|The temple: South-western wall, excavated to 70ce level, viewed facing south. The large stones are from the temple, laying where they were thrown down during the destruction of the temple after 70ce. The protruding ledges are the remains of what was once a stairway over the concourse, leading up onto the temple concourse above. Close to the foot of the stairway but out of the picture to the right are the remains of ablution blocks for ritual cleansing. GO HERE for a tour of Jerusalem c66ce.|
Yet if the silence is not studied it is very remarkable. As James Moffatt said,
We should expect ... that an event like the fall of Jerusalem would have dinted some of the literature of the primitive church, almost as the victory at Salamis has marked the Persae. It might be supposed that such an epoch-making crisis would even furnish criteria for determining the dates of some of the NT writings. As a matter of fact, the catastrophe is practically ignored in the extant Christian literature of the first century.
Similarly C. F. D. Moule:
It is hard to believe that a Judaistic type of Christianity which had itself been closely involved in the cataclysm of the years leading up to ad 70 would not have shown the scars - or, alternatively, would not have made capital out of this signal evidence that they, and not non-Christian Judaism, were the true Israel. But in fact our traditions are silent.
Explanations for this silence have of course been attempted. Yet the simplest explanation of all, that perhaps ... there is extremely little in the New Testament later than ad 70 and that its events are not mentioned because they had not yet occurred, seems to me to demand more attention than it has received in critical circles.
Bo Reicke begins a recent essay with the words:
An amazing example of uncritical dogmatism in New Testament studies is the belief that the Synoptic Gospels should be dated after the Jewish War of ad 66-70 because they contain prophecies ex eventu of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70.
In fact this is too sweeping a statement, because the dominant consensus
of scholarly opinion places Mark's gospel, if not before the beginning of the
Jewish war, at any rate before the capture of the city.
As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples exclaimed, 'Look, Master, what huge stones! What fine buildings!'
Jesus said to him, 'You see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.'
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives facing the temple he was questioned privately by Peter, James, John, and Andrew. 'Tell us,' they said, 'when will this happen? What will be the sign when the fulfilment of all this is at hand?' (13.1-4).
The first thing to notice is that the question is never answered.
fact no further reference is made in the chapter to the destruction of
This supports the judgment of most critics that the discourse is an
artificial construction out of diverse teachings of Jesus, with parallels in
various parts of the gospel tradition, and linked somewhat arbitrarily by the
evangelist to a subsequent question of interest to the church, such as Mark
regularly poses by the device of a private enquiry by an inner group of
disciples (cf. 4.10; 7.17; 9.28).
We need not stop to wrestle with the complex
question of how much goes back to Jesus and how much is the creation of the
That Jesus could have predicted the doom of Jerusalem and its
sanctuary is no more inherently improbable than that another Jesus, the son of
Ananias, should have done so in the autumn of 62.
Even if, as most would suppose. the discourse represents the work of Christian prophecy reflecting upon the Old Testament and remembered sayings of Jesus in the light of the church's experiences, hopes and fears, the relevant question is, What experiences, hopes and fears ?
The mere fact again that there is no correlation between the initial question and Jesus' answer would suggest that the discourse is not being written retrospectively out of the known events of 70. Indeed the sole subsequent reference to the temple at all, and that only by implication, is in 13.14-16:
But when you see 'the abomination of desolation' usurping a place which is not his (let the reader understand), then those who are inJudaea must take to the hills. If a man is on the roof, he must not come down into the house to fetch anything out; if in the field, he must not turn back for his cloak.
It is clear at least that 'the abomination of desolation' cannot itself refer to the destruction of the sanctuary in August 70 or to its desecration by Titus' soldiers in sacrificing to their standards. By that time it was far too late for anyone in Judaea to take to the hills, which had been in enemy hands since the end of 67 . Moreover, the only tradition we have as to what Christians actually did, or were told to do, is that preserved by Eusebius apparently on the basis of the Memoirs ofHegesippus used also by Epiphanius. This says that they had been commanded by an oracle given 'before the war' to depart from the city, and that so far from taking to the mountains of Judaea, as Mark's instruction implies, they were to make for Pella, a Greek city of the Decapolis, which lay below sea level on the east side of the Jordan valley.
It would appear then that this was not prophecy shaped by events and cannot therefore be dated to the period immediately before or during the war of 66-70.
apparently the instruction is shaped by (whether in the mind of Jesus or
that of a Christian prophet speaking in his name) is, rather, the archetypal
Jewish resistance to the desecration of the temple-sanctuary by an idolatrous
image under Antiochus Epiphanes in 168-7 bc.
This was 'the abomination of desolation ... set up on the altar' (I Mace. 1.54) referred to by Daniel (9.27 [LXX]; 11.31; 12.11), and it was in consequence of this and of the local enforcement of pagan rites that Mattathias and his sons 'took to the hills, leaving all their belongings in the town' (I Mace. 2.28). It is here that we should seek the clue to the pattern of Mark 13.14-16. Moreover the influence of the book of Daniel is so pervasive in this chapter that it is hard to credit that what is regularly there associated with the abomination of desolation, namely, the cessation of the daily offering in the temple (Dan.8.13; 9.27; 11.31; 12.11) would not have been alluded to if this had by then occurred, as it did in August 70.
It is more likely that the reference to 'the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not' (to stress Mark's deliberate lack of grammatical apposition) is, like Paul's reference to 'the lawless one' or 'the enemy' who 'even takes his seat in the temple of God' (II Thess.2.1-12), traditional apocalyptic imagery for the incarnation of evil which had to be interpreted ('let the reader understand'; cf. Rev. 13.18) according to whatever shape Satan might currently take. It is indeed highly likely that such speculation was revived, as many have argued , by the proposal of the Emperor Gaius Caligula in 40 to set up his statue in the temple (which was averted only by his death). Paul was evidently still awaiting the fulfilment of such an expectation in 50-1 (to anticipate the date of II Thessalonians), where 'the restrainer' holding it back is probably to be interpreted as the Roman Empire embodied in its emperor (ὁ κατέχων being a play perhaps on the name Claudius, 'he who shuts'). His expulsion of the Jews from Rome in 49 could be reflected in the phrase of I Thess. 2.16 about retribution having overtaken them εἰς τἐλος ('with a view to the end'?). The only other datable incident to which 'the abomination' might conceivably refer in retrospect is the control of the temple not by the Romans but by the Zealots temporarily in 66 and permanently in 68, which Josephus speaks of in terms of its 'pollution'. This would be the very opposite of Brandon's thesis, with the Zealots filling the role of antichrist. But it does not explain the masculine singular (as a vaticinium ex eventu should require) and again it is too late for a pre-war flight, and perhaps for any.
One is forced to conclude that the reference in Mark 13.14 to 'the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not' is an extremely uncertain indicator of retrospective dating. G. R. Beasley-Murray ends a note on the history of the interpretation of this verse with the words:
It would seem a just conclusion that the traditional language of the book of Daniel, the Jewish abhorrence of the idolatrous Roman ensigns, attested in the reaction to Pilate's desecration, and Jesus' insight into the situation resulting from his people's rejection of his message, supply a sufficient background for this saying.
Marxsen, writing from a very different standpoint, regards the phrase as a vague reference to the forthcoming destruction of the temple and is forthright in saying: 'From Mark's point of view, a vaticinium ex eventu is an impossibility.'
With regard to Mark 13 as a whole the most obvious inference is that the warnings it contains were relevant to Christians as they were facing duress and persecution, alerting them to watchfulness against false alarms and pretenders' claims, promising them support under trial before Jewish courts and pagan governors, and assuring them of the rewards of steadfastness. Doubtless the phrasing has been influenced and pointed up by what Christians actually experienced, but, as Reicke argues in the second half of his essay, there is nothing that cannot be paralleled from the period of church history covered by Acts (c. 30-62). As early as 50 Paul can say to the Thessalonians:
'You have fared like the congregations in Judaea, God's people in Christ Jesus. You have been treated by your countrymen as they are treated by the Jews' (I Thess. 2.14).
Unless the flight enjoined upon 'those who are in Judaea' is purely symbolic (of the church dissociating itself from Judaism) - and with the detailed instructions and the prayer that it may not be in winter (Mark 13.18) there is no reason to assume it is figurative any more than the very literal dissolution of Herod's temple - then the directions for it must surely belong to a time when there still were Christians in Judaea, free and able to flee. Finally, we are in a period when it could still be said without reserve or qualification on the solemn authority of Jesus:
'I tell you this: the present generation will live to see it all' (13.30).
In fact there is, as we said, wide agreement among scholars that
Mark 13 does fit better before the destruction of the temple it purports
This is relevant as we turn now to Matthew and Luke.
What will be
significant are differences from Mark:
otherwise the same presumption will
continue to hold.
We will take Matthew first, since he is closest to the Markan tradition. But the first relevant passage in his gospel is not in fact in Markan material but in that which he has in common with Luke, the parable of the wedding feast (Matt.22.1-10 = Luke 14.16-24), where Matthew inserts the following:
The others seized the servants, attacked them brutally and killed them. The king was furious; he sent troops to kill those murderers and set their town on fire (22.6f.).
There can be little doubt that these verses are secondary to the parable. Matt. 21.33-45). The introduction of a military expedition while the supper is getting cold is particularly inappropriate. Luke has also allegorized the parable, to match the Jewish and Gentile missions of the church, by introducing two search-parties, first to the streets and alleys of the city and then to the high-ways and hedgerows. The secondary character of all these features is now further established by their absence from the same parable in the Gospel of Thomas (64). This version also supports the supposition, which we should independently deduce from his usage elsewhere (Matt.18.23; 25.34, 40), that it is Matthew who has brought in the figure of the king as the subject of the story: Luke and Thomas both simply have 'a man'. It is therefore as certain as anything can be in this field that the crucial verse,They form part of an allegorical interpretation of the successive servants (Luke has one only) in terms of the prophets and apostles sent to Israel, as in the immediately preceding parable of the wicked husbandmen (
The king was furious; he sent troops to kill those murderers and set their town on fire,
is an addition, probably by the evangelist. The sole question is, When was it added and does it reflect in retrospect the destruction of Jerusalem (to which it must obviously allude)?
It has to be admitted that this is the single verse in the New Testament that most looks like a retrospective prophecy of the events of 70, and it has almost universally been so taken. It is the only passage which mentions the destruction of Jerusalem by fire. Yet, as K. H. Rengstorfhas argued, [K. H. Rengstorf, 'Der Stadt der Morder (Mt 22.7)' in W. Eitester (ed.), Judentum-Urchristentum-Kirche: Festschrift fur Joachim Jeremias (ZNW Beiheft 26), 1960, 106-29 (especially 125f.).] the wording of Matt. 22.7 represents a fixed description of ancient expeditions of punishment and is such an established topos of Near Eastern, Old Testament and rabbinic literature that it is precarious to infer that it must reflect a particular occurrence. He concludes that it has no relevance for the dating of the first gospel. And this conclusion is borne out in a further study by Sigfred Pedersen , who believes that this and the preceding parable of the wicked husbandmen are fundamentally shaped by material from the Old Testament, especially Jeremiah. The most he will say is that if Matthew is writing after 70, then we must see this as a contributory occasion for the addition (which of course no one would deny).
Moreover, if Matt. 22.7 did reflect the happenings of 70 one might expect that it would make a distinction that features in other post eventum 'visions', namely, that while the walls of the city were thrown down, it was the temple that perished by fire. Thus the Jewish apocalypse II Baruch clearly reflects the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans, though it purports to be the announcement to the prophet Baruch of a coming Chaldean invasion. It recognizes that the city and the temple suffered separate fates:
We have overthrown the wall of Zion and we have burnt the place of the mighty God (7.1). They delivered ... to the enemy the overthrown wall, and plundered the house, and burnt the temple (80.3).
If one really wants to see what ex eventu prophecy looks like, one should turn to the so-called Sibylline Oracles (4.125-7):
And a Roman leader shall come to Syria, who shall burn down Solyma's [Jerusalem's] temple with fire, and therewith slay many men, and shall waste the great land of the Jews with its broad way.
It is precisely such detail that one does not get in the New Testament. Finally, in Matthew's parable the king clearly stands for God. In the war of 66-70 the king who sent the armies to quell the rebels was Nero, followed by Vespasian. Reicke says:
The picture of God sending his armies to punish all guests not willing to follow his invitation was in no way applicable to the war started by Nero to punish the leaders of rebellion against Roman supremacy.
He argues indeed that there is every reason to assume that the final redactor of the parable would have altered the reference if he had been writing after 70. This, I believe, is putting it too strongly, since undoubtedly Christians came to see the destruction of Jerusalem as God's retribution on Israel, whoever the human agent.Yet the correspondence does not seem close enough to require composition in the light of the event.
Nevertheless, the conclusion must, I think, stand that on the basis of Matt. 22.7 alone it is impossible to make a firm judgment. It could reflect 70.On the other hand, it need not. One must decide on the evidence of the distinctive features in Matthew's apocalypse in chapter 24.
The first observation to be made is how few these are.
As K. Stendahl says, 'He does not have any more explicit references than Mark
to the Jewish War or the withdrawing of the Christians from Jerusalem'.
Apart from minor verbal variations he follows the tradi-tion common to Mark, with only the following differences of any significance:
1. In 24.3, the purpose of the discourse is broadened to answer the disciples not merely on the date of the destruction of the temple ('Tell us, when will this happen ?') but on the theme to which the chapter (and the one following) is really addressed: 'And what will be the signal for your coming and the end of the age?' It is significant, however, that the former question does not drop out, as might be expected (especially since Matthew has no more answer to it than Mark) if at the rime of writing it now related to the past whilst the parousia was still awaited.
2. In 24.9-14, the prophecies of persecutions ahead found in Mark 13.9-12 are omitted, being placed by Matthew in Jesus' mission charge to the disciples during the Galilean ministry (10.17-21). Whatever the motives for this, the effect is to see the predictions fulfilled earlier rather than later, and evidently they are not intended by Matthew to have any reference to the sufferings of the Jewish war. In their place Matthew has warnings against division and defection within the church, which are presumably relevant to the state of his own community but have no bearing on the question of date.
3. In 24.15, the cryptic reference to 'the abomination of desolation' is specifically attributed to the prophet Daniel (which was obvious anyhow), and Matthew has the neuter participle ἑστος for the masculine ἑστηκ ὀτα (as the grammar demands), and ἐν τλοπῳ ἁγλιῳ for the vague ὅπου οὐ δεῖ. Despite the lack of article, '(the) holy place' must mean the temple (evidently intended by Mark's allusion), and the choice of phrase may again reflect the scriptural background already referred to:
How long will impiety cause desolation, and both the holy place and the fairest of all lands be given over to be trodden down? (Dan. 8.13)
They sat idly by when it [Jerusalem] was surrendered, when the holy place was given up to the alien (I Mace. 2.7).
Yet none of Matthew's changes affects the sense or makes the application more specific (in fact the neuter participle does the opposite). Again he does not mention the reference in Daniel to the cessation of the daily sacrifices. If Matthew intended the reader to 'understand' in the prediction events lying by then in the past he has certainly given him no help. Moreover, as Zahn said long ago 27.8; cf. 28.15), one would have expected him of all people to draw attention to the present devastation of the site., in view of Matthew's appeal to conditions in Jerusalem 'to this day' (
4. In 24.20, there occurs the only other change in the decisive paragraph about Judaea, with the addition of the words in italics:
Pray that it may not be winter when you have to make your escape, or Sabbath.
'When you have to make your escape' merely specifies what must be
meant in Mark.
The reference to the sabbath could again contain an allusion back to the fact that when the faithful of Judaea took to the hills after the original 'abomination of desolation' their first encounter with the enemy was on the sabbath and because of scruples which they later abandoned they were massacred without resistance (I Mace. 2.29-41). But it is more likely to refer to the obstacles to movement on the sabbath for Jewish Christians who were strict observers of the law. In any case it bespeaks a primitive Palestinian milieu and a community-discipline stricter than that recommended in Matthew's own church (cf. Matt. 12.1-14). It is certainly not an addition that argues for a situation after 70. Indeed it is one of those points of difference where, unless one is committed to over-all Markan priority, it looks as though Mark has omitted an element in the tradition no longer relevant for the Gentile church.
5. Matthew's material without parallel in the Markan tradition
(24.26-8; 24.37-25.46) has no reference to the fall of Jerusalem but, like the
additional signs of the parousia in 24.30f., solely to 'the consummation of
Yet his version of the 'Q,' material in 24.26, 'If they tell you,
"He is there in the wilderness", do not go out', clearly shows that
in his mind the scene is still in Judaea (in the Lukan parallel in 17.23 it
could be anywhere).
It is significant therefore that in 24.29, 'the distress of
those days' (i.e., on the assumption of ex eventu prophecy, the Judaean war) is
to be followed 'immediately' (εὐθέως) by the
coming of the Son of Man, whereas in Mark 13.24 it is promised vaguely 'in
those days, after that distress'.
Normally Matthew edits out (if this is the
relationship between them) Mark's incessant use of εὐθύς.
Never elsewhere does
he alter a Markan phrase to εὐθέως.
This makes it extraordinarily difficult to believe that Matthew could
deliberately be writing for the interval between the Jewish war and the parousia.
So conscious was Harnack of this difficulty that he insisted that the
interval could not be extended more than five years (or ten at the very most),
thus dating Matthew c. 70-5.
He would rather believe that Matthew wrote
before the fall of Jerusalem than stretch the meaning of εὐθέως further.
It seems a curious exercise to stretch it at all!
Even E. J. Goodspeed, who put Luke at 90, said of Matthew, 'A book containing such a statement can hardly have been written very long after ad 70' (though his elastic was prepared to extend to 80). The only other way of taking this verse retrospectively is to say that 'the coming of the Son of Man', though not 'the consummation of the age', did occur with the fall of Jerusalem. But it is a fairly desperate expedient to seek to distinguish these two (joined by Matthew by a single article in 24.3) in face of the usage of the rest of the New Testament.
Finally, Matthew retains unaltered Jesus' solemn pronouncement, 'The present generation will live to see it all' (24.34), preserving also (as the equivalent of Mark 9.1) the saying, 'There are some standing here who will not taste of death before they have seen the Son of Man coming in his kingdom' (16.28). Most notoriously of all, he has, alongside the apocalyptic material from the Markan tradition which he sets in his mission charge, the promise, 'Before you have gone through all the towns of Israel the Son of Man will have come' (10.23). If, on the usual reckoning, the evangelist is writing some 50-60 years after the death of Jesus, it is surely incredible that there are no traces of attempts to explain away or cover up such obviously by then unfulfillable predictions. One would equally expect modifications to prophecies after the non-event.
Indeed, I think that it needs to be asked much more pressingly than it is why warnings and predictions relating to the crisis in Judaea should have been produced or reproduced in such profusion after the events to which they referred. Just as Jesus' parables were reapplied to the life of the church and to the parousia when their original setting in the crisis of his ministry was no longer relevant Dan. 9.1-27). But the period of composition commonly assigned to both Matthew and Luke (80-90) was, as far as we know, marked by no crisis for the church that would reawaken the relevance of apocalyptic. I fail to see any motive for preserving, let alone inventing, prophecies long after the dust had settled in Judaea, unless it be to present Jesus as a prognosticator of uncanny accuracy (in which case the evangelists have defeated the exercise by including palpably unfulfilled predictions). It would seem much more likely, as the form critics have taught us to expect, that these sayings, like the rest, were adapted to the use of the church when and as they were relevant to its immediate needs., so one might suppose that instructions given, or pointed up, for earlier situations would, if remembered at all afterwards, have become related more timelessly to the End. Alternatively, if subsequent occasion required, they might have been brought out and subjected to recalculation (the way that Jeremiah's unfulfilled prediction of the seventy years' duration of the exile is reapplied 'on reflection' in
There is one other passage common to Matthew and Luke which it will
be convenient to mention briefly before turning to Luke.
This refers to the
murder of Zechariah 'between the sanctuary and the altar'.
In Matthew (23.35),
but not Luke (11.51), he is called 'son of Berachiah', and this has been held
to contain an allusion to the murder by two Zealots 'in the midst of
the temple' of a certain Zacharias, son of Baris (v.L, Beriscaeus) in 67-8.
But the identification rests on a rather remote resemblance of names, and this Zacharias, not being a priest, would have been unlikely to have been 'between the sanctuary and the altar.' On Jesus' lips it makes entirely good sense to interpret the reference, with the Gospel according to the Hebrews , as being to the murder of Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest (II Chron. 24.20-2), whom Matthew, like some of the rabbis, has evidently confused with Zechariah son of Berechiah, the prophet (Zech.1.1). In any case it is far too uncertain a piece of evidence to carry any weight by itself.
When he came in sight of the city, he wept over it and said, 'If only you had known, on this great day, the way that leads to peace! But no; it is hidden from your sight. For a time will come upon you, when your enemies will set up siege-works against you; they will encircle you and hem you in at every point; they will bring you to the ground, you and your children within your walls, and not leave you one stone standing on another, because you did not recognize God's moment when it came' (19.41-4).
But when you see Jerusalem encircled by armies, then you may be sure that her destruction is near. Then those who are in Judaea must take to the hills; those who are in the city itself must leave it, and those who are out in the country must not enter; because this is the time of retribution, when all that stands written is to be fulfilled. Alas for women who are with child in those days, or have children at the breast! For there will be great distress in the land and a terrible judgment upon this people. They will fall at the sword's point; they will be carried captive into all countries; and Jerusalem will be trampled down by foreigners until their day has run its course (21.20-4).
The latter passage replaces, and at some points echoes, that in Mark 13.14-20 beginning, 'But when you see "the abomination of desolation" ...'. Its relation to it must be considered shortly. But first let us look at what Luke himself actually says.
At first sight it seems clearly to be composed (or at any rate pointed up) in the light of the siege of 68-70. For here indeed is the greater specification we expect but fail to find in Matthew. The details, says Kummel, 'correspond exactly to the descriptions which contemporary accounts offer of the action of Titus against Jerusalem'.
Yet this is far from indisputable. In an article written now thirty years ago but strangely neglected, Dodd argued strongly and circumstantially that no such inference could be drawn.
These operations are no more than the regular commonplaces of ancient warfare. In Josephus's account of the Roman capture of Jerusalem there are some features which are more distinctive; such as the fantastic faction-fighting which continued all through the siege, the horrors of pestilence and famine (including cannibalism), and finally the conflagration in which the Temple and a large part of the city perished. It is these that caught the imagination of Josephus, and, we may suppose, of any other witness of these events. Nothing is said of them here. On the other hand, among all the barbarities which Josephus reports, he does not say that the conquerors dashed children to the ground.
The expression ἐδαφιοῦσιν σε καὶ τὰ τἐκνα σοῦ ἐν σοί is in any case not based on anything that happened in 66-70: it is a commonplace of Hebrew prophecy.
Dodd then proceeds to show in detail how all the language used by Luke or his source is drawn not from recent events but from a mind soaked in the Septuagint.
So far as any historical event has coloured the picture, it is not Titus's capture of Jerusalem in ad 70, but Nebuchadrezzar's capture in 586 bc. There is no single trait of the forecast which cannot be documented directly out of the Old Testament.
It has justly been said that if this article had appeared in the Journal of Theological Studies rather than the Journal of Roman Studies New Testament scholars would have taken more notice of it. It is still ignored in Kummel's extensive bibliography, and no recognition is given to the case it argues. Interestingly, it had no influence on Reicke's article cited above, which independently reaches much the same position.
But the absence of any clear reference to 70 does not settle the question of what Luke is doing in relation to the Markan material. Indeed on this Dodd and Reicke come to opposite conclusions. Reicke, with the majority of critics, thinks that Luke 21.20-4 is an editing of Mark: Dodd holds that it is independent tradition into which the evangelist has simply inserted verbatim two phrases from Mark: 'Then those who are in Judaea must take to the hills' (21.21 a) and 'Alas for women who are with child in those days, or who have children at the breast!' (21.23a).The latter alternative seems to me the more probable , if only because the introduction of 'Judaea' in 21.21a upsets the reference of ἐν μέσω αὐτῆς in 21b, which must be to Jerusalem αὐτῆς 21.20). But, whether or not this was material which Luke had prior to his use of the Markan tradition, he has clearly now united the two. Is the effect of their combination to suggest or to require a later date?
Luke has preferred to concentrate on the destruction of the city rather than the temple, the last reference, veiled or unveiled, to the sanctuary having disappeared, despite his retention of the opening question about the fate of the temple buildings (2I.5-7).The answer therefore is even less precise, though there is now a definite reference to devastation and not simply to desecration. Reicke indeed argues that by replacing Mark's 'abomination of desolation standing where he ought not' with 'Jerusalem surrounded by armies' Luke actually makes it more certain that he is not writing after the event. For
if the Gospel of Luke is supposed to have been composed after the historical siege of Jerusalem in ad 70, the evangelist must be accused of incredible con-fusion when he spoke of flight during that siege, although the Christians were known to have left Judaea some time before the war even began in ad 66.
The last clause goes beyond the evidence, for Luke may not have known it. Nevertheless the point stands against a vaticinium ex eventu. Things did not in fact turn out like that. Indeed they could not, for there was no escaping once the city had been encircled.
But the saying about getting out and not going back in, which in Luke 21.21 is applied to the city, has probably nothing in origin to do with a siege. In Mark and Matthew it relates to a man's house, as in the closely parallel saying which Luke himself preserves in 17.31:
On that day the man who is on the roof and his belongings in the house must not come down to pick them up; he, too, who is in the fields must not go back.
As when Mattathias and his sons 'took to the hills, leaving all their belongings behind in the town', the context seems more likely to be local harassment than a military siege. If, as is entirely possible, Jesus himself did utter some such urgent exhortations to vigilance and rapid response, Mark 13.71. and pars) have no obvious reference to Vespasian's campaign against the Jewish extremists. In Luke this is 'wars and insurrections' (ἀκαταστασίας) (21.9). The latter word appears here to have the same meaning as στἀσις, which is used by Luke (23.19, 25), as by Mark (15.7), of the Barabbas incident, and in the context (cf. Luke 21.8) seems to refer to risings led by messianic pretenders, such as he also records from the 40s and 50s in Acts (5.36f.; 21.38). There is no ground for assuming that he is alluding specifically to the Jewish revolt of 66-70, let alone writing after it.they were almost certainly independent of any programme of future events. If subsequently they were incorporated by the church into instructions for Christians in Judaea and combined with other words of his about the desolation of the city, this does not mean that they were edited after or even during the war. In fact there is nothing that requires them to be restricted to the events of the latter 60s. The 'wars and rumours of wars' between nations ἔθνος ἐπ΄ ἔθνος and kingdoms (
None of this in itself decides the issue of when the synoptic gospels were written. In fact, despite the arguments he puts forward, Dodd (followed by Gaston and Houston) thinks that Luke and Matthew were composed after 70. Reicke, although regarding Luke 21 as secondary to Mark, concludes that 'Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote their Gospels before the war began'. ad 66-70 because they contain prophecies ex eventu of the destruction of Jerusalem'. Indeed on these grounds alone one might reverse the burden of proof, and re-issue Torrey's challenge, which he contended was never taken up:That issue must be considered in due course on its own merits. The one conclusion we can draw so far is to agree with Reicke's opening statement that it is indeed 'an amazing example of uncritical dogmatism' that 'the synoptic gospels should be dated after the Jewish War of
It is perhaps conceivable that one evangelist writing after the year 70 might fail to allude to the destruction of the temple by the Roman armies (every reader of the Hebrew Bible knew that the Prophets had definitely predicted that foreign armies would surround the city and destroy it), but that three (or four) should thus fail is quite incredible. On the contrary, what is shown is that all four Gospels were written before the year 70. And indeed, there is no evidence of any sort that will bear examination tending to show that any of the Gospels were written later than about the middle of the century. The challenge to scholars to produce such evidence is hereby presented.
But before we can even consider that piece of bravado it is necessary to establish some sort of scale of measurement by which the progress of affairs in the Christian church 'about the middle of the century' can be assessed. And the best, indeed the only, way of discovering any fixed points is to turn to the evidence provided by the life and writings of Paul.