The Date of Revelation: Geisler vs. Geisler
by Gary DeMar
In the ongoing debate over Bible prophecy, a number of issues keep coming up. One of the biggest disputes is on the dating of Revelation. Was Revelation written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 or nearly 40 years later? Late-date advocates are almost solely dependent on the ambiguous testimony of Irenaeus (120–202). I deal with this bit of external evidence in my book The Early Church and the End of the World.1 The late date for Revelation does little to help dispensationalists since there are amils, postmils, and non-dispensational premils who hold to a late date. The same is true for advocates of the historicist and idealist positions on Revelation. There are early and late date advocates for these positions. In addition, there are a number of prophecy writers who hold to a late date for the composition of Revelation and argue for a preterist interpretation of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:34).
Norm Geisler’s review of Hank Hanegraaff’s The Apocalypse Code deals with several of HH’s arguments for a pre-A.D. 70 date for the composition of Revelation. One argument that HH uses is that Revelation would have referred to the destruction of Jerusalem if it had been written post-A.D. 70. Here’s how Geisler argues against HH’s claim:
As for the a priori argument that if John wrote after AD 70 he would have highlighted the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction ([The Apocalypse Code] 252), we need only observe that John is not writing a history of this whole period but only of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. So, there was no reason to refer to an event nearly 40 years later. The other Gospels were written before AD 70. So, they have predictions of Jerusalem’s destruction in them.
This is a curious way to argue for a late date since Geisler argues for a pre-A.D. 70 date in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, a book that Geisler co-authored with Frank Turek. In their chapter on the early testimony about Jesus, they write that “most if not all [of the NT] books were written before A.D. 70.”2 Consider the following:
Well, here’s the problem for those who say the New Testament was written after 70—there’s absolutely no mention of the fulfillment of this predicted tragedy anywhere in the New Testament documents. This means most, if not all, of the documents must have been written prior to 70.3
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So if we would expect tragedies such as Pearl Harbor and 9/11 to be mentioned in the relevant writings of today, we certainly should expect the events of A.D. 70 to be cited somewhere in the New Testament (especially since the events were predicted by Jesus). But since the New Testament does not mention these events anywhere and suggests that Jerusalem and the temple are still intact, we can conclude reasonably that most, if not all, of the New Testament documents must haven been written prior to 70.4
Paul Benware, who also holds to a late date for Revelation, describes the above line of reasoning an “argument from silence.”5 But Geisler and Turek do not see it this way, “for the New Testament documents speak of Jerusalem and the temple, or activities associated with them, as if they were still intact at the time of the writings.”6 They cite Revelation 11:1–2 to support this claim.7 Since, according to Geisler and Turek, all the New Testament books were written prior to A.D. 70, then Revelation 11:1–2 must refer to the pre-A.D. 70 temple and not a future rebuilt great-tribulation temple. But this can’t be if Revelation was written around A.D. 95 as Geisler in his critique of The Apocalypse Code contends.
So which is it? Is Geisler arguing for a pre-A.D. 70 date for Revelation or a post-A.D. 70 date?
1Gary DeMar and Francis X. Gumerlock, The Early Church and the End of the World (Powder Springs, GA: American, 2006): www.americanvision.org/store/pc-249-9-early-church-and-the-end-of-the-world.aspx
2Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 204), 237.
3Geisler and Frank, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, 238.
4Geisler and Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, 238–239.
5Paul Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach (Chicago: Moody Press, 2006), 167.
6Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, 238.
7Geisler and Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, 425, note 20. Benware contends, “Whether or not there was a temple in existence when John received this vision is not relevant and, therefore, Revelation 11 simply has nothing to do with the dating of the book of Revelation.” (Understanding End Times Prophecy, 167). So much for a “literal interpretation of Revelation.” Benware uses Ezekiel’s measuring the temple as a parallel to John measuring the temple in Revelation 11:1–2. Since the temple Ezekiel measured was a future temple, then it’s most likely that the temple in Revelation is a future temple. There is a problem with this line of reasoning. Ezekiel is not the one measuring the temple; it was a man, and the man was not Ezekiel (Ezek. 40:5–6). The accounts are not content parallel.
Gary DeMar is the President of American Vision.