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The abomination of desolation (or desolating sacrilege) is a term found in the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible. It also occurs in 1 Maccabees and in the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament. The Hebrew term (transliterated) is šiqqǔṣ mišômēm (שִׁקּוּץ מְשׁמֵם); the Greek equivalent is τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως.
The phrase "abomination of desolation" is found in three texts in the Book of Daniel, all within the literary context of apocalyptic visions.
According to the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark, the term is used by Jesus in the Olivet discourse. In the Matthew account, Jesus is presented as quoting Daniel explicitly. In the Gospel of Mark, the phrase "spoken of by Daniel the prophet" is absent in the Codex Sinaiticus.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is reported to have said,
Luke uses the phrase "Jerusalem surrounded by armies" instead of "the abomination of desolation" in Matthew and Mark. Some commentators, including Church Father John Chrysostom, hold that the abomination of desolation is used as a synonymous title for the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem.
In both biblical and rabbinical Hebrew, the word "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.
The rabbis as a whole consider that the expression refers to the desecration of the Second Temple (Herod's 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 is reported to have set up "a carved image … in the house of God".
The 1 Maccabees usage of the term points to the actions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the mid-2nd 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. Many modern scholars believe that Daniel 9:27, 11:31 and 12:11 are prophecies after the event relating to Antiochus.
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, such as the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Some commentators, such as John Chrysostom, have understood this to refer to the armies that surrounded Jerusalem and the factions fighting within it which preceded the destruction of the city. In Luke's version of Jesus' warning, the abomination is not mentioned, and the sign that it is time to flee Jerusalem is explicitly said to be that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies.
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 to 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 Capitolinus on the site of the ruined Jewish Temple in Jerusalem leading to the Bar Kokhba rebellion of 132-135 AD.
Peter Bolt, head of New Testament at Moore Theological College, believes that the abomination of desolation in Mark 13 refers to the crucifixion of the Son of God; in other words, Jesus is referring to his own impending death at the hands of the Gentiles.
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 Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 as referring to an event in the 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.
Some commentators have argued that a prophecy such as this may have several fulfillments. Methodist theologian Adam Clarke and Anglican bishop Thomas Newton interpret the abomination of desolation as a proverbial phrase that could include multiple events “substituted in the place of, or set up in opposition to, the ordinances of God, his worship, his truth, etc.” This allows for some or all of the examples in the following (incomplete) list to be viewed as partial fulfillments of this prophecy simultaneously:
The Joseph Smith translation of Matthew states (in verse 12) that the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel is the destruction of Jerusalem (first in AD 70). Later (in verse 32) it states that the abomination of desolation will be fulfilled again when Jerusalem is subject to much destruction before the Second Coming of Christ.