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Friday, December 10, 2021

Debating Don Preston: My 2nd Affirmative & Don Preston's 2nd Negative

Here is my 2nd affirmative and Don's 2nd Negative: 

My 2nd Affirmative: 

Responding to Preston’s First Negative:

My objective in my affirmative of this debate is to affirm that while not definitive, the book of Revelation was likely written in the reign of Emperor Domitian (90s CE) after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE and explain why. Knowing this, Preston states that I admit that my evidence “is not at all definitive” and claims that I give “absolutely nothing definitive, not even substantive”. Obvious to any reader who has read what my objective is to be in this debate and read my first affirmative, they will find that, yes, 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. One cannot make that claim definitively for either the early or the late date as we do not possess any manuscript or anything definitive from the archeology and history books. In other words, we cannot claim something is an established fact when we do not possess definitive evidence to prove the claim to be an established fact. Preston cannot prove an early date and has not done so in his three affirmatives and while I can give evidences that point to the potential for Revelation to be more likely written in a later date, I cannot and will not make some definitive statement when it cannot be established as a fact since that would be dishonest and be pseudo-scholarship and pseudo-academia. I think it will suffice to just put some bullet points.

  • Don yet again brings up irrelevant information on Facebook proving he is unable to stick to the debate at hand and shows a large level of unprofessionalism and proves he does not understand how debates work. You are not supposed to be using Facebook posts that aren’t a part of the written debate but I digress.
  • Nero’s persecution has only been found to be localized in the Roman capitol.
  • I have not produced a citation yet about Domitian by Christians because, as the reader knows, I share that I will begin giving the Christian witness in the 2nd Affirmative here. The first was focused on Roman pagan historians.
  • “We should expect some record of the proposed raging Domitian persecution”… the Revelation makes no mention of this persecution being worldwide.
  • Don claims I have not provided any evidence of persecution against Christians in Ephesus. Since I focused on Roman historians in the first affirmative I obviously did not bring up all information. 
  • Don claims I gave no evidence from Roman historians… this is simply a lie and breaks Rule 8 of Hedge’s Rules for Controversy which one can find in the Propositions of Debate. 
  • Don makes a claim that 1 Peter is definitively written in 65 CE. This is hotly debated by scholarship and academia regularly. We do not have a definitive date on 1 Peter and the authorship itself remains contested in biblical criticism. If anyone is interested however, I recommend reading up on the “secretarial hypothesis” or the amanuensis hypothesis with Peter. Whether 1 Peter is written by Peter himself or written before 70 CE at any rate does not prove anything definitively about the Revelation and its written date.
  • Don seems to think there had to be a massive persecution to take place but this is not the case with the Revelation. Secondly, Asia Minor and other provinces could very well have faced some persecutions and be put under pressure by Rome and Jews in combination before and after 70 CE so there is no reason to believe they did not face any troubles as a new sect and people group from opposing forces at any period in the first place and face none whatsoever.
  • Don makes definitive statements like “Revelation was clearly written before Revelation”… I suppose he meant to type “70 CE” there. He has no definitive facts to offer. He had three times to do that in his affirmative and failed to do so.
  • Don makes a false dichotomy saying I have to prove 1 Peter and Revelation have two different persecutions in mind. I do not have to do any of that as that is not the topic of the debate.
  • Don gives some interpretation of his about Matthew 23 and 1 Thess. 2:15-16 that can be rejected and dismissed in this debate since none of them prove a thing about Revelation nor its dating. 
  • Don surprisingly brings up scholar LL Thompson. However, Eusebius’ writings as well as Irenaeus’ do not speak of a huge nor worldwide persecution of Christians under Domitian. Domitian’s persecution of Christians need not be a genocide. The Revelation also does not claim that to be such. 
  • Don demands I produce a definitive and irrefutable piece of evidence that proves Revelation is written after 70 CE. You first Mr. Preston. You could not manage to give a single bit of definitive nor irrefutable evidence beyond your private and subjective and easily refutable interpretations of the Bible. I would remind the reader that my objective is not to demand definitive evidence. That was Don’s affirmative to prove definitively that Revelation was written before 70 CE and he conclusively and definitively DID NOT DO SO. No. Not even a keystroke. 
  • On the contrary, my objective of the debate and my affirmative is that while there is more than enough evidence to support a late date, 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.
  • I do not try to convince the reader that Nero did not exile people. I clearly give evidence that he did sometimes exile people. What I do say is that this was not common. Gentry, while I respect as a fellow scholar, does not make this as a definitive claim either. The fact that Don would misrepresent Kenneth Gentry speaks volumes to his character.
  • Nero and Domitian are both referred to as beasts. Gentry’s statements, and he admits this as a scholar he is, that none of this is definitive. Gentry attempts to make his best educated guesses and work from an academic perspective a case for the early date of Revelation. He knows it is not definitive. All scholars worth their salt know this.
  • If this Mark Wilson claims that Pliny does not speak of a persecution of Christians, then I’d have to question this man’s claims of scholarship. Pliny does in fact speak of what punishments he has inflicted on Christians who did not worship the emperor’s “genius” and the pantheon of gods and goddesses of Rome, in this case, Trajan’s reign this is known to have happened (we also have documentation from Christian sources that this happened so what in the world is Preston talking about?).
  • Don makes a laughable statement about Pliny’s reference to past trials of Christians… I never once claimed this was a settled policy. Preston needs to learn to tell the truth instead of actively lying and misrepresenting people. He breaks Rule 9 here.
  • Pliny asks Trajan if he will continue policies that are likely established from past emperors like Nero, Vespasian, and Domitian. We know all three of these emperors actually deal with Christians according to Roman and Christian witness and historians on some level. If Pliny does not do his job well, Trajan as emperor can remove him as governor and if you are removed that usually means an execution will take place. Does Don not realize this?
  • Don asks an absurd question about Pliny being unaware of Christians being persecuted… being a favorite of Domitian’s does not equate to knowing what to do with a Christian. Pliny is recorded as having said he has not ever witnessed a trial for Christians. This is why he asks Trajan about the correct procedure in the first place.
  • Don claims Revelation is a Jewish book… this is a Christian writing.
  • Don claims the Revelation is about “the imminent fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Old Covenant Israel”. Again an interpretation that would be hotly contested by the majority of scholars. Most scholars say Jesus fulfilled all promises of the Old Covenant at the Cross but I digress. Preston simply states things as facts many a time when they are not or the majority would consider what he claims is “biblical” as heresy.
  • He claims Revelation 19 is a direct citation of Deuteronomy 32:43… This is completely false. Revelation never once quotes nor directly cites Deuteronomy 32 whatsoever. 
  • 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.
  • I did accuse Don many times of violating the rules because he did in fact break the rules he agreed and set forth in the debate. He has been anything but professional in the course of this debate and I document this all quite clearly. He can deny this if he wishes but it will still always be a bold faced lie since I document them all clearly. 
  • Nowhere in this negative does he even come close to addressing any of the arguments I give. So be it. Moving onward now to the second affirmative of the debate.

Second Affirmative:

This will be my second affirmative of the debate with Don Preston. My objective is to show that while not definitive, the book of Revelation was likely written in the reign of Emperor Domitian (90s CE) after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE and explain why. In the first affirmative, I covered a lot of archaeological facts and historical facts from the Roman historians that give credibility to Revelation being written in the reign of Domitian. In this second affirmative, I will be covering more archeological and historical facts but I will be covering the Jewish and Christian witness as well. We focused heavily on Ephesus in the reign of Domitian in the first affirmative. Here let us focus on Pergamum.

Archaeology:

Temple of Serapis at Pergamum: Here below are some pictures to show you the ruins of the temple once dedicated to Serapis. I’ve also put Serapis and Apis which were worshipped in syncretistic fashion here as a visual.





Serapis was a syncretistic god of Egypt consisting of the bull god Apis and Osiris. Serapis’ cultus was centralized in Alexandria but it was a widespread cult and it is an established fact that it was this god who was, along with the rest of the Greco-Roman pantheon worshipped by Greco-Romans and paganism in general. We see in Hadrian’s reign in the 2nd Century the “Red Basilica” be built but we know as an established fact that in Pergamum through archaeological digs of this area and around it that this was a place where this deity was heavily worshipped and many times there were offerings given where they would place the offerings to the god in a bull shaped object resembling Apis and this was being done before Hadrian built the Temple to Serapis here. With no reason to doubt the Revelation’s mention of Antipas’ martyrdom, we know from the Christian tradition that St. Antipas, the martyr mentioned by name in Revelation 2:13 was martyred in Pergamum. The text says twice in Revelation 2:13 that here in Pergamum is “where Satan’s throne is” and that this is where he, “My [God’s] witness and faithful one, Antipas, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells”. The Synaxarion, which is in the 10th Century Menologion of Saints, a work about the lives of the saints that was redone and constructed from hagiographical works before in menologians created before the 10th Ce., by St. Symeon the Metaphrast, says that Antipas died in the reign of Domitian when he was cast into a bronze bull and burned alive in it for his faithfulness in Christ. If this is the case, we have ample enough evidence to confirm it is possible since there was, and this is established fact, a temple to Serapis right there in Pergamum. We must also note the reference to a temple that is referenced as “where Satan dwells” and “where Satan’s throne is”. Most scholars see this to be a reference to The Temple of Zeus at Pergamum. Pagan culture often worshipped all these panthea of deities together but it would be of no surprise to see a Christian being offered up to the pagan gods for the pagans to try and appease the gods as they saw the Christian as an abomination and one who causes disorder for the Greco-Roman way of life.

Temple of Zeus at Pergamum: Erected at Pergamum at the tallest point of the city, we know it cast a shadow over the majority of the city. If Revelation was written in the reign of Domitian and Domitian was declaring himself the incarnation of Zeus (Jupiter), then he not only had Ephesus to be worshipped at but also Pergamum for imperial worship. Christians would have obviously had an issue with this. This is likely what the “throne of Satan” is in Revelation that is being referenced. Here are two pictures of the remains of the Temple which are now in a museum in Berlin.

The cult of imperial worship was strong in Pergamum. It is an established fact that under Augustus’ reign, shortly after his death there was established an imperial cult for Augustus and Dea Roma, though Augustus never established a neokorate while alive. Domitian it is established saw himself as the incarnation of Zeus (Jupiter). If this is the case, then in Pergamum, Christians would have found themselves in an even tougher situation of living there as they would be forced to pay tribute to the Emperor and thus, offer at the Temple of Zeus. It may very well be that St. Antipas suffered his martyrdom for this very reason in opposing the wishes of the Imperial Edict that he, Domitian be worshipped as Lord and God of the pantheon and Rome.

Smyrna

On a final note for archaeology and history, I will simply bring up the established fact that the first imperial cult of Dea Roma was established in Smyrna in 195 BC. This continued well into Nero and Domitian’s periods of reigns and beyond that. While we must obviously distinguish between localized and officially established neokorates that were established and dedicated to the Emperor, we must note for the purpose of this debate that the Imperial Cultus of Dea Roma was well established here and all over Asia Minor’s provinces and for those who do not know, Dea Roma was the personification of the city of Rome. Dea Roma, if the name doesn’t give it away was personified as a beautiful woman. It is likely that since Rome’s central city in Italy stands on seven hills and she is personified as a woman that this is the identification of Revelation 17’s “Whore of Babylon” who sits on the seven hills. Lyder Brun’s study of Revelation 17 demonstrates this likelihood strongly that this chapter was written in Domitian’s reign[1].

2nd Temple Judaism Examples
As L.L. Thompson notes “In Jewish literature, the enemy Rome is designated Edom, Kittim, and Egypt, as well as Babylon. For the most part, however, the identity with Babylon occurs after 70 CE, that is, Rome is called Babylon after she destroys Jerusalem and the Temple”[2].

2nd Temple Judaism literature roughly covers writings dating from 200 BCE to 200 CE. Large numbers of writings would be lost from this period by the transmitted Jewish heritage were it not strangely preserved and transmitted by Christians by and large. Much of what is often called the Pseudepigrapha is preserved thanks to Christianity. The Pseudepigrapha is an important collection of works that gives us an important source and insight into understanding all social, theological, religious, etc. dimensions of Early Judaism, and obviously a keen insight into the world of 2nd Temple Judaism and thus, what stemmed from it, being Reform Judaism and Early Christianity. To paraphrase James H. Charlesworth a bit, without these important writings, we would as historians find it near impossible to explain the course of religious development between 200 BCE and 200 CE.

We find in general, that “Babylon” became code-name for Rome near the end of the first century and this can be found in 1 Peter 5:13 (most scholars date this at a later date but as is all things; it is debatable), 4 Esdras 3:1; Sibylline Oracles 5:143:159 and the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch 10:1-3; 11:1; 67:7, all of these works date after the destruction of Jerusalem (70 CE to 120 CE. The term Babylon is used later by 2nd Temple Judaism sources versus other terms like Edom and Kittim because of it doing what the Babylonian Empire did to the Temple before when it destroyed the first one. This was the 2nd Temple destroyed and it had been destroyed by Rome. Thus, the literature reflected this and named Rome off in code as Babylon. If Revelation is written in the reign of Domitian, it is of no surprise that works largely working as a polemic against pagans, would also name Rome as Babylon. Though not definitive, a case can be made quite strongly for it as is shown. I thought I may type out what these works state but I will just presume the readers of this debate can think and read these works for themselves and do their own studies. Just to add fuel to this fire, it is also strongly hinted in Chapter 21 of Revelation that the Temple in Jerusalem is fallen and gone since the Heavenly City doesn’t have a Temple in it. It seems like it would be odd for a second temple Jew, even as a Christian, like John to say there is no temple there if it was still existing and instead has resigned himself to the fact that there is no temple and it has been replaced by Christ because they no longer need a temple but that is just personal conjecture and an interpretation and by no means is it definitive.

Patristic Christian Support

It becomes quite evident that patristic support is almost unanimous about Revelation being written in the reign of Domitian. Clement of Rome comes first. Widely held to have been written in Domitian’s reign, this writing speaks right at the beginning of the church in Rome had experienced persecution or pressure taking place, enough to make Clement speak of “sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves”[3]

When reading for pieces of evidence of an early date, you find mention of St. John potentially being martyred before 70 CE. The source however is supposedly a testimony from Papias which was first discovered in the last part of the 19th Century. It is a source from a fragment that comes from a monastic’s writing named Georgius Harmarolus from the 9th Century. At first glance, this seems like a strong piece of evidence perhaps but when one digs deeper into the source, to believe this testimony that comes from Hamarolus would require us to accept that John was recalled from Patmos by Nerva in the late 90s and also martyred with his brother James before 70 CE in 44 CE… Also, we would have to accept from Hamarolus that he lived out his days in Ephesus near the turn of the century… As anyone who can read can see, this is genuinely absurd and clearly this monastic was confused over whatever he was writing here. The next early evidence is an abridgment of “History of Christianity” by a 5th Century Philip of Side who is mostly unreliable[4].

Irenaeus of Lyons, St. John’s spiritual grandson, gives the date and place of the Revelation’s composition and 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. Their propositions are based on nothing but interpretations of the Revelation that they hold which are usually to try and keep to their dedication to some certain views they hold of biblical inerrancy or about sola scriptura or a belief in cessationism. Theological motivations aside, there is no legitimate reason found to disregard the historical testimony of the early church on these matters, nor to propose another dating system based purely on conjecture.

All the earliest references to Revelation and its Johannine origin all center around the area of Asia Minor surrounding Ephesus. They all virtually attribute the Revelation to St. John and most often this is done through the testimony of St. Polycarp, a bishop of Smyrna. Polycarp, Irenaeus, and Papias in particular all attribute their teaching and testimonies to St. John and say he wrote the Revelation and was bishop of Ephesus’ church there. We know Ephesus became the center for Christianity after the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed as well and this is an established fact of Christian history from secular as well as church sources. All sources that mention the book of Revelation from Polycarp to Justin Martyr all have a connection to Ephesus. St. Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho is actually set in Ephesus. The Revelation therefore for the Christians is definitely set in connection to John and the city of Ephesus in that respect historically. None of the writers see it as non-controversial to date the text as anything other than the reign of Domitian and there is no opposition to Irenaeus’ statement made by any other writers. Neither are any who virtually write anything that would challenge this notion.

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”[5]. 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.

It must be noted that Eusebius’ claims here get backed by Jerome and Eusebius will ultimately back up the history he writes about from fellow historians who came before him like Roman historians and Christian ones as well as what he’s gathered from the writings of Tertullian, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Papias, Ignatius of Antioch, Hegesippus, who records martyrdoms through the church’s history, and more. Eusebius gets a lot of his information on John the Apostle and the Revelation from Hegesippus and Irenaeus mostly.

Hegesippus’ works do not actually survive except through various writers sourcing him, but we know he wrote 5 books called “Memoirs” or “Memoranda”. The Memoirs were known to the Church of Rome and the East Churches. Jerome in De viris illustribus, 22, mentions him as one who wrote a history of all ecclesiastical events from the Passion of Jesus the Christ all to his own time. He was one of the first historians of the Church and we know from what has survived from Eusebius sourcing the Memoirs often that he was one “who lived immediately after the apostles” who gives the most accurate accounts of church history and major events for the Church like the death and martyrdom of St. James, something also cited by Origen in Against Celsus and Josephus in his Antiquities[6]. The historians like Eusebius can match and verify Hegesippus’ writings with others when it comes to things like St. James’ martyrdom so it stands to reason that when it comes to Eusebius quoting him on matters like Nero’s persecution of Christians and the martyrdom of Peter and Paul (which is also backed by Tertullian as Eusebius says (Tertullian. Defense. 5) than it stands to reason we can trust Hegesippus when it comes to the reign of Domitian as in Book 3 of Church History, Hegesippus remains vitally important to cite for his reported accuracy of events when he reports that Clement became bishop of Rome and was the one written of in Paul’s letters to the Philippians and that this Clement wrote (1 Clement) to the Corinthians due to some acts of sedition and persecution there of that church under Domitian’s reign. Right in the middle of citing Hegesippus, is where Eusebius brings about Irenaeus to show agreement between the two that John was banished from Patmos showing us that Hegesippus also must write about Domitian’s reign being when John gets exiled, which means they both agree and both are historically correct.

As a matter of fact, in Eusebius’ Church History, Book 3, he confirms his and Hegesippus’ agreement with Irenaeus on the dating because to back Irenaeus, he also uses the church historian in Chapter 17-19 where he states that there was, in fact, persecution under Domitian, confirms it through Irenaeus’ work Against Heresies so there are two sources now, and documents for us that “to such a degree, indeed, did the teaching of our faith flourish at that time that even those writers who were far from our religion did not hesitate to mention in their histories the persecution and the martyrdoms that took place during it. And they, indeed, accurately indicated the time for they recorded that in the 15th year of Domitian Flavia Domitilla, daughter of a sister of Flavius Clement, at that time, a consul of Rome, was exiled with many others to the island of Pontia in consequence of testimony borne to Christ”[7]. Eusebius also records more than just the date of Revelation and that is what helps us confirm the accuracy. Before I show this quote I would also ask the reader to note that Tertullian is also mentioned as standing in agreement giving three in agreement with Eusebius here that this happened. Eusebius states that during this persecution, (confirmed by Hegesippus recording the history, which leaves two historians in agreement here) quoting Hegesippus in Church History Chapter 19-20 that Domitian persecuted Christians, namely, the descendants of St. Jude and this is what led to St. John being exiled to Patmos. He states “…Domitian had commanded the descendants of David should be slain, an ancient tradition says that some of the heretics brought accusation against the descendants of Jude (said to have been a brother of the Savior according to the flesh), on the ground that they were of the lineage of David and were related to Christ himself. Hegesippus relates these facts in the following words: ‘Of the family of the Lord there were still living the grandchildren of Jude, who is said to have been the Lord's brother according to the flesh. Information was given that they belonged to the family of David, and they were brought to Emperor Domitian by the Evocatus. For Domitian feared the coming of Christ as Herod also had feared it. And he asked them if they were descendants of David, and they confessed that they were. Then he asked them how much property they had, or how much money they owned. And both of them answered that they had only nine thousand denarii, half of which belonged to each of them. And this property did not consist of silver, but of a piece of land which contained only thirty-nine acres, and from which they raised their taxes and supported themselves by their own labor. Then they showed their hands, exhibiting the hardness of their bodies and the callousness produced upon their hands by continuous toil as evidence of their own labor. And when they were asked concerning Christ and his kingdom, of what sort it was and where and when it was to appear, they answered that it was not a temporal nor an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly and angelic one, which would appear at the end of the world, when he should come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and to give unto every one according to his works. Upon hearing this, Domitian did not pass judgment against them, but, despising them as of no account, he let them go, and by a decree put a stop to the persecution of the Church. But when they were released they ruled the churches because they were witnesses and were also relatives of the Lord. And peace being established, they lived until the time of Trajan. These things are related to Hegesippus. Tertullian also has mentioned Domitian in the following words: Domitian, who possessed a share of Nero's cruelty, attempted once to do the same thing that the latter did. But because he had, I suppose, some intelligence, he very soon ceased and even recalled those whom he had banished. But after Domitian had reigned fifteen years, and Nerva had succeeded to the empire, the Roman Senate, according to the writers that record the history of those days, voted that Domitian's honors should be canceled and that those who had been unjustly banished should return to their homes and have their property restored to them. It was at this time that the apostle John returned from his banishment in the island and took up his abode at Ephesus, according to an ancient Christian tradition.[8]

Chapter 23 of Church History by Eusebius confirms that John the apostle “returned after the death of Domitian from his exile on the island. And that he was still alive at that time may be established by the testimony of two witnesses. They should be trustworthy who have maintained the orthodoxy of the Church; and such indeed were Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria. The former is in the second book of his work Against Heresies, writes as follows: And all the elders that associated with John the disciple of the Lord in Asia bear witness that John delivered it to them. For he remained among them until the time of Trajan. And in the third book of the same work he attests the same thing in the following words: But the church in Ephesus also, which was founded by Paul, and where John remained until the time of Trajan, is a faithful witness of the apostolic tradition. Clement likewise in his book entitled What Rich Man can be saved? indicates the time, and subjoins a narrative that is most attractive to those that enjoy hearing what is beautiful and profitable. Take and read the account which runs as follows: Listen to a tale, which is not a mere tale, but a narrative concerning John the apostle, which has been handed down and treasured up in memory. For when, after the tyrant's death, he returned from the isle of Patmos to Ephesus, he went away upon their invitation to the neighboring territories of the Gentiles, to appoint bishops in some places, in other places to set in order whole churches, elsewhere to choose to the ministry someone of those that were pointed out by the Spirit”.[9]

Lastly, in Chapter 32-33 he confirms it again when he quotes Hegesippus again saying persecution took place from Domitian and this in part, led Emperor Trajan later to forbid the Christians to be intentionally sought out for trials and persecutions. This gets confirmed as you read Pliny the Younger’s letters to Trajan (that I referenced and discussed in the first affirmative). Eusebius writes: “there were also others, descended from one of the so-called brothers of the Savior, whose name was Jude, who, after they had borne testimony before Domitian, as has been already recorded, in behalf of faith in Christ, lived until the same reign. He writes as follows: They came, therefore, and took the lead of every church as witnesses and as relatives of the Lord. And profound peace being established It is reported that after the age of Nero and Domitian, under the emperor whose times we are now recording, a persecution was stirred up against us in certain cities in consequence of a popular uprising. In this persecution, we have understood that Symeon, the son of Clopas, who, as we have shown, was the second bishop of the church of Jerusalem, suffered martyrdom. Hegesippus, whose words we have already quoted in various places, is a witness to this fact also. Speaking of certain heretics he adds that Symeon was accused by them at this time; and since it was clear that he was a Christian, he was tortured in various ways for many days, and astonished even the judge himself and his attendants in the highest degree, and finally, he suffered a death similar to that of our Lord. But there is nothing like hearing the historian himself, who writes as follows: Certain of these heretics brought accusation against Symeon, the son of Clopas, on the ground that he was a descendant of David and a Christian; and thus he suffered martyrdom, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, while Trajan was emperor and Atticus governor. And the same writer says that his accusers also when a search was made for the descendants of David, were arrested as belonging to that family. And it might be reasonably assumed that Symeon was one of those that saw and heard the Lord, judging from the length of his life, and from the fact that the Gospel makes mention of Mary, the wife of Clopas, who was the father of Symeon, as has been already shown. The same historian says in every church, they remained until the reign of Emperor Trajan, and until the above-mentioned Symeon, son of Clopas, an uncle of the Lord, was informed against by the heretics and was himself in like manner accused of the same cause before the governor Atticus. And after being tortured for many days he suffered martyrdom, and all, including even the proconsul, marveled that, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, he could endure so much. And orders were given that he should be crucified. In addition to these things the same man, while recounting the events of that period, records that the Church up to that time had remained a pure and uncorrupted virgin, since, if there were any that attempted to corrupt the sound norm of the preaching of salvation, they lay until then concealed in obscure darkness. But when the sacred college of apostles had suffered death in various forms, and the generation of those that had been deemed worthy to hear the inspired wisdom with their own ears had passed away, then the league of godless error took its rise as a result of the folly of heretical teachers, who, because none of the apostles was still living, attempted henceforth, with a bold face, to proclaim, in opposition to the preaching of the truth, the 'knowledge which is falsely so-called.' [Chapter 33 begins here] So great a persecution was at that time opened against us in many places that Plinius Secundus, one of the most noted of governors, being disturbed by the great number of martyrs, communicated with the emperor concerning the multitude of those that were put to death for their faith. At the same time, he informed him in his communication that he had not heard of their doing anything profane or contrary to the laws — except that they arose at dawn and sang hymns to Christ as a God; but that they renounced adultery and murder and like criminal offenses, and did all things following the laws. In reply to this Trajan made the following decree: that the race of Christians should not be sought after, but when found should be punished. On account of this, the persecution which had threatened to be a most terrible one was to a certain degree checked, but there were still left plenty of pretexts for those who wished to do us harm. Sometimes the people and sometimes the rulers in various places would lay plots against us, so that, although no great persecutions took place, local persecutions were nevertheless going on in particular provinces, and many of the faithful endured martyrdom in various forms. We have taken our account from the Latin Apology of Tertullian which we mentioned above. The translation runs as follows: And indeed we have found that search for us has been forbidden. For when Plinius Secundus, the governor of a province, had condemned certain Christians and deprived them of their dignity, he was confounded by the multitude and was uncertain what further course to pursue. He therefore communicated with Trajan the emperor, informing him that, aside from their unwillingness to sacrifice, he had found no impiety in them. And he reported this also, that the Christians arose early in the morning and sang hymns unto Christ as a God, and to preserve their discipline forbade murderadulteryavaricerobbery, and the like. In reply to this Trajan wrote that the race of Christians should not be sought after, but when found should be punished. Such were the events which took place at that time.”[10]

It can also be added for additional support to Eusebius’ accuracy on this issue that he also sources from Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus who had known both Polycarp and Irenaeus and confirms that John did die in Ephesus in the reign of Trajan, backing again Irenaeus’ claims (this is around 190 CE)[11]. It appears that Irenaeus can indeed be trusted. While this perhaps is all by no means definitive and there is certainly debate to be had, most of this information makes a clear and solid case to be made for Domitian’s reign to be when John wrote the Revelation whereas the early date really doesn’t have this amount of evidence come close for it. We also see in the earliest iconographic depictions of St. John, the son of Zebedee that they typically depict an elderly man, which completely fits in with the timeline that all writers who write about John and the Revelation establish happened.

Next as a piece of evidence, I will bring up is that this is so established in the vein of history and unattested in church history and tradition that we have as soon as 150 CE, the non-canonical, likely from a sect not counted Christians’ work Acts of John (Apocryphal) where it also writes in its chapters 1-17 about John’s Exile and Departure. Note that if John really did die, and he seems to have in Ephesus in 100 CE during the reign of Trajan, this apocryphal work is written only 50 years after. I will let the reader read it but in summary, it shares some common things that were never contested by the church and historians of their time such as that Domitian decided to persecute the Christians after he heavily persecuted the Jews and then learned of St. John who was living in Ephesus and then after they meet Domitian sends him off to be exiled after an incident where John takes poison and lives and then revives someone who is given the poison by Domitian. There is also a slave of Domitian that has a demon expelled in this story. Domitian, astounded by this, sent John to Patmos where he received the vision from God that led to his writing the Revelation[12]. It ends by sharing John came back in Nerva and Trajan’s reign, and before death, ordered Polycarp to be bishop of Smyrna.

One final thing to note is that Revelation never says this persecution is worldwide. The history doesn’t support that either from the patristics. The exile on Patmos seems to easily be part of the result of localized government persecutions in Asia Minor. If it is, this serves to explain how come John was even able to have his eventual return to Ephesus as well since major persecution would likely have kept John from returning at all. The fact of the matter is, though the date is debatable, no other book of the New Testament is as clearly dated by the patristics of the Church as Revelation is, nor is the place, origin, and date and earliest known history of something so clearly and unanimously established as the Revelation is. Other than a need to preserve theological commitments by some people developed centuries later, there seems to be little to no good reason to doubt the dating of Revelation is at a later date like the consensus of the Church claims. This is backed by archaeology, established historical facts of the time, and Roman and now Church historians all seemingly backing it up. It seems so very clear that we can give valid and good argumentation for a late date of the Revelation being written. Now we have two opposing forces like the non-Christian Roman historians and Christian patristics all basically in agreement and corroborating together on the history, this seems all the more to make the idea that those who lived within the living memories of the apostles and those who were taught in the areas that Revelation was composed, being they were some of the first to view and cite the text as authoritative, would have all come to similar conjectures without the knowledge or all colluded in a big lie as to when and where the text was written? That this would have happened and that modern scholars who live centuries after the fact, in other languages and cultures, being far removed from any living memory of the apostles and their teachings would be able to correct them and reliably reconstruct some “hidden truth” seems patently absurd.


[1] Lyder Brun. Die romischen Kaiser in der Apokalypse. ZNW26 (1927). 128-51.

[2] L.L. Thompson. The Book of Revelation. Apocalypse and Empire (Oxford 1990) page 14.

[3] 1 Clement. Chapter 1.

[4] A.T. Robinson. Epochs in the Life of the Apostle John. (NY: Fleming H. Revell Co. 1935) p 28.

[5] Irenaeus. Adv. Haer. 5.30-35.

[6] Eusebius. Church History. Book 2. Chapter 23; Origen. Against Celsus 1:47; Josephus. Antiquities 20.197-203.

[7] Eusebius. Church History. Book 3. Chapters 17-19.

[8] Ibid. Chapters 19-20.

[9] Ibid. Chapter 23.

[10] Eusebius. Church History. Book 3. Chapter 32-33.

[11] Eusebius. Church History. Book V. Chapter 23 and 24.

[12] Acts of John Chapters 1-17 (likely 150 CE).

---

Don's 2nd Negative: 

(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?

Bale responded: 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:

(https://americanvision.org/13916/fake-news-is-not-as-bad-as-the-fake-exegesis-and-fake-history-of-some-end-times-proponents/).

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.

2. 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.

3. 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.).

(https://biblehub.com/library/pamphilius/church_history/chapter_xxxii_symeon_bishop_of_jerusalem.htm#1).

Thus, Bale produces totally irrelevant 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 FALSE 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.

The good Dr. 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”1.

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 Iranaeaus 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 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 persecution for being Christians.

He appeals to evidence written literally centuries after the fact, evidence that many scholars say is totally fictive.

He appeals to a phantasmagoric– fictional- work for evidence.

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.

1 Irenaeus. Adv. Haer. 5.30-35.

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