Joel Marcus: What is Mark’s “Abomination of Desolation”?

Joel Marcus, Mark 8-16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 890-891.

The abomination of desolation [in Mark 13:14] is probably related to a desecration that preceded the destruction of Jerusalem. The occurrence that best fits the bill is the occupation of the Temple by the Zealots near the beginning of the war (winter of 67-68 C.E.), an event that was coupled with the revolutionaries’ usurpation of the high priesthood…. Josephus presents these actions as a desecration of the holy precincts (War 4.163, 182-83, 201, 33; 6.95), in one passage (War 4.163) even describing them as “abominations” (agesi). Mark might, moreover, think that the revolutionaries’ nationalistic occupation of the Temple “desolated” it by depriving it of the Gentiles who formerly and rightfully worshipped there (see Mark 11:17). The “abomination of desolation,” then, may be a revolutionary leader such as Eleazar son of Simon, who occupied the Temple and stained it with blood, or Phanias, the high priest appointed by the Zealots, whom Josephus describes as mentally defective and not of high-priestly descent – offenses that would have justified the term “abomination.” This interpretation of the Markan “abomination of desolation” also solves the timing problem, since the flight from Jerusalem was still possible during the winter of 67-68, when the Zealots occupied the Temple and anointed Phanias (see Josephus, War 4.377-79, 413).

2 thoughts on “Joel Marcus: What is Mark’s “Abomination of Desolation”?

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  1. Sidelight on this and the appalling factional fighting among the Jewish Rebels is the case of Simon bar Giora. When Titus took the city hid in the passages of Temple Mount (was buried); arose dressed in the garments of a king as his food ran out and went to Rome where he was possibly beheaded

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