Caligula and Antiochus Epiphanes

23 Jul

from Google images

I believe the reign of Caligula, emperor of Rome (37-41 AD), is underrated, as far as related events in the New Testament is concerned. Understanding what actually occurred in Jewish history at that time puts the persecution following the death of Stephen and what brought about its end (cf. Acts 9:31) in proper perspective.  There was a lot happening during these few years in Jewish history that remind me of the period of Antiochus Epiphanes who desecrated the Temple, which gave rise to the revolt of the Maccabees, cir. 168 BC.

Just before the days of the Maccabees the corruption of the high priesthood had become so prevalent that the Temple duties of the priests had been ignored in favor of spending time in the gymnasium, bowing to Hellenism. In other words, the desire to become like the nations around them was so intensified among the Jews that true worship of God had been virtually abandoned. In fact, to accentuate his displeasure with his people, the Lord allowed or perhaps caused Antiochus IV to sacrifice swine’s flesh upon the brazen altar in the Temple at Jerusalem, thus polluting it and officially ending worship in the House upon which God had placed his name. I like the manner in which this is described in the words of the writer of the second book of the Maccabees:

2 Maccabees 5:19-20 KJVA  (19)  Nevertheless God did not choose the people for the place’s sake, but the place far the people’s sake.  (20)  And therefore the place itself, that was partaker with them of the adversity that happened to the nation, did afterward communicate in the benefits sent from the Lord: and as it was forsaken in the wrath of the Almighty, so again, the great Lord being reconciled, it was set up with all glory.

In other words, as the people go, so goes the Temple of God. Therefore the abomination that polluted the Temple occurred long before official deed of Antiochus IV. The religious revolution among the dueling high priests at this time had taken away the hearts of the people from God and caused them to seek to become like the nations around them, thus, ignoring the Covenant they had made with the Lord.

Back to the first century AD, a few years before and extending into the reign of Caligula, Annas, the high priest, had initiated a persecution of Messianic Jews, thus making war against the true worshipers of God, simply because they were so devoted to the Lord. I don’t mean to imply the unbelieving Jews didn’t worship God, but I do mean to say Annas was not among them. Annas’ persecution began with the stoning of Stephen and the expulsion of Hellenist Messianic Jews from Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-3), and pursuing them even to cities outside Judea (Acts 9:1-2; 26:11).

I often wonder about our tendency to leave God out of history. It seems to me that the real reason that historical developments take the shape they do can often be explained in the fact that we tend to leave God out of our knowledge, which included our understanding of historical events (cf. Romans 1:28). What I mean is, what do we really understand about Jewish history between the time of Stephen’s death in Acts 7 and the death of Herod Agrippa of Acts 12?

All the Scriptures tell us is that there was a persecution, but it doesn’t say how effective or widespread it was. We are told of evangelistic efforts (Acts 8), Paul’s conversion (Acts 9), Peter’s preaching to Cornelius, a gentile (Acts 10), Peter having to explain himself due to his receiving Cornelius as a believer without circumcising him, and an almost parenthetic remark about the Hellenist believers getting as far as Antioch with the Gospel (Acts 11), and the death of James the Apostle, Peter’s expulsion from Jerusalem and the death of Herod Agrippa (Acts 12). More than this we are not told, and this period covers approximately 10 years! Did anything really important occur that we have to read into the text in order to receive the full impact of what God is saying to us?

Unrest in Egypt began over the Jews’ exemption of having to practice the emperor cult, whereby statues of Caligula were placed within their places of worship. This ensued into riots with the result that many Jews were killed. In probable retaliation, Jews rose up in defiance of the emperor cult in Jamnia, a city in Palestine, near the coast and just south of Lydda and Joppa, and destroyed an imperial altar there. When news of this incident reached Caligula, he decided to erect a statue of himself in the Temple at Jerusalem. Meanwhile, an anti-Jewish backlash among the gentiles began to spread throughout the gentile cities in Palestine. What does all this mean?

What had occurred in history is only implied in the Scriptures with: “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified…” (Acts 9:31). Rome and Jerusalem were brought to the brink of war during Caligula’s reign, and war would have indeed occurred had Caesar placed the images of himself in the Temple at Jerusalem. If we allow for the working of God in the historical developments of this time, what may we conclude?

What I see is, Annas was seeking to wipe out the Jesus movement in Judea and beyond. God retaliated by threatening to wipe out the Jewish nation (cf. Luke 21:20-21), if things persisted as they were. The Jerusalem government left off its persecution of the Messianic believers (Acts 9:31) in order to pursue peace with Rome. This may also imply that Luke wrote his Gospel at this time and presented a copy to Theophilus, the then reigning high priest in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 1:1-4). By the thousands Jewish families flocked to Ptolemias just north of Caesarea, where the Roman legate of Syria, Petronius, was wintering his troops, planning to erect the statues of Caligula in the spring of 39 AD. It is only through his wise efforts to calm the tumultuous situation that Rome and Jerusalem didn’t come to war at this early date. Once the persecution was lifted, so was the Lord’s threat to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple 30 years earlier than it occurred.

What, therefore, do Caligula and Antiochus Epiphanes have in common, as their reigns pertain to the Jews? Both reigned during a time when the Jewish nation was abandoning its God and breaking covenant with him. The first gentile ruler officially desecrated the Temple, while the second planned to do so. Both rulers were involved in the emperor cult that required worship from those they ruled. Many scholars associate Daniel’s prophecy of the abomination of desolation with Antiochus Epiphanes. In reality, however, it has more to do with the corrupt priesthood in Jerusalem during both times in Jewish history. If this is logical, and we allow for the presence of God in history, the corrupt priesthood, responsible for the Jews war with God in the persecution of his disciples, brought about Caligula’s decision to set up images of himself within the Temple compound at Jerusalem. Thus, implying the corrupt authority that boasted itself above the authority of God was an abomination that eventually brought desolation to both Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.


This study has been modified from its original to comply with my present understanding of God’s word.


Posted by on July 23, 2010 in Kingdom of God, Religion, Wrath of God


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10 responses to “Caligula and Antiochus Epiphanes

  1. Eddie

    September 27, 2015 at 14:10

    Greetings Shari and thanks for your continued interest in our discussion.

    I wrote: “As I understand it, if Jesus actually **took away** the daily sacrifice that took place in the Temple, it would be wrong for believers to participate in ceremonial sacrifices. Since the nascent Church actually participated in Temple worship, I conclude that Jesus didn’t take away the ‘ceremonial’ daily sacrifice. ”

    What I meant by the above is this. The ceremonial offering (Exodus 29:38-42) was offered every morning and every evening without fail. This was not ceased by Jesus’ sacrifice at the time of his crucifixion or at the time he presented himself to the Father (as the Wave Sheaf Offering was offered at the Temple in Jerusalem). None of those things ceased, and the Jewish church continued to participate in those ceremonial forms of worship. What did end? Jesus’ life was ended. The Septuagint referred to him as “my Sacrifice and Drink Offering” (Daniel 9:27). Paul once described himself as a (possible) ‘drink offering’ when he thought he might be killed for the name of Christ (Philippians 2:17; 1Timothy 4:6) – Thayer’s Bible Lexicon defines G4689 as a ‘drink offering’. The ceremonial offerings typified a greater offering. It was the greater Offering (Jesus) who was taken away (Daniel 9:27; 12:11). The ceremonial offering remained. The word of God at Daniel 9:27 and 12:11 refers to the greater Offering (Christ) being take away from the land of the living—killed. This should also explain what I mean in the unclear 2nd paragraph. I hesitate to go further and undo the clarity I ‘think’ I see in this paragraph. :-)

    “All things come together…” in the Wave Sheaf Offering. That is Jesus was crucified on the 14th of the first month (Passover Day). He was buried just before sundown the same day he died. He rose from the dead on the 18th of the 1st month, just after sundown, when the offering was being harvested by the priests to “wave” before the Lord in the morning. These same bundles of grain were tied together on the 14th just before sundown while Christ was ‘bound’ to the cross (this understanding comes from Unger’s Bible Dictionary, which I thought interesting). In the morning, just after sunrise or about 6 AM according to our measurement of time, the priest offered the Wave Sheaf Offering. At that moment Jesus was taken into the presence of the Father (cp. Judges 13:19-20) and presented himself—the Sacrifice for humanity, and was accepted.

    That is, although Jesus was crucified—his sacrifice took place—three days prior to this, his sacrifice was accepted at this moment in time—after his resurrection (cir. 12 hours later). The 1260 days end on the 14th and the 1290 days begin on the 18th. They comprise the final week of the 70 Weeks Prophecy, and one would expect they would take place one immediately following the other. The problem is that, while Jesus spent 3 days in the grave, time, as far as the 70 Weeks Prophecy is concerned stood still. It is as though the three days and three nights between the two periods of time didn’t exist, but we know they do. The Father immediately accepted Jesus’ offering, although it actually took place three days prior to the Father’s approval. Maybe I shouldn’t have even mentioned this point. It is hardly that important.

    Let me know if I am clear to you on these points. Lord bless you Shari and thank you for your continued interest in these things and your patience with me concerning clarity.

  2. librarygeek

    September 26, 2015 at 17:50

    You wrote: “As I understand it, if Jesus actually **took away** the daily sacrifice that took place in the Temple, it would be wrong for believers to participate in ceremonial sacrifices. Since the nascent Church actually participated in Temple worship, I conclude that Jesus didn’t take away the ‘ceremonial’ daily sacrifice. ”

    So I think I understand you to mean that the issue isn’t about whether the event in Daniel 12:11 (and Dan 9:27) is about Jesus sacrificial death – you believe that is what it is referencing. The issue is with the meaning of “taking away”? In Daniel 9:27 the word translated as “putting an end to” (NIV) or “causing to cease” (KJV) is actually H7673 – shâbath. I thought that interesting because although it does mean to put away or cause to cease, it also is about resting from something & keeping the sabbath. The word use in 12:11 is definitely more final sounding though.

    As for your 2nd paragraph, I have to admit I lost your drift. I think that I understand you to say that the fine line in our disagreement is whether Jesus took away the daily sacrifice with His sacrificial death & rising to the Father, or if Jesus – as the embodiment of the daily sacrifice – was “taken away.” (Do you mean by dying or by ascending to the Father?) My only argument with it meaning Jesus being taken away is the strong word used for taken away – the translations seem to translate it as “to remove, get rid of, take off, be abolished”. But my dictionary also translates it as “to turn away, or to be rejected” which seems to work better when speaking of Christ.

    But what do you mean by “All things come together here no matter when they actually took place?”

    And what do you mean by “Effectively it is as though the three days and three night between the crucifixion and the Wave sheaf offering never occurred?”

  3. Eddie

    September 26, 2015 at 11:35

    Thank you, Shari, for your interest in my studies. I appreciate our little discussion.

    Jesus is the fulfillment of all sacrifices done in the Temple. So, when the ‘Wave Sheaf’ offering was accepted by God in the person of Jesus, it formally declared the crucifixion worthy of saving mankind. The Septuagint’s rendering of Daniel 9 shows that the Messiah, Jesus, was the Sacrifice or Daily Sacrifice that was “taken away” in the person of Jesus–he was “taken away” and killed–he was the embodiment of the Daily Sacrifice, as he is the embodiment of it all. Yet, the ceremony continued; nothing was taken away in the ceremony until 70 AD, and there is nothing wrong with the ceremonial worship taking place in the Temple even though it had been fulfilled in Christ. As I understand it, if Jesus actually **took away** the daily sacrifice that took place in the Temple, it would be wrong for believers to participate in ceremonial sacrifices. Since the nascent Church actually participated in Temple worship, I conclude that Jesus didn’t take away the ‘ceremonial’ daily sacrifice.

    Concerning Daniel 12:11, I think our disagreement on this issue is a very fine line. The Father’s acceptance of Jesus as the Wave Sheaf Offering was a formal acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice at his crucifixion. All things come together here no matter what time they actually took place. Jesus presented himself to the Father after his resurrection and at the time of the Wave Sheaf Offering (cir. 6 AM –roughly 12 hours after Jesus actually rose from the dead). Everything comes together here at this point in time–when the Father formerly accepted all Jesus had done in our stead. This included even those things Jesus did throughout his public ministry; everything comes together here, and from this point onward the 1290 days begin, because Jesus, the embodiment of the Daily Sacrifice, was accepted at this time and, if accepted at this time, was formerly “taken away” at this time. Effectively, it is as though the three days and three nights between the crucifixion and the Wave Sheaf Offering never occurred. But they had to occur, because Jesus predicted they would happen, and be the “sign” given his enemies that he was the Messiah.

    I’m not certain, I’m as clear as I should be here, so I’ll wait for your response in order to see what else must be discussed.

    Lord bless you, Shari.

  4. Eddie

    September 26, 2015 at 10:54

    Greetings Shari, and don’t be concerned about my time. I consider it an honor to discuss the word of God with you, especially since our discussion is over something I said about the word of God. We can do this as long as you like and for whatever you like.

    “The 1290 days ended with the total rejection of Jesus in unbelief by the Jewish authorities. They were given sufficient time to repent, but they preferred man over God. This is the abomination that makes desolate. It was set up when the high priest, the leader of the people, rejected Christ and commanded the stoning of Stephen on the Day of Atonement in 34 CE. Thus, both the 1260 days and the 1290 days end in the shedding of blood.”

    I regret that I’m not very clear. I’ll have to try harder to be sure of it. Other folks have said similar things about what I write. Notice in the above quote that the main idea is the rejection of God and following man’s ideas. The stoning of Stephen is a result of that decision. The abomination, itself, is the rejection of God (rebellion), and the embodiment of that is the high priest. He’s the leader of the movement away from God, and you are correct in the next paragraph; it is Annas, the high priest–according to my studies. Other folks often have other ideas.

    I hesitate to say **why** Jesus veiled what he said. I merely pray for and concentrate on understanding what Jesus said. However, in this case I do have an opinion based upon the history of the nascent church. Perhaps Jesus was very clear to his disciples, and it is actually his disciples who veil **some** of the things Jesus said. Nevertheless, whether it was Jesus or the disciples who aren’t clear, we need to remember that one cannot simply write out something against the current powers and expect not to be punished for doing so. Many things are veiled in the Gospels, and there is no good reason for the mystery, unless one is seeking to hide something from certain people. For example, in the parable of the rich man and “Lazarus”, why does Jesus (or Luke) veil the name and office of the rich man? He is wearing the clothing of the high priest. Moreover, in Luke 16:27-28 he mentions five brethren, which could be a reference to the six sons of Annas (one being a son-in-law) and without mentioning his grandson and son of Theophilus, Matthias, who was the final high priest before the rebellion against Rome. Why did Jesus (or was it Luke) veil this? Is it because one needs to be careful about some of the things one says, especially what one writes, if one wished to stay alive? Jesus showed he was careful about where he was and what he said and did during his ministry, because he wanted to be in full control of how his ministry ended. If he wasn’t careful, he would have given the enemy power to do what they would have liked to do before Jesus wanted to let that happen. One could say something similar concerning what the disciples said and wrote later. It is not normally pointed out, but there was a lot of political intrigue going on in the days of Jesus’ ministry and the nascent church.

    One couldn’t or shouldn’t anticipate the setting up of the abomination, otherwise one would act out of a sense of fear and flee before the event. Setting up the abomination expressed itself against only the Hellenistic believers (i.e. the liberal believers). Luke shows in Acts 8 that the Apostles weren’t affected. That didn’t come until four exchanges of high priests (3 of them Annas’ sons). It wasn’t until Matthias officiated as high priest during the reign of Herod Agrippa (Acts 12) that the Apostles (the moderate believers) were affected. The extreme conservative believers were the last affected when Ananias’ officiated the office and James, the Lord’s brother, was killed. One needed to be careful what one did and said while in Jerusalem at any time, but especially when one of Annas’ sons officiated the office of high priest.

    We don’t know how clear Jesus may have been when speaking to the Apostles about such things as the ‘abomination’. Nevertheless, whether it was Jesus or the writers of the New Testament who were mysterious, dependence upon the Holy Spirit was necessary to understand the meaning of things said. Of course, at times even the veil wasn’t a really good veil, and it could be understood by the enemy, but, because it wasn’t clear to the people, no action could be taken, as in the case of Jesus’ parable about the vineyard (Matthew 21:28-41) and the stone the leaders rejected (Matthew 21:42-46).

    Hope this helps, Shari, and the Lord bless you in all your studies.

  5. Librarygeek

    September 26, 2015 at 00:29

    The Septuagint translation of Daniel 9:27 is indeed clearer. Thank you. I believe my NIV translation infers “the temple” into the phrase “wing of the temple” because I see it is in brackets.

    Concerning the Daily sacrifices and how you no longer believe Jesus took away the Daily sacrifices, doesn’t the timeline of the last week of the 70 weeks prophecy sort of hang on when the daily sacrifice is taken away in Daniel 12:11? I looked up the word used in 12:11 for Daily sacrifice & Strong’s reference S8548 is the same word in Dan 12:11 as in Exodus 29:38 when God sets up the daily sacrifices.

    In your earlier Stephen blog, in which you were FOR believing Christ took away the daily sacrifice, your reasoning seemed sound to me: “The 1290 days (Daniel 12:11) began at the time of the ‘Wave-Sheaf’ offering on Nisan 18, 31 CE…. It represented Jesus’ sacrifice and our Father’s acceptance him, thus sanctifying the ‘harvest’ of mankind. No further sacrifice was needed (Hebrews 10:18), so in effect the daily sacrifice at the Temple was taken away when the Father received Jesus’ sacrifice on this day.” There were so many sacrifices – the daily sacrifice was just one small portion thereof. It doesn’t seem to me that Paul & others sacrificing in the Temple would be vain worship after Christ did away with the daily sacrifice, any more than our sacrifices now of our resources to offer back to God are vain worship.

    (If you think this question belongs better in your blog entry for Stephen’s death and the 70 weeks prophecy, you can move this there. But as you still seemed to believe Christ removed the Daily sacrifice with His atoning sacrifice, I thought it might confuse other readers.)

  6. Librarygeek

    September 25, 2015 at 23:36

    Hello! I’m not sure that you said that Stephen’s death was the abomination but that was the jist I got from your post about Stephen’s Death & the 70 weeks prophecy:

    “The 1290 days ended with the total rejection of Jesus in unbelief by the Jewish authorities. They were given sufficient time to repent, but they preferred man over God. This is the abomination that makes desolate. It was set up when the high priest, the leader of the people, rejected Christ and commanded the stoning of Stephen on the Day of Atonement in 34 CE. Thus, both the 1260 days and the 1290 days end in the shedding of blood.”

    But I think I hear you saying in your above answer that Annas was essentially the Abomination standing in the temple. Or at least Annas is the embodiment of that abomination, right?

    To go back to my question above, why did Jesus use such veiled references in His warning? How would His followers recognize that this was the abomination and they should flee Jerusalem? If Annas is the embodiment of that abomination, then does He mean – every time Annas or one of his sons rules in the Temple it is time to flee Jerusalem? Where does Jesus tell what the abomination is so they can act on His warning?

    Thanks for taking the time on all these rapid fire questions. I’ll continue to break them up so we don’t lose track of which answers go with which questions. And I appreciate you taking time out from your current studies to go over some of your older studies with me.

  7. Eddie

    September 25, 2015 at 09:26

    Thanks again, Shari, for reading and for your comment.

    Concerning Daniel 9:27, you are not alone in wondering about all those “he’s”. Moreover, I’m told the Hebrew at this point is a little obscure. I know I used to believe that Jesus took away the sacrifices through his sacrifice at Calvary, but I don’t think this is true. Certainly, the sacrifices continued to be offered until 70 AD, and even Jewish Christians, including Paul, made sacrifices in the Temple. I hardly think their worship was vain.

    I like the way the Septuagint translates the Hebrew at Daniel 9:27, and it may contain a truer version of the meaning of the text:

    Daniel 9:27 And one week shall establish the covenant with many: and in the midst of the week my sacrifice and drink-offering shall be taken away: and on the temple shall be the abomination of desolations; and at the end of time an end shall be put to the desolation.

    Notice the words: “My Sacrifice and Drink-Offering shall be taken away…” This is Jesus and the event is the crucifixion. He was “taken away” (killed), but God raised him from the dead. He continues to confirm the Covenant for another 3 1/2 years, but when this ends in bloodshed too, the “end” of the matter is confirmed. That is, Daniel was praying for God to remember his promise to restore the Jews to their homeland (through Jeremiah’s 70 years Prophecy). God replied through the angel telling Daniel there would be 7 more 70 years or 490 years through which his people had to pass. This period brought them to the time of the long awaited Messiah. If they didn’t repent in his days, the city and the Temple would be destroyed.

    The ‘abomination’ that brought about the desolation of the nation and the Temple was the abandonment of the Jew’s Covenant with God, embodied in the person of Annas, who continually made war with the Messiah and his disciples (i.e. whenever one of Annas’ family officiated the high priesthood). The above version of Daniel 9:27 has taken away all the “he’s”. Does it make the sense clearer to you? It does for me.

    Concerning the “wing” of the Temple, I believe most translations that use the term “wing” have it modify the word **abominations** not **temple**. The KJV has it: “overspreading of abominations”; the Septuagint has it: “abomination of desolations”; and the ASV has it: “wing of abominations”. I believe the sense is that an ‘extremity’ of the abominations as the ‘wing’ is an extremity of a bird. An ‘extremity’ of the abomination might be its persecution efforts–i.e. its battles against the Messiah (in the persons of his people). This war against the Messiah represents a rebellion against the Covenant, and abandonment of their God.

    I believe the above replies to your questions. If not, let me know what isn’t clear, and I’ll try to do better. Lord bless you, Shari, in your studies of his word.

  8. Eddie

    September 25, 2015 at 08:04

    Hello Shari, and thank you for your comment. It’s been awhile since I involved myself in the study of prophecy, so I’m not certain of some of the things I said. Stephen’s death was indeed an abomination, but did I claim that God’s Presence left the Temple when Stephen was killed?

    The abomination that causes the desolation of the Temple is the Jews’ abandonment of the Covenant. This abandonment is understood in their persecution of believers in Jesus. That is, they waged war against God by waging war against his people. One cannot maintain a covenant with God and wage war against him at the same time. To think so would be illogical. The personification of the abandonment of the Jews’ Covenant with God was the high priest, Annas. Every persecution against believers in Jesus that occurred prior to 70 AD has its roots in Annas. He is the leader of a family of high priests, and Rome’s first choice after Rome began to directly rule the Jews (6 AD). Whenever a persecution against believers in Jesus was initiated, one of Annas’ family was ruling as high priest in Jerusalem. Annas was the human archenemy of Jesus and, therefore, the abomination that stood in the Temple of God, standing against God, as though he were a god.

    Hope this helps. Lord bless you, Shari.

  9. Librarygeek

    September 25, 2015 at 01:29

    Also, you wrote here – that you believe that Daniel 9:26 predicts that the Messiah would destroy the Temple with the prince or King that would arise (which refers to Titus). The following verse in Daniel also refers to the Abomination the causes desolation: “He will confirm a covenant with many for one seven. In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering., And on a wing of the temple, he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” It is unclear to me who “he” is throughout this verse, the king that would arise. From previous things you’ve said, I think you interpret Jesus as being the one who put an end to the sacrifices by His offering of Himself as the Lamb of God in the middle of the one seven. Am I right?

    Yet the “he” in the next sentence he is setting up an abomination and end poured out on him (sounds like judgement for doing so.) So that can’t be Christ. What would the wing of the temple be if not an actual abominable idol physically set up in the Temple? Symbolizing a wing of the Body of Christ – the Hellenistic Jewish believers? – I suppose it must mean something less literal as Josephus makes no mention of an actual idol being set up in the temple by Titus before he destroyed it, as far as I remember.

  10. librarygeek

    September 25, 2015 at 00:06

    I understand you to say that Stephen’s death was an abomination to God and caused God to leave the House (Temple) desolate of God’s Presence. But if that is so, why does it say – when you see the abomination standing in the Temple? (Matt 24:15) That phrase certainly sounds more like an idol standing in the Temple than someone being stoned to death outside the city. If Jesus was trying to warn them about when to flee, how would they identify this event as the abomination?

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