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The abomination of desolation (or desolating sacrilege) is a term found in the Hebrew Bible, in the book of Daniel. It also occurs in the book of 1 Maccabees and in the New Testament gospels.

The Hebrew term (transliterated) is šiqqǔṣ šômēm; the Greek equivalent is: τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως.

Biblical occurrences

Hebrew Bible

The phrase "abomination of desolation" is found in three texts in the book of Daniel, all within the literary context of apocalyptic visions.

Daniel 9:27 (ASV) "And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations [shall come] one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall [wrath] be poured out upon the desolate."

Daniel 11:31 (ASV) "And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and shall take away the continual [burnt-offering], and they shall set up the abomination that maketh desolate."

Daniel 12:11 (ASV) "And from the time that the continual [burnt-offering] shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days."


The term is used by Jesus Christ in the Olivet discourse, according to both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark. In the Matthean account, Jesus is presented as quoting Daniel explicitly. In the Gospel of Mark, the phrase "spoken of by Daniel the prophet" is absent in earlier manuscripts including the Codex Sinaiticus.

Matthew 24:15-26 (ESV) "So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains."

Mark 13:14 (ESV) "But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains."

This verse in the Olivet Discourse also occurs in the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 21.20-21 (ESV) "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains..."

Notice the Luke uses the phrase Jerusalem surrounded by Armies in place of the Abomination of Desolation [standing where it ought not to be] in Matthew and Mark. Thus, the Abomination of Desolation is used as a synonymous title for the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem. (See Preterism)

Etymology of term

In both Biblical and rabbinical Hebrew abomination is a familiar term for an idol, and therefore may well have the same application in Daniel, which should accordingly be rendered, in agreement with Ezra, ix. 3, 4, "motionless abomination" or, also, "appalling abomination." The suggestion of many scholars—Hoffmann, Nestle, Bevan, and others—that, as a designation for Jupiter it is simply an intentional perversion of his usual appellation "Baal Shamem" ("lord of heaven"), is quite plausible, as is attested by the perversion of Beelzebub into "Βεελζεβούλ" (Greek version) in Mark, iii. 22, as well as the express injunction found in Tosef., 'Ab. Zarah, vi. (vii) and Babli 'Ab. Zarah, 46a, that the names of idols may be pronounced only in a distorted or abbreviated form (see the examples quoted there).


In rabbinical literature

The rabbis as a whole consider that the expression refers to the desecration of the Temple by the erection of a Zeus statue in its sacred precincts by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Some rabbis, however, see in it an allusion to Manasseh, who, as related in II Chron. xxxiii. 7, set up "a carved image ... in the house of God". The Haggadah narrates that two statues were erected, one of which fell over upon the other and broke off its hand. Upon the severed hand the following inscription was found engraved: "I sought to destroy God's house, but Thou didst lend Thy hand to its protection".

In modern Biblical scholarship

The 1 Maccabees usage of the term points to the actions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the mid-second century BC. Specifically, he set up an altar to Zeus in the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and sacrificed swine on it around the year 167 BC. Accordingly, most modern scholars believe that Daniel 9:27, 11:31 and 12:11 are a prophecy after the event (or vaticinium ex eventu) relating to Antiochus. (see Dating of the Book of Daniel).

Many modern Biblical scholars conclude that Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 are prophecies after the event about the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Roman general Titus (see Dating of the Gospel of Mark).
"When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its 'desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city." Luke 21:20-21


Preterist Christian commentators believe that Jesus quoted this prophecy in Mark 13:14 as referring to an event in his "1st century disciples'" immediate future, the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
when 'you (Jesus' 1st cent. disciples) see the abomination of desolation standing...then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains", Mark 13:14


Some other interpreters with a futurist perspective think that Jesus' prophecy deals with a literal, end-times Antichrist.

Futurist Christians consider the "Abomination of Desolation" prophecy of Daniel mentioned by Jesus in and as referring to an event in the end time future, when a 7 year peace treaty will be signed between Israel and a world ruler called "the man of lawlessness", or the "Antichrist" affirmed by the writings of the Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians.

Premillenialism-style futurists like Arthur Pink in his classic work The Antichrist attribute vast portions within the Old and New Testament to this future figure. Doug Krieger, in his e-books entitled Antichrist Reflections on the Desolator (January 22, 2008) and Antichrist and the Gog-Magog War (March 27, 2005) identifies the future Antichrist as the product of Greco-Roman man or a future leader of the West (viz., the United States of America)--tracing the portions of to the beast of and , yet to ascend from the sea as a composite of a final Gentile World Power with the same animal-empire descriptions found in Daniel ("Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion" - ).

Krieger claims that the title of Antichrist (found only in , and ) is given to this future figure who will parody Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection when, as the leader of the West, he will feign himself as a Messiah-like figure to both Jews and Gentiles for the first three-and-one-half years of Daniel's yet future Prophecy of Seventy Weeks. Paul states in : "...the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."

In his thesis, Krieger cites Donald Barnhouse in his commentary on Revelation (1971, Zondervan) who affirms that the Beast of Revelation is the incarnation of Satan into the body of Antichrist and that the Abomination of Desolation is this future event. This revelation of the "man of sin" is two-fold: (1) he is assassinated in a rebuilt Jewish Temple (the so-called Third Temple) when religious Jews become outraged over his self-deification and declarations of godhood—a blatant desecration; and (2) whereupon Satan incarnates himself into Antichrist's body and feigns the resurrection (i.e., "temple" as when Jesus said: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up...he was speaking of the temple of his body" - ( ).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

The Joseph Smith translation of Matthew states (in verse 12) that the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel is concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (first in A.D. 70). Later in the text of the translation (verse 32) it states that the abomination of desolation will again be fulfilled when Jerusalem is again subject to much destruction before the second coming of Christ.

Other Views

One commentator relates the prophecy to the actions of Caligula c. 40 AD when he ordered that a golden statue depicting himself as Zeus incarnate be set up in the Temple in Jerusalem. This prospect however, never came into fruition since he was assassinated in 41 AD along with his wife and daughter.

Some scholars, including Hermann Detering see it as another vaticinium ex eventu about Emperor Hadrian's attempt to install the statue of Jupiter Capitolinusmarker on the site of the ruined Jewish Temple in Jerusalem leading to the Bar Kokhba rebellion of 132-135 AD.

In 637 AD, Patriarch Sophronius is said to have quoted this line of Daniel upon the caliph Umar's entry into Jerusalemmarker.

Others believe the abomination is the building of the Dome of the Rockmarker, in 688 AD, on the desolate site of the Court of Gentiles on Mount Moriah as a tribute to Muhammad by Khalifah Omar.

Peter Bolt, head of New Testament at Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia says that the abominable sacrilege is Israel and the Gentiles killing the Son of God; in other words, when Jesus mentions it, he is referring to his own crucifixion, however this is a doubtful interpretation since Jesus was not "standing where he ought not" in the holy place at the time of his crucifixion.

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