Q&A: Revelation Written under Nero or Domitian?

Revelation Written under Nero or Domitian?

What is the historical setting of the book of Revelation?

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Answer

When we talk about the historical setting of the book of Revelation, the simple answer is, it's the first century. The first century is the historical context. That's very important, because oftentimes people try to make the twenty-first century the historical context, and they try to read things from today's news into the book of Revelation. And we have to be cautious about that. This book would have been understandable to the people of the first century, because that is its historical context. So, its context is the first-century struggle between Christianity and Judaism, on the one hand, and Christianity and the Roman Empire, and particularly, the context of Caesar worship in the first century. So, that's critically important to understand, that first-century context. Now, when in the first century is another question. And there's two main dates that have been proposed for the book of Revelation. The traditional date, and probably the one held by the majority of scholars, is that it's very late in the first century, in the 90s, during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, and the persecutions that the church was undergoing under the Roman Emperor Domitian. The other possibility is a significantly earlier date, in the mid-60s, and the persecutions under the Emperor Nero. Some have even suggested that the "666," the number of the beast in Revelation, is code language for the name Nero, and that's one of the reasons some would place the book in the context, or shortly after the reign of the Emperor Nero. So, those are the two main dates that most scholars hold to with reference to the book of Revelation.

Answer by Dr. Mark L. Strauss

Dr. Mark Strauss Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary in San Diego, CA