Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins

By Steven J. Friesen | Go to book overview

11
COMMUNITIES WORSHIPPING HUMANS

The preceding chapter outlined the ways in which John used mythologies to define the meaning of history and to promote a particular identity for the congregations within that history. How did John imagine this system would be expressed in the life of a community that worshipped Jesus? How was it to be different from mainstream society? This chapter looks more specifically at the character of the congregations as John understood them by exploring leadership and organization, the character of apocalyptic personhood, and outsiders.


Organization of Churches

According to John's text, “church” was the fundamental unit of the movement to which he belonged, but Revelation makes clear that these churches were related to each other. The messages of Revelation 2–3 were directed toward particular congregations but were sent to all seven churches because all were actually being addressed in each message. Thus, near the end of each message comes the refrain, “Let the one who has ears hear what the spirit says to the churches” (emphasis added). This thought is emphasized again in the center of the seven messages. In the midsection of the middle message (the fourth one, to the church in Thyatira), we are told that Jezebel and her followers will be punished and “all the churches will know that I am the one who searches heart and minds” (2:23, emphasis added). So Reve-

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Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John *
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Religious Criticism 5
  • I - The Logic of Participation 23
  • 2 - Provincial Imperial Cults of Asia Under Augustus and Tiberius 25
  • 3 - Provincial Cults from Gaius to Domitian 39
  • 4 - A Survey 56
  • 5 - Two Case Studies 77
  • 6 - Groups and Individuals 104
  • 7 - Imperial Cults as Religion 122
  • II - Revelation, Resistance 133
  • 8 - Revelation in Space and Time 135
  • 9 - Space and Time in Revelation 152
  • 10 - Working with Myth 167
  • 11 - Communities Worshipping Humans 180
  • 12 - Worship and Authority 194
  • 13 - Revelation in This World 210
  • Glossary 219
  • Notes 225
  • Bibliography 259
  • Index of Ancient Sources 273
  • General Index 281
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