My paper was accepted for the Society of Biblical Literature Annual meeting in New Orleans in November. The paper will be in the program unit “John’s Apocalypse and Cultural Contexts Ancient and Modern.” The paper title and abstract is below. For time to time, I will post regarding progress on the paper.
Revelation 17:10-11: The Identity of the Seven Kings Through Roman Imperial Coinage
The identity of the seven kings in Rev. 17:10-11 is an enigma for interpreters of the Apocalypse. Frederick J. Murphy declared, “. . . the variety of solutions that have been proposed show that, even more than with the number 666, the impulse to ‘decode’ the seven kings is doomed to failure” (Fall Is Babylon, 360). This paper presents a more optimistic hope for success by proposing a new approach to this problematic passage: numismatic evidence.
Titus Flavius Vespasianus (38-81 CE) succeeded his father, Vespasian, on June 23, 79 CE. In becoming Augustus, Titus ruled for twenty-seven months (79-81 CE) and issued a series of unusual coins frequently labeled as “restoration” coins. These coins are always bronze (sestertius, dupondius, and as) and used motifs drawn from the past coinage of the Julio-Claudians. On these restoration coins, Titus honored four emperors from the past and then adds his father’s own special divus coins: (1) Augustus, (2) Tiberius, (3) Claudius, (4) Galba, and (5) Vespasian.
While scholars have speculated about where to begin and/or end the count of emperors, who to include, and who to excluded, the restorations coins solve the problem. The wide distributed and readily seen restoration coins bearing the images of these five emperors presents a natural identity for the fallen kings of the Apocalypse. The one who is, the sixth, therefore, represents the current emperor Titus, and thus helps to date the Apocalypse to his reign. The seventh, the one who has not come, was Domitian