WHEN DID JOHN WRITE REVELATION?

Quill scrollPMT 2014-110 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

The Book of Revelation is often deemed evidence against postmillennialism. The judgments and woes that build in Revelation appear to contradict any hope for optimism. Yet a proper understanding of Revelation actually enhances the postmillennial argument.

One of the first issues that must be considered in dealing with Revelation is to determine when John wrote it. There are two basic positions Revelation’s, although each has a variety of slight variations.


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The current majority position is the late-date view. This view holds that the Apostle John wrote Revelation toward the close of the reign of Domitian Caesar — about A.D. 95 or 96. The minority view-point today is the early-date position. Early-date advocates hold that Revelation was written by John prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70.

I hold that Revelation was produced prior to the death of Nero in June, A.D. 68, and even before the formal engagement of the Jewish War by Vespasian in Spring, A.D. 67. My position is that Revelation was written in A.D. 65 or 66. This would be after the outbreak of the Neronic persecution in November, 64, and before the engagement of Vespasian’s forces in Spring of 67. This being so, we can see that John is not speaking of great judgments distant from his own time, but judgments about to overwhelm Israel as she falls under God’s wrath.

Though the late-date view is the majority position today, this has not always been the case. In fact, it is the opposite of what prevailed among leading biblical scholars about a century ago. Late-date advocate William Milligan conceded in 1893 that “recent scholarship has, with little exception, decided in favour of the earlier and not the later date.” [1] Two-decades later in 1910 early-date advocate Philip Schaff could still confirm Milligan’s report: “The early date is now accepted by perhaps the majority of scholars.” [2]


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In the 1800s and early 1900s the early-date position was held by such worthies as Moses Stuart, Friederich Düsterdieck, B. F. Westcott, F. J. A. Hort, Joseph B. Lightfoot, F. W. Farrar, Alfred Edersheim, Philip Schaff, Milton Terry, Augustus Strong, and others. Though in eclipse presently, the early-date view has not totally faded away, however. More recent advocates of the early-date include Albert A. Bell, F. F. Bruce, Rudolf Bultmann, C. C. Torrey, J. A. T. Robinson, J. A. Fitzmeyer, J. M. Ford, C. F. D. Moule, Cornelius Vanderwaal, Stephen S. Smalley, Iain Boxall, and others.

In fact, one of the most recent Revelation scholars, Oxford University’s Iain Boxall, has noted: This date was favoured by nineteenth-century scholars, such as Westcott, Lightfoot and Hort, and is undergoing something of a revivial in scholarly circles.” [3]

But the argument for the early date is not a matter of counting noses, even noble Roman noses. Rather the strongest evidence derives from the text of Revelation itself. In this brief series I will present a few of the evidences from Revelation’s text. This internal evidence should hold priority for the evangelical Christian in that it is evidence from Revelation’s own self-witness.

Stay tuned!

Notes

1. William Milligan, Discussions on the Apocalypse (London: Macmillan, 1893),75.
2. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (3rd ed: (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950 [1910]), 1:834.
3. Iain Boxall, The Revelation of St. John (BNTC) (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrikson, 2006), 8.

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5 thoughts on “WHEN DID JOHN WRITE REVELATION?

  1. Lance Recker (@LanceRecker) September 10, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Good start to the series. FYI – The quote from Iain Boxall contains 4 typos: “ws”, “scholarsd”, “undergoing” and “scholarly”.

  2. Kenneth Gentry September 10, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    This is absolutely ridiculous. How could I have that many typos in one short quote. I must be suffering amnesia and deja vu at the same time. Thanks. They are corrected now!

  3. Mark Bredt September 11, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    I concur with the early date. It is the most reasonable explanation of there being no reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Perhaps the most significant event in that culture’s experience.

  4. Richard September 12, 2014 at 4:26 am

    Looking forward to the series. I’ve read Before Jerusalem Fell and it convinced me of the early date but it’s great to review the evidence.

  5. Blaine September 12, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    I hope you’ll also at least touch on the famous quote by Irenaeus once you complete your survey of the internal evidence, as it still seems to be a sticking among many…

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