In the Temple

The ‘Olivet Discourse’ in the thirteenth chapter of Mark is the last recorded block of teachings by Jesus given shortly before his death on the Mount of Olives. It followed a series of confrontations in the Temple between him and the Pharisees and the priestly authorities, disputes that set the stage for his trial and execution. Thus, his “trial” effectively began in the Temple, and inevitably, it concluded with his unjust death on a Roman cross.

Because of the treachery of the Temple authorities and the failure of the nation to produce the required “fruit,” Jesus declared that the “Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit,” a judicial pronouncement anticipating the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem - (Matthew 21:43-44).

Building ruins - Photo by Robert Levonyan on Unsplash
[Photo by Robert Levonyan on Unsplash]

Since the first hour when he entered the city, the Messiah of Israel experienced ever-growing conflicts with and opposition from the leaders of Second Temple Judaism, the “
Scribes,” the “Pharisees,” the “Sadducees,” and the “High Priests.”

THE WIDOW’S MITE


His last act in the Temple occurred while he was “seated over against” the Treasury. The clause translates the Greek preposition katenanti, a rare term in the Greek New Testament that occurs once more in the very next paragraph, not coincidentally when Jesus was “sitting OVER AGAINST the Temple on the Mount of Olives.

  • (Mark 12:41-44) – “And taking his seat OVER AGAINST the treasury, he was observing how the multitude was casting in copper into the treasury, and rich men were casting in much. And there came one destitute, a widow, and she cast in two mites, which are a farthing. And calling near his disciples, he said to them: Verily, I say to you, this destitute widow more than they all have cast in, of those casting into the treasury; for they all, out of their surplus, cast in, but she, out of her deficiency, all, as much as she had, cast in, the whole of her living.

The poor widow provides a contrast with the preceding paragraph where Jesus chastised the “Scribes” who, for a pretense, “devoured widows’ houses.”

From his position sitting “over against” the Treasury, he warned that the “Scribes” would receive a “more surpassing judgment,” just as later while sitting “over against” the Temple, he pronounced its destruction.

There were thirteen trumpet-shaped receptacles in the Treasury where visitors to the Temple could deposit offerings. Jesus observed an impoverished woman donating two small copper coins or lepta, each worth about sixty-fourth of a denarius. A single denarius was equal to the daily wages of a common laborer. Essentially, her gift was worthless, infinitesimally small.

She made a freewill offering that she was not obligated to give under any regulation of the Torah. She could have deposited just one of her two coins and she still would have given “more” than any rich man, for “they all gave out of their surplus, but she gave out of her deficiency, as much as she had, the whole of her living.”

THE TEMPLE JUDGED


Next, Jesus left the Temple FOR THE FINAL TIME. His departure symbolized his final break with the religious authorities of Israel. The entire complex was enormous, covering approximately one-sixth of the city.

  • (Mark 13:1-4) - “And as he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Teacher, see what manner of stones and what manner of buildings!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Are you beholding these great buildings? In nowise shall there be left here, stone upon stone, which shall in any wise not be thrown down.’ And as he was sitting on the Mount of Olives OVER AGAINST the Temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning him privately, ‘Tell us, when these things shall be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be concluded?’”

In account in the Gospel of Mark, the disciples were admiring the great and beautiful stones used to build the complex. Ironically, Jesus had just praised the widow who gave out of her deficiency, yet the disciples were judging according to the ways of man.

Jesus responded by asking them, “Do you behold these great buildings? In nowise will there be left here, stone upon stone.” In the Greek text, he uses the demonstrative pronoun houtos or “these,” and it is emphatic in the sentence.

He used the very words of his disciples in his pronouncement, namely, “buildings” and “stone.” The only antecedent in the paragraph for the pronoun “these” is the Temple complex, therefore, the only Temple to which his words can apply is the one that was standing at that time, the Temple built by Herod. Grammatically, his words cannot refer to any other structure.

His posture of “sitting” as he made this pronouncement points to his Messianic authority. The prediction of the Temple's utter destruction prompted the disciples to ask him, “When these things shall be, and what [will be] the sign when ALL THESE THINGS are going to be concluded?”

Once again, the English term “these things” translates the Greek pronoun houtos, and once more, it can only refer to the predicted destruction of THAT Temple. Thus, at least in part, the Discourse that followed concerned events that would precede the demise of the Temple and Jerusalem, and this occurred in A.D. 70 when a Roman army devastated the city and decimated its population.

The disciples then asked him two questions. First, WHEN (pote) will the destruction of the Temple occur? Second, what will be the “SIGN” (sémeion) when all these things will be “completed.”

The English term “completed” translates the Greek verb suntelō, meaning, “to complete, to bring to an end, to conclude, consummate.” This suggests the destruction of the Temple foreshadowed something beyond that one event, namely, the “coming of the Son of Man on the clouds.”

Any attempt to make the words of Jesus into a prediction about another Temple yet to be built, presumably, in a more distant future, violates the literary context of the story and the grammatical structure of the Greek sentence.


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