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Revelation 13

Posted: Mon May 10, 2010 1:52 pm
by Jason
Hello, forum! I was recently going through the book "Jesus for President" by Shane Claiborne and he gave an interpretation of the mark on the forehead or head as it pertains to buying and selling that I hadn't heard before. I'm sure Steve and others have heard this but it was new to me. Shane said that in early Rome people had to offer incence to Caesar (or bow to his likeness) to enter the agora (marketplace). Once proper homage was paid, they recieved a mark (kind of like a stamp) that allowed them to enter the agora to buy and sell goods. Since I have limited knowledge of the interworkings of the Roman agora, I'm wondering if this interpretation carries any weight?


Re: Revelation 13

Posted: Mon May 10, 2010 3:02 pm
by steve
It might. I have read similar things. My thought, when I read them, is always, "Where are the sources to document this?" I am not aware of any such in the Roman historical records, but they may be there. I have read many preterist interpreters who would like to present documentation for a view such as this, if it was available, but since I have found none to present such, my suspicion is that it is lacking.

Over the decades, listening to preachers, teachers and Christian authors, I have found that there is a tendency on the part of many to imagine plausible historical scenarios and to float them in their teaching as illustrative "perhapses." Someone hears them and passes the story along without the "perhaps" attached, and, from that point onward, the story has a life of its own. It essentially becomes a Christian "urban legend." No one knows where it originated, and no one can document its contents. If it works and is convenient for a particular point a preacher or author wants to make, it is inserted into the presentation. If it isn't useful, it is ignored.

I think, for example, of the story many of us have repeated, that the story of "Lazarus and the Rich Man" resembles a similar parable in the rabbinic sources. None of us have been able to find quite the same story in the Jewish writings, but Thomas Thayer claims he once saw it there. Perhaps he did. I don't have any reason to doubt his honesty, and, if he is correct, it would be "convenient" to my personal thinking about immortality. So what are we to do? We can repeat this information, with the caveat, "I really don't know if this is true, since the original sources have proven elusive, but there is one scholar who claims to have seen such-and-such." From that point on, let the buyer beware. The anecdote may be true, and may someday be documented, but let us not give our hearers the impression that we know it to be true, simply because it makes such a good point for our side.

Re: Revelation 13

Posted: Mon May 10, 2010 3:50 pm
by mattrose
Hey Steve,

If anyone here knows German and can get a hold of an older book, I think they can read the rabbinic parallels to the Rich Man & Lazarus parable themselves. I'd love for them to do so and share it with us!

I ran across this footnote...
"The different rabbinic versions were first collected by Chaim Horowitz in 1890 (see Gressmann). All these versions are included in both their original language (Hebrew or Aramaic) and in a German translation in Gressmann's study" (Pages 70-86 of "Von Reichen Mann")

So all we need to do, it seems, is find that book and someone who can read German :) After that, though, it would still be possible to deny the link between Jesus' parable and the similar material. But my point is that we have some tangible details (names of people in the proposed parallels, for instance) in this case.

Re: Revelation 13

Posted: Mon May 10, 2010 4:02 pm
by steve
That is very encouraging, Matt! Thanks for the info.

Re: Revelation 13

Posted: Tue May 11, 2010 9:32 am
by Jason
Matt, that sounds interesting. I can barely speak my native English, much less German, so hopefully someone will help us out with that one! Do you know of any resources supporting the view that Shane expressed in his book about requiring a mark to enter the agora?

Re: Revelation 13

Posted: Tue May 11, 2010 10:53 am
by mattrose
What page is that on Jason?

Good book, but I wish it had an index at the back! :)

Re: Revelation 13

Posted: Tue May 11, 2010 10:43 pm
by Jason
Matt, it's pages 152-153.

Re: Revelation 13

Posted: Wed May 12, 2010 12:24 am
by StevenD
Without distracting from the context of the thread, I thought to pass what surfaced after following the trail of hints related to the rich man and Lazarus. A book by the title of Hear then the Parable: A Commentary on the Parables of Jesus by a fellow named Bernard Brandon Scott offered some helpful information. A substantial portion of the book can be accessed via Google books at: ... nn&f=false

[Page 157 contains a segment of text lifted from Neusner's translation of the Jerusalem Talmud - Hagigah 2:2 section V, though other related material is also given mention.]

In case the link is malfunctional (it appears to be a bit long), the text reads:
"He who says Simeon b. Shatah was patriach finds support in the following incident about Ashqelon.

There were two holy men in Ashqelon, who would eat together, drink together, and study Torah together. One of them died, and he was not properly mourned.

But when Bar Maayan, the village tax collector, died, the whole town took time to mourn him.

The surviving holy man began to weep saying, 'Woe, for the enemies of Israel [a eupemism for Israel itself] will have no merit.'

[The deceased holy man] appeared to him in a dream, and said to him, ‘Do not despise the sons of your Lord. This one did one sin, and the other one did one good deed, and it went well for [the latter on earth, so while on earth I was punished for my one sin, he was rewarded for his one good deed].’

Now what was the culpable act that the holy man had done?

Heaven forfend! He committed no culpable act in his entire life. But one time he put on the phylactery of the head before that of the hand [which was an error].

Now what was the meritorious deed that Bar Maayan, the village tax collector, had done?

Heaven forefend! He never did a meritorious deed in his life. But one time he made a banquet for the councillors of his town, but they did not come. He said, ‘Let the poor come and eat the food, so that it not go to waste.’

There are those who say that he was traveling along the road with a load of bread under his arm, and it fell. A poor man went and took it, and the tax collector said nothing to him so as not to embarrass him.

After a few days the holy man saw his fellow [in a dream] walking among gardens, orchards, and fountains of water. He saw Bar Maayan the village tax collector with his tongue hanging out, by a river. He wanted to reach the river but could not reach it.”
b. Sotah 47a (the Babylonian Talmud) informs that "Simeon b. Shetah was hid by his sister" under duress at the hands of "King Jannaeus". A footnote in the Soncino translation informs that Alexander Jannaeus was "king of Israel from 104 to 78 B.C.E., a persecutor of the Pharisees." If this lends an accurate view of history, the tradition recorded in the Jerusalem Talmud may have circulated orally during the time of Christ.

Oddly, the end of Sotah 47a closes with a segment that is commonly associated with Jesus as one who "set up a brick and worshipped it." Additionally, the record suggests that the individual that many identify as Jesus "practiced magic and led Israel astray." Consequently, not only is the chronology potentially anachronistic, but the text seems a bit goofy - if not slanderous.

I didn't notice anything else that maintained sufficient resemblance with the passage found in Luke 16 to continue the quote (Scott stops at the same point in his book).

Steve D.

Re: Revelation 13

Posted: Wed May 12, 2010 7:50 am
by mattrose
Richard Bauckham translates 2 of the stories in his book 'the fate of the dead'

The first is a story that existed in Egypt (Bauckham assumes a relationship)
The second is a story that existed amongst the rabbis
I am not quoting Bauckham word for word here, but my own paper on this parable where I summarize Bauckham...

1. The earliest version of the story seems to have originated in ancient Egypt. In this story, a man named Si-Osiris is reincarnated from the realm of the dead so as to deal with an Ethiopian magician who was upstaging his Egyptian counterparts. Si-Osiris is miraclously born to a childless couple and, before he is old enough to accomplish his purpose, he and his father share an interesting dialogue after observing the funerals of a rich man and a pauper. When the father suggests his hope to have a life and death like the rich man, Si-Osiris corrects him by taking him on a tour of the realm of the dead. There it is learned that the pauper has been elevated to a high position and the rich man is left on the outside looking in.

2. This story seems to have migrated and morphed into a variety of Jewish stories, the most famous of which involves the deaths of a rich tax collector named Bar-Ma’Jan and poor Torah scholar. The rich man is buried in style, the poor scholar left unmourned. A friend of this scholar is saddened by the contrast, but it is subsequently revealed to him in a dream that Bar-Ma’Jan is in torment while the pious friend is in bliss.

Re: Revelation 13

Posted: Wed May 12, 2010 11:57 am
by mattrose
Jason wrote:Matt, it's pages 152-153.
Google books is a helpful resource. The footnote provided by Claiborne mentions 3 resources to support his point. (Howard-Brook/Gwyther, Deismann, Caird). Deismann's book "Light from the ancient east" is available, in part, on google books. Thankfully, the page referenced by Claiborne (341) IS part of the preview. ... nn&f=false

And there are footnotes at the bottom of this too. So, again, it seems actual information (true or false) is available to us. But it will probably take some extra digging and language skills :)