Sunday, May 15, 2011

The dating of the book of Revelation

In searching for the date when the book of Revelation was written, we must consider both internal and external evidences. By internal, we mean, evidence contained within the book. By external, we mean, evidence found outside the book which contributes in some way to our understanding of the matter.

Dating the book of Revelation is a kind of issue that needs to be studied (as a whole) with internal and external evidence. I ) Let us not forget that the writer of Revelation is a Jew. Under the Old Covenant the nation of Israel had ...the law for 1500 years. The Temple represented the Presence of God (the shekinah of glory), the place for animal sacrifices; for the sins of the people of Israel (the cultus), Israel’s place in election. Are we to believe that John a Hebrew and member of Israel wrote the book of revelation in the 90's and made no reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple that had been apart of his life as well? I don’t think so. It would be unthinkable because John belonged to that culture that was notably Hebrew.

1) Revelation chapter 11:1-19 depicts the temple in Jerusalem as still standing. John is told to measure the temple and altar and them that worship therein. (v. 1) "But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." (v.2) This passage clearly indicates that the temple and city are both in existence at the time of John's writing. There was no biblical Jewish Temple to measure during the reign of Emperor Domitian 94/95 CE the biblical Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70.

It is obvious John know what the Roman army conquered the city of Jerusalem. The language in part ("trodden under foot") follows that of Jesus himself (Luke 21: 24): "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles." This accounts for the duration named here—"forty two months"—this being precisely the period given by Daniel, and proximately the duration of the siege when Jerusalem was trampled underfoot?" by the Romans. (Daniel 8: 10-14, and 11: 31)

Daniel gives us further evidence in his prophecy. The daily sacrifice ceased. This prophecy is limited to the nation of Israel. The daily sacrifice ceased to be offered, due to the lack of men to offer it,, on the 17th day of Panemus (Tamuz), 70 AD, according to Josephus (Wars, VI, 2:1). The converted date is July 8, 70 AD, when the daily sacrifice was no longer offered in Jerusalem. In the passage Revelation 11:3 John places the death of the "two witnesses" in a context of war, of the siege of Jerusalem. The book was assuredly written before 70 AD

3) The Revelation which was made by God to John the evangelist in the island of Patmos, into which he was banished by Nero Caesar. Thus, from the oldest and most important versions in our possession comes unequivocal testimony placing the Revelation in the time of Nero. Nero, of course, was dead by 68 AD.

4) Consider the theme in Revelation 1:7: "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they which pierced him: and all tribes of the earth shall mourn over him. Even so, Amen." This prophecy is limited to the nation of Israel, it is cut from the same cloth as declared by Zechariah 12:10-14.

And I will pour out on the house of David, and on the (inhabitants of Jerusalem), the Spirit of grace and prayers. And they (i.e., the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall look on Me whom they have pierced), and shall mourn for Him. As one mourns for an only son, and will be bitter over Him like the bitterness over the firstborn. In that day (i.e., when they look on Him whom they had pierced) the mourning (in Jerusalem) will be great, like the mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, families by families alone; the family of the house of David alone, and their wives alone; the family of Nathan alone, and their wives alone; the family of the house of Levi alone, and their wives alone; the family of Shimei alone, and their wives alone; all the families who are left, family by family alone, and their wives alone. Zechariah 12:10-14 (emphasis added)

Notice also the language. It speaks of those who pierced him. Although we know that the Romans crucified him and pierced him, Zechariah accused the Jews the inhabitants of Jerusalem of the act.

This view is further reinforced with the phrase, "tribes of the earth." This is a direct allusion to the Jewish tribal system. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament notes that the Septuagint "with few exceptions . . . has 'PHULE' (tribes), so that this becomes a fixed term for the tribal system of Israel." The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states that with few exceptions 'PHULE' "refers exclusively to the tribes of Israel." Another term suggestive of the Jews. The Hebrew word for "family" is mishpachah and it means "family; by extension a tribe or people."

The next term is the word "earth". The word has the meaning of earth or land and depending on context is translated earth or land. If the context is Jewish, it is translated "the tribes of the land" just as well. Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible translates it just this way. So, in essence, Zechariah was saying that the "tribes of the land" would mourn for Him whom they had pierced. Who were those "tribes?" "The inhabitants of Jerusalem." vs.10 According to Zechariah, the "earth" is the land of Palestine, specifically, Jerusalem. It is those tribes, i.e., the nation of Israel, who would "look on whom they had pierced." And because of that, "the mourning in Jerusalem" would be great.

5) To the church at Philadelphia would be made a synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews and are not, but do lie" to come and worship before their feet. (Revelation. 3:9) This is a clear reference of Jesus words to the Jews in John 8:44 "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.

6) John called himself their brother and companion in tribulation (Revelation 1:9). The problem with this [Domitian date] theory is that there is no evidence that during the last decade of the first century there occurred any open and systematic persecution of the church. Historically, Nero is the one that persecuted Christians beyond all comparison. The persecution under Nero in 64 and 65 is a documented historical fact. There is very little evidence for any involved persecution. 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. Nero fits the other descriptions in the chapter. He was the first Roman Emperor to "make war with the saints" (13:7).

In the first verse of Revelation 13, the Beast has ten horns with ten diadems, or crowns. He also has seven heads, which Revelation 17:9 tells us are “seven mountains." The seven mountains represent the famous seven hills of Rome. The... seven hills of Rome are mentioned in the writings of antiquity, both Christian and pagan. The ten horns, with the crowns, are in reference to the ten empirical provinces of Rome.

8) John instructs his readers to “calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man” (Rev. 13:18). Some versions have a few manuscripts that have the number of the beast as 616 instead of the Hebrew 666. (You can find this stated in almost any Study Bible). What is shocking is that using gematria Caesar Nero's name would add up to 616 in those versions, but in Hebrew, 666. This is very strong evidence that Caesar Nero really was the one being referred to as the beast and that the change from 666 to 616 in some manuscripts was intentional for that very reason. It is nearly impossible to find another person's name in that time frame. Caesar Nero's name in Hebrew gematria adds up to 666. Since this was written about soon events, no other person can be found within this time scope whose name fits this requirement and description. Especially none can be found in the soon future of 96 AD. Nero, then, is the obvious man identified as the beast about which John wrote in Revelation 13.

The first century believer was more familiar with the Old Testament than most of us, and would have quickly recognized the similarities between the Beast of Revelation and the visions of Daniel. In Daniel, we find four beasts representing four kingdoms (Dan. 7:17). These four kingdoms are parallel to the four levels of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue in Daniel 2, which represented the empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Thus, John’s readers would have recognized the Beast representing the kingdom ruling in that day.

8) In Revelation there seems to be only 7 churches in Asia. Historically, there seems to be many more than that after 70 AD as Christianity began to grow very rapidly.

9) It is very important for us to remember that this prophecy has time and people parameters for our assistance. The seven kings of Revelation 17:10 help us date the book. Revelation 17:10-12 marks the period in which John wrote the Revelation. Like the reference to the city and temple, this internal evidence cannot reasonably be disputed. Chapter 17:10 states unequivocally that the sixth emperor is still on the throne: "And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come." The Caesars are as follows: (1) Julius, (2) Augustus, (3) Tiberius, (4) Caligula, (5) Claudius, (6) Nero. "Five are fallen" Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius were deceased, "one is" -Nero was yet on the throne. The reign of Nero extended from 54 A.D. to 68 A.D. Therefore the book was almost assuredly written sometime between these dates.

11)The 7th king of Revelation 17 is not yet. If Nero is the 6th, then the book was written before Galba, i.e. before 70 AD. The text must have originated sometime during the reign of Nero or (at least) Galba, viz. between 54-68 or 68/69. If Nero fits the bill, why look for another?

12) The blood flowing as high as the horses' bridles would portray the gravity of judgment (Revelation 14:20). The distance of 1600 stadia (about 180 miles) just happens to be the approximate length of the land of Palestine.

13) John identifies the enemies of God as Gog and Magog whose number is as the sand of the sea. (Revelation 20:8). A clue is given to us by God in the dating of the book here. Their numbers are as the "sand of the sea." This too can only apply to a pre-70 AD date. The only people who ever received that promise was Abrahams descendants (the Jews before AD 70) No other people in the Bible are specifically, symbolizes, as the "sand of the sea." Rom 9:27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved.

14) THE WOMAN (BABYLON) IS SEATED ON THE BEAST: Rev 17:2-8 "SEATED ON" = "IN LEAGUE WITH" Before the Jewish revolt, this had been the relationship between the nation of Israel and Roman. THE JEWS USED THIS RELATIONSHIP TO GET AT CHRIST. John 11:45-48 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had (seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him). But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, "(What shall we do? For this Man works many signs). "If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and (the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation)." John 19:15 But they cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "(We have no king but Caesar)!"

AND HIS FOLLOWERS: (Jn 19:15, Lk 23:2). Throughout Acts they agitated against the Christian so as to involve the Romans in their persecution (Acts 4:27; 16:20; 17:7; 18:12; 21:11; 24:1-9; 25:1-2)

15) Josephus writes: "The stones that were cast were on the city of Jerusalem were the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was a white color" (Josephus Wars 5.6.3) This account is reminiscent of hailstones, weighing a talent each, that rain down on the "great city" in (Revelation 16:19-21).

It seems to me there is no sound arguments that the Book of Revelation was written during the 94/95 Domitian date (or even later). Since the evidence goes on and on for the pre-70 date that could not be added because of space.