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Harvard Divinity School

The Social History of Satan, Part Three: John of Patmos and Ignatius of Antioch: Contrasting
Visions of "God's People"
Author(s): Elaine H. Pagels
Reviewed work(s):
Source: The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 99, No. 4, Honoring the 50th Anniversary of
the Admission of Women to Harvard Divinity School and the 25th Anniversary of the
Women's Studies in Religion Program (Oct., 2006), pp. 487-505
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Harvard Divinity School
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The Social Historyof Satan,PartThree:


John of Patmos and Ignatiusof Antioch:
ContrastingVisions of "God's People"
Elaine H. Pagels

Princeton Universit'

Leviathanand Satan- A Composite Image of Evil


At the climactic moment of the cosmic dramain the book of Revelation, the seer
tells how two greatportentsappearedin heaven, the first a woman "clothedwith
the sun"(12:1).As in a dream,the scene changes, andhe sees herpregnant,"crying
out in the agony of giving birth,"being menacedby a "greatreddragonwith seven
heads and ten horns, and seven crowns on each of its heads"(12:3); thus the seer
picturesIsraelin danger,confrontingher enemies, the foreign oppressors.
At this point John transformstraditionalimagery, as he does throughouthis
prophecy,veeringinto a startlinglynon-traditionaldirection.Johnknew,of course,
that the imagery he revises here, with echoes from Genesis and the psalms to
I Enoch,hadbeen developedespeciallyby Isaiah,Ezekiel,andDaniel to characterize Israel'salien enemies--"the nations"such as Egyptiansand Babylonians--as
mythological monsters, often dragons like Behemoth and Leviathan who have
fought against God from the beginning of time.' John takes his cues in particular
from Isaiah 26:17-27:1, where the prophetdepicts Israel as a woman crying out
For discussion and references, see, for example, Adela YarbroCollins. The Combat Myth in
the Book of Revelation (Harvard Dissertations in Religion 9: Missoula. Mont.: Scholars, 1976);
Neil Forsyth, The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat Myth (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University
Press, 1987), as well as the articles cited in note 6.
I regret that the excellent collection of articles just now published. edited by David Barr, was

articlewhichPaulDuffkindlylent
notavailablewhileI waswriting(exceptfora thenunpublished
after discussion at the SBL): see now. The Reality of Revelation: Rhetoric and Politics in the Book
of Revelation (SBLSymS 39: Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.2006).
HTR 99:4 (2006)

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HARVARD THEOLOGICAL

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"in the pangs of giving birth"(26:17), until "thatday" when the Lord will come
"to punishthe inhabitantsof the earth"(26:21), and "withhis cruel, and great, and
strong sword will punish Leviathan, the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting
serpent,and he will kill the dragonthat is in the sea" (27:1).
Abruptly,however,Johnbreakswith traditionto reveala new - composite- image of evil. Having picturedLeviathanmenacing Israelas scene one of the cosmic
drama,John suddenly shifts the expected course of the narrativeto scene two, the
messiah's birth,which signals the outbreakof "warin heaven:"
Michaelandhis angels[were]fightingagainstthe dragon.The dragonand
his angelsfoughtback,buttheyweredefeated,andtherewas no longerany
placefor themin heaven(12:7-9).
But, a traditionalistmight object: When was the dragonever up "in heaven"?And
how could the primordialmonsterhave angels as allies? According to a tradition
well known to John, as he had alreadyshown in his own narrative,God's ancient
adversarydwells far below, as "the beast that comes up from the bottomless pit"
(11:7). When he appears,he emerges from the "depths"-from the abyss, or the
primordialsea. How, then, could the dragonever have claimed a "place"for himself and his allies in heaven, or stood at the head of an angelic army, making war
against"Michaeland his angels"?Is John simply getting his stories scrambled,or
is he making what is for him a centralpoint of his revelation'?
Yet John boldly combines the Satan traditionof the rebellious angelic commanderwith the Leviathantraditionsinvolving the dragonfrom the abyss in order
to reveal a great secret:thatthe one who once held power in heaven and fell down
from there like a star was actually none other than
the great dragon, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the
deceiver of the whole world-he was thrown down to earth, and his angels
were throwndown with him. (12:9)
Scholars long have noted that John is the first to identify the serpent of Eden

with Satan,2and the only authorof any Jewish or Christianliteratureof his time to
speakof "warin heaven."3 While other scholarshave noted these bold innovations
and have tracedthe theological and literarymeans by which he makes them, what
I intendto ask here is for what reasonsJohn does so. What, for example, do these
innovationshave to do with social history-how John envisions holy war here on
earth?What urgentand pressing concerns impel John to make them?
This article thus continues researchpublished in two previous articles ("The
Social Historyof Satan,"parts1 and2),' andmakesthreesuggestions,here sketched
2

See, for example, Forsyth, The Old Enemy, 199-257, and David Aune, Revelation 6-16 (WBC

52B; Nashville: Nelson, 1997) 696.


Forsyth, The Old Enemy, 254; Aune, Revelation, 691-710.
SElaine Pagels, "The Social History of Satan, the 'Intimate Enemy': A Preliminary Sketch,"
HTR 84:2 (1991) 105-28; and "The Social History of Satan, Part II: Satan in the New Testament

ELAINE H. PAGELS

489

in brief.First,I suggestthatJohn'sgraphicdescriptionof "warin heaven"is the key


to understandinghis practicalconcernsas a prophet:namely,thathe combines the
Satan and Leviathantraditionsin orderto persuadehis constituency,God's "holy
ones,"thatthey now have to fighton two frontsat once. Whathe reveals in Revelation 12 is whathe recognizes as the greatsecret-that the enemy in heaven is none
other thanGod's ancientenemy, the dragon,a.k.a. both "Leviathan"and "Satan."
John intendsto show that those he identifies as "intimateenemies" among Jesus'
followers now havejoined forces with hostile outsidersin an unprecedented-and
unholy- alliance.Since he takesthis to meanthatthe forcesof evil thushave gained
overwhelmingpower,Johnbelieves he is impelledto sortoutwho reallydoes belong
to God's people and who does not. For much as he detests the "beasts,"Johnsees
inside enemies as even moredangerous:he says thatJesus praisesthose who truly
are "holy ones," but warns that there are others, lurking among them, whom he
"hates,"as well as some in the middle.5Thus from the firstcenturyto the twentyfirst,John'spowerful and innovativenarrativehas offered his readersan example
of how to "out"certaininsidersby identifyingdeviants among them as, in effect,
secret agents for forces they see rampantin the monstrouscultureoutside.
Second, when asking who the enemies are that John warns against, we probably all would agree about the alien enemies. John gives such obvious clues that
we cannotfail to identify them with the Romanforces and theirsupporters.Much
more complicated--and much more contested- is the question of whom he sees
as Satan's allies within the "assemblies"he addresses. To what extent, as one
scholarputs it, can we locate actualfirst-centuryfollowers of Jesus behindJohn's
No doubt the most complicated question, recently
polemical characterizations?6
addressedagain by Paul Duff and David Frankfurter,among others, is whom the
prophethas in mind when he denounces"thosewho say they areJews and are not,
but are the synagogue of Satan"(2:9, 3:9).7Althoughwe must considerthis quesGospels," JAAR52/1 (1994) 201-41.
5 Paul Duff makes this perceptive suggestion especially in chapterfour of WhoRides the Beast?
Prophetic Rivalry and the Rhetoric of Crisis in the Churches of the Apocalypse (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2001) 48-60; he also shows there the close relationshipbetween John's vision of
the "whore of Babylon" and the prophet he calls "Jezebel."
6 David Frankfurter,"Jews or Not? Reconstructing the 'Other' in Rev 2:9 and 3:9," HTR 94
(2001) 403ff.; for an incisive discussion, see Elisabeth S. Fiorenza, The Book of Revelation: Justice
and Judgment(Philadelphia:Fortress, 1985); see also ibid., Revelation: Visionof a Just World(Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991); Adela YarbroCollins. "Vilification and Self-Definition in the Book of
Revelation" HTR 79 (1986) 308-20: A. Thomas Kraabel."The Roman Diaspora: Six Questionable
Assumptions," JJS 33 (1982) 455ff.: Tina Pippin. Death and Desire: The Rhetoric of Gender in
the Apocalypse of John (Louisville: Knox, 1992): Paul Duff. "Wolves in Sheep's Clothing: Literary
Opposition and Social Tension in the Revelation of John" in Reading the Book of Revelation: J. W.
Marshall, "CollateralDamage: Jesus and Jezebel in the Jewish War."in Violence in the New Testament (ed. Shelly Matthews and E. Leigh Gibson: New York:T&T Clark, 2005) 35-49.
7See n. 6; also Paul Duff. "'The Synagogue of Satan': Crisis Mongering and the Apocalypse of
John," unpublished paper graciously sent by the author. used by his permission: for earlier discusHTR
sion, see Adela Yarbro Collins, "Vilification and Self-Definition in the Book of
Revelation,"

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tion, we cannot claim to resolve it here; instead,we only make some observations
about the discussion.
Traditionally,of course, most commentatorshave assumed that this polemic
is not about insiders at all; instead, it refers to Jews hostile to Christians.So our
answer to this question has much to do with the question now engaging heated
discussion, of how we envision these Asian groupsof Jesus' followers at the end of
the firstcenturyand, in particular,what we assume aboutboundariesbetween Jews
and Christians.For the purposeof this article,I agree with those who point out that
John, like other Jews devoted to Jesus Christ among his first-centuryfollowers,
sees himself and his fellows not as Christiansbut as Jews (Paul, of course, called
himself an "Israelite")-the "holy ones" who await the returnof God's messiah.
If John does know the term "Christian,"he does not use it, much less apply it to
himself, perhapsbecause,as we shall see, those who coined andused the termin late
-first- and early-second-centuryAsia most often applied it to Gentile converts.
Third, I suggest that we may find some help understandingJohn's specific
concerns with "intimateenemies" when we compare his vision of these Asian
assemblies with that of Ignatius,who wrote lettersto groups in some of the same
towns John had addressedabout ten years later.This Syrian believer who called
himself "bishopof Antioch,"a devoted follower of Paul, was the first, so far as we
know, to insist thatonly those who are called "Christians"truly belong to God. In
contrastto John, Ignatiusis the firstto demandthatJesus' followers preach, in his
words, only "Christianity- not Judaism."
To addressthese issues, we begin by asking: what do John's characterizations
of evil powers show aboutthe way John sees himself and his fellow saints in relation to specific "enemies on the ground"-both inside and outside of his group'?
What do his propheticvisions suggest about his own situation and that of those
with whom-and against whom-he identifies'?For, in Peter Brown's apt phrase,
John and his fellow believers see the story of the fallen angels, like the stories of
the archaicchaos dragon,"not as a myth, but as a map on which they plotted the
disruptionsandtensionsof the worldaroundthem." As is well known,Johnfollows
traditionwhen he identifies Israel's "outside"enemies, whom he sees embodied
in the Roman forces, as "the greatdragon"and his two allies, the "beastfrom the
sea" and the "beast from the land."
To appreciatethe impact of John's revisionism, let us briefly recall how the
gospel writerscharacterizethe cosmic war they see manifest in Jesus' execution.
As noted above, in two previous articles I have shown that the New Testament
evangelistschose to deal with the questionof who embodiedevil forces by drawing
upon and amplifying, in varyingways, a handfulof biblical stories thatcame to be
associated with "the satan"-an angelic being who defected, so to speak, to the
(1986) 308-20; see also Shaye J. D. Cohen, "Judaismwithout Circumcision and 'Judaism' without
in Ignatius," HTR 95:4 (2002) 395-415.
and the Holy in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982) 24.

'Circumcision'
XSociety

ELAINE H. PAGELS

491

darkside. Genesis 6, for example, tells how the angelic "sons of God,"seducedby
the beauty of humanwomen, descended to earthwhere they spawnedheroes and
warriors,half angel and half human- whatthe Greekswould call demigods- but
who, later commentatorsdeclared, generated,in turn, demonic powers and evil
spirits.9The famous folktale in Numbers22 tells how the foreign prophetBalaam
found his way blocked on a journey by an angelic figure, whose obstructiveness
hints at his associationwith "thesatan"(note thatthe Hebrew nounthatdescribes
him,1=, suggests his adversarialrole). Johnof Patmosdrawsuponthis same story
to derisively suggest that some insidersfollow the teaching of "Balaam,"a false
prophet whose notorious name suggests that he is a "deceiver of the people."'0
Followersof Jesus laterconnectedthese passageswith othersthattell of an angelic
accuserwho standsbeforethe Lordto accuse humans,a kindof "devil's advocate"
(Zech 3:lf.; Job 1-3), and with Isaiah'saccount(14:7ff) of the luminousheavenly
being called "day star, son of the dawn," who, having defied his commanderin
chief, was cast out of heaven, demoted,and disgraced- a passage thatapparently
inspiredRevelation 12- and,over a thousandandfive hundredyearslater,inspired
Milton's accountof Satan'sfall in Paradise Lost."
In the firstarticlecited above, we notedthatthe Satantraditionsfloweredespecially in Jewish pseudepigraphic sources from c. 165 B.C.E.to 200 C.E.,finding their

deepest resonances among certain groups of so-called "dissidentJews" ranging


from the Qumransectariansto followers of Jesus of Nazareth.The authorsof such
works as 1 Enoch and Jubilees amplifiedand retold such biblical stories of fallen
angels to tell how the angelic "watchers,"often called "sons of God," and leaders
in the angelic army rebelled against God and finally became his enemies. Thus,
we suggested, membersof certainsectarianJewish groupsadaptedsuch stories to
characterizetheir own situation--above all to interprettheirown marginalstatus,
andthe apostasywith which they chargedthe majorityof God's holy people. Thus
they could explain thatjust as God's own angels once turnedagainst their commanderin chief, so now manyof his own people have turnedagainsttheirGod.The
moralof the storyis thateven Israelites,althoughthey arecalledGod's own "sons,"
they, like the angels themselves, could fall from theirrightfulplace to become, in
effect, his enemies--and thus enemies of the "remnant"who remainedfaithful to
God-who, such sectariansexplained, in this case were themselves.

' I Enoch 6-16; Jubilees 5:3: 10:1-14,


passim. For discussion, see my "The Social History of
Satan," part 1; for more detailed discussion, see MarthaHimmelfarb,Ascent to Heavenin
in Jewish
and ChristianApocalypses (New York:Oxford University Press. 1993).
"'Revelation 2:14; J. Braverman."Balaamin Rabbinicand EarlyChristianTraditions."in Sefer
ha-vovel li-khevodDoktor Yehoshu'a Finkel (ed. Sidney B. Hoenig and Leon D. Stitskin:New York:
Jewish Publication Society. 1974) 41-50: J. T. Greene. "Balaam: Prophet, Diviner, and Priest in
Selected Ancient Israelite and Hellenistic Jewish Sources." in SBLSP (1989) 57-106:
detailed discussion in Aune,
vol. 1. 185-88.
Revelation,
" For discussion, see Forsyth, The Old Enemy. 105-81.

and see the

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At firstit may seem strange- if not absurd-that the authorsof Matthew,Mark,


and John sought to blame otherJews for Jesus' death, since it was well known, of
course, that Jesus had been sentenced by the Roman governor, and executed by
his soldiers on charges of sedition against Rome. Had these evangelists chosen
to follow the well-known prophetictropes they found in the writings of Isaiah,
Daniel, and Ezekiel, they could have told the story of Jesus' death in a far more
traditional- andhistoricallyplausible- way. They mighthave told it insteadas the
story of a righteousman like Daniel, sentenced to death by "the nations,"Israel's
hated foreign oppressors.Had they done so, they probablywould have characterized the powers of evil as Isaiah, Jeremiah,Ezekiel, and Daniel had, by retelling
stories of Yahweh's battle with the dragon, who embodies the monstrouspower
of evil-a dragon associated with the sea, the primordialchaos-and thus with
Israel's foreign oppressors.
Surprisingly,however, the evangelists ignored such familiar tropes and drew
instead upon the far more peripheralSatan traditions,in order to make the astonishing claim thatalthoughRomanscrucifiedJesus, it was his Jewish enemies who
actually killed him; Luke andJohngo so far as to identify these diabolical powers
explicitly with those they see as Jesus' Jewish enemies.'2
When I asked for what reasonsthey told the story as they did, I recognized that
they did so primarilyas a defensive tactic. Writing in the shatteringaftermathof
the failed Jewish war, themselves known to be followers of a man convicted of
sedition against Rome, Jesus' followers fell undersuspicion on the same charge.
In that dangeroussituation,they apparentlyhoped to deflect outsiders' suspicion
and hostility by telling the story of their leader's death in a way calculated to
show that even the Roman procuratorfound Jesus innocent of sedition-and to
imply the innocence of the rest of his followers. Thus they chose to tell the story
of Jesus' death in a way that showed the Romans treatingJesus in the historically
implausible, but fair-mindedand respectful, way that his followers hoped to be
treatedthemselves, should they come to trial. Luke and Matthewboth insist that
Pilate not only repeatedlydeclaredJesus innocent, but resolved several times to
release him-before giving in to a shouting mob of hostile Jews.
When we turnto John's Revelation, however, we see at once thatJohn of Patmos makes no such defensive moves. While sharingthe evangelists' conviction of
Jesus' innocence, John makes no attemptto placate Gentile fears and suspicions.
Instead of the apologetic charge Luke has Peter address to the "men of Israel"
("you killed the righteousone, and delivered him into the hands of lawless men,"
Acts 2:23), the authorof Revelation clearly indicts Roman forces, whom he sees
as the ominous shadow governmentfor those who actually wield
power--namely,
the supernaturalforces of evil that he depicts as the "greatdragon"
and his allies.
Yet hostility toward "the nations" need not-and often does not-preclude
hostility toward those identified as "intimateenemies." For while the authorof
" For citations and discussion, see my "Social History of Satan, Part 2."

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493

Revelation takes as his dominanttheme how monstrousevil powers "waragainst


God,"he simultaneouslyweaves into his narrativethe second, more minortheme,
showing how fallen angels challenge- and impersonate- divine power,and how,
at the same time, intimateenemies infiltrateGod's people.
For while the prophet says that Jesus "hates"these false insiders, he never
makes any charge against them so harsh as the one that dominates the passion
narratives- the chargethatJews themselvesengineeredJesus' arrest,passion, and
death. Instead,John of Patmos adoptsthe prophets'traditionalview: that foreign
enemies-in this case, the Romans-had slaughteredthe "lambof God."Johnof
Patmos leaves no doubt that those guilty of killing Jesus, as well as his witness
Antipas, and the other martyrsJohn saw in heaven ("those who had been slaughtered for the word of God," 6:9) are those whom he, following Isaiah, calls "the
inhabitantsof the earth"(Isa 26:21).
When JohnconflatesLeviathanwith Satan,as we noted, he wants to show that
the powers of evil have grown more powerful than ever, now having taken not
one, but two quite differentmanifestations-both, however, working towardthe
same end. In a momentwe will ask who Johnbelieves these enemies are, but first
let us note how ingeniously he relates what he sees as the practicaleffect of this
unprecedented - and unholy - alliance.

Johnproceedsto tell how the dragon,having unitedin himself all the forces of
evil, now cast out of heaven and raging with fury, "went off to make war"upon
"thosewho keep the commandmentsof God andhold the witness of Jesus"(13:17).
To do so, he takeshis standon the seashoreandmanifestshimself firstas the "beast
rising from the sea," who combines withinone monstrousform the characteristics
that Daniel had ascribed to the four beasts who manifest four foreign empires.
Now, John says, the "beastfrom the sea" wields the dragon'sirresistible"power,
and .., throne,and greatauthority"(13:2).
When Johngoes on to describethe dragon'ssecond manifestation,his innovations areeven moreevident. For Johngoes on to say that"thenI saw anotherbeast
thatrose out of the earth;it had two hornslike a lamb, and it spoke like a dragon"
(13:11).Thusthis formof evil powerbearssome resemblanceto the "lamb"- Jesus
the messiah, the "son of man coming with the clouds of heaven,"whom John, like
Daniel, sees as the antitype of the "beast from the sea"13--butit speaks "like a
dragon."Whatthis beast does is promotethe authorityof the first,by makingthem
bow down to worship its image and by forcing everyone to bear the markof the
beast.AlthoughJohn,like mostof his contemporaries,does not definitivelyseparate
'" Adela YarbroCollins, Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse (Philadelphia:

to wealthyor
Westminster,
1984),in herinfluential
studysuggeststhatthisimagerefersin particular
noble Asians who supportedthe imperialcult: Simon Price, Rituals and Power: TheRomanImperial
Cult in Asia Minor (Cambridge:CambridgeUniversity Press. 1984) 10lff: LeonardL. Thompson,
The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire (New York: Oxford University Press. 1990); see

also the fine discussion in Steven J. Friesen. ImnperialCults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading
Revelation Among the Ruins (New York:Oxford University Press. 2001) 25-131.

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militaryand political power from religious authority,he pictures the "beast from
the sea" above all as the active evil energy that wields and manipulates"signs and
wonders,"images, symbols of submission, and its secret identifying number.'4
No wonder,then, thatas John's narrativeproceedsto the final battle-the Word
of God leading his armies into battle against the combined forces of the evil powers-he calls this beast from the land "the false prophet."So, althoughJohn says
thatthe "beastfrom the land"is actually a second manifestationof the dragon,he
wields powers traditionallyassociated with Satan-inverting the powers of God's
messiah, and deceiving people into worshippingthat which is evil. Thus John's
portraitof this multiformdiabolicalusurperis meantto demonstratehow "intimate
enemies"are now secretlycollaboratingwith openly hostile outsiders.Christiansin
latergenerations,sensing these connections, would conflateJohn's accountof this
"beast"and "false prophet"with warningsfound in the Johannineletters against
the coming "antichrist."
Intricateas is John's narrative,what he conveys by conflatingthis powerful imageryspeaks clearly to many readers.One message it communicatesis that,evil as
arethepowersthatrulethe earth,"intimateenemies"areeven moredangerous,since
some of them, like the beastfrom the earth,areactuallyundercoveragents working
for "thedragon."As Paul Duff has shown from a somewhatdifferent perspective,
one of John's primaryconcerns is to unmaskthese intimateenemies."

The Identityof the "IntimateEnemies"


As noted above, the identityof the alien enemies is not in doubt. Besides the well
known association of the dragon with Israel's traditionalfoes, few readerscould
miss the allusions to the Romanempireand its rulersbehindJohn'scaustic portrait
of the rich and decadentcity of "Babylon"enthronedon seven hills beside a river.
Probablysome in his audience knew, too, thatother contemporaryJewish writers
also called Rome "Babylon,"since the Romans had destroyed the second temple
as the Babylonians had destroyed and desecratedthe first.And while many have
puzzled the riddling"numberof the beast,"virtuallyall recognize that it signifies,
one way or another,an imperialname.'"
More complicated-and more contested-is who John has in mind when he
castigatesthe intimateenemies whom he implicatesalong with the "false prophet"
and charges with deflecting worship away from God. First of all, I agree with
the scholarly consensus, recently well articulatedby Steven Friesen, that shows
thatJohn associates the "false prophet"with the religious ideology of the Roman
empire-perhaps especially, as Adela YarbroCollins has suggested, with officials
' SeeespeciallyRichardBauckham's
enormouslyhelpfuldiscussionin TheClimaxof Prophecy:
Studieson thieBookof Revelation(New York:T&TClark,1993)384-452.
'5 Who Rides the Beast? 31-125; LeonardThompson, The Book of Revelation, passim.
'"Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, 384-452.

ELAINE H. PAGELS

495

promotingthe imperialcult." Second, and more ambiguously,Johngoes on to implicatecertaingroupsof Jesus'followers, suggestingthatthese, althoughostensibly
worshippingGod and his Messiah, actuallydeceive people into worshippingthat
which is evil-which means for John that covertly they lend their supportto the
demonic powers that lurkbehind Rome's gods and rulers.
Can we understandwhom John has in mind when he castigates insiders?We
recall that afteropening his "revelation"with a stunningvision of "one like a son
of man,"Johnsays thatthis radiantbeing entrustedhim with messages directedto
"the seven assemblies
of Asia" ( 1:1-11 ). John addresses the members
(iKKh?cGiat)
of these tiny Asian assemblies as "kings and priests of God" paut?0iav irpcit t~o

OeF(1:5-6), echoing the famouswordsMoses firstaddressedto God's people Israel


at Sinai (cf. Exodus 19:6; Greek:p3aothiav iep6v, the Septuaginttranslationfor
nq?)). Yet John's Jesus warns that nearly all of these assemblies contain a
F' z
mixed group, some of whom he praises, others whom he "hates,"and some, apparently,in the middle."'Since "Jesus"addressesthese messages to "God's holy
ones" to sort out who actually does belong among them and who does not, it we
are not surprisedto find that these messages contain the densest concentrationof
allusions to Satanin the entire book.
While weaving together threats from the inside and from the outside, the
prophet'swarningssuggest that he regardsevil insidersas the most dangerousof
all. Thushis lettersto the seven assembliesopen as "Jesus"praisesthose in Ephesus
because, he says, "you cannot tolerateevildoers"who "say that they are apostles
and arenot"(2:2). He praisesthembecausethey have tested- and rejected- these
false apostles, and because "you hate the works of the Nicolitains, which I also
hate" (1:6). When John addresses those in Smyrna, where arrestsoccurred,and
those in Pergamon,where one "witness"was killed, the prophetmakes sure they
know thatoutsidethreats,too, come fromthe Evil One:thusJesus warnsthe former
that "thedevil is aboutto throw some of you in prison"and remindsthe latterthat
they live "where Satanlives," apparentlyreferringto the great temple to Zeus or
the imperialtemple to the augusti, "whereSatan'sthroneis" (2:13).'9
John unleashes an even more vehement denunciationupon a rival leader in
Thyatira,who "says she is a prophet,"but whom he calls "Jezebel,"and accuses of
"teachingandseducingmy servantsto practicefornicationandto eat food sacrificed
to idols." Shortly before, addressingthose in Pergamon,John had accused some
people of accepting"theteaching of Balaam,"that,he says, encouragesthe same
has a long history in propheticliterature
practices. Of course, the term TropvEia
that suggests consortingwith foreign cultureand flirting,so to speak,with foreign
'~ Steven J. Friesen, Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John; Collins, Crisis and Catharsis,
72-107.

"' Duffmakesthispointwell. Forexample:"Thegroup\ve mightcall 'the invisiblemajority'"

is "the group that representsJohn's primaryaudience." Who Rides the Beast, 48.
182-84; Price. Rituals and PoweI; 133-48; Friesen, Inperial
'" See Aune, Revelation 1-5.
52A,
Cults and the Revelation of John, 27-32. 107-29.

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gods. Finally, as John addressesthe two assemblies in Smyrna and Philadelphia,


which Duff identifies specifically as "strongholdsof John's loyalists,"20he bitterly
denounces those who "say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of
Satan"(2:9), and who "arelying" (3:9).
We can see, then, that every one of John's accusations against these various
enemies charges that they are subvertingGod's people internally.Above all, like
members of the "synagogue of Satan," some, apparently,pretend to be God's
people while actually being Satan's agents. Such charges, as is well known, are
familiaramong such dissidents as the Qumransectaries, who apply them to those
they regardas apostate.21
While earlier generations of scholars scrutinized John's rhetoric to delineate
specific groups among these detested insiders, more recently,commentatorshave
recognized that at least several of the groups he describes are more likely to be
variationson a composite portrait.Many now tend to agree, at least in general,
with the scenariodescribedin detail by Paul Duff: thatwhen John indicts the three
groups mentionedabove, he is challenging followers of Jesus who accommodate
more to outside culturethanthis rigoristprophetwould allow--in particular,those
who follow Paulineteaching. For when we discountJohn's polemical vehemence,
we can see that the specific accommodationscondoned by those he denounces as
"false apostles"and "false prophets"look very much like the practicesPaul allows
to his converts in 1 Corinthians7-10: eating meat sacrificedto idols, and allowing
sexual practicesthat rigorouslyobservantJews often prohibited,such as marriage
to outsiders." I agree with Collins, Duff, and others that John's target includes
followers of Jesus who accept Pauline teaching- teaching already widespread in
Asia Minor,especially among Gentiles.
More difficult, however, and more debated is whether those whom John denounces in Smyrna and Philadelphia,who "say they are Jews, and are not-but
a synagogue of Satan"(2:9; 3:9), are to be grouped with the others addressed in
such a composite portrait.Are we to take John at his word and assume that these
people arenot Jews, butGentiles-presumably followers of Jesus- who "say they
are Jews, and are not, but are lying" (3:9)? Or are they, as Collins, Duff, and others
have assumed, actually not only Jews, like John himself, but outsiders hostile to
the Jesus movement?23Recently David Frankfurter,taking up and modifying what
'" Duff, Who Rides the Beast, 48.

For discussion, see my "The Social History of Satan, Part I."


Many scholars have observed this connection. For a recent example, see Duff, Who Rides
the Beast, 48-60; for more specific suggestions about the practices that may be involved, see
Frankfurter,"Jews or Not'?"
2- See, for example, Collins, Crisis and Catharsis: "These comments (Rev 2:9 and 3:9) imply
great hostility between at least some Christiansand Jews of Asia Minor.At the same time, the author
of Revelation, perhaps along with other Christians also, claimed the name 'Jew' for himself and
2'

22

his fellow Christians;" 75; "The name 'Jews' is denied to the Jewish community in Smyrna;" 85.
See also Aune: "[Rev 2:9] implies that Christians are the true Israel," which Aune characterizes as

ELAINE H. PAGELS

497

FerdinandC. Baur and other membersof the Tubingen School suggested over a
hundredyears ago,24has arguedthat these, like the other insiders John censures,
are predominantlyGentile followers of Jesus who angerJohn by claiming Israel's
legacy while neglecting religious practices incumbentupon devout Jews.25Paul
Duff, while rightly rejecting often restated tropes about Jewish persecution of
Christians,which are based on anachronisticassumptions,recently has offered
instead a detailedtextual analysis for taking these as Jewish outsiders.26
How we assess their views has much to do with how we envision the first
centurygroups John has in mind. During past decades, most commentatorshave
concluded, with Aune, Schiissler Fiorenza, and Collins, to mention a few, that
when speaking of "those who say they are Jews and are not," John is drawing a
line between himself and his fellow believers on the one hand and non-Christian
Jews in Smyrnaand Philadelphiaon the other.Many take this as indicating"the
partingof the ways;" most have sharedthe assumption,restatedby Paul Duff in
his book, that "Judaismand Christianitywould probablyhave been separatedby
this time."27 David Aune speaks for many, too, when he characterizesJohn as a
"Jewish-Christianprophetwho had moved from Judaismto Christianityat some
Both Aune and Collins have expressed the widely shared
point in his career.""28
view thatJohn"deniesthe termJew to actualJews of the local synagogues,"most
likely because they participatedin hostile acts against Christians.Both conclude
thatJohn,consequently,denies them the name "Jews,"because he holds that"followers of Jesus are . .. the trueJews," whichAune characterizesas "a widespread
Christianview."29Aune's view of John'sevolutionfrom"Jew"to "Christian"gives
rise to his theory of two editions of the Apocalypse that account for what Aune
interpretsas the author'spsychological and theological "development,"one that
conveniently recapitulateswhat Christianstypically have seen as a progression
from Judaismto Christianity.30
Yet this kind of interpretationprojects onto John's autobiography,as onto
the first centuryAsian groups he addresses, what Christiansin later generations
came to see as the course of salvation history.But when we step back from this
"a widespreadChristianview"-as evidence for which he cites passages from Pauline and Petrine
letters, along with the gospel of John. Revelation 1-5, 175.
24See FerdinandC. Baur, Vorlesungeniiber neutestamentlicheTheologie (Leipzig: Fues, 1864)
207-30; Gustav Volkmar,Commentarzur OffenbarungJohannes (Ziirich: Drell, 1862) 80-85.
25 Frankfurter,"Jews or Not?" 403-12.
26
,"'The Synagogue of Satan': Crisis Mongering and the Apocalypse of John," unpublished
paper used by the author's permission, just now published in The Reality of Revelation (ed. David

L. Barr).

27 Duff, Who Rides the


Beast, 52; on the supposed "partingof the ways" between Jews and
Christians, see, for example, Collins. Crisis and Catharsis. 84-87.
2'
Aune, Revelation 1-5. cxxi.
29 For reference, see above, n. 23.
3 Aune, Revelation 1-5, cxx-cxxxiv. For a more current and much more nuancedcritical discussion, see Frankfurter,"Jews or Not?" and Cohen. "Judaismwithout Circumcision."

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interpretationand attemptto read what John says in the context of first century
history- before the inventionof "Christianity,"so to speak- we can see thatwhat
John writes does not supportthis view. Instead, as Aune acknowledges, "one of
the striking features of Revelation is the virtual absence of the typical features
of the polemic between Jews and Christians... and an absence of the threatof
Judaising.""'But Aune somehow takes this as evidence that the prophethimself
stands firmly within the "Christian"camp-and goes so far as to conclude that
the absence of warnings against "Judaising"indicates that the seer "espoused a
'Pauline'type of inclusivism."32
In this paper, I tend to agree with-and extend-the views of those whose
researchhas led to a very differentconclusion: that far from "espousing a kind of
'Pauline'inclusivism,"Johnhere again excoriatesthe groupsthatdo- groupsthat
apparentlyconsist largelyof Gentile convertswho follow Paulineand neo-Pauline
teaching.Especially duringthe past ten years, many of us have recognized thatthe
traditionaldiscussionoften has turneduponanachronisticuse of the terms"Jew"and
"Christian."For if, indeed,Johnknows the term"Christian,"he never uses it- and
certainly never applies it to himself or those of whom he
approves--apparently
because,as PhilippaTownsendhas persuasivelyhas shown, the
term,adaptedfrom
a self-designationcurrentamong groups of Paul's Gentile converts who followed
Paul's lead and called themselves o6tto6 Xptoroi-, probablywas coined by Roman
magistratesto refer in particularto Gentile converts."3While we can only sketch
her argumenthere, we note thatthe authorof Luke-Acts associates the firstuse of
the termwith Pauland Barnabas'smission to Gentiles in Antioch (Acts 11:26) and
that governor Pliny also uses it apparentlyto designate Gentiles who have made
themselves conspicuous by joining those who "prayto Jesus as a God."34 Perhaps
it is no accident that Ignatius,himself a Syrian convert writing perhapsten years
after John (depending on how we date his writing) to believers in several of the
same Asian towns, is the first, so far as we know, to aggressively identify himself
and his fellow believers as "Christians"over against what he sees as the adherents
of an inferiorand obsolete "Judaism."
Furthermore,while we have no indication that John thinks of himself as a
"Christian,"we have noted that he strongly identifies himself in positive terms
as a Jew, specifically as one whose concern with the holiness and purityof God's
people impels him to advocatecertainpracticesandabominateothers.Intriguingly,
within about a generation of his writing, some of John's earliest commentators
assumed that those whom John attacks largely consist of Gentile converts; thus
Irenaeus(and laterHippolytus,following his lead) associates those whom the seer
31Ibid, 165.
32 Ibid.
31 Philippa Townsend, "Who Were the Christianioi?" Paper submitted to Princeton Seminar,
2004; forthcoming publication; used by author's permission.

34 Pliny, Letter to Trajan.

ELAINE H. PAGELS

499

calls "Nicolitains"with the figureof Nicolaus, describedin the book of Acts as a


Gentile proselytefrom Syria.35
But were they wrong? Paul Duff recently has arguedthat the structureof the
lettersto Smyrnaand Philadelphia,which are, in his words,"strongholdsof John's
supporters,"shows thatthey lack the structurecommon to John'scorrespondence
to insiders.The latter,Duff says,
... includebotha call for repentance
(aimedat some or all of the church
members)anda threatfromtherisenJesus(directedagainsttherecipientsof
theletter)if thatrepentance
does notoccur.Thelatterset,on theotherhand,
includesneitherof theseelements.36
Duff makes some incisive points about style. Yet an addresseeof either of these
letters could hardly avoid hearing"Jesus"'bitter denunciationof "Satan'ssynagogue" as a serious warning.Who among the group John denounces could miss
his threatthat when the Son of Man comes back--very soon!-he will put such
wrongdoersin theirplace, humiliatingthem so thatthey will have to "bow down"
before God's own people?
If, on the otherhand,John'sJesus here addressesGentile converts,the punishment Jesus threatenswould precisely fit the crime against Jews of which such
converts apparentlywere often guilty. Paul himself, writing forty years before
John,admitsthathe hadfoundsuch attitudeswidespreadamonghis own followers,
and he repeatedlychastises them for "boasting"of theirsuperiorityto "Israelites."
Yet Paul acknowledges that many Gentile converts have taken his own words as
encouragementto thinkof themselvesas being, spirituallyspeaking,the real Jews.
Many could have taken that to be his meaning when, for example, in his letterto
the Romanshe speaks of who the "realJews" are:
whatis external
Forhe is nota Jew,whois oneexternally,
noris circumcision
in the flesh;buta personis a Jew who is one inwardly,andcircumcisionis
in theheart,spiritual,notliteral.(Rom2:28-29)
In the same letter, of course, Paul goes on to say that he grieves continually
for "my kinsmen accordingto the flesh, who are Israelites,"since, as he explains,
"not all who are from Israel are Israel; not all who are the seed of Abrahamare
his children,"-for "it is not the childrenof the flesh who are the childrenof God,
but the childrenof the promise"(9:1-8). In his letterto the Galatians,he assures
Gentile convertstherethat"if you belong to Christ,you areAbraham'sseed, heirs
accordingto the promise,"childrenof Sarah,"bornaccordingto the spirit;"thus,
he admonishes his hearers, "you are children of the promise, like Isaac" (Gal
3:1-4:28). Concluding this letter, Paul proclaims the blessing of peace upon all
who belong, he says, to "the Israel of God" (6:16). Finally, when Paul writes to

35 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.26.3; 3.10.7.


36
Duff, "'The Synagogue of Satan.'" 11.

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converts in Corinth,he compares their experience- favorably- to that of "Israel


accordingto the flesh" (1 Cor 10:18).37
Paul's letters, along with the various supercessionist views expressed in such
writingsas the letterto the Hebrewsand the gospel of John, show how widespread
such views had become, even aroundthe end of the first century. We need not,
then, indulge in elaborate speculation, as scholars often have, about what these
"would-beJews" had done to angerJohn. For while neglecting the very practices
that John believes keep God's people holy-observing the commandmentsand
strictly maintainingpurity-these Gentile converts dare not only to "say they are
Jews" when they are not, but even to boast of their superiority.If they have, indeed, "blasphemed"by imagining thatGod no longer loves his people, no wonder
the prophetlongs for the day when Jesus will come to punish them in a way that
perfectly fits their crime:
I will makethoseof the synagogueof Satan,who say theyareJewsandare
not, but are lying-I will make them come and bow down before your feet,
and they will learn that I have loved you.

This readingtends to supportFrankfurter'sobservationthat:


scholars who have cast John of Patmos as a Christian,as opposed to a Jew,
distorthis text and obscure a properunderstandingof his relationshipto Jews
who were not devoted to Jesus. "Christian"would imply that his Jesus devotion somehow displaces or preemptshis Jewishness.3x

While we may not be able to solve entirelythe problemof whom John addresses
in Rev 2:9 and 3:9, for our presentpurpose,we need not do so. In any case, Frankfurtermakes a perceptivepoint when he says that for observantJewish followers
of Jesus like John, "the term 'Christian,'of course, is the least useful label, either
for denotingseparationfromJews as a taxonomiccategory,or for denotingancient
religious self-definition."39
In regard to John of Patmos, we agree. Yet this comment raises another question noted earlier: when, and for whom, did "Christian" become not the least but
the most useful label, even a necessary one? This question points us toward one
obvious source: the famous letters written about a decade after John wrote Revelation by Ignatius, bishop of Antioch. It is hard to know what to make of the famous
statement we noted from the book of Acts that "the disciples were called Christians
first in Antioch." Yet we cannot help noting that some twenty or thirty years after
Luke wrote these words, Ignatius, who calls himself "bishop of Antioch," is the
Cul.7 See the incisivediscussionby DanielBoyarinin CarnalIsrael:ReadingSex in Talmudic
ture(Berkeley:Universityof CaliforniaPress,1993);andnotethe"politicallycorrected"
translation
nowfoundin the NRSVtranslation
of thispassage.See also the important
discussionby Schiissler
Fiorenza,TheBookof Revelation,114-34.
' "Jews or Not?" 408.
3, Ibid.

ELAINE H. PAGELS

501

first, so far as we know, not only to insist on calling himself "Christian,"but also
to define whathe calls "Christianity"to separatehis own standfrom what he calls
"Judaism."At the same time, Ignatiusinsists on separatinghimself and his fellow
"Christians"from Jesus followers who, like John, both apparentlyare Jews and
proudlyclaim the name. Like John, of course, Ignatiuswrote seven extant letters
to groups of Jesus followers in Asia Minor,includinggroups in threeof the same
Asian towns thatJohnhad addressed,directingthem to those whom he, of course,
does call Christians-and, as noted above, the term as he uses it specifically denotes Gentile converts.

John and Ignatius:Early Diversity Among Followers of Jesus


Let us compare,then,the rhetoricalstrategiesof Johnof PatmosandIgnatiusof Antioch as each of these two intense,passionatepolemicists attemptsto circumscribe
the boundaryof "God'speople"against"others"who, each charges,falsely claim
a place within that magic circle. Of course we need not assume thatthe two were
in directcommunication,or even thatIgnatiusknew of John'swriting,separatedas
they wereby over a decadeandby thedistancebetweenSyriaandthe regionaltowns
near Ephesus in Asia. Yet ChristineTrevettfinds in Ignatius'swritingevidence to
show not only thathe was familiarwith John'swriting,but thathe intendedcertain
passages of his own letters to Jesus' followers in Philadelphiato challenge some
of John's claims and teachings." And while keeping in mind that the evidence is
too dense andcomplex to allow us to characterizetheirrespectivestandpointsas if
they were simply diametricopposites--for we acknowledge,indeed, that various
groups of Jesus' followers coexisted, and sometimes competed, in Asia Minor at
the turnof the firstcentury- the contrastsare intriguing.
In the first place, while Ignatius seems to be respondingto similar issues, his
perceptionof the icicKkrllathe addressesdiffers sharplyfromJohn's.As we noted,
John apparentlyidentifies himself not only as a prophetbut also as a priest who
standsamong a "kingdomof priests,"perhapsintendingto characterizethe whole
communityof "holy ones" (or, at least, the men amongthem) as, in effect, a group
of priests- wordsthat,as notedabove,echo Exod 19:6,in whichthe Lordaddresses
the IsraelitesthroughMoses, saying, "Youshall be for me a kingdom of priests"
4 Christine Trevett, Montanism: Gender,Authority,and the New Prophecy (Cambridge:Cam-

SeekingtheSeeds,"VC43 (1989)
bridgeUniversityPress,1995);"Apocalypse,
Ignatius,Montanism:
313-38. See also HenningPaulson.StudienZurTheologiedes Ignatius ion Antiochien(G6ttingen:
Vandenhoeck
& Ruprecht,1978);WilliamR. Schoedel.Ignatiusof Antioch(Philadelphia:
Fortress,
1985).On Ignatius'sview of apostles,see also CharlesE. Hill. "Ignatiusandthe Apostolate:The
inStudiaPatristica:Paperspresented
Witnessof Ignatiusto theEmergence
of Christian
Scripture,"
at the ThirteenthInternationalConference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford,1999 (ed. MauriceF.

MilesandEdwardJ. Yarnold;
StPatr36:Leuven:Peeters,2001)226-48. Hillobserves,forexample,
that Ignatius's letters "place the apostles beyond the merely exemplary. The apostles are a definite

and closed group which participatesin an astonishing triumviratewith Jesus Christ and the Father
representingdivine authority"(233).

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John envisions each group of saints standing under the


,-n ~ri).
(n. r. of a protectingangel, to whom is entrusteddivine revelation mediated
leadership
throughprophetslike John. But when it comes to humanleaders,Johnrecognizes
above all prophets like himself. Despite his elaborately phrased modesty about
his own propheticrole, the prayerof the twenty four elders in heaven indicates
that he regardsthe prophetsas leaders of the "holy ones," that is, membersof the
congregationsthey address(2:20; 10:7; 16:6;8:24; 22:6; 22:9). Furthermore,as we
have seen, John reserves his bitterestinvective for the two prophetshe denounces
as false-perhaps, as we have seen, because the practicalteaching of both these
"false prophets"echoes that of Paul, and perhapsbecause one is female.41
John regardsapostles quite differently from Paul--and, as we shall see, very
differently from Ignatius, who takes Paul as the primarymodel for his own life.
Occasionally John mentions apostles with some respect-but only those who are
dead andsafely enshrinedin pasttradition.ThusJohnenvisions apostles in heaven,
praisingGod's judgmentalong with the saints and prophetswho are alreadythere.
But when he designates specific apostles, he mentions only those he calls "the
twelve apostles"(21:14) whom Jesus chose, whose names he envisions inscribed
upon the foundationsof the twelve gates of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Yet among his contemporaries,John seems to regard"apostles"only with suspicion. Thus the Jesus he channelsopens his firstaddressto the Ephesianspraising
those who, in his words, "do not tolerateevildoers,"which means, he explains, that
"you have tested those who call themselves apostles, but are not, and you found
them to be false" (2:2). Did John have in mind, among others, the most famous
self-professedapostle, Paul--one whom John never mentions (if, indeed, he knew
of him) but whom others among his near contemporariesin Asia called simply
"the great apostle"'' and reveredeven above "the twelve?" Paul himself says, of
course, thathis missionarywork was dogged by chargesthat he falsely claimed to
be an apostle. Note, too, that when Paul himself enumeratesthose divinely gifted
for leadershipamong the churches,he ranksapostles and prophetsin reverseorder
from John: "God has appointed in the churches first apostles, second prophets,
third teachers"(1 Corinthians 12:28). Paul's own letters indicate, of course, that
"apostles"were prevalentamong his groups, and Ignatius,some sixty years later,
acknowledges among Pauline groups not only "apostles,"but also bishops, presbyters, and deacons.
Not surprisingly,then, Ignatius envisions apostles, not prophets, standing as
the primaryleaders of his churches.Thus Ignatiusgives advice to the groups he
~' Tina Pippin, on the basis of her reading of certain passages in Revelation, claims that John
regards only males as members of God's holy community; see "The Heroine and the Whore: Fantasy and the Female in the Apocalypse of John," in Semeia 60 (1992) 67-82. While I do not find
her reading persuasive, I tend to take John's reference of the holy ones as a "kingdom of priests"
as indicating that, as often happens, men form the essential and holy center-and in all likelihood,

the only legitimate leaders-of


God's people.
42
See, for example, "The Hypostasis of the Archons," in NHL 87:4-5.

ELAINE H. PAGELS

503

addresses that is the reverse of John's: Test prophets,not apostles. Although he


does not deny that there are some prophetsamong Jesus' followers-as we shall
see, his Letter to the Philadelphians shows that he knows how highly many revered them, perhapsespecially in Asia Minor-Ignatius apparentlyfollows the
view expressed in Luke-Acts that bishops, understoodas latter-dayagents of the
apostles, now hold the essential leadershiprole in the churches (Acts 20:17-38).
Ignatius, of course, takes the suggestions made in Acts 20 to a far more radical
and systematicconclusion. Not only does he identify himself as the sole authentic
leader of Jesus' followers in Antioch, but he insists that every genuine iKK&#hotia

must have a bishop, like himself, as leader."Withoutthe bishop, nothing can be


called an FnKKXIic'a"3
- fighting words, one would imagine, when resonating among

groupswhose membersagreedwith Johnthattheirassembly was divinely guided


by an angel who gives divine directionthroughprophets.And shouldsuch prophets
have taught, as John had, that all membersof God's people are priests, Ignatius
apparentlyfelt compelled to set them straight.
For when Ignatius writes to the

iKKX-qoia

at Philadelphia, where only ten to

fifteen yearsbefore, Johnof Patmoshad writtento "a strongholdof (his) loyalists"


who lived there,Ignatiusat firsttreadscarefully.When he takes up the questionof
the roles of priestand prophet,far from metaphoricallycharacterizingall of God's
people as priests, as John had, Ignatiusdefines "priests"as churchfunctionaries
specifically authorizedand assigned to the second rank of leadership,below the
bishop and above the deacons. Thus he defines them as three formal ranks belonging to the

"clergy," by contrast with what he calls the "laity"

(Xa6g;,

KXi?pog,
the "people").4
After admonishingJesus' followers to obey the bishops, priests,
and deacons, Ignatius adds what sounds like a pointed concession: "and also let
us love the prophets,because they anticipatedthe gospel in their preaching,and
hoped for and awaitedhim, and were saved by believing on him."'5WhatJohnof
Patmoshad implied aboutapostles- thatthe only authoritativeones are people of
the past-Ignatius now implies aboutprophets:those who are genuine are, above
all, the classical prophets,long dead and sanctionedby tradition.
Yet Ignatiusseems to have known thatmany prophetshad been active in Philadelphia, including the four daughtersof the apostle Philip, all of them prophets,
and the famous woman prophetAmmia, who was active therefrom aroundJohn's
time to his own. Apparentlybecause he recognizes Philadelphia'sstrongtradition
of propheticteaching, when he writes to believers there, Ignatius refrainsfrom
challenging their authority.Instead, far from deprecatingpresent day prophets,
Ignatius claims that while in Philadelphiahe himself proved that he, too, could
43 Trall.3.1. For a

fascinatingrecentdiscussionof Ignatius'sview of episcopacyandchurch

order, see Harry O. Mauer, "The Politics of the Silent Bishop: Silence and Persuasion in Ignatius
of Antioch" in JTS (2004) 503-19.
4 Eph. 1.3; 2.2; Trail. 1.1; 3.1; 81: Mag. 2.1.

* Phld. 5.2.

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HARVARD THEOLOGICAL

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speak as a prophet.Later,writingto believers there,he remindsthem that while he


was visiting Philadelphia,he had publicly demonstratedhis own propheticcredentials: "I cried out when I was with you; I cried out in a loud voice-it was God's
voice!" But what Ignatius says he spoke in prophecy turnedout to be antithetical
to a continuingand active prophetictradition.Instead,it was what he preachedall
the time: "Payattentionto the bishop, and to the presbytery,and to the deacons!"
Ignatiusadmitsthatsome who heardhim speak this "prophecy"objected,charging
thatratherthanspeakingby the spirit'sinspiration,the bishop had said these things
because he hadbeen tippedoff aboutdissentersamong the Philadelphiagroup.But
Ignatiusvehemently denies the charge, and swears by God that
I didnotlearnthisfromanyhumansource.It was thespiritthatkepton proclaimingin thesewords:"Donothingapartfromthebishop. .. prizeunity;
flee schism;imitateJesusChrist."46
Despite his claim to speak as a prophet-and the unconventionalmessage he
delivered in that role-Ignatius rejects entirely the premise central to the teaching of John of Patmos, as well as many other prophetsand their admirersin Asia
among Jesus' followers, includingthe authorsof Didache and the Gospel of Matthew. For each of these authors,in variousways, takes care to demonstratethathis
"gospel"-the message of Jesus Christ, as each presents it-is groundedin classical prophecy.John's own oracles, as Prigeantobserves, are "literallysaturated"
with allusions to the oracles of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zachariah,47
as is the
Gospel of Matthewand its predecessors.But Ignatius,on the contrary,hardlyever
refers to what he calls the apXaila-that is, to texts from the Hebrew Bible. On the
contrary,he insists that what is primaryis the gospel message and not the Hebrew
Scriptures.Knowing his own standto be controversial,he describes the opposing
argumentsto those in Philadelphia:
I have heardsome peoplesay, "If I don't find it in the &pxaia,I do not
believein the gospel."AndwhenI say to them,"butit is written,"theyretorted,"thatis preciselythe issue."Buthe??me, the dapxaiaareJesus,and
the inviolableUpXcrat
arehis cross,his death,his resurrection,
andthe faith
thatis throughhim."4
Insteadof founding his faith upon the testimonies of the HebrewBible, as others do, Ignatiusdeclares that he founds it upon what Paul says are the elementary
themes of his preaching ("ippvyLa),that is, "Jesus Christ, and him crucified"(1
46Ibid., 7.1-2.
47 Pierre
Prigent, L'Apocalypse de Saint Jean (2d ed.; Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1988) 41.
41 Phld. 8.2. On the term i~uayyihXtov,
note the incisive discussion by Helmut Koester, Ancient
Christian Gospels (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990) 7-8; for another view, see J.
P. Meier, "Matthew and Ignatius: A Response to William R. Schoedel," in Social History of the
Matthean Community(ed. David L. Balch; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991) 178-86. Note, too, C. E.
Hill's discussion of Ignatius on the authorityof written sources, in "Ignatius and the Apostolate,"
247-48.

ELAINE H. PAGELS

505

Corinthians
is, "his cross, his death,his resurrection."This, apparently,
2:2)--that
is what he means
when he repeatedlyinsists thatJesus' followers are to "eat only
Christianfood." (Are we to infer, here, the eucharist,the "gospel"preaching,or
both?) The bishop continues, "I plead with you, do nothing in strife, but according to Christ'steaching."What this means, and what mattersmost, is to focus on
Christianity,not Judaism:"if anyone interpretsJudaismto you, do not listen to
him."49As we might expect of one who helped coin and contrastthese two terms,
Ignatiusdoes not claim for himself or for those with whom he identifiesthe term
"Jew."Althoughhe regardshimself as a participantin Israel- the "newIsrael"- he
insistson the clearsuperiorityof "Christianity."
Againstany like John,who is proud
to understandhimself a Jew, Ignatiusdeclares that "whoeveris not called by this
name [Christian]is not of God!" As Townsend points out, Ignatius argues for a
complete reversalof the historicalrelationshipbetween Jewish traditionand the
emergingsects of Jesus' followers. "Not only must the Christianoino longer orbit
'Judaism,'Jews who believe in Jesus must now adopt 'Christianism';they must
become Christians.""'
ThusIgnatiusradicallyshifts the boundaries.UnlikeJohnof
Patmosor Matthew,who sought to demonstratethe truthaboutJesus Christfrom
the HebrewBible, Ignatiusgoes so faras to accuse those who introduce
'Iou8acto6
of introducinga'cpeatg.
Yet even having repudiated"Judaism,"Ignatiusgoes on to claim that he and
his fellow Christianshave taken over the Jews' identity as God's people. Thus
this Syrianconvertcan enjoin Jesus' followers to "give no occasion to the iOvEotv
[that is, to the 'nations,' to Gentiles]"to slanderGod's people. Thus he seems to
assume thatGod has disenfranchisedthe Jews, and thathe and his fellow Gentiles
have become, in effect, Israel.
Let us state, then, our conclusion. First,we agree with the perspectiveof many
colleagues who see John,thatferventlyJewishfollower of Jesus, attacking,as rival
prophets and teachers, followers of Jesus in Asia who follow Pauline teaching.
Second, in light of recent discussion of usages of the term Xptoztavoi, we agree
that the latterprobablyconsist primarilyof Gentile converts. Third, we want to
indicatehow this picturefits into currentdiscussionof the emergenceof boundaries
between "Jews"and"Christians,"and,in Ignatius'swords,between"Judaism"and
"Christianity."
Finally,we wantto show how John,by conflatingtwo distinctbiblical
traditionscharacterizingevil powers-one involving "thatold serpent,"the chaos
dragonandhis beastly allies, the other"thesatan"andhis angelic armies- intends
to "out"those "insiders"whom he detests as, in effect, secretallies of the "outside"
enemies who threatenand persecuteGod's people.

49 Loc. cit. 6.1


5o Townsend, "Who were the Christianoi?"

18-21; note, too, the terminological

Cohen, "Judaismwithout Circumcision,"396-414.

discussion in