how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference

Add new comment

The only place in Matthew where “end of the age” has clear temporal definition is Matthew 24:2-3, where it coincides with the destruction of the temple.

These verses (24:2-3) raise more questions than they answer. Is Jesus telling the disciples that his “coming” and “the end of the age” will coincide with the destruction of the temple? 

What is assumed in the disciples’ questions in Matthew 24:3? Would they not have expected a Messiah to come and avenge the destruction of the temple, and the close of the age to be, according to Jewish expectations, the era of Israel’s triumph over the nations? If this is the case, Jesus is correcting the mistaken assumptions of the disciples about his coming and end of the age. The temporal connection is not clear.

Is Jesus addressing his disciples on the assumption that they already understand that his “coming” and “the close of the age” will be temporally connected with the destruction of the temple, and the destruction will be the expression of his coming and the close of the age? Is this assumption compatible with the suggestions of admiration they have for the temple: “Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them” - Matthew 24:1-2?

In other words, is Jesus’s answer to the questions is in agreement with their assumptions, or in correction of their assumptions?

If it is the latter, then “coming” and “close of the age” are not necessarily temporally connected with the temple’s destruction. “Coming” (parousia) is mentioned twice in the discourse, the second occasion being where there is ambiguity about the time frame of the reference - Matthew 24:27.

Parousia is next mentioned in Matthew 24:39, where the context does not suggest anything like the circumstances of the Roman invasion of AD 67-70.

The reference to the Son of Man and the resurrection of Daniel 12:2-3 seems a pretty clear allusion to a crisis of the covenant.

Yes, but as I’ve pointed out, Daniel 12:2-3 does not fit well with AD 70 and the 1st century - if at all. Which resurrection is Daniel speaking of? Apart from Matthew 27:52, the only clear reference to resurrection in OT and NT is at the final judgement.

This is just pedantic. A million Jews died according to Josephus, the temple was razed to the ground, sacrifice brought to an end, the place of God’s dwelling demolished, the city of Israel’s king destroyed—that is judgment on the “sons of the evil one”. There is nothing at all in the parable to suggest a universal judgment. The language entirely points to judgment within the narrative of God’s dealings with his people Israel. If Jesus had meant it to refer also to a final judgment, he would have said so.

I don’t want to minimise the slaughter - though many think Josephus’s figures are questionable. Many, like myself, would say that sacrifice was brought to an end with the death of Jesus, and that any continuation of sacrifice in Herod’s temple, itself not the authentic temple, was no more than empty ritual.

From the time of Pentecost onwards, Jerusalem had ceased to have significance, eschatologically or otherwise, in the eyes of the NT writers. Eg Galatians 4:26-27; Hebrews 13:22. Yes, the destruction of Jerusalem was a judgement; but the eschatological narrative had moved on, and I think you are overestimating its importance. By AD 70, the main eschatological events are no longer connected with the temple or geographical Jerusalem. This is probably why there is no reference to the destruction of temple or city outside the gospels.

Every detail in the story—including several that you have disregarded—points to a narrative about Israel.

My post was clearly arguing the opposite.

How come?

(referring to my assertion that “sons of the evil one” were part of a wider scheme than a “murderous cabal” who wanted to kill Jesus in John 8:44)

The arena in at the end of the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13 is cleared of everything and everyone except the sons of the kngdom and the sons of the evil one, and the reapers/angels. This is hardly the diverse picture of those responding to Jesus in 1st century Israel. The implication is that we are looking at an ultimate division of humanity, when the only groupings will be two - those for and those against Jesus: wheat and tares, sheep and goats. This had not happened in Jesus’s lifetime, although the process had been set in motion. Neither was it completed by AD 70.

It’s for this reason that I think we have to ask what is the literary sense of apocalyptic language. It is not literalistic, but neither is it unanchored in reference to realistic detail. In the end, its meaning relies on the usual principles of understanding the literary sense of language, which includes taking into account echoes of similar language used elsewhere, in the OT, for instance. OT antecedents have to be take with some care however, as Jesus was plainly not fulfilling in a literalistic sense OT expectations. In the end, some common sense has to be used - Jesus was not so obscure in the parables that they could not be understood.