Josephus and the Book of Revelation (Nine Case Studies)


Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking in a conference call hosted by my friend, Jordan Hardgrave. My message was titled, “Josephus and the Book of Revelation (Nine Case Studies).” Here’s the audio of my message (3:40 Introduction; 50:35 Presentation; 21:45 Q & A), followed by my notes. There’s a chart in my introduction below which I believe you’ll find helpful.

In John Wesley’s commentary on Matthew 24 (1755), he said, “Josephus’s History of the Jewish War is the best commentary on this chapter…” I believe this is also true for the book of Revelation.

The preterist movement is known for believing that the book of Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This belief is backed by both external and internal evidence, that is, testimonies in early church history as well as (more importantly) evidence within the text.

The Wars of the Jews” by Josephus is another major source of evidence that Revelation was written before 70 AD. This work by Josephus was published in 75 AD, less than 15 years after Revelation was written. It contains seven books, most of which cover the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD.

In this message I want to present nine case studies showing parallels between the book of Revelation and “The Wars of the Jews.” As we look at these parallels, consider what they mean for the popular idea that John wrote Revelation around 95 AD. Some of the parallels are so striking that a person would basically have to conclude that John borrowed from the earlier writings of Josephus, and then used the language of Josephus to prophesy of a much later warWe know, however, that John wrote his prophecies first, and Josephus wrote his works a decade or so later. John wrote before the Jewish-Roman War and Josephus wrote after the war.

In this presentation I’ve included the month and year of each event that Josephus referred to. This is based on dates that Josephus himself cited, as well as a helpful table in Ed Stevens’ book, “The Final Decade before the End” (p. 242) showing the modern equivalents of the months cited by Josephus. In the chart below, I’ve color-coded the case studies that feature the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments:

Case Study  Reference by John  Reference by Josephus  Approximate Date(s)
 #1  Revelation 6:4
 (2nd Seal)
Civil War: Wars 4.3.2
Sword: Wars 2.18.3, 4.4.3,

4.5.35.8.1, and 5.10.1.
August 66 AD;
Feb./ March 68 AD;

May 70 AD
 #2  Revelation 6:15-16
 (6th Seal)
Wars 6.7.3 August 70 AD
 #3  Revelation 8:7-9
 (1st and 2nd Trumpets)
Wars 3.4.1
Wars 3.9.3
Wars 3.10.9
March – August 67 AD
 #4  Revelation 9:13-16
 (6th Trumpet)
Wars 4.4.2 February 68 AD
 #5  Revelation 11:7-13
 (6th Trumpet)
Wars 4.4.5
Wars 4.5.1-2
February 68 AD
 #6  Revelation 16:3-6
 (2nd and 3rd Bowls)
Wars 4.7.5-6 April-May 68 AD
 #7  Revelation 16:19
 (7th Bowl)
Cities of the nations fell:
Wars 3 (Galilee)
Wars 4.7 (Perea)
Wars 4.9 (Idumea & Judea)
Jerusalem divided:
Wars 5.1.1 and 5.1.4
(67 AD)
(Spring 68 AD)
Mid-68 AD – 69 AD

December  69 AD
 #8  Revelation 16:21
 (7th Bowl)
Wars 5.6.3 May 70 AD
 #9  Revelation 17:12-17 Wars 2.20.3-4 Dec. 66 AD – Aug. 70 AD

Please feel free to share whether or not you believe these parallels are legitimate. The more parallels we can nail down between the book of Revelation and the writings of Josephus, the better we can understand the structure of Revelation. For example, were the seals, trumpets, and bowls fulfilled chronologically? When Josephus made reference to them, did he do so in the same order John listed them? How much recapitulation (restating of events) actually exists in Revelation?

Case Study #1 (Revelation 6:4)

And another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.”

Revelation 6:4 describes the opening of the second seal. Here we see that peace would be taken from “the earth.” This phrase can also be translated as “land” (as it is in Young’s Literal Translation), a reference to “the promised land,” i.e. the land of Israel. A good example of this is Luke 21:23, where Jesus clearly spoke of Judea, yet some translations say “on the earth” and others say “in the land.”

Here’s a description given by Josephus about the civil war among the Jews, which began outside of Jerusalem but spread to Jerusalem by the time the war began in August 66 AD (Wars 4.3.2):

“But then it must be observed, that the multitude that came out of the country were at discord before the Jerusalem sedition began… There were besides disorders and civil wars in every city; and all those that were at quiet from the Romans turned their hands one against another. There was also a bitter contest between those that were fond of war, and those that were desirous for peace. At the first this quarrelsome temper caught hold of private families, who…began already to stand in opposition one to another; so that seditions arose everywhere… the barbarity and iniquity those of the same nation did no way differ from the Romans; nay, it seemed to be a much lighter thing to be ruined by the Romans than by themselves.

Josephus was describing the events of November 67 AD when he gave this summary. Josephus used phrases like “one against another”, “in opposition one to another”, “civil wars in every city,” and “barbarity.” This lines up well with John’s vision of people “killing one another” in the land. This domestic fighting was so significant that the approach of the Romans was seen as “a much lighter thing.”

In John’s vision, he also saw “a great sword.” Numerous times Josephus spoke of the Zealots killing others with swords and cutting their throats (e.g. Wars 2.18.3, Wars 4.4.3, Wars 4.5.3, and Wars 5.8.1). Were these beheadings? These four instances of throat cutting took place in Galilee and Jerusalem in August 66 AD, February/March 68 AD, and May 70 AD.

Case Study #2 (Revelation 6:15-16)

And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” (Revelation 6:15-17).

This passage describes the sixth seal. Notice how Josephus described the attempts of the Zealots to save themselves when they were driven out of the lower city of Jerusalem in August 70 AD (Wars 6.7.3):

“So now the last hope which supported the tyrants, and that crew of robbers who were with them, was in the caves and caverns underground; whither, if they could once fly, they did not expect to be searched for; but endeavored, that after the whole city should be destroyed, and the Romans gone away, they might come out again, and escape from them. This was no better than a dream of theirs; for they were not able to lie hid either from God or from the Romans.”

So John saw a vision of commanders and other men [1] hiding in the caves and rocks and [2] attempting to hide from God. Josephus likewise described the Zealots [1] heading to the caves and caverns as their last hope and [2] being unable to hide from God and the Romans.

These accounts are also parallel to an earlier prophecy given by Jesus on His way to Golgotha:

And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us! (Luke 23:27-30)

Jesus told those ladies that they and their children would personally see the day when people in Jerusalem would call upon the mountains to fall on them and hide them. About 40 years later it happened just as He said, just as John foretold, and as Josephus recorded it. See also Hosea 10:8.

Case Study #3 (Revelation 8:7-9)

The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood; and a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.”

This passage describes the first and second trumpet judgments. Notice that both judgments feature a mixture of fire and blood. Compare this with what Josephus said happened in Galilee in March/April 67 AD after he tried to fortify the city of Sepphoris, the capital and largest city of Galilee (see Wars 3.2.4):

“By this means he [Josephus] provoked the Romans to treat the country according to the law of war; nor did the Romans, out of the anger they bore at this attempt, leave off, either by night or by day, burning the places in the plain, and stealing away the cattle that were in the country, and killing whatsoever appeared capable of fighting perpetually, and leading the weaker people as slaves into captivity; so that Galilee was all over filled with fire and blood; nor was it exempted from any kind of misery or calamity…” (Wars 3.4.1).

Sepphoris was located halfway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee, and only three miles away from Nazareth. In Wars 3.9.3 Josephus described what happened on the Sea of Galilee in June 67 AD to thousands of Jews who tried to escape from Joppa:

“Now as those people of Joppa were floating about in this sea, in the morning there fell a violent wind upon them; it is called by those that sail there “the black north wind,” and there dashed their ships one against another, and dashed some of them against the rocks, and carried many of them by force, while they strove against the opposite waves, into the main sea; for the shore was so rocky, and had so many of the enemy upon it, that they were afraid to come to land… And much lamentation there was when the ships were dashed against one another, and a terrible noise when they were broken to pieces; and some of the multitude that were in them were covered with waves, and so perished, and a great many were embarrassed with shipwrecks. But some of them thought that to die by their own swords was lighter than by the sea, and so they killed themselves before they were drowned; although the greatest part of them were carried by the waves, and dashed to pieces against the abrupt parts of the rocks, insomuch that the sea was bloody a long way, and the maritime parts were full of dead bodies; for the Romans came upon those that were carried to the shore, and destroyed them; and the number of the bodies that were thus thrown out of the sea was four thousand and two hundred.”

In Wars 3.10.9 Josephus also described what happened on the Sea of Galilee in August 67 AD to people from Tiberias and Taricheae:

“Sometimes the Romans leaped into their ships, with swords in their hands, and slew them; but when some of them met the vessels, the Romans caught them by the middle, and destroyed at once their ships and themselves who were taken in them. And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by darts, or caught by the vessels; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands; …one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped. And a terrible stink, and a very sad sight there was on the following days over that country; for as for the shores, they were full of shipwrecks, and of dead bodies all swelled; and as the dead bodies were inflamed by the sun, and putrefied, they corrupted the air…”

So John saw fire and blood, land being burned, and ships being destroyed. Josephus described those very things taking place throughout Galilee from March – August 67 AD.

Case Study #4 (Revelation 9:13-16)

Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million, and I heard the number of them” (Revelation 9:13-16).

This is a partial description of the sixth trumpet. Momentarily we’ll take a look at a quote from Josephus about four commanders who led a murderous army, but first here’s some background.

During the winter of 67-68 AD, Ananus II, the former high priest in Jerusalem, urged the people of Jerusalem to oppose the lawless Jewish Zealots who had taken over the temple as “blood-shedding villains.” John Levi of Gischala had recently come to Jerusalem, and he pretended to be on the side of Ananus and was invited to be an ambassador to the Zealots (Wars 4.3.13). However, John quickly betrayed Ananus and falsely claimed that he had invited the Roman general Vespasian to conquer Jerusalem (Wars 4.3.14).

In response, the Zealot leaders Eleazar ben Simon and Zacharias ben Phalek requested help from the Idumeans (Idumea was south of Judea). They told the Idumeans that “unless they would come immediately to their assistance… the city would be in the power of the Romans.” The Idumeans quickly prepared an army of 20,000 directed by four commanders (Wars 4.4.2):

“Now these [Idumean] rulers were greatly surprised at the contents of the letter, and at what those that came with it further told them; whereupon they ran about the nation like madmen, and made proclamation that the people should come to war; so a multitude was suddenly got together, sooner indeed than the time appointed in the proclamation, and everybody caught up their arms, in order to maintain the liberty of their metropolis; and twenty thousand of them were put into battle-array, and came to Jerusalem, under four commanders, John, and Jacob the son of Sosas; and besides these were Simon, the son of Cathlas, and Phineas, the son of Clusothus.”

What about the discrepancy between the numbers “200 million” and “20,000”? Earlier I quoted from the New King James Version. Like most versions, it gives some variation of the number “200 million.” Young’s Literal Translation says “two myriads of myriads.” The Interlinear translates this phrase as “twice ten thousand ten thousands.” The word “myriad” in Greek meant “10,000,” so two myriads was “20,000,” the same number that Josephus assigned to the Idumean army.

A similar expression is used in Psalm 68:17 (“The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of thousands; The Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the Holy Place” –NKJV). This verse is far more often translated to say “20,000” than Revelation 9:16 is. The Interlinear for Psalm 68:17 translates this verse to say “even thousands, twenty thousand of God are the chariots.” When it comes to Revelation 9:16, it seems that most translations have unnecessarily squared the number “10,000” before doubling it, coming up with 200 million instead of 20,000.

In any case, John and Josephus both described an army of 20,000 led by four commanders. The Idumeans came to Jerusalem in February 68 AD. We’ll hear more about them in the next section.

Case Study #5 (Revelation 11:7-13)

Now when they [the two witnesses] finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three and a half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth… In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand men were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.”

This vision is also part of the sixth trumpet, or at least it appears before the seventh trumpet sounds. This is the first passage in Revelation where “the beast” is mentioned, and it’s also where “the great city” is first mentioned and defined – as being the city where Jesus was crucified, i.e. Jerusalem.

Josephus described a morning in February 68 AD when the city of Jerusalem woke up to find that 8,500 people had died during the night due to an earthquake and a slaughter carried out by the Idumeans. Here’s how he described the earthquake in the midst of a great storm (Wars 4.4.5):

“[F]or there broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continued lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake… anyone would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming.”

And here’s how he described the slaughter carried out by the Idumeans that same night, after they managed to saw through the gates and break into the city (Wars 4.5.1):

“The zealots also joined in the shouts raised by the Idumeans; and the storm itself rendered the cry more terrible; nor did the Idumeans spare anybody; for as they are naturally a most barbarous and bloody nation, and had been distressed by the tempest, they made use of their weapons against those that had shut the gates against them… Now there was at present neither any place for flight, nor any hope of preservation; but as they were driven one upon another in heaps, so were they slain… And now the outer temple was all of it overflowed with blood; and that day, as it came on, they saw eight thousand five hundred dead bodies there.”

Recall that John said “in the earthquake seven thousand men were killed.” Josephus didn’t distinguish between how many died in the earthquake and how many were killed by the sword, so it’s possible that the earthquake killed 7000 and the Idumeans killed 1,500.

The next day the Idumeans, working on behalf of the Zealots, hunted down and killed a couple of former high priests, Ananus and Jesus, who had long tormented the Zealots by opposing their war and working for peace. Here’s how Josephus described their deaths in Wars 4.5.2:

“[The Idumeans] sought for the high priests, and…went with the greatest zeal against them; and as soon as they caught them they slew them, and then standing upon their dead bodies, in way of jest, upbraided Ananus with his kindness to the people, and Jesus with his speech made to them from the wall. Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial… I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city… He…preferred peace above all things; …he was a shrewd man in speaking and persuading the people, and had already gotten the mastery of those that opposed his designs, or were for the war… And this at last was the end of Ananus and Jesus.”

So John and Josephus both described two individuals in Jerusalem who were hated, killed, and not allowed to be buried. If we go back to Rev. 11:5-6, they also both describe a couple of men who could not be taken down by their enemies until this particular time. And they describe this happening at the same time as an earthquake that coincided with the deaths of at least 7000 people.

I realize this case study is probably the most controversial, and it deserves a deeper study. I plan to do that in a series I’m currently working on about the beast of Revelation, which should be ready in a few weeks. Until recently I believed that the beast was Rome (generally) and Nero (specifically). I now believe the beast was Zealot-led Israel and I’ll present a lot of evidence for that in my upcoming series.

One thing we should note here in Revelation 11 is the fact that the beast oversees the deaths of the two witnesses in Jerusalem. If this indeed happened in 68 AD, the beast could not have been Roman. From August 66 AD until April 70 AD the Romans were not in Jerusalem, except for a few days in November 66 AD when Cestius Gallus led a failed attack on the city. If the events of Revelation 11 took place anytime between late 66 AD and the spring of 70 AD, the beast that overcame the two witnesses was Jewish, not Roman. And based on the four case studies we’ve already looked at, and the next four that we’re about to look at, it’s very fitting that the events of Revelation would have taken place in early 68 AD.

Case Study #6 (Revelation 16:3-6)

Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man, and every living creature in the sea died. Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying: ‘You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.’”

This is a description of the second and third bowl judgments. Josephus described how, in the spring of 68 AD, Vespasian prepared for the eventual siege on Jerusalem by marching “against Gadara, the metropolis of Perea” (Wars 4.7.3) and the rest of Perea as well (Wars 4.7.6). Perea was the region east of the Jordan River, just next to Judea and Jerusalem.

Some of the Jews who fled from Gadara joined with others and “got in great numbers together and fled to Jericho” (Wars 4.7.5) with Placidus, Vespasian’s assistant, chasing them. Placidus drove the whole multitude to the riverside, along the Jordan River. Then things really took a tragic turn (Wars 4.7.5-6):

“They then extended themselves a very great way along the banks of the river, and sustained the darts that were thrown at them, as well as the attacks of the horsemen, who beat many of them, and pushed them into the current. At which fight, hand to hand, fifteen thousand…were slain, while the number of those that were unwillingly forced to leap into Jordan was prodigious… and Jordan could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the lake Asphaltiris was also full of dead bodies, that were carried down into it by the river. And now Placidus… put his soldiers on board the ships, and slew such as had fled to the lake…”

Lake Asphaltiris was the Greek name for the Dead Sea. So John saw a sea that “became blood as of a dead man” (Rev. 16:3) and he saw that “every living creature in the sea died.” Josephus said that the Dead Sea was “full of dead bodies” and that Placidus killed everyone else who fled to the Dead Sea.

John saw rivers and springs of water turn to blood, and that those who shed the blood of saints and prophets were given “blood to drink.” Josephus said that a multitude of Jews was pushed into, and “unwillingly forced to leap into,” the current of the Jordan River. That river was so full of dead bodies that no one could pass over it. Some of them drank the bloody water as they drowned.

judea-province

Source: Wikipedia (Perea)

Case Study #7 (Revelation 16:19)

Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.”

This is from John’s description of the seventh bowl. “The great city,” as we already saw, was Jerusalem.

The Cities of the Nations Fell

The downfall of the nation of Galilee in 67 AD can be seen mostly in The War of the Jews, Book 3. In the previous section we saw that Vespasian subdued the entire nation of Perea in the spring of 68 AD. Then in the summer of 68 AD Vespasian was at Caesarea, ready “to march directly to Jerusalem” when he learned that Nero had died (in June 68 AD). So Vespasian waited there for almost a year (Wars 4.9.2).

In the meantime, though, another nation fell. That was the nation of Idumea, but it was at the hands of Simon Bar Giora, a Jewish Zealot leader. He first “laid waste the whole country” of Idumea, attacking Hebron, ravaging cities and villages, and making Idumea like a desert (Wars 4.9.7). Then he “compelled a great number of [the Idumeans] to retire to Jerusalem; he followed them himself also to the city.” Josephus said he “was a greater terror to the people than the Romans themselves,” but the Zealots in Jerusalem were even “more heavy upon” the people than Simon and the Romans (Wars 4.9.10).

So, amazingly, Simon was invited into Jerusalem. The people “made joyful acclamation to him, as their savior and their preserver,” thinking he would save them from the madness of the Zealots. However, Simon Bar Giora looked upon them all as his enemies (Wars 4.9.11). In April 69 AD Simon “got possession of Jerusalem” (Wars 4.9.12). Soon the stage would be set for Jerusalem to be divided into three factions, but first we’ll take note of more cities that fell.

In May-June 69 AD Vespasian “marched against those places of Judea which were not yet overthrown,” sparing only Herodium, Masada, Macherus, and Jerusalem which were controlled by the Zealots (Wars 4.9.9). He paused his campaign again, however, when he learned that Vitellus had become emperor of Rome (Wars 4.10.2). In December 69 AD he was named emperor of Rome (Wars 4.11.4-5) and his son, Titus, was dispatched to besiege Jerusalem (Wars 4.11.5 and Wars 5.1.1).

Here’s a simple table of nations that fell from 67 AD to mid-69 AD:

Nations that Fell Time Period Conqueror
Galilee 67 AD Vespasian and Titus (Romans)
Perea Spring 68 AD Vespasian
Idumea Late 68 AD – Early 69 AD Simon Bar Giora (Jewish Zealot)
Judea (most of it) May/June 69 AD Vespasian

Jerusalem Divided Into Three Parts

In Wars 5.1.1 and Wars 5.1.4 Josephus described the conditions in Jerusalem in December 69 AD:

“[T]he sedition at Jerusalem was revived, and parted into three factions, and that one faction fought against the other… one should not mistake if he called it a sedition begotten by another sedition, and to be like a wild beast grown mad, which for want of food from abroad, fell now upon eating its own flesh.”

“And now there were three treacherous factions in the city, the one parted from the other. Eleazar [ben Simon] and his party, that kept the sacred first-fruits, came against John [Levi of Gischala] in their cups. Those that were with John plundered the populace and went out with zeal against Simon [Bar Giora].”

So this is a very clear fulfillment of John’s words that the great city, Jerusalem, “was divided into three parts” (Revelation 16:19). It’s also a flashback to Jerusalem’s earlier destruction in 586 BC. In Ezekiel 5:1-12 we see that Ezekiel was required to shave his head and divide it into three parts, and God told him, “This is Jerusalem” (verse 5). One third of his hair was burned, one third was chopped up by the sword, and the last third was scattered into the wind.

Case Study #8 (Revelation 16:21)

And great hail from heaven fell upon men, every hailstone about the weight of a talent. And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.”

This is also from John’s description of the seventh bowl. Compare this to the following description of large stones catapulted over the wall in Jerusalem by the tenth Roman legion in May 70 AD (Wars 5.6.3):

“The engines, that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the tenth legion… Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness; accordingly the watchmen that sat upon the towers gave them notice when the engine was let go, and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud, in their own country language, ‘THE STONE COMETH,’ so those that were in its way stood off, and threw themselves down upon the ground; by which means, and by their thus guarding themselves, the stone fell down and did them no harm. But the Romans contrived how to prevent that by blacking the stone, who then could aim at them with success, when the stone was not discerned beforehand, as it had been till then; and so they destroyed many of them at one blow.”

So John saw hailstones weighing a talent falling from the sky over Jerusalem, and Josephus describes white stones weighing a talent being catapulted into the city. A talent was 75 – 100 pounds.

According to William Whiston’s famous translation of the works of Josephus, the watchmen shouted, “THE SON COMETH,” rather than “THE STONE COMETH.” J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book The Parousia (p. 482), pointed out that it was only eight years before this, in 62 AD, that as James was being martyred he cried out that “the Son of Man was about to come in the clouds of heaven.” So Russell speculated that the watchmen gave this cry “in mockery of the Christian hope of the Parousia.”

These large stones were actually discovered in an archaeological dig during the last year. See here and here for articles on this find, including photos of the stones.

Case Study #9 (Revelation 17:12-16)

And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as of yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them… And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”

As I mentioned earlier, until a few months ago I believed that the beast in Revelation was Rome and Nero. I assumed that the 10 horns must have been the 10 Senatorial Provinces of Rome working with Nero to persecute Christians and to capture and burn Jerusalem in 70 AD.

When I started to rethink this subject, one thing I discovered is that when Titus overthrew Jerusalem in 70 AD he did not have leaders or representatives of those 10 provinces with him. He didn’t even have 10 legions with him. Instead he had four legions – the 5th, 10th, 12th, and 15th legions (Wars 5.1.6).

Then I was surprised to discover that Josephus listed exactly 10 high priests and religious leaders in Israel who were given authority as generals in December 66 AD. Three of them were even killed by the Zealots in early 68 AD, fulfilling Daniel 7:8, 20, 24. Here’s a quick summary of what led up to the selection of those 10 generals. (More details can be seen in this article.)

Josephus says that the Jewish-Roman War officially began in August 66 AD when Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, “who was at that time governor of the Temple, persuaded those that officiated in the divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner.” They used this new law to reject “the sacrifice of Caesar” (Wars 2.17.2). They also massacred a Roman garrison stationed at the Antonia Fortress on the east side of Jerusalem (Wars 2.17.7).

In November 66 AD Cestius Gallus brought the 12th Legion to put down the Jewish rebellion. Surprisingly, his army suffered about 5,700 deaths, his weapons and supplies were stolen during an ambush, they retreated on November 22nd, and the Jewish rebels chased and killed many of them over the next five days. The Jewish temple leaders knew that a full-scale Roman revenge was inevitable. So they “got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war.” Here’s a list of the territories they were to oversee in preparation for war with Rome (Wars 2.20.3-4):

  1. Joseph, the son of Gorion (Governor of Jerusalem)
  2. Ananus, the high priest (Governor of Jerusalem)
  3. Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests (Idumaea)
  4. Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest (Idumaea)
  5. Niger, the then governor of Idumea (Idumaea)
  6. Joseph, the son of Simon (Jericho)
  7. Manasseh (Perea)
  8. John, the Esscue (toparchy of Thamna; “Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus”)
  9. John, the son of Matthias (toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene)
  10. Josephus, the son of Matthias (both the Galilees; “Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command”)

The three generals who were killed by the Zealots in fulfillment of Daniel 7:8, 20, 24 were [1] Ananus ben Ananus [2] Niger of Perea, and [3] Joseph ben Gorion. Their deaths are recorded in Wars 4.5.2 and Wars 4.6.1.

How did these horns make war with the Lamb? In a nutshell, Jesus made war against the harlot/great city, Jerusalem, and He used the Roman army as His instrument (see Matthew 22:7). The Zealots and those who were aligned with them fought desperately to maintain power over Jerusalem and to gain independence for Israel.  This question is addressed further here.

How did they turn on the harlot, make her desolate, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire? They were assigned to Idumea, Jericho, Perea, Galilee, Jerusalem, etc. During the Jewish-Roman War, Jerusalem became more and more isolated as Rome captured Galilee, Perea, and other places. Many people made their way to Jerusalem, and presumably these generals did the same. Josephus, of course, was captured.

We already saw the quote from Wars 5.1.1 where Josephus described “the sedition” in Jerusalem, and the civil war between the Zealot factions, as “a wild beast grown mad, which, for want of food from abroad, fell now upon eating its own flesh.” Josephus also repeatedly blamed the Jews, especially the Zealots, for the fire that burned Jerusalem and the temple. In Wars 6.4.5 he said, “[T]hese flames took their rise from the Jews themselves, and were occasioned by them.” In Wars 6.6.2 he records a speech given by Titus in which he said to the Zealots, “You…have set fire to your holy house with your own hands.” Josephus made similar statements in Wars 5.4.4, Wars 6.2.9,and other places.

Conclusion

Based on these case studies, I would like to tentatively suggest that the seals, trumpets, and bowls were structured in this way:

Seals – From 66 AD (or earlier) to 70 AD
Trumpets – From early 67 AD to early 68 AD

(Zealot siege)

Bowls – From spring 68 AD to 70 AD

To use an arm as an analogy, the seals would stretch from the shoulder to the fingers; the trumpets would stretch from the shoulder to the elbow; (the elbow would represent the Zealot siege of early 68 AD); and the bowls would stretch from the elbow to the fingers.

This presentation represents an ongoing study, as there are more parallels between the Book of Revelation and Josephus that are not included here. Those who listen to or read this presentation are welcome to evaluate these case studies and this tentative conclusion.

(This article is also published here.)

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10 thoughts on “Josephus and the Book of Revelation (Nine Case Studies)

  1. Greetings Adam,

    I do not believe the parallels you presented are legitimate. Not only do I believe they are being forced and are a far cry from being related, but my main objection is the fact that you have the 6th seal being fulfilled AFTER the 1st & 2nd trumpets and AFTER the 2nd, 3rd & 7th bowls. To me, that is an impossibility. All seven seals must be opened first before any trumpets are blown and all seven trumpets must be blown before any bowls are poured out. They must occur chronologically.

    Shalom,
    John

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    • Hi John,

      Thanks for sharing your opinion. On which passages do you base your opinion that “all seven seals must be opened first before any trumpets are blown and all seven trumpets must be blown before any bowls are poured out”? Also, how do you interpret the sixth seal judgment? As I stated in this post, I believe that the seven seals revealed, or gave an overview of, what was to take place during the tribulation. After all, the servants of God were sealed for protection (Revelation 7:1-8) after the first six seals were described, which included stars falling from heaven, a great earthquake, mountains and islands being moved out of their places, great famine, etc. I do believe that the trumpets and bowls were chronological in time. I don’t know how you can say that the parallels I presented in this post are “a far cry from being related.” The similarities are quite striking.

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  2. Hi Adam,

    Sorry, I hope this is okay if I dump a truck-load on you again here. If I am understanding you correctly, you are noticing a linear progression of events occurring WITHIN EACH of the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls judgments, but NOT a continual chronology of all 21 events happening one after the other, correct? That is my observation too, with the Seal judgments being a general overview – from the first until the seventh – of all the events of the Great Tribulation.

    Most of your parallels I believe are on target, with a few minor exceptions. For instance, I might part company with you slightly, when you state that the Trumpet judgments ended with the early AD 68 Zealot siege. This is why I don’t see that to be a possibility: I read in Rev. 11:15-19 that the last 7th Trumpet includes the following 4 things, with all of them concluding at virtually the same time by the end of AD 70:

    #1) the kingdoms handed over to Christ (i.e. the stone striking the feet of Daniel’s image)
    #2) the judgment of the dead in a physical resurrection, with rewards given to the saints, prophets, etc.
    #3) the “bringing to corruption of them that corrupted the earth” (land of Israel)
    #4) and finally, the opening of the temple in heaven.

    This temple, (according to Rev. 15:8), was not available for any man to enter that temple in heaven as a bodily-resurrected saint “til the 7 plagues (Bowls) were fulfilled.” This means that the Trumpets and the Bowls must conclude at the SAME TIME (i.e. AD 70). I believe you used the analogy of an arm, with the 7 Trumpets going from shoulder to elbow, and the 7 Bowls from elbow to fingertips.

    I’m seeing each of all the 3 categories covering the same, entire Tribulation period from start to finish, with an escalating level of drama with each re-telling of the entire story. Some different events are brought out in each re-telling, but it’s rather like the way the gospels are presented; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all cover Christ’s ministry on earth, but each has some differences from the others; allowing for the perspective of each author. Just so with the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls, as far as I can tell.

    One question, Adam: did you intend to say in your post above (Case study #3) that Joppa was a city near the Sea of Galilee? It’s possible that I am just misunderstanding the way you wrote that section. Joppa on the Mediterranean coast was a city that was actually destroyed twice: first by Cestius Gallus, and a second time at Vespasian’s orders. Between those two destructions of Joppa, the Jews had built ships and turned to piracy along the Mediterranean coast. When Vespasian’s army came against them, they all fled Joppa and took to the sea in their ships to avoid the Romans.

    In your Case study #3, Adam, you have taken this second conquest of Joppa (Wars 3.9.3 – when the storm at sea destroyed these pirates and their boats) and paired it with the SECOND TRUMPET judgment of Rev. 8:8-9. Time-wise, and by the amount of casualties, I think it is a better match as the SECOND BOWL judgment instead, found in Rev. 16:3. “And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea (the Mediterranean Sea) and it became as the blood of a dead man: and EVERY LIVING SOUL died in the sea (not just a 3rd part, as in Rev. 8:8). Literally, Josephus’ account of the second defeat of Joppa and its pirates didn’t leave ANY SURVIVORS. Either the storm drowned them, or they committed suicide to avoid drowning, or the Romans destroyed those who escaped the storm and made it to shore. All told, Josephus lists 4,200 dead in this account, with the coastline bloodied, and dead bodies filling the Mediterranean just offshore from Joppa (Wars 3.9.3).

    This change would shuffle the order a bit, Adam, when it comes to your Case study #6 (Rev. 16:3-6). In that study, you have joined the 2nd and 3rd Bowl judgments into one single event (when Placidus chased down the survivors of Gadara and others, and trapped them against the bank of Jordan where they were decimated). It really should be separated into the Joppa incident as the SECOND BOWL, and the Placidus campaign as the THIRD BOWL.

    For this third Bowl, the “RIVERS AND FOUNTAINS OF WATERS” upon which the angel pours out his Bowl are in a VERY particular region of Israel. Placidus and his troops were working their way down the eastern side of the River Jordan, heading toward the Dead Sea. In Wars 4.7.5-6, Josephus tells us that Placidus engaged the Gadara fugitives at Bethennabris, about 10 miles north of the entrance to the Dead Sea. God, who in ancient days had parted the Jordan for Joshua and Israel to cross over to Jericho, in AD 68 blocked their path to Jericho by swelling the Jordan’s waters again to flood stage so that the Israelites were trapped against the river instead. This time the Jordan’s waters did not part for them.

    I have been doing some research into this region lately. It is called the “Kikar of Jordan”: the disc-shaped plain where the RIVERS on both sides of the Jordan converge as they run into the Dead Sea. There are many natural SPRINGS in this circular region of the plain. Where all these tributary rivers of the Jordan empty into the Dead Sea, it looks a bit like the Nile Delta. This is the region that Abraham’s nephew Lot was looking at in Genesis 13:10. “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was WELL-WATERED EVERYWHERE, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the Garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.” Sodom and Gomorrah were situated in this Jordan plain before God destroyed them.

    There is an archaeological dig that has been going on in this area for the last 10 years near the old city of Shittim. It is called the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project. The name in Arabic means “Mound of the HOT SPRING”. If you Google maps of this area and read descriptions of it, you will see that it is well-named as a region of “RIVERS AND FOUNTAINS OF WATERS” (as Rev. 16:4 calls it).

    Placidus was in this very location of the Kikar of Jordan when he chased down the fugitives from Gadara, trapped them against the swollen waters of the Jordan, and slaughtered them. As Josephus said, (Wars 4.7.5-435), there were at least 15,000 slain, plus many more who jumped into the Jordan and presumably drowned. These dead bodies all washed downriver and collected in the Dead Sea, where any human body floats on the surface – sinking is practically an impossibility. The Jordan plain is the region of the “rivers and springs of water that became blood” (Rev. 16:4) in the 3rd Bowl judgment. With the remains of a Roman aqueduct near the Tall el-Hammam site still visible today, it would seem that the Israelites really were given “blood to drink” (Rev. 16:6), once Placidus had gone through this region and left bodies to litter the landscape.

    This is where this area of the Kikar of Jordan gets VERY interesting prophetically. If you remember, Adam, I went into detail about the Zealot / Sicarii leader, Simon bar Giora, being the fulfillment of “Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” in your post “Rev. 13:3 and the Wounded Head of the Zealot Movement”. After AD 70, the multitude of Gog’s dead army and the dead from all of the land of Israel were to be given “a place there of graves in Israel, THE VALLEY OF THE PASSENGERS ON THE EAST OF THE SEA” (Ezekiel 39:11).

    This is the valley – the plain – the Kikar of Jordan, at the entrance to the Dead Sea. This is where the travelers from the trade route that ran along the east side of the Dead Sea passed through the plain of Jordan. From time immemorial, this Jordan plain provided a crossroads for the NS and EW trade routes going through this region. Sodom and Gomorrah and a cluster of other cities once straddled this zone. Any travelers going through this plain of Jordan after AD 70 would be holding their noses as they went through this valley (Ezekiel 39:11), because it was going to be the burial ground for all of Gog / Israel’s dead from the Roman / Jewish war.

    That included all the dead bodies floating at the entrance to the Dead Sea from the Placidus campaign (i.e. the 3rd Bowl judgment). Once they were pulled out of the Dead Sea during the Ezekiel 39-cleanup process for Gog, the nearest location to bury those that Placidus killed was right there in the Jordan valley of Hamon – Gog (Ezekiel. 39:15 – “The multitude of Gog”) or the city of Hamonah (Ezekiel 39:16 – “The multitude”). Actually, it made perfect sense to bury all of Israel’s / Gog’s dead in this valley, since it was centrally-located and equidistant to all the cities in the farthest reaches of the land of Israel. All of Israel’s cities had their dead that needed burial to “cleanse the land” after AD 70. The Ezekiel 39:14-15 “undertakers” sent every last human bone that could be found to this particular valley for burial. Also, I think it displays God’s sense of ironic justice to have the dead of all Israel, and particularly 1st-century Jerusalem, (“which spiritually is called SODOM and Egypt” – Rev. 11:8), buried in the very same location where the actual ancient city of Sodom had been. Sodom was incinerated by the same fire and brimstone that would also destroy AD 70 Jerusalem in its Second Death (the Lake of Fire).

    The Tall el-Hamman Excavation Project in the Jordan valley, headed up by Steven Collins, really is worth a look-see into what they have uncovered and discovered about this 80-acre site of the former city of Sodom. Significantly, the city was abandoned for around 700 years (Duuuh – of course, nobody wanted to live in Ground-Zero of God’s fiery judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah). Over time however, cities gradually came back to this same site, called by various other city names. One of these names was “Julias”, which was one city Placidus took in his Perea battle campaign, along with the city of Bezemoth (Wars 4.7.6).

    In ancient days, the Jordan plain had also served as the Baal Peor burial ground for the Israelites who had sinned back in Numbers 25. A total of 24,000 Israelites died in the plague and were buried there (Numbers 25:9). As God reminded Israel of their idolatrous Baal worship from of old, in Jeremiah 2:23 (LXX) He says, “How wilt thou say I am not polluted and have not gone after Baal? Behold thy ways in THE BURIAL GROUND (or THE VALLEY – of Jordan, that is), and know what thou hast done.” So it would seem that this Jordan plain served as the burial ground for the original Sodom, then for the 24,000 Israelite Baal worshippers, then for Gog’s / Israel’s dead from AD 70 – the spiritual Sodom that was 1st-century Jerusalem. And to top it off, Moses had been buried on nearby Mount Nebo that looks down on this valley below.

    It’s as if this Jordan plain was one of those epicenters of historical drama throughout the ages. I found the subject fascinating, Adam, so perhaps you and your readers might also think so.

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  3. https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsI enjoyed reading what you said. I have believed that Revelation was written before the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem for a long time. If it was written after the destruction then why doesn’t it mention that the temple was already destroyed?
    Why was John told to write unto the 7 churches when one of them had already been destroyed before 70 AD?
    Thank GOD that many heeded the very word’s of their Messiah and fled before the destruction. As the people wandered in the desert for forty years until the generation that worshipped the golden calf died so did the Messiah walk on the earth for 40 days after he arose from the grave as a sign to the people that in forty years their temple and land would become lost to them. He kept his word and destruction came and it proves beyond a doubt, in my mind at least that he kept his word when he said he would come on the clouds.
    How about the fact that seven seals also, in that time and age, were used on wills? If that is what the seven seals really was referring to then Revelation was GOD’s Last Will & Testament turning the kingdom over to the Anointed King, and may be the real truth? Then the kingdom is already here as it is a spiritual one. It didn’t come with observation and many have missed it.

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  4. Philologos
    Bible Prophecy Research
    Title: Scroll
    Submitted by: research-bpr@philologos.org
    Date: October 3, 1998
    URL: //philologos.org/bpr/files/s006.htm

    Here is part of what you can find on this site about “sealing a scroll” ‘

    “Sealing a scroll was a common and important practice in Biblical times. The wills of both Emperor Vespasian and Caesar Augustus were secured with seven seals.
    “For such a document, a scribe would procure a long roll of parchment and begin writing. After a period of writing he would stop, roll the parchment enough to cover his words and seal the scroll at that point with wax. Then he would resume writing, stop again, roll the scroll, and add another seal. By the time he was finished, he would have sealed the scroll seven times. The scrolls would be read a section at a time, after each seal was opened.
    “Why was this process used? Evidently it was to prevent unauthorized persons from tampering with the scroll or reading and revealing its contents. Only a “worthy” person — that is, someone with proper authority — could have legal access to the scroll’s message.
    “When a Jewish family was required to forfeit its land and possessions through some distress, the property could not be permanently taken from them. Their losses were listed in a scroll and sealed seven times, then the conditions necessary to purchase back the land and possessions were written on the outside of the scroll. When a qualified redeemer could be found to meet the requirements of reclamation, the one to whom the property had been forfeited was obligated to return the possessions to the original owner.”

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  5. […] This book is a very long read, so to make things a little easier for you I am giving you a link to a page that points out many (not all) of the fulfillments that John prophesied about in Revelation. This answers many questions about these things that are impossible to understand when separated from their historical context. Here is the link: https://adammaarschalk.com/2016/11/02/josephus-and-the-book-of-revelation-nine-case-studies/amp/ […]

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