Re-dating the NT: Burned their city
John A.T. Robinson begins Chapter 2 of his masterpiece in these words: “ONE of the oddest facts about the New Testament is that what on any showing would appear to be the single most datable and climactic event of the period - the fall of Jerusalem in ad 70, and with it the collapse of institutional Judaism based on the temple - is never once mentioned as a past fact.” It is this statement, established by a detailed analysis, that has caused many scholars to re-visit the dating of the New Testament. However, Robinson did not discuss the Parable of the Wedding Banquet.
Matthew 22:7 reads: The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and ἐνέπρησεν their city. This Greek word for “burned” appears only in Matthew in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet and nowhere else in the New Testament. None of the New Testament accounts note the separate fates of the city and the Temple. In 70 CE, the Roman general Titus destroyed the city of Jerusalem and his legion burned the Temple.
Does Matthew reveal his knowledge of the destruction with his Parable of the Wedding Banquet?
Matthew also uses the word κατακαύσει in the story of John Baptist when he informed his audience that “the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Luke likewise uses this Greek word for burn and includes this phrase. Matthew uses κατακαύσει in his telling of the Parable of the Weeds and in its interpretation which are unique to his gospel. Matthew has clearly indicated that the weeds are the evildoers who are to be collected at the end and bind into bundles to be thrown into the fire. Consequently, we should understand the Parable of the Wedding Feast in the same way as the Parable of the Weeds and recognize that Matthew believed that the burning of the Temple represented God’s judgment against the Temple and the temple establishment for its iniquity and wickedness thus revealing his knowledge of the destruction of the city of the city and the Temple.
The inference that Matthew knew the fate of the Temple is weak and therefore does not qualify as a valid one way indicator. The inference is weak because Matthew could have been alluding to Jeremiah 52:13 wherein Jeremiah tells us that the king of Babylon came and “set on fire the house of the Lord.” The first temple and the city were destroyed by fire in 586 B.C.E. Since the Septuagint uses the Greek word ἐνέπρησεν in Jeremiah 52:13 and 11 other books of the LXX, it is not a rare word allusion since ἐνέπρησεν is a common word in the Septuagint but is a hapax in Matthew.
It is examples such as this that confirms the radical proposal of John A.T. Robinson that all of the books of the New Testament should be dated prior to the destruction of the City and Temple in 70 C.E.
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