Stanley Paher has written four articles, ostensibly in review of some of the issues that I raise in my book Who Is This Babylon?[i] In that book, I present a large amount of evidence, both historical and Biblical, for the early date (circa A.D. 60s), of the book of Revelation. Paher assumes the late date of the Apocalypse (circa 90s).
Unfortunately, Paher did not provide me with a courtesy copy of his "review articles." I found out about them from a friend, and lamentably, only received the material in hand just before leaving for the Abilene Christian University Lectures. It is at these annual lectures that Paher and I normally meet. Had I had the time, I would have written a fuller review of all the material sent to me.
While brother Paher and I count each other as friends, we differ sharply on the issues relating to the dating of Revelation. Paher, in part one of four, entitled Synthetic Eschatology, ( p. 7), calls my book "synthetic history, false, and shameful" and a "narrowly skewed book." He says my book is laden with "a series of assumption laden charts, syllogisms, and carefully chosen statements." (p. 1). His claims are very serious, but they are false. It is my purpose to examine Paher’s claims and show the fallacy of his claims.
The topic of Paher’s part one is the question of whether there was a widespread, and severe Jewish persecution of the church from the period of A.D. 33-to the early 60s. Paher emphatically denies this, and claims that in fact, "As the Christian mission in the first century spread throughout the Roman Empire, Paul and other brethren regularly worshiped in synagogues, fully welcome to address the assemblies" (p. 2). He says that in fact, "The Jewish populace held the apostles in high esteem; they were heading a popular movement that only Jewish party leaders were trying to quell" (p. 3). He goes so far as to say that, "No evidence survives from the first century to discourage the development of fellow Christians within the synagogue." (P. 3). Paher claims that the picture of persecution found in Revelation is so intense that it does not fit the picture presented in Acts, and this is because "the suffering of Revelation occurred in a different generation (circa 95), than the one that Acts reports (before 62)" (p. 6). He claims, "Evidently, Jerusalem’s Sanhedrin had no authority over Diaspora synagogues, and thus there were no on-going Jewish persecutions in ‘synagogue after synagogue’ as Preston says" (p. 4).
We find Paher’s tactics to be less than honorable, and at times, simply arrogant. He has a lamentable willingness to completely overlook, distort, and even emphatically deny the Biblical testimony in order to sustain his preconceived ideas. This is certainly not the venerable Berean spirit that should characterize Bible students.
Our examination of Paher’s claims will proceed along the following lines. First, Jesus predicted that his disciples would, in fact, be persecuted by the Jews, and intensely, before the fall of Jerusalem. Second, we will examine the testimony of Acts, and compare it with Paher’s claims to see if they will stand the test of close scrutiny. Third, we will take note of the testimony of the epistles as it relates to persecution. This study will reveal that Paher is guilty of denying or ignoring the Biblical evidence.
Jesus’ Prediction of Coming Persecution
There can be no doubt that Jesus predicted that the Jews were going to persecute his disciples, severely, before the fall of Jerusalem. When he sent the disciples out — to Israel — he warned them, "You will be hated by all for my name sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes" (Matthew 10:22-23)
Now, it is interesting to note that Paher applies the coming of the Son of Man here to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. He says of this coming, "This would be Jesus’ providential coming to destroy the Jewish nation."[ii] Thus, per Paher’s own admission, Jesus foretold that before the fall of Jerusalem, the Jews would persecute Jesus’ disciples "from city to city"! Question: did Jesus’ prediction come true before the fall of Jerusalem or not? In his review of Babylon he gives the impression that the Jews, as a general rule, welcomed the early disciples. Yet in his own earlier book he calls attention to a text that foretold a widespread Jewish persecution of the church! Which is it? Was Jesus’ prediction fulfilled? If so, then Paher’s argument against Babylon is falsified.
A brief but significant digression here. It is fascinating that Paher appeals to "a short study" done by Olan Hicks on the language of imminence in scripture.[iii] Without any doubt, the scripture contains numerous passages that predicted that the Day of the Lord was near in the first century.[iv] (Hebrews 10:25-37; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 4:5-17; Revelation 1:1-3; 22:6, 1-12, 20). Such language is a powerful refutation of Paher’s view of a late date of Revelation, for the Apocalypse foretells the destruction of the city of Babylon, which Paher identifies as Rome. Now, Rome did not fall for almost 400 years after Revelation was written, if one takes the A.D. 95 date. You cannot fit 400 years into the "at hand" time statements, no matter how much you try.
So what does Paher do? He appeals to Hicks’ work in which Hicks seeks to mitigate the time statements of scripture by saying that "at hand" and "soon" and "quickly" are all such "relative" statements, without any specificity, so that you simply cannot place any significance on them. After all, argues Hicks, since God does not see time as man does, then His statements of time should not be pressed. Paher calls Hicks’ work "scholarship." In reality, it is the furthest thing from scholarship. It is a specious, desperate attempt to avoid the clear-cut statements of scripture. But, here is what is interesting.
In his book, If Thou Hadst Known, Paher argues that the language of imminence must be honored and applies to the A.D. 70 coming of the Lord. Paher appeals to Hebrews 10, James, and Peter, all of the passages we cite above, and concludes with the following comment on 1 Peter:
"In his first epistle, Peter wrote that the end of all things was at hand — the fall of Jerusalem was not far off (4:7). The fiery trial (v. 12-14) includes both Roman and Jewish persecution. At the Revelation of His glory (v. 13), those who suffer will be delivered from the oppression, but it would be a time of wrath on the ungodly Jews. Truly, the end of all things was near."
One can only wonder how Paher can recommend that a person accept Olan Hicks’ rejection of the language of imminence on the one hand, and then turn around and appeal to that very language of imminence as proof that the Lord came in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Hicks says that the assertions of Hebrews, James, Peter and John simply cannot be pressed. They are too relative and subjective.[v] Paher calls Hicks’ work "scholarship" that should be read and heeded. He says that what those who appeal to the imminence, "think ‘at hand’ and ‘shortly’ mean, and how the Bible employs these words, does not necessarily match up."[vi] Yet, in his book, Paher thinks "at hand" and "shortly" mean exactly what those of us who date Revelation early say it means. The question here is a matter of consistency. And, clearly, Paher is grossly inconsistent. Now to continue with our examination of the issue of persecution in the early church.
In Matthew 23, Jesus spoke eloquently, yet so
mberly, of impending, and severe persecution that the Jews were to bring on his disciples. He chronicled the long sanguine history of Israel in killing the prophets, and then said, "Behold, I send unto you prophets, wise men and scribes, some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city" (v. 34).
Paher comments on Jesus’ prediction:
"Through their history they had a tradition of adding to the previous murders of God’s messengers, and now Jesus was addressing the Jews who would be held responsible for all those evil deeds. The climax was reached when the present generation murdered Jesus. Within a generation, the collected vengeance broke upon the Jews in the unparalled sufferings in the siege and collapse of Jerusalem" (Known, 58).
It is abundantly clear from this citation that Paher believed that the Jews of Jesus’ generation were guilty of the most heinous of persecutions! Note that Jesus clearly predicted a severe, widespread Jewish persecution against his saints "from city to city." Is this the "goodwill" that Paher says the early church encountered as they went on their missionary task?
It is important to notice that Jesus said it was to be Israel of his generation that would finally fill up the measure of their fathers’ guilt. Are we to suppose that the Jews did not persecute the church to any measurable degree until a few desperate years before the fall of Jerusalem, and then suddenly, in that final couple of years filled up that measure of sin?
It is not enough to say that the Jews filled the measure of sin by killing Jesus. While this was fundamentally significant, Paul said that the Jewish persecution of the apostles and prophets was finally filling that measure (1 Thessalonians 2:15-16). [vii]
What has to be seen is that Paher posits the fulfillment of Matthew 23:34 before the fall of Jerusalem. This means that Jesus’ prediction of the widespread and intense persecution was to occur before that event, contrary to Paher’s contention that Jewish persecution better fits a time after A.D. 70. He says that Jewish persecution before A.D. 70 was never intense enough to compare with that described in Revelation. He insists that a later period is described. And yet, when commenting on Matthew 23 he admits that the period before A. D. 70 was predicted to be a time of intense widespread Jewish persecution of his disciples.
In verse 9 of the Olivet Discourse, all of which Paher applies to A.D. 70, Jesus warned his disciples, "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake." Please remember that Paher claims, in his "review" of my Babylon book, that, "As the Christian mission in the first century spread throughout the Roman Empire, Paul and other brethren regularly worshiped in synagogues, fully welcome to address the assemblies." However, what did Paher have to say about Matthew 24:9 when not arguing against Babylon? Read his comments, "Verse 9 foretells the death of saints when fanatical Jews and later Nero’s Romans would deliver many up to tribulation. The Jewish Zealots set up sham courts in Jerusalem and dragged kinsman before them. More definitely, the book of Acts shows fulfillment of verse 9. Peter and John were imprisoned (4:1-3). Stephen was stoned (7:59). Herod laid violent hands on Christians and killed the apostle James (12:1-2). Paul and his companions were beaten (16:23), stoned (14:19), brought before judgment (18:12), and threatened with scourging and imprisonment (22:23-24)."
What is so interesting is that in my book, Babylon, I offer many of these identical passages to prove the Jewish persecution of the church in the first century. (Pp 50-55, 62-66). Paher says that Babylon, "manufactures false history ex nihilo. He offers no proof from first century primary sources." (P. 2) This is a blatantly untrue statement, that is, unless one denies that the Bible serves as a primary first century source. [viii] It is truly disturbing that Paher would say something that is so easily falsified by anyone willing to pick up my book and read it for themselves.
If my presentation of these passages is a manufacturing of evidence ex nihilo, what do they prove when Paher uses them to prove the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy? If Acts is not a primary source that proves Jewish persecution, the very verses that Paher cites, how much more primary can you get?
So, on the one hand, Paher says that Acts proves "definitely" the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction of Jewish persecution of his saints before the fall of Jerusalem, but, on the other hand, "there was no on-going Jewish persecution in ‘synagogue after synagogue’ as Preston asserts." (P. 4)
I could continue with other predictions made by Jesus that the Jews were to persecute the early church. Despite Paher’s strident denial that it happened, Acts does confirm the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy. The persecution was to be widespread, and it was to be severe. Paher, in an "unguarded moment" has adduced the scriptural evidence to prove that it occurred, and thus, Babylon, is vindicated by Paher’s own writings.
Persecution in Acts
It is appropriate to march through Acts, to establish my second point, examining briefly the passages that mention persecution, to see who was doing the persecuting, and who was instigating the persecution.
- Acts 4-5 — Peter and John brought before the Sanhedrin and beaten. Forbidden to preach Christ.
- Acts 7 — Stephen is stoned to death in the Temple, by the Jews, with Saul witnessing.
- Acts 8 — "A great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem." Paher even admits that Paul, in Acts 8, was "aggressively persecuting" Christians. (P. 3). The text says the persecution was so severe that the only Christians left in Jerusalem were the apostles. This means that literally thousands upon thousands of Christians were forced to flee the city due to persecution. This was at the very time that Paher insists good relations prevailed between the church and the synagogue.
- Acts 9 — "Then Saul, breathing out threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogue of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." Paher boldly claims, "Evidently, Jerusalem’s Sanhedrin had no authority over the Diaspora synagogues, and thus there was no ongoing Jewish persecution in ‘synagogues after synagogue’ as Preston asserts" (P. 4). Paul, not to mention the Sanhedrin Council, most assuredly believed that the Jerusalem Sanhedrin had the authority over Diaspora synagogues. He got persecutorial authority from Jerusalem, and proceeded to seek out believers and persecute them to the death. One can only wonder why Paher would so blatantly deny passages like Acts 9.
- Acts 12:1f — "Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter."
- Acts 13:42-51 — The Jewish persecution of Paul and his ministry was so acute that Paul shook the dust from his feet. This was a sign of assigning them to judgment.
- Acts 14:2-5 — The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. As a result, a violent assault was made on them.
- Acts 14:19 — The Jews roused the mob against Paul to the point that he was stoned and left for dead.
- Acts 14:22 — It is interesting that in the
context of these persecutions, Paul wrote "We must through much tribulations, enter the kingdom." Paher makes the Jewish resistance against the church minimal. Paul referred to it as "many tribulations" and linked it with entrance into the kingdom.
- Acts 16 — We find here, and in Acts 19, a persecution based primarily on financial issues. The young woman possessed with "Python" spirit, and the situation with Demetrius the Silversmith, were not "religious" persecutions at all. They were financially motivated.
- Acts 17 — We have already seen how the Jews were at the root of this persecution that drove Paul out of Thessalonica.
- Acts 18 — We have already seen the Jewish nature and instigation of this persecution. It is also of importance to realize that the Roman proconsul wanted no part in this persecution. At this juncture, the Romans could not care less about the Christians.
- Acts 23-26 — It was the Jews that threatened Paul’s life and put him on trial that ultimately did take his life.
In Acts 24:5, we find a summary statement by the Jews toward Paul, to the effect that Paul caused strife, contention, and conflict in all the world, among the Jews. This statement was made by the Pharisees that Paher claims were actually friendly to Paul!
My point is proven. In Acts, according to Paher’s own (earlier) admission, the pages are full of Jewish persecution of the church. It was not isolated. It sprang from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, and spread to the Diaspora cities and synagogues. It was so intense that it brought forth condemnation from Paul. He gave that persecution as the reason why the nation was about to be cast out.
Persecution in the Epistles
Paher argues that Jewish persecution actually became much worse after A. D. 70 than it was before. This flies in the face of Jesus’ repeated predictions, and most assuredly violates Jesus’ teaching that Israel would fill the measure of her sin by persecuting the church before the fall of Jerusalem. Nonetheless, Paher is not to be deterred. He claims that it was only, "After A. D. 70 Christian-Jewish relations changed dramatically" (p. 5). Based on this claim, Paher then reasons that since Revelation depicts the conflict between Christians and the Jewish synagogues (Revelation 2-3), that Revelation must be dated later than A.D. 70. The Biblical testimony flatly denies Paher.
Galatians is perhaps the earliest of the epistles. Written as early as 49 A.D., well before, according to Paher, there was any serious Jewish persecution of the saints, Paul had to address a very serious situation.
In his famous allegory of the two women, two sons, and two mountains, representing Old Covenant Israel and New Covenant Israel, Paul said that Old Covenant Israel was "Israel after the flesh." The problem among the Galatian churches was that "the children of the flesh" i.e., Israel, was persecuting the children of the promise (Galatian 4:29). The problem was so severe that Paul said the result would be the casting out of the bondwoman, i.e. Israel! This was not a minor localized persecution of saints in Judea. This was a problem so severe — and we should not for a moment ignore or deny the relationship with Matthew 23 — that Paul said the result was the rejection of Israel.
1 & 2 Thessalonians
The epistles of 1 and 2 Thessalonians are alive with the reality of on-going persecution. Both books were written within a short span of time between 50-53 A.D., again, well before, according to Paher, the Jews were interested in persecuting the church. What is so fascinating is that while Gentiles were definitely involved, Paul lays the blame squarely on the Jews as the instigators and "movers and shakers." And, according to Acts, this is exactly where the blame was to lie (Acts 17:4-5). While many began to believe, "The Jews, who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men of the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar." It is undeniable that the Gentiles were merely the dupes and pawns of the Jews desiring to kill Paul and persecute the Thessalonian converts.
With whom was Paul concerned when he addressed this persecution? Read his words: "You became imitators of the churches of God in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, so as to fill up the measure of their sin alway; but the wrath of God has come upon them to the uttermost" (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). Paher ignores this text in his "review."
Thus, in the very period of time that according to Paher the relations between Jews and Christians were calm and friendly — "From A.D. 33 until the years 63-65, in city after city Christians and orthodox Jews were essentially at peace" (p. 4) — Paul launches into such a condemnation against the Jews for their present and past persecutorial history that some scholars have accused Paul of anti-Semitism, or even claimed that Paul did not write these verses.[ix]
Paher claims that, "At Jerusalem in the late 50s, when Paul met with the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees were friendly." This is an extremely "carefully chosen statement" designed to sway the unwary reader ignorant of the Biblical record. Such a tactic is totally unbecoming.
Paher omits to mention why Paul "met with the Sanhedrin." And, his terminology is insidious. To say that Paul "met with the Sanhedrin" sounds like they invited him over for a cup of coffee, and a friendly theological discussion. The truth, of course, is that this was no friendly confab. The High Priest had Paul struck in the face, and Paul said, "For the hope of the resurrection I am being judged" (Acts 23:1-6). Paher either forgot, or refused, to tell his reader that Paul was on trial.
Worse, the statement that "the Pharisees were friendly" is one of those statements that leaves out what is known as "the rest of the story." The Pharisees were only seemingly, and temporarily friendly.
It was only seven days later that these friendly Pharisees, want Paul condemned to death. Read Acts 24:4-15. It is simply unethical for Paher to try to give the impression of friendly relations between Jews and Christians by citing Acts 23. It leaves out the rest of the story.
Paher makes an issue of the fact that Paul "as his custom was" went into the synagogues, and there found an audience. He offers the fact that Paul could speak "boldly" in the synagogue in Ephesians for three months. Well, the text says he had to withdraw because of Jewish opposition (Acts 19:9). The question is, what was the common response of the Jews in synagogues when, and after, they heard what Paul had to say? And the answer is clear.
At Antioch, "The Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women of the city and raised up persecution against Paul" (Acts 13:50). At Iconium, "The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren" (Acts 14:2). At Derbe, "Jews came from Antioch and Iconium…they stoned Paul" (Acts 14:19). At Thessalonica, "the Jews who were not persuaded, became envious, set the city in an uproar" (Acts 17:5). At Berea, "the Jews…stirred up the crowds" (Acts 17:13). At Corinth, the Jews, "opposed him and blasphemed….the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment" (Acts 18:12). Finally, according to Acts, Paul was accused of causing dissension among the Jews "throughout the world"
; (Acts 24:5).
Paher likes to argue that, "From A.D. 33 until about the years 63-65, in city after city Christians and orthodox Jews were essentially at peace, with the verbal arena providing all the negative reaction" (p. 4). As can be seen in the paragraph just above, this is simply false. Further, in his book, Paher appeals to Jesus’ statement in Luke 12:49, "I am come to cast fire on the earth," and says, "This was likely the conflict and persecution that followed the preaching of the gospel. It aroused the opposition of the Jews. For this they would meet destruction when the city fell" (Known, 48).
So, in his book, Paher argues that the Christian mission provoked persecution so severe that it brought down God’s wrath on the city. (We are supposed to believe that God destroyed Jerusalem for mainly verbal resistance to the gospel? Read again Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:34). However, when trying to discredit Babylon, he argues that during the time from 33 to 65, Jews and Christians "were essentially at peace," and "the verbal arena" provided all the negative reaction of the Jews.
Further, it seems like Paher is arguing that verbal abuse does not qualify as persecution. Jesus thought otherwise in Matthew 5:10-12, for he spoke of being reviled, and spoken of falsely as a persecution that, when endured, was blessed by the Father.
How did Paul describe his early persecution of the church? As we see in this paper, Paul had authority from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin to persecute Christians wherever they could be found. In his own words, "I persecuted the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it" (Galatians 1:13). Interestingly, Paher admits that Paul "aggressively persecuted" the church-but seeks to mitigate the force of that statement by emphasizing that the Christians he was pursuing were attending the Jewish synagogues. Well, the point is that Paul was a faithful Jew, commissioned by the Sanhedrin, and was "aggressively persecuting" Christians. This would have been in the 30s to very early A.D. 40s. Thus, during the period when Paher says there is no evidence of Jewish persecution of the church, he is forced to admit that Paul was aggressively persecuting the church.
This hardly fits Paher’s description of peaceful relations between Jews and Christians in the early days of the first century church. Does Paul’s terminology suggest that the only resistance to the church was "verbal?"
Paher appeals to the fact that Paul preached for two years in Rome with no Jewish opposition. For someone like Paher who prides themselves on their knowledge of history, this is a very serious omission of facts. Paher is fully aware, we venture to say, that the evidence of history is that while at Rome, an ambassage from Jerusalem followed him there, and influenced Nero’s inner circle of confidants, including his Jewess wife, to not only kill Paul, but to actually initiate the persecution of Christians![x] Thus, Paul’s time in Rome can hardly be characterized as a time of peace, tranquility, and amicable relations with the Jews.
It was during this period of the 50s that Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthian church. They found themselves in such a period of persecution that Paul actually told them it was better not to get married (1 Corinthians 7:26f). And, if we can learn anything from Acts 18, it was the Jews who were causing that strife and difficulty (Acts 18:6, 12).
Paher offers the fact that Paul stayed in Corinth and Asia for an extended period of time as proof of good relations between Jews and Christians. But again, he leaves out the pertinent details. In Acts 18:12 we find that, "The Jews with one accord rose up against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat." Don’t forget that Paher actually appeals to this very situation as definite proof of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction of Jewish persecution of the church, before the fall of Jerusalem.
Paher argues that my book conjures up evidence for early Jewish persecution ex nihilo (out of nothing). This is a remarkable claim since scholar after scholar, few of whom agree with the theology of Babylon, agree on the history reported in Babylon! In addition to the fact that the Biblical and historical evidence supports an early and on-going Jewish persecution of the church, history also denies Paher’s insistence on a concerted persecution of the church at the time that Paher says it was at it’s worst, i.e. under Domitian.
In Babylon (pp. 62ff), I document from the literature that even late date advocates of Revelation are increasingly admitting that there is virtually no evidence for a Domitianic persecution. Yet Paher says Revelation fits a Domitianic persecution better than Jewish. Who is it that is actually creating evidence ex nihilo?
Significantly, Paher totally ignores all of the scholarly quotes that Babylon offers in support of early Jewish persecution, and against Roman persecution, and claims that I invented the evidence ex nihilo. This is a specious smoke-screen designed to confuse and deceive those who have not read — perhaps to prejudice so that they will not read — Who Is This Babylon?.
Anyone familiar with the names of Bruce, Niswonger, Barclay, Wright, Guthrie, and other reputable scholars quoted in Babylon, will, if they will take the time to read, see that Babylon does not fabricate, nor does it distort, any evidence. Furthermore, while Paher falsely claims that Babylon conjures up evidence ex nihilo, the truth is that in his review, he does not quote one single scholar to support his claim that there was no Jewish persecution from A.D. 33-65 A.D.. Not one! He simply makes the claim, and expects his readers to accept his word.
Paher argues that in Acts it was, "pagans which provided the stronger opposition" (p. 4). Sadly, he fails to inform the reader that Acts 16, and 19 are the only examples of pagan persecution in Acts, and both of them were financially motivated. They were not religious persecutions. What do scholars say about Jewish persecution before the fall of Jerusalem?
Barclay says, "Again and again it was the Jews who informed against the Christians. The Jews stuck at nothing in their attempts to obliterate the Christian church."[xi] Setzer says, "The notion of the Jews as plotters and contentious is a theme in the gospels and Acts. So is the docility of the Roman officials who do the Jew’s bidding out of fear or a desire to please them."[xii] N. T. Wright, noted English scholar says, "Persecution of Christians did not in fact, initially come from pagans." He continues, "In fact, the earliest and best evidence we possess for serious and open hostility between Jews — especially Pharisees — and the nascent Christian movement is found in the earliest period for which we have evidence, namely in the letters of Paul. He, by his own admission, had persecuted the very early church with violence and zeal."[xiii]
These quotes could be multiplied many times over. The fact is, that there is virtually no dispute in the scholarly world about the early, and on-going Jewish persecution of the church. It is Paher’s contention that there was almost none that stands virtually alone and created ex nihilo.
Finally, Paher argues that Revelation speaks of a different generation, and different historical situation than Acts and the epistles because of the severity of the persecution that John describes. Paher claims that the word, "Tribulation refers to prolonged suffering, severe affliction to the point of death. This is the burden that crushes, resulting in martyrs, and is the vital backdrop of the book of Revelation. This tribulation is so intense and disruptive that it hardly corresponds to events in the book of Acts, between Christians and Jews" (p. 6). To attempt t
o delineate between the persecution of Revelation and that of Acts, based on the word tribulation is arbitrary and totally unwarranted.
The word tribulation as used in Revelation is the Greek word thlipsis. Paher is correct that it is a severe persecution to the point of death. This word is used, according to the EnglishMan’s Greek Concordance, a total of 45 times in the NT.
This word is used by Luke in Acts — the book that Paher says proves there was no severe persecution of Christians by the Jews — to describe the persecution that occurred in Acts 8 (Acts 11:19). This is the word that Paul used to describe the persecutions he and his contemporaries were suffering to enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22).
In Romans 5:3, (circa 55-57 A.D.), Paul said "we glory in tribulations" to speak of the persecution that he and the Roman brethren were experiencing. He urged the Romans to "Be patient in tribulation" (Romans 12:12).
In the book of 2 Corinthians, written during the time when Paher insists there was no serious persecution of the church, Paul uses the word thlipsis, some nine times to describe what the Corinthians were experiencing.
In Thessalonians, (circa 49-52 A.D.), Paul said those brethren had received the word "in much affliction" (1 Thessalonians 1:6), and urged them not to be moved from their gospel hope because of the afflictions they were enduring (1 Thessalonians 3:3). In 2 Thessalonians 1:4, 6, he used the word four times to refer to the then present tribulation those brethren were experiencing.
These passages clearly refute Paher’s argument. He says that before 63-65 A. D. there was no real tribulation, no "severe affliction to the point of death" that is demanded by the word thlipsis. And yet, the word is used by the divinely inspired writers to describe the persecutions that Christians were experiencing at the hands of the Jews all over the Roman Empire. From the earliest time right to the time of Revelation!
Acts uses the word thlipsis three times to refer to the early persecution of the church by the Jews. Romans uses it three, Corinthians uses it 8 times. Thessalonians uses it a total of 5 times. Revelation uses the word 5 times. It simply cannot be argued therefore, that Revelation contains persecution, and that the earlier books don’t. The very word (thlipsis) that Paher offers to prove that there was no persecution in the earlier times is used by many of the early books to describe the tribulation they were enduring! Paher has obviously made a serious blunder in his claims.
Paher’s contention in part #1 of his review of Babylon, therefore, that Jews and Christians dwelt together in harmony until after the fall of Jerusalem is shown to be false. It is falsified by Jesus’ prophecy. It is falsified by the testimony of Acts. It is falsified by the testimony of the epistles — especially by the early personal testimony from and about the apostle Paul, written during the time when Paher says peace prevailed.[xiv] It is even falsified by Paher’s own earlier writings in which he affirmed an early, widespread, and severe persecution of the church by the Jews! Finally, Paher’s claims are falsified by his misuse of language. He claims that there was no true persecution in the early books due to the definition of the word used in Revelation (thlipsis). In fact, the early books use the identical word to describe the persecution they were enduring.