Here is Sergius Bale’s first negative presentation in our debate on the dating of Revelation. You can read my first affirmative here.
In this debate, Mr. Preston is to take the affirmative that the Book of Revelation was definitively written before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and is predictive of that event. I am to present in the negative a response to his first affirmative. Mr. Preston’s quotes will be in bold and in quotation marks.
“I affirm that Revelation was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and foretold that event. Understanding the dating of Revelation is crucial to a proper interpretation of the Apocalypse since the coming of the Lord (parousia), the judgment, and the resurrection (the judgment of the living and the dead) all occur at the time of, in direct connection to the judgment of “Babylon.” To have an anachronistic view of the book produces a false interpretation”.
This debate is about proving Revelation was definitively written before or after 70 CE. Whether one believes the Revelation is scripture, given from God, inspired, or non-inspired is irrelevant to dating definitively the book of Revelation. The debate is over the dating of the religious text “Revelation of St. John” and whether or not it can be dated historically at an early date or a later date. The manner of how one interprets the religious text is a completely separate issue. If Mr. Preston wished to debate on matters of interpretation of the religious text he should have written the debate to be that. Since he did not, I will be sticking to the established premise that was agreed upon and signed at the start of the debate.
“If it is established that ‘Babylon’ of Revelation was the first century, Old C
covenant Jerusalem, that fully, definitively proves that Revelation was written prior to AD 70”.
Preston’s statement here employs a formal fallacy called “affirming the consequent”, sometimes called a “converse error” An example of this would be: If A is true then B is true. It does not necessarily follow that if one allows “Babylon” to be identified as “Old Covenant Jerusalem” that this definitively proves Revelation to be written before 70 CE. There are multiple ways it could be written after. For example, many New Testament bible critics and scholars accept works like Revelation to be vaticinium ex eventu “prophecy from the event” or post eventum “after the event”. This is evident in many works like the Babylonian “Marduk Prophecy” and is employed by many secular sources like how this technique is employed by Virgil for example in the Aeneid . For the sake of argument, a prophecy being written post eventum does not necessarily mean it has to be declared “uninspired” though inspiration is not part of the debate. It is also argued, though certainly not conclusive, that vaticinium ex eventu is employed in works like Daniel, Matthew, Mark, and Luke , and Revelation by many biblical scholars, textual critics, and historians . Preston says that “to have an anachronistic view of the book produces a false interpretation”. This debate is again not over who has a false or true interpretation of the Revelation of St. John.
Preston identifies “Babylon” as the “Old Covenant”. Which “Old Covenant” is it within the context of the 2nd Temple Judaism Period? Is it the Pharisees’, Sadducees’, Essenes’, or the Zealots’ take on the “Old Covenant” that is the “Old Covenant” in focus? Secondly, Preston identifies “Babylon” as also being a city that kills the Old Testament prophets and identifies the city of Jerusalem as being “Babylon”. Preston uses Revelation 16 and Revelation 6 to try and justify his interpretation of Revelation but as written before, interpretations vary on Revelation. One could just as easily interpret Babylon as being Rome and many do so in the realm of scholarship and academia such as the likes of Lyder Brun in his study of Revelation 17 or A. Y. Collins arguing that Revelation 13 gives us imagery like that of Daniel 7 and 8 that they argue are adapted in Revelation to depict the Roman Empire as the beast of resurgent chaos rebelling against God Himself . The saints and prophets mentioned in Revelation 16 also do not have to be interpreted as being merely Old Testament prophets as Preston claims.
Preston claims that “In Revelation 16, there is no indication that New Testament prophets are in view”. This is again a matter of him interpreting something that he wants it to be that does not necessarily have to be the case. There is no reason one cannot interpret New Testament prophets being a part of these martyrs who were slain for their testimony as Revelation 6 says. There were New Testament prophets such as St. John the Forerunner, Agabus (Acts 11 and 21), Jude/Judah/Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32), Barnabas, Simeon/Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manean, and Saul/Paul all taught and prophesied (Acts 13), Phillip and his daughters also did too (Acts 8 and 21). There is no indication that Peter and Paul have or have not already been martyred by Rome yet in Revelation. The Revelation also makes no mention specifically of these martyrs being solely Old Testament prophets so one could just as easily claim all of those who had been martyred by anyone for Christ could be a part of these saints and prophets who have been slain for their testimony who are under God’s altar. It need not be merely Old Testament prophets as Preston wants to interpret it to be. Preston quotes Acts and Ephesians to try and identify Babylon as Jerusalem but again, this does not help determine the dating of Revelation.
Preston argues that no other city in the entire bible other than Jerusalem was ever accused of killing God’s prophets. I assume he still means Old Testament prophets. We do see God’s people, many of them faithful to Yahweh throughout the Old Testament do get persecuted, face genocides, and even get martyred by foes other than those in Jerusalem who oppose them. This includes the likes of Edom who Psalm 137 lists as a “daughter of Babylon who art to be destroyed” for their part in the first destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian Empire, Assyria in various literature , Persia under Xerxes , and Babylon itself all being of those who do persecute and martyr the faithful. This does not include just prophets. The Scriptures are pretty clear that it is not just prophets who are to be avenged. Even before the New Testament begins we have the Maccabean revolts where there is massive persecution and martyrdom of faithful people to Yahweh against the Seleucid Empire and Antiochus IV .
Preston says that “Jesus identifies Old Covenant Jerusalem as the city guilty of that crime”. Many biblical scholars do indeed show those in power in Jerusalem were guilty of crimes against Old Testament prophets and faithful people of God but Jesus calls them out also on the evil acts they are guilty of in his current time as well as the apostles like St. Paul when he is on trial with Festus and Herod. I do not believe this would be something to dispute over but I suppose from a theological point one should ask why Preston seems to be suggesting that the Old Covenant (Torah/Teaching) that Yahweh gave to the people to become aware of their sin, repent, and manage their sin means that Torah is something evil and equivalent to “Babylon”, i.e. all that opposes God but I digress as this is all again a matter of interpretation and none of this gives us any help in proving definitively that the Revelation was written at an early or later date.
Preston commits the fallacy of converse error claiming that “No pagan city killed an O.T. prophet. No city after AD 70 could ever kill an OT prophet. Therefore, Babylon of Revelation was OT Jerusalem. This means that since Revelation was predicting the yet future, but imminent, destruction of Babylon/Jerusalem, the book of Revelation was written before the fall of Jerusalem” and again gives his interpretation that the Old Covenant exists until 70 CE and that the New Covenant he believes was not installed fully until 70 CE. Many scholars do not agree with Don on this interpretation and would challenge it with their own compelling arguments. He has as of yet given no internal evidence that definitively shows us John’s Revelation was written before 70 CE. None of the Scripture he gives us says anything about the book of Revelation when it was written, and when he quotes Revelation itself, there is nothing internally found to gives us any indication that it was written definitively before 70 CE.
Don states “unless Sergius can prove that Babylon breaks the heretofore unbroken chain of evidence, and demonstrate definitively that Babylon of Revelation was some other city than that which the Bible, in every occurrence identifies as the city that killed the OT prophets, then it is undeniably true that Babylon of Revelation was Old Covenant Jerusalem”. This seems to be a hasty or faulty generalization going on here but it is also easy to break this “unbroken chain of evidence”. Tradition from Jewish and Christian sources do have some of the Old Testament prophets being killed in Jerusalem but not all of them are and they could not be as Scripture attests to, since many, if not most of the OT prophets were in Exile away from Jerusalem when they died. Oral tradition has Isaiah being killed by being sawn in half by the evil king of Jerusalem, Manasseh of Judah. You can also find this in the Ascension of Isaiah where it is reported to have happened and is part of Judean tradition. Micah is said to have been killed by Joram, the son of King Ahab (we can presume in Israel). Amos died after being tortured by Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, and then was mortally wounded by a club by Amaziah’s son according to oral tradition. Zechariah son of Jehoiada is said to have been stoned to death in the Temple Courtyard. These are some that were killed in Jerusalem.
These are some that did not die in Jerusalem. Ezekiel is said to have died in Babylonia, Mesopotamia. Jeremiah did not die in Jerusalem. He is said to have been stoned to death by Jews at Taphnai in Egypt. Daniel did not die a martyrs’ death and is reported to have died of natural causes and was buried with great honor in the royal tombs of Babylon. Hosea is said to have died of natural causes as well. Joel, Jonah, Nahum, Zechariah, and Malachi were said to have died in peace according to oral tradition. Nathan and Ahijah seem to be of natural cause. Joad strangely in 1 Kings 13 is attacked and killed by a lion. We know nothing of Obadiah. Elijah and Enoch as we know are taken up into God’s realm. Elisha dies in Jerusalem but seemingly dies of natural causes. Many of the prophets did not get murdered nor martyred in Jerusalem at all. Another piece of this statement continues to be troubling.
Preston keeps saying “Old Covenant Jerusalem” murdered the OT prophets. This seems to be verifiably false as the Old Covenant as far as I am aware is Torah or the Teaching and the OT prophets taught what they believe is the true Torah given by God Himself to His people, whereas those who martyred and murdered these prophets faithful to Torah did not follow and broke Torah (the Old Covenant) repeatedly and were called to repentance.
“Sergius admits that he cannot definitively prove his proposition”… For whatever reason Preston decides to commit a misrepresentation. There was no need for Mr. Preston to write this except to attempt a form of ad hominem called poisoning the well for some odd reason which only discredits himself. My objective in this part of the debate is to present a negative and Mr. Preston’s is to, in the affirmative, prove that The Book of Revelation was definitively written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and is predictive of that event. My objective later will be that, while it is not definitive (meaning that the book of Revelation could be written before 70 CE), the book of Revelation was likely written in the reign of Domitian (AD 90s) after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
I would note that it seems Don is also attempting to do a circumstantial ad hominem here as well. Don continues with his interpretation being that Babylon is Jerusalem and is where the Lord was crucified. He says that “nothing could be more definitive”. Preston declares that only one city is ever spiritually designated as Sodom – Old Covenant Jerusalem. This is blatantly false. If one goes to Zephaniah 2:8-9 it says quite clearly speaking of Moab and Ammon that: “I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people and magnified themselves against their border. Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and salt pits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them.” Here Moab and Ammon, two nations are described as Sodom and Gomorrah. Jerusalem is not the only one who gets spiritually designated as Sodom by the OT prophets. Preston’s statement is therefore false when he states that “BIBLICALLY, ONLY ONE CITY IS EVER SPIRITUALLY DESIGNATED AS SODOM – OLD COVENANT JERUSALEM”.
Furthermore, the Jews did not kill and murder all the apostles and prophets of Jesus. There certainly are some that are martyred in Jerusalem such as James, son Alphaeus of Acts 12 being martyred by Herod Agrippa. James, Son of Zebedee is said to have been killed in Jerusalem but we also have it written in various histories that Phillip is said to have died in Phrygia which is the province of Galatia, Asia. Andrew was hanged on an olive tree in Patrae, Achaia (Greece) by St. Hippolytus of Rome. It is believed that Bartholomew/Nathaniel died in Armenia or in India where he was crucified. St. John was not martyred and died a death of natural causes from what we know. Matthew is said to have died in Nad-Davar, Ethiopia. Paul and Peter were both killed by Rome, not Jerusalem. Paul was beheaded by Nero and Peter was crucified upside down by the order of Rome. Judas Thaddeus or Jude is said to have been martyred by pagan priests in Mesopotamia. St. Thomas is said to have preached and been martyred in what the Romans called “India” to King Gondophernes, to which we have now found evidence and coinages of this king and his existence . The work, Acts of Thomas confirms this as well to have been the case. More New Testament saints seem to have died outside of Jerusalem if we can trust the historical recordings then inside it. Furthermore, many died by pagan believers rather than Jews who practiced Old Covenant Judaism. Preston’s insistence upon his interpretation again falls flat and can be considered falsified. His claim that “Babylon is the city that killed the apostles and prophets of Jesus- all the martyrs” is demonstrably false. Jerusalem did not kill all the apostles and prophets of Jesus and it did not kill all the martyrs. Many times it is clear that it was not even the Jews but Greco-Romans or even “Indians” that did the murders. Preston continues with nothing more than his interpretation of scripture which amounts to nothing that proves definitively that the composition of Revelation is written before 70 CE, only that he believes it is based on his interpretation.
In conclusion, Preston gives nothing more than his subjective interpretation of what he believes the Bible says. He covers nothing about the book itself except interpretations of what he believes Revelation is about and while we should look at internal data, nothing given to us shows us or proves to us definitively that the Revelation was written before 70 CE. This subjective interpretation can be contested with relative ease with various other interpretations as has been shown that some scholars believe it is written in vaticinium ex eventu. There have been shown in response, multiple and various ways that Preston could be wrong about Babylon being Jerusalem and there were shown methods of interpretation that would contradict Preston’s interpretations that many scholars of the Bible, textual critics, and historians would all find legitimate reasons to object to. It is clear we have shown multiple statements Preston makes that contradict his claims about “Scripture” and some of his statements here have been falsified even though he claims he cannot be falsified. He has provided zero historical evidence to help bolster his claim that he can without a doubt conclusively and definitively prove his claim that Revelation was written by St. John before 70 CE. This ends my first response in the negative with Don K Preston.
Bibliography: [In case it doesn’t show up on the document in the footnotes for some reason]
A. Y. Collins. Combat Myth. 161-174.
J.J. O’Hara, Death and the Optimistic Prophecy in Vergil’s Aeneid (2014). Pp. 128-129.
KLAUCK, HANS-JOSEF. “Do They Never Come Back? ‘Nero Redivivus’ and the Apocalypse of John.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 63, no. 4 (2001): 683–98. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43727253.
Kloppenborg, John S. “Evocatio Deorum and the Date of Mark.” Journal of Biblical Literature 124, no. 3 (2005): 419–50. https://doi.org/10.2307/30041033. S.G.F. Brandon, “The Date of the Markan Gospel”. NTS 7 (1960). 126-41.
Lyder Brun, Die romischen Kaiser in der Apokalypse” ZNW26 (1927) 128-151.
MOLONEY, FRANCIS J. “‘CONSTRUCTING JESUS’ THE SON OF MAN.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 75, no. 4 (2013): 719–38. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43728295; John J Collins, “The Son of Man in First Century Judaism,” NTS 38 (1992) 448-466; Benjamin E Reynolds, The Apocalyptic Son of Man in the Gospel of John (WUNT 2/249; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008) 27-85.
See the Book of Judith where a Jewish widow saves Israel from oppression from an Assyrian general. One can read the Book of Esther where Queen Esther thwarts a genocide of her people and forms the core story of the Jewish festival of Purim.
See the martyrdom of faithful Eliezer and the mother with her seven sons in 2 Maccabees 7.