When Was the Book of Revelation Written?

by jimmyakin

in +Religion, Apologetics, Bible, Prophecy

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Rev. 6)

Most scholars today think that the book of Revelation was written around the year A.D. 95, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian.

Historically, though, many thought it was written earlier than that, and there is a surprisingly strong case that the book was written in the late A.D. 60s or the early part of A.D. 70. Let’s take a quick look at the evidence . . .

“Five Are Fallen”

In Revelation 17, John sees a vision of the Whore of Babylon seated on the beast with seven heads, and he is told:

[9] This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated;
[10] they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes he must remain only a little while.

There’s pretty good evidence that the beast represents the Roman empire and that these seven kings represent the line of first century Roman emperors.

If you’d like more information on that subject, check out my videos, Who Is the Beast of Revelation and Who Is the Beast of Revelation (Part Two).

Assuming that identification is accurate, that gives us a pretty strong clue about when the book was written. If five of the kings (emperors) are fallen (dead) and one is (living/reigning) then that means Revelation was written during the reign of the sixth emperor. So which would that be?

Here are two possibilities . . .

The Reign of Nero?

The Emperor Nero

If you start the count with Julius Caesar then the sixth emperor would be Nero:

  1. Julius Caesar
  2. Augustus
  3. Tiberius
  4. Caligula
  5. Claudius
  6. Nero

Nero certainly fits well with the description of the beast that is given in the book (see the two videos), but there is a possible problem: Julius Caesar was not technically an emperor. He was a dictator (meaning: the Roman Senate voted him the title “dictator”–which was an actual political office back then, before the term came to mean “tyrant”), but he wasn’t voted the title “emperor.”

Still, it’s possible that this might not have made a lot of difference from the perspective of first century Jews and Christians.

Technically, the Roman emperors weren’t kings at all (the Romans were very proud of the fact that they had ended the line of Roman kings and set up a republic), but they functioned as kings, and everybody understood that.

This is why the crowd cried “We have no king but Caesar!” during the trial of Jesus.

So if the count starts with Julius then we have reason to think Revelation was written in the reign of Nero, which was between October 13, A.D. 54 and June 9, A.D. 68.

But there’s another possibility that may be even more likely . . .

The Reign of Galba?

The Emperor Galba

The first person to be voted the title “emperor” was Augustus, and he could well be regarded as the starting point of the count by people all across the empire, including Jews and Christians. If so, then this is what we would get:

  1. Augustus
  2. Tiberius
  3. Caligula
  4. Claudius
  5. Nero
  6. Galba

I know. You may be saying, “Who?”

Galba isn’t a very famous emperor, and one reason is that he didn’t reign very long. In fact, he reigned only a few months, during a disastrous period known as “the Year of Four Emperors,” in which Rome was torn apart by a series of bloody civil wars in which one emperor toppled another in rapid succession.

But if that’s the case then, since Galba reigned such a short time, we’d actually be able to date the writing of Revelation very precisely.

It would have to be between June 8, A.D. 68 and January 15, A.D. 69. (Galba actually began reigning the day before Nero died, because Nero had been declared an enemy of the state by the Senate and went on the lam before being coerced into committing suicide.)

So it could be that Revelation was written during a very short span in late 68 or (very) early 69.

Is there other evidence that has a bearing on this?

“He must remain only a little while”

The Emperor Otho

You’ll recall that the seventh king was said to remain (reign) only a little while. Does that fit the situation?

Yes. In fact, it fits both of the possibilities we’ve mentioned.

If Nero was reigning then Nero’s successor, Galba, certainly reigned a short time–just barely over 7 months.

If Galba was reigning then, since he was reigning in the Year of Four Emperors, his own successor–Otho–lasted only a short time as well, just 3 months (from January 15 to April 16, A.D. 69).

“Do not measure the court outside the temple”

The Jerusalem Temple, including the broad, outer courtyard

Back in Revelation 11, John was told:

[1] Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told: “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there,
[2] but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months.

This passage speaks of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem as if it is still standing.

The text speaks of the gentiles (or nations, same word in Greek) trampling the holy city (Jerusalem) and invading the temple courtyard.

They also invaded and destroyed the temple itself, but the text speaks of this as not having happened yet, since John is told to measure the temple, its altar, and those worshipping there. So it was still functioning.

Since the temple was destroyed on August 5, A.D. 70, that also suggests that Revelation was written before this date.

Learning More

I’m currently writing a book–titled Secret History of the Bible–which will go into this kind of information and more, revealing fascinating facts that bear on how, when, and by whom the Bible was written.

That’s not out just yet though, so until then you might want to check out my Secret Information Club. In fact, if you join then the very first think you’ll get is an “interview” with Pope Benedict about the book of Revelation. (I composed questions and then took the answers from his writings.) It’s fascinating reading, so I hope you’ll check it out.

You should click here to learn more or sign up using this form:

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


What is the Secret Information Club?I value your email privacy

{ 9 comments }

BillyHW July 20, 2012 at 5:08 am

Stuff like this is just so neat!

DrMac July 20, 2012 at 6:08 am

Intelligent and reasoned interpretation. Love it.

dplunkt July 20, 2012 at 7:20 am

There is an alternative that in some ways I think is better. This was presented by Dr Hahn in his series on Revelation. He suggests that the seven Kings were in fact Herod the Great and his dynasty ending in 70 AD with Herod Agrippa the 2nd. He also notes that the 10 horns of the beast could represent the power behind Herod, that is the Roman emperors Julius through Titus who took the throne after destroying Jerusalem. However, the bottom line is this alternate theory strengthens the aurgument for a pre-70AD writing of Revelation. I would add too that this does not rule out that the book could be referring to both 70AD and the end of time.

RosaryGuy July 20, 2012 at 10:14 am

But none of this says much about when Revelations was written.  This tries to answer the question, “When did the author claim that the vision described in the book was received. All the clues that Jimmy analyzes are about when the vision happened, not when the book was written. (I do admit that we can safely assume that the book was written after the vision was described as happening, and within a generation of that time, since the original audience must have been familiar enough with the period in history to be able to understand the clues.)

LeeHarmon July 20, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Jimmy, may I recommend my book at http://www.thewayithappened.com for research. This is precisely the sort of question I delve into, and I’ve spent several years on the topic from the historical-critical perspective. Fascinating stuff!

SethBo July 21, 2012 at 5:49 am

With all due respect Jimmy. The theory that Revelation was written before AD 70 have been overturned time and time again. It is a theory in search of facts. The verse about the temple is referring to the Church. WE are the temple of God. Besides it says that the outside court has been given over to the Gentiles. We know this has to be an allegorical interpretation because when the Roman Army came in, they didn’t hang around the outside courts destroying it. They pushed the WHOLE thing down, inside, outside, all of it. The part about the line of kings makes me want to say…”who decides which King to start with”…. There is a lot more here than meets the eye. I would suggest http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/a-case-for-amillennialism/. Go toward the bottom right and listen to the one titled “A Problem for Preterists”. He blows the lid off the Preterist interpretation. He is Protestant, and even anti-catholic, but a capable and honest scholar in this arena nonetheless. 
Peace!
Seth Odom

Dionysius July 23, 2012 at 11:47 am

The book of Revelation says that John had his vision while he was exiled to the Island of Patmos (Rev 1:9). According to Saint Jerome: “In the fourteenth year then after Nero, Domitian having raised a second persecution he was banished to the island of Patmos, and wrote the Apocalypse….” (On Illustrious Men, ch. 9). Bishop Eusebius (Church History III.13.1) also places the Apostle John’s banishment to Patmos in the reign of the Emperor Domitian.

yan July 23, 2012 at 11:55 am

I saw one of your videos and everything seems reasonable until I go back to the text, which talks about 2 witnesses and fire coming down from heaven and plagues galore and saints reigning for 1000 years and then the devil being let out again and armageddon and the great white throne judgment and finally the holy city coming down from God.  Then I just throw up my hands, in order to express that I don’t get it, and, to say alleluia.

Homeschooling Works July 26, 2012 at 1:54 am

Great info, I loved the videos. You really put things into perspective and I can’t wait to read that book : )

Previous post:

Next post: