Islam from a Biblical Perspective VII
The People of the Prince to Come
Universally, the passage that every teacher has cited as the basis for rejecting the Islamic Antichrist theory is Daniel 9:26, which speaks of "the people of the prince to come".
Who are the people of the prince to come? The first error lies in a failure to examine the historical data behind the events of AD 70. The second error lies in a failure to consider the grammar, the actual Hebrew wording of the passage.
The historical error? The verse should be understood as follows: "The people-that is, the primary followers of the prince (the Antichrist) to come in the last days, shall destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (the Jewish temple of the first century)". Most believe the destruction that occurred in AD 70 when the Roman legions under General Titus destroyed both the Jewish capital city of Jerusalem and its temple. Both historical testimony and the consensus of modern scholarship tell us that very few of the soldiers who destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem in AD 70 were actually Europeans. In fact, as we will see, the historical facts reveal a dramatically different picture.
Recruits in the Roman Army
At the beginning of the first century, Emperor Augustus made a series of sweeping reforms that led to dramatic changes in the ethnic make-up of the Roman armies. After Augustus' reforms in AD 15, the only portion of the Roman army that continued to consist largely of Italians from Rome proper was the Praetorian Guard, an elite military unit whose job was to specifically guard the emperor and the tents of the generals. The remainder of the army was increasingly composed of anything but Italian soldiers. They were known as "provincials", citizens who lived in the provinces - the outer fringes of the empire. The "provincialization" of the army was true and markedly the case for the Eastern legions that were used to attack Jerusalem.
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was both a senator and historian of the Roman Empire who wrote extensively concerning this specific period. The surviving portions of his two major works-The Annals and The Histories-have become vital sources of information from this period.
"Titus Caesar... found in Judea three legions, the 5th, the 10th, and the 15th... To these, he added the 12th from Syria, and some men belonging to the 18th and 3rd, whom he had withdrawn from Alexandria. This force was accompanied... by a strong contingent of Arabs, who hated the Jews with the usual hatred of neighbors".
First we learn that the Roman legions had been stationed in Judea, Syria, and Egypt. Second, we learn that beyond the Roman legions, "a strong contingent of Arabs, who hated the Jews".
Titus Flavius Josephus, another irreplaceable historian from this period, confirms Tacitus' report:
"So Vespasian sent his son Titus (who), came by land into Syria, where he gathered together the Roman forces, with a considerable number of auxiliaries from the kings in the neighborhood". Once again, Josephus revealed that the Roman legions used to attack Jerusalem were stationed in Syria. "A considerable number" of auxiliaries, or volunteers, from Syria and the surrounding regions were also gathered for the attack. Later, Josephus also detailed the specific number of Arab soldiers who joined forces with the invading armies:
"Malchus also, the king of Arabia, sent a thousand horsemen, besides five thousand footmen, the greatest part of which were archers; so that the whole army, including the auxiliaries sent by the kings, as well horsemen and footmen, when all were united together, amounted to sixty thousand".
A legion contained approximately five thousand men. Malchus, the king of Arabia, sent enough auxiliary/ volunteer soldiers to compose more than a full legion.
The Eastern Legions
XII Fulminata-Asia Minor/ Syria
All of these legions could have consisted of a majority of Eastern soldiers: Arabs, Syrians, Egyptians, etc. By AD 70, not only the Eastern provincial legions but literally, the entire army had come to be dominated by "provincials".
Modern Scholars of Roman History
Lawrence J. F. Keppie, a scholar of Roman history, confirmed this: "(After AD 68) the legions... consisted almost exclusively of provincials". In other words, after the year 68, the soldiers in the Roman legions were almost exclusively non-Italians from the provinces on the Empire's eastern perimeter.
Antonio Santosuosso in Storming the Heavens: Soldiers, Emperors, and Civilians in the Roman Empire claim that during the first half of the first century, approximately 49 percent of the soldiers were Italians, but by AD 70 that number had fallen to around one in five. By the end of the first century, only 1 percent of the soldiers were Italians.
Sara Elise Phang, PhD, author of Roman Military Service: Ideologies of Discipline in the Late Republic and Early Principate, indicates that the number of Italians would have been "even slimmer" "Recruitment underwent major shifts from Italy in the early first century AD to the frontier provinces in the latter first and second centuries". Gallica III was one of the legions that were involved in the destruction of Jerusalem. The overwhelming majority of the soldiers that destroyed the Temple were primarily Syrians, Arabs, and Eastern Peoples.
According to Nigel Pollard, Ph.D., professor of Roman History at Oxford University, "the legionaries of provincial birth outnumbered the Italians by about four or five to one". The second position that Pollard holds is that the eastern legions were made up entirely and exclusively of eastern provincials: "Legions based in Cappadocia, Syria and Egypt were made up from of recruits from Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt". The overriding majority of the soldiers that attacked Jerusalem under Titus were Middle Eastern peoples and NOT Europeans. Josephus tells us that "the whole army, including the auxiliaries sent by the kings, as well as horsemen and footmen, when all were united together, amounted to sixty thousand".
There were four full legions and two partial legions involved in the attack. 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 citizens raised up from the fringe of the provinces. Auxiliaries were sent by the kings from the neighborhood of Syria, Asia Minor, and Arabia. With a 5 to 1 margin of the Eastern soldiers versus the Western, then this would mean that there could have been no more than 5,000 Western soldiers in the whole invading army. The remaining 55,000-56,000 were all Easterners. It was basically 11 to 1 or more Easterners vs. Westerners. Pollard also offers a very interesting piece of information: "Other evidence that Syrian legions of the Flavian period were characteristically 'Syrian' in some way comes from Tacitus' reference to Legion 3 Gallica saluting the rising sun 'according to the custom of Syria'... in AD 69".
The implication is that the legion were worshippers of some form of sun deity. This was typical of Middle Easterners, who throughout ancient history worshipped various astral deities. These Eastern soldiers were, in fact, the physical and, and to some degree, spiritual ancestors of those whom today bow down to Allah, the god who is most often represented by the crescent moon. Under Nero, several years prior to the Jewish War, in Caesarea Maritima, a coastal city in Northern Israel, a conflict broke out between the Jews and the Syrians who inhabited that city. as the battle raged, the Roman soldiers stood against the Jews and assisted the Syrians because the Roman soldiers, wrote Josephus, were, in fact, ethnic Syrians: "The greatest part of the Roman garrison was raised out of Syria; and being thus related to the Syrian part, they were ready to assist it" In a nutshell, 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; ancestors of the modern-day inhabitants of the Middle East.
One final objection? A grammatical error
Let's zero in on the word people. The meaning of the word (am) in Hebrew, is an ethnic denotation. It does not refer to the kingdom or empire under which the people lived, but rather the people themselves. Strong's Lexicon lists (am) as "people, nation, persons, members of one's people, compatriots, country-men, kinsman, kindred". The primary meaning of the word as "single races or tribes... race or family... the kindred, relatives". We are not looking to an empire, but to a race.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum accurately summarizes the actual meaning of this verse: "we are dealing here with a bloodline and not a country". If the purpose of the passage was to highlight the broader kingdom or empire under which the people lived, the Hebrew words mamlakah (kingdom or empire) or goy (nation) would have been used. Paul was a Roman citizen. His malakah was Rome, but his ethnicity was a Jew or his am. Was it really the Roman government that gave the orders and the Roman generals that carried out the destruction?
Josephus records "And now a certain person came running to Titus, and told him of this fire... whereupon he rose up in great haste, and, as he was, ran to the holy house, in order to have a stop put to the fire; after him followed all his commanders, and after them followed the several legions, in great astonishment; so there was a great clamor and tumult raised, as Ceasar, both by calling to the soldiers that were fighting, which a loud voice, and by giving a signal to them with his right hand, order them to quench the fire". These rogue soldiers were absolutely hell-bent on fighting the Jews. Josephus records the following: "Titus supposing what the fact was, that the house itself might yet be saved, he came in haste and endeavored to persuade the soldiers to quench the fire... yet were their passions too hard for the regards they had for Caesar, and the dread they had of him who forbade them, as was their hatred for the Jews, and a certain vehement inclination to fight them, too hard for them also... And thus was the holy house burnt down, without Caesar's approbation". The overwhelming evidence from both ancient historians and modern day scholarship points out the ethnic identity of the "Roman" peoples that destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. These are the people in Daniel 9:26.