Edited versions of Bible dictionary entries

February 28, 2011

(Note: 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. The use in Dan 11:31 prophecies the desecration of the Temple by the Greek King Antiochus IV in the second century BC, while Dan 9:27 and Dan 12:11 foresee an event (or events) at the end of the age. 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 Dan 9:27 occurs in the final “week” of the great “seventy sevens” prophecy.  Some scholars believe that passage 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 Dan 12:11 speaks of a time of “tribulation” (LXX thlipsis) unparalleled in history (Dan 12:1) and bodily resurrection (Dan 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. Antiochus Epiphanes set up a pagan altar in the temple in Jerusalem in 167 BC (1 Macc 1:54–64). Later sources say that this “abomination of desolation” (1 Macc 1:54) was a statue of the Greek god, Zeus, though it is impossible to verify this assertion. 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 Jesus’ sermon about when the Temple would again be destroyed (see Matt 24:1-3; Mark 13:1-4), both parallel Gospel accounts mention “the abomination that causes desolation” (Matt 24:15; Mark 13:14).  Mark’s version may be focusing (see Mark 13:2-3) more on the AD 70 destruction by the Romans, with “abomination of desolation” being limited to the desecrating of the Temple at that time, as described by Josephus. In Matthew, however, since the apostles’ questions are about “the sign of [Christ’s] coming and of the end of the age” (Matt 24:3), it’s likely that the “abomination of desolation” refers to both 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 probably 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 saying the end-times Day of the Lord was in progress (2 Thess 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 Thess 2:3, HCSB).  This wording refers to the Antichrist figure.  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 clarifies 2 Thess 2, describing an animated image of the Antichrist figure (the beast), which all people are required to worship or be killed. 

–A. Boyd Luter

!! Bibliography

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

Archer, Gleason L., Jr. “Daniel,” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Gen. Ed. F.E. Gaebelein Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985: 7: 117-18, 139-40, 156.

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

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

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

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

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

Hays, J. Daniel, J. Scott Duvall and C. Marvin Pate. “Abomination of Desolation,” in the Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.

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

Wenham, David. “Abomination of Desolation,” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, Gen. Ed. D.N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992. I: 28-31.

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

*First Fruits (Heb bikkurim, “first-ripened,” resit, “first” [i.e., “beginning”], sometimes “choicest”; Gk aparche, “first-fruits”) The first, and best, part of the harvest of crops or processed produce, as well as firstborn son and animals, including the wool of sheep. The term “first fruits” also refers to ceremonies required in relation to the initial portion of the harvest. Both senses of priority and best quality are present in the regulations of the Mosaic Law related to first fruits.  With this literal usage as background, Israel as a nation, the believing remnant within Israel, the 144,000 in Revelation 14, Christians in general, certain individual Christians, Christ and the Holy Spirit are all referred to in Scripture figuratively as “first fruits.*

!! The Literal Usage in the Old Testament. The concept of “first fruits” was a crucial aspect of putting the Lord first in every part of life for Israel. That included the harvest, the shepherding of flocks, and child-bearing, especially in regard to the feasts and sacrificial system of the Law of Moses. This is seen clearly from one of the first uses in the Hebrew Bible: “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your land to the house of the Lord your God” (Exod 23:19, HCSB).  Both bikkarim and resit are used here, with the meaning being something like “the best of the best.” Ultimately, the firstfruits were used for the support of the Levitical priests, as their inheritance among God’s people (Deut 18:4). Deut 26:1-11 specifies how individual first fruits offerings were to be brought before the Lord.

Of special note are the wave offering and its companion festal offering. During Passover, all Israelites were to “bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest” for him to “wave the sheaf before the Lord” (Lev 23:10-14, HCSB). This is referring to the barley harvest, which began several weeks before the wheat harvest.  Exod 34:22 tells of the bringing of the first fruits of the wheat harvest during the feast of Pentecost, which is elsewhere called “the day of firstfruits” (Num 28:26, HCSB).

!! The Lone Figurative Usage in the Old Testament. The only non-literal use of “first fruits” in the entire Hebrew Bible is in Jer 2:3.  Early in his ministry, Jeremiah announced to Judah: “Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of His harvest” (HCSB). The mention of holiness infers that the primary meaning intended is that Israel is best in quality spiritually.  However, the sense that Israel might only be the initial part of the Lord’s spiritual harvest cannot be excluded.

!! The Figurative Usage in the New Testament. Eight inclusions of aparche in the New Testament, all in the Epistles and Rev, cover a surprisingly wide range of subjects called “first fruits.” The nuance of best from the Old Testament usage is seen in Jas 1:18, where Christians are called the “firsfruits” of God’s creation. The remaining uses all emphasize the shade of meaning of the “first part of a larger harvest.” Christ being raised from the dead is the “first fruits” of the future resurrection (1 Cor 15:20, 23).  Paul calls Epaenetus and the household of Stephanas “the firstfruits of Achaia” (i.e., among the first to believe in Christ in southern Greece [Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:15, HCSB]).  In Rom 8:23, the Holy Spirit is the “first fruits” of all the spiritual riches believers will have in the presence of the Lord.  Paul is here employing aparche interchangeably with arrabon (“earnest, down payment”) elsewhere (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:14).

The remaining two uses play off the only figurative use in the Old Testament (Jer 2:3).  In Rom 11:16, the believing remnant (“firstfruits”) of Israel is said to be “holy,” echoing Jer 2:3. A few verses later in that context, the promise is laid out that a time will come when “all Israel” in 11:26a “will be saved” and made holy (11:26b-27). More (but not less) than the end-times conversion of (at least much of) Israel is in view in Rev 14:4. The 144,000, earlier said to be Israelites (7:4-8), are described as having been “redeemed from the human race (i.e., all humankind) as the firstfruits for God and the Lamb” (HCSB). This is just before the mention of “the eternal gospel” (14:6) and the final two-sided harvest of salvation (14:14-16) and judgment (14:17-20).  This final preaching of the gospel before the end fulfilling Matt 24:14 will result in the climactic spiritual harvest of human history to complete the “firstfruits.”

–A. Boyd Luter

!! Bibliography 

Burge, Gary M. “First Fruits,” in the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Eds. G.F. Hawthorne, R.P. Martin, and D.G. Reid. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993: 300-01.

Edersheim, Alfred. The Temple: Its Ministry and Services. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958.

Gerig, Wesley L. “First Fruits,” in the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Gen. Ed. W.A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988. I: 791-92.

Ridderbos, Herman. Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Transl. J.R. DeWitt. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975.

Rigsby, Richard O. “First Fruits,” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, Gen. Ed. D.N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992. II: 796-97. 

Rigsby, Richard O. “Firstfruits.” in the Dictionary of the Old Testament, Eds. T.D. Alexander and D.W. Baker. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003: 313-15.

Walker, Larry. “Firstfruits,” in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, gen. eds. C. Brand, A. Draper, and A. England. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2003: 577-78.




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