Caligula’s Statue For The Jerusalem Temple And Its Relation To The Chronology Of Herod The Great -- By: Rodger C. Young

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 62:4 (Dec 2019)
Article: Caligula’s Statue For The Jerusalem Temple And Its Relation To The Chronology Of Herod The Great
Author: Rodger C. Young

Caligula’s Statue For The Jerusalem Temple
And Its Relation To The Chronology
Of Herod The Great

Rodger C. Young


Andrew E. Steinmann*

* Rodger C. Young is an independent researcher who resides at 1115 Basswood Lane, St. Louis, MO 63132. He may be contacted at [email protected] Andrew E. Steinmann is distinguished professor of theology and Hebrew at Concordia University Chicago, 7400 Augusta Street, River Forest, IL 60305. He may be contacted at [email protected]

Abstract: The Emperor Caligula’s attempt to put a statue of himself, portrayed as the god Jupiter, in the Holy of Holies of the Jerusalem Temple is described by contemporary authors Josephus and Philo of Alexandria. The chronology of this episode is firmly established by these authors as well as by Roman historians. The challenge of that chronology to the consensus chronology for Herod the Great is described, along with the attempts of consensus scholars to deal with the challenge. Closely related to the Caligula statue issue is a Seder ‘Olam passage associating the burning of the Second Temple with a Sabbatical year. New evidence is presented showing that the Seder ‘Olam places that event in the latter part of a Sabbatical year, in conflict with the consensus date for a Sabbatical year during Herod the Great’s siege of Jerusalem but in harmony with the minority view that dates the siege to 36 BC.

Key words: Herod the Great, Emil Schürer, W. E. Filmer, Sabbatical years, Jubilees, NT chronology, Josephus, Seder ‘Olam

In late AD 40, the emperor Caligula announced that a statue of himself, portrayed as the Roman god Jupiter, would be placed in the Temple at Jerusalem. The announcement was the culmination of a series of proclamations and role-playing whereby Caligula presented himself as a divine or semi-divine being. At first the role-playing may have appeared as just cheap theater for the masses, as when their emperor adorned himself with ivy and carried a lyre to imitate Bacchus, the demigod of wine and revelry, or when he dressed in a lion’s skin and carried a club to impersonate the demigod Hercules. But it was not just impersonation. Caligula intended that he really was to be identified as the demigod that was being represented, and further, that he was the embodiment of all the demigods. The charade—or megalomania—went further when he progressed beyond demigods to the gods themselves. He attired himself in the caduceus, sandals, and tunic of Mercury; the garlands, bow, and arrows of Apollos; and then the breastplate, sword, and helmet of Mars.1

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