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Dating the Book of Revelation: Clarifying Tommy Ice’s Clarifications

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This is the fifth installment of my response to Tommy Ice’s article “Answers and Clarifications for Gary DeMar.” You can reference the other four posts here, here, here, and here.  Tommy brings up the dating issue of when Revelation was written. He takes the position that Revelation was written around A.D. 95 while I and many others believe with good exegetical and historical reasons that it was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Here’s how Tommy presents the issue:

DeMar believes this time-period refers to “the conflagration leading up to the destruction of A.D. 70, the tribulation period.” However, his view presupposes that Revelation was written around A.D. 65, which Mark Hitchcock [1] and most scholars throughout church history have demonstrated is impossible. Since Revelation was most assuredly written in A.D. 95, the question for DeMar is “What does the hour of testing refer to?”

Tommy’s back to “most scholars” again. There are many scholars who believe that Revelation was written before A.D. 70. Kenneth Gentry made a case for the pre-A.D. 70 date in his Ph.D. dissertation that was later published in book form as Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation.

Dispensationalist writers John Ankerberg and John Weldon write, “[I]ndeed, it is becoming an increasingly persuasive argument that all the New Testament books were written before 70 A.D. — within a single generation of the death of Christ. [2] Josh McDowell takes a similar approach to dating the New Testament books:

Most liberal scholars are being forced to consider earlier dates for the New Testament. Dr. John A.T. Robinson, no conservative himself, comes to some startling conclusions in his groundbreaking book Redating the New Testament. His research has led to his conviction that the whole of the New Testament was written before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (Robinson, RNT). [3]

As Gentry and others have pointed out and Ice fails to acknowledge, the pre-A.D. 70 date of composition for Revelation has a long and distinguished history. Consider the following from “The Identification of Babylon the Harlot in the Book of Revelation” written by D. Ragan Ewing in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Theology degree at Dallas Theological Seminary, a bastion of dispensational thinking.

New Testament scholars such as C. F. D. Moule [4], Joseph Fitzmyer [5], F. F. Bruce [6], E. Earle Ellis [7], and J. A. T. Robinson [8] have all recently supported the early date position. [9]

Moreover, this is far from novel. In reality, these writers are merely returning to what was once the foregone conclusion of nearly the entire New Testament studies world. As Wilson notes, “Throughout the nineteenth century the majority of New Testament scholars favored a pre-70 dating of the Book of Revelation.” [10] Robinson echoes, “It is indeed a little known fact that this [a pre-70 date] was what Hort calls ‘the general tendency of criticism’ for most of the nineteenth century… .” [11]) Indeed Lightfoot, Westcott, Hort, and a host of others held strongly to an early dating of the book [12], so much so that one author in Lightfoot’s day agreed this date to be universally accepted by all competent critics.” [13]

Tommy offers no contrary scholarship to the pre-A.D. 70 date except to say that most scholars agree with him. The problem for Tommy is that there are lots of scholars that don’t agree with him, and the list is growing every year.

  1. Mark Hitchcock, “A Defense of the Domitianic Date of the Book of Revelation” (PhD dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, December 2005).[]
  2. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Ready With An Answer: For the Tough Questions About God (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1997), 364–365.[]
  3. Josh McDowell, Evidence for Christianity: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 80.[]
  4. Though hesitantly: “The Apocalypse may be before A.D. 70” (C. F. D. Moule, The Birth of Christianity, 3d ed. [San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1982], 174).[]
  5. J. A. Fitzmyer, Review of Redating the New Testament, by J. A. T. Robinson, Interpretation 32, no.3, (July 1978): 309–13.[]
  6. F. F. Bruce, New Testament History (New York: Doubleday, 1969), 411.[]
  7. E. Earle Ellis, The Making of the New Testament Documents, Biblical Interpretation Series, ed. R. Alan Culpepper and Rolf Rendtorff, vol. 39 (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 210–16.[]
  8. J. A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1976), 221–53.[]
  9. It is an interesting side note that while the discipline of New Testament studies has inclined toward a late date in the past century, modern classicists seem to continue to be persuaded of the earlier date position (See intriguing discussion by Robinson, Redating, 225).[]
  10. J. Christian Wilson, “The Problem of the Domitianic Date of Revelation,” New Testament Studies 39 (October 1993): 587.[]
  11. Robinson, Redating, 224. Robinson goes on to cite Peake regarding the “remarkable consensus of ‘both advanced and conservative scholars’ who backed it,” (Robinson, Redating, 225) and even remarks wittily that, “It must have been one of the few things on which Baur and Lightfoot agreed!” (Robinson, Redating, 225, note 25.[]
  12. Robinson, Redating, 224.[]
  13. J. B. Lightfoot, Essays on the Work of Supernatural Religion (London: Macmillan, 1889), 132 (italics mine), citing the anonymous author of Supernatural Religion.[]

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