The Little Horn Changed Times and Law (Daniel 7:25)

This post continues the series, “The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel.” The introduction and outline to this series can be seen here.

The previous post, “Daniel 7: The Fourth Beast, 10 Horns, Three Horns, and a Little Horn,” began to examine Daniel 7, as well as “the little horn” and the various roles that he was to play. As a review, Daniel 7:8, 21-22, 24-27 states that the little horn would:

[A] come up among the 10 horns
[B] subdue and pluck out three of the first horns
[C] have a mouth speaking pompous words
[D] make war against the saints
[E] be different than the other 10 horns
[F] “intend to change times and law”
[G] and prevail against the saints for 3.5 years until the coming of the Ancient of Days and the possession of the kingdom by the saints.

The previous post looked at several roles of the little horn (A, B, C, and E), and the majority of this post will look at how he intended to change times and law (F).

The Body of the Fourth Beast Destroyed and Burned (Daniel 7:11)

In Daniel 7:9-10, Daniel saw a throne scene in which “thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated,” and a court was also seated and books were opened. Verse 11 then comes back to the little horn and the fourth beast, saying,

I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame.”

In this series I am making the case that the fourth beast/kingdom of Daniel and “the beast” of the book of Revelation was Zealot-led Israel. The language used here in this verse certainly fits, considering that Israel was destroyed in the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73, and considering that Jerusalem and the temple were burned with fire (fulfilling Matthew 22:7; II Peter 3:7, 10, 12; Revelation 17:16; 18:8-9, 18; 19:20).

This does not fit Rome, which many say was the fourth beast of Daniel and “the beast” of the book of Revelation. Rome was not slain, destroyed, or burned during the Jewish-Roman War, when the kingdom of God was set up (Daniel 2:35, 44; Matthew 16:27-28, 21:43; Revelation 11:15). In fact, the Roman Empire achieved even greater heights during the second century AD.

The Lives of the Other Beasts Were Prolonged (Daniel 7:12)

In Daniel 7:12, Daniel noted a sharp contrast between the downfall of the fourth beast and the downfall of the previous three beasts:

As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.”

Whereas the fourth beast was slain, destroyed, and burned (Daniel 7:11), the other three beasts lost their dominion but lived on “for a season and a time.” When Babylon was conquered by Medo-Persia in 539 BC, Babylon lost its dominion, but remained as a colony of Medo-Persia. When Persia was conquered by Greece in 330 BC, Persia lost its dominion, but remained as a province of the Seleucid Empire ruled by one of Alexander the Great’s four generals. Greece likewise lived on after the Maccabee victories of 164-142 BC. The principal cities of Babylon, Persia, and Greece were not burned and leveled, their religious systems didn’t collapse, etc.

When Israel and Jerusalem fell in 70 AD, however, there was great physical and religious devastation. Israel, the fourth beast, was slain, destroyed, burned. Although Israel briefly rose up again about 65 years later in the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 AD), its sacrificial system was buried and laid to rest. Its priesthood was gone. According to Josephus, Israel was not merely “taken” as it had been five times previously, but this was its second “desolation” (see Revelation 18:19):

“And thus was Jerusalem taken, in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, on the eighth day of the month Gorpeius [Elul]. It had been taken five times before, though this was the second time of its desolation; for Shishak, the king of Egypt, and after him Antiochus, and after him Pompey, and after them Sosius and Herod, took the city, but still preserved it; but before all these, the king of Babylon conquered it, and made it desolate, one thousand four hundred and sixty-eight years and six months after it was built” (Wars 6.10.1).

Jerusalem, aside from its towers and a wall, was also leveled to the ground, just as Jesus predicted:

For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build and embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:43-44).

“Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency…and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side… but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind” (Wars 7.1.1).

The Romans had also cut down everything in an 11.25 mile radius around the city, so that to visitors Judea and the former suburbs of the city appeared as a desert wasteland:

“And now the Romans, although they were greatly distressed in getting together their materials, raised their banks in one and twenty days, after they had cut down all the trees that were in the country that adjoined to the city, and that for ninety furlongs round about, as I have already related. And truly the very view itself of the country was a melancholy thing; for those places which were before adorned with trees and pleasant gardens were now become a desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down: nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change: for the war had laid all the signs of beauty quite waste: nor if any one that had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again; but though he were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it notwithstanding” (Wars 6.1.1).

The contrast in Daniel 7:11-12 makes a lot of sense when Israel is viewed as the fourth beast, but would make no sense if Rome was the fourth beast. Let’s try it, though, just for argument’s sake:

“…I watched till the Roman Empire was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. As for Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time” (Daniel 7:11-12; Rome as the fourth beast).

It doesn’t work. When the kingdom of God was set up and given into the hands of the saints in the first century (Daniel 2:35, 44; Daniel 7:18, 22, 27; Matthew 16:27-28, 21:43; Revelation 11:15), Rome did not have its dominion taken away at that time. Rome was not burned, slain, or destroyed. The Roman Empire came out of the Jewish-Roman War stronger than it was before the war. That time of kingdom transition was great devastation for Israel, not Rome.

The Kingdom Given to the Saints (Daniel 7:17-18, 21-22, 26-27)

The transition from the fourth kingdom to the everlasting kingdom of the saints was already seen in Daniel 2:35, 44. This transition is repeated three times in Daniel 7:

Those great beasts, which are four, are four kingdoms which arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever” (Daniel 7:17-18).

I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” (Daniel 7:21-22).

But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (Daniel 7:26-27).

In all of this, it’s clear that the downfall of the fourth beast and the 11th horn coincides with the saints inheriting the kingdom of God. As I noted in the introduction to this series, we also see this transition in Matthew 21:42-44.

Jesus said to them, ‘Did you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone…?” Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder’” (Matthew 21:42-44).

Israel and Jerusalem suffered defeat and destruction during the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). They were ground to powder by the falling stone of Daniel 2:34-35, 45. Yet out of that tragedy has come the awesome, redemptive, and enduring news that this stone is a great mountain, the kingdom of God. It’s a kingdom that has no end (Luke 1:33).

The 11th Horn Would Change Times and Law (Daniel 7:25)

Coming back to the little horn, we see a statement in Daniel 7:25 that the 11th horn would “intend to change times and law.” I welcome any ideas from readers on this point, but I would like to propose that two key actions taken during the Jewish-Roman War seem to fit this description. Neither action had ever taken place since the days of Moses and Aaron:

[1] the decision to no longer receive gifts or sacrifices for foreigners
[2] choosing an unqualified and fake high priest who was not of Aaron’s bloodline.

The following description by Josephus is quite revealing about what transpired during the Jewish-Roman War due to “the fourth philosophy” of the Zealots. Josephus said that their philosophy spread like an infection as the Jewish revolt blew up into a flame in 66 AD (Wars 2.13.6, Wars 2.14.6). It resulted in the type of great changes described in Daniel 7:25.

“[T]he sedition at last increased so high, that the very temple of God was burnt down by their enemies’ fire. Such were the consequences of this, that the customs of our fathers were altered, and such a change was made, as added a mighty weight toward bringing all to destruction, which these men occasioned by their thus conspiring together” (Antiquities 18.1.1).

Eleazar ben Simon had a big hand in altering the customs of the Jews, but the first big move was made in Jerusalem by a different Eleazar just a few months before he was reassigned to Idumea and his role as leader of the Zealots shifted to Eleazar ben Simon (we will discuss this shift below). It was Eleazar ben Ananias who made the first big move in August 66 AD when he put a stop to all the sacrifices and offerings of the Gentiles, something which had never been done since the days of Moses and Aaron:

“At the same time Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth, 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. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans; for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account; and when many of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice, which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be prevailed upon. These relied much upon their multitude, for the most flourishing part of the innovators assisted them; but they had the chief regard to Eleazar, the governor of the temple.

Hereupon the men of power got together, and conferred with the high priests, as did also the principal of the Pharisees; and thinking all was at stake, and that their calamities were becoming incurable, took counsel what was to be done. Accordingly, they determined to try what they could do with the seditious by words, and assembled the people before the brazen gate, which was that gate of the inner temple [court of the priests] which looked toward the sun-rising. And, in the first place, they showed the great indignation they had at this attempt for a revolt, and for their bringing so great a war upon their country; after which they confuted their pretense as unjustifiable, and told them that their forefathers had adorned their temple in great part with donations bestowed on them by foreigners, and had always received what had been presented to them from foreign nations; and that they had been so far from rejecting any person’s sacrifice (which would be the highest instance of impiety,) that they had themselves placed those donation about the temple which were still visible, and had remained there so long a time; that they did now irritate the Romans to take arms against them, and invited them to make war upon them, and brought up novel rules of a strange Divine worship, and determined to run the hazard of having their city condemned for impiety, while they would not allow any foreigner, but Jews only, either to sacrifice or to worship therein. And if such a law should be introduced in the case of a single private person only, he would have indignation at it, as an instance of inhumanity determined against him; while they have no regard to the Romans or to Caesar, and forbid even their oblations to be received also; that however they cannot but fear, lest, by thus rejecting their sacrifices, they shall not be allowed to offer their own; and that this city will lose its principality, unless they grow wiser quickly, and restore the sacrifices as formerly, and indeed amend the injury [they have offered foreigners] before the report of it comes to the ears of those that have been injured.

And as they said these things, they produced those priests that were skillful in the customs of their country, who made the report that all their forefathers had received the sacrifices from foreign nations. But still not one of the innovators would hearken to what was said; nay, those that ministered about the temple would not attend their Divine service, but were preparing matters for beginning the war…” (Wars 2.17.2-4)

To be clear, Eleazar ben Ananias was not the same person as Eleazar ben Simon, who was one of the three main Zealot leaders during the first half of the Jewish-Roman War, along with John Levi of Gischala and Simon Bar Giora. Various sources seem to confuse these two Eleazars, and as a result they have attributed certain roles and actions to the wrong person.

For example, the Encyclopedia Judaica says that Eleazar ben Ananias was Captain of the Temple “and continued to hold that position until the destruction of the Temple.” This is not true, however, according to Josephus. Around December of 66 AD, Eleazar ben Ananias was named as one of the 10 generals for war against Rome, and he was assigned to Idumea, a region south of Judea (Wars 2.20.4). At this same time, Eleazar ben Simon, the war hero credited with defeating Cestius Gallus, was quickly gaining power in Jerusalem and the people “submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs” (Wars 2.20.3). Eleazar ben Simon gained and kept control of the inner court of the temple until he was killed at the beginning of the Roman siege in April 70 AD (Wars 5.3.1).

Likewise, on page 219 of Final Decade Before the End (a great resource), Ed Stevens cites Hegesippus (110-180 AD) and Yosippon (10th century AD), who say that after “blocking Roman access to the temple,” Eleazar ben Ananias “then seized control of the temple and used it as his fortress…from that point forward” (Heg. 2:10, 5:1; Yos. 61). Hegesippus even claimed that this same Eleazar “was on Masada after the temple was burned” (Heg. 5:53). Here he apparently confuses Eleazar ben Ananias with a third Eleazar – Eleazar ben Jairus, who fled to Masada in September 66 AD (Wars 2.17.9) and later committed suicide there with around 700 others in 73 AD (Wars 7.8.1).

The confusion over Eleazar ben Ananias and Eleazar ben Simon is the seventh problem covered by Tal Ilan and Jonathan J. Price in their article, “Seven Onomastic Problems in Josephus’ “Bellum Judaicum” [Wars of the Jews]. They write about the strange disappearance of “Eleazar ben Ananias,” who played such a large role at the beginning of the Jewish Revolt, but is never mentioned again by Josephus. They also write about the sudden appearance of Eleazar ben Simon at this same point in Wars of the Jews.

Indeed, both Eleazars are mentioned in Wars 2.20.3-4, one for the last time and the other for the first time. I would like to suggest that the baton of Zealot leadership in Jerusalem was handed off at this time (around December 66 AD) from Eleazar ben Ananias to Eleazar ben Simon.

Eleazar ben Ananias Eleazar ben Simon
August 66 AD In Jerusalem

“…but they had the chief regard to Eleazar, the governor of the temple” (Wars 2.17.2)

Location not Certain

(Not yet mentioned by Josephus)

December 66 AD Left Jerusalem

Appointed as a general for Idumea (Wars 2.20.4)

Stayed in Jerusalem

“…the people were circumvented, and submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs” (Wars 2.20.3)

February 68 AD Presumably in Idumea

(No longer mentioned by Josephus)

In Jerusalem

“leaders of the Zealots… These leaders were Eleazar, the son of Simon, who seemed the most plausible man of them all, both in considering what was fit to be done, and in the execution of what he had determined upon…” (Wars 4.4.1)

Although Eleazar ben Ananias initiated the cessation of sacrifices for Gentiles, Eleazar ben Simon was the one who enforced this new rule as he made his headquarters in the temple for the next 3.5 years until his death in April 70 AD. The following, for the sake of clarity, is an overview of the lives of Eleazar ben Ananius and Eleazar ben Simon (all of the primary Zealot leaders will be discussed when we come to Revelation 13):

Eleazar ben Ananius

Eleazar ben Ananius was the governor of the temple, (Antiquities 20.9.3, Wars 2.17.2), the second highest position in the temple other than high priest. It’s suggested that he obtained this position in 62 AD. This position was known as “segan” (Aramaic) or “sagan” (Hebrew). According to Rabbi Hanina Segan ha-Kohanim (40-80 AD), “In case the high-priest became unfit for service, the ‘Segan’ [Deputy] should enter at once to do the service” (Talmud, Tractate Sota 42a).

Eleazar’s father, Ananius ben Nedebaios, was the high priest from roughly 46-52 AD. He’s the one who commanded Paul to be struck on the mouth during his appearance before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:2), prompting Paul to prophesy that Ananias would also be struck (verse 3). Ananius also gave evidence against Paul to the governor Felix at Caesarea (Acts 24:1). The Pulpit Commentary says that he “was a violent, haughty, gluttonous, and rapacious man, and yet looked up to by the Jews.” When Eleazar was the commander of the temple, he was anti-Roman, but his father, Ananias was pro-Roman (one of the complaints of the Zealots was that the Herodian dynasty appointed high priests who were sympathetic to Rome).

In Final Decade before the End (p. 219), Ed Stevens says that Eleazar ben Ananias led a challenge against Roman troops in May 66 AD. “When the Roman Procurator Gessius Florus brought his soldiers to Jerusalem to confiscate all the gold from the Temple (May AD 66),” Yosippon recorded the following:

[Eleazar b. Ananius]… being a youth and very stout of heart, saw the evil that Florus did among the people. He sounded the shofar, and a band of youths and bandits, men of war, gathered around him, and he initiated a battle, challenging Florus and the Roman troops [Sepher Yosippon, ch. 59].

In The Wars of the Jews by Josephus, Eleazar ben Ananias was first mentioned in Wars 2.17.2, as we have already seen, in connection with the events of August 66 AD, which Josephus said were the true beginning of the Jewish-Roman War. He was mentioned again in Wars 2.17.5 as being among “the seditious” (the Zealots) who “had the lower city [of Jerusalem] and the temple in their power,” while “the men of power, with the high priests, as also all the part of the multitude that were desirous of peace, took courage, and seized upon the upper city [Mount Sion].”

Soon after this, Eleazar’s father Ananius was killed by “Manahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean” (Wars 2.17.8-9). Manahem had gone to Masada, broken open king Herod’s armory, stolen arms for his own people and “other robbers,” and “returned in the state of a king to Jerusalem.” Josephus says that Manahem “became the leader of the sedition” (the Zealot movement), but this only lasted for about a month. After Manahem killed Ananias, “Eleazar and his party” avenged his father’s death and killed Manahem.

The last time that Eleazar ben Ananias was mentioned by Josephus was in Wars 2.20.4. There it was said that he was appointed as one of the 10 generals of war. He was one of three commanders assigned to Idumea, south of Judea. This was around December 66 AD, soon after the surprising Jewish victory over Cestius Gallus in November 66 AD. Presumably Eleazar ben Ananias left Jerusalem at this point and took up residence in Idumea. Josephus never mentioned him again.

Eleazar ben Simon

Eleazar ben Simon was first introduced by Josephus in Wars 2.20.3 (just before Josephus mentioned Eleazar ben Ananias for the last time). Eleazar ben Simon was the nephew of Simon Bar Giora, one of the three main Zealot leaders. In Wars 6.4.1, Josephus referred to him as “the brother’s son of Simon the tyrant.”

In Wars 4.4.1 Josephus said that Eleazar ben Simon was the main leader of the Zealots at this point. This was in early 68 AD, shortly after John Levi of Gischala, the other main Zealot leader, had fled his hometown and come up to Jerusalem. Josephus said regarding Eleazar ben Simon that he was “the most plausible man” of the Zealot leaders, “both in considering what was fit to be done, and in the execution of what he had determined upon.” Josephus also said that it was “Eleazar, the son of Simon, who made the first separation of the zealots from the people, and made them retire into the temple” (Wars 5.1.2).

John Levi joined forces with Eleazar and, after killing Ananus ben Ananus and the other high priests in February-March 68 AD, together they seized control of the entire city of Jerusalem. In spring or summer 69 AD Simon Bar Giora seized control of the upper city of Jerusalem and parts of the lower city. John Levi maintained control of part of the lower city and the outer court of the temple, and Eleazar ben Simon controlled the inner court of the temple.


Source: Mark Mountjoy, New Testament Open University (June 9, 2015)

Then a short time before the Roman siege began on April 14, 70 AD, Eleazar ben Simon turned against John because, according to Josephus, “he could not bear to submit to a tyrant [John] who set up after him” (Wars 5.1.2). There were then “three treacherous factions in the city” (Wars 5.1.4; Revelation 16:19). This was the breakdown of the three armies (Wars 5.6.1):

[1] Simon Bar Giora: 10,000 men and 50 commanders; 5000 Idumeans and eight commanders
[2] John Levi: 6,000 men and 20 commanders
[3] Eleazar ben Simon: 2,400 men

Eleazar ben Simon was killed by John Levi’s forces on April 14, 70 AD, just as the Roman general Titus began his siege. This happened at the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Eleazar opened the gates to the inner court of the temple

“and admitted such of the people as were desirous to worship God into it. But John made use of this festival as a cloak for his treacherous designs, and armed the most inconsiderable of his own party, the greater part of whom were not purified, with weapons concealed under their garments, and sent them with great zeal into the temple, in order to seize upon it; which armed men, when they were gotten in, threw their garments away, and presently appeared in their armor… These followers of John also did now seize upon this inner temple, and upon all the warlike engines therein, and then ventured to oppose Simon. And thus that sedition, which had been divided into three factions, was now reduced to two” (Wars 5.3.1).

During the first half of the Jewish-Roman War (Fall 66 AD – Spring 70 AD), Eleazar ben Simon was the Zealot leader who controlled the inner court of the temple. His location and position allowed him to oversee and regulate the activities which took place there.

Phannias, the Fake High Priest of the Zealots

The second major custom to be altered had to do with the high priesthood. In Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus gave an account of the high priests from Aaron until his own time, taking note of the strict rule that every high priest had to be a blood descendant of Aaron. This rule was broken by the Zealots (“the seditious”) during the Jewish-Roman War:

“AND now I think it proper and agreeable to this history to give an account of our high priests; how they began, who those are which are capable of that dignity, and how many of them there had been at the end of the war. In the first place, therefore, history informs us that Aaron, the brother of Moses, officiated to God as a high priest, and that, after his death, his sons succeeded him immediately; and that this dignity hath been continued down from them all to their posterity. Whence it is a custom of our country, that no one should take the high priesthood of God but he who is of the blood of Aaron, while every one that is of another stock, though he were a king, can never obtain that high priesthood. Accordingly, the number of all the high priests from Aaron, of whom we have spoken already, as of the first of them, until Phanas, who was made high priest during the war by the seditious, was eighty- three” (Antiquities 20.10.1).

In Wars 4.3.6-8, Josephus provided the details of how the Zealots committed this treachery. This took place around December 67 AD. Keep in mind that Eleazar ben Simon was the main leader of the Zealots at this time (Wars 4.4.1), controlling the inner court of the temple:

Now the people were come to that degree of meanness and fear, and these robbers to that degree of madness, that these last took upon them to appoint high priests. So when they had disannulled the succession, according to those families out of which the high priests used to be made, they ordained certain unknown and ignoble persons for that office, that they might have their assistance in their wicked undertakings; for such as obtained this highest of all honors, without any desert, were forced to comply with those that bestowed it on them

These men made the temple of God a strong hold for them, and a place whither they might resort, in order to avoid the troubles they feared from the people; the sanctuary was now become a refuge, and a shop of tyranny. They also mixed jesting among the miseries they introduced, which was more intolerable than what they did; for in order to try what surprise the people would be under, and how far their own power extended, they undertook to dispose of the high priesthood by casting lots for it, whereas, as we have said already, it was to descend by succession in a family. The pretense they made for this strange attempt was an ancient practice, while they said that of old it was determined by lot; but in truth, it was no better than a dissolution of an undeniable law, and a cunning contrivance to seize upon the government, derived from those that presumed to appoint governors as they themselves pleased.

Hereupon they sent for one of the pontifical tribes, which is called Eniachim, and cast lots which of it should be the high priest. By fortune the lot so fell as to demonstrate their iniquity after the plainest manner, for it fell upon one whose name was Phannias, the son of Samuel, of the village Aphtha. He was a man not only unworthy of the high priesthood, but that did not well know what the high priesthood was, such a mere rustic was he! yet did they hail this man, without his own consent, out of the country, as if they were acting a play upon the stage, and adorned him with a counterfeit thee; they also put upon him the sacred garments, and upon every occasion instructed him what he was to do. This horrid piece of wickedness was sport and pastime with them, but occasioned the other priests, who at a distance saw their law made a jest of, to shed tears, and sorely lament the dissolution of such a sacred dignity.

So the times and the law of the Jews were significantly changed by these actions which Eleazar ben Simon had a major hand in carrying out. If you have any further insights into how the times and law were changed by the little horn, please feel free to share them.


In the next post, we will look at how the little horn persecuted the saints for 3.5 years right up until the time that the kingdom was given into their hands.

All of the posts in this series can be found at this page.

PP17: The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD (Part 1)

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

[1] Brief Explanation of Preterism
[2] References
[3] External Evidence for An Early Date for the Writing of Revelation
[4] Internal Evidence for An Early Date for the Writing of Revelation (Part 1)
[5] Internal Evidence for An Early Date for the Writing of Revelation (Part 2)
[6] Internal Evidence for An Early Date for the Writing of Revelation (Part 3)
[7] Internal Evidence for An Early Date for the Writing of Revelation (Part 4)
[8] Daniel’s 70 Week Prophecy (Part 1)
[9] Daniel’s 70 Week Prophecy (Part 2)
[10] Jerusalem’s Destruction Foretold in the Olivet Discourse
[11] Did Jesus Come in 70 AD? (Part 1)
[12] Did Jesus Come in 70 AD? (Part 2)
[13] Signs of the Close of the Age
[14] Abomination of Desolation
[15] The Man of Lawlessness – II Thessalonians 2 (Part 1)
[16] The Man of Lawlessness – II Thessalonians 2 (Part 2)

We will now turn to a discussion of the historical events which led up to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. In this first post we will see a fascinating timeline of these events, beginning with the martyrdom of James, the brother of Jesus. It’s not really practical to break up this timeline, so take a deep breath because this will be the longest post yet.

Adam Maarschalk


G. The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD (Part 1)

A number of historical events belonging to this time period have already been enumerated in previous sections, but here further details will be added. Some are of a gory nature, but it should be remembered that one purpose of this judgment was to advance the kingdom of God. Jesus said as much in Luke 21:31 when He stated, “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” John Wesley, in his commentary on this passage, said, “The destruction of the Jewish city, temple, and religion” occurred in order “to make way for the advancement of [God’s] kingdom” (Todd Dennis [10], 2009).

In order to see a basic framework for the historical events leading up to 70 AD, the following is a timeline derived from dates given by Josephus (Todd Dennis [11], 2009),[1] and combined with information from sources referenced in this paper. Some commentary is included, as well as related Scripture references as inferred by Preterist sources:

62 AD James, the brother of Jesus, is martyred in Jerusalem. According to Hegesippus [110-180 AD], the Scribes and Pharisees confronted James and said to him, “We entreat thee, restrain the people; for they are gone astray in regard to Jesus, as if he were the Christ.” However, James used his last words on earth to say, “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.” At that statement, James was thrown off the temple and stoned to death. The believers among the crowd, seeing and hearing his testimony, shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” This prompted the Pharisees to say, “We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus.”
Late 62 Jesus, the son of Ananus and a common Roman citizen, came to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem during a time of great peace and prosperity and began to cry out, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!” He continued to do this for seven years and five months, day and night, in all the lanes of the city, crying out the loudest during the festivals. He was often whipped until his bones were bare, but witnesses say he never shed a tear, only crying out at every lash, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” He was dismissed by the Roman Procurator as a madman.
June 64 Nero reportedly sets fire to Rome, watching the “beauty of the flames” with delight from Mecena’s Tower while dressed in actor’s clothes and singing of the destruction of Troy. When he is pinned down as guilty by rumors, he places the blame for this fire on the Christians.
November 64 Nero launches an imperial persecution against Christians throughout the empire, and against anyone who would not declare allegiance to him. This proves to be the first and the most intense persecution in Rome’s history. Some are covered with the skins of wild beasts and sent into arenas to be torn apart by dogs, while others are crucified. Many others are burned, their bodies first clothed with pitch, paper, and wax, and then fastened to stakes through their throats. At night their bodies are lit up as torches to give light, especially to provide light in Nero’s garden so that he could put on circus shows. This time of persecution lasts until Nero’s death in June 68, a period of 42 months (cf. Revelation 13:5-7).
65 The elaborate temple renovations begun by Herod the Great in 20 BC are finally completed.
Spring 66 Cestius Gallus reports 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 reports that 2.7 million were present for the feast.
April 66 [1] On the 8th day of Nisan, when great crowds are gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a tremendous light begins to shine around “the altar and the holy house.” This happens at 3:00 AM, lasting for half an hour, and it appears to be “bright day time.” Many interpret this to be a good sign, perhaps God’s favor. [2] At this same festival, a heifer, led by the (false and blasphemous) high priest to be sacrificed, suddenly gives birth to a lamb in the midst of the temple. [3] One night at midnight the eastern gate of the inner court of the temple opens of its own accord. This gate, made of very heavy brass, normally requires the strength of 20 men to open and shut it, and it “had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor.” Writes Josephus, “This also appeared to the vulgar to be a very happy prodigy, as if God did thereby open them the gate of happiness.” [4] A few days after the feast, seen and recorded by multiple witnesses, just before sunset “chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor are seen running about among the clouds,” surrounding the cities.
June 66 At the Feast of Pentecost, the priests who are going at night into the inner court of the temple to perform the sacred duties feel a quaking and hear a great noise. Then they hear “a sound as of a great multitude, saying, ‘Let us remove hence.’”
Fall 66 [1] Zealots and Revolutionaries (against Rome) take control of the Jerusalem temple. [2] The Jewish/Roman War begins in October with a revolt at Caesarea due to a group of Greeks sacrificing birds in front of a local synagogue. The revolt occurred because the Jews were frustrated that the local Roman garrison did not intervene. [3] The High Priest successfully leads a massacre of the Roman garrison stationed in Jerusalem, the 12th Legion led by Cestius Gallus of Syria. [4] The Romans in Caesarea slaughter 20,000 Jews. [5] About 13,000 more Jews are put to death in Damascus, Syria.
Late 66/Early 67 [1] Cestius Gallus, the Roman governor of Syria, takes the Twelfth Legion to put down the Jewish rebellion. He plunders and burns the city of Zebulon in Galilee, then moves south to surround Jerusalem. He arrives when most of Judea is gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Surprisingly, his army is defeated and driven away, with the Romans suffering about 5700 deaths. This gives many Jews confidence that they could overcome any Roman army, and the moderates who advocated maintaining peace with Rome are scorned all the more. [2] Thousands of Christian believers, however, recalling the warnings Jesus gave (e.g. Luke 21:20-21, Matthew 24:15-20-23, Mark 13:14-18), and also collectively being instructed by a divine oracle, flee to Pella beyond the Jordan River.*** It’s recorded that not one single believer perished in the siege that would come later. [3] The Jews cease to offer prayers and sacrifices at the temple for Nero, the Roman Emperor.
Early February 67 Rome officially declares war on Israel, and Nero formally commissions Vespasian as his general to lead this war (Revelation 6:2).
Early spring 67 Vespasian marches into Judea with an army of 60,000 men. At least 150,000 Jewish inhabitants of Galilee and Judea are killed in the coming months. Josephus describes Galilee at one point as “filled with fire and blood,” and writes that the sea turned to blood near Joppa after a brutal slaughter there, recording also that the Sea of Galilee was filled with dead bodies.
June 29, 67 Paul the Apostle is beheaded in Rome on this day, according to Chrysostom and later records of the eastern and western church. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, affirms in a letter that Peter is martyred with him, crucified upside down as Christ had foretold (John 21:18-19).
August 67 Josephus is captured by the Romans when Yotapata falls. He surrenders, thus receiving the label of traitor by the Zealots. Josephus is held in Caesaria until 69 AD, and returns with Titus to Jerusalem in 70 AD as an eye-witness to the final siege there.
Fall/Winter 67 Civil War breaks out in Judea between the revolutionaries and those who want peace with Rome. Jerusalem is eventually divided into three factions led by [1] Eleazar, who was over the Zealots [2] John of Gischala, who was over the Galileans, and [3] Simon, who was over the Idumeans. It remains this way until the city is destroyed.[2] Numerous earthquakes occur at this time..
November 67 [1] Gischala was the last city in all of Galilee to be taken by Vespasian and his son, Titus, because it was a farming community. However, John, who was fond of war and most corrupt, had built a wall around it. When Titus arrived with 1000 horsemen, John pretended that he cared about honoring the Sabbath day and persuaded Titus to retreat until the Sabbath was over. However he escaped during the night with all the armed men and many families. The next day Titus the remaining inhabitants came out of the city and embraced Titus as if he was a deliverer, so their lives were spared but they were taken captive. Titus could not catch John before he reached Jerusalem, so in his anger he slew 6000 of the women and children who had followed behind him in the escape. [2] John of Gischala, the enemy of Josephus, arrives in Jerusalem with numerous followers; he proves to be a false prophet as he repeatedly assures everyone that Rome lacks the power to take Jerusalem. He is also the cause of much division and fighting.
Winter 67/68 [1] Guerilla groups make their way to Jerusalem and are welcomed by the populace; [2] Relatives of King Agrippa and other Royalists are executed by the Zealots for supposed treason; [3] The Zealots appoint their own High Priest, Phannias, annulling the previous succession of the high priesthood. Phannias, in the months to come, commits what, to Judaism, are lawless acts of false worship. [4] The people are incited to rebel against the Zealots by prominent men (including Ananus, the former High Priest), but the Zealots, hearing of the plan, strike first. When the people retaliate much bloodshed occurs and the Zealots fall back into the Inner Court and bar themselves inside. [5] Certain Zealot leaders escape and, using deceitful means, persuade 20,000 Idumeans to march on Jerusalem.  [6] The Idumeans are kept shut outside the city gates, but a verbal war ensues. Overnight a terrible storm takes place, along with a great earthquake, which Josephus described as “amazing concussions and bellowing of the earth” (Wars 4.4.5). Certain Zealots take advantage of the awful noise to cut through the gates unnoticed. The Idumeans enter, and the Zealots fight from within, and by daybreak 8,500 are dead. The outer temple is said to be “overflowing with blood.” Houses are then looted and their inhabitants killed. The corpses are cast outside the city without burial.
February 68 [1] The Zealots and Idumeans murder 12,000 of their opponents who will not join them, including Ananus and Jesus son of Gamaliel, two former High Priests who had been popular with many people. The Idumeans discover that they were duped by John of Gischala numerous times and decide to leave Jerusalem. Unchecked, the Zealots continue to murder all possible opponents and persons of authority. [2] Vespasian of Rome decides not to attack Jerusalem yet, giving time for the dissension to weaken its inhabitants first. [3] The Zealots ridicule “every dictate of religion” and “scoffed at the oracles of the [Old Testament] prophets as impostor’s tales.” [4] Simon, son of Gioras, leaves Masada, gains a following, and comes to Jerusalem to “proclaim liberty for the slaves and rewards for the free.”
Feb./March 68 Vespasian attacks Gadara before moving on toward Jerusalem.
March/April 68 The Sicarii (assassins) at Masada conduct raids on Judea, including a Passover attack on En Gedi.
June 68 [1] Vespasian reaches the walls of Jerusalem. [2] Nero’s reign ends when he commits suicide. Vespasian, unnerved by this news, loosens his grip on Jerusalem. He is forced to return to Rome to deal with the outbreaks of civil war there. Numerous false prophets in Jerusalem and Judea proclaim God’s favor and deliverance for the Jews. [3] The “Year of Four Emperors” begins, as Nero is succeeded by Galba, Ortho, Vitellius, and finally Vespasian. Rome is in political disarray during this time and teeters on the brink of total collapse. [4] Simon takes control of parts of Judea and clashes with the Zealots. With 20,000 troops he overcomes Idumaea, takes Hebron and begins to ravage the country. When his wife is kidnapped by the Zealots, he attacks Jerusalem in a rage until they give her back.
April 69 Simon drives many Idumean refugees back into Jerusalem.
Spring 69 [1] The Galilean followers of John dress like women (probably during the festival of Purim) and “indulge themselves in feminine wantoness,” while attacking men at random and running them through with swords kept under their gowns. [2] The Idumeans gather together against John and his followers, but the Zealots rush to John’s defense. [3] The chief priests, Idumaeans, and the wealthy in Jerusalem invite Simon to Jerusalem to overthrow John, and Simon is hailed as “their Savior and Protector.” [4] Simon becomes the Master of Jerusalem and attacks the Zealots in the temple. The part of the temple deemed as the Holy Court is filled with lakes of blood and dead carcasses.
June 69 Vespasian resumes his attack on Judea and Jerusalem, retaking areas conquered by Simon as he makes his advance.
Summer 69 A star and a comet, both resembling a sword, appear over the city of Jerusalem, and remain there stationary for a full year, until Jerusalem’s destruction is final.
December 69 [1] Vespasian is declared Emperor in Rome. He dispatches his son Titus to crush Jerusalem. [2] Eleazar the son of Simon breaks from the Zealots, and takes over the Inner temple, planting weapons on top of the gates. [3] The parties of Eleazar, Simon, and John exchange missile fire, making victims of the “worshippers who still come to the Temple from all corners of the Earth,” and “the blood of all manner of corpses formed pools in the courts of God.” [4] John of Gischala foolishly sets fire to the supply warehouses, and nearly all the grain supplies are burned, which would have lasted the city for years. This sets up a massive famine that will prove to be Jerusalem’s undoing. [5] As Titus advances on Jerusalem with four legions of the Roman army (more than 80,000 men), some of the Jews launch successful guerilla warfare-type attacks on his men, attacking quickly and then retreating. [6] Titus arrives and camps with his army at the Mount of Olives. The factions in Jerusalem temporarily stop fighting, only to resume later while under the final siege.
April 70 [1] Titus suddenly closes in on Jerusalem and the final siege of begins in full fury, 40 years to the week from the crucifixion of Christ, according to Josephus. This siege is to last for five months. Many had come up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and were unable to escape because they were trapped by the Roman armies. [2] The 10th Legion of the Romans begins to launch white boulders as heavy as 100 pounds over the city walls into Jerusalem. They are cast by catapults from Roman engines from a distance of up to two furlongs (a quarter mile) away. Josephus records that the watchmen on the wall, if they saw them coming, would shout, “The Son cometh!”[3] After a while the Romans learned to blacken the stones so that they couldn’t as easily be detected, and thus many were crushed by these stones. [3] Jesus, the son of Ananus, is killed by a large stone flung from one of the Roman engines. He had loudly and repeatedly prophesied Jerusalem’s destruction throughout the city for seven years and five months. Just before he was struck, he cried out with great force, “Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house! Woe, woe to myself also!”
April 10-14, 70 The Roman armies, situated some distance outside of Jerusalem, begin leveling the ground between them and the city walls. This is completed in four days.
Mid-late April 70 The Romans begin to bombard the city with missiles, shot from their siege towers. Titus begins to pound the third (outer) wall with his battering rams.
April 29, 70 One of the Roman battering rams breaches the third wall.
May 25, 70 The Romans completely bypass the third wall and capture the New City northwest of the temple.
May/June 70 [1] The Romans bypass the second wall; the Jews retreat behind the first wall. [2] Titus divides his army and they try to attack the first wall and the Fortress of Antonia at the same time, but fail. [3] Within three days Titus and his army cast a trench around Jerusalem, and the entire city is enclosed with a new wall, nine miles in length. All available timber within a 10-mile radius around Jerusalem is used, and the entire area is stripped bare of foliage. [4] Titus challenges the Jewish fanatics to let the citizens go, promising that they would receive their houses back in time, but the fanatics instead begin to execute any caught discussing the idea of surrender. Their bodies are mutilated and thrown over the wall to the Romans. [5] Titus, making his rounds, sees the valleys full of dead bodies and groans with his hands spread toward the sky, calling heaven as a witness that these deaths were not his doing but “were the sad case of the city itself.”
Summer 70 [1] In the city, dead bodies are piled up in heaps, the result of famine and civil war. Some of the mansion houses are used as body depositories. The stench of decomposing bodies fills the city. [2] Robbers plunder the city houses at will, thrusting some of the starving ones through with their swords for sheer pleasure. However, writes Josephus, those who asked to be killed in order to escape their misery were laughed at and left alone to suffer. Most of them died with their eyes fixed on the temple, as if they hoped until the end that the temple itself could save them. [3] During the siege many desperate Jews tried to escape Jerusalem, mostly men who left behind their wives and children thinking they alone could escape unnoticed. However, writes Josephus (Jewish Wars, Book 5, Chapter 6), they were caught by the thousands, whipped, tortured by various means, and crucified just outside the city walls at a rate of 500 crucifixions per day. Titus took pity on these victims, but didn’t interfere because he hoped that the inhabitants (who could see this going on) would surrender in order to avoid a similar fate. In the end, being that there weren’t enough crosses and scarcely room for all of them in any case, more than one Jew was often nailed to the same cross.
Late June/July 70 [1] The Romans breach part of the first (inner) wall with their battering rams, but discover to their dismay that the rebel forces under John have built another inner wall behind it. [2] The Romans take their fight all the way to the temple gates, but meet fierce resistance and are forced to retreat. [3] On July 18th, the Jews set a fire trap in the walkway connecting the temple and the Fortress of Antonia. These Jews pretend to retreat, luring the Roman soldiers into the walkway and into the fire trap. Many Roman troops are burned.
July 22, 70 [1] The Fortress of Antonia falls to Titus. [2] Around this time (the 17th of Tammuz) the daily sacrifice of the Jews fails, as recorded by Josephus in Wars, VI, 2.1., greatly troubling the Jewish people: “[T]he last lamb was gone and not even a handful of flour was left in the city. Thus the sacrifice ended and the fire on the altar was extinguished.”
July 29, 70 Earthworks are completed, and Titus and his troops approach the temple outer courtyard from the west. The Romans try to scale the temple walls with ladders, but fail. As a last resort, Titus orders his troops to set fire to the temple gates, but to spare the temple itself. [2] Since the time of the initial invasion and withdrawal of Cestius Gallus at the end of 66 AD, a time period of roughly three years and seven months has transpired, or 1,290 days if each year is reckoned as 360 days (cf. Daniel 12:12).
August 10, 70 [1] The Romans burn the gates and enter the temple courtyards. Despite the orders of Titus to spare the temple, it is burnt to the ground on the exact same day and month as the previous temple had been burnt by the Babylonians in 586 BC (Josephus, Antiquities 2.11.8). The flames are so great that from a distance, the entire city of Jerusalem appears to be on fire. [2] Old Covenant Judaism ceases to be intact from this point forward. History records that Judaism has never been the same since, and that religious Jews, having no central temple, have ever since been unable to obey the stipulations which required the presence of the temple. [3] Surviving Jews flee the temple and go into the city to continue the fight from there or to search for hiding places. [4] The victorious Romans carry the idolatrous standards of their legions into the temple courtyards and make sacrifices to them there.
Aug/Sept 70 [1] Surviving Jews retreat to the Upper City of Jerusalem, where many continue to plunder, ambush, and assault their fellow Jews. The victims are too weakened by famine to resist, and quite a few are killed senselessly. Josephus tries to persuade them to surrender to the Romans and spare what is left of the city, but he is laughed at. Josephus records that some put on happy faces “in expectation, as they said, of death to end their miseries.” [2] Many Jews seek refuge in the caves and underground caverns, hoping to remain hidden once the Romans would reach the Upper City. However, Josephus records: “This was no better than a dream of theirs; for they were not able to lie hid either from God or from the Romans” (cf. Revelation 6:15-17). [3] The Romans burn the Lower City, assault Herod’s Palace, and prepare to enter the Upper City. They are once again forced to build earth ramps, which are completed on August 27. The next day the whole city is burning. Josephus estimates the death toll in Jerusalem to be 1,197,000. Most of the surviving Jews are sold into international slavery (cf. Luke 21:24), a total of 97,000.
September 14, 70 [1] With all resistance ended, and cleanup complete, Titus leaves Jerusalem for Caesarea. [2] Since the time of the initial invasion and withdrawal of Cestius Gallus, a time period of three years, eight months, and 15 days has transpired, or 1,335 days (cf. Daniel 12:12).
Late 70-Early 73 [1] Those who had managed to escape from Jerusalem during its final overthrow create pockets of resistance around the Dead Sea areas, including at the hill fortress of Masada. [2] Titus throws two birthday parties, one for his brother (Domitian) and one for his father. As entertainment, Jewish captives are forced to fight beasts or each other, and others are burnt. At least 2500 are killed in this manner in the first party, and an even greater “multitude” in the second party.
April 8, 73 Masada is taken by the Romans and the last of the Jewish refugees, 960 individuals, commit mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. This is accomplished by the men first killing their own wives and children, then killing all but 10 among themselves, according to the lots they had cast. Nine of the final 10 are killed by one last man, who sets fire to the palace and then plunges himself through with a sword. This account is related to Josephus by two woman who survive by hiding inside a cistern with five children.
May 20, 73 The last of the territories of Israel is sold off, leaving no trace of the Jewish homeland, its territories, or its temple in Jewish hands. Since the initial invasion and withdrawal of Cestius Gallus, a time period of just over six years and four months has transpired (cf. Daniel 8:14, regarding “2,300 evenings and mornings”).

[1] One of the best sources containing the complete works of Josephus, including his “War of the Jews” and “Antiquities of the Jews,” can be found in the translated work of William Whiston, located here: A chronology based on Josephus’ writings has been compiled by G. J. Goldberg and can be seen here:

[2] Kurt Simmons (2009 [2]) sees this fact as a fulfillment of Revelation 16:19; “The great city was split into three parts…”

[3] J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book titled The Parousia, offers 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 [in 62 AD]. 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” (Todd Dennis [23], 2009).

***The timing of this event is based on the testimonies of Eusebius (263-339 AD) and Remigius (437-533 AD), who said that the Christians dwelling in Jerusalem and the surrounding regions fled to Pella beyond the Jordan “on the approach of the Roman army” (See post 14 entitled, “Abomination of Desolation”). There are some who suggest that the believers may not have fled during the first approach of the Roman army in late 66/early 67 AD, but rather during the Roman army’s second approach in 69/70 AD. They note correctly that Vespasian, having swept through Galilee and Judea and having closed in on Jerusalem by early 68 AD, upon learning of Nero’s death in 68 AD then retreated to Rome to deal with the sudden civil war there. It was then his son, Titus, who led the Roman army’s second march toward Jerusalem, arriving by April 70 AD. The contention is that the last of the believers may have only fled during this second approach led by Titus.