Q&A: Dating the Book of Revelation

Dating the Book of Revelation

What is the historical setting of the book of Revelation?

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Answer

It's hard to be dogmatic about the precise date of the book of Revelation. Obviously, because it's the last book in the Bible, it's tempting to think it's probably the last thing that was written, but that's not necessarily the case. I guess we'd have to ask the question: Is it before or after A.D. 70, the great Fall of Jerusalem? And the death of the Emperor Nero, in A.D. 68, is also a key event in that first century. Also, there are some allusions to the Fall of Jerusalem. It's a bit difficult to know how to interpret some passages, for example, in Revelation 11, which talk about the city under judgment. But my hunch is that these probably are making a reference to the Fall of Jerusalem, which Jesus had predicted, and that Revelation in some ways is a kind of recasting of Jesus' prophecy about the apocalyptic discourse, and is saying, "Now, that which I have predicted, well, now it still has application into the future, because even though Jerusalem has been destroyed, the big end of the world is still to come." And I think it's a reworking of Jesus' prophecy concerning the Fall of Jerusalem. So, my hunch is that it's after 70. Well, it's unclear, also, whether or not the people that received this are already experiencing a very strong persecution, or whether it's more a warning that they're about to. And so, that affects the dating. It may be a little bit earlier, and some of the Domitianic persecution in the 90s was still to come, and therefore, is not being described after the event; it's being described before the event. So, if you ask me exactly, I'd go for the early 80s A.D.

Answer by Dr. Peter Walker

Dr. Peter Walker has served as Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity School for Ministry and as Associate Vice-Principal at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He is currently an instructor with Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies.