Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Breaking the Apocalypse Code: The Dating Game, Part 2

In part 1 of "The Dating Game," we examined the external evidence Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice present in chapter 11 of Breaking the Apocalypse Code in support of a late (AD 95) date for Revelation. We discovered that in their attempt to sweep the preterist position under the rug, they want you to believe that "The external evidence from church history points emphatically and overwhelmingly to the AD 95 date for the composition of Revelation" (p. 198). As we've seen, however, this statement is based on a shaky house of cards, the foundation of which collapses with the breath of a whisper.

As R. C. Sproul writes in The Last Days According to Jesus, however, "the external evidence regarding the dating of Revelation is neiher monolithic nor homogeneous" (p. 145). In other words, though the historical evidence is not firmly in support of the late date, neither is it conclusive evidence of an early one. Therefore, an examination of the internal evidence is additionally necessary for formulating an idea as to when Revelation was written. In this second part of my review we will look at the internal evidence presented in chapter 11 of Breaking argued to support a late date.

"In considering the internal evidence for the date of Revelation, let's begin by examining Hanegraaff's arguments and then look at the evidence for the AD 95 date.

Hanegraaff identifies "three arguments that tower above the rest" in his attempt to defend the AD 65 date for Revelation. Let us look at these three towers and see if they are built on stone or sand." (p. 198)

Thus the authors of Breaking begin their case by attempting to refute Hanegraaff's reasons for believing Revelation was written before AD 70: 1) John doesn't mention that Jerusalem was destroyed; 2) John doesn't say Jesus' prophecy of the attack upon Jerusalem was fulfilled; and 3) John mentions a seemingly still-standing temple. I'm comfortable with Hitchcock's and Ice's dismissal of the second point above, so I won't address that one.


"Hanegraaff's first tower is an argument from silence...One must remember that Revelation was written to a primarily Gentile audience in Asia Minor, about 800 miles from Jerusalem, 25 years after AD 70. The original audience was removed ethnically, geographically, and chronologically from the destruction of Jerusalem. Also, Revelation says clearly that it is a prophecy about the future (1:3; 22:10) and not history as Hanegraaff supposes. The simple reason John didn't record the events of AD 70 is that it was a past event, and Revelation is a prophecy." (p. 198-199)

I'm not sure I buy the authors' first point, that because Revelation was written primarily to a Gentile audience that therefore his readers would be utterly unfamiliar with Jerusalem and the temple and their importance. In a letter to the church at Smyrna, John is told to write, "I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan" (2:9). Similarly, to the church in Philadelphia he is told to write, "I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie--I will make them come and bow down at your feet" (3:9). The point is, there was a Jewish influence in at least some of the seven churches, albeit a negative one, and no doubt the Gentile congregants had some knowledge of the temple in Jerusalem.

Additionally, the book of Revelation is replete with allusions to the Old Testament. As the authors of Breaking admit, "there are at least 278 allusions to the Old Testament in the 404 verses of Revelation" (p. 200). John's words would have been impossible to understand to an audience not steeped in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. (Indeed, I think that's largely the problem today.) But an audience intimately familiar with the Old Testament would likewise be aware of the temple in Jerusalem and their importance.

As for the other point, that Revelation "is a prophecy about the future...and not history," that means nothing. Ezekiel, too, prophesied of the future, yet he mentioned the siege upon Jerusalem in his day:

"And the word of the LORD came to me in the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth of the month, saying, 'Son of man, write the name of the day, this very day. The king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day. Speak a parable to the rebellious house and say to them..."In your filthiness is lewdness. Because I would have cleansed you, yet you are not clean, you will not be cleansed from your filthiness again until I have spent My wrath on you. I, the LORD, have spoken; it is coming and I will act I will not relent, and I will not pity and I will not be sorry; according to your ways and according to your deeds I will judge you," declares the Lord GOD.'" (Ezekiel 24:1-2, 13-14)

Here Ezekiel records a prophecy of the future, just as John did, namely the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet, he also mentions the beginning of the seige upon Jerusalem by Babylon. According to Hitchcock and Ice, "The simple reason John didn't record the events of AD 70 is that it was a past event, and Revelation is a prophecy." We now see how little sense that makes. Of course, in Ezekiel's case the seige upon Jerusalem is related to the prophecy of its destruction. Well, if John wrote after the seige upon Jerusalem, after the destruction of the temple and after the scattering of the Jews, and if his prophecy is of a future rebuilt temple and attack upon a Jerusalem to which Jews had been returned, no doubt the former are related to the latter. As R. C. Sproul put it in The Last Days According to Jesus, "Granted this is an argument from silence, but the silence is deafening" (p. 147).


"Hanegraaff's third tower in defense of the early date of Revelation is based on the mention of a temple in Revelation 11:1-2...[His] insistence that the temple in Revelation 11:1-2 must be standing when John wrote, is surprising in view of the fact that he says the Old Testament is the key to understanding the book of Revelation. In the Old Testament books of Daniel and Ezekiel, both prophets describe future temples that did not exist at the time they wrote (Daniel 9:26-27; Ezekiel 40-48). When Daniel wrote, the Jewish temple was in ruins in Jerusalem. Likewise, when Ezekiel prohpesied there was no temple standing in Jerusalem." (p. 200)

Daniel and Ezekiel did indeed speak of a future temple while the former one lay in ruins. But each did so only having first spoken of the destruction of the former temple and prophesying concerning a future restoration of Jerusalem! I can only surmise that either Hitchcock and Ice have not read the passages they cite in their context, or they are trying to mislead their readers. Take a look for yourself:

"O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary...'Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.'" (Daniel 9:16-17, 24-27, emphasis mine)

Daniel can only speak of a future temple because he's first spoken of the destruction of the former and was told explicitly that it would be rebuilt. We see something similar in Ezekiel:

"Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, 'Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name. They will forget their disgrace and all their treachery which they perpetrated against Me, when they live securely on their own land with no one to make them afraid. When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of the many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer. will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,' declares the Lord GOD. In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was taken, on that same day the hand of the LORD was upon me and He brought me there. In the visions of God He brought me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, and on it to the south there was a structure like a city. So He brought me there; and behold, there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze, with a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand; and he was standing in the gateway. The man said to me, 'Son of man, see with your eyes, hear with your ears, and give attention to all that I am going to show you; for you have been brought here in order to show it to you. Declare to the house of Israel all that you see.' And behold, there was a wall on the outside of the temple all around, and in the man's hand was a measuring rod of six cubits, each of which was a cubit and a handbreadth. So he measured the thickness of the wall, one rod; and the height, one rod." (Ezekiel 39:25-40:5, emphasis mine)

Like Daniel, Ezekiel mentions the destruction of Jerusalem and records God as promising Israel's restoration to her homeland. Daniel and Ezekiel only write concerning a future temple in the explicit context of the contemporary temple's destruction and Jerusalem's future restoration. The authors of Breaking want you to believe that the "temple in Revelation 11:1-2, in the context, is a future, third Jewish temple that will be rebuilt and desecrated by the coming Beast or Man of sin" (p. 201). Yet, the context is missing the necessary elements seen in Daniel's and Ezekiel's prophesies concerning a future temple, and thus John's temple must have existed at the time of his Revelation.

A couple of additional clues are found within Ezekiel's prophecy that suggest John's is of the destruction of the then-standing temple. First, in John's Revelation he is told to "Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it" (Revelation 11:1). In Ezekiel's case, on the other hand, he sees the temple being measured by someone else (Ezekiel 40). Second, and more strikingly, just as John is told to interact with the temple in his vision, earlier in Ezekiel's writings he, too, is told to interact in his vision with the temple--the one that was then standing:

"It came about in the sixth year, on the fifth day of the sixth month, as I was sitting in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell on me there...and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the idol of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy, was located...Then He brought me into the inner court of the LORD'S house. And behold, at the entrance to the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun. He said to me, 'Do you see this, son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they have committed here, that they have filled the land with violence and provoked Me repeatedly? For behold, they are putting the twig to their nose. Therefore, I indeed will deal in wrath. My eye will have no pity nor will I spare; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not listen to them.' Then He cried out in my hearing with a loud voice saying, 'Draw near, O executioners of the city, each with his destroying weapon in his hand...Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary.' So they started with the elders who were before the temple. And He said to them, 'Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!' Thus they went out and struck down the people in the city." (Ezekiel 8-9)

Ezekiel was shown this vision before Jerusalem was seiged and the temple was destroyed. It was a few years later that he received word that the event he had foretold was in the processing of coming to pass (Ezekiel 24). The parallel's between this vision and John's are unmistakable. Ezekiel and John are both told to interact in some way in their visions with the temple and those worshipping inside (Ezekiel 8, Revelation 11:1-2). Each see marks being put on the foreheads of the faithful, whom are to be overlooked by the destroyers (Ezekiel 9:4-6; Revelation 7:1-3).

It seems clear, then, that the temple to which John refers is the temple that stood before being destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. Whereas Daniel and Ezekiel, in their prophesies of a future temple, explicitly speak of the former's destruction and future restoration, John does not. And just as Ezekiel was told to interact in his vision with the then-standing temple, and saw marks being put on the foreheads of the faithful whom would be overlooked by the destroying angels, so, too, did John. John's reference to a temple, then, is powerful evidence that the book was written before Jerusalem fell.


The authors of Breaking, having attempted to refute Hank's internal evidence supporting a pre-70 date for Revelation (poorly, as we've seen), move on to present their evidence that Revelation was written in AD 95:

"One of the key internal arguments for the late date of Revelation is the condition of the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation 2-3. The churches of Asia Minor show all the symptoms of the second generation. The period of Paul's great mission seems to lie in the past." (p. 201)

Whenever I see a critic of preterism going down this road I sigh and roll my eyes. Let's take a look at the specifics they provide:

"If John wrote Revelation in AD 64-67, then the letter to the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7 overlaps with Paul's two letters to Timothy who was the pastor of the church when Paul wrote to him...Yet Paul makes no mention of the loss of first love or the presence of the Nicolaitans at Ephesus in his correspondence with Timothy. Neither does he mention these problems in his Ephesian epistle which was probably written in AD 62. Jesus' statement to the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:2 that it had guarded itself well against error does not fit what we know of the church in Nero's day (Acts 20:29-30; 1 Tim. 1:3-7; 2 Tim. 2:17-18)." (p. 201-202)

Paul may make no mention of the Ephesians having lost their first love, nor of the Nicolaitans, in his epistle to Timothy or to the Ephesians themselves. But the latter was written at least a couple of years before Revelation, so that is no surprise. As for the former, in the very opening to his first letter to Timothy, Paul writes, "remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines" (1 Timothy 1:3). He tells Timothy to "fight the good fight" (1 Timothy 1:18). He says "the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1). We have very little information about what the Nicolaitans professed, but no doubt it consisted of "doctrines of demons," and as such Paul's first letter to Timothy is consistent with the letter in Revelation, which would have come not long thereafter.

Likewise the emphasis throughout his second letter to Timothy is on guarding "through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you" (2 Timothy 1:14). He tells Timothy that being "strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" requires endurance (2 Timothy 2:1-13). He says "in the last days difficult times will come...evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3). That "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine...and will turn away their ears from the truth" (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Clearly it is evident in both of Paul's epistles to him that Timothy would have to fight against deceivers leading Ephesian congregants away from the truth.

Hitchcock and Ice tell us "Jesus' statement to the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:2 that it had guarded itself well against error does not fit what we know of the church in Nero's day." What that verse actually says is, "I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false" (Revelation 2:2). The letter goes on to say, "and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary" (Revelation 2:3). This is exactly what Paul had exhorted Timothy to do!

Thus, the letter to the church at Ephesus contained in Revelation 2 is perfectly consistent with a pre-70 fulfillment. The question that remains is their loss of their "first love:"

"Those who support the early date often respond to this point by noting that error can erupt very quickly in a church. As an example they sometimes cite the churches of Galatia who Paul says, 'so quickly deserted the gospel.' But there is a great difference between the condition and maturity of the Galatian churches after Paul's brief visit there on his first missionary journey, and the church of Ephesus where Paul headquartered for three years, where Apollos taught, where Priscilla and Aquila ministered, and where Timothy pastored for several years." (p. 202)

Perhaps there is a great difference. Nevertheless, baldly asserting one's opinion as fact does not constitute evidence. As Paul promised to Timothy, false teachers would come into the congregation and lead people astray, and he would need to fight for that church fervently and with perseverance. This is exactly what Jesus in Revelation says the "angel of the church in Ephesus" was doing, and commended him for it. We don't know for certain what it meant that the church is said to have lost its first love, but whatever it is, it's certainly conceivable that the Ephesian congregation and its leadership would have done so by the mid-60s.

"Moreover, Revelation 2:1-7 makes no mention of the great missionary work of Paul in Asia Minor. On his third missionary journey Paul headquartered in Ephesus for three years and had a profound ministry there. If John wrote Revelation in AD 65 then the omission of any mention of Paul in the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor is inexplicable." (p. 202)

Nonsense. Hitchcock and Ice cannot have it both ways. If they wish to justify the omission of the destruction of Jerusalem by saying that Revelation "is a prophecy about the future...and not history," then they can't from the other side of their mouths say the omission of Paul is unjustified. The letters to the churches speak of their current condition and their immediate future. There is no contextual reason to mention Paul.


"Apparently the church of Smyrna did not even exist during the ministry of Paul. Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna. In his letter to the Philippians (11.3), written in about AD 110, Polycarp says that the Smyrnaeans did not know the Lord during the time Paul was ministering...Polycarp is saying that Paul praised the Philippian believers in all the churches, but that during Paul's ministry in the AD 50s and 60s the church of Smyrna did not even exist...This evidence points to the close of the first century as the time of composition for Revelation." (p. 203-204)

Here's what Polycarp said:

"But I have not observed or heard of any such thing among you, in whose midst the blessed Paul labored, and who were his letters of recommendation in the beginning. For he boasts about you in all the churches--those alone, that is, which at that time had come to know the Lord, for we had not yet come to know him." (p. 203, citing the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, chapter 11)

Hitchcock and Ice are yet again grasping at straws. Notice that Polycarp says it was "at that time" at which the Smyrnaeans had not yet come to know the Lord. The authors of Breaking are without justification equating "at that time" with "during Paul's ministry in the AD 50s and 60s." What is the "time" to which Polycarp refers? Certainly one possibility is that "at that time" refers to Paul's ministry, from beginning to end. However, I see two other context-supported possibilities.

Stemming from the translation quoted in Breaking, one possible interpretation of the "time" to which Polycarp refers is that time during which Paul labored in the midst of the Philippians. Now I am no church historian, but from what I can gather, this would have been, at the most recent, some eight years or so prior to a mid-60s date for Revelation. This is certainly enough time for a new church to begin in Smyrna.

Another translation of Polycarp's epistle reads, "But I have neither seen nor heard of any such thing among you, in the midst of whom the blessed Paul laboured, and who are commended in the beginning of his Epistle." If this translation is accurate, then the "time" at which Polycarp refers, at which the Smyrnaeans had not yet come to know the Lord, may have been that at which Paul wrote to the Philippians. If this is the correct interpretation, then a mid-60s date for Revelation would allow for three years or so for the church at Smyrna to be founded.

In either case, the letter John is told to write to the church at Smyrna in no way serves as evidence in support of a late date for Revelation. It fits comfortably within an early dating framework as well. In fact, very little is said to this church. All we're told is that it was experiencing tribulation and poverty, but was rich, perhaps in good works, and that some Judaizers were present there (Revelation 2:9). The letters to the other churches are longer, more specific and include some amount of condemnation; the brevity of the letter to Smyrna suggests a newly founded church which has not yet waned in its passion. Hence, Polycarp's words lend greater support to the mid-60s date for Revelation than to a later date.


"The church of Laodicea is the only one of the seven churches (and possibly Sardis) that does not have one thing to commend. In his letter to the Colossians, probably written in AD 60-62, Paul indicates that the church was an active group (Colossians 4:13). He mentions the church there three times in his Colossian letter (2:2; 4:13, 16). It would certainly take more than three to five years for the church to depart so completely from its earlier acceptable status that absolutely nothing good could be said about it." (p. 204)

Yet again Hitchcock and Ice are grasping at straws. Their argument here is basically this: Paul lauds Laodicea in his letter to the Colossians by calling them an "active group," and that three to five years is not long enough for a church to downspiral into depravity. This is, once again, a bald assertion of an opinion stated as fact. There is no reason a congregation cannot fall so quickly.

Note, too, that Paul says nothing of the quality of the Laodiceans in his letter to the Colossians. He says he struggles on their behalf (2:2), that he wants his letter to be read to them (4:16) and that Epaphras has a "deep concern" for them (4:13), which is to say he's worked hard for them. That's it! There's no indication that the church was in "good shape" at that time. They very well could have been struggling, in the middle of a fall that would worsen over the next few years leading up to the Revelation. In fact, David Guzik writes in his commentary on this passage, "The church at Laodicea is mentioned by Paul - in a somewhat unfavorable light - in Colossians 2:1 and 4:16." So some commentators take Paul's words to the Colossians, not as speaking of Laodicea in neutral terms, but in negative ones.

"Laodicea is also described in Revelation as flourishing economically. Jesus quotes the church as saying, '"I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing"' (Rev. 3:14-22). Yet the city suffered devastation in the earthquake of AD 60 or possibly 61. After the earthquake the Laodiceans refused all aid and assistance from Rome preferring to rebuild their devastated city from their own resources...Since the rebuilding of Laodicea after the earthquake occupied a complete generation, it is highly problematic to claim that Laodicea was rich, wealthy, and in need of nothing in AD 65." (p. 204-205)

Yes, Laodicea was devastated by earthquake in the early 60s. But that does not mean they weren't "flourishing economically." The authors themselves indicate that they were able to "rebuild their devastated city from their own resources!" Pray tell, if they were not wealthy, upon what resources did they rely in their rebuilding effort? A. R. Fausset, in his commentary on this passage, writes,

"It was destroyed by an earthquake, A.D. 62, and rebuilt by its wealthy citizens without the help of the state [TACITUS, Annals, 14.27]. This wealth (arising from the excellence of its wools) led to a self-satisfied, lukewarm state in spiritual things."

David Guzik, citing Barclay, agrees:

"After an earthquake devastated the region in 60 a.d. Laodicea refused Imperial help in rebuilding the city, successfully relying on their own resources. They didn’t need outside help, they didn’t ask for it, and they didn’t want it. 'Laodicea was too rich to accept help from anyone. Tacitus, the Roman historian, tells us: "Laodicea arose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources, and with no help from us."' (Barclay)"

The Laodiceans, then, exhibited pride, unwilling to accept help but instead insisting that they could do it on their own. This prideful self-sufficiency is exactly what Jesus condemns. So Hitchcock's and Ice's argument fails. The letter to the Laodicean church, like those to Ephesus and Smyrna, are completely consistent with a mid-60s date for the book of Revelation.


"Another internal argument for the Domitianic date is suggested by Revelation 6:5-6, which appears to be an allusion to an edict of Domitian...In AD 92, in the face of a grain shortage, Domitian handed down a vine edict. In this edict he restricted provincial viticulture by ordering half of the vineyards of Asia Minor destroyed and no new ones planted to make room for growing more grain...The edict resulted in riots in Asia Minor because wine was a major source of income in that area. In response, Domitian revoked his earlier edict and ordered that anyone who allowed his vineyard to go out of production would be prosecuted. This event would have been a familiar, vivid allusion for John's readers of a case where grain was in shortage, but when it was illegal to harm the supply of oil and wine." (p. 205-206)

The verses in question read, "and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, 'A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine" (Revelation 6:5-6). This is a prophesy of the future (Revelation 4:1), not an allusion to the past, in which the horseman is commanded to cause grain and barley to become scarce and expensive while leaving the oil and wine untouched. This is in stark contrast to Domitian who responded to a drought he didn't cause by destroying half of the vineyards in the area!

Hitchcock and Ice write, "Since Revelation 6:6 appears to be an intentional allusion to this event, Revelation had to be written after AD 92, thus, supporting the late date of Revelation" (p. 207). I find it humorous that they say Domitian's edict "appears to be" the fulfillment of this prophecy and then say the prophecy "had to be written" after that event; quite the shift from uncertainty to absolute fact. The reality is, this passage in no way, shape or form supports an AD 95 date for the writing of Revelation. It is merely the prediction of impending famine, and we have numerous accounts of famines throughout the 60s. We may not have uncovered any evidence of famines at that time which had not touched the supply of oil or wine, but what that means is that this passage is proof of neither the mid-60s nor the mid-90s date.


Finally, Hitchcock and Ice offer up two last pieces of internal evidence supporting an AD 95 date for Revelation. First, as John admits toward the beginning of his letter, he received his Revelation while banished to the island of Patmos. The authors of Breaking tell us that while Nero did practice banishment, he is not recorded to have done so with Christians, whom he instead killed. Second, in the letter to Pergamum, Jesus mentions the martyrdom of Antipas, whom we're told by Hitchcock and Ice was martyred in AD 83 or 92. For both these reasons, John must have been banished by Domitian.

Regarding Nero and Patmos, the authors admit Nero did practice banishment, and while he certainly enjoyed killing Christians, we have no reason to believe it is impossible that he would have banished John. As for the Antipas argument, an endnote admits that "The tradition of Antipas' martyrdom in AD 92 by being roasted alive in bronze bull comes frm a Byzantine hagiographer named Simeon Metaphastes (AD 900-984)." If Hitchcock and Ice want to argue against an early date for Revelation based on a tradition that originated more than 800 years later, they can have this one.

The only internal evidence for an AD 95 date for Revelation, then, is the flimsy argument that Nero wouldn't have banished a Christian, and an equally tenuous tradition originating 800 years later which held that Antipas was martyred under Domitian. What internal evidence, on the other hand, might one present in support of a mid-60s date?
  1. The reference to the temple in chapter 11. As we saw earlier, John was told to measure the temple in his vision, and unlike Daniel and Ezekiel, John includes no mention of the destruction of his contemporary temple, nor prophesies concerning its restoration. Lacking those details, Revelation must have been written when the temple was still standing.
  2. The parallels between Revelation and Ezekiel. We also saw that like John, Ezekiel tells us in his early chapters that he was told to interact with a temple in his visions and those worshipping inside. But Ezekiel, in that context, was being shown the then-standing temple, and was told that all but those with stamps on their foreheads would be slain. John also sees the faithful stamped on their foreheads and spared from being slain by the destroying angels.
  3. John tells his readers he was shown "things which must soon take place." The plain reading of the time-texts in Revelation need only be abandoned for an alternative interpretation if one first accepts that they could not have been written before AD 70.
  4. Daniel was told to seal his prophecy but John was not. Daniel was told, "conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time" (Daniel 12:4,9). John, on the other hand, was told, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near" (Revelation 22:10). Daniel wrote some 600 years before John, and we are reading John's words some 1,900 years later. It is strange that Daniel would be told to seal up his words for 600 years "until the end," but John was told to leave his prophecy unsealed for over 1,900 years "for the time is near." It makes perfect sense, however, if Daniel was to seal his prophecy for 600 years until the end, which was within years of John's prophecy.
  5. John suggests his readers can calculate the number of the beast. He writes, "let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six" (Revelation 13:18). This would have made sense in a first century context where names were often reduced to their corresponding numbers in both Greek (isopsephia) and Hebrew (gimatriya). In a modern day context, however, there are a limitless number of ways one can imagine calculating the number of the beast, and it seems implausible that one could know which is correct.
Though other preterists would offer a number of other internal evidences, these are those which I think are most difficult to answer. Of course, those who insist Revelation was written in AD 95 will not see them as being as strong as I do. Hence, as I said in part 1, I don't think the evidence is terribly conclusive one way or another. I firmly hold to a mid-60s date primarily because I believe the testimony of the whole of Scripture supports a preterist position better than a futurist one, and I think futurists likewise hold to a late date, not because of the external and internal evidence we've examined, but because they firmly hold to a futurist position.


With that, the authors of Breaking conclude the chapter, saying,

"While Hanegraaff's system has other weaknesses, the Achilles heel of his view is the date of Revelation. The evidence for the AD 95 date of Revelation is overwhelming. Yet, in spite of the overwhelming evidence in favor of the AD 95 date, and the fact that it is the dominant, traditional view of the church all the way back to the second century, Hanegraaff calls it 'patently untenable.'" (p. 208)

As we've seen in parts 1 and 2 of my review of this chapter, the evidence presented by Hitchcock and Ice is anything but overwhelming. Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria, writing in the second century, lend support to the mid-60s date, rather than the AD 95 date. The tradition of John's banishment under Patmos isn't evident until Eusebius wrote of it a hundred years later. And of all the so-called internal evidence presented by the authors of Breaking, only two tenuous arguments hold any water, in contrast with several powerful internal evidences in support of an early date.

Thus, though I would argue that the external and internal evidence is strongly in favor of a mid-60s date for Revelation, the point is that the authors of Breaking the Apocalypse Code are being disingenuous in claiming that an AD 95 date is demanded by the evidence. Hitchcock and Ice "urge Hanegraaff to rethink his position and adopt an approach to eschatology in general and Revelation in particular that is not totally dependent upon the sandy foundation of a mid-sixties date for Revelation" (p. 208). I, instead, urge Hitchcock and Ice to vigorously debate the preterist position on its merits, rather than redirect and make the spurious claim that preterists are on shaky ground when it comes to the date of Revelation.

No comments:

Post a Comment