The Seven Churches of Revelation, part ten

If you’re new to this series, go here to catch up:

Part 9 @ http://polination.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/the-seven-churches-of-revelation-part-nine/

Part 8 @ http://polination.wordpress.com/2012/12/22/the-seven-churches-of-revelation-part-eight/

Part 7 @ http://polination.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/the-seven-churches-of-revelation-part-seven/

Part 6 and prev @ http://polination.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/the-seven-churches-of-revelation-part-six/

Book of Revelation, Chapter 2, Verses 18-29:

To the angel of the church in Thyatira, write this:

The Son of God, whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like polished brass, says this:

I know your works, your love, faith, service, and endurance, and that your last works are greater than the first.

Yet I hold this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, who teaches and misleads my servants to play the harlot and to eat food sacrificed to idols.

I have given her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her harlotry. So I will cast her on a sickbed and plunge those who commit adultery with her into intense suffering unless they repent of her works. I will also put her children to death.

Thus shall all the churches come to know that I am the searcher of hearts and minds and that I will give each of you what your works deserve.

But I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not uphold this teaching and know nothing of the so-called deep secrets of Satan: on you I will place no further burden, except that you must hold fast to what you have until I come.

To the victor, who keeps to my ways until the end, I will give authority over the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. Like clay vessels will they be smashed, just as I received authority from my Father. And to him I will give the morning star.

Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

I propose here that the Revelation letter to Thyatira refers to the Late Middle Ages – roughly 1,000 AD – 1,500 AD.

Plenty have identified “the woman Jezebel” with the Roman Catholic Church, but I’m not one of them. God isn’t concerned with institutions, but with individuals, something He makes very clear in every letter with “the victor” and “whoever has ears ought to hear.” These are messages to individuals.

I think a quick note is in order here about the 17th chapter of Revelation, which anti-Catholic rhetoric often cites to equate the whore of Babylon with the Roman Catholic Church.

Purple and Scarlet

She wears “purple and scarlet.”

Yes, these are the colors worn by Bishops and Cardinals, but these same colors were used for the veil in the Jewish Temple and the clothing of the High Priest officiating there. They were also used for many centuries by political leaders for their official robes – e.g., Alexander the Great, the kings of Ptolemaic Egypt, and the Seleucid, Roman and Byzantine Emperors. Why? Because the dye was difficult to make and therefore expensive.

She is “adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls.”

On its own, this merely suggests ostentatious wealth, which is hardly unique to the Roman Catholic Church.

She holds “in her hand a gold cup that was filled with the abominable and sordid deeds of her harlotry.”

A gold cup full of sin is far too generic a symbol to point definitively to the allegedly false doctrine of transubstantiation (that the wine in the chalice becomes the real Blood of Christ) … particularly if you happen to believe the doctrine like I do.

She is “drunk on the blood of the holy ones and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.”

Yes, there was the shameful period of the Inquisition when torture and death were used by the Roman Church to punish its enemies, but again, that’s hardly a unique qualification. Many regimes, including Roman, Muslim, Protestant, Nazi and Communist, have done likewise.

Vatican is not on Seven Hills of Rome

The real kicker for anti-Catholic exegetes is the part about how the woman sits on a beast whose seven heads “represent seven hills upon which the woman sits.”

And while it is true that Rome lays claim to having been built on seven hills and that it is the home of the Catholic Pope, the interpretation breaks down as soon as one consults a map. The Vatican is not on the seven hills. In fact, no Pope has ever lived or had his “seat” (cathedra or cathedral) on any of the seven hills of Rome. The big bad Roman Empire now … that actually was built on the seven hills. But you can’t even make a good case for this interpretation. About 60 other cities world-wide lay claim to being built on seven hills. Astonishingly, these include Jerusalem (Judaism), Constantinople (Eastern Orthodoxy), Moscow (Russian Orthodoxy) and Mecca (Islam)!

To be continued …

————

Sources:

Eerdman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity [Eerdmans Publishing, 1977]

The New Bible Dictionary [Eerdmans Publishing, 1962]

New American Bible online @ http://www.usccb.org/bible/

Whore of Babylon @ http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/whore_of_babylon.htm

Tyrian purple dye @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_purple

The color of Liturgical Vestments @ http://catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0172.html

Seven hills of Rome @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_hills_of_Rome

Seven hills @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_claimed_to_be_built_on_seven_hills

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “The Seven Churches of Revelation, part ten

  1. Amazing work, Chrissy! No discussion about Revelations would be complete without this seven hills analysis. Fascinating.

    • chrissythehyphenated

      I’m learning so much! One of the quotes that pops when you post a blog here is something about “if you want to learn about something, write a book about it” … so true of blogging! LOL

  2. I guess that makes me an “anti-Catholic exegete.”

    • And yet I have never really, directly attacked your beliefs, have I, nor given you any negative labels?

      • This is a tough one to even discuss without getting in trouble. I think Chrissy is casting a broad net here, because there are lots of folks (and it’s accurate to call them anti-Catholic exegetes) who interpret Revelations to predict that the modern RCC is really thoroughly evil, literally the Whore of Babylon. She’s just pointing out that it doesn’t hold up. How is defending her Church an accusation of you, personally? And if you also believe our church is a “the whore,” how is that not directly giving her a negative label?

        • I really hope that both of you can continue to amicably disagree about some of this stuff, because I appreciate the views, I learn a lot, and my own views are split. Most of the time I see things Chrissy’s way, but on one of my most dear personal issues, evolution and young vs. old Earth, I side with you, Frankly. I also agree with what one of our fellow bloggers told me once about you, FtN. “I wish Frankly had time to comment more. She has a lot of good stuff to say.” No lie.

        • chrissythehyphenated

          Thanks, Grunt. As far as I can tell, anti-Catholic exegesis dates back to the Middle Ages and I’ve been targeted many times by friends, neighbors, and total strangers who all have what they believe are good reasons I will burn in Hell for my beliefs and practices.

          The thing is … I’ve actually listened to them and done my own research to explore the validity of their arguments. If I EVER found cause to believe the Roman Catholic Church was not just full of sinners (like everywhere else), but actually teaching false doctrine, I’d be OUTA there. So far, I haven’t. I understand these things can have various interpretations; but that’s what they are. Interpretations. The Bible is inerrant; what different people say it means is not.

          I am a cradle Catholic, but I only came to my real faith in Jesus through the witness of a Baptist. After accepting Jesus into my heart in a personal way, I spent more than six months going to multiple churches every week.
          Finally, I took the issue to God. I told Him none of the churches I’d visited felt like home, something I had expected, because I had had such a powerful “THIS is IT” reaction to SUNY-Binghamton when I was college shopping.

          Shortly after my “born again” experience, I talked with the priest who ran our parish youth group. I told him what had happened and asked his advice. He said, “Buy a Bible and read it.” So I did. And what I kept seeing was that God births us into families and calls us into faith communities. In each, we fellowship, worship, learn, serve and celebrate. Church surfing just wasn’t cutting it. But I wanted God to tell me which church HE wanted me to join. When I asked, He answered so powerfully that it still gives me goosebumps.

          I had gone to a small chapel near my home, which happened to be Catholic, but I didn’t choose it for that. I went because it was close, small and very private, just what I needed for some quality alone time with my Lord. But because it was a Tabernacle chapel, the Eucharist was reserved there. And when I asked Him, “Which church do You want me to join?”, I felt hands on each side of my head, turning my face so I was looking at the Tabernacle, and a voice said, “What do you believe about what is in there?”

          I was shocked! I had actually never realized that I believed in the Real Presence before. But I did. And it was unquestioning, pure faith. I knew then, I had to be Catholic, because I had to have access to the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. (I didn’t learn about the Miracle of Lanciano until years later.)

          It hasn’t always been an easy ride. Being Catholic has put me at odds with both the dominant culture and with some of my fellow Christians. Being a Born Again, Pro-Life, Right-Wingnut has put me at odds with people in my own liberal (abortion? what abortion?) parish. And belonging to a church to essentially ignores the “visit the sick” thing, being home-bound has left me very isolated.

          A couple of times, I’ve been seriously tempted to throw in the towel and just quit. Who would care? It’s not like they pay attention to me anyway, right? Apparently, God cares. When I proposed simply severing my spiritual connection to the RCC so I could maybe stop feeling so pissy about being ignored, He was adamant that I not do it. So, I’m Catholic. Sometimes, it’s great. Other times, it’s an obedience thing, like cleaning the bathroom without griping just because Mom told me to.

          I’m disappointed that Frankly would take my blog so personally. I thought she knew me better than that. It was KD’s attack on her and the Mormon Angelaisms that led to my leaving HB. I thought he was totally out of line, but when I emailed privately to please back off, maybe even Oh My What A Concept … say “sorry” to them … he told me no way, it was his blog, his rules, blah blah blah.

          I loved my work at HB. Plus, I had just invested big bucks (for me) in setting up my online store, which I would never have done if I had not had a promise from him to put a free ad permanently in the upper right corner of his site, which got 10K+ hits a day. I realized I could only keep my blog audience and enjoy a decent business start up if I chose to keep quiet when KD slandered people. It wasn’t much of a choice … but I can’t brag. Better Christians than me have gone to the lions rather than throw a pinch of incense on the Emperor’s altar.

          • Sounds familiar, CtH. I was born in the cradle, as well, but spent about 15 years wandering and considered myself a fundamentalist. I still think we Christians of all stripes need to stick together and recognize the faith we have in common. But for me, personally, the decision to be Catholic came after a lot of historical study. I had to know if the things that were said were true. Like you said, Christians were born as an apostolic family with the “meal” central to their faith from the very beginning, and Paul makes it very clear, for example in 1 Cor. 1:10, that we need a very grave reason to sever our bonds. It was only through study, especially of the early Fathers but also the Reformers, that I could tell that no such reason has ever been legitimate enough. Even today, the RCC is very candid about how terrible it’s hierarchy and some popes have been, but it’s very important to them that it has never strayed in fundamental teaching. Is that actually true? Patrick Madrid, in Pope Fiction, for example, claims that it has not strayed, and I agree. But we can disagree about this and still be Christians. Everybody gets to make up their mind about this, one way or the other.

        • Oh crap. I just abused the word “literally” there when I should have said “figuratively.” Now Bob and Violet are going to think I’m an idio… I mean, now for sure they’re going to know that I’m an idiot. ;)

          • Violet

            Hehe, I’m just getting caught up on everything I missed over a very busy 3 days of Christmas, and I went right over your literally/figuratively swap without even noticing! You totally could’ve gotten away with that one…

          • Bob

            Actually, Grunt, I don’t think you necessarily misused the word. There ARE people who consider the RCC to be literally the Whore of Babylon. I’ve met many of them personally.

            Revelation is a book I’ve assiduously avoided for most of my adult life, due to horrible experiences growing up in various evangelical protestant churches where folks obsessed over their own pet interpretations of Revelation — which led to endless fights among folks whose interpretations conflicted. Whenever I tried to read Revelation for myself, I found it so confusing and so dense with symbolism that seemed open to an endless number of conflicting interpretations that I just got more depressed and despaired of ever understanding it. I concluded from this that I was just going to have to muddle through in life without understanding Revelation.

            For all these reasons I greatly admire Chrissy’s courage in taking on such a difficult and confusing subject to research. I haven’t read all of her installments yet — I’ve been putting it off until I had time to give the series my undivided attention. Maybe after I’ve actually done that I’ll have something intelligent to contribute to the discussion, but I’m not making any promises…

      • chrissythehyphenated

        I did not know until recently that you were an Adventist and I also did not know until recently that the denomination has a history of virulent anti-Catholic rhetoric.

        However, having been a life-long member of a denomination that’s done some pretty awful stuff … persecuting Jews, for example, not to mention hunting down, torturing and executing Christians for reading the Bible in the vernacular … I would NEVER PRESUME to judge an individual by something somebody else said or wrote who happened to share some label or other.

        Nor have I ever seen you do it to me. I’ve never seen you say the Roman Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon, though if you believe it, I’m sorry about that.

        As I wrote @ http://polination.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/the-seven-churches-of-revelation-part-seven/

        “Please note that throughout this discussion, I am using “Church” to mean all the people who proclaim Christ, not any of the denominations or sects that have come along. I adhere to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church myself, but I do not believe Jesus or any of the Apostles founded a denomination. Nor do I think any denomination has any special corner on the big issues addressed in all seven letters, which are about personal sanctity and individual salvation, not about specific doctrines or practices.”

        And, for the record, I also happen to disagree with the official Catholic interpretation of Revelation, which is that it’s just about Antiochus IV Epiphanes who has been dead for a couple millenia.

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