14 “To the messenger of the congregation in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
As we can see in the last message of Jesus to the key congregations in Asia Minor, Jesus is being described in terms of something believable (Amen), but also loyal (faithful) and reliable (true witness). The very last reference to Jesus Christ being the beginning of the creation of God should be taken to refer to the Jewish concept of Logos that is present in a dominant way in John 1. Let us briefly summarize the main points that are important for our discussion here.
It has long been mistakenly thought that the ideas expressed in John’s prologue are unique to Christianity. It was erroneously believed that this statement (John 1:1) constituted nothing less than a ground-breaking departure from Judaism. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it is not until verse 14 “and the Word became flesh,” that an innovative idea, though not contradictory to Judaism, was first introduced. The idea of the Word/Logos/Memra of God being the instrument of God in creating of the world was not at all new to Second Temple Judaism. For example, Philo, an Alexandrian Jew who was roughly contemporary with Jesus, but probably never met him, wrote: “…the most universal of all things is God; and in the second place the Word of God.” (Allegorical Interpretation, II, 86); “…the shadow of God is His Word, which He used like an instrument when He was making the world…” (Allegorical Interpretation, III, 96); “This same Word is continually a suppliant to the immortal God on behalf of the mortal race, which is exposed to affliction and misery; and is also the ambassador, sent by the Ruler of all, to the subject race… neither being uncreated as God, nor yet created as you, but being in the midst between these two extremities…” (“Who is the Heir of Divine Things,” 205-6). These are only a few example of this idea.
Jesus, as he addresses his followers in Laodicea, is identifying himself with the instrument of God at the creation of the world.
There are also some important things we should know about the city of Laodicea. It is highly likely that Jesus and the human author of the Book of Revelation were well aware of these.
There was more than one city with the name Laodicea in the Ancient world, but this Laodicea of Lycus, located in Asia Minor, was established in around 250 B.C.E by Antiochus of Syria, who named it after his wife Laodice. Because of its physical location, Laodicea was a very rich and important city in Asia Minor. The road from Ephesus to the east of Syria was the key road in Asia and Laodicea. In its path, there is an important detour through which a large portion of trade traffic passed. This fact effectively turned the city into an exclusive provider of goods and services. Laodicea originally was built as a fortress, even though it had one significant deficiency. All of its water supply had to come by underground aqueduct from springs located at least 3 kms away. This was not a good thing for a city besieged by its enemies. But in Roman times, the city prospered due to the long lasting peace established and preserved by the Roman Empire.
Several characteristics of the city of Laodicea can be seen through Jesus’ address to the congregation located there. First, it was a banking and financial center for Asia Minor. The wealth of the city can be seen in quotations from the Roman historian Tacitus: “One of the most famous cities of Asia, Laodicea, was in that same year overthrown by an earthquake and without any relief from us recovered itself by its own resources.” (Tacitus: Annals 14: 27) No wonder Laodicea could boast that it was rich and had amassed wealth and had need of nothing. Second, it was a center of the clothing industry. It mass produced inexpensive outer wool garments. Third, Laodicea was a medical center of the Ancient world. A famous medical school was located in Laodicea. The names of two of its most famous doctors appear on Laodicean coins. In particular this medical establishment was famous for producing special medication for ears and eyes. Last, but and not least, Laodicea boast a disproportionally large Jewish population. In 62 B.C. Flaccus, the governor of the province, became alarmed at the amount of currency the Jews were exporting in payment of the Temple tax that every male Jew paid. He imposed an embargo on the export of currency. There were at least 7,000 male Jews residing in the relatively small city. There can have been few areas where the Jews were wealthier and more influential.