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A case for an early dating of the Book of Revelation

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by Jason Smathers on June 17, 2009

I wanted to study what evidence exists for an early dating of the book of Revelation. My ESV Study Bible dissapointed me here by dismissing the early dating and not mentioning the stronger evidence for an early dating. The ESV Study Bible dismissed the early dating with this explination:


Some, however, have argued for a date during Nero’s reign (a.d. 54–68) and before the fall of Jerusalem in 70, basing their conclusion in part on the belief that Revelation 11:1–2 is a predictive prophecy of the Roman siege and destruction of the earthly Jerusalem during the Jewish War. However, the conditions in the churches ofchapters 2–3 and their cities favor a date around a.d. 95–96, and in Revelation “the holy city” does not seem to refer to the earthly Jerusalem (see note on 11:1–2). Assuming this later date, events relating to Nero’s reign and Jerusalem’s destruction, both of which would now have been in the past, are woven into John’s visions as portents and prototypes of present pressures and coming traumas in the world’s assault on Christ’s church.

To get the other point of view, I watched RC Sproul’s lecture titled “The book of Revelation” from the DVD series “The Last Days According to Jesus.”
RC Sproul makes a compelling case without using the arguments set up in the ESV Study Bible. It seems the ESV SB has set up a straw man argument against the early dating.
The common argument used for dating the book comes from Irenaeus’ Against Heresies. RC Sproul makes the argument that Irenaeus’ writings are misinterpreted and what Irenaeus is saying is that John was alive in the 90s, not that he wrote the book in the 90s. Furthermore, Irenaeus makes reference to ancient copies of the book of Revelation. Since Irenaeus was born between 115 and 130AD, ancient indicates an earlier publication date then just before he was born.
Clement argued that all the books of the New Testament were completed before the end of Nero’s reign (68AD). Clement’s letter is assumed to be written in 96AD and is generally accepted from being at least from the 75-110AD time period.
Sproul also uses evidence from the text of the book of Revelation as well for dating the book. He starts with Rev 1:1 (shortly take place) and Rev 1:3 (time is near), then he goes into a survey of a dozen places where the book of Revelation talks about nearness, soon, time at hand, etc. He argues that it is stretching it to say these things that will happen soon would happen over 2000 years later.
Sproul continues to argue his point by pointing out that Revelation speaks of the temple in an existing present manor, which lends to a writing before 70AD. He also says such a major event as the destruction of the temple would likely have been mentioned instead of speaking of an intact temple.
The Sproul pulls out a date range from within the text by going to Rev 17:9-10. The common nickname for Rome at the time was “The city on the seven hills.” Then Revelation 17:10 speaks of the kings of Rome, 5 have fallen and the 6th King is reigning at the time of writing Revelation. The 6th king would refer to Nero. If you start counting with Julius Caesar, Nero is the 6th Emperor (and the Jews called the emperor King).

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