BG: Synoptic Apocalypse

From: Bruce Terry (
Date: Sat Aug 26 1995 - 13:05:29 EDT

Carlton and Carl have been discussing a rather interesting question about the
differences between the gospel writers in the Synoptic Apocalypse. I, at
least, am interested, so I will jump in and give my two cents worth.

For those unfamilar with the questions, I lay them out below in two columns.

Question #1 Question #2

Matt. 24:3
when will these things be and what [will be] the sign
                                       THS SHS PAROUSIAS
                                       of your advent
                                       KAI SUNTELEIAS TOU AIWNOS;
                                       and of the full end of the age?

Mark 13:4
when will these things be and what [will be] the sign
                                       hOTAN MELLHi TAUTA SUNTELEISQAI PANTA;
                                       whenever all these things are going
                                       to be fully ended?
Luke 21:7
when, therefore, will these things be and what [will be] the sign
                                       hOTAN MELLHi TAUTA GINESQAI;
                                       whenever these things will happen?

As all can see, the first question about time is the same in all three
accounts. The TAUTA seems in context to refer to the previous statement of
Jesus that the stones of the temple would all be thrown down. It is the
second question about the sign which is different in each of the three gospels.

Matthew's second question seems clearly to refer to the second coming, both by
his use of PAROUSIAS, which is often a technical term for the second coming of
Jesus, and the phrase SUNTELEIAS TOU AIWNOS, used elsewhere in Matthew for the
end of the world. Interestingly, just as the disciples' questions are clearly
blocked out in Matthew, so he also presents Jesus's answer in blocks
alternating between the destruction of the temple and the second coming.

Luke's second question seems clearly to continue the reference to the throwing
down of the stones of the temple by his use of TAUTA. Also interestingly,
Luke moves most (not all) of the second coming material blocked off by Matthew
to a place by itself in Luke 17, with the result that most of Luke 21 is about
the desolation of Jerusalem, not about the second coming.

Mark's second question is the most interesting, and I take its confusing form
to mean that it is most like the original question of the disciples. He uses
the word TAUTA to tie it in with the discussion of the destruction of the
temple, and he also uses the apocalytic verb SUNTELEISQAI "to be fully ended,"
which is used in the Greek Daniel in 11:36 and 12:7 (the cognate noun used by
Matthew is found in Dan. 9:27; 11:36; 12:4, 13). I take this confusion of
vocabulary and topics to mean that the disciples were confused; they
apparently thought that the temple was only going to be destroyed at the end
of the world, a situation that has proven not to be the case. Jesus's
discourse can be read coherently as a warning not to make this mistake: the
two events are different and distinct, although the fulfillment of the first
points to the ultimate fulfillment of the second.

Bruce Terry E-MAIL:
Box 8426, ACU Station Phone: 915/674-3759
Abilene, Texas 79699 Fax: 915/674-3769

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