Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Did Fitzmeyer and Bruce endorse the early date for Revelation?

[This is a response to a post at Gary DeMar's site that included references to Fitzmeyer and Bruce among others as advocates for the pre-70 AD composition of the Apocalypse. Emphasis in all quotes mine.]


Thanks for your contributions, as always. I realize the list of modern scholars is from a dissertation and not your own words, however I think it would be helpful to those that might want to cite the above to be aware, particularly concerning Fitzmeyer and Bruce.

Moule: As almost admitted in the footnote, "The Apocalypse may be before A.D. 70” would probably not qualify as "support[ing] the early date position."

Fitzmeyer: As Thomas noted above, I do not believe there is evidence J. A. Fitzmeyer endorsed the pre-70 AD date. In his review of Robinson's Redating, cited above from Interpretation 32, no 3, after noting the table where his own dating of 90-95 AD is provide alongside Robinson's in Redating, Fitzmeyer notes with a positive reflection on his effort,

I must admit that what Robinson writes about the Book of Revelation makes a great deal of sense. Here is a case where I might be inclined in the future to admit a pre-seventy dating. While I am willing to admit much of what he writes about the basic historical value of Johannine tradition, I am still skeptical about his ideas on its apostolic authorship." (p.312)

A positive endorsement of Robinson's work, but not of the pre-70 AD dating, which I don't believe he later re-evaluated as he suggests above he might.

Bruce: While I do not have a copy of Bruce's New Testament History, elsewhere Bruce has endorsed a later date of Revelation, providing a cautious dating of the Apocalypse as composed "at some point between 69 and 96 AD" (The International Bible Commentary, p.1593. Bruce was the editor and the contributor for the Revelation section). Internal to the commentary, Bruce further dismisses an early date, interpreting 11:1-2 as originating from a zealot's Jewish prophecy during the siege (a popular view among commentators):

The apocalypse contained in the 'little scroll' probably referred to the literal city and temple of Jerusalem, and reflected the interval between July 24 and August 27, A. D. 70, When the Romans under Titus were in occupation of the outer court of the temple but had not yet taken the holy house itself. ... But this little apocalypse is now to be reinterpreted in the light of the new context which is acquired by its incorporation in John's Apocalypse, especially in the light of ch. 13. The temple is now the people of God... (p.1612)

And concerning the fear of Nero's return from the East with a Parthian army, Bruce writes,

For some twenty years after his death, therefore, the belief persisted that he had not really died but gone into hiding, probably beyond the Euphrates... Several opportunists profited by this widespread belief to set themselves up as pretended Neros. After 88, the last year in which one of these pretenders is known to have arisen, the belief that Nero was still alive was generally given up; but it was replaced by the belief that one day Nero would return from the dead and regain his sovereignty. This later belief in a Nero redivivus ... [was] a subject of dread to the Christians, who identified Nero redivivus with the last antichrist." (p.1615)

Regardless of one's opinion of Bruce's comments, it does not appear that he subscribes to a pre-70 AD date with the two examples above of the later incorporation by John of a Jewish prophecy from 70 AD into his own work and the notion that Nero redivivus is the clear allusion in ch.13, and that this belief did not predominate over the fear of Nero's return until maybe the late 80's.

Ellis and Robinson clearly endorse the earlier date, and while qualifications exist for each's arguments, they are not important for this post.

If someone has later corrections for my citations of Fitzmeyer and Bruce, I would appreciate them. Thank you.


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