synagogue of satan

the slander of the people who falsely claim to be Jews but are really members of the synagogue of Satan

I want to know who these folks are. My two working theories are:

  1. Christianity by this point has more or less separated out from Judaism; and a sizable local Jewish population is using political strings to persecute a small Christian minority
  2. Similar situation to what Paul describes; a group from within the Christian group is imposing all sorts of rules and regulations on new converts claiming they are the “real” faithful.

I simply lack the historical knowledge to know which is going on here. Or whether something else is that I have no handle on.

Clearly things have reached a point where persecution to the point of death is a real possibility. I find the phrase even if you have to die, keep faithful fascinating. The speaker doesn’t actually know that someone will have to die. Yet this is supposedly the resurrected Lord speaking. What might that mean?

The speaker speak with authority only about promises: those who prove victorious will come to no harm from the second death, but not about earthly events yet to come.


2 responses

  1. Bruce Malina calls the book “composite”, Jacques Ellul finds a unity to the work but that doesn’t rule out someone finding and imposing unity on a composite of previously separate pieces.I’d put this part “early, around Paul’s time” because we have multiple churches outside of Israel, but “Jew” is still positive rather than pejorative. After the Jewish revolt this wouldn’t be the case.Jews are “persecuting” the church. Why? At this point, Jews are a respected religious minority with established rights to not take part in the rituals that were obligatory custom for everyone else in the Empire. They don’t have to “salute the flag;” people think they’re strange but it’s an old tradition and they can live with it.Christians threaten to upset this situation; as far as most people are concerned they’re just another kind of Jew, but they aren’t as respectable; they’re including converts that aren’t bound by the same rules people expect of Jews, and the “real” Jews don’t know what kind of trouble they’re likely to stir up among the neighbors. So they report these Christians to the authorities, seek to distance themselves, are called here”a synagogue of ‘Satan’ ~= ‘accusers.’ “Why doesn’t “the resurrected Lord” know whether anyone of the group is going to die? Why should he; why should they? For them to know, one way or the other, would be a change in the situation they’re called on to face. The outcome is in God’s hands, but if they are faithful, nothing else is of lasting importance. Where, now, are the men who once threatened to kill them?

  2. Hi David,maybe the part about “even if you have to die” could mean that of the whole group, all who are being addressed together, some will die and some won’t?The NAB notes for this passage say …Smyrna: modern Izmir, ca. thirty miles north of Ephesus, and the chief city of Lydia, with a temple to the goddess Roma. It was renowned for its loyalty to Rome, and it also had a large Jewish community very hostile toward Christians …. Accusations made by Jewish brethren there occasioned the persecution of Christians …

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