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The Date

Only two dates for the composition are named, (1.) that always assigned to it by the ancient church, near the end of the reign of the Emperor Domitian, which extended from a.d. 81 to a.d. 96, and (2.) that which has been urged by certain modern critics, the latter part of the reign of Nero, about a.d. 65–68. The first date is supported by the historical testimony. It is urged in behalf of the second that there are internal evidences in its favor, but when these are examined they are found to resolve themselves into certain theories of interpretation and were it not for the necessity of these, this date would never have been proposed. Before stating the grounds for assigning the date to the latter part of the reign of Domitian, about a.d. 95,96, I will briefly consider the reasons urged in favor of the date in the reign of Nero. (1.) It is held that the work must have been written while the temple was still standing (Re 11:1) and that chap. 11:2 and chap. 20:9 prove that the City of Jerusalem was still standing but in a state of siege. It seems strange to me that a Bible student could use this argument. Every New Testament student knows that both the temple and Jerusalem are used elsewhere as symbols of the church, and how much more likely that the terms would be used as symbols in a book which is largely composed of symbols from beginning to end! It seems strange that in a vision composed of symbols any one should insist that John on Patmos, a thousand miles distant, literally saw the temple or Jerusalem. Besides, when John in chap. 11:8 speaks of the city as “spiritually called Sodom and Egypt,” he shows that he cannot mean the literal Jerusalem. A holy city is the symbol of the church; a wicked city of an apostate church; a city trodden down by the Gentiles of a church overcome by worldly influence. The language of chap. 20:9 utterly excludes the Jewish capital in the reign of Nero.33The exegetical assumption of modern critics that this passage (Rev. 11:1) proves the temple at Jerusalem to have been still standing at the time when the Apocalypse was written affords another sign of the deep fall of these critics into a false literalism (Lange on Revelation, page 26). The theory itself is skeptical in that it convicts John of holding and sanctioning a popular error. (3.) It is also urged that there are certain solecisms in the Greek original which are wanting in John's gospel, and from this it is argued that the Revelation must have been written much earlier than the gospel, before John had fully mastered the language. Upon this point I quote from Prof. Wm. Milligan, of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, than whom, probably, no man living is a more thorough scholar in New Testament Greek: “The solecisms are not such as proceed from an ignorance of the Greek language, and they would not have been removed by greater familiarity with 407it. However we attempt to account for them, they are obviously designed, and rather imply a more accurate knowledge of the grammatical forms from which they are intentional departures. At the same time there are passages in the book (as for example chap. 18) which, in their unsurpassed and unsurpassable eloquence, exhibit a command of the Greek tongue, on the part of the writer, that long familiarity with it can best explain, were explanation necessary.”44Winer (Grammar of the Greek Testament), discussing the solecisms of the Apocalypse says, “In some instances they are the result of design; in others they are to be referred to carelessness on the part of the writer.… In this light they should always be considered, and not ascribed to the ignorance of the writer, or regarded Hebraisms.… But, with all the simplicity and the oriental tone of his language, the author knows well and observes well the rules of the Greek syntax.”—Page 672. It should always, too, be kept in mind that Revelation is written, not as a calm, sedate, elaborate composition, like John's Gospel, but with the fire and ecstasy of a prophet. This accounts for differences of style. (4.) It is said that the Jewish imagery belongs to John's earlier rather than his later years. To this it may be replied that no New Testament writer shows a stronger Jewish feeling than is found in John's gospel. It is John, who states, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22) that Jesus is “the King of Israel” (John 1:49), and Old Testament thoughts and figures constantly appear in the fourth gospel.

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