31 Jan 2013 
#41 Dating Mark's gospel and its priority

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Mk 13:2 "And Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you see these great buildings [in Jerusalem]? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
Josephus' Wars, VII, I, 1: "Caesar [Titus, in 70] gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple...
[before the command for total demolition, the Romans had already (fully) burned the temple and (at least partially) the city. Furthermore, if the defenders would have surrendered early on, the city would have been spared, as it was Roman policy during this campaign (as gathered from Josephus' Wars)]
but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited.
This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind."

Josephus' Wars, VIII, VIII, 7: "Where is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein?
It is now demolished to the very foundations, ... that holy city demolished by the hands of our enemies, or the foundations of our holy temple dug up after so profane a manner."

Jerusalem, the former home of the "saints" (the "Nazarenes" and their followers) had been thought to become the future capital of the Kingdom (as believed by Jewish Christians. See HJ-3b). But the city got thoroughly destroyed and with it, hundred(s) of thousand of Jews. And no Messiah to be seen! It had to be explained:

The parable of the tenants:
Mk 12:1-9 "He then began to speak to them in parables: "A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it,
[the walls of Jerusalem and/or its temple]
` dug a pit for the wine press and built a watchtower.
[the Antonia tower (a tall fortress occupied by the Roman garrison) above the temple. Sometimes referred in Josephus' Wars as just "the tower". The imagery is borrowed from Isaiah 5:2-3 (but no wall here!):"He [God] dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a wine press in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard."]
Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers [priests of the temple] and went away on a journey [God not watching over things].
At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them, they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed.

[and still no reaction from the owner! I would not want to be in the sandals of the remaining servants]
He sent many others, some of them they beat, others they killed.
He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved
[God sending his Son, Jesus]. He sent him last of all, saying, 'They will respect my son.'
[after what happened to the servants, that does not make sense. And in many parables, the realism of the illustration is sacrificed for theological purpose. This parable, like most others in gMark, was not meant as a teaching tool, but as an alleged prophecy]
But the tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir.'

["his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things" (Heb 1:2)]
Come, let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours
[law of the jungle? Totally unrealistic, but theologically correct!]
So they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.
[Jesus' crucifixion and denial by the Jews of Jerusalem]
` What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants
[the tenants did not think of that! Allusion of the holocaust of 70 C.E., God using the Romans, a common idea:
Josephus' Wars, VI, II, 1 "And are not both the city and the entire temple now full of the dead bodies of your countrymen? It is God, therefore, it is God himself who is bringing on this fire, to purge that city and temple by means of the Romans",
as before he would have employed the Babylonians (Jeremiah 25:8-9, Habakkuk 1:5-11).
Here is the main purpose of the parable: explaining the destruction of Jerusalem when Jesus was thought by many Christians to be the Messiah who, at least, should have protected his own people. Providing an explanation for this catastrophic event caused, in part, the writing of the gospel]
and give the vineyard to others.
[allusion to the Christian presbyters positioning themselves to be the successors of the temple priests. Well explained in Mt 21:41, at the end of the same parable, ""He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they [the chief priests and elders] replied, "and he will rent his vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time."]"

Then, according to the "mini-apocalypse" in Mk 13:14-27, after God's alleged revenge for the killing of the Son, the long awaited kingdom of God would come soon:
"When you [the "you" would normally stands for four disciples, including Peter (13:3). Maybe "Mark" thought they had been in Jerusalem and still alive then!]
see `the abomination that causes desolation'
[Daniel 9:27 & 11:31: here these words stand for an event associated with "destroy the city [Jerusalem, according to 9:25] and the sanctuary" (9:26), "put an end to sacrifice and offering"(9:27), and "armed forces ... desecrate the temple fortress ... abolish the daily sacrifice ..." (11:31)
Remark: Jews were also thinking "Daniel" prophesied the desolation of Judea & Jerusalem by the Romans. According to Josephus' Ant., X, XI, 7 "In the very same manner Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them."]
standing where it does not belong
[the Roman legions, with their emblems (with human & boar representations), in the heartland of Judea. At the same location in its mini-apocalypse, gLuke "interprets" Mark's verse (13:14) about the "abomination of desolation" as such "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near." (Lk 21:20)]
let the reader understand,

[Jesus talking to readers, above the head of the disciples, as in the parables? A slip of the pen from "Mark"?]
then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
[and not take refuge inside Jerusalem where most perished!]
... ,  because those will be days of distress unequalled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now
[another slip of the pen! The "now" (instead of "then") could not have been spoken some forty years before the events and clearly indicates when the gospel was written. Let's notice the difference from the passage in 'Daniel' that "Mark" loosely copied:
Daniel 12:1 "... There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until THEN [in the future] ..."]
and never to be equalled again..
["Mark" was describing the destruction of Jerusalem as a major apocalyptic event, the worse catastrophe since the creation (worst than the big flood!), a sure sign of the coming of the Kingdom!]
If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen,
[here, the chosen ones are alive after the destruction of Jerusalem. So the reference is not about the Jews killed in 70C.E. or the people of Jesus' generation, most of them dead by then!]
he has shortened them...
[the great salvation was supposed to happen very soon after the destruction of Jerusalem]
At that time [the one of Jerusalem destruction] if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect--if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
[Right after the very disturbing news of Jerusalem destruction (buildings and people) reached the community, among Jews and Christians (false) vengeful Christs and/or prophets were bound to appear, attracting members of the flock by their fiery rhetoric. Those later ones had to be persuaded to stay! And, as a confirmation, "Mark" wrote, right after referring to the demolition of large buildings in Jerusalem (13:1-2) and at the very beginning of the momentous 'End of the age/mini-apocalypse sermon, about impersonators of a (returning & resurrected) Jesus:
13:5-6 Darby "And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any one mislead you. For many shall come in my name, saying, It is *I*, and shall mislead many."
Let's also note, according to the Corinthians letters, the Christians there were prone to change allegiance and flock to other "gurus" very quickly!]
But in those days [days, not even years!], following that distress, 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.""

After having waited so long (Paul in 1 Cor 7:29a "What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short ..." and 1 Cor 7:31b "... For this world in his present form is passing away" and 1 Cor 15:51 "... we will not all sleep [be dead, when the kingdom of God comes] ..." and Ro 13:11b "The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed."), the Christians had to be reassured on how soon, after the 'abomination of desolation', the second coming will occur:

Parable of the fig tree:
Mk 13:28-29 "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near; at the door!"
The parable suggests that, soon after the disasters of 70, no more than weeks or months later, Christians should expect the arrival of the Kingdom.
(Note: I do not see any hint that the fig tree here or in other places (Mk 11:13, 20) would represent Israel)

And following the fig tree parable:
Mk 13:32a, 33 "No one knows about that day or hour [not year!] ... Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come."
Notice the urgency! Rather hard to imagine Jesus exhorting his disciples to become extremely vigilant some forty years later. Once again, these directives appear issued to Christians when the gospel was written.

Parable of the watchful servant:

Mk 13:34-37 "It is like a man going to a far country,
[Jesus gone to heaven. Man or owner travelling away is a recurring element in many parables, as we saw already (12:1)]
who left his house and gave authority to his servants [Christian presbyters], and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper [Christians] to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming; in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning; lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.
[once again, no realism: the doorkeeper has got to sleep! But again theologically correct]
And what I say to you, I say to all:
[the "you" are the four disciples, the "all" stands for the Christians in 70/71! Once again "Mark" got carried away]
Let's compare this with:
Paul in 1 Th 5:2 "For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night."
1 Th 5:6 "...let us be alert..."

Here we are:

EITHER, if the gospel was completed earlier than 70, Jesus predicted rightly the fall of Jerusalem but was wrong about the second coming to follow very soon afterwards. But if Jesus was a divinely inspired prophet, he would not have been wrong on the second part!

OR "Mark" wrote after the events of 70 (& putting a "sure" prophecy in Jesus' mouth!), but before "the day of the Lord" he predicted to happen promptly afterwards (but it did not!). Also, if written later than 71, the author would have avoided saying "the day of the Lord" will come soon after Jerusalem destruction (which is what "Matthew" and "Luke" did!).

As I showed already, all indications point to the second option.

Let's ask ourselves: could the gospel be completed one hundred, fifty, twenty, or even one year after the tragedy in Judea became known in Mark's city?
If it was so, then the local Christians would wonder why the Kingdom did not come already:
Was Jesus wrong? Was the gospel author a liar?
"Mark" certainly did not want any of these questions answered by "yes" when his gospel was made public!

Final notes:

A) Those apocalyptic events were predicted to happen before:
Mk 9:1 "... , some who are standing here [some 40 years earlier, in Jesus' times!] will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power."

B) As already explained in my website, "Mark" had to address eyewitness(es)' "against the grain" reports, duly noted silences on critical points and lack of prior attestations (i.e. on crucial stories generated by the author!).
Because those testimonies were still remembered by his community. If it was not the case, why create problems & raise doubts!

Here is an abbreviated list of items where "Mark" tried to counteract the embarrassment (E) or explain the silence (S):
a) Disciples NOT saying Jairus' daughter was resurrected (5:42-43) (S)
b) Rejection of Jesus in his own village (6:2-4) (E)
c) Disciples NOT "seeing" the miraculous feeding(s) (8:17-21) (S)
d) Disciples NOT claiming Jesus was Christ (8:29-30) (S)
e) Peter NOT comprehending (as a Christian would) Jesus' Passion (8:31-33, 9:31-32) (E)
f) Disciples NOT telling about the events on the high mountain (9:9-10) (S)
g) Disciples NOT knowing what is meant by resurrection (9:10,31-32) (E)
h) Disturbance in the temple (11:17) (E)
i) Peter saying Jesus cursed at a fig tree (11:21-24) (E)
j) Disciples falling away after Jesus' arrest (14:27) (E)
k) Disciples NOT knowing about the empty tomb and Jesus' rising (16:8) (S)

Note: the subsequent gospels eliminated some (gMatthew), more (gLuke) or most (gJohn) of these items, one way or another (deletion, "correction" or addition). How to explain their author could do it?
Either enough time went by, causing the (oral) "testimonies" to be forgotten, or the author's community was never visited by any eyewitness(es).

C) Also it has been suggested:
Mk13:7 "When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come."
meant a long delay (such as 20 years!) was anticipated between the Jewish wars (66-70) and "the end". But the whole of Mk 13:5-13 is alleged prophecies about events happening before the fall of Jerusalem (at Mk 13:14). And of course, the predicted wars, "earthquakes in various places", "famines" (that was only "the beginning of birth pains" Mk 13:8b) together with arrests, propagation of the gospel among Gentiles, persecutions and betrayals did occur during that period!
Then, the "abomination that causes desolation" (Mk 13:14) leads to the conquest and destruction of the city (70), the start of "the days of distress" (Mk 13:19) and soon after, "in those days" (Mk 13:24), the second coming (Mk 13:26).

D) Could Mk 13:5-23 refer to the 70-135 period, ending by the second Jewish war and the defeat of Bar Kokhba?
That's rather out-of-question because:

a) the later events (at least one hundred after Jesus' crucifixion) can hardly fit into the time frame of the verse quoted in A) and also the one in Mk 13:30 (which also appears in gMatthew (24:34) and gLuke (21:32) "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation [the one of Jesus] will by no means pass away till all things [among them, Jerusalem's destruction (21:20-24) and the second coming (21:25, 28)] take place."

b) Mk 13:3-4 specifies Jesus' alleged answer (Mk 13:5-23) is an explanation related to the prophesied destruction, stone by stone, of great buildings in Jerusalem (Mk 13:1-2) (and not to events which will happen in the following 65 years (up to 135)!):
Mk 13:1-5a "Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" And Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down ." Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign [Mk 13:14; before: endure and do not be alarmed] when all these things will be fulfilled?" And Jesus, answering them, began to say: ... [the mini-apocalypse monologue 13:5-37 starts here]"

c) The destruction related in Mk 13:1-2 happened in 70:
From Josephus' Wars (Josephus was an eyewitness to Jerusalem demise!):
VII, I, 1 "Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple"
VII, I, 1 "there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to"
VII, VII, 7 "It is now demolished to the very foundations, and hath nothing but that monument of it preserved, I mean the camp of those that hath destroyed it, which still dwells upon its ruins; some unfortunate old men also lie upon the ashes of the temple, and a few women are there preserved alive by the enemy, for our bitter shame and reproach"
Epiphanius, On weights and measures 14-15 "Hadrian [in 129-130] found the temple of God throdden down and the whole city devastated, save for a few houses"
but not in 135: there is no evidence of reconstruction (after 70) of large buildings (and therefore subsequent destruction) on the site of Jerusalem before the defeat of Bar Kokhba.

d) "Luke" included, in his/her version of the mini-apocalypse of gMark, evidenced historical details pertaining to the events of 70, such as Lk 21:21b, 24 and:
Lk 21:20 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near."

e) There is no evidence that Jerusalem was besieged by Roman armies in 135. Also, the rebel Jews were unlikely to make a stand at Jerusalem, then an unwalled fully destroyed city with no natural defence on the northern side. Besides, the "desolation is near", that is not inflicted yet (in 135, it would be 65 years old!).
See also Lk 21:21b & 24.


Please consult this excellent article by Peter Kirby.

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {dating} {Mark's gospel}
Your comment: please copy "post #41" (to be pasted in your reply) and then click on "New Comment".

Comment from: Jim
What is your take on Robert Funk's view that Mark 13 may be a later insert and possibly not Jesus' words? Is there something about the style in the Greek text that might lead to this conclusion?
Comment from: mullerb
Dear Jim,
Mark 13 is all fiction. Later insertion? That's a good possibility. But I would see it as written by the same author.
The rest of gMark is rather calm. But Mk 13 is emotional, passionate, with a sense of urgency, specifying events which could break any Christian community. It is also panicky, where the author had Jesus going out of character such as addressing readers & later Christians and using "now" instead of "then".
Against that theory would be 12:9 which foresee the massacres of 70 and, to a lesser degree, 14:57-59, which may be about the physical destruction of the temple. Of course 12:9 could have been inserted later and 14:57-59 might refer to a spiritual destruction (the temple loosing his purpose & usefulness for atonement of sins because of Christ's atoning death).
Overall, the gospel, up to 16:8 or 15:39, may have been written weeks, months, even a few years before, prior to the addition of Mk 13 in 70/71.
Cordially, Bernard
Comment from: Jim
Thanks Bernard for your insights. I am interested in this because I've been going through some historical reconstruction by NT scholars who classify Jesus primarily as an apocalyptic prophet (i.e. Ehrman, etc.). I'm not sure if I am totally ready to buy into that just yet, or maybe I'm just slow.
Comment from: mullerb
Dear Jim,
Why don't you start by my own website?
Cordially, Bernard
Comment from: Jim
Double thanks for your resource.