If you’ve studied first century history, you’re probably familiar with the story about the followers of Christ who fled from Judea to Pella just before the Jewish-Roman War began in AD 66. The story of their flight was told by early church leaders including Eusebius (AD 263-339), Epiphanius (AD 315-403), and Remigius (AD 437-533) – and perhaps also by Josephus (Wars 2.14.2, 2.20.1). They obeyed the words of Jesus (Matthew 24:15-21, Mark 13:14-19, Luke 21:20-23) and were protected in the wilderness for 3.5 years (Revelation 12:14). See this post for more details on that story.
I think the story of what happened to those believers after the war is even better. Jeffrey Butz, professor of World Religions at Penn State University, documents in his book, “The Secret Legacy of Jesus” (2009), that many of them returned to Jerusalem and built a Christian meeting place where the Upper Room (Acts 1:12-14) had been (p. 146). According to Eusebius and Hegesippus (AD 110-180), the person who led them to Pella and then back to Jerusalem was Symeon the son of Clopas.
Who was Symeon? He was the first cousin of Jesus (John 19:25). He was also the second bishop of Jerusalem, who was appointed to that position when the first bishop, James (Acts 15:13), was martyred in AD 62 (Antiquities 20:9.1). Eusebius wrote the following about Symeon’s appointment:
“After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem which immediately followed, it is said that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh (for the majority of them also were still alive) to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James. They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention; to be worthy of the episcopal throne of that parish. He was a cousin, as they say, of the Saviour. For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph” (Church History, Book III, Chapter 11).
Symeon is mentioned in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 as one of Christ’s brothers (and also referred to in I Corinthians 9:5). However, The Pulpit Commentary explains why he was believed to be Jesus’ cousin rather than His brother:
“Some have thought that these were literally brethren of our Lord, sons of Joseph and Mary… But, on the whole, the most probable opinion is that they were cousins of our Lord… There is evidence that there were four sons of Clopas and Mary, whose names were James, and Joses, and Simon (or Symeon), and Judas. Mary the wife of Clopas is mentioned by St. Matthew (Matthew 27:56) as the mother of James the less and of Joses. Jude describes himself (Jude 1:5) as the brother of James; and Simon, or Symeon, is mentioned in Eusebius as the son of Clopas. It must be remembered also that the word ἀδελφός, like the Hebrew word which it expresses, means not only ‘a brother,’ but generally ‘a near kinsman.’”
Symeon was the Bishop of Jerusalem until he was crucified in AD 107. He lived a long life, having been born about a decade before Christ. Hegesippus wrote this about Symeon’s death:
“Certain of these heretics brought accusation against Symeon, the son of Clopas, on the ground that he was a descendant of David and a Christian; and thus he suffered martyrdom, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, while Trajan was emperor and Atticus governor” (Eusebius, Church History, Book III, Chapter 32).
Including Symeon, there were 14 bishops of the church in Jerusalem between the First Great Revolt (AD 66-73) and the Second Great Revolt (AD 132-135). That final revolt resulted in the leveling of Jerusalem, a new Roman city, the renaming of Judea, and all Jews being banished from the area. Those 14 Jewish bishops, along with their non-Jewish successors after AD 135, are listed here and also here.
THE FIRST CHRISTIAN BISHOPS OF JERUSALEM
1. James, kinsman of Jesus Christ +
11. Justus +
21. Gaius I
2. Symeon, kinsman of Jesus Christ +
12. Levi +
3. Justus +
13. Ephres +
23. Gaius II
4. Zacchaeus +
14. Joseph +
24. Julian II
34. Narcissus (repeated)
5. Tobias +
15. Judas +
6. Benjamin +
26. Maximus II *
7. John +
27. Antonius *
8. Matthias +
9. Phillip +
19. Maximus I
10. Seneca +
20. Julian I
+ Jewish descent
In AD 130, the Roman emperor, Hadrian, took notice of the church in Jerusalem when he visited the city. The Jewish historian, Gedaliah Alon, wrote the following about Hadrian’s visit:
“Another early Christian chronicler, Alexander the Monk, writing probably around the middle of the ninth century, says: ‘When (Hadrian) went to the Holy City and saw it in ruins, except for one small Christian church, he gave orders that the whole city be rebuilt, save for the temple. When the Jews heard of this they streamed thither from every direction, and before long the whole city was rebuilt’” (“The Jews in Their Land in the Talmudic Age [AD 70-640], 1980, p. 446; quoting from Alexander Monachus, De Inventione Sanctae Crucis, p. 87, III, 4044-4045, published in 1620).
Soon after his own visit to Jerusalem, Hadrian sent a representative to oversee “the work of building the city,” and this is what he witnessed:
“So Aquila [an envoy of Hadrian], while he was in Jerusalem, also saw the disciples of the disciples of the apostles flourishing in the faith and working great signs, healings, and other miracles. For they were such as had come back from the city of Pella to Jerusalem and were living there and teaching” (Epiphanius, 310-403 AD).
It’s encouraging to read that the top officials of Rome witnessed those early believers “flourishing in the faith.” Despite the upheaval of the Jewish-Roman War, life in Christ continued without interruption after Jerusalem fell in AD 70, even in the region where that tragic war took place. The body of believers in Pella, and later among the ruins of Jerusalem, is just one example of the growth of God’s kingdom beyond the record that we have in the New Testament. The following testimony was given by Eusebius concerning the legacy of those who immediately succeeded the apostles, and it’s a beautiful legacy:
“Among those that were celebrated at that time was Quadratus, who, report says, was renowned along with the daughters of Philip for his prophetical gifts. And there were many others besides these who were known in those days, and who occupied the first place among the successors of the apostles. And they also, being illustrious disciples of such great men, built up the foundations of the churches which had been laid by the apostles in every place, and preached the Gospel more and more widely and scattered the saving seeds of the kingdom of heaven far and near throughout the whole world” (Eusebius, Church History, Book III, Chapter 37).
The kingdom which could be shaken was shaken and removed, but the kingdom “which cannot be shaken” remained (Hebrews 12:25-28). The Jerusalem below was cast out, but “the Jerusalem above” is the mother of us all (Galatians 4:21-31). God’s vineyard was indeed leased to “other vinedressers who will render to Him the fruits in their seasons” (Matthew 21:41). May we also be faithful in bearing spiritual fruit to the glory of God.
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 war. We 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:
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  hiding in the caves and rocks and  attempting to hide from God. Josephus likewise described the Zealots  heading to the caves and caverns as their last hope and  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 68:17translates 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.
“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:
“[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 hereand 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):
Joseph, the son of Gorion (Governor of Jerusalem)
Ananus, the high priest (Governor of Jerusalem)
Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests (Idumaea)
Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest (Idumaea)
Niger, the then governor of Idumea (Idumaea)
Joseph, the son of Simon (Jericho)
John, the Esscue (toparchy of Thamna; “Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus”)
John, the son of Matthias (toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene)
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  Ananus ben Ananus  Niger of Perea, and  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.
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
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.
Tonight at 8 pm EST I’ll be speaking in a conference call on the subject of “Josephus and the Book of Revelation.” My presentation will feature nine case studies showing parallels between the book of Revelation and “The Wars of the Jews” by Josephus (published in 75 AD). The study guide below is for those who are already signed up for the call (this will be posted in a Facebook group), but also for anyone else who may wish to join the call or simply use this as a study tool.
The call-in number for tonight’s conference call is 302-202-1108, and the conference code is 984266. By default, callers are muted the whole time (but able to listen), and are able to “raise a hand” to speak during the Q & A time after my presentation.
In the chart below, I’ve color-coded the case studies that feature the seal, trumpet, and bowljudgments:
Based on the case studies I’ll be presenting, I’m tentatively suggesting 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
Bowls – From spring 68 AD to 70 AD.
In about another week, I’ll create a new post with the audio of this conference call and all of my written notes. At that time, and even now, please feel free to evaluate these case studies and this tentative conclusion.
In the past I’ve echoed the view of other preterist teachers that the 10 horns of the beast in Revelation 17 were the leaders of Rome’s 10 Senatorial Provinces. Recently, however, I learned that there were never 10 Roman provinces involved in the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). Only four legions joined forces with Titus in the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD (Wars 5.1.6), and therefore could not have been the 10 horns that burned the harlot (old covenant Jerusalem) with fire (Revelation 17:16).
This was one of the factors that caused me to rethink this section of John’s prophecy. 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 or January 67 AD. I would like to propose that they fulfilled the prophecy given to John by the angel in Rev. 17:12-14. This would mean, of course, that the beast in Revelation 17 was Jewish, not Roman.
The 10 Horns of Revelation 17:12-14
In this post we will focus on the 10 horns/kings who did not yet have authority when John wrote his book, but who would soon “receive authority for one hour as kings” with the scarlet beast. Here is how these three verses read:
“And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as 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, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:12-14).
Before we look at what Josephus wrote in War of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 20, here’s some important historical background which can be found in the works of Josephus (e.g. Wars 2.20.1) and Roman historians like Suetonius (The Twelve Caesars, Vespasian 4), Tacitus (The Histories V), and Dio Cassius:
Spring 66 AD
Cestius Gallus was a general in the Roman army and the Governor of the Roman province of Syria, who played a major role at the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). In the spring of 66 AD he visited Jerusalem during the Passover and brought a report to Nero on the strength and status of Jerusalem. On Passover 256,500 sacrifices were made, so based on estimates of how many individuals were fed by each lamb Gallus reported that 2.7 million were present for the feast.
Summer 66 AD
During the summer of 66 AD a group of Jewish zealots and revolutionaries, who were opposed to Rome, took control of the Jerusalem temple. 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).
November 66 AD
In November 66 AD Cestius Gallus brought the 12th Legion to put down the Jewish rebellion. He plundered and burned the city of Zebulon in Galilee, then moved south to surround Jerusalem. He arrived when most of Judea was gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Surprisingly, his army suffered about 5,700 deaths, his weapons and supplies were stolen during an ambush, they retreated from Jerusalem on November 22nd, and hundreds were chased and killed by Jewish rebels over the next five days. This gave many Jews confidence that they could overcome any Roman army, believing heaven was with them.
The Jewish religious leaders and nationalists knew that a full-scale Roman revenge was inevitable. (Indeed Nero officially declared war against Israel in February 67 AD, sending Vespasian as his general. See Revelation 6:1-2.) So these Jewish leaders “got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war” (Wars 2.20.3). As Josephus reveals, exactly 10 generals were appointed and some of them were high priests (this is from sections 3-4 of Wars 2.20):
3. But as to those who had pursued after Cestius, when they were returned back to Jerusalem, they overbore some of those that favored the Romans by violence, and some them persuaded [by en-treaties] to join with them, and got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war. Joseph also, the son of Gorion, and Ananus the high priest, were chosen as governors of all affairs within the city, and with a particular charge to repair the walls of the city; for they did not ordain Eleazar the son of Simon to that office, although he had gotten into his possession the prey they had taken from the Romans, and the money they had taken from Cestius, together with a great part of the public treasures, because they saw he was of a tyrannical temper, and that his followers were, in their behavior, like guards about him. However, the want they were in of Eleazar’s money, and the subtle tricks used by him, brought all so about, that the people were circumvented, and submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs.
4. They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea, who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command.
Here’s a list of these 10 generals and the territories they were to oversee in preparation for war with Rome:
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”)
They Receive Authority for One Hour
We read in Revelation 17:12 that the 10 horns had “received no kingdom as yet.” This was true at the time when John wrote Revelation. Before the winter of 66-67 AD these generals didn’t oversee Jerusalem, Idumaea, Jericho, Perea, etc. They received these kingdoms and this authority around the beginning of 67 AD after the defeat of Cestius Gallus.
Rev. 17:12-13 goes on to say that “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.” The phrase “one hour” is used again three times in Revelation 18, each time to describe the judgment of the great city, the harlot, Babylon the great:
“And the kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come‘” (Rev. 18:9-10).
“For in one hour such great riches came to nothing…” (Rev. 18:17).
“…For in one hour she is made desolate” (Rev. 18:19).
We know that “the great city” was first identified in Revelation 11:8 as Jerusalem, “where also our Lord was crucified.” We also know that both Daniel and Revelation frame this time of judgment as 3.5 years, repeatedly using terms like “42 months”, “1260 days,” and “a time, times, and half a time.” During this time Israel experienced seven seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments. It was 3.5 years from the time that Nero declared war on Jerusalem in February 67 AD until the city and its temple were destroyed and burned in August 70 AD. This is also how long the ten kings, the generals listed by Josephus, kept their authority. So it seems that in Revelation 17:12; 18:10, 17, 19, “one hour” = 3.5 years.
These Will Make War with the Lamb
In Revelation 17:14 we read, “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord or lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”
Jesus made war against the harlot/great city and He used the Roman army as His instrument. Probably the clearest indication of this fact can be seen in The Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14). When the king (God) arranged a marriage for his son (Jesus), those who were invited refused to come, and some even mistreated and killed the king’s servants. Jesus went on to say, “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (verse 7). We also know that Jesus promised to come in judgment within the lifetime of His disciples, and in their own generation (Matthew 16:27-28, I Thessalonians 2:14-16, II Thessalonians 1:6-8, James 5:8-9, Revelation 22:12, etc.).
So when these 10 generals (high priests among them) attempted to defeat the Romans and maintain Jerusalem as the center of the old covenant system which Jesus had already made obsolete (Hebrews 8:6, 13, etc.), this was nothing less than war against Jesus Himself. There’s evidence that they even knew this and warred against Jesus intentionally, as they called to mind His predictions that Jerusalem would be destroyed in that generation.
When Jesus said, “the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it…on whomever [this stone] falls, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:43-44), the chief priests and Pharisees knew He was speaking of them (verse 45).
When James, the brother of Jesus, was martyred in 62 AD with the approval of the high priest, Ananus, these were James’ last words: “Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.” The Pharisees responded, “We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus.”
In 70 AD, during the 5-month siege on Jerusalem which ultimately caused its downfall, the 10th Legion of the Romans launched white boulders as heavy as 100 pounds over the city walls into Jerusalem (see Revelation 16:21). They were catapulted from Roman engines from up to a quarter mile away. Josephus records that the watchmen on the wall, if they saw them coming, would shout,“The Son cometh!” After a while the Romans learned to blacken the stones so that they couldn’t as easily be detected, and then many were crushed by these stones. J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book, The Parousia, offered this explanation (p. 482):
“It could not but be well known to the Jews that the great hope and faith of the Christians was the speedy coming of the Son. It was about this very time, according to Hegesippus [110-180 AD], that St. James, the brother of our Lord, publicly testified in the temple that ‘the Son of man was about to come in the clouds of heaven,’ and then sealed his testimony with his blood. It seems highly probable that the Jews, in their defiant and desperate blasphemy, when they saw the white mass hurtling though the air, raised the ribald cry, ‘The Son is coming,’ in mockery of the Christian hope of the Parousia.”
And the Lamb Will Overcome Them
These 10 generals, the 10 horns, were of one mind. They thought they could use their own power and authority to prevent Jesus’ predictions from coming true. They thought they could maintain power over the great temple and their prosperous old covenant system. Of course, they failed and all of them perished or were captured. The words of God were fulfilled (Revelation 17:17). They made war with the Lamb, but the Lamb overcame. Just as it was true then, it’s still true now: In every generation, we who are with the Lamb are “called, chosen, and faithful.”
The 10 Horns Turned on the Harlot
Revelation 17:16 says, “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.”
Previously I thought that this verse couldn’t possibly describe the actions of the Jews, and that it must be about the Romans only. However, we can take note that Josephus described the various Jewish groups fighting among themselves from 67-70 AD, and that he blamed them for Jerusalem’s destruction. For example, Josephus likened the situation in Jerusalem to a wild beast gone mad and eating its own flesh (Wars 5.1.1, 5):
“…it so happened that the sedition at Jerusalem was revived, and parted into three factions, and that one faction fought against the other; which partition in such evil cases may be said to be a good thing, and the effect of Divine justice. Now as to the attack the zealots made upon the people, and which I esteem the beginning of the city’s destruction, it hath been already explained after an accurate manner; as also whence it arose, and to how great a mischief it was increased. But for the present sedition, 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, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces.”
Josephus, in another place (Wars 4.3.10) said that the Romans would treat the Jews with “much greater moderation” than the Jews were treating themselves:
“[T]hough we should be taken by them [the Romans] (God forbid the event should be so!), yet can we undergo nothing that will be harder to be borne than what these [Jewish] men have already brought upon us….Besides, can any one be afraid of a war abroad, and that with such as will have comparatively much greater moderation than our own people have? For truly, if we may suit our words to the things they represent, it is probable one may hereafter find the Romans to be the supporters of our laws, and those within ourselves the subverters of them.”
It was also one of the Jewish leaders who destroyed the food supply during the siege, making the famine conditions much worse. So I tend to think that this insane, self-defeating behavior is what is described in Rev. 17:16. This will be explored further in an upcoming series on the beast of Revelation, including how the Jews had a significant hand in causing the temple and their city to be burned.
What are your thoughts about this view of the 10 horns?