instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A blind date

Here's a paragraph, which I found hilarious but probably wasn't intended to be funny, from the introduction of M. Eugene Boring's book Revelation. Bolding is mine:
Our earliest tradition dates [the Book of] Revelation "near the end of Domitian's reign" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies V.30.3). The emperor Domitian reigned from 81 to 96, so Iraneus' comment places Revelation in 95 or 96. Since such traditions are not always accurate, however, modern scholars have argued for a variety of other dates from as early as the time of Claudius (41-54) to as late as the reign of Trajan (98-117). Most scholars have decided for the time of either Nero (54-68) or Domitian (81-96), with the great majority opting for the latter. Jewish and Christian literature written after the 66-70 war used "Babylon" as a transparent symbol for Rome, since Rome had besieged and destroyed Jerusalem just as the Babylonians had done centuries before (II Kings 25; cf. II Esdras 3:1-2,28-31; II Apoc. Bar. 10:1-3,11:1,67:7; Sib. Or. 5:143, 159; I Peter 5:13). Revelation likewise uses "Babylon" as a transparent symbol for Rome (14:8; chaps. 17-18; cf. esp. 17:18). This practice did not become common until after the destruction of the city and would not have been appropriate before. It is thus among the strongest items of evidence for dating Revelation some time after 70. The commentary [in Boring's book] will indicate that the internal evidence of the book seems to fit best the time advocated by the earliest external tradition, the reign of Domitian. Revelation is thus best understood as a letter written in 96 by John, a Christian prophet, to churches in Asia that he expected would be facing a terrible persecution.
What would we do without modern scholars?

(Yes, yes, we can learn lots of valuable things from modern scholars. But somehow they never seem to want to teach us the value of our earliest traditions.)