Reference to the ‘abomination of desolation’ occurs in Daniel 8:13; 9:27, Matthew 24:15, and Mark 13:14. In the two New Testament texts, the reader is advised to refer to Daniel’s reference to the ‘abomination’, in order to understand its meaning. Due to this advice, many people believe that the ‘abomination of desolation’ has the same meaning in all four passages. However, there is evidence that the two references to the ‘abomination of desolation’ in Daniel do not have the same meaning, and that the two New Testament references are directing the reader to one, not both, of the passages in Daniel.

In Daniel 8 the ‘abomination of desolation’ occurs in a vision of a ram and a goat fighting. The text indicates that the ram represents the Persian empire (Daniel 8:20), and the goat represents the Greek empire (Daniel 8:21). For this reason, early Jewish expositors (including Josephus), understood the ram to be the Persian empire, the goat to be the empire of Alexander the great, the four horns (Daniel 8:8) the generals who succeeded Alexander’s empire, and the little horn (Daniel 8:9) to be Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  The 2,300 ‘evenings and mornings’ (Daniel 8:14) were understood as literal days during the reign of Epiphanes. Early Christian expositiors followed this same interpretation.  Hippolytus (200), Aphrahat (c. 350), Ephraem (306-373), Jerome (340-420), and Polychronius (c. 430), all understood the little horn to be Antiochus Epiphanes, the abomination of desolation to be the desecration by Epiphanes, and the temple as the literal temple in Jerusalem duing that time.  Throughout the following centuries, this remained a common interpretation, and it is typically followed by modern critical scholars (see UBS Handbook on the Book of Daniel, Forms of the Old Testament Literature: Daniel, and College Press NIV Commentary: Esther & Daniel).

The ‘abomination of desolation’ appears in the context of the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (2nd century BCE), and is therefore not likely to be the same ‘abomination of desolation’ of which Jesus speaks in the New Testament, since Jesus was referring to an ‘abomination of desolation’ which was still future.

In Daniel 9, the ‘abomination of desolation’ occurs in the context of the ’70 weeks prophecy’ (Daniel 9:24ff.), which specifically mentions the Messiah (Daniel 9:26). This indicates that the prophecy is more likely to be that referred to by Jesus in the New Testament. Reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by an invading army (Daniel 9:26-27), also indicates that this is the same passage to which Jesus was making reference in the ‘Olivet Prophecy’ of Matthew 24 and Mark 13, where he also warned of the destruction of Jerusalem. Interestingly, a 2nd century CE Jewish exposition (Seder Olam Rabbah), interprets the ‘abomination of desolation’ in Daniel 9 as the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.

The 70 weeks prophecy is not mentioned explicitly by any of the gospel writers when describing  the birth of Christ, and it is not clear even from Matthew’s gospel whether or not the wise men from the east were prompted by their knowledge of this prophecy.  However, both Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 use a Greek phrase for ‘the abomination of desolation’ which is identical to the same phrase used for the ‘abomination of desolation’ in the ancient Greek translation of Daniel 9:26. These three passages all use the phrase ‘βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως’, whereas the phrase for the ‘abomination of desolation’ in Daniel 8:13 is different, ‘ἁμαρτία ἐρημώσεως’. This confirms that Jesus was referring to the ‘abomination of desolation’ in Daniel 9:26, and was referring therefore to the future destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies, the ‘abomination of desolation’. This is confirmed by reference to Luke, where he uses the phrase ‘Jerusalem surrounded by armies’ instead of the phrase ‘abomination of desolation’ (Luke 21:20).

Modern commentaries such as the New International Commentary of the New Testament typically understand the ‘abomination of desolation’ referred to by Jesus as a reference to the Roman armies of 70 CE, without necessarily connecting the description of the ‘abomination of desolation’ in Daniel 9. This interpretation of the ‘abomination of desolation’ referred to by Jesus was held by Christian expositors from a very early date, and remained the majority interpretation for centuries, as the following list shows.

190    Tertullian
c. 194    Clement
c. 230    Origen
306    Lactantius
330    Eusebius
373    Athanasius
385 (d.)    Gregory of Nyssa
401    Sulpicius Severus
407 (d.)    John Chrysostom
340-420    Jerome
354-430    Augustine
438-533    Remigius
730    Bede
776-856    Rabanus
1070    Theophylact
1556    John Jewel
1652    George Herbert
1655    John Tillinghast
1656    George Fox
1662    Edward Bagshaw
1674    Increase Mather
1677    John Crowne
1640-1704    Benjamin Keach
1748    John Gill
1785    Ralph Churton
1802    Nehemiah Nisbett
1805    John Jortin
1808    Joseph Towers
1816    George Wilkins
1823    Bielby Porteus
1828    Edward Irving
1829    Alexander Campbell
1830    Alfred Addis
1838    W Chauncy
1838    H Clissold
1840    G Hare
1840    Daniel Smith
1843    WM Marsh
1849    O’Malley
1850    Brown of Edinburgh
1850    John Wilson
1852    Samuel Turner
1856    DD Buck
1856    Horace Hastings
1857    John Puckle
1857    James Aitken Wylie
1860    John Cumming
1861    Hollis Read
1863    William Newcombe
1869    Benjamin Franklin
1877    Richard Greene
1882    Bourchier Savile
1883    JJ Cleveland
1883    Henry Coleridge
1886    Homersham Cox
1887    Robert Smith
1902    Lyman Fisher
1918    EP Cachemaille
1918    G Lancaster
1918    Oscar Joseph
1918    William Manley
1953    Wilbert Sunderwith

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25 Responses to What is the “abomination that causes desolation” spoken of by Daniel and Jesus?

  1. skyskrapa88 says:

    Again, John was the main writer in Revelation (lol), but late in the book he (?) came with, “I, Jesus have sent my angel to tell you these things for the churches…” Did Jesus come down from heaven to write that? Or was John being sarcastic lol

  2. Your Daddy says:

    Islam is the abomination that causes desolation

    • Col C says:

      I tend to believe that the man of lawlessness, the one who sets himself up as god, could come from the religion of Islam, it does seem to be spreading rapidly in the world.

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