡς λέγουσιν applies only to the word βάθεα, and that, when, according to their way of speaking, τοῦ θεοῦ should have followed (cf. ref. 1 Cor.), the Lord in indignation substitutes τοῦ σατανᾶ. This has been the sense taken by most Commentators, e. g., Corn.-a-lap., Ribera, Grot., Calov., Wetst., Vitr., Bengel, Wolf, Eichhorn, Ewald, De W., Stern, Düsterd. And it appears to me that this alone comes in any measure up to the requirements of the passage, in intensity of meaning and solemnity, as well as in verisimilitude.
I need hardly remark that the rendering which I am sorry to see in Tre-gelles’s very useful little English version of the purer text of the Apoc., “how they speak,” is quite untenable. In the E.V., “as they speak,” is meant to = “as they say:” but for “how they speak” (absol.), λαλοῦσιν would be required), I cast not upon yon any other burden (it is better, seeing that no τοῦτο or τό follows after πλήν below, not to carry on the sentence as if ἄλλο, πλήν … were closely joined, but to break it off at βάρος: leaving however the πλήν to take it up (see below) by and by. And this being so, to what do the words refer? There can, I imagine, be little doubt as to the answer, if we remember some of the expressions used in the apostolic decree in which these very matters here in question, fornication and abstaining from unholy meats, were the only things forbidden to the Gentile converts. For our Lord here takes up and refers to those very words. In Acts 15:28, we read ἔδοξεν γὰρ τῷ ἁγίῳ πνεύματι κ. ἡμῖν μηδὲν πλέον ἐπιτίθεσθαι ὑμῖν βάρος πλὴν τῶν ἐπάναγκες, ἀπέχεσθαι εἰδωλοθύτων κ. αἵματος κ. πνικτῶν κ. πορνείας. This act of simple obedience, and no deep matters beyond their reach, was what the Lord required of them. And this βάρος resolved itself into keeping the faith once delivered to the saints, as enjoined in the next sentence. This view is taken by Bede (2) (in substance: “non ego vobis novam mitto doctrinam: sed quam accepistis, servate in finem;” but he does not mention the allusion), , Lyra, Corn.-a-lap., Stern, Hengst., Düsterd.
Grot. al. give a more general meaning, true in part: “jactant illi se rerum multarum cognitione; eam a vobis non exigo.” Bengel understands by βάρος the trouble given them by Jezebel and her followers: Ewald, the punishments about to befall the heretics, which were not to be feared by the Christians: Ebrard similarly,—they had had enough trouble already in enduring Jezebel, &c, and should not have any share in her punishment: De Wette, the burden of previous suffering implied in ὑπομονή; and so Bede (1), “non patiar vos tentari supra quod potestis,” and Beza, understanding βάρος in the sense of “burden,” so often occurring in the prophets when they denounce the divine threatenings. But to my mind the allusion to the apostolic decree is too clear and prominent to allow of any other meaning coming into question: at least any other which sets that entirely aside. Others may be deduced and flow from that one, which have meaning for the church now that those former subjects of controversy have passed away): but (though not (see above) directly and in the same sentence connected with ἄλλο, πλήν distinctly looks back to it and takes it up. It is, “only:” q. d., forget not that the licence just accorded involves this sacred obligation) that which ye have (cf. ch. 3:11: not to be restricted in its sense to their steadfastness in resisting Jezebel and hers, but representing the sum total of Christian doctrine and hope and privilege; the ἅπαξ παραδοθεῖσα τοῖς ἁγίοις πίστις of Jude 1:3), hold fast (the aor. is more vivid and imperative than would be the present; it sets forth not so much the continuing habit, as the renewed and determined grasp of every intervening moment of the space prescribed) until the time when I shall come (the ἄν gives an uncertainty when the time shall be, which we cannot convey in our language).
26.] And (the announcement of reward to the conqueror now first precedes the proclamation to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches: and is joined, here alone, by καί (to the preceding portion of the Epistle; being indeed more closely connected with it in this case than in any of the others; see below) he that conquereth and he that (by the second ὁ, this καί is precluded from being taken as introducing a clause merely epexegetical of νικῶν, as Düsterd., al. Rather must we say, that by it ὁ τηρῶν κ.τ.λ. is included in the class pointed out by ὁ νικῶν) keepeth to the end (it is remarkable that immediately after the words, so pointedly alluded to above, in the apostolic decree, Acts 15:28, was added, ἐξ ὧν διατηροῦντες ἑαυτοὺς εὖ πράξετε) my works (contrast to τὰ ἔργα αὐτῆς, ver. 22: but extending beyond that contrast to a general and blessed truth. μου, gen. possess, which belong to Me, are the attributes of Myself and of mine), I will give to him authority over the nations (compare the ἴσθι ἐξουσίαν ἔχων ἐπάνω δέκα πόλεων in Luke 19:17, which is the reward of him who obeyed the command πραγματεύσασθε ἐν ᾧ ἔρχομαι. The authority here spoken of is that which shall be conferred on the saints when they shall inherit the earth, and reign with Christ in His Kingdom. It has been gradually realized, as the stone cut out without hands has broken in pieces other kingdoms; but shall only then find its entire fulfilment. Various insufficient meanings have been given: of which one of the most curious is that of Grot., “Evolvam ilium in gradum presbyteri, ut judicet de iis qui non christiane sed ἐθνικῶς vivunt;” who also understands ver. 27 below of excommunication, “per gladium hic intelligitur verbum Dei, cujus pars est et excommunicato”), and he shall govern (lit. “shepherd.” It is the LXX rendering of the Heb. תְּרֹעֵם, break in pieces, which they have taken as תִּרְעֵם, shepherd, in ref. Ps. The saying, as rendered by them, is sanctioned by being thrice quoted in this book, see reff.) them with (see 1Corinthians 4:21) a rod of iron (a sceptre of severity: “inflexibili justitia,” as Lyra), as the vessels of pottery are broken up (συντρίβεται, are crushed, or shivered, or broken up: the συν gives the idea of the multitudinous fragments collapsing into an heap: the “broken to shivers” of the E.V. is very good), as I also have received from my Father (viz. in Psalm 2:9, in which Psalm it is said υἱός μου εἶ σύ, ver. 7. The power there conferred on Me, I will delegate to my victorious servant; see Luke 22:29). And I will give to him the star of the morning (it is not easy to say what, in strict exactness, these words import. The interpretations given, even in the Catena, are very various and inconsistent. Andr. and Areth. understand it of the Lucifer of Isaiah 14:12, i. e. the devil, whom our Lord saw as lightning fall from heaven,—or, as there imported, the King of Babylon, the most powerful monarch on earth; so Züllig. Another meaning in the Catena is τὸν ὑπὸ τοῦ Πέτρου λεχθέντα φώσφορον ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις τῶν πιστῶν ἀνατέλλοντα, 2Peter 1:19. Victorinus says, “Primam resurrectionem scilicet promittit.” Primas., Bede, Alcas., Corn.-a-lap., Calov., Vitr., Wolf, Beng., Stern, Ebrard, understand Christ Himself, who, ch. 22:16, declares Himself to be ὁ ἀστὴρ ὁ λαμπρός, ὁ πρωϊνός: and doubtless, as has been before remarked on the fruit of the tree of life, ver. 7, and on the hidden manna, ver. 17, in the mystical sense, Christ Himself is the sum and inclusion of all Christ’s gifts: this truth serves to connect the symbolism of all these passages, but does not justify us in disturbing that of one by introducing that of another. Here the morning star clearly is not Christ Himself, the very terms of the sentence separating the two. Then again, we have Lyra,—“id est, corpus gloriosum dote claritatis refulgens,”—nearly the same words in which he before explained the white stone, ver. 17, only that there it was “charitatis:” Grot., “dabo et fulgorem, non qualis cuique stellæ, sed Luciferi, qui cæteras stellas multum vincit.” And this interpretation is probably near the mark. In Daniel 12:3 we read that the righteous shall shine ὡς οἱ ἀστέρες, and in Matthew 13:43 that they ἐκλάμψουσιν ὡς ὁ ἥλιος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτῶν. And in Proverbs 4:18 we read that “the path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Still, this interpretation does not quite satisfy the words δώσω αὐτῷ: unless indeed the poetic imagery be, that he is imagined as clad in the glory of that star, putting it on as a jewel, or as a glittering robe. De Wette supposes it is to be given to him as its ruler: but such an interpretation would lead into a wide field of speculation which does not seem to have been opened by Scripture, and is hardly required by the passage itself).
29.] See above, ver. 7.