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The Problems of a Pre-70 Date of the Apocalypse

By Otto Nordgreen
2000

The present paper is based on a personal letter to Mr. J. Christian Wilson, whom I would like to thank for a fruitful discussion; for his interesting comments, and informative answers to my many questions.

Early Date of Revelation | The Christ Has Come - Date | Gibbon on Neronic Persecution | The Parousia in the Apocalypse | Order of Revelation | Christ Has Come 11-12-13-14 | The Revelation -- Preterist Interpretation | Revelation 11:1 | Revelation 17:10 | Late Date of Revelation | The Spirit Filled Life Bible | The Book of Revelation: Interpretive Suggestion | Dating the Book of Revelation | Dating the New Testament Books

Introduction

The date of the Book of Revelation (Rev) has been as disputed as its authorship. The dates proposed for the composition oscillate between, on the one hand, the time before or during the so-called Jewish War (66-77 CE) and, on the other hand, the time of Emperor Trajan, viz. late 1st century (Aune 1997:lvii). Traditionally, the prevailing view has been that Rev was written sometime during the reign of Emperor Domitian (81-96 CE); more specifically (and in harmony with the ancient testimony of Irenaeus ) towards the end of his reign, viz. ca. 94/95 CE. This is also the dominant position of most modern scholars, both ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’.
 

The testimony of Irenaeus is from Adversus Haereses, 5:30:3. Irenaeus also says that the Apocalypse was written by the same who wrote the fourth gospel. Few, if any, of the modern scholars who follow Irenaeus when it comes to the date of the Apocalypse would also follow him when it comes to the authorship. Thus, one could of course – with Wilson (1993) and others – argue that since Irenaeus was wrong about the authorship, he could very well be wrong about the date of the Apocalypse as well. However, one could also – like Collins (1984) – argue that Irenaeus could have been wrong about the one thing and right about the other. Personally, I tend to believe that Irenaeus might be right about both date and authorship!

In recent times, however, a few (but still considerable number) of scholars have presented some very interesting objections to the present common scholarly opinion (cf. Ford 1975; Robinson 1976; Bell 1979; Gentry 1989; Moberly 1992; Wilson 1993). According to these authors, at least the internal evidence at hand (i.e. the text itself) would point towards an early date of the Apocalypse, viz. before the ‘destruction’ of Jerusalem (and its temple) in the year of 70 CE. In my opinion, a detailed analysis of the arguments presented by advocates of an early date does not lead to the same conclusion. In the following, I will examine some of these arguments as presented by Wilson (1993).

In the article “The Problem of the Domitianic Date of Revelation”, J. Christian Wilson (1993) quite recently presented arguments against the traditional and (still) prevailing view, that the Book of Revelation was written sometime during the time of Domitian. At the same time, he tried to make a rather strong case for a pre-70 date of the Apocalypse, arguing that the text must have originated sometime during the reign of Nero or (at least) Galba, viz. between 54-68 or 68/69 CE.

Although I find that Wilson’s objections to the Domitianic date of the Apocalypse on the whole are well founded and surely worth our consideration, I cannot find any real adequate reason for accepting his total rejection of a Domitianic date or his conclusion that the Book of Revelation necessarily

was written either during the reign of Galba, between June of 68 and January of 69 or the latter part of the reign of Nero (...). (1993:605)

All the questions related to an early or late date of the Apocalypse would demand a whole monographic study (which I hope will be written and published soon). In the present ‘investigation’, I only set myself the task of suggesting some objections that in my opinion could (or, indeed, should) be raised against the arguments presented in Wilson’s article, viz. against a pre-70 date of the Apocalypse. At the same time I will suggest an alternative reading of the passages mentioned by Wilson.
 
 

The Evidence for a Pre-70 Date of the Apocalypse Reconsidered

In the article Wilson (1993:605) gives us a brief summary of his main arguments:

First, Revelation was written in an historical background of recent persecution. The persecution of 95 and 96 was the creation of Eusebius and Lightfoot, not of Domitian. The persecution under Nero in 64 and 65 is a documented historical fact. Second, the five kings who have fallen in Revelation 17.10 are either Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero or Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius. The one who ‘is’ is either Galba or Nero. The ones who have not yet come cannot be fitted into any subsequent Roman history. Third, the temple is still standing in Revelation 11.1-2.

So, the list of his ‘evidence’ could, for our purpose, be outlined thus:

1. The Lack of Evidence for a Domitianic Persecution
2. The List of the Seven (Eight) Emperors in Rev 17
3. The Temple of Rev 11:1f.

These three lines of arguments are supposed to point decisively to a pre-70 date of the Apocalypse. For several reasons, however, this does not seem that convincing to me. Let us take a good look at these lines of evidence, one by one:
 
 

(1) The Lack of Evidence for a Domitianic Persecution

The first and most important issue in Wilson’s argumentation seems to be that there does not seem to be any real evidence of any (severe) persecution of Christians during the reign of Domitian. But we should notice that this argument is based on the assumption that the Book of Revelation is a typical ‘apocalypse’ and, therefore, has to have been written “in an historical background of recent persecution”, as Wilson (1993:605) puts it. Now, if we do not accept this, the (rest of the) first argument fails to convince.

From the research presented by Collins (1984), Thompson (1990), and now J. Christian Wilson (1993), there seems to be some question as to whether or not the seven churches of the Apocalypse (or, indeed, the Christians as such) were being subjected to any official and systematic persecution by the Roman government during the reign of Domitian. And in the absence of reliable evidence that the Emperor Domitian himself ordered such persecutions of Christians (as Christians), it has recently been suggested that the various references to persecutions in the Book of Revelation indicate at least sporadic and local hostilities directed to the various Christian communities in Asia Minor (cf. Collins 1984:69-73).
 

For support for (at least some) persecutions under Domitian, see e.g. Barnard (1962/63); and more recently Sordi (1983), Rissi (1995), and Giesen (1996).

However, I would like to argue that there are good reasons not to assume that John the Seer wrote his book at a time of grave peril for the Church or that the Book of Revelation really reflects any contemporary crises caused by large scale persecutions from the Roman Empire under Nero (or Domitian).

As I have stated elsewhere (Nordgreen 1995:4), there is probably no such thing as an exact dividing line between prophecy and apocalyptic literature (Newman 1963). In fact, speaking of differences between these genres tends to be an anachronism. True, this distinction seems meaningful for us today, but it is hardly plausible that John was aware of such a distinction: he identifies himself both as a man of great apocalyptic visions and as a prophet – cf. Bauckham (1993:f.). Furthermore, a close look at the testimony of John himself reveals that most of the persecutions mentioned is related to the past or the future, rather than to the (indicated) present time (cf. Rev 6:9-11; 7:14; 11:7; 12:13ff; 13:7,15; 15:2-4; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:2; 20:4). This is also pointed out by Ulrichsen (1988) and Collins (1990). Contra Robinson (1976:230f.).

So, in my opinion there is nothing in the Book of Revelation that should force us to assume that it necessarily reflects contemporary (large scale) persecutions against Christians. If this is correct, the lack of any evidence for a Domitianic persecution against Christians just cannot be accepted as an argument against a Domitianic date of the Apocalypse. It could, in fact, be used against the view that the Apocalypse originated at a time of great distress, i.e. under Nero.

This does, however, not mean that the persecutions under Nero are lacking; they are e.g. reflected in Rev 13 – but it does mean that

(...) the references to martyrs and martyrdom are for a great deal located to scenarios in the past or future. Actually, only one martyr is mentioned by name; Antipas (Rev 2: 13). Rather John writes that many have been and will (again) be slain for the testimony which of their Lord. So it seems that the crisis in each of the churches addressed by John was not brought on so much by external forces. Instead the real source for a critical situation is to be found within the Christian community; the Christians in Ephesus have become loveless in its zeal to rot out heretics (Rev 2:1-7), and the congregation in Laodicea, which claims to need nothing, has its own problem of prosperity to deal with (Rev 3:14-22). (Nordgreen 1995:6)

The present writer prefers to withhold final judgement on the questions whether or not there were Roman large scale persecutions of the Christians under Domitian, for all the facts may not yet be available (cf. Rissi 1995:65ff.). It is sufficient for me to state that the original setting of the John’s text does not necessarily imply, or demand, contemporary persecutions (on a large scale). Personally, I believe that Irenaeus’ silence on this matter should be taken seriously, and that the persecutions under Domitian (if any) were not worse than the persecutions directed under other emperors before or after Domitian.
 
 

(2) The Seven (Eight) Emperors of the Apocalypse

Wilson (1993:599) argues that the “most important internal evidence for dating Revelation is the passage chapter 17.9-11”. Here John states:

This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. (NIV)

Wilson is absolutely quite right that this passage is important for any fixing of the dating of the Apocalypse. The questions to be answered, however, are which list of Roman emperors John uses and by whom John starts and ends his list.

Commentators on the Book of Revelation have been puzzled by the enigma of the seven (or eight) emperors and the question related to any identification of them. Wilson, however, seems to indicate that these questions could rather easily be answered. He writes:

Two systems were used in antiquity. One, the earliest example of which is Suetonius, begins with Julius Caesar. The other, the earliest example of which is Tacitus, begins with Augustus. (1993:599)

Thus, according to Wilson, John had to use an official list of Roman emperors. Furthermore, he had (only) two possibilities: He could have begun either with Julius or Augustus as the first emperor. It is not quite clear to me from the article which list Wilson prefers; I guess he prefers a list starting with Julius, but still thinks a list starting with Augustus would be possible. (Either way, these lists would seem to indicate an early date of the text in question!)

However, it does not seem that clear  – even if modern historians may begin their list of the Roman emperors with Augustus (which ‘technically’ might very well be the only right thing to do) – that Augustus really was considered to be the first emperor according to such an ‘official’ list. In fact, many writers of antiquity begin their list of the ‘caesars’ with Julius (thus Suetonius, in his Lives of the Twelve Ceasars). More important is the fact that Julius is viewed as the first ‘king’ in Jewish (-Christian) texts like Sib Or 5:12-51 and 4 Ezra 11-12 (cf. Collins 1984:62). Wilson’s reference to Tacitus is also dubious because, as pointed out by Collins (1984:60f.), even he called both Julius and Augustus ‘caesars’ – cf. Ann. 4:34!

So, if – as Wilson (1993) argues – John had to follow an ‘official’ list of emperors, he most likely had to start such a list with Julius Caesar (cf. Gentry 1989 who at least in this respect is consistent).

Now, if we start with Julius Caesar, the list of the first six kings would be as follows:
 

 Julius Caesar (49 - 44 BCE)

 Augustus Caesar (31 BCE - 14 CE)

 Tiberius Caesar (14 - 37 CE.)

 Gaius (Caligula) Caesar (37 - 41 CE)

 Claudius Caesar (41 - 54 CE)

 Nero Caesar (54 - 68 CE)

According to this – more or less – ‘official’ list, Nero would be the 6th emperor. Alternatively, starting with Augustus, the 6th emperor would be Galba. No wonder, then, that many have thought that the work was written under the reign of Nero – or shortly thereafter (viz. under Galba, 68 - 69 CE). This is also the main point in this part of Wilson’s article.

There are however some problems with this line of thinking not taken into consideration – or even mentioned – in Wilson’s treatment:

First, let us consider the beast (from the sea) imagery of Rev 13:1. In my opinion it has a dual focus; its meaning shifts between two things: (a) the Roman Empire (with seven heads and ten horns) as such and (b) one single emperor (viz. one of the heads). The number of the beast which is said to be 666 (or 616) is most likely a gematria on NERON KAISAR. Thus, from Rev 13 the readers can know the identity of the beast (from the sea) and probably one of its heads (viz. kings). This is also pointed out in Wilson’s article (1993:598).

But afterwards, in Rev 17:8a, the reader is given a very important additional piece of information (not mentioned in Wilson’s article!):

The beast you have seen was once alive and is alive no longer; it is yet to come up from the Abyss, but only to go to its destruction. (NJB)

In my opinion, this has to mean that Nero – the beast that John had seen (Rev 13) – was dead when John wrote (cf. Robinson 1976:243). Thus, at a closer look it would seem that Nero, in fact, cannot be the ‘one [who] is’, viz. the ‘king’ presently reigning (Rev 17: 9). Consequently, the eight ‘king’ – who is also said to be one of its seven predecessors – could be understood as some kind of Nero redivivus.

Wilson, however, argues that there is no Nero redivivus myth in the Book of Revelation at all. Instead, he quite interestingly argues that Rev 13:3 is referring to the assassination of Julius Caesar, and not to the death of Nero. Furthermore, he suggests that we should translate “the first of the heads” instead of “one of the heads” (1993:597-604).

Nevertheless, since he is willing to accept a list of emperors starting with Augustus, thus excluding Julius, I guess he would be willing to see a possible allusion to the Nero redivivus myth in Rev 13:3 and 17:8-11 after all – especially since he does understands the beast as both the Roman empire and one of its emperors, namely Nero (cf. Rev 13:18).

At least to me, it seems more likely that John wants Nero to be the 5th of his seven (or, indeed, eight) emperors – as also suggested by well-known pre-70 advocates like Robinson (1976) and Bell (1979:98); contra Gentry (1989).  But this would again indicate that John starts his list with Augustus, and not Julius. Based on this, the idea that John was using an ‘official’ list seems to lack real support. In fact, one might question the very existence of any ‘official’ list at that time.
 

One could of course argue that an ‘official’ list perhaps could start with Augustus instead of Julius, after all. The evidence however seem to support otherwise – cf. Collins (1984:60f.): As pointed out by Collins, even Tacitus calls both Julius and Augustus ‘caesars’ - cf. Ann. 4:34!

Now, if John did not use an official list, either due to the lack of any such ‘official’ list or because he choose otherwise, he would have had to indicate this for his (first) readers. He also had to indicate which list he was using. This seems to be supported by Rev 17:9a, where John indicates that he wants his readers to figure out which rulers he is thinking about: “This calls for shrewdness” (NJB), John writes. Of course, if John indeed was using an official list, his readers would not need any ‘shrewdness’ at all! And, needless to say, his first readers would very well know who the ruling emperor was (cf. Bauckham 1993:606).

A closer look at the text in question reveals that John seems to have provided enough information for us to imagine, or figure out, whom he was thinking about: First, it is indicated that Nero is one of the five emperors that already are dead (cf. Rev 13:18; 17:8a and 7a). Second, as the main focus in the Book of Revelation is on Jesus, whom John consider to be his lord, one might adduce from Rev 12:1ff, that John could have wanted to start his list of emperors with Augustus: the first emperor of the Christian Era. So, in my opinion, the list can very well begin with Augustus, and continue with Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius, and Nero as the 5th emperor.

Thus, I do not only think that John was not referring to any ‘standard’ scheme of numbering the emperors, viz. beginning with Julius. In fact, in my opinion, Julius is not on John’s list at all! Rather, I think John started with Augustus – not because he was on any ‘official’ list, but because he was the first emperor of the Christian Era (cf. Luke 2). I would also like to argue that it would have been possible for his (first) readers to figure this out.

All of this could lead us to the thought that the 6th emperor was (or rather ‘is’) Galba (cf. Robinson 1976). However, an even closer look at John’s text does reveal some very important information that we also have to take into consideration:

The beast of Rev 13:1 and 17 (viz. the Roman Empire) is not only said to have seven (or eight) heads, but also ten horns. Following the thesis presented by J. H. Ulrichsen (1988; cf. Klauck 1992), I would suggest that we consider the 10 horns of Rev 13:1f to be kings (cf. 17:12ff); although not identical with those mentioned in Rev 17:12ff. They are related to the beast as emperor, whereas the horns of Rev 13:1 are related to the beast as empire. And as kings related to the Roman Empire they are ten Roman ‘kings’ (or emperors); cf. Ulrichsen (1985) and the literature mentioned there.

This would indicate that we in the Book of Revelation do not only have one list of emperors, but, in fact, two lists. From a first look at Rev 13:1, we see that the ‘first’ list has seven emperors and that the ‘second’ has ten. But from Rev 17:8-11, we get to know that there are, in fact eight emperors, although the 8th is also said to be one of the seven. Important for us is the origin of John’s symbolism:

It is normally held that John gets the number of these lists (the numbers ‘seven’ and ‘ten’) from the Book of Daniel, i.e. Dan 7 (cf. Beale 1984:229ff.).  Based on this Danielic background, Ulrichsen (1985; 1988) has produced the following thesis: He has argued that the reason for John’s list having not only seven but eight ‘kings’ is the fact that in relation to the fourth ‘beast’ (in Dan 7), there are spoken of not only ten, but eleven horns (viz. ‘kings’). Now, in analogy to the fact that there are seven (or eight emperors) on the first list, one might think that there has to be ten (or eleven) emperors on the second. The first list (of seven heads) contains the ‘kings’’, whom John depicts ‘heads’ (viz. most important); the second is a complete lists of all the emperors indicated in John’ prophecy. If the ten horns really are ten kings (viz. emperors), Rev 13:1 seems to support a composition after the year 70 CE (cf. Ulrichsen 1985).
 

In addition, John probably has alluded to the fact that Rome was widely know as the ‘City on seven hills’ – cf. Rev 17:9b (cf. Beale 1999:869f.).

I would very much like to follow this line of thinking, but contra Ulrichsen (1985; 1988), who wants to start the list of ‘kings’ with Caligula (Gaius), I – following e.g. Giblin (1991:133) and M. Rissi (1995:63) – want to start the list with Augustus (cf. Rev 12; and also Luk 2):
 

The 7 (8) heads:

 The 10 (11) horns:

Augustus

Augustus

Tiberius

Tiberius

(Gaius) Caligula

(Gaius) Caligula

Claudius

Claudius

Nero

Nero

 

Galba

 

Otho

 

Vitellius

 Vespasian

Vespasian

 Titus

Titus

 (‘Nero II’: Domitian)

(‘Nero II’: Domitian)

Omitting the three emperors of 68/69 CE (Galba, Otho, and Vitellius) from the list of the ‘heads’ would indicate that the emperor who is said to be reigning (Rev 17:10) is Vespasian. Of course, any omission of the three so-called ‘rebellious princes’ (Suetonius: Vespasian 1) from a list of emperors has do be accounted for. As pointed out by Beale (1999:873), the many “past proposals offering reasons for the exclusion of the three brief reigns have not been persuasive”. As my task is not the defence of the Domitianic date as such, I will not deal with this problem in depth. I would, however, like to indicate a possible solution to the problem.

First, we have to consider the textual background of Rev 17:8ff. In Dan 7 we are told that the fourth beast has 10 (actually 11) horns, of which 3 are ‘uprooted’ (vv. 8, 20, 24). Thus, if John wanted to exclude three emperors from a complete list, at least he would have had the discursive framework to do so. Second, in 4 Ezra 11-12 we (also) find two lists of Roman emperors: (1) the twelve wings symbolising all emperors from Julius to Domitian, and (2) the three heads that might be identified with Vespasian and his two sons (Titus and Domitian). There might have been (historic) reasons for John viewing Galba, Otho, and Vitellius as minor (or less important) emperors (cf. Beale 1999:873). But proving this is admittedly hard.

That John here writes of Vespasian as the ruling emperor is hardly problematic; either Vespasian really was the present emperor (which I think could be possible) or John could have used an artificial antedating for a rhetorical purpose. This would have been understood by John’s first audience that obviously did know which emperor that actually was ruling anyway, and therefore did not need any explanation in this respect.

Anyway, it seems quite possible that John could have used the popular acceptance of Domitian as a ‘Nero redivivus’ (a kind of second Nero) on the level of discourse, and used it as a framework for his sequence of Roman rulers. Nevertheless, as I have stated elsewhere,

whether John actually did count six emperors up to and including Vespasian as the present one, by beginning from a roman ruler later then Julius Caesar and/or admitting some of them, we really do not know for sure. (Nordgreen 1995:17)

But, in the light of the evidence presented above, I can safely conclude that Rev 13:1f and 17: 9-10 hardly provide enough information in support of an early date, viz. before the year 70 CE. The same goes for the next line of evidence:
 
 

(3) Rev 11:1f.

In Rev 11: 1-2, John the Seer writes:

Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months. (RSV)

To this Wilson (1993:604) writes:

Clearly this passage presupposes that the Temple is standing. Most scholars do not even try to make it a vaticinium ex eventu. For when an ancient writer makes a vaticinium ex eventu he does try to get it right. This bit of prophecy in Revelation turns out wrong on two counts. First, not just the outer court of the temple was given over to the (...) ‘gentiles’ (...). The whole temple was given over to the gentiles in 70. Second, the Romans did not trample over the Holy City for forty-two months.

Further:

Anyone who counters with the idea that the forty-two months is simply the symbolic number for the time of tribulation, the three and a half years, has another problem to deal with. Apocalyptists do not use symbolic numbers in a vaticinium ex eventu when those symbolic numbers contradict actual historical numbers.

And finally:

Most commentators who favor the Domitianic date (...) admit that Rev 11.1-2 was written before 70, they claim, by a different author. Rev 11.1-2 was then incorporated by the Domitianic John and interpreted symbolically.

All of this needs some comments, I feel:

First, Rev 11:1-2 is, as pointed out by Wilson (1993), most certainly not a vaticinium ex eventu – it is a genuine prophecy. It is however, in my opinion, not that obvious that the temple mentioned in v. 1 would have to be the Jerusalem Temple (that is, in a situation before 70 CE, when it was still standing). Cf. Bachmann (1994), who – following Giblin (1991) – argues that the temple of Rev 11:1 is the heavenly temple. Another possibility is that the temple symbolises the true Christian Church. Given the interest and approach of our author, both interpretations seem to be possible.

Second, I just cannot imagine that John would say that parts of the Jerusalem Temple would not be destroyed (not ‘given over’) when his Lord, in fact, had said that the whole Temple would be totally destroyed! The reading of Rev 11:1f. suggested by Wilson (and others) makes the testimony of John in conflict with the so-called ‘Q-apocalypse’ (Matt 24; Mark 13; and Luk 21). I cannot say that I find that very likely.

All of this changes if we read Rev 11:1f. in a post-70 CE perspective. I would suggest – following Giet (1957) and others – that e.g. Rev 11:1f. reflects the Jewish War (66-70 CE): From a point in time after the fall of Jerusalem, John looks back and uses material (viz. impressions) from the time before Jerusalem fell as a kind of discourse or discursive framework for a new prophecy. And since this is a genuine prophecy – not a vaticinium ex eventu – I find no difficulties with the symbolic number of ‘forty-two months’.

And finally, as demonstrated by Bauckham (1993:266-283), there is absolutely no need to assume that Rev 11:1-2 was written by someone else than John or, indeed, before the year 70 CE!
 

Question regarding the possibility for different authors and/or different stages of composition are – of course – interesting but will not be treated here. I am only concerned with the final version of the Book of Revelation which I think has to be post 70 CE.

I conclude, therefore, that Rev 11:1f by no means can be used as a proof for any pre-70 date of the Apocalypse. On the contrary, a natural symbolic interpretation seems to imply a post-70 date, because a more literal understanding, as advocated by Wilson (among others), would seem to contradict the ‘Q-apocalypse’ – at least in a temporal situation before the year 70 CE (cf. Bachmann 1994).
 
 

Conclusion

The above investigation has, mainly, been concerned with the ‘evidence’ in favour of a pre-70 CE date of the Apocalypse as presented in Wilson’s NTS article. Although I find his objections to a Domitianic date of the Apocalypse very interesting, I cannot see that he has presented enough evidence that should lead one to reject the now traditional date of the Apocalypse altogether. Furthermore, the suggestion that the Book of Revelation was written either under Nero or Galba has in my opinion not the strongest support in the text itself.

To me, there seem to be at least four (if not more) possible dates of the Apocalypse. As strongly advocated by Wilson (1993), it could very well have been written (1) during the Jewish War (viz. under the reign of Nero or Galba). But it could also (2) have been written under Vespasian (that is, shortly after the Jewish War), as suggested by Giet (1957) and, partially, Rissi (1995). Court (1979:125ff.; 1994:100ff.) has given the interesting suggestion (3) that the king “(who) is” could be identified with Titus, the brother of Domitian. In my opinion, the most probable solution still is (4) that the Revelation was conceived during the reign of Domitian, as witnessed by Irenaeus, and still held by most scholars today.

But even if most scholars today think that the Book of Revelation was written ca. 94/95 CE (or even later), it seems to me that only few have been able to produce sound arguments for this view. Most of the regular arguments presented are rather weak. And as demonstrated by Wilson (1993), many of the common arguments in favour of a Domitianic date of the Apocalypse doe not stand a critical re-examination. Especially this goes for the idea of Domitian as a terrible persecutor. So far, the question to when the Book of Revelation was written still remains open. This does, however, not necessarily indicate that the Domitianic date as such should be rejected (as sugested by Wilson 1993 and others).

I would like to conclude with Swete (1907:cvi) in saying that I “am unable to see that the historical situation presupposed by the Apocalypse contradicts the testimony of Irenaeus” (cf. Beale 1999:27). The Domitianic date of the Apocalypse still makes very good sense – at least to me. On the other hand, I am willing to look for new solutions to the problem, and I therefore more than welcome the objections and suggestions raised in Wilson’s NTS article (and by others) – cf. Bell (1979), and more recently Moberly (1992).
 
 

Bibliography

Aune, D. (1997): Revelation 1-5. (= Word Biblical Commentary 52a) Dallas, Texas: Word Books
Bachmann, M. (1994): “Himmlisch: Der ‘Tempel Gottes’ von Apk 11.1”, NTS 40, pp. 474-480
Barnard, L. W. (1962/63): “Clement of Rome and the Persecution of Domitian”, NTS 10, pp. 251-60
Bauckham, R. (1993): The Theology of the Book of Revelation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Beale, G. K. (1984): The use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St. John. Lanham/New York/London: University Press of America
– (1999): The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. (NIGTC) Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans
Collins, A. Y. (1984): Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse. Philadelphia: Westminster
– (1990): “The Apocalypse (Revelation)”. In: Brown, R. et al. (eds.): The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, pp. 996-1016
Court, J. M. (1979): Myth and History in the Book of Revelation. London: SPCK
– (1994): Revelation. (= New Testament Guides) Sheffield: JSOT Press
Ford, J. M. (1975): Revelation. Garden City, New York: Doubleday
Gentry, K. L. (1989): Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation. Tyler, Texas: ICE
Giblin, C. H. (1991): The Book of Revelation: The Open Book of Prophecy. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press
Giesen, H. (1996): “Das Römische Reich im Spiegel der Johannes-Apokalypse”, ANRW II/26.3, pp. 2501-2614
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Wilson, J. C. (1993): “The Problem of the Domitianic Date of Revelation”, NTS 39, pp. 587-605

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Date: 28 Mar 2005
Time: 10:50:30

Comments :

If Revelation was written prior to AD 70 and is talking about the fall of Jerusalem and the old covenant system (Babylon) it makes sense.  If Revelation was written after AD 70, then it doesn't make sense, and is a false prophecy.  What was about to fall, never to rise again, after AD 70?  Rome certainly did not fall.


Date: 26 Mar 2005
Time: 10:24:49

Comments :

Personally, if your position that Babylon=Rome is true, I don't care when Revelation was written, as it would be a false prophecy. Rome did not fall in the first century (never to rise again). Now if Babylon was Jerusalem, and the old covenant system (which was about to be destroyed at AD 70), then Revelation is a true prophecy and a pre AD 70 date is indicated.--Bob


Date: 29 Mar 2005
Time: 07:36:25

Comments:

One problem, of course, is that "Babylon" was a well-known name for Rome in the 1. Century CE.


Date: 05 Apr 2005
Time: 17:19:19

Comments:

If not one jot or tittle of the law of Moses passed away (Mt. 5:18) until the temple and city of Jerusalem were destroyed in AD 70, why was it revealed to Peter (Acts 10) that he no longer was under the strict dietary restrictions of the law?  Were those restrictions less than a jot or tittle?


Date: 04 Apr 2005
Time: 09:10:49

Comments:

Many errors exist in traditional attempts to date Revelation (the late date is correct). The second half of that book deals with the first-century church's worldwide mission to proclaim Christ, rather than the reigning emperor of Rome (the first beast of Rev. 13), as the world's true Lord and King.  The blasphemous cult of emperor worship was begun by Augustus and the counting of the kings begins with Augustus. Galba, Otho and Vitellius didn't reign long enough for the fanatical imperial cult (the second beast of Rev. 13) to proclaim them as the world's Lord and King so they're excluded from the list. The confusion about the temple still standing results from the failure to understand that the book of Revelation is a chronological narrative that runs from the creation of the nation of Israel (Rev. 8:7) to Christ's parousia in the day and hour of the death of Domitian (Rev. 19). The temple is mentioned when that narrative describes the events of AD 30-70 (chapters 11 and 12). 


Date: 29 Jan 2006
Time: 18:56:37

Comments0:

No matter when it was written, I hate the fact that Dispensationalist Theologians like Ice and Lahaye make the book unintelligible to the most persecuted Christians in Church history. They make the book span a gap of 2000 years and counting beore anyone can make sense of it. If anything, that is why I lean toward an early date and Nero being the beast. Besides, would'nt there be internal indicators to John's orignal audience to help them understand that what he was writing didnt apply to them, but rather people 2000 plus years in the future? Stupid Dispensationalist!!!!

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