Part 1 of 2: The Two Opinions As To The Composition Of The Apocalypse: A Comparison of the Early Church fathers

Written By Thomas Perez. April 27, 2011 at 1:31PM. Copyright 2011

There are two dates that are commonly mentioned for the writing of the Book of Revelation:

(A) An early date – still during the lifetime of Caesar Nero, about the middle of the 60ies AD; and that it was composed between the death of Nero in the year AD 68 and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

(B) A late date – about 95 or 96 AD during the time of Caesar Domitian.

The late date was formerly the generally accepted time of composition (Hengstenberg, Lange, Alford, Godet) and, although for a time the earlier date was looked upon with great favor, there is now a noticeable return to the late date position (Holtzmann, Warfield, Ramsay, Porter (Hastings D. B.), Moffat (Exp. Gk. Test.).

(A). This late date view is favored by the following considerations:

The writing of the Revelation of Jesus Christ has been traditionally assigned to be around AD 96. Because this date does not fit into their theological scheme, Full Preterists, who claim that all of Bible prophesy was fulfilled in AD 70, argue for an earlier dating of the book, prior to AD 70.

However, the testimony of the Church fathers is that the Revelation of Jesus Christ was written by John near the end of the reign of Caesar Domitian in AD 96. According to them, John was banished by Domitian to the lonely Isle of Patmos, a desolate Greek island in the Aegean Sea only 11 square miles in area. Victorinus in his Commentary on the Apocolypse of the Blessed John, recorded that John labored in the mines of Patmos.

Domitian was a particularly cruel and ostentatious Roman Emperor, who reigned from AD 81-96. He regularly arrested, imprisoned, and executed his enemies, even Roman noblemen and senators, and confiscated their properties for his own use. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, The years AD 93-96 were regarded as a period of terror hitherto unsurpassed.

The Britannica also informs us that “A grave source of offense was his insistence on being addressed as dominus et deus (‘master and god’).” Perhaps this aroused in Domitian a hatred of faithful Christians, who would have refused him this demand. Domitian did in fact launch a persecution of Christians. In Book three, chapter 17 of his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius writes:

EUSEBIUS PAMPHILI (AD 270 – 340)

Domitian, having shown great cruelty toward many, and having unjustly put to death no small number of well-born and notable men at Rome, and having without cause exiled and confiscated the property of a great many other illustrious men, finally became a successor of Nero in his hatred and enmity toward God. He was in fact the second that stirred up a persecution against us, although his father Vespasian had undertaken nothing prejudicial to us.

Moreover, the church historian Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine; is known as the “Father of Church History.” Eusebius confirms the authenticity of the testimony of Irenaeus. In chapter 18, Book 3 of his Church History, we read:

It is said that in this persecution the apostle and evangelist John, who was still alive, was condemned to dwell on the island of Patmos in consequence of his testimony to the divine word. Irenaeus, in the fifth book of his work Against Heresies, where he discusses the number of the name of Antichrist which is given in the so-called Apocalypse of John, speaks as follows concerning him: a “If it were necessary for his name to be proclaimed openly at the present time, it would have been declared by him who saw the revelation. For it was seen not long ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign of Domitian.

IRENAEUS (AD 130 – 200)

Irenaeus a disciple of Polycarp, who in turn was a disciple of John the Emissary himself.

Although there are many indirect references to John being banished to Patmos under Domitian in the Church fathers, there are also direct references to John’s banishment under Domitian. The earliest of these is that of Irenaeus. He was bishop of Lyons in Gaul. In Against Heresies (A.D. 180-199), Book V, Chapter 30, we read:

We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign.

Regarding the reliability of the testimony of Irenaeus, in Barnes Notes on the New Testament we read:

It will be recollected that he [Irenaeus] was a disciple of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was himself the disciple of the apostle John. He had, therefore, every opportunity of obtaining correct information, and doubtless expresses the common sentiment of his age on the subject. His character is unexceptionable, and he had no inducement to bear any false or perverted testimony in the case. His testimony is plain and positive that the book was written near the close of the reign of Domitian, and the testimony should be regarded as decisive unless it can be set aside. His language in regard to the book of Revelation is: “It was seen no long time ago, but almost in our age, at the end of the reign of Domitian.”—Lardner, ii. 181. Or, as the passage is translated by Prof. Stuart: .

JUSTIN MARTYR (AD 100 – 165)

Justin Martyr is an early Christian writer who also testifies to this persecution. However, according to Justin, Domitian was somewhat more restrained than Nero had been in his persecution of Christians. In his Apology, Justin wrote:

Domitian, too, a man of Nero’s type in cruelty, tried his hand at persecution, but as he had something of the human in him, he soon put an end to what he had begun, even restoring again those whom he had banished.

According to the Church fathers, the Apostle John was not among those released, but even if he had been, the fact that Domitian’s reign did not begin until AD 81 means that the Revelation must have been written after that date.

Domitian was so hated for his excesses that own wife participated in the plot to assassinate him. Upon his death, his successor, Nerva, reversed many of the cruel judgments of Domitian, and John was subsequently released. Domitian’s reign ended in AD 96, and this has provided the traditional means for dating the writing of the book of Revelation.

HIPPOLYTIS (AD 236)

Writing around AD 236, Hippolytis in chapter one, verse 3 of On the Twelve Apostles, penned:

John, again, in Asia, was banished by Domitian the king to the isle of Patmos, in which also he wrote his Gospel and saw the apocalyptic vision; and in Trajan’s time he fell asleep at Ephesus, where his remains were sought for, but could not be found.

VICTORINUS (AD 270)

About AD 270, Victorinus in the Tenth Chapter of his Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John, wrote:

when John said these things he was in the island of Patmos, condemned to the labor of the mines by Caesar Domitian. There, therefore, he saw the Apocalypse; and when grown old, he thought that he should at length receive his quittance by suffering, Domitian being killed, all his judgments were discharged. And John being dismissed from the mines, thus subsequently delivered the same Apocalypse which he had received from God.

JEROME (AD 331 – 420)

Jerome was born about 340. He died at Bethlehem, 30 September, 420. Jerome wrote in the Ninth Chapter of Illustrious Men,

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 which Justin Martyr and Irenaeus afterwards wrote commentaries. But Domitian having been put to death and his acts, on account of his excessive cruelty, having been annulled by the senate, he returned to Ephesus under Pertinax(1) and continuing there until the tithe of the emperor Trajan, founded and built churches throughout all Asia, and, worn out by old age, died in the sixty-eighth year after our Lord’s passion and was buried near the same city.

In Against Jovinianus, Book 1, Jerome also wrote:

John is both an Apostle and an Evangelist, and a prophet. An Apostle, because he wrote to the Churches as a master; an Evangelist, because he composed a Gospel, a thing which no other of the Apostles, excepting Matthew, did; a prophet, for he saw in the island of Patmos, to which he had been banished by the Emperor Domitian as a martyr for the Lord, an Apocalypse containing the boundless mysteries of the future.

SULPITIUS SEVERUS (AD 360 – 420, 25)

Sulpitius Severus was an ecclesiastical writer who was born in Aquitaine in 360. He died about 420-25. In chapter 31 of Book 2 of his Sacred History, we read:

THEN, after an interval, Domitian, the son of Vespasian, persecuted the Christians. At this date, he banished John the Apostle and Evangelist to the island of Patmos.

Things to consider when in favor of a later date:

(A) The antithesis of the Roman empire to the Church presupposed in the Apocalypse. The persecution of Nero was a purely local and somewhat private affair. The Church did not stand opposed to the empire as representing the world until the first century was approaching its close; and the Apocalypse already looks back on a period of persecution. Moreover we know that banishment was a common punishment in the time of Domitian.

(B) The existence and condition of the seven churches in Asia. The utter silence of Acts and of the Epistles regarding the churches of Smyrna, Philadelphia, Sardis, Pergamus and Thyatira favors the supposition that they were founded after the death of Paul. And the condition of these churches presupposes a longer period of existence than the earlier date will allow. Ephesus has already left her first love; in Sardis and Laodicea spiritual life has almost become extinct; the Nicolaitans, who are not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, have already made their pernicious influence felt in the churches of Ephesus and Pergamus, while similar mischief was done in Thyatira by the woman Jezebel. Moreover Laodicea, which was destroyed by an earthquake in the 6th (Tactitus) or in the 10th (Eusebius) year of Nero, is here described as boasting of her wealth and self-sufficiency.

THE FULL PRETERIST ATTACK

Some Background Information On Full Preterism & Their Earlier Origins First

Preterism holds that the contents of Revelation constitute a prophecy of events that were fulfilled in the 1st century (1). Preterism was first expounded(though not created) by the Jesuit Luis De Alcasar during the Counter Reformation (2)(3). The preterist view served to bolster the Catholic Church’s position against attacks by Protestants, (4)(5) who identified the Pope with the Anti-Christ.

1. ‘The Whore of Babylon’. Catholic Answers. Retrieved 2007-05-11 http://www.catholic.com/library/Whore_of_Babylon.asp.

2. ‘It has been usual to say that the Spanish Jesuit Alcasar, in his Vestigatio arcani sensus in Apocalpysi (1614), was the founder of the Preterist School’, Farrar, Frederic, ‘The Early Days of Christianity’, Volume 2 (1882).

3. Alcazar was the first to apply Preterism to the Apocalypse with anything like completeness, though it had previously been applied somewhat to Daniel’, From, Leroy Edwin, ‘The Prophetic Faith Of Our Fathers’, volume 2, page 509 (1954)

4. ‘It might be expected, that a commentary which thus freed the Roman church from the assaults of Protestants, would be popular among the advocates of the papacy. Alcassar met, of course, with general approbation and reception among the Roman community’, Stuart, Moses ‘A Commentary On The Apocalypse’, page 464 (1845)

5. ‘It is hardly surprising, given this general context, that the relatively few English Catholic commentators who turned their hands to the interpretation of these same passages should be concerned to counter this widely held, if somewhat variously presented, Protestant view. The response came in three basic forms: preterism, futurism, and ‘counter historicism’ – a term that has been created for the purposes of this discussion’, Newport, Kenneth GC, ‘Apocalypse and Millennium: Studies in Biblical Eisegesis’, page 74 (2000)

Luis De Alcazar (1554-1613), wrote a commentary called “Investigation of the Hidden Sense of the Apocalypse“, containing  about 900 pages. In it he proposed that prophecy should be specifically applied to pagan Rome first and then the first six centuries of Christianity. According to Alcazar (or Alcasar) the correct preterist interpretations should be as follows:

Revelation chapters 1-11 describes the rejection of the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.  Nero is the antichrist and all of the seals, trumpets, and vials took place before the end of 70AD.

Revelation chapters 12 – 19 were the overthrow of Roman paganism whom he identified as  mystery babylon, the great harlot. He describes the conversion of the empire and sets up Rome as the head of the universal Christian faith.

Revelation 20 describe the final persecutions by Antichrist, who is identified as Cæsar Nero (54-68 A.D.), who sets in motion God’s judgment on Jews and Jerusalem to be fulfilled in 70AD.

Revelation 21 -22 describe the triumph of the New Jerusalem, the Roman Catholic Church as the preterist climax of the millennial kingdom that began in 70AD.

However, many people Protestant Preterists would disagree with the notion that a Jesuit priest invented the doctrine of Preterism. They would claim that many early Church fathers indicated a preterism of some sort. I use the words “of some sort”  because many of the same Church fathers held to a future state (ie. Anti-Christ, the Resurrection, Judgment, etc).

Here are some notable quotes in defense of Preterism:

Origen (c.185- 254) “I challenge anyone to prove my statement untrue if I say that the entire Jewish nation was destroyed less than one whole generation later on account of these sufferings which they inflicted on Jesus. For it was, I believe, forty-two years from the time when they crucified Jesus to the destruction of Jerusalem” (Contra Celsum, 198-199). This is the preterist foundation which Origen student of Clement would embellish and develop into a more complex speculative doctrine.

Eusebius Pamphilius (265 – 339) Bishop of Cesarea, in his “Ecclesiastical History”, Book 3, Ch 5 and 7; and his “Proof for the Gospel” Book 8 chapter 4; also refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD as the fulfillment of Daniel and Revelation.

“the many great sieges which were carried on against the cities of Judea, and the excessive. sufferings endured by those that fled to Jerusalem itself, as to a city of perfect safety, and finally the general course of the whole war, as well as its particular occurrences in detail, and how at last the abomination of desolation, proclaimed by the prophets, stood in the very temple of God, so celebrated of old, the temple which was now awaiting its total and final destruction by fire,– all these things any one that wishes may find accurately described in the history written by Josephus” (Book III, Ch. 5).

“If any one compares the words of our Saviour with the other accounts of the historian (Josephus) concerning the whole war, how can one fail to wonder, and to admit that the foreknowledge and the prophecy of our Saviour were truly divine and marvelously strange” (Book III, Ch. VII).

“The lamentation and wailing was predicted for the Jews, and the burning of the Temple and its utter desolation, can also be seen even now to have occurred according to the prediction” (The Proof of the Gospel, Bk. VIII, Ch.4, sect.412).

St. John Chrysostom  (347–407) “For I will ask them, Did He send the prophets and wise men? Did they slay them in their synagogue? Was their house left desolate? Did all the vengeance come upon that generation? It is quite plain that it was so, and no man gainsays it” (Homily LXXIV).

St. Augustine (A.D. 354 – 430), Bishop of Hippo. Augustine also held to the idealist perspective that the 1,000 years of Revelation 20 referred to the struggle of the Christian life through history. Here are some of his preterist quotes:

“But Luke, in order to show that the abomination of desolation happened when Jerusalem was taken, in this same place gives the words of our Lord, “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” [Luke 21:20] (Epist., cxcix, 9)

“And so Josephus [marg. note: B. J. vii], who wrote the Jewish History, relates evils so great happening to this people as to seem hardly credible. Whence it was not unreasonably said, that such tribulation had never been from the beginning of creation, nor should be; for though in the time of Antichrist shall be such, or perhaps greater; yet to the Jews, of whom we must understand this, such shall never more befall. For if they shall be the first and the chief to receive Antichrist, they will then [p. 813] rather inflict than suffer tribulation.” (Epist. cic. 30)

“For Josephus, who has written the history of the Jews, relates that such things were suffered by this people, as are scarcely credible, wherefore it is said, not without cause, that there was not such tribulation from the beginning of the creation until now, nor shall ever be. But although in the time of Antichrist there shall be one similar or greater, we must understand that it is of that [p. 262] people, that it is said that there shall never happen such another. For if they are the first and foremost to receive Antichrist, that same people may rather be said to cause than to suffer tribulation” (Epist., cxcix 9).

BUT ALL THIS DOES IS PROVE A PARTIAL PRETERIST VIEW because as it was noted, many saw a future state. A PARALLEL SO TO SPEAK.

Preterist interpretations generally identify either Jerusalem or the Roman Empire as the persecutor of the Church, “Babylon”, the “Mother of Harlots”, etc, not the papal system of the Roman Catholic Church. They see Armageddon as God’s judgment on the Jews, carried out by the Roman army which is identified as “the beast”. It sees Revelation being fulfilled in 70, thereby bringing the full presence of God to dwell with all humanity. Some preterists see the second half of Revelation as changing focus to Rome, its persecution of Christians, and the fall of the Roman Empire. This denial of the Babylonian system of papal Rome serves well in conjunction with Full Preterism.

More than this, the FUTURIST interpretation is founded by another Jesuit; Francisco Ribera: Futurism, in general terms, is an interpretation of the Bible in Christian Eschatology placing the fulfillment of the prophecies of the book of Revelation, the book of Daniel, the Olivet Discourse and the sheep and the goats generally in the future as literal, physical, apocalyptic and global. Other views place the fulfillment of such prophecies in the past as literal, physical and local (Preterism; Historicism), or in the present as non-literal and spiritual (Idealism).

To counter the Protestant interpretation of historicism, Roman Catholic Jesuit Francisco Ribera created the futurist interpretation of Bible prophecy. This information can be found in Daniel: Understanding the Dreams and Vision, by Charlene R. Fortsch, Erica Dissler, p. 386.

But let us be honest. Francisco Ribera was a Jesuit, and he wrote a book on Bible Prophecy in 1585-1590 (?) with the perspective of “futurism”. However, this does not mean Ribera invented futurism per se!  The key element of a future antichrist is easily seen in scripture itself and requires no inventiveness of any kind. The view of a future antichrist in a future literal temple is so clearly evident in the scriptures (and not an invented heresy) that it was also taught by men over 1000 years earlier by Church Fathers such as Irenaeus & Hippolytus around 125 AD. You can look those names up in a search engine and find that Irenaeus & Hippolytus interpreted Daniel’s 70th week as a future event, with a future antichrist to come during a final period of tribulation. To read Irenaeus, see “IRENAEUS AGAINST HERESIES – BOOK V”, Chapter 25, paragraph 4.

However, there are often double or multiple references and double or multiple fulfillment’s in scripture. Just because there is an “antichrist to come” does not mean there cannot now be any antichrists such as the Pope. The scriptures clearly indicate both a future Antichrist to come, and the existence of Antichrist at the time scripture was written. Futurism does not take the heat off the Pope.

Such as it is, the futurist places the second coming; judgment, and the resurrection in a future that is yet to come. But of all the discussions that abound within these precious beliefs; it is the doctrine of the resurrection that may shed some light as to the accuracy of the composition pertaining to the Revelation of John.

Moreover, according to ‘A History of Gnosticism’, “The exclusive, uncontrolled possession of sacred power can, however, play cruel tricks. The Apostle Paul was well aware of this when in his letters he castigated the Corinthians, the same community that he had founded himself a few years earlier. Religious enthusiasm – and Paul knew very well what he was talking about – could lead to unfortunate conclusions. The Corinthians regarded themselves as ‘pneumatic’ and ‘perfect’ (Editors Note: I Cor 8:1-3) and took pride in a ‘knowledge’ that allowed them to do anything. (Editors note: Which is why Paul often spoke out against their fleshly lifestyles). Possessors of the Spirit, they considered themselves ALREADY resurrected (Editors Note: I Cor 15: 29-32). The very membership of the community became proof and evidence that they belonged to the Spirit (Editors Note: I Cor 14:2-19).

The idea of one ALREADY resurrected was often denied by the Apostle Paul as demonstrated in the epistle to Timothy (II Tim 2:18-17), Here Paul warns Timothy about two men , Hymenaeus and Philetus, who had thought that the resurrection of believers had ALREADY occurred (See also I Tim 1:20). This was probably an early form of Gnosticism that emphasized a spiritual resurrection over against the belief in a future bodily resurrection. For indeed they would have to consider thus, due to their belief that all matter was evil – furthermore, such a belief would also entail a denial of Jesus’ death on the cross – since nothing of physical matter can actually die for the sins of men, since all matter, again, was evil.

The doctrine of docetism is another form of physical denial of Jesus’ body. Docetism (from the Greek δοκέω dokeō, “to seem”) is the belief that Jesus’ physical body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion; that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body and to physically die, but in reality he was incorporeal, a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die. This belief treats the sentence “the Word was made Flesh” (John 1:14) as merely figurative. Docetism has historically been regarded as heretical by most Christian theologians.

This belief is most commonly attributed to the Gnostics, many of whom believed that matter was evil, and as a result God would not take on a material body. This statement is rooted in the idea that a divine spark is imprisoned within the material body, and that the material body is in itself an obstacle, deliberately created by an evil, lesser god (the demiurge) to prevent man from seeing his divine origin.

Docetism can be further explained as the view that since the human body is temporary and the spirit is eternal, the body of Jesus must have been an illusion and, likewise, his crucifixion. Even so, saying that the human body is temporary has a tendency to undercut the importance of the belief in resurrection of the dead and the goodness of created matter, and is in opposition to this orthodox view. Docetism was a form of early Christianity, developing around 70 AD, which was most prominently espoused by Gnostic sects. Ignatius of Antioch wrote against such a belief.

In his ‘Letter to the Smyrnaeans’ (often simply called To the Smyrnaeans) written by Saint Ignatius of Antioch around AD 110 to the Early Christians in Smyrna, it mentions the resurrection of Jesus: (2:1) “Now, he suffered all these things for our sake, that we might be saved. And he truly suffered, even as he truly raised himself up; not as certain unbelievers say, that he suffered in semblance, they themselves only existing in semblance.” The term translated “semblance” is the Greek work “dokeiv” from which the heresy of docetism got its name. The primary purpose of the letter to the Smyrnaeans is to counter those who make the claims of docetism.

To counter the teaching of the docetists, who claimed that Jesus did not come in the flesh, Ignatius wrote the first 7 sections demonstrating the real incarnation of Jesus, thus saying about the Eucharist (7:1) “They [the docetists] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes”.

However, the recipients of these letters do not betray any sort of improbable Gnostic learning’s but they are an important sign of the times; they bear witness to a charismatic spirit, to which Gnostic leaders will also lay claim. An earlier witness or pre-Gnostic ideology or workings can be traced back to Simon (Acts 8:9-24). According to Irenaeus (who together with Clement of Alexandria is our principle source for Gnostic prosopography) tells us that Simons successor was Menander, who in turn was succeeded by Saturninus, and Basilides, in Syria – all of which were Gnostic in concept and belief.

Full Preterists will also often attack the statement made by Irenaeus by indicating that his (Irenaeus’) quote is a hear-say. Let us look at the quote again; “We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign.”

The Full Preterist would argue that there are things about this statement that need to be noted. First, Irenaeus did not witness this. He referred to Polycarp (who knew the apostle John). Secondly, the key part — “it is not long since it was seen” — is ambiguous. According to Irenaeus’ recollection, Polycarp saw “it” sometime in AD 95-96, during the last part Domitian’s reign. Thirdly, we do not know if the “it” Polycarp was referring to was John, the visions he saw, the name of anti-Christ, or the book itself and we do not know if he meant that the book was written at that time or not. Furthermore, it comes to us through three people separated by three centuries. Therefore, this may be hear-say.

Moreover, most Full Preterists would even indicate that this statement, even with all of this uncertainty, is the only evidence used to support the “late date” theory. Moreover, according to the Full Pretersit, it (the late date) has been accepted by generations of people without really questioning it or examining it in light of the book itself. The late date has been passed on to us in the same way it was passed on to Eusebius, “…it [was] handed down by tradition. Tradition is not the way to interpret Scripture

MAY I BEG TO DIFFER. There are several accounts for the late date as quoted above.

Full Preterists would also use another statement by Irenaeus to indicate the earlier date. In his fifth book, ch 30 he speaks as follows concerning the Apocalypse of John and the number of the name of the Antichrist: “As these things are so, and this number is found in all the approved and ancient copies.” Domitian’s reign was almost in his own day, but now he speaks of the Revelation being written in ancient copies. His statement at least gives some doubt as to the “vision” being seen in 95 AD which was almost in his day, and even suggests a time somewhat removed from his own day for him to consider the copies available to him as ancient.

Now this sounds like a contradiction doesn’t it? It would appear first that Irenaeus prescribes an ‘later date’, as indicated by his quote “We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign”.

And then it would appear (according to this quote) he prescribes an ‘earlier date’.As these things are so, and this number is found in all the approved and ancient copies.

But don’t take my word for it…Lets us READ the whole citation from his 5th Book Ch 30.…

1. Such, then, being the state of the case, and this number being found in all the most approved and ancient copiesand those men who saw John face to face bearing their testimony; while reason also leads us to conclude that the number of the name of the beast, [if reckoned] according to the Greek mode of calculation by the [value of] the letters contained in it, will amount to six hundred and sixty and six; that is, the number of tens shall be equal to that of the hundreds, and the number of hundreds equal to that of the units (for that number which [expresses] the digit six being adhered to throughout, indicates the recapitulations of that apostasy, taken in its full extent, which occurred at the beginning, during the intermediate periods, and which shall take place at the end),—I do not know how it is that some have erred following the ordinary mode of speech, and have vitiated the middle number in the name, deducting the amount of fifty from it, so that instead of six decads they will have it that there is but one. [I am inclined to think that this occurred through the fault of the copyists, as is wont to happen, since numbers also are expressed by letters; so that the Greek letter which expresses the number sixty was easily expanded into the letter Iota of the Greeks. Others then received this reading without examination; some in their simplicity, and upon their own responsibility, making use of this number expressing one decad; while some, in their inexperience, have ventured to seek out a name which should contain the erroneous and spurious number. Now, as regards those who have done this in simplicity, and without evil intent, we are at liberty to assume that pardon will be granted them by God. But as for those who, for the sake of vainglory, lay it down for certain that names containing the spurious number are to be accepted, and affirm that this name, hit upon by themselves, is that of him who is to come; such persons shall not come forth without loss, because they have led into error both themselves and those who confided in them. Now, in the first place, it is loss to wander from the truth, and to imagine that as being the case which is not; then again, as there shall be no light punishment [inflicted] upon him who either adds or subtracts anything from the Scripture, under that such a person must necessarily fall. Moreover, another danger, by no means trifling, shall overtake those who falsely presume that they know the name of Antichrist. For if these men assume one [number], when this [Antichrist] shall come having another, they will be easily led away by him, as supposing him not to be the expected one, who must be guarded against.

2. These men, therefore, ought to learn [what really is the state of the case], and go back to the true number of the name, that they be not reckoned among false prophets. But, knowing the sure number declared by Scripture, that is, six hundred sixty and six, let them await, in the first place, the division of the kingdom into ten; then, in the next place, when these kings are reigning, and beginning to set their affairs in order, and advance their kingdom, [let them learn] to acknowledge that he who shall come claiming the kingdom for himself, and shall terrify those men of whom we have been speaking, having a name containing the aforesaid number, is truly the abomination of desolation. This, too, the apostle affirms: “When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them.” And Jeremiah does not merely point out his sudden coming, but he even indicates the tribe from which he shall come, where he says, “We shall hear the voice of his swift horses from Dan; the whole earth shall be moved by the voice of the neighing of his galloping horses: he shall also come and devour the earth, and the fullness thereof, the city also, and they that dwell therein.” This, too, is the reason that this tribe is not reckoned in the Apocalypse along with those which are saved.

3. It is therefore more certain, and less hazardous, to await the fulfillment of the prophecy, than to be making surmises, and casting about for any names that may present themselves, inasmuch as many names can be found possessing the number mentioned; and the same question will, after all, remain unsolved. For if there are many names found possessing this number, it will be asked which among them shall the coming man bear. It is not through a want of names containing the number of that name that I say this, but on account of the fear of God, and zeal for the truth: for the name Evanthas (ΕΥΑΝΘΑΣ) contains the required number, but I make no allegation regarding it. Then also Lateinos (ΛΑΤΕΙΝΟΣ) has the number six hundred and sixty-six; and it is a very probable [solution], this being the name of the last kingdom [of the four seen by Daniel]. For the Latins are they who at present bear rule: I will not, however, make any boast over this [coincidence]. Teitan too, (ΤΕΙΤΑΝ, the first syllable being written with the two Greek vowels ε and ι, among all the names which are found among us, is rather worthy of credit. For it has in itself the predicted number, and is composed of six letters, each syllable containing three letters; and [the word itself] is ancient, and removed from ordinary use; for among our kings we find none bearing this name Titan, nor have any of the idols which are worshipped in public among the Greeks and barbarians this appellation. Among many persons, too, this name is accounted divine, so that even the sun is termed “Titan” by those who do now possess [the rule]. This word, too, contains a certain outward appearance of vengeance, and of one inflicting merited punishment because he (Antichrist) pretends that he vindicates the oppressed. And besides this, it is an ancient name, one worthy of credit, of royal dignity, and still further, a name belonging to a tyrant. Inasmuch, then, as this name “Titan” has so much to recommend it, there is a strong degree of probability, that from among the many [names suggested], we infer, that perchance he who is to come shall be called “Titan.” We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign.

4. But he indicates the number of the name now, that when this man comes we may avoid him, being aware who he is: the name, however, is suppressed, because it is not worthy of being proclaimed by the Holy Spirit. For if it had been declared by Him, he (Antichrist) might perhaps continue for a long period. But now as “he was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the abyss, and goes into perdition,” as one who has no existence; so neither has his name been declared, for the name of that which does not exist is not proclaimed. But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom, that is, the rest, the hallowed seventh day; and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance, in which kingdom the Lord declared, that “many coming from the east and from the west should sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

And there you have it, two opinions summed up by the mouth of Irenaeus himself; which indicated, at the conclusion of the matter, a yet future fulfillment pertaining to the number of Anti-Christ.

Method.

Of late, several theories have been broached to explain the origin the Apocalypse in such a manner as to account satisfactorily for the literary and psychological features of the book: Those that hold the late date claim:

(1) The Incorporation theory holds to the unity of the Apocalypse, but believes that several older fragments of Jewish or Christian origin are incorporated in it (Weizsacker, Sabatier, Bousset, McGiffert, Moffat, Baljon).

(2) The Revision-hypothesis assumes that the book has been subject to one or more revisions, (Erbes, Briggs, Barth). The last named author is of the opinion that John himself in the time of Domitian revised an Apocalypse which he had written under Nero.

(B). Against this and in favor of the earlier date defended by Dusterdieck, Weiss, Guericke, Schaff, are urged:

(a) The late testimony of the Syrian Apocalypse that John was banished in the time of Nero, and the obscure and self-contradictory passage in Epiphanius that places the banishment in the time of Claudius. Cf. Alford, Prolegamena Section II. 14, where the weakness of this testimony is pointed out.

(b) The supposed references in the Apocalypse to the destruction of the Holy City as still future in 111,2,13. But it is quite evident that these passages must be understood symbolically. Regarded as historical predictions of the destruction of Jerusalem they did not come true, for according to 11: 2 only the outer court would be abolished, and according to vs. 13 merely the tenth part of the city would be destroyed, and that not by Rome but by an earthquake.

(c) The supposed indications of the reigning emperor in 13:1, especially in connection with the symbolical interpretation of the number 666 as being equal to the Hebrew form of Nero Caesar. But the great diversity of opinion as to the correct interpretation of these passages, even among the advocates of the early date, proves that their support is very questionable.

(d) The difference between the language of this book and that of the Gospel of John is thought to favor an early date, but, as we have already pointed out, this is not necessarily the case.

It is impossible to tell, whether John wrote the Apocalypse while he was still on the island of Patmos, or after his return from there. The statement in 10: 4 does not prove the former theory, nor the past tenses in 1:2, 9, the latter.

In The Beast of Revelation, Dr. Kenneth Gentry marshals seven strong reasons, some linguistic, some contextual, and some logical, for interpreting Irenaeus’ statement as meaning that John—not the vision—was seen during the reign of Domitian.12

For example, earlier in the passage, Irenaeus refers to “all the….ancient copies” of Revelation. This presupposes that the book had been around a good long while before this statement was written. If there were “ancient copies,” was not the original more ancient still? Yet, in Irenaeus’ estimation, the time of Domitian’s reign was not considered to have been very ancient history, for he speaks of it as “almost in our day.” How could Irenaeus speak of “ancient copies” of a work the original of which had been written “almost” in his own time? With reference to his mention of Domitian’s reign, there are grounds for believing that Irenaeus was speaking of the time of John’s last being seen by the brethren, rather than the time of John’s having seen the apocalyptic vision.

Gentry paraphrases what he believes to have been Irenaeus’ thought as follows: “It is not important for us to know the name of the Beast (or Antichrist), which was hidden in the number 666. Were it important, why did John not tell us? After all, he lived almost to our own era, and spoke with some men I have known.”13

Gentry’s arguments, modem sentiments notwithstanding, present a formidable case for the early dating of the Apocalypse. I have encountered no treatment of the dating of Revelation more thorough than his dissertation on the subject.14 Further, any inde­pendent arguments advanced in favor of the preterist approach, applying the prophe­cies of Revelation to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, also argue for a date of writing prior to that date. At the very least, the possibility of the early date keeps the preterist approach legitimately in the debate.

Method.

Of late, several theories have been broached to explain the origin the Apocalypse in such a manner as to account satisfactorily for the literary and psychological features of the book: Those that hold the early date claim:

(1) The Compilation-hypothesis teaches that two or more sources fairly complete in themselves have been pieced together by a redactor or redactors, (Weyland, Spitta, Volter at least in part).

(2) The Jewish and Christian hypothesis maintains that the groundwork of the Apocalypse was a Jewish writing in the Aramaic language, written about 65-70, that was later translated and edited by a Christian (Vischer, Harnack, Martineau). In connection with these we can only say that to us these theories seem unnecessary and in the majority of cases very arbitrary. There is every reason to maintain the unity of the Apocalypse. The use of written sources in its composition is an unproved assumption; but the author was evidently impregnated with Old Testament ideas and modes of expression, and drew largely on the storehouse of his memory in the symbolic description of the supernatural scenes that were presented to his vision.

However, There is a 1st century early Church father who lived during the 60ies and 70ies AD. – The esteemed ‘Clement of Rome’, perhaps he can shed some light on all this.

CLEMENT OF ROME (1st Cent – AD 95)

Few details are known about Clement’s life. According to Tertullian, Clement was consecrated by Saint Peter, and he is known to have been a leading member of the church in Rome in the late 1st century.

First Letter to the Corinthians

Chapter XXIV.—God continually shows us in nature that there will be a resurrection.

Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits 1 Cor 15:20; Col 1:18. by raising Him from the dead. Let us contemplate, beloved, the resurrection which is at all times taking place. Day and night declare to us a resurrection. The night sinks to sleep, and the day arises; the day [again] departs, and the night comes on. Let us behold the fruits [of the earth], how the sowing of grain takes place. The sower Luke 8:5 goes forth, and casts it into the ground; and the seed being thus scattered, though dry and naked when it fell upon the earth, is gradually dissolved. Then out of its dissolution the mighty power of the providence of the Lord raises it up again, and from one seed many arise and bring forth fruit.

At this moment, I will encourage the reader to consider the words chosen by Clement: Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrectionLet us contemplate, beloved, the resurrection which is at all times taking place. Day and night declare to us a resurrection. It would appear that Clement believed the resurrection to be a future event, yet (and this is most vital, to the teachings of Full Preterism) upon this he also considered that the resurrection is taking place at all times. The resurrection of the dead according to this statement declares that the risen physical Christ is at all times to be considered an accomplished fact. A fact that happened 2,000 years ago, but moreover the consensus is that this established fact can indeed be an ongoing accomplishment through our own unveiling and belief (Eph 1:17-18). A belief established by faith in the established work of Christ Jesus, where He sits upon the Heavenly throne, and where we are also seated, if you are risen with Christ (Eph 1:20, 23, 2:6, Col 1:1-2). Which brings me to my next topic of discussion; Realized Eschatology.

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