Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Christianity and the State, pt. 2

Chapter 3
Religion and the Church
In summarizing the contents of the previous two chapters, Rushdoony remarks that during the Christian Empire, the tendency was for the Empitre to identify God too closely with the Empire's world order, thereby making any enemy of the emperor/king an enemy of Christ. On the other side, the Church worked to separate God from the world as the emperors sought to unite God and the world. Further, the Church made the Pope in the image of the Emperor, such that an enemy of the Pope was an enemy of Christ. Thus the conflict between the divine right of kings and the divine right of popes was inaugurated in their long and historic conflict. Rushdoony also remarks that this tension was peculiar to the West, because the East was more Platonic in its thinking (i.e. other-worldly) and the West inherited the Roman tendencies toward centralization and simplification.

All of this summary and brief elaboration leads up to this paragraph:

The more immediate problem is thus not the ancient Church-State problem but rather the relationship of religion, and, more specifically, the Christian religion to the Church and to the State. Because both ecclesiastical and civil institutions have become humanistic, they have abandoned their historic Western roles under God for a new doctrine of social order. It is important therefore to examine the relationship of religion to the Church, having surveyed earlier the relationship of religion to the state. (10-11)

First, Rushdoony states that the Church is specifically a Christian institution. The non-Christian view of society is unitary: the social order of the state, of which religion is a department of state existing only as an aspect of the state. But because Christianity refused to have its Church according to the existence of the state, but rather as an institution in existence by God's divine Will, the Church was to inevitably come to war with the forces of state that sought to bring it under its dominion. Rushdoony puts it this way:

[The Church] shattered the humanistic unity of society by declaring itself to be the representative of a transcendental King and order, Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. It held, moreover, that the State, and every aspect of society, is similarly duty bound to represent God's order, not man's. The Church therefore was more than new wine in an old wine skin; it was new wine demanding new wine skins, demanding that all things be made new in terms of Christ. (11)

Rushdoony marks Feudalism, in its decentralized aspects, to be a product of the relative freedom of the Western Church. When the Church centralized, the ability to administer the life of Christ locally and individually, and the ability to reform the Church regularly through new movements and orders was diminished. The great Reformation was a result of the centralization of the Western Church--rather than changing in small parts continually and throughout, the central order forced its detractors to break from its power and association.

In our contemporary context, the pagan notion of a unitary society has resurfaced and grown, constituting a radical denial of the nature of the Church. Rushdoony cites the thought and action of the Vatican and the World Council of Churches as an example of the trend. Decentralization is a by-product of the great commission in Matt. 28:18-20, which aims to reconstruct man and society in terms of the regenerating power of God in Christ.

Chapter 4
The Anthropology of the State
The concept of man is central to any doctrine of the state. Rushdoony lumps the diverse theories into general or major kinds. The first is the classical view of Greek thought, which believes that man is a union between two alien elements in dialectical tension:

1. Form, idea, reason, or spirit and
2. Matter, will, particularity, or flesh.

The first set is the higher element, whereas the second set is the lower. Whether one prized reason or will determined how one regard man. Socrates (through Plato) held that Virtue is Knowledge and that no man sins willingly. All virtue comes from knowing what is truly for our good, and all sin comes in mistaking what is harmful for what is good. Knowledge liberates reason from its bondage to the will (appetites) and leads to happiness by pursuing true knowledge and curbing bodily desires. But rather than being an optimistic view of man, this view made salvation from sin practically impossible, for pure knowledge and pure virtue could not end without ending the dialectical tension between the mind and body, i.e. only death could end the struggle. Only the philosophical life came close to the ideal, and only the State ruled by philosopher-kings could ensure an environment that encouraged such an ideal. Whereas the non-philosophical man garners too great a mistrust, the philosophical man garners too great a trust. Rushdoony identifies under this view Enlightenment philosophers up to Rousseau, Marxists, Fabian Socialists, Behaviorists, and others.

Aristotle represents a similar anthropology to Socrates and Plato. Rather than unifying everything in the State, Aristotle sought some emphasis upon the individual, or particular. Aristotle argued that the state was a creation of nature and thus man was a political animal by nature. Rushdoony remarks that if God created man, then man is defined by God and is a religious creature, but in Aristotle's conception, man is the creature of the state. So even in Aristotle's focus on particulars, he arrives at the same conclusion as Plato: man is the creature of the state. Like Plato, Aristotle saw a conflict between mind and body, saw "the good" as that to which all things aimed, and argued that both the good of man and the good of the state are what is good for man. However, the good of the state, being a greater and more perfect good, and thus holds prominence and preference over the individual good--once again we have the centrality of the state in the life of man, for the good of the state is what enables man to reach his highest good. This final good, like Plato, is happiness, defined as "self-sufficiency," which is supposed to seek itself in society as opposed to in its own individuality (i.e. anarchy).

Thus, classical anthropology shifts back and forth between anarchy and totalitarianism, or as Rushdoony puts it:

Classical anthropology thus had an ambivalent position, moving from totalitarianism to anarchism quite readily. The nature-freedom dialectic of modern philosophy gives it the same tendency, an emphasis on the totalitarian Savior-state, a world state, and an omnipotent state on the one hand, and, on the other, the protectionist, autonomous nation state and the anarchistic individual. Both man and the state claim to be universals and absolute particulars. Both man and the state see themselves as the final judge and arbiter of all things, and both decide issues in relationship to themselves.

This classical formulation also holds that man is a product of blind chaos and chance, an evolutionary accident, and an accidental product. His nature is not constant or God-given. Man is a product of his environment and is molded to whatever form the molder desires. Thus, education is necessary to mold the man and thereby control his future. Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Pavlov, Freud, Dewey, and many other statists have insisted upon the control of the child through education. The view of the "plastic man" as Rushdoony calls it, is a doctrine of totalitarianism, for it holds that total power can produce total change. The opposing side in the modern reformulation of the classical anthropology is the existentialist anarchists, who deny both the state and other men. Freedom, for these, is expressed by the unmotivated act and its demonstration of radical independence from God and man.

The second kind of anthropology is expressed in the democratic view of man. Behind it lies radical scientific elitism. Rousseau and his doctrine of man's goodness is a major figure of this view, which claims that only institutions and a bad environment lead to evil or sin on the part of man. Man has great dignity under this view, but what it grants ostensibly it cannot fulfill in reality. If man, in his great dignity, is so easily perverted by evil (as history shows), he must be very weak and his natural goodness very slight in relation to the operations of nature. The democratic view replaced God with Nature, making man the creature of Nature and the world of men. Like the classical view, but more so, man is malleable, and the result has been a heavy emphasis upon propaganda, education, and statist controls for reworking man. The overthrow of institutions that make man evil is the means of salvation, which is an anarchistic paradise where man and society operate in a stateless world. The notion that the voice of the people is the voice of God is also part and parcel with the democratic view. Ironically, the view has led to the proliferation of institutions and organizational control of man (despite its locating the cause of evil in institutions). If bad institutions will corrupt man, then good institutions will save him and keep him good. The democratic state is hostile to Christianity because of its view of man, and because it is not compatible with either totalitarianism or humanistic politics.

A Biblical anthropology views man as the creation of God. Created by God in goodness, and fallen into reprobation apart from Christ, man is not considered normal in his fallen state. Sin, a deformity in man, is destructive of man and society. Sin is suicidal. Thus, man must be considered in his original righteousness as well as in his total depravity apart from the work of Christ. Man is not plastic, he is not changed by the state or the environment; not by church or school, but by the eternal councsel, effectual calling, and regenerating grace of God FIRST, and then only secondarily by his own will. God acts and by that act, man responds.

Biblical anthropology makes personal responsibility primary, over and against modern psychologism and environmentalism as well as primitive notions of magic and the influence of evil spirits. Neither society, nor institutions are to blame for our condition or our actions as freely willing actors. Man is not anarchical, nor can he be totalitarian, for above all he must answer to God, who is the ultimate governor. The power granted to man is just that, granted, and therefore limited by God both actively and directly as well as secondarily through His law. Violations of the law invite God's just and inevitable judgment.

Against evolutionary theory the Bible advances the claim that God alone, by His sovereign purpose, moves all things toward the glory of His name. All of creation's purpose is to serve God's purpose of His own glorification. The effects of Christian presuppositions has even had an impact upon pagan thought in previous eras. Rushdoony cites laissez-faire philosophy and free trade thinkers, who adapted the Christian doctrines of providence (harmony in creation). Harmony is not a product of nature or of blind forces, but of God's eternal willing. The conflict inherent in evolutionary philosophy requires that power be amassed in order to accomplish the ends of either the individual or the state. Amidst such conflict only arbitrary limitations can be advanced, but under a Biblical anthropology conflict is not an inevitable and inescapable aspect of natural forces, but is the product of sin, which is governed (along with all other things) by the sovereign will of God, who has provided both a means for salvation, and a manner in which man is to walk in order to give Him glory in all things.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Christianity and the State, pt. 1

The following series of posts constitutes another chapter by chapter summary, this time summarizing the book Christianity and the State by R. J. Rushdoony. The book is 192 pages and includes forty chapters an a short appendix. Since each chapter is relatively short and given the lengthy nature of the previous summary, I will include two to four chapters per post, with the appendix and any additional thoughts garnering a final post of its own. Thus, the next eleven posts shall comprise the complete summary. Unlike my summary of Gentry, I shall write in the place of the author, bracketing any of my own comments [like so].

Chapter One
Introduction: The Need for a Theology of the State
Evolutionary thought has assumed that primitive cultures are polytheistic and are succeeded by monotheism, however, polytheism marks a culture in decay, not a culture in formation. One contemporary example of polytheism is the post WWII figure Dr. Kerr (chancellor of UC Berkeley in the fifties) who claimed that instead of a universe (and university) there is really a multiverse (and multiversity). Plurality rather than unity is the structure of reality, and this view is a world of polytheism because it rejects any over-all truth and order in favor of "fragments and limited connections in the shambles of time and space" (1). The result of polytheism and its disavowal of universal order and meaning is the requirement of force to accomplish cohesiveness and truth. Religion within polytheism makes no claims of universality, but remains relegated to its own corner of acceptance, occasionally demanding gifts and bribes for appeasement rather than overarching claims of jurisdiction over men and nations.

The Enlightenment saw churches limit their spheres severely. While churches overstepped their boundaries up to this point in history in many ways, what authority is not limited is that of Christianity, specifically the authority of Scripture, which declares every sphere of life to be under the rule of God's word and under the authority of Christ the King. The implication is that EVERY human "must be a Christian in church, home, school, state, vocation, and all of life" (2). Not one sphere of life is not autonomous from the claims of Christ--just as we cannot move from fidelity to Christ to that of Mammon, Ball, or Molech so too we cannot move from fidelity to Christ to that of school, state, or any other order that is not under "the catholic or universal sway of God's rule and law" (2). The limits of the Enlightenment to the "spiritual" realm, which created an untenable distinction that led to more and more being categorized under the command of the "material" realm of the state and economics.

The following paragraph is as good a summary of the first chapter's argument as any:

Polytheism was born thus within the church. The work of Jesus Christ was progressively limited to soul-saving, and, with the steady rise of Arminianism, even here man gave an assist to God.

As a result, the cosmic Christ was traded for a polytheistic Christ, and the Bible was read, not as God's law-word, but as a devotional book for pietists. The state (and most of life) was thus "freed" from God to follow a humanistic course. Humanism, as the new Catholicism, began to claim the school and all other agencies and institutions, until humanism too began to decay within and thus resort to force to gain its will without, i.e., in the physical world of men and nations.

Scripture asserts its authority against such paganism and thus requires a theology of the state to guide our beliefs and actions. Psalm 2 proclaims to the nations a command to submit themselves to God's law or face his wrath and judgment. The state that would claim authority and lordship over any sphere of life must be challenged with the claims of Scripture proclaiming the sole Sovereignty of Christ.

Chapter Two

Religion and the State
The so-called problem of church and state is akin to the so-called problem of free will. Both require the problem to be correctly identified and formulated in order to be answered correctly and sufficiently. Unfortunately, "Church and State" is a term that obscures rather than elucidates the discussion of the problem, for the current "state" is no more a unity than the current "church," although the rising assertion of influence over local branches of civil government by the U.S. Supreme Court is approaching something of a unified state authority. Rushdoony quotes from John F. Wilson's book, Church and State in American History, to elucidate the problem more clearly, and he narrows Wilson's six phases of the problem into three:

1. The colonial period's policy of establishment, where a single church (or in some cases more than one denomination) was established and financially supported by the state.

2. The colonial period's policy of disestablishment, where particular denominations were divested of state establishment and support and Christianity was established as a religion over an against any particular ecclesiastical establishment.

3. The post WWI rapid development of the post Civil War trend, which insisted on the neutrality of the state towards religion while maintaining religious liberty for churches.

Despite this historical discussion of the phases, Rushdoony finds it lacking in its attention to the basic issue, which he finds as far back as the medieval period, where the "Church-State" tension is identifiable apart from the traditional formulation expressed by Wilson.

The debate in the medieval period was the papal conflict with the nations under the Christian empire, and resolution was sought in institutionalization. A Christian order was acknowledged by both the popes and rulers, with periodic hostility concerning who would have primary control and maintenance of this Christian social order. This original formulation of the problem of Church and State has become obsolete in the modern era because the state is not concerned with establishing a Christian social order (and is more often hostile to that agenda) and there is less often any single church that seeks to claim establishment in any Western nation. Where establishment does exist, it often receives no support from tax funds and no legal recognition of Christian order in law courts. Also, there is no common consensus (ecclesiastical or civil) in the modern era that a Christian social order is even necessary. Finally, in the modern era religious liberty has been replaced by religious tolerance. Historically, religious liberty meant freedom for the church and its worshipers from state control and jurisdiction. But religious tolerance has meant that the state retains the power to declare which church or religion has a right to exist. The authority to govern that was foreign to the state under religious liberty has been usurped by the state under religious toleration. The original purpose of the First Amendment was to preclude the Federal Government from entering the jurisdiction reserved to the State governments who retained the right to establishment of religion [some of which had established religions during the ratification of the Constitution]. It was not until the 14th Amendment was interpreted by the Supreme Court as applying to all states that a complete denial of state establishment of religion was effected.

All of this history is preparation for the proper formulation of the problem, which must recognize the fundamental nature of the institutions of Church and State:

Not only is every church a religious institution, but every state or social order is a religious establishment. Every state is a law order, and every law order represents an enacted morality, with procedures for enforcement of that morality. Every morality represents a form of theological order, i.e., is an aspect and expression of a religion. The church thus is not the only religious institution; the state also is a religious institution. (7)

The battles between church and state are thus religious battles, where two rival claims to religious order are being waged against each other. These claims constitute totalizing influence for they wage for the governance of society, the whole of life for a people. Just as the American Puritans held the Bible to be the source of all reason and morality, so too humanists hold autonomous humanity to be the source of true reason and morality. Thus the issue is not between church and state, but between the state as a religious establishment or Christianity as a religious establishment. Neutrality is a myth created to obscure the claims made upon the power to enforce the governance of society. As humanism has increased its theological influence upon Christian belief, so it has increasingly become the established religion over the state, the school, and the church.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Before Jerusalem Fell, pt. 5

The following is the fifth and final installment of a chapter-by-chapter summarization of Before Jerusalem Fell by Kenneth Gentry. There are five sections to the book, and each entry here will cover one section. Note: quotations are being taken from a pdf copy of the book, therefore page references may not match exactly with hard copies.

Section 5: Conclusion
Chapter 20: Concluding Remarks
Gentry finishes his books with a reminder of the importance of Biblical Introduction, which deals with such matters of authorship, audience, and dating of Biblical books (to mention only three important considerations under this topic). He then gives a summation of his early date argument, including the external and internal witnesses. He then proceeds to another reminder of the practical importance of resolving the question for oneself. Since it comprises the final section of the chapter, I will reproduce it here in full:

The resolution of the question of the dating of Revelation has far-reaching practical implications for the average Christian. As noted in our opening comments, fascination with Revelation is an extremely widespread phenomenon in American Christianity. Almost certainly this fascination will continue. The importance of Revelation for eschatological inquiry lends it an especially influential role in the development and implementation of a Christian worldview. Hence, it is of grave ethical and cultural significance in that it impacts on the Christian’s view of history.

On the one hand, if Christianity’s eschatological expectation is that of an imminently portending and dismally precipitous decline and extinction of Christian influence in our day, as much of current Christian literature suggests, then our Christian endeavor will be powerfully bent in one direction. And it must necessarily be turned away from the implementation of long-term Christian cultural progress and dominion. If Revelation’s judgments are yet to occur and lie in our future, then we must expect and prepare for the worst.

On the other hand, if the expectation held by the Christian community is of a sure hope for progress and victory, then the focus of Christian enterprise will be of a constructive and future-oriented nature. Our cultural endeavor will not be in despite of our eschatology, but in light of it. In this regard, if Revelation’s judgments lie in the past and punctuate the close of the old order in preparation for a divinely wrought novus ordo seclorum in which God will be engaged in “reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19) and “drawing all men” to Christ (’John 12:31), then the Church can confidently seek to bring “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

We also noted in the beginning of our inquiry that a serious confusion as to the nature and message of Revelation is partly responsible for the cultural defeatism and retreatist pietism so influential in twentieth century Christianity. There we observed that one reason for confusion as to the Church’s future is due to a radical misunderstanding of the date of the writing of Revelation. If Revelation is inadvertently dated after the events it prophesies as future, the way is opened to a radical misconstruing of its message. Indeed, not only has the message been misread in such circumstances, but it has been wholly inverted, placing in our future what really lies in our past. Hence, the significance of the date of Revelation. (336-337)

Although I am not going to produce a summary of it here, the reader may also be interested in the appendix provided in Gentry's book, which is a refutation of House and Ice's book "Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse?" Much of the refutation involves arguments already discussed in the book by Gentry, but a few additional arguments are made regarding dominion theology and the commentary on Revelation by Bruce Chilton, entitled "Days of Vengeance," which House and Ice focus much of their attention on.

Finally, now that I've concluded the summary of Gentry's book, I wish to add my own commentary, brief though it may be, on the value of the book. Although it took me quite a while to get through the book (even longer than it took to summarize it, I assure you!), I found that skimming through it again during my summary was a helpful aid in reflecting upon its arguments. Whatever one may think about Gentry as a person or the strength of Gentry's arguments in one place or another, I have been quite impressed by the exhaustive nature of his investigation into the dating of Revelation. His command of the scholarly literature, his attention to the ancient sources, his commitment to evangelical presuppositions, and his even treatment of the evidence are all things I hope to emulate in my own research efforts. A second appreciation I have for Gentry is his open recognition of the role that presuppositions play in EVERY endeavor of analysis. I have encountered many folks who wish to make arguments and claim that they are simply dealing with "the facts" or "the plain meaning of the text" or the "the best method of hermeneutics." While these folks have good intentions and strong convictions, it remains the case that behind every claim is an epistemological foundation, a source of authority to which one must appeal, a set of first principles, and a system of meaning that are all operating in and influencing the conclusions that one draws about what constitute "facts," what counts as "plain meaning," and what "method" accords with what can be counted as knowledge. These deeper issues of philosophical importance often float above the heads of most folks in the ethereal realm of abstraction, but they are nonetheless the property of all rational thought, whether anyone takes the time to consider them. For all those who are unwilling to end their inquiry with "common sense" or what is "self-evident," Gentry's careful thinking will be refreshing.

I am indebted to Gentry's work in strengthening conclusions that I had only assented to in principle prior to reading his book. I encourage the reader to engage with his arguments even if they are convinced of their own conclusions on eschatology. Their efforts will not be in vain!

Before Jerusalem Fell, pt. 4

The following is the fourth installment of a chapter-by-chapter summarization of Before Jerusalem Fell by Kenneth Gentry. There are five sections to the book, and each entry here will cover one section. Note: quotations are being taken from a pdf copy of the book, therefore page references may not match exactly with hard copies.

Section 4: Alleged Domitianic Evidences Expamined
Chapter 15: Introduction to Domitianic Evidences
In this brief chapter Gentry introduces the arguments attached to the Domitianic evidences in favor of a late date of Revelation:

1. The indications in Revelation of emperor-worship, which was prevalent in Domitian's day.

2. The indications in Revelation of persecution fit better into a Domitian period.

3. Revelation shows knowledge of the Nero redivivus myth that can only be expected to have developed by the time of Domitian's reign.

4. The churches of Asia Minor mentioned in Revelation seems to have a period of development behind them, which would have been unlikely during Nero's reign.

Chapter 16: The Role of Emperor Worship
Gentry cites several scholars who have argued that Rev. 14:9-11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; and 20:4 show evidence of emperor worship, which supports a Domitian dating of Revelation, for several imperial cults were prominent during his reign. Gentry begins his examination of the evidence by discussing the difficulty of dating the emperor cult. Even proponents of the view must recognize that emperor worship was not limited to Domitian's reign, for even Julius Caesar was worshiped as a god during his lifetime. Gentry then proceeds to discuss the argument for a pre-Neronian history of the emperor cult. He gives four arguments:

1. Emperor worship is traceable as far back as Julius Caesar, who lives almost 100 years before Nero's death.

2. Formal temples erected for worship of the emperor are known to exist in Augustus's reign in c. 29 B.C.

3. It is unknown what method Domitian used to enforce emperor worship, so it is not certain that he was the first or only to have persecuted non-participants (as Revelation indicates).

4. The first official imperial evidence of the enforcement of emperor worship is after both Nero and Domitian, during the reign of Trajan.

Gentry then proceeds to fill out these arguments with evidence and supporting claims. He cites several sources of evidence showing that Julius not only claimed divine honors, but also had men slain as victims of sacrifice to himself. Although Augustus declined divine honors in Rome, he still sanctioned worship and the building of altars to himself outside of Rome. Gentry sees an allusion to emperor worship in Christ's remarks during the reign of Tiberius when he was questioned by the Jewish leaders about tribute money (Matt. 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26), which is supported by historical evidence of temples erected in honor of Tiberius. Caligula also had temples erected to himself, complete with priests and sacrifices. Claudius was voted a god, then deposed later by Nero, only to be restored by Vespasian (Claudius also had a temple erected to himself during his lifetime). Thus, emperor worship seems to have been regular preceding the time of Nero.

Gentry then turns to the evidence for emperor worship under Nero's reign. Much has already been said about the evil nature and reputation of Nero. Nero's infatuation with the god Apollo (taking the title, "Son of Apollos") is telling of his estimation of himself, and inscriptions have been found that refer to Nero as "God and Savior." Gentry cites several ancient sources that give clear indications that emperor worship was encouraged by Nero and observed during his reign. The combination of these sources with the numerous others testifying to Nero's persecution of Christianity make the references in Revelation well-suited to a Neronian reference. Gentry then provides some qualifications of the emperor worship argument. First, there needn't have been a formal or legal relationship between emperor worship and the references made in Revelation. The incompatibility of exalting the emperor and exalting Christ is apparent to anyone observing the situation. Anyone willing to assert the Kingship of Christ would have felt a fear for someone like Nero, who had no problem murdering those who he felt threatened his claims to kingship. Second, the Revelation references could be referencing the spiritual, or philosophical (i.e. the underlying ideas) issues of worship rather than judicially sanctioned ones.

Finally, Gentry discusses the potential holes in the argument that the emperor cult played a part in Domitian's persecution of Christians during his reign. He cites several scholars who downplay the possibility, as well as citing the fact that official judicial evidence for such persecution is not extant until Trajan, the second emperor after Domitian. The evidence seems to favor Nero rather than Domitian in light of Nero's cruelty and especially in particular his cruelty to Christians as Christians. Gentry bolsters Nero's motivations for persecution while downplaying Domitian's context in a few lengthy paragraphs that I will pass over here. He then concludes the chapter and moves on to the next.

Chapter 17: The Persecution of Christianity

The next argument is that the persecution of Christians evident in Revelation accords best with Domitian's reign. Gentry begins his critique of this argument with the difficulties it faces. He cites a list of scholars who don't even use the argument in seeking to prove their late-date theories, some of whom deny the evidence that persecution of Christians was not empire-wide during Domitian's reign, and others arguing that there was none at all! The only evidence of a Domitian persecution comes from Christian sources alone (as opposed to the numerous Christian and non-Christian sources documenting Nero's vast persecutions). Only one non-Christian source is ever cited in defense of a Domitian persecution, and it is ambiguous, for it states only that Domitian's cousin Falvius Clements was executed and his wife banished on the basis of the charge of "atheism," which the source (Dio) equates with the practice of Judaism rather than Christianity. Moreover, the extant Dio texts come to us from the 11th and 12th century, and are accused of being carelessly handled in the precise section where Domitian is mentioned. The absence of any mention of Domitian persecution in the same sources who document Nero's persecutions is also interesting.

Gentry also has much evidence to present supporting a Neronic argument for the evidence of persecution. The earliest evidence comes from 1 Clement, mentioned in an earlier chapter, and which Gentry believes was written in the late 60s. He goes on to cite Christian and non-Christian sources documenting Nero's cruelty and persecution. Most of the evidence is building up the earlier arguments Gentry has made in this regard, so I'll pass over it here.

Chapter 18: The Nero Redivivus Myth
A few scholars see evidence of the Nero Redivivus myth in the text of Revelation, which leads them to argue for a Domitian date. They do not believe the myth could have spread during Nero's own reign. However, Gentry has several arguments ready for this particular question.

The pertinent texts in Revelation are 13:3,14 and 17:8,11. The myth that Nero would return to power. The myth was circulated after he was mortally wounded and received a public funeral. Gentry replies with two observations: 1) not all late date proponents allow the myth as a significance piece of evidence, and 2) several early date advocates recognize the myth in Revelation and yet maintain a Neronic date for the book. Gentry then goes on to show that the myth was in existence from a prophecy that was made early during his reign rather than after his death. But even if the myth were not widespread until late in Nero's reign, the Apostle John writing a prophecy surely doesn't preclude him seeing the future time when the myth would be used in the way he writes it in Revelation. Indeed, evidence suggests that the rapid spread of the myth occurred almost immediately following Nero's death. Thus, many believed, in accordance with John's prophetic word (if the myth is in his mind), that Nero would return to power. However well the myth might accord with John's prophetic word, Gentry has another interpretation that accords with Revelation and with history that does not need to make use of the myth at all.

The argument Gentry advances is that Galba is the so-called "Nero Redivivus" that John the Apostle has in view in Revelation. In this way, the eighth head would be a symbolic return of the sixth head rather than a literal return. In what sense does the symbolism reference history then? Galba is the seventh king who reigned only "a little while" and then Otho is the eighth, whose ascension Seutonious records in an interesting fashion:

When in the midst of the other adulations of those who congratulated and flattered him, he was hailed by the common herd as Nero, he made no sign of dissent; on the contrary, according to some writers, he even made use of that surname in his commissions and his first letters to some of the governors of the provinces. (309)

Tacitus also mentions Otho's use of Nero's memory, including setting up some statues of Nero, and even answering to the acclaimed name, "Nero Otho." Not only did Otho imitate Nero, but so too did the next emperor, Vitellius. Thus, Genty's case is that the revival of Nero (the sixth king) mentioned by John in Revelation is confirmed in the symbolic resurrection of his name and authority in the persons of the succeeding emperors of Rome. That so many lived in such fear of Nero would have cased the people to "wonder" at the revivification of his name by others, according to Gentry. But the symbolic purpose is not exhausted in these later emperors. Gentry has already mentioned the double-symbolism of the Beast as both the head of Rome (emperor) and Rome itself. The "Nero Redivivus" myth also accords with an understand of the empire of Rome as that which reigned, fell, and was restored to the marvel of the people. It is significant according to several reasons given by Gentry:

1) The death of Nero marked the end of the Julio-Claudian lines of emperors.

2) Following the death of Nero the Roman empire plunged into a civil war that nearly destroyed it.

3) After the civil war the empire was revived under Vespasian, who ended the civil war and restored order to the empire.

Gentry has to do some difficult exegetical work to harmonize this view with the Revelation text, and it would be better for the reader to consult his full defense rather than to consider my reproduction of it here. In any case, Gentry is confident that his arguments have secured a strong refutation of the Nero Redivivus myth in support of any late date of Revelation.

Chapter 19: The Condition of the Seven Churches
The last argument concerns the condition of the seven church in Asia Minor mentioned in Revelation. Gentry answers the arguments under this view one by one.

First is the wealth of the church in Laodicea (Rev. 3:17), which is argued to have been impossible during the reign of Nero, because the city was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 60/61. It would have been too quick of a turnaround for them to have restored their wealth during the reign of Nero, it is argued. Gentry exposes several flaws in this argument, despite its face-value. First, the riches mentioned by John need not refer to monetary wealth, but may refer to "spritual" riches (following allusions and parallels to 1 Cor. 4:8, Hosea 12:8, Luke 18:11,12; 16:15; and 1 Cor. 13:1). Even if material wealth is meant, there is historical evidence that the recovery of Laodicea from the earthquake was rather effortless. Tacitus (who recorded the earthquake) mentions that the city did not even apply for an imperial subsidy to help them rebuild, although this was a customary thing to do at the time. In addition to this reference, it is not necessary to assume that the earthquake's epicenter was in the center of the city, or that its devastation reached throughout the whole city, or even the portion of the city where Christians were gathered. Gentry cites the fact that not all of Mexico City was destroyed by the earthquake that struck it horribly in 1985.

Second is the existence of the church in Smyrna, which is supposed not to have existed during Paul's days. This argument is based on the statement of Polycarp who was bishop of Smyrna, who says the following:

But I have not found any such thing in you [i.e., the church at Philippi], neither have heard thereof, among whom the blessed Paul labored, who were his letters in the beginning. For he boasteth of you in all those churches which alone at that time knew God; for we knew him not as yet. (322)

This has been taken to mean that the church at Smyrna had not yet existed, but the interpretation could indicate that the Philippians (to whom Polycarp is writing) were converted before the Smyrnaens rather than that they didn't exist during Paul's time at all. Rather, it seems likely that Smyrna was evangelized soon after Ephesus (Acts 19:10,26), i.e., before A.D. 60. Moreover, the difficulty in dating Paul's letter to the Philippians make it inconclusive to argue from it against the evangelization of Smyrna before the death of Paul.

Third is the spiritual decline in Ephesus, Sardis, and Laodicea. It is assumed that such a significant decline could not have occurred in the short time required by an early date view of Revelation. However, this assumption is unwarranted. Paul's letter to the Galatians indicates that their initial good start was in serious jeopardy (cf. 5:7 and 1:6-7). This same kind of concern of Paul is evident in his letters to the Corinthians, a church founded in A.D. 49 and to which Paul writes with a heavy heart in A.D. 57. In addition to this, it is as difficult to believe that such rapid decline would have been possible given the fact that John the Apostle would have been working in these churches for over twenty-five years if he were writing during the Domitian reign. Would his influence have been so ineffectual, despite his apostolic authority and oversight?

Gentry concludes by again pointing up the argument that the evidence concerning the churches befits a time prior to the destruction of the Temple. He has already laid out these evidences in earlier chapters. Thus, we conclude the summary of section four here and look forward to the concluding section of the book, section five.