On dating the book of Revelation, there are many arguments which can be made. A primary dispute is when was the book written? Knowing this fact is key to how we interpret the meaning of the book.
Many believe the book was written after the temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD i. e. in 95 A.D. This is based almost solely on a statement from Irennaeus.
Others, as this writer, posit the book was written before the temple was destroyed and that the contents of the prophecy speaks of the fall of the temple and the then imminent coming of Christ in in judgment on the rebellious Jews in connection with that event.
The aim of this writing is not to offer all the arguments for or against either date, but to present one or two points on the dating that should help those who want to take the research further.
The point we refer to is argument from an early version of the New Testament. Secondly, a blunder made in one statement within that evidence which is mistakenly interpreted as bearing evidence of a late date.
The Title of the Peshitta (Syriac Version of the New Testament)
“The chronology on Revelation on the title page of the Syriac Version of the New Testament assigns the date to the year A. D. 68–before the destruction of Jerusalem. (The Book of Revelation by Foy E. Wallace, Jr. p. 23)
In a short and concise Commentary On Revelation published prior to 1885, by Robert Young, author of Young’s Analytical Concordance, he states: “It is written in Patmos about A.D. 68, whither John had been banished in Patmos about A.D. 68, whither John had been banished by Domitious Nero, as stated in the title of the Syriac version of the book; and with this concurs the express statement of Irenaeus in A.D. 175, who says it happened in the reign of Domitianou–i.e., Domitius Nero). Sulpicius, Orosius, etc., stupidly mistaking Domitianou for Domitianikos, supposed Irenaueus to refer to Domitian, A.D. 95, and most succeeding writers have fallen into the same blunder. The internal testimony is wholy in favor of the earlier date.” (Wallace, Ibid, p. 23-4).
John A.T. Robinson’s Redating of the New Testament
John A.T. Robinson, shocked the theological world with his book, Redating the New Testament. He likewise comments on the dating of Revelation. In his book, he questions those who take the statement of Irenaeus at face value to refer to a late dating of the book in A.D. 95. “Whatever Epiphanius may have meant, it has been credibly argued that his source may have intended Nero, whose other name was Claudious (just as Claudius’ other name was Nero). For what it is worth, both the title to the Syriac version of Revelation and the History of John, the Son of Zebedee in Syriac say that it was Nero who banished John.
Hort, who surveys the evidence with scrupulous fairness, sums up as follows;
We find domitian and Nero both mentioned, as also an emperor not named. The matter is complicated by the manner in which St. John is brought to Rome, or his banishment referred to the personal act of the emperor. It is moreover peculiarly difficult to determine the relation of the legend of the boiling oil to the Roman tradition of a banishment from Rome. On the one hand the tradition as to Domitian is not unanimous; on the other it is the prevalent tradition, and it goes back to an author likely to be the receipient of a true tradition on the matter, who moreover connects it neither with Rome nor with an emperor’s personal act. If external tradition alone could decide, there would be a clear preponderance for Domitian.
Robinson adds the following in summary:
Yet, depsite this, Hort, together with Lightfoot and Westcott, none of whom can be accused of setting light to ncient tradition, still rejected a Domitianic date in favour of one between the death of Nero in 68 and the fall of Jerusalem in 70. It is indeed a little known fact that this was what Hort calls ‘the general tendency of criticism’ for most of the nineteenth century, and Peake cites the remarkable consensus of ‘both adanced and conservative scholars’ who backed it. (Redating the New Testament, p. 223-4)
Robinson cites more arguments and scholars for the early date. From that point, he turns his attention to the weighty evidence found in the book in comparing it with other N.T. passages to show that it was written prior to 70AD.