No, Archaeologists Have Not Found a “Prophetic Hint” of Turkish Anti-Christ

More silliness from “Glenn Beck’s End-Times ProphetJoel Richardson:

A significant recent archeological discovery in western Turkey may hold a prophetic hint as to the nation from which the Antichrist will someday burst forth onto the world scene.

According to a recent report by Fox News, archeologists have uncovered the ancient “gate to hell.” Not literally, of course, but rather they’ve discovered an ancient pagan temple known as “Pluto’s Gate,” the cave that was believed to be the portal to Hades, in Greco-Roman mythology.

Richardson, as I’ve noted previously, takes the view that the Bible predicts a Muslim Anti-Christ, and he believes that Turkey holds the key. He goes on:

…What is more interesting about this find as it relates to biblical prophecy is the fact that the gate was discovered in modern-day Pamukkale, Turkey, known in ancient times as Hierapolis. According to the first-century historian known as Pliny the Elder, Hierapolis was also known as “Magog.”

In fact, it was specifically this ancient Turkish-Magog connection that informed the understanding of a wide range of Jewish and Christian theologians concerning the region from which the armies of Gog and Magog would descend into the land of Israel in the last days.

Richardson piles up a ragbag of supposed authorities “who have long looked for the Antichristian armies of Gog of Magog to come from the land of Turkey”. He begins with Hippolytus of Rome (170–235), then jumps forward a thousand years to Maimonides, and then moves on to include diverse figures such as Walter Raleigh, John Wesley, Cyrus Scofield, and an author of apocalyptic paperbacks named Dave Hunt.

This, of course, shows a basic misunderstanding of the nature of scholarship, which consists of continuing critical engagement with the sources (for the most part, textual and archaeological) rather than uncritically parroting a list of names. ”Gog and Magog” appear in the biblical book of Ezekiel as a type of barbarian whom the author imagined attacking ancient Israel in the near future; their location is vaguely defined as being somewhere in the north, but the fact that authors living centuries later thought “the land of Turkey” was intended is irrelevant without an argument we can follow and assess for ourselves.

But it gets worse – Richardson has conflated two cities called Hieropolis, which means simply “Holy City” in Greek. There is a city of that name in Pamukkale, and Pliny appears to reference it when he mentions in Book 2 (95) “the hole at Hierapolis in Asia, harmless only to the priest of the Great Mother”. But the supposed “Magog” refers to Hierapolis in Syria – and it’s Mabog, anyway: here’s the relevant section of Pliny (Book 5 Chapter 19):

Nunc interiora dicantur. Coele habet Apameam, Marsya amne divisam a Nazerinorum tetrarchia, Bambycen, quae alio nomine Hierapolis vocatur, Syris vero Mabog — ibi prodigiosa Atargatis, Graecis autem Derceto dicta, colitur —, Chalcidem cognominatam Ad Belum…

In English:

Now let us speak of the places inland. Hollow Syria contains the town of Kulat el Mudik, separated by the river Marsyas from the tetrarchy of the Nosairis; Bambyx, which is also named the Holy City, but which the Syrians call Maboghere the monstrous goddess Atargatis, the Greek name for whom is Derceto, is worshipped; the place called Chalcis on Belus…

“Hollow Syria”, or Coele-Syria, refers to the Valley of Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon. And a note at an alternative translation here by John Bostock has further details about the name:

In the former editions it is “Magog;” but [Julius] Sillig’s reading of “Mabog” is correct, and corresponds with the Oriental forms of Munbedj, Manbesja, Manbesjun, Menba, Manba, Manbegj, and the modern name, Kara Bambuche, or Buguk Munbedj.

It seems that the similarity between “Magog” and “Mabog” captured the Christian imagination.

But either way, what has the Plutonium (or “Plato’s Gate”) at Pamukkale got to do with Bible prophecy? A biblical scholar named Larry Kreitzer has suggested that the site may have inspired a reference to “the lowermost parts of the earth” in the New Testament Letter to the Ephesians:

It is reasonable to assume that [the author] was aware of the close connection of the site with the story of the abduction of Persephone and that he wished to present the Christian message as somehow challenging, or transcending, the mysteries associated with the local expression of the Demeter/Persephone cult. We can also assume that he would have known of the identification of Demeter with Cybele, and that the cult of Cybele and Attis would have been familiar to the local population, given that this was originally a Phrygian religion and both Colossae and Hierapolis were in Phrygia.

However, this is all somewhat speculative, and there does not appear to have been any kind of later Christian tradition associated with the site. And although the Plutonium was seen by pagans as a passageway into Hades, it was not the only such passage. Richardson also mentions the “Abyss” in the Book of Revelation (Chapter 9), but there is no reason to suppose that the author was inspired by the Plutonium; the “Abyss” is depicted as a supernatural anomaly, opened up by an angel and not associated with any pre-existing site.

To sum up: the Bible does not point towards a site in Turkey as being particularly associated with the Anti-Christ. Ezekiel’s Magog is not Hierapolis in Turkey, or even Hierapolis/Mabog in Syria, and the Abyss in the Book of Revelation is not at the site of the Plutonium. It’s all hucksterism, here employed to play on modern American worries about the place of Islam in the world but also recycling old fears about “the Turk”.

We should recall that in 2008 Richardson claimed that Obama, as Presidential candidate, had appeared on a podium with a backdrop “nearly identical” to the Pergamum Altar. That was a farrago of nonsense, too.

UPDATE: The above refers to Richardson’s website; I now see that Joseph Farah is also carrying the article on WorldNetDaily, under the ludicrous yet predictable headline ‘“Gate to hell” Discovered in Antichrist’s Neighborhood‘.

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