Thomas B. Slater, «Dating the Apocalypse to John», Vol. 84 (2003) 252-258
The present study re-examines the major arguments for dating the Apocalypse to John. It argues that internal evidence should be preferred over external witnesses and that the internal evidence suggests, based upon the ex eventu prophecy in Rev 17,9-11, that the book was written in 69, either late in Otho’s reign or early in Vitellius’ reign.
"Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains upon which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, another has yet to appear and whenever he appears it is necessary for him to remain a brief time. And the beast who was and is not, he is the eighth and is from the seven and he goes to perdition".
Proponents of the Domitianic date, whether they begin counting with Julius Caesar or with Augustus Caesar, or Caligula, the emperor who first openly demanded divine honors, find a way to end with Domitian, omitting Galba, Otho and Vitellius, who each ruled briefly from 68-69 between Nero and Vespasian, along the way6.
First and foremost, it must be stated that the Domitianic date is based upon Irenaeus, an external witness at least a century later than the writing of the Apocalypse. Irenaeus has not proven to be a credible historical witness. For example, Irenaeus stated that he knew Polycarp and that Polycarp knew John the Apostle, implying that he has received accurate tradition from an apostle through Polycarp. While this is possible, many church historians have doubted the veracity of this statement since Polycarp would have been quite young when John died and Irenaeus would have been very young when Polycarp died. In any event, it is highly doubtful that Polycarp could have received any extensive training of any type from John or that he would have been able to pass it on to a very young Irenaeus. Irenaeus also argued that the Apocalypse to John and the Gospel of John were written by one and the same John the Apostle. A brief examination of the genres (apocalypse versus gospel), the writing style (capable versus solecistic Greek) and theology (eschatological apocalypticism versus realized eschatology) indicate that it is highly unlikely that both were written or authorized by the same person. Additionally, Wilson is critical of Irenaeus for not identifying his source for claiming that the Apostle John wrote both books7. Indeed, the Apocalypse never appeals to apostolic authority or to a disciple of an apostle (cf. John 21, 24), a powerful social tool in the early church as evidenced in Paul’s letters (e.g., Gal 1,11–2,21; 1 Cor 9,1-18; 2 Cor 10,1–11,15). If indeed the tradition that Irenaeus gives us concerning the authorship of the fourth gospel and the Apocalypse are apostolic, its accuracy leaves much to be desired.
As noted earlier, Irenaeus is an external witness writing approximately a century after Domitian’s reign. He is far removed from the actual events and at best must rely upon second-hand witnesses himself. Thompson and others have demonstrated clearly that there was no empire-wide persecution of Christians inaugurated by Domitian8. Moreover, Thompson has shown conclusively that