Is Antiochus Epiphanes the little horn in Daniel 8?


By BibleAsk Team

The interpretation of the “little horn” in Daniel 8 has been a subject of extensive theological debate and study. Some scholars and traditions identify the little horn as Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Seleucid king known for his persecution of the Jews. However, the Bible shows that the little horn represents the papacy. This perspective is based on a broader interpretation of prophecy, connecting Daniel’s visions to historical and ecclesiastical developments over centuries.

Understanding Daniel 8

In Daniel 8, Daniel has a vision involving a ram, a goat, and a little horn. The interpretation of this vision is crucial to identifying the little horn.

Daniel 8:3-4 (NKJV): “Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and there, standing beside the river, was a ram which had two horns, and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him; nor was there any that could deliver from his hand, but he did according to his will and became great.”

Daniel 8:5-7 (NKJV): “And as I was considering, suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. Then he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing beside the river, and ran at him with furious power. And I saw him confronting the ram; he was moved with rage against him, attacked the ram, and broke his two horns. There was no power in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled him; and there was no one that could deliver the ram from his hand.”

Daniel 8:8-9 (NKJV): “Therefore the male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven. And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land.”

Historical Context and Interpretation

  1. The Ram: The ram with two horns is identified as the kings of Media and Persia (Daniel 8:20).
  2. The Goat: The goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the notable horn between its eyes is its first king, commonly understood as Alexander the Great (Daniel 8:21).
  3. The Little Horn: This little horn that emerges from one of the four horns of the goat is where the debate intensifies. The historicist (Protestant) interpretation, which sees the papacy as the little horn, contrasts with the preterist (Roman Catholic) interpretation that sees Antiochus IV Epiphanes as the little horn.

Critique of the Antiochus Epiphanes Interpretation

1. Time Frame and Scope of Dominion:

  • Daniel 8:9 (NKJV): “And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land.”
  • 2-Daniel 8:9 says, the little horn “grew exceedingly great.” History reveals that king Antiochus did not fulfill this prophecy during his rule by becoming a great leader. His rule did not extend to the surrounding nations like Egypt and Macedonia.

2. Duration of Persecution:

  • Daniel 8:14 (NKJV): “And he said to me, ‘For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.'”
  • Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ persecution of the Jews and desecration of the temple lasted approximately three and a half years (about 1,150 days if taken as morning and evening sacrifices), not 2,300 days. This discrepancy discredit the view that Antiochus IV fits the prophetic timeline precisely. Some commentators say, that the 2,300 period (a little more than six years) is a literal period that applies to Antiochus. But Bible students know that the 2,300 period is a prophetic period which takes the day for a year principle as taught in Numbers 13:34.
  • 3-Daniel 8:17 says, “the vision refers to the time of the end.” History clearly shows that Antiochus was not an end time king.
  • Daniel 8: 23 says, “And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise.” Antiochus did not arise at the end of the Seleucid kingdom.

3. The Nature of the Horn’s Power:

  • Daniel 8:25 (NKJV): “Through his cunning he shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without human means.”
  • Antiochus IV did not rise against the “Prince of princes” (Jesus Christ) in a way that corresponds with New Testament descriptions. His end came through human means (illness or poison), which again contrasts with the prophecy.
  • Daniel 8:11 says, “and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down.” And Daniel 9:26 says, “Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” But King Antiochus did not destroy the temple. Christ applied these two passages to the future (Matthew 24:15; Luke 21:20-24) and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, whereas Antiochus died in 164 BC.

The Papacy as the Little Horn

1. Emergence After the Roman Empire:

  • Daniel 7:24-25 (NKJV): “The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings.”
  • The papacy rose to prominence after the fall of the Roman Empire and exerted significant influence over European kings and kingdoms.

2. Long Duration of Influence:

  • The little horn represents Rome in two stages: pagan and papal. Daniel saw Rome first in its pagan stage, persecuting the Jewish people and the early Christians. And then he saw it in its papal stage, persecuting God’s children during the Dark Ages and continuing to our day and into the future, where the persecution will by climaxed.
  • The papacy’s influence extended for over a millennium, fitting the notion of a long-lasting power rather than the relatively brief period of Antiochus IV’s reign.

3. Persecution of Saints and Changes to Divine Law:

  • Daniel 7:25 (NKJV): “He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.”
  • The papacy has been historically involved in significant religious and political changes, including the alteration of God’s Law and the Middle Ages’ dreadful persecution of those (they called heretics) that keep His commandments.

4. Magnification Against the Prince of Princes:

  • Daniel 8:11 (NKJV): “He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down.”
  • The papacy has claimed authority that rivals that of Christ, including the claim of being “Christ” on earth, infallibility and the ability to forgive sins, which fits the description of exalting itself as high as the “Prince of the host.”

For a Bible study on the Little Horn, check:


The identification of the little horn in Daniel 8 as the papacy rather than Antiochus IV Epiphanes is supported by a number of factors:

  1. Historical Scope: The papacy’s influence and actions span a much broader historical period and align more closely with the long-term nature of the prophecies in Daniel.
  2. Fulfillment of Specific Actions: The actions attributed to the little horn in Daniel, such as changing times and laws, persecuting the saints, forgiving sins, and magnifying itself against Christ, align clearly with the historical actions of the papacy.
  3. Prophetic Consistency: The historicist interpretation maintains consistency across the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation, viewing the papacy as the central figure in a long line of oppressive powers predicted in biblical prophecy.

The comprehensive and enduring influence of the papacy fits the full scope of the prophetic narrative described in Daniel 8. Thus, many Bible scholars clearly hold that the little horn is accurately identified with the papacy rather than with Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team


The contents of this article and website are not intended to be against any individual. There are many priests and faithful believers in Roman Catholicism who serve God to the best of their knowledge and are seen by God as His children. The information contained herein is directed only towards the Roman Catholic religio-political system which has reigned in varying degrees of power for nearly two millennia. This system has established an increasing number of doctrines and statements that directly go against the Bible.

It is our purpose to lay the clear Word of God before you, the truth-seeking reader, to decide for yourself what is truth and what is error. If you find anything here contrary to the Bible, do not accept it. But if you desire to seek for Truth as for hidden treasure, and find herein something of that quality and feel that the Holy Spirit is revealing Truth to you, please make all haste to accept it.

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