Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

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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Blogger veryrarelystable said...

One of the problems with JAT Robinson’s logic here is the assumption that someone writing about the deeds and words of Jesus would have to include an event that occurred forty years after his death. This strikes me as very unreasonable. How many histories of, say, Queen Victoria (d. 1901) relate details of, say, the evacuation of Dunkirk (1940), which also had a profound effect on the psyche of the British public?

Insisting on clear details of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple to justify the composition of the gospels after 70CE when they are set at least 40 years earlier, seems an entirely specious argument to me.

1:34 PM

Blogger Richard H. Anderson said...

Jesus’ prophecy regarding the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem appears in Matthew 24:1-2; Mark 13:1-4 and Luke 21:5-7. The New Testament includes numerous statements concerning the fulfillment of prophecies. Twelve times in his gospel, Matthew tells us that the event he is narrating fulfilled a specific prophecy, which he then quotes but nowhere does Matthew say that the prophecy concerning the destruction of the temple has been fulfilled. For this reason, Robinson concluded that all of the books of the NT were published before the destruction of the Temple. Had Matthew included more accurate details, we would conclude he had revealed his knowledge of the destruction of the temple.

12:58 PM

Blogger LTD said...

It is a valid point that veryrarelystable makes. However, if it be asserted that a lack of reference to the destruction of the temple does not demonstrate that the initial writer was ignorant of the event, then it seems to me that the few references to (or apparent prophecies of) the destruction of the temple - all of which lack any view to fulfillment or accomplishment - ought not be employed to demonstrate that the writer had knowledge of the event. In other words, the Gospel references to the destruction of the temple constitute no evidence regarding the dating of the texts, or of the given writer's knowledge or ignorance of the event. The data is moot on this matter.

7:04 PM


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