Abomination of Desolation

February 1, 2011

The following is a draft of an entry I am doing for the Lexham Bible Dictionary, which will be published by Logos Bible software.  (And, yes, this is the format in which Logos wants entry drafts submitted!)  Remember that this is copyrighted material.

*Abomination of Desolation (Heb shiqquts, “abomination”; shomem, “desolation”; Gk bdelugma, “something detestable, sacrilegious object”; eremosis, “desolation”) A specific description of the awful nature of the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem at two or three points in history. The origin of the phrase “abomination of desolation” is the Book of Daniel (9:27; 11:31; 12:11). During the Intertestamental Era it is used in 1 Macc 1:54.  The wording is also found in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in Matt 24:15 and Mark 13:14. Likely uses of the concept, though not the wording, are found in 2 Thess 2:3b-4 and Rev 13:14-15.*

!! Usage in Daniel. If an early dating of Daniel is accepted, the use in 11:31 prophecies the desecration of the Temple by the Greek King Antiochus IV in the second century BC, while 9:27 and 12:11 foresee an event (or events) at the end of the age. Scholarly discussions of Daniel have long swirled around whether it was written in sixth century BC, as portrayed in the book, or whether it was written in the Maccabean period (second century BC) by someone other than Daniel and made to look like prophecy, though it was actually after the fact. However, if supernatural biblical prophecy is accepted, there is no reason why the book could not have been written in the sixth century BC.

Most scholars agree that the abolishing of the daily Temple sacrifices and setting up of the “abomination of desolation” in Dan 11:31 is by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 BC.  The use in 9:27 occurs in the final “week” of the great “seventy sevens” prophecy.  Some scholars believe that portion has already been fulfilled, during the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans under Titus in AD 70.  Others hold that its fulfillment is still future today, in the end times.  The immediately preceding context of 12:11 speaks of a time of “tribulation” (LXX thlipsis) unparalleled in history (12:1) and bodily resurrection (12:2), as expected at the end of the age, and “the time of the end” (HCSB, 12:9). It thus appears that Daniel’s final prophecy of the “abomination of desolation” will be fulfilled in that time frame. 

!! Usage in the Apocrypha. The Maccabean Revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes was largely fueled by the setting up of a pagan altar in the holy place in the Temple in Jerusalem in 167 BC, as described in 1 Macc 1:54-64. The exact nature of the “abomination of desolation” (1:54) was a statue of the Greek god, Zeus. This was a particularly aggressive part of his campaign to force the Jews to accept the Greek culture, including their religion (i.e., Hellenism). In a period of a little more than three years, though, the Maccabeans pushed back the Greeks and purified the Temple, beginning sacrifices again, as predicted in Dan 8:13-14.

!! Usage in the Gospels. In the midst of Jesus’ sermon about when the Temple would again be destroyed (see Matt 24:1-3; Mark 13:1-4), both parallel Gospel accounts mentions “the abomination that causes desolation” (Matt 24:15; Mark 13:14).  Because Mark’s version may be focusing (see 13:2-3) more on the AD 70 destruction by the Romans, it is often understood that the wording “abomination of desolation” is thereby limited to the desecrating of the Temple at that time, most notably described by Josephus. In Matthew, however, since the apostles’ lead-in questions are in regard to “the sign of [Christ’s] coming and of the end of the age” (24:3), it is likely that the “abomination of desolation” there is either speaking exclusively of a time still future, or, in the view of others, has a double reference to AD 70 and the end times.

!! Usage in 2 Thessalonians and Revelation. Though neither 2 Thess 2:3-4 or Rev 13:14-15 uses the wording “abomination of desolation,” both likely allude to the end times fulfillment of the prophecies in Dan, Matt 24 and Mark 13 (see above).  In 2 Thess 2, Paul is correcting the false teaching of a letter claiming to have been written by him that said the end-times Day of the Lord was already in progress (2:2). He countered that one of the signs of the beginning of the Day of the Lord will be the revealing of “the man of lawlessness” (2:3, HCSB).  This wording probably refers to the Antichrist figure, and it is his self-exaltation by sitting “in God’s sanctuary” (Gk naos, “temple”), calling himself “God” that, in this context, is the outworking of the wording “abomination of desolation.”  Rev 13:14-15 may clarify 2 Thess 2, describing an animated image of the Antichrist figure (the beast), which all people are required to either worship or be killed.  If the majority dating of the Apocalypse, about AD 95, is correct, Rev 13 is also speaking of a still future event.

–A. Boyd Luter

!! Bibliography

Dale C. Allison, /The End of the Ages Has Come/ (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985). 

Gleason Archer, /“Daniel,”/ Expositor’s Bible Commentary, gen. ed. F.E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 7: 117-18, 139-40, 156.

G.R. Beasley-Murray, /A Commentary on Mark Thirteen/ (London: Macmillan, 1957).

G.R. Beasley-Murray, /Jesus and the Kingdom of God/ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986).

Craig Blomberg, /Jesus and the Gospels, Second Edition/ (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2009).

Desmond Ford, /The Abomination of Desolation in Biblical Eschatology/ (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1979).

Timothy J. Geddert, /Watchwords: Mark 13 in Markan Eschatology/ (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989.

Duane F. Watson, /“Antichrist,”/ Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, eds. R.P. Martin and P.H. Davids (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 50-53. 

David Wenham, /“Abomination of Desolation,”/ Anchor Bible Dictionary, gen. ed. D.N. Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), I: 28-31.

David Wenham, /The Rediscovery of Jesus’ Eschatological Discourse/ (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984).


2 Responses to “Abomination of Desolation”

  1. We are “the body of Christ,” and Christ is being beaten. By the world? No, by His own.

    1 Corinthians 3:16
    Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

    Here is wisdom; the abomination is the very last thing people would ever think, but never forget John 2; the best wine was saved for the end.

    How to know what the abomination of desolation is:

    To understand this desolation which is in plain sight, all we need to do is use simple math logic, but first we must know what the abomination makes desolate.

    What does the abomination make desolate? The whole sum of bible prophecy points to the sacrifice of Christ. It is the sacrifice of Christ that is made desolate, empty, and worthless. But by what? This is where simple math logic exposes the abomination that makes the sacrifice of Christ desolate, and it’s in plain sight.

    Let’s do the math:

    The meaning of Gospel = Good news

    To the church, good news = most will be lost and not make it

    They will continually site the scripture that says “narrow is the way, straight is the gate, and “few” be there that find it.”

    This interpretation is 100% opposite of Matthew 9:37 which states, “The harvest truly is great, but the “workers are few.” Simple math tells us the few that find the true gospel are the workers.

    Now for the sum of what the church is really saying when they tell you the false gospel of “most will not make it.”

    What the church is really saying is that what Adam did in the garden is BY FAR more fruitful than what Jesus did at the cross. Do the math. It’s zero faith in the power of Christ disguised as faith in Christ.

    Christ loses BY FAR over what Adam did according to the mouth of the church and the anomaly is, they make this = good news (gospel). Who would this belief be good news to? Satan? According to church doctrine, Satan wins BY FAR.

    The church’s own doctrine declares the sacrifice of Christ empty, desolate, and worthless.

    Do the math. 2+2 always = 4

    1 Corinthians 15:22 = True faith in the power of Christ
    Romans 5:14-19 = True faith in the power of Christ

    The church is preaching absolute zero faith in the power of Christ. To the church, Adam and Satan win BY FAR.

    The abomination that makes the sacrifice of Christ desolate; empty, is now seen.

  2. Duncan said

    Here is a little tidbit worth noting.

    That there are two different abominations of desolation in Daniel (one by Antiochus and one by Titus) was a recognized distinction in first-century Judaism. Josephus writes the following on this:

    Daniel wrote that . . . from among them [the four divisions of Alexander the Great’s Empire; cf. Dan. 8:8-14] there should arise a certain king that should overcome our nation and their laws, and should take away our political government, and should spoil the temple, and forbid the sacrifices to be offered for three years’ time. And indeed it so came to pass, that our nation suffered these things under Antiochus Epiphanes, according to Daniel’s vision, and what he wrote many years before they came to pass. In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them. All these things did this man leave in writing, as God had shewed them to him, insomuch that such as read his prophecies, and see how they have been fulfilled, would wonder at the honour where with God honored Daniel.22 (emphasis mine)

    The above quote is both interesting and informative. Josephus is attributing the transgression of desolation of Daniel 8:9-14 (and presumably 11:31) to Antiochus IV. If the 2,300 evening-mornings of Daniel 8:14 (NASB) are taken as 1,150 days (i.e., 2,300 evening and morning sacrifices at 2 sacrifices a day equals 1,150 days) it equals the 3 years that Josephus references in regards to Antiochus’ abomination (as opposed to the 3½ years of the 1,290 days of Daniel 12:6-11). In contrast, Josephus is attributing the abomination of desolation of Daniel 9:26-27 and 12:11 to the Roman desolation of the Jewish nation in AD 70.

    Notice how Josephus subtly minimizes Titus’ responsibility in his discussion. While he attributes the spoiling of the Temple in the second century BC to Antiochus, the desolation of the Jewish nation in AD 70 is attributed in a more general manner to the Romans, not to Titus. Daniel 9:26 does lend itself to this minimization, however, as it says “the people of the prince to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.”

    That Josephus wrote of two different abominations of desolation (without feeling the need to give much elaboration) would seem to indicate that it was not an uncommon distinction in first-century Judaism. This would explain how it was that Jesus was prophesying an abomination of desolation within his generation (Matt. 23:15, 34). Jesus was referring to the abomination of desolation of Daniel 9:27 and 12:11, the one that would result in the destruction of the Temple (Dan. 9:26) and shattering of the Jewish nation at the AD 70 end of the old covenant age (Dan. 12:6-7; cf. Matt. 24:13).

    Notice that Josephus did not regard the book of Daniel as a second-century pseudo-prophecy; rather, he saw it as a true and wondrous ancient prophecy written by Daniel many years before the events it describes happened. This supports our proposition that first-century Jews saw Daniel as containing very real prophecy that directly related to events in their time.23

    Duncan McKenzie, The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, 232-234.

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