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Revelation Q&A: WHAT ABOUT IRENAEUS ON THE DATE OF REVELATION?

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  July 16, 2014 — 1 Comment
Irenaeus 3

In this brief series I am providing “talking points” in answer to common questions. I hope these are helpful.

How do you explain Irenaeus’ clear statement that John wrote towards the end of Domitian’s reign?

Irenaeus’ statement is: “We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, 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.” Irenaeus was writing about A.D. 180.

(1) The “was not seen” is grammatically ambiguous: it could mean either: John was seen alive at that time, or: John saw the Revelation at that time. The context suggest John was seen. After all, what difference would it make when Revelation was received by John? The point is: John was alive and people could have asked him about the identity of the Antichrist. John could have distinctly revealed the identity in question in Revelation itself — regardless of when it was written.

(2) Elsewhere Irenaeus deals with the problem that some mss have “666” and others “616”: “Now since this is so, and since this number is found in all the good and ancient copies.” How could he call copies of Revelation “ancient” if the original was written “almost in our day”?

(3) Irenaeus claims on the same sort of evidence (references by those who knew John” that Jesus ministered for fifteen years until after the age of 50: “the age of 30 years is the first of a young man’s mind, and that it reaches even to the fortieth year, everyone will allow: but after the fortieth and fiftieth year, it begins to verge towards elder age: which our Lord was of when He taught, as the Gospel and all the Elders witness.” So even if we interpret Irenaeus to mean John wrote Revelation toward the end of Domitian’s reign, the fact it Irenaeus made mistakes.


The Climax of the Book of Revelation (Rev 19-22)
Six lectures on six DVDs that introduce Revelation as a whole,
then focuses on its glorious conclusion.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

One response to Revelation Q&A: WHAT ABOUT IRENAEUS ON THE DATE OF REVELATION?

  1. Excellent answer! I especially like point 2, and you’re right, it wouldn’t make much sense for Irenaeus to call Revelation ancient if it was written so close to his generation.

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