No, That’s Not What It Says.

Obviously I like the Book of Revelation, so I was happy when a (non-Catholic, but usually sensible) Biblical scholar announced that he was doing a podcast series on the Old Testament references in the Book of Revelation.

The problem is that he will say some sensible things, add some interesting info… and then jump right off a cliff into Stupid, or at least, into totally unsupported inferences. He then says things that boil down to, “I like what this scholar says, so it must be true,” or “I like this better than what other people say, and so I just feel that it’s correct.”

Argh. Argh. Argh.

For example. Rev. 2:4 — “But I have something against you: You have left your first love.”

He correctly points out that Jesus also says that the Ephesians are doing okey-dokey on works, and on doctrine and discernment, and on endurance of suffering. But then… based on another scholar, he decides that if they’re not loving Jesus/God like they did at first (cf. Jeremiah 2:2), it must mean that they’re not following His commands. And since Jesus doesn’t mention evangelism specifically as one of their works, he figures they’re too scared or angry to evangelize the pagans.

Honestly? Where is that in the text, or in the referred text? Why wouldn’t it be, “The Ephesians have a great intellectual faith and knowledge, and great deeds, but they need to work on personal heartfelt devotion and prayer life”? Especially since they’re Ephesians and have an entire letter about how the Father loved them, and how Christ’s love “surpasses all knowledge,” and how being “filled” with love means being filled with “the fullness of God”? (Eph. 3:19)

But I go on listening, and all of a sudden this guy (based on another scholar’s article) is talking about how “the doctrine of Balaam” and “the doctrine of the Nicolaites” must be the same thing… because they appear in the same paragraph, and because sex is involved in both.

We have a lot of historical commentary about the the Nicolaitans. And what we’re told is that there was a legend that one of the original seven deacons, Nicolas, went so far with holding everything in common that he tried to share his lovely wife. So because of this legend that might or might not be true, Nicolaitan Christian heretics shared their wives/husbands in common. (And possibly this was one of the sources for the pagan Roman idea that Christians had orgies at their agape feasts and Masses.)

Meanwhile, it’s also pretty easy to read in the Bible about Balaam and Balak and Baal-Peor, and how they tricked the Israelites into worshipping pagan gods, eating pagan sacrificial feasts, and fornicating at sacred pagan orgies. None of this had anything to do with Jewishness or holding things in common.

So although you could say that an error of Christian communism and an error of falling into paganism both involve unlawful sex, they are clearly not the same things at all.

So how can you take this kind of commentary seriously? It’s not more credible for having scholars advocate it; it just makes the scholars less credible for anything!

Argh argh argh. I will probably get through the rest of the episode by gritting my teeth, but sheesh. Maybe I can just skim a transcript, so that it will be over sooner.

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