PP18: The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD (Part 2)


This is now the eighteenth post in our series on “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.” This is the same title as a term paper I recently submitted to Northwestern College. All the previous posts can be found here, and it’s recommended that they be read in order before reading this post:

[1] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/brief-explanation-of-partial-preterism/
[2] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp2-references/
[3] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp3-external-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation/
[4] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp4-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-1/
[5] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp5-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-2/
[6] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp6-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-3/
[7] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp7-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-4/
[8] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp8-daniels-70-week-prophecy-part-1/
[9] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp9-daniels-70-week-prophecy-part-2/
[10] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp10-jerusalems-destruction-foretold-in-the-olivet-discourse/
[11] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp11-did-jesus-come-in-70-ad-part-1/
[12] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/pp12-did-jesus-come-in-70-ad-part-2/
[13] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp13-signs-of-the-close-of-the-age/
[14] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp14-abomination-of-desolation/
[15] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp15-the-man-of-lawlessness-ii-thess-2-part-1/
[16] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp16-the-man-of-lawlessness-ii-thess-2-part-2/
[17] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp17-the-historical-events-leading-up-to-70-ad-part-1/

In the previous post we turned to a discussion of the historical events which led up to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. In the first post we saw a timeline of these events, beginning with the martyrdom of James, the brother of Jesus, in 62 AD. In this post we will first briefly consider some of the predictions of Daniel, before moving on to examine some of these historical events in more detail.

Adam Maarschalk

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G. The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD (Part 2)

Before enumerating some of the above events in more detail, it should be pointed out that some Preterists believe that the time references in Daniel of 1290, 1335, and 2300 days (Daniel 8:13-14; 12:11-12) found their fulfillment in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of all Israel. This is not least because Daniel was told that “when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end” all the wonders he had seen would be finished (Daniel 12:6-7). Even though a large portion of chapter 11 speaks in detail of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (215-164 BC), ruler of the Seleucid realm, and his attacks on Egypt about 240 years earlier,[1] it was the events of the Roman/Jewish War (67-73 AD) which epitomized “the shattering of the power of the holy people.”[2]

Also, as Ed Meelhuysen (1992), a Futurist, points out, precisely three lunar years transpired between the defiling of the temple (the sacrifice of a pig on the altar and the setting up of a statue of Zeus in the temple) on 25 Chislev 167 BC[3] and the cleansing and restoration of the temple by Judas Maccabees and other zealous Jews on 25 Chislev 164 BC. Therefore, the time range within which these (and other related) events took place falls short of all the time references in Daniel by at least six months.

Preterists and Futurists alike agree that Daniel does foretell Jerusalem’s destruction, if nowhere else, then at least in his pivotal 70-Weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:26b). Preterists would maintain that the “time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Daniel 12:1) also refers to 67-70 AD, as does the reference to “a time, times, and half a time” (verse 7),[4] and the reference to the regular burnt offering being taken away (Daniel 8:11-14, 12:11). Regarding this offering, Philip Mauro quotes the following from Josephus to show that it was taken away at the very end of the final siege on Jerusalem, i.e. late July 70 AD (Todd Dennis [21], 2009):

And now Titus gave orders to his soldiers that were with him to dig up the foundations of the tower of Antonia, and make a ready passage for his army to come up, while he himself had Josephus brought to him; for he had been informed that, on that very day, which was the seventeenth day of Panemus, the sacrifice called ‘the daily sacrifice’ had failed, and had not been offered to God for want of men to offer it; and that the people were grievously troubled at it (Wars, VI. 2.1.).[5]

John Denton, of the UK-based Bible Research and Investigation Company, offers the following chart in an effort to show that these time references played out precisely as stated in the Jewish/Roman War (Todd Dennis [18], 2009):[6]

SN850132

George Peter Holford, in his 1805 book titled “The Destruction of Jerusalem,” wrote that Nero was the one who appointed Vespasian (assisted by his son, Titus) to prosecute the war against the Jews (Todd Dennis [8], 2009). In early spring 67 AD, which was 3.5 years before Jerusalem’s final downfall, Vespasian first entered Judea with a 60,000-member army. In the campaign which was to follow he destroyed at least 150,000 inhabitants of Galilee and Judea, along with many towns. One of the first towns Vespasian crushed was Joppa, because its inhabitants had provoked his men by their frequent piracies at sea. The Jews there tried to flee from Vespasian on their ships, but Vespasian was helped by a tremendous storm that blew in just as they began to flee. Their vessels were crushed against each other and against the rocks, and when this slaughter was complete more than 4,200 bodies were strewn along the coast and a very long stretch of the coast was stained with blood.

Eusebius records that when Vespasian began to close in on Jerusalem, believers living there received a sign, “given by revelation to those in Jerusalem who were ‘approved,’ bidding them leave the doomed city and settle in Pella” (F.F. Bruce, 1983, p. 375). Pella was a community on the other side of the Jordan River in modern day Jordan. This perhaps calls to mind the sign of the woman and the dragon in Revelation 12: “…and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days; And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time” (Rev. 12:6, 13-14). Pella is indicated by the number “2” on the map.

HolyJordanMap

Vespasian pulled back in his campaign to take over Jerusalem when he was informed of Nero’s death in June 68 AD. Yet the people there did not repent of their wicked ways and instead, as Josephus and Tacitus reported in detail, their evil deeds increased. Civil war among the Jews resulted in thousands being murdered at a time, their bodies often left unburied. Holford writes about one such slaughter:

Athirst for blood, and inflamed by revenge, they spared neither age, sex, nor infancy; and the morning beheld eight thousand five hundred dead bodies lying in the streets of the holy city. They plundered every house, and having found the chief priests Ananius and Jesus, not only slew them, but, insulting their bodies, cast them forth unburied. They slaughtered the common people as unfeelingly as if they had been a herd of the vilest beasts… Such as fled were intercepted and slain: their carcasses lay in heaps on all the public roads: every symptom of pity seemed utterly extinguished, and with it, all respect for authority, both human and divine.

At the same time, there were bands of robbers and murderers plundering towns and homes throughout Judea, also not sparing even women or children. Simon, son of Gioras, the commander of one of these bands, entered Jerusalem and began a third faction in addition to the two who were already engaged in senseless warfare. The city was in anarchy, as it was divided into three sections under the following leaders: [1] Eleazar, the son of Simon, leader of the Zealots [2] John of Gischala, a Galilean partisan and Zealot leader [3] Simon Gioras, leader of the priestly party. Writes Holford:

The three factions, rendered frantic by drunkenness, rage, and desperation, trampling on heaps of slain, fought against each other with brutal savageness and madness. Even such as brought sacrifices to the temple were murdered. The dead bodies of priests and worshippers, both natives and foreigners were heaped together, and a lake of blood stagnated in the sacred courts. John of Gischala, who headed one of the factions, burnt storehouses full of provisions ; and Simon, his great antagonist, who headed another of them, soon afterwards followed his example. Thus they cut the very sinews of their own strength. At this critical and alarming conjuncture, intelligence arrived that the Roman army was approaching the city.

In the absence of believers in Jerusalem, Josephus writes of many rampant and callous evil acts taking place (Todd Dennis [13], 2009). These included sacrilegious activities taking place in the temple, committed by the Jews, things which even the Roman emperors wouldn’t have done:

But as for John [one of the Jewish leaders], when he could no longer plunder the people, he betook himself to sacrilege, and melted down many of the sacred utensils, which had been given to the temple; as also were many of those vessels which were necessary for such as ministered about holy things, – the caldrons, the dishes, and the table; nay, he did not abstain from those pouring-vessels that were sent them by Augustus and his wife; for the Romans emperors did ever both honour and adorn this temple; …on which account he emptied the vessels of that sacred wine and oil which the priests kept to be poured on the burnt-offerings, and which lay in the inner court of the temple, and distributed it among the multitude, who, in their anointing themselves and drinking, used [each of them] above an hin of them; and here I cannot but speak my mind, and what the concerns I am under dictates to me, and it is this: – I suppose that had the Romans made any longer delay in coming against these villains, the city would either have been swallowed up by the ground opening upon them, or been overflowed by water, or else been destroyed by such thunder as the country of Sodom perished by, for it had brought forth a generation of men much more atheistical that were those that suffered such punishments; for by their madness it was that all the people came to be destroyed.

This description by Josephus may perhaps bring to mind the latter part of Revelation 6:6, which says, “…do not harm the oil and wine!” In a way that is reminiscent of this same passage (Rev. 6:5-6), Josephus writes of the dire conditions that came about in Jerusalem due to famine. This escalated when the Romans finally broke through two of the three walls which surrounded the city. Even while under siege, the pitiful situation of the Jews caused them to turn on each other in almost unthinkable ways:

It was now a miserable case, and a sight that would justly bring tears into our eyes, how men stood as to their food, while the more powerful had more than enough, and the weaker were lamenting [for want of it]; …insomuch that children pulled the very morsels that their fathers were eating out of their very mouths, and what was still more to be pitied, so did the mothers do as to their infants; and when those that were most dear were perishing under their hands, they were not ashamed to take from them the very last drops that might preserve their lives: and while they ate after this manner, yet were they not concealed in so doing; but the seditious everywhere came upon them immediately, and snatched away from them what they had gotten from others; for when they saw any house shut up, this was to them a signal that the people within had gotten some food; whereupon they broke open the doors, and ran in, and took pieces of what they were eating almost up out of their very throats, and this by force: the old men, who held their food fast, were beaten; and if the women hid what they had within their hands, their hair was torn for so doing; nor was there any commiseration shown either to the aged or to the infants, but they lifted up children from the ground as they hung upon the morsels they had gotten, and shook them down upon the floor. But still they were more barbarously cruel to those that had prevented their coming in, and had actually swallowed down what they were going to seize upon, as if they had been unjustly defrauded of their right. They also invented terrible methods of torments to discover where any food was, and they were these to stop up the passages of the privy parts of the miserable wretches, and to drive sharp stakes up their fundaments; and a man was forced to bear what it is terrible even to hear, in order to make him confess that he had but one loaf of bread, or that he might discover a handful of barley-meal that was concealed.

Holford remarks that Jesus was just in His words when He said, “And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days” (Matthew 24:19). Josephus also told of one mother who roasted her own infant son and ate half of him, offering the other half to her neighbor. He mentions at one point seeing more than 600,000 dead bodies thrown out of the city gates, due to famine and other causes. It was common for whole families to perish, he said, and tomb-robbing was also rampant. At one point an individual attempted to desert the city, but he was caught with gold that he had swallowed in an attempt to smuggle it out. Suspecting that others were trying to do the same, the Romans killed and ripped open the stomachs of more than 2000 individuals in one night. Josephus (Jewish War 5:13:4) writes that some escaped from Jerusalem during the final siege by jumping from the wall and fleeing to the Romans. However, being extremely ravaged by famine, they failed to restrain their appetites and quickly ate so much that they literally caused their bodies to burst open.

The starvation in Jerusalem was especially severe because so many Jews from the countryside foolishly tried to take refuge there, against the advice of Jesus (Luke 21:21). They also had come up from various nations for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The famine grew so bad that, records Holford, the “Jews, for want of food were at length compelled to eat their belts, their sandals, the skins of their shields, dried grass, and even the ordure [dung] of oxen.” When a woman was discovered to have eaten half of her own child, the Roman soldiers were horrified and “the whole city stood aghast, and poured forth their congratulations on those whom death had hurried away from such heartrending scenes.” Josephus declared that if there had not been many credible witnesses of this event he would not have recorded it because “such a shocking violation, never having been perpetuated by any Greek or barbarian, the insertion of it might have diminished the credibility of his history.” Yet these things fulfilled what was spoken by Moses at the end of giving the Law to the people, when he stated what would happen if they forsook the path of obedience:

The man who is the most tender and refined among you willbegrudge food to his brother, to the wife he embraces,and to the last of the children whom he has left, so that he will not give to any of them any of the flesh of his children whom he is eating, because he has nothing else left,in the siege and in the distress with which your enemy shall distress you in all your towns. The most tender and refined woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because she is so delicate and tender, will begrudge to the husband she embraces, to her son and to her daughter, her afterbirth that comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears, because lacking everything she will eat them secretly, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemy shall distress you in your towns (Deut. 28:54-57).

In the weeks leading up to the final five-month siege on Jerusalem the Romans used engines called “ballistas” equipped with strong catapults which were capable of launching boulders weighing between 75-160 pounds in weight. According to Josephus, when the assault first began these boulders, some a quarter mile wide, could be seen coming because they were white in color. The Romans soon modified them to be black in color, and the slaughter of the Jews in this way became much more effective. These missiles killed many priests and worshippers in the temple and even at the altar itself because, writes Josephus, “despite war, the sacrifices went on.” They came “from all over the earth,” says Josephus, because they deemed the temple and the city to be holy. Revelation 16:19-21 speaks of hailstones falling out of heaven, with each stone weighing about 100 pounds. The Roman boulders, being white in color, would have resembled giant hailstones falling from the sky.[7]

In the end, after months of failed attempts, the Romans at last succeeded in penetrating the final wall surrounding Jerusalem. Records Josephus (William Whiston [2], 2009), “A false prophet was the occasion of the people’s destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city that very day, that God commanded them to get upon the temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance.” Another remarkable event occurred, says Tacitus: “In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour. A sudden lightening flash from the clouds lit up the Temple. The doors of the holy place abruptly opened, a superhuman voice was heard to declare that the gods were leaving it, and in the same instant came the rushing tumult of their departure.”


[1] Philip Mauro, in his 1921 publication, “The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation” (pages 53-63) makes a fascinating and compelling case for Herod being the king spoken of in Daniel 11:36-45, i.e. the same Herod who killed all the male children in Bethlehem and the surrounding region in an effort to destroy Jesus (cf. Daniel 11:37a, 44). This publication can be viewed in its entirety here: http://www.preteristarchive.com/Books/pdf/1921_mauro_seventyweeks.pdf.

[2] In order for this prophecy to remain unfulfilled, i.e. awaiting a future fulfillment as Futurists say, it must be demonstrated that ethnic Jews are still God’s holy people. This is, in fact, a common premise of Dispensationalism. The New Testament, however, identifies the Church as God’s holy people (e.g. I Peter 2:4-10) and unbelieving Jews (and, by implication, unbelieving Gentiles also) by such unsavory titles as the synagogue of Satan (e.g. Revelation 2:9, 3:9).

[3] The abolishing of the daily sacrifices took place only 10 days prior to the sacrifice of the pig, on 15 Chislev 167 BC, according to I Maccabees 1:54-60 and 4:52. See Daniel 8:11 and Daniel 12:11.

[4] Philip Mauro, anticipating the trouble many would have assigning Daniel 12:2 to the past, makes this observation: “The words ‘and many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,’ etc. are commonly taken as referring to the bodily resurrection of the dead, and this is one reason why the entire passage is frequently relegated to the future. But there is nothing said here about either death or resurrection.” He goes on to point out that such language was commonly used in Scripture to denote a spiritual awakening (e.g. Isaiah 9:2, 29:10; Matthew 4:14-16; and especially John 5:25 and Ephesians 5:14). Not all who would be awakened would be saved, reminiscent of Christ speaking of those who would and wouldn’t receive Him (cf. John 3:16, 18, 36). The turning of many to righteousness and the running to and fro (Daniel 12:3-4), says Mauro, speaks of the rapid spread of the gospel in the time of the apostles and the early Church.

[5] In view of the wording in Daniel 12:11, notes Mauro, it could appear that these events happened in the reverse order. That is, Daniel seems to suggest that the offering is taken away at the beginning of the 1290 days, and the abomination of desolation is set up at the end of those days. Historically speaking, and by comparing Luke 21:20 with Matthew 24:15, the desolation of Jerusalem occurred in late 66 AD when the Roman armies first surrounded her, precisely 43 months (or 1290 days) before the daily offering was taken away. That these events appear to be reversed is not an issue, says Mauro, quoting from the 19th century scholar James Farquharson who said regarding this verse that “there is nothing whatever in the verbs of the sentence to indicate which of the events should precede the other; the interval of time between them only is expressed.”

[6] The historical dates used by John Denton are based on The Complete Works of Josephus (Kregel Publications: Grand Rapids (Michigan), 1981).

[7] Preterists have taken some flak for suggesting that this historic event fulfilled the prophecy of one-hundred pound hailstones, because this would mean a non-literal fulfillment. Gary DeMar (2008) responds, “Benware and other dispensationalists claim that the only way Revelation can be interpreted is literally. Let’s put their standard to the test. “The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters” (Rev. 8:10). If one star hits the earth, the earth will be vaporized in an instant. In fact, if a star gets even close to the earth, the earth is going to burn up before it hits. Then there’s Revelation 8:12: “Then the fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were smitten, so that a third of them might be darkened and the day might not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.” How can a “third of the sun” be smitten without catastrophic results on the whole earth and not just a third of it? All of this language is drawn from the Old Testament and only has meaning as it is interpreted in light of its Old Testament context—the judgment and destruction of nations (Isa. 14:12; Jer. 9:12–16). To ignore how a passage is used in the Old Testament is like trying to interpret Egyptian hieroglyphics without the Rosetta Stone.”

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One thought on “PP18: The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD (Part 2)

  1. The map of “Holy Jordan” used in this post is courtesy of the following website:

    http://www.jesusdynasty.com/blog/2007/07/16/sifting-traditions-mark-and-john-jesus-beyond-the-jordan/

    It’s a map showing the region of Galilee in the time of Jesus. The accompanying article (“Sifting Traditions–Mark and John: Jesus Beyond the Jordan”), written by James Tabor in 2007, includes some insightful thoughts on the probability that both John the Baptist and Jesus spent time in the region of Pella during their ministries.

    Here is another interesting article (“Head for the Hills”) from the Jerusalem Post, written by David Smith in 2008, regarding Pella. I don’t agree with every point Smith brought out, but he traveled to Pella in person and made some interesting observations:

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1214726152621&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

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