2015 Reading Log: Jesus, the Temple, and the Coming Son of Man

Stein, Robert H. Jesus, the Temple, and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13.

Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (Mark 13, paralleled in Matthew 24) is a very rich but difficult passage of Scripture. G.K. Chesterton’s quip about Revelation is apropos for this passage as well:

And though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature as wild as one of his commentators (Orthodoxy, 31).

Robert Stein walks us through Mark 13 a section at a time, ably cutting through the confusion and guiding the reader toward a contextually sound and compelling interpretation of the chapter.

He breaks the chapter down into these sections:

(1) The initial conversation between Jesus and the disciples about the buildings of Jerusalem and their eventual destruction, prompting the disciples’ question as to when this would happen (13:1-4);

(2) Jesus’ answer to the twofold question (“when will these things be” and “what will be the sign that all these things are about to happen”) (13:5-23);

(3) A discussion about Jesus’ coming with the clouds in glory (13:24-27);

(4) The parable of the fig tree, calling for watchfulness prior to Jerusalem’s fall (13:28-30); and

(5) The parable of the returning homeowner, calling for watchfulness prior to Jesus’ return (13:31-37).

The difficulty of this passage lies in how it weaves back and forth between the immediate future of the disciples and the eschatological promise of Jesus’ return. Some aspects of the chapter clearly relate to Jerusalem’s fall in AD 70; others, clearly to Jesus’ end-times return. Some have drawn the conclusion that the return of Jesus had to be concurrent with the destruction of Jerusalem by General Titus and the Roman army.

Dr. Stein’s outline of the chapter helps clarify the confusion by showing us from the text how the sections fit together and interpret one another. The destruction of Jerusalem is in view in 13:5-23 and 13:28-30; the return of Jesus is in view in 13:24-27 and 13:31-37. He makes a persuasive case for this understanding.

The initial chapter is a bit burdensome. Dr. Stein is laying the framework for how the investigation of the text itself. I found it more cumbersome than anything, but the actual commentary itself is stellar (pun intended, I suppose).

This is an excellent treatment of a difficult text. It’s a valuable addition to any study on Mark and/or the Olivet Discourse.

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