Back to School Sale at Logos Bible Software

Logos Back to School Sale

The summer is rapidly coming to an end and the new school year is starting. This means Logos Bible Software is running their annual back-to-School sale, with decent discounts on Logos 8 Base packages as well as a few key resources ideal for the Biblical Studies student.

Logos 8 Academic Premium is 25% off. This package includes the Yale Anchor Bible Dictionary, the two-volume Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Nestle-Aland 28, the Louw and Nida Lexicon, Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon, both TDNT and Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (EDNT), and a slew of other Greek resources. For Hebrew, the bundle as Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: SESB 2.0 Version with Apparatus and the eight volume The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew. In all, there are more than 390 resources. Scroll around, there are plenty of other bundles targeting more theologically minded readers (as well as people with plenty of money, the Diamond collection is also 40% off).

Here are a few things that caught my eye:

  • A Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (BDAG) is only $89.99. If you have not invested in BDAG yet, now is the time. It rarely is on sale, and well worth the money for anyone working in the Greek New Testament. You can link this lexicon to your Greek Bible, click on the word and the lexicon will open to the entry for that lemma.
  • Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, edited by D. J. A. Clines is 40% off. This is a great deal, you should not hesitate to add this to your collection and experience the joy of clicking a Hebrew word and having this lexicon open to the exact entry.
  • The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek (BrillDAG) is 42% off. This is still pricey, but it is a massive up-to-date lexicon for Classical Greek.

The sale has sections for Ancient Languages, Ministry & Practical Theology, History, Biblical Studies and Reference works. If you already have some resources in a package, Logos will give you a dynamic price,” meaning they do not include the books you already own in the price. For example, I already had some volumes of the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, so my price was 40% off the volumes I did not already own. The same is true for base packages, so head to the sale page and check out your “dynamic price.”

in case you missed it, the Logos Free Book of the Month for August 2020 is J. Louis Martyn, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel (Third Edition). Grab this book for free, and two volumes of the Hermenia series, Paul J. Achtemeier, 1 Peter (1996) for $1.99 and John Collins, Daniel (1993), for $5.99. You can get Brevard Childs, The Book of Exodus (The Old Testament Library, 1974) for $.99 and Walther Eichrodt’s two volume classic Theology of the Old Testament, Volumes One & Two (1961, 1967) for $9.99.

The Back to School Sale ends soon, so start abusing those student loans now.

Three Woes against Babylon – Revelation 18:9-20

Revelation 18:9-20 contains a series of three “woes” against the great city, Babylon. As with the Great Prostitute in Revelation 17, this city is the Roman Empire. Chapter 18 focuses on the economic allure of the Empire.

Roman trade Vessel

What is a woe? The word translated woe (“alas” in the ESV) is οὐαί, a transliteration of the Hebrew הוֹי, אוֹי. The word is an “interjection denoting pain or displeasure…hardship or distress” (BDAG) and it is used on the Old Testament frequently to introduce impending judgment (Zeph 3:1; Nahum 3:1). The repeated phrase “woe, woe, the great city” may evoke Revelation 11:8; the two witnesses lie dead in “the street of the great city.” In that context, the “great city” is Jerusalem (where their Lord was crucified), which is also called Sodom and Egypt. But the great city in chapter 18 is Babylon, a cipher for Rome and the Roman empire.

Revelation 18:9-20 can be divided by the phrase “Woe, woe” and a statement about Babylon, or by the three sets of mourners (kings vv. 9-10; merchants, vv. 11-17a; and seafarers, vv 17b-19; Fanning, Revelation, 456). The difference between a merchant and a sea merchant is less clear in Greek than in English. The word translated merchant (ἔμπορος) is often used for “one who travels by ship for business reasons” (BDAG) and is sometimes used for a passenger on a ship (BrillDAG). Think of this term as a wholesaler who imports goods from distant lands (by sea).

In the first woe, the kings of the earth weep and moan when the see the prostitute (Babylon/Rome) in flames (18:9-14). This whole section uses common language associated with a funeral. Weeping (v. 9, 15, 19, using synonyms κλαίω and πενθέω) is commonly associated with death. To moan (κόπτω) refers to beating one’s chest in response to a tragic event, such as a death (Gen 23:2, Abraham mourns when Sarah died). In verse 19 the sea merchants throw dust on their heads, another common sign of mourning.

Is it possible Revelation 18 describes the great prostitute as “burned alive”? Babylon is descried several times as tortured and the reaction of the kings and merchants is terror at her torture (18:15). The great prostitute of Babylon is now described as a corpse, consumed by a funeral pyre, and her partners in adultery stand at a distance, horrified by her shocking death.

Fiery judgment is standard prophetic language in the OT, for example, Jeremiah 34:21 anticipates the burning of Jerusalem; Isaiah 34:10 describes a fire that will never be quenched. Other apocalyptic literature anticipates the fiery end of the city of Rome (Sib. Or. 2.15-19; 3.52-54; 5.158-161).

Sib. Or. 2.15–19 Then indeed the tenth generation of men will also appear after these things, when the earth-shaking lightning-giver will break the glory of idols and shake the people of seven-hilled Rome. Great wealth will perish, burned in a great fire by the flame of Hephaestus.

Sib. Or. 3.52–54 Three will destroy Rome with piteous fate. All men will perish in their own dwellings when the fiery cataract flows from heaven.

Sib. Or. 5.158–161 …a great star will come from heaven to the wondrous sea and will burn the deep sea and Babylon itself and the land of Italy, because of which many holy faithful Hebrews and a true people perished.

It is possible the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is in the background here, although it may be the case Genesis 18 is the prototype for all fiery judgments in the Old Testament and literature of the Second Temple period. In Genesis18:28 Abraham observes the dense smoke of the fiery destruction of the two cities “like smoke from a furnace.” Although there is no reference in Genesis to Abraham mourning over the destruction of the cities, he did intercede on their behalf earlier in the story.

All three categories, kings, merchants and sea farers “stand far off” (v. 10, 15, 17). The kings and merchants are “in fear of her torment (βασανισμός).” This specific word was used in Revelation 9:5b (the locust tormented people for five months) and several times in Revelation 18.

The merchants of the earth mourn because of the loss of income (18:10-13). The merchants have become wealthy from their economic relationship with Babylon/Rome. For John, this is sharing in the wages of the prostitute. In verse 15 the merchants are terrified by the prostitute’s torture, here their mourning is motivated by their loss of income. When Babylon/Rome falls, there is no one left to buy their cargo.

This list of trade goods is limited to luxury items, some of which come from as far away as Arabia (frankincense), Egypt (fine flour). East Africa (cinnamon) and India (ivory; spices). This cargo list may allude to Ezekiel 27:12-25. This is a taunt-song against the king of Tyre. That chapter describes the far-flung trade of Tyre and the dreadful end of their trading empire. Like Babylon in Isaiah 14, the prince of Tyre is described in Ezekiel 28 as utterly arrogant, thinking of himself as god because of his widespread trade.

Based on the letters to the seven churches, it appears that some early Christians in Asia Minor adapted themselves to the imperial cult or to participation in banquets at local temples. Revelation compares any compromise with the imperial cult with being intoxicated and committing adultery with the mother of all prostitutes. Some early Christian readers of Revelation separated the economic prosperity they enjoyed as a result of Rome’s widespread trade from participation in the imperial cult. But here in Revelation 17-18, everyone who thrived from Rome’s economic power will weep and mourn in the empire is finally judged.

Logos Free Book of the Month for August 2020 – J. Louis Martyn, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel (Third Edition)

Logos is offering a great Free Book of the Month as well as some real gems at deep discounts. Logos is giving away J. Louis Martyn, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel, 3rd ed. (The New Testament Library Series, 2003). Martyn is best known for his Anchor Bible commentary on Galatians and his association with the “Apocalyptic Paul.” The first (1968) and second (1979) edition of this book were influential, whether Martyn’s conclusions were accepted or not. This third edition reprints D. Moody Smith’s essay “The Contribution of J. Louis Martyn to the Understanding of the Gospel of John” from The Conversation Continues: Studies in Paul & John in Honor of J. Louis Martyn (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990). Moody cites John Ashton’s Understanding the Fourth Gospel as presenting the work of Rudolf Bultmann and J. Louis Martyn the “two major pillars or benchmarks of Johannine scholarship in the twentieth century.”

In addition to this important monograph on John, Logos is offering the following resources for 90% or more off:

  • For $1.99, Paul J. Achtemeier, 1 Peter (Hermeneia, 1996)
  • For $3.99, Brevard Childs, The Book of Exodus (The Old Testament Library, 1974)
  • For $5.99, John Collins, Daniel (Hermeneia, 1993)
  • For $9.99, Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, Volumes One & Two (1961, 1967)

That is $22 for five excellent resources. If I were to put the “almost free” resources in order of importance, I would recommend Collins on Daniel first, then Achtemeier on 1 Peter. But that is just my preference, both Childs and Eichrodt are classics, and well worth the investment.

If you scroll down to the very bottom of the page, Logos is running a giveaway for the 33 volume Westminster Bible Companion Series. This series is concise, yet non-technical. ideal for individual study and for Bible study classes and groups. There are four ways to enter the giveaway, may the odds be in your favor.

If you do not already own Logos, you can get the basic edition for free and read these books, or get Logos Fundementals for 50% off for a limited time. This is a collection of 53 resources for $49.95. Follow that link and you can select one additional resource for free and choose a few more for $1.99 each. Try using the code PARTNEROFFER8 at checkout.

These Logos resources are available only until the end of August 2020. Be sure to get these books while you can!

 

Biblical Studies Carnival 173 for July 2020

Bob MacDonald posted the the July 2020 Biblical Studies Carnival #173 (“An odd, deficient, odious, but balanced prime) sorted into Tanakh, New Testament, Canonical Edges, Miscellaneous and book reviews. Bob has been a great supported of Bibliobogs over the years and has hosted several times now. He says “spending a month actually reading the bloggy scholars and the scholarly blogs is an education…” Hosting a Carnival is a bit of work, but I agree with Bob, it is enjoyable work.

Summer Carnival

Koine-Greek.com posts a monthly Ancient Greek Footnotes, a mini-carnival for Greek, Textual Criticism, and LXX posts. They even have a summary of recent posts to the venerable B-Greek forum. Not there is a name I have notheard in many years….B-Greek and B-Hebrew began in the early days of the internet as mailing lists. This multi-author blog “is a space online for discussions of linguistics and especially Ancient Greek grammar. Most of the time, we are interested in the Koine period of the language from roughly 200 BCE to 300 CE. Our goal is to make technical linguistics research accessible and available for students and scholars of Ancient Greek.”

Brian Small has a brief Hebrews Highlights for July. He also has a link to an announcement from Roger Pearse that Cyril of Alexandria’s lost Commentary on Hebrews has been found and published based on three Armenian manuscripts. Unfortunately there is no English translation yet.

On targuman, Christian Brady had a few comments about Facebook and why he is “going dormant” in the platform. Along the way, he says “How nice it would be if we could return to the days of ‘Bibliobloggers’ and substantive discussion in debates in the comment sections, eh?” Christian is one of the oldest Bibliobloggers still active. He hosted carnivals 25 (December 2007) and 64 (June 2011). For perspective, I started Reading Acts in September 2008 and did not host a carnival until #100. Although there is no going back to 2005, Christian points out something important here. There are many excellent scholarly posts each month (go read Bob’s Carnival for a sample), but there is little substantive interaction.

For future carnivals, I will be hosting the August 2020 Carnival (unless someone else wants to take it). Brent Niedergall is hosting in September 202, but after that I have no more volunteers for the rest of the year starting with September 2020 (Due October 1). Even if you hosted in 2019 feel free to volunteer again. I am always interested in getting new bloggers and podcasters involved. Are you new to blogging? Are you a lapsed biblioblogger? James McGrath has some encouraging words for you.

How can you get your posts into a future carnival? Start by writing a quality academic post, perhaps a book review. Then send the link to the upcoming host. It is entirely their decision to include your post in their carnival, but you can at least nominate yourself for inclusion. Sometimes you have to toot your own horn.

If you have questions about what writing a carnival involves, contact me via email, plong42@gmail.com or twitter DM @plong42. I would be happy to answer any questions.

Come Out of Babylon! Revelation 18:4-8

Yet another voice from heaven calls God’s people out of Babylon. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah called on Israel to flee Babylon; John is using language from both prophets to call for another exodus out of Babylon.

In a clear allusion to the original Exodus, Isaiah 52:11 tells the people to depart from Babylon. They are not to go out in haste because God himself will lead them and also be their “rear guard.” Since Revelation has frequently alluded to the ten plagues to describe the ongoing judgment of the kingdom of the beast, it should be no surprise John picks up on the language of the Exodus to call his people to flee Babylon. Revelation 18:4 and Isaiah 52:12 both use the aorist imperative ἐξέλθατε, “come out.”

Bob Marley ExodusJeremiah 50:8-10 calls on Israel to flee Babylon because God is stirring up the nations to plunder her. Rather than the Exodus, Jeremiah is looking forward to the fall of Babylon when nations from the north (Persia and the Medes) plunder the Babylonian empire. Jeremiah 51:6-10 is clearly in the background of Revelation 18:4-8. Jeremiah describes Babylon as a fallen and broken woman. Like Revelation 18:5, her judgment has “reached up to heaven” (51:9).

If Babylon refers to Rome in Revelation 17-18, some scholars suggest Revelation 18 is a call for Christians to leave the literal city of Rome (perhaps in anticipation of persecution). However, just as the call to “come out of Babylon” in Isaiah and Jeremiah referred to leaving the Babylonian empire in general, John’s intention is for God’s people to leave the Roman Empire. This cannot mean leave Rome and go to another place, since there is no other place to go! As David Aune says, this is a “the summons to flee from the city is used symbolically, with the city referring to the demonic social and political power structure that constituted the Roman empire” (Revelation, 3:991).

The reason they are to “come out” is so that they do not share in her sins, her since are “piled up to heaven” and God remembers her crimes. After the exile, Ezra confessed guilt “as high as the heavens” (Ezra 9:6). If they share in her sins, they will also share in the plagues which punish those sins.

Babylon’s judgment will repay her double for what she has done, a clear allusion to Jeremiah 50:29 (cf. 51:24). The Lord will give her a double portion of punishment to drink, as much torture and grief as she gave herself luxury

In Revelation 18:4-8 God’s people are called to separate from the social structure of the Roman world. This is a radical calling that is consistent with the rest of Revelation. In the Seven Letters believers are called to live different from prevailing culture, later they resist the power of the beast and refuse to take the mark of the beast even though this results in their death.

This is perhaps the most challenging portion of Revelation for Christians living in various cultures and times in history. How should Christians “come out of Babylon” today? How do we refuse the “demonic social and political power structure” and not take part in the sins of contemporary culture?  As 2 Corinthians 6:17 says, God’s people are called to be separate from the world, “touching no unclean thing.” This is not just talking about clear, ugly sins, but also participation in a political and social structure that is objectively evil.

In the context of Revelation, there are people claim to be Christians who do not separate from the world and do in fact “touch unclean things,” Jezebel (2:20) and Balaam (2:14), the Nicolaitans (2:6, 15) and those who worship the beast and take his number. These are Christians who think they are serving God while they participate in the imperial cult and all that comes along with that. Although the details are different, it is clear many Christians today have little trouble supporting and participating in modern demonic social and political power structures.

 

A Lament for Fallen Babylon – Revelation 18:1-3

 After an angel explains the image of the great prostitute, John sees another angel coming down from heaven to announce that Babylon has fallen.

Fall of Babylon, Angers Tapestry

This angel has great authority and “the earth was made bright with his glory.” Normally only God is described as glorious, this is the only time in Revelation the word is applied to an angelic being. Aune (3:985) suggests an allusion to Ezekiel 43:2, “the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory.” The wording in the LXX is considerably different even if there is a similar theme.

The angel announces Babylon has fallen (18:2-3). The angel’s announcement repeats the phrase “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” from Revelation 14:8. Most scholars consider this a clear allusion to Isaiah 21:9, John considers the fall of ancient Babylon as a model for the impending fall of Rome.

But is the Babylon of Revelation 18 the same as the great prostitute in Revelation 17? Although the consensus view both Revelation 17 and 18 refer to, some commentators think Revelation 18 refers to Jerusalem. Iain Provan, for example, rejects common view that the chapter condemns Roman economic exploitation and argues the chapter condemns religious idolatry of Jerusalem, consistent with the many allusions to the Old Testament in the chapter. Following Massyngberde Ford, he cites the 1Q Pesher to Habakkuk from Qumran. In this text, Babylon’s economic oppression of the nations in Habakkuk 2:8a is applied to the “last priests in Jerusalem”:

1QpHab Col. ix:3 Since you pillaged many peoples all the 4 rest of the nations will pillage you». Blank Its interpretation concerns the last priests of Jerusalem, 5 who will accumulate riches and loot from plundering the nations. 6 However, in the last days their riches and their loot will be given into the hands 7 of the army of the Kittim. (trans. Martı́nez and Tigchelaar).

1QpHab Col. xii:6  And as for what he says: Hab 2:17 «Owing to the blood 7 of the city and the violence (done to) the country». Its interpretation: the city is Jerusalem 8 in which the /Wicked/ Priest performed repulsive acts and defiled 9 the Sanctuary of God.

These two examples do in fact apply the destruction of Babylon to impending judgment on the corrupt priesthood currently in charge of the Temple when the commentary was written. But everything in Habakkuk is interpreted as a condemnation of the Wicked Priest.

Babylon will become a “dwelling place for demons” (18:2). In Isaiah 13:21-22 the prophet describes the fall of Babylon and the utter desolation of the city. “Howling animals” will live in the city. The noun (אֹחַ) refers to “howling desert animals” (HALOT). The Septuagint translated this as “divine beings (demons?) will dance there” (καὶ δαιμόνια ἐκεῖ ὀρχήσονται, LES2), or “there goat-demons will dance” (NRSV). Jeremiah 51:37 describes Babylon as a heap of ruins and a haunt of jackals. The ESV’s “haunt” translates φυλακή, most often a literal prison in the New Testament. But in Revelation, the word is used to refer to “the nether world or its place of punishment” (BDAG), as in 20:7.

Desolate cities are frequently described as a place where wild animals live. Jeremiah 9:10-12 for example, Jerusalem will be a heap of ruins and a lair of jackals. Many texts associate the presence of jackals and owls with demons: “all the spirits of the ravaging angels and the bastard spirits, demons, Lilith, owls and [jackals …]” (4Q510 Frag. 1:5). In Zephaniah 2:13 Nineveh is desolated and “the owl and the hedgehog shall lodge in her capitals” and “a lair for wild beasts” (2:15).

The kings of the earth committed adultery with Babylon through economic exploitation (18:3). Revelation 18:11-13 will pick up the economic oppressive of the merchants. In this verse, the merchants have “grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” As Richard Bauckham says, it is a mistake to think John condemns Rome “only because of the imperial cult and the persecution of Christians. Rather, this issue serves to bring to the surface evils which were deeply rooted in the whole system of Roman power” (“The Economic Critique of Rome,” 58).

I do not think there is a sharp separation between economic exploitation and the imperial cult in Revelation. Even in Revelation 13, those who do not have the mark of the beast cannot participate in economic activity. Those who “buy or sell” includes local merchants in every city in Asia Minor as much as merchants who imports goods from across the seas to sell at a high profit in Rome.

 

Bibliography: Richard Bauckham, “The Economic Critique of Rome in Revelation 18,” in Images of Empire, (ed. Loveday Alexander, JSOTSup 122; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991); Alan J. Beagley, The Sitz im Leben of the Apocalypse with Particular Reference to the Role of the Church’s Enemies (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1987); Iain Provan, “Foul Spirits, Fornication and Finance: Revelation 18 from an Old Testament Perspective.” JSNT 64 (1996) 81-100.

Tony Burke, ed. New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 2: More Noncanonical Scriptures

Burke, Tony, ed. New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 2: More Noncanonical Scriptures. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2020. 655 pp. Hb; $75.   Link to Eerdmans

In the introduction to the second volume of New Testament Apocrypha, Tony Burke observes the number of documents that can be called “Christian Apocrypha” is quite high. In 1992 Clavis apocryphorum Novi Testameni listed 346 texts, but there were omissions and new discoveries increase that number. This volume includes twenty-nine translations of non-canonical Christian writings with introductions and notes.

More New Testament ApocryphaPrior to the first volume in this series the standard collection of Christian noncanonical Christian literature was The New Testament Apocrypha edited by M. R. James in 1924, updated as Wilhelm Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha (Vol. 1: Gospels and Related Writings; Vol. 2: Writings Relating to the Apostles Apocalypses). This volume collected many the major noncanonical works, including some Gnostic literature. New Testament Apocrypha volume 2 continues the project of collecting texts not already found in Schneemelcher.

The introduction for each document in the collection begins with a summary of the contents followed by a list of available manuscripts, versions and editions. Most introductions have a few paragraphs on genre and structure as well as original language, date and provenance. Some introductions place the document into a historical context or comment on potential literary sources. Finally, each introduction includes translation notes and bibliography.

Part one gathers gospels and related traditions of New Testament figures. Traditionally any document concerning Jesus, or the plot of the gospels is called a “gospel.” The titles given to these new apocryphal stories resist that temptation. Thankfully, The Adoration of the Magi is not given the title, “The Gospel of the Magi.”

  • The Adoration of the Magi, Adam Carter Bremer-McCollum
  • The Rebellion of Dimas, Mark G. Bilby
  • A Homily on the Life of Jesus and His Love for the Apostles, Timothy Pettipiece
  • A Homily on the Passion and Resurrection, by Pseudo-Evodius, Dylan M. Burns
  • The Book of Bartholomew, Christian H. Bull and Alexandros Tsakos
  • The Healing of Tiberius, Zbigniew Izydorczyk
  • The Legend of the Holy Rood Tree, Stephen C. E. Hopkins
  • The Story of Joseph of Arimathea, Bradley N. Rice
  • A Homily on the Building of the First Church of the Virgin, Paul C. Dilley
  • The Life of Judas, Brandon W. Hawk and Mari Mamyan
  • The Life of Mary Magdalene, Christine Luckritz-Marquis

There are several highlights here. The Adoration of the Magi is only extant in a form of Old Turkic known as Old Uyghur, discovered in Turfan, brought to Berlin, moved to Moscow after World War II and subsequently lost. A clear copy was made of the four pages which make up this short story. The infant Jesus speaks to the magi when they offer their gifts and breaks off a chunk of stone from his cradle “like breaking off bread” and gives it to them. The stone is too heavy for them to carry, and their horse is unable to carried either. The manage to throw the stone in a well, and a great sign appeared in the sky. They realize the stone was a jewel. but they were not worthy. At this point, an angel appears, and they do not return to King Herod. The text breaks off after Herod kills the priest Zechariah (cf. Prot. James 23-24) and realizes the Magi have left.

There are two accounts of intriguing persons in the Gospels, The Life of Judas and The Life of Mary Magdalene. The Life of Judas is a medieval Latin text, although also extant in Greek and Armenian. Translations of the Latin and Armenian texts appear in this volume. Judas’s father was warned in a dream his son would eventually kill him, so when Judas was born, his father pierced the child’s legs and threw him in some bushes. He was rescued by some shepherds and raised by a woman named Scariot. As an adult Judas served king Herod, and when to a field to gather fruit for the king. Judas kills owner of the field in order to take his fruit, naturally this is Judas’s father. Herod protects him from revenge and the king counsels him to marry the dead man’s wife. So Judas killed his father and marries his mother. His mother sees the scars on his legs and realizes Judas is her son, both realize they have committed a great wickedness.

The Life of Mary Magdalene is a Byzantine text which describes Mary as a beautiful, wealthy woman prior to meeting Jesus rather than a prostitute. According to this tale, she is the woman was troubled by seven demons until Jesus cast them out. She is the woman who anointed Jesus’s feet in Luke 7:38 and the first witness to the resurrection (John 20). After the ascension, Mary travels to Rome and accuses Pilate before the Emperor. Pilate is summoned to Rome, interrogated and jailed. While in jail outside of Rome, the emperor was hunting. He shot an arrow at a deer, missed, and struck Pilate in the heart. Mary then makes an evangelistic trip to Marseille, converts the town of idolaters and establishes a church there. She died in Ephesus, but her remains were transferred by Leo VI to Constantinople to the Monastery of Holy Lazarus.

Part two collects apocryphal Acts and related traditions. Traditionally Apocryphal Acts books are stories about the apostles or the apostolic circle.

  • The Acts of Nereus and Achilleus, Richard I. Pervo
  • The Act of Peter in Azotus, Cambry G. Pardee
  • The Exhortation of Peter, J. Edward Walters
  • The Travels of Peter, J. Edward Walters
  • The History of Philip, Robert A. Kitchen
  • The Acts of Thomas and His Wonderworking Skin, Jonathan Holste and Janet E. Spittler

The Acts of Peter in Azotus describes Peter’s encounter with the devil and a group of demons in Azotus, a location mentioned in Acts 8:40 in association with Philip the Evangelist. The devil appears as an archangel, but Peter sees through the disguise. The devil makes the sign of the cross and cries of to Christ. The devil confess is who he is in each of the seven demons introduce themselves. They are the demons of deception, sexual immorality, falsehood, adultery, avarice, and slander. The seventh is not associated with the vice, Syracuse is Peter and humans in general of sin. Peter binds the devil in the demons for seven days, during which time there was no sin on earth.

The most unusual story is The Acts of Thomas and His Wonderworking Skin. The story concerns the apostle Thomas is missionary work in India and provides two stories that are not found in the longer Acts of Thomas. The Greek text was originally edited by M. R. James in 1897 from a single British library manuscript.  In1903 three additional manuscripts were discovered. The text is also extended Coptic, Arabic, Ethiopic, and church Slavonic. The translation published in this volume is from Tamilia, first appearing in 1903. Peter and Matthew accompany Thomas to India, where they speak to a man named Olbanus who is looking to buy a slave. Jesus suddenly appears and sells Thomas as a slave and he is eventually put to work building a palace for the king of India. He preaches the gospel to his master’s wife Arsinoë and she becomes a believer and destroys her idols. The devil enters the heart of husband Leucius and he tortures Thomas and flays him. Arsinoë is so upset by this she dies, but Thomas takes his skin, lays it over her dead body and she rises from the dead. His skin is involved in several other miracles before the Lord glues the skin back on Thomas’s body and he ascends to heaven to be gathered to the other apostles, Mary and Paul.

There is only one example of an epistle in part three of the volume, The Epistle of Pelagia, translated by Slavomír Čéplö. As Burke comments in the introduction to the volume, this is an epistle in name only since it was associated with the Acts of Paul when it was first published in 1904. The Epistle of Pelagia alludes to Thecla and includes the story of Paul baptizing a lion (ch. 2). This lion appears in chapter 6 when Paul is sent to the arena. After Paul and the lion pray and worship together, they are released. Pelagia is a daughter of a king who converts after hearing Paul’s preaching, divorces her husband and narrowly avoids martyrdom.

Part four follows the traditional practice of calling anything with Revelation-like visions an “apocalypse.”

  • The Dialogue of the Revealer and John, Philip Tite
  • 1 Apocryphal Apocalypse of John, Rick Brannan
  • 2 Apocryphal Apocalypse of John, Rebecca Draughon, Jeannie Sellick, and Janet E. Spittler
  • 3 Apocryphal Apocalypse of John, Chance Bonar, Tony Burke, and Slavomír Čéplö
  • The Questions of James to John, Katherine Gibbons
  • The Mysteries of John, Hugo Lundhaug and Lloyd Abercrombie
  • The Investiture of the Archangel Michael, Hugo Lundhaug
  • Appendix: John of Parallos, Homily Against Heretical Books, Christian H. Bull and Lance Jenott
  • The Investiture of the Archangel Gabriel, Lance Jenott
  • The Apocalypse of Thomas, Matthias Geigenfeind

Some of these are very brief: The Dialogue of the Revealer and John is barely two pages with extensive notes (but with twenty pages of introduction). Both second and third Apocryphal Apocalypse of John are presented to parallel columns comparing two often divergent traditions. For the third Apocryphal Apocalypse of John a third translation of the Church Slavonic version is included. In all three Apocryphal Apocalypse of John there is less apocalyptic that expected, they are mostly questions and answers on church life and practice.

In The Mysteries of John, John is taken from the Mount of Olives on a heavenly journey hosted by a cherub. John asks questions about what he sees *(the Garden of Eden, etc.) and the cherub gives an explanation. The book covers such diverse topics as agriculture and stars, to why humans have fingernails.

The Apocalypse of Thomas is known from Latin texts in three forms (long, short and abbreviated). Matthias Geigenfeind suggests the text may have developed in the context of Priscillian, an ascetic bishop from Avila (380-385). The longer form of the book includes thinly veiled predictions such as “Suddenly, near the last time a king will arise, a lover of the law. He will not rule for long. He will leave two sons. The first is named after the first letter, the second after the eighth. And the first will die before the second.” A footnote suggestions “Likely the king and his two sons are Theodosius I and the princes Arcadius and Honorius.” The text has a series of apocalyptic signs over eight days, culminating in the rapture-like deliverance of the elect: “Then that angel will be revealed who has power over the holy angels, and all the angels will go forth with him, sitting upon chariots of the clouds of my holy Father, rejoicing and flying in the air under heaven to deliver the elect who have believed in me.”

Finally, part five is entitled “Apostolic Orders,” a new category of New Testament Apocrypha. In his introduction to his new translation of The Teaching of the Apostles, Witold Witakowski suggests the work is apocryphal since it has a narrative framework based on biblical characters. The apostles gather in the upper room and lay out twenty-seven disciplinary and liturgical rules. Following these rules is a sketch of the spread of the Gospel and a list of locations the apostles and others traveled to preach. This list includes non-biblical characters like Addai who evangelized Edessa as well as biblical names such as Priscilla and Aquila, who received the writings of Luke the evangelist and followed Luke until his death. The twenty-seven canons decree Sunday worship as well as Wednesday services and prayers at the ninth hour on Friday. Presbyters are like Aaron’s priesthood and deacons are like the Levites. They declare the birth of Jesus should be celebrated on January 6, a forty day fast before the passion, and a feast for the ascension fifty days after the resurrection.

Conclusion.  As Burke observes in his introduction to the volume, Christian apocrypha provides an insight into the diversity of early Christian beliefs. Some of this literature is Christian interpretation of canonical documents, some seek to associate current practice with the earliest apostolic community. This second volume of “More Noncanonical Scriptures” is a window into how the early church developed both in practice and in theology. New Testament Apocrypha series will continue to serve scholarship for years to come. I look forward to volume 3!

NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Book Review: Patrick Schreiner, The Ascension of Christ: Recovering a Neglected Doctrine

Schreiner, Patrick. The Ascension of Christ: Recovering a Neglected Doctrine. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2020. xvi+127 pp.; Pb.  $10.99  Link to Lexham Press  Link to Logos Bible Software

This brief volume in Lexham’s Snapshots Series edited by Michael Bird focuses on what Schreiner considers a neglected doctrine, the Ascension of Christ.

The first chapter orients the reader to the doctrine of the ascension. For Schreiner, “the ascension is the key plot moment, the hinge on with Christ’s work turns” (xvi). One reason the ascension is often overlooked is an emphasis on the resurrection in Christian worship. Although Schreiner does not put it this way, Protestant Christians who do not follow liturgical calendars rarely celebrate “Ascension Sunday.” Most evangelical pastors are back to their regularly scheduled sermon series immediately after Easter. He makes this observation in the book’s conclusion, stating that most low-church traditions considered the ascension a “forgettable event” (115).

Schreiner, AscensionSchreiner argues the ascension of Christ is far more important than a brief footnote to the resurrection. It is spoken of in the New Testament more often than as soon, and it is included in the first Christian sermons. He considers the ascension to be a “canonical hinge” between the ages. The ascension is when Jesus begins to reign, and only after he has ascended all the Father’s right hand does he send the Holy Spirit to his people. “On the dime of the ascension, the Bible transitions from the age of Jesus to the age of the church” (13). It is possible another author could write a book on the importance of Pentecost and use that same language. It is important to see the entire Jesus event is including the incarnation, the death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Each of these events are important for understanding the Christ event.

The following three chapters use the rubric “prophet, priest and king” to present the ascension as the culmination of the mission of Jesus. Each chapter presents a brief description of a prophet, priest, and king in the Old Testament and then shows how Christ fulfills these roles in his ministry. The ascension is the culmination of Christ’s work since he now performs his role as prophet, priest, and king from heaven and through his church. Here Schreiner is following the popular view that Adam served as a prophet, priest, king in the garden. After the fall these roles pass to Israel and are ultimately fulfilled in Christ and are now the activity of the church.

Of these three roles, it is easiest to see the role of king in the completed in the ascension. The ascension is essentially an enthronement, Christ is returning to the right hand of the Father. Schreiner says, “Jesus rose to the Father, he was installed and recognized as Lord of all. The ascension and session were the triumph of the king” (89). As expected, the role of priesthood focus is almost entirely on the book of Hebrews. In the ascension, Jesus completes his ministry as a priest by presenting his blood in the heavenly tent. Regarding Jesus as prophet, Schreiner argues the Spirit empowered Jesus to proclaim the word of God and performed signs and wonders to demonstrate the authority of his preaching. In the ascension, Christ pours out the Spirit to empower his witnesses so that they will continue to speak the gospel. He downplays the importance of performing signs and wonders by saying that the ascension made Christ the head of the body, which is his hands and feet on the earth.

The final chapter seeks to position the ascension in relation to other doctrines. With respect to the Trinity, the Messiah’s ascent “finds its meaning, coherency, and significant from the triune God” (103). The ascension fulfills and completes the goals of the incarnation, including Christ’s work on the cross. He argues the ascension both confirms and reveals the truth of the cross (107).

By way of critique, I find the lack of Philippians 2:5-11 in this treatment of the ascension problematic. This important early theological statement concerning the incarnation, humiliation and exaltation of Christ is only mentioned in passing late in the book. It is not difficult to read “God has highly exalted him” as a reference to the ascension. In addition, the ascension is only narrated in Acts 1. Schreiner is correct that the ascension is an enthronement of Christ as king, but this point could be made more forcefully by seeing the ascension in Acts 1 in the light of imperial language at the announcement of this birth in Luke 2:8–14. Jesus is clearly described as the Lord, the Messiah at the beginning of both volumes of Luke-Acts. The birth narrative represents the incarnation; the ascension is the exaltation of the incarnate Lord.

The goal of the Snapshots series is to engage “significant issues in contemporary biblical scholarship” and make them “accessible to busy students of the word and applicable in the life of the church.” Schreiner presents the essential ideas of the ascension of Jesus in a clear and cogent manner, one that focuses on both the theological importance of the ascension and the practical application of the ascension in the church’s life today.

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

The Fall of the Great Prostitute – Revelation 17:15-18

Revelation 17:15-18 interprets the phrase “many waters” from 17:1. The great prostitute was seated on the waters indicates she rules over the nations.

Great Whore of Babylon

Waters are a common metaphor for the nations in apocalyptic literature. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah describe the coming armies of the Assyrians (Isaiah 8:6-8) the Babylonians (Jeremiah 47:2), David Aune points out a similar interpretation of Nahum 1:4, the Lord roars and the seas dry up. In 4Q Nahum Pesher (4Q169 Frags. 1–2:3) the sea refers to the Kittim, the Romans. God roars “to car[ry out] judgment against them and to eliminate them from the face of [the earth.]” In the third Sibylline Oracle, “Beliar will come from the Sebastēnoi and he will raise up the height of mountains, he will raise up the sea” (Sib. Or. 3.63–64), referring to the armies of Rome.

The woman sits on many waters, upon the beast, and upon seven hills (17:1, 3, 9) and in 18:7 the prostitute boasts she “sits as a queen.”  The word here is the common verb κάθημαι. In Revelation, either God or the Lamb is seated on the throne (4:2, 3, 9, 10; 5:1, 7, 13; 6:16; 7:10, 15; 19:4, 20:11, 21:5) and three times the word is used for the “son of man” seated on a cloud. The word therefore has a connotation of authority, the one who is “seated” has some sort of authority associated with their location (Schneider, TDNT 3:441-42). The “one on the throne” is sovereign because he is enthroned in Heaven, as is the Lamb since he too is seated on the heavenly throne. The elders have some rulership since they also sit on thrones around the throne of God (4:4) The dead who are raised after the final judgment are seated on thrones and are given authority (20:4).  This future enthronement is promised 3:21 where those who overcome are promised “the right” to sit on the Father’s throne.

In the light of these observations, “seated” in Revelation 17 is an “anti-enthronement” of the great prostitute. She claims to be the queen of the word (18:7) therefore she is “enthroned” on many waters, on the “beast”, and on seven hills.  If the authority comes from where one is seated, there is a clear contrast between God’s sovereignty, enthroned in heaven, and the prostitute’s authority, seated on earth.

The readers of Revelation know who is really enthroned above creation, but on earth the great prostitute appears sovereign. Her authority, however, is derived from the beast (the location of her enthronement). The beast in turn received his authority from the dragon (13:4) who we know to be Satan himself (12:9). Chapter 17-18 forms a culmination of the enthronement theme as Satan’s representative is clearly seen for what she is, a drunken whore who makes the nations mad with her wine.

The ten horns from 17:3 are kings or nations allied with the Beast (17:12). But now both the ten kings and the beast “will hate the prostitute. It is possible rumor this is another allusion to the Return of Nero myth, this time coming from the east with Parthian armies to conquer Rome (Aune, 3:957).

The ten kings will make the great prostitute “desolate and naked and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire.” Aune sees this as an allusion to Ezekiel 23:26-29, those who survive the fall of Jerusalem will be treated like a prostitute, stripped naked and driven through the streets (cf. Jer 13:26-27; Ezek 16:37-38; Hosea 2:5, 12; Nahum 2). Beale, on the other hand, argues this text alludes to Isaiah 23 (Revelation 850). Although the trade of Tyre is described as the wages of a prostitute (23:18), Tyre is not personified as prostitute. Julia Myers O’Brien argues Tyre is not punished for her promiscuity, but rather the wages of her prostitution is dedicated to the Lord, in Nahum (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002), 69.

Beale suggests “eating flesh” is an allusion to Elijah’s prediction dogs would eat the flesh of Jezebel (2 Kings 9:36). The Baal worship promoted by Jezebel was as much economic as idolatrous and Revelation has already used the name Jezebel to describe a prophetess who likely promoted Christian participation in Roman cultic activity (perhaps for economic reasons). Like the fall of the great prostitute, Jezebel’s grisly death was “according to the word of the Lord” (Revelation, 883-84).

The eighth Sibylline Oracle predicts the destruction of Rome by fire when Nero returns from the end of the earth (Sib. Or. 8.68–72). Although this apocalyptic text is later than Revelation, the immediately preceding section in the Oracle is a warning against greed and the following section describes Rome as the “luxurious one.” Like Revelation 18, Rome’s opulence and economic oppressive will result in her destruction; she will be “utterly ravaged.”

Sib. Or. 8.37–41 One day, proud Rome, there will come upon you from above an equal heavenly affliction, and you will first bend the neck and be razed to the ground, and fire will consume you, altogether laid low on your floors, and wealth will perish and wolves and foxes will dwell in your foundations.

Sib. Or. 8.128–130 You will be utterly ravaged and destroyed for what you did. Groaning in panic, you will give until you have repaid all, and you will be a triumph-spectacle to the world and a reproach of all.

This rebellion against the great prostitute was prompted God. God “put it into their hearts” is a “Semitic idiom” (See Neh 2:12; 7:5, for example; Aune 3:958).  They have one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast. These infinitive clauses explain what God has prompted the nations to do.

The fall of Babylon / Rome results in great economic loss for the empire (Rev 18). Although the Roman imperial cult is certainly in the background of Revelation 17, it is important to not separation religious duty from political loyalty and economic prosperity. The reason people worshiped the goddess Roma, the empire and its emperors was to ensure their own continued peace and prosperity. Political loyalty, religion and economic prosperity were as incestuously intertwined in the Roman world as they are in our own.

Who are the Kings in Revelation 17?

John is greatly astonished by the great prostitute. The angel who showed him the woman riding the scarlet beast (17:3) explains some of the elements of the vision. Like the meaning of the mark of the beast, the identity of the beast’s seven heads and kings “calls for wisdom” (17:9, cf., 13:18). And like the meaning of the mark of the beast, there are many suggestions for who these seven kings are.

The great prostitute riding the beast

The phrase translated “greatly amazed” (θαυμάζω…θαῦμα μέγα) in the NRSV could have the sense of “greatly disturbed,” the context determines θαυμάζω is used in a good or bad sense (BDAG). Some scholars consider this phrase reflect a Hebrew phrase (NewDocs 5, 35). The LXX uses θαυμάζω with the sense of “appalled” (Lev 26:32, translating שׁמם, “to shudder, be appalled”). What John sees in 17:2-6a is shocking and he needs the angel to explain the terrifying vision. In 17:8 the nations will “marvel” at the scarlet beast, although this still could be read as “were appalled” when they saw the beast. Although this might be overinterpreting the text, perhaps the point is John is appalled by the great prostitute drink on the blood of the saints, but the world is amazed and worships her and the beast she rides.

The scarlet beast “was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction” (ESV), a phrase repeated three times in this paragraph. This odd phrase is similar to Greek epitaphs, such as “I was not, I was born, I was, I am not; so much for that” (Aune, Revelation, 3:940). However, in the context of Revelation, God is described as “who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev 1:4, 8; 11:17; 16:5).

Is the scarlet beast the same as the great red dragon introduced in Revelation 12? The dragon is red (πυρρός); the beast in Revelation 17 is scarlet (κόκκινος). John identified the dragon as Satan (12:9; 20:2), but this scarlet beast is an empire ruled by kings. The dragon is one of the clear symbols in the book, so it does not seem to fit this scarlet beast.

Is the scarlet beast the same as the beast from the sea introduced in Revelation13? This seems more likely since there are a number of parallels between Revelation 13 and 17. Like the beast in 13:1, this scarlet beast the bottomless pit, or the Abyss (ἄβυσσος). In Revelation 11 the bottomless pit is the home of the demonic locust horde, ruled by Abaddon. It is possible this beast is the king of the Abyss, but it is more likely the Abyss and the Sea as parallel terms. This beast rises a last time to go to his destruction (ἀπώλεια), a word related to the name of the king of the Abyss, Apollyon (Rev 9:11).  All the inhabitants of earth who are not in the Lamb’s book of life are “astonished” at this beast. This is parallel to Revelation 13:3 when the beast from the sea is wounded and appears dead yet appears to come back to life. The “names written in the Lamb’s book of life” is repeated from Revelation 13:8.

Like the mark of the beast, the angel reveals the mystery of the woman and the beast she rides (17:7). The beast has seven heads and ten horns. The heads are the seven hills on which she sits but also seven kings. The horns are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom (17:12-14). The waters on which she sits are the great multitudes of the nations (17:15).

I have dealt with some of the details in an earlier post. The common view is the city on seven hills refers to Rome. In this example from Juvenal Rome is the city on seven hills and traders flock to the city by ship and coach (cf. Rev 18:9-10).

Juvenal, Satires 9.130 “Never fear: so long as these Seven Hills stand fast you’ll always have friends in the trade, they’ll still come flocking from near and far, by ship or by coach, these gentry who scratch their heads with one finger.”

The seven hills are a problem for expositors who interpret the city as Jerusalem since the city is not built on seven hills. Despite attempts to identify seven hills (the lists vary), I know of no ancient source that describes Jerusalem as a city on seven hills.

For many expositors, the seven hills refer to Rome and the kings are a series of kings in Roman history. The trouble is where to start the sequence and who to include in the series. Aune offers nine variations, some beginning as early as Julius Caesar and others terminating as late as Nevra. Some of the schemes include Galba, Otho, and Vitellus, others omit these three minor emperors who rule briefly in the year between Nero’s death and Vespasian’s ascension to the throne.

Greg Beale, on the other hand, takes the mountains as symbolic of strength in Apocalyptic literature and the number seven as referring to completeness (cf. Aune 3:948). For Beale, this text does not refer to seven kings in any sequence but rather the mountains and kings “represent the oppressive power of world government throughout the ages” (Beale, Revelation 889).

It is also possible to focus on the sixth king as John’s main interest and ignore the first five. It is this sixth king who is well known to the readers (Nero or Domitian, depending on the date of the book). A final king will come soon but will only remain a short time. Bauckham pointed out the odd wording of seven kings, then an eighth is a “‘graded numerical saying,’ which uses two consecutive numbers as parallels” (cited in Aune, 3:950). Smalley suggested the “eighth king” is probably Domitian as Nero redivivus (Thunder and Love, 135-36).

This seems hopelessly complicated. But the point of the vision is not far from Daniel’s visions of empires in Daniel 2, 7 and 11. The kingdom of man will not stand long, nor will God allow the final kingdom to continue to persecute his people. Babylon is about to fall!