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The Real Date

It is thus seen that the argument in favor of the early date is easily answered. On the other hand, the historical argument in favor of a later date is convincing to the mind which can be swayed by historical evidence. Commencing with the positive and definite statement of Irenæus there is unbroken agreement for nearly four centuries that the date of the work belongs to the persecution of the reign of Domitian. To properly weigh the statement of Irenæus, elected Bishop of Lyons in a.d. 178, and born in the first quarter of the second century, it is needful to keep in mind that he was a disciple of Polycarp, who suffered martyrdom in a.d. 155. In one of his letters Irenæus speaks to a fellow disciple of how intimate they had been with Polycarp and how often they had heard him tell of John the apostle, and how much they had been told of John by the aged saint who had once been under the instruction of the apostle. Hence it is apparent that Irenæus must have known from Polycarp the leading facts of John's history, and especially the circumstances connected with his exile to Patmos. This witness, whose opportunity for knowing the facts is unquestioned, declares, “Revelation was seen no long time since, but almost in our generation, towards the end of the reign of Domitian” (a.d. 96). With this plain statement agree all the church fathers who speak of the subject, not only of the second century, but for three centuries. “There is no variation in the historical accounts. All statements support the conclusion that St. John was banished to Patmos by Domitian (a.d. 81–96)—some writers placing the exile in the fourteenth of his reign—and all agree that the Visions of which Revelation is the record were received in Patmos.”55The Bible (Speaker's) Commentary. New Testament, Vol. IV, page 432.

One writer in the fourth century makes the blunder of assigning the banishment to the reign of Claudius Cæsar, a blunder which finds no endorsers, a blunder which is supposed to have been a verbal mistake, but it is not until the sixth century that we find the opinion expressed that the banishment belonged to the persecution of the reign of Nero, and up to the twelfth century there are only two writers who endorse this date. They cannot be called witnesses, since the earliest of them was separated from the death of John by a period greater than that which separates us from the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Hence, it is no misstatement of the facts to say that the historical proof, in favor of the later date, is uniform, clear and convincing. 408

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