Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Apocalyptic Vomit

A friend, Russ, asked me to put up a post about Revelation 3:15-16. Actually, my tenth semester of Greek I was assigned to translate the entire book of Revelation. I still wonder why the interim professor assigned this, because Revelation is easy (to translate, not understand). The grammar is simple, besides introducing some apocalyptic vocabulary, it really didn't stretch us much...but it did make me realize that anyone who thinks they can divine the future from Revelation is full of themselves.

Either way, it is a fun book. I was going to post my notes with my translation...unfortunately, there was nothing in the grammar that really shed any new light on the subject, besides one particle I'll hit on later. So I think the focus will be contextual, and due to my time and space...brief and lacking.

3:15 I know your works that they are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot.
3:16 Thus, since you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth.

Growing up, this verse was used out of context (in my opinion) in sermon illustration after sermon illustration to illustrate the aspect of "being on fire for God!!!" How wrong this interpretation is! Does it even make sense? According to this shallow reading, Jesus is saying it is better to be really bad than kind of good.

What makes more sense is that this is actually a sermon illustration, so to speak. Look back over the letters to the other churches...each is riddled with allegory and irony (i.e. iron rods, clay pots, soiled clothing).

The rhetorical statement, "you are neither hot nor cold," intorduces the picture story. It has been argued that this is referencing the water supply of Laodocia as a metaphor. Neighboring city Hieropolis possesed HOT water springs as water supply, well known for their healing qualities. In fact, hieropolis was known as a health center. Neighboring city Colosse was built around COLD, fresh, sparkling spring water.

Laodocia had its water piped in from the hot springs of Denizili via aquaduct. By the time the citizens received the water, it hadn't had time to cool and was warm and gross. Excerpts from ancient literature (cf. passages from Herodotus and Xenophon) claim that the mineral content and temperature of the water made the consumer ill.

Actual shot of clay piping that carried water to Laodicea...calcium deposits still visisble

The proof is in the pudding. The church's works are known. They aren't doing much! Wouldn't it be better that they were known for Spiritual healing (HOT, Hieropolis) or refreshing life giving ministry (COLD, Colosse)? What's interesting, is that according to Herodotus, drinking too much of the minieral laden water made one vomit.

So maybe, the Church wasn't doing what it should. It wasn't reaching out to the needy (cf. James 1:26-27). Jesus is saying this is the best thing about are making me sick.

Matthew 25:44-45: 44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'"

The people were hungry, Jesus was hungry. The people were thirsty, Jesus was thirsty. The people were sick, Christ was sick.

What's interesting is that the author of Revelation uses the particle opselon, which means, "I wish." Yeah, we get that from our translations, but in the Greek, it is a fixed form particle, and introduces an unattainable wish. So the nuance is that the cultural reader would read this as "I wish for the impossible, that you were neither hot nor cold"

Well, those are my thoughts, Russ. May be wrong, may be right. You provided a nice segue for me though, because I have been wanting to blog on a topic apocolyptic in nature, which will be coming soon! Anyone who reads this, I would love feedback!


jason said...

Interesting take on that verse!

Nate=smart Jason=dumb

addison said...

never learned the hot/cold water bit. thanks for the insight.

Nate Watson said...

Thanks guys. I think the message is very applicable to the "church" is to me at least.

Rob said...

"Church and Vomit. Happily married for over 2,000 years!"

Anonymous said...

Nice work. Sadly, you can always know it's a "KJV only" pastor by how they butcher that text.