REVELATION’S DATE: EXTERNAL EVIDENCE (1)

PMW 2020-108 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

I am continuing a study on the dating Revelation. In this article I will I provide some evidence from church history and tradition. I will begin with the positive indicators for an early date. After that, in the next article I will review the contrary evidence, which is so influential in the late date argument.

The Shepherd of Hermas

1. The Shepherd of Hermas is little known among evangelical laymen today. But in the first three centuries of the Christian era it was so influential that Irenaeus, Origen, Jerome and many others deemed it canonical. [1] It even appears in the Codex Sinaiticus, one of the best preserved ancient copies of the whole Bible.

Virtually all scholars agree that The Shepherd of Hermas draws upon Revelation as the source of its imagery — even late date advocates like H. B. Swete, R. H. Charles, and Robert Mounce. This would demand that Revelation be written, copied, and circulated prior to the composition of the Shepherd.

A good deal of debate exists regarding its date of composition and, thus, this line of evidence cannot serve as a conclusive argument. Nevertheless, the strong possibility exists that it was written in the A.D. 80s. In fact, Philip Schaff decisively supports an early date for The Shepherd, even allowing that it most probably was written by the very Hermas mentioned in Romans. J. B. Lightfoot cites several writers supportive of the earlier date: Cotelier, Cave, Lardner, Gallandi, Lumper, Lachmann, Sprinzl. More recently still, Lawson, Goodspeed, and others concur in the view that it was written in the A.D. 90s.

The two leading evidentiary avenues are: (1) It was written by a Hermas, who seems to be the one Paul refers to in Romans 16:14. (2) Many church fathers thought it canonical. This suggests its composition around the time of the apostles, or shortly after. If this date, as argued by John A. T. Robinson and others, is correct, then Revelation, upon which it depended, would have been written earlier — long before A.D. 95 and almost certainly pre-A.D. 70.


Before Jerusalem Fell (Kindle version) (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


Papias

2. Papias (A.D. 60-130), a disciple of John, writes that James and John suffered martyrdom together at the hands of the Jews. We know that James died before the destruction of the temple, and even late date advocate H. B. Swete admits that Papias must have felt at the very least that John died no later than the destruction of the temple. This would make Revelation, if written by John, to be earlier still.

The Muratorian Canon

3. The Muratorian Canon (ca. A.D. 170) is the earliest surviving list of canonical books. In this very important manuscript we read: “The blessed Apostle Paul, following the rule of his predecessor John, writes to no more than seven churches by name.” Consequently, Paul’s last writing to a church could not have preceded John’s writing of Revelation, for here we read that Paul follows John in writing to seven churches. This demands that the writer hold a view of date earlier than A.D. 67 or 68 for Revelation, in that Paul’s was beheaded in A.D. 67-68.

Clement of Alexandria

4. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-215) does not specifically mention the name of the emperor of the banishment. But he does believe Revelation is inspired revelation from God and was written by the apostle John. And he dogmatically states in his Miscellanies 7:17: “The teaching of our Lord at His advent, beginning with Augustus and Tiberius, was completed in the middle of the times of Tiberius. And that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, ends with Nero.” Thus, he is a witness for the early date of Revelation.


Notes
1. Jerome, On the Lives of Illustrious Men 10. Irenaeus Against Heresies 4:20:2.

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7 thoughts on “REVELATION’S DATE: EXTERNAL EVIDENCE (1)

  1. David Morsillo December 18, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    Thank you for posting these articles. Regarding the Shepherd of Hermas, I would be interested to read any comments you may have on the following content, namely:

    Then I asked her in regard to the ages, if now there is the conclusion. [2nd edition: Then I began to ask her about the times, in particular if the consummation had already arrived.] She cried out with a loud voice, Foolish man! do you not see the tower yet building? When the tower is finished and built, then comes the end; and I assure you it will be soon finished. (Vision 3 chap 8 (chapter 16 in the new system))

    Let us go to the tower; for the master of the tower is coming to examine it. (Similitude (Parable) 9 chap 5 (chap 82 in new system))

    And, behold, after a little I see an array of many men coming, and in the midst of them one man of so remarkable a size as to overtop the tower. …

    And that man examined the building carefully, feeling every stone separately; and holding a rod in his hand, he struck every stone in the building three times. (Similitude (Parable) 9 chapter 6 (chapter 83 in the new system))

  2. Keith Teixeira December 19, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    Dr. Gentry,

    Thank you for this article, all your books, and your wonderful ministry. It is truly a God-send.

    In regards to the Postmillennial Hope, I wanted to share this post that I received from Dr. Steve Turley regarding fantastic news coming out of Hungary, and would appreciate any comments. Looks like The Great Commission in action. See link to video below at turleytalks.com

    Keith Teixeira

    https://www.turleytalks.com/videos/hungary-amends-constitution-to-recognize-parents-as-male-and-female

  3. Kenneth Gentry December 21, 2020 at 6:56 am

    Thanks. That is exciting. Steve is a good friend of mine. I appreciate his work. Did you know he is a classical guitarist?

  4. Kenneth Gentry December 21, 2020 at 6:59 am

    I recommend your reading John Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fatheres.

  5. Dr Dean Furlong December 21, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    The Shepherd is interesting. The Odes of Solomon also seems to know Revelation, though dating on that ranges from the late first to the early second century, so that isn’t quite as helpful for pinpointing an early date.

  6. Caique Matheus Ribeiro Calixto December 23, 2020 at 8:16 am

    Dr. Kenneth, were the gospel of John and the epistles of John written after or before Revelation?
    Thanks, I have learned a lot from you. God bless you

  7. Kenneth Gentry December 23, 2020 at 8:42 am

    I believe that all of the New Testament was completed prior to AD 70. I recommend consulting John A. T. Robinson’s book, Re-dating the New Testament.

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