Apocalypses: Synoptic Gospels

Apocalypses

Time Period

75–115 CE, Mark being the first and the canonical redaction of Luke being the last.

Pseudonym

(n/a)

Angelic Guide

(n/a)

Cosmogony

(n/a)

Primordial Events

(n/a)

Historical Review

Jesus compares the eschaton to when Noah survived the flood and when Lot survived Sodom’s destruction.

‘Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the son of man.’

After-the-fact Prophecy

Jesus predicts the Judean-Roman War and the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple.

Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’

Persecution

The eschaton will be preceded by the persecution of Jesus’ followers.

‘As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues.’

Social Upheaval

Jesus’ list of predictions is similar to ‘signs’ of the eschaton found in other apocalypses.

‘When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.’

Resurrection

The dead will be raised, and angels will separate the saved from the condemned to be judged.

‘And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

Judgment

The son of man will arrive and sit on his throne to pass judgment.

‘And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

New Creation

Jesus rarely talks about the new creation directly, instead more focused on the rewards themselves.

‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.’

Units

Mark 8.38–9.1: Jesus predicts the arrival of God’s kingdom and final judgment within his contemporaries’ lifetime. (Parallels in Matthew 16.27–28 and Luke 9.26–27.)

Mark 13: Jesus’ lengthy apocalyptic prophecy known as the ‘Olivet Discourse’. Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple and the arrival of the son of man within the generation. (Parallels in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.)

Matthew 10.5–23: Jesus instructs the Twelve how to herald God’s kingdom. He warns the son of man will arrive before they have finished evangelizing all of Israel’s towns. (Parallel in Luke 10.1–16.)

Matthew 13.24–30, 36–43: Jesus discusses the manner of the final judgment. He briefly describes the reward for good and punishment for evil.

Matthew 25.31–46: Jesus describes the arrival of the son of man to cast judgment on the nations. He briefly describes the reward for good and punishment for evil.

Luke 17.20–37: Jesus describes the sudden destruction that will precede the arrival of the son of man. (Parallel in Matthew 24.)

Sources

The apocalyptic material in the three Synoptic Gospels come from textual and oral traditions.

Mark was the earliest Synoptic Gospel written, around 75 CE. Although Jesus regularly discusses eschatology, Mark 13 contains a large apocalyptic block. This block may have originated as a small, independent apocalypse in 40 CE in response to Roman attempts to seize control of Jerusalem’s temple.

Matthew and Luke are each an expanded, revised version of Mark, rearranging some content while inserting new material from other sources. This includes Matthew 25, which shows a great deal of theological (if not literary) influence from the Book of Parables.

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