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My question is about how the Book of Revelation is dated. Some say it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and others say it was written later (maybe around AD 90.)

Obviously the proper dating of the book would have huge implications for how the contents were interpreted (I'm guessing that's why there is a pre-AD70 camp and a post-AD70 camp!)

But I am really curious how the book is dated. What are the arguments for and against an early date? For and against a late date?

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I recommend to you Kenneth Gentry's 'Before Jerusalem Fell.' –  Mike Bull Oct 3 '13 at 4:49
    
I'm watching this video series now... pretty good so far: youtube.com/watch?v=hVcvFwt9-kY –  Jas 3.1 Nov 8 '13 at 22:23

3 Answers 3

I did look into this for a paper on Revelation and First Enoch (The Canonicity of Apocalyptic Literature). Whenever it was written, Revelation aims to encourage Christians during an imperial persecution.

Arguments for a Late Date (A.D. 96)

As external evidence they point to the early church writers like Iraneus (Against Heresies 5.30.3), Victorinus of Pettau (Apocalypse 10.11), Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 3.17-18), Clement of Alexandria (Quis Dives Salvetur 42), and Origen (Matthew 16.6) who all agree John wrote during the time of Domitian.1

Several of the churches addressed in the first three chapters had historical circumstances that do not match an early date for Revelation.

  1. Several of the churches addressed had lost their ardor for Christ, and heresies had infected others. Churches usually do not lose their ardor or find heresies in their first generation.2
  2. John calls Laodicia rich, but an earthquake almost leveled the city in A.D. 60. The city took many years to rebuild its wealth.
  3. The church at Smyrna was not founded until A.D. 64, so it cannot have endured for a long time (as Revelation 2:8-11 seems to imply) if only three years old.3
  4. The emperor worship described in chapters 13-20 matches best with Domitian.4 Though some earlier emperors proclaimed themselves gods, Domitian took the title "Lord and God," usurping kyrios a title of Christ.5
  5. The use of "Babylon" as a code word for a city in Revelation points to Rome. Though early daters say Babylon refers to Jerusalem, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, and The Sibylline Oracles all refer to Rome as Babylon. Jews and Christians linked the cities together because both powers had sacked the holy city.6
  6. The Pauline epistles refer to several heretical groups but never to the heresies plaguing the churches of Asia Minor, the Nicolatians.

Arguments Against an Early Date (A.D. 65)

Those who argue for an early date tend to see Revelation as a polemic against the Jews who rejected the Messiah.7

  1. They see at least partial fulfillment in the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Though proponents of the early date read Revelation 11:1-2 literally with its temple measurements, the measurements better match Ezekiel's eschatological temple.
  2. The early daters insist that the number 666 refers to taking the Hebrew letters of Caesar Nero(n) and adding them up in a gematria. Though the arithmetic does indeed come to 666, such a view supposes a knowledge of Hebrew in a thoroughly gentile audience.
  3. With little to no justification in the Greek, they tend to read Revelation 1:7's "all the tribes of the earth will mourn Him" as "all the tribes of Israel will mourn Him."8

I concluded that John wrote Revelation about A.D. 96 during Domitian's anti-Christian persecution, which John saw would expand in later years. Thus, Revelation serves to encourage to Christians facing their first major (non-localized) persecution that the Messiah will be victorious over their enemies. However, it also warns them of persecution for keeping the faith.

Sources

  1. G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, 19.
  2. Edward McDowell, The Meaning and Message of the Book of Revelation, 4.
  3. G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, 16.
  4. Henry Barclay Swete, Commentary on Revelation: The Greek Text with Introduction, Notes, and Indexes (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1977), ci.
  5. G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, 5.
  6. Ibid., 18-19.
  7. Kenneth Gentry, Jr. “A Preterist View of Revelation” in Four Views, 51.
  8. Ibid., 48.
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Your answer is good. More in depth then mine. But with your knowledge about the subject I love to hear you try to step back from your own opinion (which in fact is the same as mine). But maybe you can't see any strengths with the early dating at all? And no problems with your own view? I can't give you more then the +1 I already given. But it would really add to the answer if you tried to say something about the opposing view. –  Niclas Nilsson Oct 4 '13 at 20:44
    
I would love to expand this to show both sides, but this came from notes of a term paper. I don't have the research notes anymore (where I explored both sides to come to this conclusion). The date wasn't the thesis, so I didn't have to explore both sides. This was a side issue. I'd have to do that research anew and time is compressed these days. –  Frank Luke Oct 6 '13 at 23:37
    
Ok. I understand.... :) –  Niclas Nilsson Oct 7 '13 at 14:55

For an early date

Among the arguments in favor for an early date (i.e. during emperor Nero) is:

  1. A temple seems to exist in Rev 11, but the temple was destroyed in AD 70. The counter argument is of course that this temple is a part of a symbolic vision and should not be mixed up with the physical temple.
  2. Revelation addresses the tension between the Jews and the Christians (2:9; 3:9). You can argue that this tension was not as significant after the fall of the temple and may not have been there if it was written after AD 70.
  3. Rev 17:10 speaks of five kings that have fallen, one that is, and one who is coming. The most natural way to interpret this verse is that five Roman emperors had fallen and the sixth was currently reigning. Nero is the sixth man to be recognized as emperor of Rome. The counter argument is the see those kings as "kingdoms" (i.e. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and, currently reigning, Rome)
  4. You can make a strong case that the number 666 (Rev 13:15-18) is referring to Nero.

For a late date

Among the arguments in favor for a late, Domitian, date is:

  1. There was a famous legend (The Nero Redivivus legend) that Nero, after his death would return. Some saw Domitian as a "second Nero". This fits very well with Rev 13:11-12 and the mortal wound that had been healed. You can make the counter argument that even if this is referring to Domitian it could very well be prophetical, written in advance.
  2. The churches in minor Asia (Rev 2:10, 2:13 etc.) was facing persecution. Nero's prosecution never extended far beyond Rome itself. While it is claimed (though hard to prove) that Domitians persecution engulfed the whole empire and, thereby, fits better. The counter argument may be that as the persecution in Rome was local, there might as well been a lot of local persecutions in different cities during Neros time.
  3. In Revelation there is hints that suggests that it was a widespread cult to worship the emperor (Rev 13:4, 15-16, 14:9-11, 15:2, 16:2, 19:20, 20:5). It was during the reign of Domitian when the imperial cult became a factor in unifying the empire in Asia Minor.
  4. You might argue that the churches during the reign of Nero was to young to be in spiritual decline as the churches of Ephesus (Rev 2:4), Sardes (Rev 3:1-2) and Laodicia (Rev 5:15-17) arguably was. But who is to say how fast the spirituality of a church can decline?
  5. Some people argues that there could not have been a church in Smyrna this early. Since it clearly exist a church there during the time Revelation is written (Rev 2:8). Revelation must been written later.
  6. Several church fathers claimed that Domitian was emperor when John wrote Revelation. For example Irenaeus (Against heresis, 5:30:1, 3).

Concluding remarks

This short answer can only give you a sense for the arguments. I recommend that you find a good commentary and read for yourself.

You say that "the proper dating of the book would have huge implications for how the contents were interpreted". This might or might not be true. There are basically four ways of reading Revelation (preterist, historicist, futurist and spiritual). This is a more important "choice". For some of those choices the dating is not an issue at all.

A later date is preferred by most scholars today.

My sources

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,I would agree with your comment, (A later date is preferred by most scholars today).That is what i believe. –  Bagpipes Oct 4 '13 at 9:04
    
Yeah. Thinking about this, it only seems to be a unnecessary remark. I think I just conclude that it is preferred and if someone want to argue otherwise. They may do that. –  Niclas Nilsson Oct 4 '13 at 9:09

The book was written during a time when Christians were persecuted (Rev 1: 9 etc) and this was taken to be during either the reign of Nero (54 -68 CE) or Domitian (81 - 96 CE). My opinion on this is that we do not know enough history to make a judgement like that. All the rulers of that period (Vespasian, Titus, Trajan) were capable of persecuting Christians. They were hard people. It could also have been a localized event. Because of the uncertainty it would be adventurous to base a point of view on a date.

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