What is it about?

What is the New Jerusalem that the book of Revelation describes, and what does it mean? Discover the lost interpretation of the city as held by Melito of Sardis, a church leader who was not only active in one of the cities originally addressed by John in Revelation, but who was taught by someone who knew John personally. Does Melito explain the understanding the John himself meant in the mystical text? This article explores this and more.

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Why is it important?

This article reveals the early mystical meaning assigned to the New Jerusalem by someone who was an early user of the book of Revelation--Melito of Sardis (fl. 16-170). It demonstrates that, contrary to some common assumptions, the earliest understandings of the New Jerusalem weren't necessarily millennialistic; rather, some, such as Melito, adhered to an interpretation of the city that was far more mystical and allegorical, and whose reality was accessible to believers even in the present life. This article, which represents a small part of my ongoing research on the early reception of the New Jerusalem, builds on the work of others to provide the textual and historical evidence for reconstructing Melito's until-now lost position.


Writing this article was an eye-opening experience, especially as it gradually became clear to me that previous characterizations of Melito's eschatology are simply not supported by his surviving work. Melito's position in fact fits into a broader second-century approach to the book of Revelation in general and its New Jerusalem in particular--one approach among several that I explore in my other publications on the topic of the New Jerusalem.

Dr. Nathan A. Betz
Universitat Regensburg

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Reconstructing Melito of Sardis’s Interpretation of Revelation’s New Jerusalem, Vigiliae Christianae, July 2023, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/15700720-bja10070.
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