Revelation 17:10 is a key verse in determining and understanding when the book of Revelation was written, and reads this way:
“There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.”
Here an angel is explaining to John the meaning of what he was shown in Revelation 17:1-6, summarized this way by the angel: “I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns” (verse 7). The angel says that the seven heads represent “seven mountains on which the woman sits” (verse 9) as well as “seven kings” (verse 10).
In our study of Revelation 17:7-18, written in late 2009, and also in this post from last year I listed the first seven emperors of Rome, using the list that was agreed upon by the ancient historians Josephus (Antiquities 18-19), Dio Cassius, and Suetonius:
 Julius Caesar (October 49 BC – March 44 BC; 4.5 year reign)
 Augustus (January 27 BC – August 14 AD; 13.5 year reign)
 Tiberius (August 14 AD – March 37 AD; 12.5 year reign)
 Caligula (March 37 AD – January 41 AD; 3.5 + year reign)
 Claudius (January 41 AD – October 54 AD; 13.5 year reign)
 Nero (October 54 AD – June 68 AD; 13.5 year reign)
 Galba (June 68 AD – January 69 AD; seven month reign)
As others have done, I identified Nero as the one who “is” and Galba as the one who had “not yet come” but would continue only “a short time.” That would mean that John wrote Revelation during Nero’s reign, before his death in June 68 AD.
A couple months ago, however, Patricia Watkins left a very intriguing comment under this post, in which she stated that the seven kings in Revelation 17 were not Roman emperors but instead Jewish high priests of the House of Annas, and that Revelation could not have been written after 62 AD. Here is her explanation:
…the following is used to prove a composition date prior to, but NO LATER than, AD 62. It involves the much-discussed list of kings on the scarlet beast of Revelation 17. The 6th king on the list of these seven kings of Revelation 17 is not nearly as important as the 7th king for the purpose of dating Revelation. I’m afraid the list of seven kings has absolutely nothing to do with the emperors of Rome, and everything to do with the HIGH PRIESTS OF THE HOUSE OF ANNAS. There were exactly seven of them, with an 8th, a grandson of Annas, who also served as high priest in AD 65-66.
Why should this particular family of high priests be distinguished from all other high priests who ever served? Because Annas, as the patriarch of this conniving, avaricious family that is excoriated in the Talmud for their corruption, was ultimately the one responsible for conspiring to put Christ to death. This family of high priests was the main feature of the rich man and Lazarus parable, which Christ gave as a condemning example of supreme greed. Caiphas, the son-in-law of Annas, played the role of the rich man. He wished to have Abraham send someone to “his father’s house” (which would be Annas and the temple) to warn him and Caiphas’ “five brothers” (Annas’ five sons, who also served as high priests, one after another, as they monopolized the high priesthood in the years leading up to the AD 70 era). Israel was, after all, called a “kingdom of priests” by God.
I can claim that these high priests are called “kings of the earth” (GE – the land of Israel – not kings of Rome) by quoting Christ Himself from Matthew 17:25: “Of whom do the KINGS OF THE EARTH take custom or tribute? Of their own children (sons) or of strangers (others)?” The entire thrust of Christ’s question to Peter was to demonstrate that Christ (who would become our high priest), as a true Son of His Father’s House (the temple), had every right to be exempt from paying the half-shekel temple tax collected by the agents of the “kings of the earth” – the high priests. These high priests and their sons were exempt from paying this half-shekel temple tax themselves – they were “free” from that obligation. To demonstrate His utter humility, Christ used the coin Peter pried out of the fish’s mouth to pay it anyway.
Using this true definition of “kings” as high priests, the list of kings in Rev. 17 and the rather odd language describing their actions aligns perfectly with the appointment and tenure of each of the seven and the 8th high priest coming from the House of Annas. Here is how Revelation 17 reads (with this understanding of “kings”/high priests in place), when it is held up side by side with a chronology of the dates of appointments for the high priests of the 1st century:
Revelation 17:8 – “The (scarlet) beast that thou sawest WAS” (in a position of power headed by the House of Annas from AD 6-44), “and IS NOT” (the House of Annas temporarily lost power after AD 44, which means Revelation has to have been written some time after AD 44) “and IS ABOUT TO ASCEND OUT OF THE BOTTOMLESS PIT” (the abyss being the equivalent of a state of death, as it is compared to in Rom. 10:7; by this we can see that the 7th king, Ananus son of Annas, was about to reinstate the power of the House of Annas when he came into office in AD 62) “and go into destruction” (since Ananus son of Annas would die in the Idumean-led attack on Jerusalem in AD 68).
Revelation 17:10 – “and there are 7 kings: five are fallen” (the first five high priests of the House of Annas would have died as of John’s writing; we know Jonathan son of Annas was murdered by the Sicarii around AD 55/56) “and ONE IS” (still living – which would probably be Matthias son of Annas, the youngest son), “and the other IS NOT YET COME” (into office), “and WHEN HE COMETH” (Ananus son of Annas was appointed as high priest in AD 62) “he must continue a SHORT SPACE” (because he was deposed after serving a brief three months. His offense was in overstepping the bounds of his office’s authority by executing James the Just, Christ’s half brother). “And the beast that WAS” (the House of Annas that was in power almost continuously from AD 6-44) “and IS NOT” (is not in power from AD 44-62 – which means John was writing Revelation at a time prior to AD 62) “even he is AN EIGHTH” (because the 7-member House of Annas briefly resurfaced again in AD 65 through the grandson of Annas, the high priest Matthias son of Theophilus) “and is OF THE SEVEN” (Matthias was in the genetic line of the House of Annas) “and goes into destruction” (because this Matthias was also murdered during the Zealot’s temple siege in AD 66).
To my mind, all of this above fits the description of Revelation 17’s group of seven and the 8th king so much better than the rather awkward fit of the list of 10 emperors that belong on the SEA BEAST. These seven and eight kings are actually on a different beast – the scarlet colored one in the wilderness (the wilderness is always indicative of Israel, not Rome). THIS MEANS THAT THERE ARE ACTUALLY A TOTAL OF THREE BEASTS IN REVELATION – not just two. The Sea Beast is Roman in origin, and the Land Beast (false prophet) and the Scarlet Beast are both Judaic in origin. There are too many differences between the Sea Beast and the Scarlet Beast for them to be one and the same. They are counterparts of each other.
Here are some reasons why I find at least most of Patricia’s suggestions convincing:
*Revelation 17:2, 18 speak of “the kings of the earth” drunk with the wine of the harlot’s adultery and under her rule. I was already convinced that these kings were religious rulers in Israel, because the “great city” (verse 18) is identified as Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8 and because “earth” can be translated as “land,” i.e. the land of Israel. This is also established by Jesus in Matthew 17:24-27 and by the apostles in Acts 4:26-27. So there is no stretch in seeing the seven kings in verses 10-11 as these same “kings of the earth.”
*Revelation 17:10 says that when the seventh king would come, he would continue “only a short time.” The seventh high priest was Ananus, who reigned as high priest in 62 AD for only three months because he was removed, as Patricia says, after “overstepping the bounds of his office’s authority by executing James the Just, Christ’s half brother.” See here for Josephus’ account of what happened when Ananus had James killed.
*The beast in Revelation 17 was in “the wilderness.” As Patricia points out here, the wilderness was commonly associated with Israel (e.g. Deuteronomy 32:9-10), not Rome. At first I was on board with the idea of three beasts in Revelation, but not anymore. This has caused me to take another look at the beasts in Revelation (two of them, I would say), and I’m now seeing that both beasts (from the sea and from the land) were Jewish and that neither one was Roman. I plan to post more on this topic in coming weeks.
*Jerusalem sat on seven mountains (Mt. of Olives, Mt. Zion, Mt. Scopus, Mt. of Offense, Hill of Evil Counsel, Northwestern Hill, Northeastern Hill), as mentioned in Revelation 17:9.
*Patricia makes a good point when she says elsewhere that “it never really sounded plausible to have this harlot, Mystery Babylon (which I was absolutely sure was Jerusalem, the great city who had killed the prophets, after comparing Rev. 18:4 with Luke 11:49-51 and Matt. 23:37), riding in a dominant position on top of the Scarlet Beast, if its 10 horns were Roman emperors, and its seven heads were Roman hills. Something didn’t sit quite right with that picture. It didn’t compute. Jerusalem did not sit on seven Roman hills, and she did not dominate the Roman emperors. But it is true that the great city Jerusalem had its own set of seven heads/mountains to sit upon (Mt. Scopus, Mt. Zion, Mt. of Olives, etc.).”
Here is the list of the seven high priests of the house of Ananus, and the years that they reigned. The five sons of Ananus are #2, #4, #5, #6, and #7:
1 Ananus (or Annas) the son of Seth (6–15 AD)
2 Eleazar the son of Ananus (16–17 AD)
3 Joseph, the son of Caiaphas (18–36 AD); he was the son-in-law of Ananus
4 Jonathan the son of Ananus (36–37 AD and 44 AD)
5 Theophilus the son of Ananus (37–41 AD)
6 Matthias the son of Ananus (43 AD)
7 Ananus the son of Ananus (62 AD)
One reason that this entire time period was significant is because the year 6 AD is also when Judea was named as a province of Rome. Annas I was the first High Priest of Roman Judea and his family dominated this office from that time until the Jewish-Roman War. Wikipedia introduces Annas I in this way:
Annas [also Ananus or Ananias] (Hebrew: חנן), son of Seth…was appointed by the Roman legate Quirinius as the first High Priest of the newly formed Roman province of Iudaea in 6 CE; just after the Romans had deposed Archelaus, Ethnarch of Judaea, thereby putting Judaea directly under Roman rule.
Josephus said this about Ananus and his legacy:
“It is said that the elder Ananus was extremely fortunate. For he had five sons, all of whom, after he himself had previously enjoyed the office for a very long period, became high priests of God – a thing that had never happened to any other of our high priests” (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities XX, 9.1).
Wikipedia gives this summary of Ananus and his family’s long hold on the office of high priest:
“Annas officially served as High Priest for ten years (6–15 CE), when at the age of 36 he was deposed by the procurator Gratus. Yet while having been officially removed from office, he remained as one of the nation’s most influential political and social individuals, aided greatly by the use of his five sons and his son-in-law Caiaphas as puppet High Priests.”
Bible History Online adds these details about the power that Annas wielded:
Annas, who’s name means “The grace of Jehovah” was the son of Seth and appointed high priest of the Jews in 6 A.D in his 37th year. He was high priest from 6 to 15 A.D. but as long as he lived he was the virtual head of the priestly party in Jerusalem…
Years afterward he lost the high priesthood, but even then he was popularly considered as still in office and was called “high priest”; even after Pentecost his name appears first in the list of priestly leaders:
Acts 4:5-7 “And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. ”
In John 18:19, 22 the high priest is undoubtedly Annas, although in vs. 13 and 24 Caiaphas is mentioned as the high priest. Annas is referred to in connection with the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry, which took place “in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas” (Luke 3:2 ), as though father and son-in-law were joint holders of the office…
When Jesus was arrested, He was first brought before Annas (John 18:13). It was apparently Annas who questioned Him about His disciples and His teaching, and who gave orders to one of the officers standing by to strike Jesus with his hand (18:19-22). After the questioning, he sent Jesus “bound” to Caiaphas [verse 24]…
He was undoubtedly the ruling voice in the council that condemned Jesus, although nothing is said about his part in the proceedings that followed the preliminary questioning. He was present at the meeting of the Sanhedrin before which Peter and John defended themselves for preaching the Gospel of the Resurrection (Acts 4:6)…
Also see Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, XVI11. ii. 1, 2; XX. ix. 1.
Another brother from Indonesia also holds the view that the seven kings of Revelation 17 were the Jewish high priests of the house of Ananus. He shares his thoughts here.
The Geneology website “Geni” happens to also list the eight family members of the House of Annas, at the end of this article, as follows:
The House of Ananus
- Annas ben Seth (6–15)
- Eleazar ben Ananus (16–17)
- Joseph ben Caiaphas (18–36/37), who had married the daughter of Annas (John 18:13)
- Jonathan ben Ananus (36–37)
- Theophilus ben Ananus (37–41)
- Matthias ben Ananus (43)
- Ananus ben Ananus (63)
- Matthias ben Theophilus (65-66)
What do you think about this view?