Don K. Preston’s Second Negative
Formal Written Debate on the Dating of Revelation
Sergius Bale versus Don K. Preston
(All Caps for emphasis only)
I hope the reader has noticed that Bale has not attempted– not one time– to exegete EVEN ONE BIBLE TEXT to support his case. He has offered a possible parallel or two with Scripture and history, BUT HE HAS NOT EXEGETED ONE TEXT! He patently respects external, uninspired works- that he admits are inconclusive and not definitive- more than Scripture.
Bale objects to me citing his words from FaceBook, claiming that I am violating the rules and that it is irrelevant. But it is not irrelevant when it is discussing the dating and the evidence- or lack thereof in Bale’s case. You will note that he did not– he could not– cite a rule that says I am not supposed to use FB.
REVELATION- A BOOK OF JEWISH CHRISTIAN HOPE? AN INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT ISSUE
In my first negative I argued that the book of Revelation is a preeminently Jewish book, about the imminent fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to OC Israel. Briggs was correct to note: “It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the temple imagery in Revelation is primarily for the benefit of believing Jews…. The Apocalypse then, is an extremely Jewish book by dint of its temple imagery alone.” (Briggs, 1999,103).
This is supported by the fact that in Revelation 6, the blood of the martyrs is at the base of the altar. THIS IS NO PAGAN ALTAR! This is Jewish Temple imagery, strongly suggesting Jewish culpability for shedding the blood of the martyrs.
Bale ignored my citation of scholarship. Early on, Bale ridiculed me for not citing “scholars.” But when I do, he ignores the citations or rejects them outright. I guess only the scholars that he cites are truly scholars.
Bale responded: “Don claims Revelation is a Jewish book… this is a Christian writing.”
Amazing! His rejection of this foundational Biblical truth reveals how totally out of touch with the Biblical narrative he truly is! How does the fact that Revelation is a Christian writing negate the fact that it is focused on the fulfillment of God’s OC promises made to Old Covenant Israel? All the first Christians were Jews, convinced the Jesus was the fulfillment of their kingdom hope.
Bale says my claim that Revelation is about the imminent fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to OC Israel is hotly debated (in Bale’s view, my claim is to be rejected since it is hotly contested!!), and “likely to be called heresy!” Let’s let the Bible– that Bale essentially ignores– settle the issue:
Peter said his doctrine of the “restoration of all things” and the New Creation eschatological hope was found in “all the prophets who have ever spoken… from Moses and Samuel onward” (Acts 3:19-24 / 2 Peter 3:1-2, 13). Scholarship is virtually united in positing Isaiah 65-66 as the source of both 2 Peter 3! And let’s not forget: I asked Bale if the New Creation of Revelation 21 is the New Creation foretold in Isaiah 65-66, and he said – after obfuscating a good bit- THAT IT IS! Therefore, he defeated his own claim that Revelation is not about the fulfillment of God’s OC promises made to OC Israel!
Here is why this is so important and relevant:
The New Creation prophesied by Isaiah 65-66 is the same New Creation anticipated by Revelation 21-22 (Bale agrees).
But the New Creation of Isaiah 65-66 would arrive when God destroyed OC Israel (Isaiah 65:13-17).
Therefore, the New Creation of Isaiah 65-66 would arrive when God destroyed OC Israel.
This is confirmed of course by the fact that the New Creation of Revelation would come when the city “where the Lord was crucified” was destroyed.
Paul said his eschatology was found in Moses, the Law and the prophets (Acts 24:14f; 26:6f, 21f).
Then, we have John, who cites, echoes, alludes to more OT prophecies than any other NT book. He tells us that in the sounding of the seventh trump, the mystery of God foretold by the prophets would be fulfilled (10:7). What prophets did he have in mind? Well, as virtually all scholars agree, he was anticipating the resurrection and the New Creation foretold in Isaiah 25-27, 65-66, Daniel 12:2, Ezekiel 37, the book of Zechariah, etc.. These were THE OLD TESTAMENT PROMISES MADE TO OLD COVENANT ISRAEL!
The denial that Revelation was focused on the imminent fulfillment of God’s OC promises made to OC Israel demands that Bale prove– DEFINITIVELY- that John’s hope of the parousia, judgment, resurrection is distinct from the Gospel taught by Peter and Paul. But Paul said that if ANYONE taught a different Gospel from that which he taught, he was anathema. Thus, if John’s eschatology was different from Paul’s, (which was undeniably from the Tanakh), then Bale is accusing John of teaching a different gospel. And he is himself teaching another Gospel.
Of course, Bale does not believe that Revelation is about the imminent fulfillment of ANYTHING because he claims it is about the destruction of Rome FOUR CENTURIES REMOVED FROM JOHN’S “DO NOT SEAL THE VISION OF THIS BOOK, FOR THE TIME IS AT HAND”. Sorry, “Behold, I come quickly”; “do not seal the vision of the book, for the time is at hand,” does not equate to 400 years! That makes a mockery of language.
ISAIAH 2-4 AND REVELATION 6
Bale says: “Don claims Revelation 6 applies Isaiah 2-4 to it… Yet, nowhere does Revelation quote or directly cite Isaiah 2-4 in it. Don is outright lying to his readers when he makes claims like this.”
See, once again, when Bale disagrees with me, I am “lying.” This is an exhibition of either ignorance or arrogance- or both.
David Aune (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 52b, Nashville, Nelson, 1998), 419, says Revelation 6 is a direct allusion to Isaiah. Greg Beale, (Revelation, New International Greek Testament Commentary, Carlisle, Pa; Paternoster, 1999), 400+- also says the text is an allusion to Isaiah 2:19f and Hosea 10:8- the parallel text. In fact, FEW SCHOLARS DENY THE CONNECTION.
Isaiah 2:19f- predicted the last days Day of the Lord. Men would run to the hills and hide in the caves, calling on the rocks “fall on us.” Revelation cites the LXX VERBATIM in Revelation 6:16. Remember that in Luke 23:28f Jesus applied Isaiah to the impending judgment of Jerusalem for killing him.
This would also be when the Lord would avenge the blood guilt of Jerusalem (4:4). Just as in Revelation 6:12f we have the prediction of the last days Day of the Lord, when the Lord would avenge the blood of the martyrs.
Remember also that in 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul likewise quotes- verbatim- from Isaiah 2:19f to speak of the impending judgment on the Jewish persecutors of the Thessalonians.
According to Bale, John was ignoring Jesus and Paul’s citation and application of Isaiah. He was not applying Isaiah to anything. He is patently wrong. The fact that John was anticipating the fulfillment of Isaiah 2-4 refutes Bale’s claim that Revelation is not about the fulfillment of the Old Covenant promises.
WHEN DID DOMITIAN BEGIN PERSECUTING CHRISTIANS?
On 11-22-2021- I asked Bale the following:
When (in what year) did Domitian supposedly initiate his persecution of Christians?
To put this another way, do you accept as fact the citation from Eusebius that you gave, which indicates that the persecution began in Domitian’s 15th year, with the exile of Domitilla?
Is this your official position?
That seems a good and likely date since Eusebius states it and gets his information from Hegesippus and Iranaeus primarily.
My official position is that until we find more evidence there is no conclusive or concrete evidence that definitively supports the dating of Revelation to be early nor late date but all evidence we do have seems to highly favor and support late date such as Eusebius sourcing two people like Hegesippus and Iranaeus and stating Domitian did begin his persecutions and terror in his 15th year.
Reader, Domitian only reigned for 15 years! Thus, if we accept the “trustworthy” (per Bale) account of Eusebius, Hegesippus and Iranaeus– HE DID NOT BEGIN TO PERSECUTE THE CHURCH UNTIL THE LAST YEAR OF HIS REIGN. And, per his own sources, he quickly abandoned that persecution! This means, by Bale’s own admission, that Domitian’s “persecution” was very, very short lived!
That contradicts the long history of persecution found in Revelation.
Babylon (Rome per Bale) had a long bloody history of killing the OT prophets (ROME NEVER DID THIS! Period).
Rome is not where the Lord was crucified.
Even granting that Domitian “may” have persecuted some isolated individual Christians, he still only did so for ONE YEAR– AT THE MOST!
We are supposed to believe that one localized persecution of “maybe” one year filled the measure of sin. As Robinson says:
When this limited and selective purge, in which no Christian was for certain put to death, is compared with the massacre of Christians under Nero in what two early and independent witnesses speak of as ‘immense multitudes’ it is astonishing that commentators should have been led by Iranaeaus, who himself does not even mention a persecution, to prefer a Domitianic context for the book of Revelation” (Redating, 233).
We are to also ignore what Jesus and Paul said about Israel filling the measure of her sin, in the first century, for the killing of the OT prophets, of Jesus, and Jesus’ apostles and prophets. And we are to believe that Domitians’ ONE YEAR AT MOST had filled the measure of Rome’s guilt.
Bale’s view violates Revelation that says that the Beast– Domitian, per Sergius– was to persecute for 3 ½ years.
So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” 5 And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. 6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.
So, according to Revelation, the Beast, ostensibly Domitian, was to persecute the church for 3 ½ years. Yet, per Bale, Domitian did not begin persecuting the church until THE VERY LAST YEAR OF HIS REIGN! Sorry, Mr. Bale, that does not compute.
BALE’S EXAMPLES OF DOMITIANIC PERSECUTION
1. Antipas – It is amazing that Bale relies on a 10th century source to try to prove the martyrdom of one person in (perhaps) AD 92.
Bale suggests that Antipas was killed for not worshiping Domitian. A claim made MANY CENTURIES LATER, that is highly questionable! He conveniently ignores the fact that Catholic tradition says Antipas was slain by Nero: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQg3alNbw9s).
Bale says we have : “No reason to doubt the Revelation’s mention of Antipas’ martyrdom.”
Folks, no one says Antipas was not a martyr! That is a diversionary argument. The question is WHO KILLED HIM?
Gary DeMar asked Francis Gumerlock, noted patristic and Latin MSS expert about the evidence for
Antipas being a Domitianic martyr. Gumerlock responded: “In all of the Revelation commentaries that are extant from [AD] 200-700, not one of them states that Antipas was martyred during the reign of Domitian.” He states further: “The only early commentary he could find that claimed that Antipas was martyred, “by being roasted in a bronze bull in the tenth year of Domitian” was written by Cornelius a Lapide, Jesuit of Flanders (1627). See DeMar’s excellent discussion about Antipas here:
Many historians believe that the entire story of Antipas and the bronze bull death was not historical. (Philip Schaff – William Milligan, “Revelation,” A Popular Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Phillip Schaff, 4 vols. [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1883], 4:385.). Thus, Bale appeals as “proof” to evidence that would NEVER stand up in a court of evidentiary cross examination. To say the very least, the testimony surrounding Antipas is confused and far less than definitive.
Note: By appealing to Antipas as a Domitianic martyr, Bale falsifies his own claim that Domitian began persecuting the church in the last year of his reign, AD 95.
2 DOMITILLA AND CLEMENS -HER HUSBAND.
Some- Bale clearly-claim they were Christians. This is not certain. (Briggs, Imagery, p. 34, n. 94/ 36, n. 36, strongly questions whether they were Christians).
We know that Domitian hated the Jews and persecuted them.
Robinson proves that by the time of Domitian, the distinction between Jews and Christians was an established “certainty” and became so, “in the summer of 64. …. both Nero and Rome now clearly distinguished between the religio licita and the new sect.” (Redating, 294).
So, since Domitilla and Clemens were “persecuted” for “Judaizing,” IT WAS NOT FOR BEING CHRISTIANS, BUT ALMOST CERTAINLY FOR CONVERTING TO JUDAISM. (Many scholars believe that Clemens was slain due to suspicion of conspiracy against Domitian- (Briggs, Imagery, p. 34, n. 94).
Thus, Bale’s evidence for Domitianic persecution of Christians beginning with Domitilla and Clemens is highly dubious- at best.
3. JUDE’S GRANDCHILDREN
Bale appeals to Eusebius, Hegesippus and Tertullian for this. It does not help!
According to Bale’s sources they were not killed – OR EVEN EXILED. THEY WERE NOT PUNISHED AT ALL. They were brought before Domitian because they were of the house of David, and preached the Davidic Kingdom. Domitian – a total paranoid about political conspiracies- examined them, heard their message of a spiritual – non-political kingdom (not of this world). Eusebius and Hegesippus says they were immediately released. Subsequently, great peace ruled in all the churches.
THEY WERE NOT CHARGED WITH BEING CHRISTIANS! Domitian feared that they posed a political threat. When he realized they posed no POLITICAL THREAT, he released them. He clearly was not concerned about them being “Christians.” (Unlike 1 Peter 4:12f). IF THEY HAD BEEN ARRESTED FOR RELIGIOUS REASONS, SINCE THEY ADMITTED TO THAT, HE WOULD NOT HAVE RELEASED THEM.
Thus, another of Bale’s examples of supposed “Christian persecution” by Domitian evaporates under close scrutiny.
4. SYMEON OF CLOPHAS
Why does Bale spend so much time telling us of the martyrdom of Symeon of Clophas when THAT MARTYRDOM WAS NOT UNDER DOMITIAN – but under Trajan in the second century? In fact:
The date of the martyrdom of Symeon is quite uncertain. It has been commonly ascribed (together with the martyrdom of Ignatius) to the year 106 or 107, upon the authority of Eusebius’ Chron., which is supposed to connect these events with the ninth or tenth year of Trajan’s reign. But an examination of the passage in the Chron., where Eusebius groups together these two events and the persecutions in Bithynia, shows that he did not pretend to know the exact date of any of them, and simply put them together as three similar events known to have occurred during the reign of Trajan (cf. Lightfoot’s Ignatius, II. p. 447 sqq.).
Thus, Bale produces TOTALLY IRRELEVAZNT DATA in a failed attempt to prove a Domitianic persecution. His “evidence” has NOTHING TO DO WITH ANY PURPORTED DOMITIANIC PERSECUTION!
4. Bale relies heavily on the record of Eusebius to document other martyrs. The problem is, as Candida Moss has documented,
Between the death of Jesus around AD 30 CE and the ascension of Constantine in 313, Christians died as a result of active measures by the imperial government only 1 Immediately following the Great Fire of Rome in 64, 2. Around 250, during the reign of Decius, … (Candida Moss, The Myth of Persecution, How Early Christians Invented A Story of Persecution, (New York; Harper Collins, 2013), 129).
Catch the power of this: Moss entirely omits any mention of Domitian as a persecutor of the church! NOT A MENTION. In fact, Moss argues that Eusebius’ martyr stories are mostly unhistorical fabrications for “political” purposes.
BALE AND CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA.
Bale appeals to Clement who spoke of “the tyrant”- and assumes that he referred to Domitian.
1. Bale conveniently omits to mention that Clement said inspiration ended in the days of Nero: “For the teaching of our Lord at his advent, beginning with Augustus and Tiberius, was completed in the times of Tiberius. And that of the apostles embracing the ministry of Paul, ends with Nero.” (Miscellanies, Book 7:17- cited in Gentry, Before p. 68f, citing Stromata VII, 17, 106).
This claim agrees perfectly with my argument on the cessation of inspiration by the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the seventy weeks– which Bale simply scoffed at.
2. Bale admits that both Nero and Domitian was called the tyrant. But he appeals to Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD) to prove the focus was on Domitian. He ignores the fact that Apollonius of Tyana (1-97 AD) says Nero was called a Tyrant, guilty of crimes like no other. Apollonius himself was even imprisoned by Domitian for political reasons, yet he never called him “the Tyrant!” (https://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/main/b20762583_B000213497.pdf).
Keep in mind that Clement wrote over 100+ years after Apollonius, who was “on the scene” unlike Clement.
Gentry gives additional quotes from the 1st – 4th century of both Roman and Christian historians who called Nero the Tyrant. If- a strong IF- Domitian did persecute the church he was a faint image of Nero, not fitting the description of Revelation. Nero persecuted thousands, for years. Domitian MAY have persecuted a few at most, for AT MOST, ONE YEAR!
4.) Robinson notes that “few doubt that the primary reference of ‘the beast’ in Revelation (13) is to Nero.” (Redating, 236).
BALE AND THE DATE OF 1 PETER
I CITED ROBINSON WHO POSITED 1 PETER IN AD 65 ( Bale ignored Robinson).
1 Peter SAYS it was written by Peter. PETER DIED BEFORE AD 70. Bale denies that Peter wrote the epistle, which is an overt denial of what the book says. This denial is essential for Bale’s position. Ponder the fact that HIS ENTIRE POSITION HINGES ON PROVING THAT 1 PETER IS A SPURIOUS PRODUCTION BY A PRETENDER! At the very least, it was written by Stephanus, Peter’s secretary. But that still demands that Peter dictated the epistle before AD 70– falsifying Bale’s claims.
Bale wrote 250 words telling us that Revelation may have also been a fabrication– not written by John, and thus, not inspired. Now, he tells us that Peter did not write 1 Peter! Bale seems to have no problem believing that Peter (and Revelation) are fabrications- FALSE books!
Robinson examines the idea that 1 Peter is a fictive pseudonymous production and says out of the other epistles, it is the least likely to be false. He cites Harnack, who rejected the apostolic authorship and yet, (in a massive contradiction) said that the claim that Peter was pseudonymous was burdened down with “insurmountable” problems. (Robinson, Redating, 163).
Bale desperately wants (MUST) deny any relationship between 1 Peter and Revelation. Let me repeat my argument– which he tried to dismiss by his appeal to the fictive nature of 1 Peter:
1 Peter was written to the saints in Asia (1 Peter 1:1f); as was Revelation.
The saints were being persecuted (1 Peter 1:5f; 4:11-12), just as in Revelation.
Notice that Peter urged his audience: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts and be ready always to give an ANSWER (from apologia– meaning a legal, courtroom style defense) for the hope that lies within you.” We thus have early documentation of Christians being “tried” as Christians – matching the Neronian situation perfectly– but not any situation under Domitian.
Their persecution, was “filling up the measure of suffering / sin (1 Peter 5:10- epiteleo). This is directly parallel to Revelation 6:9-11 / 17:6f. It is likewise in perfect harmony with Jesus and Paul who said (Matthew 23 –>1 Thessalonians 2:15-16) that it was Israel that would fill up of the measure of sin through persecution in the first century. Bale says these connections can be dismissed because they don’t mention the dating of Revelation. That is total smoke- and false. If the filling up of the measure of sin – by Israel- in Matthew 23 and 1 Thessalonians 2 is the same as in Revelation, (and it is since Babylon was the city guilty of killing the Lord) – then since both Matthew 23 and Thessalonians are dealing with first century, Old Covenant Israel prior to AD 70– not Rome- that proves that Revelation was written prior to AD 70.
Peter promised the saints they would only have to endure persecution for a short time (1 Peter 1:5f 4:5, 7, 17), just as the Spirit told the Revelation martyrs that their vindication would be “in a little while” (Revelation 6:9f).
In Revelation 3:10 Jesus promised the Philadelphia saints: “I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” The persecution was literally “about to come” (mellouses– from mello in the infinitive). The Blass-DeBrunner Greek Grammar says: “mellein with the infinitive expresses imminence” (Blass-DeBrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1961), 181).
So, we have an already present Asian persecution, but we have a “fiery trial” of persecution that was “ABOUT TO COME.” Then, in an epistle written in AD 65– well before Domitian- we find Peter saying: “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial THAT IS AMONG YOU.” The Greek of the text is “The fiery trial that is (present tense) among you (en humin).” It is not a future tense.
John, writing to the Asian saints said a time of trial (persecution) was about to come. Peter, writing to the Asian saints, said the fiery trial WAS AMONG THEM. They were not to think that trial strange. WHY? The logical answer is that John in Revelation had told them it was about to come, AND NOW IT WAS AMONG THEM! Revelation was clearly written before Peter..
Bale must prove that Revelation and 1 Peter are speaking of two totally different Asian persecutions, both of which were present but about to imminently get worse, and, both of which were to consummately fill the measure of sin and suffering! And relief from both persecution would be at the coming soon parousia of Christ– “Behold, I come quickly.” If he cannot prove this- he did not try – his position falls.
If Peter wrote 1 Peter, (he did) then since he was writing to the same people as John, about the same issue, persecution of the saints, and made the same promises as John (imminent relief at the parousia), then since John FORETOLD what Peter said was then present, this demands that Revelation- was written before AD 70.
Unbelievably, Bale says all of this is irrelevant to our discussion! Wrong. It is critical and Bale knows it.
Bale needs to tell us, very clearly (I predict silence, insults or diversion):
DID THE APOSTLE PETER PEN THE EPISTLE OF 1 PETER? YES OR NO?
DEATH VERSUS EXILE?
Bale says his purpose was not to prove that Nero did not exile people, killing them instead, versus Domitian who did exile his enemies. Yet, he says his point is that John was in exile, supposedly pointing to persecution by Domitian. Double talk. He typed a bunch of words trying to establish that very claim.
Bale’s own words: “Nero preferred execution and that exile was a bit of a rarity, which he would usually have executed later.” He told us, “You rarely find exile takes place in Tacitus’ works with Nero in contrast to his amount of murder and executions.” What did he say of Domitian? “Pliny the Younger in his Letters, where he notes in Book 3, Letters 9 and 11 of Domitian’s cruel acts and his tendency to exile like he did in the case of 89 CE where he tried to have banished all philosophers from Rome.” Bale denies his own words. The fact is that we have record from Tacitus of Nero exiling many people during the Pisonian conspiracy:
( https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Tacitus/Annals/15C*.html). Note how Tacitus refutes Bale.
THE ACTS OF JOHN
Amazingly, Bale appeals to the mid-second century Acts of John, a fantasmagoric production that, Bale admits was “from a sect not counted Christians,” and indeed, was deemed heretical by the Nicean Council as Docetic and Gnostic. The stories in The Acts of John can scarcely be believed (John prayed for bedbugs to leave his “hotel” room for the night, they did, and when he left, he allowed them to return!) To see just how strange the Acts of John truly is: https://biblewise.com/bible_study/apocrypha/acts-john.php. Bale’s reliance on such a strange work exposes his desperation. Argumentum ad desperatum!
THE IRANAEAN EVIDENCE
Bale claims that the evidence from Iranaeus is powerful and should be convincing:
Irenaeus says quite clearly in his writings that “…were it necessary that his [the Antichrist] 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”.
Bale says: “The date of the composition of the text was non-controversial. That it was being cited authoritatively in the mid-2nd Century also implies a date of composition at the end of the first century. We also don’t find church historian Eusebius taking issue or even discussing anything of the sort about it being in some form of dispute either.” He claims: “it has really only been in recent times that the date has been called into question by proponents of certain eschatological schemes (primarily forms of preterism) which all originate from Calvinist theological circles.”
First, no one disputes the dating of the Iranaean quote. That is a straw man.
Bale’s claim that only Calvinist preterists have somewhat recently disputed the meaning of the quote is false. It is pejorative and unscholarly. Dean Furlong who has “never been a preterist” challenges the interpretation of the Iranaean quote. (Dean Furlong, “The Problematic Use of External Sources,” PDF). I was personally raised as a fifth generation Amillennialist, and have never been a Calvinist.
Gentry catalogs the names of MANY noted scholastics– non-preterists- who challenge the idea that Iranaeus was saying the Apocalypse was seen in the time of Domitian. (Gentry, Before, 45++).
Furthermore, the context of the citation lends itself to an understanding that Iranaeus was saying that if the identity of the Man of Sin were necessary, then JOHN, who was seen almost in Iranaeus’ day, could have made it known. To say that the identity of 666 would have been settled by knowing that the Apocalyse was written “almost in our day” is illogical. It was the existence of the Apocalypse itself- well known in Iranaeus’ day, that was creating the controversy. When one understands, as a growing number of scholars are admitting, that Iranaeus was saying that if it was necessary to understand the identity of 666 then John, who was seen not long ago, could have settled the issue!
Saying that knowing that “the Apocalypse was written not long ago,” would not settle the issue of the identity of 666. Revelation, for however long it had existed, had generated the controversy of that identity. But, if John were still alive, HE COULD HAVE SETTLED THE ISSUE.
Thus, in the words of John Behr, one of the world’s top Iranaean scholars, “things are not necessarily as they seem at first sight” referring to the view espoused by Bale. Behr says, “It is almost certain that the subject of the passive verb ‘was seen’ is John himself rather than the apocalytic vision.” (John Behr, The Theologian and His Paschal Gospel, Oxford University Press, 2019). 68).
Behr is not a preterist. He is an Orthodox Priest. Incidentally, he cites, with approval, the “convincing argument” offered by Dean Furlong in his “John the Evangelist” work.
Bale has built his case on sand. His claim that the Iranaean testimony is clear, turns out to be his own subjective personal opinion.
PERGAMUM AND SMYRNA
Please note that NOT ONCE did Bale produce a quote from inscriptions in these cities, and not a word in the Biblical texts, about any Domitianic persecution. NOT ONE WORD! Yet, Ephesus, Pergamum and Smyrna were supposedly the epicenter of Domitianic persecution– per Bale.
Behr says that the inscriptions- that Bale appeals to– show that while Domitian was, “central to the cult,” “With respect to the divinization of the emperor, however, the language of the dedications does not deviate from the normal practice in the provincial cults. The use of theos in reference to a living emperor was not unusual in Asia at this time. Thus, there is no suggestion of extraordinary cultic honors for Domitian or for any other imperial figure in this inscription.” (John the Theologian, 70). Bale has clearly mishandled the evidence.
If Ephesus, Pergamum and Smyrna were the center of the Domitianic worship as Bale claims, we should by all means find direct, definitive testimony to that. It is not a question of persecution in other areas, it is a question of persecution in the areas that Bale insists were the center of that worship. Yet, all we find is TOTAL SILENCE in the Biblical record concerning such a persecution.
Now, Bale tries to negate the Neronian persecution since it, “has not been shown to be widespread.” Yet he admits that Revelation- supposedly about Domitian’s persecution– was not widespread! This flatly contradicts Revelation 3:10 where Jesus said that the fiery trial of persecution was about to come “on the whole world” (tes oikoumene- the inhabited world). Bale denies this text.
We can summarize Bale’s entire affirmative by citing his own words. He admits:
“Obviously none of what I offer here makes it 100%, without a doubt, definitive or conclusive that the Revelation was written in the reign of Domitian.”
“There is nothing conclusive nor definitive to prove irrefutably that the Revelation is written early nor late date. We simply do not know what year it was written beyond that it was written in the first century. Beyond that, it is simply a matter of making solid but educated guesses and hoping we find some more evidences later to show the truth of this matter.”
“My official position is that until we find more evidence there is no conclusive or concrete evidence that definitively supports the dating of Revelation to be early nor late date but all evidence we do have seems to highly favor and support late date such as Eusebius sourcing two people like Hegesippus and Iranaeus and stating Domitian did begin his persecutions and terror in his 15th year.”
(DKP– be sure to read my comments on this above).
So, reader, while Bale admits, repeatedly, that he has not given any definitive, conclusive evidence, he wants to convince you that I am a false teacher (liar) for taking the early dating of Revelation!
REVELATION AND THE EMPERORS
Revelation speaks of the emperors of Rome, and says: “There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.”
According to the ancient sources closest to the first century Roman situation, (with the exception of Tacitus) they all say – definitively – that Julius was the first emperor. This included Josephus, Suetonius, Dio Cassius, The Sybylline Oracles (5:12) and 2 Esdras 12:15. They all list Julius as the first emperor. (See Robinson, Redating, 243f / also http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Lists%20of%20Roman%20Emperors.htm ).
Gentry adds the Epistle of Barnabas (late first century,maybe even pre-AD 70), and the testimony of the second century writer praised by Eusebius, Theophilus of Antioch, who said that the list of Roman emperors began with Julius. (Gentry, Beast, 107).
The list of emperors therefore is: #1 – Julius, #2 – Augustus, #3 – Tiberius, #4 – Caligula, #5 -Claudius–> #6 – NERO- THE ONE “WHO IS” WHEN JOHN WROTE.
Do the math: Five are fallen– Julius through Claudius. ONE IS- WHICH MEANS REVELATION WAS WRITTEN UNDER NERO. THIS DEFINITIVELY REFUTES BALE’S SPECULATIONS AND HIS ESCHATOLOGY.
There is no good reason whatsoever to reject this countdown unless one has a theological predisposition and a “pet doctrine” to defend.
Finally, look again at my argument (among many) that Bale totally ignored– and for good reason.
Revelation is about the imminent- to John- judgment of Babylon.
Babylon is “where the Lord was crucified”- (Revelation 11:8).
Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem– NOT ROME.
Therefore, Babylon of Revelation was Jerusalem.
I have answered- in sharp contrast with Bale – every major point offered by Bale and demonstrated his misuse of the evidence, his false claims, his logical fallacies and his misrepresentations.
✔ He denies the undeniable: Revelation is focused on the imminent fulfillment of God’s OC promises made to OC Israel.
✔ He tries to build a case by denying the authorship and dating of both Revelation and Peter, thereby affirming that these are fictive (false) productions of someone beside the apostles.
✔ He appeals to cases of “persecution” that were not actually persecutions of Christians.
✔ He appeals to evidence written literally centuries after the fact, evidence that many scholars say is totally fictive.
✔ He anachronistically appeals to “persecution” that took place under Trajan almost two decades after Domitian.
✔ He claims that the Iranaean testimony is trustworthy, and yet, top Iranaean scholars tell us that Bale’s view is not supported by the Iranaean citation.
✔ He tells us of Smyrna,Pergamum and Ephesus being centers of Domitianic persecution, yet gives us NOT ONE SINGLE WORD FROM SCRIPTURE THAT SAYS THIS WAS TRUE! Even his own “historical evidence” is – by his own admission, “inconclusive.”
His proposition fails.