The ‘lukewarmness’ of Laodicea is to be related to the local water-supply, as suggested by Rudwick and Green. Their interpretation of the term as denoting ineffectiveness rather than half-heartedness is to be accepted. Further study confirms their suggestion that ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ allude respectively to Hierapolis and Colossae. Some details of the background and its application remain obscure. 1
Hemer notes that the “moralistic speculations which cannot reasonably be sustained” in regards to the usual interpretations. This is important, because the use of “lukewarm” is often tossed around to indicate some sort of vile middle-ness.
Such as today. In response to a post I wrote, some pastors who should know better use this word as a way to dismiss the argument. He used it to such a squalid and tepid faith. Yet, this is not the case. Rather, biblical scholarship shows this letter has been misunderstood, greatly. Rather than a faith that is stuck in the middle, χλιαρός is meant to show a faith without God, without the need for God, and that is self-sufficient. Hemer goes on to show that the condemnation was not against the spirituality or faith itself of the Laodiceans but of the works.
Hemer draws a parallel: “In Arrian, Epict. 3.21, Epictetus, a native of Hierapolis who betrays little contact with Judaism or Christianity, likens unqualified persons who enter lightly upon lecturing or the mysteries successively to those of a weak stomach who throw up their food and to those who misuse eyesalves”2
Do you get this? The falseness, not the mildness, of the people are at question. It is not the wrongness, nor the misguided, but the falseness. For instance, those who hide their demons behind a cloak of a public show of Christian McCarthyism.
- Jewish Presence at Hierapolis (Menorahs) (holylandphotos.wordpress.com)
- Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.; Livonia, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Dove Booksellers, 2001), 208 ↩
- Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.; Livonia, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Dove Booksellers, 2001), 191. ↩