ANSWER:

The Book of Revelation was written around 68-69 AD by the Apostle John on the Island of Patmos after the Emperor Nero exiled him for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is some speculation that Emperor Domitian was the one that sent John to Patmos, but some evidences say otherwise.

Overview

Why the dating of the book of Revelation matters?

Well, because it’s the Bible! Shouldn’t we be after what is true and what is not? It’s truth that always sets us free. Now in regards to this topic there are some pretty big consequences to when The Revelation was specifically written that we are going to go over in this blog. I hope this blesses you and gives you the needed information to make an educated decision.
 
Have you ever started reading Revelation and thought, “what am I reading?” Yea, you aren’t alone. In this study we are going to look at internal (Biblical) evidences and external (historical) evidences for the date of this writing. I also want to note that we shouldn’t look down upon adding external, non Biblical evidences to our understanding. When looked at honestly, they strengthen the case for the Bible…not take away from it. We can’t be scared of facts.
 
I would say that recently the most popular view has been the late date authorship but it hasn’t always been that way. So let’s get into this and why it has so much of an impact on our faith.

Who Wrote The Book of Revelation?

Revelation 1:9- “I, John, your brother and fellow participant in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. “
 
The Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation on the Island of Patmos.  John was born in 6 AD in Galilee and died  in 100 AD in what is believed to be Ephesus.
 
 
  • Polycrates (the 2nd century Bishop of Ephesus), says that the tomb of John is located in Ephesus. He says that John “was a priest, wearing the sacerdotal plate, both martyr and teacher.”
  • St Irenaeus, who was the Bishop of Lyon (180 AD), also mentions that John died at Ephesus. Irenaeus makes the claim that John wrote the Gospel and his letters at Ephesus and the Revelation when he was on Patmos.

The case for a late date authorship of the Book of Revelation (95-96 AD)

There really is only one point that people hold onto for a late date authorship of the Book of Revelation. That is the argument that the Roman Emperor Domitian was the one that exiled John to Patmos at the end of his reign (95-96 AD). This was only stated by a few Church Fathers but all were taking this from Ireneus.
 
According to the famous 2nd century North African theologian Tertullian, John was thrown into a pot of boiling oil by the Roman Emperor Domitian for preaching the Gospel towards the end of Domitians reign as Emperor. Most people died within minutes, but Tertullian writes that John was in the oil….without any harm done (This miracle is still celebrated in some Christian traditions)!
emperor domitian
Roman Emperor Domitian
It is said that Domitian had ordered John to be thrown back into the oil and once again, John comes out without any harm. This time Domitian orders John to be sent to the Island of Patmos. The Island of Patmos was an island where criminals were exiled too in first century Rome.
 
The Roman Emperor Domitian was the 11th Roman Emperor and one of the last of the 1st century. He reigned from 81-96 AD. Domitian was the son of Roman Emperor Vespasian and the younger brother of  Emperor Titus (his two predecessors to the throne).
 
You may be asking yourself, “Why is all of this important information?” Well, if Domitian was the one that sentenced John to Patmos during the end of his reign as Emperor, and he reigned from 81-96 AD, that pretty much seals the deal that John wrote the Book of Revelation on Patmos around 95-96 AD… but not so fast!
There are some Church Fathers and historians that actually credit the Emperor Nero (54-68 AD) for sending John to Patmos and not Domitian. If Domitian sent John to Patmos, John would’ve been close to 90 years old! If Nero sent John to Patmos, then John would’ve been 62. Was John causing all of this chaos for Domitian at 90 years old? And how did he get off of Patmos to die in Ephesus within the 4 years at 94?
 
With that being said the case for Domitian being the one to send John to Patmos is a bit weak. The only places that mention this story are a few of the Church Fathers, and as much as I love and respect many of them, they were not perfect and have 100% gotten some things incorrect. There works and writings are not canon or scripture. This doesn’t take away anything they have done for the Gospel, but my only point is they are not perfect.
 
For example, lets look at the Church Father Jerome (340-420 AD). Jerome clearly states that Emperor Domitian exiled John to Patmos. He also clearly states that Nero exiled John to Patmos….you see what I mean? 
 
Or what about the Church Father Irenaeus (180 AD), who teaches that Paul and Peter both built the Church at Rome, which they clearly did not. We can see major errors like this and honestly some wild interpretations from the Church Fathers all of the time. Again, I am not saying this to take away from what some of the Church Fathers did, I am only bringing this up to prove the point that the Church Father’s are not perfect. Only Jesus and the word of God is!
 
Think about it for a second. Irenaues was around in 180 AD. He is making comments on something that happened around 70 AD. Irenaues was from Rome and commenting on an event that happened in Ephesus which is 832.9 miles away from Rome. Can you comment on an event that happened 110 years ago and 832.9 miles away?
 
To put this in more perspective. I live on Long Island, NY. From Long Island to Chicago, Illinois is 816 miles. Would you be able to tell me an event that happened that changed Chicago forever 110 years ago on Main St? With no internet either! The Great Chicago fire was October 8th, 1871. How much do you know about that? Do you know enough to write a paper on it or be considered authoritative on it?
When Was The Book Of Revelation Written? And Why It Matters! 1
I think we can use the same arguments against the Church Fathers. Their works are definitely useful, but certainly fallible. This is why if they are the earliest source, it’s hard to trust it especially when you have one of the most ancient versions of the Bible (The Syriac) claiming that Nero was the one that sent John to Patmos.
 
Lastly, even if it was Domitian that had sent John to Patmos, it still doesn’t exactly mean a late date authorship. Emperor Domitian reigned as Emperor from 81-96 AD, but we also had worked closely with his Father and Brother in the military aspect of Rome. According to some historians, Domitian could’ve had the power to send John to Patmos during his time in the military, which very well could’ve been a little before 70 AD.

Was The Book of Revelation Written Before 70 AD?

The following list of 10 evidences that support an early date of the book of Revelation come from Dr Jonathan Welton’s book Raptureless. I highly recommend you read this. Jonathan highlights ten points that show the validity of the early date that I want to list below and comment on.

1) The Syriac Bible

We have the witness of one of the most ancient versions of the New Testament Bible, called The Syriac. The 2nd century Syriac Version (the Peshitto), has this commentary on the title page of the Book of Revelation:
 
“Again the revelation, which was upon the holy John the Evangelist from God when he was on the island of Patmos where he was thrown by the emperor Nero.”
 
This is a strong point for an early date authorship of the book of Revelation. Emperor Nero ruled the Roman Empire from AD 54 to AD 68. This would mean that John had to have been on Patmos during this time period. How cool is it that one of the earliest versions of Scripture we have tells us exactly when John was on Patmos. In my opinion, this is a very strong argument.

2) The Seven Kings of Revelation 17:10

When we ctually take a look inside the Book of Revelation there is a pretty clear indicator of when this book was written in Revelation 17:10:
 
“They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while” (Rev. 17:10).
 
This passage, which speaks of the Roman emperors, tells us exactly how many rulers had already come, which one was currently in power, and that the next one would only last a little while. Take a look at how perfectly it fits with Nero and the Roman Empire of the first century.
The rule of the first seven Roman Emperors is as follows:
 
“Five have fallen…”

1. Julius Caesar
49 - 44 BC

When Was The Book Of Revelation Written? And Why It Matters! 2

2. Augustus Caesar
27 BC - 14 AD

acaesar

3. Tiberius
AD 14-37

When Was The Book Of Revelation Written? And Why It Matters! 3

4. Caligula
AD 37-41

When Was The Book Of Revelation Written? And Why It Matters! 4

5. Claudius
AD 41-54

claudiusnow
“One Is…”

6. Nero
AD 54-68

When Was The Book Of Revelation Written? And Why It Matters! 5
“the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while.”

7. Galba
June AD 68 - January AD 69

Galbanow

Images courtesy of Liucija Adomaite

So lets look at this verse again:
 
“They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while” (Rev. 17:10)
 
Out of the first seven kings, five of them had come:
 
  1. Julius Caesar 
  2. Augustus
  3. Tiberius
  4. Gaius
  5. Claudius
 
One was currently in power during the time of the writing (Nero).
 
One had not yet come (Galba), but would only remain a little time (six months).
 
The current Caesar at the time of John’s writing was the sixth Caesar, Nero.

3) Even Those Who Pierced Him

I wrote an in depth article on the Hebrew phrase “coming on clouds.” When you see this term it always speaks of God coming to bring judgment on a city or nation. That is exactly what Jesus came to do in 70 AD. Revelation 1:7 tells us who His judgment is against:
 
Lo, he doth come with the clouds, and see him shall every eye, even those who did pierce him, and wail because of him shall all the tribes of the land. Yes! Amen (Revelation 1:7 YLT)
 
The phrase “those who did pierce him” not only references the actually Roman soldiers who literally pierced His side but it also refers to the people of the first century.
 
According to this passage, they were expected to be alive when Revelation was to be fulfilled.
 
The fact that “those who did pierce him” were not alive in 96 AD, because they were killed in the Roman Jewish war of 70 AD, is a clear indicator that Revelation was written before 70 AD.

4. The Jewish Persecution of Christians

The Jewish persecution of Christianity in Revelation 6 and Revelation 11 would prove an early authorship (Pre 70 AD).
 
After the destruction that happened at 70 AD, the Jews were not in a position to persecute the early Church. In fact, since 70 AD, the Jews have never been in a position to be able to persecute Christians.

5. Judaizing Heretics in the Church

The issue of the Judaizing heretics in the Church (Rev. 2:6,9,15; 3:9) is emphasized in the letters to the seven churches of Asia in the book of Revelation. This tells us something about the dating of the letter because the Judiazing heretics lost a great deal of influence after Paul’s letters (epistles) were being circulated.
 
Also, it makes a lot of sense that the heresy would have been a much smaller issue after so many Jews were slaughtered in 70 AD. Only an early date of authorship allows for the heretics to be a significant problem.

6. The Existence of Jerusalem and the Temple

To me this is a big one! The fact that their Temple is still up and functioning (see Rev. 11) suggests that revelation was written before the destruction of this temple in 70 AD.
 
If the Book of Revelation was written in or around 96 AD, twenty-six years after the destruction of the Temple and the Holy City (70 AD), it is shocking John didn’t mention the massacre of the city and Temple.
 
It would also be nearly impossible for anyone to measure the size of the temple and any of the worshippers that are inside of it.
 
Revelation 11:1- Then there was given to me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, “Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it.

7. The Time Statements of Revelation

I wrote a very detailed article on all of the Biblical time statements to help understand this much easier but let me sum it up.
 
The internal time-related scriptures of Revelation indicate that the events that are being spoken about will come to pass shortly (see Rev. 1:1,3; 22:10,20).
 
If this is read with an unbiased perspective, we can easily see that Revelation was not written about events 2,000 years in the future. The time texts are bookends, which frame the content of the book in the first century.

8. John’s Known Appearance in 96 AD

Another reason to believe that Revelation was written at the earlier date is because the Church Father Jerome noted in his writings that John was seen in AD 96 and that he was so old and infirm that “he was with difficulty carried to the church, and could speak only a few words to the people.”
 
Now if we put this fact together with Revelation 10:11, which says John must “prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.”
 
It is very difficult to imagine the Apostle John would be able to speak to many nations and many kings at any date after AD 96 since he was already elderly and feeble.

9. The Timetable Comparison with The Book of Daniel

In the book of Daniel, the author was told to “seal up the vision, for it is a long way off” (Dan. 12:4)—which referred to a 483-year wait until Jesus came the first time to fulfill this prophecy.
 
Now let’s flip the coin to the other side, in Revelation, the Apostle John was told to “not seal up the vision because it concerns things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev 22:10).
 
If 483 years was considered a “long way off” and so far away that the meaning of the vision should be sealed, it makes no sense that 2,000 plus years would then be considered “shortly to come to pass.” Not only that, John was told to not seal anything up.
 
Clearly, the obvious answer is the reason that Revelation shouldn’t be sealed is because it was about to happen at the destruction of the Temple and city of Jerusalem.

10. Only Seven Churches

According to Revelation 1:4, John was writing this letter to seven Churches in Asia. 
 
Revelation 1:4- John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before His throne,
 
The existence of only seven churches in Asia would indicate a writing date before the greater expansion of Christianity into that region, which occurred after the fall of Jerusalem.

Conclusion

Because the Book of Revelation contains no internal evidence for a late date authorship, proponents of the later date must rely solely on external evidence to come to this conclusion.
 
But even the external evidence of Irenaeus is not that reliable and many scholars have even picked apart Irenaeus’ quote about the date of authorship as possibly being a very misunderstood quotation.
 
Theologian Kenneth Gentry has done the world an invaluable service by writing his doctoral dissertation on the dating of the Book of Revelation. His irrefutable paper is easily purchasable as a book under the title: Before Jerusalem Fell.
 
John A.T. Robinson has also written a tremendous book, Redating the New Testament, in which he proves that every New testament book was written before 70 AD.
 
Considering the strong evidence for an early date of writing Revelation alongside the very poor evidence in favor of a later date, I believe it is common sense to date the writing of Revelation prior to 70 AD.

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Johnny Ova

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