Questions on Mark 13

Jesus, Temple, Son of Man

In an unsuspecting turn of events, I’m posting on a book I’m not reviewing. For some, you might be thinking the twist is that I’m writing anything at all (or maybe that’s just what I feel like). Christmas time has come and gone, and one book that has remained was Robert Stein’s Jesus, the Temple, and the Coming Son of Man, a Commentary on Mark 13.

Stein’s goal is “to understand what the author of Mark sought to teach his readers by the Jesus traditions that he chose to include in this chapter [Mark 13], his arrangement of these traditions and his editorial work in the recording of this material” (p 45). Essentially, why did Mark place this chapter here, what does it teach Mark’s audience, and what does it teach us.

Mark 13 is the Mark’s version of the Olivet Discourse found in Matthew 24. As with anything in the Bible, especially the Olivet Discourse, there are difficulties for those of us today who seek to find the meaning of the original text. In Mark 13.4, the disciples ask Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”

Some of the questions the reader faces are [p 18]:

  • In 13.6 did Jesus mean that false teachers would come claiming to be him (i.e., Jesus of Nazareth, the risen Christ) or the Jewish messiah longed for by non-Christian Jews?
  • Was the prophecy of 13.10 fulfilled already in apostolic times (cf. Paul’s statements in Rom 16.26 and Col 1.6, 23 that the gospel had become known “to all nations”), or does it still await its fulfillment?
  • What does Jesus mean by the “abomination of desolation” in 13.14. and does his/its appearance involve the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 or the future coming of the Son of Man?
  • Is the language of 13.24-27 to be understood literally or figuratively? Is Jesus using this imagery in the same manner as the Old Testament prophets (cf. Is 13.9-11; Jer 4.23-28; Ezek 32.5-8; etc) – that is, metaphorically?
  • Does Jesus teach in 13.24 that his return as the Son of Man would occur immediately after the fall of Jerusalem in 13.14-23?
  • What does Jesus mean by “this generation” in 13.30, and was he wrong in his prediction?
  • How do Jesus’ other sayings on this subject, such as Mk 8.34-38 and Mt 25.1-46, and the additional comments we find in parallel accounts (Mt 24.1-51 and Lk 21.5-36) help us understand Jesus’ teaching in Mark 13?

Yet, what we can ascertain at least is this [p 33]:

  • The temple and the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed in the lifetime of the disciples.
  • Wars, natural disasters, false prophets and messianic pretenders would arise, but these were neither signs nor immediate precursors of the temple’s destruction but part of the natural order of things.
  • The followers of Jesus would face persecution and, either through or despite this, spread the gospel to all nations.
  • In their persecution the Holy spirit would be with them and aid them in their defense.
  • An “abomination of desolation” would precede Jerusalem’s destruction, and the believing community should take this as a sign to the flee the city immediately.
  • The Son of Man would come fro heaven and gather his elect from throughout the world.
  • No one knows the time of his return but God alone, and as a result believers should live a life prepared fro his arrival.

The exegetical basis for Stein’s conclusions can be found in chapters three to seven in his book. I used Stein’s commentary when I co-taught through Mark last spring, but I’m really looking forward to see what other insights Stein brings in this commentary. Hopefully there’s some new stuff in there. From what I’ve seen so far though, it’s pretty easy to read with no redaction criticism to be found.


Author: Spencer

I put ice in my cereal. Make yourself at home and feel more than welcome to contact me.

2 thoughts on “Questions on Mark 13”

  1. Hey Spencer, will you be posting more on this book?

    I’m going to have to work through it eventually… I’d love to teach a Gospel one day.


  2. I plan to post more on it. I’d like to. I haven’t worked anymore through it though since this has been posted, but hopefully in a bit. have Strauss’ Mark ZECNT commentary, along with the PNTC now, and I’m really looking forward to going through both of those.


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