Re: Matthew 24:30

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Feb 19 1996 - 09:15:11 EST

On 2/17/96, Russ Reeves wrote:

> > At any rate, the position you advocate here was being argued at that time,
> > with the additional assertion that ALL the gospel references to an event to
> > occur within the lifetime of listeners were referring to events of the year
> > 70. The reason why I don't think this is an adequate interpretation of the
> > INTENT of the original passage is found at the end of the verse in question
> > Mt 24:30 and in the verse that follows it. When the sign appears (beginning
> > of vs. 30) ALL THE NATIONS ON EARTH will beat their breasts--and they will
> > see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven WITH POWER AND MUCH
> > GLORY. Then in vs. 31 there is the gathering of the "elect" from all the
> > earth. Surely this sequence has to refer as a whole to the eschatological
> > consummation, not merely to what happened in the year 70.
> I hate to re-hash what has probably been thoroughly hashed <g>, but
> I think the Dictionary of NT Theology (under the first entry for
> "earth" - 1:518), addresses this very well. "It is frequently
> difficult to decide whether a particular passage is speaking of a
> particular county, especially the land of Israel, or of the populated

I suppose that "county" is a typo for "country" and that the Dictionary is
not really limiting the "earth" to a single "county."

> earth as a whole. With our modern outlook on the world we are
> inclined to think globally and universally. However, the NT can use
> "the earth" in a very particularistic way, PASAI hAI PHYLAI TES GES
> (Matt. 24:30; Rev. 1:7) means in the setting of Zech. 12:10-14 "'all
> the tribes of the land.'" Since Matthew 24 is filled with OT
> allusions, and considering the similarity of the passages, I think
> Matt.24:30 should be interpreted in a manner consistent with Zech.
> 12:10-14. I wish I had a copy of the Septuagint to check how similar
> the two are. Also, Matt. 24:16 is a command to flee the land of
> Judea.

You are right--that Zech 12:10-14 in the LXII does clearly refer to the
tribes of Israel. But the text, which does indeed specify tribes of Israel
by name, reads very differently from the phrasing of Mt. 24:30, and in the
AKRWN OURANWN hEWS AKRWN AUTWN, although I suppose one could argue that
"the elect" are Jews alone in this passage, it certainly likes like a
cosmic phenomenon. (I'm curious, since I have not yet read Saldarini, how
he views the Matthaean version of the synoptic apocalypse in terms of a
Jewish Christianity that has not yet broken with Judaism).

The very fact that these texts are in Greek is perhaps not decisive, since
there are those who do believe that Matthew once existed in an Aramaic or
Hebrew form, and also it could be argued that only diaspora Jews are
referred to in these passages about gathering of the elect from the whole
earth. Moreover, in view of the by-no-means-uncommon NT reading of OT
prophecies in a manner bearing no relationship whatsoever to their original
context and probable purpose, I think one should be cautious about assuming
the verses are used in their original OT sense.

> I think Revelation 1:7 should be considered a parallel passage
> due to the similarity of language, though I have no idea if one
> borrowed from the other. But Rev. 1:7 states that "every eye will
> see Him, even they who pierced him," indicating that those who did
> the piercing will see him, expecting fulfillment in the near future.

Well, there has been discussion on this list about an earlier dating of
Revelation than the erstwhile assumption that it dates from the time of
Domitian, so perhaps it does look forward to the events of the sack of
Jerusalem; certainly it looks forward to a consummation "soon"--although
what that means has been subject to debate for centuries. But would you
hold that the events of the year 70 constitute a fulfilment of all that is
prophesied in the book of Revelation?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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