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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Abomination of Desolation

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An expression occurring in Matthew 24:15 and Mark, 13:14 (A. V.), where the Greek text has τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς έρημώσεως. The Greek itself, however, is referable to a Hebrew expression, , found in Daniel 9:27 (where the ם of has been added, through a copyist's error, from the מ of the ensuing word); in Daniel 11:31, and in Daniel 12:11 (with omission of the prefixed מ).

The context of these passages leaves no room for doubt as to what was intended by this somewhat odd expression; namely, the transformation, by Antiochus Epiphanes, of the sacred Temple at Jerusalem into a heathen one. In both Biblical and rabbinical Hebrew abomination is a familiar term for an idol (1 Kings, 11:5; 2 Kings, 23:13; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, beginning, and Mekilta, Mishpatim, ed. Weiss, 107), and therefore may well have the same application in Daniel, which should accordingly be rendered, in agreement with Ezra, 9:3,4, "motionless abomination" or, also, "appalling abomination." The suggestion of many scholars-Hoffmann, Nestle, Bevan, and others—that , as a designation for Jupiter 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, 3:22, as well as the express injunction found in Tosef., 'Ab. Zarah, (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). Though the expression "Abomination of Desolation" is accordingly recognizedin the light of this interpretation as a mistranslation of the phrase used in Daniel, there is no doubt that in the circles directly influenced by the Book of Daniel—the same circles that originated the apocalyptic literature—the expression was employed to designate an important eschatological conception. For it is only in an eschatological sense that the expression can be adequately explained in the New Testament passages above mentioned.

According to most modern commentators, these passages are a Jewish apocalypse, somewhat tinged with Christianity, intended to prophesy the end of time, when the Antichrist, as the Abomination of Desolation, shall be enthroned as a ruler in God's Temple. The closely related "smaller Apocalypse" in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 is a conclusive justification of this view; for it shows that neither the Romans (as Weiss in his commentary, ad loc., holds), nor the Zealots (Bleek, "Synoptische Erklärung," and others), nor Caligula with his self-deification (Spitta, in his "Offenbarung Johannis") can be intended.

—In 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 Epiphanes (see Apostemos). Some rabbis, however, see in it an allusion to Manasseh, who, as related in 2 Chronicles 33:7, set up "a carved image . . . in the house of God" (Yer. Ta'anit, 4:68a, and Rashi on the passage in Babli, ibid. 28b). The Haggadah 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" (Ta'anit, 28b et seq.; compare Rabbinovicz, "Variæ Lectiones," on the passage for variant readings).

  • Compare modern commentators—Meinhold, Bevan, Weiss, Prince—upon the passages in Daniel and Matthew;
  • also Bousset, Der Antichrist, English translation, 1896, especially index;
  • Spitta, Offenbarung Johannis, pp. 493-497;
  • Grätz, Gesch. d. Juden, note 15;
  • Chajes, Markus-Studien, p. 72.
L. G.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Abomination of Desolation'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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