Revelation 2:13: In Difficult Circumstances

Verse 13:[1] (Rev. 2:2) I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even (Rev. 2:9) where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.


I know thy works, and where thou dwellest; God knows all his people’s circumstances, where they dwell, as well as what they do, and how they behave themselves in their habitations.


[Where the seat (or, throne [Beza, Piscator]) of Satan is] That is, Where Satan reigns, or rules (Menochius, Grotius, similarly Camerarius, Drusius), through the Nicolaitans (Menochius, Tirinus), through the Gentiles (Menochius), through idolatrous tyrants (Tirinus), in the idol of Æsculapius.[2] See Papinius[3] in “The Hair of Earinus”,[4] and Aristides’[5] Concerning the Well of Æsculapius[6] (Grotius). In a place most depraved (Cotterius), and completely devoted to idols (Cluverus, thus Grotius out of Arethas, Gagnæus), where the Roman Prætor resides, who upholds idolatry by the murder of my confessors (Piscator, similarly Cluverus): Among my professed enemies, Jewish and Gentile (Ribera): where impiety was triumphing, even in the courts, where persecution and profanity were sanctioned as if by Law (Durham).


Even where Satan’s seat is; where the devil rules by his pagan deputies and antichrist’s officers.



[And, etc., καὶ κρατεῖς, etc.] And (or, for [Piscator], or, and that [Beza]) thou holdest (or, holdest fast [Beza], or, dost grasp, or, holdest fast firmly [Camerarius]: Although thou dwellest in a principal seat of pagan superstition, nevertheless thou hast held fast: Κρατεῖν is to hold fast, not to permit to slip away, as in Revelation 2:25;[7] 3:11[8] [Grotius]: Thus in a proverb in Galen,[9] a saying concerning a vain profession and pursuit, λάβη μηδὲν, καὶ κράτει καλῶς, let him grasp nothing, and hold on strenuously [Camerarius]) my name (that is, the profession of the doctrine delivered by me, as in Acts 21:13 and elsewhere [Grotius, similarly Durham]), and thou hast not denied (He repeats the same thing [Gagnæus]) my faith (Montanus, etc.), that is, the doctrine of faith in me (Durham), or, the doctrine delivered by me (Piscator): Thou hast not denied, either by words or by deeds, thyself to be a Christian, as in Revelation 3:8 (Grotius), but thou hast professed this openly and publicly (Durham). It is a great thing for a man to show himself good among wicked men: Philippians 2:15; 2 Peter 2:7 (Grotius).


And thou holdest fast my name; the word of my truth, by which I am known, as a man by his name. And hast not denied my faith; neither by the words of thy mouth, nor by any apostacy from this profession, notwithstanding the temptations thou hast had from seducers and from persecutors, and the sight of those who have been put to death for their profession.


[And, etc., καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐν αἷς Ἀντίπας ὃς ἀπεκτάνθη παρ᾽ ὑμῖν] In a manuscript it is καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἀντίπας—ὃς, etc.,[10] in the days of Antipas, etc., neither does the Latin read otherwise. Now, it is ἐλλειπτικὴ, an elliptical, construction together with a Trajection, which sort is, the city which I establish is yours,[11] in the place of, The city, which city I establish, is yours.[12] So this is the sense, ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἀντίπα, ὃς Ἀντίπας ὁ μάρτυς μου, ὁ πιστός μου, ἀπεκτάνθη (Grotius), even in the days in which (understand, was, or lived [Camerarius, Beza, Zegers, Piscator, Ribera]) Antipas the martyr (or, witness [Piscator]), that faithful one of me, who was butchered among you (Beza, Piscator). Concerning Antipas I find nothing in the Ecclesiastical histories (Ribera, thus Cotterius), which is remarkable. Perhaps this was done deliberately, so that we might know that pious men, although obscure, are known to God (Cotterius). He was the Pastor or Bishop of this Church under Domitian, a mighty champion of the faith, and on account of this he was burned in a brazen ox[13] (Arethas in Pareus, similarly Hammond, certain interpreters in Ribera); as relate Symeon Metaphrastes,[14] and the Roman Martyrology[15] (Ribera). But, that according to the order of the Calendars of the Greeks[16] he is said to have suffered under Domitian, it is worthy of no more credit than that he is said to have been cast into a brazen ox: which sort of punishment was unknown among the laws of the Romans, which also were prevailing in Pergamos. Therefore, it ought to be held as a truth that this Antipas was killed by a mob agitated by the priests of Æsculapius: Paul often underwent the dangers of this sort of death. It is significant that he was not frightened by a death so savage (Grotius).



Even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr: it is much no ecclesiastical history makes mention of this martyr Antipas, which argueth him to have been a person but of an obscure note in the world; but Christ seeth and taketh notice of those little ones who belong to him, though the world overlooks them. Our being able from no history to give an account of this martyr, hath inclined some to think this epistle wholly prophetical, and that Antipas signifieth not any particular person, but all those that have opposed the pope, as if it were Antipapa. But certainly there was such a martyr as Antipas belonging to the church at Smyrna at that time, who suffered for the truth, though we do not allow this church to have been typical of all the gospel churches for many years.

[1] Greek: Οἶδα τὰ ἔργα σου καὶ ποῦ κατοικεῖς, ὅπου ὁ θρόνος τοῦ Σατανᾶ· καὶ κρατεῖς τὸ ὄνομά μου, καὶ οὐκ ἠρνήσω τὴν πίστιν μου καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐν αἷς Ἀντίπας ὁ μάρτυς μου, ὁ πιστός, ὃς ἀπεκτάνθη παρ᾽ ὑμῖν, ὅπου κατοικεῖ ὁ Σατανᾶς.


[2] Æsculapius was the son of Apollo and Coronis, celebrated for his skill in medicine. He was worshipped in the form of a living serpent at his temple in Pergamos.


[3] Publius Papinius Statius (c. 45-96) was a Roman poet.


[4] Silvæ 3, “Coma Earini”.


[5] Publius Ælius Aristides was a second century Greek rhetorician.


[6] De Puteo Æsculapii. Aristides suffered health problems; he visited the temple of Æsculapius at Pergamos seeking relief.


[7] Revelation 2:25: “But that which ye have already hold fast (κρατήσατε) till I come.”


[8] Revelation 3:11: “Behold, I come quickly: hold fast (κράτει) what thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”


[9] Claudius Galenus of Pergamum (129-200 AD) was an innovative Greek physician.


[10] Codex Alexandrinus.


[11] Æneid 1. Latin: Urbem quam statuo vestra est. Note that urbem/city, which is the subject of the sentence has taken the accusative case because of its usage in the relative clause.


[12] Latin: Urbs, quam urbem statuo, vestra est.


[13] The Brazen Ox was an instrument of torture and execution used by the ancient Greeks. It would be heated with fire, and the victim would be cast into it.


[14] Symeon Metaphrastes (thought to have lived in the tenth century, although opinions range from the ninth to the fourteenth centuries) was a Byzantine historian. He published a collection of saints’ lives.


[15] The Roman Martyrology is the official martyrology of the Roman Catholic Church, first published in 1583 by Pope Gregory XIII.


[16] The Greek Church produced multiple martyrologies, calendars, and collections of saints’ lives.

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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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