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.