2 Esdras (some call it 4 Esdras) Chapter 3:1-31 and 2 Baruch Chapters 10, 11, and 67 all refer to “Babylon” and it is clear from those texts to be about Rome. 1 Peter 5:13 implies that Peter is in “Babylon” which makes it extremely likely to be referencing itself to Rome and the Roman Empire in general. This is not limited to just the Roman city (Dea Roma as she is personified to be by Rome) of the first century however. It appears to represent all those in the world who are still outside of the Church and alienated from God. This same language is used in places like Amos 7 where it speaks of Agag or Gog, who is called the King of Locusts in it. In Amos, this Gog is the enemies of God that the faithful make and deal with along their way to salvation and following God. Babylon came to represent that which opposes God, an ancient evil much like the demonic beings that have been in opposition to God from the beginning of Genesis. Ezekiel 38-39 does this as well where it mentions Gog. Gog is in the land of Magog which has three places: Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. Earlier in Ezekiel it is mentioned that the cities of Rosh and Meshech had been destroyed and judged already. Because we find Gog to be a locust king in Amos 7:1 and Joel 2:20 has an army of locusts from the north as a plague to come upon Israel, Ezekiel is making an obvious reference through symbolism to King Nebuchadnezzar but it is also not just one particular person in mind. Just like Gog is not one particular person, neither is “Babylon” as Peter and John will use the term. It can represent one used by God for judgment as it is with King Nebuchadnezzar (even one who is evil). Gog can represent anyone from King Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Nero, Domitian, etc.... a King who seeks to dominate; an archetype. In Ezekiel's time, this would be King of Babylon but since this is giving a bigger picture here and represents all empires and tyrants who have made themselves enemies of God, and since these cities were already destroyed in Ezekiel’s time when he is giving the prophecy, it makes it clear these are the Satanic forces being represented here. It is a type, pattern, and archetype. So Gog and Magog represent all enemies of God and not about one specific person or nation. The message here is that people like this who are evil come and go and they eventually, no matter how strong or powerful will all fall to God. Babylon is used more or less the same and this finds itself all the more evident since in Revelation 20 John will talk about Gog and Magog. What is the purpose of these visions? “Babylon” is beautiful and may look great but in the end, Gog will not inherit the earth. God and His faithful people will ultimately do this. The meek, not these powerful entities who work for Satan and opposing forces against God, will inherit. Every nation will end but God will reign supreme. His Holy City, the City of God shall not fall and ultimately all nations will worship the Lord. We see this is the picture in mind in Rev 20-22. Jesus has already won. We have been in the End Times since the Resurrection. God judged in the Cross. He has already defeated the enemies. Now the devil has a limited time before it is all over for him and his followers.
2. What is your evidence – from the biblical record found in Revelation – that Domitian persecuted the Church?
One cannot conclusively determine an answer to this question from any record biblically as Revelation doesn’t give that information to us for any emperor.
3. Was Domitian EVER, at any time, in a partnership, with ANYONE, to persecute the Church?
Yes. The Roman Empire, the beginning of Reform Judaism after 70 CE, those who worshipped the Roman pantheon of gods like Jupiter/Zeus, Artemis, etc. and those who opposed Christianity and their practices all worked in tandem with Domitian historically, directly and indirectly. This would also include the demonic entities (the fallen angels - false gods) working and controlling the Roman Empire and the Roman Emperor.
4. Is the New Creation foretold in Revelation 21-22 the same New Creation prophesied in Isaiah 65-66?
After the Resurrection, Ascension of Christ, and the Christian Pentecost, we are already taking part in the New Creation and New Heavens and New Earth in part.
5. Is the avenging of the blood of the martyrs foretold in Revelation 6, 18-20, etc. the same avenging of the martyrs foretold by Jesus in Matthew 23, Luke 18, etc.?
No. Revelation 6 would include all saints of God who have been slain for the Word of God. The judgement of 70 CE is just a judgment put upon apostate Jews who have chosen to reject the Messiah. It would make no sense for God to judge just Jews when He has made clear throughout scripture that He will judge the entire world (which includes Gentiles and their nations) and establish absolute justice and righteousness and put all things back into order. This cannot happen until all the Jews and Gentiles have come out of Exile and been brought into the Restoration as the Church - New People of God (Romans 11).
6. Have ALL of Israel’s feast days – and what they foreshadowed and typified – been completely fulfilled and therefore, do they stand nullified and no longer valid as shadows of “things to come”?
This question does not make sense. The Torah has been fulfilled by Christ and the New Covenant installed at the Cross. This does not nullify Torah nor abolish Torah. We do not go back to Torah if we are in the New Covenant because it cannot save us. The Torah’s purpose was to make the observer of it realize the depravity of their sinfulness and to help Israel and all who joined Israel to manage their sin until the Messiah came to establish a New Covenant with those who are faithful to Him because He was and did more than manage their sin. He makes us righteous. After the Cross, Christ does not abolish the Torah, but through the Cross, He supersedes and surpasses it. We see clearly after the Resurrection of Christ that the apostles hold strictly to the Levitical law in Acts 15 which forbids forcing Gentiles who enter Israel from forcing dietary laws on them and from having them circumcised. Because they are circumcised by baptism and possess the Holy Spirit they do not require it when they become part of Israel (the Church) of God (Gal 6:16). The Gentiles were simply called to abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and to flee from sexual immorality (all part of Levitical Law in the Holiness Code for all who live in Israel – even Gentiles). This still applies today as well. The New Covenant still has a circumcision: baptism is the new circumcision. Christians still celebrate the Day of Atonement but in a different fashion because Christ was and is the ultimate atonement for sin at the Cross. At the foundation of Western soteriology is often the unbiblical and false idea that keeping Torah perfectly grants eternal life and that it is not possible for any human person to do so except for Christ - thereby earning eternal life for all human persons. This ideology contradicts Scripture at several points as they state several times there are people who have kept Torah perfectly and are blameless. When Scriptures describe someone keeping all Torah, it is the whole Torah - all five books of the Scriptures. When St. Paul refers to the ‘nomos’, he refers to the entirety of these texts, not only certain moral commandments that would later be extracted from it. King David is said to have walked in obedience to God and done what is right in his eyes by keeping the decrees and commands (1 Kings/3 Kingdoms 11:38). It contrasts blameless David to evil Jeroboam. Paul himself says he was “blameless according to the Torah,” and did so while murdering early Christians (Phil 3:6). Paul implies that there were Gentiles outside of Israel who did not possess Torah but had done all righteous deeds required by Torah, serving as their own instructors (Rom 2:14). Anyone familiar with David’s life knows he did not live a life of sinless perfection. Paul could not have done so either speaking of his blamelessness according to Torah right after talking about persecuting the Church. It is doubtful there were a group of pagans who never sinned. Rather it is a statement of those who kept the whole Torah, not those who never violated it. When an Israelite sinned, repented, offered the required sin offering, and participated in the annual Day of Atonement, he kept Torah. The worship of God by Israel, including the sacrificial system, was not some sort of add-on or appendix to the “law” because God knew people couldn’t follow it. Rather, the worship commanded by the Torah is the central core of the Torah. All other commandments of the Torah governing moral life, cleansing places, and agricultural practices are all based around the establishment and maintenance of purity and holiness that is necessary for Yahweh, the God of Israel to remain present with his people for worship. The Torah does not include a system for managing the sins of the people; rather, the Torah is a system for managing the sins of the people to allow for the transformative worship of the true God. Christ, in fulfilling perfectly the Torah, not only kept the so-called “moral law” but all of the Torah, including the sacrificial worship of the temple and the feasts despite not having sins of which to repent. Christ was not baptized for the remission of his non-existent sins, but was baptized to fulfill all righteousness/justice (Matt 3:15). This understanding from Scripture is problematic for Western perspectives because of the presuppositions described above that imply these people “earned” eternal life through Torah apart from Christ. This misunderstanding of the law is not the only faulty presupposition. Even more major is the unbiblical idea that the keeping of the Torah brings some merit and earns eternal life. Galatians 3 is a theological assault on this entire ideology. The promise of theosis, of eternal divine life, is a promise which was made to Abraham based on Abraham’s faithfulness and his walking before God in righteousness (Gal 3:6-8). The Torah is not a long list of added conditions interpolated into the covenant with Abraham (v. 15-18). The Torah never had anything to do with eternal life and the kingdom of God. It served another purpose. “If a law had been given which could give life, then righteousness would be by the law” (v. 21). St. Paul’s conditional statement presents a counter-factual. The Torah given cannot give life. If God had, Paul says humanity wouldn’t be able to handle it. Rather, the promises given to Abraham of eternal divine life are inherited by Christ and those baptized into Christ become co-heirs of that salvation (v. 27-29). God created humanity for theosis to share His life with human beings. This would happen in the fullness of time when the Son would become incarnate uniting human nature to the divine nature in his person. The rebellion of hostile spiritual powers, a rebellion in which humanity joined and participated in as described in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, placed obstacles between humanity and the receipt of God’s promises, though those promises were reiterated to Abraham following humanity’s falls. Christ defeats these enemies and removes these obstacles. Those who have kept the whole Torah still die. Christ has defeated death and saved them from it. Even those who have kept the Torah will still live in a world subjected currently to the power and corruption of sin, which power over us Christ has destroyed and which corruption has been cleansed by Christ’s blood. Even those who have kept the whole Torah still lived in a world dominated by hostile spiritual powers, powers and principalities in the heavenly places given dominion over humans through their sin. Christ has judged and defeated them, taking all power and authority in heaven and on earth for himself (Matt 28:18). God does not save humanity from Himself or one of His attributes. He saves humanity from itself and the consequences of its sinful rebellion. While only those who are in Christ share in his eternal divine life, the results of these victories over sin, death, and the fallen powers are experienced by all of humanity, such that St. Paul can say that “Christ is the savior of all men, especially those who believe” (1 Tim 4:10).
7. Is it necessary for us to possess a MSS of Revelation documented to have been written prior to AD 70, to be able to prove that the book of Revelation was written before AD 70?
If one wishes to DEFINITIVELY prove that Revelation was written before 70 CE it is necessary to provide documentation of said manuscripts and to go off of known historical data to try and come to that conclusion or not. As of yet, there is nothing we possess that will DEFINITIVELY prove Revelation was written before 70 CE. The oldest copies (fragments) of Revelation that we have currently are Papyrus Fragments P18 (200-400 CE), P47 (200-300 CE), P98 (150-250 CE), and P115 (200-400 CE). This does not mean we won’t ever find one that can be dated to the reign of Nero or Vespasian but as of now, there have been no manuscripts nor papyrus fragments that we have in our possession from that time period. What we do have are various historical sources that posit the Revelation to have been written in the reign of Domitian. However the same can be said as well of trying to DEFINITIVELY date Revelation in the reign of Domitian as well as we do not possess a manuscript that is definitively written in the reign of Domitian either so it remains INCONCLUSIVE.
8. At what point of time, and with what events were the 70 weeks of Daniel 9:24 fulfilled and the 70 weeks terminated?
Daniel 9 has in view Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection when He puts an end to sin and makes reconciliation for all iniquity. The events of 70 CE may be in view here as well. God allows Jerusalem to be rebuilt and a further set of years are given for it. Jesus is the Most Holy referred to here.
9. Is it your personal conviction that external, non-biblical, historical evidence is equal to or more authoritative, more probative, for establishing the date of Revelation than the internal evidence of the book?
My personal convictions are irrelevant to the historical dating of Revelation. It is either written in the reign of Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellus, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Nerva, or Trajan. I do not personally hold to sola scriptura being Eastern Orthodox but even from the Protestant perspective sola scriptura does not disregard external, extra-biblical [books that are not the agreed upon Protestant bible canon], non-biblical (secular), secular or patristic historical evidence and data that exists for usage in understanding Scripture better. I hold Scripture to be authoritative and true. “External, non-biblical, historical evidence” is still evidence and evidence is the available body of facts or information that indicate whether a belief or proposition is true or valid. Revelation as far as I am aware does not tell us what time it is written in so establishing any date for Revelation with internal evidence would mean basing a date off of an interpretation as far as I can tell. This argument if done, could be potentially seen as a circular reasoning or the “just because” fallacy. Example: Revelation is written in an early date because I interpret it this way.
10. Is the judgment of the living and the dead – i.e. the resurrection of Revelation 11:15 the same as the resurrection of Daniel 12:2? If not, please document the difference from scripture.
Daniel 11-12 have to do mostly with Antiochus IV and the Maccabean Revolt. However, just as in Amos and Ezekiel with Gog and Magog, there can be argued something deeper – that being that God will deal with all of his enemies and bring justice for all who have been oppressed and persecuted. At the Resurrection of the Dead and subsequently this is the Final Judgment and the 2nd Coming, some will rise to eternal joy and others eternal shame. All enemies of Christ will fall to the Lord ultimately and we will all, if faithful in persecution and trials and tribulations, be part of His Kingdom at the 2nd Coming and the Resurrection of the dead.
Is it the same as Revelation 11? I’m not quite so sure it is. As in Revelation 10:5-7, the proclamation is made that the fullness of time has arrived: the kingdoms of this world are subject to the Kingdom of God. Christ in John 12 says “Now is the judgment of this world: now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to Myself”. This He said, signifying by what death He would die. Christ’s Crucifixion is a judgement on this world. It is also the beginning of the promise of Restoration from Exile. The Crucifixion is a Day of the Lord. John makes that clear. As in John 12: the judgment of the world and the casting out of Satan is effected by the crucifixion. The voices state in Revelation 11 that this has already occurred once and for all, at Calvary. The twenty-four elders then concelebrate the consummation of God’s Kingdom in this heavenly liturgy that carries a message of consolation to the Church. The Roman Empire is likely in view here primarily but due to the rich symbolism here, it is more than just Rome itself but the spiritual powers that oppose God. Are these the same as Daniel 12? Inconclusive. I don’t see this having to do with the destruction of Jerusalem, nor is it necessary do I believe to require the Temple of Jerusalem to still be standing as Revelation makes quite clear in Revelation 11 that John is seeing a heavenly vision here, not one of earth. Secondly, Revelation says clearly that “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple and the Lamb is the Light (Rev 21:22-23). Christ is the New Temple and the Light of the World.
My Questions to Don & Don's Answers to My Questions:
Don's Answer: No answer..
Why would Nero leave John, a Christian leader of the Church alive and exile him to Patmos and not exile Peter and Paul as well but instead have them executed and John alive when we know from virtually all Roman historians and Christian witnesses that Nero had most of his opposition to him executed and exile was something he did on a rare occasion? Recall that Nero used Christians as scapegoats for the Great Fire and Roman propaganda made it out that Christians, for not worshipping the pantheon of gods and goddesses, believed they would disrupt and destroy Rome as they knew it and cause famine, plague, war, etc. if all in Rome didn’t partake in their pagan worship as a whole.
1) Domitian declared himself “Lord and God”
2) Domitian had twenty four chanters at all times singing praises to him in worship
3) Domitian had the chanters and all people be forced to attend the Domitian Games and wear white robes at all times during this event which also involved them worshipping him along with the chanters
4) Domitian was the first to have a neokorate established for himself while still alive in Asia Minor’s city of Ephesus
5) Domitian had statues put up everywhere around Rome and Asia Minor, including a huge statue in Ephesus at his temple and one when you entered into the port city of Ephesus that all could see when they pulled their boats into shore and would have to give tribute to when they entered
6) Domitian had coinages minted declaring he and his son Titus (not to be confused with Emperor Titus) were actual deities - one of these coins bore Domitian as Jupiter/Zeus Incarnate in this life and is not his genius. The other coinage is of his wife Domitia with the inscription DIVI CAESAR MATRI and DIVI CAESARIS MATER or Mother of the Divine Caesar and on the reverse is his deceased infant son Titus sitting on a zoned globe holding 7 stars (we would call them the 7 planets today) in his hands and the inscription “DIVUS CAESARIMP DOMITIANIF, or “the Divine Caesar, son of the Emperor Domitian”.
7) You as a Christian in Ephesus would have to bow down and give tribute and worship the Image of Domitian who is declaring himself Zeus/Jupiter and established a Temple to his deity at his Neokorate
8) In Pergamum was the Temple of Zeus (mentioned in Revelation as the Throne of Satan in 2:13) which almost certainly would have been also used as a place to also worship Domitian who had declared himself to be the incarnation of Jupiter/Zeus while alive.
With all these facts in mind, can you admit the possibility of a later date and, though you disagree, can see how these do indeed bear some very striking similarities to Revelation 1:13-16; Rev 2:18; Rev 4:4 (the 24 elders all in white worshipping God), and Revelation 13 (imperial worship) where people are forced to worship the dragon’s beast and his image to buy and sell and how does the reign of Nero compare to this knowing he didn’t declare himself to be a god while living and that while brutal, his persecution was short lived and localized to mostly just the Roman capitol itself as he used Christians like St. Peter and Paul for scapegoats for the cause of the Great Fire?
No other book of the New Testament is as clearly dated by the fathers of the Church as Revelation and established to be written in the latter date and reign of Domitian. Why are there virtually little to no source material for us to historically place the Revelation as being written pre-70 CE and why should we doubt multiple sources attesting to it being written in the reign of Domitian?
Why do we seem to have no historical sources for John having written Revelation before 70 CE but do have historical sources for John having written Revelation during Domitian’s reign instead by Polycrates of Rome, Irenaeus of Lyons, Hegesippus the Nazarene, Tertullian, Eusebius, and even is suggested that this is what happened in the 2nd CE work from what were probably Docetism believers, Acts of John, Chapters 1-17?
Can you provide any historical evidence beyond what your interpretation of Revelation is that gives any credence to Revelation being written before 70 CE? Please note that I am not asking you to try and discredit authors like Irenaeus and/or other writers here. I am simply asking for historical evidence that can lend some credibility to the early dating of Revelation.
Don did not answer question #1 correctly and tried to lie, claiming it was a violation to Hodge’s rules... This was odd since if we went by that logic I’d have to argue that his questions #4, 5, 6, 9, and 10 were also violations as my personal interpretations for the Revelation are irrelevant to the debate over whether it is written in 70 CE or after.
Question #2, Don named the kings, the beast and the harlot. He did not name the 10 horns but later made a comment that he did not know so I, to be charitable, just said I would accept an "I don't know" for that part.
Question #3 I had to try and fact check him on this. He never really sourced what he said. Tiradates never worshipped Nero but he did, as all Romans did, worship the Roman emperor’s genius.
Question #4 he names that John AT Robinson says this happened under Nero… a 20th century New Testament Anglican scholar... who doesn't give a definitive answer about the dating (he gives arguments but this is not definitive). This is all I’m given to go off of. Then he mentios Eusebius saying something about Matthew 24 without sourcing it and you're left wondering if he understands the question.
Obvious to the reader, Don never answers #5 and when pressed on this, he refused to answer it, ergo breaking the rules he agreed to do.
Question #7 is a semi-answer. Nero accepted worship of his genius as all emperors did. All emperors did have statues of themselves but I’m looking for a source and Don gives none. I wonder if Don has confused Caligula’s horse senator legend with Nero here but I could be mistaken. This statement about Pergamum Don admitted to being his private interpretation of Revelation as scripture which is irrelevant to this debate. We need facts.
Don says “The Gematria of Revelation 13 seems to fit Nero far better than Domitian- in spite of Aune’s works.” This is something... I guess... “You are assuming that Domitian persecuted the church, but you have given no proof. But this is what must be proven.” Don forgets that we are not in the debate yet and that we are asking questions.
On question #8, this is closer to an answer though Eusebius quotes Hegesippus right as he is also using Iranaeus to conclude his points about St. John. Acts of John is not dependent from Irenaeus. It is written by a Docetist sect.
Question #9. I didn’t ask whether the sources are inspired. Inspiration is irrelevant to dating the revelation historically speaking. If there are historical sources for the early date Don should have given them here instead of not done so.
Question #10. I note some fallacies being made here that would oppose Hodge. I ask for historical evidence that can lend some credibility to the early dating of Revelation and Don makes a comment about Clement of Alexandria that was false when I fact checked it. He also proceeded to make a fallacy accusing me of publicly denouncing interpretations of internal evidence and then appealing to historical evidence as if that’s all I will do in this debate or something. This is already a violation of the rules.
“I reject your premise and the focus of my discussion will be on demonstrating that the early date is demanded by the internal evidence.”
“The fact is that if a person employs proper exegesis, with the right hermeneutic, and the application of proper logic, that the interpretation of the internal evidence is the final word in determining the dating of Revelation. My focus in this debate will be to establish that early dating by the correct interpretation of that internal evidence.”
This debate began to go as I thought it would. Don was going to base his entire written debate on his private opinion and interpretation and this debate would end up with him not proving his point as a fact like he declared he would in his affirmative and would ultimately be all about what his subjective interpretation of Revelation is instead of debating with actual facts.