Imperial Persecution And The Dating Of 1 Peter And Revelation -- By: Duane Warden

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 34:2 (Jun 1991)
Article: Imperial Persecution And The Dating Of 1 Peter And Revelation
Author: Duane Warden

Imperial Persecution
And The Dating Of 1 Peter And Revelation

Duane Warden**

Important interpretive questions concerning the books of 1 Peter and Revelation revolve around the dates when the two documents were written, but a consensus for either continues to elude NT scholars. The issues involved for the dating of 1 Peter are different from those of Revelation, but they tend to converge on two considerations: (1) Both documents are addressed to the same general geographical region;1 (2) the texts of both suggest that the addressees were experiencing significant conflicts with society and that suffering had resulted for the believers. Related to both considerations is the noteworthy fact that only these two NT documents apply the appellation “Babylon” to Rome (1 Pet 5:13; Rev 17:5, 18).2

The dating of 1 Peter is tied to questions of authorship. If the apostle Peter is the author, it is generally agreed that the book must be dated by the late 60s.3 Those who see a social and ecclesiastical setting in the book that postdates the 60s have tended to reject Petrine authorship, a viewpoint well represented by Best.4 Beare maintains that the persecution setting reflected in the book so closely resembles the description of Pliny as

* Duane Warden is professor of Bible and religion at Ohio Valley College in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

to demand the same time frame for the authorship of each. Hence he dates the book, or at least large portions of it, to the time of Trajan.5

Revelation too has been variously dated. Such notables as Lightfoot, Westcott and Hort of a previous generation dated the book in the time of Nero, a position recently revived by Robinson and supported by Hill and Bell.6 More commonly, at least in recent times, the book has been placed in the time of Domitian.

The concern of this article is with one narrow aspect of the methodology used in dating I Peter and Revelation. In the attempt to delineate the social context in which the readers lived, scholars frequently find points of comparison between the persecution setting of the books on the one hand and actions taken by Nero and Domitian to suppress Christianity on the other. The thesis of what follows is that a persecution of Chr...

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