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Alan Missen's Article re the Rev'd date

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  • ksmith@standrews.sa.edu.au
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 24, 2001
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      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
      suggest.

      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
      sharp.

      Sincerely,

      Kym Smith
      Adelaide
      South Australia
      khs@...
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