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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Redating the New Testament (Revised), part 3

History from Nicene Era Thyatira tells of a 53-54 A.D. Apocalypse

The post-Nicene 4th century apologist, Epiphanius (ca. 310-402 A.D.), in Against Heresies / Panarion, declares that John wrote his Apocalypse during the (end of the) reign of Claudius Caesar. The following is my reconstruction of the passages, in order to encapsulate what is being declared.

“Even the people of Thyatira testify this is to be true … [that]… (The Holy Spirit) did foretell (the Apocalypse) through the mouth of John (the Apostle)… who indeed did prophesy… during the reign of Claudius Caesar…when he was upon the isle of Patmos.” Epiphanius, Against Heresies, 4.33.8

“…after his (John’s) return from Patmos, under Claudius Caesar…the Holy Spirit [not much later] compelled John to publish forth his Gospel…several years into his residing in [Ephesus of] Asia.” Epiphanius, Against Heresies, 4.12.1

Although this tradition was given through Thyatira of Asia to Epiphanius in the post-Nicene era; it was something that could be verified in the manuscripts of more than one Presbyter of Thyatira’s possession at that time. Epiphanius also tells us in these same two passages (excised here for clarity), that John died above the age of 90. If John was recruited by Jesus in late 26 A.D., and died in ca. 96-98 A.D.; then, according to recruitment requirements among Torah lawyers, John would have had to have been a minimum of 25 years of age for religious service under his Semikah rabbi.

That is, John the Apostle's birth can now be calculated to the first 7 months of the Julian year of 1 A .D. or within two years before that date. Hence, a death above 90, but not yet 100, and a fulfilling of what Epiphanius tells us, is that John was 95-97 at the time of his death. Not, as some translators of Epiphanius have misrepresented in translating Epiphanius’ passage here, that John was above 90 when first coming to or from Patmos, or above 90 in the reign of Claudius Caesar (41-54 A.D.).

Clement of Alexandria, in saving the historically based tale of “A Rich Man who finds Salvation”, appears to support an early dating of the Apocalypse, saying:

“…This is not a myth, but a Word [logos], handed down and
committed carefully to memory, regarding the Apostle John.
When the tyrant died,

[tou turannou teleuthesantos – “the tyrant came to a lesser End” …perhaps implying natural causes like a heart attack in his sleep]

he [John] returned from the island of Patmos to Ephesus,
and (then) being invited, went away to the neighboring
Districts of the nations:
appointing bishops here, setting Churches in order there,
and ordaining such as were (made known to him) by the Spirit.”

{Clement of Alexandria, “Who is the Rich Man who shall find Salvation?”, .42)

So how old and lacking of vitality is John, when he indeed returned to Asia? At the first entering of Asia from his banishment by the tyrant (which is lingo for Procurator), John does not go about like an old man at the end of his life. John vigorously runs a circuit tour, and visits and reorganizes and appoints beyond Asia, like a ‘man on a mission’, ‘full speed ahead’.

The word “tyrant” speaks clearly that John’s persecutor was a local Procurator, and NOT a distant Caesar who would have banished to Pontia, off the Italian Coast.
In Suetonius, 12 Caesars, Tiberius, .54 and Eusebius, History of the Church, 3.18; we see that the isle of Pontia, off the Italian Coast, was in use from at least the 20s to the 90s A.D. as an isle of banishment. Caesar would not have allotted John to some obscure island, living almost comfortably in a fishing village, (which is what Patmos was and is still today), somewhere in the Aegean. So, we ask, is there more to point to a local Provincial Official as tyrant, and a local Ephesian or Asian persecution than that of an Emperor?

In the example of the grandsons of Judas, half-brother of Messiah, these were brought to ROME by the EVOCATUS in Domitian’s reign, but then were despised by the Emperor as “ignorant” and set free. (Eusebius, History of the Church, 3.20)

We do not have John preserved in any Early Church historical tradition as being known to have come to Rome and be tried before Caesar as were the grandsons of Judas. Since John was eminently more important in status to the Early Church, and one of Christ’s three closest disciples, had the event occurred, it WOULD have been clearly and historically referenced in the Patristic record. Instead, Tertullian tells us that before being banished from Asia,
“…The Apostle John [in Ephesus] was first plunged, unhurt,
into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island exile.”
(Tertullian, On Prescription against the Heretics, .36)

and thereby indicates, along with the abovementioned quote of Clement of Alexandria, the extreme likelihood of this specific persecution as being the action taken by a local or provincial ruler.

A matter of history being taken literally

The word “history” comes from the Greek “historia” -- which means, “To investigate” and “to diligently seek out.” Simple referencing to commentaries, for example, is not a reasonable attempt to research. The failure to “thoroughly search out” would not have preserved us a Herodotus from Antiquity. Like with the students and teachers of the Talmud, those who accept commentaries appear to -- more often than not -- put the opinions of men ABOVE the Words of GOD. That is the danger we must avoid. We are all accountable to attempt the greatest accuracy on important issues, and this requires both time and laborious effort. Time and effort, which is often relegated to students and others, with the “scholar” behaving more like an editor than a researcher on his own merits.

Most scholars and laity are deficient in the proper and full reading of Irenaeus. They oft cite him as the authority for dating John's Apocalypse, and then ignore his other writings. Why? Perhaps they are too busy copying the endnotes of their colleagues...perhaps they are too busy...perhaps philosophic arguments are simple a dinner exercise, and academic truths are as intangible as a good dinner conversation.

Irenaeus is a third generation witness from Jesus, and a second generation witness from John the Apostle. When discussing Church history in these first two centuries or the first 150 years of development, it is ludicrous to leave Irenaeus out.

Irenaeus clearly states that at all points of the Empire in 178-181 A.D., Christianity clearly was an organized, developed, and communicating religious system. Germany communicates with Egypt and Spain; the Eastern provinces communicate with Libya and Italy. Gaul communicates with Greece and Asia...and all the Christians provinces communicate one with another, and testify faithfully that history - tradition - faith that has been passed down to them from the Apostles.

And what NT documents are communicated them? If we judge from Irenaeus own quotations in Against Heresies, we at least have the entire Roman Empire saturated with:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John,
Acts, Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians,
Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians,
I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians,
I Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus,
Hebrews, James, I Peter, 2 Peter,
I John, II John, Jude, and Revelation.

In the dating of Revelation to 95 A.D., using Irenaeus as the primary source, name one commentary which cites all three of Irenaeus’ relevant quotes concerning the dating of John's Revelation to justify its date. Do they even at least expose any serious reader to a possibility of an early New Testament completely written before A.D. 70?

The noted author, and Christian Lecturer-Evangelist, Josh McDowell, in “Evidence That Demands A Verdict” and “He Walked Among Us” (San Bernardino: Here’s Life Publishers © 1972, 1988, respectively) points even the casual lay person to 3 points of interest in considering the N.T. Dating.

1) Over 40 years ago, William Foxwell Albright dared to tell the world, in 1963, that all the books of the New Testament were written no later than the 80’s A.D. Albright declared that every N.T. book was written by a baptized Jew in the First Century A.D. {18} “Every N.T. book”, means even the Apocalypse of John as being pre-90 A.D.

2) 13 years later, a scholar from Cambridge, John A.T. Robinson, released his work showing the New Testament was written entirely prior to 70 A.D. {19}

3) This same N.T. Scholar, Robinson, was interviewed by Time Magazine the following year, where he reiterated his claim, and challenged the academic world to prove him wrong. {20}

Most Academic scholars will lazily use only one quote from Irenaeus to “prove” 95 A.D. as an earliest possible date for Revelation. Therefore, I will use this same author and other early witnesses to show that they easily fail to invest a proper amount of time and effort on even just this one particular and most important topic -- in the dating of the New Testament.

Because the early dating of the New Testament clearly points to the power and effect of the Cross, and demonstrates down through the ages the veracity of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Caius speaks from the past

Caius was a contemporary to Irenaeus, who along with Hippolytus, and others, probably was exposed to -- and learned directly from -- Irenaeus.{21} Caius, a ca. 190 A.D. Church Leader in Rome, {22} was what we consider a Third generation hearsay witness. John transmitted his teaching to Polycarp, who taught Irenaeus, who taught Caius. {23}

What is Caius’s historical or chain-of-custody witness? That Paul wrote to only 7 Churches out of respect and acceptance of Revelation. That is, Revelation was written before the deaths of Peter and Paul!

“…The blessed Apostle Paul, following the rule of his predecessor John, writes to no more than 7 Churches by name, in this order:
1) to the Corinthians, 2) to the Ephesians, 3) to the Philippians,
4) to the Colossians, 5) to the Galatians, 6) to the Thessalonians,
7) to the Romans.
Moreover, though he writes twice to the Corinthians and Thessalonians for
their Correction, it is yet shown – that is, by this Sevenfold Writing -- that there is One Church spread abroad through the whole world.
” {24}

Now, while we can debate the order which Caius presents {25} – what is irrefutable is the repetitive declaration that John’s book of Revelation was the reason why Paul limited himself to only 7 Churches, both having read and having approved the Apocalypse prior to his own death in Rome.

The question then becomes, if we accept the witness that Revelation was written PRIOR to the death of Paul, could we accurately pinpoint the year Paul died as an early year?

The academic culture believes we need a post 85 A.D. Revelation, because Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 60. They reason that until its full restoration in A.D. 85, Revelation could not have been written. That is, if Revelation was written, it was penned before A.D. 60, {26} or after A.D. 85; with no room in between. So then, what is the historical witness?

Testimony from Irenaeus
In ca. 181 A.D., Irenaeus, a second-generation hearsay witness from John, writes:

“We have learned from none others than from those whom the GOSPEL –
the Plan of our Salvation -- has come down to us, which they at one time,
did proclaim in public; and at a later period, by the will of GOD,
handed down to us, in the Scriptures – to be the ground and pillar of our
Faith. Matthew indeed issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their Own dialect while Peter and Paul were preaching in
ROME, {27} and laying the FOUNDATIONS of the CHURCH. {28}

After their departure, {29} Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us {30} in writing, what had been preached by Peter - – and Luke as well, that companion of Paul,
Who had recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. {31}

Afterwards, John, the Disciple of the LORD – who also leaned upon His breast, -- did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus of Asia.”
(Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.1.1.)

How soon did John arrive in Ephesus? Was it before or after Paul’s death? In Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.3., we read:
“Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles”

Latin: Sed et quae Ephesi ecclesia a Paulo quidem fundata Johanne autem permanente apud eos usque ad Trajani tempora testis est verus Apostobrum traditionis.

Loosely translated and reiterated by me, for more impact:
“Indeed, what is more, those Ephesus called out ones --
of Paul, certainly founded --
John however /moreover permanently in the presence / house of
advanced all the way up to the times of Trajan
as one who gives credible evidence as a true witness,
testifying of the true Apostolic Tradition.”

The purpose of the loose translation with reiteration is to see where the drive of the testimony is. Irenaeus in the Ante-Nicene Father translation and in the Latin, is claiming veracity and soundness based on a continued, unbroken, permanent presence of John...pushing an island exile back to a pre-Neroian era, and to a matter of months of separation between Paul and the Church of Ephesus. Certainly less than one year.

Further, we find from Irenaeus that he also had access to and learned from other unnamed elders and presbyters (beside Polycarp) who had conversed with John for many years. In Against Heresies 5.30.3., (e.g, compare http://www.textexcavation.com/documents/images/ah5p052.jpg )

"...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."

Reading from the Greek text "Oude gar" - "Not for", we see that there is a continuum of the expressing John's presence to be asked about the Revelation "alla schedon epi tas hameteras geneus" / "up alongside against but opposite to, almost nearly upon our own daylight / time of life".

The which is reiterated and qualified as until "pros to telei tas Domitianou archas" / "up alongside the end/completion of Domitian's reign."

This is interpretation is verified by looking at context in the preceding sentence's "di ekeinou an errathe tou kai tan Apolkaluphin eorakotos," which continues into the oft misquoted Irenaeus, to force-fit a late date to Revelation. We are clearly talking about "that one there" or a "he"...not an "it". The Revelation wasn't some cloud or floating-floaty that haunted Patmos...it was a proclamation by he who was at Ephesus until his spirit was no more in his head, as it were -- cf. Gen. 2:7 -- (or body).

Notice the text in the Greek directs us to view "the announcement" in regards one who was he who "announced" the Apocalyptic Vision in the sense of being one who was "stimulated into action to proclaim forth or feel the need to tell the truth."

For John, the Apocalypse wasn't simply a vision; it was as if part of the Gospel proclamation and ministry of testifying of and about Jesus Christ.

If this is indeed the intent of the wording, then, according to the Asiatic view, we must accept that the Asiatic elders who knew and succeeded John felt that Revelation was part of the package that included the later Gospel of John (written post Peter and Paul's departure from this life day: June 29, 57 A.D.).

We, like our predecessors, may take such a view to task (at the first)...but the concept does deserve some consideration. It may also tie in to a later doctrinal conflict between Asia and Rome less than 100 years after John's demise.

It appears that we may liken the differences from the Roman and Asiatics, not only in regard to whether or not they observed the Passover --(Ephesus/Smyrna did, Rome did not except for the Passover Communion accepted from Polycarp in the 150s) -- but also in principal as to whether we were looking for a kingdom of G-D on Earth physically now, or one like Revelation and Paul in Colossians 3:1ff. and I Corinthians 15:51 (et al.) in which "the Church" (the body of all Christian believers as a whole) is "raptured" or "snatched away" in a deliverance to the Heavenlies until Judgment and the Day of HASHEM purges the Earth.

This theological difference is foundational to understand why the Roman branch evolved into what it did, and why they felt a need to artificially create a Papal Office that was non-existent to the time of Against Heresies' first publication.


18 Christianity Today, magazine, January 18, 1963 “Toward a More Conservative View.”

19 Robinson, John A.T. Redating the New Testament, London: SCM Press, 1976.

20 Time, March 21, 1977.

21 The importance of Irenaeus is that he probably has two direct links to John in his Instruction. The first is obviously Polycarp, who John declares he saw and learned from in Smyrna (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.3.4.).
The second link to John was through Papias. Irenaeus had probably met and learned from Papias, and if he did not, he had access to those who had; and Irenaeus had possession or regular access to the complete works of Papias’ 5 books and those sayings and teachings of the Apostles and Jesus that did not make it into the New Testament, but should have (e.g. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.33.3-4).

22 There may be debate as to Tertullian being a Fourth Generation witness, having learned from Proculus who learned from Irenaeus, etc. However, the insight granted us by Tertullian in his work “Against the Valentinians” 3.5. perhaps can be taken either way. Either that Tertullian met Irenaeus the man, and despised his abrasiveness; thus, elevating Proculus as a better role model. Or that it was Proculus that had met the meticulous Irenaeus, and transmitted his teachings to Tertullian. What is important to note, is that by 190 A.D., there was an agreement in ROME (and perhaps other major Churches) as to the completion of the New Testament canonization.
Caius and other Church Leaders were involved in the Canonization of the New Testament by the close of the Second Century. Such was his position in ROME among the Christians. For he writes in the Muratorian Canon, how that no more books may be added to the prophets or the Apostles to the end of time, as the number is made complete for those works which ought to be read in public among the Churches. The one point that shouldn't be missed in all of this is that when Caius and his contemporaries speak of Christianity being proclaimed in ROME, they speak of doing so in private meeting places, and not in public streets or squares in ROME. The fact that Peter and Paul at one time spoke publicly in the streets or wherever, freely, appears to just blow their minds that such a day ever was.

23 We also have the probability of a secondary transmission of Polycarp to Pius, bishop of Rome, who also passed along the teaching and book of the Apocalypse in the 150’s A.D, verifying the veracity of Irenaeus’ teachings. When Polycarp came to Rome, he would have been a very healthy and well above 110 years old, when he made the trip by ship and donkey drawn carts.

24 Caius, Fragments 3.3. Clearly the “rule” is established by a manuscript of John’s Patmos Apocalypse. This is only possible if it preceded John’s 44 year unbroken stay in Asia, as defined by Irenaeus, whose teacher Polycarp, was one of John’s bishops. (Re: Irenaeus 3.3.4. Cf., Clement of Alexandria, The Rich Man who finds Salvation, .42).

25 My general evaluation on these Church letter dates correspond as:
1) Corinthians 1 & 2 in 52 –53 A.D. from Asia.
2) Ephesians in October 56 A.D. while under house arrest in Rome.
3) Philippians in 57 A.D. while under house arrest in Rome.
4) Colossians in 54 A.D. from captivity in Israel.
5) Galatians in 48 A.D. (unknown location at this time).
6) Thessalonians in 54 A.D. from Asia.
7) Romans in 53 A.D. Unknown. Possible locales include from either Macedonia or the isle of Troas in the beginning of the year to as late as Israeli imprisonment before being shipped out to his Caesarian trial from Israel in the Fall. The Communication is heavily to past Corinthian Church members, to those who co-evangelized Asia with Paul, now in Rome.
Therefore, the phrase, “in this order”, may actually appear to mean: “received among the Churches as part of the Canon in this order.” If that is the case, and the intent, then we see that by 190 A.D., many of the epistles of the New Testament were already well tested and established in both its makeup and distribution. We therefore see a 190 A.D. Roman Church, when examined through Irenaeus, as being familiar with the entire New Testament, with the exceptions of Philemon and 3 John. Philemon is familiar to Ignatius out of Antioch of Syria, and 3 John probably only among the Asiatic Churches at the time of Caius’ above evaluation.

26 This thesis was written by me, and as my work product (i.e., my primary manuscript was copyrighted 03-31-2006). So far, in the contacting of “evangelical” or “apologetic” “Christians”, I found myself fulfilling Isaiah 53:1’s “Whom shall believe our report? And to whom is the ARM [YHVeH Messiah] of the LORD revealed?”

27 Matthew is traditionally said to have died on November 16 of an unknown year in Macedonia according to the Acts and Martyrdom of St. Matthew the Apostle. If the date of death were correct, then Matthew would most likely have died in A.D. 56 on that date of November 16.
28 That is, laying the ground and pillars of the Scriptures. This will have occurred, as we shall see, between 55-57 A.D.

29 Their deaths -- in ROME. Another indicator to the early dating of Revelation: In A.D. 62 or 63, Clement, bishop of ROME, tells the Corinthians that Paul had already preached the West (by inference, ROME, I Clement 5:6-7), and that the purpose of evangelizing was toward achieving the set number of “elect” {or Israelites}, which would indicate the knowledge of Revelation’s 144,000 quota (I Clement 2:4).

30 Generically “to us in Asia;” Specifically, “to John in Ephesus of Asia.” John is called the disciple of the LORD, an Apostle, an elder, and is identified as the evangelist by Anatolius as being the “evangelist John, who leaned on the LORD’s Breast” in Anatolius, Paschal Writings, .10.

31 The Book of Hebrews. Contrary to later speculation that Paul claimed Luke’s Gospel as his own.

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