Revelation 2:20: The Errors of Jezebel

Verse 20:[1] Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman (1 Kings 16:31; 21:25; 2 Kings 9:7) Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants (Ex. 34:15; Acts 15:20, 29; 1 Cor. 10:19, 20; Rev. 2:14) to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

[A few things] Not that the guilt was light, but He extenuates the disease after the manner of a physician, so that the sick man might not despair, but receive the cure (Pareus).

Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee: see the notes upon Revelation 2:4, 14.

[Because, etc., ὅτι ἐᾷς, etc.] Because (or, namely that [Piscator]: ὅτι is εἰδικὸν/epexegetical, as in Matthew 26:54;[2] 1 Corinthians 11:17,[3] 23;[4] 2 Corinthians 1:14[5] [Grotius]) thou sufferest (although thou art able to prevent [Tirinus]: because thou dost not restrain her by the censures of the Church [Durham]: In the place of ἐᾷς, thou dost leave alone, Grotius has ἀφεῖς, thou dost tolerate: Thus a manuscript, and thus all the Ancients:[6] Now, here ἀφεῖς was written through carelessness, in the place of ἀφῇς:[7] The sense is, I will that thou dismiss that woman: For it is ἀφιέναι, to send away, as it is seen in 1 Corinthians 7:11-13:[8] But ἀφεῖς is not used in the Greek language in the Indicative [Grotius]) the woman (the Devil is wont often to employ women for such things, for they are deceived more readily, 2 Timothy 3:6, 7, and do more passionately and more fondly what pleases them, and they infuse their venom into others often more readily and more efficaciously [Durham]) Jezebel (Beza, Piscator, etc.). Here he calls Jezebel, either, 1. the entire Synagogue of the Pseudo-apostles (certain interpreters in Gagnæus), or of the Jews (Alcasar in Pareus); or, the order of Teachers that were teaching these things there, whom He indicates by the name woman because they were unworthy of the title of men (Cotterius): or, 2. the heresy of the Nicolaitans (certain interpreters in Gagnæus), or of the Gnostics (Hammond) [concerning which things Hammond speaks at length here]: or, 3. a particular man, whom He calls a woman on account of the effeminacy of sin (certain interpreters in Zegers): or, 4. the wife of the Bishop of Thyatira (certain interpreters in Pererius, thus Grotius), as the Ancients think; thus she is mentioned because she was a teacher of evil things, and the wife of the first man in the Church, just as that ancient Jezebel was the wife of Ahab the King, 1 Kings 16:31 (Grotius). But there is no proof of that, and John would have reprehended the Bishop more sharply (Pererius). Or, 5. some woman in that city (Pererius, thus Ribera, Lapide, Menochius, Piscator, Durham), heretical (Lapide), prominent and powerful (Ribera, Lapide, Pererius), and a persecutrix (Ribera); illustrious with respect to authority and a sort of sanctity, but impure (Pareus), a harlot (Lightfoot’s Harmony, Chronicle, and Order of the New Testament 155), a witch (Pareus, Lightfoot), like unto the wife of Ahab (Piscator, Pareus, thus Menochius), in craftiness and wickedness, etc. (Pareus).

[Who calls herself (but falsely [Tirinus]) a Prophet[9]] Or, Prophetess (Beza, Piscator). Who predicts future things (Drusius). Just as in those times there were indeed certain women equipped with the gift of Prophecy, Acts 21:9, so also there were those that claimed it for themselves falsely; of which sort afterwards in those places were Priscilla, Maximilla, Quintilla.[10] In a manuscript it is ἡ λέγουσα αὑτὴν, who is calling herself,[11] so that he might be proper instead of oblique: which is extremely common in John (Grotius).

[To teach, etc., διδάσκειν καὶ πλανᾶσθαι, etc.] Διδάσκει καὶ πλανᾷ, she teacheth and seduceth [for thus Grotius reads it[12]]: that is, ἡ διδάσκουσα πλανᾶν, the one teaching to err. She teacheth, that is, as if by the Prophetic Spirit: for otherwise it was not permitted to women to teach. See what things are said on 1 Corinthians 14:34 (Grotius), and 1 Timothy 2:12. In fact, even those extraordinary Prophetesses, of which sort were the daughters of Philip, Acts 21:8, 9, were forbidden to preach publicly and authoritatively; and silence is enjoined upon them in 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35, in which passage it is still a discussion concerning extraordinary Prophets (Durham). To teach and to seduce my servants (that is, the members of my family and Church; not Pagans, but Christians, and those especially who were blameless in doctrine and life: He says this, partly to aggravate the sin of the seducers and of those that are seduced; partly for precaution, lest anyone be secure, etc. [Durham]) to fornicate (either, 1. spiritually, by defecting from God; or, 2. bodily [Gagnæus]: by teaching that prostitution was not a sin [Durham]) and to eat things sacrificed to idols (Montanus, etc.). With the scandal not hindering (Tirinus, thus Menochius, Durham), or, the danger of relapsing into idolatry (Tirinus), or, the Apostolic precept or decree (Tirinus, Grotius), Acts 15:29, in which place see what things are said (Grotius).

Because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel: the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, mentioned Revelation 2:6, 15, is so plainly expressed in the latter part of the verse, namely, maintaining the lawfulness of eating things offered to idols, and of fornication; that whosoever this woman was, it is plain she was one of that filthy sect. It is also plain, that she is called Jezebel with allusion to that wicked woman of that name who was the wife of Ahab, of whom we read, 1 Kings 16:31. She was an instrument to bring Ahab her husband to serve and worship Baal. It is also plain, that she was one that pretended to Divine revelations; she called herself a prophetess; and that taught in public, which no women but prophetesses might do, 1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:11, 12: and that she taught a community of women, and the lawfulness as of fornication, so of eating things sacrificed to idols, directly contrary to the apostle’s doctrine, 1 Corinthians 10:19. But what she was cannot be determined; for though we allow this church to be typical of the church in the times of popery, and the popish synagogue, which maintaineth both these things to be the antitype; yet certainly there was some famous heretical strumpet in this church, which the governors did not restrain and cast out of their communion; which is the thing Christ had against this church, and the officers in it, who ought to have restrained her extravagencies both in teaching such doctrines, (being contrary to the apostle’s doctrine in the places before mentioned,) and from teaching at all, being no prophetess though she pretended to it.

[1] Greek: ἀλλ᾽ ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ ὀλίγα ὅτι ἐᾷς τὴν γυναῖκα Ἰεζαβήλ, τὴν λέγουσαν ἑαυτὴν προφῆτιν, διδάσκειν καὶ πλανᾶσθαι ἐμοὺς δούλους πορνεῦσαι καὶ εἰδωλόθυτα φαγεῖν.

[2] Matthew 26:54: “But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that (ὅτι) thus it must be?”

[3] 1 Corinthians 11:17: “Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that (ὅτι) ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.”

[4] 1 Corinthians 11:23: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That (ὅτι) the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread…”

[5] 2 Corinthians 1:14: “As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that (ὅτι) we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

[6] Ἀφεῖς is the reading in Codices Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus, Ephræmi Rescriptus, and a significant number of Byzantine manuscripts.

[7] Ἀφῇς is the second person, singular, present form of the irregular ἀφίημι. The εις-ending is the second person, singular present ending for regular verbs.

[8] 1 Corinthians 7:11-13: “But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband dismiss (ἀφιέναι) his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not dismiss (ἀφιέτω) her. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not dismiss (ἀφιέτω) him.”

[9] The Greek of the Textus Receptus: τὴν λέγουσαν ἑαυτὴν προφῆτιν th\n le/gousan. This agrees with the preceding accusative, τὴν γυναῖκα Ἰεζαβήλ, the woman Jezebel.

[10] Priscilla, Maximilla, and Quintilla (Priscilla and Quintilla may have been one and the same woman) were “prophetesses” that accompanied Montanus.

[11] This is the reading of Codices Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus, and Ephræmi Rescriptus.

[12] The weight of the Byzantine textual tradition favors Grotius’ reading.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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