Brother AACOOLDRE : The Religion of the Lukwarm City of Laodicea

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  1. AACOOLDRE

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    THE RELIGION OF THE CITY OF LAODICEA: And the Stoic Epictetus letters against Emperor Domitian

    By Andre Austin

    The original city of Laodicea was called “The City of Zeus” the Carian deity Men-Carus (The Carrian Zeus) was worshiped by the Laodiceans. Herodotus reports that “The Carians are the only people we know who sacrifice to Zeus of the Army” (Herodotus Book 5:119). The Laodicea church is the only church out of the 7 that is specifically address by Amen (Zeus) as a witness on the famous Laodicea for having a medical school to treat the eye.

    A resident of Colossae, Epaphras is said to have great zeal, wrestling in prayer, standing firm for the city of Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:12-14). The inference is that Laodicea doesn’t have zeal/passion and are not firm. These are some of the same charges the Stoic Epictetus addressed in his sayings collected by his pupil Arrian.

    “Epictetus (1st century Greek philosopher and moralist, born in Hierapolis. At first a slave in Rome, he was freed and taught philosophy there until banished/exiled by the Emperor Domitian along with other philosophers in 90AD”. ( Chambers Biographical Dictionary Fifth Edition 1990).

    Laodicea is a city that doesn’t have its own water supply. The city of Laodicea gets water piped into from two cities:

    1. Hot water from the north in Hierapolis

    2. Cold water from the south from Colossae

    3. Lukewarm The Christian writer in Rev chapter 3 deviated from being literal when he added the prefix of Luke to warm in which I believe is a Stoic term. The Stoic believed in having an indifference to Hot & Cold passions/zeal of sin. The binary theme of Hot & Cold is a metaphor because Lukewarm is classified as a deed. Laodicea minted their own coins causing Caesar to ask them to buy his gold (Rev 3:18). On some of their coins it had the image of the god of healing Asclepius. The Stoics admired Socrates thinking he was one of them. Guest complained that the drinking water at his house was warm. He asked them about Asclepius warm water for the sick bathed in before sleeping priests then interpreted their dream in terms of possible cures just like Imhotep did in ancient Egypt. See Memoirs of Socrates book 3:13). Socrates & the Stoics would have had no problem with Lukewarm water. Luke being a physician/healer may be a tip off for the entire metaphor of Hot vs Cold.


    When the water finial arrived it was warm. It wasn’t cold enough to drink or hot enough to take a bath. The Stoics believed in taking cold baths and Epictetus recommended not drinking cold water or to have cold desires or treat people in a cold manner (Discourses Book 3: chapter 15 & 4:chapter 1).


    The Stoics taught to suppress the passions and be indifferent to the Hot and Cold. This indifference was also defined by the Stoic Epictetus, (60-138AD), as “not to be vexed, if others have the advantage over you…be yourself content with firmness of mind” (Discourses 2: chapter 6).


    When we compare this with Colossians 4:12-14 and you would think that people from the area cited, and Epictetus is from that area, have no zeal (passion) or are firm. In Revelation 3:17. we have the Bible also calling the Lukewarm Laodicean church as “Wretched” and pitiful= a sad concern for. (Rev 3:17). The King James says miserable (unhappy) in place of pitiful. “As against the Stoics, who condemned all passion, Saint Augustine holds that the passions of Christians may be causes of virtue; anger, or pity, is not to be condemned per se, but we must inquire into its cause” (A History of Western Philosophy p.358 By Bertrand Russell).

    The eminent Philosopher Bertrand Russell quotes from Epictetus Discourses 2: Chapter 23 that deals with the Stoics being charged with being “Unhappy”=Sad. I will later quote from Book 2 Chapter 19 where he defends charges of Wretched and Unhappy charges.


    “When then is a Stoic?

    Show me a man molded to the pattern of the judgements…show me one who is sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy. Show him me. By the gods I would fain see a stoic. Nay you can’t show me a finished stoic…it is a soul I want, let one of you show me the soul of a man who wishes to be one with god, and to blame god or man no longer…be free from anger, envy, and jealousy…desires to change his manhood for godhead”.


    Bertrand Russell makes a commentary: “Like the Christians, he holds that we should love our enemies. In general, in common with other Stoics, he despises pleasure, but there is a kind of happiness that is not to be despised. Happiness is far more beautiful-freedom from passion and disturbance, the sense that your affairs depend on no one”. (A History of Western Philosophy p. 264).


    This had to be a response to Emperor Domitian because he brings up his exile by him. In my other essay I wrote that the only sin the Laodicean did was being independent of Rome. When an earthquake hit them in 60AD they needed no assistance.


    What did the Laodiceans say: “Iam rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing”. (Rev 3:17).

    Epictetus in book 2 Chapter 23 on the power of speaking he states:

    “For what hinders you from being an unfortunate man, even if you, if you can resolve syllogism like Chrysippus, from being wretched, from sorrowing, from envying, in a word from being disturbed, from being unhappy? Nothing…When I speak thus to some persons (maybe Domitian), they think that Iam rejecting care… for Iam not able, when I see one thing which is most excellent and supreme, to say that another is so, in order to please you”. The Roman historian Tacitus stated that “nobody could say the right thing to him (Domitian)”.

    Epictetus repeats this in Book 3: chapter 3: “If we see an exiled man, we say he is miserable (pitiful/unhappy), if we see a poor man, we say, he is wretched: he has nothing to eat”.

    Domitian states that the Laodiceans are rich but poor: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here Iam I stand at the door…I will come and eat with him and he with me” (Rev 3:19-20). Domitian was a mad man he expressed in power in part by his massive building projects that went unmatched by his peers. So I can see some hostility to a city that was independent especially in construction.

    Notes:

    In Book 1: Chapter 11 of Discourses the topic came up Of Natural Affection. A man had a daughter who was sick. “miserable for men do not beget children to be wretched, but rather to be happy…am so wretched about my children that lately, when my little daughter was sick and was supposed to be in danger, I could not endure to stay with her, but I left home till a person sent me news that she had recovered”. Epictetus proceeded to tell him his criterion should be able to judge with his sight whats black or white, whats hot or cold or hard and soft. He told him to make an examination of self “that is not the work of one hour or day, you know yourself”. I detect Epictetus was on his side when he said: “You wish to be so loved by your own that through their excessive affection you would always be left alone in sickness”. I recall being but in this position when I didn’t go to a family members funeral. They judged by the surface appearance that I did not Love but it was just the opposite. The Stoics believed that excess and deficiency Hot & cold leads to destruction but the balance of warm was justice.

    This theme of Miserable (pitiful) and wretched should be seen in the context of the Lukewarm Laodicea church that the judge had the correct vision of them being Lookwarm neither being hot or cold. The Laodicea church was called Miserable (pitiful) and Wretched because they were neither hot or cold. The stoics taught to suppress the Hot and cold passions of committing sin. A distraught man leaving a hospital because he has a sick child we would have pity (feel sad for), for but not the condemnation of a sin.

    But lets not get it twisted because not all Stoic Philosophers acted in this manner when it came to those who were sick. The stereotype of a Stoic was like Spock (A Vulcan/Ptah) on Star trek to emotions. Lets take the Stoic Cato the Younger. When Cato’s brother Caepio got sick and died “upon this occasion, he was thought to have showed himself more a fond brother than a philosopher, not only in the excess of his grief, bewailing and embracing the dead body, but also in the extravagant expenses of the funeral” (Lives of the noble Grecians and Romans By Plutarch) Now after the funeral he went back to being a Stoic which was “inflexible temper, unmoved by passion, and firm in everything…and habituated himself to go bareheaded in the hottest and the coldest weather”.

    What did the Stoic historian Pliny the Elder mean when he said “Nature has provided the eye with many thin membranes and hard outside coverings as a protection against cold and heat she cleans the eyes with moisture....” (Natural History Book 11:147).

    I would of also had that man who was talking to Epictetus consult the Stoic Seneca play. The stoics believed in controlling the Hot and cold passions of man. In Seneca’s play Phaedra (or Hippolytus) he makes several metaphors of hot & cold which alerted me to Rev 3:14-22 to the similar terminology of calling people Lukewarm who were neither Hot or Cold. Excerpts of Seneca states in his play:

    “As if to avoid our eyes, an accident

    Cannot stain innocence, without intention” ( p.127)




    The historian Tacitus writes concerning the city of Laodicea:

    “One of the famous cities of Asia, Laodicea, was that same year, (60AD), overthrown by an earthquake, and, without any relief from us, recovered itself by its own resources” ( The Annals book 14:27).

    So it is in this context we must see Laodicea making the statement:

    Iam rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing ( Rev 3:17).

    This should be in contrast to the Emperor Domitian being the biggest construction Emperor of his time. Domitian express his power by his many building projects. Laodicea not needing him was offensive to him. Domitian became a psychotic in his building that ‘he raised so many…that someone scribbled ‘arci’ meaning ‘arches’ on one of them-but used Greek characters, and so spelled out the Greek word for ‘Enough’ (The 12 Caesars Domitian 13).

    This was Laodicea real sin of being independent of the Emperor Domitian.