Did All of the Judean Christians Flee to Pella?


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

In the previous post, “The Little Horn Persecuted the Saints (Daniel 7:21, 25),” we continued to examine the roles that Daniel 7 says the little horn of the beast was to play. That post highlighted the persecution and murders carried out by the Zealots against anyone who advocated for peace instead of war, and against anyone they even suspected of wanting to defect to the Romans. During the height of that persecution (66 AD – 70 AD), were Christians in Judea and Jerusalem, and did they get caught up in the midst of it? Or did they all flee to Pella in late 66 AD?

Were Christians in Jerusalem During the Jewish-Roman War?

According to Daniel 7:21-22, 25 the little horn would make war against the saints, persecute them, and prevail against them until “the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.” The saints would be in his hand for 3.5 years.

Revelation 13 gives some clues as to where these 3.5 years of persecution (Rev. 13:5-7) would take place. It would be directed toward those “who dwell in the land” (of Israel) who wouldn’t worship the beast (Rev. 13:8, 12). This requirement to worship the beast would be enforced by the beast that came “up out of the land” (a.k.a. “the false prophet”; Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10). He would deceive “those who dwell in the land,” and he would work in the presence of the beast (Rev. 13:11-15). So Israel would be the geographical center of this persecution.

It should be safe to assume that the Christians didn’t support the war, and therefore they were at high risk of being killed if they were in Judea and Jerusalem from 66-70 AD. However, neither Josephus nor Tacitus specifically said that Christians were killed there during that time. As far as I’m aware, Josephus never singled out Christians, or distinguished between Jews and Christians, in any of his writings. He did not specifically say that Christians were killed along with Jews in Judea and Jerusalem prior to and during the first half of the Jewish-Roman War (66-70 AD).

The claim has been made that no Christians were killed when Jerusalem was destroyed, because they had all escaped to Pella (in modern Jordan). Who first made that claim, and what information was it based on? Assuming it’s true, does it simply mean that no Christians were killed during the siege of April-August 70 AD? Or does it mean, more broadly, that no Christians were killed in Jerusalem after the war began in 66 AD?

pella

Source: Wikipedia (Pella, Jordan)

Since Daniel 7:21, 25 says that the little horn persecuted and prevailed against the Christians for 3.5 years, and since Revelation 13 shows that Christians living in Israel were targets of this persecution, then these are important questions to consider. This is especially true if one is open to the idea that this persecution was carried out by the Zealots.

For a while, the Zealots persecuted and killed their opponents in Galilee, Samaria, Judea, Idumea, and perhaps elsewhere as well, but eventually they were isolated to Jerusalem as the Romans gradually captured those territories. Once the Zealots were isolated to Jerusalem, Josephus is clear that they continued to oppose and kill their opponents there as well (see the previous post). Were Christians among them?

Here are the words of Jesus warning His followers of a time when they would need to flee:

Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains… For then there will be great tribulation…” (Matthew 24:15-16, 21).

But when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains… For in those days there will be tribulation…” (Mark 13:14, 19).

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her… For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people” (Luke 21:20-21, 23).

So Luke equates the abomination of desolation with Jerusalem being surrounded by armies. When this happened, Christians were instructed to leave not only Jerusalem, but all of Judea, and not to go back in. The following are the earliest testimonies I’m aware of concerning Christians heeding this warning and fleeing to Pella and elsewhere (source: Preterist Archive):

Eusebius (263 – 339 AD)

[1] “But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella. And when those that believed in Christ had come there from Jerusalem, then, as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were entirely destitute of holy men, the judgment of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men” (Ecclesiastical History 3.5.3, 290’s AD).

[2] “After all those who believed in Christ had generally come to live in Perea, in a city called Pella of the Decapolis of which it is written in the Gospel and which is situated in the neighborhood of the region of Batanaea and Basanitis, Ebion’s preaching originated here after they had moved to this place and had lived there” (Panarion 30:2).

[3] “For when the city was about to be captured and sacked by the Romans, all the disciples were warned beforehand by an angel to remove from the city, doomed as it was to utter destruction. On migrating from it they settled at Pella, the town already indicated, across the Jordan. It is said to belong to Decapolis” (de Mens. et Pond., 15).

[4] “Now this sect of Nazarenes exists in Beroea in Coele-Syria, and in Decapolis in the district of Pella, and in Kochaba of Basanitis– called Kohoraba in Hebrew. For thence it originated after the migration from Jerusalem of all the disciples who resided at Pella, Christ having instructed them to leave Jerusalem and retire from it on account of the impending siege. It was owing to this counsel that they went away, as I have said, to reside for a while at Pella” (Haer 29:7).

Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis (315 – 403 AD)

“The Nazoraean sect exists in Beroea near Coele Syria, in the Decapolis near the region of Pella, and in Bashan in the place called Cocaba, which in Hebrew is called Chochabe. That is where the sect began, when all the disciples were living in Pella after they moved from Jerusalem, since Christ told them to leave Jerusalem and withdraw because it was about to be besieged” (Panarion 29:7:7-8).

“Their sect began after the capture of Jerusalem. For when all those who believed in Christ settled at that time for the most part in Peraea, in a city called Pella belonging to the Decapolis mentioned in the gospel, which is next to Batanaea and the land of Bashan, then they moved there and stayed” (Panarion 30:2:7).

Remigius, Bishop of Reims (437 – 533 AD)

[1] “[F]or on the approach of the Roman army, all the Christians in the province, warned, as ecclesiastical history tells us, miraculously from heaven, withdrew, and passing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella; and under the protection of that King Agrippa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, they continued some time; but Agrippa himself, with the Jews whom he governed, was subjected to the dominion of the Romans” [Thomas Aquinas (1841). Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels; Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew. (J. H. Newman, Ed.) (Vol. 1, p. 799-816)].

So the earliest known testimony about the Christians fleeing to Pella seems to belong to Eusebius, who wrote approximately 230 years after the flight took place. Some speculate that his reports were based on the writings of Hegesippus (110-180 AD), whose writings are now mostly lost. Here are a few things to note from these testimonies:

1. Eusebius said that the church in Jerusalem was warned to flee “before the war,” which Josephus said began in August 66 AD (Wars 2.17.2).
2. Eusebius said that the believers “generally” came to live in Pella of Perea. Epiphanius likewise said that they settled in Pella “for the most part.” This indicates that some believers escaped to other locations and/or that not all of the believers escaped.
3. When Remigius said “as ecclesiastical history tells us,” he appears to have been relying on the accounts of Eusebius.
4. Remigius revealed that Agrippa, who protected the Christians at Pella, was under the dominion of the Romans, and that the Jews he watched over were also under the dominion of the Romans.

Josephus does record a mass exodus out of Judea, but it’s difficult to tell exactly when it happened. It took place while Gessius Florus was the Procurator of Judea (64-66 AD). He behaved wickedly toward the Jews, causing the Zealots to gain the upper hand in Judea. According to Josephus, “he spoiled whole cities, and ruined entire bodies of men at once… entire toparchies were brought to desolation, and a great many of the people left their own country, and fled into foreign provinces” (Wars 2.14.2).

The earliest major attack of Jerusalem by the Romans took place in November 66 AD when Cestius Gallus led an army toward Jerusalem to try to put down the rebellion there (Wars 2.19.2-9). The Jews who were gathered there for one of the feasts “saw the war approaching to their metropolis” (Wars 2.19.2). Cestius and his army approached from the northeast of Jerusalem, first observing the city from Mount Scopus, one of the seven mountains of Jerusalem (Wars 2.19.4). It appears that Cestius approached Jerusalem and entered it from one direction, rather than surrounding the city. This also took place several months after the war had begun. (According to Eusebius, the believers were warned to flee before the war began.)

In order to reconcile the account of Eusebius with the words of Jesus, Jerusalem needed to be surrounded by armies prior to the war, which began in August 66 AD, according to Josephus. Was there an earlier instance of Jerusalem being surrounded, which prompted the believers to flee? Consider this account by Josephus, which took place in April – May 66 AD:

“A few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius [Jyar], a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities” (Wars 6.5.3).

Did Christians flee Jerusalem and Judea at that time? By the time Cestius Gallus arrived in November 66 AD, Josephus says this about the people in Jerusalem: “Now for the people, they were kept under by the seditious” (Wars 2.19.4), meaning that they were under the control of the Zealots. This would have been a dangerous environment for any remaining Christians. In other words, the Zealots were a danger and a threat to the people of Jerusalem well before the Romans were. It was also at this time that Josephus said that many of the Zealots “retired from the suburbs, and retreated into the inner part of the city, and into the temple.” They did this because they were “affrighted at the good order of the Romans.”

Many of the Zealots did briefly leave Jerusalem when Cestius Gallus approached the city, but only for a matter of days. They were seized by fear, ran out of Jerusalem, and some of the people opened the gates and invited Cestius Gallus in “as their benefactor.” However, Cestius was unaware that the Zealots had fled and he surprisingly passed on this opportunity to capture Jerusalem. Instead, the Zealots resumed their courage and began to attack the armies of Cestius Gallus, soon achieving a resounding victory. Presumably, Christians in Jerusalem also had an opportunity to flee Jerusalem during those several days when Cestius Gallus was retreating from Jerusalem and most of the Zealots were pursuing his forces. Here’s how Josephus summarized that chain of events:

“A horrible fear seized upon the seditious, insomuch that many of them ran out of the city, as though it were to be taken immediately; but the people upon this took courage, and where the wicked part of the city gave ground, thither did they come, in order to set open the gates, and to admit Cestius as their benefactor, who, had he but continued the siege a little longer, had certainly taken the city; but it was, I suppose, owing to the aversion God had already at the city and the sanctuary, that he was hindered from putting an end to the war that very day.

It then happened that Cestius was not conscious either how the besieged despaired of success, nor how courageous the people were for him; and so he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city, without any reason in the world. But when the robbers perceived this unexpected retreat of his, they resumed their courage, and ran after the hinder parts of his army, and destroyed a considerable number of both their horsemen and footmen…” (Wars 2.19.6-7).

Immediately after this defeat of Cestius Gallus, Josephus speaks of more Jews fleeing from Jerusalem: “After this calamity had befallen Cestius, many of the most eminent of the Jews swam away from the city, as from a ship when it was going to sink” (Wars 2.20.1).

Aside from the armies in the clouds which were seen surrounding cities in April – May 66 AD, there were also armies of Zealots roaming throughout Judea and Jerusalem. It’s possible that they surrounded Jerusalem prior to gaining such power that in November 66 AD they were able to “keep the people under” (Wars 2.19.4).

Concerning “abominations,” note that Josephus said that Jerusalem was full of them by September 66 AD, two months before the Romans arrived. This is when the Zealot leader Manahem and his followers were slain in the temple and other parts of the city:

The city was all over polluted with such abominations, from which it was but reasonable to expect some vengeance, even though they should escape revenge from the Romans…as likely themselves to undergo punishment for the wickedness of the seditious; for indeed it so happened that this murder was perpetrated on the sabbath day, on which day the Jews have a respite from their works on account of Divine worship” (Wars 2.17.10).

What about the fate of Christians during this time when Jerusalem was in the grip of the Zealots? It’s the later commentaries which say that not a single Christian died in Jerusalem’s destruction. The same compilation of quotes at Preterist Archives reveals that this claim was made by Henry Hammond (1659), Thomas Newton (1754), George Peter Holford (1805), John Gill (1809), Albert Barnes (1832), Adam Clarke (1837), and Charles Finney (1852).

Whether this claim is true or not, it seems to refer only to the siege of Titus beginning in mid-April 70 AD. In other words, they claimed that Jerusalem was empty of Christians by spring 70 AD, but they did not seem to claim that Jerusalem was empty of Christians by fall 66 AD. Henry Hammond (1659), for example, says that “when Titus came some months after and besieged the city, there was not one Christian remaining in it.” Of course, it’s good to ask how Hammond or anyone else living many centuries later could have known that to be the case.

According to these commentaries, not all of the Christians went to Pella. Thomas Newton (1754) and Adam Clarke (1837) both said that they also settled “in other places beyond the River Jordan.”

Thomas Newton was likely referring to the writings of Josephus when he said, “We do not read anywhere that so much as one of them [Christians] perished in the destruction of Jerusalem.” That’s true. Again, Josephus, who wrote in more detail about the Jewish-Roman War than anyone else, didn’t specifically mention Christians being killed in Jerusalem. He also didn’t say anything about Christians escaping to safety in Pella. The lack of such information from Josephus doesn’t necessarily mean that it didn’t happen. It just means that he didn’t discuss the status of Christians at all.

The language of Daniel 7:21, 25 indicates that there were still Christians in the grip of the Zealots during the period of 66-70 AD. Based on the descriptions given by Josephus, it was difficult, but not impossible, for local people to enter and exit Jerusalem during that time. For example, After the Idumeans joined the Zealots in slaughtering thousands in February – March 68 AD, Josephus said this:

“But because the city had to struggle with three of the greatest misfortunes, war, and tyranny, and sedition, it appeared, upon the comparison, that the war was the least troublesome to the populace of them all. Accordingly they ran away from their own houses to foreigners, and obtained that preservation from the Romans, which they despaired to obtain among their own people” (Wars 4.7.1).

Despite the Zealots watching “all the passages out of the city,” others also managed to conceal themselves and flee directly to Vespasian, the Roman general:

“Vespasian did, indeed, already pity the calamities these men were in, and arose, in appearance, as though he was going to besiege Jerusalem, – but in reality to deliver them from a [worse] siege they were already under” (Wars 4.7.3).

Even in the midst of the Roman siege (April – September 70 AD), there were Jews who found safety when they escaped to the Romans, as “Titus let a great number of them go away into the country, whither they pleased” (Wars 5.10.1). Later in the siege Josephus said this:

“Many also of the other nobility went over to the Romans, together with the high priests. Now Caesar not only received these men very kindly in other respects, but, knowing they would not willingly live after the customs of other nations, he sent them to Gophna, and desired them to remain there for the present, and told them, that when he was gotten clear of this war, he would restore each of them to their possessions again; so they cheerfully retired to that small city which was allotted them, without fear of any danger” (Wars 6.2.2).

Although many Christians apparently left Jerusalem before the war began, it’s possible that some didn’t heed Jesus’ warning to flee (Matthew 24:15-20, Mark 13:14-18, Luke 21:20-23) and perished. It’s also possible that others stayed, endured great difficulties, and managed to flee later.

Outsiders continued to travel to Jerusalem from far and wide for the annual festivals all the way up to April 70 AD, and many of these pilgrims were killed because of the fighting between the Zealot factions (Wars 5.1.3). It’s possible that Christians from other regions outside of Judea came to Jerusalem to participate in the festivals, failing to heed the warning of Revelation 18:4, and paid the price with their lives.

In summary, I don’t believe that the testimonies of Eusebius, Remigius, Hammond, Newton, etc. in any way dismiss the idea that it was the Zealots, especially under the leadership of Eleazar Ben Simon, who prevailed over the saints in Israel and Jerusalem for 3.5 years. On the other hand, the testimony of Remigius actually dismisses the idea that Nero fulfilled Revelation 13:5-7 by persecuting Christians in all parts of the Roman Empire for a period of 3.5 years (from 64 AD until his death in 68 AD).

Nero’s Government Helped Protect the Christians in Pella

Remigius stated that the Christians in Pella were under the protection of King Agrippa, “but Agrippa himself, with the Jews whom he governed, was subjected to the dominion of the Romans.” The fact that Christians escaped from Jerusalem to Pella in 66 AD indicates that Nero was not enforcing an empire-wide persecution of Christians at that time. It means that Nero’s government actually helped protect these Christians from the wrath of the Zealots. In fact, all of Perea, where Pella was located, was conquered by the Romans during the last six months of Nero’s life, but the Christians in Pella remained safe during that time.

The Roman general Vespasian’s victory over “Gadara, the metropolis of Perea” is recorded in Wars 4.7.3. Other parts of Perea were also conquered and Josephus says that “all Perea had either surrendered themselves, or were taken by the Romans” (Wars 4.7.6). This took place in the first half of 68 AD while Nero was still alive. If Nero was intent on killing Christians throughout the Roman Empire, then why did the Christians remain protected in Pella during this time when the Romans specifically targeted Perea and captured all of it? The far greater threat to their safety came from the Zealots who controlled Judea until most of that country was captured by the Romans, and who controlled Jerusalem for the entire first half of the Jewish-Roman War.

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The next post will begin to examine Revelation 11:1-13, where the beast is introduced for the first time in the book of Revelation.

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

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Video: The 3.5 Year Siege of Jerusalem (66 – 70 AD)


I recently became aware of an hour-long video on YouTube, depicting Rome’s 3.5 year advance on Jerusalem resulting in its destruction in 70 AD. This video is part three of a 2006 TV series titled, “Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire” (BBC). It’s based on the writings of the Jewish historian, Josephus. The filmmakers consulted with Martin Goodman, professor of Jewish Studies at Wolfson College, Oxford, who has also written extensively on Jewish history in the Greek/Roman period.

I’m posting this video for its educational value and because of its relation to the study of eschatology, particularly the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) and 1st century history. It does portray fairly graphic violence (ancient warfare) at times, but you can turn your head when it happens and not really miss anything.

Among other fulfillments of Jesus’ words, this film depicts the civil war and famine that plagued Jerusalem from 67 – 70 AD (see Matthew 24:6-8/Mark 13:7-8/Luke 21:9-11 and Revelation 6:3-6). It also depicts the roughly 100 pound stones that the Romans catapulted into the temple complex in Jerusalem (see Revelation 16:21; the film shows the Romans doing this in Jotapata where Josephus was captured, but Josephus records that they also did this against Jerusalem in 70 AD).

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


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

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

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

Adam Maarschalk

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

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

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

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

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

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

SN850132

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

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

HolyJordanMap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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:

DATE EVENT(S)
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: http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/JOSEPHUS.HTM. A chronology based on Josephus’ writings has been compiled by G. J. Goldberg and can be seen here: http://www.josephus.org/warChronologyIntro.htm.

[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.

PP6: Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Revelation)-Part 3


This is now the sixth part 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. The first segment included the Title Page, Outline, Introduction, and a brief introduction to Partial-Preterism. The second segment consisted of the References page, and the third segment was a discussion of the external evidence for an early date for the writing of the book of Revelation. These segments can be found here:

[1] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/brief-explanation-of-partial-preterism/
[2] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp2-references/
[3] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp3-external-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation/

We then turned to a discussion of the internal evidence for an early date. In Part 1 we discussed the inclusion of Jerusalem, the temple, Babylon the Great, and a great city in the book of Revelation. Part 2 dealt with the seven kings mentioned in Revelation 17:9-10 and the identity of the beast of the book of Revelation. These posts can be found here, and it is recommended that they be read first:

[4] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp4-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-1/
[5] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp5-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-2/

Part 3 will address Nero’s campaign of persecution against the saints, as well as his prophesied demise.

Adam Maarschalk

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II. Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Part 3)

In what sense might Jerusalem have sat on the beast with seven heads (mountains), the beast that would ultimately turn on her and destroy her (Rev. 17:3, 9, 16-18)? Israel had enjoyed a good relationship with Rome until the Jewish revolt began in 66 AD, and Judaism was recognized as a valid religion within the Roman Empire. Josephus wrote of this relationship, “It seems to me to be necessary here to give an account of all the honors that the Romans and their emperors paid to our nation [Israel], and of the leagues of mutual assistance they have made with it” (Antiquities, 14.10.1-2). The Jews frequently took advantage of this relationship to induce persecution against Jesus and His followers (Luke 23:2; John 18:28-31, 19:15; Acts 4:27, 16:20, 17:7, 18:12, 21:11, 24:1-9, 25:1-2).[1]

Prior to Nero’s persecution, writes Kenneth Gentry (2002), persecution against Christians had come largely from the Jews. Christianity was considered a sect of Judaism, which was a “legal religion.” Gentry notes, “Earlier Paul had safely appealed to Nero Caesar (Acts 25:11-12; 28:19) and in A.D. 62 had been acquitted and released.” Herbert Workman, in his 1906 work, Persecution in the Early Church, said that Rome didn’t make a clear distinction between Christianity and Judaism until 64 AD (pp. 62-63).

Kenneth Gentry takes note of the testimonies of early historians regarding Nero’s campaign of persecution against Christians (pp. 54-55, 64-66). Clement of Rome (30-100 AD) said that it targeted “a vast multitude of the elect…through many indignities and tortures.” Eusebius (260-340 AD) pointed out that Nero was “the first of the emperors who showed himself an enemy of the divine religion,” and Lactantius (240-320 AD) agrees by saying of Nero, “He it was who first persecuted the saints of God.” Sulpicius Severus (360-420 AD) said that he was “the basest of all men, and even of wild beasts, [showing himself] in every way most abominable and cruel…he first attempted to abolish the name of Christian.” Sulpicius devoted two chapters to Nero’s reign of terror in his Sacred History, but only three sentences for Domitian. In 1854 church historian John Laurence von Mosheim added these thoughts:

Foremost in the rank of those emperors, on whom the church looks back with horror as her persecutors, stands Nero, a prince whose conduct towards the Christians admits of no palliation [minimizing], but was to the last degree unprincipled and inhuman. The dreadful persecution which took Diace by order of this tyrant, commenced at Rome about the middle of November,[2] in the year of our Lord 64. This dreadful state of persecution ceased with the death of Nero. The empire, it is well known, was not delivered from the tyranny of this monster until A.D. 68, when he put an end to his own life.[3]

Tacitus, the Roman historian who lived from 56-117 AD, wrote in detail of Nero’s move to persecute the saints soon after the fire that raged through Rome, destroying 10 out of 14 city divisions:

But by no human contrivance, whether lavish contributions of money or of offerings to appease the gods, could Nero rid himself of the ugly rumor that the fire was due to his orders. So to dispel the report, he substituted as the guilty persons and inflicted unheard-of punishments on those who, detested for their abominable crimes, were vulgarly called Christians…wrapped in the hides of wild beasts, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or fastened to crosses to be set on fire, that when the darkness fell they might be burned to illuminate the night (Tacitus, Annals 15:44).

The most remarkable detail about Nero’s campaign of persecution is that it lasted just over 42 months, which Revelation 13:5-8 records is the length of time that would be given to the beast to war against and conquer the saints. The persecution ended when Nero died on June 9, 68 AD. In this context, Revelation 13:10 was a comfort to the saints. Not only were they already told that the beast would only be allowed to persecute them for 3.5 years, but they were also told how their persecutor would be removed: “…he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and faith of the saints.” Nero ended his life by thrusting his sword through his own throat, with the help of his personal secretary, Epaphroditus, when he realized that his popularity had waned and that a coup was in the making.

Upon Nero’s demise, the Roman Empire immediately fell into chaos and civil war, and rooting out Christians became less of a priority for Rome. What followed was the “Year of the Four Emperors,” the reigns of Galba (six months), Otho (four months), Vitellius (eight months), and Vespasian (beginning in December 69 AD). When the empire stabilized more than a year later under Vespasian, Nero’s successors did not carry on his campaign of religious persecution. As The Interpreter’s Bible Dictionary notes, “There is no solid evidence that Christians suffered persecution by the Roman state under Vespasian and his two sons, Titus and Domitian” (p. 67).

Nero’s death by the sword is the type of mortal wound that John said the beast would receive (Revelation 13:10, 12, 14). Richard Anthony (2009) and Kenneth Gentry (1998) postulate that the healing of this wound can perhaps be seen in what took place in the Roman Empire immediately following Nero’s death. Upon his death, the Roman Empire’s founding family suddenly had no representative. “The blood line that had given birth to, extended, stabilized, brought prosperity to, and had received worship from the Roman Empire was cut off forever” (Gentry, p. 311). The “Julio-Claudian House” became extinct. The empire was plunged “into civil wars of horrible ferocity and dramatic proportions” and Rome appeared ready to topple.

The general Vespasian pulled back from the wars he was committed to, including the siege on Jerusalem, because of the turmoil on his own home front.  Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius all recorded that Rome at this time was brought near to utter ruin, with Josephus saying that “every part of the habitable earth under them [the Romans] was in an unsettled and tottering condition” (Wars 7.4.2). It wasn’t until Vespasian took the throne in December 69 AD, initiating the Flavian Dynasty, that stability was restored. He was the one who oversaw the destruction of Jerusalem the following year. Perhaps in this sense the beast’s “mortal wound was healed,” i.e. the beast as corporately considered.

Herbert W. Benario (2006) and others show how this question might also be viewed from an additional angle. Benario writes, “Nero’s popularity among the lower classes remained even after his death. His close friend, and successor to Galba, Otho paid him all public honors.” The historians Tacitus, Suetonius, and Zonaras affirm that after Nero’s death proclamations continued to be published in his name as if he was still alive, and that his image was frequently placed upon the rostra (large speaker’s platforms in Rome) “dressed in robes of state.” Even Jewish and Christian writers began to foretell that Nero was back from death as the dreaded Beliar demon. Paul Kroll (1999) adds the following details:

Nero committed suicide in June of AD 68. However, a rumor arose and persisted that he had not died but had fled across the Euphrates river to Rome’s arch-enemy, Parthia. It was said that one day Nero would return at the head of Parthian armies to destroy Rome. This became the so-called “Nero redivivus” myth. In fact, during the decades following Nero’s death, several pretenders did come forth claiming to be Nero (Tacitus, Histories 1.78; 2.8; Suetonius, Nero 57). By the turn of the first century a further twist was added to the Nero legend. It was said he would actually rise from the dead, return to Rome and seize the empire… This myth of Nero’s return so captured the popular fancy that it found its way into Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings. Here the triumphant Nero was sometimes even pictured as the antichrist (Ascension of Isaiah 4:1-14; Sibylline Oracles 4:119-124; 5:137-154, 361-374)…

With these details, we can begin to see how Nero could have fulfilled what was written of the beast in Revelation 17:11. This text states: “As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.” Kenneth Gentry (1998) notes the following about Otho, the eighth emperor of Rome:

Upon presenting himself to the Senate and returning to the palace, it is said of Otho: “When in the midst of the other adulations of those who congratulated and flattered him, he was hailed by the common herd as Nero, he made no sign of dissent; on the contrary, according to some writers, he even made use of that surname in his commissions and his first letters to some of the governors of the provinces” [Suetonius, Otho 7]. Tacitus, too, speaks of Otho’s predilection for Nero: “It was believed that he also brought up the question of celebrating Nero’s memory with the hope of winning over the Roman people; and in fact some set up statues of Nero; moreover on certain days the people and soldiers, as if adding thereby to Otho’s nobility and distinction, acclaimed him as Nero Otho.” Dio Cassius mentions the same idea: “But men did not fail to realize that his rule was sure to be even more licentious and harsh than Nero’s. Indeed, he immediately added Nero’s name to his own” (pp. 308-309).

Gentry adds that Otho reinstated Nero’s procurators and freedman to the offices they had vacated during Galba’s 6-month reign, and a court historian claims that Otho even used Nero’s title and name in official dispatches to Spain. So Otho, in many ways, took on the persona of Nero, and perhaps in this way Nero was “an eighth” king who also belonged to the seven kings (Revelation 17:10-11). Gentry, though, leans even more to the idea that the revived Roman Empire, under the new dynasty initiated by Vespasian, could be what is meant by the beast that “is an eighth” but also belongs to the seven.


[1] W.H.C. Frend even writes that “the promptings of orthodox Jews in the capitol had something to do with” Nero’s decision to begin persecuting Christians in 64 AD (The Rise of Christianity [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984], 109; quoted in Kenneth Gentry, 2002, p. 63).

[2] Moses Stuart (1845), a historian contemporary to von Mosheim, wrote that this persecution began at the end of November.

[3] I Clement 6:1; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2:25:2-3; Lactantius, On the Death of the Persecutors 2:2; Severus, Sacred History 2:29; John L. von Mosheim, History of Christianity in the First Three Centuries (New York: Converse, 1854) 1:138-139.