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 III

More Word usage and “internal evidence for an early date:”

The eight kings mentioned in Revelation 17:9-14, may present a date of early 70 A.D. just before the destruction of the Temple which happened in the fall season. The argument goes that if the kings were the Roman emperors, and if it started with the first, 1. Augustus, with the next seven being 2. Tiberius, 3. Caligula, 4. Claudius, and 5. Nero (who died June 9, 68 A.D. and may be the “deadly wound” in Rev. 13:3-14), then after Nero’s murder which left the Roman Empire in chaos, there were three very short lived “pocket emperors” 6. Galba, 7. Otho, and 8. Vitellius, who sought to take advantage of the situation and consolidate power, but each was quickly assassinated. Then, after the eighth one came Vespasian, who restored order in 70 A.D. but also did not live long (Job security was not good then). The date can be predicated because the “deadly wound” was healed by Vespasian (Rev. 17:10). If you did not count the pocket emperors, Vespasian would be sixth and Titus the seventh and Domitian the eighth. So an argument can be made using this system for both date theories. Even though the length of a Roman Emperor’s reign might be short, he was still the king.

Another wording of note is how the tense of word and context of “beast” is used. In Revelation 17:8-11, it says, the beast, which you saw, once was, now is not. If the “beast” represents the Roman Empire and its megalomaniac emperors like Nero and Domitian, then Revelation could not have been written during the reigns of either Nero or Domitian; rather, just before either one! Now this just confounds things a bit more.

Another “internal evidence” is how John addressed his personal situation. John was still to experience a lot of life after this writing, not that he was ready to die of old age. In Rev. 10:11, John is told that he “must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.” If John received this message around 96 A.D., how could he be able to walk and travel? Of course, an assist from God would be an answer too. If he was told this in 65-70 A.D., then he had lots of time and the enablement to do it.

An O.T. word example in Daniel 9 is the term “the abomination of desolation.” This is an image of extreme evils, oppression, sexual exploitations, and the seductions of the world, referring to the evils of paganism and immorality and rationalizing it as OK (Lev 18:23; Jer. 3:3; Ezek-. 27; Hos. 2:2; Rev. 2:23; 7:3; 13:6). Antiochus IV Epiphanes destroyed the Temple in 167 B.C., at which time he also desecrated an idol of Zeus resembling himself. But wait; there is more! Herod rebuilt it, and it was just being finished at the time of Christ (Daniel 8:12, Daniel 9:24-27, Daniel 11:31, 12:11, Matthew 24:15, Revelation 11). This also refers to Matthew 24, and the most despicable apostasy and sacrilege that a Jewish person could conceive of that caused the desolation of the most holy place of the Temple. Daniel predicted this would happen after the death/rejection of the Messiah, which was also fulfilled at the crucifixion and the Temple’s destruction in 70 A.D. (Dan. 9:25-27; 11:31).

We will also see that Matthew 24 addresses the same issues as Revelation and the same period of time as Daniel 9. In Matthew 24, Jesus is not talking about the end of the future world, but the destruction of the Jewish temple, marking the end of the Jewish system or “age”. He is not teaching about “The Last Day” (of history), but the last days of the Jewish economy, the false religious system of the Jews, and the beginning of the New Covenant era. This is what John’s readers and hearers were going through.

Revelation Date Research insights, Part II

An early date prior to 70 A.D.?

First are the arguments previously given. The main arguments to setting a date proposed in the last post is predicated on the fact that John makes no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem or the Temple in 70 A.D. and thus the book must have been written prior to these events. However, the retort to that is that this is an “argument from silence” which does not persuade when there is ample evidence that John wrote Revelation around 95 A.D. Also, when the “Olivet Discourse” (Matthew 24) is compared to Revelation, a proof is formed that is hard to rebuff. In addition, Jesus’ own words are seen in Matthew 24:1-3: “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down ….This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” In less than forty years later, this prophecy was fulfilled. This statement is climatic and earth shattering to a Jew and for setting up a new covenant, a Kingdom of God age. The “early date” people use this as their main argument. But, is there more evidence?

Word usage and “internal evidence:”

Let’s begin with what the word Apocalypse means. The accepted and understood meaning is that it deals with the end times, with what is going to happen at the end of the world. Also, the popular thinking is that this is about what is ominous, anarchical, and disastrous. However, the word, Apocalypse, has the same meaning as the word Revelation, which comes from the Greek word, apokalypsis, meaning the “discourser of events,” as opposed to undisclosed or mysterious. Thus, even though Revelation has a lot of figurative phrases, it is not necessarily concealed when we take an honest look and compare it to other passages in the O.T. rather than pursuing trends or “newspaper eschatology.” Thus, Apocalypse means something is being revealed as an “uncovering,” an “unveiling,” or, as we have it in the English, a “Revelation.” Revelation is a book of disclosure and hope through John’s seven visions and God’s exhortations (Judges 6:11-23; Dan. 7:16; 10:5-21).

We then see this further as Revelation opens with an elaborate greeting so we can more firmly connect our relationship with the authority that is Christ and we can receive His hope and encouragement. Thus, the title of this Book means the “revelation of and about Jesus Christ” that the original hearers could now know.

Revelation 1:1 states, “what must soon take place.” The word “soon” (swift/shortly—Greek “Tachos”) means quickness and speed, indicating that these events will happen “suddenly” and “unexpectedly” (Matt 24:32; 2 Pet. 3:8-18).

The late date, so people point out, also refers to God’s divine providence and the final phase. The time of waiting is over; Christ is here. The time is near for God who lives outside of space and time, but not necessarily near for us. This is similar to the last days, referring in context to the sudden nature of the Christian era, not necessarily a time reference (2 Pet. 3:3). Many Christians took this to mean that it would happen soon. We need to understand God’s perspective, not our desires. This word is critical to which approach and view of Revelation one takes. If we take this word as it is in English and do not pay attention to the Greek or the context, we will jump to the conclusion of immediate fulfillment (Acts 2:16-17; 1 John 2:18; Rev. 22:6-12, 20).

Thus, if it is a prophecy of things that were to happen “shortly”, then these or most of these prophecies were fulfilled with the destruction of the Temple in 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):

Revelation Date and Occasion

John was exiled to the Island of Patmos around 95 AD perhaps during the writing of this Epistle. The Church was undergoing the beginnings of more severe persecution than what they initially went through in James’ and Peter’s time when the Roman Emperor Nero was blaming the Christians for the burning of Rome, (which he had caused) making them the scapegoat (54-68 AD). At this time, the Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD) had stepped up the persecutions severely, perhaps being the worst ever seen in Church history (Rev. 1:9; 2:9-13; 13:7-10).

  • There are two opposing schools of thought for the date of Revelation. First is an “early date,” approximately 64-68 AD, during the reign of Nero.
  • The second is a “late date,” approximately 95-96 AD, during the reign of Emperor Domitian.
  • The main arguments for an early date are that the Temple, which was destroyed in 70 AD, seems to be still standing (Rev. 11:1-14).

One of the main themes of the Book is support for the early Christians. Then we find the eight “kings” (Rev. 13: 3-14; 17:9-11). If these “kings” were the Roman Emperors that I listed in the Background and Setting, this would place the events as current to the First Century. The rebuttal to this is that these are given to us in a figurative sense, and/or that history repeats what they went through and will be repetitive.

However, the witness of the Early Church Fathers, confirmed by Irenaeus (185 AD), church tradition, and the Gospel of John as well as his comments in Revelation indicates that John was old and at the end of his life here. This sets up the possibility for the writing having been done as late as 95 AD, making it the last Scripture penned. However, since the 19th century, there has been contention against this view, arguing for an earlier date of 60 to 69 AD, prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

The contention is that the 90-95 AD view is very problematic, mainly due to the fact that the destruction of the Temple is the singular most climatic and important Jewish historical event since the Exodus of Egypt. It would be like writing a history of the 20th century and not mentioning the two world wars. It just seems problematical, as John make no assertion that the Temple has already been destroyed. The counter is that the Temple‘s destruction was so obvious, no mention was needed.

The problem for an earlier date is that the Roman Emperors were in violent opposition to the Christians, so an earlier date after Nero’s death seems unlikely when the great persecutions arose later in Domitian’s rule in the 90s. Also, the Churches in Asia Minor were more in fruition in the 90s; in the 60s, many of them may not have even been planted yet. Further testimony of a late date is it is what the Early Church Fathers said. The date is significant, because an early date would support a Preterist or Partial-Preterist view whereas a late date would support a Futurist view.

What is the truth? It is hard to tell since there is evidence on both sides, but the veracity of the evidence seems to indicate an early date, because of the temple imagery and the historic situation of the Church in Asia Minor going through that persecution.