Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Late Date of the Book of Revelation

Most scholars date the Apocalypse of John around the time of Domitian. There is good reason for this. Both external and internal evidence weighs heavily in its favor. Yet, in recent years, some have attempted to make the book about the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, and have, therefore, wanted to date the book before that event. Ken Gentry would be an example of this. Hank Hanegraaff would be another popular author. A. T. Robertson attempted this awhile back as well.

The arguments for the early date are wrapped around time references to the event occurring soon and that it is near, the reference to the standing temple in Chapter 11, and the succession of the Caesars in Revelation 13 and 17.

The time references concerning "soon" can be dismissed due to the fact that the word tachu likely means "quickly," not "soon," which is not a reference to when judgment will occur in the context, but how fast it will fall when it does fall. It is the manner of judgment, not the time of it. The time reference translated "near" actually means more along the lines of something that is already here. It is currently in the presence of the object. So I actually think that this indicates something that is not on its way or coming, but a time that has already come, a judge that is already here, "at the door." He's arrived and is now going to make His judgment. This, of course, unfortunately for the early date, however, does not solidify an early date, but just that whatever judgment is taking place is taking place right then and there at the time John is writing.

As for the temple in Chapter 11, this is a clear allusion to Ezekiel's temple vision in Chapter 40. In Ezekiel's vision, the temple he is seeing doesn't exist in Jerusalem. There is simply no temple standing at the time of the vision, which is given to us in the text twice (v. 1: in the 25th year of the exile and in the fourteenth year after the city was taken, i.e., long after the temple was destroyed). But further questions to be asked of the text in Revelation exist, such as why is John measuring the temple instead of the angel, as in Ezekiel's vision, when measuring is done in the Bible by one who has a responsibility over what is measured? Why is Ezekiel's temple in John being viewed as a literal temple when in Ezekiel's vision it is the people of God, not a literal building? Why is John's temple viewed as a literal temple when the temple, throughout the book thus far, refers to the church (e.g., Christ is seen as the One who walks among the golden lampstands, which are the churches within the larger church of the temple in Chapters 2-3)? The people are viewed as a city temple in terms of a New Jerusalem where no literal temple is needed because God is among the people who are identified as the city. In other words, there is no need for a literal temple because the people are the temple. There is actually, then, no literal temple mentioned in the book at all.

Finally, what is perhaps the greatest irony in finding an early date in the succession of Caesars is that both historical fact and the book itself negate this reading. What is done by early date advocates is to start with Julius Caesar as the first Emperor of Rome in an effort to get Nero, i.e., the beast, to be number 6. The problem with this is that Julius is not the first Emperor of Rome. That's a myth based on our literary and legendary culture, perhaps, beginning with Shakespeare. Augustus is the first Roman Emperor, as evidenced, for instance, in things like Trajan's recent coin that was found where the first Emperor is memorialized on the coin, and it's Augustus, not Julius.
But this is actually indicated by the book itself, apart from any knowledge of history as well, as John clearly states that Nero is dead, and therefore, one of the five, not number 6 (17:8 and 10-11). The text clearly states that the beast is not alive and that five of the kings of Rome have already fallen, i.e., are not alive. So let's count backward. If Nero is dead and five of the Emperors of Rome are dead, then Nero is one of the five, and we know that he is the furthest in the line of five, so Nero is five, Claudius is four, Caligula is three, Tiberius is two, and Augustus is one. The return of the beast, who is one of the seven and an eighth, is John's utilization of the Nero redivivus myth. That means that Nero is a fifth Emperor who will manifest himself, likely in terms of his activity, not a literal reincarnation (remember John is using symbols) in the eighth Roman Emperor.

Some may attempt to count the usurpers in the year of the four emperors following Nero, but it is unlikely for anyone to have counted them as legitimate Emperors of Rome against giving that regnal year to Vespasian, and John clearly is not doing that, as Vitellius was hardly Nero come again, as the beast persecutes Christ and Christians when they do not worship him or his image, and Vitellius does none of this. The early date also attempts arbitrarily to count Galba and Otho, but not Vitellius in an attempt to fudge the facts and get to Vespasian as the beast, again, one who destroys Jerusalem, but does not persecute Christians, which is what the beast is doing in the book. This, of course, is selective argumentation, as there is no reason to count two usurpers and not the third. In point of fact, however, these three are not being counted by John.

Instead, Nero is the fifth, Vespasian, the one who would have been proclaimed by Romans as the rightful heir to the throne as opposed to Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, would have been the sixth, Titus the seventh, and Domitian the eighth. Domitian, then, is Nero come again. He demanded everyone to worship through the Imperial cult. He demanded devotion from the greatest to the least. He had himself deified and called "Lord and God" on his coinage. It was after his reign that Pliny the Younger has to try and get reigns on the slaughter that seemed to be reaching the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials by writing to Trajan about his selective execution of Christians. Domitian is the beast. He is Nero come again in John's argument because that is the persecution going on in the time of John.

He writes the Apocalypse, as apocalyptic books are written, from the standpoint of the past, i.e., during the reign of Vespasian, but he is actually writing during the time of Domitian, much like Daniel does the same with one who is supposedly writing during the exile, but is, in fact, writing during the persecution of Antiochus IV.

Hence, the book itself indicates that it is written during the time of Domitian, not Nero, and the subject matter of the book's background is Domitian's pressure and persecution of the saints who are being pressured under pain of death to worship the beast and his image. Hence, it is both something occurring in the First Century and something that is occurring after AD 70. The macrocosmic language used of the judgment and creation of new heavens and earth is a common literary device of apocalyptic language that brings the world to come into the world now by arguing that the judgment or confirmation of salvation in the present is a piece of what is to come in the future. They are, hence, seen as the event of the future happening in the present on a microcosmic level.

The early date is simply in error, therefore, and the late date evidences that the book is not a prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem, but is a warning and a comfort to the compromised or persecuted church during a time of great tribulation/trouble/persecution.

8 comments:

  1. Can you explain what it means in Revelation 17:10, "one is" ?

    Seems that if that is # 6, in your scenario, Vespasian, then it seems to be saying the book was written during his reign, which was from 69 AD - 79 AD.

    I was taught the Pre-Premillial, pre-trib. view as a young Christian, but there are too many problems with it. Kenneth Gentry, DeMar, and R. C. Sproul (The Last Days According to Jesus) have done a good job at least of showing the validity of the view that Rev. was written around 67-68 AD, before Nero committed suicide. I did not accept some of what they wrote, but a lot of it makes sense. But an Amillennial perspective to me seems more serious in taking the NT as the fulfillment of the OT and that the NT takes priority in determining the meaning of OT passages. It is very difficult to believe in a rebuilt temple someday that is a valid temple with animal sacrifices, in light of the book of the book of Hebrews; and also in light of several times in Ezekiel 40-48, it says that the sacrifices are for atonement of sins. ( they cannot be "memorial" sacrifices.)

    You also bring up a lot of good points also. It is very difficult to come to a dogmatic conclusion. But if Revelation was written in 90-96 AD, then that would destroy the whole partial preterist way of viewing the book.

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    1. "He writes the Apocalypse, as apocalyptic books are written, from the standpoint of the past, i.e., during the reign of Vespasian, but he is actually writing during the time of Domitian, much like Daniel does the same with one who is supposedly writing during the exile, but is, in fact, writing during the persecution of Antiochus IV."

      This is the way apocalyptic speaks. It is ex eventu. It goes to the past to prophecy a future that is actually current with the author. Cf. Daniel, 1 Enoch, etc.

      What John has done is to take Ezekiel's temple and transform it into the church. In other words, he thinks that the church is the typological fulfillment of Ezekiel's temple.

      I think we can actually come to a conclusion that it is not about the events in A.D. 70, but about Domitian. Preterists, even partial ones like Ken Gentry, seem to be unaware that Julius is not the first emperor of Rome. They also seem to miss that the text explicitly says that the beast is dead, so that John does not even go back to the time of Nero in an effort to not confuse his audience about the identity of the beast to which he is referring. In fact, Nero has no part to play in the book, other than the imagery that surrounds his activity. The book itself is about the persecution of Christians by Domitian, as John is only concerned that Christians do not worship the beast or his image and overcome the world by their testimony and deeds/martyrdom.

      There is simply no way to take this book as being about the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the changing of covenants, as Preterists attempt to argue.

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  3. Sorry for double comments.

    "It is ex eventu" - oh; so you are liberal in your theology, then?

    Ok, so you don't believe in supernatural prophesy, it seems. you don't think Daniel actually wrote around 530 BC and prophesied of those events.

    Do you think Jesus predicted 70 AD in Matthew 24 and Mark 13, and are they also writing ex eventu ?

    Are they putting words in Jesus' mouth?

    Do the disciples add 2 other issues to the destruction of the temple in Matthew 24:3 ? (they add "the end of the age" and "the sign of Your coming" to "these things" (23:36 and 24:1-2 - destruction of the temple)

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  4. Why would you think that dating something ex eventu makes me a liberal? Do you believe that Moses wrote about the fulfillment of Joseph's prophecies concerning the famine in Egypt after their fulfillment? Does that make you a liberal?

    I'm actually pretty conservative in my theology, which makes me take genre seriously. Apocalyptic is a subcategory of prophetic literature. It is not meant to predict the future, but to take the macrocosmic event at the end of time and apply it to a contemporary situation. It, hence, picks a figure, like Enoch in 1 Enoch (a book written in the 2d Century B.C.), and has him prophecy of a future event that is actually contemporaneous with the author's time. That's just how the genre functions. That has no bearing on the truths it is teaching.

    I believe Christ predicts it in Mark. Matthew and Luke are after the event in my opinion. Does that make me conservative about Mark and liberal about Luke and Matthew?

    "Are they putting words in Jesus' mouth?"

    No, Jesus via inspiration of the Holy Spirit is putting words in His mouth, since each Olivet Discourse rendering is different from one another. They each are molded to their respective theologies.

    "Do the disciples add 2 other issues to the destruction of the temple in Matthew 24:3 ?"

    The macrocosmic event is always added to the microcosmic event happening in the author's lifetime. That's the way apocalyptic speaks. It takes the judgment to come and applies it to the judgment that is about to come or already here. It is meant to convey that the smaller catastrophes in time are actually a part of the larger judgment to come.

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  5. Why would you think that dating something ex eventu makes me a liberal?

    believing that Daniel himself did not write Daniel around 530 BC, but that the book was written by someone else around 167 BC makes the book of Daniel a forgery and lie (Pseudepigraphal). Putting Matthew and Luke as written after 70 AD seems pretty liberal to me. Matthew was probably written 50-60 AD and Luke 60-61 and Acts 62 AD, as the abrupt ending of Acts really proves that. As A.T. Robinson argued, for those works to be written after AD 70, and not things in them as in the Torah/Penteteuch, which you pointed out below, just screams as not passing the smell test. That is, how could the authors resist not writing, "and this happened just as the Lord predicted" with more details of 70 AD?

    Do you believe that Moses wrote about the fulfillment of Joseph's prophecies concerning the famine in Egypt after their fulfillment? Does that make you a liberal?

    That's a great point, and I think that is the main reason why A.T. Robinson argued for the pre-70 AD date of the gospels - because their silence that it actually did happen just as Jesus said is so incredible and amazing so as to not pass the smell test. Surely they would have given more info, with at least one verse, especially in Matthew, in keeping with one of his great themes, "and this came about in order to fulfill the word of the Lord Jesus, which He spoke to them on the Mt. of Olives, that "not one stone will be left upon another", etc.

    ". . . to take the macrocosmic event at the end of time and apply it to a contemporary situation. "
    and

    The macrocosmic event is always added to the microcosmic event happening in the author's lifetime. That's the way apocalyptic speaks. It takes the judgment to come and applies it to the judgment that is about to come or already here. It is meant to convey that the smaller catastrophes in time are actually a part of the larger judgment to come.


    That is a very good point. It seems "the Day of the Lord" in Hosea, Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah and Micah, and other prophets, Joel, Zephaniah - are taking the immediate judgements and catastrophic events - Assyrian, Babylon invasions, wars, conquering, destruction of the temple, locust plague (Joel) (mico-cosmic events to their times), but also having some kind of "macrocosmic" application to and mixing with the end of time and God's judgment.

    You made a good point on that.

    Thanks.

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  6. "believing that Daniel himself did not write Daniel around 530 BC, but that the book was written by someone else around 167 BC makes the book of Daniel a forgery and lie (Pseudepigraphal)."

    That's only true if someone is ignorant concerning the genre of literature. Are parables lies? Can God not use example stories to teach truths? Why does it have to be written by Daniel. Apocalyptic is almost never written by the main character in the book. That's a given to the genre. That's a bit like saying that unless what poetry says is literally true, it's a lie. God communicates His truth through all genres. There is nothing liberal about it.

    Liberalism is a worldview that encompasses how one comes to receive knowledge, assuming all sorts of things about the nature of God and man and the universe. It has nothing to do with how one takes Daniel. There are liberals who take Daniel like I do, but for completely different reasons. I have no antisupernatural bias. I believe in supernatural prophecy. I also believe that we should take the genre as its given. All evidence within the book indicates that this is written in the Second Temple Period in the second century BC. If you hold your view to tightly, you'll ultimately have to argue that Jude is lying about Enoch, since Enoch is not the author of 1 Enoch.

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  7. "atthew was probably written 50-60 AD and Luke 60-61 and Acts 62 AD, as the abrupt ending of Acts really proves that. As A.T. Robinson argued, for those works to be written after AD 70, and not things in them as in the Torah/Penteteuch, which you pointed out below, just screams as not passing the smell test. That is, how could the authors resist not writing, "and this happened just as the Lord predicted" with more details of 70 AD?"

    That's a rejected argument by almost a unanimous assessment by scholars. The Gospels are writing from Jesus' perspective in the narrative, not from their own. There is nothing to say that they would have made a comment like that if it had been in their past. It's not in the past in the narrative, regardless of when it is written. The "smell" test is nothing more than an admission that this is a hunch and a feeling that is not based on anything solid.

    Luke's abrupt ending in Acts? Why do you think it's abrupt? Luke accomplishes what he wants to say in Acts. It's not meant to be a history of the apostles to the end of their lives. Again, these early datings are just filled with non-arguments.

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