Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Goodacre's "Dating Game" 1: Mark's Temple Focus


During the latter part of last year, Mark Goodacre raised the issue of the date of the Gospels on his blog in a series of posts with the title, "The Dating Game" (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and here). There, in a thoughtful treatment, he sided with those scholars who have made the case that Mark is best dated after the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. Then, presupposing that Matthew and Luke came after Mark, he goes on to make the case that the rest of the Synoptics are to be dated even later.

This series of posts has come at an interesting time for me as I have been reading James Crossley's book, The Date of Mark's Gospel: Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity (2004)[1]. Crossley has interacted with Goodacre's series, which mentions his book on his own blog (also here). Of course, he comes from an entirely different perspective and argues that Mark is best dated to the period between the mid to late thirties and mid-forties.

The discussion is especially important for my own work. I am currently working on a doctoral dissertation project on the historical Jesus' attitude towards the cult, specifically looking at the role Jewish hopes regarding the eschatological renewal of the temple, the priesthood and the cult may relate to aspects of his own ministry. As will be made clear, the role of the temple in the Gospel according to Mark is emerging as a key element in this debate.

As Goodacre explains, the primary argument given by those who date Mark after the destruction of the temple is the apparent temple focus of his Gospel. Indeed, there can be little doubt that, especially from chapters 11-14, Mark displays a special interest in the temple.

Thus, before talking about dating, I want to highlight this temple-centric dimension of Mark's narrative. After this discussion, we will then proceed to ask questions about the dating of the Gospel--particularly looking at Goodacre's approach.

Jesus' Prediction of the Destruction of the Temple in Mark
As many have noted, Mark's interest in the Temple is manifested in two principle ways. First, Mark has Jesus announcing the temple's coming judgment. Second, Jesus’ death is linked to the destruction of the temple. For the sake of our discussion, we will look briefly at these two aspects. Specifically, this post will deal with the former.

First, Jesus action in the temple, known often as the “cleansing of the temple,” is most likely a prophetic sign of its coming judgment. The fact is, Jesus’ action is linked with a quotation from Jeremiah’s prophecy of the destruction of Solomon’s temple (cf. Jer 7:11: “den of thieves”). That Jesus performs an action in the temple is in fact reminiscent of Jeremiah himself, who also performed prophetic signs in the temple. The idea that the action is meant to communicate the idea of coming judgment is further strengthened by the fact that Mark sandwiches the episode between the account of Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree, which, because it has failed to produce fruit, is condemned by him and later withers and dies (Mark 11:12-14, 20-21; vv.15-19 = the temple incident).

Next, it should be pointed out that Jesus’ action in the temple is closely followed by his account of the wicked tenants in the vineyard. Much could be said here. Suffice it to say the following here. Most scholars recognize that the parable is likely drawing on Isaiah 5, which similarly uses the image of the vineyard and foretells a coming judgment on Israel. Specifically, scholars such as Craig Evans and George Brooke have pointed out that Isaiah’s vision of the vineyard was linked to the Temple in ancient Judaism (cf. 4Q500).[2]

The fact that the parable highlights the failure of the wicked tenants to produce fruits brings the parable into especially close alignment with the cursing of the fig tree. Of course, it concludes with God destroying the tenants.

Going on, as if the temple action was not clear enough to communicate the idea, Jesus explicitly prophecies the coming ruin of the sanctuary in Mark 13:1-2:
And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, 'Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!' And Jesus said to him, 'Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.'"

Of course, it should be noted that Jesus goes on to describe the destruction of the temple using language clearly borrowed from Daniel's vision of the destruction of the sanctuary (cf. Dan 8:9-14 which links the destruction of the temple with the "host of the stars" being "cast down", using language of the desolating transgression, mirroring the imagery of the apocalyptic discourse). It should also be pointed out that after alluding to this imagery Jesus evokes the fig tree episode (cf. Mark 13:28: "From the fig tree learn its lesson..."). It is hard to imagine how Mark would have failed to see how his readers would have linked this verse with the cursing of the fig tree. Thus, Jesus' apocalyptic discourse appears to circle back to this earlier story, which was closely associated with his temple action.

That Jesus foretold the coming destruction of the temple is also attested in the trial narrative, where witnesses testify that Jesus had issued such statements against the sanctuary. A key passage is found in Mark 14:58:
"And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 'We heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands."
These accusations then emerge again in the passion narrative. In Mark 15:29 we read,
"And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads, and saying, 'Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!'"

In the next post we will look at the ways Mark links Jesus' death to the destruction of the temple.


[1] JSNTSup 266; London: T & T Clark, 2004.

[2] Craig A. Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 226-7; idem. Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 397-401; George J. Brooke, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 78-9; idem., “4Q500 1 and the Use of Scripture in the Parable of the Vineyard,” DSD 2 (1995): 268-94; Ernst Lohmeyer, “Das Gleichnis von den bösen Weingärtnern (Mark 12,1–12), ZST 18 (1941): 247-248.


Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for the interesting post, Michael. Nothing to disagree on so far :) Look forward to the rest of the series.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, looking forward to it...!

James Crossley

Anonymous said...

Isn't stating Jesus "clearly borrowed" from Daniel's vision getting it backwards? Jesus is the incarnate Word of God who influenced Daniel. Right?

DimBulb said...

Have you heard anything concerning the discovery of a (possibly) ancient Syriac manuscript of the Bible? I thought it might be something you guys would be interested in.

Anonymous said...

If there wasn't a temple when Mark or any other gospel writer composed the gospels the authors would have said. If a person was going to convert, explain or even show how the old covenant was no longer in place, I would use the only thing that was most central to Jews at the time, the Temple. If the temple was destroyed, I would say, "how can you atone for your sins?" Sacrifice can only be offered in one place prescribed by God Himself. A priest just can not offer a sacrifice in any dude's backyard. The best proof is the silence. Stop circumcising and start baptizing! Do you need proof? There is no more temple.

Anonymous said...

Armageddon Thru To You

If you've been wondering why it seems like the world around us is unraveling, it's because the last days as foretold in the bible are now upon us. Just as it was 2000 years ago, many were unable to discern the signs of Jesus Christ's first coming (Mat 16:3), as will many concerning his second coming, which will occur very soon. Yes many have proclaimed a similar sentiment many times in the past, but their errors have no bearing on today other than to lull you into spiritual apathy, and that too was prophesied to occur in the last days.

If you're not a believer in Jesus Christ because you're an atheist, consider that the underlying impetus for your disbelief is most likely borne of pride and here's why:

When we die, if you as an atheist were right, then there is no upside or downside for anyone regarding the afterlife. We will all simply cease to exist

However if we Christians were right about our belief in the afterlife, then we will be given eternal life and you as an atheist will receive eternal damnation

Given the choices, the position held by an atheist is a fools bet any way you look at it because the atheist has everything to lose and nothing to gain. It is tantamount to accepting a “heads I win, tails you lose” coin toss proposition from someone. And that someone by the way is Satan (see Ephesians 6:12).

The only way to explain the attitude held by an atheist is pride, pure and simple. The intellectually dishonest and/or tortured reasoning used by atheists to try and disprove the existence of God is nothing more than attempts to posture themselves as superior (a symptom of pride). And as anyone who has read their bible knows, this is precisely the character flaw that befell Lucifer, God's formerly most high angel. (Isaiah 14:12-15). Is it any wonder then why the bible is so replete with references to pride as the cause of mankind's downfall?

Pride permeates our lives and burdens us in ways that most of us seldom recognize. Ironically, pride is the one thing that can blind someone to things even the unsighted can see. And sadly pride will blind many with an otherwise good heart, to accepting the offer of eternal salvation that Christ bought and paid for with his life.

In any event, if you're an atheist, I wish you only the best for every day of the rest of your life because for you, this life is as close to heaven as you'll ever get, but for believers in Christ, this life is as close to hell as we'll ever get.

If you're not a believer and follower of Jesus Christ because you are of another faith, please take the time to very carefully compare your faith to Christianity and ask yourself, why is the bible the only religious book with both hundreds of proven prophecies already fulfilled as well as those being fulfilled today? No other religion can claim anything remotely close to this fact. Many Christians who are serious students of bible prophecy are already aware of the role and significance of bible prophecy in foretelling end time events. God gave us prophecy as evidence of his divine holiness to know the begining from the end (Isa 46:10). God also believed prophecy to be so important that to those willing to read the most prophetic book in the bible, the Book of Revelation, he promised a special blessing (see Rev 1:3), and this is the only book in the bible that God gives its reader a special blessing for reading. Something to think about.

Don't risk losing Christ's offer of eternal life by not accepting him as your savior and by thinking that the bible is nothing more than a compilation of unrelated and scattered stories about people who lived 2,000 plus years ago. If you take the time to study (not just read) the bible, you will literally be shocked to learn things you would have never imagined would be revealed in it. Did you know that like parables, God also uses particular months and days in the Jewish calendar, Jewish Feasts and customs, solar and lunar phases, celestial alignments, gematria (Hebrew numerology) early bible events and more as patterns and models to foretell future events?

Consider the following interesting facts about the bible that testify to its God-inspired authorship:

Did you know that in Gen 12:2, God said he would bless Israel?. How else can you explain the grossly disproportionate level of success achieved by Jewish people as a tiny minority in the world, especially after all they have gone through? And how can you explain the success achieved by the tiny nation of Israel, surrounded by enemies outnumbering them 100 to 1 and yet still they remain victorious in all their wars?

Did you know that as evidence to indicate that Israel is the epicenter of the world from God's point of view is the fact that languages to the west of Israel are written and read from left to right as if pointing to Israel, and languages from countries to the east of Israel are written and read from right to left, again as though pointing to Israel. Just a coincidence, you say? I think not.

Did you know that the six days of creation and seventh day of rest in Genesis is a model for the six thousand years of this age (ending very soon), that is to be followed by a 1,000 year millennial reign by Christ (see 2 Peter 3:8)? Adam was born sometime prior to 4000 B.C., therefore our 6000 years are almost up.

Did you kow that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is hidden in the meaning of the Hebrew names listed in the genealogy of the book of Genesis (Research it online)? To deny this was God-inspired, one has to instead believe that a group of Jewish rabbis conspired to hide the Christian Gospel right inside a genealogy of their venerated Torah, which is not a very plausible explanation.

Did you know that solar eclipses, which the bible describes as the sun being black as sackcloth, and lunar eclipses, which the bible refers to as blood red moons, have prophetic meaning? Research it online. God showed Adam (and us) his plan for man's redemption through the use of celestial alignments. (research Mazzaroth online)

Did you know that much of the symbolism in the book of revelation refers to planetary alignments that will occur when certain events occur as prophesied? These planetary alignments also explained the birth of Christ, just search out The Bethlehem Star movie on the Internet.

Did you know that the references in Eze 39:4-17 and Rev 19:17-21 in the battle of Gog/Magog and Armageddon respectively, in which birds of prey will eat the flesh of the dead in battle from two enormous wars is based on fact? The largest bird migration in the world consisting of bilions of birds (34 species of raptors and various carrion birds) from several continents converge and fly over Israel every spring and fall. Coincidence? I think not.

Did you know that Hebrew numerology, also known as Gematria, and the numbers with biblical and prophetic significance are hidden in the Star of David? Google the video called "Seal of Jesus Christ"

Did you know that the seven Churches mentioned at the beginning of the Book of Revelation describe the seven stages the Church will go through?

There are literally hundreds of hidden messages in the bible like these that testify to the fact that the bible was God inspired, and statistically speaking, are all exponentially beyond the likelihood of any coincidence. You can find them yourselves if you only take the time to look into it. Remember Proverbs 25:2 "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings".

And finally, if you are Catholic, or one who subscribes to the emergent Church or seeker-friendly Church movement, please compare the doctrine taught, advocated or accepted by your Church, with the actual bible, notwithstanding some new-age version of the bible. And remember that although the bible is often referred to as the living bible, the word "living" was never intended to imply in any way that the bible "evolves" over time to meet, or be consistent with, the standards of man. It's just the opposite.

Well, am I getting through to you? If not, the answer might be explained in the response given by Jesus Christ in his Olivet discourse when he was asked by his disciples why he spoke the way he did (in parables, etc.) in the book of Matthew 13:10-16. What Jesus said could have easily been paraphrased more clearly as "so that the damned won't get it". Why did Christ respond the way he did when asked why he spoke this way? Is there something about pride (the bible says there is) that closes one's heart to seeing or hearing the messages supernaturally hidden in bible parables, models, typologies, and similes, etc.? That should give you something to think about, but don't take too long. Time is now very short.

If it sometimes seems like there are powers at work behind the powers we know in this world, or sinful/evil influences in your life, remember what it says in Ephesians 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." If you study the bible, it will become clearer.

Did you know that God said to those unwilling to love the words of his truth and be saved, he would send them a strong delusion so that they would believe a lie. See 2 Thesalonians 2:10-11. Have you considered what this strong delusion might be? (i.e., evolution, climate change, or ?)

Have you considered the following. With so many self-professed Christians in the world, how is it possible that the bible can state that so few would find the path to eternal life (See Mat 7:14)? The answer: many Christians who practice Christianity practice an apostate version of it, and will ultimately not be county worthy (Luke 21:36) to escape God's wrath.

And by the way, if you are a scoffer, this too was prophesied to occur in the last days. See 2 Peter 3:3.

Thank you and God Bless you! (at)