Thursday, December 18, 2008

Efes, İzmir, Bergama, Akhısar

The apostle begins this letter with personal notes to the pastors of seven churches. The messenger carrying this document would take ship at Patmos, then disembark at the nearest major port, Ephesus. He would follow a major highway north, take a right, and come back a bit further inland.

Each of the seven letters is phrased as though dictated by Jesus Christ Himself. Each addresses the responsible party by title (To the "angel" of the church of ... ) rather than by name. You can be as opinionated as you want to be when hiding behind a pen name. In today's google generation, it's not wise to engage in spirited internet debate under one's own name. In John's day, Christians were persecuted as a subversive cult, and the leaders were special targets for imperial attention. Each "angel" gets a blunt assessment of his situation, a pointed recommendation, and a promise of reward for those who hear and heed:
Kulağı olan, Ruh'un topluluklara ne dediğini işitsin. Gelip gelen ...
And here's today's word list:
  • Kulak -- ear
  • Ruh -- Spirit
  • gelip -- winner, victor. Gelip gelmek -- to win, to overcome.
Finally, Jesus uses a component of his description in the first chapter as he addresses each church.

The rival powers of Rome and Jerusalem were turning up the heat on the young Christian community. It's hard to predict how a man, or a community, will react under pressure. Ephesus was losing the zeal that had earlier made this church the powerhouse that evangelized all of Asia Minor in two years. Pergama and Thyatira (Bergama and Akhısar) were vulnerable to charismatic male and female teachers with seductive messages.

İzmir was praised for faithfulness under vicious persecution, especially from the local Jewish community. A old document, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, indicatest that this animosity still simmered a century later. When Polycarp, a disciple of John the Evangelist, was sentanced to death by fire, the Jews eagerly desecrated their own sabbath to scavange up plenty of firewood from local baths and workshops.

One of these days I'll have the opportunity to visit these seven cities, myself.

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