Daniel 9:26 Is perhaps one of the most important verses that are used as proof that the Antichrist will come from a revived Roman Empire. However, as I have noted in previous articles concerning Daniel 2 and Gog of Magog (see also here), there are other interpretations concerning the origins of the Antichrist. One of the fastest growing beliefs about the Antichrist is that he will emerge from the Middle East and may even be a Muslim. In this article, I want to discuss Daniel 9:26 in relationship to both the Roman Antichrist and Islamic Antichrist models. Which one is best supported by this verse? Let’s take a look.
Daniel 9:26 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 event happened during the time of the Roman Empire. The “ruler who will come” is 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. 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 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.”
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 not the only interpretation. I will discuss how this verse is also consistent with the Muslim Antichrist model.
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 (who were stationed in the Middle East) and a contingent of Arab soldiers. The legions are listed in the chart below.
|Table: Legions that destroyed Jerusalem (source: Richardson, p. 93)|
|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 says, “Malchus also, the king of Arabia, sent a thousand horsemen, besides five thousand footmen, 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.”
The fact that these legions came from the Middle East is very important. The army of Rome is 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.” It was including more and more non-Italians, relying on people in each province to become loyal soldiers.
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. 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.”
Did the Romans order the destruction of the Temple?
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, can be interpreted as Middle Easterners. However, even with this evidence, some scholars are not convinced that the Antichrist could 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.”
“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.”
According to advocates of the Islamic Antichrist model, there is a huge problem with the logic of this argument. They believe that it 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.”
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.”
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. It should be mentioned that this story could have been Josephus trying to flatter the Roman authorities, so I am cautious of the tale.
The strongest of the arguments concerns a grammatical point in Daniel 9:26. The word for “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.
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 emphasize the kingdom that the antichrist would come from, he would have used the Hebrew words mamlakah (kingdom) or goy (nation).
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.
Personally, I believe that the first and third arguments used in favor of a Middle Eastern Antichrist are quite strong. This interpretation does fit very well with what we saw concerning Daniel 2 and the situation surrounding Gog of Magog in Ezekiel 38-39. Although this verse alone may not prove a Middle Eastern origin of the Antichrist, it is consistent with other arguments put forth. This interpretation 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.]
 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.)
 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
 Tacitus, The History, New Ed ed., book 5.1, ed. Moses Hadas; trans. Alfred Church and William Brodribb (New York: Modern Library, 2003).
 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.
 Joel Richardson. Mideast Beast (Washington D.C.: WND Books, 2012), 91-92.
 Richardson, 94.
 Nigel Pollard. Soldiers, Cities, and Civilians in Roman Syria (University of Michigan Press, 2000), 114-115.
 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.
 Josephus. Book 6, chapter 4, part 6.
 Ibid. Book 6, chapter 4, part 7.
 William Holladay, ed. A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1988), 275.
 Richardson, 99-100.