Home>The Fall Of Jerusalem

The Fall of Jerusalem

By F.W. Farrar

“What was the cause of the destruction of the Second Temple, seeing that the age was distinguished for the study of the laws? … It was groundless hatred” (Yoma, f. 9, b).

THERE is no need to dwell upon the last days of Jerusalem.  Very little can be added to the horrible story beyond what is to be read by every one in the pages of Josephus. [1]  It is true that Josephus has effectually blackened his own memory.  It would have been well for him if he had only written Antiquities and the Dialogue against Apion.  In his Jewish War, and, above all, in his autobiography, he stands confessed as a false, heartless, and designing renegade.  The man who, standing in sight of the ruins of Zion and the blackened area on which had shone the Holy of Holies, complacently tells us how Titus have him other lands in Judæa, because those which he had possessed near Jerusalem had become useless ; the man who gloatingly recounts the honours heaped upon him by the conquerors who flung thousands of his brave countrymen to the wild beasts, and sold tens of thousands more into brutal misery ; the man who, in the sumptuous palace which he owed to his conqueror, could detail without a sob the extermination of his people ; the man who could gaze with complacent infamy on the triumph which told of the destruction of his nation’s liberty, and could look on while the hallowed vessels of the Sanctuary were held aloft before a Pagan populace by bloodstained hands ; the man who in youth haunted the boudoir of Poppaea, and in old age hung about the antechambers of Domitian ; the man who pursued with the posthumous hatred of successful treachery the brave though misguided patriots who had held it a glory to die for Jerusalem — must stand forth till the end of time in the immortal infamy which his own writings have heaped upon himself. [2]   We cannot be surprised that all the patriots of his nation hated him, and tried to disturb his base prosperity and “guilded servitude.”  No one trusts the word of Josephus where he has the least interest in palming off upon us a deception.  But he has no particular reason to misrepresent the general facts of the awful and heroic struggle in which for a few months he bore a part.  And since the writings of Justus of Tiberias, and Antonius Primus have perished, as well as the later part of the History of Tacitus, Josephus becomes our sole guide.  The Talmud has almost nothing to tell us.  In it we look in vain for the names of John, or Simon, or Eleazar.  We only see a dim glimpse of flames and assassination, and ruin, mixed up with curious legends and tales of individual agony. [3]

In April, A.D.70, Titus, with a force of 80,000 legionaries and auxiliaries, pitched his camp on Scopus, to the north of the city.  Besides the 2,400 trained Jewish warriors who defended the walls, the city was thronged with an incredible number of Passover pilgrims, and of fugitives from other parts of Judæa.  Feats of heroic valour were performed on both sides, and the skill of the besiegers was often checked by the almost insane fury of the besieged.  Fanatically relying on the visible manifestation of Jehovah, while they were infamously violating all His laws, the Zealots rejected with insult every offer of terms.  At last Titus drew a line of circumvallation round the doomed city, and began to crucify all the deserters who fled to him.  The incidents of the famine which then fell on the besieged are among the most horrible in human literature.  The corpses bred a pestilence.  Whole houses were filled with unburied families of the dead.  Mothers slew and devoured their own children.  Hunger, rage, despair, and madness seized the city.  It became a cage of furious madmen, a city of howling wild beasts, and of cannibals, — a hell! [4]

For the first time for five centuries, on July 17, A.D.70, the daily sacrifices of the Temple ceased for want of priests to offer them.  Disease and slaughtered ruthlessly accomplished their work.  At last, amid shrieks and flames, and suicide and massacre, the Temple was taken and reduced to ashes.  The great altar of sacrifice was heaped with the slain.  The courts of the Temple swam deep in blood.  Six thousand miserable women and children sank with a wild cry of terror amid the blazing ruins of the cloisters.  Romans adored the insignia of their legions on the place where the Holiest had stood.  As soon as they became masters of the Upper City they only ceased to slay when they were too weary to slay any longer.  According to Josephus, it had been the earnest desire of Titus to preserve the Temple, but his commands were disobeyed by his soldiers in the fury of the struggle.  According to Sulpicius Severus, on the other hand, who is probably quoting the very words of Tacitus, Titus formed the deliberate purpose to destroy Christianity and Judaism in one blow, believing that if the Jewish root were torn up the Christian branch would soon perish. [5]   The tallest and most beautiful youths were reserved for the conqueror’s triumph.  Of those above seventeen years of age multitudes were doomed to work in chains in the Egyptian mines.  Others were sent as presents to various towns to be slain by wild beasts or gladiators, or by each other’s swords in the provincial amphitheatres.  The young of both sexes  were sold as slaves.  Even during the days on which these arrangements were being made, 11,000 perished for want of food ; some because their guards would not give it to them, others because they would not accept it.  Josephus  reckons the number of captives taken during the war at 97,000, and the number of those who perished during the siege at 1,100,000.  The numbers who perished in the whole war are reckoned at the awful total of 1,337,490, and the number of prisoners at 101,700 ; but even these estimates do not include all the items of many skirmishes and battles, nor do they take into account the multitude who, throughout the whole country, perished of misery, famine, and disease.  It may well be said that the nation seemed to have given itself “a rendezvous of extermination.”  Two thousand putrefying bodies were found even in the subterranean vaults of the city.  During the siege all the trees of the environs had been cut down, and hence the whole appearance of the place, with its charred and bloodstained ruins, was so completely  altered, that one who was suddenly brought to it would not (we are told) have recognized where he was.  And yet the site had been so apparently impregnable, with its massive and unequalled fortifications, that Titus freely declared that he saw in his victory the hand of God. [6]

From that time all Jews on seeing Jerusalem rend their garments, and exclaim, “Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.  Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised Thee, is burned with fire, and all our pleasant things are laid waste.” [7]

It was to this event, the most awful in history — “one of the most awful eras in God’s economy of grace, and the most awful revolution in all God’s religious dispensations” [8] — that we must apply those prophecies of Christ’s coming in which every one of the Apostles and Evangelists describe it as near at hand. [9]  To those prophecies our Lord Himself fixed these three most definite limitations — the one, that before that generation passed away all these things would be fulfilled; [10] another that some standing there should not taste death till they saw the Son of Man coming in His kingdom; [11] the third, that the Apostles should not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come. [12]  It is strange that these distinct limitations should not be regarded as a decisive proof that the Fall of Jerusalem was, in the fullest sense, the Second Advent of the Son of Man, which was primarily contemplated by the earliest voices of prophecy.

And, indeed, the Fall of Jerusalem and all the events which accompanied and followed it in the Roman world and in the Christian Church, had a significance which it is hardly possible to over estimate.  They were the final end of the old Dispensation.  They were the full inauguration of the New Covenant.  They were God’s own overwhelming judgment on that form of Judaic Christianity which threatened to crush the work of St. Paul, to lay on the Gentiles the yoke of an abrogated Mosaism, to establish itself by threats and anathemas as the only orthodoxy.  Many of the early Christians — and those especially who lived at Jerusalem — were at the same time rigid Jews.  So long as they continued to walk in the ordinances of their fathers as a national and customary duty, such observances were harmless ; but it is the inevitable tendency of this external rigorism to usurp in many minds the place of true religion.. No event less awful than the desolation of Judæa, the destruction of Judaism, the annihilation of all possibility of observing the precepts of Moses, could have opened the eyes of the Judaisers from their dream of imagined infallibility.  Nothing but God’s own unmistakable interposition — nothing but the manifest coming of Christ — could have persuaded Jewish Christians that the Law of the Wilderness was annulled ; that the idolised minutiae of Levitism could no longer claim to be divinely obligatory.

[1] For modern narratives derived from him, see F. de Saulcy, Les Derniers Jours de Jerusalem, 1866 ; Milman, Hist. of Christianity, vol. iii. ; Merivale, Hist. of the Romans, ch. lix ; Ewald, Gesch. vi. 696-813.

[2] See Derenbourg, p. 264, and n. xi.; Gratz, iii. 365, seq., 386, 411; Salvador, Hist. ii. 467 ; De Quincey, Works

[3] Derenbourg, pp. 266, 282-288.  Some of the stories which Josephus recounts of himself are transferred in the Talmud to the celebrated Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai.

[4] RenanL’Antechrist, 507.

[5] “Alii et Titus ipse evertendum templum imprimis censebant, quo plenius Judaeorum et Christianorum religio tolleretur.  Quippe has religiones licet contrarias sibi, iisdem tamen auctoribus profectas ; radice sublata stirpem facile perituram” (Supl. Sev. Sacr. Hist. ii. 30, § 6,7).  He had access both to the lost part of the Histories of Tacitus, and also to the work of Antonius Julianus, De Judaeis.  The latter, who was one of Titus’ council of war, wrote with far less biassed motives than Josephus, who is not to be trusted when he had anything to gain by disguising the truth.  Dr. Bernays, of Breslau, believes that Sulpicius Severus is quoting Tacitus in the sentence quoted above.  Gratz (iii. 403) contemptuously rejects this suggestion, on the ground that Titus could scarcely have heard of the Christians.  But Titus saw a great deal of Josephus and of Agrippa II., and there are signs that Josephus knew a good deal more about Christianity than he ventures to say, and that Agrippa had not been uninfluenced by the arguments of St. Paul (see Derenbourg, p. 252).  On the other hand, Ewald thinks that this assertion as to the purpose of Titus is weakened by the repetition of it in the case of Hadrian : “existimans se Christianam fidem loci injuria” (i.e. by profaning the site of the Temple) “peremturum” (Sulp. Sev., Sacr. Hist. ii. 31 § 3 ; Ewald, Gesch. vi. 797).

[6] It is curious to contrast the pious, gentle, and amiable Titus of Josephus, and the “Love and darling of the human race” of Roman historians, with “Titus the Bad” (Ha-rasha), or “the Tyrant,” of the Talmudists.  Their well-known legend tells that, being caught in a terrible storm, and getting safe to land, he defied God, Who, to punish him, sent a little gnat, which crept up his nostrils into his brain, and caused him incessant and sleepless anguish.  At his death it was found to be “as big as a bird, and to have a beak and claws of steel”  (Bereshith Rabba x.; Tanchuma, 62, a, &c.)  It may be imagined how patriotic Jews felt towards Titus Flavius Josephus.  The name on which he prided himself would be to them a veritable “brand of the Beast.”

[7] Isa. lxiv. 10,11 ; Moed Katon, f. 26, a.

[8] Bp. Warburton‘s Julian, i. p. 21

[9] Acts ii. 16-20, 40 ; iii. 19-21 ; 1 Thess. iv. 13-17 ; v. 1-16 ; 2 Thess i. 7-10 ; 1 Cor. i. 7 ; x. 11 ; xv. 212 ; xvi. 22 ; Rom. xiii. 11,12 ; Phil. iii. 20 ; iv. 5 ; 1 Tim. iv. 1 ; 2 Tim iii. 1 ; Heb. i. 2 ; x. 25, 37 ; James v. 3,8,9 ; 1 Pet. ii. 7 ; 2 Pet. iii. 12 ; 1 J. ii. 18.

[10] Matt. xxiv. 34.

[11] Matt. xvi. 28.

[12] Matt. x. 23

Date:19 Feb 2003


Looks like the modern church got “left behind”

Date:28 Feb 2003


All I can say is at this point, I WAS a Dispensationalist, went from Pre trib to post trib, and still that didn’t fit and so upon reading Philip Mauro, began to see the fiasco of Daniel’s 70th week and the Great Tribulation and so began to earnestly hold to a Amillennial view. The more I read and pray and think and compare the Scriptures, the more I am seriously considering a Premill Preterist View. Thanks for all your INTENSIVE INVESTMENT OF WORK and LABOR. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ. David Johnson, Iowa davidwm@wccta.net I am still asking questions and trying to get a handle on this Preterist Perspective, and ALL its REAL implications in every way. It is a FRUIT Basket UPSET for sure, but we are making progress. Any suggestions will be considered. I have read Philip Mauro’s works, and a Editorial titled Premillennial Preterism, and was impressed with its coherent logic and fit with what I comprehend at this time in the whole of Biblical Revelation. I have also read several articles by Gary DeMar as well.

Date:06 Mar 2003


It is so clear now since I have been letting the Bible say what it says. Notice the last days. Many places said “In the last days” and let you see that it is talking about the things that was happening right then. I like where some were told that they would not see death until they saw Jesus coming in His kingdom. There are so many scriptures that is so plain if we let them say what they are saying and who they are talking to. I always use the 5 words “Who,What,when, where and why” when I am studing the Bible. And the main thing is to ask Jesus for understanding. Time element is so important in studying the Bible.

Date:27 Nov 2003


Ah, you have given me words to chew on. I almost completely believe already and I’m resistant to any new view.