More Jewish Temple Nonsense at WorldNetDaily

WND Temple

So, was the Jewish Temple secretly dismantled and moved to what later became Las Vegas, where it currently provides refuge to Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson?

No, not quite: WND is just making a meal out of the long-known fact that the Roman armies which beseiged Jerusalem in 70CE consisted in large part of soldiers recruited in the east. WND thinks this is of “prophetic significance”:

As Joel Richardson, author of “The Islamic Antichrist,” writes today in WND’s commentary section, one of the pillars of the European Antichrist theory is a prophecy in Daniel 9: “The people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.”

When the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 and the city of Jerusalem sacked, while under Roman occupation, many prophecy scholars assumed the future dark prince needs to be Roman. However, historical research by Richardson now suggests otherwise.

Richardson’s research found the army that destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem was actually overwhelmingly comprised of Middle Eastern peoples, not Europeans. Explicit accounts cited come from Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Titus Flavius Josephus as well as more modern scholars and historians.

“All said, the historical evidence is overwhelming. After examining a sampling of evidence from both ancient historians as well as the most cutting-edge modern scholarship to date, we may very confidently conclude that the ‘Roman’ soldiers in the Eastern provinces that destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple were in fact Eastern peoples – the inhabitants of Asia Minor, Syria, Arabia and Egypt,” Richardson writes. “Again, they were the ancestors of the modern-day inhabitants of the Middle East.”

First, there is no such thing as a “prophecy scholar”. There are Biblical scholars, some of who study prophetic texts in historical and literary context, and there are “prophecy cranks”, who  read all kind of nonsense into ancient texts, particularly if the text is difficult to understand. The author of the Book of Daniel had no concept of an “Antichrist” or of a Roman Empire – he was writing around 200 years before the events of 70CE, and the “prince” refered to was a Hellenistic Syrian monarch who had enforced Greek religious practices at the Temple shortly before the text was created.

Second, there is no “research by Richardson”. Instead, he guides us through some of the primary sources and recent secondary literature on the subject. And even here Richardson fails to provide page numbers and his quotes are dubious. Here’s one he uses, supposedly from Antonio Santosuosso’s Storming the Heavens: Soldiers, Emperors, and Civilians in the Roman Empire:

During the first half of the first century, approximately 49 percent of the soldiers were Italians, but by A.D. 70 that number had fallen to only 22 percent. By the end of the first century, only 1 percent of the soldiers were Italians.

Using Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book Function” I have been unable to find this phrase. I have, however, found the following, on page 98:

…49 percent under Claudius and Nero, 22 percent during the rest of the first century, and only 1 percent from Hadrian onwards.

Nero died in 68, and Hadrian came to power in 117. Obviously, the figures for 70CE would be much closer to the 49 percent of two years before than than the general declining average of “22 percent” over the fifty-year period. And if we look further down the page, we read that enrollment “typically meant automatic Roman citizenship”. So, Roman soldiers were Roman no matter what their ethnic background, and during the siege of Jerusalem they were of course under the ultimate control of ethnically European Roman commanders answerable to a European emperor.

Another scholar, Sara Elise Phang,  gets the same treatment:

That Italians were increasingly replaced in the legions during this period by provincials is in itself no longer a novelty among scholars. … In the East, that is Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt, it seems clear that local recruitment was well under way under Augustus [d. A.D. 14], so that by his death only a very small number of legionaries derived from Italy or indeed any of the western provinces. … Under Nero [d. A.D. 68], when the eastern legions required supplementation … it was to Cappadocia and Galatia that [Rome] looked for recruits. This was doubtless standard procedure. [The] legions of the East consisted largely of “orientals” (Middle Easterners).

Richardson ignores a passage which follows:

Traditionally legions stationed in the East were of poorer quality than their western counterparts…The prospect of major campaigns regularly brought a stiffening with troops from the Danube, which…provided two out of the three legions besieiging Jerusalem in AD 70.

Richardson’s general point about an ethnically diverse army is valid, but it is uncontroversial, and he is typically sloppy in his use of the evidence. It is also valid that he notes the role of auxilary non-Roman armies:

There were four full legions and two partial legions involved in the attack. This would mean that there were approximately 25,000 men who were full-time legionaries with the remaining 35,000 men who were either volunteers or auxiliaries. The auxiliaries were non-Roman people raised up from the provincial peoples. Josephus confirms this when he says that the auxiliaries were “sent by the kings” from “the neighborhood” of Syria, Asia Minor and Arabia.

However, the conclusion is overblown, based on a speculative calculation:

…at the very most, there was one Western European soldier to every 11 Middle Eastern soldiers. Eleven to one!

But, again, overall command was Roman.

So what’s his point? Obviously, this is part of the Christian Zionist fantasy of an essentialised eternal conflict between east and west, which today pits the USA and Israel against Muslims. Roman responsibility for the destruction of Jerusalem cannot be denied, but can be mitigated and forced into the narrative framework by suggesting that it was really the work of “the inhabitants of Asia Minor, Syria, Arabia and Egypt”. He quotes Tacitus as noting

a strong contingent of Arabs, who hated the Jews with the usual hatred of neighbors…

Richardson concludes from this –  sweeping over centuries of complex social interactions that followed – that “little seems to have changed since the first century regarding the general Arab hatred of the Jewish people.” The argument appears to be that ethnically non-Italian Romans were not really Roman, and that their involvement in Roman military campaigns reflects the essential character of easterners playing out a role in a supernatural conflict:

They were the ancestors of the peoples that dominate the entire region today. For this reason and many others, many students and teachers of the Bible are increasingly rejecting the Euro-centric end time perspective and are looking instead to the Middle East as the epicenter of all Bible prophecy.