Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Location: Ellis BS 2825.53.O73 2002
In Osborne’s introduction to his commentary on Revelation, he begins with a bold statement. Revelation, though difficult to interpret, is easier than the Gospels. His reason is that source-critical problems are largely absent (Osborne 2002, 1). Symbolism, structure, and interpretive framework remain as challenges. As to an interpretive framework, Osborne thinks that Revelation is neither entirely preterist nor futurist. Current situations described in the Bible frequently are used to encourage readers that God’s grace will be evident in future times as well.
Significant early Christian authors considered Revelation to be written by the apostle John (Osborne 2002, 2). There is some possibility that Papias and Eusebius identified two different people named John in Ephesus, one the apostle and another who was an elder. However, Papias’ statement is not entirely clear and Eusebius’ is based on Papias (Osborne 2002, 3). Osborne rejects the idea of Revelation as a pseudonymous writing. Those generally hearkened back to a historical figure from the more distant past and tend to be very specific in their claims of authorship. For instance, he would expect it to say outright that it was written by John the apostle of Jesus (Osborne 2002, 4). The grammar and tone of Revelation are significantly different from the Fourth Gospel. These could be explained by the different genres and experiences involved in composition, though. The theological emphases likewise could well be a matter of the difference in genre. Osborne finds sufficient significant similarity to conclude that John’s Gospel and Revelation do come from the same author (Osborne 2002, 4).
Revelation was dated variously by early Christian authors as having been written during the reigns of Claudius, nero, Domitian, or Trajan. Through most of the history of commentary, scholars have favored Domitian (81-96), though in the 19th century Nero (54-68) dominated the discussion (Osborne 2002, 6). Osborne weighs the evidence based on a number of features of the book.
Some form of emperor worship was in play at the time of Revelation. This makes Domitian a fairly likely candidate. “The imperial cult was apparently much more developed in Domitian’s day than it was in Nero’s time” (Osborne 2002, 7).
Persecution of Christians is also an issue in Revelation. Churches apparently had some stability but were enduring persecution, primarily from the Jews (Osborne 2002, 7). Roman persecution does not appear to be a primary concern for the present time but is feared in the future. While nero was known for persecution of Christians, Domitian was not. Nero’s persecution was centered in Rome, not in Asia, thus leaving this as a fairly open question. Osborne is clear that there were incidents of Roman persecution, but does not think they were systemic and widespread at the time of Domitian (Osborne 2002, 8).
Revelation chapters 2-3 discuss the situations of various churches. Osborne finds a number of references in these letters to events during the reign of Domitian rather than Nero (Osborne 2002, 9). However, the date is unclear.