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I started this blog when I was following the Life Journal Bible reading plan on YouVersion. (I've since completed that plan.) At that time, YouVersion didn't provide any way for people to respond to my notes, other than to "like" them. So this blog is here to remedy that problem. You may comment on my notes here in the comment section.
I also have a general blog.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What was the Abomination of Desolation of Matthew and Mark?


S: Matthew 24:15-30 “So when you see the abomination of desolation – spoken about by Daniel the prophet – standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. The one on the roof must not come down to take anything out of his house, and the one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen. And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe him. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Remember, I have told you ahead of time. So then, if someone says to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe him. For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

O: What is this “abomination of desolation”? Daniel 11 & 12 first spoke of this: His forces will rise up and profane the fortified sanctuary, stopping the daily sacrifice. In its place they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. — Daniel 11:31. This prophecy was fulfilled when Antiochus IV Epiphanes tried to wipe out the worship of Yahweh and instituted idol worship in the Temple: On the fifteenth day of the month of Kislev in the year 145, King Antiochus set up The Awful Horror on the altar of the Temple, and pagan altars were built in the towns throughout Judea. — 1 Maccabees 1:54 (This quote is from the Good News Translation, unlike the other quotes, which were from the New English Bible, because the NET doesn't have the deuterocanonical books. “The Awful Horror” is GNT's translation of “the abomination of desolation.”

When I first read this passage in comparison with the historical records of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, it puzzled me, because the Romans destroyed the Temple -- they didn't set up pagan worship there like Antiochus did. Some theorized that it may have been the Roman Eagle being brought into the Holy of Holies.

However, by the time the Roman Eagle was brought into the Holy of Holies, it was too late to take Jesus' advice to flee. You would already have suffered through the horrible siege of Jerusalem.

The solution to this puzzle may be in the parallel passage from Luke. Unlike Matthew and Mark, he didn't write “Abomination of Desolation”. He wrote, “And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived." — Luke 21:20.

Ah! This suddenly makes more sense! Luke was writing to a Gentile audience, while Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience. Mark was the “Readers' Digest” Gospel — the earliest one, quickly produced so that the believers would have some kind of written account. So Luke took more time to explain certain Palestinian Jewish idioms of the time — one of which is that what Jesus meant by “when you see the abomination of desolation” was “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies”.

Image taken from here

This, then, also explains why the Christians fled Jerusalem when they saw the Roman armies starting to encircle Jerusalem, instead of staying to fight like patriotic Jews. Partly as a result of this, the non-Christian Jews regarded them as traitors.

A: There are many passages which are puzzling in the Bible. It's not surprising, because it's such a big collection of books, and was written in a different time centuries ago and in a different culture. Things that were obvious to its original audience could easily be puzzling to us here and now.

So, we shouldn't be dismayed when we come across stuff we have difficulty understanding. There are many websites out there that discuss various difficulties. And of course, there may be things that nobody knows right now.

P: Father, thank You for Your Word. When we have difficulty understanding various passages from it, help us to understand, and be at peace when we don't understand. In Jesus' name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

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