Sjef van Tilborg, «The Danger at Midday: Death Threats in the Apocalypse», Vol. 85 (2004) 1-23
This paper proposes a new suggestion in the discussion regarding possible death threats in the Apocalypse. It makes a comparison between relevant texts from the Apocalypse and what happens during festival days when rich civilians entertain their co-citizens with (gladiatorial) games. At the end of the morning and during the break special fights are organized. Condemned persons are forced to fight against wild animals or against each other to be killed by the animals or by fire. The paper shows that a number of texts from the Apocalypse are better understood, when they are read against this background.
The Danger at Midday: Death Threats in the Apocalypse 11
3. You will face hardship for ten days (Rev 2,10)
As transition from the discussion of what happens ad matutinum
and afterwards at the midday intermission, I would like to show that
the paralleling of the Apocalypse text with the gladiatorial games can
perhaps explain an expression which until now remains rather
unexplained in the exegesis. It is about the expression e}xete qli'yin
hJmerw'n devka in the letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna (2,10).
I would like to cite the three most recent commentaries. D. Aune
writes about this part of the verse:
The phrase â€œten daysâ€ is used for an undefined but relatively short
period of time, perhaps it is the sum of the fingers of both hands (Gen
24:55; Num 11:19; Neh 5:18; Jer 42:7; Dan 1:12-15); m â€˜Abot 5:1-6
contains a list of ten things of various kinds. Ten can also function as
a number signifying completeness (28).
R.H. Mounce writes:
Believers at Smyrna (or at least some of them) are to suffer
persecution for ten days (or â€œwithin ten daysâ€). Opinions vary about
the time intended. Most view the ten days as a round number
indicating a short period of time, but others hold it to be a prolonged
but definitively limited period. The latter interpretation is more in
keeping with the seriousness of the impending crisis (29)
P. Prigent summarizes this and then expresses his own preference for
an intertextual relationship with the text of Daniel:
The number is surprising. It is generally explained as an assertion that
the persecution was limited by God. Ten would thus be a round
number that is fitting for this intention. There are indeed several
examples of a similar usage of this number in the OT, such as the
following: â€œThey tempted me ten times without obeying my voiceâ€,
says God in speaking of the rebellious Hebrews (Num 14:22). In this
case ten signifies â€œmany timesâ€. And yet one should note, as does
Kraft, that we possess in the OT a precise text which might have been
present in the mind of the author when he spoke of ten days of
tribulation, namely Dan 1: 12,14, which speaks of the days during
which the Hebrew youth abstain from the impure food served at the
table of King Nebuchadnezzar. The testing ends in a conclusive
manner: God rewards their faithfulness and they endure the period of
fasting with no ill effects (30).
(28) D.A. AUNE, Revelation 1â€“5 (WBC; Dallas, TX 1997) 166.
(29) R.H. MOUNCE, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI 1998) 76.
(30) PRIGENT, Commentary, 168-169.