Temple Setting of the Discourse

SYNOPSIS – Jesus gave his ‘Olivet Discourse’ after his final departure from the Temple – Mark 12:41-13:4

Jerusalem - Photo by Sander Crombach on Unsplash
The ‘Olivet Discourse’ is found in Mark chapter 13, Matthew chapters 24-25, and Luke chapter 21. It constitutes the last recorded block of teachings of Jesus. The ‘Discourse’ followed a series of confrontations between Jesus and the Jewish religious authorities and his final departure from the Temple. These events culminated in his trial and execution.

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 the fruit thereof.” This pointed to the imminent judgment on the Temple and Israel - (Matthew 21:43-44).

From the first hour after entering Jerusalem, Jesus experienced ever-increasing conflicts with second-temple Judaism. All this resulted in the repudiation of him by the leaders of Israel and his consequent pronouncement of the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.

Temple Treasury - Widow’s Mite
  • (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 unto you, this destitute widow more than they all hath 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.
His last act before leaving the Temple occurred while he was “seated over against” the Treasury. This translates the Greek preposition katenanti. This rare preposition occurs in the next paragraph where Jesus was “sitting over against the Temple on the Mount of Olives,” a verbal link between these two sections - (Mark 13:3).

Likewise, the story of the poor widow is set in contrast to the preceding paragraph in which 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 will pronounce the destruction of the Temple.

This story took place where thirteen trumpet-shaped receptacles were employed to receive Temple offerings - Located near the court of women. Jesus observed the poor widow donating two copper coins or lepta, small coins each worth about one sixty-fourth of a denarius. At the time, a single denarius was equal to the daily wages of a typical day laborer. For all intents and purposes, her gift was worthless, infinitesimally small.

The widow gave a freewill offering, one she was not obligated to contribute. She could have given half or just one of her two small coins and still she would have given “more” than the rich - For “they all out of their surplus gave, but she out of her deficiency, all as much as she had, the whole of her living.”

The Temple Judged
  • (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?’”
Jesus left the Temple or hieros for the last time. His act symbolized the final break with the Temple. The Greek noun hieros refers to the entire Temple complex, which covered approximately one-sixth of the city, not just to the inner sanctuary or naos - (The disciples referred to “buildings” - plural).

The disciples were admiring the great stones of the complex, some reportedly measuring twenty-five by eight by twelve cubits and bright white in color. The irony is that Jesus had just praised the widow who gave out of her deficiency - The disciples were judging according to the ways of man.

In verse 2, he responded to the awe of the disciples - “Do you behold these great buildings? In nowise will there be left here a stone upon stone.” ‘Mark’ has Jesus using the Greek demonstrative pronoun houtos or “these,” which is emphatic in the clause.

Jesus used the words of his disciples in his judgment pronouncement - “Buildings” and “stone.” The only antecedent in the paragraph for “these” is the Temple complex – In this context, the only one to which his words can refer is the complex that was standing in his day. Grammatically, it cannot refer to another or future Temple.

The summit of the Mount of Olives was higher than the walls of the city and would have afforded an excellent view of the Temple complex, including the inner sanctuary. His posture of “sitting” as Jesus made his pronouncement points to his authority.
The prediction of the demise of the Temple prompted four of the disciples to ask - “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 demonstrative pronoun houtos. As before, it can only refer to the predicted destruction of the Temple built by Herod. Thus, at least in part, what followed in his response to the disciples was about events that would precede the destruction of the Temple, which occurred in A.D. 70.

The disciples asked two questions. First, when (pote) would the destruction of the Temple occur? Second, what would be the “sign” (sémeion) that all these things would be “completed.” The latter term translates the Greek suntelō, meaning “to complete, to bring to an end, to conclude, consummate.” This suggests the destruction of the Temple was a paradigm or portend for something additional.

Regardless, in this context, his pronouncement cannot refer to any temple other than the one standing in his day. Any attempt to make this a judicial pronouncement on a yet future Temple violates the literary context and the grammar of the Greek sentence.




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