Concerning the period in which Revelation was written,
most agree it was penned near the end of the first century C.E; however, some
make the case for an earlier writing, and still others compromise with part of
the book being written under Nero and finished under Domitian. The
following is a sample of these arguments.
parts of the book (e.g. Revelation
11) may have been reduced to writing
before the fall of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, it is probable that the author, whose
name is John (Revelation 1.1;
put the book in its present form toward the close of the reign of the Emperor
Domitian (a.d. 81 - 96). It was then that Domitian began to demand that his
subjects address him as "Lord and God" and worship his image. For
refusing to do so, many Christians were put to death (Revelation
13.15); others, like John (Revelation
1.9), were exiled, and all were
threatened. One reason for the author’s couching his teaching in mysterious
figures and extraordinary metaphors was to prevent the imperial police from
recognizing that this book is a trumpet call to the persecuted, assuring them
that, despite the worst that the Roman Empire could do, God reigns supreme,
and Christ, who died and is alive forevermore (Revelation
1.18), has the power to overcome all
evil. And therefore John closes his book with the prayer, "Come, Lord
Jesus!" (Revelation 22.20).
Bart D. Ehrman in The
New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writers (Oxford
1997) tends to agree with OCB:
On the basis of a
detailed study of all such clues in the text, most investigators think that
parts of the book were written in the 60s of the Common Era, soon after the
persecution of the Christians under Nero. If we begin counting with
Julius Caesar, Nero happens to have been the sixth ruler of Rome. He was
also one of the author's chief enemies. The book was evidently not
completed, however, until some thirty years or so later, probably around 95
C.E., during the reign of Domitian.
Catholic Encyclopedia provides an
interpretation of the book which corresponds with Roman history9http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05114b.htm):
(TITUS FLAVIUS DOMITIANUS).
Roman emperor and persecutor of the Church, son of Vespasian and younger brother and
successor of the Emperor Titus; b. 24 Oct., A.D. 51, and reigned from 81 to 96. In spite of his
private vices he set himself up as a reformer of morals and religion. He was the first of the emperors
to deify himself during his lifetime by assuming the title of "Lord and God". After the revolt of
Saturninus (93) he organized a series of bloodthirsty proscriptions against all the wealthy and noble
families. A conspiracy, in which his wife joined, was formed against him, and he was murdered, 18
When the Acts of Nero's reign were reversed after his death, an exception was made as to the
persecution of the Christians (Tertullian, Ad Nat., i, 7). The Jewish revolt brought upon them fresh
unpopularity, and the subsequent destruction of the Holy City deprived them of the last shreds of
protection afforded them by being confounded with the Jews. Hence Domitian in his attack upon
the aristocratic party found little difficulty in condemning such as were Christians. To observe
Jewish practices was no longer lawful; to reject the national religion, without being able to plead the
excuse of being a Jew, was atheism. On one count or the other, as Jews or as atheists, the
Christians were liable to punishment. Among the more famous martyrs in this Second Persecution
were Domitian's cousin, Flavius Clemens, the consul, and M' Acilius Glabrio who had also been
consul. Flavia Domitilla, the wife of Flavius, was banished to Pandataria. But the persecution was
not confined to such noble victims. We read of many others who suffered death or the loss of their
goods (Dio Cassius, LXVII, iv). The book of the Apocalypse was written in the midst of this
storm, when many of the Christians had already perished and more were to follow them (St.
Irenæus, Adv. Hæres., V, xxx). Rome, "the great Babylon", "was drunk with the blood of the saints
and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (Apoc., xvii, 5, 6; ii, 10, 13; vi, 11; xiii, 15; xx, 4). It
would seem that participation in the feasts held in honour of the divinity of the tyrant was made the
test for the Christians of the East. Those who did not adore the "image of the beast" were slain. The
writer joins to his sharp denunciation of the persecutors' words of encouragement for the faithful by
foretelling the downfall of the great harlot "who made drunk the earth with the wine of her
whoredom", and steeped her robe in their blood. St. Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians was also
writtens about this time; here, while the terrible trials of the Christians are spoken of, we do not find
the same denunciations of the persecutors. The Roman Church continued loyal to the empire, and
sent up its prayers to God that He would direct the rulers and magistrates in the exercise of the
power committed to their hands (Clem., Ep. ad Cor., c. lxi; cf. St. Paul, Rom., xiii, 1; I Pet., ii, 13).
Before the end of his reign Domitian ceased to persecute. (See PERSECUTIONS .)
EUSEBIUS, H. E.., III, xvii sqq. in P.G., XX; IRENÆUS, Adv. Hæreses, V in P.G., VII; ALLARD, Hist. des
Persécutions pendant les deux premiers siècles (Paris, 1892); Ten Lectures on the Martyrs (tr. London, 1907);
Le Christianisme et l'Empire Romain k(Paris, 1898).
Transcribed by WGKofron
With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio
Don K. Preston argues against this late date for Revelation:
by Don K. Preston
The condition of the 7 churches of Asia is often posited as evidence for the late date, i.e. 95-98 A.D., of the book of
Revelation. Stanley Paher, for instance, in an unpublished paper says "the existence of heretical sects such as the Nicolaitans,
the Balaamites and Jezebel's group [Rev. 2:6; 14, 15, 20] is not confirmed by anyone in A.D. 64." He then takes note of
Ignatius, early 2nd century, and Iranaeus, later in the 2nd century, both of whom referred to the Nicolaitans. Paher then says
"It takes time for heresies to arise from within, for in the first place a church must have had developed a more or less orthodox
faith as a standard to compare a departure from it."
The purpose of this little article is to demonstrate that the Nicolaitans, instead of being evidence for a late date, serve as
extremely strong evidence for the early date of the Apocalypse.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE NICOLAITANS
The doctrinal identity of the Nicolaitans helps us place them within a definite framework: the Nicolaitans taught that it was
alright to "eat meat sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication" Rev. 2:14-15. Why was it wrong to eat meat sacrificed to
idols? Why was it wrong to commit fornication? Caution is needed before answering too hastily.
The doctrine of the Nicolaitans was in direct conflict with the Jerusalem Conference, Acts 15:29, the purpose of which was to
enhance Jew and Gentile oneness in Christ! This conference is generally dated around A.D. 51.
It is clear from Paul that the eating of meat sacrificed to idols was in and of itself not wrong, Romans 14; I Corinthians 8; but
clearly it was offensive to the Jewish segment of the church. Thus for the sake of unity in the body, the Gentiles were told to
abstain in those circumstances in which the eating would bring offense to brethren, I Corinthians 10:23ff. The question of
fornication should also be seen in light of its association with the idolatrous background so offensive to the Jewish Christians.
The doctrine of eating of meats sacrificed to idols and fornication was then a matter of grave importance and an issue that
arose very early in the life of the first century church. It was an issue of body unity; of Jew and Gentile fellowship. If the
Gentiles could be convinced that they had the liberty to continue, because of the abounding grace of Christ, to eat meats and
participate in the sensual practices of idolatry then the unity of the body of Christ would be threatened if not sundered. The
significance of this issue is revealed when one examines Romans 14, I Corinthians 8, and 10 in great detail and see how much
time and energy Paul devoted to it. This was not just an issue of setting forth a doctrine of expediency; it impinged upon "unity
of the Faith," Eph. 4:13f; the "the fullness of the Gentiles," Rom. 11:25; and the consummation of the mystery of God in Christ,
2 Peter 2 sheds light on the issue before us. If 2 Peter was addressed to the same audience as 1 Peter then it was addressed
to "the pilgrims of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" 1 Peter 1:1. Thus, 2 Peter was written to
the very churches addressed in Revelation. 2 Peter is, we believe, to be dated circa, 64-66. [See The New Open Study
Bible, Nelson, NASV, introduction to 2 Peter]. What issues did Peter address?
Peter says that the false teachers he is addressing "walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness" 2:2:10; they "have
eyes full of adultery" and they were constantly "beguiling unstable souls" vs. 14. Further, Peter says what they were doing was
"following the way of Balaam the son of Beor" vs. 15. This is precisely the charge against the Nicolaitans, Rev. 2:14!
Compare also the epistle of Jude, vss. 7-12. What we find then is that the very things that were troubling the seven churches
of Asia were the issues at stake in books generally dated earlier than the Apocalypse!
Revelation deals with those from within the body teaching false doctrine, 2 Peter and Jude do the same, 2 Peter 2:13.
Revelation deals with those teaching sexual immorality, as does 2 Peter and Jude. Revelation calls the false teachers
Nicolaitans; but they are also called teachers of the way of Balaam; just as in 2 Peter and Jude. Revelation is addressed to the
churches in Asia; 2 Peter is also. With these points of parallelism how can one discount the association? And if the early date
of 2 Peter is admitted then the early date for the Apocalypse can hardly be denied.
Further, when one considers how early the issue of eating meats and fornication, [cf. I Cor. 6], became an issue, circa A.D.
51, Acts 15; Romans 14, circa A.D. 57; I Corinthians 8, 10, circa A.D. 56, it can hardly be argued that these doctrines were
not major issues as early as the 60s. On the contrary, it is seen in the light of Acts, Romans, and Corinthians that the issues of
Revelation 2-3 were issues of long standing trouble in the early church. Revelation does not stand isolated therefore from the
religious milieu of the rest of the New Testament. Instead, we have the testimony of Acts, Romans, Corinthians, 2 Peter and
Jude that the very issues addressed by Jesus in Revelation were part of a widespread endemic problem within the early
Instead of the doctrinal problems of the Asian churches being distinctive from the issues in the other epistles we find that they
are the identical issues. Instead of Revelation demanding a later period of time allowing for a time of evolutionary doctrinal
development and then apostasy we find the standard established very early, Acts 15 and within 5-6 years problems arising in
direct relationship to that standard. Instead of the doctrinal aberrations of the Nicolaitans being indicative of the late date for
Revelation therefore we find that it provides evidence that the possibility for the early date for Revelation certainly cannot be
ignored; the probability becomes apparent; the certainty becomes increasingly likely.
There is a great deal more that could be written in regard to the Nicolaitan controversy as it related to the Jew-Gentile
one-ness and the attempts to destroy or prevent that unity from becoming reality. We believe however that this little article has
refuted the basic argument of Paher and others that attempt to remove the historical and doctrinal situation of Revelation from
the context of the rest of the New Testament. We shall have cause to say more about Paher's article later.
March 21, 1994
From web site The Crazy Emperors of Rome comes
the following graphic account of Domitian's reign:
Domitian of Rome (51-96)
Domitian was born the second son of the emperor Vespasian (9-79) and his wife, Flavia Domitilla the
elder. In 66 AD Vespasian had fallen into disfavour for falling asleep while the emperor Nero (37-68)
was singing. After Nero's death four emperors rapidly succeeded each other, among them the emperor
Vitellius the Glutton (15-69). Vitellius had spent his youth as one of the emperor Tiberius' male prostitutes
on the isle of Capri. His thigh was deformed as a result of being run over by a chariot driven by the
emperor Caligula. By the time he became emperor Vitellius was a notorious glutton. He lived for food1;
banqueting three or four times a day, routinely vomiting up his meals, using a long feather to induce the
process, and starting over. Vitellius was especially fond of the rarest delicacies, like pike livers, pheasant
brains and flamingo tongues, and the Imperial Navy was given the task of searching the seas for rare
ingredients. One of his banquets involved no fewer than 2000 fish and 7000 birds. Soon Vitellius horrified
the Romans with his overly extravagant lifestyle and stupid appointments.
In July 69 the legions of the East declared for Vespasian and the emperor Vitellius ordered 18-year-old
Domitian's arrest. Domitian fled and made his way to the advancing units of his father's army, while
Vitellius' supporters murdered his uncle. During Vespasian's reign, Domitian stayed in the shadow of his
famous brother Titus (39-81). Titus suppressed the Jewish revolt, made love to the beautiful Jewish
princess Berenice, and succeeded Vespasian in 79, but Domitian was never allowed to pursue any
military glory. When Titus lay dying in 81, Domitian had himself proclaimed emperor.
Historians have described Domitian as "crazy and unbalanced". He suffered from
social inadequacy and preferred solitude to the company of people. He had a
distrustful nature and was constant in fear of conspiracies; the pillars of his palace were
made of white reflective marble so that he could see what was going on behind him.
Like Caligula, Domitian was very sensitive of his baldness and his official portraits
continued to show him with flowing locks of hair. Domitian was also notorious for his
cruelty. He is supposed to have invented a new method of torture: burning the sexual
organs of his victims. Domitian was capable of inviting an erring official to supper, dismissing him in such a
way that the man retired happy and carefree. Nevertheless, the next day he was executed. Domitian also
enjoyed asking senators to dinner-parties at which all the equipment was black, so that the guests were
numb with fright. Like Vespasian, Domitian persecuted Stoic philosophers and Jews. He had all Jews,
who claimed descent from King David, tracked down and killed. Very peculiar was Domitian's pleasure
in catching flies, stabbing them with the point of a pen and tearing their wings out.
Despite his cruelty Domitian was an energetic emperor who paid careful attention to every department of
administration and he was an enthusiastic patron of the arts. He finished the Colosseum, constructed
several temples and built the imperial palace. Under Domitian detailed records were kept on army
personnel and the lot of soldiers improved. In 83 his armies defeated the Chatti and extended the frontier
to the rivers Lahn and Main. Domitian forbade the castration of boys and attempted to revive an
unpopular law against homosexual intercourse with boys of free birth. He had three Vestal Virgins
executed in 83 on grounds of immorality and in 90 he had the Chief Vestal buried alive, although she
protested her innocence to the end. Her presumed lovers were beaten to death with rods.
Domitian himself was a great lover of women. In 70 he carried off his wife, Domitia Longina, from her
husband. She was a daughter of the great general Corbulo. They had a little son, who died in infancy.
Beside his wife Domitian kept several women for his pleasure and it was said that he depilated them with
his own hand. When his wife had an affair with the actor Paris2 in 83, Domitian divorced her and had
Paris killed. The next year Domitian became interested in his niece Julia Flavia (64-91), and thus executed
her husband. She moved into the palace and it was said that she became Domitian's mistress.
Nevertheless, Domitian took Domitia Longina back shortly afterwards, because he could not bear to be
separated from her. Julia Flavia became pregnant and died in 91, allegedly as a result of an abortion that
Domitian had forced upon her. He had her deified.
Domitian attempted to outdo his father and brother in splendour. He built an arena for thirty thousand
spectators and staged costly public shows. He took special pleasure in gladiator fights between women
and dwarfs. The aristocracy hated him for Domitian was not only cruel, but also autocratic and
pretentious, wearing the dress of a triumphant general in the Senate3 and insisting on being addressed as
"master and god". After an army revolt in Upper Germany in 89, Domitian became even more
autocratic and in 93 he instituted a reign of terror. Seeing conspiracies everywhere, he cracked down on
all perceived threats. Domitian's niece, Flavia Domitilla the younger, had married Domitian's cousin,
Flavius Clemens, a consul. Their sons were Domitian's heirs. In 95 Domitian accused them of
sympathising with the Christians and the Jews. He had his cousin killed and his niece banished. Domitian
executed senators and imperial officials who opposed his policy and had their property confiscated.
Suetonius estimated the causalities among former consuls alone at no less than twelve.
Domitian advanced his own death by replacing his joint Praetorian Prefects. Worried that their career
would be brief too, these new Prefects recruited a former slave of Flavia Domitilla the younger to kill the
emperor. Domitian's wife, Domitia Longina, was involved in the plot. The first blow was not fatal and a
hand-to-hand struggle followed until the other conspirators burst into the room and hacked the emperor to
Copyright © 1997 by J.N.W. Bos. All rights reserved.