"The Great Tribulation" anticipated by Jesus Christ was an unprecedented "time of trouble" accomplished within his apostles' own generation (Matt. 24:1-34). According to Daniel, this period consumed a period of 1290 days, or 43 months (Dan. 12:1-13).

In his Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Louis Berkhof contends, "Prophecy is closely connected with history. In order to be understood, it must be seen in its historical setting" (149). In discussing external helps for the historical interpretation of the Scriptures, Berkhof suggests Josephus "deserves the place of honor" (130). Josephus was a Jewish historian who left us his remarkable eyewitness record of the Jewish Revolt of A.D. 67-70. Ernest Renan contends, "It is necessary to remember that Josephus owed his literary fortune to the Christians, who adopted his writings as essential documents of their sacred history" (Renan, Life of Jesus, 41).

According to Josephus, "the true beginning of our war with the Romans" came one week prior to the Jewish festival of Xylophory (Wars II. xvii. 2-6). The primary purpose of the Xylophory festival was to gather a sufficient supply of wood to keep the great altar of the Temple burning continuously. Actually, the Jews celebrated two of these wood gathering festivals each year. The "green tree" Xylophory was always celebrated in spring on the 15th of Shebat. The "dry wood" Xylophory was celebrated in late summer on the 15th of Ab. This indicates "the true beginning" of the Jewish Revolt came on either the 8th of Shebat or the 8th of Ab. At Jerusalem, the last day of combat between the Jews and the Romans came on the 7th of Elul, A.D. 70; which was the second year of the reign of Vespasian (A.D. 69-79; cf. Josephus, Wars VI. viii. 4; x. 1). If we subtract 43 months from the 7th of Elul, A.D. 70, we can calculate "the true beginning" of the Jewish Revolt came on the 8th of Shebat; one week prior to the spring Xylophory of A.D. 67. Hence, we would contend the Jewish Revolt lasted exactly 1290 days; corresponding literally and precisely to "the great tribulation" foretold by Jesus Christ. This period of Jewish insurrection began with a treacherous attack on the Roman garrison at Masada, and the cessation in the Temple of the customary sacrifices for Caesar. This was followed by seven days of "perpetual slaughters" leading up to the festival of Xylophory on the 15th of Shebat. Having successfully identified "the great tribulation" with the forty-three months of the Jewish Revolt of A.D. 67-70, we can now begin searching the contemporary record of Josephus for the historical fulfillments of those short-term prophecies found in the New Testament. -DEL