RESPONDING TO SIMON KISTEMAKER’S REVEALING CHAPTER ON REVELATION #6
Don K. Preston (D. Div.)
This article will be very brief, but in the next installment we will examine Kistemaker’s attempt to avoid / mitigate the time indicators of imminence in the book of Revelation. That article will be much longer, so be looking for it.
This is article #6 in response to a chapter written by Simon Kistemaker, in a 2004 book edited and produced Keith Mathison entitled When Shall These Things Be? (The book is available on Amazon). That book was intended to be a definitive refutation of Full Preterism. The respected commentator Simon Kistemaker wrote a chapter in which he attempted to establish the late date of Revelation.
When that book was published, Edward Stevens asked me and some other authors to write chapters for a proposed book to respond to Mathison’s book. He even raised money to publish that work. Unfortunately, Stevens never published that book. Since Edwards never published the book I thought it would be good to go ahead and publish the chapter, after such a time, that I submitted to Stevens.
THE EXTERNAL EVIDENCE
After examining the internal evidence for a late date, Kistemaker suggests that the external evidence favors the late date. He offers as evidence the famous testimony of Iranaeus and Hegesippus, another 2nd century church writer, who, he says, “gives no indication that John wrote Revelation prior to the fall of Jerusalem.” (235)
In response, we refer the reader to Kenneth Gentry’s extensive examination of the Iranaean quote, in his Before Jerusalem Fell. In addition, let me offer the following summary response from the editor of When Shall These Things Be?, Keith Mathison, who, remember, takes the early dating of Revelation. (At least he took the early date at the time of producing When?).
Citing Iranaeus’ quote, and the claims made about it by late date advocates, like Kistemaker, Mathison observes:
“There are several reasons why this statement (of Iranaeus, DKP), is inconclusive at best. For the sake of brevity, we shall mention only two:
1.) The translations of the Greek heorathe, ‘that was seen,’ is not certain. It is possible that Iranaeus is referring to the vision itself, but the broader context and the word itself leave open the possibility that he is referring to the apostle John.” I would argue with Gentry, Chilton, DeMar and others, that the context of the quote in Iranaeus all but demands that Iranaeus was saying that John the Apostle was seen, not that the Apocalypse was seen. The flow of the text, the context of the issue under discussion, all lend themselves to this understanding. Thus, Iranaeus gives no support for the late date.
2.) Even if Iranaeus is referring to the vision that John saw, a number of other historical errors in his writings should keep us from placing too much weight upon his statement. It is a matter of record, for example, that Iranaeus believed that Jesus’ ministry lasted approximately fifteen years and that he lived to be almost fifty.
There is other external evidence that late date advocates offer in support of the later dat, in addition to that supplied by Iranaeus, but it generally falls into one of three categories. As Mathison notes of that other “evidence”:
First, much of it simply repeats the position of Iranaeus, and thus cannot be regarded as independent testimony.
Second, there is a large amount of testimony that is unclear and therefore inconclusive.
Third, there is external evidence that supports the pre-A.D. 70 date.” (Mathison, Hope, 142+)
Mathison’s response to Kistemaker’s claims are succinct, logical, and persuasive. The key here is that we have a right to challenge any arguments offered in support of the late date that fly in the face of, or blatantly contradict, the internal evidence. As I demonstrate in my Who is This Babylon? There is an overwhelming amount of internal evidence that is absolutely counter to the late date claims. As someone that was raised believing and advocating the late date, when I actually began studying the issue for myself, instead of just repeating what I had always heard, I was literally astounded at the lack of substantive evidence for the late date. On one occasion, I heard a noted church of Christ professor say that if all we had was the internal evidence for the dating, that there would never be a question; the early date would win the day! But, surprisingly, he went ahead to say that given the external evidence, he accepted the late date. Those statements literally stunned me, and made me look closer at the entire subject. I hope that the reader will do the same.
Stay tuned for installment #6!