Abominations of desolation WhyProphets.com
Summary Antiochus - who?


Antiochus - who's he?

This page is about a great confidence trick that is often played on readers of the Bible. Many Bible commentaries try to say that Daniel's prophecies are all about an ancient Greek General called Antiochus IV. The Bible disagrees - the context, the details and the numbers are all wrong.

Another page deals with how this and other myths became popular.


Antiochus IV was a Seleucid - a successor to one of the generals who took over when Alexander the Great died. He was king of Syria between 175 and 164 BC. He was a strong Helleniser and had many victories. He once came into serious conflict with the Jews, as recorded in the apocryphal books of 1 and 2 Maccabees. It would be only reasonable for the Maccabees to liken Daniel's prophecy to themselves (though they do not do so explicitly), just as later Protestants applied it to the Medieval Catholic church. But that does not mean that either theory is a genuinely good scriptural fit. Historically, Antiochus is a poor fulfillment of the prophecy.

Does Antiochus fit the description of the "little horn" in Daniel 8?

The horn was not mighty by his own power (verse 24).

But if the phrase means anything, Antiochus was mighty by his own power. He was not supported by anyone else, and did not make any more than the usual claims to divine favour. He was simply an effective king and general.

The horn was to destroy the holy people (verse 24).

Antiochus did not. He offended them and killed some, but did not destroy the entire people. A better candidate for that prophecy would be the Roman and European persecutions beginning in AD 70.

The horn was to "destroy wonderfully" ("succeed in whatever he does" - NIV).

Antiochus, in contrast, had his share of humiliations. For example, when In Alexandria, the Roman ambassador Laenas forced Antiochus to evacuate Egypt and Cyprus. The Britannica describes this episode as a "public humiliation". When he stamped his authority on Jerusalem, he was beaten by the Maccabees after initial successes.

The horn is motivated by pride, specifically against the God of Israel (according to the usual interpretation of verse 25).

But to Antiochus, opposition to the faithful Jews was not his motivation. Strong leadership was. Indeed, he had to be heavily bribed by the pro-Greece faction within Israel to replace the High Priest Menelaus with the Helleniser Jason. It was this Jason who captured Jerusalem in 169, while Antiochus was away in Egypt. It made sense then for Antiochus to capture the city on his return - just to clear up the mess. The fact that he sacrificed to his Greek gods does not imply any special hatred of the Jews - he did the same thing in other cities he had conquered. When he finally died, in Iran, it was taken as a judgement not for what he did in Jerusalem, but for attempting to loot the shrine of Nanaia in Elam (in modern Iran).

The decisive evidence used to link Antiochus with the little horn is the 2300 day prophecy.

But this is the weakest link of all. Antiochus did not set up his abomination for 2300 days, but for 1095 days (the Pagan altar was set up on 25th Kislev 168 BC and taken down on the same date in 165 BC). Fans of the Antiochus theory fudge the issue by dividing each day into two (evenings and mornings, give 1150), and inventing an extra two months somewhere (to take the number down to 1095).

The plain fact is that 1095 does not equal 2300. The 2300 prophecy was fulfilled precisely, clearly and dramatically in just the way that Daniel described, and had nothing o do with Antiochus or any other minor king.

Antiochus did not set up an abomination of desolation

Not only did Antiochus not control the temple for specified time, his actions do not even fulfil requirements of an "abomination of desolation".

First, the phrase "Abomination of Desolation" appears to mean desolation AS A RESULT OF abominations or transgressions (see Daniel 8:12). Antiochus' actions were the other way about - abominations THAT CAME AFTER the desolation.

Second, the use of the phrases "abomination" and "desolation" always refer to wickedness on behalf of Israel, not wickedness by her enemies.

In summary, a perfect example of an abomination of desolation was the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The abominations of Israel led to the nation being overrun by her enemies. Antiochus' activity was not the same kind of thing at all.

The Antiochus theory says more about the interpreters than about the scripture.

Applying a major prophecy to an ordinary king is a cheap trick. Kings throughout history have led complicated political lives, so it shouldn't be hard to find almost any verse fulfilled in some way by almost any king - or at least by his son or grandson or generals or... All it took to make Antiochus (or any other individual) fit the bill was a very detailed history book and a lot of patience.

Antiochus is entirely out of place

All the predictive chapters in Daniel apparently cover the same period, the major empires from Daniel's time to the end. The very same sequence (apart from the sections already fulfilled) is repeated in Revelation. Any reference to a minor character like Antiochus would be a huge anomaly:

Antiochus is irrelevant

Daniel is talking from the point of view of the kingdom of God. While Israel in the second century BC was no doubt very important for the people who lived there, from a prophetic viewpoint it hardly deserves a mention. The last prophet had died two hundred years earlier, the next was not due to arise for another two hundred years. Temple worship, though it still continued, was just a shadow of what it could have been. The land was in apostasy already - the Maccabee victories were important from a nationalistic viewpoint (although short-lived), but that is all.

WHY did the Antiochus theory arise?

To answer that question, you have to think like a cunning devil:

So look at it from the Devil's point of view: if he can get us to accept the Antiochus version, then he has undermined our faith in Daniel, and thus in the Bible as a whole. Similar efforts have been made to undermine the Book of Revelation by suggesting that "the beast" was the emperor Nero, even though Nero does not fulfil the prophecies. Fortunately, it does not take much reading to see that the whole Antiochus idea has very shaky foundations indeed.

Other excuses for supporting Antiochus:

The attempt to identify Antiochus is all part of the efforts to discredit Daniel as a late forgery - written long after the events it describes. A favorite piece of "evidence" is the references to "Darius the Mede", who is otherwise unknown to modern scholars. But this so-called "problem" rests on two false assumptions:

  1. that modern scholars have second witnesses for practically every detail of ancient history (so they can be certain that no kings or alternative names for kings could possibly be missed)
  2. that a forger working in the second century BC would make mistakes with his own recent history. A very shaky foundation for slandering Daniel!

WHEN the theory became popular

Like so many other false theories, it began in a period of apostasy. After the Old Testament prophets had all died, faithful historians tried to apply scriptures to their own times. Nothing wrong with that, but some of the opinions of the time stuck. An Alexandrian Jew wrote 1 Maccabees, describing Antiochus' persecution of the Jews in the second century BC. 1 Macc.1:54 uses language a way that recalls Daniel's prophecy.

Later scholars (not prophets) played word games to fill in the gaps.

"The altar was erected to Zeus Olympios, the Hebrew rendering of which name was ba'al samayim. ...By a change of the first word and a pun on the second this Aramaic title for 'Lord of Heaven' was contemptuously reduced to siqqus somem, meaning 'abomination of horror' or 'abomination of desecration.'"

Although both Matthew and Luke apply the phrase to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and thus Antiochus is either irrelevant or not unique, this does not bother the fans of Antiochus. Antiochus, despite not fulfilling the prophecies, suits those who wish to reject the fact of the Great Apostasy. So the majority of traditional Christian interpreters now accept the Antiochus myth as fact.

the bottom line

Sorry to undermine a popular theory, but this obscure Syrian king is not the subject of these majestic prophecies.


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