From: Bruce Terry (
Date: Sun Sep 03 1995 - 19:18:38 EDT

On Sun, 3 Sep 1995, Carl W. Conrad wrote (in part):

>So my questions are: (1) Is there a bibliography on this subject already
>that one turn to for useful discussion of the matter? and/or (2) what do
>list-members think about these dominical sayings and the question of Jesus'
>own attitude toward SHMEIA (a) as valid indicators of the COMING, and (b)
>as validations of his mission?
>I realize that my formulation of the second question betrays some
>skepticism about whether Jesus actually offered these SHMEIA as indicators
>of the end-time, but I don't really want to prejudice that question. It
>does seem to me than Jan is right in asserting that some of this is
>literary in inspiration and derives from older Biblical traditions. My
>question, then, is is it really MORE than literary in terms of Jesus'
>actual predictions of signs indicating the PAROUSIA?
>Now of course it may be felt that this inquiry is more historical than
>textual and therefore has no place in discussions on b-greek. I'd be
>grateful, however, even for discussion of the way in which SHMEION is being
>used in these sayings.

I am going to restrict my comments to signs in the synoptic apocalypse. The
sign question is the second question, and as I have previously noted, it is
different in all three gospels. In Matthew 24:3 it relates to the PAROUSIA;
in Luke 21:7 to the throwing down of the stones of the temple; and in Mark
13:4, IMHO, to some sort of combination. But these questions are not those of
Jesus; they are first of all the disciples' and secondly the gospel writers'

Jesus' answer begins with a warning. He lists events which are called signs
only in Luke 21:11. These are NOT signs of the end (Mt. 24:6; Mk. 13:7; Lk.
21:9). On the other hand, neither are they non-signs.

In Matthew 24:24 and Mark 13:22 the term is used in the plural again to refer
to miracles (or pseudo-miracles) performed by false Christs and false

Luke uses the term (again in the plural) in 21:25 to summarize the prophetic
language of the sun being darkened, moon turning to blood, and stars falling
from heaven, which Jan has rightly noted are OT figures of speech for
political turmoil.

Now to the good one. The only writer to explicitly give an answer to the
question about the sign (singular) is Matthew, in 24:30:


"and then will appear the sign of the son of man in heaven"

Much has been written speculating about what the sign will be: a cross
perhaps, or some other symbol in the sky? May I humbly suggest that this is a
genitive of apposition and the sign is the son of man in heaven. This is so
obvious to us as to be trivial, but to the disciples at that time it was not
trivial. The men in white in Acts 1:10-11 had not yet appeared to the
disciples to tell them that Jesus would decend in the same way as He ascended.
Paul had not yet written I Thess. 4:16.

Now if I am right in saying that the sign in this passage that the PAROUSIA is
about to happen is the appearance of the son of man in the sky, someone will
say that this is no sign at all, because by that time the event will be right
upon those still alive at that time. May I suggest that this is right in line
with Jesus' saying about His coming being like a thief in the night. There is
an element of real surprise here.
Bruce Terry E-MAIL:
Box 8426, ACU Station Phone: 915/674-3759
Abilene, Texas 79699 Fax: 915/674-3769

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