Damien F. Mackey
PART ONE: JESUS IS THE LORD OF HISTORY
“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’, says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was,
and who is to come, the Almighty’.”
The Advent of Jesus Christ has split human history right in twain.
“More people in the world have based their lives on Jesus than any person or religion that has ever existed …. The birth of this man became the turning point of history. It’s the point where BC, the time before Christ, became AD”.
Jesus Christ is the Lord of History, “the Alpha and the Omega” (Hebrew: “the Aleph and the Tav”). He is “the First and Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13).
In 1979, pope John Paul II, anticipating the beginning of the new millennium, the year 2000, allowed for the fact that Jesus Christ may not have been born exactly when has been thought (Encyclical: Redemptor Hominis, # 1, emphasis added):
- At the close of the second Millennium
THE REDEEMER OF MAN, Jesus Christ, is the centre of the universe and of history. To him go my thoughts and my heart in this solemn moment of the world that the Church and the whole family of present-day humanity are now living. In fact, this time, in which God in his hidden design has entrusted to me, after my beloved Predecessor John Paul I, the universal service connected with the Chair of Saint Peter in Rome, is already very close to the year 2000. At this moment it is difficult to say what mark that year will leave on the face of human history or what it will bring to each people, nation, country and continent, in spite of the efforts already being made to foresee some events. For the Church, the People of God spread, although unevenly, to the most distant limits of the earth, it will be the year of a great Jubilee. We are already approaching that date, which, without prejudice to all the corrections imposed by chronological exactitude, will recall and reawaken in us in a special way our awareness of the key truth of faith which Saint John expressed at the beginning of his Gospel: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”1, and elsewhere: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”2. ….
In this series, an effort will be made to arrive at a far greater “chronological exactitude” than has hitherto been achieved.
Jesus Christ was born, it will be suggested, in what historians-chronologists would currently date as 170 BC (approximately). If this be a correct re-assessment, then our BC-AD crossover will need to be radically reorganised.
PART TWO: THE “DECREE” OF THE KING
“Antiochus now issued a decree that all nations in his empire should abandon their own customs and become one people”.
1 MACCABEES 1:41
Whilst this “decree”, as issued by king Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ does not convey the same terms as does the one by “Caesar Augustus” (Luke 2:1): “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed”, it has in common with it its being a universal proclamation binding upon all of the king’s subjects.
I have already pointed out that the word “Roman [world]” that we find used in many translations of Luke 2:1 does not actually exist in the original.
And, in Part Three of my series:
Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part Three: The “King” (i) A summary so far
Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part Three: The “King” (ii) A slaughterer of innocent babies
I HAVE RADICALLY COLLAPSED THE ERA OF ANTIOCHUS IV ‘EPIPHANES’, THE ISSUER OF THE ABOVE “DECREE” (1 MACCABEES 1:41), INTO THE ERA OF HEROD ‘THE GREAT’ WHO WAS CONTEMPORANEOUS WITH THE ISSUING OF THE LUCAN (OR NEW TESTAMENT) “DECREE” OF “CAESAR AUGUSTUS”:
Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part Three: The “King” (iii) Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ merges into Herod
So it is entirely possible that, now the decree of Antiochus, now the decree of Caesar Augustus, was one and the same decree (though it may not have been – the king no doubt issued several), but with different terms of the decree expressed, now in the Maccabean text, now in the Lucan.
Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ and Herod ‘the Great’ were found to fit extremely well together for the most part. Powerful, ruthless and cunning monarchs who would stop at nothing to achieve their ambitions, even to the slaughtering of babies. Renowned builders, too.
Even their disgusting deaths from worms are strikingly alike – as has often been observed.
Antiochus was, Herod was, an unashamed Helleniser.
The main differences that would be expected, would be of course (i) chronological (according to conventional terms), (ii) ethnicity, with Antiochus being a Macedonian Greek, and Herod half Idumean and half Jewish, (iii) extent of power, with Herod considered to have been a client king of Rome, and (iv) length of rule – Herod reigning for a supposed four decades (but the chronology of his reign is famously controverted).
The Roman aspect in all of this was to be further taken out of the equation with my identification of the now super-king, Antiochus-Herod, with the emperor Hadrian, a renowned Grecophile (and now, according to my reconstruction, an actual Greek king or emperor):
Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part Three: The “King” (iv) Antiochus/Herod merges into Hadrian
And yet further ‘damage’ was done to Rome (tentatively) when I finally, in the above series, took the bold step of proposing that my super-king Antiochus-Herod-Hadrian (= Augustus) might also have been the “Caesar Augustus” of Luke 2:
Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part Three: The “King” (v) Was the “King” also “Caesar Augustus
Having this totally new scenario in mind surrounding the early Maccabean era, and, now, too, surrounding what I considered to have been the corresponding era of the birth of Jesus Christ, I went in search of some Lucan elements in the Maccabean account of the tyrannical reign of Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’: such as census; angelic activity; Magi; and slaughter of innocents.
Gamaliel’s revolutionary, “Judas the Galilean”, whom I have identified as Judas Maccabee, was found to be the vital link between the New Testament (Lucan) census and the Maccabean era (hence the decree of Antiochus):
Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part One: Judas the Jewish Revolutionary
We are not told why Judas Maccabee’s priest-father, Mattathias – who I believe connects with Judas the Galilean’s mentor, Matthias – early departs Jerusalem for his ancestral town of Modein. But I suspect that it was for the very same reason that (Saint) Joseph, at the same time (as I believe), went to his ancestral town of Bethlehem – to register.
“Judas the Galilean” will be said to have departed for Sepphoris in Galilee, which I would take to be the unidentified Modein of the Maccabees.
As to the “Quirinius” of Luke 2:2: “(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria)”, he could be, for example, “Apollonius son of Menestheus, the governor of Greater Syria” (2 Maccabees 4:3).
A Greek (“Apollonius”) perhaps accorded a Roman name (“Quirinius”) in Luke’s Gospel?
Angelic activity and the slaughtering of innocents, as known to us from Matthew’s Gospel, abound also in Maccabees 1 and 2, as I have previously pointed out.
And, whilst I have found nothing specific to the Magi, ‘perturbation’ of the Jerusalemites and of their evil king (‘disturbed’) is mentioned both in Maccabees and in Matthew.
The Holy Family will flee to Egypt early in the reign of Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ (my Herod), and they will miss out on all of the ‘excitement’ of the wars between Judas Maccabeus and the Greeks. They will return to Palestine after the hideous death of the persecuting “King”, only to find his son, Archelaus, now ruling there in Jerusalem (Matthew 2:21-23).
The “Archelaus” of Matthew would correspond to Antiochus V ‘Eupator’, the son-successor of Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’.
In both cases, a lesser, and short-reigning (less than a decade) ruler.
“The problem many historians in the past have faced is that the most common English translations of Luke’s gospel’s description of the census can be translated several ways. But, of course, considering millennia have passed since Luke wrote it, it is forgivable that some things have been lost in translation”.
Daryn Graham, whose re-dating of the birth of Jesus Christ to 8 BC I had formerly favoured – until my taking this radical step backwards to 170 BC (conventional dating) – had done what I, too, had done in my article:
Gamaliel’s ‘Theudas’ as John the Baptist
and that is, had amended some New Testament Greek.
I, in order to have Gamaliel’s “Theudas” post-date Gamaliel’s “Judas the Galilean”, as I thought he must, had re-translated Greek μετὰ, “after”, to the acceptable “besides”.
So I wrote:
But I do believe that Acts 5:37 needs an amended translation.
Instead of Judas the Galilean coming “after him [Theudas]”, the μετὰ in μετὰ τοῦτον can be amended to read the equally permissible (if perhaps less common), “besides”. Thus, “besides him”, or, “as well as [Theudas]”, there was “Judas the Galilean”.
That way, Theudas does not have to have pre-dated “Judas the Galilean”.
As to Graham’s preferred translation of Luke 2, the “census”, that will become apparent from the following.
I previously wrote about this:
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
Luke 2:1-3 (NIV)
This NIV translation of the Greek of Luke 2:1:
Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην·
appears to me potentially to over-extend the meaning of the Greek phrase, πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην, in the same way as I noted in:
Creationists will interpret the Hebrew kol ha aretz
in modern global terms
that the Hebrew word kol can be greatly over-extended (in geographical terms) in connection with ha-aretz.
Clearly, there is no specific reference to “Roman” in the Greek, thereby allowing for the word, οἰκουμένην, to convey a more local meaning.
According to Strong’s Concordance (http://biblehub.com/greek/3625.htm) the word means: “Definition: (properly: the land that is being inhabited, the land in a state of habitation), the inhabited world, that is, the Roman world, for all outside it was regarded as of no account”. However, Luke the Evangelist was writing a Gospel that pertained to Israel, which had little regard for “the Roman world”.
Now Daryn Graham, in his convincing effort to account for this historically much-disputed census account, has queried another part of the NIV translation of Luke 2, thereby giving it a whole new meaning:
By Daryn Graham
Even though the countless Christians throughout the ages have differed significantly from person to person, all have but one true test of faith and that is the belief in Jesus Christ being none other than the Son of God, and indeed, God himself. According to the Bible which contains the earliest surviving accounts of Jesus life, Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem in the Roman province of Judaea, during which time a census was being taken. Of course, once we determine exactly which census that was we can also discover the precise date for Jesus’ birth. But as to which census that was has left many an accomplished modern historian without an answer. However, doubting the accuracy of the Bible on these grounds is literally jumping hastily to unnecessary conclusions. As with so many things ancient, a little investigative work can help to fill in the picture. As I will now explain, the birth of Jesus Christ as told of in the Bible is firmly rooted in solid historical facts, and this is true also of the census during that humble, yet historically momentous and epoch-making birth.
The problem many historians in the past have faced is that the most common English translations of Luke’s gospel’s description of the census can be translated several ways. But, of course, considering millennia have passed since Luke wrote it, it is forgivable that some things have been lost in translation. The common NIV translation reads: “Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria) And everyone went to his own town to register.” The problem for past historians is that the particular detail regarding Quirinius in this NIV translation can not have been the intended meaning by Luke. True, there was a census in Judaea during Quirinius’ governorship which began in 6AD, but it was certainly not of the entire Roman Empire. The 1st century AD Jewish historian Josephus made that crystal clear by writing Quirinius’ census was confined only to Syria to determine the local inhabitants’ tax payments. Of course, it is unlikely that Luke, who was a meticulous historian, was incorrect – it is rather that case that the translation itself is incorrect. But considering that even the influential, though at times unreliable, 4th century AD Christian historian Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History maintained this reading it is understandable that it has gained so much credibility.
We can be sure of Luke’s true meaning when we consider the following. There are two other translation possibilities raised by experts, the second of which discussed here is perfectly consistent with archaeological and historical records and is, I firmly believe, Luke’s intended translation. But for the sake of interest, we will look at both. The first possibility some say should read: “This first census was taken when Quirinius was governor”. But this is on very shaky ground. For one thing it is known by historians that it was not the first census decreed. The Res Gestae Divi Augusti, (The Accomplishments of the Divine Augustus) written by the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar himself, shows that Augustus carried out previous censuses in 28BC and again in 8BC – years before Quirinius’ governorship of Syria. The Res Gestae was written by Augustus in his final years in the early 1st century AD and was inscribed on the walls of temples around the empire. It has been preserved for us today in the temple of Rome and Augustus at Ancyra (Ankara in modern Turkey). Fragments from Pisidia (also in modern Turkey) have also survived. It is doubtful Luke, who wrote his Gospel only about 50 years later, was not aware of such facts as the ones recorded in Augustus’ Res Gestae. But the second alternative translation held by some experts and very much so myself to be Luke’s intended one, however, makes all of the ancient evidence fall into place with Luke’s original meaning, showing that his Gospel is historically precise and grounded in solid fact. According to this translation the census described by Luke originally in ancient Greek was not taken ‘while Quirinius was governor’ but ‘before Quirinius was governor’.
In regard to which of Augustus’ censuses before Quirinius’ governorship Luke could have referred to, the solution is crystal clear. The 28BC census was taken of Roman citizens alone, so that one is ruled out. However the 8BC census, which was not only for Roman citizens, but also for the whole empire’s population, is exactly like the one Luke referred to. Inscriptions discovered in Spain, Cyrene and Turkey show that the purpose of it was for everyone in the empire to register their allegiance to Augustus – an effort that resulted in a large measure of peace throughout the Roman world. An inscription from Turkey reads, “I will be loyal to Caesar Augustus and to his children and descendants all my life in word, in deed, and in thought.” Another from Spain says, “Of my own volition I express my regard for the safety, honor and victory of the Emperor Caesar Augustus…” The wording of the oath of allegiance in Judaea was probably somewhat similar to these. Incidentally, in later years the Romans conducted such censuses to determine taxes, but that was not yet the case of the actual one we are looking at. So, the translation that the census Luke referred to was the one before Quirinius’ term holds up to scrutiny, and that it involved ‘entire Roman world’ is verified by the archaeological findings.
You may be wondering, as have I in the past, why Luke bothered to describe the registration ‘before Quirinius’ at all – why not write who really was governor of Syria at the time of the 8BC census? There is a good answer for that. The ‘entire Roman world’ census Luke referred to was a huge undertaking that spanned years under many governors throughout the whole massive empire. Papyrus found in Egypt a century ago show it took place there in 9BC, while inscriptions discovered more recently indicate it was conducted in Cyrene around 7BC, Spain in 6BC and Paphlagonia (in northern Turkey) in 3BC. As to when it took place in Judaea, Josephus, is of help. He stated Judaea registered during Saturninus’ governorship of 8-6BC, adding that the census there was brought to a close nearly a year prior to the end of that governorship. Given that in those times the period for registration lasted for a whole year, this means that Saturninus began conducting it soon after he entered office in 8BC. As you can appreciate, it must have been so much easier for Luke, then, to simply use the basic terms he did than go into such endless particulars his audience would have been quite familiar with anyway.
As to what was involved in that census, Luke summed it up well – “everyone went to his own town to register”. By comparing this statement with the archaeological evidence, it is clear, thankfully, that in this case nothing at all is lost in translation. Papyri preserved in Egyptian sands are impressive in number and a few even show what was involved in a Roman census. In one papyrus, recording an edict for a census by a Roman governor of Egypt in 104AD, all Egyptians were required to return to their hometowns for registration. It even states “anyone found without a permit [to stay away from their hometown] thereafter will be severely punished”.
In those days it was essential for the Romans to maintain ties between its empire’s population and their homelands in order to sustain the local economies. In that way landlords had a ready and constant supply of tenants. A census was one means of achieving that end. Although Joseph lived in Galilee when Augustus ordered his census, his lineage went back to King David, and hence he had to travel to Bethlehem, David’s hometown. But of course, as always, there were some exceptions to the rule. In Alexandria, Egyptians needed to remain there to keep the city going could obtain permits to stay there to register.
Luke’s remark that ‘everyone went to his own town’ is also historical. In an actual census declaration preserved on papyrus from the Egyptian village of Bacchias dated to 91AD it is clear that the male head of the household took himself and his family to his own hometown where he registered himself firstly, then his house, and then his family. In the case of that particular declaration, it was written down by a village secretary because those registering were illiterate. In Joseph’s case, though, he may have possessed the literary skills to write his own declaration. As a carpenter, Jew, and inhabitant of the Galilee during his time he could have been well-versed in geometry and the Jewish scriptures. Jesus’ ability to read may also be a strong indication that the rest of their family, including Joseph, could also read and write.
This all means that Luke’s gospel is much more than a collection of stories. Its narrative is factual and reliable. As Luke wrote, Jesus must have been born sometime between early 8BC to early 7BC during the empire-wide registration conducted before Quirinius’ governorship of Syria. Of course, I would love to take the credit for determining this approximate date of Jesus’ birth, but I must confess I am not the first by a long stretch. The famous ancient Christian Tertullian, a legal expert from northern Africa, writing over a century earlier than Eusebius a few years after the turn of the 3rd century AD, recorded that indeed Jesus was born during Saturninus’ governorship of Judaea. This is important because Tertullian had valuable access to official Roman records and was thus in a perfect position to know such a fact.
In case you were wondering, as for why the turning of our era takes place in our calendar 8 years later – it is actually a mishap. In the 6th century AD, the monk Dionysius, while reforming the calendar, wrongly dated some key historical events, and so his miscalculations are with us today.
But besides Luke’s gospel, another Biblical book also describes events surrounding Jesus’ birth – the Gospel of Matthew – and it is also very useful. This gospel provides us with valuable insight into the life of Jesus since Matthew was a disciple of Jesus himself. Like Luke, Matthew wrote that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He also wrote that he was born during the reign of Herod the Great, who ruled Judaea during Saturninus’ governorship during the census mentioned by Luke. So given Luke’s gospel’s trustworthiness, that Matthew’s one agrees with it places it too on solid historical ground. ….
Whether or not Daryn Graham’s text amendation to Luke 2 still remains applicable in light of a revised early Maccabean era for the census will now need to be reconsidered.
PART THREE: THE “KING” AND HIS SON-SUCCESSOR
“A CRESTED MORION WAS SHOWN ON THE REVERSE [COIN OF ARCHELAUS]; ITS SIGNIFICANCE IS UNCLEAR TO US, ALTHOUGH IT MUST BE POINTED OUT THAT THIS “BOEOTIAN HELMET” WAS VERY UN-ROMAN”.
IN MY REVISED CONTEXT, ACCORDING TO WHICH HEROD ARCHELAUS WAS THE SAME AS THE KING KNOWN AS ANTIOCHUS V ‘EUPATOR’, A MACEDONIAN GREEK, A COIN OF ARCHELAUS MIGHT WELL BE EXPECTED TO EXHIBIT “VERY UN-ROMAN” ELEMENTS.
The lives of Herod ‘the Great’ and his son-successor, Archelaus – two biblical troublemakers – I would consider to be, as they have come down to us, semi-legendary, and causing chronological mayhem. For the true history of the pair I would recommend that one read the Maccabean accounts (I and II) of their alter egos, respectively, Antiochus IV and V.
Now, I have already written a fair amount about Herod ‘the Great’ in his historically better established guise as Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’.
And, further on, I would like to recall from the Book of Daniel what is the biblical impression of this truly incredible king who was able to make so much out of a small beginning.
But first, here is a typical textbook kind of summary of Archelaus, with some comments:
Herod Archelaus was born in 23 BCE as the son of king Herod and his wife Malthace; he was full brother of Herod Antipas and a half brother of Philip. With these brothers, he was sent as a hostage to Rome, where he received his education. In his father’s testament, Herod Archelaus was appointed king, but the Roman emperor Augustuswrote him that he had to contend himself with the title of ethnarch (“national leader” ) of Samaria, Judaea and Idumea.
Immediately after his accession in 4 BCE, things went wrong. When Herod had fallen ill, two popular teachers, Judas and Matthias, had incited their pupils to remove the golden eagle from the entrance of the Temple. After all, according to the Ten Commandments, it was a sin to make idols. The teachers and their pupils had been burned alive (March 13, 4). The new king had to face an angry crowd that demanded rehabilitation of these martyrs; some three thousand Jews were killed during the celebration of Passover. For a moment, all seemed quiet, and Archelaus traveled to Rome, to have himself crowned by the emperor Augustus.
Comment: These conventional dates are, of course, quite wrong.
“Judas and Matthias” as referred to here were, in fact, the Maccabeans Mattathias and Judas.
The article continues:
In his absence, there were fresh riots. The leaders were a robber named Judas, a royal slave called Simon, a shepherd named Athronges and his brothers.
Comment: “Judas” and “Simon” – again probably the Maccabees of those same names.
The article continues:
Perhaps, they were all messianic claimants; in case of Athronges, this is even probable. Archelaus’ troops were unable to cope with them, and the Roman governor of Syria, Publius Quinctilius Varus, had to intervene.
Comment: In the corresponding Maccabean account, the young king Antiochus V ‘Eupator’ (my Archelaus) is fully dependent upon the governor of Syria, there called Lysias: “The general Lysias, who had been left in charge of Syria by Epiphanes, served as regent for the child …”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiochus_V_Eupator
The article continues:
It was a major operation, which probably involved all Syrian legions (III Gallica, VI Ferrata, X Fretensis). Two thousand people were crucified, but not all leaders were caught. Ultimately, Archelaus came to terms with one of Athronges’ brothers, something that will not have made a good impression. Matthew implies that Jesus‘ parents Joseph and Mary were afraid to go to the territories ruled by Archelaus, and therefore settled in Galilee (Matthew 2.22).
Herod Archelaus ruled so badly that the Jews and Samarians unitedly appealed to Rome to request that he should be deposed. In 6 CE, Archelaus was banished to Viennain Gaul and after a bloody revolt led by Judas the Galilean, Judaea became a provinceof the Roman Empire. Archelaus must have died before 18.
Comment: “Judas the Galilean” being, again, Judas Maccabeus. See my:
Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part One: Judas the Jewish Revolutionary
The article continues:
Several of his coins show a bunch of grapes. This was the most common picture on … Jewish coins, reminding the user of the coin of the fabulous fertility of the country (the image is derived from Numbers 13.23). A crested morion was shown on the reverse; its significance is unclear to us, although it must be pointed out that this “Boeotian helmet” was very un-Roman. Other coins showed the bow of a ship and a laurel wreath.
References in Daniel to (Herod =)
King Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’
While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.
As I looked, thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
and the books were opened.
Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)
The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.
But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.
This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.
Daniel 8:9-14 and 23-27
Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.
Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, ‘How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?’
He said to me, ‘It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated’.
In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.
The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.
I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.
He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has not been given the honor of royalty. He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue. Then an overwhelming army will be swept away before him; both it and a prince of the covenant will be destroyed. After coming to an agreement with him, he will act deceitfully, and with only a few people he will rise to power. When the richest provinces feel secure, he will invade them and will achieve what neither his fathers nor his forefathers did. He will distribute plunder, loot and wealth among his followers. He will plot the overthrow of fortresses—but only for a time.
With a large army he will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South. The king of the South will wage war with a large and very powerful army, but he will not be able to stand because of the plots devised against him. Those who eat from the king’s provisions will try to destroy him; his army will be swept away, and many will fall in battle. The two kings, with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table and lie to each other, but to no avail, because an end will still come at the appointed time. The king of the North will return to his own country with great wealth, but his heart will be set against the holy covenant. He will take action against it and then return to his own country.
At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.
His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.
Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.
The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. He will show no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his ancestors he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price.
At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Cushites in submission. But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.
When: “War came to an end in Israel” (I Maccabees 9:73),
it would have become possible for the Holy Family to visit
Jerusalem with Jesus now 12 years of age (Luke 2:42).
According to this series, the Holy Family would have fled to Egypt early during the reign of Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ (175-164 BC, conventional dating) – I am using the rounded date of 170 BC. If tradition is correct in having the Holy Family’s sojourn in Egypt lasting some 7 years, then this would correspond tolerably well with the time of the death of Antiochus IV.
The return to Palestine from Egypt would have occurred, as in the Infancy Narrative of Matthew 2:19-23, when the persecuting king’s son had come to the throne:
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead’.
So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth.
That son-successor, named “Archelaus” in Matthew, would correspond to the son-successor of Antiochus IV, known as Antiochus V ‘Eupator’.
The Holy Family was wise to avoid him, because he, like his father, would prove to be most troublesome for Jerusalem, though not for very long (I Maccabees 6:28-31):
When the king [Antiochus V] heard this, he was furious. He brought together all the army commanders, the cavalry officers, and his most trusted advisers. He also hired mercenary soldiers from other countries and from the Greek islands. His forces numbered 100,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry, and 32 elephants trained for war. The king and his army passed through Idumea and laid siege to Bethzur, where they fought for a long time. They built battering rams and siege platforms, but the defenders fought bravely and came out of the town and burned down the platforms.
And again (vv. 48-54):
The king and his army advanced to fight the Jews at Jerusalem and laid siege to the whole of Judea and Jerusalem. He made peace with the Jews of Bethzur, who then left the town. There had not been enough food in the town for them to withstand the siege because it was the sabbatical year, when no crops were planted. The king occupied Bethzur and stationed a body of troops there to guard it. Then he surrounded the Temple and besieged it for a long time. He set up siege platforms, battering rams, catapults for throwing fire and stones, and other weapons to throw spears and rocks. The defenders also made war machines to oppose those of the enemy, and so the battle went on for a long time. But there was no food left in the Temple storage bins because it was the sabbatical year, and the people who had fled from the Gentiles and taken refuge in Judea had eaten all the food that had been stored there. The shortage of food had been so severe that many people had scattered to their homes, and only a few men were left in the Temple.
And yet further treachery, “the king … broke his word” (vv. 60-63):
This recommendation was well received by the king and the officers, so Lysias proposed peace terms to the Jews, and they accepted them. When the king and his officers solemnly agreed to abide by these terms, the Jews came out of their fortress. But when the king entered the Temple area on Mount Zion and saw the strong fortifications, he broke his word and ordered the walls surrounding the Temple to be torn down. Then he hurriedly left and returned to Antioch, where he found Philip in control of the city. The king attacked the city and took it by force.
But, shortly after this – Jesus Christ now being about 9 years of age – king Antiochus V ‘Eupator’ was killed (7:1-4):
In the year 151 [= 161 BC, conventional dating], Demetrius son of Seleucus left Rome and with a few men landed at a town on the Mediterranean coast, where he proclaimed himself king. As he was making his way to the royal palace of his ancestors, the soldiers arrested Antiochus the Fifth and Lysias, planning to take them to Demetrius. When Demetrius heard about it, he said, ‘I don’t want to see them’. So the soldiers killed them, and Demetrius took the throne.
Soon after this (vv. 26-27): “… the king [Demetrius] sent Nicanor, one of his most honored officers, who hated the Jews, with orders to exterminate them. Nicanor came to Jerusalem with a big army”. But Judas Maccabeus defeated Nicanor, and (vv. 47-49):
The Jews took the loot and then cut off Nicanor’s head and his right arm, which he had extended so arrogantly. They brought his head and his arm to be put on display outside Jerusalem. There was great rejoicing among the Jews. They set that day aside as a special day of celebration, and decreed that the thirteenth day of Adar should be observed as an annual day of celebration. There was peace in the land of Judea for a little while.
The above war of Judas the Maccabee with Nicanor was, I believe, the fulfilment of the prophet Ezekiel’s Gog and Magog prophecies. See my multi-part series, for example:
Gog and Magog
Gog and Magog. Part Six: Who is Gog?
Now, regarding my proposed identification of this ill-fated Antiochus V ‘Eupator’ with Matthew’s king, “Archelaus”, there is an example in (supposed) history of a king Antiochus who was variously known as Archelaus.
We have met before this historically confused king. See my:
Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ Doubled
a contemporary of the emperor Hadrian whose era I have seriously revised in:
Merging Maccabean and Herodian ages. Part Three: The “King” (iv) Antiochus/Herod merges into Hadrian
This ‘historically confused king’ mentioned above was one: “Gaius Julius Archelaus Antiochus Epiphanes, also known as …. Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes …”.
After the death of Judas Maccabeus in a fight with Bacchides’ army, when Judas’s brother Jonathan had succeeded Judas, the powerful Bacchides was defeated.
And, as a result (I Maccabees 9:69-73):
Then Bacchides decided to return to his own country, but when Jonathan learned of this, he sent ambassadors to Bacchides to arrange for peace terms and the return of Jewish prisoners. Bacchides agreed to do as Jonathan asked and gave him his solemn promise that he would let him live in peace the rest of his life. Bacchides handed over the prisoners and returned to his own country. Never again did he come into Jewish territory. War came to an end in Israel. Jonathan settled in Michmash and began to govern the people and to eliminate the renegade Jews from Israel.
When: “War came to an end in Israel” (I Maccabees 9:73), it would have become possible for the Holy Family to visit Jerusalem with Jesus now 12 years of age (Luke 2:42).
PART FOUR: NEW TIMETABLE FOR INFANCY OF JESUS
According to my estimation, Jesus Christ would have been born in c. 170 BC
(conventional dating), which corresponds to approximately Year 142 Maccabean dating.
From the First Book of Maccabees I have gleaned a sequence of dates (that may be found below) in relation to my revised chronology of the Infancy of Jesus Christ.
Year 149, the year that Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ died (6:16): “King Antiochus died there in the year 149” (= c. 163 BC, conventional dating), must correspond closely to the year that the Holy Family returned from Egypt when the persecuting king had died (cf. Matthew 2:19-20).
Traditionally, Jesus Christ was then about seven, meaning that Jesus was born in approximately 170 BC (conventional dating), which would correspond to approx:
Year 142 in Maccabean terms.
Some other Maccabean dates (that one may now be able mathematically to relate to the Infancy years of Jesus):
Year 137, Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ begins to reign.
Year 145, Antiochus erects ‘Abomination of Desolation’.
Year 148, Maccabeans offer sacrifice on a new altar.
Year 150, Judas Maccabeus besieges the fort.
Year 152, invasion of Bacchides and priest Alcimus.
Year 153, Alcimus orders Temple wall torn down.
Bacchides eventually goes away and peace ensues
Jesus would have turned 12 around this time, Year 154.
The idea for this revision came to me on the Feast of St. Joseph, 19th March 2018.