Synagogue of Satan
The expression occurs neither in the Hebrew nor in the Greek of the
Only in the
(1) They claimed to be Jews, i.e. they were descendants of Abraham, and so laid claim to the blessings promised by Yahweh to him and his seed.
(2) But they are not regarded by John as real Jews, i.e. they are not the genuine Israel of God (the same conclusion as Paul reached in
(3) They are persecutors of the Christians in Smyrna.
The Lord "knows their blasphemy," their sharp denunciations of Christ and Christians. They claim to be the true people of God, but really they are "the synagogue of Satan." The gen. Satana, is probably the possessive gen. These Jewish persecutors, instead of being God’s people, are the "assembly of Satan," i.e. Satan’s people.
In Polycarp, Mar. xvii.2 (circa 155 AD) the Jews of Smyrna were still persecutors of Christians and were conspicuous in demanding and planning the martyrdom of Polycarp the bishop of Smyrna, the same city in which the revelator calls persecuting Jews "the assembly of Satan."
In the 2nd century, in an inscription (CIJ, 3148) describing the classes of population in Smyrna, we find the expression hoi pote Ioudaioi, which Mommsen thinks means "Jews who had abandoned their religion," but which Ramsay says "probably means those who formerly were the nation of the Jews, but have lost the legal standing of a separate people."
Ramsay, Theof Asia, chapter xii; Swete, The Apocalypse of John, 31, 32; Polycarp, Mar. xiii ff.17,2; Mommsen, Historische Zeitschrift, XXXVII, 417.
Charles B. Williams