Abomination of desolation

The abomination of desolation (or desolating sacrilege) is a term found in the Book of Daniel. It also occurs in 1 Maccabees and in the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament. The Hebrew term (transliterated) is šiqqǔṣ mišômēm (שִׁקּוּץ מְשׁמֵם); the Greek equivalent is τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως.


In both biblical and rabbinic Hebrew, the word "abomination" is a familiar term for an idol,[1] and therefore may well have the same application in Daniel, which should accordingly be rendered, in agreement with Ezra 9:1-4 "motionless abomination" or, also, "appalling abomination".[2] The suggestion of many scholars—Hoffmann, Nestle, Bevan, and others—that as a designation for Jupiter it is simply an intentional perversion of his usual appellation "Baal Shamem" ("lord of heaven") is quite plausible,[3] as attested by the perversion of Beelzebub into "Βεελζεβούλ" (Greek version) in Mark 3:22, as well as the express injunction found in Tosef., 'Ab. Zarah, vi. (vii) and Babli 'Ab. Zarah, 46a that the names of idols may be pronounced only in a distorted or abbreviated form.

Biblical occurrences


The phrase "abomination of desolation" is found in three places in the Book of Daniel, all within the literary context of apocalyptic visions.

And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate.
And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and shall take away the continual burnt-offering, and they shall set up the abomination that maketh desolate.
And from the time that the continual burnt-offering shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days.

1 Maccabees

According to 1 Maccabees 1:54, the abomination was erected on the altar of burnt offering.[4]

Now on the fifteenth day of [the month] Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah, ...

(The NRSV translates the phrase as "desolating sacrilege".)

... that they had torn down the abomination that he had erected on the altar in Jerusalem; and that they had surrounded the sanctuary with high walls as before, and also Beth-zur, his town.

Synoptic Gospels

In the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark, the term is used by Jesus in the Olivet discourse. In the Matthean account, Jesus is presented as quoting Daniel explicitly. In the Gospel of Mark, the phrase "spoken of by Daniel the prophet" is absent in the Codex Sinaiticus.[5]

So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
Mark 13:14 (ESV)

In Luke's version of Jesus' warning, the abomination is not mentioned, and the sign that it is time to flee Jerusalem is explicitly said to be that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies.

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the town depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it



Rabbinical literature

The rabbinical consensus is that the expression refers to the 168 BCE desecration of the Second Temple (Herod's Temple) by the erection of a Zeus statue in its sacred precincts by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (the flashpoint of the Maccabean Revolt).[6][7] Some rabbis, however, see in it an allusion to Manasseh, who is reported to have set up "a carved image ... in the house of God".[8][9]

Church Fathers

Church Father John Chrysostom understood this to refer to the armies that surrounded Jerusalem and the factions fighting within it which preceded the destruction of the city.[10]

Modern biblical scholarship

The 1 Maccabees usage of the term points to the actions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the mid-2nd century BC. Specifically, he set up an altar, probably to Zeus or Baal Shamem, in the Second Temple in Jerusalem and sacrificed swine on it around the year 168 BC.[11] Many modern scholars believe that Daniel 9:27, 11:31 and 12:11 are examples of vaticinium ex eventu (prophecies after the event) relating to Antiochus.[12][13]

While past scholars [14] have concluded that Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 are prophecies after the event about the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Roman general Titus,[15] modern scholars, sound logic, and more recent discoveries have placed the book prior to 66AD.[16] Some scholars, including Hermann Detering,[17] see these verses as a vaticinium ex eventu about Emperor Hadrian's attempt to install the statue of Jupiter Capitolinus on the site of the ruined Jewish Temple in Jerusalem leading to the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132-135 AD.


See also: Preterism

Preterists believe that Jesus quoted this prophecy in Mark 13:14 as referring to an event in his 1st century disciples' immediate future, such as the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD.[18][19]

One commentator relates the prophecy to the actions of Caligula c. 40 AD when he ordered that a golden statue depicting himself as Zeus incarnate be set up in the Temple in Jerusalem.[20] This prospect however, never came to fruition since he was assassinated in 41 AD along with his wife and daughter.[21]

Christocentric interpretation

Peter Bolt, head of New Testament at Moore Theological College, believes that the abomination of desolation in Mark 13 refers to the crucifixion of the Son of God; in other words, Jesus is referring to his own impending death.[22]

In his book, Discourses in Matthew, Lutheran theologian and professor of Systematic Theology and New Testament at Concordia Theological Seminary, Dr. David. P. Scaer, states,

Within the context of the Fifth Discourse, which focuses on Jesus' death and Jerusalem's destruction, the best explanation for "the desolating sacrilege ... standing in the holy place" is the crucifixion of Jesus at Golgotha (27:33). He is the "desolating sacrilege" and Golgotha is "the holy place".[23]


Interpreters with a futurist perspective think that Jesus' prophecy deals with a literal, end-times Antichrist. Futurists consider the abomination of desolation prophecy of Daniel mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 to refer to an event in the future, when a 7-year peace treaty will be signed between Israel and a world ruler called "the man of lawlessness" or the "Antichrist".

Premillennialist futurists like Arthur Pink in his work The Antichrist[24] attribute vast portions within the Old and New Testament to this future figure that will rise to global prominence politically, economically and militarily by setting up a governmental structure possessing sweeping powers over the affairs of mankind.

Mixed interpretation

Multiple fulfillments

Methodist theologian Adam Clarke and Anglican bishop Thomas Newton interpret the abomination of desolation as a proverbial phrase that could include multiple events "substituted in the place of, or set up in opposition to, the ordinances of God, his worship, his truth, etc."[25] This allows for some or all of the examples in the following (incomplete) list to be viewed as partial fulfillments of this prophecy simultaneously:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Joseph Smith–Matthew states (in verse 12) that the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel is the destruction of Jerusalem (first in AD 70). Later (in verse 32) it states that the abomination of desolation will be fulfilled again when Jerusalem is subject to much destruction before the Second Coming of Christ.[26]

See also


  1. I Kings, xi. 5; II Kings, xxiii. 13; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, beginning, and Mekilta, Mishpatim, xx. ed. Weiss, 107.
  2. "Abomination of Desolation - Jewish Encyclopedia". jewishencyclopedia.com.
  3. Singer, Isidore and Cyrus Adler (Funk and Wagnalls, 1916) The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, Volume 1 (page 80)
  4. Apocalypse Against Empire: Theologies of Resistance in Early Anathea Portier-Young - 2011 "The precise referent or form of the desolating abomination remains obscure, yet it appears closely connected with new sacrificial practices.26 According to 1 Maccabees 1:54, the abomination was erected on the altar of burnt offering.
  5. Codex Sinaiticus
  6. "Abomination of Desolation - Jewish Encyclopedia". jewishencyclopedia.com.
  7. See Apostomus.
  8. II Chron 33:7
  9. Yer. Ta'anit, iv. 68a, and Rashi on the passage in Babli, ibid. 28b.
  10. Iohannes Chrysostomus, Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/04z/z_0345-0407__Iohannes_Chrysostomus__Homilies_on_The_Gospel_Of_Matthew__EN.pdf.html
  11.  Ginzberg, Louis (1901). "Antiochus IV., Epiphanes". In Singer, Isidore; et al. Jewish Encyclopedia. 1. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. p. 635.
  12. Ronald S. Wallace, The Message of Daniel, IVP 1979.
  13. "Desolating sacrilege" in New Bible Dictionary (third ed), IVP.
  14. McNeile, A.H. (1927). An Introduction to the Study of the New Testament. Oxford: University Press. Chap. II part 2 The Synoptic Gospels – 2. Date.
  15. Matt 23:37-38; Matt 24:1-2,15-21; Luke 13:34-35; Luke 21:20-21
  16. "A Most Provocative Study: The Gospel of Matthew - Chuck Missler - Koinonia House". www.khouse.org. Retrieved 2016-08-26.
  17. Detering, Hermann (Fall 2000). "The Synoptic Apocalypse (Mark 13 par): A document from the time of Bar Kokhba" (PDF). Journal of Higher Criticism. 7 (2): 161–210. Archived (PDF) from the original on 27 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
  18. Craig Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, Apollos 1997, pp.322-326
  19. N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Fortress 1996, p. 348ff.
  20. Harvard University Press, 1976, ISBN 0-674-39731-2, The Crisis Under Gaius Caligula, pages 254-256:
  21. Coins of the Emperor Caligula
  22. Peter G. Bolt, The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel, New Studies in Biblical Theology, 18. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004.
  23. David P. Scaer, Discourses in Matthew: Jesus Teaches the Church (St. Louis, MO., Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 382
  24. Pink, Arthur W. (1923). "The Antichrist". biblebelievers.com. pp. Chapter 6, The Career of the Antichrist. Archived from the original on 7 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-25.
  25. "Commentary on the Bible by Adam Clarke: Daniel: Daniel Chapter 12". sacred-texts.com.
  26. "Bible Dictionary: Abomination of Desolation". Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 2011-12-15.

External links

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