Mark Zaveson sent me an e-mail this week that centered on a discussion concerning the Bible and the accuracy of the scriptures. The authorâ€™s intent was to review and promote a book whose author attacked the common historical revisionism that is around concerning Jesus specifically and the Bible in general.
“Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those with nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.”
This passage and particularly the phrase “…the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place,” are not found in Luke 21 in the remarks made to the disciples at the Temple. However, as with the last posting, it should be studied and included in order to complete the accounting and to understand the signs and statements given by Jesus. It is listed above from Matthew’s account, and is also found in Mark 13.
To place things correctly, it is imperative that learners should read and study the 8th chapter of Daniel. As Jesus made reference to the exact language Daniel had used, it is a required place to start in identifying the context of the remarks both here and in Luke chapter 21 or elsewhere. I will not print the text here, but I will make a few light remarks with enough force of argument attached to them so that those who have an interest might have cause to read and study the entire passage further.
The critical portion in Daniel 8Â concerning the warnings of Jesus as found in Luke 21 and elsewhere, is mostly interpreted in the text itself, which is convenient. I will suggest that those remarks and their transposition into the discourse of Matthew must be retained true to the original context and within its interpretation, because rules mean something and because context in any examination is bound by reasoned rules.
The abomination (or transgression) of desolation in Daniel 8 specifically leads away from the times following the death of Alexander the Great when there was turmoil in the Macedonian Empire, and to subsequent specific incidents where the temple and altar in Jerusalem were despoiled. That must be noted immediately and the thought maintained throughout.
Following Alexander’s death, Perdiccas, the guardian of Alexander’s children, attempted to accede to the throne of Macedon, but was unsuccessful. Another attempt was soon made by Antigonus; and following his and some other intrigues, the Grecian Empire was eventually divided into four portions under command of the generals Cassander (receiving Macedonia, Achaia and Greece), Lysimachus (Asia, being Asia Minor), Seleucus (Syria and the eastern empire), and Ptolemaeus or Ptolemy (Cyrene, and then Egypt and Northern Africa). These divisions are amply described and alluded to in Daniel’s vision. As most historians note, the descriptions of the tribulation and desolation which in time followed those events, are sufficient to denote and lead directly to identifying the doings of Antiochus Epiphanes and his desecration of the Temple and defilement of the daily sacrifices.
Therefore, allowing for a scarcity of space and for applied detail here, but knowing with a surety the soundness of the interpretation, I must maintain that Jesus was using language immediately familiar to those who knew the Old Testament prophets and who knew of the relatively recent history of Judea up through the time of the Maccabees. The people to whom he was speaking that day knew these things.
His intent was to note to the disciples that when they should see a similar advance against the city and then against the Temple (this time under the guiding hand of the Roman legions), that they should flee. That was the warning here recorded with more detail than was listed by Luke.
The Romans surrounded and laid siege to Jerusalem for about two years. They eventually sacked the city and occupied the Temple area, and they (including the Tribune Titus) entered and thereby desecrated the Temple and the Holy of Holies. They set fire to it all. These events were dutifully and faithfully recorded.
There was nothing mysterious or hidden in what happened there. And there was certainly nothing that could be directed to end-times as is commonly conceived, beyond the end times that were roaring dead at Israel, Judea and Jerusalem. The context is and must be interpreted as pressing upon those to whom these things were directly stated. The described events would soon be on the horizon for that audience, not some other. The quoted discourse simply demands that basis for interpretation.
This is the center and heart of the reference made by Jesus as recorded in Matthew’s, Mark’s, and Luke’s account. And necessarily, I would have to suggest, that thus far, within the context of the corroborating text and by identifying the elements of the narrative, there is simply no viable alternative to it. I have found nothing to this point to suggest otherwise, and there is no other valid foundation yet present for another interpretation that can be based upon the narrative and its particulars with all the signs and details duly considered.