I have come to truly appreciate the relevance of the year 70AD. This date is most popularly associated with the year the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed for the second time (and has never been rebuilt to this day). I have posted on this subject tangentially in the past on a post I made about Judaism. For anyone who takes the Bible and Christianity seriously, it cannot be seen as an insignificant event in Salvation History for the Temple to be destroyed (2 Kings 25:8-9; Jer 21:10; Jer 26:18; Mich 3:12 - and see these Church Father quotes). We often forget that God still directs the events of history, and instead tend to think God only interacted with Israel and the Church during Biblical times, after which He left man alone. That latter view is called Ecclesial Deism, and it must be rejected.
As far as Christianity is concerned, the events of 70AD can provide important vindication to Our Lord's claim to be Messiah, as well as the proper dating and inspiration of the New Testament Scriptures. These two subjects are often the object of mockery and unfair criticism by Secularists and Liberals, so these types of studies are essential for defending your faith. Indeed, for centuries folks have been trying to discredit Christianity by making similar claims. Julian the Apostate (Roman Emperor shortly after the Council of Nicaea in 325) tried to refute Jesus by making it a goal to rebuild the Temple, a goal which failed miserably after some miraculously timed natural disasters in Jerusalem kept disrupting progress.
The fact that none of the New Testament writings clearly mention the sacking of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70AD strongly suggests all of the 27 books were written prior to the year 70AD. Such an event would not have gone unreferenced by the early Christians, especially considering the Judaizer heresy that hit the early Church. The only alternative is that the authors deliberately conspired to keep quiet about the issue, which doesn't fit any reasonable motive (and such conspiratorial "collaboration" suggests a close unity among early Christians that the Liberals reject in the first place). This realization means that the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles were all written between 40AD and 65AD (since the Roman-Jewish war culminating in the Temple's destruction began in 66AD). And thus the dating of the Book of Revelation, popularly dated around 90AD, is likewise not dated properly. This has caused me to do some research into just how dating Revelation so late came about in the first place.
Unlike the wacky dating "methods" used by Liberal "scholarship" for the rest of the New Testament, the primary reasoning behind the late dating of Revelation (also traditionally called Apocalypse, meaning a "revealing") in the year 96AD comes directly from a few early Church Fathers, notably Irenaeus (AH 5:30:3) and Eusebius (EH 3:18). The logic is as follows: in Revelation 1:9-20, Saint John tells us that he was exiled on the Island of Patmos when he received instructions to write Apocalypse, so the question is when this exile took place. Saint Irenaeus tells us that John was on Patmos in the year when the Roman Emperor Dormitian died, which is 96AD. This is not an improbable argument, nor should we rush to discount Saint Irenaeus' testimony. However, I came across a fascinating article from a Catholic site (now sadly defunct) dealing with this very issue. The author, Jacob Michael, points out that this claim by Irenaeus is virtually the only testimony for this late date. The first thing he says to do is examine the patristic text in question. Eusebius, quoting Irenaeus, states:
Irenæus, in the fifth book of his work Against Heresies, where he discusses the number of the name of Antichrist which is given in the so-called Apocalypse of John, speaks as follows concerning him:The question is, when Saint Irenaeus says "it was seen...at the end of the reign of Dormitian," what does the word "it" refer to? If the "it" is Saint John's Apocalypse vision, then that's precisely how the date 96AD is derived. But Jacob points out that this isn't a safe argument. The wording of the sentence actually provides two plausible alternatives: the term in the original language can mean John himself simply died around that time, or the "it" can just as easily refer to the unfolding of what Saint John saw as prophecy many years prior. Thus Irenaeus is saying: there would be no need for Saint John to warn against the Antichrist if the Antichrist has already appeared because John would have declared the Antichrist's "real" identity. This crucial detail totally unhinges any absolute link between Apocalypse and 96AD. But there's more!If it were necessary for his name to be proclaimed openly at the present time, it would have been declared by him who saw the revelation. For it was seen not long ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign of Domitian.
Jacob points out that the Muratorian Canon, one of the oldest indexes of Scripture (dated around 150AD because it mentions Pope Pius I), says this:
the blessed Apostle Paul, following the rule of his predecessor John, writes to no more than seven churches by name, in this order: the first to the Corinthians, the second to the Ephesians, the third to the Philippians, the fourth to the Colossians, the fifth to the Galatians, the sixth to the Thessalonians, the seventh to the RomansNote that Paul writing to "seven churches" was no accident, but rather follows a rule already laid out by John. The only place John wrote to "seven churches" was in the Apocalypse, and thus Apocalypse must have been written prior to Paul's last letter! Since Paul was martyred in the mid 60s, this means Apocalypse was written as late as about 65AD. And Jacob ends with one more facinating piece of evidence:
Another similar statement is made by St. Clement in his Stromata:Hats off to Jacob Michael for this brilliant work! Next, Jacob turns to internal evidence for the dating of Revelation, and this is where things begin to tie back directly to the 70AD date. Jacob's exegetical argument can be summarized as follows:
For the teaching of our Lord at His advent, beginning with Augustus and Tiberius, was completed in the middle of the times of Tiberius. And that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, ends with Nero. (St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book VII, Cap. 27)More plainly than St. Irenaeus or the Muratorian Canon, St. Clement says that the Apostolic teaching ended in the reign of Nero. He could not have made such a statement if St. John had written the Apocalypse after AD 70, after the reign of Nero.
- John quotes Jesus as saying He will return "very soon," multiple times. This is strange if "soon" means 2,000 years plus. Instead, it makes more sense to say Jesus is going to return in terms of judgment upon Jerusalem, which fits perfectly the war of 66-70AD.
- In Revelation 17:9-10, John speaks about "seven kings" on the hills of Rome, five of which have already fallen, one who is currently reigning, and one final which will reign a short time. This perfectly lines up with the Roman Emperors at that time, with Nero currently reigning (and persecuting the Church). No other list comes anywhere close to fitting this data.
- In Revelation 11:1-2, which is also the most popular argument for dating Apocalypse before 70AD, the text explicitly says (a) measure the Temple length and (b) the Gentiles will trample on Jerusalem for 42 months. To say "measure" the Temple requires it to be still standing, and the Gentiles trampling on Jerusalem for 42 months (3.5 years) fits perfectly the 3.5 years from 66-70AD when the Romans sacked Jerusalem.
To conclude this brief study, I think it is important to tie all of this back to vindicating Our Lord's prophecies about Jerusalem, giving strong testimony that He is indeed the Messiah and that the Gospels were indeed written by Apostles. Some of the most difficult and hotly debated prophecies of Our Lord come from His Olivet Discourse (i.e. Jesus' predictions paralleled in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21). The primary difficulty is whether these prophecies refer to 70AD, or some end of the world events, or (in the traditional Catholic opinion) a 'dual fulfillment' of those two "extremes". The primary argument of all Liberal scholarship of the last 175 years (and still going strong today) is that the Olivet Discourse certainly did refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. However, the Liberal mindset states that predicting the future is impossible (and miracles are ways for ignorant folks to explain real science), so Jesus did not infact predict anything, but instead the Gospels were written after 70AD and simply made up words to record to remember Our Lord. This mindset is virtually the sole "criteria" Liberal scholarship uses. It's not only antiChristian, it isn't even that valid of an argument.
Catholic testimony from the Apostles (e.g. Acts 6:14) to early Church Fathers, up through the middle ages strongly testifies that the Olivet Discourse pertains first and foremost to predicting the destruction of Jerusalem, and secondly as an allegorical parallel to the end of the world. This explains why Jesus wept over Jerusalem, as He described the judgment that would come for rejecting him (Luke 19:41-44). And the plain words of Olivet state, "while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, Jesus said, 'As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down'" (Luke 21:5). Among other important details, "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. ... They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:20-24), and, "Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place." (Luke 21:32). All the evidence converges on the same fact: Jerusalem would be sacked within that same generation, i.e. within 33 years or so, meaning approximately 66AD, the very year Rome invaded. All this is just as Our Lord predicted and the New Testament writings awaited to be fulfilled.