Saturday, May 3, 2014

No One Knows The Hour (part 19)

The point that must be underlined is that the disciples are quite obviously asking the question about the fate of the Temple and the time of its being torn down in relation to what Jesus has said about the Temple.  When considered together, the synoptic Gospels witness to this fact, with the weight of the evidence insisting that Matthew’s report of the use of “end of the age” (and all that comes after that question) should be tied to the fall of the Temple. 

Along with this, the reader must be aware of the possibility that the Gospels authors are writing after the Jewish revolt and after the Temple has been destroyed by the Romans (though sharing a narrative that existed prior to the composition of the written Gospels), which most certainly colors any approach to the narrative, attempts to understand what is being said, and shapes the responsibility of Christ-followers to make the correct applications in their own days, places, and times.  Now, this is not to take away from the prophetic activity of Jesus, but allows for a dimension of analysis in which the authors, and therefore those who are hearing and reading these biographical compilations about the life of Jesus, are reporting these words of Jesus from the perspective of a world in which revolution has been attempted and crushed, and in which Rome and its legions have destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem. 

Even though Mark provides the foundation for Matthew, this study will continue to rely upon Matthew’s account, for it is the most detailed of the “end of the age” narratives and it provides the foundation from which one can deal with a number of pertinent issues related to coming to grips with Jesus’ statement about no man knowing the day or the hour.  Interestingly, it is Matthew’s presentation that becomes the guide, in many Bible translations, that provides the summary heading for various sections.  For example, in a number of translations, this paragraph of Matthew twenty-four is headed by “Signs of the End of the Age.”  This makes sense, as the disciples have asked “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 

However, even though the disciples do not ask the question this way in either Mark or Luke, not making mention of the end of the age, the same paragraph in those Gospels are often headed with “Signs of the End of the Age.”  This demonstrates the way in which the very non-Jewish (Greek-influenced) conceptions of the end of the world have somehow become equated to such an expression by a Jew in the first century, though it is has no such connection.  Beyond that, one can see that the conflation of end of the age and end of the world are read into Mark and Luke, becoming the controlling paradigm by which those two accounts are so often heard, even though, according to the words of the disciples that are on offer by those two evangelists (Luke and Mark), the end of the age (or end of the world---as conceived of by a great number of interpreters) is nowhere in sight. 

Again, it becomes helpful to let the weight of evidence be the guide.  Since the foundational narrative, that being Mark, which is significantly expanded upon by Matthew (due to either written materials in the author’s possession, a more robust oral tradition, or a more vivid imagination) does not resort to such language, and Luke, which also builds on Mark, does not have the disciples posing their question in such a matter, it is best to distance oneself from the end of the age language because of the inherent confusion that ensues when using the language.  This distancing will have to take place even though it has been established that, in its usage, it does not point to the end of the world, but it is difficult for many to shake free from long-ingrained sensibilities.       

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