Thursday, August 22, 2019

Was There a Persecution under Domitian?

http://theologicalsushi.blogspot.com/2019/07/was-there-persecution-under-domitian.html

10 comments:

  1. Interesting article that seems to rule out preterism. And yet, I found D. Ragan Ewing's article The Identification Of Babylon The Harlot In The Book Of Revelation as presenting a intriguing case for the Harlot of Revelation being Jerusalem in keeping with preterism. The more I study eschatology the less and less certain I am as to which interpretation is closer to the truth.

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    1. Well, it rules out certain claims some preterists make. But I'm mostly a preterist myself, and whether or not there was a persecution under Domitian doesn't affect my view since it doesn't hinge on Nero being equivalent to the Beast. I actually find it more likely that the Beast is a reference to the Roman army (specifically the 10th Legion Fretensis, which was the main legion in charge of the destruction of Jerusalem) and man who led it was General Titus, who has a name that does indeed add up to 666 (as reckoned by Ireneaus). But then his father and brother, both of whom were also Emperors, all actually had the name "Titus" so the entire family all added up to 666. It's just his father was known as Vespasian (actual name Titus Flavius Vespasianus). Titus was actually Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus. Oh yeah, and his brother? Titus Flavius Caesar Domitianus Augustus. Known simply as...Domitian. So there's that.

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  2. Interesting view. I'm curious how you would reconcile that with statements made about the beast. For instance, the beast is dead, so does that mean that the entire 10th Legion and Titus are dead? When does the Roman Army persecute Christians for not worshiping the army and its image? I assume you're making the image the eagle as representative of the Roman army's power, but wouldn't it be more appropriate to say that Jews were killed for not bowing to its power? And if the text says that the beast is two kings specifically, where is the textual justification for making it the army instead? Who is the eighth king if Titus and his Legion is one of the seventh? And if they are the eighth, who is the other?

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    1. There's a bit much to respond to completely here, but basically the reason I view the Tenth Legion as the likely what is meant by the "beast" is because it fits what we see of Revelation 13. First, verse 1 tells us that the beast came "out of the sea" and it had ten horns and 7 heads. The Legio X Fretensis literally means "Tenth Legion of the Strait" (as in, the sea). Furthermore, the X Legion arrived in Judea via a sea landing in 67 AD. There, she had detachments (vexillationes) from the III Gallica, IV Scythica, V Macedonia, VI Ferrata, XII Fulminata, and the XV Apollinaris--which meant the X legion was comprised of vexillationes from 7 different legions. I take the 7 heads as a reference to the 7 legions making up the Legio X Fretensis, especially given that Revelation 13:3 says one of the heads had a seemingly fatal wound from which it had recovered. The XII Fulminata had been ambushed by the Jews earlier and lost it's aquila (the eagle standard). This usually resulted in the disbandment of the legion, and would have been viewed as a fatal wound to the head. Yet in this case, the XII Fulminata was not disbanded, but instead was one of principle attackers during the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

      In addition, Revelation 13:5 said the beast had power for 42 months. From the time the X Fretensis landed in Israel to the fall of the Temple took exactly 42 months. At that point, Titus returned to Rome. The X Fretensis remained in Israel for another 42 months before the destruction of Masada ended the Jewish revolt. The siege of Masada was led by none other than the X Fretensis once again.

      Incidentally, regarding the imago--it was not the eagle standard (Latin: signum). The imago was either of the ruling Emperor or the Emperor who had originally raised the Legion, depending on the fame of the emperor who created the legion. The X Fretensis was raised by Gaius Octavius. The Imago could have been of him, or the current Emperor--which at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem would have been Vespasian--the original Titus Flavius Vespasianus, so adding up to 666).

      As for the textual justification of treating the beast like an army instead of a man, I would say the figurative language of apocalyptic literature certainly warrants that possibility. The beast is described as being "allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them"--which is literally what armies do. Also, armies are historically linked to their leaders. For example, when The X Equestris attacked, people just said Julius Caesar attacked. So historically, the army and the general were interchangeable in many respects.

      Again, much more could be said on this, but there's certainly a lot of overlap--more than I find for most theories proposed about the identity of the beast.

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    2. I would really challenge you to think about this methodology, as I think it has quite a few exegetical errors in it. For one, it seems to keep the identity of the beast cryptic to any reader who does not know the specifics of the Roman legions when, in fact, John explains what the beast is in Chapter 17. It is two of the eight kings mentioned, not their armies. Furthermore, the image is of the beast, not the one's carrying the image. If the beast is the army that would mean it would have to be of the army. Otherwise, the army isn't the beast. Furthermore, we are told that the Christians are put to death by the beast for not worshiping the beast. This means that they are put to death for not worshiping the army. It seems that you want to address this difficulty by saying that the emperor is identified with the army he raised, and that the legion was raised by Augustus, but the beast isn't Augustus. Augustus never demands worship upon pain of death. He never even meets a Christian as he dies before there are any. Nor would there have been an image of Vespasian that Christians were put to death for not worshiping, as Vespasian is not considered a god while he is living, nor is there any evidence that he or any other emperor in the first century, beside Domitian, put Christians to death for not worshiping him or his image. I think that what you've done here is commit what I call the exegetical fallacy of context replacement, where a foreign context the author does not provide himself replaces the context he did provide. The text literally says it's a man manifesting himself in two kings. They are linked by an element the other kings don't have, presumably in the book, the persecution of Christians.

      The fatal wound of the seventh head is explained as the beast dying. The seven heads are explained as seven kings in Chapter 17.

      For instance, the 42 months could refer to the destruction of Jerusalem or the time of tribulation in Daniel. We know John is alluding to Daniel throughout his book, and even the beast terminology is derivative of it. It's therefore more plausible that that is the background and not the destruction of Jerusalem. It's also not a sure thing that it only took 42 months. As far as I know, that is taken from Josephus who is intentionally fudging facts to get Vespasian to be the anointed figure in Daniel. Josephus was accused of distorting facts by other historians of his time as well as many today.

      I think the reason why interpretations of Revelation are so wild is because the text is not being used to limit the possibilities. Any identification of the beast has to include the idea that the beast is being worshiped, has an image of itself that is worshiped, has a man's name, is a king, has two manifestations, so it dies and then comes back to life, persecutes Christians, and is thrown alive into the lake of fire in order to be tortured and punished. Even if a single legion were to meet all of that criteria, it would still be speculation as to whether it was really the referent, since there is not contextual key that makes it obvious.

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    3. I think you need to familiarize yourself with the historical context here. I also think you're being far too literal with the terms. They are not used in Revelation in the way that you would use them today, but rather as they were used throughout apocalyptic literature throughout the Old Testament. The language is very figurative and metaphorical.

      I'm not interested in a long debate on this right now, but consider the fact that Roman legions *LITERALLY CARRIED IMAGES WITH THEM* and the text speaks about having to worship an image or being put to death. Every single Jew would have seen Roman legions and their images and would have known what that meant. Every single Roman legion also clearly identified who they were, carrying the information on their standards and banners. And every single person facing a Roman army would have known the general they were facing--just read Josephus. He was defeated by Vespasian and, as a prisoner, was with Titus when Jerusalem was destroyed so is an eyewitness to these events. You don't see him struggling to define who the Roman legions were or who the generals were over them.

      Anyway, I don't want to spark too much of a debate at the moment. You believe what you want. It doesn't bother me any.

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    4. I'm well familiar with the history, but I don't plug in whatever sounds familiar into texts that make no connection to that history themselves. If I wanted to, I can plug in anything as you have done here as the context and make it about ten different things. That's why there are as many interpretations of the book as there are commentators. My point is that the book itself provides the contextual referents which you are ignoring in order to replace them with others that fit a preconceived narrative. For instance, the 10 is said to be kings in the book that give their authority to the beast. You want that number to be connected to the 10th Legion, but the book nowhere makes that connection. Ten is also not a literal number in the book.

      I'm also well familiar with the imagery of the OT and Second Temple period, and how Preterists employ the exegetical fallacy of illegitimate referential transference. The language is very figurative, but not in the explanatory portions. You don't seem to understand apocalyptic very well. For instance, Daniel 2-8 is very figurative, but Chapter 11, which explains the context for the book, is much more literal. There is always a part to be interpreted and a part that is interpreted by the angel. Chapter 17 tells us who and what the beast is, what the 10 is, what the 7 is, etc. That doesn't support the Preterist narrative so, as their futurist counterparts, they look for the nearest ancient newspaper and attempt to eisegete another context into the book.

      The fact that you think that because the army carried an image of the emperor gives credence to the idea that Revelation is talking about that very thing proves my point. The image is of the emperor, not the army. They are being put to death for not worshiping the emperor and his image. This means that the beast is the emperor, not the army or a legion of it. History reveals only one emperor in the first century who puts Christians to death for not worshiping him. That's Domitian. The explanation given by John in Chapter 17 only fits Domitian as the eighth king who persecutes Christians. To ignore this information given by the book is simply fallacious exegesis.

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  3. "If Pliny the Younger had not written to Trajan to clarify the correct manner of investigation needed to put Christians to death, modern historians would have never known that a systematic persecution was taking place under Trajan. Not even the Christians mention it. Yet, it is clear from that correspondence that Christians are regularly being put to death for not worshiping the gods and the emperor through his image."

    That's a good point when considering ancient sources.

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  4. I'm well familiar with the history, but I don't plug in whatever sounds familiar into texts that make no connection to that history themselves. If I wanted to, I can plug in anything as you have done here as the context and make it about ten different things. That's why there are as many interpretations of the book as there are commentators. My point is that the book itself provides the contextual referents which you are ignoring in order to replace them with others that fit a preconceived narrative. For instance, the 10 is said to be kings in the book that give their authority to the beast. You want that number to be connected to the 10th Legion, but the book nowhere makes that connection. Ten is also not a literal number in the book.

    I'm also well familiar with the imagery of the OT and Second Temple period, and how Preterists employ the exegetical fallacy of illegitimate referential transference. The language is very figurative, but not in the explanatory portions. You don't seem to understand apocalyptic very well. For instance, Daniel 2-8 is very figurative, but Chapter 11, which explains the context for the book, is much more literal. There is always a part to be interpreted and a part that is interpreted by the angel. Chapter 17 tells us who and what the beast is, what the 10 is, what the 7 is, etc. That doesn't support the Preterist narrative so, as their futurist counterparts, they look for the nearest ancient newspaper and attempt to eisegete another context into the book.

    The fact that you think that because the army carried an image of the emperor gives credence to the idea that Revelation is talking about that very thing proves my point. The image is of the emperor, not the army. They are being put to death for not worshiping the emperor and his image. This means that the beast is the emperor, not the army or a legion of it. History reveals only one emperor in the first century who puts Christians to death for not worshiping him. That's Domitian. The explanation given by John in Chapter 17 only fits Domitian as the eighth king who persecutes Christians. To ignore this information given by the book is simply fallacious exegesis.

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