Saturday, 11 April 2015

When was Revelation written? Internal evidence

Revelation was written by John (Revelation 1:1). We know the fourth Gospel and letters were written by John the apostle. There are similarities between the Gospel and Revelation which would indicate shared authorship. Differences in language would be explained by topical differences as well as John probably writing Revelation directly though possibly using an amanuensis for his gospel. A different John also seems unlikely as the author does not qualify himself further. Thus the book of Revelation would need to be written prior to John's death and therefore probably before the end of the first century.

References to the temple are not definitive. The temple is mentioned 10 times in the book of Revelation. Most of these are to God's temple in heaven. The reference in chapter 11 (twice) appears to be the earthly temple but the context could allow for a future temple in Jerusalem. If the temple was still standing this would mean the date of writing was prior to 70.

Revelation 13 gives the number of the beast as 666. This almost certainly refers to Nero for reasons I give here. Now Revelation 13 could be also referencing the state (via Nero), and perhaps it has a meaning at the time of Jesus' return as yet to be determined. Nevertheless, it is likely that it refers to at least Nero. Nero was emperor from c. 54–68 AD which narrows the date of Revelation to this period. John was exiled to Patmos. This would seem likely to be latter in Nero's reign rather than earlier.

Later in Revelation we read about 7 kings,
I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. (Revelation 17:7-12)
The 7 mountains are Rome The 7 kings could be Roman kings or perhaps the kings could represent kingdoms. The 6th king or kingdom being current at the time of writing Revelation, or at the time the vision refers to.

For the 7 kingdoms theory the following kingdoms are often suggested.
  1. Egypt
  2. Nineveh
  3. Babylon
  4. Medo-Persia
  5. Greece
  6. Rome
  7. ?
The 7 kings theory is more difficult; where do we start and who do we include?
  • Julius 
  • Augustus
  • Tiberius
  • Caligula
  • Claudius
  • Nero
  • (Galba, Otho, Vitellius)
  • Vespasian
  • Titus
  • Domitian
If we go with the kingdom interpretation it does not help us with the dating as we already know that Revelation was written during the Roman Empire.

If we go with the king interpretation do we start the emperor count with Julius or Augustus? Do we include the short reigning emperors even though they fought and murdered each other during what was a civil war? Starting with Julius the sixth king is Nero (54–68). Starting with Augustus the sixth king is Galba (68–69) if we include the civil war emperors, and Vespasian (69–79) if we do not. It could also mean Vespasian during the time between when Nero took his life and when Vespasian was made emperor, i.e. between June 68 and 69.

There are further internal clues. The letter to the church of Pergamum warns against the teaching of Balaam (Rev 2:14). Peter also warned against this teaching (2Pe 3:15). This may reflect a common heresy at the time, and 2 Peter was written prior to Peter's death c. 68. Others see Jesus' rebuke to the Laodiceans concerning their boasting: "I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing" (Rev 3:17) as alluding to the city's boast that they rebuilt the city after the earthquake of 60 without help from Rome.
Laodicea, was that same year overthrown by an earthquake, and, without any relief from us, recovered itself by its own resources. (Tacitus, Annals, Book 14)
 Most of these dates suggest Revelation was written some time in the late 60s.

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