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.
18 Sjef van Tilborg
a role in the days-long gladiatorial games in which also the damnati
are â€˜cleared awayâ€™ â€” they who have been condemned to death and
who sit in prison until a good occasion comes up to execute them in
public. The ten days for which the feast lasts are for this reason a
qli'yi", the real possibility to be killed: be faithful unto death. Then
you shall receive the â€˜crown of lifeâ€™. Opposite death stands life. The
crown at issue here is not â€˜the crownâ€™ that people receive in a
competition â€” as victors in games â€” as is often said in
commentaries (54), but, parallel to other motifs from the gladiatorsâ€™
world, the crown which a gladiator gets, if he wins, i.e. stays alive. A
gladiator gets a crown on the occasion of a special victory. It is an
extraordinary honor and on a number of gravestones this is also
reported with pride: see, for example, the depiction of 12 crowns, on
the gravestone of the primuspalus Dionysios in Philadelphia (55); the
epigram of Stephanos in Hierapolis who says about himself that he is
dekaton stefqeiv " (56); the 8 crowns on the gravestone of the gladiator
Stephanos in Philadelphia (57); the 6 crowns on a gravestone in
Hierapolis (58); and the 5 crowns on a gravestone of the gladiator in
Pergamum (59): the crown of life is the crown which guarantees life.
c) Being slaughtered and the victory
In a pair of curious places the author of the Apocalypse uses the
word sfavzomai (in the passive sense) in combination with the word
nikaw, namely with the Lamb, with the souls under the altar and with
the beast out of the sea.
It is said about the Lamb that it is wJ" ejsfagmevnon (5,6); tov
esfagmenon (5,12; 13,8) or o}ti ejsfavgh" (5,9). From the context it is
shown that with this addition the Lamb is described as an animal that
was sacrificed. In itself it is outside the context of the gladiatorial
games. Still this is not absent, because a couple of times there is also a
combination made with â€˜triumphingâ€™: in 5,5 (in connection with 5,6):
â€œLo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphedâ€ (ejnivkhsen) and in
17,14: â€œthey will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer
(nikhvsei) them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kingsâ€. Being
(54) See ALLO, 25-27; CHARLES, 58; SWETE, 33; HEMER, 70-76; AUNE, 166-
167; MOUNCE, 76.
(55) ROBERT, 145.
(56) AltertÃ¼mer von Hierapolis, 205; ROBERT, 124.
(57) ROBERT, 141
(58) SEG 1996 nr 1668.
(59) ROBERT, 261