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Would That You Were Either Cold or Hot

As yet another example of the importance of historical context, Klein, Hubbard, and Blomberg (not sure which) makes this interesting point about a the famous teaching given to Laodicea in the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 1:4 states clearly that the author wrote this book to seven churches in Asia Minor. Chaps. 2-3 contain seven mini-letters with commendation and/or condemnation for each church. Thus, Revelation includes various characteristics of Epistles. For example, interpreters will need to try to reconstruct as accurately as possible the historical circumstances of each church. Most of the details of the letters to the seven churches make better sense when read against this background. For example, ancient Laodicea was well-known for its material wealth, the medicinal ointment it produced, and its woolen industry, but the pathetic state of its church led John to encourage believers there to purchase spiritual wealth, “white clothes to wear . . . and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (3:18). As was mentioned briefly in an earlier chapter, archaeology has shed light on the water supply of Laodicea. The city depended on water that came through aqueducts from either the cold mountain stream near Colossae or the natural hot springs near Hierapolis. Either way, the water was notorious for being disgustingly lukewarm by the time it arrived in town. So John calls the church there not to resemble its water supply but to be either refreshingly cold or therapeutically hot. The common view that “cold” here means ‘clearly opposed to the gospel” or “completely insensitive” is almost certainly the exact opposite of what John meant! (Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. pp. 140-41)