The stern warning to the church of Ephesus in chapter two of Revelation includes this encouragement that is notoriously difficult to understand.

“Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate”. (Rev 2:6)

To better understand this, we must consult the letter to the congregation in Pergamum as well, since this is the only other place that Nicolaitans are mentioned:

“… you have there some who hold to the teaching of Balaam [a powerful pagan sorcerer], who kept teaching Balak [King of Moab] to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. You also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” (Rev 2:13-15)

It is clear that whoever the Nicolaitans were, they were guilty of these kinds of sins.

Christian Hebraist, John Lightfoot, argued that Nicolaitans was a form of Aramaism. In this case, “Aramaism” is not a Greek word but a “loan” word, originating in Aramaic but spelled Greek.

The Aramaic word ניכולא (nichola) means “Let us eat!“. Thus the Greek word Νικολαΐτης (Nicolaitans) was formed from the Aramaic ניכולא combined with the Greek plural ending ίτης. The basic meaning of Nicolaitans, therefore, would be “let-us-eat-ers”.

The Book of Revelation must never be read in isolation from the Book of Acts and the Pauline letters. In Acts 15 we read the text of a letter authored by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.  This letter of encouragement and instruction was sent to gentile Christ-followers who had been delivered from the bondage of paganism (Acts 15:22-29). The conclusion of the letter reads as follows:

“… for it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality.

Once we realize this etymological connection between “Nicolaitans” and “Let-us-eat-ers,” it is not difficult to see that this aberrant group of Gentile Christ-followers were at odds with the decision of Jerusalem Council and the will of God in Christ. They appear to have set aside the teaching of the apostles given in Acts 15 and were slipping back into their former pagan practices.

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

148 COMMENTS

  1. You are invited to post your comments here and Dr. Noel Rabinowitz or myself will try to respond within reasonable time. Let us keep thinking together.
    • The emphasis on the Nicolaitans being ‘rulers of the people/laity’ is far stronger than that of the interpretation that says it is ‘let us eaters’, in light of Paul’s statement about the basic principles Colossians 2:16- 21. 20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules 21 “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch”.

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    • I disagree Nico means over and layitines means the company Christian nothing to do with kosher that's for the Jews till Jesus came as gal 3:19 adds.

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    • Seems they were an actual formal identifiable group if they had a formalized name. I think it would be like someone saying today "the Mormons" or something similar. Regarding your interpretation, didn't Paul eventually override the "meat sacrificed to idols" argument by saying it was to be determined by simply not doing something to harm your brother or sister? therefore, not intrinsically wrong or a sin unless it is causing someone else emotional or spiritual stress or conflict. If "Let us eat" can be a legitimate euphemism for orgy-type practices, that would make more sense, IMO.

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  2. I'm familiar with Dr. Lightfoot's work, but had not encountered this interpretation for "Nicolaitans" before. I admit, it does seem Biblically consistent. I've always understood that "Nicolaitans" comes from the Greek words "Nice" (victor/ruler) and "Laikos" (of the people/congregation). Nicolaitans would then be understood as those who have victory (or rule over) the people/congregation. This ties "nicolaitans" to the emergence of a paid, professional clergy/priesthood in the early church, as opposed to the priesthood of all believers.
    • Lightfoots reconstruction is not a bulet proof case. I agree, other possibilities like this one is also possible, but there is a way to tie Lightfoot's interpretation to the overcoming as well, not to mention that in GREEK the Nicolaitans and those who overcome may be rhyming on purpose! This fits best with Balaam-Balak mention though.
    • Constantine created the Roman Catholic Church .in 313 CE/AD .And since Yeshua Himself is a Jew and all of His Talmidim were Jews they started Messianic Congregations after Shavuot / Pentecost .Jews were called to preach the Word of G-d to the Jews then to the Goyim /Gentiles .There are a lot of churches who for many years have been teaching and preaching replacement theology .Gentile believers need to get back to their Jewish roots and learn what the Word of G-d is saying from the Hebrew writings !

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    • Jim, I see no problem with either interpretation. Whether "let us eaters" (gluttons, which includes sexual gluttony) or being bound to the rulers of this world (demonic and men sold out to demons) the effect is the same. So to argue this would be what my Dad would have called "Majoring in the Minors." Personally, I think both have something to teach us; a thing which Abishter (The Most High) likes to do! Yours teaches against the absolute hold the church hierarchy has over the laity in many denominations. And THAT is a great lesson to take to heart!

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  3. There is a teaching that Nicolaitans are followers of Nicholas who was one of seven elected by Apostles to minister in the table but backslided. Is it?
    • I agreet with you Reji Paul. Nicolas was a proselite. It means. He was a gentile and became a jew, then he converted himself as a Christian. Lucas named him in the Last place among diacons just he did with judas among the apostles. The diference was that all the apostles and jew disciples used to meeting in the synagoes with other no Christian jew. Probabily Nicolas made a New group with other gentile. This we calling proselitsm, a usual practice in our churches today. That God hate it.
  4. Thank you for this explanation. It was clear, concise, and well written. There are always some who think the rules don't apply to them.
  5. I tried reading Rev 2 with Acts. What I see is very different & calls into question the words fallen & repent in Rev 4 & 5. What does “fallen” mean? To be lead to a place of rest. I believe we are to mourn , not repent, and do the works we did at first, Isaiah 22:13. Those who mourn hate things sacrificed to idols and acts of immorality. Those who mourn will receive another comforter because they love God’s commands, John 14:15. The word repent as well as negative language ( (against you, abandoned) throws me off.
    • Kat, to mourn is truly to show one hates the evil around. To repent however means one who once loved the evil now turns away from the evil. When judgment begins at the house of Yahweh, as in Ezekiel 9, those who mourn the evil are spared. But before the judgment, the prophets or servants of Yahweh send forth warnings to repent and turn away from the evil, so that one may escape the judgment when it comes. To mourn and to repent are therefore both valid expectations of the kingdom of Yahweh from people at different stages of faith.
    • Right .. the meat in itself is nothing. The problem is the connection to idol-worship, that is to demons.
  6. Dr Eli , Thanks for sharing on this topic , I was impressed to write as I was thinking on this last night , in conversation with a friend . firstly , Yeshua spoke harshly about their doctrines . they were (false )followers of of Yeshua. They sought to use the gospel for selfish purposes and gain , and rule over their subjects , managed to secure a advantage point and enemies of the teachings of Yeshua , the gospel . they use that power and will do so in the future to control , with iron force.
  7. the other point I wanted to make was , that the nicolatians corrupted the true teachings of the laws of God , telling their followers that they need not obey the ten commandments , that grace was sufficient . the book of revelation is mainly prophetic , and symbolism so they being mentioned in Rev , is saying to use , that their teachings and doctrines will , if not already have its introit, again . People , especially those who are of the Nicolatians mindset , seeks to rule and control not through GOD's methods, but their own .
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