Question:I was reading your response regarding the nature of the Nicolaitans, their doctrine and practice. Perhaps you may take the same issue with me that you do with the other commentator who did not offer an answer but rather a criticism. However, I hope you would pardon the simplicity of my question or observation. I think the word "Also" is possibly being overlooked.
If we assume that the adjacent mention of the Balaamite way and the Nicolaitan way is suggestive that the error or heresy and practice (specifically, committing sexual immorality and eating things offered to idols) are the same, it begs the question, "Why would the Lord command John to warn the SAME group of people that He was grieved at their alignment with "the teaching of Balaam" ( which equals "the teaching of the Nicolaitans") AND ALSO the "teaching of the Nicolaitans" (which equals "the teaching of Balaam")? Now if God hates (a) and He ALSO hates (b), does it not suggest that (a) and (b) must be different even if their impact on the Church are similar i.e. a detestable set of doctrines and practices?
I believe God utterly abhors adultery and fornication, as well as idolatry. The Bible teaches this. However it doesn't seem reasonable for Him to admonish, "You have some among you who embrace the teaching of adultery, fornication and idolatry and you ALSO have some among you who embrace the teaching of adultery, fornication and idolatry..." I respectfully suggest that this would be redundant and perhaps the reason Jesus neglected to specifically define the "group" and its doctrines and teachings, is because He wants us to look to Him for His revelation on this important issue, rather than depend on scholarship and speculation.
After all, He knows exactly what He was referring to.
If your contention were true that the doctrine of the Nicolaitans was not defined in Revelation 2:14-15, then how does this lead to the position that we are to look to Jesus for the answer when you are claiming that Jesus did not give the answer? Having no answer does lead to speculation. People could claim just about anything they want, say that it came by revelation, and no one would be able to agree or disagree. One would have to look to extra-biblical sources, decide on their accuracy and value, and then come to a conclusion (scholarship). Therefore, what you are advocating in the name of reducing scholarship and speculation actually increases the very thing.
The Greek sentence structure in Revelation 2:15 does allow "also" to be used as a contrast, but it is not required. The structure can also mean "in the same manner." Albert Barnes is one commentator who points this out:
"So hast thou also them, etc. That is, there are those among you who hold those doctrines. The meaning here may be, either that, in addition to those who held the doctrine of Balaam, they had also another class who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitans; or that the Nicolaitans held the same doctrine, and taught the same thing as Balaam. If but one class is referred to, and it is meant that the Nicolaitans held the doctrines of Balaam, then we know what constituted their teaching; if two classes of false teachers are referred to, then we have no means of knowing what was the peculiarity of the teaching of the Nicolaitans. The more natural and obvious construction, it seems to me, is to suppose that the speaker means to say that the Nicolaitans taught the same things which Balaam did -- to wit, that they led the people into corrupt and licentious practices. This interpretation seems to be demanded by the proper use of the word "so"-- ουτων --meaning, in this manner, on this wise, thus; and usually referring to what precedes. If this be the correct interpretation, then we have, in fact, a description of what the Nicolaitans held, agreeing with all the accounts given of them by the ancient fathers. See Barnes for Re 2:6. If this is so, also, then it is clear that the same kind of doctrines was held at Smyrna, at Pergamos, and at Thyatira, (Re 2:20) though mentioned in somewhat different forms. It is not quite certain, however, that this is the correct interpretation, or that the writer does not mean to say that in addition to those who held the doctrine of Balaam, they had also another class of errorists who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitans" [Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament].
Notice that understanding the "also" to be "in the same manner" both fits the text and matches what the early Christian writers, such as Augustine, Irenaeus, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Tertullian, said about this group and their beliefs.
"But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate" (Revelation 2:14-15).
Balaam was not a teacher in Pergamos. He was a prophet who taught Balak how to cause Israel to sin (Numbers 31:16). Jesus accuses some in Pergamos of holding to Balaam's teachings. He then defines what Balaam taught Balak: to encourage Israel to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication. While Balaam is long dead and we are not in Israel, Pergamos also has the same teaching occurring among its members in the form of the teachings of the Nicolaitans. As Albert Barnes points out, that is how the "Thus" (or "So" depending on your translation) modifies the "also." Concluding from what Balaam did to Israel, the Nicolaitans are doing the same among the Christians in Pergamos.
Though, I cannot be described as a biblical 'scholar' - at least not in the way Biblical scholars are counted - I certainly do NOT advocate 'reducing scholarship.' The mere fact that this matter is indispute among biblical 'scholars' (I have read more than a dozen accounts from different persons claiming such status) all of whom have examined the record of the early fathers and offered various interpretations and positions on them, suggests the need for revelation from Jesus Christ himself. This is what I was advocating. I was not suggesting reducing scholarship and looking at ''extra-biblical"' sources, for our answers, as you suggest.
I accept your thesis as presented, taking careful note of the fact that both you and your source utilized such expressions as "can also mean", "may be, either that" and ''The more natural and obvious construction, it seems to me'' all of which have inherent in them at least a modicum of speculation, which to my mind emphasizes the importance and necessity of revelation. I agree that anyone can claim revelation about anything. However, that does not render revelation useless, irrelevant or even dangerous. A young man recently asked the question, "Why couldn't God put everything in the Bible?" I did not quite understand so he explained that he would have liked to be able whenever he was faced with a challenge to look in the Word and find a clear answer to his situation laid out. He used the example of choosing a wife from one of two "equally qualified" Christian women. I really didn't know exactly what to say, but this is what came to mind, "Ïf all you had to do is read a book and follow an instruction, would you need to pray or have a relationship with Jesus?" He looked somewhat bemused. So I reminded him Jesus said "My sheep hear my voice". And that's the point.
Practically everything that scholars examine and dispute in the biblical record is a result of somone writing under inspiration of The Holy Sprit or receiving revelation from God. I pray we never stop experiencing that particular grace.
The Bible did not always exist. There was a time when followers of Christ and their predecessors had to depend on literally hearing from God for guidance, direction, revelation etc. Having the Bible is wonderful. Personally, I am not sure what I would do if I couldn't read and study it whenever I wished. However, I hold to the idea that it does not and was not intended to replace the living Christ in our lives. Hence what I was suggesting most respectfully is seeking Him - the living Christ, the Jesus who is seated at the right hand of the Father - for His revelation on the many matters about which the church - and especially scholars - continue to be in dispute.
Scholarship is great. Revelation from Christ is better. In fact, it is necessary as it has always been.
Interesting backdoor argument, but it is one based on a false premise. God is clear that prophecy (special revelation) would end. "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (I Corinthians 13:8-10). The need for prophecy ended because the Bible as recorded is complete and has everything we need.
- "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17).
- "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (II Peter 1:2-4).
- "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
- "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:6-9).
Since your conclusion contradicts these statements, it is clear that your argument is false. I understand why it appeals to you. If you can claim that you need additional revelation to know God's will, then you can introduce just about anything under the guise of missing information.
No, biblical scholars are not inspired by the Holy Spirit. Nor are their disputes being promoted by the Spirit. Because a set of people refuse to come to an understanding on a point does not make the point impossible to understand. Albert Barnes pointed out that there are two possible ways to read the Greek in Revelation 2:15. One leads to claims of vagueness and contradictions with what early Christian writers wrote. The other gives clarity and matches what early Christians wrote. He then states that the later makes far more sense. You want the former solely to claim a need for extra-biblical revelation. Since the Bible says you cannot have such, your desire for obscurity gains you nothing.
You did your friend a huge disservice. God has explained how to select a good wife. There are numerous passages in Proverbs, especially in Proverbs 31:10-31. If two women are equally qualified, then they would equally make a good wife for the man. The concept that there is just one woman in the world right for each man is a false doctrine.
If you wish to heed the voice of the Shepherd, you better get busy reading his book. The truth is that God did put everything needed by man in a book. "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen" (Matthew 28:18-20).