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When Forgiveness Is a Sin (Rev. 2:20) ἀλλὰ ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ ὅτι ἀφεῖς τὴν γυναῖκα Ἰεζάβελ...

It is hard to think of a book that has captured the fascination and emotions of its readers as much as the Apocalypse of John. When the God of our universe ripped open the sky, and the Lord Jesus Christ appeared at the height of his glory before John, the man on Patmos stood awestruck by the vision (Rev. 1:17). In Rev. 2–3, this same glorious Jesus stripped away all pretense when he exposed, one by one, the true spiritual condition of the seven churches in Asia Minor. Among Christ’s many exhortations, his address to the church at Thyatira is the most sobering (2:18–29). Though the Thyatiran Christians were commended for their works, love, faith, ministry, and perseverance (v. 19), Jesus nevertheless faulted them severely for their failure to confront the false prophetess Jezebel who wrongly taught the permissibility of eating idol food. “But I have (this) against you,” says the risen Lord, “that you are forgiving (ἀφεῖς) the woman Jezebel” (v. 20). Many Bible translations (e.g., NIV10, TNIV, ESV, NRSV) render the Greek verb ἀφεῖς as “you tolerate.” Yet “tolerate” is a weak choice considering the polysemy or various definitions of ἀφίημι. A quick look at any Greek lexicon gives several possible meanings for ἀφίημι, including: 1. send away, 2. forgive, 3. abandon, 4. leave lying around, or 5. allow, tolerate.1 It is an exegetical mistake, however, to assume that all these meanings are operational in this single occurrence of the verb (this error is known as an “illegitimate totality transfer”).2 Neither should the translator randomly choose just any definition. Rather, given the semantic range of ἀφίημι, the biblical interpreter needs to decide which meaning best fits the literary

See, e.g., Frederick Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009), 64. 2 James Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), 218.

sweat. the church had no business pardoning someone that Christ had not pardoned. 2:20–21. v. The Christian community should not abuse its power. Grace demands that we never let sin go unchecked or sin will ruin lives. Instead with maturity. tears and prayer – help sinners experience the forgiveness of God. Thus Jesus warns the church: ‘You are forgiving (ἀφεῖς) the woman Jezebel. 22). Yet grace also demands that we make every call to repentance a genuine expression of love for the other. In Rev. Since μετανοέω is used three times in the span of just two verses. the followers of Jesus must venture to name sin when it is present but also – with blood. v. they are forgiven (ἀφέωνται). Lee . 21b). if you hold sins against anyone.’ when she should not be forgiven. Max J. translating ἀφίημι as “forgive” becomes the obvious and preferred choice. Christ claims that he gave Jezebel “time to repent” (χρόνον ἵνα μετανοήσῃ. Christ calls every congregation to discern if members have truly repented or not. 18:15–18). Of course. It is the church’s priestly duty to act as mediators. 21a) but lamented that “she is unwilling to repent” (οὐ θέλει μετανοῆσαι. and courage. the context of Christ’s address to Thyatira is clearly repentance. they are held (against him or her)” (John 20:23). v. The warning is reminiscent of the Johannine commission:“If you forgive (ἀφῆτε) the sins of any. to speak for God.context. wisdom. Matt. such authority becomes hurtful if misused. Since Jezebel “willfully refuses to repent” (this translation brings out the force of οὐ θέλει better). and not to forgive if persons like Jezebel continue to sin (cf. He desperately warns of impending physical judgment unless she and her followers “repent from her works” (ἐὰν μὴ μετανοήσωσιν ἐκ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῆς.