It is commonly read at the end of the liturgical year, for it bespeaks the end of, and passing qualities of all things of this world. It is also a book of glory, depicting the ultimate victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, after a great period of conflict between the doomed kingdom of this world, and the victorious Kingdom of Christ. In this context the Book of Revelation is not a mere tour guide to the last days, but is a book of glory reminding us that Christ has the total victory already wrapped up.
I would like in this post to present a view of the Book of Revelation that, while a minority opinion, I think better articulates the original context of the Book of Revelation and provides important interpretive keys to understanding its fundamental message. The Majority of modern scholars place the date of the composition of the Book of Revelation between AD. There are good reasons for this, not the least of which is the testimony of several Fathers of the Church.
Irenaeus places the work at 96 AD. Victorinus places the writing in the context of the persecution of Domitian, and indicates it was thus that John was imprisoned on Patmos. Jerome and Eusebius say the same. This date of composition also flows well with modern theories of biblical dating which tend to favor later dates as a general rule. The Minority view places the date of composition before 70 AD, during the persecution of Nero.
This was the first and to that time, the worst persecution of the Church in the First Century. Although this view is clearly in the minority, it is gaining adherents. Of course we might wonder if such an early date does not offend against the testimony of the Fathers of the Church just mentioned. But not, the most significant Father to attest to a mid-nineties date is Irenaeus.
But it must be said, that in terms of dating, Ireneus is a bit unreliable. For example, he argues that Jesus was 50 when he was crucified. Thus, though Irenaeus gives us a lot of good biblical insight, he is less reliable for testimony referencing dates and time frames. Likewise, the grammar of the Greek sentence wherein Ireneus states the date of 96 AD is unclear. It can be translated two ways: An additional and more central reason for leaning to the earlier date of prior to 70 AD, is that it gives a clearer account of the context for the persecutions being endured by the Christians that flows more from the actual biblical data, wherein the persecution derives more from fellow Jews, than from Romans alone.
To state again, the common modern and majority view is that the context of this book is the persecution against Christians by Domitian Emperor from AD and the Roman Empire which he headed.
John has been arrested and exiled to the Island of Patmos. Thus, the chief context for the majority view is the antagonism of the Roman Empire seeking to force Christians to emperor worship and apostasy from the Christian faith in the one true God. Further, the harlot city is defined in this point of view as Rome. But the minority view holds that the primary antagonist is not Rome alone, but is a more complex reality of Jews and Romans in concert together against the early Christians.
Recall how Jesus was put to death by Pontius Pilate and the Romans. But, this was also due to the provocation of fellow Jews against Jesus. Peter and John, likewise Paul all suffered from the same collusion of fellow Jews who incited the concern and hostility of Roman officials.
The general context of the early New Testament period is that fellow Jews, who did not accept Christ, stirred up trouble for the early Church and provoked the Roman authorities to arrest, punish and even put to death early Christians. The minority position sees this as the primary historical context of the persecutions described in the Book of Revelation. Recall too that the Book of Revelation presents the primary antagonist as a horrible Red Dragon.
He is clearly the devil. But this Red Dragon gives birth to two beasts which antagonize the Church. This is the double threat experienced by the early Christians. Historically, at the early stages, Roman authorities were generally indifferent to Christian teachings.
However, when Jews, who rejected Christ, entered into open conflict with Christians, they did so in such a way as to involve, often unwillingly, Roman officials. Once provoked, these officials would often be fair, but could also be ruthless. Remember that many Jews did in fact become Christians. It especially represents the leadership centered in the Temple.
Thus the city that is destroyed in the Book of Revelation is, in fact, Jerusalem. Now, this corresponds to what happened historically in 70 AD to Jerusalem. And thus, the minority view holds that the Book of Revelation dates from the period before 70 AD. The year 70 was a crucial year for the city of Jerusalem, for it was that year that the war with the Romans was concluded. In this year, Jerusalem was sacked and burned and the Temple destroyed. Not one stone was left on another and the whole area except for a few dwellings on Mt.
Survivors were carried into slavery or killed. The destruction and abandonment was total and 1. Although it is a minority view, it is growing in acceptance and, I would argue is compelling for the following reasons: It also links it to similar prophecies of Christ in the Gospels, most notably the Mount Olivet Discourse: For example, Mat Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple.
Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down. Note the similarities in passage like this to the prophecies of Revelation.
Note too that the context of the Mount Olivet Discourse is the destruction of the Temple and the signs that precede it, not the destruction of Rome or of the world. Indeed there are striking parallels in the details of Revelation and the Mount Olivet discourse wherein our Lord proclaimed the imminent destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The parallels are too numerous to detail here, But I have put them in column form here: The Book of Revelation.
And thus its content corresponds to the context of the Mt Olivet discourse, namely, the Destruction of Jerusalem, not Rome. It links the Book of Revelation to prophetic books of the Old Testament and maintains their historical meaning and focus. Since this is done, it is important to learn what their historical context and concerns were. Most of the O. If that was the original context of the texts from which John borrows, then it is strongly probable that John is saying, what happened then in BC will happen again unless there is Jewish repentance and faith.
This is what the passages meant in the Old Testament time and now John borrows them for the current time of 70 AD, wherein the Temple and Jerusalem were prophesied by Jesus to be destroyed again. Thus parallel events are being described and point to the context in which John writes. The minority view fits nicely with this historical perspective. Nowhere in the Old Testament is Rome or any pagan city called a harlot. But Jerusalem repeatedly is.
Here are some examples of the use of the word from the prophets: Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. It also fits with the most direct references as to the identity of the persecutors in the Book of Revelation.
Romans would surely not have considered themselves Jews. Hence, we ought to take the text at face value: But the persecutor is not Jews alone, but also the Gentiles, responding to the complaints of Jews against the Christians. Thus the enemy is also identified as Caesar Nero: Here are a couple of texts that describe the persecutors of the Christians in very Jewish terms: In Revelation 11 the harlot city is identified as Jerusalem not Rome: Thus the city is Jerusalem, not Rome as is presupposed by the majority opinion.
The city described as the place where their Lord was crucified can be no other place than Jerusalem. His number is But why would Nero be referenced in a persecution taking place near 90 AD under the reign of Domitian? Thus the minority view of Revelation as a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem not Rome in 70 AD seems more plausible.
Thus a complex, double-enemy seems to be described. These two beasts, both coming from the Red Dragon, seem to comport well with the data of the Book of Revelation and the Historical context of the time leading up to 70 AD wherein the two enemies who conspire against the early Church. Ultimately, as the Book of Revelation also describes, these two beasts turn on one another, and the harlot is destroyed.
In Revelation Rev 17ff The complex, two-fold enemy is described as a beast, and a harlot. The harlot city rides upon the beast. The beast later turns and devours the harlot with fire and total destruction.
This in fact happened when Rome which had a partnership with Jerusalem through the Herodian dynasty turned against Jerusalem and totally destroyed her by fire, killing 1.
Thus the Book of Revelation seems to describe an enemy of the early Christians that is a complex combination of two enemies who conspire against the early Church, and later turn on each other. This was historically the fact at the time of 70 AD when the Jews and Rome went to war against one another.
It flows well from the fuller context of the New Testament. Those these Roman officials are often hesitant to become involved, though they are not thereby absolved of responsibility any more than Pilate can be absolved for his actions.
Notice the consistent Biblical context of the double enemy face by Christians: It was fellow Jews who handed Jesus over. In particular it was fellow Jews who had much invested in the Temple and its rituals who were most threatened by him who handed him over.
Pilate, though unjust in his final action, was reluctant and it was only when He perceived that the Jewish leaders would lead a riot that he relented and had Jesus put to death.
In the Acts of the Apostles, it is always fellow Jews who attack and pursue Paul. Even when he Romans do arrest Paul it is once again due to the insistence of fellow Jews and the threat of civil unrest it Roman officials did not comply.