Antiochus or the Pope?

This is a post related to the unique Seventh-Day Adventists understanding of Daniel, chapter 8(ch.11 and the whole book), the little horn mentioned in chapters 7 and 8 and the 2300  evenings and mornings from chapter 8.

Understanding of the post requires initial familiarity with this unique Adventists’ understanding, the other widely known understanding and the book itself. Shorthly said, the main point in the debate is the question what does “the little horn” in chapter 7 signifies (and those in ch.8, where the ancient texts uses a slightly different phrase). Roughly, those chapters determine the little horn as a person who will be against the God’s people and who will have huge importance for the future of the world and its end!

Most Bible scholars that study the Old testement and the book of Daniel today stand either behind the Preterist interpretation which says that the little horn is a symbol of the king of the Seleucid Empireor Antiochus IV Epiphanes(who was ruling from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC) or  behind the Futurist interpretation. which says that the little horn is an evil person in the future. However, 7 Day Adventists still support the Historicist interpretation that was also used by some of the pioneers of Protestantism (Luter, Calvin, etc.) and even Isaac Newton. It says that the little horn is simply the Pope institution.

Below are given some of the best arguments for and against the latter interpretation:

Strongest arguments of the critic:

1. [Dan.7&Dan.8 differences]

There are some important differences between the little horn from Dan.7 and Dan.8, namely:

  • The world powers in Dan.7 are represented by unclean beasts, while the world powers in Dan.8 are represented by sacrificial animals .
  • Dan.7 is written in Aramaic, while Dan.8 and the subsequent chapters are written in Hebrew. This could indicate that the intended audience is the Jews.
  • The Aramaic word for “little horn” in 7:8 is strictly translated “another horn, a little one”, while the Hebrew wod for “little horn” in 8:9 is strictly translated “a horn from littleness”.
  • The “little horn” of Daniel 7 did not have its beginning until the 4th beast was divided into 10 kingdoms, which happened in 476 AD. The “little horn” of Daniel 8 was to come up “in the latter time of their kingdom” (v. 23). “Their kingdom” refers to the four divisions of the Alexandrian Empire. The “latter time” or last days of the four kingdoms was 200 BC – 100 BC. Therefore, the little horn of Daniel 8 was to arise six centuries before the little horn of Daniel 7 existed!

2. [Rome&the sanctuary]

Rome did not have any contact with the Jewish nation until 161 BC. How could the little horn have begun its desecrating work in 457 BC, 296 years before it even came into contact with the Jewish state? Rome had no part whatsoever in the activities of 457 BC ?

Rome lived peacefully with the Jewish nation and did not even molest the Jews until after Palestine became a part of the Roman Empire in 63 BC. How could the little horn be “trampling underfoot” the Sanctuary for nearly 400 years when it never even interfered with the sanctuary service during that time period?

3. [sanctuary confusion]

How could the little horn be desecrating the Sanctuary in 457 BC when the prophecy does not even show it arising until after 301 BC?(Alexander’s kingdom was divided in 301 BC).

4. [“melek”]

The Hebrew word for “king” in verse 23 is melek, and means “a king; king, royal” (Strong’s). The word, melek, is never translated “kingdom, or world power, or empire.” Thus, the “little horn” of Daniel 8 is a king, not an Empire.

5. [little horn’s attacks directions]

According to Dan. 8:9, the horn first attacks the south, then toward the east, and en route to the east, attacks the pleasant land:

8:9 And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.

Rome’s greatest conquests were to the North and West of Rome. Indeed, Rome conquered large regions of northwestern Europe while  Antiochus attacked only to the South and East of Syria(on south towards Egypt and on east towards Armenia, Persia), where his kingdom was centered.

The term pleasant land is found three times in the Bible, and in each case it refers to the promised land of Israel (see Psalms 106:23-26, Jeremiah 3:18-19, Zechariah 7:7,14). Antiochus assaulted the land of Israel, killing tens of thousands of Jews, in an attempt to stamp out the Jewish religion. (see also supporting argument 4)

6. [horn out of wind or not]

The idea of a horn growing out of the wind not only seems odd, it also violates the symbol’s visual unity. Note the visionary sequence:

Goat appears with a great horn between its eyes
The Goat’s horn is broken off
In its place grow four horns
Out of one of these four horns comes another horn
All horns are still linked to the body of the goat (Greece)

Nowhere in the book of Daniel (or Revelation) do we find a horn growing in the wind detached from a body! Horns do not grow out of the wind! Horns represent kings or divisions of a kingdom. The beast represents the kingdom itself. A horn detached from a body would represent a king with no kingdom!

7. [Prince of the host]

The phrase “the prince of the host” in 8:11 refers to God himself, to the highpriest Onias or to Judas Maccabseus, according to the commentators, and does not refer to Jesus, as the Adventists claimed. In Philip. 2:9 , Paul said about Jesus that “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name“. However, this happened far after the times of Daniel.

During Antiochus rule, the high priest, Onias, was driven into exile and later killed in the cruelest manner. Furthermore, Antiochus figuratively magnified himself to the ultimate prince of the host, God Himself. His surname Theo Antiochus declared him to be an effulgence in human form of the Divine, a god manifest in a flesh (see Edwin Bevan, The House of Seleucus, vol. 2, p. 154).

8. [1 Maccabees]

 The book of Maccabees describes how the daily sacrifice was taken away, and how the sanctuary was desolated:

“And in his arrogance he went into the sanctuary and took the gold altar and the lampstand for the light, and all its furniture…” (1 Maccabees 1:21)

Antiochus’ attack on the Jewish religion was the worst crisis to face the Jews between the Babylonian captivity in 606 BC and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. After two years the situation for the sanctuary worsened:

“And they shed innocent blood all around the sanctuary, and polluted the sanctuary itself. … Her sanctuary became a desolate wilderness…” (1 Maccabees 1:37,39)

Antiochus’ goal was to destroy the Jewish religion and have all the people of Palestine unite and worship his heathen religion on penalty of death. He commanded:

“Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that they should all become one people, and everyone should give up his particular practices. … and put a stop to whole burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings at the sanctuary…” (1 Maccabees 1:41,42,45)

9. [the daynights in Genesis]

The Hebrew word for “day” (yowm or yamim for days) does not appear in the verse Dan. 8:14. The words translated “days” (`ereb boqer) literally means “evenings and mornings”(the same words as those used in Genesis, where  the right interpretation is litteral).

Since the context of the verse itself is talking about the daily sacrifices in the temple, which took place every morning and evening, thu the only reasonable conclusion is that this verse is talking about the litteral daily sacrifices in the temple. Certainly it would be reckless to apply the “year-day” principle to every prophecy where “days” are mentioned:

  • Jonah prophesied Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days (Jonah 3:4), which did not equate to 40 years.
  • In Genesis 6:3 God prophesied there would be a period of 120 years before the flood, which did not equate to 43,200 years.

10. [litteral daynights]

Accepting the literal day interpretation, we can assume that God told the Jews precisely how long His sanctuary would be profaned: 2300 evening and morning sacrifices would be suspended while the sanctuary was profaned. And this makes perfect sense, having in mind the context! According to the Jewish calendar, the 2300 days works out to be six years, three months, and 18 days. This time period began on the fifteenth day of the month Cisleu, in the year 145 of the Selucidae, in which Antiochus set up the Abomination of Desolation upon the altar of God:

“Now the five and twentieth day of the month they did sacrifice upon the idol altar, which was upon the altar of God.” (1 Maccabees 1:59)

This was the beginning of a period of intense suffering for those in Israel who chose to remain faithful to God. Judas Maccabeus was outraged over the injustice done to God’s sanctuary(1 Maccabees 2:7,8,12).

Maccabeus rose up and started a revolt against Antiochus. For over three years he struggled and fought against the armies of Antiochus. Finally, he was victorious over Nicanor, on the thirteenth day of the month Adar, Anno 151, and the power of Antiochus over Judea was broken.

The Jews commemorate the triumph of Judas with an annual feast  on this day called the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah). The Savior honored this feast by His presence (John 10:22). After his victory, when Judas entered Jerusalem, he found “the sanctuary desolate.” (1 Mac. 4:38) Judas immediately directed the sanctuary be rebuilt and cleansed so that it could be used again for sacred services (1 Mac. 4:41-51).

In addition, although the book of Maccabees is not part of the cannon, it was widely accepted by the first church as historicaly plausible!

11. [Josephus and Antiochus]

During the generation when Jesus walked the earth, the actions of Antiochus Epiphanes were still fresh in the minds of the people. They understood Antiochus Epiphanes to be the Abomination of Desolation. The Jewish historian Josephus, a contemporary of Jesus, wrote of Antiochus:

“And this desolation came to pass according to the prophecy of Daniel, which was given 408 years before; for he declared that the Macedonians would dissolve that worship [for some] time.” (Antiquities of the Jews, p. 260)

12. [The Jews and the abom.of desolation]

Even Jesus referred to the abomination in the book of Daniel (Dan. 9:27) as a warning to His followers that a similar desolation was going to happen to the Jewish nation in the future:

“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains.” (Matt. 24:15)

This is a clear indication that the prophency has significance mainly for the Jews, which makes the papacy interpretation less probable.

13. [Antiochus period]

In verse 23 we find that “in the latter time of their kingdom” the little horn power would arise. This refers to the latter times of the four divisions of the Greek Empire, just prior to their being conquered by Rome. The four divisions began at the battle of Ipsus in 301 BC. The kingdom of Macedonia fell in 168 BC, the kingdom of Cassander in 146 BC, the kingdom of Seleucidae (over which Antiochus ruled), fell in 65 BC, and the Ptolemy kingdom lasted until 30 BC. Since the four-fold kingdom ceased to exist when Macedonia fell in 168 BC, the prophecy calls for the appearance of the little horn shortly before this time. Antiochus reigned from 175 BC to 164 BC.

14. [on ch.8&9]

  • There are around 13 years between Dan. 8:1 and Dan 9:1 (see [1]). It is hard to believe that the angel returned to explain the vision to Daniel after so many years.
  • Actually, the vision in Dan. 8 was explained to Daniel. The exact Jewish translation of the last verse of ch.8 is [see ]:
    27 And I, Daniel, became broken and ill for days, but I rose and did the king’s work, and I was terrified about the vision, but no one realized it. No one realized that he was terified, but not  ‘no one understand the vision’ as it is in some translations!
  • There is a clear relationship between the Jeremiah’s 70 years’ prophecy mentioned in Dan. 9:2 and the 70-weeks’ prophecy explained later in the chapter. Angel Gabriel clarifies there that the 70 years’ prophecy does not refer only to the litteral period of captivity. Leviticus 26:28 says:

    28 Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I,

    will chastise you seven times for your sins.

          Probably, this is the reason the 70-weeks in the prophecy to be given as 70 units of sevens. So, apparently, Gabriel explains the Jeremiah’s words here and not the previous prophecy which was already understood.

15. [on ch.11]

Verse 16 of ch.11 states: “”Seventh-Day Adventist Bible commentary identify Cleopatra, daughter of Ptolemy XI, as “the daughter of women” from Dan. 11:17, but this Cleopatra was not given in marriage by the king of the north to the king of the south, as the verse suggest.

Supporting arguments:

1. [the neglectable Antiochus]

The power of Antiochus Epiphanes is neglectable compared to the power of the little horn, described in both Dan.7 and Dan.8 . In chapter 7(verse 24) the little horn was described as a different from the others and more powerful then them. Similarly, in chapter 8, the verb “to become great” [gaw-dal’] was used three times in an obvious relation between them:
– In Dan. 8:4, the Persian ram was determined as “great”.

– In Dan. 8:8, the Greek goat “waxed very great”.

– The little horn  “waxed exceeding great”(Dan. 8:9).

Thus, it is highly unlikely that such a big power can be compared to the undistinguished Antiochus, whose influence has not exceeded the borders of Palestine!

2. [Relation, ch.7&ch.8]

Chapter 7 finishes with the words “As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance changed; but I kept the matter in my heart”. Chapter 8 starts with ” ..a vision appeared to me—to me, Daniel—after the one that appeared to me the first time”, probably with the aim to introduce a new vision related to the previous one.

3. [First verses, ch.7&ch.8]

Another indication of relation between those two is the the chronological emplacement of the second vision with respect to the first one. From the very first words of both chapters, 7 and 8, we see that the events happens in the first and in the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar, respectively, which is a clear evidence that a connection exists. The same method was used in the introductions of chapters 1 and 2 (the first and the third year of the Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom), as well as in the introductions of chapters 9 and 10 (the first and in the third year of the reign of Darius).

4. [little horn, ch.7&ch.8]

There are some important similarities between the little horn from Dan.7 and Dan.8. In both chapter he is:

  • clever and arrogant
  • opponent of the law(see. v.7:25, 8:12). Indeed, in the expression “he cast truth down to the ground” (Dan.8:12), the word truth can be translated as “law” (see. Ps. 43:3, 119:7,43,123). Even some Jewish commentators(Ibn Ezra, Rashi) translate this verse as “he nullify the law”.
  • persecute the holy people (v. 7:25, 8:24)
  • appears after the beasts – kingdoms

5. [out of a wind or a horn]

The interpretation that in verse 8:9 , “the little horn” comes from one of the four winds and not from one of the four horns is more plausible, because:

  • It does make sense a horn to come from the head of the animal instead of from another horn.
  • When a new horn appear, this always imply the falling of previous horns/kingdoms (see Dan 7:7)
  • between the phrases “toward the four winds of heaven” and “out of one of them” exists a gramatical parallelism – “winds[feminen] of heaven[masculine]” and “one[feminen] of them[masculine]”. Also, there is  a rhyme between these two phrases in the original text, which witnesses for their relationship.

6. [the goat and the ram meaning]

The fact that Daniel  speaks about only two kingdoms in this chapter, represented by two clean sacrificial animals, is not accidental. The other two kingdoms are skipped. The goal of the prophet is to focus the reader’s attention indeed on the relationship ram-goat. The book of Leviticus, chapter 16(see verse 5), speaks about the same relationship and the purpose of the whole chapter is to describe the jewish feast Yom Kippur(the day of the Atonement). Several words in chapter 8 reffer to the feast Yom Kippur: “the daily sacrifice”[הַתָּמִ֔יד], “the transgression”[בְּפָ֑שַׁע] and “the sanctuary”[מִקְדָּשֹֽׁו׃].  Even the word translated as “the prince” in verses 11 and 25 is actually a word used in Ezra 8:24, 1Chronicles 15:12, 24:25 for the high priest! Even the crucial verb “cleansed” is translated in the Septuagint with a special term used for Kippur.  Also, the pronounced Jewish commentator Rashi interpret this text as a direct refference to the day of the Atonement. The equivallent of “the judgement day” in Dan. 7:22, is the day of the Atonement here, in chapter 8. Something more, in the Ancient Israel, the day of the Atonement was an image(a prototype) of the final judgement.

7. [Parallels, ch.7&ch.8]

Both chapter 7 and chapter 8 pass trough the same stages:

Ch.7 – beasts/kingdoms – little horn – judjement
Ch.8 – beasts/kingdoms – little horn – cleansing of the sanctuary

Also, the little horn elicit the God’s judjement, stating his destruction, in both chapters (see 7:10-12 , 8:25).

8. [ch.7 , Christ and Revelation]

Jesus interpreted the “abomination of desolation” from the book of Daniel as something still in the future (see Matt. 24:15). Jesus lived after Antiochus.

The period “3 and 1/2 times”[which refers to the little horn in Dan. 7:25] is mentioned in Revelation 12:6, 12:14 and 13:5. The first of these verses says: “the woman … she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days”[1260  = 3 and 1/2 years]. The woman always signifies the church in the biblical text!

9. [‘Maccabees’]

It is clear that Christ and the New Testament did nto regard the earlier Antiochus as fulfiling the work of the little horn, eventhough the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees labels something Antiochus set up on the altar of the Jerusalim temple as the “abomination of desolation”(1:54).

The scholar Steven Weitzman wrote an article titled “Plotting Antiochus’s Persecution”[Journal of Biblical Literature, 2004]. Although Weitzman continues to accept the Preterist version that Antiochus IV is the little horn he supports the idea that the books of Maccabees are propaganda that fit into a longstanding ancient Near Eastern literary tradition! Indeed, it looks plausible that the Maccabees saw the little horn in Antiochus and that they paint him in especially dark colors in attempt to portray the Maccabees as saviours of Jewish religion.

10. [‘broken without hand’]

Antiochus was not “broken without hand”(verse 25), there is no suggestion of anything miraculous or mysterious about either his failure with the Jews or his death.

11. [‘understanding dark sentences’]

Antiochus was “fierce” toward the Jews, but was not noted for “understanding dark sentences” (verse 8:23).

12. [Antiochus doesn’t fit]

The 1260 days of Daniel 7 certainly do not equate with the 2300 “half days,” or 1150 “full days,” of Daniel 8 . Dr. Charles H. H. Wright, of Trinity College, Dublin and Oxford (Daniel and His Prophecies, 1906, p. 186), declared, on the 2300-day calculations of Daniel 8:

“All efforts, however, to harmonise the period, whether expounded as 2300 days or as 1150 days, with any precise historical epoch mentioned in the Books of the Maccabees or in Josephus have proved futile.”

In keeping of the symbolic nature of the prophecies of Daniel 7 and 8, we would expect the time periods in these chapters to be symbolic also.

Furthemore, additional evidence that the 2300 evenings and mornings refer to 2300 full days is present if we compare with Deuteronomy 9:25- ‘the forty days and forty nights’ or Exodus 27:20-21. In addition, in Genesis we have “And there was evening, and there was morning, one day”.

13. [connection, ch.8&ch.9]

Verse 8:16 says “And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.“. However, at the end of the chapter, Daniel is still confused and do not understand it. The original manuscripts were not separated in chapters, this makes a little more plausable the adventists’ interpretation that chapter 9(more precisely – (9:24) gives us information about the beginning of the 2300 day-nights period and helps Daniel to finally understand the vision(after his long prayer in verses 9: 3-20).

14. [strong connection, ch.8&ch.9]

In support of the relationship between chapter 8 and 9 and the visions of 2300 days and 70 weeks:

– 2300 days of Dan. 8 was the only part not explained by Gabriel.
– In Dan. 9, the same angel Gabriel comes to give him “explanation and skills”. Daniel’s prayer in the chapter didn’t contain anything about explanation.
– Gabriel then points him back to the ‘mareh'(9:23), the same word as those used in ch.8 for the 2300 days vision.
– Then, in the next verse (v.24), Gabriel gives him another time prophecy(70 weeks) which is “cut-off” [the word chatak is not use anywhere else in the Bible, though it appears numeous times in the Mishnah, a Jewish Bible commentary compiled in the 1st century A.D. There, the same word means “which is cut off” in 18 out of 19 times it is used].

15. [ch.11 doesn’t fit to Antiochus]

The characteristics of this infidel king(verses 11: 31-41) are (for more detailed explanation – see source [9], with author recommended by EGW on dealing with Ch.11):
1)self-exaltation above every God
2)contempt of all religion
3)blasphemy against the true God
4)apostacy from the God of his fathers
5)disregarding the desire of womenOf all this six marks, only one, in the least, agrees with Antiochus. He was more zealous in the worship of his fathers’ Gods than any of the king before him.

16. [Dan.11:16-21 is not that plausible transition to Rome]

Adventists see a transition from Antiochus III – a Seleucidian king to Rome and Pompey, instead of the widely accepted version that this is the conquest of Palestine by Antiochus III. This would require a break in the chronological flow of the text. In addition, the verb at the beginning of v.16 indicates that the story is simply continuing. Moreover, the version that the beautiful woman in v.17 is Cleopatra Cyra – the daughter of Antiochus III, but not the Cleopatra – the daughter of Ptolemy XI makes more sense, because Antiochus III gained no advantage through this action(his daughter,Cleopatra, turned out to be loyal to Ptolemy), which doesn’t fit so well into the other version.

Instead, it is more plausible that the transition to Rome happens in verses 20-22(see [23]):

17. [origins from Porphyry]

The origin of the Antiochus’ version is generally credited, not to a Christian exegete, but to a pagan, Porphyry, who died about A.D. 304. It was devised, not to expound, but to discredit and deny the prophetic element of the book of Daniel (see [20]).

In addition, of the major weaknesses of the Maccabean thesis is that it claims that Rome cannot be found in the book of Daniel as a symbol, which is not very likely(it is at least related to Revelation where a city of seven hills is mentioned). More arguments on that can be found in [25].

18. [2300 days interpretation supported]

The idea that 2300 Years Begin jointly with seventy weeks was first introduced by the German pastor Johann P. Petri in 1768. It was also supported by more than sixty men scattered over four continents and located in twelve different countries in the early 19th century.

These included Dr. Joshua L. Wilson, moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly; Protestant Episcopal Bishop John P. K. Henshaw, Alexander Campbell, founder of the Disciples Church, several college presidents and professors, judges, congressmen, physicians, pastors of outstanding churches, and editors of several religious journals. Even the Roman Catholic supreme court justice, Jose de Rozas of Mexico City was among them.

Nearly all of them published their expectations before William Miller’s first book appeared in Troy, New York, in 1836. (see for details)


  1. Jacques Doukhan, Le Soupir de la Terre: Etude Prophetique du Livre de Daniel(Bulgarian translation)
  2. Slavcho Valchanov, Interpretation of the book of the prophet Daniel
  4. Dale Ratzlaff, Daniel 8:14 studied in context
  7. Zdravko Stefanovic, Daniel: Wisdom to the Wise. Commentary on the Book of Daniel
  8. Sir Isaac Newton, Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John
  9.  Pusey, E. B., Daniel the prophet; nine lectures, delivered in the Divinity School of the University of Oxford
  11. W.Shea, Supplementary Evidence in Support of 457 B.C. as the Starting Date for the 2300 Day-Years of Daniel 8:14
  12. Mitko Dimitrov, The author and the time of the book of Daniel’s writing
  14. Agop Tahmisian, Basic teachings of the Bible
  17. W. H. Johns, The ABCs of Dr. Desmond Ford’s Theology
  20. Richard Davidson, In confirmation of the sanctuary message, 1991
  22. Clifford Goldstein, “1844 made simple”.
  23. Roy E. Gane, “The Un-manifestation of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in Dan.11:1-22” , 2007

About sdimitrov
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