THE LETTERS TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA IN THEIR LOCAL SETTINGWritten by C.J. Hemer (with a new foreword by D.E. Aune) Reviewed By Alistair I. Wilson
The Biblical Resource Series from Eerdmans is making available a wide range of significant contributions to biblical scholarship which have gone out of print or have been updated by their authors. This addition to the series is a version of the author’s 1969 doctoral thesis based on engagement with archaeological evidence which is understood to clarify the meaning of the letters in Revelation 2 and 3. It was originally published by Sheffield Academic Press’s JSOT imprint in 1986.
The book has been reprinted exactly as it was published by Sheffield Academic Press. The only change is the addition of the Foreword by David E. Aune, himself the author of an immense commentary on Revelation in the Word Biblical Commentary series. Aune provides a brief outline of Hemer’s career until his death in 1987. He then comments on the significance of Sir William Ramsay for Hemer’s scholarship, and particularly Hemer’s intention to write ‘a reassessment of Ramsay’s classic work, The Letters to the Seven Churches.’ Aune examines two of Hemer’s arguments for local references in Revelation. The first is the argument that the tree of life of Revelation 2:7 would be understood to have echoes of a sacred tree associated with the worship of Artemis. In Aune’s view, ‘Hemer’s presentation of this historical reconstruction is completely unconvincing’ (xxi). On the other hand, Aune believes that Hemer correctly identifies a reference to local hot and cold springs in the letter to the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:15–16). Although Aune’s Foreword is itself rather ‘lukewarm’, it is good to see Hemer’s work available again so that it may be used, albeit with appropriate critical caution.
Alistair I. Wilson
Alistair I. Wilson
Highland Theological College UHI
Dingwall, Scotland, UK