Did the Church Fathers Place Revelation in Nero or Domitian's reign?

timtams

Member
Irenaeus (A.D. 180), a student of Polycarp (who was a disciple of the apostle John), wrote that the apocalyptic vision “was seen not very long ago, almost in our own generation, at the close of the reign of Domitian” (Against Heresies 30). The testimony of Irenaeus, not far removed from the apostolic age, is first rate. He places the book near the end of Domitian’s reign, and that ruler died in A.D. 96. Irenaeus seems to be unaware of any other view for the date of the book of Revelation.

Clement of Alexandria
Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 155-215) says that John returned from the isle of Patmos “after the tyrant was dead” (Who Is the Rich Man? 42), and Eusebius, known as the “Father of Church History,” identifies the “tyrant” as Domitian (Ecclesiastical History III.23).




Eastern Orthodox patristic scholar Fr John Behr discusses Irenaeus's words in his book, John the Theologian and his Paschal Gospel. He argues that the subject of the verb "was seen" is John, so that it should be translated "he was seen," not "it was seen."

Clement of Alexandria does not name the tyrant. Eusebius is the first writer to place the exile late in Domitian's reign, so it's hardly surprising he identified the tyrant with Domitian.
 

timtams

Member
Here is the Greek of Irenaeus:


καὶ ὑποκαταβὰς περὶ τοῦ αὐτοῦ φάσκει·* “ἡμεῖς οὖν οὐκ ἀποκινδυνεύομεν περὶ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου ἀποφαινόμενοι βεβαιωτικῶς. εἰ γὰρ ἔδει ἀναφανδὸν ‹ἐν› τῷ νῦν καιρῷ κηρύττεσθαι τοὔνομα αὐτοῦ, διʼ ἐκείνου ἂν ἐρρέθη τοῦ καὶ τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν ἑορακότος· οὐδὲ γὰρ πρὸ πολλοῦ χρόνου ἑωράθη, ἀλλὰ σχεδὸν ἐπὶ τῆς ἡμετέρας γενεᾶς, πρὸς τῷ τέλει τῆς Δομετιαμοῦ ἀρχῆς.”

Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History and 2: Greek Text, ed. T. E. Page et al., vol. 1, The Loeb Classical Library (London; New York; Cambridge, MA: William Heinemann; G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Harvard University Press, 1926–1932), 456.
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
Here is the Greek of Irenaeus:


καὶ ὑποκαταβὰς περὶ τοῦ αὐτοῦ φάσκει·* “ἡμεῖς οὖν οὐκ ἀποκινδυνεύομεν περὶ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου ἀποφαινόμενοι βεβαιωτικῶς. εἰ γὰρ ἔδει ἀναφανδὸν ‹ἐν› τῷ νῦν καιρῷ κηρύττεσθαι τοὔνομα αὐτοῦ, διʼ ἐκείνου ἂν ἐρρέθη τοῦ καὶ τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν ἑορακότος· οὐδὲ γὰρ πρὸ πολλοῦ χρόνου ἑωράθη, ἀλλὰ σχεδὸν ἐπὶ τῆς ἡμετέρας γενεᾶς, πρὸς τῷ τέλει τῆς Δομετιαμοῦ ἀρχῆς.”

Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History and 2: Greek Text, ed. T. E. Page et al., vol. 1, The Loeb Classical Library (London; New York; Cambridge, MA: William Heinemann; G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Harvard University Press, 1926–1932), 456.
How would you translate that?
The Russian translation that I've read today explicitly makes it say that the Vision, the "Apocalypse", was seen under Domitian's reign.
But the New Advent's translation in English is contradictory for me because of its words "vision" and "seen" on one hand ("visions" are "seen", whereas John was also heard, met, listened to, talked with, etc.) and its word "since" (ie. something was seen "since" something else happened).

New Advent has sometimes used pretty bad translations at times though, so that's why it's better if you can translate the Greek. The word "since" in the New Advent makes it sound like John was seen in Domitian's time "since", ie. since the time the vision happened. But I think that this could be a sloppy English translation.
 

timtams

Member
How would you translate that?
The Russian translation that I've read today explicitly makes it say that the Vision, the "Apocalypse", was seen under Domitian's reign.
But the New Advent's translation in English is contradictory for me because of its words "vision" and "seen" on one hand ("visions" are "seen", whereas John was also heard, met, listened to, talked with, etc.) and its word "since" (ie. something was seen "since" something else happened).

New Advent has sometimes used pretty bad translations at times though, so that's why it's better if you can translate the Greek. The word "since" in the New Advent makes it sound like John was seen in Domitian's time "since", ie. since the time the vision happened. But I think that this could be a sloppy English translation.

Starting with διʼ ἐκείνου, I'd translate it:

Through that one it would have been declared, who also saw the apocalyptic vision, for he was not seen a long time ago, but nearly in our time, toward the end of Domitian's reign.

Earlier in the same chapter in Irenaeus he talks about the elders who saw John face to face, so the verb "to see" has already been used of John in the context.

Behr and Furlong note that the Latin supports the translation "he was seen" but is contrary to the translation "it (the vision) was seen."Here's a summary of the discussion:
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
Can you list the main/strongest arguments for a dating of the text to Domitian's reign, vs. Nero's?

Based on our traditions about when persecutions happened, it seems that he would have been punished under Nero or under Domitian. Other emperors around them were not known as persecutors. Vespasian was not seen as an anti-Christian persecutor, and he had Christians as his relatives like Domitilla. Likewise, historians say that Nerva relented of Domitian's abuses against Jews and Christians. There was a coin made for Nerva saying that he relented of the Roman abuses of the "Jewish Tax", for example.

I think that the Beast probably refers to Caesar Nero (666 in Gematria), and it has the story of the beast with the wound on his head, and Nero was stabbed in the neck. There was a theme among Christians of the time of Nero returning as the Antichrist, like in the Christian edition/version of the Sibylline Oracles. So this tends to suggest that it was written after Nero's 68 AD killing.

The Acts of John are considered to be written around 180 AD, and they say that Domitian exiled John.

Eusebius reports that John was returned from exile after Domitian's death by Nerva. Eusebius lived centuries later, but he was a historian going by earlier writings, some of which are lost, so his records have merit.

As far as I can tell, Nero's persecution was of Christians in Rome in the wake of the fire in Rome, and he killed them, like by having lions eat them. I'm not aware of Nero exiling Christians. In the case of Domitian, however, we do have records of him using exile to punish Christians like Domitilla. Since Nero was trying to find scapegoats for the fire, it wouldn't do as well to bring someone from Ephesus in Turkey to Rome, although that kind of thing could have been an ideological distraction for the fire's blame.

There is some internal evidence in the text for a dating for Revelation to Domitian's time presented in the Christian Courier article, like how Revelation complains that one of the Churches of Asia Minor abandoned its "first love". the implication is that this Church in Asia Minor had been founded a while back, and it fits better with the Church there being in the 90's AD than in about 64 AD under Nero, since that Church I suppose would have been founded in 40 AD-60 AD.

I find Irenaeus' quote to be ambiguous as to whether it's saying that John or the vision were seen recently. I appreciate your translation. Since you didn't use the word "Since" in it, it seems less likely to refer to John than I had thought it might when I read the translation on New Advent.

Reviewing the quote in your translation and bearing in mind our discussion about Against Heresies 2.22:5, I notice another possible argument that Irenaeus meant that the vision was seen by John in Domitian's time. In Against Heresies, Irenaeus says that John the Disciple of Jesus conveyed the information that Jesus reached old age as a teacher. In that quote, I believe that Irenaeus meant that John the Disciple had a vision of Jesus being in old age in the book of Revelation. This is because in the Book of Revelation, we do have an image of Jesus as being an old man. Also in that passage, Irenaeus said that John, this Disciple of the Lord who conveyed this information, lived into or "up to" the time of Trajan: ("And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan.").

Further, in the passage where Irenaeus talks about either the vision or John being seen, he says that the object in question was seen toward the end of Domitian's reign. ("Through that one it would have been declared, who also saw the apocalyptic vision, for he was not seen a long time ago, but nearly in our time, toward the end of Domitian's reign.") Had Irenaeus been talking about John in this sentence, he would tend to have repeated that John was seen up to Trajan's time, because the point of Irenaeus' statement was how recently the object in question was seen.

I guess Irenaeus could have been using the phrase "up to the times of Trajan" as a shorthand for saying that John died in Domitian's time, but if that is what he meant, it would have been more precise if he wrote "Nerva's time" instead of Trajan's. This is because Domitian died in September 96, and Nerva ruled from there to Trajan's reign. Trajan's reign began in 98 AD. If we say that John lived up to the time of Trajan, then the normal suggestion for me is that he lived to about 98 AD. If you say that "Bob lived up to the ripe old age of 80," it implies to me that Bob passed his 80th birthday, not that he lived almost up to 80.

In contrast, the traditional date for John's exile on Patmos where he saw the vision is that: John was exiled there toward the end of Domitian's reign, saw the vision, then Domitian was killed in Sept. 96, and then John was released by Nerva, so that John served less than 2 years total in exile. So to say that the vision was seen toward the end of Domitian's rule would fit with the traditional dating of John's exile toward the end of Domitian's rule.
 

timtams

Member
The Acts of John are considered to be written around 180 AD, and they say that Domitian exiled John.


Another poster just mentioned your user name in a discussion. I did a search and found this unanswered thread. Better late than never, but here are a few thoughts:

The Acts of John doesn't mention the exile. If it did, it would have been in the lost beginning, and therefore would support an early date.


Eusebius reports that John was returned from exile after Domitian's death by Nerva. Eusebius lived centuries later, but he was a historian going by earlier writings, some of which are lost, so his records have merit.

Yet none of the sources he uses actually state that. He has to "make a case" for it from ambiguous sources.

As far as I can tell, Nero's persecution was of Christians in Rome in the wake of the fire in Rome, and he killed them, like by having lions eat them. I'm not aware of Nero exiling Christians. In the case of Domitian, however, we do have records of him using exile to punish Christians like Domitilla. Since Nero was trying to find scapegoats for the fire, it wouldn't do as well to bring someone from Ephesus in Turkey to Rome, although that kind of thing could have been an ideological distraction for the fire's blame.
That persecution against Christians occurred in the province of Asia during Nero's reign finds support in 1 Peter.

The idea of a Domitianic persecution of Christians, as Christians, has, on the other hand, been largely abandoned by historians. Domitian persecuted the aristocracy in Rome, and one pretext he used was atheism (which may have been a profession of Christianity, though some scholars argue it refers to Jewish proselytism).

Domitian did use exile against some, but they were exiled to the islands off the western coast of Italy.

Domitian isn't associated with any exiles to the Aegean (Nero on the other hand did exile philosophers to the Aegean). John was apparently already in Rome, according to the tradition noted by Tertullian, according to which John had been placed into boiling oil in Rome before being exiled. Jerome, citing from a lost work of Tertullian, states that this occurred in Nero's reign.




There is some internal evidence in the text for a dating for Revelation to Domitian's time presented in the Christian Courier article, like how Revelation complains that one of the Churches of Asia Minor abandoned its "first love". the implication is that this Church in Asia Minor had been founded a while back, and it fits better with the Church there being in the 90's AD than in about 64 AD under Nero, since that Church I suppose would have been founded in 40 AD-60 AD.

A dubious argument I think. I get the impression that Revelation addresses people who were still living and had lost their first love, not a corporate loss of first love by a second or third generation. I don't think it can be proved either way. If the Galatians could quickly fall away in a year or so, I don't see a problem with Ephesus losing its first love after a decade.



Further, in the passage where Irenaeus talks about either the vision or John being seen, he says that the object in question was seen toward the end of Domitian's reign. ("Through that one it would have been declared, who also saw the apocalyptic vision, for he was not seen a long time ago, but nearly in our time, toward the end of Domitian's reign.") Had Irenaeus been talking about John in this sentence, he would tend to have repeated that John was seen up to Trajan's time, because the point of Irenaeus' statement was how recently the object in question was seen.

He says that it/he was seen "toward the end of Domitian's reign," and that John remained among the elders in Ephesus until Trajan's reign. He doesn't say that John was seen up to Trajan's reign. The theory in a couple of recent books is that Irenaeus is referring to a meeting of the elders with John, when they saw him face to face. This tradition is found in other sources which say that the bishops or elders of Asia came to John in his old age and implored him to write a Gospel. This could be what Irenaeus is referring to. They came to him and saw him late in Domitian's reign, but he remained among them alive until Trajan's.
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
Domitian isn't associated with any exiles to the Aegean
It is nice to hear from you, Tim.
Domitian exiled the philosopher Epictetus to Nicopolis on the Adriatic as part of a mass exile of Philosophers by Domitian, and I recall the target region being Greece for the mass exile. There are multiple strands of evidence that Epictetus was Christian. I recall in his writings, he mentioned a Roman returning to Rome westward via Nicopolis from exile, implying the exile for the visitor who met him was on the Aegean. I would need to double check.

Patmos was a known place of exile/imprisonment in the Roman period. Can it be confirmed if that included Domitian's reign?

Domitian exiled Dio Chrysostom from Italy, so he made "a journey to the countries in the north and east of the Roman empire. He thus visited Thrace, Mysia, Scythia, and the country of the Getae". He made a speech in Athens on the Aegean about his exile.

After Domitian put Appolonia of Tyana on trial in Italy, imprisoned him, and released him, Appolonia went to Greece, and died in Turkey. Patmos is an island on the edge of Turkey. Appollonia, in his trial, said that the cities and islands were full of exiles. SOURCE: Apollonius the Nazarene: Mystery Man of the Bible, by Raymond W. Bernard

That is what I found about destinations for Domitian's exiles: they seemed to be sent out of Italy, and Greece and the Greek islands seem to be a key destination.

I would like to welcome you to discuss with me on my threads analyzing the path of faith with Christ's Resurrection:

Peace.
 

timtams

Member
It is nice to hear from you, Tim.
Thank you!

Domitian exiled the philosopher Epictetus to Nicopolis on the Adriatic as part of a mass exile of Philosophers by Domitian, and I recall the target region being Greece for the mass exile. There are multiple strands of evidence that Epictetus was Christian. I recall in his writings, he mentioned a Roman returning to Rome westward via Nicopolis from exile, implying the exile for the visitor who met him was on the Aegean. I would need to double check.

As I understand it, Domitian banished philosophers from the city of Rome. They were free to go where they wanted, and Epictetus chose Nicopolis. That's what I've read anyway. I don't know a whole lot about him to be honest.



Patmos was a known place of exile/imprisonment in the Roman period. Can it be confirmed if that included Domitian's reign?

I don't know of any evidence that it was used as a place of exile (other than for John) before the tenth century when people were exiled there from Thessalonica. But Nero is known to have exiled people to islands in the Aegean.



Domitian exiled Dio Chrysostom from Italy, so he made "a journey to the countries in the north and east of the Roman empire. He thus visited Thrace, Mysia, Scythia, and the country of the Getae". He made a speech in Athens on the Aegean about his exile.

Yes, he had to leave Italy but he was free to go wherever he wanted, as far as I am aware.

After Domitian put Appolonia of Tyana on trial in Italy, imprisoned him, and released him, Appolonia went to Greece, and died in Turkey. Patmos is an island on the edge of Turkey. Appollonia, in his trial, said that the cities and islands were full of exiles. SOURCE: Apollonius the Nazarene: Mystery Man of the Bible, by Raymond W. Bernard
Yes, but he doesn't say which cities and islands, though I get the impression he refers to Italian ones, which agrees with the Roman historians who stated that Domitian exiled to the islands off the south-western tip of Italy (in the Tyrrhenian Sea).

I've never seen anything suggesting that Domitian exiled anyone to Patmos or the islands of the Aegean.
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
I've never seen anything suggesting that Domitian exiled anyone to Patmos or the islands of the Aegean.
I have a hard time getting confirmation of other exiles there under Domitian, because so many websites crowd my Search results saying that John was exiled there under Domitian.

In Revelation Road: One man's journey to the heart of apocalypse – and back again, Nick Page quotes the late 1st - early 2nd century writer Juvenal as saying that the Aegean islands were "rocks crowded with our noble exiles."
 

timtams

Member
I have a hard time getting confirmation of other exiles there under Domitian, because so many websites crowd my Search results saying that John was exiled there under Domitian.

In Revelation Road: One man's journey to the heart of apocalypse – and back again, Nick Page quotes the late 1st - early 2nd century writer Juvenal as saying that the Aegean islands were "rocks crowded with our noble exiles."
Interesting. This Satire was apparently written in the year 127 AD, but it would be useful to know more about these exiles. Do we know who they were, or why they were sent? Were these exiles victims of a specific incident or were there always exiles in these islands? Nero sent exiles to this region too, though to my knowledge we have no record of Domitian doing so. It would be interesting to know more about this though.
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
It is nice to hear from you Tim, because sometimes I make threads about questions like this one and no one replies. I welcome you to my Apologetics set of threads on Christ's Resurrection. The opening one is on whether coming to faith is a matter of accepting an idea because it inspires or appeals to a person or whether it is a matter of trying to weigh Pro and Contra arguments objectively.
 

BornAgainRN

Active member
Eastern Orthodox patristic scholar Fr John Behr discusses Irenaeus's words in his book, John the Theologian and his Paschal Gospel. He argues that the subject of the verb "was seen" is John, so that it should be translated "he was seen," not "it was seen."

Clement of Alexandria does not name the tyrant. Eusebius is the first writer to place the exile late in Domitian's reign, so it's hardly surprising he identified the tyrant with Domitian.
Agreed. Plus, 1 Clement (written towards the very end of the 1st Century AD) appears to be quoting from Revelation:
Some Background on 1 Clement with Stephen Boyce (start around the 17:00 mark)

This video also shows that 1 Clement potentially quotes 2 Peter, which demonstrates first century AD evidence of 2 Peter being written in the first century, not the second century which is a narrative being advanced by liberal Christians & non-Christians.
 

rakovsky

Well-known member
Agreed. Plus, 1 Clement (written towards the very end of the 1st Century AD) appears to be quoting from Revelation:
Some Background on 1 Clement with Stephen Boyce (start around the 17:00 mark)

This video also shows that 1 Clement potentially quotes 2 Peter, which demonstrates first century AD evidence of 2 Peter being written in the first century, not the second century which is a narrative being advanced by liberal Christians & non-Christians.
FYI 1 Clement is from the 1st century Clement of Rome, whereas Clement of Alexandria is from c. 190 to 200 AD.
 

BornAgainRN

Active member
FYI 1 Clement is from the 1st century Clement of Rome, whereas Clement of Alexandria is from c. 190 to 200 AD.
Yes, I know. It is encouraging that we have an extrabiblical writing from the end of the 1st Century which cites so many books from the NT, including 2 Peter, Hebrews, & Revelation. It dispels the liberal scholarship that these books weren't written until the second century or later.
 

Steven Avery

Well-known member
Here is a section on 1 Clement and Revelation

Clement of Rome’s New Testament
Graham Harter
https://etimasthe.com/2018/02/14/clement-of-romes-new-testament/

Revelation

Finally, there is one possible reference to the book of Revelation. The passage in Clement reads:—

And thus he [= God] forewarns us: “Behold, the Lord [is coming], and his reward is before his face, to render to every man according to his work.”
1 Clement, chapter 34[23]

Clearly this is a Scripture quotation. The question is, Whether Clement is quoting Isaiah 40:10; 62:11 or Revelation 22:12.

On balance, Clement’s quotation seems to me to be closer to Revelation 22:12 — although it may be another instance of quotation from memory, in which Clement has fused the Old and New Testament texts together.

1 Clement may be before 70 AD.
 

Josheb

Active member

Did the Church Fathers Place Revelation in Nero or Domitian's reign?



Eastern Orthodox patristic scholar Fr John Behr discusses Irenaeus's words in his book, John the Theologian and his Paschal Gospel. He argues that the subject of the verb "was seen" is John, so that it should be translated "he was seen," not "it was seen."

Clement of Alexandria does not name the tyrant. Eusebius is the first writer to place the exile late in Domitian's reign, so it's hardly surprising he identified the tyrant with Domitian.
I strongly recommend everyone read Ken Gentry's book, "Before Jerusalem Fell." Among the many, many other valuable things Gentry does in that book, he traces the record of the Domitian position to show all the ECFs from Irenaeus afterwards were all using Irenaeus and Irenaeus didn't provide any evidence for his view. In other words, for everyone after Irenaeus, the late-date position was a function of evidence-less hearsay. They were simply repeating Irenaeus, believing he was in some way authoritative when he wasn't. Gentry is a partial-preterist and a Theonomist, and the book can be very dry in places, but the examination is rigorous and full of valuable information anyone and everyone can accept regardless of theological orientation. Even R. C. Sproul self-reported being persuaded by the book.
 

Jabez

Active member
Another poster just mentioned your user name in a discussion. I did a search and found this unanswered thread. Better late than never, but here are a few thoughts:

The Acts of John doesn't mention the exile. If it did, it would have been in the lost beginning, and therefore would support an early date.




Yet none of the sources he uses actually state that. He has to "make a case" for it from ambiguous sources.


That persecution against Christians occurred in the province of Asia during Nero's reign finds support in 1 Peter.

The idea of a Domitianic persecution of Christians, as Christians, has, on the other hand, been largely abandoned by historians. Domitian persecuted the aristocracy in Rome, and one pretext he used was atheism (which may have been a profession of Christianity, though some scholars argue it refers to Jewish proselytism).

Domitian did use exile against some, but they were exiled to the islands off the western coast of Italy.

Domitian isn't associated with any exiles to the Aegean (Nero on the other hand did exile philosophers to the Aegean). John was apparently already in Rome, according to the tradition noted by Tertullian, according to which John had been placed into boiling oil in Rome before being exiled. Jerome, citing from a lost work of Tertullian, states that this occurred in Nero's reign.






A dubious argument I think. I get the impression that Revelation addresses people who were still living and had lost their first love, not a corporate loss of first love by a second or third generation. I don't think it can be proved either way. If the Galatians could quickly fall away in a year or so, I don't see a problem with Ephesus losing its first love after a decade.





He says that it/he was seen "toward the end of Domitian's reign," and that John remained among the elders in Ephesus until Trajan's reign. He doesn't say that John was seen up to Trajan's reign. The theory in a couple of recent books is that Irenaeus is referring to a meeting of the elders with John, when they saw him face to face. This tradition is found in other sources which say that the bishops or elders of Asia came to John in his old age and implored him to write a Gospel. This could be what Irenaeus is referring to. They came to him and saw him late in Domitian's reign, but he remained among them alive until Trajan's.
Have you been persecuted for your Faith in Jesus?
 
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