REVELATION’S EARLY DATE (1)

Ark CovenantPMT 2015-070 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

In this two-article series, I will briefly present the basic evidence for Revelation’s pre-AD 70 composition. A preteristic understanding of Revelation is strongly (though not absolutely) linked with its early dating. And the dating of Revelation is not a theoretical assumption, but is based on exegetical evidence.

There are two basic positions on the dating of Revelation, although each has several slight variations. 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.

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 a little over seventy-five years 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.” 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.”


Before Jerusalem Fell 
by Ken Gentry

Doctoral dissertation defending a pre-AD 70 date for Revelation’s writing.
Thoroughly covers internal evidence from Revelation, external evidence from history,
and objections to the early date by scholars.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


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, and others.

But rather than committing an ad verecundiam fallacy, let us move beyond any appeal to authority and consider very briefly the argument for the early date of Revelation. Due to time constraints, I will succinctly engage only three of the internal indicators of composition date. The internal evidence should hold priority for the evangelical Christian in that it is evidence from Revelation’s self-witness. I will only summarily allude to the arguments from tradition before concluding this matter. Generally it is the practice of late-date advocates to begin with the evidence from tradition, while early-date advocates start with the evidence from self-witness.

The Temple in Revelation 11

In Revelation 11:1, 2 we read:

And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. 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.

Here we find a Temple standing in a city called “the holy city.” Surely John, a Christian Jew, has in mind historical Jerusalem when he speaks of “the holy city.” This seems necessary in that John is writing scripture and Jerusalem is frequently called the “holy city” in the Bible. For example: Isaiah 48:2; 52:1; Daniel 9:24; Nehemiah 11:1-18; Matthew 4:5; 27:53. In addition, verse 8 informs us that this is the city where “also our Lord was crucified.” This was historical Jerusalem, according to the clear testimony of Scripture (Luke 9:22; 13:32; 17:11; 19:28). Interestingly, historical Jerusalem is never mentioned by name in Revelation. This may be due to the name “Jerusalem” meaning “city of peace.” In Revelation the meanings of specific names are important to the dramatic imagery. And so it would be inappropriate to apply the name “Jerusalem” to the city upon which woe and destruction are wreaked.

Now what Temple stood in Jerusalem? Obviously the Jewish Temple ordained of God, wherein the Jewish sacrifices were offered. In the first century it was known as Herod’s Temple. This reference to the Temple must be that historical structure for four reasons:


Great Tribulation: Past or Future?
(Thomas Ice v. Ken Gentry)
Debate book on the nature and timing of the great tribulation.
Both sides thoroughly cover the evidence they deem necessary,

then interact with each other.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


(1) It was located in Jerusalem, as the text clearly states in verse 8. This can only refer to the Herodian Temple, which appears over and over again in the New Testament record. It was the very Temple which was even the subject of one of Christ’s longer prophetic discourses (Matt. 23:37-24:2ff).

(2) Revelation 11:1, 2, written by the beloved disciple and hearer of Christ, seems clearly to draw upon Jesus’ statement from the Olivet Discourse. In Luke 21:5-7, the disciples specifically point to the Herodian Temple to inquire of its future; in Revelation 11:1 John specifically speaks of the Temple of God. In Luke 21:6 Jesus tells his disciples that the Temple will soon be destroyed stone by stone. A comparison of Luke 21:24 and Revelation 11:2 strongly suggests that the source of Revelation’s statement is Christ’s word in Luke 21.

  • Luke 21:24b: “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
  • Revelation 11:2b: “it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot for forty and two months.”

The two passages speak of the same unique event and even employ virtually identical terms.

(3) According to Revelation 11:2 Jerusalem and the Temple were to be under assault for a period of forty-two months. We know from history that the Jewish War with Rome was formally engaged in Spring, A.D. 67, and was won with the collapse of the Temple in August, A.D. 70. This is a period of forty-two months, which fits the precise measurement of John’s prophecy. Thus, John’s prophecy antedates the outbreak of the Jewish War.

(4) After the reference to the destruction of the “temple of God” in the “holy city,” John later speaks of a “new Jerusalem” coming down out of heaven, which is called the “holy city” (Rev. 21:2) and which does not need a temple (Rev. 21:22). This new Jerusalem is apparently meant to supplant the old Jerusalem with its temple system. The old order Temple was destroyed in August, A.D. 70.

Thus, while John wrote, the Temple was still standing, awaiting its approaching doom. If John wrote this twenty-five years after the Temple’s fall it would be terribly anachronous. The reference to the Temple is hard architectural evidence that gets us back into an era pre-A.D. 70.

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3 thoughts on “REVELATION’S EARLY DATE (1)

  1. Larry June 10, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    A question I’m sure you have heard before – How could John measure the temple when he was on the Isle if Patmos?

  2. Kenneth Gentry June 10, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    He did so in a vision, in this book of visions. Much like he entered heaven (Rev 4:1-2), the wilderness (Rev 17:3), and the great high mountain (Rev 21:9-10).

  3. garycummings June 11, 2015 at 7:16 am

    This is a good article. One thing we must keep in mind is that Revelation is apocalyptic. I have been late date most of my life. In recent years, I am leaning to an earlier date. The Temple is still there to be measured and Nero is the 666. I am not a full preterist by any means, but there is much in Revelation which was accomplished in the first century.

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