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Bible Commentaries

International Critical Commentary NT

Mark 13

Verses 1-99


13:1-37. As they are coming out of the temple, the disciples call Jesus’ attention to the greatness of the stones, and of the building itself. Jesus predicts its complete destruction. They ask him the sign of this, and Jesus shows them first, the danger that they will be deceived by false Messiahs, and by premature omens. They are not to be disturbed by these, but are to look out for themselves, exposed to great dangers, and burdened with the great responsibility of making known their message to all nations (v. 1-13). But when they see the desolating abomination, the Roman army, standing where it ought not, before the city itself, then they are to get out of the city, and not stand on the order of their going. That is to be a time of unparalleled distress, of false and specially plausible Messiahs, and is to be followed immediately by the coming of the Son of Man with the usual Divine portents (v. 14-27). As to the time of these events, it is to be within that generation, but no one, not even the Son of Man, knows the exact time. They need to be on the watch, therefore (v. 28-37).

There have been, up to recent times, two interpretations of this discourse. Both of them separate it into two principal parts: the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the prophecy of the consummation of all things with the advent of the Messiah in glory. But one of them, the traditional interpretation, postpones the latter part indefinitely, and is still looking for the world-catastrophe which its advocates suppose to be predicted here. The difficulties in the way of this interpretation are grave and insuperable. It ignores the coupling together of the two parts in the discourse, as belonging to one great event. Mt. v. 29, says that they will follow each other immediately. Mk., that they belong to the same general period. It passes over also, or attempts to explain away, the obvious notes of time. All of the accounts wait until they have come to the end of the prophecy, including both parts, before they introduce the statement of the time of all these events, and the statement itself is, that that generation was not to pass away till all these things came to pass. Further, it leaves unexplained the expectation of an immediate coming which colors all the other N.T. books, and all the life of the Church in the subsequent period. But especially, it runs counter to the historical interpretation of prophecy, which gives us the only key to its rational exegesis, by postponing to an indefinite future events which the prophecy itself regards as growing out of the present situation.

The other interpretation, the common one at present, interpreting the prophecy itself in the same way, places the time of its fulfilment in that generation. That is, they involve Jesus himself in the evident error of the other N.T. writings and of the Church in the subsequent period. The error of this interpretation, exegetically not so serious as the other, is that it takes literally language which can be shown to be figurative. But the other and more serious difficulty is, that it commits Jesus to a programme of the future which is directly counter to all his teachings in regard to the kingdom of God.

A third interpretation, the one adopted here, holds that the event predicted in the second part did take place in that generation, and in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem. The event itself, and the signs of it, it interprets according to the analogy of prophecy, figuratively. It finds numerous instances of such use in O.T. prophecy. God coming in the clouds of heaven with his angels, and preceded or announced by disturbances in the heavenly bodies, is the ordinary prophetic manner of describing any special Divine interference in the affairs of nations. See especially Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14, Daniel 7:27, where this language is used of the coming of the Son of Man, i.e. of the kingdom of the saints, to take the place of the world-kingdoms. The prophecy becomes thus a prediction of the setting up of the kingdom, and especially of its definite inauguration as a universal kingdom, with the removal of the chief obstacle to that in the destruction of Jerusalem.

1. Καὶ ἐκπορευομένου ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ—And as he was coming out of the temple. The previous scene was in the court of the temple. ἱερόν denotes the whole temple-enclosure. εἷς τῶν μαθητῶν—one of his disciples. We are not told who it was. Mt. says, his disciples; Lk., certain people.1 ποταποὶ λίθοι—what manner of stones.Liddell and Scott2 Josephus gives the dimensions of these stones as 25 cubits in length, 12 in breadth, and 8 in height. Ferguson, in Bib. Dic., gives the measurements of the temple proper, the ναός, as about 100 cubits by 60, with inner enclosure about 180 cubits by 240, and an outer enclosure 400 cubits square, the enclosures being adorned with porticoes and gates of great magnificence.

2. ΚαὶἸησοῦς εἷπεν αὐτῷ, Βλέπεις ταῦτας τὰς μεγάλας οἰκοδομάσ; οὐ μὴ

14. Ὅταν δὲ ἵδητε τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως ἐστηκότα ὅπου οὐ δεῖ—Jesus comes now to the real cause of alarm, the sign of the end. It is the βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως, the abomination of desolation, or the desolating abomination, standing where it ought not. This title is taken directly from the Sept. of Daniel 11:31, Daniel 12:11, where it refers probably to the idol altar placed on the altar of burnt offerings by Antiochus Epiphanes. But it seems probable here, that the word, as is frequently the case in N.T. quotations from the O.T., are to be taken not in their historical sense, but in a sense more applicable to the N.T. occasion, and easily contained within the words themselves. Lk. supplies us with this interpretation, when he makes Jerusalem surrounded by armies to be the sign of the end. Jerusalem would be the holy place (Matthew 24:15) where the abomination of desolation ought not to stand, and the abomination of desolation would be the abhorred and devastating armies of Rome. Wars and rumors of wars, as long as they keep away from the holy place, are not signs of the end, but when they attack the holy city, then beware. ὁ

15. ὁ (δὲ) ἐπὶ τοῦ δώματος μὴ καταβάτω, μηδὲ εἰσελθάτω1 ἆραί τι ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας αὐτοῦ—(And) let not him who is upon the house descend, nor go in to take anything out of the house. They are not to descend, but flee immediately by the external approach to the roof, instead of going down into the house for any purpose. The whole is an expression of the haste necessary to escape the impending event.

Omit δὲ (Treg. marg.) WH. BFH, one ms. Lat. Vet. Memph. Omit εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν, into the house, Tisch. WH. RV. א BL two mss. Lat. Vet. Egyptt. Pesh. εἰσελθάτω, instead of -θέτω, Tisch. Treg. WH. אADL Δ 13, 28, 346.

16. Καὶεἰς τὸν

24. ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις—in those days. These words denote the general period which he is describing, the fall of Jerusalem. This coming of the Son of Man belongs to that epoch. μετὰ τὴν θλίψιν ἐκείνην—after that calamity. The θλίψις referred to is that of v. 19; so that what follows is included in the period, but placed after the calamity. ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται—the sun will be darkened. This disturbance of the heavenly bodies, and the prediction of the coming of the Son of Man, have been supposed to be decisive of the view that this prophecy looks beyond the fall of Jerusalem to the end of the world. But this darkening and fall of the heavenly bodies is so common an accompaniment of O.T. prophecy, and its place is so definitely and certainly fixed there, as belonging to the Apocalyptic imagery of prophecy, and not to the prediction of events, that it presents no difficulty whatever, and does not even create a presumption in favor of the view that this is a prophecy of the final catastrophe. In Isaiah 13:10, it reads, “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. … I will make the heaven to tremble, and the earth shall be shaken out of her place.” But this is a part of the prophecy of the destruction of Babylon by the Medes. In Isaiah 34:4, it reads, “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all their host shall fade away as the leaf fadeth from off the vine, and as a fading leaf from the fig tree,” where the event predicted is the judgment of Edom. In Ezekiel 32:7, Ezekiel 32:8, similar language is used of the judgment of Egypt, and in Amos 8:9, of the northern kingdom. In Joel 2:30, Joel 2:31, Joel 2:3:15, where the subject is the judgment of the nations in connection with the return of Judah from captivity (see 3:1), it says: “I will show wonders in the heavens above, and in the earth blood and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come. … The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.” That is to say, this language is intended to portray the greatness of the doom of such nations as come under the judgment of God. When he comes in judgment, the earth and even the heavens dissolve before him. But it is needless to minimize these words into eclipses, or earthquakes, or meteoric showers, or to magnify them into actual destruction of sun and moon and stars. They are not events, but only imaginative portrayal of what it means for God to interfere in the history of nations. αἱ δυνάμεις αἱ ἐν τ. οὐρανοῖς. δύναμις is used frequently in Greek writers of armies, hosts, and hence it is used to translate the Heb. צְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם the host of heaven, a phrase used of the stars (2 K. 17:16, 23:4, Isaiah 34:4). See Thay.-Grm. Lex.

ἔσονται ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, instead of τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἔσονται, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א ABCU Π* mss. Lat. Vet. Egyptt. Pesh. πίπτοντες, instead of ἐκπίπτοντες, same editors, and א BCDL Π* mss. Lat. Vet.

26. καὶ τότε ὄψονται τὸν υἱὸν τ. Psalms 97:1-5, the reign of God on earth has the same accompaniment of clouds, darkness, and fire. In Isaiah 19:1, Yahweh is represented as coming on a swift cloud to Egypt. In Zechariah 9:14, when God stirs the sons of Zion against the sons of Greece, he, himself, is seen above the combatants, sending forth his arrows like lightning, blowing the trumpet, and coming in the whirlwinds of the south. And in Psalms 18:5-16, is the locus classicus, where all the powers of nature are made to contribute to the pomp of Yahweh’s coming to the rescue of his servant. But the passage from which this language is taken is Daniel 7:13, in which one like a Son of Man comes with the clouds of heaven, and the Ancient of Days gives him an everlasting and universal kingdom. The writer has seen a vision of four beasts, which are four kingdoms, and then he has a vision not of a beast, but of a Son of Man, to whom is given not a perishable kingdom like that of the beasts, but an everlasting kingdom. And when he explains this kingdom like the others, it appears to be the kingdom of the saints of the Most High. But the point is, that in this vision, the clouds are not to be taken literally; they make a part of the picture, intended to represent that this kingdom to be set up on the earth is after all not an earthly kingdom, but one coming down out of heaven, a theocracy. If any one had suggested to the writer, that it was to have a literal fulfilment, he would have said that that was not in his mind. Jesus then, in adopting this language, meant that this prophecy out of the O.T. was to be fulfilled in himself at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. Then the kingdom of God is to be set up in the world, that unworldly and everlasting kingdom of which the sign is not a beast, but one like a Son of Man coming in the clouds. But here, we face the question, what there was in this catastrophe of the Jewish nation which can be described as a coming of the Son of Man in the clouds with power and great glory. All the marks of time in the chapter point to that one time and confine us to that; and, as we have seen, the language, which seems to point to a world-catastrophe and the consummation of all things, does not take us beyond that, since it is used elsewhere of events, such as the destruction of Babylon and the judgment of Edom, which have the same general character as this destruction of Jerusalem. But what is there about this event that can be called a coming of the Son of Man with power and great glory? The answer to this is to be found in the fact that Christ is said in the N.T., to have assumed the seat of power at the right hand of God, and especially that the government of the world has been committed to him. The same language that has been used in the O.T., therefore, to represent a Divine intervention in the affairs of the world, especially in great national crises, is now applied to the Messianic King, who rules, not on an earthly but a heavenly throne. And neither in the one case nor the other is a visible coming implied. But Mt., in the account of the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrim, uses a word which is decisive of the way in which the coming of the Son of Man is to be taken. Jesus says, Matthew 26:64,

27. κ. τότε

Omit αὐτοῦ, his, after τοὺς Matthew 24:31.

28. τὴν παραβολὴν—the parable, the illustration or analogy to be drawn from the fig tree. ὅταν … ὁ κλάδος

οὐδὲυἱός—This denial of omniscience to the Son has caused all manner of theological tinkering. It means, say some, that he did not know it on his human side; or by a refinement, he did know it as man, but the knowledge was not derived from his human nature, but from the Divine; or he had no knowledge of it that he was authorized to impart, he was not supposed to know it; or the knowledge lay within his reach, but he did not choose to take it up into his consciousness; and some go so far even as to make the passage an Arian interpolation. But the statement need create no surprise in those who accept the statement of our Lord’s humanity, especially when it is accompanied by statements of this particular limitation of his humanity; cf. Luke 2:52, Mark 11:12, Mark 11:13. εἰ μὴπατήρ—literally, except the Father. This belongs with οὐδεὶς οἶδεν, and should follow it immediately—no one knows, except the Father. The intervening clauses make an adversative statement more normal. This limitation corresponds to what we know of the nature of inspiration. It increases human knowledge, but does not alter the nature of it. It conveys a knowledge of the future as contained in the present, and so an approximate knowledge of the time, e.g. that the fall of the Jewish nation would come in that generation. But it would not enable a man to predict the exact time, the day, or the hour.

ἢ, instead of καὶ, before τῆς ὥρας, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. ABCEGHK Lam_2 UVWb X ΓΔΠ mss. Lat. Vet. Vulg. Harcl. Omit οἱ before ἐν οὐρανῷ, Tisch. Treg. WH. RV. א DK* LUW 11, 28, 115, 262, 299, mss. Lat. Vet. Vulg. Memph. Pesh.

33. Βλέπετε,

1 Matthew 24:1, Luke 21:5.

2 ποταποί is a later form for the Greek ποδαποί. On the etymology of the word, see Liddell and Scott, Thay.-Grm. Lex. Properly, the word denotes origin—from what country?—but from Demos. on, it has also the meaning, of what sort? Here, it is exclamatory, calling attention to the greatness of the temple buildings.

Bib. Dic. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible (1st or 2d edition).

Tisch. Tischendorf.

Treg. Tregelles.

WH. Westcott and Hort.

RV. Revised Version.

אԠCodex Sinaiticus.

B Codex Vaticanus.

L Codex Regius.

33 Codex Regius.

Lat. Vet. Vetus Latina.

Egyptt. Egyptian Versions.

Pesh. Peshito.

D Codex Ephraemi.

M Codex Campianus.

U Codex Nanianus.

Δ̠Codex Sangallensis

G Codex Wolfi A.

Γ̠Codex Tischendorfianus

Π̠Codex Petropolitianus

1 .Codex Basiliensis

13 Codex Regius.

28 Codex Regius.

69 Codex Leicestrensis.

3 On this use of εἰς with a verb of rest, see Thay.-Grm. Lex.

4 See 3:16-18.

Harcl. Harclean.

marg. Revided Version marg.

346 Codex Ambrosianus.

5 The imper. εἰπόν is from sec. aor. εἶπα.

6 The plural is used because this event is complex, including in itself a multiplied series of events.

1 On this unclassical use of βλέπειν, see Thay.-Grm. Lex.

2 A late meaning of the word, which means properly, do not make an outcry.

3 Notice the asyndetic character of the entire discourse, so peculiar to Mk.’s abrupt style.

1 On this distributive use of κατὰ, see Win. 49 d, b).

Memph. Memphitic.

Vulg. Vulgate.

K Codex Cyprius.

S Codex Vaticanus.

2 So Erasmus, Tyndale, Meyer, Treg. Morison. The more common interpretation makes εἰς συναγωγὰς a pregnant construction after δαρήσεσθε—you will be (taken) into synagogues (and) beaten. Meyer points out that to leave δαρήσεσθε standing disconnected agrees admirably with the general asyndetic character of the discourse.

1 See Schürer II. 1, § 23, 11.; II, 2, § 27.

A Codex Alexandrinus.

H Codex Wolfi B.

2 This verb is found only here in the N.T., and elsewhere only in ecclesiastical writings.

209 An unnamed, valuable manuscript.

1 On this form, see Win. 13, 1.

F Codex Borelli.

2 On this redundancy, see Win. 22, 4b.

C Codex Bezae.

3 ἐκολόβωσεν is used in the Greek only of physical mutilation. In the N.T., it is used only here and in the parallel passage in Mt., of cutting short time. A striking instance of the interdependence of the Synoptics.

1 Win. 42, 2 b; Mey. on Matthew 24:22.

2 On this redundancy, and the similar fulness of expression in κτίσεως ἣν ἔκτισεν, creation which he created, v. 19, see Meyer’s Note.

E Codex Basiliensis.

V Codex Mosquensis.

3 Words compounded with ψευδο- are common in later Greek, but not in the classical period. ψευδόμαντις is the Greek word for false prophet.

4 τέρατα occurs only here and in the parallel passage in Mt., in the Synoptics. Its most frequent use is in the Acts.

5 1 Timothy 6:10.

6 Win. 49 h.

Thay.-Grm. Thayer’s Grimm.

1 Luke 21:36, are the only places where the word occurs in the Gospels, so that this is another instance of the quite certain interdependence of the Synoptical Gospels.

1 This word belongs to later Greek.

2 See Thay.-Grm. Lex.

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Bibliographical Information
Driver, S.A., Plummer, A.A., Briggs, C.A. "Commentary on Mark 13". International Critical Commentary NT. 1896-1924.