When the Israeli soldiers captured the Old City of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, many Christians regarded this event as the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in the New Testament: “Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,” (Luke 21:24). There is no need to wonder at this reaction within certain Christian circles, since there has always been a stream within Christianity which looks forward to a return to Zion at the end of days. Their hope is based both on the words of the Hebrew Scriptures and upon certain passages in the New Testament that reflect the hope for Israel’s national redemption. In the modern era there have been Christian movements to allow the Jews to return to their land even before the renewal of the Jewish resettlement of the Land of Israel. We have also seen that Jewish revival movements, whether secular or religious, have established their historical right to the Land of Israel by relying on the Scriptures and on Jewish beliefs and ideas that emerged after the Scriptures were written, and many of these movements consider the State of Israel to be “the beginning of the sprouting of redemption.”
Thus today we are met with parallel mentalities among Jews and Christians toward the return to Zion, mentalities that are nourished by the same roots. There is, of course, a key difference between the hopes of the Jews and the parallel hopes of the Christians: the Christians believe that the Messiah who will be revealed at the end of days will be none other than Jesus who has returned. Aside from this, the overwhelming majority of Christians who support Israel, even those who do not believe in the return to Zion at the end of days, believe that all Israel will accept faith in Jesus in the end. This belief in the Christian conversion of the majority of Israel is fed especially by Paul’s words that, in the end, “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). We shall return to this statement again in the course of our discussion. Most of the Christians who believe in the return to Zion suppose that this will come prior to the second coming of Jesus and the conversion of the gathered exiles to Christianity, and therefore they regard the return to Zion, the founding of the State of Israel, and the liberation of Jerusalem as important signs of the approach of the end of days.
Every scholar who studies the problem of ancient religion will do well to pay attention to the living expressions of faith in his own day which draw on the same ancient testimonies that the scholar himself is deciphering, for of course the ideas of the faithful in a later period necessarily come from the same sources, and these living expressions may open the scholar’s eyes to the original meaning of the writings themselves. Hence the need for a renewed investigation of Jesus’ words concerning the liberation of Jerusalem from the yoke of the Gentiles in the end of days, and the influence his saying has had on other portions of the New Testament. Such study is likely to deepen our understanding of Christianity’s tangled relationship with, and its ambivalence toward, its Jewish heritage, Judaism and the people of Israel, that have existed since its inception.
Lindsey’s Hypothesis and Jesus’ Prophecy
The prophecy we are discussing is found in the Gospel of Luke (21:20-28), and it is a part of Jesus’ oracle that is included in the first three Gospels (Matt. 24:1-36; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36). Scholars refer to this oracle as the “Synoptic Apocalypse”—“apocalypse” because it contains a vision of the end and of the redemption in the regular pattern of apocalyptic literature, and “synoptic” because it is found in the first three Gospels. It appears that this oracle, whether it is based in whole or in part on authentic sayings of Jesus, was not delivered by Jesus in its written form; but as far as our research is concerned the question of the oracle’s authenticity is only of secondary importance.
Most of the scholars who have studied the “Synoptic Apocalypse” espouse the commonly held assumption that even in this passage Matthew and Luke are dependent upon the Gospel of Mark. On account of this assumption these scholars are prevented from approaching this important passage correctly. Recently, Lindsey has investigated the problem of the Synoptic Gospels anew and has arrived at important and fruitful conclusions which are likely to be confirmed by the results of the examination of our topic. It is true that the first three Gospels are based on an earlier source (that included, among other things, Jesus’ apocalyptic oracle), but, according to Lindsey’s theory, only Luke faithfully preserved the source’s original form. Lindsey believes that Mark mainly depends on the Gospel of Luke, even though he also relies on the earlier source, but Mark has thoroughly adapted his sources. Matthew, in turn, depends mainly on Mark, but even he consulted the earlier source from time to time.
Here is one example of the interrelationship between the Gospels: In his words concerning the future persecution of his followers Jesus says, “They will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons and you will come before kings and governors for my sake as a testimony to them [i.e., to the Jewish persecutors] and to the Gentiles.” This is the original conclusion of the saying which was preserved in Matthew (10:18). Luke (21:13) did not pay attention to his source, for, according to the original wording, Jesus’ disciples will be persecuted both at the hands of the Jews and at the hands of the Gentile governors and their kings, and therefore the persecution itself will be a testimony to the Jews and the Gentiles together. Because of his lack of attention to the original meaning Luke wrote that the event “will be a time for you to bear testimony.”
Mark, too, saw the original conclusion of the saying, but the moment he read the words “as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles” his attitude toward the Synagogue influenced him, and he was reminded of Paul’s attitude in the Epistle to the Romans (chs. 9-11) that first it is necessary to proclaim the Christian gospel to the Gentiles, and only then will all Israel be saved. Therefore, Mark expresses the view: “they will deliver you up…to bear testimony before them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mark 13:9-10).
It seems that it was not only the mention of the Gentiles in Mark’s source that inspired his addition concerning the spread of Christianity among the Gentiles. We may also suppose that the word “testimony” strengthened the association with the Church in his mind: according to Acts (1:6-8), Jesus commanded his disciples at the time of his resurrection to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, in other words, to spread Christianity throughout the entire world. Despite the changes that Mark made to his source, it is possible to determine with strong probability that the earlier source read, “as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles,” as in Matthew’s version. But Matthew did not use the earlier source exclusively, he also relied on Mark. Although he did preserve the wording of the source, Matthew was nevertheless reluctant to let go of the beautiful idea in Mark 13:10, and therefore he adds it later on, in ch. 24, at the end of the paragraph on persecution in a somewhat expanded form: “And this gospel of the Kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the earth as a testimony to the Gentiles and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).
The development of Mark’s words concerning the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles is discussed here at length with the purpose of taking a stand on the problem of the Synoptic Apocalypse in general and on the complex relationship between the Gospels concerning Jesus’ apocalyptic oracle in particular. The second aim of our discussion is to indicate the motive for the turning to the Gentiles, and for that reason, too, we have lengthened our discussion.
Regarding the apocalyptic oracle found in Luke 21, it appears that it is composed of individual units which are concerned with different subjects. After the opening words (vv. 5-6) Jesus begins his oracle and he warns his listeners against those who will prophesy the end before its coming (vv. 7-9). After that, he speaks about the signs that will herald the end of days (vv. 10-11), but before these things the disciples will be persecuted (vv. 12-19). Next he speaks about the destruction of Jerusalem and the troubles that will take place at that time (vv. 20-24), and he again returns to the topic of the end of days (vv. 25-28). The Parable of the Fig Tree (vv. 29-33) and the conclusion of the oracle (vv. 34-36) are beyond the scope of our topic, for it is our intention to discuss Jesus’ prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem.
Here are the versions of the prophecy according to Luke and Mark:
|Luke 21:20-28||Mark 13:14-27|
|(20) But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.||(14) But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand),|
|(21) Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it;||then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; (15) let him who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything away; (16) and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle.|
|(22) for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.|
|(23)Alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days!||(17) And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days!|
|(18) Pray that it may not happen in winter.|
|For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people;||(19) For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will be.|
|(24) they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.|
|(20) And if the Lord had not shortened the days, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.|
|(21) And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.|
|(22) False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.|
|(23)But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand.|
|(25) And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves,||(24) But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,|
|(26) men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.||(25) and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.|
|(27) And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.||(26) And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory.|
|(28) Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.||(27) And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.|
The line of thought in the prophecy in Luke’s version is clear: the camps of the army surround Jerusalem, and the city will be destroyed. In those days trouble will come upon the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem, and this will be in fulfillment of the words of Scripture. There will be “wrath upon this people,” many will fall and many will be exiled among all the nations, but Jerusalem will not be trampled by the Gentiles forever, for when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled Jerusalem will be set free from their yoke. This will happen at the end of days at the coming of the Son of Man, who is the Messiah. When the events of the end of days begin, “look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
It is possible that the detailed description of the end of days in Luke (21:25-27 and parallels, also the beginning of v. 28) is secondary and that in the original version of the prophecy there was only a brief allusion to the end of days. We find support for this hypothesis if we suppose that the prophecy reflects the authentic words of Jesus. If so, then the detailed description of the end of days seems out of place, since Jesus did not speak at length about the signs of the end of days because he thought that the end will come suddenly, like a thief in the night. But the prophecy itself, as we have stated, is intact—except, perhaps, for the eschatological description—and is comprehensible on its own terms.
Prophecies of Redemption
The pattern of destruction at the hands of enemies, of the troubles that accompany it, and of exile and redemption has been established in Israel since the admonition in the book of Leviticus. The prophecy in Luke is especially similar to the words of the elder Tobit in the book of Tobit (14:4-5) concerning the destruction of the First Temple and the return to Zion: Nineveh will be destroyed, even as Jonah the prophet predicted and as the prophets of Israel foretold, and it will all happen in its time; the Children of Israel will be exiled from the good land, Jerusalem will be desolate, and the Temple will be burned down and will be in ruins “for a time.” But God will have compassion on them, and restore them to the Land of Israel; and they will rebuild the Temple “until the times of the age are completed” (or, according to another version, “the time of their yoke”).
There is no doubt that we have the same pattern in Luke’s version of Jesus’ prophecy, except that the book of Tobit speaks of the destruction of the First Temple and the return to Zion, whereas Jesus prophesies the destruction of the Second Temple and the redemption to come in the future. Nevertheless, the two descriptions resemble one another at two points in contrast to the words of Scripture: they both emphasize that the events fulfill the words of the prophets (cf. Luke 21:22), and they both stress, in accordance with the usual outlook of apocalyptic literature, that these things will happen according to the times that God has determined.
The proximity between these two sources becomes especially clear when we recall that in the book of Tobit it says that the Temple will be rebuilt “until the times of the age are completed,” whereas Jesus says that “Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). The vocabulary in these sources is similar to the phrase “until the completion of the end/עד שלים הקץ” which is in the scroll of the Damascus Covenant (CD 4:8-9). Indeed, it is reasonable to conjecture that the Hebrew source behind Luke read, “until the times of the Gentiles are completed”/עד אשר ישלמו עתות הגויים, since in the covenant between the pieces the LORD said to Abraham, “And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete”/לֹא־שָׁלֵם עֲוֹן הָאֱמֹרִי (Gen. 15:16), and the LXX uses the same verb Luke employs. It is clear that the intention of Jesus’ words is that Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles, but will also be set free at the end of days when the time of Rome is completed.
There is an instructive parallel to Luke 21:24 elsewhere in the New Testament. In the Revelation of John the fragment of a Second Temple Jewish source is preserved (Rev. 11:1-13) that speaks about the capture of Jerusalem by the Gentiles. True, they do not capture the Temple itself, only the outer courts, but “they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months” (Rev. 11:2). Here, too, it says, as in Luke, that Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles, though only for a definite period. The rest of the details are different between the two New Testament prophecies and it is clear that they do not have a direct literary relationship. In any case, the prophecy preserved in the Revelation of John clearly antedates the destruction of the Temple, which is not surprising, since it is well known that at that time there were many people in Israel who anticipated the terrible events of the future with dread, and Jesus was among these, as the sources testify. Already at the time when he began his last journey to Jerusalem Jesus prophesied the destruction of the city, the murder of the prophets, and the destruction of the Temple (Luke 13:31-35; Matt. 23:37-39). There is, therefore, no reason to deny the possibility that the prophecy of destruction in Luke 21:20-24 was delivered by Jesus himself. And although this prophecy mentions the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of an enemy, and the massacre and the exile of its inhabitants to distant lands, one cannot deny that one might expect this from the Roman enemy, especially since the deeds of Pompey had not been erased from that generation’s memory. If so, dread of the threatening future and the yearning for Israel’s salvation from the yoke of the wicked empire had the potential to bring the prophetic-apocalyptic pattern to Jesus’ mind and to prompt him to prophesy the destruction and redemption.
If, however, someone should argue on the basis of the number of concrete details that are mentioned in the prophecy (such as the camps surrounding Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews “among all nations”) that the prophecy was not delivered by Jesus, but was rather placed in his mouth sometime after the destruction had taken place, we would point out that there is still no need to suppose that the entire prophecy was composed only after the destruction of the Temple. We shall see that there is reason to believe that the expectation that “Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” rests on the same foundation as the Epistle to the Romans, which Paul wrote long before the destruction. If so, then it is enough even for the advocates of extreme skepticism to believe that at least the kernel of the prophecy we are discussing came from Jesus himself.
One thing is certain: the entire prophecy of the destruction and redemption in Luke is infused with the Jewish spirit of those days, including its fears and its hopes. Jerusalem will not be desolate and trampled by Gentiles forever; the day will come when their time will be finished, and then, when the upheavals of the last day break out, “look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Jesus turns to his disciples, for of course they, like the rest of the Children of Israel, were afraid of those future “days of vengeance,” during which the Scriptures would be fulfilled (Luke 21:22) and of the “wrath upon this people” (Luke 21:23), but they were also sure that at the end the redemption of Israel would come, which would, of course, be their own redemption.
Solidarity with Israel
From the examination of the contents of the prophecy there is no reason to doubt that Jesus the Jew was able to speak in this way to his Jewish disciples. And if the prophecy was not delivered in whole or in part by Jesus himself, then clearly it was spoken in the contemporary style that was current among Jewish-Christian circles who possessed a fully Jewish identity. In any case, this prophecy could not have been composed by Luke, a Gentile Christian, since there is no doubt that this was not the product of the burning questions in his heart. It appears, moreover, from an examination of their different approaches to their relationship toward Jerusalem that the author of the prophecy, whomever he may have been, was among those who opposed the revolt against Rome. He did not share the belief or the hope that Jerusalem would survive the war. His fundamentally defeatist approach is seen in the words Matthew includes at the end of the prophecy: “Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath” (Matt. 24:20). His pessimism is also evident from the core of the prophecy concerning the destruction, exile and redemption, in which Jerusalem resists and falls.
As regards the course of our investigation, the fact that the prophecy of the destruction was already an integral part of Jesus’ eschatological oracle in the original source that was in Luke’s hands (and which was also known to Mark and to Matthew) is decisive. According to this common source the oracle was spoken in Jerusalem when the disciples said to Jesus that the Temple was magnificent with its beautiful stones, to which Jesus replied: “‘As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’ And they asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?'” (Luke 21:5-7 and parallels). In the first three Gospels Jesus answers this question with his eschatological oracle. Since Jesus was asked about the future destruction of the Temple it is certain that in his oracle he would have to give an answer to this question, but an explicit answer pertaining to the destruction appears only in the version of the oracle found in Luke: “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near… and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:20-24). Mark and Matthew, following Mark’s lead, do not speak about the destruction of Jerusalem at all. This fact itself demonstrates the secondary nature of Mark’s testimony in comparison with Luke’s version.
The Jewish nationalist tendency that appears in the prophecy of the destruction and redemption was, of course, problematic for later Christian commentators and scholars who either ignored it or who explained it away with various interpretations. It was especially difficult—except for specific Christian sects who were expecting the end times—to admit that the meaning of the words “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” was an allusion to the end of the Gentiles’ reign over the people of Israel. Already in early manuscripts of Luke it is sometimes possible to find “corrections” of the offending words: one important manuscript skips over “times of the Gentiles,” and a number of other manuscripts read “until they are fulfilled and the times of the Gentiles come.” This “correction” which turns the original meaning on its head was formed under the influence of Paul’s words in the Epistle to the Romans 11:25: “until the full number of the Gentiles come in” through their acceptance of the Christian faith. In this manner a number of manuscripts changed “the times of the Gentiles” in Luke into the age of the Christian Church made up of the nations of the world.
Mark’s Sectarian Redaction
We have already observed that Mark and, in his footsteps, Matthew pass over the destruction of Jerusalem in silence. But this change is only one aspect of Mark’s tendentious adaptation. All of the political and nationalist sentiments that we recognized in Luke are absent, and in their place Mark’s new version discusses the fate of the early Christian Church. By means of these changes, Jesus’ prophecy of destruction and redemption is transformed into a thoroughly apocalyptic text. In the entire section in Mark there is only one historical allusion, and even that is obscure: “when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Mark 13:14). The opinion of scholars is divided over which event Mark may have alluded to, but it seems to me that one thing rises above all doubt: the “desolating sacrilege,” which is taken from Daniel, appears in Mark because the original source speaks about the “desolation” of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20).
From the foregoing it clearly arises that Mark does not speak at all about the camps that surround Jerusalem, nor about the “days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written” (Luke 21:22). It is also clear that in Mark there is no allusion to the wrath, the massacre, or the exile that will come “on this people” (Luke 21:23-24), or to the prophecy that “Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” In its place Mark, in his own editorial style, adapts the words “great distress shall be upon the earth” (Luke 21:23) and writes “in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not shortened the days, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days” (Mark 13:19-20).
The idea and the language of these verses is taken from apocalyptic vocabulary. To this category of thought belongs the idea that God is likely to hasten the coming of salvation for the sake of the elect. This hope is based on an understanding of the prophet Isaiah who wrote: “I am the LORD; in its time I will hasten it” (Isa. 60:22). Already we find that Ben Sira prayed: “Hasten the day, and remember the appointed time, and let people recount thy mighty deeds” (Sir. 36:8). The Sages said, “It is written: In its time. But it is also written: I will hasten. If they are worthy, I will hasten, if they are not worthy, then in its time,” (b. Sanh. 98a). It is important to point out that in Mark, and Matthew following him, the idea of the hastening of the end is related to the words of Daniel: “And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time” (Dan. 12:1). An expression similar to the hastening of the end in the last days and to the verse in Daniel may be found, aside from Mark, also in the War Scroll from Qumran (1QM 1:11-12): “The sons of light and the lot of darkness shall battle together… It will be a time of suffering fo[r al]l the nation redeemed by God. Of all their sufferings, none will be like this, hastening till eternal redemption is fulfilled.”
The intention of Luke’s statement that “great distress shall be upon the earth” (Luke 21:23) is to describe the hardships that will come upon Israel in the days of the destruction, whereas Mark alludes to the distress of the end of days which God will cut short for the sake of his elect (Mark 13:19-20). It is no coincidence that there is so close a proximity between the words of the Dead Sea Scrolls and precisely these words from Mark, for we must of course remember that in the entire oracle Mark does not mention Israel’s tragedy or its redemption, but speaks instead about the “elect of God,” the name by which the members of the Dead Sea sect who separated from the people referred to themselves. Among all the Gospels the Christians are called “elect” in a technical sense exclusively in the chapter which is before us (as well as in Matthew’s parallel account), and it is clear that this terminology was influenced by the language spoken among the apocalyptic groups that existed in those days.
Three times Mark speaks about the Christian elect. The first we have discussed already. The second mention of the elect is in the continuation of his words in a passage unique to Mark: “False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand” (Mark 13:21-23). The third mention, however, is the most instructive. It appears in the place where Luke introduces the hope of the redemption: “Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). In the place of this obviously nationalistic expression Mark writes, “And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” (Mark 13:27).
Two things have, therefore, become clear: Jesus’ prophetic oracle was delivered to explain his earlier prophecy concerning the destruction of the Temple, and it follows that in the original form of the oracle it was necessary to include a prophecy of the destruction. This is the case in Luke. There the prophecy is expressed in a spirit of complete solidarity with the rest of Israel with respect to its fears and its hopes for a final redemption and the liberation of Jerusalem from the yoke of the Gentiles. Mark, in contrast, skips over all the historical events that are mentioned in Luke and over Israel’s hope for political redemption, and in its place his attention is directed solely toward the end of days and the fate of the Christian congregation, that is, the congregation of the elect.
From the Four Winds
As we have observed, Mark concludes the prophecy with these words: “And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” (Mark 13:26-27). This is how Mark transfers Israel’s hope for the gathering of the exiles at the end of days to the Christian congregation. This outlook is not unique to Mark, however. The same concept can already be discerned in the earliest of Paul’s epistles. In the First Epistle to the Thessalonians Paul says:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven… and the dead in Christ will rise first, and we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
In the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians Paul speaks “concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him” (2 Thess. 2:1).
In an early Christian writing called the Didache, a blessing for mealtimes dating to the first century has been preserved, in which the first Christians prayed, “Be mindful LORD (or “Lord”) of your church to preserve it from all evil and to perfect it in your love. And, once it is sanctified, gather it from the four winds, into the kingdom which you have prepared for it,” (Did. 10:5). In the prayer before the meal they said, “As this fragment lay scattered upon the mountains and became a single [fragment] when it had been gathered, may your church be gathered into your kingdom from the ends of the earth,” (Did. 9:4). It is understood that, in spite of its Jewish origin, the gathering of the Christian exiles reflected in each of the texts we have presented does not have the historical reality that is inherent in Israel’s hope for the gathering of the exiles. From Mark’s version of the prophecy and from what we find in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 4:16-17), it becomes evident that the Christian elect will be gathered in “the ends of heaven” and that they will be taken together “in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” and according to the prayers in the Didache the Christian congregation will be gathered to Jesus’ kingdom.
Nevertheless, in the second century C.E. there were Christians who linked their belief in the gathering of the Christian congregation at the end of days to the Jewish hope for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. According to the testimony of Justin Martyr, who was one of them, they believed that upon the rebuilding of Jerusalem the Christian congregation will be gathered therein and they will celebrate with Christ together with the patriarchs, the prophets and the saints from the house of Israel, and the proselytes who lived before Jesus. Justin espoused the opinion that at the end of days Christ will reign over the world for a thousand years. He was, accordingly, one of the Chiliasts who are known to us since the beginning of Christianity, a stream that is renewed from time to time in various and strange forms. It is worth pointing out that with Justin the idea of the gathering of the exiles is clothed in distinctly Christian garb: in the Christian congregation at the end of days only the righteous of Israel who lived before the coming of Jesus will be present.
It is clear that from the very beginning of Christianity, within Jewish circles who looked favorably on the spread of Christianity among the nations of the world, the idea of the gathering of the exiles served, in its Christianized form, as an ideological justification for turning to the Gentiles. At that time the Christians believed that the end of days was near and this was the moment when Jesus would return with great power and glory. If Jesus was to gather the elect in the future “from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven,” then the Christian gospel must, perforce, come to the elect in all the world in order that Jesus may gather them when he comes. Even though the writings of the New Testament do not express this idea all that clearly, this becomes very evident from the data that are in the sources.
Paul, who presents the idea of a miraculous eschatological gathering of all the faithful by Christ, also acted during the time of his journeys in order to spread the Christian faith among the Gentiles according to a plan whose main goal was to bring the Christian proclamation to the ends of the earth as quickly as possible. In his Epistle to the Romans, Paul writes that from Jerusalem and its surroundings and as far as Illyricum the gospel of the Messiah has spread out: in other words, the gospel spread out from Jerusalem into all the eastern world, and now that there is no more room among these regions it is his desire to come to Rome and from there to cross over to Spain (Rom. 15:19-24). Paul, as we know, did not succeed in carrying out his program, but the plan itself is entirely comprehensible. In chapters 9-11 of the same epistle Paul also espoused the notion that it is first necessary for the “full number of the Gentiles” to receive the Christian faith, and only after this will all Israel be saved. According to Paul this process will lead to the end of days—and Paul believed that the coming of Christ was very near. This fact indicates that the prophecy of the gathering of the Christian congregation form the ends of the world by the Messiah was one of the motives behind Paul’s wide-ranging activities among the Gentiles.
On the other hand, it is clear that Paul himself did not invent this motive, first, because of the manner in which he handed it on to his readers, and second, because it also appears in prayers included in a writing that does not belong to the Pauline tradition, the Didache. It is impossible to know who it was that transferred the concept of the gathering of the exiles to the Christian congregation, but it seems that this motive was formed at the moment when the new faith began to spread successfully among the nations of the world. At the time when the Jewish hope was transferred to the new congregation the notion took hold that from the beginning it was necessary to proclaim the gospel to all nations (Mark 13:10), and so arose the belief that when Jesus the Messiah comes in the clouds with great power and glory, “he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” (Mark 13:26-27). A belief from this source was not only likely to be embraced by the first Christian missionaries, but was also acceptable to members of the Christian congregation in Jerusalem who looked favorably upon the spread of faith in the Messiah among the Gentiles.
To the Ends of the Earth
In any case, we have in our hands an important witness that testifies that the Jewish-Christians linked the command to spread the Christian faith to the ends of the earth to their belief in the redemption of Jerusalem. Those followers of Jesus who believed that he was the Messiah undoubtedly thought that he would be their redeemer, and therefore they were greatly disappointed when Jesus was crucified. Their hope was renewed only by the belief that Jesus had indeed arisen to life. According to Luke their disappointment was voiced at the hour of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples in Emmaus when one of them said, “we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). But the intense hope of Jesus’ disciples for Israel’s redemption by Jesus was not weakened on account of their belief in his resurrection, since the redemption had clearly not come. Therefore we hear this penetrating question regarding Israel’s redemption in the mouths of Jesus’ disciples again in the continuation of Luke’s story (Acts 1:6-8), and only at the end, just before his ascension into heaven, do they receive an answer from Jesus to their question:
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
On the one hand, this account reflects the hope of Jesus’ earliest followers for the redemption of Israel by their Messiah. On the other hand, included in this account is the command to spread faith in Jesus throughout the world. It was incumbent upon Jesus’ apostles to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and, from there, “to the ends of the earth.”
Evidently (and we will make this argument more clearly below), in the story which is before us the two ideas are bound by a causal connection: the disciples are not able to know when the longed for redemption will come, but the first step is for them to spread the Christian faith “to the ends of the earth.” It appears, therefore, that the spread of Christianity is a precondition for Israel’s redemption. It is possible that there is a relationship between the idea that is included in Acts and the ancient Christian hope that at the end of days their Messiah will gather the faithful from the ends of the earth: when the faith is presented to all the nations of the world Jesus the Messiah will be able to gather the faithful and then the redemption of Israel will come. It is worth mentioning that, according to Israel’s tradition, in the last days those from the nations of the world who believe in the God of Israel will also be saved. The Jewish-Christians believed that the Messiah had already come, and thus, according to their opinion, when the Messiah returns those from the nations of the world who believe in this Messiah will be saved together with Israel. Consequently, it was necessary to spread the true faith among the Gentiles so that in the hour of Israel’s redemption the righteous among the nations of the world who believe may also be saved. Therefore, according to this ideology, the spread of the Christian faith “to the ends of the earth” is the necessary preparation for the return of Jesus.
It is true that it is not stated in Acts 1:6-8 that Israel’s redemption will come on the heels of the spread of the Gospel “to the ends of the earth,” and the disciples are merely warned against thinking about the timing of the final redemption, which is known only to God. Nevertheless, we may suppose that for Luke, or for the tradition he reports, it was more important to warn the Christians of his time against a vain hope for the immediate coming of Jesus, and therefore the original meaning of the story in Acts was blurred and the logical connection between the redemption of Israel and the spread of the faith in Jesus “to the ends of the earth” was also obscured. The continuation of our discussion, it seems to me, will confirm our hypothesis that the conversation between Jesus and his disciples in Acts, despite its present form, does, in fact, reflect the ideology that the spread of Christianity among the nations of the world is for Israel’s benefit, given that it is the precondition for the redemption of Israel.
The missionary ideology we have discussed calls Jesus’ words in Luke to mind:
Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled…. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:24-28).
True, the original meaning of this saying is that Israel’s subjugation by the Gentiles will continue until the age of the Gentiles, or, in other words, the age of the Roman empire, is ended. The original meaning notwithstanding, the words “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” can also be understood as if Jesus had said, “Until they are fulfilled and there will be times of the Gentiles,” and we have already seen that there were scribes who “corrected” the Scriptures in this way. According to this new, albeit inaccurate, understanding which is reflected in a number of manuscripts of Luke, Israel’s redemption will come when the times of the fullness of the Gentiles arrive, which is to say, at the time when the Gentiles receive the true faith (i.e., Christianity). Even though it is not explicitly stated in the present version of the story in Acts, according to our hypothesis this is precisely the original ideology it reflects. Was this ideology, which was understood to be present in Jesus’ prophecy itself, actually based on this new understanding of Jesus’ words in Luke?
Among the first Christians of Jewish descent who had a strong Jewish national consciousness there were some who were not enamored with the spread of the faith in the Messiah among the nations of the world, especially after it was determined that the Gentiles would not be required to keep the Torah’s commandments. The members of a Jewish-Christian sect known as the Ebionites named Paul “the enemy” since they regarded him as the person to whom Jesus alluded in the Parable of the Tares (Matt. 13:24-30) in which a man sows good seed in a field, but while his workers are asleep an enemy comes and sows tares among the wheat, and the man tells his workers: “An enemy has done this.” Thus, according to the Ebionites, Jesus himself had already prophesied the coming of Paul who would sow tares (i.e., the Gentiles) among the wheat. In recently published Jewish-Christian texts the members of the Christian Church are blamed for giving up the Hebrew language in favor of many other languages, which neither Jesus nor his disciples spoke. The people who speak these foreign languages are not Jews, and what is more, they know nothing about God or the commandments, whereas the Jewish-Christians used the language of Abraham and his descendants, which was also the language of Jesus, and they were capable of convincing the Children of Israel of the truth of the Christian faith.
The author of this Jewish-Christian text argues that the Christians erred in turning to the nations of the world instead of to the Jews, and that by doing so they missed the opportunity to spread the faith among Jesus’ own people. Shlomo Pines, the editor of this text, correctly argues that the slant of this source is opposed to Paul’s mission and to the outlook he expressed most clearly in Romans, since these resulted in the Christianization of the Gentiles and the Jews’ refusal to accept the new faith. These results embody the complete mockery of the process of redemption that, in their opinion, includes Israel alone at its final stage. It is reasonable, therefore, that in their derision of Paul, the Jewish-Christians who opposed the spread of faith in the Messiah among the nations of the world found fuel for their arguments in Romans.
The Full Number of Gentiles
It is indeed clear that the missionary ideology articulated in Romans is, in its presentation, the product of Paul’s philosophy, but evidently his presentation was nothing other than a new expression of similar ideologies that were earlier than Paul. We have already mentioned the outlook presented in 1 Thessalonians, the earliest of Paul’s letters to reach our hands, that Jesus will gather his elect from the four winds. This idea is likely to have encouraged the Christian missionaries in the spread of their faith “to the ends of the earth.” In the first three Gospels the command to go to the Gentiles is placed in the mouth of Jesus himself. We have already seen that, according to Mark, Jesus spoke about the proclamation of the gospel to all the Gentiles prior to his crucifixion (Mark 13:10). From Mark the idea crossed over to Matthew (24:14). In addition, according to Matthew 28:19, Jesus again commanded his disciples to go to all the Gentiles after his resurrection, and the same can also be found in Luke 24:47. In the saying we have just mentioned, Jesus tells his disciples after his resurrection that they are to begin in Jerusalem. We also find the idea that the spread of Christianity among the Gentiles began in Jerusalem in Romans 15:19, and we saw in Acts 1:6-8 that the risen Jesus mentions Jerusalem at the head of the list precisely when he commands the disciples to be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth.” There can be no doubt that for the Christian missionaries who turned to the Gentiles this mention of Jerusalem as the starting point for the spread of the Christian faith served to justify their activity to the hesitations of the mother church in Jerusalem. As we have observed, there is a tight connection in the story in Acts 1:6-8 between the ideology of the spread of Christianity and the Jewish consciousness of the first Christians in Jerusalem: not only is Jerusalem named as the starting point of the Christian mission, but the logical connection between the turning to the nations of the world and Israel’s redemption remains.
A link such as this, albeit in its own peculiar form, also exists in chapters 9-11 of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Let us briefly summarize the logical argument of these chapters. Paul is attempting to explain why the people of Israel, who are also his kindred and Jesus’ people as well, and to whom “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises” (Rom. 9:4), have not accepted the faith in Jesus, whereas the nations of the world have received it. According to Paul, God has not forsaken Israel (Rom. 11:1). And if Israel has failed by not accepting the Christian faith, it is clear that this failure “means riches for the world and riches for the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:12), thanks to the coming of Christianity precisely to the Gentiles. And what is more, if the outcome of Israel’s failure is such blessing for the nations of the world, then how much greater blessing would be in store when the fullness of Israel accepts the Christian faith in the end? “A hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and then all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:25-26).
Upon close examination, it appears that Paul’s paradoxical notion serves as an answer to the arguments of those Jewish-Christians who opposed the spread of Christianity among the Gentiles, since they regarded it as the final abolition of any possibility of spreading the gospel among the Jews. To this argument Paul replies that the hope for Israel’s acceptance of the Christian faith has not vanished because of the turning to the Gentiles, since in the end “all Israel will be saved.” In Romans the ideology of the spread of Christianity to the ends of the earth also comes to expression, for Paul speaks about the acceptance of Christianity by “the full number of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:25). Aside from this there is a clear similarity between the ideology in Romans and the outlook expressed at the opening of Acts (1:6-8). In these two sources there is a relationship between the spread of Christianity throughout the entire world and the redemption of Jerusalem, but whereas in the context of Acts Israel’s redemption is discussed with a national-political meaning, there can be no doubt that if Paul says that in the end “all Israel will be saved” then his meaning is that Israel will come to accept the Christian faith after the “full number of the Gentiles” have received it.
Therefore, it seems reasonable to suppose that the passage in Acts reflects the ideology of the mission to the Gentiles, whose adherents held on to the Jewish nationalist aspirations which still burned in the hearts of the members of the Christian church in Jerusalem. This was not the case with Paul in his Epistle to the Romans. True, he has not forgotten the good of Israel, but his main interest is in the religious sphere pertaining to the salvific acceptance of the Christian faith, which will, according to Paul, be the justification even of Israel. The story in Acts comes to calm the spirits of those believers who asked if at this time their Messiah will restore the kingdom to Israel. By contrast, Paul’s statement in Romans that “salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous” (Rom. 11:11) serves, among other things, as a response to the Jewish-Christian question whether the Christian missionaries’ turning to the nations of the world does not endanger the success of the Christian mission among the Jews, for whose sake Christianity, of course, came into being. In other words, Paul argues that it is necessary to arouse jealousy in Israel’s heart toward the nations of the world who have won salvation, because the outcome of this jealousy will be that even Israel will desire to win this good gift, and in this way God’s promise to Israel will in the end be fulfilled and “all Israel will be saved.” The outlook that lies at the foundation of the story in Acts is clearly more interested in Israel’s national deliverance than in the religious-theological ideology articulated in Romans.
We have presented the opinion that the logical connection in the story in Acts between the spread of Christianity “to the ends of the earth” and the return of the kingdom to Israel may indicate a specific dependency of this story on Jesus’ prophecy of the redemption found in Luke 21:24. There it is stated that “Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,” after which time Israel’s redemption will come (Luke 21:28). Those who supported the spread of Christianity among the Gentiles were able to understand from these words (even though this does not agree with their natural meaning) that the redemption of Israel will come when “the full number of Gentiles” accept Christianity, and, according to this prophecy, the turn to the Gentiles was for Israel’s benefit since, of course, its success was linked to the redemption of Israel. My hypothesis is that this erroneous understanding of Jesus’ words contributed to the missionary ideology that lies at the foundation of the story in Acts 1:6-8. The link between the turn to the Gentiles and Israel’s redemption is actually turned completely upside down if we look at Paul’s statements in Romans 11:25-26 and compare them with Jesus’ statements in Luke 21:24-28:
|Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles,||A hardening has come upon part of Israel,|
|until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled…||until the full number of the Gentiles come in,|
|Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads,|
|because your redemption is drawing near.||and so all Israel will be saved.|
Despite the similarity between these two passages, there is a profound difference in their approach. We have already emphasized that if Jesus said “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” then his meaning referred to the liberation of Jerusalem from the yoke of the Romans and the end of their rule in the world, whereas Paul, in a manner similar to Acts, referred to the spread of Christianity among the nations of the world which will reach “to the ends of the earth,” and “the full number of the Gentiles” will receive it. In Acts, as with Luke, at least the conclusion of the process will be redemption for Israel when the Messiah will “restore the kingdom to Israel.” It is true that even Paul admits that in the end “all Israel will be saved,” but his meaning refers to the acceptance of faith in Jesus. In this way every hint of Israel’s redemption from the troubles that haunted them has disappeared.
On the basis of philological analysis and by the comparison of passages from the New Testament, we have learned about a chapter in the ideological history of the first Christians. Luke has handed down to us a prophecy from the mouth of Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Gentiles, but her subjugation will not last forever. Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled and then, when the end comes upon the reign of the wicked empire, Jerusalem will be liberated and redemption will come to Israel. It seems that there is no reason to doubt that the prophecy was indeed spoken by Jesus himself who, according to the analysis of the surviving sources, possessed a Jewish consciousness common to Israel in his time.
In any case, there is no doubt that only Luke among the Synoptic Gospels preserves the prophecy in more or less the original form. Mark fundamentally adapted it in a manner inspired by an apocalyptic spirit, and he eliminated from the prophecy all of its national-political coloring: the people of Israel no longer arouse fears or hopes, but rather the elect, i.e., the members of the Christian congregation. The Gospel of Matthew copied the prophecy from Mark’s edited version. But the Jewish-Christians did not surrender their hope for Israel’s redemption, as is shown by the story in Acts 1:6-8 concerning the disciples’ conversation with Jesus which took place after he was raised to life: they ask him whether the kingdom will now be restored to Israel, and Jesus does not dismiss their hope for Israel’s redemption, he merely says that it is impossible for human beings to know when the redemption will come, and it is at this moment that he commands his disciples to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. Even in this form of the story, which is the product of the author’s editing, there is a logical connection between the spread of Christianity among the nations of the world and the redemption of Israel. This fact suggests that the ideology behind this story was influenced, among other things, by Jesus’ prophecy.
The words “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” were interpreted as referring to the entrance of “the full number of the Gentiles” into the Christian congregation, and so it came about that the spread of Christianity among the nations of the world came to be regarded as the precondition for Israel’s redemption. But this concept is actually flipped upside down if we look at Paul’s statement concerning the salvation of Israel (Rom. 11:25-26). Paul says that “all Israel will be saved” only after “the full number of the Gentiles come in.” The link between Paul and the prophecy in Luke is clear, but the ideology reflected in Paul’s statement testifies to a second stage of its development as compared to the prophecy in Luke. In Acts the end of the age of the Gentiles is not mentioned, but rather the spread of Christianity to the ends of the earth. Here the hope for Israel’s redemption has not vanished. For Paul, too, the interpretation of “the full number of the Gentiles” refers to the acceptance of Christianity by the nations of the world, but by the words “all Israel will be saved” Paul means that in the end all Israel will accept Christianity as well.
We are able to decipher these steps in the development of the relationship of the first Christians toward the people of Israel and its fate because we have paid attention to those Christians who are friendly toward Israel in the present time and who interpret the writings of the New Testament from the perspective of their hope for the end of days. It is no coincidence that the three passages we have examined are immovable property for such Christians and the basis of their solidarity with Israel. They understand these passages at face value, in opposition to the majority opinion of church-goers and scholars. They see in the story from Acts and in Jesus’ prophecy in Luke a promise in the mouth of Jesus himself that Israel shall indeed gain national independence, and that Jerusalem will be liberated from the yoke of the Gentiles. In their opinion these prophecies have been fulfilled by the establishment of the State of Israel and the liberation of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War.
Paul’s statement that in the end “all Israel will be saved” has been made very real across a broad spectrum of Christian expression since the Second World War, and it serves as the basis of the outlook that in our own day there is spiritual significance to the establishment of Israel as a people and a religion. The three passages from the New Testament we have discussed demonstrate that love, just as much as hate, sharpens the sense of sight, and the scholar is rewarded for this achievement. It is incumbent upon scholars to be conscious of the beliefs and widespread opinions of their time even though they are likely to arrive at different conclusions from those who espouse the “authentic” interpretation of the present day. And even if the prophecies a scholar has been occupied with seem to have come true, when we look back we discover that the process of distancing from the hope for Israel’s national redemption began precisely among the first Christians, to the point where the prophecy of the liberation of Jerusalem and of the redemption of Israel became the basis from which to justify the spread of Christianity among the nations of the world, and in the place of Israel’s redemption came the hope that the Jews would convert to Christianity.
Additional Note: The fact that Luke alone does not hold back from presenting Jesus’ prophecy of the liberation of Jerusalem also becomes evident from another Lukan passage (Luke 2:22-38) which explicitly mentions “the redemption of Jerusalem.” In the story of the infant Jesus’ presentation in the Temple, which is saturated with Jewish messianism, two people appear. The first of these, named Simeon, was “looking for the consolation of Israel.” The figure of speech “I will see the consolation” is already found in the mouths of Simeon b. Shetah and Judah b. Tabi, and in the generation of the destruction it was also attributed to R. Eleazar b. R. Zadok. See צ′ לרינמן, אוצר אמרי אבות , א′, (ירושלים, 1959), עמ′ 372-371. The second person is Anna, daughter of Phanuel, who, as Luke tells us, “spoke of him [i.e., Jesus] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (λύτρωσιν Ἰερουσαλήμ). For the Jews of that period there was one specific meaning for the words “the redemption of Jerusalem”—liberation from the foreign yoke. There are, of course, manuscripts of Luke that change the wording in order to weaken its meaning and they speak, for instance, of those who were “looking for redemption in Jerusalem.” The mention of the hope for “the redemption of Jerusalem” in Luke 2:38 strengthens the hypothesis that Luke wrote his book before the Great Revolt against Rome, for otherwise it is difficult to explain how he was able to make use of the slogan that was stamped on the rebels’ coins, “Freedom for Zion” or “For the Redemption of Zion,” and on the coins from the Bar Kokhvah Revolt that read “For the Freedom of Jerusalem.” [See now David Flusser, “Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem” (above, n. 18), 243—JNT.]
-  Hans Bietenhard, Das tausendjährige Reich (Zürich: Buchdruckererei F. Graf-Lehmann, 1955), 96-98, 108-111, 114-116. Bietenhard approaches the prophecy not only as a scholar, but also as a believing Christian who endeavors to learn from the New Testament the correct relationship of the Church to Israel and its future. ↩
-  [Scriptural quotations follow the RSV, occasionally with slight adaptations—JNT.] ↩
-  On this stream which has existed in Christianity since the time of the early Church Fathers, see Bietenhard, Das tausendjährige Reich, 90-94. Bietenhard is correct in his statement that an exhaustive study of Christian Zionism has yet to be written. ↩
-  See, for example, מ. ורטה, רעיון שיבת ציון במחשבה הפרוטסטאנטית באנגליה בשנים ציון לג (תשכ″ח) עמ′ 179-145. ↩
-  National Prayer for Peace. It would be desirable to conduct a philological study of the differences that have appeared in this prayer over time until it reached its present accepted form. ↩
-  On the beliefs of the Sages and their opinions regarding the redemption, see especially Ephraim E. Urbach, The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs (trans. I. Abrahams; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1975), 1:649-690. ↩
-  On Jerome’s stance, see Bietenhard, Das tausendjährige Reich, 91-92. For Augustine’s statement (on the basis of the conclusion of Malachi) that this will be accomplished by the prophet Elijah who will “return” Israel to the Christian faith, see Civ. XX, 29, 30:3-5. ↩
-  It is interesting that, in his commentary, Calvin admits that in the opinion of many the name “Israel” is understood to refer to the Jewish people, but he himself believes that “Israel” refers here to the Church composed of Jews and Gentiles. See Ioannis Calvini, Novum Testamenum Commentarii (ed. August Tholuck; Berlin: Apud Gustavum Eichler, 1831), 5:179-180. [For an English translation see, John Calvin, Commentary upon the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Romans (trans. Henry Beveridge; Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1844), 330—JNT.] Hugo Grotius came close to this interpretation, even though he was aware of the statement in the Mishnah that “All Israel has a portion in the world to come,” (m. Sanh. 10:1). Grotius believed that Paul’s prophecy was fulfilled after the destruction of the Temple when many Jews converted to Christianity. See also Otto Michel, Der Brief an die Römer (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963), 281-282; Johannes Munck, Christus und Israel—Eine Auslegung von Röm. 9-11 (Kobenhavn: Ejnar Munksgaard, 1956), 24, 101ff. ↩
-  The theory that this will be the order of events, and its wide acceptance within the apocalyptic stream of modern Christianity, obviously warrants further study. In any case, it already appears in an article by the Jesuits of Chile written in 1790: Manuel Lacunza, La Venida del Mesías en Gloria y Majestad (I found this author in a publication prepared by Mario Gongora which appeared in 1969 in the series Escridores coloniales de Chile, Editorial Universitaria SA). The article was published in English in 1827 and 1833 by Edward Irving (1792-1834), the Scottish priest who founded the sect known as the Catholic Apostolic Church. ↩
-  See H. Conzelmann, “Geschichte und Eschaton nach Mk. 13,” ZNW 50 (1959): 210-221; Lars Hartmann, Prophecy Interpreted—The Formation of Some Jewish Apocalyptic Texts of the Eschatological Discourse Mark 13 (Paris: Gleerup, 1966); Jan Lamprecht, Die Redaktion der Markus-Apokalypse—Literarische Analyse und Strukturuntersuchung (Analecta Biblica 28; Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1967). ↩
-  R. L. Lindsey, “A Modified Two-Document Theory of the Synoptic Dependence and Interdependence,” Novum Testamentum 6 (1963): 239-263; idem, “A New Two-Source Solution to the Synoptic Problem“; idem, A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark (Jerusalem: Dugith, 1969). See especially the aforementioned article in Novum Testamentum (p. 243), where a diagram which makes it possible to recognize the sources behind Mark 13 may be found. It is worth pointing out that Matthew removes the parallel statements in Luke 21:12-16 and Mark 13:9-12 from the prophecy in ch. 24 and places them earlier in Matt. 10:17-22. I want to thank Dr. Lindsey for the many important things he taught me while I was preparing this article. See also ד. פלוסר, ״היחס הספרותי בין שלושת האוונגליונים,״ יהדות ומקורות הנצרות; מחקרים ומסות (תל אביב: ספרית פועלים, תשל″ט). ↩
-  Another example: According to Matthew, when Jesus spoke about the troubles to come he said, “Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath” (Matt. 24:20). Mark 13:18 omits any mention of the Sabbath, while Luke omits the entire sentence. ↩
-  So reads Luke 21:12. The hypothesis that Luke was familiar with the verse in its original form is proved by his statement in Acts 9:15. ↩
-  So Mark 13:9 and Matt. 10:18; Luke 21:12 reads “for my name’s sake.” ↩
-  See Robert Lindsey’s commentary on this passage in his article, “From Luke to Mark to Matthew: A Discussion of the Sources of Markan “Pick-ups” and the Use of a Basic Non-canonical Source by All the Synoptists” under the subheading “An Examination of the Editorial Activity of the First Reconstructor” (L34-49). ↩
-  [In other words, in Luke’s version the disciples’ words, and not the persecution itself, have become the testimony. That this is Luke’s understanding of Jesus’ prophecy is shown, for example, in Acts 26 where Paul testifies before King Agrippa II (cf. Acts 26:28)—JNT.] ↩
-  The language of this verse is influenced by Luke 21:9, 24. ↩
-  For a similar idea, but in relation to Mark 13, see Vincent Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark (London: Macmillan, 1957), 636-644. [See now David Flusser, “Additional Considerations: Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem” in Jesus (Jerusalem: Magnes, 2001), 238—JNT.] ↩
-  On this verse and on Matthew’s version which is closer to the original, see above n.12. ↩
-  This verse is taken from Luke 17:23. ↩
-  This is the only place in the Gospels where the Greek word ἀπολύτρωσις appears with the meaning “redemption.” It also appears in Paul’s epistles and in the Epistle to the Hebrews. But, the use of precisely this Greek word for the redemption of Israel does not prove that this verse is Luke’s invention. We cannot discuss the Parable of the Fig Tree here (Matt. 24:32-36; Mark 13:28-32; Luke 21:29-33). After the parable we read: So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place (Mark 13:29-30, and similar to this in Matthew and Luke). In the place of he is near, at the very gates, Luke reads the kingdom of God is near (21:31). Even though this sentence, especially in Luke’s version, looks similar to Luke’s doublet in 21:28, evidently the original meaning was that the years of this generation will not pass by before the destruction comes. ↩
-  [Sic. It appears to the translator that Flusser intended to refer here to Genesis, rather than Leviticus. Elsewhere Flusser writes, “The oldest example of this paradigm is found in God’s words to Abraham (Gen. 15:13-16). There the destruction is lacking, but Abraham’s descendants will be strangers in a foreign country and will be enslaved and ill-treated; afterwards, however, they will come back,” (Jesus [Jerusalem: Magnes, 2001], 241)—JNT.] ↩
-  This proximity is pointed out by Adolf Schlatter, Das Evangelium des Lukas (Stuttgart: Calwer, 1960), 2:418. See also the interpretation of Alfred Plummer, The Gospel According to St. Luke (ICC; New York: Scribners, 1920), 483. [See now David Flusser, “Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem” (above, n. 18), 241-242—JNT.] ↩
-  After which, the author describes things that will come in the future from his own point in history: the gathering of all the exiles, and the wondrous Jerusalem at the end of days. ↩
-  See also in the continuation line 10, “ובשלום הקץ” as well as the notes in Rabin’s published version. [Quotations of the DSS follow Florentino García Martínez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, eds., The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (2 vols.; Brill: Leiden, 1997-1998)—JNT.] ↩
-  We may also conjecture that this is the verbal root that the author of Tobit also employed. This book, too, has come to us only in Greek versions. ↩
-  Gen. 15:16: ἀναπεπλήρωνται αἱ ἁμαρτίαι; Luke 21:24: ἄχρι οὗ πληρωθῶσιν καιροὶ ἐθνῶν. ↩
-  This is the opinion of the majority of scholars. I intend to discuss the identity of this source elsewhere. [See now David Flusser, “Hystaspes and John of Patmos” in Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988), 390-453—JNT.] For our purposes the historiography of the author of 2 Maccabees is especially important. For him it is a sign of kindness that God brings troubles on the people of Israel, which he does in order to correct them, whereas for the rest of the peoples the LORD delays their punishment “until they have reached the full measure of their sins”/μέχρι τοῦ καταντήσαντας αὐτοὺς πρὸς ἐκπλήρωσιν ἁμαρτιῶν (2 Macc. 6:14). See also P. Félix-Marie Abel, Les Livres des Maccabées (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1949), 365. Aside from Gen. 15:16 and Deut. 8:20, Abel also mentions Matt. 23:32 and 1 Thess. 2:16.
The latter arouses great interest: At the end of his career Paul determined that when the full number of Gentiles have entered “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:25-26), but in the earliest of Paul’s surviving epistles he says that the Jews murdered the Lord Jesus and the prophets “and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins”/εἰς τὸ ἀναπληρῶσαι αὐτῶν τὰς ἁμαρτίας πάντοτε. “But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!” These statements by Paul concerning the Jews are likely to have relied, in their form and vocabulary, on Jesus’ statement about the Gentiles found in Luke 21:24. Also, these statements show Paul’s thoughts at the beginning of his career before he developed a new approach to the “Jewish Problem” on the basis of the broader Christian ideology.
In addition, we should note that at the end of this verse from his earliest epistle (1 Thess. 2:16), Paul repeats the statement from the Testament of Levi (6:11) against the people of Shechem. ↩
-  This number is derived from Daniel 7:25; 12:7. ↩
-  For the same idea and vocabulary see Dan. 8:10-13. ↩
-  See my article “Jerusalem in Second Temple Literature” in Judaism of the Second Temple Period: The Jewish Sages and their Literature (trans. Azzan Yadin; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 44-75. ↩
-  It is true that in his answer as it is recorded in Luke Jesus speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem and not about the destruction of the Temple, but it is clear that the destruction of the Temple is included in the city’s destruction. ↩
-  It seems highly probable that before the anonymous author composed the apocalyptic oracle, Jesus’ answer included only what appears in Luke 21:20-24, 28. According to this hypothesis, Jesus foretold the Roman camps surrounding Jerusalem as a sign of the destruction. See also Luke 19:41-43. ↩
-  There is no reason to doubt this interpretation. In this verse the Gentiles are twice mentioned: “the Gentiles will trample Jerusalem until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Clearly, then, the Gentiles who oppress Jerusalem and trample her are identical with the Gentiles whose time will one day come to an end. ↩
-  Or, “when the times are fulfilled they will belong to the Gentiles.” The meaning is the same. ↩
-  ἐκολόβωσεν κύριος τὰς ἡμέρας. For this special use of the Greek verb κολοβόω there is only one parallel. It is found in 3 (Greek Apocalypse of) Baruch, where it is explained that God punished the moon and cut short its days ἐκολόβωσεν τὰς ἡμέρας αὐτῆς. Cf. the edition edited by Jean-Claude Picard, “Apocalypsis Baruchi Graece” in Testamentum Iobi, Apocalypsis Baruchi Graece (PVTG 2; Leiden: Brill, 1967), 91. [Picard’s text can now be accessed online at The Online Critical Pseudepigrapha: http://ocp.tyndale.ca—JNT.] ↩
-  On this idea see especially Y. Yadin, The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness (trans. B. Rabin and C. Rabin; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962). ↩
-  See also the materials gathered by August Strobel, Untersuchungen zum eschatologischen Verzögerungsproblem (Leiden: Brill, 1961), 92. ↩
-  Similar vocabulary is found in Exod. 9:18; 11:6; Joel 2:2. ↩
-  We should add Ps. Philo’s Biblical Antiquities 19:13 and the Letter of Barnabas 4:3 to Yadin’s list of sources that mention the hastening of the end. ↩
-  See also the following passages from the War Scroll:
כיא היאה עת צרה לישר[אל תעו]דת מלחמה בכל הגויים וגורל אל בפדות עולמים
For this will be a time of suffering for Isra[el and a servi]ce of war against all the nations. For God’s lot there will be everlasting redemption. (1QM xv, 1)
ומעז לוא נהיתה כמוהה
From of old there has not been anything similar. (1QM xviii, 10)
-  On this see my “Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes in Pesher Nahum” in Judaism of the Second Temple Period: Qumran and Apocalypticism (trans. Azzan Yadin; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 214-257. In the War Scroll the relationship of the sect toward the rest of Israel is closer than in the other Dead Sea Scrolls. ↩
-  A slightly similar use can be found in Luke 18:7. There is no connection between Matt. 22:14 and the use in our chapter. On the use of the title “the elect” for the Christian congregation in the rest of the New Testament, see Taylor, Mark (above, n. 18), 514-515. ↩
-  The beginning of this passage is based on the saying in Luke 17:23. This passage is nothing other than a free paraphrase of what is written in Mark 13:5-6; Luke 21:8; Matt. 24:4-5; and the same is also true for Luke 17:20-21; Matt. 24:11. ↩
-  [Quotations of the Didache follow Huub van de Sandt and David Flusser, The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity (CRINT III.5; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002)—JNT.] ↩
-  Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 80 [cf. ch. 139—JNT]. ↩
-  Adolf von Harnack, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1931), 1:614-620. ↩
-  [See now David Flusser, “Matthew’s Verus Israel” in Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1988), 568ff.—JNT.] ↩
-  Günther Bornkamm, Paulus (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1969), 68-78. ↩
-  Munck, Christus und Israel (above, n. 8). ↩
-  It is true that the sources permit us to suppose that not all of the Jewish-Christians believed in Jesus’ messiahship, but as far as our interests are concerned this fact is of no importance. ↩
-  It is interesting that, of all the Gospel writers, it was only Luke, a Gentile, who preserved in three places mention of the hope of the first Christians (who were Jews) for the redemption of their people. The first place is the passage in Jesus’ prophetic oracle (Luke 21:23-28), where to all appearances the statements reflect the authentic words of Jesus. The second place is the description of Jesus’ appearance in Emmaus where the disciples speak of Jesus as the one who would redeem Israel in the future (Luke 24:21). The third place is in Acts 1:6-8. In these three places where Israel’s national redemption is discussed there is no distinction made between those who believe in Jesus and the rest of Israel. Aside from these three places, all of which are found in Luke’s compositions, there is only one allusion to Israel’s salvation at the end of days. This is Paul’s statement in Romans that “all Israel will be saved,” even though this statement does not have a political meaning since the salvation comes to Israel as a result of accepting faith in Jesus. ↩
-  Clearly for Luke this story serves as an opportunity to record a kind of program for his second book, the Acts of the Apostles. The statement “you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” is nothing other than a description of the way the Christian faith spread as it is depicted by Luke in Acts. It is interesting that for Luke it was important that the new teaching should go out from Jerusalem. This does not derive from actual historical circumstances, but rather from the missionary ideology which comes to expression, for instance, in Paul’s mention of Jerusalem in Romans 15:19 even though Paul did not begin his missionary activities in Jerusalem! We learn from this that the missionary ideology originated prior to Paul. ↩
-  Georg Strecker, Das Judenchristentum in den Pseudoklementinen (Berlin: Akademie, 1958), 187. ↩
-  Shlomo Pines, “The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries According to a New Source,” Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities 2 (1968): 253-254, 256-257. ↩
-  On the original form of this saying see my article, “The Conclusion of Matthew in a New Jewish Christian Source,” Annual of the Swedish Theological Institute 5 (1966-1967): 110-120. ↩
-  See also the additional ending of Mark 16:15-17. ↩
-  Hugo Gratius was already aware of how close this statement is to m. Sanh. 10:1. ↩
-  In Acts the disciples ask Jesus whether he will now restore the kingdom to Israel. From the vocabulary in the two places where Israel’s redemption is mentioned in Luke (21:24-28; 24:21) it becomes clear that in these places, too, it is the political redemption of Israel that is intended. ↩
-  The Christian religious meaning of the concept of salvation that is found in Romans 11:26 emerges, among other places, from the statement “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9), and also in Rom. 11:11. ↩
-  The expression is based on a midrash of Deut. 32:21: “I will stir them to jealousy with those who are no people,” a verse Paul had already made use of in Rom. 10:19. ↩
-  See Michel, Der Brief an die Römer (above, n. 8), 271. ↩
-  See above, n. 60. ↩