Unjust Legal Practice and the Johannine Necessity for Moral Accountability in the Smyrna

In recent history, various minority groups in the United States have continued challenging what they see as the unjust practices of the country’s legal system. While these individuals push for change, others are blind to, have not experienced, or have benefitted from the adverse effects of such injustice and endeavor to conserve the legal system as they know it.

John’s writing to the community in Smyrna reveals that infinitesimal changes have occurred regarding the exercise of power in the marginalization of minority groups and the demonstrations of injustice against them. In Revelation 2, John, who has already depicted himself as a victim of religious discrimination and legal injustice (Rev 1:9), writes to the community and acknowledges the injustices and bigotry they have encountered and the economic realities they face in their poverty. Considering these things, he encourages their continued faithfulness to Jesus despite the coming persecution he warns the community about.

John challenges the abuse and misuse of capital punishment by depicting a diabolically empowered government that is “a terror to good conduct” (cf. Rom 13:3). The government functions within the bounds of the legal system but reveals that the system lacks moral accountability. Instead of depicting blind justice, John portrays a picture where Justice seems to have removed her blindfold to wield her sword discriminately against some and not others.

The use of Critical Discourse Analysis will provide audiences with an overview of the Smyrnean message and highlight the linguistic features of the text that reflect John’s perspective regarding power differentials between various social actors. It will also discuss the abuses John expects them to experience. While John’s use of language directly confronts the legal practices of his day, the preservation of his writing provides a foundation for contemporary readers and hearers of the Apocalypse who have the power to do so to hold their judicial systems accountable for their miscarriages of justice.

3 thoughts on “Unjust Legal Practice and the Johannine Necessity for Moral Accountability in the Smyrna”

Leave a Comment