Q&A: Revelation Date of Composition

Revelation Date of Composition

Question

When was the book of Revelation written?

Answer

That's a really good question! I'm afraid, however, that I can't answer it.

Scholars hotly debate the issue of the dating of the writing of Revelation. The biggest question on everyone's mind is generally whether the book was written before or after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Those who date the book prior to A.D. 70 generally argue that its prophecies refer primarily to that destruction. Those who date the book later generally interpret the prophecies as pertaining to the more distant end times or to the whole history of the world since then.

This problem of dating arose very early in the church. Epiphanius thought John was exiled around A.D. 41-54. Syriac versions of Revelation suggest a date of A.D. 54-68. Iraneus, Eusebius, Clement of Alexandria and Origen all seem to favor A.D. 81-96. One writer even suggested a date of A.D. 98-117. Insofar as we can't determine when John was exiled to Patmos, we can't determine when he wrote Revelation.

My own understanding of Revelation does not hinge on the dating. I see it as restating the history of this age repeatedly through several sets of visions. This position is sometimes described as "recapitulation." In any event, it eliminates some of the troubles of dating since it interprets the work as referring to events that are past, present and future to the writing itself.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.