The Date of the Book of Revelation

There are 2 leading hypotheses as to when Revelation was written.

1. Mid-to-late 60s

Some scholars think it was written in the mid- to late 60s of the first century, during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero (AD 54–68). For Christians, Nero was undoubtedly a symbol of the worst possibilities of Roman imperial power, since in 64 he initiated the first large-scale government persecution of Christians, resulting in the martyrdom of many, including Peter and Paul.

A picture below of Nero composing a poem while Rome is burning.

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2. Mid-to-late 90s

However, the majority of interpreters, ancient and modern, hold that Revelation was written in the mid-90s, during the reign of the emperor Domitian (81–96). Irenaeus, writing in Against Heresies (5.30.3) around the year 180, states that John “beheld the apocalyptic vision … not a very long time ago, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign.” Other ancient writers, including Victorinus, Eusebius, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, support his view.

2

A key question is which period better fits the circumstances depicted in the book. Some passages in Revelation depict persecution, and there seems to have been persecution of Christians by Roman authorities during Domitian’s reign. Although the extent of Domitian’s persecution of Christians is debated, some evidence for such a persecution exists. In AD 96, toward the end of Domitian’s reign, Clement of Rome writes guardedly of “sudden and unexpected happenings and experiences that have befallen us” (1 Clement 1.1), and some second-century Christian authors allude to persecutions by Domitian. The fact that some of Domitian’s pagan contemporaries regarded him as another Nero is consistent with this possibility. Other details in Revelation better fit the 90s than the 60s—for instance, the prosperity of Laodicea (3:17), which suffered a major earthquake in AD 60, and the line “do not damage the olive oil or the wine” (6:6), which might allude to an edict of Domitian about vineyards in Asia in 92.

Resources Used:

  • Williamson, P. S. (2015). CCSS: Revelation. (M. Healy, Ed.) (pp. 21–22). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
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