Did Jesus Prophesy the Destruction of the Temple?

Judaism after the Temple | My Jewish Learning
The Roman destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE

As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” –Matthew 27

Did Matthew the Apostle hear Jesus make this prophesy? The evidence is poor that he did. Even many evangelical Bible scholars (Richard Bauckham and NT Wright) doubt or at least question that Matthew the Apostle wrote the Gospel of Matthew, primarily because it would be odd for an eyewitness to copy so much of another author’s work (the Gospel of Mark) who was not an eyewitness (allegedly, John Mark). It is estimated that the author of Matthew incorporated over 90% of the Gospel of Mark into his Gospel, often copying Mark word for word. Why would he do such a thing if he had witnessed these events himself? That doesn’t make sense.

Bottom line, the authorship of ALL the Gospels is disputed, that is a fact. Even most Roman Catholic Bible scholars—who believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and in miracles—reject the apostolic authorship of the Gospels.

Let’s look at the first Gospel written, the first Gospel to contain the alleged prophecy in which Jesus predicts the future destruction of the Temple. The overwhelming majority of scholars date the writing of the Gospel of Mark to sometime between 65-75 CE. That means that it is possible that the prophecy about the destruction of the Temple occurred before the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. If this is the case, then it is certainly possible that Jesus did make this prophesy. But, it is also possible that this prophecy was simply a lucky guess, either by Jesus or by the author of Mark. The author of Mark, if writing in 65-69 CE, knew that trouble was brewing between the Jews and the Romans as the Jewish-Roman Wars started at about that time, and predicting a Roman triumph, knew that the destruction of the Temple, the last place where Jewish authority had been allowed under Roman rule, would be the probable outcome of a failed Jewish revolt. If the Romans won the Jewish-Roman War, everyone knew the Temple was doomed.

So this “prophecy” has four possible explanations:

–Jesus did have fortune-telling powers
–Jesus made a lucky guess
–Jesus never said this, the author of Mark made a lucky guess and invented Jesus making a prophecy about the Temple before the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE.
–the author of Mark, writing after 70 CE and knowing all about the destruction of the Temple, invented the prophecy to make it look like Jesus had fortune-telling powers.

If we were talking about a prophesy from any another religion, I will bet that most Christians would assume that the correct answer is 2, 3, or 4. So why do they assume the answer is 1 for their religion? The chances are very high, based on the evidence, that this prophecy was an invention of the author of Mark.

I suggest the answer is: They have a bias; Christians WANT the prophecy to be real. You are not using good critical thinking skills, my Christian friends.

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End of post.

11 thoughts on “Did Jesus Prophesy the Destruction of the Temple?

  1. re: “I suggest the answer is: They have a bias; Christians WANT the prophecy to be real. You are not using good critical thinking skills, my Christian friends.”

    This looks like the pot calling the kettle black. I mean, you DON’T WANT the prophecy to be real. You are not using good critical thinking skills, my agnostic/atheist friend.

    I think the whole of the post is well done. This last line? That’s the kind of thing that makes you a lightweight.

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  2. Since you originally posted this as a comment directed at me, I will repost my slightly edited reply:
    I will answer to the best of my ability, of which unfortunately I do not claim is great. I am mostly self educated in Bible study. I am, however, very confident in my thinking skills.
    I can turn your argument against you, also.
    You want the prophesy to be a good guess, or written after the fact, or written by someone else, etc. etc. You have about as much proof for your opinion as I do of mine. I find 2, 3, and 4 possibilities not very compelling, in light of the willingness of the disciples of Jesus Christ, who ran away in terror when He was arrested, to subsequently boldly proclaim His gospel. The only logical explanation is their witness to the resurrection. What possible motivation could they all have to make up stories that would end them up on some ancient torture device?
    John Mark was a close associate of Peter’s, I’m sure you know, and probably got much of his material from him. I wonder if anyone thought of the possibility that Mark also used written material from Matthew. It seems quite possible to me that Matthew wrote notes of Jesus’ sayings and doings.

    “Bottom line, the authorship of ALL the Gospels is disputed, that is a fact.” Of course, the authorship of the entire Bible is disputed.
    I do not give great credence to Roman Catholic scholars, sorry to say. They misinterpret scripture to fit their belief systems, eg their doctrine of purgatory and the perpetual virginity of Mary.

    As far as what most experts think, yes we need to turn to the experts. We all know that probably countless times the experts all concurred on things that proved to be totally false. So I read what they say and why, and where they are coming from, and make up my own mind.

    I was thinking about something you said.
    “If Jesus did the many amazing feats that the Gospels claim he performed, why would Josephus write more about John the Baptist than he would Jesus?” [Politically expedient? He was self- serving, you must admit.] “And why was Philo completely silent about Jesus even though he wrote a substantial amount regarding Pilate” [He wrote on philosophy, not history; he was contemporaneous with Jesus, and living in Egypt he may simply not have heard of Him.]
    “I think the answer is simple: Jesus was just not the big deal that the Gospels make him out to be.” Ok now my turn to ask a question. Please name another lowly peasant from any age, any country, around whose birth the entire world measures time by? I would say that’s a pretty big deal.

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    1. This seems to be the same comment as a few minutes ago. See my previous replies. Bottom line: You are not an expert yet you are setting yourself up as the final authority. That is foolish, yet we see many, many people in our country doing this today in regards to the Covid pandemic. These people, many of whom lack a university education in which they would have learned critical thinking skills, have set themselves up as the final authority. Very foolish.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I said that in my post, see the first sentence…
        And you are not setting yourself up as the final authority? Why are you blogging on this subject then?
        I have a BS in biology from a major university, a 4 year degree in a clinical health profession, and 2 years post doctoral education. I have read numerous scientific papers and learned how to read critically. I am sure you will now somehow make some denigrating comment, but so be it.
        You are not making sense to me. I think I am done here. Will refute you on my own blog, I don’t want to generate more traffic to yours.
        Will continue to pray for you though. Where there is life there is hope.

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        1. And you are not setting yourself up as the final authority?

          I accept expert consensus, using the scientific method, on all issues. That is what most university educated people do: we accept majority expert opinion on all issues about which we ourselves are not experts.

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            1. Trusting expert opinion is the foundation of all technologically advanced societies. Most educated people accept majority expert opinion on all issues about which they are not an expert. Spending a few hours on the internet and/or reading a couple of books on a particular subject does not make you an expert. Believing that one’s non-expert study of a topic trumps the majority opinion of the experts in that field is the tell-tale sign of a fool.

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        2. I have a BS in biology from a major university, a 4 year degree in a clinical health profession, and 2 years post doctoral education. I have read numerous scientific papers and learned how to read critically.

          Excellent. You are educated. I would encourage you to use the critical thinking skills you learned in university to evaluate your supernatural beliefs.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Will continue to pray for you though.

          And I will continue to share with you and all who will listen the real Good News of the benefits of science, reason, and rational thinking—methods of evaluating truth claims that have proven far superior to the superstitious thinking encouraged by your ancient holy book.

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  3. If it is a prophecy, it’s not original. There was a tradition of Jewish prophets, groups and writers saying the temple was going to be destroyed because of God’s displeasure – Jeremiah in several places, Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes, and other apocryphal writings.
    “The prediction that God would enter into judgement with his people, destroying them and their sacred places, is as old as the Hebrew prophets that Jesus heard read as a child in the synagogue in Nazareth.” (Ehrman P.138, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of The New Millennium)
    And since there is still a western wall, there obviously IS one stone left upon another, which is not what Jesus predicted.

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