One of the more pivotal events in the development of both Christianity and modern Judaism was the First Jewish Revolt, which started in 66 CE and culminated in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. In a recent interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Jared W. Ludlow discussed this event in connection with his chapter in New Testament History, Culture, and Society: A Background to the Texts of the New Testament. What follows here is a co-post to the full interview (a shorter post with excerpts and some discussion).
To start, Ludlow discussed what the First Jewish Revolt was:
The First Jewish Revolt beginning in AD 66 was an attempt by the Jews in the Roman province of Judea to gain independence from Rome. Rome had dominated the region since 63 BC, mostly under vassal kings like Herod, but also directly with procurators and prefects. The revolt culminated in a siege on Jerusalem and the subsequent destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD 70. Some of the rebels held out, particularly at Masada until AD 73. . . .
There were various factors that caused the Jewish Revolt. There was long-simmering animosity among the populace against the local vassal kings and elites who worked closely with Rome.
This animosity fed the rise of Zealots who wanted to purge the land from foreign, corrupt influence and return greater control of religious traditions to their understanding of Judaism. Some of the Roman procurators implemented policies and actions that further exacerbated the problem and fomented anger towards the leaders. Economic problems only added to the flames of discontent.
It was a very destructive and violent conflict.
The conflict had an impact on early Christianity. As Ludlow explained:
For reference, some of the rough estimates of when the gospels were written are:
- Mark – 66 and 70 CE
- Matthew – 85–90 CE
- Luke – 85–90 CE
- John – 90–110 CE
This meant that Mark was likely being written during the conflict while the remaining gospels were written by a generation for whom the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Jewish Revolt were the defining events. Hence his suggestion that the Revolt might have served as an impetus to the writing of the gospels.
Now, the destruction of the temple as part of the First Jewish Revolts seems to be related to an event that Jesus discussed in those gospels that in the King James Version is rendered as the “abomination of desolation.” Ludlow offered some insight into what he sees as the connection:
In Jesus’ significant Olivet Discourse recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, Jesus discussed future destruction that Jerusalem would shortly face. Among these prophecies was the “abomination of desolation,” first discussed in the book of Daniel, related to the corruption of the temple that would lead to its destruction.
It seems that many of the religious and societal ills that the Judean population experienced around this time may have been factors in the siege of Jerusalem and the subsequent destruction of the temple. . . .
Within the Olivet Discourse, particularly the Joseph Smith Translation version in Joseph Smith—Matthew in the Pearl of Great Price, there seems to be multiple fulfillments to this prophecy with another one associated with Jesus’s Second Coming. It seems likely that this imagery of corrupting and desecrating the temple and/or its associated worship could have occurred in different time periods from the Seleucids, Romans, to future desecrations.
Modern translations tend to render the event as the “desolating sacrilege” rather than the “abomination of desolation,” the event was seen as the corruption of the temple that would lead to its destruction.
For more on the First Jewish Revolt, including some interesting info on Josephus, head on over to read the full interview at the Latter-day Saint history blog From the Desk, Jared W. Ludlow discussed this event.