For those trudging through the 1000 word posts on Matthew 24, here is a much simpler and shorter essay.

My brother claims that Jesus told his disciples he would return “immediately after” the fall of Jerusalem in AD70. Jesus did not return at the appointed time, and hence the authority of his words are discredited.

What this position commits my brother to is an early dating of the book of Matthew, namely that it is pre-AD70. From Daniel Wallace’s introduction to Matthew: “I fail to see any motive for preserving, let alone inventing, prophecies long after the dust had settled in Judaea, unless it be to present Jesus as prognosticator of uncanny accuracy (in which case the evangelists have defeated the exercise by including palpably unfulfilled predictions).”*

This is a dilemma. If Matthew has an early dating, then even if Jesus is wrong about his own return, he is correct in his prediction of the destruction of the temple. Again, I think the most natural reading is that Jesus doesn’t claim to return in AD70, but of course this means that a later dating is possible and hence Jesus’s claim about the temple isn’t necessarily predictive. I’m tempted to think (along with Wallace) that this amounts to a conclusive argument for an early dating of Matthew.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

One Comment

  1. An early date of Matthew (just before the destruction of Jerusalem, for example) is entirely possible; Jesus might have very well made one accurate prediction during his whole prophetic career (even Jeane Dixon scored every now and then). Given that the Greeks had ransacked the temple during the original “Abomination of Desolation” under Antiochus Epiphanes, such a prediction is even reasonable. I’m not entirely convinced that Mark is as “early” as some date it; at times it seems like a revision of Matthew, and not the other way around.

    What you’re missing in your discussion of these passages in the synoptics (for nothing like them appears in John) are the differences between the accounts–not just words, but whole chunks are revised or even lifted into other parts of individual gospels. I’ll be pointing out examples on my own blog in a bit. One major wording difference is between Matthew/Mark on the “abomination that causes desolation” and Luke’s “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies.” This, on face, seems like good evidence that Luke is the latest of the gospels.

    (Another possibility is that either Matthew or Mark was composed as the events related to the fall of Jerusualem were beginning to unfold; I’m unaware of evidence for or against that position.)

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