Research insights into the Date of Revelation, Part V

A late date after 70 A.D.?

Most modern, historical, and biblical scholars tend to state that Revelation was written between 95 and 96 A.D. with the major exceptions of McGuiggan, Jay Adams, Philip Schaff, and some others who contended for an early date of 70 A.D., specifically in the spring, during Vespasian’s reign, thus making an argument for an early date steps one out of the herd into the presumption of pride or a theological agenda; of course, the majority can be wrong too. If the later date is true, then the Preterist position cannot stand up well—if at all. The majority of the prophecies were fulfilled (except Christ second coming). Keep in mind that the key to this position is Jesus’ own words in Matthew 24.

Most scholars contend that the date of Revelation was around 95-96 A.D. near the end of the Domitian’s evil reign. How, and why?

Iraneaus is the main spokesmen to this date. He lived in the second century A.D., a principal “Early Church Father” who made a statement in 185 A.D. that the apostle John “saw the revelation…at the close of Domitian’s reign (A.D. 81-96). (Ref: Contra Haereses 5.30.3; ANF, 1:559-60 also called in the fifth book of his work “Against Heresies”.) The argument against this is that in context, his statement is not clear, rather ambiguous, but can be implicit in various ways.

Here it is: We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen not very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign.

There are at least four main problems with this statement. 1. It is actually a “second hand” account, which he quotes from Polycarp. Thus, it is not a direct quote from Irenaeus. 2. In context, this quote referred to Polycarp’s remembrance (also referred to by Eusebius) “that” sometime toward the end of Domitian’s reign there will be an antichrist (which simply means anyone who opposes Christ; here in a grand scale). 3. It is not clear from this statement to what Polycarp was referring or what he meant by “that was seen.” It could have been referring to Revelation or to a coming antichrist that was also implied by John. 4. Irenaeus suffers from credibility issues and/or textual and scribal errors. He also wrote when he was very old and/or made major mistakes. For example, in the same work as the aforementioned quote, he states that Jesus was crucified when he was fifty years old. Thus, the principle source for the late dating of the Book of Revelation has some significant holes.

Research insights into the Date of Revelation, Part IV

Textual redaction considerations:

• The “Syriac version” of the New Testament, which dates back to the second century A.D., states that Revelation was written during the reign of Nero making a date of 64-68 A.D.

• The “Muratorian Fragment,” dating back to 170-190 A.D., states that this work of John was written during the reign of Nero.

• The “Aramaic Peshitta” version has a remark that places its date prior to 70 A.D. The title page of Revelation states this work of John was written right after the reign of Nero.

• The “Monarchian Prologues,” that dates back to 250-350 A.D., claims that Paul also wrote to these seven churches (possibly Romans which was a “circular letter,” it went out to many addressees) following John’s Book, thus, placing the book even before some of the other Pauline epistles.

•A quote, arguably attributed to Papius (130 AD), states that John the Apostle was martyred before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Roman law of exile:

Nero Caesar exiled John on the island of Patmos. Nero died in 68 AD, and according to Roman law, those banned by a prior Caesar would be released by the succeeding Caesar. Thus, John would have been released from Patmos around 68 AD. (John himself mentions he was at Patmos when he received the Revelation).
The condition of the Church in Asia Minor:

John is clearly writing to the seven churches and consequently to people being persecuted by Rome. Rome was a bloodthirsty, pagan empire that oppressed its people, especially Christians, who were considered criminals and slaves and used for sadistic entertainment.

Peter also wrote to the Christians in Asia Minor around the same time for an early date or a few years before John (1Pet. 1:1-6; 4:12; 5:9). He notes that they were in extreme persecution, suffering, and in dire anguish. This is similar to John’s language and situation (Re 2:9; 3:9) and similar situations recorded by Paul in Acts 13:50; 14:5,19; 17:5-8,13; 18:12. Thus, the severity of the persecution is consistent with an early date.

Keep in mind that a Preterist view would require that the date for Revelation be prior to 70 A.D.

Research insights into the Date of Revelation

Part I: Why is the dating of Revelation so important?

Because it sets up what approach or view one will take—which of the four. Two of them, the Preterist and Futurist views, are predominately hinged on it. Unlike letters today, the book of Revelation does not come to us postmarked with a date, so scholars and researchers need to make a reasonable assumption about the date of this book from careful study that is not based solely upon a theological agenda. The context and word meanings of the material in Revelation do give us clues to examine.

Since my expertise is more in textual criticism and inductive logic, this is where I will keep my arguments as well as a look in to the “Early Church Fathers.” Keep in mind; I have no “ax to grind” or theological agenda to propagate. So, I will be like a CSI person, and just provide the evidence and present the findings. You can be the jury.

First a backdrop: What is often forgotten or ignored is the fact that the Book of Revelation has more references from the Old Testament than any other book in the Bible! A magnitude of them deals with prophecies about the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and God’s judgment of Jerusalem, as well as the Jewish headship and the disobedience of apostate Israel. Thus, most postmodern Christians will not understand Revelation because they do not know the Old Testament, its rich symbolism, its culture, or the historical conditions of that time.

The date is significant, because if Revelation was “just” written about far-away future events, then this letter to people in dire stress was mostly meaningless. How could they listen to the words of the prophecies and obey something that was not relevant to them?

This would have been a belated word of comfort or a cruel joke, like a relief agency sending a Christmas card to a persecuted Christian in Sudan and saying we are praying for you, but do not worry we will help your great grand kids. (I need to note that I was a diehard late-date person, but now I lean toward an early date personally. So, pardon any bias of language).

Let’s look at some of the findings (in this serialized post):