In Mark 13:14 (and similarly in Matthew 24:15) Jesus is reported as saying:

"When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains"

A leading theory is that this refers to the Roman standards being placed in the ruins of the Temple after Titus destroys Jerusalem in 70 AD.

But there is evidence that Caligula wanted to place a statue of himself in the Temple thirty years earlier. He sent Petronius to Syria to lead an army into Judea to force the Jews to accept this statue. The Jews were getting ready to resist this imposition. Luckily Caligula died in 41 AD before this order was carried out.

Perhaps this is evidence that the gospels of Mark and Matthew were written at some time during the period between Caligula's edict in 39 AD and his death in 41 AD? By contrast Luke's description of these events in Luke 21:20-24, which was probably composed using Mark's gospel, seems to clearly indicate Jerusalem's fall so that puts the composition of Luke-Acts later than 70 AD.

The web page http://virtualreligion.net/iho/pilate.html gives the following three passages (but seems to use 43 AD instead of the standard 41 AD for the date of Caligula's death):

Edict to Erect Imperial Statue in Temple [39 AD]

Now Gaius (Caligula) bore a grudge for being ignored only by the Jews in this respect [i.e., honoring him as divine]. So he sent his legate, Petronius, to Syria to take the rule over from Vitellius and ordered him to lead a large force into Judea. If they received him willingly, he was to place a statue of (Caligula) in the temple of God. But if they treated him with arrogance, he still was to do this after mastering them in battle --- Josephus, Antiquities 18.261

Jews Prepare to Fight Caligula

Under Tiberius there was quiet. Then at the command of Gaius Caesar to place a statue of him in the temple, (the Jews) took up arms instead. But Caesar's death put an end to the commotion. --- Tacitus, Histories 5.9

Caligula's Death Averts War [41 AD]

Indeed, the Jews had given the appearance of rising up in revolt; (but) after the news of (Caligula's) murder there was no need for compliance (with his order). (Yet) fear remained that some emperor would command the same thing. --- Tacitus, Annals 12.343

In 2 Thessalonians 2 Paul seems to imply that, after a rebellion, the "man of lawlessness" will have himself worshiped as a god in the Temple. Caligula and his proposed statue in the 40s AD seems to fit this description better than Titus' standards in 70 AD. Also Paul goes on to mention that someone is holding this event back. This could well be Petronius whom sources say was delaying putting up Caligula's statue in the Temple as he knew what trouble it would cause.

In light of the available evidence, was the "abomination of desolation" Caligula's proposed statue in the Temple?

  • (+1) Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange, thanks for contributing - this is an excellent first question! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 13:09
  • The Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70, and, following Bar Kochba's revolt from about AD 135, a pagan temple was erected in its place. Pagan temples contain idols, which Jews consider abominations.
    – Lucian
    Commented Sep 17, 2018 at 20:01

5 Answers 5


Caligula's attempt to place his image in the Temple to be worshipped can be called a pre-cursor or type of the actual "Abomination of Desolation" spoken of by Daniel and John that will happen during the end times. The inter-testament sacrifice of a pig on the Temple altar by Antiochus Ephinnes, when the Greeks ruled Judah, is another type of the genuine event that is yet to come. We often think of types in the Bible as they apply to good people and positive events and forget the ones that point to evil people and negative events.

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Thank you for taking the time to share your insights. It would also be good to actually add citations to sources. Due to the nature of this site, a reference may be required to support your conclusions. Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 17:07

No. Definitions will help in understanding the entire phrase - abomination of desolation.

The word "desolation" was used to indicate complete destruction, and usually by a foreign army. Leviticus c. 26 spells out the consequences if the Israelite ignored God's commandments, and walked contrary to Him. We find in Lev. 26:28-33:

"28 Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.

29 And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.

30 And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.

31 And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.

32 And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.

33 And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste." (KJV)

The word "desolation" in vs. 31 is Strong's Heb. 8074, "שָׁמֵם", or "shamem", and means appalled (at the judgment handed out), horrified, devastation, laying waste, ravaged, ruins.(1) In other words, complete destruction.

The "abomination" was that which caused the desolation. In Dan. 12:11 the word is Strong's Heb. 8251, "שִׁקּוּץ", or "shiqquts" and means detested thing, or filth. (2)

So the abomination of desolation was the filthy destestable things that caused the desolation. Those destested things were quite often the foreign, armies of the pagan nations that worshiped idols.

God promised in Lev. 26:25 that He would bring "a sword against them". This was the promise of their destruction at the hands of a foreign army for walking away from God; and the prophesy of the destruction of Jerusalem which was completely fulfilled in AD 70.

A partial and first fulfillment of these judgments occurred with the captivity and scattering of the northern 10 tribes at the hands of the Assyrians in approx. 722 BC, and again with Babylonian captivity of Judah around 584 BC. But, neither of those had them eating their own children, which did happen in Roman siege of AD 70.

The reference to Dan. 12:11 which Christ made in Matt. 24:15 for the abomination to be standing in the holy place is explained more fully in Luke 21:20.

"And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh." (KJV)

The Roman army, that pagan nation that worshiped the Caesars as gods, as well as their pagan idols was that foreign army that would cause the desolation of Jerusalem. They stood on Mount Olive watching as all entered into the city for the Passover, and they surrounded it laying siege when the gates of the city were shut.

Many study the Bible today without considering the original use of the language as it was written in the day and time of its authorship. The books of the New Testament were written in the 1st century A.D. The use of "all the world" in Matt. 24:14 was the Roman empire.

The word used for the English "world" was Strong’s Greek 3625: “oikoumené: the inhabited earth” and the definition is:

“(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.” (3)

The apostles were charged with preaching the gospel throughout the known inhabited land of the Roman empire before the "end" would come. That end was the desolation of Jerusalem, the judgment Christ pronounced against it and the Sanhedrin all throughout the NT books, and again in Revelation for crucifying their Messiah and persecuting His saints.

Christ used the Roman armies to bring about that desolation, which was ironic as the Jews had used the Romans to crucify Him.

More evidences are offered in all of the posts at my blog ShreddingTheVeil. "Frequent Mistakes - Part IV: Where was All The World?" here and "Daniel and The End Times" here explain in more detail.


(1) desolation - BibleHub

(2) abomination - Biblehub

(3) world - Biblehub


Problem 2 Thessalonians was written after the events of Caligula. Caligula died in 41 AD the book of 2 Thessalonians was written about 10-15 years after the fact.


As for the authorship, there is external evidence that does support a composition of Matthew and Mark sometime in this period of time, but so much attention has been given the post-War view that it somewhat goes without notice. Colophons in Greek manuscripts, with various wording, indicate that Matthew was written 8 years after the ascension of Christ, and Mark was written 10 years after. So roughly 38/39 and 40/41 respectively. This is also noted in the preface to Theophylact's commentary on Matthew:

There are four evangelists; two of them, Matthew and John, were of the company of the twelve, and two, Mark and Luke, were of the seventy. Mark was also a follower and disciple of Peter, and Luke, of Paul. Matthew, then, first wrote the Gospel, in the Hebrew language for the Jews who believed, eight years after Christ’s Ascension. Some say that John translated it from the Hebrew language into Greek. Mark wrote his Gospel ten years after the Ascension, instructed by Peter. Luke wrote his Gospel fifteen years after the Ascension, and John the most wise Theologian, thirty two years after the Ascension.

Eusebius' places the composition of Mark during the reign of Claudius Caesar (the second year, Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 2.14.6-15:2), I believe sometime in his second year according to Eusebius' Chronicle (AD 42).

Both Origen and the Acts of Timothy relate that John convened the Bishops of Asia during the Neronian Persecution after the martyrdom of Peter, Paul, Matthew, and Mark, and gathered and approved the three synoptic gospels, but rejected the gospel narratives he believed to be untruthful.

Origen writes,

Many attempted these things, but the church of God approves only four. There is a written record that John gathered together the written Gospels in his own lifetime during the reign of Nero and approved of and recognized those untouched by the counsel of the devil; but refused and rejected those which he perceived were not truthful.

This fragment is preserved in some printed editions of his commentary on Luke, in the first chapter, which can be found here for those who can read Greek (p. 5). I have translated it into English. This may be a reference to the Acts of Timothy, attributed to Polycrates of Ephesus in the Latin edition; scholars typically date the Acts of Timothy to after 370, since it makes reference to Lycaonia as a province ("eparchy"). But this is not sound reasoning, as Lycaonia was part of the "Triple Eparchy" of Cilicia before that, meaning it was still regarded as a province before that time.

As for the abomination of desolation, while Matthew and Mark may have written believing the event was imminent, the assassination of Caligula ended the affair. Paul, in the epistle to the Thessalonians, seemed to believe this was averted through divine restraint. The abomination may refer to the sacrilege of the Temple Mount in AD 70 (though it does not follow the sequence of Jesus' prophecy), the Temple of Zeus built by Hadrian on the Temple Mount with an equestrian statue of Hadrian on the site of the holy of holies about the time of the bar Kokhba revolt, or it may refer to an event we have yet to witness.


Short Answer, No.

The premise that this question is based on is Preterist, which sees all things "fulfilled" prior to 70AD, when the Temple was destroyed. Since Christ did not come in 70AD, therefore the timing of the events preceding His Return must also be suspect.

Desolation of Jerusalem

The common misconception is to equate Luke's account(Luke 21:20-22) with Matthew and Mark's accounts:

And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.(Luke 21:20-22)

He further states in verse 24,

"And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."

Both Matthew and Mark's accounts,(Matt. 24:14/Mark 13:10)

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.(Matt. 24:14)

"And the gospel must first be published among all nations."(Mark 13:10)

state the Gospel must first be preached to all nations - that simply didn't happen by the time of Caligula.

Luke's account speaks of "all things which are written may be fulfilled". What things were written?

Deut. 28:64-68 says,

And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. 65 And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: 66 And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: 67 In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. 68 And the LORD shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.

These things, as well as the other things written in Deut. 28 were literally fulfilled by the Destruction of the Temple in 70AD. The slave markets of Egypt were flooded, by accounts of many including this one:

So many Jewish slaves were available that, recording to one report, a Jew was sold for as little as the price of a portion of horse feed. # History of Am Yisrael in Ancient Days (Hebrew, Devir), 1971, p.321.

Abomination of Desolation

One must look at Daniel's account of the Abomination of Desolation with an important caveat:

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place,

(whoso readeth, let him understand:)(Matt. 24:15) (let him that readeth understand,(Mark 13:14)

Since the event of the Abomination of Desolation cannot happen until,

1) The Gospel is preached to all nations

2) The times of the Gentiles be fulfilled(Israel come to be a nation again).

one must "understand" what the Abomination of Desolation means, since there is no Temple, much less a wing of the Temple which was recorded in Dan. 8:13,

Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?

This Abomination of Desolation happened in 167BC by Antiochus Epiphanes who set up the statue of Zeus(1 Macc. 41-50); and it's time of restoration was as it was prophesied. This is the same Abomination spoken of in Dan. 11:31,

And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.

Again, what follows is the Maccabean Revolt, which takes place before the last times, as it says in verse 35,

it is yet for a time appointed.

Since Jesus is obviously not referring to the Maccabean Revolt, what is He referring to? This is where Dan. 9:27/ 11:45 come in:

And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.(Dan. 9:26-27)

And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.(Dan. 11:45)

Since Dan. 9:26 already refers to "Messiah the Prince", the "last week" of Daniel falls after the "Time of the Gentiles"; in Dan. 11:36, the "king who will do according to his will" is the "end time king", who comes "after the Times of the Gentiles".

To Summerize: Caligula, nor any "Abomination of Desolation" could have occurred in 39-41 AD.

  • 1
    I do wonder whether the 'must be preached to all nations' qualifier is as solid as you suggest - it might be worth finding a less debatable qualifier? Check out 'Mark 13:10 - Every nation or every Gentile?'. Also, Colossians 1:6 affirms Paul believed the Gospel was already bearing fruit throughout "the whole world", which puts Matthew's qualifier into question too.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 14:49
  • @SteveTaylor It's fairly obvious that the gospel did not reach the Incas, Mayans, or even Japanese or Koreans by 40AD. The Roman Empire certainly had heard within it's major cities; but unlikely in the furthest expanses including England or Ireland. 'Whole World' is a subset of what....? The world that his letters would travel in, or the world as we perceive it today.
    – Tau
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 20:00
  • 1
    I do most certainly see and sympathise with your approach. If you want to argue with Paul on that, go ahead. I'm just suggesting that it's fair to use the same hermeneutic for the phrase in both passages. If Jesus says it then Paul says it, why do you need to force different interpretations? I'll start a new question for that one tomorrow, if it doesn't already exist. Still, I maintain the above proof texts aren't strong enough by themselves to defend the conclusion alone.
    – Steve can help
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 20:57
  • 1
    The word remains forever (Mar 13:30-31). It's very important to see the difference (Mar 13:6). Therefore we must remain watchful for the word (Mar 5:35-36, Mat 26:40) not the day of Christ (2Th 2:2). Why did Jesus himself watch (Mat 26:40) if it was for himself to come from the clouds?
    – Decrypted
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 21:17
  • 1
    @Tau - as promised, there is now a question about the meaning of Jesus and Paul's 'worlds'
    – Steve can help
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 8:40

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