Turkey Day 4 – Sardis and Smyrna

We left our hotel and headed to Sardis. Two of the cites of Revelation do not have much to see, Philadelphia and Thyatira. The problem is both of these locations have modern cities built over them, making the kind of archaeology seem at Hierapolis or Laodicea impossible. I read the letter to Philadelphia as we drove past in our van rather than make the stop. This also freed up time to spend at Smyrna later in the day.

Synagogue at Sardis

Synagogue at Sardis

The highlight of the day was Sardis. This is not a large site, but it has three very significant features. First, there is a large synagogue dating to the fourth century A.D. The mosaic floors are partially restored including several mentioning the donors who contributed to the synagogue. There are two niches which could have been used to store a Torah scroll or possibly individual scrolls of the Septuagint.

Although is is surprising to see a synagogue in Turkey, Sardis is probably mentioned in Esther 3:12-14 and Josephus reports Antiochus III moved a large number of Jews to Sardis (Ant 12.148–49). This synagogue dates at least 400 years after that time and there are several odd things about the Synagogue, First, a Lydian stone table with lion motif have been placed near the front of the synagogue, Our guide suggested this table was a sacrificial / cultic table which was reused by the synagogue for Torah readings. This strikes me as odd, especially since it is really too tall for that purpose. It is certainly possible this table was use for Torah readings, but the reader would need a step-stool! Second, there are no benches along the walls as in other early synagogues, but rather a set of seats which looked more like a Greek boule to me. These seats are on the far end of the room, behind the table. I suppose the reader could face this semi-circle and men could sit there and hear the Torah, but there is room for only a small audience and the whole building could accommodate several hundred people.

Gymnasium at SardisThe second impressive feature of Sardis is the façade of the gymnasium restored by a team from Harvard. Although much is not original, the reconstructed façade give the visitor a sense of the grandeur of the building. The inscriptions on the cornice pieces appear to have been colored in so they are more clearly visible, as they would have been when the building was new.

Temple of Artemis at Sardis

Temple of Artemis at Sardis

The third important feature of Sardis is a huge unfinished Temple of Artemis. This is a short drive from the main city and could be overlooked by a visitor, but for me this is really a treat. Since there is nothing left of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, this temple will give the visitor a taste of the immense size of an Artemis Temple, you can tell it was unfinished because the bases of several of the huge pillars have not been trimmed and several have incomplete or missing decorations. Like the temple of Artemis at Jerash (in Jordan), several massive pillars have stood since construction stopped. A small Byzantine chapel was eventually built on the sight and there are several examples of Christian graffiti on the temple walls.

After an excellent lunch (lamb kabob and a Turkish coffee) we drove all the way to Izmir to visit the Smyrna agora. Like Philadelphia and Thyatira, Smyrna is under the modern city of Izmir, with the exception of a portion of the agora discovered under an Ottoman era cemetery, The graves were relocated and excavations are ongoing. The highlight of the Smyrna agora is the underground vaults, but unfortunately we were not able to visit the closed section where archaeologists have preserved a large number of Greg-Roman graffiti. As odd as that sounds, these scribblings on the wall can tell you a great deal about what average people were like in the second century A.D.

The Agora at Smyrna

Under the Agora at Smyrna

We are staying at the Mövenpick hotel in Izmir, an excellent hotel right on the bay. Since we arrived at the hotel a bit earlier than other nights on this trip, most of our group headed out to explore the city and seaside promenade (while I dutifully updated this blog!) The wifi is quite fast at this hotel, so I was able to add a few more pictures here and on yesterday’s post, Turkey Day 3 – Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. Check it out.

Turkey Day 3 – Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis

Today began with a long drive north out of Antalya, following the general route of the via Sebaste. I was struck by several things on the four hour drive to Laodicea. First, most people reading Acts do not realize how high the Taurus Mountains are. Paul traveled more than 4000 feet above sea level on a Roman Road to reach Pisidian Antioch. Second, depending on the time of year, the trip may have been quite cold. It is the first week of March and there is still a great deal of snow in the mountains, and at one point we travel miles in a think fog. People tend to think of Paul traveling in blazing hot sands with a camel and a donkey, but that was not always the case.

There are two prohibitions in that chapter (to not preach in Asia and to not enter Bithynia). By observing the Roman province names and the location of the roads, The prohibitions make sense. Paul was in Asia already, so he was not to preach there, but the road went north toward Bithynia, so he was command to even to enter there.

Before arriving at Laodicea we made a brief stop at Colossae. There is virtually nothing to see there except the unexcavated mound. The city was small and unimportant in Paul’s day, and it is still a sadly overlooked site by the archaeological community. Despite several efforts in recent years, there is not much to see there. Many of us climbed to the top of the mound and then walked around the backside to see the outline of a small theater, but nothing of ancient Colossae remains.

Imperial Temple at Laodicea

Imperial Temple at Laodicea

Laodicea on the other hand has received a great deal of attention lately. Year-round excavations by the local university and the support of the Denizli community has revived interest in this large Roman site. Although the two theaters have not been restored, some work has been done once smaller theater. The skene has been exposed and now the orchestra area has been cleared.  We watched workers restoring some of the seating in the theater, lowering large stones into place with a crane. In addition, there has been work on the larger agora near the theater, with a gate already restored and many of the pillars put back in place. I except to return in another year and see even more of this ongoing work completed.

Small theater at Laodicea

Small theater at Laodicea

Another interesting discovery is a marble pillar with a menorah, shofar and perhaps and etrog, with a prominent cross cut into the top of the menorah. Is this evidence of a synagogue in Laodicea? Was the cross added later (perhaps as a sign of supercessionism after Christianity became dominant in the city? I doubt this was the intent, since it would be just as easy to obliterate the menorah. Based on Josephus, there is little doubt of a Jewish presence in Laodicea in the first century Josephus (Ant 14.241–3). Nevertheless the menorah seems to be evidence of a Jewish community in Laodicea well into the Christian Era.

From Laodicea we drove the short distance to Hierapolis. Hierapolis is a very large Roman city, although the association with the white cliffs of Pamukkale, a Turkish word meaning something like “Cotton Castle.” There was an early Christian community in Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13) but there is no evidence Paul ever visited the city. Like Colossae, he may have sent people like Epaphras to the city.

We took a shuttle up to the martyrion of Philip, an octagonal church built on the site of the martyrdom of Philip, although which Philip is unclear. The relevant passage in Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 3.31.2–5; 3.39.9; 5.24.2) has confused the apostle and the evangelist (who had four daughters. The walls of the church have been nicely reconstructed and the arches between the sections of the octagon are restored. Down a steep flight of stairs is the martyrion,  the tomb of Philip and a small chapel.

The Theater at Hierapolis

The Theater at Hierapolis

 

The shuttle the took us down to the large theater. This theater has been restored, although visitors are only allowed to walk on the upper section. The skene has been partially rebuilt and there are two statues in the niches. Originally the theater seated up to 15,000 people and could stage mock navel battles. I was a bit annoyed at the photographers offering to take my picture with a Roman soldier. Why are there never any Artemis or Aphrodite cosplayers?

We ended the day at the Doga Resort and Spa, one of the thermal hotels just a few minutes from Hierapolis. The rooms are comfortable, although the air conditioning is not functioning before April 1. Opening the slider provides a nice breeze (and I can hear the music from the lounger area). Unfortunately the internet is poor at best, so I will update the photographs when I get to Izmir tomorrow night.

Turkey Day 2 – Perge and the Perge Museum

Out second day in Turkey started with a short flight from Istanbul to Antalya. I don’t think I mentioned it before, but we are using the all-new airport in Istanbul (which does not seem to have a name yet). This is a huge airport with all the modern amenities you might expect. Or it will have them all when everything is finished up. Still, we checked in fine and made the hour flight south in comfort.

Our new driver picked us up in the shiny new Tutu mini-van. Since there are only ten of us, this is the perfect vehicle (and we even fit inside with all our luggage). We drove from the airport directly the the Perge Archaeological site. There is only a small but important biblical significance for Perge, Paul passed through the city on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:14). After leaving Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas traveled north to Psidian Antioch, passing through Perge.  This is where John Mark left Paul and Barnabas and returned to Jerusalem. This will eventually lead to the break between Paul and Barnabas after the Jerusalem Council. In Acts 14:25 Paul and Barnabas “spoke the word” in Perge, but Luke does not mention the founding of a church as he did in other cities on the first missionary journey.

Ward Gasque comments in his Anchor Bible Dictionary article that the remains of Perge “are second only to Ephesus among the cities associated with the apostle Paul” (ABD 5:228). He is correct, although the site is not as well-maintained as Ephesus, probably because it is not nearly as popular with tourists. Nevertheless, this is an excellent visit which illustrates many of the features of a Greco-Roman city. 

The first gate was built to honor Hadrian and a second Hellenistic gate with two round towers. On the back side of the Hellenistic gate are niches which once held statures. Some aches still had bases with inscriptions, but the scaffolding which used to be built around the gates has been stacked inside this area and we could not get very close enough to inspect them. Just inside the city is a large Roman bath with a palaestra (an exercise yard), although neither is fully reconstructed. At least on this tour, it is the only bath house we will have a chance to see.

We walked up the main road (the cardo) through the center of the city. Although some of the columns have been replaced, the site has not been well-maintained and there is a good grip of weeds growing on the cardo. There is a small shop about half way down the road out of Perge which has a fascinating mosaic floor with Agamemnon and other characters from Homer. There is a sign explaining the mosaic (“possibly a religious function” but that is not at all clear).

We back-tracked to the partially reconstructed agora. There is an unexplained round structure in the center (again, explained as a possible religious site). The stadium has some magnificent vaults on one side and has been partially reconstructed on one end. Although the theater appears to be open now, we were not able to visit it on this tour. 

After Perge, we made a short stop at the St. Paul Cultural Center in Antalya for snacks and coffee. It was good to chat with the people who run the shop and hear about the what they are doing there.

HadrianThe rest of the day was spent at the Perge Museum. This is one of the better museums you will even visit in terms of artifacts on display (perhaps better than the Ephesus Museum although there are a few things in Ephesus which are more important). Many of the statues which were recovered from the main gates and the theater are now in this museum. One gallery is dedicated to the statues and friezes from the theater, including a massive Hercules statue. 

In addition to the statues, the museum has an extensive collection of tombs, many in excellent condition. Most tourists like the small basket made for a pet Dog, Stephanos. 

On the third floor is a nice collection of Greek icons and I enjoyed a short time with two people from our group trying to figure out who is who on these icons. I believe they have misidentified John of Patmos with John the Baptist (the seven headed dragon is a give-away). 

We have a long drive tomorrow from the warm and sunny coastal city of Antalya to visit Colossae, Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Pamukkale. 

Turkey Day 1 – Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque and the Museums

I am currently leading a “Missionary Journeys of Paul” tour in western Turkey. I have been planning this trip for a long time and I am very happy to be traveling with some good friends. I am using Tutku Tours, the same company that helped me with the May 2019 Israel trip. They did a great job helping me plan the itinerary and (so far) everything has gone according to plan. 

To answer your first question: Yes, we are quite safe. We are traveling almost exclusively in southwest Turkey, very far from anything which might be considered troubling, And there is less risk of getting sick here than in the States, at least at the moment. Sadly the paranoia about the Corona Virus has reduced tourism greatly. We are the only group staying in this hotel and most of the usual tourist sites are not as crowded as expected.   

Hagia SofiaOur day started with a drive through Istanbul traffic to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, more popularly known as the Blue Mosque, is currently under renovation and many of the beautiful mosaic domes are unfortunately not visible. When I visited in 2018 the Mosque was totally closed, at least we could get inside this year. There is scaffolding blocking the view of the main dome, which is unfortunate. The mosque is  know for its 20,000 hand-painted glazed ceramic tiles, which we were able to see in the main gallery.

The Hagia Sofia is just a short walk from the Blue Mosque. Built in A. D. 537 by the emperor Justinian, the church is known for its dome and many mosaics. There are a number of stunning mosaics in various parts of the church as well as four seraphim in each corner. After Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, the church was converted to a mosque. Fortunately the mosaics were plastered over rather than destroyed. After Atatürk converted the mosque into a museum in 1935, this plaster was carefully removed and many mosaics were restored. Other than a few large groups of school children, the usually crowded site was not very full at all. 

Basilica Cistern After Hagia Sofia, we crossed the street and made a short visit to the Basilica Cisterns. The cistern is about 100,000 square feet at has capacity for about 21 million gallons of water, although most of the water is now drained for cleaning. Last time I was there the water was a few feet deep and there were large fish. Most of the columns in the cistern are recycled from other places, so there was a need for bases of varying sizes to support the columns. The most interesting of these are two blocks featuring medusa heads. I noticed one block which looked like it had been dressed for an inscription, but was never actually inscribed (a factory reject?) If none of this interests you, the Basilica Cisterns were featured in the James Bond movie From Russia with Love and the film, Inferno, based on the Dan Brown book.

We ate lunch at the famous Pudding Shoppe, always a good lunch with great service. If you do not know why it is famous, read this.

After lunch we made a short walk to the Istanbul Museum. Like everything else in Istanbul, large portions of the museum are being renovated. Unfortunately this meant we were not able to visit the floor with many important archaeological finds from Israel, including the Siloam Inscription and the Gezer Calendar. The whole section for Greco-Roman archaeology was also closed, I do not know how long this area will be closed, but if you are planning a trip to the museum you might want to check to see what is actually open at the time. The Museum book store had a number of very good books on archaeology sites in Turkey, I managed to restrain myself and selected only two published in Turkey (one on the Terrace Houses in Ephesus and another on Luwian history). 

Ishtar GateThe Ancient Near Eastern museum was open and is well-worth a visit. There is a nice collection of Hittite, Assyrian and Babylonian items, including panels from the neo-Babylonian period Ishtar Gate and a collection of uniform documents. In the main museum, several new displays (to me) were open. Although they they were nice, they did not make up for my disappointment at missing the biblical archaeology. The section of Greco-Roman tombs is always interesting.

Tomorrow, we fly to Antalya and begin tracking the first missionary journey of Paul at Perge.

Daniel 11:36-12:3 – The Willful King

“The Antichrist interpretation of these verses is exegetically witless and religiously worthless.” (Hartman and Di Lella, Daniel, 303).

For many interpreters, Daniel 11:36-45 shifts away from Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the persecutions which lead to the Maccabean Revolt to a future, ultimate persecutions by an ultimate enemy of God, sometimes called the antichrist. Those who take a second century view of Daniel take the entire chapter as referring to Antiochus. Seow, for example, considers this a “recapitulation” of Antiochus’ offenses, with some general predictions which are only accurate in the most general sense, i.e. Antiochus will die (Daniel, 182).

Daniel 11:36-40 appears to say Antiochus will launch a new attack against the Ptolemaic Egypt, Judea will suffer greatly although Moab, Edom, and Ammon will be spared. Antiochus will be successful in plundering all of North Africa, including Egypt, Lydia and Ethiopia. As he is waging a successful war in the south, he will hear a rumor from the north, likely from his Syrian base, and return there. He will, however, make camp between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean Sea, where he will be killed.

Who Is the Antichrist?The problem with this reconstruction is that it never happened. Up until verse 36, reasonable connections may be drawn between historical events and the words of Daniel, but after 36 the connections become strained at best, or contradictory to the historical record at worst. Antiochus was not successful in his second invasion of Egypt, there is no record of a third invasion which was successful. He did not return home after hearing a rumor, but Rome told him to leave. He did not die in Judea at all, but in Persia after raiding a Temple in Elymas in 168 B.C.

This is why some read this as a shift from a historical survey to actual prophecy about “the last days.” Typically, the leader of this end-times rebellion is called antichrist, although Daniel never uses the word and is not a part of the vocabulary of apocalyptic until the Christian era. Daniel calls this person a willful king and describes his activities as defiant against God. This willful defiance is reminiscent of the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14.

Why should we begin to read Daniel as prophetic of the great end time conflict between humanity and God? It is difficult to harmonize Daniel 11:36-45 with events in the life of Antiochus. But as John Collins suggested, Daniel 11:36-45 may be a “deliberate polemical distortion” (Daniel, 386).

It is possible the writer of Daniel 11-12 begins making a prediction of events that have not yet occurred in his lifetime, but hopes they soon will (Towner, Daniel, 164, Montgomery, Daniel, 465). “The quasi-prophecy closes with an evaluative summary of Antiochus’s religious attitudes as king” (Goldingay, Daniel1, 304). Daniel 11 is expressing wishful thinking about how the current conflict might come to an end, but that prediction was mostly wrong. For example, the death of the “king” 11:45 takes place in Israel, but Antiochus died in Tabae, over a thousand miles from Israel. It is also possible the writer is generally right about the events he predicts, although not precisely so. Daniel got the “gist of things” right (Seow, Daniel, 185). The general idea that Antiochus would be killed I the near future is right, but the details are not correct.

But there are several indications the writer has shifted focus to future events in the passage. [NB: I am following Paul Tanner, “Daniel’s ‘King of the North’: Do We Owe Russia an Apology?” JETS 35 (1992):315-328. His commentary in the EEC series was released March 2020 but I have not had the chance to read his comments yet.] First, The subject of verse 36 is not referred to as the “king of the North” but only as “the king.” Normally in chapter 11 a qualifier such as “south” or “north” is included (except in vv. 2–3, which refer to the Persian kings, and verse 27, which refers to both the kings, clearly implied the north and south).

Second, in 11:21–35 Antiochus IV served in the role of the “king of the North,” as did the other Seleucid kings before him. In v. 40, however, “the king” is apparently in contention with both the “king of the North” and the “king of the South.” This argument assumes some exegesis on verse 40, noted below.

Third, 11:35 still anticipates the “end time,” but 11:40 indicates the “end time” has finally arrived. This is also anticipated in 10:14, in which the angelic visitor says the vision which Daniel saw concerns “the days yet future,” or the “latter days.” Those who hold to the Greek view see this as the end of Antiochus rather than “the end times” eschatologically.

Fourth, Daniel 12:1-3 begins with “Now at that time,” and refers to a “time of great distress” in 12:1 and the mention of the resurrection in 12:2 gives the whole unit an eschatological setting.

Fifth, A leap forward in time from Daniel 11:35 to 11:36 is consistent with other leaps in time throughout the chapter. For example, 11:2-3 cover 200+ years of Persian history without comment.

Sixth, the comment in Daniel 11:36 that the king “will exalt himself above every god” is not precisely true in regard to Antiochus. Antiochus exalted Zeus on the reverse side of his coinage.

Seventh, if the description of Antiochus found in Daniel 11 is an expansion of the previous prophecies in Daniel 2, 7 and 8, then the “final kingdom” is destroyed by the kingdom of God. Antiochus does not represent the last kingdom, rather, he is one of the last kings of the third kingdom. To a large extent, the activities of Antiochus III and IV are responsible for drawing Roman attention to the eastern regions, including Palestine. Antiochus’ kingdom was not replaced by the kingdom of God in any way, nor was the Maccabean revolt ultimately successful in establishing a real messianic kingdom. In fact, the rulers that follow the war are fairly corrupt high priest / kings who are nearly as evil as Jason and Menelaus were!

Is there any precedence for multiple fulfillment of prophecy?  Daniel 11 seems to predict in remarkable detail the general outline of history down to about 164 B.C. If it also looks beyond the Maccabean period, then there seems to be two (or more) “fulfillments” of the prophecy. This is analogous to several Old Testament prophecies which are literally fulfilled in the context of the prophet’s life, but also again at a later date, usually the ministry of Christ. A possible objection to these examples is that they assume the New Testament for the second fulfillment. For this reason, we might better speak in terms of “second application” of a prophecy.

In the case of the “sign of Immanuel” in Isaiah there is an immediate point of contact in the prophecy (a woman in Ahaz’ household will give birth, and before the child is a few years old, the kingdom of Damascus will fall), but also a distant fulfillment / application in the birth of Christ (Matthew 1: 22-23). The call of Isaiah included a prediction of futility. The people to whom Isaiah was sent would be “ever hearing, but never understanding.” This text is quoted in Matthew 13 by Jesus to explain why he taught in parables, a “second fulfillment / application” of the prophecy.

It seems appropriate to interpret Daniel 11:36-12:3 as referring to an ultimate, final eschatological persecution on a grand scale. Antiochus foreshadows a future persecution prior to God’s decisive action in history to restore a kingdom to God’s people.

Daniel 11:29-35 – The Fall of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Antiochus’s second failed Egyptian campaign was followed by his persecution of the Jews (11:29-35). In 168 Antiochus made a second foray into Egypt with the intention of annexing it to his own kingdom. This time things were not to go as well as he had planned. His army was met by a delegation from the Roman senate led by Popilius Laenas. Popilius presents Antiochus with a letter from the Senate ordering him out of Egypt or face the wrath of Rome.

Antiochus IV EpiphanesAntiochus asked for time to consider the letter, so Popilius drew a circle around him on the ground and told him not to leave the circle until he made his decision. Humiliated, Antiochus was forced out of Egypt and he took his frustration out on Judea.

After his humiliation in Egypt, Antiochus learned of the uprising in Jerusalem caused by the competing high priests. Jason had picked this time to make his attempt to regain the office of High Priest based on a rumor which said Antiochus had been killed in battle. See 1 Mac. 1:16-19. He waited until the Sabbath then sends his general Appolonius and some mercenaries into Jerusalem. They slaughter men, women and children indiscriminately and burn much of the city.

Antiochus fortified the citadel heavily, imposed a heavy tax on the city for the rebellion, and confiscated land. He occupies the city with foreign troops and Hellenistic sympathizers. 1 Mac 1:35-36 calls these “people of pollution” and notes the city had become the abode of foreigners.

Perhaps the most offensive action Antiochus did was to combine the worship of Yahweh with Zeus. Within the temple itself Antiochus sacrificed to Zeus, supported by the high priest and the Hellenistic Jews! (1 Maccabees 1:29-40; 2 Maccabees 5:11-27).

2 Maccabees 5:11–27 (NRSV) When news of what had happened reached the king, he took it to mean that Judea was in revolt. So, raging inwardly, he left Egypt and took the city by storm. 12 He commanded his soldiers to cut down relentlessly everyone they met and to kill those who went into their houses. 13 Then there was massacre of young and old, destruction of boys, women, and children, and slaughter of young girls and infants. 14 Within the total of three days eighty thousand were destroyed, forty thousand in hand-to-hand fighting, and as many were sold into slavery as were killed. 15 Not content with this, Antiochus dared to enter the most holy temple in all the world, guided by Menelaus, who had become a traitor both to the laws and to his country. 16 He took the holy vessels with his polluted hands, and swept away with profane hands the votive offerings that other kings had made to enhance the glory and honor of the place. 17 Antiochus was elated in spirit, and did not perceive that the Lord was angered for a little while because of the sins of those who lived in the city, and that this was the reason he was disregarding the holy place. 18 But if it had not happened that they were involved in many sins, this man would have been flogged and turned back from his rash act as soon as he came forward, just as Heliodorus had been, whom King Seleucus sent to inspect the treasury. 19 But the Lord did not choose the nation for the sake of the holy place, but the place for the sake of the nation. 20 Therefore the place itself shared in the misfortunes that befell the nation and afterward participated in its benefits; and what was forsaken in the wrath of the Almighty was restored again in all its glory when the great Lord became reconciled. 21 So Antiochus carried off eighteen hundred talents from the temple, and hurried away to Antioch, thinking in his arrogance that he could sail on the land and walk on the sea, because his mind was elated. 22 He left governors to oppress the people: at Jerusalem, Philip, by birth a Phrygian and in character more barbarous than the man who appointed him; 23 and at Gerizim, Andronicus; and besides these Menelaus, who lorded it over his compatriots worse than the others did. In his malice toward the Jewish citizens, 24 Antiochus sent Apollonius, the captain of the Mysians, with an army of twenty-two thousand, and commanded him to kill all the grown men and to sell the women and boys as slaves. 25 When this man arrived in Jerusalem, he pretended to be peaceably disposed and waited until the holy sabbath day; then, finding the Jews not at work, he ordered his troops to parade under arms. 26 He put to the sword all those who came out to see them, then rushed into the city with his armed warriors and killed great numbers of people. 27 But Judas Maccabeus, with about nine others, got away to the wilderness, and kept himself and his companions alive in the mountains as wild animals do; they continued to live on what grew wild, so that they might not share in the defilement.

Antiochus is well known for his persecutions of the Jews; the details are recorded in 1 & 2 Mac as well as in Josephus. His “forced Hellenization” is prototypical of all tyrants who attempt to force Jews to conform to Gentile standards.

Daniel 11 says that despite the persecution, some of the wise will survive, but only after they are purified as with fire. The identity of “the wise” in this passage is a difficult problem. Some identify the wise with the Hasadim, while others do not. The Hasadim were the dissenters who opposed Hellenistic trends and eventually divided into Pharisee, Sadducee, and Essene.

There were two “paths of resistance” in the Maccabean revolt. One could take up arms, as Judas and his brothers did, or one could resist passively and be martyred for the faith. The “wise” in Daniel are likely those who accepted the martyr’s path.

1 Maccabees 1:59–62 (NRSV) On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. 60 According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, 61 and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks. 62 But many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food.

After his humiliation in Egypt and the desecration of the Jewish Temple, Antiochus returned to Syria and selected his 8-year-old son Antiochus V Eupator as his successor (1 Mac 3:27-37). He named Lysias as the boy’s regent and left him in charge of about half the army. Lysias lead the army of the Seleucids against the Maccabean resistance, but this is not found in Daniel.

Antiochus was in desperate need of funds, so he led his army east to collect tribute. (He could not go to the south, since the Romans were protecting Egypt, and Palestine was already well looted).  He had some success but was turned back at Elymas. He thought gold left from Alexander’s day was at Elymas. He returned to Babylon, where he died in 163 B.C. 1 Mac 6:1-16 describes the king as dying of consumption soon after hearing the news of the cleansing of the temple by Judas Maccabees. It is also possible he was poisoned.

And this is a problem for interpreting Daniel 11. The “end of the story” is not quite right. Daniel 11:36-12:3 does predict the end of the arrogant king who persecuted God’s people. But the details are not quite right. Michael does not appear to defend God’s people and the Greeks are not replaced by a glorious kingdom of God as Daniel 2 and 7 expected. Does Daniel “get it wrong” at this point? Is the hoped for kingdom the short-lived Hasmonean kings? Or does Daniel shift to the future in 11:36?

Daniel 11:21-35 – Concerning Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Daniel 11:21-24 describes the rise of Antiochus IV Epiphanies. Antiochus IV had been in Rome as a hostage. Before his death Seleucus Philopater had sent his son to Rome in exchange for his brother Antiochus IV. These twelve years spent in Rome influenced the young Antiochus greatly. After leaving Rome he went to Athens where he served as Chief Magistrate until Seleucus IV Philopater was murdered by Heliodorus. Heliodorus ruled as regent for Demetrius, the second son of Seleucus IV.

Antiochus IV heard of his brother’s death and that Heliodorus had seized the throne. He hurried to Syria where he began to flatter and bribe everyone involved in arbitrating the dispute over who should be king. Antiochus was named king, despite not being the rightful heir.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

But Antiochus took over a kingdom which was in trouble. The Seleucid kingdom was nearly out of money and continentally harassed by Rome to the west and the Parthians to the east. Antiochus dealt with the first problem by robbing temples and shrines throughout the kingdom, including Jerusalem.

In order to develop some stability in the kingdom, he encouraged Hellenism throughout the kingdom, usually by adding Zeus to the local pantheon. Goldstein argues Antiochus was less interested in imposing Greek customs than imitating the Roman way of administering a large kingdom (Goldstein, 1 Maccabees, 111).

Daniel describes Antiochus as a “contemptible person.” He did develop a reputation for maniac behavior. Polybius described him as a “completely unreliable rule” who went from practical joking to deranged cruelness almost without warning. Antiochus would sometimes join a stage performance as an actor, or an orchestra as a player. He was reputed to participate in public sex on occasion. When he added Theos Epiphanes, “God Manifest,” to his name in 169 B.C., many made a joke out of his name by calling him Epimanes, “Madman.”

Early in his reign, Antiochus was involved in a dispute over the high priesthood in Jerusalem. Jason was the very pro-Hellenism brother of the legitimate high priest, Onias III. He bribed Antiochus to be appointed as the new high priest (1 Mac 1:13-15, 2 Mac 4:7-15). In order to please Antiochus, Jason pledged to build a gymnasium near the Temple and encourage the Jews to become more Greek. The gymnasium was popular and some of the priests participated in the games dedicated to Hermes.

As offensive as these things were to the many Jews, some though this Hellenization did not go far enough. Menelaus (with the support of the Tobiad party) went to Antiochus and offered the king a larger bribe (300 more talents than Jason) for the office. Antiochus immediately declared Menelaus high priest and sent Syrian troops with him in order to oust Jason from Jerusalem. Menelaus was not even of a priestly family and was only interested in the priesthood for political power and wealth.

Jason was removed from Jerusalem but had enough support that he hopes to return and remove Menelaus from office. Menelaus had some serious problems as well. Most of the Jews did not support him as high priest so he had trouble raising the money to pay Antiochus. As a result, he was forced to sell Temple items to pay bribes to the king’s agent Andronicus.

The legitimate high priest Onias protested this offense: Menelaus was not the real high priest and had no authority to sell anything from the temple, let alone to pay bribes to a Gentile king! Antiochus was not impressed with his protest and had the true high priest killed (2 Mac 4:33-38, possibly Dan 9:26-27).

Robbing of the temple caused riots against his priesthood. Lysimachus, Menelaus brother, led troops against the rioters and killed 3000, but was killed himself in the battle. Menelaus was called into account by Antiochus but managed to bribe his way out of trouble (2 Macc 4:43-50).

Antiochus IV sought to unite Egypt and Syria, probably because Ptolemy Philometer was a very young man at the time (11:25-28). He could not attack Egypt because of Egypt’s relationship with Rome. If he attacked Egypt, Rome would come to their defense. Fortunately for Antiochus, Egypt attacked him in 169. He as able to march on Egypt and rout the Egyptian army.

About this time Jason heard a false rumor Antiochus was killed in battle in Egypt. He took 1000 men and attacked Jerusalem in an attempt to run Menelaus out. Menelaus hid in the citadel, Jason failed and eventually died as an outcast (2 Mac 5:5-10).

Returning from Egypt, he entered Jerusalem as a show of force after hearing of the growing insurrection caused by the rival high priests (1 Mac 1:16-28, 2 Mac 5:1-11). He looted the temple with the help of Menalaus the High priest, and slaughtered 80,000 Jews.