Nov 22, 2007

The Ethnicity of The Antichrist

By Dr. Thomas Ice

A widely held belief throughout the history of the church has
been the notion that Antichrist will be of Jewish origin. This
view is still somewhat popular in our own day. However, upon
closer examination we find no real Scriptural basis for such a
view. In fact, the Bible teaches just the opposite that the
Antichrist will be of Gentile descent.


A decade ago, when I was doing extensive research into the
Pseudo-Ephraem sermon that contained a rapture statement from
early-medieval times,[1] I noticed the almost universally held
belief of the time that Antichrist was to be a Jew. During the
late-medieval period, we see a shift from a personal Antichrist
to a corporate one as some Catholics and most Reformers tended to
see the successive Popes and the Roman Church as Antichrist.
However, the early and medieval church always saw an individual
Antichrist. For the last two hundred years, with the revival of
the literal and thus futurist interpretation of prophecy, the
historic protestant notion that Antichrist was the system of the
Roman Catholic Church has been in decline. Bernard McGinn tells

After Vatican II, traditional Lutheran and Reformed claims that
the pope was Antichrist have been either forgotten or explicitly
rejected. Even the Evangelical Fundamentalists, for whom
Antichrist is certainly alive and well, have been uncomfortable
with a papal Antichrist.[2]

Some of the earliest expounders of Antichrist, Irenaeus and
Hippolytus of the second century, taught that Antichrist would be
a Jew. " It seems clear that the bishop," McGinn says of
Irenaeus, " depended on earlier traditions, both Jewish and
Christian, in claiming that Antichrist would be born a Jew,
specifically from the tribe of Dan." [3] Hippolytus, a disciple
of Irenaeus, wrote extensively on the Antichrist. Hippolytus
believed that " Antichrist is a Jewish false messiah whose
coming is still some time in the future." [4] Origen,
Chrysostom, Jerome, and likely Augustine all continued the early
church tradition that the Antichrist was to be of Jewish
descent.[5] The tradition of a Jewish Antichrist, who would
likely be of the tribe of Dan, was reinforced throughout the
middle ages.

A Jewish Antichrist notion is sometimes taught by our own
dispensational prophecy teachers of today. A. W. Pink provides
just such an argument in his well-known work on Antichrist as

It should, however, be pointed out that there is no express
declaration of Scripture which says in so many words that this
daring Rebel will be " a Jew" ; nevertheless, the hints given
are so plain, the conclusions which must be drawn from certain
statements of Holy Writ are so obvious, and the requirements of
the case are so inevitable, that we are forced to believe he must
be a Jew.[6]

Such a statement not only reveals his viewpoint, but also is also
telling in that he tacitly admits that his view lacks direct
biblical support, as I shall seek to demonstrate.

Arguments Against A Jewish Antichrist

Three reasons are often given in support of the argument that
Antichrist will be Jewish.[7] First, it is argued that he will be
a Jew since the Jews are responsible for the world' s problems.
Thus, it follows that the greatest problem of history-
Antichrist- will also be Jewish. This is the Anti-Semitic reason.
Since we do not have enough space in this article to give an
in-depth refutation of Anti-Semitism,[8] it should be clear that
since Anti-Semitism is unbiblical so is any logic that reasons
upon such a premise. This is rarely if ever a viewpoint put forth
by dispensational writers.

The second major argument is that the Antichrist must be a Jew
since the Jews would only accept a Jew as their Messiah. An
advocate of this view is Grant Jeffery who reasons that:

the Jews would one day accept for a time the false claims of the
Antichrist as their promised Messiah. . . . Since the prophecies
tell us that the Antichrist will present himself to Israel as the
Messiah many scholars have concluded that he must be Jewish.
Certainly no religious Jew would dream of accepting a Gentile as
the Messiah of Israel.[9]

This view is also built upon the logic that since the Antichrist
is just that, an anti- Messiah, then his career must be a
counterfeit of Jesus' first coming. While some of this is true,
such symmetry can be carried too far. The specific descriptions
of the Antichrist are more like that of a political leader than a
mere converse of Jesus, as shall be noted below. In other words,
the mere term " Antichrist" appears in the minds of many to be
the justification for thinking that since Jesus was a Jew then so
must be the Antichrist.

Hebrew Christian scholar, Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum offers a
refutation of this reason which he calls " The Logical Reason."
He writes:

Stated in a syllogism, this argument goes as follows:

Major Premise: The Jews will accept the Antichrist as the Messiah

Minor Premise: The Jews will never accept a Gentile as the

Conclusion: The Antichrist will be a Jew.[10]

The difficulties of this argument are many, not the least of
which are the two premises. Neither premise can be supported from
the Bible. Just because the Jews make a covenant with the
Antichrist (Isa. 28:15; Dan. 9:26), does not mean that they
accept him as their Messiah. It does not follow from these texts
either textually or logically that Israel accepts him as Messiah
(or Antichrist). Secondly, since they are not accepting him as
Messiah, the fact that he is a Gentile peacemaker is irrelevant.
Since both premises are faulty, it therefore follows that the
conclusion is faulty as well.

Fruchtenbaum notes another variation of this argument, which he
calls " the Scriptural reason." [11] This line of reasoning is
put forth by combining a major premise and a minor premise from
Revelation 7:4- 8.

Stated in a syllogism, this argument goes as follows:

Major Premise: The tribe from whom the Antichrist would come
would not be listed among the 144,000.

Minor Premise: Dan is not among the 144,000.

Conclusion: The Antichrist is from the tribe of Dan.[12]

The problem with this argument is that it is an argument from
silence. Only God knows why Dan was left out. Would not it be
just as important to note that the tribe of Dan will be included
in millennial Israel (Ezek. 48:2)? What is one to make of that if
the tribe of Dan has a curse on it? Further, this entire argument
is based upon circular reasoning. The major premise contains a
Jewish assumption as a starting point. So is it surprising that
this line of reasoning concludes that the Antichrist is of Jewish
descent? Not at all since that what circular reasoning is all
about: assuming your conclusion as a starting point. Yet, the
starting point is not stated in Scripture, it is merely

Some argue that Daniel 11:37 has to be a reference to a Jew since
in the King James Version of the Bible it says " And he will
show no regard for the God of his fathers." It is argued that
this is a reference to the God of the Bible. However, such is not
the case. Almost all other English translations render this text,
as does the New American Standard Version, " And he will show no
regard for the gods of his fathers." When one studies this
passage in the original Hebrew it becomes clear that it is a
reference to Gentile gods. " Any student of Hebrew would see
from the original Hebrew text that the correct translation should
be ' the gods of his fathers' and not the ' God of his
fathers' as the King James has rendered it," declares
Fruchtenbaum. " The fact the plural form of the word ' god' is
used makes this a reference to heather deities and not to God of
Israel. There is much external evidence to show that this is the
correct rendering of the Hebrew Text." [14]

The third argument is made by those who attempt to say that
Scripture teaches that Antichrist will be a descendant from the
Jewish tribe of Dan. Support for this view is inappropriately
derived from Genesis 49:17; Deuteronomy 33:22; Jeremiah 8:16;
Daniel 11:37; Revelation 7:4-8. Even though many passages are
cited in support of this argument, none of them actually support
the notion since they are all taken out of context. In reality,
only Daniel 11:37 refers to the Antichrist. Even though some
believe that the phrase in Daniel 11:37 " the God of his
fathers" (KJV), implies a Jewish apostasy, the phrase is more
accurately translated " the gods of his fathers" (NASB). Since
Antichrist will in fact be a Gentile, as will be shown below, the
argument is unfounded. Since the original Hebrew supports the
NASB translation and not the KJV, Antichrist' s apostasy will be
Christian and not Jewish.[15]

Arguments for a Gentile Antichrist

We have seen that the Bible does not teach that Antichrist will
be Jewish. However, Scripture does teach that he will be of
Gentile and possibly of Roman descent (at least from the Revived
Roman Empire).

This can first be seen from biblical typology. Most commentators
agree that Daniel 11 speaks of Antiochus Epiphanes, a Gentile,
who typifies the future Antichrist. " Nowhere is a Gentile ever
seen as a type of Christ; and for good reason too since Christ
Himself was to be a Jew." [16] Since Antiochus is a Gentile,
then so will be Antichrist.

Secondly, biblical imagery supports a Gentile origin of
Antichrist. Scripture pictures Antichrist as rising up out of the
sea (Rev. 13:1; 17:15). In prophetic literature the sea is an
image of the Gentile nations. Thus, Antichrist is seen as a
Gentile progeny.

Thirdly, the nature of the " Times of the Gentiles" (Luke
21:24) supports a Gentile Antichrist. Fruchtenbaum notes:

It is agreed by all premillennialists that the period known as
the Times of the Gentiles does not end until the second coming of
Christ. It is further agreed that the Antichrist is the final
ruler of the Times of the Gentiles. . . .

If this is so, how then can a Jew be the last ruler at a time
when only Gentiles can have the preeminence? To say the
Antichrist is to be a Jew would contradict the very nature of the
Time of the Gentiles.[17]

Fourthly, the Bible not only teaches that Antichrist will be
Gentile, but it also tells us he will be of Roman descent. This
is understood from Daniel 9:27 where the one cutting a covenant
with Israel is said to represent the revived Roman Empire, since
it was the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in a.d.

Finally, that Antichrist is a Gentile ruler is also the thrust of
Revelation 17:9- 12. This passage says that the Beast (John' s
term in Revelation for the Antichrist) is one of " seven kings"
(17:10), thus, a Gentile (Roman) ruler. G. H. Lang notes:

This eight would be one of the former seven, and so in 13.3 one
of his heads had been smitten unto death, and this death-stroke
was healed, that is, a man formerly slain by violence is brought
again to life. That he had been a former Gentile monarch seems to
forbid that he is a Jew. I know not a word of Scripture that
suggests this last notion.[18]


While I think it may be possible that the False Prophet (Rev.
13:11- 18; 16:13; 19:20; 20:10) could be a Jew (I am not saying
that I necessarily think he will be), there does not appear to be
any Scriptural grounds to think that the Antichrist will be of
the tribe of Dan nor of Jewish descent. It appears that he will
be a Gentile and will arise from within the Revived Roman Empire.
In the middle of the tribulation he will take his seat in
Israel' s rebuilt Temple and claim to be God Himself (2 Thess.
2:4). His career will be a short-lived seven-year period for
which he will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire upon Christ' s
return to planet earth (Rev. 19:20; 20:10). Maranatha!


[1] See Thomas Ice, " The Rapture in Pseudo-Ephraem," on our
Pre-Trib website at the following: Our website also
contains a translation of Pseudo-Ephraem' s sermon.

[2] Bernard McGinn, Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of The Human
Fascination With Evil (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994), p.

[3] McGinn, Antichrist, p. 59.

[4] McGinn, Antichrist, p. 63.

[5] As indicated in Wilhelm Bousset, The Antichrist Legend: A
Chapter in Christian and Jewish Folklore (London: Hutchinson,
1896), pp. 133- 147.

[6] (Italics original) Arthur W. Pink, The Antichrist (Grand
Rapids: Kregel, (1923), 1988, p. 42.

[7] These three reasons were gleaned from Arnold Fruchtenbaum, "
The Nationality of the Anti-Christ" (Englewood, NJ: American
Board of Missions To The Jews, n.d.).

[8] For more on the unbiblical nature of anti-Semitism see my
forthcoming book due out in the Summer of 2005, The New
Anti-Semitism: Why The World Hates Israel from Balfour Books.

[9] Grant R. Jeffrey, Prince of Darkness: Antichrist and the New
World Order (Toronto: Frontier Research Publications, 1994), p.

[10] Fruchtenbaum., " Nationality," p. 8.

[11] Fruchtenbaum., " Nationality," p. 11.

[12] Fruchtenbaum., " Nationality," p. 11.

[13] Arguments taken from Fruchtenbaum., " Nationality," pp.
12- 13.

[14] Fruchtenbaum., " Nationality," pp. 17- 18.

[15] Fruchtenbaum., " Nationality," pp. 11-22.

[16] Fruchtenbaum., " Nationality," p. 23.

[17] Fruchtenbaum., " Nationality," pp. 24, 26.

[18] G. H. Lang, The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Selected Studies
(Miami Springs, Fl.: Conley & Schoettle Publishing Co., (1945),
1985), p. 223.