This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Antipas" (Rev 2:13) as a symbolic name

David Lincicum has tentatively suggested that "Antipas" in Rev 2:13 could be a symbolic name. See here.
Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. (Rev 2:13)
Lincicum provides three new arguments, which I now summarize:

1. The nominative case ending of Ἀντιπᾶς is odd, but is explicable if the seer wanted to draw attention to the meaning of the name.
2. The symbolism of names is very important in the book of Revelation. Consider, for example, the name Jezebel (2:20), which was surely not her birth name.
3. The name could be interpreted as Ἀντι + πᾶς, that is, ‘on behalf of or in place of all’. Thus the name could signify that Antipas had died as a martyr on behalf of all the believers in Pergamum. This idea of vicarious suffering by Christians is well attested.

It should also be noted that the earliest Christians thought that those who showed exceptional commitment to the faith should have names with appropriate meanings (Phil 2:8-9; Matt 16:16-18, Acts 4:36-37, and Rev 2:17).

Now, if the name "Antipas" in Rev 2:14 is symbolic, it may still have been his birth name: it may be that the new meaning was attributed to his name following his demonstration of commitment.

We actually have 3 variants of the symbolic name theory:
1. He received the name (or its new interpretation) while he was still alive, perhaps awaiting martyrdom. Compare Peregrinus Proteus taking the name "Phoenix" in anticipation of his death.
2. The name (or just its new interpretation) was given to him after his death, but before the writing of Revelation.
3. The name was ascribed to him for the first time by John's revelation.
I don't know how to decide between these possibilities.

The Christian martyrs in New Testament times are Jesus-Christ, Stephen (which means "crown"), James and John Boanerges, Simon-Peter, Saul-Paul, James the Just-Oblias, Antipas, and Ignatius-Theodorus. They all received a new name, except perhaps for those (Stephen?) who happened to have been born with a name that already had an appropriate meaning. While we cannot be sure that "Antipas" was not his birth name, it seems likely that the church attributed meaning to the name. Lincicum is onto something.

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