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11.4.1.3. Other Evidence

A handful of other lines of evidence are seen as supporting the late date.

Some have seen the independent spirit of the Laodicean church in Revelation Rev. 3:17+ as an allusion to the city’s unaided reconstruction after a severe earthquake during the reign of Nero.1 The completion of the reconstruction, undertaken without assistance by Rome, is seen to have required more time than a Neronian date for the book of Revelation.2

The mention of opposition to the churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia from “synagogues of Satan” (Rev. Rev. 2:9+; Rev. 3:9+) is seen to be more likely under Domitian than Nero. Under the reign of Domitian, Christianity was increasingly no longer viewed as a sect within the umbrella of Judaism, and had the advantage of being a legally-permitted well-established faith. Also, in A.D. 90, a curse was inserted into the synagogue service with the intention of flushing out any believers in Jesus as Messiah.

An explanation is offered of the ‘synagogues of Satan’ at Smyrna and Philadelphia (Rev. Rev. 2:9+; Rev. 3:9+) which links them with conflicts operative under Domitian. It is further argued that the occasion was provided by the conjunction of that emperor’s policy with the insertion of the curse of the Minim in the Shemoneh ʿEsreh in about AD 90. The aftermath of the controversy may be traced in a problem passage in Ignatius ( ad Philad. 8.2) as it affected one of the very churches under discussion.3

Although we recognize the weakness of internal evidence in general, we note that Hemer, one of few who has studied the cultural allusions of the book of Revelation in great detail, concludes:

I started with a provisional acceptance of the orthodox Domitianic dating, and have been confirmed in that view by further study. . . . We accordingly reaffirm the Domitianic date of the letters in the light of the kind of evidence here considered, while recognizing that many of these indications are uncertain. Cumulatively they align themselves with the case widely accepted on other grounds that the Revelation was written about AD 95.4


Notes

1 “The city of Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 17 in the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14-37) and again in A.D. 60 when Nero was emperor (A.D. 54-68).”—Mal Couch, “Interpreting the Book of Revelation,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 52.

2 “Rev. Rev. 3:17+ has been connected with Laodicea’s unaided recovery from the earthquake of Nero’s reign . . . but I argue the strong probability that the reference is to a later stage of reconstruction, mentioned in the earlier Sibylline Oracles (4.108 of about AD 80), and occupying a full generation between the disaster and the time of Domitian.”—Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 4.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid., 5,3.