Introduction to dating the Book of Revelation addresses the time and introductory message of the apocalypse. One of the basics to understand this prophetic book is to detemine the dating. Two schools of thought exist. One asserts the book was written around A.D. 95 during the latter part of Domitian’s Caesar’s reign.
Late Dating of the Apocalypse
To interpret the book from this date means that it omits one of the most notable events of Israel’s first century history, namely the Roman invasion and destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Evidence for this latter view is almost solely from Irenaeus who said “it (or he, John, the Apostle was seen) in the latter part of the reign of Domitian, almost in our our time.”
Much ambiguity exists with this statement. One, it is not clear whether Irenaeus meant the Apocalypse was see or that John, was seen. There are both historical and grammatical arguments related to this view. See “Before Jerusalem Fell” by Kenneth Gentry, Jr., for a much more thorough discussion of the evidence for Irenaeus.
Early Dating of the Book of Revelation
On the other hand, the early date places the writing of the book of Revelation during the reign of Nero Caesar (54-68 AD). This would allow the interpretation of the book to at least include discussions on the Fall of the temple by the Romans.
Another contested point of Irenaeus’ testimony is whether he actually meant Nero versus Domitian, which is suggested by the spelling of the name Domitianou or Domitianikos. The latter would be Nero, so it’s possible that Irenaeus testimony has been completely misconstrued.
This may be all the more evident when considering the ttitle page of the Syriac version of the Bible that says John was banished to the Isle of Patmos by the Emperor Nero.
Most importantly, the internal evidence of the book, i.e. God’s own revelatory testimony strongly suggests a pre-70AD writing of the Apocalypse. One is compelled to answer these questions accurately before moving forward with the book to avoid completely missing the mark.
For more information on the study of the endtimes, see our book on “Will Planet Earth Be Destroyed?” with a verse by verse interpretion of 2 Peter 3.