Abomination of Desolation

Abomination of Desolation
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The abomination of desolation (or desolating sacrilege) is a term found in the Hebrew Bible, in the book of Daniel. It also occurs in the book of 1 Maccabees and in the New Testament gospels.

The Hebrew term (transliterated) is šiqqǔṣ mišômēm (שִׁקּוּץ מְשׁמֵם); the Greek equivalent is: τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως.


Biblical occurrences

Hebrew Bible

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

Daniel 9:27 (ASV) "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."
Daniel 11:31 (ASV) "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."
Daniel 12:11 (ASV) "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."


The term is used by Jesus Christ in the Olivet discourse, according to both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark. In the Matthew account, Jesus is presented as quoting Daniel explicitly. In the Gospel of Mark, the phrase "spoken of by Daniel the prophet" is absent in earlier manuscripts including the Codex Sinaiticus.[1][verification needed]

Matthew 24:15-26 (ESV) "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."
Mark 13:14 (ESV) "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."

This verse in the Olivet Discourse also occurs in the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 21.20-21 (ESV) "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…"

Notice that Luke uses the phrase Jerusalem surrounded by Armies in place of the Abomination of Desolation [standing where it ought not to be] in Matthew and Mark. Some commentators, including Church Father St. Chrysostom, hold that the Abomination of Desolation is used as a synonymous title for the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem.[2] (See Preterism)


In both Biblical and rabbinical Hebrew abomination is a familiar term for an idol,[3] and therefore may well have the same application in Daniel, which should accordingly be rendered, in agreement with Ezra, ix. 3, 4, "motionless abomination" or, also, "appalling abomination." 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, as is attested by the perversion of Beelzebub into "Βεελζεβούλ" (Greek version) in Mark, iii. 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 (see the examples quoted there).


Rabbinical literature

The rabbis as a whole consider that the expression refers to the desecration of the Temple by the erection of a Zeus statue in its sacred precincts by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.[4][5] Some rabbis, however, see in it an allusion to Manasseh, who, as related in II Chron. xxxiii. 7, set up "a carved image … in the house of God".[6] The Aggadah narrates that two statues were erected, one of which fell over upon the other and broke off its hand. Upon the severed hand the following inscription was found engraved: "I sought to destroy God's house, but Thou didst lend Thy hand to its protection".[7]

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 to Zeus in the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and sacrificed swine on it around the year 167 BC. Many modern scholars believe that Daniel 9:27, 11:31 and 12:11 are a prophecy after the event (or vaticinium ex eventu) relating to Antiochus.[8][9] (see Dating of the Book of Daniel).

Many modern Biblical scholars[10] conclude 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[11] (see Dating of the Gospel of Mark).

"When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city." Luke 21:20-21


Preterist Christian commentators 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.[12][13]

when you (Jesus' 1st cent. disciples) see the abomination of desolation standing…then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains", Mark 13:14

Some commentators, such as Church Father St. Chrysostom, have understood this to refer to the armies that surrounded Jerusalem and the factions fighting within it which preceded the destruction of the city.[2] In St. 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.

Jeffrey White delivered a sermon at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City called "Living in the Last Days", in which he argues the "abomination" refers to the conquering Roman invaders in 70AD marching their flag standards into the Temple and into the Holy of Holies and proceeding to worship their God Caesar's image that was emblazoned on their standard. It was Caesar and his invading army responsible for the desolation of Jerusalem.[citation needed]

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.[14] This prospect however, never came into fruition since he was assassinated in 41 AD along with his wife and daughter.[15]

Some scholars, including Hermann Detering[16] see it as another 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 rebellion of 132-135 AD.

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 at the hands of the Gentiles.[17]


Some other interpreters with a futurist perspective think that Jesus' prophecy deals with a literal, end-times Antichrist.

Futurist Christians consider the "Abomination of Desolation" prophecy of Daniel mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 as referring to an event in the end time future, when a 7 year peace treaty will be signed between Israel and a world ruler called "the man of lawlessness", or the "Antichrist" affirmed by the writings of the Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians.

Premillenialism-style futurists like Arthur Pink in his classic work The Antichrist[18] attribute vast portions within the Old and New Testament to this future figure.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

The Joseph Smith translation of Matthew states (in verse 12) that the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel is concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (first in AD 70). Later in the text of the translation (verse 32) it states that the abomination of desolation will again be fulfilled when Jerusalem is again subject to much destruction before the second coming of Christ.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ http://www.sinaiticus.com/
  2. ^ a b 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
  3. ^ I Kings, xi. 5; II Kings, xxiii. 13; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, beginning, and Mekilta, Mishpatim, xx. ed. Weiss, 107.
  4. ^ Abomination of Desolation, Jewish Encyclopedia
  5. ^ See Apostemos.
  6. ^ Yer. Ta'anit, iv. 68a, and Rashi on the passage in Babli, ibid. 28b.
  7. ^ Ta'anit, 28b et seq.; compare Rabbinovicz, "Variæ Lectiones," on the passage for variant readings.
  8. ^ Ronald S. Wallace, The Message of Daniel, IVP 1979.
  9. ^ "Desolating sacrilege" in New Bible Dictionary (third ed), IVP.
  10. ^ 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. http://www.katapi.org.uk/NTIntro/SynopGospel2.htm#IVIntEv. 
  11. ^ Matt 23:37-38; Matt 24:1-2,15-21; Luke 13:34-35; Luke 21:20-21
  12. ^ Craig Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, Apollos 1997, pp.322-326
  13. ^ N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Fortress 1996, p. 348ff.
  14. ^ Harvard University Press, 1976, ISBN 0-674-39731-2, The Crisis Under Gaius Caligula, pages 254-256:
  15. ^ GAIUS (Caligula)
  16. ^ 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. http://www.radikalkritik.de/Mk13%20JHC.pdf. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 
  17. ^ Peter G. Bolt, The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark’s Gospel, New Studies in Biblical Theology, 18. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004.
  18. ^ Pink, Arthur W. (1923). "The Antichrist". biblebelievers.com. pp. Chapter 6, The Career of the Antichrist. http://www.biblebelievers.com/Pink/antichrist08.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 

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  • Abomination of Desolation, The — • Spoken of in St. Matthew, xxiv, 15, and St. Mark, xiii, 14 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

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  • désolation — [ dezɔlasjɔ̃ ] n. f. • XIIe; bas lat. desolatio 1 ♦ Littér. Action de désoler, de ravager (un pays); son résultat. ⇒ calamité, destruction, dévastation, ravage, ruine. « Ils pleuraient la mort de leurs proches et la désolation de leur pays »… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Desolation, The Abomination of — • Spoken of in St. Matthew, xxiv, 15, and St. Mark, xiii, 14 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

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