An Islamic Antichrist? – Part 5 (Daniel 9:26)

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[The other articles in this series can be found here.]

The Islamic Antichrist theory has not been around for too long. So it is not surprising that advocates of a Roman Antichrist will immediately criticize any attempts to change the common view of the end times. Critics of the Antichrist being a Muslim have a list of problems that they claim prove that the Antichrist cannot come from the Middle East, but instead must emerge from Europe. We will discuss each of these problems in due time.

In this article, I want to look at one of the main pillars for a Roman Antichrist: Daniel 9:26. This verse says that “[t]he people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” This verse is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple in 70 AD. This was happened during the time of the Roman Empire. The “ruler who will come” is generally viewed as being the Antichrist. Since it was the Romans who destroyed the city and the Temple, it is commonly believed that the Antichrist will have to come from a revived Roman Empire.[1] In fact, this is probably the number one argument used in favor of a Roman/European antichrist. Ron Rhodes says:

“The Scriptures are very clear that the Antichrist’s empire is from a revived Roman Empire. When we look at Daniel in his writings, he talks very specifically about how the Antichrist would come from the people who overran Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish Temple. That happened in 70 A.D. It wasn’t the Muslims that overran Jerusalem. They didn’t even exist at that time, as Islam was founded by Muhammad 600 years later. And so, to say that could possibly apply even metaphorically to Muhammad or to Islam would be just reading something into the text that’s not there…And so, this ruler comes out of the Roman Empire. He is said to be of the same people who overcame Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish Temple, which was Titus and his Roman warriors who destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. If words mean anything, it is a Roman Empire.”[2]

Daniel 9:26 states that the Antichrist will come from the group of people who destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. Since “Titus and his Roman warriors” were the ones that destroyed the city and Temple, then the Antichrist must come from the Roman Empire. As I will show throughout this article, this idea of Daniel 9:26 speaking of a Roman Antichrist is false. In this article, I will discuss how those who believe that the Antichrist is a Muslim interpret this verse.

The Roman Army

The ancient historian and senator Cornelius Tacitus (c. 56-117 AD), says that the army of General Titus, who led the Romans against Jerusalem in 70 AD,  was composed of six legions stationed in the Middle East and a contingent of Arab soldiers.[3] The legions are listed in the chart below.

Table: Legions that destroyed Jerusalem (source: Richardson, p. 93)

Legions

Region Stationed

V Macedonia

Judea

X Fretensis

Syria

XV Appoinaris

Syria

XVIII

Egypt

III Gallica

Syria

XII Fulminata

Asia Minor (Turkey)/Syria

Flavius Josephus (c. 37-100 AD), who was involved in the war that led to the destruction of Jerusalem, also notes that the Roman legions who destroyed Jerusalem had been stationed in the Middle East. “A considerable number” of auxiliaries (volunteers) from Syria and the regions around the area were also gathered to march on Jerusalem. Josephus adds: “Malchus also, the king of Arabia, sent a thousand horsemen, besides five thousand footman, the greatest part of which were archers; so that the whole army, including the auxiliaries sent by the kings, as well as horsemen and footmen, when all were united together, amounted to sixty thousand.”[4]

The fact that these legions came from the Middle East is very important. The army of Rome is generally thought to have consisted mostly of Italians. However, at the beginning of the first century AD, Caesar Augustus enacted many reforms concerning the army throughout his empire. By this time, the Roman Empire had become so large that there were not enough Italians to control the vast regions ruled by Rome. Instead, the Roman army was taking in “provincials.” The Roman army was including more and more non-Italians, relying on people in each province to become loyal soldiers.[5]

Interestingly, it is now believed by Roman historians that the eastern legions, which attacked and destroyed Jerusalem, were made up almost entirely of Syrians, Egyptians, and other Middle Eastern peoples, not Europeans. By 70 AD, Italians made up only around 20% of all Roman soldiers; only 1% by the end of the first century.[6] One Roman historian says that the “legionaries of provincial birth outnumbered the Italians by about four or five to one.” He continues, “Legions based in Cappadocia [in modern-day Turkey], Syria, and Egypt were made up of recruits from Asia Minor [modern-day Turkey], Syria, and Egypt.”[7]

Did the Romans order the destruction of the Temple?

The Destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD.
The Destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD.

The fact that the Roman legions that destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple were Middle Easterners, and not Europeans, should point to the conclusion that “the people” in Daniel 9:26, whom the Antichrist will come from, were Middle Easterners. However, even with this evidence some scholars are not convinced that the Antichrist will come from the Middle East. David Reagan says:

“A good example of [this kind of] tortuous logic can be found in [an] attempt to explain away the meaning of Daniel 9:26. The plain sense meaning of this passage is that the Antichrist will come from the people who will destroy the Temple. [Advocates of an Islamic Antichrist] argue that the Roman legions that carried out the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD were composed primarily of Arabs, mainly Syrians and Turks. They therefore conclude that the Antichrist will arise from the Syrians or Turks and will be a Muslim.”

He continues:

“This is really grasping at straws in the wind! It doesn’t matter whether or not the legions were composed of Australian Aborigines, it was the Roman government that decided to destroy Jerusalem, it was the Roman government that gave the orders, and it was Roman generals who carried out the destruction. Rome was the rod of God’s judgment and it is from the Roman people that the Antichrist will arise.”[8]

There is a huge problem with the logic of this argument. It actually goes against the historical data. Josephus records that it was not the Roman officials who commanded the destruction of the Temple, but it was the hatred of those in the Roman legions (Middle Easterners) that burnt the Temple of God to the ground. He says:

“And now a certain person came running to Titus, and told him of this fire…whereupon he rose up in a great haste, and, as he was, ran to the holy house, in order to have a stop put to the fire; after him followed all his commanders, and after them followed the several legions, in great astonishment; so there was a great clamor and tumult raised, as was natural upon the disorderly motion of so great an army. Then did Caesar, both by calling to the soldiers that were fighting, with a loud voice, and by giving a signal to them with his right hand, order them to quench the fire.”[9]

Josephus continues with the reason why the men ignored Titus:

“Titus supporting what the fact was, that the house itself might yet be saved, he came in haste and endeavored to persuade the soldiers to quench the fire…yet were their passions too hard for the regards they had for Caesar, and the dread they had of him who forbade them, as was their hatred of the Jews, and a certain vehement inclination to fight them, too hard for them also…And thus was the holy house burned down, without Caesar’s approval.”[10]

According to Josephus, it was not the Romans who destroyed the Temple. General Titus actually tried to stop the fire. It was the ancient hatred that the Arabs and other peoples in the region had toward the Jews that led to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD.

Grammar

Lastly, there is one other thing about Daniel 9:26 that demands our attention. The word people in this verse is the Hebrew word am. This word is purely an ethnic term. William Holladay defines the word in his Hebrew/Aramaic lexicon as “people (emphasis on internal ethnic solidarity).” This word points us to ethnicity, not an empire or kingdom.[11]

Author Joel Richardson notes that the Roman Empire was a lot like America. The United States has many different ethnic groups – Arab-Americans, African-Americans, Anglo-Americans, plus many others. Yet they are all Americans. We use the term American for the kingdom or nation of Americans, yet we use the ethnic term Arab-American (or whatever other group) when referring to the people. The same was with the Roman Empire. If Daniel wanted to emphasis the kingdom that the antichrist would come from, he would have used the Hebrew words mamlakah (kingdom) or goy (nation).[12]

Advocates of an Islamic Antichrist believe that Daniel 9:26 fits perfectly with the Antichrist emerging from the Middle East. According to them, this verse is telling us the ethnic background of the end-time dictator. Since the people that destroyed the temple in Jerusalem were of Middle Eastern descent, then the Antichrist will also be from the Middle East.

Conclusion

Daniel 9:26 is one of the most popular arguments used in favor of a Roman Antichrist. However, as this article has demonstrated, this verse can be interpreted to favor a Middle Eastern Antichrist. When viewed along with what other chapters in Daniel, which teach that the Antichrist will come from the Middle East, the argument that Daniel 9:26 gives us the ethnic background of the Antichrist as a Middle Easterner, is not unreasonable.

What do you think? Is the conclusion in this article justified?

[This is a revised and updated edition of an article originally published on April 17, 2013.]


[1] John F. Walvoord. Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971).230-231. John C. Whitcomb. Daniel. Everyman’s Bible Commentary. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985). 132-133. Leon Wood. A Commentary on Daniel. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973). 256-257. This article assumes the validity of the interpretation that Daniel 9:26 is speaking about the end-times. Another interpretation exists: a preterist view which believes that the verse was fulfilled in 70 AD. If the arguments in this article are correct, then this theory would be wrong (I also believe that preterism is not a correct view of the end-times. This will be discussed in a future article.)

[2] Ron Rhodes, in an interview with Dr. David Reagan and Nathan Jones on their blog: http://lamblion.com/files/publications/blog/blog_QuickQA-Will-the-Antichrist-Come-From-the-Ottoman-Empire.pdf

[3] Tacitus, The History, New Ed ed., book 5.1, ed. Moses Hadas; trans. Alfred Church and William Brodribb. New York: Modern Library, 2003.

[4] Flavius Josephus, The New Complete Works of Josephus, The Jewish War or The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, book 3, chapter 1, part 3; chapter 4, part 2.

[5] Joel Richardson. Mideast Beast. Washington D.C.: WND Books, 2012. Pg. 91-92.

[6] Richardson, 94.

[7] Nigel Pollard. Soldiers, Cities, and Civilians in Roman Syria. University of Michigan Press, 2000. 114-115. Quoted in Richardson, 95.

[8] David Reagan. “Antichrist a Muslim? God’s War on Terror,” Christ in Prophecy Journal, January 12, 2009, http://www.lamblion.us/2009/01/antichrist-muslim-gods-war-on-terror.html

[9] Josephus. Book 6, chapter 4, part 6.

[10] Ibid. Book 6, chapter 4, part 7.

[11] William Holladay, ed. A Concise Hewbrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing,  275.

[12] Richardson, 99-100.

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