Re: Rev 6.6 and edict of Domitian

From: Otto Nordgreen (
Date: Tue Oct 01 1996 - 08:06:47 EDT

Greg Carey - Religion wrote:

>I'm not sure about Otto's response to my first point (that Rev 6:6 and its
>context point to an imminent future), but we may simply be talking past one

My point is that it's quite possible that Rev 6:6 does reflect Domitian's
edict from the year 92 CE, even if the text was written ca. 94/95 CE - as
normally hold! This because

(1) John's could have 'antedated' his work to the reign of Vespasian, viz.
the king "who is". Thus (the context of) Rev 6:6 can point to an imminent
future, and still have been written after the actual event!

(2) John could also have used the event of 92 CE. as a kind of discourse for
his prophecy. Thus, we can say that we only find the edict of Domitian
*indirectly* in Rev 6:6. This is what I tend to believe.

(3) The whole book of Revelation points to an imminent future - according to
the so-called 'prophetic perspective'

Now, according to J. N. Kraybill, _Imperial Cult and Commerce in John's
Apocalypse_ (JSNTSup 132, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), the

"price of grain here [ie. Rev 6:6] seems to indicate severe inflation, and
the cry not to damage oil and wine may relate to an edict of Domitian in 92
CE. In that year the Empire experienced an abundance of wine and a shortage
of grain. Domitian forbade anyone to plant more vineyards in Italy and
ordered provincials to destroy at least half of theirs. Had they obeyed
Domitian's order, wealthy provincials who owned commercial vineyards might
have lost income. Grain would have been cheaper for provincials, however, as
more land reverted to production of staple foods. Domitian never enforced
the edict, apparently fearing the wrath of people invested in the wine
business" (pp. 147f.)

For more information, see: J. Court, _Myth and History in the Book of
Revelation_ (Atlanta: John Knox, 1979). pp. 59-60.

>Otto did ask about Hemer, who does associate Rev 6.6 with Domitian's decree.
>(Hemer had little literary or rhetorical sophistication, but he was a tireless
>researcher.) Here's the citation: Colin J. Hemer, THE LETTERS TO THE SEVEN
>Academic Press, 1986) 158-59, see also notes 21-25.
>The Suetonius quote is: Ad summam quondam ubertatem vini, frumenti vero
>inopiam, existimans nimio vinearum studio neglegi arva, exidit, ne quis in
>Italia novellaret, utque in provinciis vineta succiderentur, relicta ubi
>dimidia parte; nec exequi rem perseveravit (Dom 7.2; Hemer n. 22).
>My Latin is atrocious, so figure it out for yourselves! If you need the rest
>of Hemer's many sources, I'll forward them in another post (no Latin).

Hemer tried to adduce reasons for believing that Rev 6:6 in fact does allude
to the edict of Domitian from the year of 92 CE. He connects this with the
contemporary setting of the letter to Philadelphia.

Interesting enough, even C.C. Torrey who advocated a pre-70 date for the
Apocalypse, saw this as a strong evidence for a Domitianic date. Thus, he
saw an allution to the edict of Domitian in the text of Rev 6:6. However, in
order to maintain the Neronic date of the book, he argues that a parallel
action might have been taken by other emperors as well. This, however does
not seem very likely -- if there is an allution to an edict, it is most
likely that Rev 6:6 is referring to the Domitianic edict of 92 CE. But there
is no way for us to be sure here. But it's possible!!

Perhaps we have to consider who - or what - the text of Rev 6:2-6 actually
means, in order to explore John's meaning(s).

Thanks to you (!), Greg, for following up on this. I hope we here from Juan
as well, an that you are able to understand what I try to say...

        - Otto

         Otto Nordgreen
         Department of Germanic Studies,
         University of Oslo, Norway

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