Keith Hunt - Church History #13 - Page Thirteen   Restitution of All Things

  Home Previous Page Next Page

History of the Church #13

Destruction of Jerusalem


From the milti-volume work of Philip Schaff
(latter part of 1800s)


There is scarcely another period in history so full of vice,
corruption, and disaster as the six years between the Neronian
persecution and the destruction of Jerusalem.... So the Chris-
tians believed and had good reason to believe. Even to earnest
heathen minds that period looked as dark as midnight. We have
elsewhere quoted Seneca's picture of the frightful moral
depravity and decay under the reign of Nero, his pupil and
murderer. Tacitus begins his history of Rome after the death of
Nero with these words: "I proceed to a work rich in disasters,
full of atrocious battles, of discord and rebellion, yea,
horrible even in peace. Four princes [Galba, Otho, Vitellius,
Domitian] killed by the sword; three civil wars, several foreign
wars; and mostly raging at the same time. Favorable events in the
East [the subjugation of the Jews], unfortunate ones in the West.
Illyria disturbed, Gaul uneasy; Britain conquered and soon
relinquished; the nations of Sarmatia and Suevia rising against
us; the Parthians excited by the deception of a pseudo-Nero.     
Italy also weighed down by new or oft-repeated calamities; cities
swallowed up or buried in ruins; Rome laid waste by
conflagrations, the old temples burned up, even the capitol set
on fire by citizens; sanctuaries desecrated; adultery rampant in
high places. The sea filled with exiles; the rocky islands
contaminated with murder. Still more horrible the fury in the
city. Nobility, riches, places of honor, whether declined or
occupied, counted as crimes, and virtue sure of destruction."


The most unfortunate country in that period was Palestine, where
an ancient and venerable nation brought upon itself unspeakable
suffering and destruction. The tragedy of Jerusalem prefigures in
miniature the final judgment, and in this light it is represented
in the eschatological discourses of Christ, who foresaw the end
from the beginning.

The forbearance of God with his covenant people, who had
crucified their own Saviour, reached at last its limit. As many
as could be saved in the usual way, were rescued. The mass of the
people had obstinately set themselves against all improvement.   
James the Just, the man who was fitted, if any could be, to
reconcile the Jews to the Christian religion, had been stoned by
his hardened brethren, for whom he daily interceded in the
temple; and with him the Christian community in Jerusalem had
lost its importance for that city. The hour of the "great
tribulation" and fearful judgment drew near. The prophecy of the
Lord approached its literal fulfilment: Jerusalem was razed to
the ground, the temple burned, and not one stone was left upon

(Nope...Schaff got it wrong; this was not the Mattew 24 prophecy,
which is for the very end time, for not every stone of the Temple
came down - the Wailing Wall standing today was part of that
Temple. But at the time of the end when Jerusalem will come
crashing down again, that Wailing Wall will fall, and finally not
one stone will be left upon another. All explained in my many
studies on Bible prophecy on this website - Keith Hunt)

Not long before the outbreak of the Jewish war, seven years
before the siege of Jerusalem (A.D. 63), a peasant by the name of
Joshua, or Jesus, appeared in the city at the Feast of
Tabernacles, and in a tone of prophetic ecstasy cried day and
night on the street among the people: "A voice from the morning,
a voice from the evening! A voice from the four winds! A voice of
rain against Jerusalem and the Temple! A voice against the
bridegrooms and the brides! A voice against the whole people!
Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" The magistrates, terrified by this woe,
had the prophet of evil taken up and scourged. He offered no
resistance, and continued to cry his "Woe." Being brought before
the procurator, Albinus, he was scourged till his bones could be
seen, but interposed not a word for himself; uttered no curse on
his enemies; simply exclaimed at every blow in a mournful tone:
"Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" To the governor's question, who and
whence he was, he answered nothing. Finally they let him go, as a
madman. But he continued for seven years and five months, till
the outbreak of the war, especially at the three great feasts, to
proclaim the approaching fall of Jerusalem.  During the siege he
was singing his dirge, for the last time, from the wall.    
Suddenly he added "Woe, woe also to me!" - and a stone of the
Romans hurled at his head put an end to his prophetic


Under the last governors, Felix, Festus, Albinus, and Florus,
moral corruption and the dissolution of all social ties, but at
the same time the oppressiveness of the Roman yoke, increased
every year. After the accession of Felix, assassins, called
"Sicarians" (from sica, a dagger), armed with daggers and
purchasable for any crime, endangering safety in city and
country, roamed over Palestine. Besides this, the party spirit
among the Jews themselves, and their hatred of their heathen
oppressors, rose to the most insolent political and religious
fanaticism, and was continually inflamed by false prophets and
Messiahs, one of whom, for example, according to Josephus, drew
after him thirty thousand men. Thus came to pass what our Lord
had predicted "There shall arise false Christs, and false
prophets, and shall lead many astray."

(Christ's words on this are for the end time, when MANY would
lead MANY astray, and so it is that in this 21st century we have 
millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions, following a
false Christianity - Keith Hunt)

At last, in the month of May, A.D. 66, under the last procurator,
Gessius Florus (from 65 onward), a wicked and cruel tyrant who,
as Josephus says, was placed as a hangman over evil-doers, an
organized rebellion broke out against the Romans, but at the same
time a terrible civil war also between different parties of the
revolters themselves, especially between the Zealots and the
Moderates, or the Radicals and Conservatives. The ferocious party
of the Zealots had all the fire and energy which religious and
patriotic fanaticism could inspire; they have been justly
compared with the Montagnards of the French Revolu tion. They
gained the ascendancy in the progress of the war, took forcible
possession of the city and the temple and introduced a reign of
terror. They kept up the Messianic expectations of the people and
hailed every step towards destruction as a step towards
deliverance. Reports of comets, meteors, and all sorts of fearful
omens and prodigies were interpreted as signs of the coming of
the Messiah and his reign over the hea then. The Romans
recognized the Messiah in Vespasian and Titus.

To defy Rome in that age, without a single ally, was to defy the
world in arms; but religious fanaticism, inspired by the
recollection of the heroic achievements of the Maccabees, blinded
the Jews against the inevitable failure of this mad and desperate



The emperor Nero, informed of the rebellion, sent his most famous
general, Vespasian, with a large force to Palestine. Vespasian
opened the campaign in the year 67 from the Syrian port-town,
Ptolemais (Acco), and against a stout resistance overran Galilee
with an army of sixty thousand men. But events in Rome hindered
him from completing the victory, and required him to return
thither. Nero had killed himself. The emperors, Galba, Otho, and
Vitellius followed one another in rapid succession. The latter
was taken out of a dog's kennel in Rome while drunk, dragged
through the streets, and shamefully put to death. Vespasian, in
the year 69, was universally proclaimed emperor, and restored
order and prosperity.

His son, Titus, who himself ten years after became emperor, and
highly distinguished himself by his mildness and philanthropy,
then undertook the prosecution of the Jewish war, and became the
instrument in the hand of God of destroying the holy city and the
temple. He had an army of not less than eighty thousand trained
soldiers, and planted his camp on Mount Scopus and the adjoining
Mount Olivet, in full view of the city and the temple, which from
this height show to the best advantage. The valley of the Kedron
divided the besiegers from the besieged. In April, A.D. 70,
immediately after the Passover, when Jerusalem was filled with
strangers, the siege began. The zealots rejected, with sneering
defiance, the repeated proposals of Titus and the prayers of
Josephus, who accompanied him as interpreter and mediator; and
they struck down every one who spoke of surrender. They made
sorties down the valley of the Kedron and up the mountain, and
inflicted great loss on the Romans. As the difficulties
multiplied their courage increased. The crucifixion of hundreds
of prisoners (as many as five hundred a day) only enraged them
the more. Even the famine which began to rage and sweep away
thousands daily, and forced a woman to roast her own child, the
cries of mothers and babes, the most pitiable scenes of misery
around them, could not move the crazy fanatics. History records
no other instance of such obstinate resistance, such desperate
bravery and contempt of death. The Jews fought, not only for
civil liberty, life, and their native land, but for that which
constituted their national pride and glory, and gave their whole
history its significance - for their religion, which, even in
this state of horrible degeneracy, infused into them an almost
superhuman power of endurance.


At last, in July, the castle of Antonia was surprised and taken
by night. This prepared the way for the destruction of the Temple
in which the tragedy culminated. The daily sacrifices ceased July
17th, because the hands were all needed for defence. The last and
the bloodiest sacrifice at the altar of burnt offerings was the
slaughter of thousands of Jews who had crowded around it.
Titus (according to Josephus) intended at first to save that
magnificent work of architecture, as a trophy of victory, and
perhaps from some superstitious fear; and when the flames
threatened to reach the Holy of Holies he forced his way through
flame and smoke, over the dead and dying, to arrest the fire. But
the destruction was determined by a higher decree. His own
soldiers, roused to madness by the stubborn resistance, and
greedy of the golden treasures, could not be restrained from the
work of destruction. At first the halls around the temple were
set on fire. Then a firebrand was hurled through the golden gate.
When the flames arose the Jews raised a hideous yell and tried to
put out the fire; while others, clinging with a last convulsive
grasp to their Messianic hopes, rested in the declaration of a
false prophet, that God in the midst of the conflagration of the
Temple would give a signal for the deliverance of his people.    
The legions vied with each other in feeding the flames, and made
the unhappy people feel the full force of their unchained rage.  
Soon the whole prodigious structure was in a blaze and
illuminated the skies. It was burned on the tenth of August, A.D.
70, the same day of the year on which, according to tradition,
the first temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. "No one," says
Josephus, "can conceive a louder, more terrible shriek than arose
from all sides during the burning of the temple. The shout of
victory and the jubilee of the legions sounded through the
wailings of the people, now surrounded with fire and sword, upon
the mountain, and throughout the city. The echo from all the
mountains around, even to Peraea (?), increased the deafening
roar. Yet the misery itself was more terrible than this
disorder. The hill on which the temple stood was seething hot,
and seemed enveloped to its base in one sheet of flame. The blood
was larger in quantity than the fire, and those that were slain
more in number than those that slew them. The ground was nowhere
visible. All was covered with corpses; over these heaps the
soldiers pursued the fugitives."

The Romans planted their eagles on the shapeless ruins, over
against the eastern gate, offered their sacrifices to them, and
proclaimed Titus Impercator with the greatest acclamations of
joy. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy concerning the "abomination
of desolation standing in the holy place."

(And so it will be at the end time, when Jerusalem shall again to
raised to the ground, and the abominable armies of the last Holy
Roman Empire will stand in the holy place of the holy city -
Keith Hunt)

Jerusalem was razed to the ground; only three towers of the
palace of Herod-Hippicus (still standing), Phasael, and Mari-
amne - together with a portion of the western wall, were left as
monuments of the strength of the conquered city, once the centre
of the Jewish theocracy and the cradle of the Christian Church.

Even the heathen Titus is reported to have publicly declared that
God, by a special providence, aided the Romans and drove the Jews
from their impregnable strongholds. Josephus, who went through
the war himself from beginning to end, at first as governor of
Galilee and general of the Jewish army, then as a prisoner of
Vespasian, finally as a companion of Titus and mediator between
the Romans and Jews, recognized in this tragical event a divine
judgment and admitted of his degenerate countrymen, to whom he
was otherwise sincerely attached "I will not hesitate to say what
gives me pain: I believe that, had the Romans delayed their
punishment of these villains, the city would have been swallowed
up by the earth, or overwhelmed with a flood, or, like Sodom,
consumed with fire from heaven. For the generation which was in
it was far more ungodly than the men on whom these punishments
had in former times fallen. By their madness the whole nation
came to be ruined."

Thus, therefore, must one of the best Roman emperors execute the
long threatened judgment of God, and the most learned Jew of his
time describe it, and thereby, without willing or knowing it,
bear testimony to the truth of the prophecy and the divinity of
the mission of Jesus Christ, the rejection of whom brought all
this and the subsequent misfortune upon the apostate race.
The destruction of Jerusalem would be a worthy theme for the
genius of a Christian Homer. It has been called "the most
soul-stirring struggle of all ancient history." But there was no
Jeremiah to sing the funeral dirge of the city of David and
Solomon. The Apocalypse was already written, and had predicted
that the heathen "shall tread the holy city under foot forty and
two months." 

(That 42 month prophecy is yet for the very end time - 70 A.D.
was only a type of what will take place at the beginning of the
last 42 months of this age - Keith Hunt)

One of the master artists of modern times, Kaulbach, has made it
the subject of one of his greatest paintings in the museum at
Berlin. It represents the burning temple: in the foreground, the
high-priest burying his sword in his breast; around him, the
scenes of heart-rending suffering; above, the ancient prophets
beholding the fulfilment of their oracles; beneath them, Titus
with the Roman army as the unconscious executor of the Divine
wrath; below, to the left, Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew of the
medieval legend, driven by furies into the undying future; and to
the right the group of Christians departing in peace from the
scene of destruction, and Jewish children imploring their


After a siege of five months the entire city was in the hands of
the victors. The number of the Jews slain during the siege,
including all those who had crowded into the city from the
country, is stated by Josephus at the enormous and probably
exaggerated figure of one million and one hundred thousand.
Eleven thousand perished from starvation shortly after the close
of the siege. Ninety-seven thousand were carried captive and sold
into slavery, or sent to the mines, or sacrificed in the
gladiatorial shows at Cesarea, Berytus, Antioch, and other
cities. The strongest and handsomest men were selected for the
triumphal procession in Rome, among them the chief defenders and
leaders of the revolt, SIMON BAR-GIORA and JOHN of GISCHALA.
Vespasian and Titus celebrated the dearly bought victory together
(71). No expense was spared for the pageant. Crowned with laurel,
and clothed in purple garments, the two conquerors rode slowly in
separate chariots, Domitian on a splendid charger, to the temple
of Jupiter Capitolinus, amid the shouts of the people and the
aristocracy. They were preceded by the soldiers in festive attire
and seven hundred Jewish captives. The images of the gods, and
the sacred furniture of the temple - the table of show-bread, the
seven-armed candlestick, the trumpets which announced the year of
jubilee, the vessel of incense, and the rolls of the Law - were
borne along in the procession and deposited in the newly built
Temple of Peace, except the Law and the purple veils of the holy
place, which Vespasian reserved for his palace. Simon Bar-Giora
was thrown down from the Tarpeian Rock; John of Gischala doomed
to perpetual imprisonment. Coins were cast with the legend Judea
capta, Jadcea devicta. But neither Vespasian nor Titus assumed
the victorious epithet Judeus; they despised a people which had
lost its fatherland.

Josephus saw the pompous spectacle of the humiliation and
wholesale crucifixion of his nation, and described it without a
tear. The thoughtful Christian, looking at the representation of
the temple furniture borne by captive Jews on the triumphal arch
of Titus, still standing between the Colosseum and the Forum, is
filled with awe at the fulfilment of divine prophecy.

The conquest of Palestine involved the destruction of the Jewish
commonwealth. Vespasian retained the land as his private property
or distributed it among his veterans. The people were by the five
years war reduced to extreme poverty, and left without a
magistrate (in the Jewish sense), without a temple, without a
country. The renewal of the revolt under the false Messiah,
Bar-Cocheba, led only to a still more complete destruction of
Jerusalem and devastation of Palestine by the army of Hadrian
(132-135). But the Jews still had the law and the prophets and
the sacred traditions, to which they cling to this day with
indestructible tenacity and with the hope of a great future.
Scattered over the earth, at home everywhere and nowhere;
refusing to mingle their blood with any other race, dwelling in
distinct communities, marked as a peculiar people in every
feature of the countenance, in every rite of religion; patient,
sober, and industrious; successful in every enterprise,
prosperous in spite of oppression, ridiculed yet feared, robbed
yet wealthy, massacred yet springing up again, they have outlived
the persecution of centuries and are likely to continue to live
to the end of time: the object of the mingled contempt,
admiration, and wonder of the world.

Effects of the Destruction of Jerusalem on the Christian Church

The Christians of Jerusalem, remembering the Lord's admonition,
forsook the doomed city in good time and fled to the town of
Pella in the Decapolis, beyond the Jordan, in the north of Perea,
where king Herod Agrippa II, before whom Paul once stood, opened
to them a safe asylum. An old tradition says that a divine voice
or angel revealed to their leaders the duty of flight. There, in
the midst of a population chiefly Gentile, the church of the
circumcision was reconstructed. Unfortunately, its history is
hidden from us. But it never recovered its former importance.
When Jerusalem was rebuilt as a Christian city, its bishop was
raised to the dignity of one of the four patriarchs of the East,
but it was a patriarchate of honor, not of power, and sank to a
mere shadow after the Mohammedan invasion.

The awful catastrophe of the destruction of the Jewish theocracy
must have produced the profoundest sensation among the
Christians, of which we now, in the absence of all particular
information respecting it, can hardly form a true conception. It
was the greatest calamity of Judaism and a great benefit to
Christianity; a refutation of the one, a vindication and
emancipation of the other. It not only gave a mighty impulse to
faith, but at the same time formed a proper epoch in the history
of the relation between the two religious bodies. It separated
them forever. It is true the apostle Paul had before now inwardly
completed this separation by the Christian universality of his
whole system of doctrine; but outwardly he had in various ways
accommodated himself to Judaism, and had more than once
religiously visited the temple. He wished not to appear as a
revolutionist, nor to anticipate the natural course of history,
the ways of Providence. But now the rupture was also outwardly
consummated by the thunderbolt of divine omnipotence. God himself
destroyed the house, in which he had thus far dwelt, in which
Jesus had taught, in which the apostles had prayed; he rejected
his peculiar people for their obstinate rejection of the Messiah;
he demolished the whole fabric of the Mosaic theocracy, whose
system of worship was, in its very nature, associated exclusively
with the tabernacle at first and afterwards with the temple; but
in so doing he cut the cords which had hitherto bound, and
according to the law of organic development necessarily bound the
infant church to the outward economy of the old covenant, and to
Jerusalem as its centre. Henceforth the heathen could no longer
look upon Christianity as a mere sect of Judaism, but must regard
and treat it as a new, peculiar religion. The destruction of
Jerusalem, therefore, marks that momentous crisis at which the
Christian church as a whole burst forth forever from the
chrysalis of Judaism, awoke to a sense of its maturity, and in
government and worship at once took its independent stand before
the world.

This breaking away from hardened Judaism and its religious forms,
however, involved no departure from the spirit of the Old
Testament revelation. The church, on the contrary, entered into
the inheritance of Israel. The Christians appeared as genuine
Jews, as spiritual children of Abraham, who, following the inward
current of the Mosaic religion, had found Him, who was the
fulfilment of the law and the prophets; the perfect fruit of the
old covenant and the living germ of the new; the beginning and
the principle of a new moral creation.

It now only remained to complete the consolidation of the church
in this altered state of things; to combine the premises in their
results; to take up the conservative tendency of Peter and the
progressive tendency of Paul, as embodied respectively in the
Jewish-Christian and the Gentile-Christian churches, and to fuse
them into a third and higher tendency in a permanent organism; to
set forth alike the unity of the two Testaments in diversity, and
their diversity in unity; and in this way to wind up the history
of the apostolic church.

This was the work of John, the apostle of completion.


And so the tie for the Church of God with the old, was
dramatically broken, even if you had in the past voluntarily
worshipped in the Temple, done animal sacrifice, given to the
Temple priesthood, tithes and/or offerings, which could all be
done (though it was for Christians not a requirement from the day
of Pentecost in 30 A.D.), NOW in 70 A.D. all of that from the Old
Covenant was broken, nay smashed to the ground, and was indeed

Keith Hunt

To be continued

  Home Previous Page Top of Page Next Page

Navigation List:

Word Search: