Section 3: Internal Evidence
Chapter 7: The Role of Internal Evidence
After a few brief sentences, Gentry provides once again the justification for treating the internal evidence as principle in the debate over the dating of Revelation:
Working from biblical presuppositions as to the nature and integrity of Scripture, the convictions of orthodox, conservative Christianity must recognize that the essential and determinative evidence ought to be drawn from the internal testimony of the scriptural record itself, when it is available. (113)
After indicating the prevalent use of internal evidence by early date advocates liberal and conservative alike, Gentry surveys the major arguments advanced by these scholars (cf. p. 115):
(1) The peculiar idiom of Revelation indicates a younger John, before his mastery of the Greek language, a mastery evidenced in his more polished Gospel from a later period.
(2) The existence of only seven churches in Asia Minor (Rev. 1) indicates a date before the greater expansion of Christianity into that region.
(3) The activity of Judaizing heretics in the Church (Rev. 2, 3) should be less conspicuous after a broader circulation of Paul’s anti-Judaizing letters.
(4) The prominence of the Jewish persecution of Christianity (Rev. 6, 11) indicates the relative safety and confidence of the Jews in their land.
(5) The existence and integrity of Jerusalem and the Temple (Rev. 11) suggest the early date.
(6) The reign of the sixth emperor (Rev. 17) must indicate a date in the A.D. 60s.
(7) There is a lack of internal evidence in Revelation for a late date.
(8) The nearness of the events had no fulfillment beyond the dramatic events of A.D. 70.
(9) It is easy to apply Revelation’s prophecies to the Jewish War.
Gentry also spends some time on psychological and literary considerations in support of an early date, but he considers these to be doubtful justifications, so I'll omit them here and direct the reader to consider them by reading the book! Among the above arguments listed, Gentry finds a few suspect as well. The ones he considers confident indications are summarized thus:
Certain of the arguments, however, are not only stronger, but virtually certain, e.g. the contemporary reign of the sixth king and the integrity of the Temple and Jerusalem. These arguments, along with several others, will serve as the focus of the present study as the primary chronological allusions. (118-119)
Gentry divides the treatment into two sections, one treating the positive arguments for the early date according to the internal evidence and one treating the reservations and counter-arguments advanced against those same arguments by late-date advocates.
Chapter 8: The Theme of Revelation
The importance of establishing the theme is emphasized by Gentry as an important hermeneutic consideration. After noting that most agree on the theme, he further indicates that few agree on the nature of its fulfillment. Still, his aim is to show the requirements necessarily implied by establishment of the theme.
Accordingly, Gentry identifies the theme of Revelation in Revelation 1:7: “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen.” After citing several scholars who concur with his assessment he mentions other internal factors that indicate its veracity, including: "That these observations as to Revelation’s theme are correct should be evident in the emphasis placed on His coming that is a constant refrain in the personal letters to the Seven Churches (Rev. 2:5, 16, 25; 3:3, 11, 20) and elsewhere (Rev. 16:15; 22:7, 12, 20)" (122). Consider also, "The thematic idea is not only introduced early in the work (Rev. 1:7); and it not only closes it (Rev. 22:20); but it is also presented dramatically with an attention-demanding “Behold!” at its initial appearance" (122).
Gentry then proceeds to explicate the meaning of this theme through several main observations. The first is the nature and meaning of Christ's coming in the clouds. He marks it out specifically as an indication of God's bringing divine judgment. The following are the pertinent verses: (Psa. 18:7-15; 104:3; Isa. 19:1; Joel 2:1, 2; Nab. l:2ff.; Zeph. 1:14, 15). Inseparable from God's judgment is His divine holiness and righteous character, which, not insignificantly, are also indicated through the covering of a cloud: (Gen. 15:17; Ex. 13:21-22; 14:19-20; 19:9, 16-19; Deut. 4:11; Job 22:14; Psa. 18:8ff.; 97:2; 104:3; Isa. 19: 1; Eze. 32:7-8). The pertinent New Testament passages regarding Christ's coming in a cloud also indicate judgment: (Matthew 24:30, 26:64; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4: 13ff.).
Having established the meaning of the cloud-coming as indicative of divine judgment, Gentry proceeds to identify the objects of God's judgment. The Jews are God's Covenant people, and thus their rejection of Jesus as Messiah and their culpability in accomplishing his death at the hands of the Romans make them the conclusive target. Several passages are cited to support this conclusion: (John 11:53; Matt. 26:4 27:1; Matt. 26:14-15, 47; 27:3-9; Matt. 27:65-66; Matt. 27:2, 11, 12; Acts 3:13; Matt.
27:24-25). He also cites others, including Jesus's statement to Pilate that the Jews would bear the greater guilt for turning Him over, Peter's speech in Acts 2, where he lays blame upon the Jews for crucifying Christ, Stephen's speech in Acts 7 to the same effect, and Paul's statement in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 that also condemns the Jews for Christ's death. As if the Biblical evidence were not enough, Gentry gives a laundry list of early church fathers who testify in accordance with the sentences of guilt placed upon the Jews as a national entity. For those readers who are Dispensational out there, take to heart the caveat that this judgment is corporate in nature and in no way applies to those believing Jews in the New Testament era. Indeed, as Gentry later shows, it is precisely these Jewish Christians who are rescued from the judgments that come upon their brothers-by-blood.
The indication in Revelation of "those who pierced him" being Jews is further supported by the phrase "tribes of the earth," which Gentry argues is indicative of the Jewish people. The greek word translated tribe is frequently used of the Jews, and appears in Revelation with that connotation (5:5, 7:4ff, 21:12). One qualifier is made explicitly: "Of course, where the term is found in connection with “every kindred, tribe, tongue, and nation” in Revelation, such would not be the exclusive reference (cf Rev. 5:9; 7:9; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6)" (127-28).
The reference to "the Land" is also indicative of the Jews according to Gentry: "In addition, the Greek word for “earth” in Revelation 1:7 is [Greek word], which most usually means either: (1) “earth, globe” or (2) “land.” Thus, upon purely lexical considerations, the term can be understood as designating the Promised Land" (128). He cites Young's Literal Translation of the Bible and Marshall's Interlinear Greek-English testament for lexical concurrence. One particularly interesting point is the following: "That such is the referent [i.e. Palestine] in Revelation 1:7 seems to be additionally indicated by the fact that the verse is a blending of Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10" (129). He then cites Jesus's strong pronouncement of woe upon the Jews who were present in his own generation (Matt. 23) and the destruction of the Temple (Matt. 24). Perhaps the most remarkable observation, however, is Gentry believes (and adds scholarly support to the idea) that the reason why the Gospel of John does not contain the Olivet Discourse is because Revelation is John's exposition that very discourse! From Gentry's identification and exposition in this chapter we can summarize the following proposition: the theme of Revelation is Christ's divine judgment and triumph over those who put him to death and rejected His rightful reign.
Chapter 9: The Temporal Expectation of the Author
Chapter nine explores the internal statements that indicate the immanent expectation of the contents of Revelation in the mind of its author. The first two paragraphs after the brief introduction articulate the territory for the arguments that follow:
This expectation is emphasized in a variety of ways: by strategic placement, frequent repetition, and careful variation. The temporal expectation is strategically placed in that it appears three times in the opening, introductory chapter (Rev. 1:1, 3, 19) and four times in the final, concluding chapter (Rev. 22:6, 7, 12, 20). Its appearance in
both of these chapters is significant because these chapters bracket the highly wrought drama of the prophetic body of the book contained in the section from Revelation 4:1 through 22:6. These portions of Revelation in which the time indicators are embedded are generally of a more historical than prophetical character. The temporal expectation receives frequent repetition in that it occurs not only seven times in the opening and closing chapters, but at least three times in the letters in chapters two and three (Rev. 2:16; 3:10). (133)
Within these verses Gentry identifies three word groups that support an immanent expectation in the author's mind. The first word is transliterated "tachos" and means "with speed" or "quickly" or "shortly." It occurs in Rev. 1:1, 2:16, 3:11, 22:6, 22:7, 12, 20. Gentry addresses alternative interpretations that would negate the immanence of these temporal indicators. One view is that they indicate the quickness of the events when they come to pass, but not quickly in the sense of actually coming to pass in the near future. Another view recognizes the indicator refers to the fulfillment of the prophecy in history (rather than to its quickness of completion once it begins), but then argue that because God's sense of time is not the same as ours (citing 2 Peter 3:8) it does not indicate a quick occurrence as we consider it quick. Despite these exegetical arguments, nearly all the translations preserve the original sense of quickly coming to pass. There is no dispute as to the lexical meanings of the word, all of which indicate a short duration of time.
The consideration that follows the possible meanings for the word grouping is the situation in which the author wrote, also referred to by the German phrase, sitz im Leben (Situation in life). What was the historical situation in which the author found himself? What experiences were important to him and his audience that are indicated in the text? What situations might he be writing about in the text that are concurrent with his writing? Gentry notes that with the consideration of John's harsh warnings to the churches and his own sharing in their tribulations, little comfort for their present sufferings could be taken from the knowledge that when the events come, they will come quickly, but indeed they may be far off in coming. That the events must certainly occur is indicated by a Greek phrase specific to that imperative. The additional phrases in the future tense do not add to this certainty, but might lead to false expectations on the readers's behalf that the events would occur soon! Thus, it is unlikely that the phrases simply refer to the certainty of the events. Such would be redundant and misleading. Also, Gentry argues that it would be excruciatingly cruel to commend to the suffering that help and deliverance are certain to come, but that they must remember that 1000 years are as a day to the Lord, so be prepared not to see deliverance come in your lifetime. What comfort would this bring to suffering saints, especially given the frequency of this emphasis on quickly? It would seem rather mockery were it true that a long duration was intended would it not?
The next word group involved the Greek word transliterated "eggus," translated "at hand" or "near," and occurs in Rev. 1:3, 22:10. The lexical meanings attribute the meaning as temporal nearness of events, that is, closeness in time to something occurring. It would require a stretch of the imagination to argue that the collapse of the Roman empire 200-300 years after John's writing could be close in time as is required of one interpretation of an event mentioned, whereas an even great stretch is required that nearness of time involve thousands of years, as another interpretation requires. Application of the 1 Pet. 3:8 text to these frequent occurrences stretches the limits of feasibility and also recommends and inconsistent interpretation of temporal indications in prophetic writings.
The final word group is the Greek word transliterated "mello" meaning "things to come" and occurs in Rev. 1:19, 3:10. Gentry acknowledges that the meaning of this word can indicate "destined" rather than something immediately about to happen, but he notes that the use of the word in the aorist infinitive (as in Rev. 1:19) the most prominent meaning is "to be on the point of, be about to." He says this is also true of the present infinitive, which occurs in Rev. 3:10. This literal translation is strengthened by the close proximity to the other temporal indications mentioned in the other word groupings. If they are to be considered as meaning shortly to occur, then it is natural that these two passages concur with the others.
Gentry move on from the linguistic considerations to the historical ones that would best fit the linguistic indicators. He gives several reasons why the early date recommends itself as the best choice. First, the Jewish war of A.D. 67-70 including the deaths of thousands of Jews, the destruction of their center of worship, the Temple, and the loss of their holy city, Jerusalem. Second, the first imperial persecution of Christians in Rome occurred between A.D. 64 and A.D. 68, which was not only the first, but also the most severe, taking with it the lives of the two pillars of the Church, Peter and Paul. Third, from late A.D. 68 to A.D. 69 Rome experienced a horrendous civil war that nearly destroyed the empire and saw four different emperors rise and fall from power. The tumultuous nature of this time period resembles closely the tumult depicted in Revelation, according to Gentry.
Chapter 10: The Identity of the Sixth King
This chapter deals with Revelation 17:3,1-13 and particularly vss. 9-10. In this section, a vision is given to John and then an angel interprets the vision for him. As is obvious from the title of this chapter, the identity of the sixth king plays a role in Gentry's argument for the early date of Revelation.
Gentry notes first that the passage has presented a difficulty for interpreters. The introductory statement of the angel in vs. 9, "Here is the mind which has wisdom" is even read by several commentators as indicating that the passage is intentionally indicating the difficulty of what follows. Gentry's argument is the opposite, that the phrase is indicating that what is to follow is the explanation of what has just occurred. In other words, it is not what follows that is difficult, but rather is the clear statement about the difficult vision that immediately preceded. The chronology of events in the 17th chapter tends to support Gentry's conclusion: the initial event is that the angel comes and shows John the vision, by carrying John "away in the Spirit." John then relates the vision that he saw, with all of its symbolic elements. John then expresses his own wonder at what these symbols are or may mean (v. 6). Then the vision is referred to as a mystery (v. 7). But after this the angel expressly asks John why he wonders at the vision, for he is going to tell John of its meaning. Thus, vss. 9-10 are the explanation that angel has just promised. Gentry observes that a similar occurrence happens in Rev. 7:9, 13-14, where a vision is seen by John, and then its explanation is provided by another. All of this preliminary work is meant to encourage the reader that despite what other interpreters have determined to be perplexing, the passage provides its own explanation by the mouth of the angel. What the exegete must know is the historical context to which the angel's references are intended to explain.
Gentry first seeks to explain the seven hills. This is the place where the woman sits. Rome is the historical referent for the "seven hills." The city of Rome has been recognized throughout history by its seven hills (the Palatine, Aventine, Caelian, Esquiline, Viminal, Quirinal, and Capitoline) and is still known today by these markers (just google it and see!). References to Rome as "the seven hills" are made in Suetonius and Plutarch as well as Ovid, Claudian, Statius, Pliny, Virgil, Horace, Properties, Martial, Cicero, Sibylline Oracles, Tertullian, and Jerome, according to Gentry. It is unthinkable that John's readers could have mistaken the seven hills for any other place than Rome. The only possible means to explain the reference would be to take Rome to be a symbolic figure, representing some idea rather than the actual city of Rome of the actual Roman Empire. However, in light of the anticipation of the author (John) and the exhortation given to the immediate audience, it would seem odd for Rome to be considered as a symbolic figure that was not indicating the city and empire that was a present threat to the Christians to whom John writes.
The line of kings is the next task taken up by Gentry's analysis. The verse reads, "They are seven kings, five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while." The task is two-fold: determine what line of kings are possible and determine at what king the list begins it count. Some interpreters wish to begin the list with the first official emperor, Augustus. Others omit Galba, Otho, and Vitellius because they are interregnum figures between Nero and Vespasian. Others do not recognize the Caesars at all, and see the seven kings as symbolic of spiritual affiliations rather than historical ones. Still others see the seven kings as seven kingdoms that are in succession (often also reading the "seven hills" as seven manifestation of world powers under these seven kingdoms). Gentry explains his own view first, and then addresses these alternative arguments.
Gentry wishes to begin the line of kings with Julius Caesar. He urges this view on the basis that Roman historian Tacitus and 4th century figure Aurelius Victor speak of an uninterrupted rule beginning with Augustus, but do not deny Julius Caesar the designation of king, although Julius himself did not wish to be called "king." He did, however, claim the title, "Imperator" as recorded by Suetonius. This aligns him with later emperors who claimed the same title, and who also used Julius's name "Caesar" to designate a title of their rule. But beyond this evidence lies the stronger piece that shows Julius to be listed among the line of Caesars by historians of Rome as early as A.D. 70, i.e. Suetonius. Dio Cassius, writing after A.D. 150 also numbers Julius as the first of the Roman emperors. Josephus, whose own life and writings overlap John the Apostle, and whose Jewish heritage are also of importance as relative to those who were of John's audience, refers to Augustus as the second, Tiberius as the third, and Gaius as the fourth, counting Julius the "first who transferred the power of the people to himself" (155). One pseudopigraphal work completed between A.D. 100 and 120 identifies twelve emperors of Rome, of which Julius is one, and the second is mentioned to have reigned the longest, which was Augustus whose 44 year reign was one-third of the combined reigns of the first twelve emperors. This work makes another allusion that can clearly be seen as a reference to Julius as the first in the line of emperors. Gentry also finds evidence in the Epistle of Barnabas and the Sibylline Oracles for the importance of Julius as a first king of Rome. He then cites several later sources who indicate the same. He then produces the following chronological list:
1. Julius Caesar (49-44 B.C.)
2. Augustus (31 B.C.-A.D. 14)
3. Tiberius (A.D. 14-37)
4. Gaius (A.D. 37-41)
5. Claudius (A.D. 41-54)
6. Nero (A.D. 54-68)
7. Galba (A.D. 68-69)
8. Otho (A.D. 69)
9. Vitellius (A.D. 69)
10. Vespasian (A.D. 69-79)
He then follows with there place within the Revelation 17 passage:
Revelation 17:10 says: “They are seven kings; five have fallen, [i.e., Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius], one is [i.e., Nero], the other has notyet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while [i.e., Galba reigned from June, 68 to January, 69] .“ It seems indisputably clear that the book of Revelation must be dated in the reign of Nero Caesar, and consequently before his death in June, A.D. 68. He is the sixth king; the short-lived rule of the seventh king (Galba) “has not yet come.” (158)
Having provided the positive case for the historical emperors of Rome beginning with Julius Caesar as a valid and the correct interpretation, Gentry moves on to the objections raised against this view. The first objection is that the reference in Revelation is to "kings" and not to "emperors." However, Gentry notes that the Bible often refers to the emperors as "kings," including-1 Peter 2:13, 17; 1 Timothy 2:2; John 19:15; and Acts 17:7. Moreover, the practice of referring to the emperors as kings was not uncommon during the first centuries. Commoners hailed Julius as king although he declined the name. Seneca refers to Nero as "rex," the Latin word for King. The Princeps and Martial also make reference to the king when speaking of the emperor. Sibylline Oracles calls the Roman emperors kings as well. Gentry also notes a few other sources to the same effect.
The second objection refers us back to the earlier remark, namely, that some interpreters reject the inclusion of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. There are two reasons for this rejection: (1) Suetonius refers to them as "rebellio trium principum," and (2) their rules did not last for very long and would have been inconsequential to the far-flung provinces (such as the one to which John wrote). If these objections stand, then it is difficult to understand "one" who rules for a "short time" in Revelation 17 referring to Vespasian, which it would have to be if John was writing under Nero (who would be the sixth king). The first objection does not lend much weight, although it has received the most attention it seems. The same author who penned the phrase is the one who lists and tells of the three "rebellio trium principum" in his work Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Thus, despite the derogatory reference, Suetonius seemed to have still considered them Caesars, emperors, kings of Rome by recognition. The second claim is also weaker than it first appears. Although Gentry notes that any policy changes would have taken some time to impact provincial affairs, the internal warring over the rule of Rome would have garnered significant interest from the entire empire. This is especially true of Jerusalem, for Josephus records that Vespasian's military campaign against Jerusalem had to be halted pending the outcome of the Roman Civil War coinciding under these three competing emperors. The churches of Asia minor were no doubt concerned about their fellow Christians in Jerusalem (whom they had also been supporting) during this time, and so it is not so easily assumed that these "minor" emperors who have garnered no significant consideration in the far-flung provinces of the Roman Empire.
Gentry next moves on to address the argument that the references to the seven hills and the seven kings is symbolic rather than historical. Though it is clear that the number seven carries symbolic meaning, it is also clear that such meaning can and often does include reference to actual, historical entities. Given the contemporary situation of Christians in Rome undergoing persecution and suffering under Nero and later under Domitian, it is not strange to see that they would look to their own situation to understand the meaning of the passage. Moreover, the passage itself claims to be an elucidation of a symbolic vision. It would be strange to interpret symbolism with further symbolism, especially when the interpretation is intended to make clear what was mysterious. The use of symbolic numbers does not preclude their use to illustrate historical referents, especially when the geographical and historical referents proximate to the original audience provide a clear and consistent interpretation. The seven churches in Revelation were seven historical church in Asia minor at the time it was written. Rome is an historical place located upon seven hills, was an historical persecutor the Church, and thus it is not fanciful to see that the seven kings indicate seven historical emperors of Rome, of whom Nero was the sixth in line from Julius Caesar.
Finally, Gentry responds to the argument that the kings refer symbolically to kingdoms rather than historical kings. Gentry raises several insoluble problems for this view. First, the Greek word "king" is never used to designate "kingdom" anywhere else. Second, the allusion to the "seven hills" as referring to Rome seems indisputable, which causes contradictory meanings for a successive kingdoms view. Third, Gentry follows upon his earlier argument regarding the immanent expectation of the author regarding the events that occur in the book. Thus, Gentry concludes from this and the other argument that the best plausible interpretation for Revelation 17 requires that the dating of the book be set during the reign of Nero. Note here the presupposition of the prophetic nature of the book and its divine inspiration. Clearly liberal interpreters would have no qualms with having John write about "future" events after the fact. However, an interpreter who places the authority of the Bible above his own must confront the force of Gentry's argument here with careful consideration.
Chapter 11: The Contemporary Integrity of the Temple
In this chapter Gentry turns his attention from the historical context of Rome to that of Jerusalem, and in particular the Temple. The passage of Revelation pertinent to this discussion is Rev. 11:1-2 "And there wa given me a measuring rod like a staff; ad someone said, "Rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it. And leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months."
Gentry begins by noting the scholars who have considered this passage important to the dating of Revelation. The important point to be made is that the writer appears to be presupposing that the destruction of the holy city had not yet occurred. Interestingly, several liberal scholars have argued that the passage is an insertion of a Jewish fragment taken from an earlier time predating the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet when one removes the composition theory from this analysis (as any Evangelical would) it lends support to the fact that the writer is writing before Jerusalem, the holy city, was destroyed (i.e. before A.D. 70).
From these preliminary observations Gentry transitions into his own analysis of the text's pertinent contents. His first task is to identify the Temple spoken of in the verse. Some scholars have interpreted the temple symbolically to represent the Church, whereas others have identified it as the literal Herodian Temple of Jesus's day. The location of the temple is said to be in the holy city (that will be trodden under foot for 42 months). Jerusalem is called the "holy city" in both the Old Testament and the New Testament; as well as in Jewish literature. No other city in history seems to garner this title. Furthermore, in vs. 8 of Rev. 11 the city is identified as the place "were also their Lord was crucified." The references to Sodom and to Egypt in this same verse are symbolic references to this historical city of Jerusalem according to Gentry. The metaphor is applied because of the final apostasy of crucifying Jesus, the very God of Israel whom they had rejected. This recalls the theme of the book that Gentry identified earlier, namely, that Revelation was written to warn that "those who pierced Him" would face the immanent judgment of Christ.
Gentry notes that some consider that the phrase "the great city" in vs. 8 of Rev. 11 refers to Rome rather than to Jerusalem, but the greatness of Jerusalem was also known throughout the ancient world, including during the time of Rome's own prominence. Tacitus refers to Jerusalem as "a famous city" that had a temple that "was famous beyond all other works of men" (171). Pliny refers to Jerusalem "by far the most famous city of the ancient Orient" (171). Other sources are also cited to this effect. To argue that Jerusalem could not be "the great city" in vs. 8 does not account for these indications to the contrary. But beyond these historical references, there is the more important covenantal relationship that Jerusalem possesses. Gentry spends some time developing this significance through quotes from Jewish sources who acknowledge as much. It would be strange for John to symbolically measure what did not exist, indeed with the intent of preserving a portion and destroying the rest, and it would be strange not to have some reference to its historical destruction if John were writing after the events had occurred. There is no mention of a rebuilding of the temple so that it might be destroyed again (as some dispensationalists argue). It is difficult to provide a cogent interpretation of the passage given a post-A.D. 70 date of writing.
Gentry proceeds from the identification of the Temple to its measuring in the passage under question. Gentry argues that the portion preserved in the passage (the innermost aspect, the altar, and the worshippers within) refers to "the inner-spiritual idea of the Temple in the New Covenant era that supersedes the material Temple of the Old Covenant era" (174). God's judgment falls upon those outwardly rebellious Jews, but God's preservation is made good for those who have realized God's Truth inwardly, what Gentry speaks of as "the preservation of God's new Temple, the Church (Eph. 2:19ff; 1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Pet. 2:5ff)" (174). Thus, while the inner, spiritual Temple is preserved, the external court is measured and cast out, "given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months" Rev. 11:2. The destruction of the literal temple is referred to in Matt. 24:2 in the words of Jesus. In a footnote, Gentry connects the preservation of the inner temple (the Church, the true believers in Jerusalem) to the sealing of the 144,000 in Rev. 7. Gentry then repeats the gist of his argument and uses some additional sources to bolster his interpretation. He then drives the point home by connecting Rev. 11:2 to Luke 21:24, "and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (175-176). The similarity of the language in the two passages is even more evident in the original Greek, where the word translated "Gentiles" in Luke is the same word translated "nations" in Revelation.
Gentry spends the rest of the chapter providing a lengthy refutation of objections to his argument. The objections are basically two: one raised by Clement of Rome and one that cites the silence of the early church on the matter.
Clement of Rome is cited by scholars in objection because he speaks of the Temple as though it were still standing even though he wrote around A.D. 90 at the earliest. His statement is provided here:
Let each of you, brethren, in his own order give thanks unto God, maintaining a good conscience and not transgressing the appointed rule of his service, but acting with all seemliness. Not in every place, brethren, are the continual daily sacrifices offered, or the freewill offerings, or the sin offerings and the trespass offerings, but in Jerusalem alone. And even there the offering is not made in every place, but before the sanctuary in the court of the altar; and this too through the high-priest and the aforesaid ministers, after that the victim to be offered bath been inspected for blemishes. (176-177).
Gentry does not question the accuracy of the quote, but rather the dating of the book of 1 Clement where it appears. Like the dating of Revelation, the dating of 1 Clement has been highly questioned. The consensus is the post-A.D. 90+ date, but Gentry intends to show the adequacy of an earlier date of composition. Gentry is confident that his evidence will be sufficient, but that even if it isn't it should be strong enough to throw question upon using 1 Clement as an objection to his argument regarding Revelation. Gentry's first argument is an argument from silence, which isn't particularly strong, but bears mentioning. The argument from silence is that it seems that Clement would have mentioned his ecclesiastical authority as the bishop of Rome (which occurred after A.D. 90), but in fact he does not make mention of his office of bishop at all. Moreover, the office of bishop in 1 Clement is still synonymous with the office of presbyter, a situation that is obviously not the case in the first decade of the 2nd century when Ignatius is writing. Gentry considers it a remarkable transition for the office to be separated into two in the space of less than twenty years if indeed 1 Clement was written around A.D. 90. I find this argument rather weak, although it is suggestive. First of all, it doesn't seem all that remarkable that two offices should be split into two within twenty years, especially if the initial push to do so occurred on the front end of that period. Second of all, an argument of silence regarding episcopal authority is better supported by showing that elsewhere in the same author's writings such authority is used. Gentry provides no evidence that Clement cites his office after he has received it, so it must be assumed that he never does so. His evidence on this point is suggestive at best, and mrely speculative at worst.
However, the argument from silence may be bolstered by additional supporting evidence in Gentry's next argument regarding Clement involves another linguistic elements that he considers suggestive of a "more primitive Christian era" (178). He cites a source that speaks to the synonymous office of bishop/presbyter in Paul's epistles, Acts, and the epistle to the Hebrews. That Clement also uses the offices interchangeably does lend support to an early date of composition. Gentry also includes the reference to Christ as the "child of God' to be indicative of early usage of Scripture quotations. A third piece of linguistic evidence is the mention of Peter and Paul's deaths in connection with Clement's own generation. The possibility of a reference to the same generation is not out of the question for a late date, since a date of composition in A.D. 96 would be about thirty years after Peter and Paul were martyred. However, Clement mentions additional Christians who died under Nero's persecution without making any mention of those who died during the Domitianic persecution that would have been prominent persons during the time in which he wrote if a late date is proposed. If a late date is assumed, only a brief sentence could be understood to refer to Domitian persecution as compared to three entire sections devoted to the persecution under Nero; but an early date would understand all of the reference to speak of Nero's persecution since Domitian would not have yet been ruler at the time of writing. Gentry bolsters this point with some evidence of the severity of Nero's persecution. Lastly, Gentry comes to the mention of the Temple on which the major objection stands. It would be strange for Clement to write of a non-existent Temple as though it stood and was being used, although it would make perfect sense under an early date view of composition, which is, as Gentry has shown, a position with some merit.
The second major objection Gentry calls, "the alleged silence of early Christianity." The argument says that since the early Christian literature did not make much of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, it makes sense that John (writing in the A.D. 90s) would not have been compelled to mention it either. Gentry responds to this claim with three of his own. First, he attempts to show the inadequacy of the statement regarding the first century evidence. Second, he cites several Jewish works of the era that speak of the significance of the events for the Jewish mind. Third, he cites evidence from later (ante-Nicene) Christian tradition that makes mention of the significance of the destruction of Jerusalem for the apostolic and early post-apostolic Church.
Gentry shows that the supposition of silence hangs upon an additional supposition of the sources who attempt to make the argument. That is, the assumed silence is built upon the assumption that most of the New Testament was written AFTER the destruction of Jerusalem. But Gentry argues that the New Testament cannot be considered as evidence of early silence, since most, if not all of the NT books were written before A.D. 70 when the event occurred. Gentry relies upon John A. T. Robinson (who is apparently not a conservative scholar) who wrote a book arguing that all of the NT was written before A.D. 70, which he was led to consider more carefully precisely because the mention of the destruction of Jerusalem is absent from all but Revelation. The book of 1 Clement is also used by scholars who cite the silence of Christian literature in the 1st century, and thus Gentry refers back to his previous argument regarding that work. The Epistle of Barnabas is another early source, written sometime between A.D. 70-79, and it explicitly mentions the destruction of the Temple and the distinction between Jews and Christians (which largely resulted from the catastrophic destruction). Ignatius, who wrote around A.D. 107, seems to make an allusion to the Fall of Jerusalem in Gentry's estimation, in the following quote: "It is absurd to speak of Jesus Christ with the tongue, and to cherish in the mind a Judaism which has now come to an end." Gentry sees this statement connected to the destruction of the Temple, which was the center of Jewish worship. Justin Martyr in A.D. 147 mentions the destruction of the Temple as well as the demise of Jerusalem. The Christian interpolation in the Sibylline Oracles, whose date is supposed to be no later than A.D. 150, also mentions the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. So much for the silence of early Christian literature. Gentry then cites several Jewish sources following A.D. 70 that make mention of the events, including 2 Esdras, 2 Baruch, Sibylline Oracles 4 and 5, and the Apocalypse of Abraham. Finally, Gentry cites many ante-Nicene Christian writings that reference the significance of the fall of Jerusalem, including Melito of Sardis, Hegesippus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Lactantius. Gentry then concludes by remarking that the date of the Fall of Jersualem in A.D. 70 is one of the most well documented events of history for the 1st century (from pagan sources, Christian sources, and from archaeological data).
Chapter 12: The Role of Nero Caesar
Chapter 12 is devoted to arguing for the additional internal evidence indicating Nero Caesar as a prominent figure in Revelation. The first section deals with the famous number 666 (Rev. 13), which Gentry recognizes as a gematria (Hebrew word for “mathematical”), or a numerical riddle common to ancient Jewish interpretation. Gematria arise from the fact that ancient alphabets served not only as letters for making words to communicate, but also as numerical values (cp. Roman numerals). The entire Hebrew alphabet functioned in this way, leading to a form of writing that used cryptograms (numbers representing words or names according to the letter values added together) to convey meanings in a subtle manner. Gentry provides this background as well as some examples from ancient literature to show the prevalent use of the method.
The argument begins in earnest with an example from Suetonius’s Lives of the Twelve Caesars, where a cryptogram is apparently found in a sentence mentioning Nero’s involvement in the burning of Rome. Nero’s name carried a numerical value (1005) that was additional to the numerical value of the rest of the words contained in the sentence. The original sentence translates, “A calculation new. Nero his mother slew” and the cryptogram gives the equation, “Nero=the slayers of one’s own mother” (195). Gentry then gives several other examples from early literature that have specifically Christian references using cryptograms. The point is, of course, to show that John's knowledge and use of cryptograms in Revelation is neither novel nor unorthodox.
Gentry turns from the general history of cryptograms to the text of Revelation itself. He first addresses the textual variant that exists between earlier and later transcriptions of the Scriptures. The strongest manuscript evidence, he says, supports the number "666" as the original number, with some slight evidence for "616." He cites Bruce Metzger's discussion of the variant, which involves the change of one Greek letter. He also provides a lengthy quote from Irenaeus regarding the variant, supporting the 666 as original. Having identified 666 as authentic, Gentry proceeds to discuss its meaning. He begins with his view and follows by discussion of problems related to that view. "Nero Caesar" is the likely candidate to fit the number for Gentry. John indicates that the number of the beast is the number of a man (Rev. 13:18, so a proper name is to be expected. Gentry remarks that the designation of "beast" indicates the cruelty of the figure rather than some superhuman or non-human figure. He then argues that many scholars have identified Nero Caesar as the referent for the number. First, Nero is referred to in cryptograms in other places. Second, the Hebrew/Aramaic spelling of "Nero Caesar" corresponds exactly to 666. Gentry provides a chart detailing each value of each letter in the spelling. The Talmud and other Rabbinical writings use this spelling and number to indicate Nero, but even more impressive than this is the evidence found in the Qumran documents that make the connection explicitly between Nero and 666. A laundry list of scholars agreeing with this conclusion is given by Gentry, although he recognizes that consensus is not automatically attaining of truth. The fact that Nero was both a linguistic fit as well as a relevant fit (his persecutions and madness were certainly beastly) makes him a strong case.
Bolstering the case for Nero as the referent for 666 is the textual variant of 616. Gentry opens this argument with a brief description of how textual criticism proceeds. He distinguishes between accidental variants and intentional variants. The former occur when errors of sight, confusion in the writing, errors in the writing, errors of hearing (when being dictated), and errors of judgment. The latter occur typically when the copyist wishes to improve the text for the understanding of the audience. As mentioned above, the sole difference between the spelling of 666 and 616 is one Greek letter, which look and sound not at all similar to each other. The dissimilarity has led textual critics to conclude that the variant is intentional, so it remains to understand why the copyist would make the change. If the copyist understood the Hebrew gematria 666 as referring to Nero Caesar, the transliteration of the cryptogram into Latin would require the numerical value to be altered to 616 precisely. The Latin form 616 is equivalent to Nero Caesar, thus the change of the copyist was undertaken to make the cryptogram's meaning clear to the Latin audience for which he is copying the text.
Having set up a strong positive argument for the reference to Nero, Gentry turns to the objections. There are three major objections to the Nero theory, which Gentry lays out first before providing his counter evidences. The three are:
1. The earliest Church fathers were unaware of the designation of Nero in the number 666, particularly Irenaeus, he knew of both the 666 and its variant 616.
2. The designation of 666 as a particular and historical figure does not understand the point that John is making. Rather, the number 666 has a general and spiritual meaning because it falls short of the number of Jesus's name (888) and of the number of perfection (777), thus indicating that "civilization without Christ is necessarily under the dominion of the evil one" (204, quoting from Morris).
3. Because John writes to a Gentile church using the Greek language, it is unlikely that he would use the Hebrew form of the name he intends to convey.
Gentry responds to these objections in order. The absence of Irenaeus's recognition of the gematria is strong since he is aware of both the variants and gives three possible referents to the number, none of which identifies Nero by name. Gentry believes that the true meaning of the number was quickly lost following the writing of Revelation and before the writing of Irenaeus (A.D. 180). The fact that Irenaeus was tentative in his speculations gives an obvious indication that the clear interpretation meaning of the number had been lost by his time. Because Irenaeus announces his own ignorance on the matter, it does not constitute a strong rejection of the Nero theory, but only a lack of awareness of it. Additionally, the three possibilities advances by Irenaeus appear to be very interesting upon closer scrutiny. The first possibility, "Euanthas" is undeveloped and beyond our understanding to decipher. The second, "Lateinos" signifies the Roman Empire, and could be taken to indicate the head of the Roman Empire at the time of John's writing. If that writing occurred prior to A.D. 70, then Nero would be the referent according to one of the possibilities advances by Irenaeus! This is bolstered by the fact that the idea of the "Beast" and one of its "heads" are interchangeable in Revelation 13. The Church father Hippolytus, another early Church father, accepted the "Lateinos" theory as the correct identity of the 666. The third possible referent identified by Irenaeus is the name "Teitan," which is also a name for the sun god. This is confirmed by Roman writers Cicero and Ovid. Gentry then drops his own revelation, "Remarkably Nero was widely known to have adopted the attributes of the sun deity as his own" (207). Finally, Gentry remarks that Irenaeus may have failed to record the Nero theory because of his predilection for a futuristic interpretation of Revelation according to his premillennialism. He even admits that many more names existed besides the three he identifies, and perhaps one of these that he left out was Nero, whom he rejected upon (predetermined?) theological grounds.
Gentry then moves to the second objection that identifying 666 with an historical figure misses John's point. Although Gentry notes that this view is widely held, he considers it to be less strong than the Irenaeus argument. First of all, it seems to deny what John himself expressly admits, that the number of the Beast is the number of a man (Rev. 13:18). Second, early Church fathers seeks to identify a real, historical figure as the referent for the number (and this includes Irenaeus). There is also the failure to recognize that the number is said to refer to "the name," including the definite article in the original Greek. Thus, a specific name seems to be in mind. Third, the requirements for the symbolism advances in the argument need not be fulfilled specifically by the number 666. The symbolism could have easily been recorded using a single: "6", two: "66," four: "6666," and so on. Further, the symbolic interpretation does not explain the textual variant 616 at all, and certainly not as tidily as the Nero referent does. Third, keeping the historical referent as Nero does not destroy the symbolic interpretation of the passage. It is not unthinkable that both the historical person of Nero AND the spiritual symbolism of the number 666 in connection to 777 and 888 are intended. The either/or of the two is not necessary. In fact, the appeal to the number 888 corresponds to an historical figure, Jesus Christ!
The final objection is that the Hebrew spelling would not make sense considering that John is writing in Greek to a Gentile Church. Additionally, it is supposed that the intricacies necessary to deriving Nero from 666 are too many and too elaborate to be accepted as true. First, although written in Greek, Revelation has long been recognized as one of the more "Jewish" books in the New Testament. One of the arguments granted to early date advocates is the fact that Revelation is more Hebraic in its use of Greek than the Gospel of John. Additionally, other names in Revelation are Hebraic in construction. The words "Abaddon" (Rev. 9:11), "Armageddon" (Rev. 16:16) are given Greek equivalents elsewhere; "Satan" is "the devil" (Rev. 12:9). The New Testament also reveals Greek spellings of Hebrew names. Gentry cites an example from Mark 3:18 (Simon "the Kananaios" - Zealot, which is a Greek transliteration of Aramaic "qan'ana', which means "zealot"). Also, Asia Minor was populated by a large number of Jews. It is not far fetched to assume that the churches to which John wrote included a significant Jewish audience, and indeed, the Jewish presence throughout the Roman empire is well documented by contemporaneous historians.
Having dealt with the objections, Gentry concludes the chapter with other incidental allusions to Nero in the book of Revelation. The first is the character of the beast indicated. The "beast" reveals the inhuman nature of the referent, which parallels very well with the testimonies of Nero given by historians of his era and following. Nero was the first emperor to persecute Christians and he did so with great intensity and cruelty in doing so. Specific references to Nero as "beast" are also evident in contemporaneous sources. The second is the reference to the serpent. In Rev. 20:2 Satan is called serpent, but the Beast is also referred to by this designation. Gentry makes a (quite amusing) connection between the hissing of a serpent and the hissing that occurs when pronouncing the number 666. However, several historical sources from the time make frequent connections between Nero and a serpent, especially in connection to a tale of Nero's childhood when a snake was sent to assassinate him in his crib, which led to a prophecy about Nero's reign being compared to a serpent's shedding its skin (a symbol of renewed strength during that time). The third reference is the red color of the Beast. The red could refer to the bloodshed caused by the beast, but it could be a reference to the red beard that Nero grew and of which a legend is told. The fourth reference is to the death of the beast, which coincides with the well-attested manner in which Nero died (by the sword). Thus ends Gentry's discussion of Nero's prominence in the book of Revelation.
Chapter 13: The Role of Jewish Christianity
The next chapter discusses the contemporary context of the audience to which John wrote. As such it investigates the historical side of the preliminary "grammatical-historical" step in interpreting Scripture. As a brief aside at this point I ought to point out that Gentry's use of the grammatical-historical approach as integrated with a comprehensive viewpoint of Scripture as a whole appears to me to be much more consistent that Dispensational approaches to Revelation that frequently tout the grammatical-historical approach as the sole and supreme method of interpretation. The limitations of the approach aside, it is striking to notice the degree to which non-preterist approaches to Revelation must ignore the contemporary historical context and the historical audience's expectation in receiving the book in their interpretations. Despite frequent protests by Dispensationalist's against other hermeneutical approaches, their approach to Revelations leaves the early audience to find direct application to their own plot in only the first third of the book, forcing them to treat the majority of the book as an all-too-far off ending. My own opinions are probably obvious at this point, and I'll conclude this anecdote and return to the summary of Gentry's argument.
The first section of chapter thirteen deals with early Christianity's development. The book is particularly Jewish in character, and it is likely that its recipients were predominantly Jewish as well. Most of the earliest converts to Christianity were Jewish, for both Jesus and his twelve disciples sought our Jews almost exclusively until Paul was commissioned by Christ to go to the Gentiles. Jerusalem was the center of Christianity throughout most of the 1st century, until it was replaced by Antioch (where Christians were first called Christians). Thus, early Christians thought of themselves more as the true and faithful remnant spoken of in the Old Testament rather than as an organized society called the Church. They were New Israel of the New Covenant. This is the substance of Gentry's first section.
The second section speaks of the Jewish character of Christianity mentioned in Revelation. The evidence for this claim comes from Rev. 2:9 and 3:9, where two churches are warned that some are claiming to be Jews, but really are not Jews. Gentry argues that it is clear that these are ethnic Jews of the Jewish faith rather than a label conveying some spiritual principle or idea. Thus, ethnic Jews, who claim to be Jewish, are not because they are opposing and persecuting the churches, who are the true Jews by faith. The bifurcation of ethnic Jews and spiritual Jews is not a novel construction, as Paul in Romans 2:17-29 make clear. Thus, Gentry argues, the New Testament writers consider Christians to be the true Jews, i.e. the inheritors of the promises of the Old Testament (which are realized and secured in and through the person and work of Christ). Gentry points out that this identification of Christians as Jews continues throughout the rest of Revelation (7:4-8; 14:1ff; 21:12). He then proceeds to discuss the historical designation upon which the symbolism of Rev. 7:4-8 is based: "either this number [144,000] represents the totality of the Christian Church as the fulfillment of the Jewish hope, or it represents the saved Jewish lineage" (224). In either case he sees this as evidence for the early dating of Revelation considering the use of Jewish designations for the Church, which speaks of a primitive Christian era. There are also the Hebraic expressions that are common in Revelation and speak to the primitive Christian nature of the book.
From these evidences Gentry concludes that it shows that Jews and Christians were still largely integrated and living together during the time when Revelation was written. He quotes Robinson on the matter, who sees it as unlikely that, given the distinctions between true Jews and false Jews in the book, that it could have been written after A.D. 70, when the separation between Judaism and Christianity was practically inaugurated. Undergirding this consideration is the Epistle of Barnabas, that reveals a clear distinction between Jews and Christians and which was written around the turn of the 2nd century (c. A.D. 100)--a separation that subsequent Church fathers clearly recognize as unchallenged. The internal assumption that seems to be in place in the book of Revelation is that Judaism and Christianity are not yet radically separated, which seems to be an assumption that is untenable after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, which were the holy city and sacred center of worship for Judaism. Gentry admits that the breach between the two religions did not come overnight, and he provides a few paragraphs tracing the history of Judaism and Christianity through the NT era. The separation gradually grew and especially during the time of the Jewish revolt when Christians who sought to be law-abiding had to distance themselves from Jews who were being seen as insurrectionists because of the political and military revolts being led by Jewish Zealots. Having laid the groundwork of his argument, Gentry then proceeds to exhaust the scholarly literature supporting his conclusion regarding the separation of Judaism and Christianity in the cataclysmic events of A.D. 70. I leave it to the reader to consult these firsthand. The chapter then concludes with a brief statement summarizing the chapter's main point.
Chapter 14: The Looming Jewish War
This chapter concludes the third section of the book dealing with the internal evidence. It concerns the depiction of Israel's condition in Revelation, which Gentry argues does not fit the historical context of post-A.D. 70 nearly as well as it does pre-A.D. 70.
He turns his attention to Rev. 7:1-8, which speaks about the temporary divine protection of the land and the sealing of the 144,000. Gentry argues again that the 144,000 must be a reference to Jewish Christians because: "(1) God intervenes to protect them, and (2) they are called "bond-servants of our God." Just as certainly may we understand that these are Christians of Jewish extraction, for: (1) they are in "the land" (vv. 1,2), and (2) they are contrasted with the "great multitude" from "every nation" who praise God (v. 9)" (233). Thus, the passage concerns the remnant of Jewish Christians who are living in Jerusalem (the "Twelve Tribes" is a reference to "the tribes of the land" according to Gentry). Gentry sees the angel's intervention to the Providential preservation of these Jewish Christians within the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. He states it this way:
Were "the land" already destroyed (as it was in A.D. 70), such a protection would have been embarrassingly anachronistic. While speaking the Olivet Discourse of the destruction of the very Temple to which the disciples could physically point (i.e., "Herod's Temple," Matt. 24:1-2), Jesus warned His followers that they should flee Judea (24.16) when it was time for these things to come to pass (which occurred in A.D. 70). He added further that they should accept His promise that these horrendous events would be cut short (24:22), and that he who endured to the end would be saved through it all (24:13). He also clearly taught that all of these things would happen to "this generation" (Matt. 24:32). Indeed, this coming event was to be "the great tribulation" (Matt. 24:21) - the very tribulation in which John finds himself enmeshed even as he writes (Rev. 1:9; 2:22; cp. 7:14). (233-234)
Gentry also cites the words of John the Baptist in Matt. 3:7ff in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple spoken of in Revelation. He adds more quotations from Christ (Matt. 21:33-46; 22:1-14; 23:31-38; 24:1-34), as well as Acts 2:16ff; 2:43ff and 4:32ff that speak deplorably about the generation of Jews (the latter reference are regarding the sale of property for a profit, which Gentry considers a violation). He also cites 1 Thess. 2:16 and Hebrews 12:18-29 regarding the wrath to come upon unbelieving Jews and the fulfillment of Judaism in Christianity respectively. Given these testimonies, Gentry concludes that the references in Rev. 7 must refer to a pre-fall Judea. He then cites historical sources, particularly Josephus, concerning the events surrounding the Jewish War and fall of Jerusalem that point to its horrible nature.
Next Gentry looks at Revelation 11, where he sees evidence for a pre-fall state of writing. The treading of the courts (vv. 1,2) is seen as a future event, whereas v. 8 indicates that the streets of Jerusalem were still intact, even though during the final five-month siege of Jerusalem by Titus left the city totally destroyed. Thus, unless one posits a future Jerusalem and a rebuilt temple (this is what Dispensationalism foresees), which is never indicated in the book of Revelation, it is most reasonable to conclude that the book was written prior to A.D. 70 when these destructive events were accomplished.
The next section deals with the expectation of war (judgment) that Revelation presents, and which is implicit in the theme of the book stated in 1:7. Gentry notes that this argument can be compelling for the evangelical (i.e. not compelling to someone rejecting the self-attesting authority of the Scriptures) who considers Revelation to be truly prophetic rather than a writing about the past in a way that "predicts" a future. Namely, if the Jewish War is in view of John in writing Revelation, then it is just to conclude he wrote the book prior to the events he is foreseeing. First of all, Gentry covers the ease of which interpretation lends itself to identifying John's remarks with the events of the Jewish War. After remarking upon some general correspondences he turns to the particular passages.
Revelation 6:3-4 emphasizes the disruption of "the peace." Gentry identifies this with the Pax Romana (Peace of Rome) that is marked of from 4 B.C. when Augustus finished his constitutional reforms until the reign of Nero in the A.D. 60s. Also in this text is an indication of civil war in "the land" (the literal rendering of "the earth"). Gentry cites Josephus's accounts of the calamities and carnage that was wrought against the Jews by the Jews themselves. He provides one quote, which I will reproduce here:
There were, besides, disorders and civil wars in every city; and all those that were at quiet from the Remans turned their hands one against another. There was also a bitter contest between those that were fond of war, and those that were desirous of peace. . . . [I]nsomuch that for barbarity and iniquity those of the same nation did no way differ from the Remans; nay, it seemed to be a much lighter thing to be ruined by the Romans than by themselves. (242-243)
Proceeding from here Gentry then looks at Rev. 6:5-6. This passage depicts a great famine, which coincides with the famine that occurred during the Jewish War. Again Gentry quotes Josephus for historical evidence of this fact. The next passage is Rev. 7:1-7, where the 144,000 are Providentially protected from the destruction. Gentry provides a quote from Eusebius that tells of the escape of Jewish Christians from Jerusalem right before the city was engaged in the War, or during one of its lulls. Epiphanies confirms the account of Eusebius in his own record of the account. Rev. 11:1,2 speaks about the treading of the Temple's courts, which evidence states above attests to well. Then Gentry refers to Rev. 14:19-20 where it speaks of blood up to the level of a horse's bridle, stretching for some 200 miles. Gentry considers this one of the most striking correspondences, and provides three quotations from Josephus in support:
[B]ut as many of these were repulsed when they were getting ashore as were killed by the darts upon the lake; and the Romans leaped out of their vessels, and destroyed a great many more upon the land: one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped. And a terrible stink, and a very sad sight there was on the following days over that country; for as for the shores, they were full of shipwrecks, and of dead bodies all swelled. . . .
. . . .
At which fight, hand to hand, fifteen thousand of them were slain, while the number of those that were unwillingly forced to leap into Jordan was prodigious. There were besides, two thousand and two hundred taken prisoners. . . . Now this destruction that fell upon the Jews, as it was not inferior to any of the rest in itself, so did it still appear greater than it really was; and this, because not only the whole of the country through which they had fled was filled with slaughter, and Jordan could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the lake Asphaltitis was also full of dead bodies, that were carried down into it by the river. . . .
. . . .
[I]n Jerusalem [the dead] obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood to such a degree indeed that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men’s blood. (245)
The final reference is Rev. 16:21, which speaks of hailstones weighing one talent apiece (one hundred pounds) falling from heaven upon men. Again Josephus provides an account that resembles this prophecy: Roman catapults threw stones that weighed one talent a length of two furlongs and further that looked white as the fell from the sky. Gentry finds the exact weight and description telling.
Beyond these references, Gentry also finds a correspondence of time frames between the Jewish War and the testimony of Revelation. To bolster his interpretation of the time frames as literal rather than symbolic he cites apocalyptic literature (which is much looser with symbolism than even Revelation) that has such literal time frames. The relevant passages from Revelation are 9:5, 10; 11:2, and 13:5. The first (9:5, 10) speaks of demons under the imagery locusts with painful stings, which most commentators agree are references to demonic oppression, which also corresponds to Matt. 12:38-45 where greater number of demons will return within the present generation. The time references regarding the demons occurs in vv. 5 and 10 - five months of torment without killing. Gentry sees this as referring to the final siege of Jerusalem by Titus in A.D. 70. The historical references show the time span of the siege to be a few days short of five months. The desperate nature of sieges attested to by Josephus (from whom he provides more quotes) leads Gentry to conclude that the reference is plausible. The second (11:2) is the passage concerning the destruction of the Temple, and the holy city, which will occur in 42 months, which is confirmed in the following verse by an equivalent numerical reference (1260 days, which is 42 times 30 days). Historical evidence shows that it took Rome almost exactly forty-two months (during A.D. 67-70) to position itself to destroy the Temple. Although the Jewish revolts itself began before A.D. 67 Gentry does not consider the events of A.D. 66 to constitute the beginning of judgment, since the Jews were largely successful in their revolts. It was not until Vespasian was appointed by Nero to execute war against Israel in Feb., A.D. 67 that a formal declaration of war was made. Just after this appointment by Nero was when Vespasian began his invasion of Israel from the north. The Temple was destroyed in late summer of A.D 70 after five months of withstanding the siege. From the time of this official declaration and imperial engagement until the destruction of the Temple is right at the symbolic figure of 1260 according to Gentry's calculations. Although the figure 3 1/2 does carry the symbolic importance of a broken 7 (the number of perfection) it also correspond to the actual time it took Rome to invade, conquer, and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. The third (13:5-7) speaks of 42 months given to the Beast to have authority and blaspheme against God, His name, and His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. Gentry remarks that several commentators consider the Beast here to be a reference to imperial Rome, which Gentry earlier defended by way of the various symbols of the hills and heads of seven. The Neronic persecution of Christianity was the first imperial persecution of the faith. The reference in 13:7-8 speaks of a persecution of saints. The duration of 42 months is almost exactly how long the persecutions of Christians under Nero lasted, Nov., A.D. 64 until near the death of Nero in June., A.D. 68.
So ends the very lengthy section three of Gentry's book. Section four deals with the evidence against the pre-A.D. 70 date that comes from Domitian, and section five is the conclusion and short appendix. These last two sections are considerably shorter than this one, and I hope to keep the summaries much shorter as well!