The Olivet Discourse and Apocalypse as A.D. 70 Destruction

The Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by Titus

The Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by Titus

By: Jay

[Note: This is an old historical position paper I wrote, arguing that the Olivet Discourse and Apocalypse are not about present day events, but the destruction of Jerusalem. Apologies, the footnotes didn’t carry over.]

Introduction:

One of the most fascinating first-hand battle accounts is that of the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D. by the Roman Governor Titus Vespasian, later written based on the eyewitness experience of Jewish Pharisee/historian Flavius Josephus.  Josephus, however, is not the only prominent historical figure to give a description of the events of the Jewish war of that year.  Jesus of Nazareth also appears to give an accurate and detailed foretelling of the disastrous events to come upon Israel in Matthew, Chapters 23-24; and Luke, Chapter 21.  The thesis of this paper is that both Gospel accounts are referring to the same event that Josephus describes in The Wars of the Jews.

Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian.  He was born 37 A.D. at Jerusalem and died around 101.  He was a member of a distinguished priestly family that claimed ties to the Machabeans.  Josephus was gifted with a tremendous memory and was well educated by his wealthy parents, and familiarized himself with all the socio-religious parties of his day, including the Essenes, Pharisees, and Sadducees along with Roman and Greek cultures.  His era was one of constant political and religious turmoil amongst these competing sects and the many attempts by the Jews to overthrow Roman dominance. Josephus’ attitude, however, seemed to follow whatever party (Jew or Roman) appeared to have the upper hand at any given time.

In the year 67, Josephus was taken captive by the Romans after a failed uprising, but was spared by the Roman General Vespasian, who would later become Emperor in 69 A.D.  Vespasian’s ascendancy to the throne as Emperor would result in handing over the ongoing battle with the Jews to his son Titus, who would succeed in destroying the Temple.  Josephus was utilized by Titus as a “middle-man” to plead with the Jews to surrender when they were trapped in the besieged city of Jerusalem.

Dating and Authorship of Texts Involved

     It is this unique position of Josephus as a negotiator for the Romans, a Pharisee, and a historian that makes his eyewitness account of the destruction of the Temple so lucid and profound.  His book, Wars of the Jews, which deals with the destruction of Jerusalem in detail, is what will be examined here.  The book was written around 75 A.D., when he was about 38 years of age.  This text will be compared to the Gospel accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem described in Matthew and Luke.

Sacred Tradition tells us that St. Matthew’s Gospel was written by Matthew, a disciple of Christ.  The earliest Patristic reference to the Gospel of Matthew is St. Ignatius of Antioch’s Letter to the Smyrneans, written around 110 A.D.  St. Papias (60-130 A.D.) also speaks of “Matthew as having arranged the ‘oracles’ about Jesus.”  Later, St. Irenaeus (writing around 180 A.D.) mentions a Gospel written by Matthew.

The Gospel of St. Luke is commonly accepted to be by the same author as the “Acts of the Apostles.”  The author names himself as a companion of St. Paul on some travels (Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-16, 21:1-18, 27:1-28:16), and Sacred Tradition is also unanimous that St. Luke is the author.  St. Paul seems to mention this same Luke in his Epistle to the Colossians, 4:14.  St. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria (152-217 A.D.), the Muratorian Fragment (170 A.D.), and Eusebius (writing around 325 A.D.) all give unanimous witness to St. Luke as the author.

Both the Matthean and the Lucan texts are usually dated by conservative or traditional scholars at around 50-65 A.D. However, many critics in the higher-critical schools date them after 80 A.D., due to the fact that both texts contain an account of the destruction of Jerusalem.  The rejection of the prophetic nature of these texts is based upon the anti-supernaturalistic presuppositions of the higher critics and the documentary hypothesis, that the Gospels are actually a collection of semi-independent texts and oral traditions brought together by later revisionists in a redactionary process.

The strongest case for the early dating of the Gospel texts rests first with the Tradition mentioned above and second, with the large amount of textual evidence for the veracity of the documents.  New Testament scholars such as F.F. Bruce, Brooke Westcott, Bishop Lightfoot, Bruce Metzger, and others have pointed out the following arguments for the traditional dating and veracity of the texts.  First, there is more evidence for the veracity of the New Testament than many other ancient writings of comparable date.

F.F. Bruce notes that there are over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, either partial or entire.  The most important of these date from around 350 A.D., two of which are Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.  This is a tremendous attestation, compared to other classical texts, such as Livy’s Roman History (59 B.C-70A.D.), thirty-five of which are extant and the earliest of which date to the fourth century, A.D.  Of Tacitus’ Histories (100 A.D.), only four and a half survive and of his Annals only ten survive in full and two are partial.

Of the thousands of New Testament manuscripts, however, considerable fragments are dated from 100 to 200 A.D., and some even earlier, a remarkably short gap in time, in terms of textual studies.  The most recent discoveries include fragments from an unknown Gospel in 1935, dated by papyrological experts no later than 150 A.D., a papyri fragment of John 17:31-33, 17, now housed in the John Rylands Museum, Manchester, England, dated around 130 A.D. is regarded as the earliest New Testament fragment; and the discovery of the Papyrus Bodmer II in 1956, dated around 200 A.D., containing the first fourteen chapters of John’s Gospel with only a slight textual variant and considerable portions of the last seven chapters.  One of the oldest manuscripts of Matthew’s Gospel is contained in the Old Syriac Versions, dated near 170 A.D.  In addition to these proto-orthodox sources, texts from the Valentinian school of Gnostics evidences veneration for most of the New Testament texts somewhere near the middle of the second century.

Comparison of Textual Accounts

The relevant sections of Josephus’ Wars of the Jews begin with Book V, Chapters I-X.  In these chapters, Josephus describes in detail the siege of Jerusalem by Titus.  Luke 19:42-44 records Christ  as saying:

Now as He [Christ] drew near He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “if you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes.  For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.

And later,

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is near.  Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country not enter into her.  For these are the days of vengeance that all things which are written may be fulfilled.  But woe to those who are pregnant and those who are nursing babies in those days!  For there will be great distress in the land and wrath on these people.

What is interesting here is that both Lucan texts describe an imminent siege of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem had not been besieged in such a fashion since Antiochus Epiphanes, circa 180 B.C, nearly 200 years prior to Christ’s statement.  That Josephus describes a siege of Jerusalem is undisputed.  Although the description is too lengthy to outline, Josephus pleads with the besieged Jews, suffering under the tyrannical rival Zealot factions of John and Simon, to relinquish their rebellion and surrender:

What is it that brought the Romans into our country?  How did our servitude begin?  Has it not originated from party strife among our forefathers, when the quarrels between Aristobulus and Hyrcannus brought Pompey against our city?…And do we not know what  end Antigonus came to when Herod brought Sossius, and Sossius brought upon us the Roman army, by whom our people were besieged for six months?  

Clearly, then, both Jesus and Josephus describe a siege of Jerusalem.  It is important to note that there was no significant siege of Jerusalem between the time of Christ’s ministry (circa 30 A.D.) and Josephus’ account (written in 75 A.D.), other than the infamous war of A.D. 70, which resulted in the city and temple’s destruction.

Having established a definite siege of the city in both texts, the next fundamental text for the argument will be the timing of this siege mentioned by Christ.  Christ, speaking to His disciples in the Lucan account about the timing of the events, states:

So you [disciples] also, when you see all these things take place [signs of the siege], know that the kingdom of God is at hand.  Assuredly I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away until all these things take place. [emphasis mine]

Matthew writes of Christ stating:

Therefore you [Pharisees] are witnesses against yourselves that you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous…Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are the sons of those who murder the prophets.  Fill up, then, the measure of your father’s guilt.  Serpents, brood of vipers! How will you escape the condemnation of hell?  Therefore I send you prophets, wise men and scribes: some of those you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.  Assuredly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation…See!  Your house is left to you desolate…” [emphasis mine]

So you [disciples] also, when you see all these things taking place, know that it is near–at the doors!  Assuredly I say to you this generation will by no means pass away until all things be fulfilled. [emphasis mine]

Christ clearly indicates that the generation to which he was speaking would be the same generation that would be alive to experience the events of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.

The first notable sign of the coming judgment that Christ mentions to His disciples is the appearance of false Christs and false prophets:

So they [disciples] asked him, ‘when will these things be, and what sign will there be that these thing are about to take place?  And he said, “Take heed that you be not deceived, for many will come in my name saying ‘I am he,’ and, ‘the time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them.  Therefore do not go after them. But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come to pass immediately.

In Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus describes the period of the siege and destruction as one menaced with false prophets, robbers and seducers:

6. These works, that were done by the robbers, filled the city with all sorts of impiety. And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness (1), and pretended that they would exhibit manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God. And many that were prevailed on by them suffered the punishments of their folly; for Felix brought them back, and then punished them. Moreover, there came out of Egypt about this time to Jerusalem one that said he was a prophet (2), and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives, as it was called, which lay over against the city, and at the distance of five furlongs. He said further, that he would show them from hence how, at his command, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down; and he promised them that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those walls, when they were fallen down. Now when Felix was informed of these things, he ordered his soldiers to take their weapons, and came against them with a great number of horsemen and footmen from Jerusalem, and attacked the Egyptian and the people that were with him. He also slew four hundred of them, and took two hundred alive. But the Egyptian himself escaped out of the fight, but did not appear any more. And again the robbers stirred up the people to make war with the Romans, and said they ought not to obey them at all; and when any persons would not comply with them, they set fire to their villages, and plundered them.

Josephus also describes these deceivers in Wars of the Jews:

2…This Felix [procurator] took Eleazar the arch robber, and many that were with him, alive, when they had ravaged the country for twenty years together, and sent them to Rome; but as to the number of robbers he caused to be crucified…they were a multitude not to be enumerated.

3.  When the country was purged of these, another sort of robbers in Jerusalem, which were called Sinacrii…The first man who was slain by them was Jonathan the high priest, after whose death many were slain every day…

4.  There was another body of wicked men gotten together, not so impure in their actions, but more wicked in their intentions, who laid waste the happy state of the city more than those murderers.  These were such men as deceived and deluded the people under the pretence of divine inspiration…but Felix… destroyed a great number of them.

5.  But there was an Egyptian false prophet that did the Jews more mischief than the former; for he was a cheat, and pretended to be a prophet also, and got together thirty thousand men that were deluded by him…

6.  Now when these things were quieted, it happened, as it does in a diseased body, that another part was subject to another inflammation; for a company of deceivers and robbers got together and persuaded the Jews to revolt…

7.  There was also another disturbance at Cesarea: those Jews who were mixed with the Syrians that lived there, raising a tumult against them.  The Jews pretended that the city was theirs, and said that he who built it was a Jew, meaning King Herod…On which account both parties had a contest with one another; and this contest increased so much that it at last came to arms…

It’s also interesting to note that the New Testament itself describes in the “Acts of the Apostles,” Chpt. 8, a popular deceiver named Simon Magnus, who called himself “The Power of God.”  Other deceivers are also mentioned by Rabbi Gamaliel in Acts 5:33-39.  Jospehus describes the period in question as one full of robbers, deceivers and various wars, as Christ had said it would be.  It important to note that during this period, it is estimated that in Cesarea, 20,000 Jews were slain, in Damascus, 10,000, in Scythopolis, 13,000, in Alexandria, 50,000, while in the siege of Jotapata, 40,000 died.

Christ warns of famines, plagues, earthquakes and pestilences.  “Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  And there will be great earthquakes in various places and famines and pestilences. ” “All these are the beginnings of sorrows.”  Josephus describes the horrible famine in Jerusalem during the siege as follows:

4. And now there were three treacherous factions in the city, the one parted from the other. Eleazar and his party, that kept the sacred first-fruits, came against John in their cups. Those that were with John plundered the populace, and went out with zeal against Simon. This Simon had his supply of provisions from the city, in opposition to the seditious. When, therefore, John was assaulted on both sides, he made his men turn about, throwing his darts upon those citizens that came up against him, from the cloisters he had in his possession, while he opposed those that attacked him from the temple by engines of war; and if at any time he was freed from those that were above him, which happened frequently, from their being drunk and tired, he sallied out with a great number upon Simon and his party; and this he did always in such parts of the city as he could come at, till he set on fire those houses that were full of corn, and of all provisions.  The same thing was done by Simon, when, upon the others’ retreat, he attacked the city also; as if they had, on purpose done it to serve the Romans, by destroying what the city had laid up against the Siege, and by thus cutting off the nerves of their own power. Accordingly, it so came to pass, that all the places that were about the temple were burnt down, and were become an intermediate desert space, ready for fighting on both sides; and that almost all the corn was burnt, which would have been sufficient for a siege of many years. So they were taken by the means of famine, which it was impossible they should have been, unless they had thus prepared the way for it by this procedure.

Whiston, editor of Wars of the Jews, writes, “This destruction of such a vast quantity of corn and other provisions, as was sufficient for many years, was the direct occasion of that terrible famine, which consumed incredible numbers of Jews in Jerusalem during its siege. See Joel 1:10.”  The siege was of such a horrible nature that many thousands were slain in Jerusalem by their own countrymen; Josephus even states that various seditions actually destroyed the city, while the Romans destroyed the seditions:

1. Now the warlike men that were in the city, and the multitude of the seditious that were with Simon, were ten thousand, besides the Idumeans. Those ten thousand had fifty commanders, over whom this Simon was supreme. The Idumeans that paid him homage were five thousand, and had eight commanders, among whom those of the greatest fame were Jacob, the son of Sosas, and Simon, the son of Cathlas. John, who had seized upon the temple, had six thousand armed men, under twenty commanders; the zealots also that had come over to him, and left off their opposition, were two thousand four hundred, and had the same commander they had formerly, Eleazar, together with Simon, the son of Arinus. Now, while these factions fought one against another, the people were their prey of both sides, as we have said already; and that part of the people who would not join with them in their wicked practices, were plundered by both factions. Simon held the upper city, and the great walls as far as Cedron, and as much of the old wall as bent from Siloam to the east, and which went down to the palace of Monobazus, who was king of the Adiabeni, beyond Euphrates; he also held the fountain, and the Acra, which was no other than the lower city; he also held all that reached to the palace of queen Helena, the mother of Monobazus; but John held the temple, and the parts thereto adjoining, for a great way, as also Ophla, and the valley called “Valley of Cedron;” and when the parts that were interposed between their possessions were burnt by them, they left a space wherein they might fight with each other; for this internal sedition did not cease, even when the Romans were encamped near their very walls. But although they had grown wiser at the first onset the Romans made upon them, this lasted but for a while; for they returned to their former madness, and separated one from another, and fought it out, and did everything that the besiegers could desire them to do; for they never suffered anything that was worse from the Romans than they made each other suffer; nor was there any misery endured by the city after these men’s actions that could be esteemed new. But it was most of all unhappy before it was overthrown, while those that took it did it a greater kindness; for I venture to affirm, that the sedition destroyed the city, and the Romans destroyed the sedition, which it was a much harder thing to do that to destroy the walls; so that we may justly ascribe our misfortunes to our own people, and the just vengeance taken on them by the Romans; as to which matter let every one determine by the actions on both sides.

Josephus describess one earthquake, writing, “A heavy storm burst on them [Jews] during the night; violent winds arose, accompanied with the most excessive rains, with constant lightening, most tremendous thunderings, and with dreadful roarings of earthquakes.…It seemed as if the system of the world had been confounded for the destruction of mankind; and one might well conjecture that these were signs of no common events.”  The “Acts of the Apostles” in 11:28, and possibly St. Paul in 1 Cor. 16:3, mention famines that occurred during the ministry of the Apostles following Christ’s death.  There were also notable plagues, diseases and pestilences in Babylon and Rome mentioned by Tacitus and Seutonius between 40 A.D. and 65 A.D; a further corroboration of Jesus’ and Josephus’ accounts.  As for stellar phenomena, Josephus recounts the sightings of what appeared to be chariots in the sky over Jerusalem, and a strange meteor that gave the appearance of a sword.

Christ moves on to forewarn of persecutions that the apostles will undergo for their teaching, “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.”  Several persecutions of Christ’s disciples after His death are described in “Acts of the Apostles,” Chapters 4, 8, 17, 23, 24, for example.  Tacitus mentions the particular cruelty of the persecutions of Christians by Nero, most famously Ss. Peter and Paul.

The clearest of Christ’s statements is as follows in Luke 21:20-24:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.  Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.   For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.   But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.   And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Clearly a siege of Jerusalem by a foreign enemy is in view here, along with her destruction by a Gentile superpower, and a subsequent diaspora.  Josephus relates that Titus’ rate of crucifixion was 500 Jews per day during the siege, while there was a surplus of Jewish slaves taken captive.

Although the destruction of the temple was mentioned at the beginning of Christ’s discourse, I have reserved mentioning it until now, since it’s actually the climax of the prophetic discourse, which converns the destruction of the Jewish Temple.  Christ warns in Luke 21:5-6:

Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, “These things which you see–the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”

And in Matthew 24:15-21 he says:

Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

Josephus describes the great distress of the Jews as the Romans caught the Temple on fire towards the end of the siege:

1. While the holy house was on fire, everything was plundered that came to hand, and ten thousand of those that were caught were slain; nor was there a commiseration of any age, or any reverence of gravity; but children, and old men, and profane persons, and priests, were all slain in the same manner; so that this war went round all sorts of men, and brought them to destruction, and as well those that made supplication for their lives, as those that defended themselves by fighting. The flame was also carried a long way, and made an echo, together with the groans of those that were slain ; and because this hill was high, and the works at the temple were very great, one would have thought that the whole city had been on fire. Nor can one imagine anything either greater or more terrible than this noise; for there was at once a shout of the Roman legions, who were marching all together, and a sad clamour of the seditious, who were now surrounded with fire and sword. The people also that were left above were beaten back upon the enemy, and under a great consternation, and made sad moans at the calamity they were under; the multitude also that was in the city joined in this outcry with those that were upon the hill; and besides many of those that were worn away by the famine, and their mouths almost closed when they saw the fire of the holy house, they exerted their utmost strength, and brake out into groans and outcries again: Perea did also return the echo, as well as the mountains round about, [the city,] and augmented the force of the entire noise. Yet was the misery itself more terrible than this disorder; for one would have thought that the hill itself, on which the temple stood, was seething-hot  as full of fire on every part of it, that the blood was larger in quantity than the fire, and those that were slain more in number that those that slew them; for the ground did nowhere appear visible, for the dead bodies that lay on it; but the soldiers went over the heaps of these bodies, as they ran upon such as fled from them.

Christ’s puzzling statement about the “abomination of desolation” in this reading would most likely refer to the profanation of the Temple by Gentile invaders, since the reference to Daniel certainly refers to the sacrilege of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in 180 B.C.  In like fashion, Christ seems to be saying that a foreign army will soon defile the Holy Temple in similar fashion.  Josephus describes the 70 A.D. profanation as follows:

1. And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings lying round about it, brought their ensigns* to the temple and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus Imperator, with the greatest acclamations of joy. And now all the soldiers had such vast quantities of the spoils which they had gotten by plunder, that in Syria a pound weight of gold was sold for half its former value.

Whiston’s footnote is again of importance for this point, “*Havercamp says here :- “This is a remarkable place; and Tertullian truly says that the entire religion of the Roman camp almost consisted in worshipping the ensigns, in swearing by the ensigns, and in preferring the ensigns before all the [other] gods.”  Thus, the setting up of the ensigns and offering sacrifices to them on the Temple grounds would have certainly been viewed by the Jews as a defilement of Holy Grounds.

Just as Christ had promised that the city and its Temple would be demolished to the very foundations, Josephus describes the state of the city by the end of the war:

Where is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein? It is now demolished to the very foundations, and hath nothing but that monument of it preserved, I mean the camp of those that hath destroyed it, which still dwells upon its ruins; some unfortunate old men also lie upon the ashes of the temple, and a few women are there preserved alive by the enemy, for our bitter shame and reproach. Now who is there that revolves these things in his mind, and yet is able to bear the sight of the sun, though he might live out of danger? Who is there so much his country’s enemy, or so unmanly, and so desirous of living, as not to repent that he is still alive? And I cannot but wish that we had all died before we had seen that holy city demolished by the hands of our enemies, or the foundations of our holy temple dug up after so profane a manner.

Christ had said that the battle would be the worst calamity that had come upon the Jews since “the foundation of the world till now.”  Josephus describes the number of calamities as follows:

3. Now the number of those that were carried captive during the whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege, eleven hundred thousand, * the greater part of whom were indeed of the same nation, [with the citizens of Jerusalem,] but not belonging to the city itself; for they were come up from all the country to the feast of unleavened bread, and were on a sudden shut up by an army, which, at the very first, occasioned so great a straitness among them, that there came a pestilential destruction upon them, and soon afterward such a famine as destroyed them more suddenly. And that this city could contain so many people in it is manifest by that number of them which was taken under Cestius, who being desirous of informing Nero of the power of the city, who otherwise was disposed to contemn that nation, entreated the high priests, if the thing were possible, to take the number of their whole multitude. So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour to the eleventh, but so that a company not less than belong to every sacrifice, (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves,) and many of us are twenty in a company, found the number of sacrifices was two hundred and fifty-six thousand five hundred; which, upon the allowance of no more than ten that feast together, amounts to two millions seven hundred thousand and two hundred persons that were pure and holy; for as to those that have the leprosy, or the gonorrhea, or women that have their monthly courses, or such as are otherwise polluted, it is not lawful for them to be partakers of this sacrifice; nor indeed for any foreigners neither, who come hither to worship.

Whiston notes on this section:

*The whole multitude of the Jews that were destroyed during the entire seven years before this time, in all the countries of and bordering on Judea, is summed up by Archbishop Usher, from Lipsius, out of Josephus, at the year of Christ 70, and amounts to 1,337,490. Nor could there have been that number of Jews in Jerusalem to be destroyed in this siege, as will be presently set down by Josephus, but that both Jews and proselytes of justice were just then come up out of the other countries of Galilee, Samaria, Judea, and Perea and other remoter regions, to the 19assover, in vast numbers, and therein cooped up, as in a prison, by the Roman army, as Josephus himself well observes in this and the next section, and as is exactly related elsewhere, B. V. ch. 3. sect. 1 and ch. 13. sect. 7.

Conclusion

     From the foregoing information, comparing both textual accounts and considering the relevant arguments for the traditional dating and accuracy of the Gospel texts, Christ and Josephus appear to be describing the same historical event: the monumental destruction of Jerusalem and her Temple by the Roman army.  Seen in this light, these predictions of Christ constitute a powerful example of the prophetic focus of Jesus of Nazareth and early Christianity, being evidenced by the eminent, non-Christian testimony of Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

Works Cited

Bernstein, Leon.  Flavius Josephus:His Time and Critics (Liveright Publishing: New York, 1938).

Bruce, F.F.  The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable? (Intervarsity Press: Downer’s Grove, IL, 1960).

Creed, J.M. The Gospel According to St. Luke: The Greek Text with Introduction,

Notes, and Indices (MacMillan & Co.: London, 1950).

Faussett, A.R. Faussett’s Bible Dictionary (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1973).

“Flavius Josephus,” Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914, online edition,

www.newadvent.org.

Holford, George Peter.  The Destruction of Jerusalem (Covenant Media Press: Nacogdoches, TX, 2001).

Josephus, The Works of Flavius  Josephus, Vol. I, Wars of the Jews, Tr. Whilliam

Whiston, Ed. Charles Pfeiffer, (Baker Books: Grand Rapids, MI: 1982).

Metzger, Bruce M.  The Earliest Versions of the New Testament (ClarendonPress: Oxford, 1977).

New Geneva Study Bible, ed. R.C. Sproul (Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, TN, 1995).

Robinson, John A.T.  Redating the New Testament (Westminster Press: Philadelphia, 1976).

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2 thoughts on “The Olivet Discourse and Apocalypse as A.D. 70 Destruction

  1. good insight and scholarship. although, I would argue that these accounts (especially Matthew 24 and the Mark account) were possibly a double reference — one to the destruction in 70 A.D. and another, more fierce event yet to come. Some would argue that the Luke account was specifically talking about the 70 A.D. event, while the other two were referring what is yet to come, this based on there being two different audiences and therefore [possibly] two different discourses. the main reason for this is because the “abomination of desolation” in Daniel 9, is AFTER the 69 weeks, in the middle of the 70th week (the end of which, the “end of transgression” will come — which clearly hasn’t happened yet. This seems to me that the real, final “abomination” is still yet future).
    but still, great article!

    • The abomination is mentioned part of Antiochus Epiphanes’ desolation in the intertestamental picture and fulfilled again in 70 Ad. Jesus references it in Luke 21 showing it is 70 Ad, though there could be a later fulfillment. All of Luke 21 is spoken to the people standing in front of him and He mentions the Temple being destroyed and its desolation.

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