Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why are you throwing down your crowns?

Revelation 4:9-10 has a very interesting picture of the elders before the throne of God:

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne...

I've been reading through D.E. Aune's Apocalypticism, Prophecy, and Magic in Early Christianity, and he gives a few good quotations from Greco-Roman lit. that helps to understand this scene:

Embassies (πρεσβεῖαι) also in the meantime came from Greece, and their envoys (πρέσβεις) themselves crowned, came forward and crowned Alexander with golden crowns, as if they had come on a sacred embassy to honour some god (Anab. Alex.; LCL trans.)

The Italian cities sent delegations (πρεσβεῖας) of their prominent citizens dressed in white, wearing laurel wreaths and all bringing with them the statues of their local gods and any golden crowns that were among their dedications (Herodian 8.7.2; LCL trans.)

He ends this paragraph by stating, "The heavenly scene of the twenty-four elders throwing down their crowns before the throne has no parallel in Israelite-Jewish literature, and become comprehensible only in light of the ceremonial traditions of Hellenistic and Roman ruler worship" (Aune, 107).


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