PMT 2015-080 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Milton Terry underscores the significance of the question of compositional date when interpreting Rev: “The great importance of ascertaining the historical standpoint of an author is notably illustrated by the controversy over the date of the Apocalypse of John. If that prophetical book was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, a number of its particular allusions must most naturally be understood as referring to that city and its fall. If, however, it was written at the end of the reign of Domitian (about A.D. 96), as many have believed, another system of interpretation is necessary to explain the historical allusions.”
“Preterism,” as you well know, is the view that Rev deals with events that are in the near future — when John writes, but now lie in our distant past. Admittedly most preterists who see a large focus on the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70 generally tend to adopt the early date. In fact, this becomes an integral part of the argument in that they prefer internal evidence over external.
However, despite common suspicions and confident complaints, such a commitment to the early date is not absolutely necessary for a preterist analysis. We may see this in the fact that some preterists are late-date scholars, such as Martin Hopkins, John Court, and Edmondo Lupieri. Their interpretation sees John’s prophecies as dramatically explaining the nature and significance of recent (past) events for his audience.
Hopkins calls this “pre-dating” and sees AD 70 as “the historical ‘springboard’ from which to launch the assurance that Rome, too, will fail to stamp out the infant church.” Court suggests that Rev could employ an “historical ‘flash-back’ to the temporally distant, but undoubtedly significant, situation of the siege and fall of Jerusalem.” For instance, of the seals in Rev 6, Court suggests “the possibility that the author is offering a prophetic reinterpretation of the contemporary situation and recent events.” Even Alan Beagley notes that Rev “could still have been intended to show the theological significance” of AD 70.
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
John Ben-Daniel affirms the late date but argues that Rev is “the divine response to the destruction of the Temple” and to “the reformation of Judaism at Jamnia,” and therefore often mentions AD 70. Mark Wilson notes regarding André Feuillet that he “argues for a curious combination of early and late dating. John, while actually writing during Domitian’s reign, fictitiously antedates his prophecy to the late 60s. He does not do this to deceive his readers or to suggest his prophecies are ex eventu; rather ‘he merely wishes to take a step backward, and to place himself under Vespasian before the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple, in order to see the theological significance of this even, the gravest crisis which the Christian community has had to face to date.”
J. A. Hort suggests this may have been a practice among some ancient commentators: “There are also in commentators both Greek and Latin signs of an interpretation that referred various verses to the Fall of Jerusalem. If it were quite certain that the words were taken to be predictive, this would be inconsistent with the Domitian date. But it is conceivable that these interpretators [sic] took St John as speaking of what was passed.” He is referring to Arethas on Rev 7:1, 4, 8, Andreas on 7:3–4, and Tyconius at 16:14. This would not be wholly unwarranted in that it would be providing redemptive-historical context. After all, virtually all commentators agree that John looks back in some places (e.g., 12:5–6) — even strongly committed futurists such as Robert L. Thomas who allows for backward glances and intercalations despite his argument that chronological progress dominates the book.
Before Jerusalem Fell Lecture
DVD by Ken Gentry
A summary of the evidence for Revelation’s early date.
Helpful, succinct introduction to Revelation’s pre-AD 70 composition.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Consequently, adopting an early-date for Revelation is not absolutely essential for the preterist view. However, I do hold to the early-date and argued for it at length in my doctoral dissertation published as Before Jerusalem Fell. But the next time someone disputes the early date of Revelation, let them know that this does not necessarily undermine the preterist approach. (But don’t tell them I told you!)
I wouldn’t be crushed by the late date, but certainly disappointed. Revelation just isn’t prophecy if it’s written after 70 AD. The final judgment is pretty clear elsewhere. And I absolutely sense a different tenor to the story in the symbolic and forceful telling of the Beast’s rise and fall and the Prostitute’s (and Babylon’s) destruction compared to allegorical recapitulation of the incarnation 12:5-6. I did from the first time I read it, when I had NO eschatological leanings whatsoever.
But I believe all prophecy and, more importantly, all revelation ended at 70 AD (the closing of the Old Covenant, emphatically), in which case John would no longer have the ability to write Revelation at all, let alone prophesy. I don’t see a grandfather clause at work here.
I peg Revelation at about 66 AD. If we eliminate any testimony of Irenaeus, who proved again and again to be an untrustworthy witness, is there any reason to believe otherwise? I don’t think so. (Your series on the dating supported that conclusion abundantly.)
I agree with you. I obviously believe very strongly in a pre-AD 70 date of composition. The point of this blog is informative, and potential useful when debating a dispensationalist (if you can stop them from always looking up into the sky in anticipation). By this I mean: We can consider Revelation’s message on its own merits, irrespective of its date of writing. It’s storyline clearly traces out the destruction of the temple in AD 70 — as even some late-date advocates recognize.