Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Church at Laodicea is neither hot nor cold because it is underground

One thing that I remember hearing over and over again at youth retreats was that I should not be like the church at Laodicea. That church is addressed by Jesus via a letter in the book of Revelation. 3:14-22. The recipients are told that since they are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, Jesus is about to spit them out of his mouth. This is also the passage that ends with Jesus saying that he is standing at the door knocking, waiting to be let in. Pretty graphic stuff for a teenager.

Some New Testament scholars have suggested that the lukewarm statement is a play on words alluding to the city’s water supply of the city, which was lukewarm, in contrast to the hot springs at nearby Hierapolis and the pure water of Colossae. Laodicea had an aqueduct that carried water from hot mineral springs five miles south, which became tepid by the time it reached the city. The imagery of the Laodicean aqueduct suggests not that "hot" is good and "cold" is bad, but that both hot and cold water are useful, whereas lukewarm water is useless.

Well, it seems that the church at Laodicea is no longer lukewarm because it is underground, literally. Archaeologists have discovered the structure of a church using ground penetrating radar. The remains of the church are about 2000 square meters.

This structure is not from the first century and did not, therefore, house the congregation being addressed in Revelation. I doubt very much that group had a designated building. No, this building is from the fourth century, around the time Christianity became legalized in the Roman Empire.

What it does demonstrate, however, is that Laodicea continued to be an important center for Christianity for hundreds of years after John wrote Revelation. I suppose that means that they were never spit out.

You can read the full article about the discovery here.

Thanks to Antonio for highlighting it.

3 comments:

  1. Very interesting. I have often wondered why being 'cold' was better than lukewarm... and now I know.
    Jill

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  2. I, too, received the same teachings in camps and retreats ... and although the "hot/Cold" allusions are seemingly great tools to sway young (and not-so-young) minds, the allusion to the water system underneath works a whole lot better AND makes a lot more scriptural sense.
    And having noted all that (and not to "brown-nose",) your craftsmanship of this article was masterful and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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  3. Perhaps the letter worked, and they simply repented then. Or else, they were just spit out at a later time...like 300 years later, because they remained lukewarm.

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