Saturday, October 27, 2012

Antipas, the Antedater

Who was Antipas? With a name so rife with meaning, perhaps he was more symbol than substance. The name commonly was a contraction which meant "in place of father", but if uncontracted, it meant "against everything" (which could be taken to mean "against the world"). Certainly, such a meaningful name could be metaphorical rather than refer to a singular, actual person. And yet church tradition does record the story of one martyred Antipas in Pergamum, which makes me wonder if Antipas is not the key to dating the writing of the prophecy.

Bishop Antipas of Pergamon was supposedly martyred by local pagan priests in a brazen bull. Irenaeus mentions this as occurring during the reign of Domitian (81-96 CE), Eusebius concurs, citing Irenaeus. The Orthodox Church outside of America (a movement both ancient and very reliant on tradition) pegs the date in 92 CE, but the Orthodox Church in America places the event within the reign of Nero, sometime in 68 CE. The difference is irreconciliable. Who's right?

By my own prophetic hermeneutic, my first impulse in understanding who a named individual in prophecy is and what significance he or she may have in fulfillment would be finding that one referenced in the rest of scripture. Unfortunately, we have no such record within the scriptures that aids us in identifying Antipas, even though his martyrdom is spoken of in the past tense in the Apocalypse. That occurrence, however, may be telling in itself. It implies that he came to prominence and was martyred after everything was written in the NT other than the prophecy mentioning him.

If John's epistles were actually written in the earlier part of the range conservative scholars suggest for their writing, let's say by 90 CE, but before the Apocalypse, which is suspected to have been written ~95 CE, then a past tense reference to Antipas' martyrdom in Revelation and an absence of reference to him in the rest of scripture makes perfect sense. At least by my hermeneutic! That tradition which points to 92 CE for Antipas' death would be harmonious with what is found (and not found) in scripture. That's a lot of ifs, I understand, but it does makes sense.


bethyada said...

I suspect that Revelation was written before 70AD

SLW said...

Are you preterist in your interpretation?

bethyada said...

I do not have strong eschatological beliefs. I currently have sympathy for aspects of both futurism and preterism.

SLW said...

The reason I asked was, to my experience, folk who prefer an early dating of the Apocalypse do so, not strictly on any historical or factual basis, but because of a preterist interpretation of it. I have a post in the pipeline dealing with mentions of the Temple and what they say about the possible date, and I've already posted on what I consider the proper interpretation of the 7 kings (none of them refer to individual Roman emperors). Suffice it to say, I see no reason it must be dated early, but do see reasonable historical reference and much internal evidence to date it later. Preterism makes an unabashed mess of the last three chapters of the book (in particular), so anything anchored to it, has little influence with me.

bethyada said...

Well do think that 666 means Nero, and the 7 kings are Caesars. But I also think the 1000 years may possibly be literal and in the future.

I do not feel I need to be definitive in my opinion when I am uncertain; it is probably better that I am. Nor do I think that Revelation needs to fit into a preterist, historicist or futurist interpretation; I am more concerned with consistency.

bethyada said...

My post on Nero

SLW said...

For me, everything starts with the question of inspiration. If the Revelation is truly canon, inspired of the Holy Ghost, then I must let it speak for itself, and to recognize that it will do so without error in any way. Verses 1:1-7 tell me in very certain terms what the work is all about: to wit, the return of Christ (and its particulars before, during and after). Since Christ has not returned yet, it is a simple matter to recognize that whatever else the work may be, it is not historical, not even allegorically so. To be such, it would be in abysmal error. That does not preclude certain historical items (at the time of writing) being presented figuratively, but I also think that it completely undermines attributing the work to the genre of Apocalypses (as does Fee).

The 666 text does not demand that the Antichrist be the only one with that gematriacally deduced number for his name, just that his happens to (as well). Besides, the Nero solution is fraught with its own uncertainties, as I think you fairly noted in your article about the subject. Preterism or partial preterism fails in the Olivet Discourse and the Book of Daniel for similar reasons as it does in the Revelation--Christ has not returned YET, and other prophetic features have not been fulfilled yet. The options, it seems to me, are either to abandon preterism, in all its forms, or to be forced to acknowledge either biblical error or biblical irrelevance. I think the allegorical approach, i.e. amillennialism, suffers a similar fate.

I think one can consistently interpret all of the Bible's eschatological passages along the lines I have published on this blog in a way in which all hold together and mutually substantiate each other. It's one of the reasons I feel compelled to write about the subject.

bethyada said...

I'll bite. But remember I do not hold these things strongly. My conviction is less than yours. :)

(Predictive) prophecy is difficult to interpret. It may imply now, or soon, or distant future, or perhaps have duel fulfilment.

Further, Matthew's interpretation of prophecies is different than I would expect at times, but we need to learn from him as he is inspired.

Revelation 1:1-7 mentions the events around the return of Christ, note also that verse 19 states:

Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.

This means that Revelation was about things happening around the time it was written and in the future. It need not mean just immediately and end-times (however that may be delineated). It potentially covers from the time of the vision until his return. You recognise this in that Antipas lived about the time Revelation was written.

I think that Preterism (immediate future, several years); Historicism (following 2000 years); or Futurism (last 100 years) are all potentially valid options.

Because I am not attached to any one particular option I read some passages with an immediate (preterist) fulfilment, and others with a distant (futurist) one.

SLW said...

We'll have a meal together then. ;-)

I agree with all you said, except for the next to the last paragraph.

I believe that the very first verse tells us (as well as v. 19) that some of the Revelation dealt with things contemporary with John himself. Some of the Revelation was even reaching to times prior to Christ in order to weave prior streams of prophecy into the current revelation. In my view, it is an error in interpretation to consign the Apocalypse to the last seven years of present age, the millennium, and eternity (as do futurists/dispensationalists), or to say that it was all fulfilled by 70 or 476 CE (as do the preterists), or to say that it has nothing at all to do with history as do the idealists. Really, any template laid upon the work is likely to result in error, and I think your approach to reading each verse for itself, without such imposition, stands the only chance of actually hearing what John was saying.

bethyada said...

My penultimate paragraph wasn't supposed to read that all options are correct. Rather that all options have theoretical merit. I will qualify to say that all 3 may be at least partially true.

Anyway, I have written a fuller response on my blog. Part 2 to come later.

SLW said...

Thanks bethyada for the conversation. Your response on your blog was excellent. I'll provide a link for any interested readers.

True Paradigm: Prophetic hermeneutics