UPDATING EARLY-DATE SCHOLARSHIP

PMW 2020-027 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Introduction

An early-date composition is important for the preterist analysis of the Book of Revelation. For if Revelation were written prior to the destruction of the temple in AD 70, the way is at least open for considering the prospect that John’s great prophetic work is looking ahead to that dramatic redemptive-historical event. Unfortunately, the majority opinion of scholars today is that Revelation was written much later than AD 70, no earlier than Domitian’s reign some twenty years later.

But cracks in this dike of scholarly opposition to the early date are showing. A growing number of scholars from a broad array of religious convictions (spanning conservative-evangelicals to liberal-critical scholars) is turning back to the early-date view that was the majority opinion in the nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries. And for this shift, I am grateful. I also believe it is important to make this news known in our current setting. For the preterist analysis of Revelation is often written off with a wave of the hand that ends with the pointing of the finger to the majority of scholars.

My friend, Robert Cruickshank, sent me a book with an interesting chapter on this topic. The book is Paul, John, and Apocalyptic Eschatology: Studies in Honour of Martinus C. de Boer, edited by Jan Krans, Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte, Peter-Ben Smit, and Arie Zwiep (Boston: Brill, 2013). The chapter of interest is: Arie W. Zwiep, “Eight Kings on an Apocalyptic Animal Farm
Reflections on Revelation 17:9–11″ (pp. 218–37).

Dr. Zwiep is a noteworthy scholar. He serves as Associate Professor of New Testament and Hermeneutics and Director of the Graduate School of Religion and Theology at the University of Amsterdam.

In this blog-post I will not be interacting with Dr. Zwiep’s chapter. I will simply cite an important observation that should encourage early-date advocates. I hope to return to this chapter in a future posting.


Before Jerusalem FellBefore Jerusalem Fell BOOK
(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


Current statistics

On p. 281 of the book before us, Zwiep states:

“A brief survey of recent New Testament introductions, commentaries and scholarly articles on the Book of Revelation suggests that a growing number of biblical scholars favour an early date for the book’s composition, i.e., shortly after the death of Nero (68 CE) and before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple two years later. This was, in fact, the dominant position of nineteenth-century biblical scholarship. While John A. T. Robinson’s pre-70 CE dating of the book was part of larger experiment to see if it was possible to have the entire New Testament collection completed before the destruction of the temple in 70 CE — one that could easily be dismissed as an idiosyncrasy of an anti-establishment scholar — in recent times a growing number of biblical scholars of various persuasions have come to defend an early (“Neronian”) date of the book: Christopher C. Rowland (1982), Kenneth L. Gentry (1989), Robert B. Moberly (1992), J. Christian Wilson (1993), E. Earle Ellis (2000), Gonzalo Rojas-Flores (2004), Stephen S. Â.Smalley (2005), Ian Boxall (2007), George H. van Kooten (2007), and Karl Jaroš (2008), to name but a few.”

Works cited

In order to allow your following-up on Zwiep’s comment, I will list the works he cites from the authors he lists.

• Christopher C. Rowland, The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity (London: SPCK, 1982), 403–413.

• Kenneth L. Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell. Dating the Book of Revelation. An Exegetical and Historical Argument for a Pre-A.D. 70 Composition (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, [1989] 3d. ed.: 1998)

• Robert B. Moberly, “When Was Revelation Conceived?,” Bib 73 (1992): 376–92.

• J. Christian Wilson, “The Problem of the Domitianic Date of Revelation,” NTS 39 (1993): 587–605.

• E. Earle Ellis, The Making of the New Testament Documents (Biblical Interpretation 39; Leiden, Boston, Köln: Brill, 1999; Boston, Leiden: Brill Academic, 2000), 210–16.

• Gonzalo Rojas-Flores, “The Book of Revelation and the First Years of Nero’s Reign,” Bib 85 (2004): 375–92 /

• Stephen S. Smalley, The Revelation to John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse (London: SPCK, 2005), 2–3.


The Early Date of Revelation and the End Times: An Amillennial Partial Preterist Perspective
By Robert Hillegonds

This book presents a strong, contemporary case in support of the early dating of Revelation. He builds on Before Jerusalem Fell and brings additional arguments to bear.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


• Ian Boxall, The Revelation of Saint John (BNTC; Peabody: Hendrickson; London, New York: Continuum, 2006), 7–10.

• George H. van Kooten, “The Year of the Four Emperors and the Revelation of John. The ‘pro-Neronian’ Emperors Otho and Vitellius, and the Images and Colossus of Nero in Rome,” JSNT 30 (2007): 205–248.

• Karl Jaroš, Das Neue Testament und seine Autoren: Eine Einleitung (UTB 3087; Köln,
Weimar, Wien: Böhlau, 2008), 191–203.

Conclusion

Thus, as we can see: early-date advocacy is alive and well on planet Earth, you might say. This, of course, does not prove the early date. But as mentioned above, it does encourage orthodox preterists to stay the course. And it does hamper a hasty dismissal of the preterist view of Revelation.

 

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3 thoughts on “UPDATING EARLY-DATE SCHOLARSHIP

  1. Jason Elliott April 7, 2020 at 6:07 am

    Thank you for this update. The time indicators in the book of Revelation were placed there by the Holy Spirit for a reason. Revelation 1:1 tells us that the information given to the 7 churches that existed in the first century was given by God to Jesus Christ to an angel to the apostle John (which is a great line of witnesses) to show his servants things which must shortly come to pass. There are also several references to Jesus Christ “coming”, threatening to come, or promising to come to these local congregations at the time the letters were written (Rev. 2:5, 2:16, 2:25; 3:3, 3:11, 3:20). I do not know anything about the Greek language so my next point may fail, but if we read passages such as 1 Timothy 3:14, 2 Peter 1:14, and 3 John 14 we obviously wouldn’t believe the events referenced will be happening to us almost 2000 years later. In other words, when reading 1 Timothy 3:14 I don’t go out on my front porch and wait for the Apostle Paul to show up. Then, being disappointed when he doesn’t come, I go back inside to read verse 15 and assume that it could be thousands of years before he gets here and am therefore comforted. Unfortunately, premillennialists, dispensationalists, and amillennialists seem to read Rev 1:1-3 in the opposite way they would interpret the other verses I listed. The time is at hand and things written in the book are “signified”, or symbolic. If we are honest readers of the book of Revelation I personally don’t see a “way out” of the time indicators of the book. With the exception of the “thousand years” in Revelation 20 (which by definition requires a long period of time to complete, and would be contradictory to include the ending of the thousand years as “shortly to come to pass”) we should seriously consider a first century fulfillment. Old Jerusalem has been destroyed so the New Jerusalem can go on to victory.

  2. Barry Will April 7, 2020 at 7:33 am

    I laud Mr. Gentry and others pointed out in his article for advocating for the truth in Scriptures today to our benefit. It is apparent they are no longer lone wolves crying out the message of preterist hermeneutics in the wilderness of premilllenialism. This counter movement is necessary for recovery of God’s truth today as was the Reformation in its time to bring the church out its malaise to become the vital force once again for the Gospel, the advancement of God’s kingdom in our world, and fulfillment of the Great Commission.

  3. James Dove April 9, 2020 at 8:30 pm

    There’s also John Behr’s recent work, John the Theologian and his Paschal Gospel (Oxford, 2019), which argues that early Christians held the Neronian dating. He tackles Irenaeus, arguing that John was the subject of “was seen,” and he is one of the world’s foremost Irenaeus scholars.

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