Alan Missen's Article re the Rev'd date
- Dear Alan,
Thank you for your article. It was a good read. Not sufficiently
good, hwever, to dissuade me from a date of 62. I do wish I had seen
your work earlier as there were many works in there that would have
been worth reading for my own work. I guess that few none that I
knew of during the five years of writing would support such an
early date and so I was forced to scratch around for my own evidence
even more so to support the reconstruction that followed.
One of the basic problems, I think, is that the arguments for a later
date are usually pitted against an `early' date that is already too
late (i.e around 66-70) and one, therefore, that also does not fit
the evidence, scriptural or otherwise. And some significant evidence
for a Domitian date is equally valid for a date of 62.
There are several issues that I would like to comment on.
Firstly, I must say that the insistence upon the Revelation being
John's (or anyone else's) composition, in the sense that it was his
creation rather than a record of the vision given to him as the
Revelation, itself, claims does not sit easily with me. If it was
not, then the integrity of its writer, who expressed the receiving of
it in such terms, is to be questioned. There is a problem here, given
the clearly high ethical stance of the writers of Scripture.
Accepting the work as something given by God to Christ and by Christ
to John means that it is all prophecy. Not as a whole or in part does
it become prophecy as you claim.
"The Apocalypse thus becomes a prophecy in that John recognizes where
things are heading for the churches in Asia."
Secondly, and perhaps fundamental to the later date, is the lack any
record of Nero persecuting outside of Rome. As you say:
"The setting in Asia undermines the alternative of assigning the book
to the reign of Nero, since historical evidence locates Nero's
persecution of Christians within the city of Rome."
I know that this reasoning is held by many, and it is reasonable. But
is it reasonable that no persecutions flowed over to Asia as a result
of Nero's ruckus in Rome. The answer is no. Consider the scenario:
Rome burned in July of 64 (something Peter and Paul, both probably in
prison in Rome at the time, would have understood in terms of Rev
18). To rebuild the city, Nero demanded contributions from the
provinces of the Empire, when they proved insufficient, he sent out
his henchmen to plunder the temples. Tacitus tells us:
"Italy was ransacked for contributions. The provinces and allied
peoples were rifled, as well as the states which are called `free'.
Even the Gods had to submit to being plundered. The temples in the
city were despoiled, and emptied of the gold consecrated at triumphs,
or vowed by past generations of Romans in times of panic or
prosperity. As for Asia and Achaia, not offerings only, but the very
images of the Gods were carried off..." (Tacitus, Annals, XV.45.1-3).
It is likely that Nero's blaming and purge of the Christians did not
begin until near the end of the year, quite probably not until after
shipping closed down for the winter. Over those several months,
then, the provinces were left to stew over the plundering of their
temples. When news came the next spring that the Christians were
responsible and that Nero was dealing with them so brutally in Rome,
is it possible that there was no reaction against them. I think not,
especially as the Christians were generally despised anyway. We can
be certain that many suffered. The persecutions, however, were not
sanctioned from Rome so much as they were local and regional acts of
revenge. There was, therefore, no record of them. Even if the
officials were aware of them, they were most likely to have approved
them or, at least, turned a blind eye, particularly in Asia which was
renowned for its emperor worship. I do not think that the argument
that Nero's persecutions were confined to Rome holds. Even if it
does, there can be no doubt that his purge had ramifications which
others executed much more broadly.
Thirdly is your contention, and that of others, with the view that
the Revelation was not written in an atmosphere of anything other
than the regular hardships the faithful suffered. It seems more
likely that the problem was one of complacency and compromise in the
Church. Two quotes from your work:
"As such, John and his followers are at odds not only with the larger
Roman social order, but also with the majority of a Christian
community that John perceives as accommodating itself to that order."
"Some scholars argue that the paucity of references to persecution of
Christians in Revelation support their view that the crisis was more
perceived than real, or otherwise was more on the issue of compromise
with a cultic economy."
I think this is true, the Revelation has an anticipation of something
severe about to burst upon the faithful, but it had not yet begun
(see esp. Rev 1-3). Slater has represented this well in his article
(`On the Social Setting of the Revelation to John', New Testament
Studies, Vol. 44, 1998). Like you, he presents the conditions as a
case for a Domitian date. However, the same evidence is supportive of
a date prior to Nero's persecutions and their repercussions, as I
It is not without interest that Slater, and others, draw a "a
comparison between 1 Peter and Revelation". As I have said, 1 Peter
was written as a response to the Revelation (both in 62).
Lastly, I think that you may have hoped for too much from Pliny's
mention of 25 years. You may be right, but I dare say it may just be
a reasonably round figure without reference to any specific event a
quarter of a century earlier. To give such meaning to the 25, I think
you need to do something similar with the `three years' as well. The
fact that Pliny says `others many years, some as much as twenty-five
years' indicates that he saw a whole spread of times with, perhaps, a
very small number going back a whole 25 years.
Thanks again, Alan, our various views help us to keep each other