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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 24

 

 

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Introduction

CHAPTER 24

Matthew 24:2. For δὲ ἰησοῦς we should read, with Lachm. and Tisch., δὲ ἀποκριθείς, following important evidence. The insertion of the subject along with the participle led to the omission of the latter.

οὐ βλέπετε] Fritzsche: βλέπετε, following D L X, min. vss. and Fathers. Ancient (It. Vulg.) correction for sake of the sense, after Mark 13:2.

For πάντα ταῦτα we should read, with Lachm. Fritzsche, Tisch. 8, ταῦτα πάντα, in accordance with a preponderance of evidence.

ὃς οὖ] Elz.: ὃς οὐ μή, against decisive evidence. Mechanical repetition of the preceding οὐ μή.

Matthew 24:3. τῆς συντελ.] The article is wanting in B C L א, min. Cyr. (in the present instance), and has been correctly deleted by Lachm. and Tisch. Superfluous addition.

Matthew 24:6. πάντα] is wanting, no doubt, in B D L א, min. vss., and has been deleted by Lachm. and Tisch. 8, but it had been omitted in conformity with Mark 13:7 ; while in some of the witnesses we find ταῦτα, in accordance with Luke 21:9, and in some others, again, πάντα ταῦτα (Fritzsche: ταῦτα πάντα). The various corrections were occasioned by the unlimited character of πάντα.

Matthew 24:7. καὶ λοιμοί] is wanting in B D E* א, min. Cant. 24 :Verc. Corb. 2, Hilar. Arnob. Deleted by Lachm. and Tisch. 8. Other witnesses reverse the order of the words, which is strongly favoured by Luke. All the more are they to be regarded as inserted from Luke 21:11 .

Matthew 24:9. Elz. has ἐθνῶν. But the reading τῶν ἐθνῶν has a decided preponderance of evidence in its favour; and then how easily might τῶν be overlooked after πάντων! The omission of τῶν ἐθνῶν in C, min. Chrys. was with a view to conformity with Mark and Luke.

Matthew 24:15. ἑστώς] Fritzsche, Lachm. and Tisch.: ἑστός, following a preponderance of MS. authority (including B* א ), and correctly. The transcribers have contracted into ἑστώς what, strictly speaking, should be spelt ἑσταός, though the spelling ἑστός is also met with in classical writers.

Matthew 24:16. ἐπί] Lachm.: εἰς, following B D δ, min. Fathers. Adopted from Mark 13:14; Luke 21:21. Mark is likewise the source of the reading καταβάτω, Matthew 24:17, in B D L Z א, min. Or. Caes. Isid. Chrys., and which Fritzsche, Lachm. Tisch. 8 have adopted.

For τι ἐκ, as in Elz., read, with Lachm. and Tisch., τὰ ἐκ, following decisive evidence.

Matthew 24:18. τὰ ἱμάτια] τὸ ἱμάτιον, no doubt, has weighty evidence in its favour, and is approved by Griesb. and adopted by Lachm. and Tisch. 8, but it is taken from Mark 13:16.

Matthew 24:20. The simple σαββάτῳ (Elz.: ἐν σαββ.) is supported by decisive evidence.

Matthew 24:23. πιστεύσητε] Lachm.: πιστεύετε, following only B* Or. Taken from Mark 13:21.

Matthew 24:24. For πλανῆσαι Tisch. 8 has πλανηθῆναι, following D א, codd. of It. Or.int. and several other Fathers. The reading of the Received text is, no doubt, supported by preponderating evidence; but how readily might the active have been substituted for the passive in conformity with Matthew 24:5 ; Matthew 24:11!

Matthew 24:27. καί is, with Scholz, Lachm. Tisch., to be deleted after ἔσται, in accordance with decisive evidence. Inserted in conformity with the usual mode of expression; in Matthew 24:37; Matthew 24:39 we should likewise delete the καί, which Tisch. 8 retains in Matthew 24:39.

Matthew 24:28. γάρ] deleted by Lachm. and Tisch. 8, following B D L א, min. vss. and Fathers. Correctly. A common insertion of the connecting particle. This is more probable than the supposition that a fastidious logic took exception to the kind of connection.

Matthew 24:30. τότε κόψ.] The omission of τότε by Tisch. 8 is without adequate evidence, having among the uncials only that of א *. Had the words been inserted in accordance with Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27, they would have been placed before ὄψονται.

Matthew 24:31. φωνῆς] is not found in L δ א, min. Copt. Syr. and several Fathers. Being awkward and superfluous, it was in some cases omitted altogether, in others (Syr.jer. Aeth., also Syr.p., though with an asterisk at φων .) placed before σαλπ., and sometimes it was conjoined with σαλπ. by inserting καί after this latter (D, min. Vulg. It. Hilar. Aug. Jer.).

For the second ἄκρων Lachm. has τῶν ἄκρ., following only B, 1, 13, 69.

Matthew 24:34. After λέγω ὑμῖν, Lachm., in accordance with B D F L, min. It. Vulg. Or., inserts ὅτι, which, however, may readily have crept in from Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32.

Matthew 24:35.(13) Griesb. and the more recent editors (with the exception, however, of Matth. and Scholz) have adopted παρελεύσεται in preference to the παρελεύσονται of Elz., following B D L, min. Fathers. The plural is taken from Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33.

Matthew 24:36. Before ὥρας Elz. has τῆς, which, though defended by Schulz, is condemned by decisive evidence. Superfluous addition. Comp. Matthew 24:3.

After οὐρανῶν Lachm. and Tisch. 8 have οὐδὲ υἱός, in accordance with B D א, min. codd. of It. Syr.jer. Aeth. Arm. Chrys. Or.int. Hil. Ambr., etc. For a detailed examination of the evidence, see Tisch. The words are an ancient interpolation from Mark 13:32 . Had it been the case that they originally formed part of our passage, but were deleted for dogmatic reasons, it is certain that, having regard to the christological importance sometimes ascribed to them (“gaudet Arius et Eunomius, quasi ignorantia magistri,” Jerome), they would have been expunged from Mark as well. The interpolation was all the more likely to take place in the case of Matthew, from its serving to explain ΄όνος (which latter does not occur in, Mark).

Elz. Scholz, and Tisch. 7 have ΄ου after πατήρ. Defended by Schulz, though deleted by Griesb. Lachm. Tisch. 8. It is likewise adopted by Fritzsche, who, however, deletes the following ΄όνος, which is wanting only in Sahid. In deference to the ordinary usage in Matthew (Matthew 7:21, Matthew 10:32 f., etc.), ΄ου should be restored. It is wanting, no doubt, in B D L δ π א, min. vss. and Fathers, but it may readily enough have been omitted in consequence of the M O immediately following it, all the more that it is not found in Mark.

Matthew 24:37. δέ] Lachm.: γάρ, following B D I, vss. Fathers. An exegetical gloss.

Matthew 24:38. ταῖς πρό] is deleted by Fritzsche and Tisch. 7, in accordance with some few, and these, too, inadequate witnesses (Origen, however). Coming as it does after Matthew 24:37, it had been mechanically omitted; it can scarcely have been inserted as the result of reflection. Before ταῖς Lachm. has ἐκείναις, following B D (which latter omits ταῖς), codd. of It.,—a reading which ought to be adopted, all the more because in itself it is not indispensable, and because it was very apt to be omitted, in consequence of the similarity in the termination of the words.

For ἐκγα΄ίζοντες read γα΄ίζοντες with Tisch. 8, following D א, 33, Chrys.; comp. on Matthew 22:30 .

Matthew 24:40. For εἷς Fritzsche, Lachm. and Tisch. have simply εἷς in both instances, following B D I L א, min. ( δ and Chrys. leave out the article only in the first case). For sake of uniformity with Matthew 24:41.

Matthew 24:41. ΄υλῶνι] Lachm. and Tisch.: ΄ύλῳ, following preponderating evidence; the reading of the Received text is intended to be more precise.

Matthew 24:42. ὥρᾳ] Lachm. and Tisch.: ἡ΄έρᾳ. So B D I δ א, min. Ir. Cyr. Ath. Hilar. and vss. The reading of the Received text is by way of being more definite. Comp. Matthew 24:44 .

Matthew 24:45. αὐτοῦ after κύριος is wanting in important witnesses (deleted by Lachm. and Tisch. 8), but it must have been left out to conform with Luke 12:42.

θεραπείας] Lachm. and Tisch.: οἰκετείας, following B I L δ, min. Correctly; from the word not occurring elsewhere in the New Testament, it would be explained by the gloss οἰκίας ( א, min. Ephr. Bas. Chrys.), or at other times by θεραπ .

For the following διδόναι read δοῦναι, with Griesb. Fritzsche, Lachm. Tisch., in accordance with preponderating evidence.

Matthew 24:46. ποιοῦντα οὓτως] Lachm. and Tisch.: οὓτως ποιοῦντα, following B C D I L א, min. Vulg. It. Aeth. Ir. Hil. The reading of the Received text is from Luke 12:43 .

Matthew 24:48. The order ΄ου κύριος is favoured by a preponderance of evidence, and, with Lachm. and Tisch., ought to be preferred. Lachm. and Tisch. 8 omit ἐλθεῖν, though on somewhat weaker evidence; ἐλθεῖν is further confirmed by the reading ἔρκεσθι in min. Or. Bas., which is taken from Luke 12:45. The infinitive not being indispensable (comp. Matthew 25:5), was passed over.

Matthew 24:49. αὑτοῦ, which is wanting in Elz. (and Tisch. 7), has been restored by Griesb. Lachm. and Tisch. 8, in accordance with preponderating evidence. Similarly with regard to ἐσθίῃ δὲ καὶ πίνῃ (for ἐσθίειν δὲ καὶ πίνειν in Elz.), which has decisive evidence in its favour, and is an altered form of Luke 12:45.


Verse 1

Matthew 24:1. On the following discourse generally, see: Dorner, de orat. Chr. eschatologica, 1844; R. Hofmann, Wiederkunft Chr. u. Zeichen d. Menschensohnes, 1850; Hebart, d. zweite sichtb. Zuk. Chr. 1850; Scherer in the Strassb. Beitr. 1851, II. p. 83 ff.; E. J. Meyer, krit. Comment, zu d. eschatolog. Rede Matth. xxiv., xxv., I., 1857; Cremer, d. eschatolog. Rede Matth. xxiv., xxv., 1860; Luthardt, Lehre v. d. letzten Dingen, 1861; Hoelemann, Bibelstudien, 1861, II. p. 129 ff.; Auberlen in the Stud. u. Krit. 1862, p. 213 ff.; Pfleiderer in the Jahrb. f. D. Theol. 1868, p. 134 ff.; Kienlen, ibid. 1869, p. 706 ff., and Commentaire sur l’apocalypse, 1870, p. 1 ff.; Wittichen, Idee d. Reiches Gottes, 1872, p. 219 ff.; Weissenbach, d. Wiederkunfts-gedanke Jesu, 1873, p. 69 ff., comp. his Jesu in regno coel. dignitas, 1868, p. 79 ff.; Colani, Jésus Christ et les croyances messian. de son temps, ed. 2, 1864, p. 204 ff.

The parallel passages are Mark 13, Luke 21. Luke, however, in accordance with his own independent way of treating his narrative, does not merely omit many particulars and put somewhat differently many of those which he records (as is likewise the case with Mark), but he introduces not a few in a different, and that an earlier historical connection (ch. Matthew 12:17). But this would not justify us, as Luther, Schleiermacher, Neander, Hase suppose, in using Luke’s narrative for correcting Matthew (Strauss, II. p. 337 f.; Holtzmann, p. 200 ff.), to whom, as the author of the collection of our Lord’s sayings, precedence in point of authority is due. It must be admitted, however, that it is precisely the eschatological discourses, more than any others, in regard to which it is impossible to determine how many modifications of their original form may have taken place(14) under the influence of the ideas and expectations of the apostolic age, although the shape in which they appeared first of all was given to them, not by Mark (Holtzmann, p. 95; see, on the other hand, Weiss), but by Matthew in his collection of the sayings of our Lord. This is to be conceded without any hesitation. At the same time, however, we must as readily allow that the discourse is characterized by all the unity and consecutiveness of a skilful piece of composition, and allow it all the more that any attempt to distinguish accurately between the original elements and those that are not original (Keim) only leads to great uncertainty and diversity of opinion in detail. But the idea that portions of a Jewish (Weizsäcker) or Judaeo-Christian (Pfleiderer, Colani, Keim, Weissenbach) apocalyptic writing have been mixed up with the utterances of Jesus, appears not only unwarrantable in itself, but irreconcilable with the early date of the first two Gospels, especially in their relation to the collection of our Lord’s sayings ( λογία).

ἐξελθών] from the temple, Matthew 21:23.

ἐπορεύετο ἀπὸ τοῦ ἱεροῦ] He went away from the temple, withdrew to some distance from it. Comp. Matthew 25:41. For this interpretation we require neither a hyperbaton (Fritzsche, de Wette), according to which ἀπὸ τ. ἱεροῦ would belong to ἐξελθών,(15) nor the accentuation ἄπο (Bornemann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1843, p. 108 f.)

τὰς οἰκοδομὰς τοῦ ἱεροῦ] not merely τοῦ ναοῦ, but the whole of the buildings connected with the temple, all of which, with the ναός and the porches and the courts, constituted the ἱερόν. Comp. on Matthew 4:5. The magnificent structures (Joseph. Bell. v. 5. 6, vi. 4. 6, 8; Tac. Hist. v. 8. 12) were not then finished as yet, see on John 2:21.

Even Chrysostom, Erasmus, and Bengel did not fail to perceive that what led the disciples to direct the attention of Jesus to the temple-buildings was the announcement contained in Matthew 23:38, which, though it did not refer exclusively to the temple, necessarily included the fate of this latter as well. This the disciples could not but notice; and so, as they looked back and beheld the splendours of the entire sacred edifice, they could not help asking Jesus further to explain Himself, which He does at once in Matthew 24:2, and in terms corresponding with what He had announced in Matthew 23:38.


Verse 2

Matthew 24:2. οὐ(16) βλέπετε ταῦτα πάντα (see critical notes) does not mean: “do not gaze so much at all this” (Paulus), in which case μή, at least, would be required; nor: “are you not astonished at all this magnificence” (de Wette, following Chrysostom)? which would be to import a different meaning into the simple βλέπετε; but: ye see not all this, by which, of course, Jesus does not intend the mere temple-buildings in themselves considered, but the doom which awaits all those splendid edifices,—a doom which He at once proceeds to reveal. Instead of having an eye to perceive all this, to them everything looked so magnificent; they were βλέποντες οὐ βλέποντες (Matthew 13:13), so that they were incapable of seeing the true state of matters as regarded the temple; it was hid from their eyes. The more vividly Jesus Himself foresaw the coming ruin; the more distinct the terms in which He had just been pointing to it, Matthew 23:38; the deeper the emotion with which He had taken that touching farewell of the temple; the fuller, moreover, the acquaintance which the disciples must have had with the prophecy in Daniel 9; and the greater the perplexity with which, as the Lord was aware, they continued to regard His utterance about the temple, Matthew 23:38; so much the more intelligible is this introductory passage, in which Jesus seeks to withdraw their attention from what presents itself to the mere outward vision, and open their eyes in order that as μὴ βλέποντες βλέπωσι (John 9:39). Further, it is better to take this pregnant utterance in an affirmative rather than in an interrogative sense, as is usually done, because there is no preceding assertion on the part of the disciples to which the question of surprise might be said to correspond. Grulich (de loci Matth. xxiv. 1, 2, interpret., 1839) places the emphasis on πάντα: “videtis quidem ταῦτα, sed non videtis ταῦτα πάντα (nimirum templi desolationem, etc.).” So also Hoelemann. This is improbable, if for no other reason than the ordinary usage as regards ταῦτα πάντα, which has no such refinement of meaning anywhere else. Jesus would simply have said: οὐ πάντα βλέπετε. Bornemann, as above, after other attempts at explanation, finds it simplest to interpret as follows: ye see not; of all this, believe me, not one stone will remain upon another, etc. He thinks that what Jesus meant to say was: ταῦτα πάντα καταλυθήσεται, but that He interrupts Himself in order to introduce the asseveration ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, and so breaks the construction. That Jesus, however, would not merely have broken the construction, but still more would have used the words οὐ μὴ ἀφεθῇ without any logical reference to ταῦτα πάντα, is clearly indicated by ὧδε, which therefore contradicts the explanation just given.

ὃς οὐ καταλυθ.] For οὐ, see Winer, p. 448 [E. T. 604]; Buttmann, p. 305 [E. T. 355]. Not a stone will be left upon another without being thrown down. Occurring as it does in a prophetical utterance, this hyperbolical language should not be strained in the least, and certainly it ought not to be made use of for the purpose of disproving the genuineness of the passage; see, as against this abuse, Keim, III. p. 190 ff.; Weissenbach, p. 162 ff. And on account of Revelation 11:1 ff., comp. also Weizsäcker, p. 548 f.


Verse 3

Matthew 24:3. κατʼ ἰδίαν] unaccompanied by any but such as belonged to the number of the Twelve, because they were going to ask Him to favour them with a secret revelation. Differently Mark 13:3.

ταῦτα] those disastrous events of Matthew 24:2.

καὶ τί τὸ σημεῖον, κ. τ. λ.] The disciples assume, as matter of course, that immediately after the destruction in question the Lord will appear, in accordance with what is said Matthew 23:39, for the purpose of setting up His kingdom, and that with this the current (the pre-Messianic) era of the world’s history will come to an end. Consequently they wish to know, in the second place (for there are only two questions, not three, as Grotius, Ebrard suppose), what is to be the sign which, after the destruction of the temple, is to precede this second coming and the end of the world, that by it they may be able to recognise the approach of those events. The above assumption, on the part of the disciples, is founded on the doctrine respecting the הבלי המשיח, dolores Messiae, derived from Hosea 13:13. See Schoettgen, II. p. 550; Bertholdt, Christol. p. 43 ff.

τῆς σῆς παρουσίας] After his repeated intimations of future suffering and death, the disciples could not conceive of the advent of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; in the Gospels peculiar to Matthew) to set up His kingdom and make a permanent stay in any other way than as a solemn second coming. After His resurrection they expected the Risen One straightway to set up His kingdom (Acts 1:6),—a very natural expectation when we bear in mind that the resurrection was an unlooked-for event; but, after the ascension, their hopes were directed, in accordance with the express promises of Jesus, to the coming from heaven, which they believed was going to take place ere long, Acts 1:11; Acts 3:20 f., al., and the numerous passages in the New Testament Epistles. Comp. Wittichen in the Jahrb. f. Deutsche Theol. 1862, p. 354 ff. Observe, too, the emphatic σῆς coming after the general expression ταῦτα.

καὶ συντελ. τοῦ αἰῶνος] In the Gospels we find no trace of the millenarian ideas of the Apocalypse. The τοῦ αἰῶνος, with the article, but not further defined, is to be understood as referring to the existing, the then current age of the world, i.e. to the αἰὼν οὗτος, which is brought to a close ( συντέλεια) with the second coming, inasmuch as, with this latter event, the αἰὼν μέλλων begins. See on Matthew 13:39. The second coming, the resurrection and the last judgment, fall upon the ἐσχάτη ἡμέρα (John 6:39; John 11:24), which, as it will be the last day of the αἰὼν οὗτος in general, so of the ἐσχάτων ἡμερῶν (Acts 2:17; 2 Timothy 3:1; James 5:3; Hebrews 1:2; 2 Peter 3:3) in particular, or of the καιρὸς ἔσχατος (1 Peter 1:5), or of the χρόνος ἔσχατος (Jude 1:18; 1 Peter 1:20), which John likewise calls the ἐσχάτη ὥρα (1 John 2:18). This concluding period, which terminates with the last day, is to be characterized by abounding distress and wickedness (see on Galatians 1:4). The article was unnecessary before συντελείας, seeing that it is followed by the genitive of specification; Winer, p. 118 f. [E. T. 155].


Verse 4

Matthew 24:4. The reply of Jesus is directed, in the first instance, to the second question ( τί τὸ σημεῖον, κ. τ. λ.), inasmuch as He indicates, as the discourse advances, the things that are to precede His second coming, till, in Matthew 24:28, He reaches the point which borders immediately upon the latter event (see Matthew 24:29). But this answer to the second question involves, at the same time, an indirect answer to the first, in so far as it was possible to give this latter at all (for see Matthew 24:36), and in so far as it was advisable to do so, if the watchfulness of the disciples was to be maintained. The discourse proceeds in the following order down to Matthew 24:28 : first there is a warning with regard to the appearing of false Messiahs (extending to Matthew 24:5), then the announcement of the beginning and development of the dolores Messiae on to their termination (Matthew 24:6-14), and finally the hint that these latter are to end with the destruction of the temple and the accompanying disasters (Matthew 24:15-22), with a repetition of the warning against false Messiahs (Matthew 24:23-28). Ebrard (adv. erroneam nonnull. opinion., qua Christus Christique apost. existumasse perhibentur, fore ut univ. iudicium ipsor. aetate superveniret, 1842) finds in Matthew 24:4-14 the reply of Jesus to the disciples’ second question. He thinks that in Matthew 24:15 Jesus passes to the first, and that in Matthew 24:29 He comes back “ad σημεῖον τῆς ἑαυτοῦ παρουσίας κατʼ ἐξοχήν, i.e. ad secundae quaestionis partem priorem.” This supposition is simply the result of an imperious dogmatic preconception, and cannot be justified on any fair exegetical principle. See below. Dorner, who spiritualizes the discourse, understands Matthew 24:4-14 as setting forth the nature of the gospel and its necessary development, while he regards what follows, from Matthew 24:15 onward, as describing the historical “decursum Christianae religionis;” he thinks that Jesus desired by this means to dispel the premature Messianic hopes of the disciples, and make them reflect on what they must bear and suffer “ut evangelium munere suo historico perfungi possit.”


Verse 4-5

Matthew 24:4-5. In the first place—and how appropriate and necessary, considering the eagerness of the disciples for the second coming!—a warning against false Messiahs, and then Matthew 24:6 f. the first, far off, indirect prognostics of the second advent, like the roll of the distant thunder.

ἐπὶ τ. ὀνόμ. μου] on the strength of my name, so that they rest their claim a upon the name of Messiah, which they arrogate to themselves. Comp. Matthew 18:5. The following λέγοντες, κ. τ. λ. is epexegetical. We possess no historical record of any false Messiahs having appeared previous to the destruction of Jerusalem (Barcochba did not make his appearance till the time of Hadrian); for Simon Magus (Acts 8:9), Theudas (Acts 5:36), the Egyptian (Acts 21:38), Menander, Dositheus, who have been referred to as cases in point (Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, Grotius, Calovius, Bengel), did not pretend to be the Messiah. Comp. Joseph. Antt. xx. 5. 1; 8. 6; Bell. ii. 13. 5. Then as for the period subsequent to the destruction of the capital, it is not here in question (in answer to Luthardt, Cremer, Lange); for see on Matthew 24:29 And consequently it cannot have been intended, as yet, to point to such personages as Manes, Montanus, and least of all Mohammed.


Verse 6

Matthew 24:6. δέ] continuative: but to turn now from this preliminary warning to your question itself—ye will hear, etc. This reply to the disciples’ question as to the events that were to be the precursors of the destruction of the temple (comp. πότε, Matthew 24:3), is so framed that the prophetic outlook is directed first to the more general aspect of things (to what is to take place on the theatre of the world at large, Matthew 24:6-8), and then to what is of a more special nature (to what concerns the disciples and the community of Christians, Matthew 24:9-14). For the future μελλής. (you will have to), comp. 2 Peter 1:12; Plat. Ep. vii. p. 326 C.

πολέμους κ. ἀκοὰς πολέμων] said with reference to wars near at hand, the din and tumult of which are actually heard, and to wars at a distance, of which nothing is known except from the reports that are brought home.

ὁρᾶτε, μὴ θροεῖσθε] take care, be not terrified. For θροεῖσθε, comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:2; Song of Solomon 5:4; on the two imperatives, as in Matthew 8:4; Matthew 8:15, Matthew 9:30, see Buttmann, Neut. Gr. p. 209 [E. T. 243].

δεῖ γὰρ πάντα γενέσθαι] they are not to be terrified, because it is necessary that all that should take place. The reflection that it is a matter of necessity in pursuance of the divine purpose (Matthew 26:54), is referred to as calculated to inspire a calm and reassured frame of mind. πάντα is to be understood as meaning: everything that is then to happen, not specially ( τὰ πάντα, ταῦτα πάντα, comp. critical notes) the matters indicated by μελλήσετεπολέμων, but rather that: nothing, which begins to take place, can stop short of its full accomplishment. The emphasis, however, is on δεῖ.

ἀλλʼ οὔπω ἐστὶ τὸ τέλος] however, this will not be as yet the final consummation, so that you will require to preserve your equanimity still further. Comp. Hom. Il. ii. 122: τέλος δʼ οὔ πώ τί πέφανται. τὸ τέλος cannot mean the συντέλεια, Matthew 24:3 (Chrysostom, Ebrard, Bleek, Lange, Cremer, Auberlen, Hoelemann, Gess), but, as the context proves by the correlative expression ἀρχὴ ὠδίνων, Matthew 24:8, and by τὸ τέλος, Matthew 24:14, comp. with οὖν, Matthew 24:15, the end of the troubles at present under consideration. Inasmuch, then, as these troubles are to be straightway followed by the world’s last crisis and the signs of the Messiah’s advent (Matthew 24:29-30), τὸ τέλος must be taken as referring to the end of the dolores Messiae. This end is the laying waste of the temple and the unparalleled desolation of the land that is to accompany it. Matthew 24:15 ff. This is also substantially equivalent to de Wette’s interpretation: “the decisive winding up of the present state of things (and along with it the climax of trouble and affliction).”


Verse 7

Matthew 24:7. γάρ] it is not quite the end as yet; for the situation will become still more turbulent and distressing: nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, etc. We have here depicted in colours borrowed from ancient prophecy (Isaiah 19:2), not only those risings, becoming more and more frequent, which, after a long ferment, culminated in the closing scene of the Jewish war and led to the destruction of Jerusalem, but also those convulsions in nature by which they were accompanied. That this prediction was fulfilled in its general aspects is amply confirmed, above all, by the well-known accounts of Josephus; but we are forbidden by the very nature of genuine prophecy, which cannot and is not meant to be restricted to isolated points, either to assume or try to prove that such and such historical events are special literal fulfilments in concrete of the individual features in the prophetic outlook before us,—although this has been attempted very recently, by Köstlin in particular. As for the Parthian wars and the risings that took place some ten years after in Gaul and Spain, they had no connection whatever with Jerusalem or Judaea. There is as little reason to refer (Wetstein) the πολέμους of Matthew 24:6 to the war waged by Asinaeus and Alinaeus against the Parthians (Joseph. Antt. xviii. 9. 1), and the ἀκοὰς πολέμων to the Parthian declaration of war against King Izates of Adiabene (Joseph. Antt. xx. 3. 3), or to explain the latter ( ἀκοὰς πολέμων) of the struggles for the imperial throne that had broken out after the death of Nero (Hilgenfeld). Jesus, who sees rising before Him the horrors of war and other calamities connected, Matthew 24:15, with the coming destruction of Jerusalem, presents a picture of them to the view of His hearers. Comp. 4 Esdr. Matthew 13:21; Sohar Chadasch, f. viii. 4 : “Illo tempore bella in mundo excitabuntur; gens erit contra gentem, et urbs contra urbem: angustiae multae contra hostes Israelitarum innovabuntur.” Beresch. Rabba, 42 f., 41. 1 : “Si videris regna contra se invicem insurgentia tunc attende, et adspice pedem Messiae.”

λιμοὶ κ. σεισμοί] see critical notes. Nor, again, is this feature in the prediction to be restricted to some such special famine as that which occurred during the reign of Claudius (Acts 11:28), too early a date for our passage, and to one or two particular cases of earthquake which happened in remote countries, and with which history has made us familiar (such as that in the neighbourhood of Colossae, Oros. Hist. vii. 7, Tacit. Ann. xiv. 27, and that at Pompeii).

κατὰ τόπους] which is applicable only to σεισμοί, as in Mark 13:8, is to be taken distributively (Bernhardy, p. 240; Kühner, II. 1, p. 414): locatim, travelling from one district to another. The equally grammatical interpretation: in various localities here and there (Grotius, Wetstein, Raphel, Kypke, Baumgarten-Crusius, Köstlin, Bleek), is rather too feeble to suit the extraordinary character of the events referred to. In Matthew 24:6-7, Dorner finds merely an embodiment of the thought: “evangelium gladii instar dissecabit male conjuncta, ut vere jungat; naturae autem phaenomena concomitantia quasi depingent motus et turbines in spiritualibus orbibus orturos.”


Verse 8

Matthew 24:8. But all this will be the beginning of woes (Euthymius Zigabenus: προοίμια τῶν συμφορῶν), will stand in the same relation to what is about to follow, as the beginning of the birth-pangs does to the much severer pains which come after. It is apparent from Matthew 24:7 that ἔσται is understood. The figure contained in ὠδίνων is to be traced to the popular way of conceiving of the troubles that were to precede the advent of the Messiah as חבלי המשיח. Comp. on Matthew 24:3.


Verse 9

Matthew 24:9. Jesus now exhibits the sequel of this universal beginning of woes in its special bearing upon the disciples and the whole Christian community. Comp. on Matthew 10:17 ff.

τότε] then, when what is said at Matthew 24:7 will have begun. Differently in Luke 21:12 ( πρὸ δὲ τούτων), where, though τότε is not in any way further defined (Cremer), we have clearly a correction in order to adapt the expression to the persecutions that in the evangelist’s time had already begun. Seeing that the expressions are distinctly different from each other. it is not enough to appeal to the “elasticity” of the τότε (Hoelemann).

ἀποκτενοῦσιν ὑμᾶς] spoken generally, not as intimating, nor even presupposing (Scholten), the death of all of them. After παραδώς. ὑμᾶς the current of prophetic utterance flows regularly on, leaving to the hearers themselves to make the necessary distinctions.

καὶ ἔσεσθε μισούμενοι] It is a mistake to suppose that we have here a reference to Nero’s persecution (proceeding upon an erroneous interpretation of the well-known “odio humani generis” in Tacit. Ann. xv. 44, see Orelli on the passage), because it is the disciples that are addressed; and to regard them as the representatives of Christians in general, or as the sum total of the church (Cremer), would be arbitrary in the highest degree; the discourse does not become general in its character till Matthew 24:10. Comp. 1 Corinthians 4:13.

ὑπὸ πάντων τ. ἐθνῶν] by all nations. What a confirmation of this, in all general respects, is furnished by the history of the apostles, so far as it is known to us! But we are not justified in saying more, and especially when we take into account the prophetic colouring given to our discourse, must we beware of straining the πάντων in order to favour the notion that the expression contains an allusion to the vast and long-continued efforts that would be made to disseminate the gospel throughout the world (Dorner); let us repeat that it is the apostles who are in question here. Comp. Matthew 10:17 f., 22.


Verse 10

Matthew 24:10. καὶ τότε] and then, when those persecutions will have broken out against you.

σκανδαλισθήσονται πολλοί] many will receive a shock, i.e. many Christians will be tempted to relapse into unbelief, see on Matthew 13:21. For the converse of offendentur in this sense, see Matthew 24:13. Consequence of this falling away: καὶ ἀλλήλους παραδώς.] one another, i.e. the Christian who has turned apostate, him who has continued faithful. What a climax the troubles have reached, seeing that they are now springing up in the very heart of the Christian community itself!


Verse 11

Matthew 24:11. Besides this ruinous apostasy in consequence of persecution from without, there is the propagation of error by false Christian teachers living in the very bosom of the church itself (comp. Matthew 7:15). These latter should not be more precisely defined (Köstlin: “extreme antinomian tendencies;” Hilgenfeld: “those who adhere to Pauline views;” comp. also Weiss, Bibl. Theol. p. 586, ed. 2). The history of the apostolic age has sufficiently confirmed this prediction, Acts 20:30; 1 John 4:1.


Verse 12

Matthew 24:12. And in consequence of the growing prevalence of wickedness (as the result of what is mentioned in Matthew 24:10-11), the love of the greater number will become cold; that predominance of evil within the Christian community will have the effect of cooling the brotherly love of the majority of its members. The moral degeneracy within the pale of that community will bring about as its special result a prevailing want of charity, that specific contrast to the true characteristic of the Christian life (Galatians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 13:1 ff.; 1 John 4:20). For ἀνομία, the opposite of moral compliance with the law of God (= ἁμαρτία, 1 John 3:4), comp. Matthew 7:23, Matthew 13:41, Matthew 23:28; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:7. For ψύγειν with γ, comp. Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 318.

τῶν πολλῶν] are not the πολλοί mentioned in Matthew 24:10 (Fritzsche), whose love, as that verse informs us, is already changed into hatred, but the multitude, the mass, the great body (Kühner, II. l, p. 548; Ast, Lex. Plat. III. p. 148) of Christians. In the case of those who were distinguished above the ordinary run of Christians, no such cooling was to take place; but yet, as compared with the latter, they were only to be regarded as ὀλίγοι. According to Dorner, Matthew 24:11-12 apply not to the apostolic age, but to a subsequent stage in the history of the church. But such a view is inconsistent with the numerous testimonies to be met with in the Epistles, with the apprehensions and expectations regarding impending events to which they give expression. Comp. on Galatians 1:4.


Verse 13

Matthew 24:13. δὲ ὑπομείνας] contrast to what in the σκανδαλισθής. πολλοί of Matthew 24:10 and the πλανής. πολλούς of Matthew 24:12 is described as apostasy, partly from the faith generally, and partly (Matthew 24:12) from the true Christian faith and life. Comp. Matthew 10:22. According to Fritzsche, it is only the persevering in love that is meant, so that the contrast has reference merely to ψυχήσεται, κ. τ. λ. But according to our interpretation, the contrast is more thorough and better suited to the terms of the passage.

εἰς τέλος] not perpetuo (Fritzsche), which, as the connection shows (Matthew 24:6), is too indefinite; but: unto the end, till the last, until the troubles will have come to an end, which, as appears from the context ( σωθήσεται), will, in point of fact, be coincident with the second advent. Comp. Matthew 24:30-31; Matthew 10:22. The context forbids such interpretations as: unto death (Elsner, Kuinoel, Ebrard), until the destruction of Jerusalem (Krebs, Rosenmüller, R. Hofmann), σωθήσεται being referred in the latter case to the flight of the Christians to Pella (Eusebius, H. E. iii. 5). Of course Matthew 24:13 describes the “sanam hominis Christiani dispositionem spiritualem ad eschatologiam pertinentem” (Dorner), always on the understanding, however, that the second advent is at hand, and that the “homo Christianus” will live to see it.


Verse 14

Matthew 24:14. Having just uttered the words εἰς τέλος, Christ now reveals the prospect of a most encouraging state of matters which is immediately to precede and usher in the consummation indicated by this εἰς τέλος, namely, the preaching of the gospel throughout the whole world in spite of the hatred and apostasy previously mentioned (Matthew 24:9-10 ff.); ὅτι οὐδὲν τῶν δεινῶν περιγενήσεται τοῦ κηρύγματος, Euthymius Zigabenus. The substantial fulfilment of this prediction is found in the missionary labours of the apostles, above all in those of Paul; comp. Acts 1:9; Romans 1:14; Romans 10:18; Romans 15:19; Matthew 28:19; Colossians 1:23; Clem. 1 Corinthians 5.

τοῦτο τὸ εὐαγγ.] According to de Wette, the author here (and Matthew 26:13) so far forgets himself as to allude to the gospel which he was then in the act of writing. The τοῦτο here may be accounted for by the fact that Christ was there and then engaged in preaching the gospel of the Messiah’s kingdom, inasmuch as eschatological prediction undoubtedly constitutes an essential part of the gospel. Consequently: “hoc evangelium, quod nuntio.”

ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ οἰκουμ.] must not be limited to the Roman empire (Luke 2:1), but should be taken quite generally: over the whole habitable globe, a sense which is alone in keeping with Jesus’ consciousness of His Messianic mission, and with the πᾶσι τοῖς ἔθνεσι which follows.

εἰς μαρτύριον, κ. τ. λ.] in order that testimony may be borne before all nations, namely, concerning me and my work, however much they may have hated you for my name’s sake. The interpretation of the Fathers: εἰς ἔλεγχον, is therefore substantially in accordance with the context (Matthew 24:9), though there was no need to import into the passage the idea of the condemnation of the heathen, which condemnation would follow as a consequence only in the case of those who might be found to reject the testimony. There are other though arbitrary explanations, such as. “ut nota illis esset pertinacia Judaeorum” (Grotius), or: “ut gentes testimonium dicere possint harum calamitatum et insignis pompae, qua Jesus Messias in has terras reverti debeat” (Fritzsche), or: “ita ut crisin aut vitae aut mortis adducat” (Dorner).

καὶ τότε] and then, when the announcement shall have been made throughout the whole world.

τὸ τέλος] the end of the troubles that are to precede the Messiah’s advent, correlative to ἀρχή, Matthew 24:8. Comp. Matthew 24:6; consequently not to be understood in this instance either as referring to the end of the world (Ebrard, Bleek, Dorner, Hofmann, Lange, Cremer), which latter event, however, will of course announce its approach by catastrophes in nature (Matthew 24:29) immediately after the termination of the dolores Messiae.


Verse 15

Matthew 24:15. See Wieseler in the Götting. Vierteljahrschr. 1846, p. 183 ff.; Hengstenberg, Christol. III. p. 116 ff. More precise information regarding this τέλος.

οὖν] therefore, in consequence of what has just been stated in the καὶ τότε ἥξει τὸ τέλος. According to Ebrard and Hoelemann, οὖν indicates a resuming of the previous subject (Baeumlein, Partik. p. 177; Winer, p. 414 [E.T. 555]): “Jesusad primam questionem revertitur, praemisso secundae quaestionis responso.” But even Ebrard himself admits that Jesus has not as yet made any direct reference to the disciples’ first question, Matthew 24:3, accordingly he cannot be supposed to recur to it with a mere οὖν. Wieseler also takes a similar view of οὖν. He thinks that it is used by way of resuming the thread of the conversation, which had been interrupted by the preliminary warning inserted at Matthew 24:4-14. But this conversation, which the disciples had introduced, and in which, moreover, Matthew 24:4-14 are by no means of the nature of a mere warning, has not been interrupted at all. According to Dorner, οὖν marks the transition from the eschatological principles contained in Matthew 24:4-14 to the applicatio eorum historica s. prophetica, which view is based, however, on the erroneous assumption that Matthew 24:4-14 do not possess the character of concrete eschatological prophecy. The predictions before us respecting the Messianic woes become more threatening till just at this point they reach a climax.

τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως] the abomination of desolation; the genitive denotes that in which the βδέλυγμα specifically consists and manifests itself as such, so that the idea, “the abominable desolation,” is expressed by the use of another substantive instead of the adjective, in order to bring out the characteristic attribute in question; comp. Sirach 49:2; Hengstenberg: the abomination, which produces the desolation. But in Daniel also the ἐρήμωσις is the leading idea. The Greek expression in our passage is not exactly identical with the Septuagint(17) rendering of שִׁקּוּצִים מְשֹׁמֵם, Daniel 9:27 (Matthew 9:31, Matthew 12:11). Comp. 1 Maccabees 1:54; 1 Maccabees 6:7. In this prediction it is not to Antichrist, 2 Thessalonians 2:4 (Origen, Luthardt, Klostermann, Ewald), that Jesus refers; nor, again, is it to the statue of Titus, which is supposed to have been erected on the site of the temple after its destruction (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus); nor to that of Caligula, which is said (but see Krebs, p. 53) to have been set up within the temple; nor even to the equestrian statue of Hadrian (all which Jerome considers possible), which references would imply a period too early in some instances, and too late in others. It is better, on the whole, not to seek for any more special reference (as also Elsner, Hug, Bleek, Pfleiderer have done, who see an allusion to the sacrilegious acts committed by the zealots in the temple, Joseph. Bell. iv. 6. 3), but to be satisfied with what the words themselves plainly intimate: the abominable desolation on the temple square, which was historically realized in the doings of the heathen conquerors during and after the capture of the temple, though, at the same time, no special stress is to be laid upon the heathen standards detested by the Jews (Grotius, Bengel, Wetstein, de Wette, Ebrard, Wieseler, Lange), to which the words cannot refer. Fritzsche prefers to leave the βδέλ. τ. ἐρ. without any explanation whatever, in consequence of the ἀναγινώσκ. νοείτω, by which, as he thinks, Jesus meant to indicate that the reader was to find out the prophet’s meaning for himself. The above general interpretation, however, is founded upon the text itself; nor are we warranted by Daniel 9:27 in supposing any reference of a very special kind to underlie what is said. The idea of a desecration of the temple by the Jews themselves (Hengstenberg), or of the corrupt state of the Jewish hierarchy (Weisse, Evangelienfr. p. 170 f.), is foreign to the whole connection.

τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ δαν. τ. προφ.] what has been said (expressly mentioned) by Daniel, not: “which is an expression of the prophet Daniel” (Wieseler); for the important point was not the prophetic expression, but the thing itself indicated by the prophet. Comp. Matthew 12:31.

On ἑστός, see critical notes, and Kühner, I. p. 677.

ἐν τόπῳ ἁγίῳ] in the holy place; i.e. not the town as invested by the Romans (so Hoelemann and many older expositors, after Luke 21:20), but the place of the temple which has been in question from the very first (Matthew 24:2), and which Daniel has in view in the passage referred to. The designation selected forms a tragic contrast to the βδέλυγ΄α; comp. Mark 13:14 : ὅπου οὐ δεῖ. Others, and among them de Wette and Baumgarten-Crusius (comp. Weiss on Mark), understand the words as referring to Palestine, especially to the neighbourhood of Jerusalem (Schott, Wieseler), or to the Mount of Olives (Bengel), because it is supposed that it would have been too late to seek to escape after the temple had been captured, and so the flight of the Christians to Pella took place as soon as the war began. The ground here urged, besides being an attempt to make use of the special form of its historical fulfilment in order to correct the prophetic picture itself, as though this latter had been of the nature of a special prediction, is irrelevant, for this reason, that in Matthew 24:16 the words used are not “in Jerusalem,” but ἐν τῇ ἰουδαίᾳ; see on Matthew 24:16. Jesus means to say: When the abomination of desolation will have marred and defaced the symbol of the divine guardianship of the people, then everything is to be given up as lost, and safety sought only by fleeing from Judaea to places of greater security among the mountains.

ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω] let the reader understand! (Ephesians 3:4). Parenthetical observation by the evangelist, to impress upon his readers the precise point of time indicated by Jesus at which the flight is to take place upon the then impending (not already present, Hug, Bleek) catastrophe. Chrysostom, Euthymius Zigabenus, Paulus, Fritzsche, Kaeuffer, Hengstenberg (Authent. d. Dan. p. 258 ff.), Baumgarten-Crusius, Ewald, ascribe the observation to Jesus, from whose lips, however, one would have expected, in the flow of living utterance, and according to His manner elsewhere, an expression similar to that in Matthew 11:15, Matthew 13:9, or at least ἀκούων νοείτω. We may add that our explanation is favoured by Mark 13:14, where τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ δαν. τοῦ προφ. being spurious, it is consequently the reader, not of Daniel, but of the gospel, that is meant. Hoelemann incorrectly interprets: “he who has discernment, let him understand it” (alluding to Daniel 12:11); ἀναγινώσκ. is never used in the New Testament in any other sense than that of to read.


Verse 16

Matthew 24:16 ff. Apodosis down to Matthew 24:18.

οἱ ἐν τ. ἰουδ.] means those who may happen to be living in the country of Judaea (John 3:22), in contradistinction to Jerusalem with its holy place, the abominations in which are to be the signal for flight.

μὴ καταβαινέτω, κ. τ. λ.] Some have conceived the idea to be this: “ne per scalas interiores, sed exteriores descendat,” Bengel (Grotius, Wetstein); or: let him flee over the roofs (over the lower walls, separating house from house, till he comes to the city wall, Michaelis, Kuinoel, Fritzsche, Paulus, Winer, Kaeuffer). Both views may be taken each according to circumstances.

τὰ ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας αὐτοῦ] common attraction for τὰ ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας. See Kühner, I. 474, and ad Xen. Mem. iii. 6. 11; Winer, p. 584 [E. T. 784].

ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ] where, being at work, he has no upper garment with him.

People will have to flee to save their lives (Matthew 24:22); not according to the idea imported by Hofmann: to escape the otherwise too powerful temptation to deny the Lord. This again is decisively refuted by the fact that, in Matthew 24:16-19, it is not merely the disciples or believers who are ordered to flee, but the summons to do so is a general one. What is said with reference to the flight does not assume an individualizing character till Matthew 24:20.


Verse 19

Matthew 24:19. αἱ μὲν γὰρ ἔγκυοι οὐ δυνήσονται φεύγειν, τῷ φορτίῳ τῆς γαστρὸς βαρυνόμεναι· αἱ δὲ θηλάζουσαι διὰ τὴν πρὸς τὰ τέκνα συμπάθειαν, Theophylact.


Verse 20

Matthew 24:20. ἵνα] Object of the command, and therefore its purport; Mark 14:35; Colossians 1:9.

μηδὲ σαββάτῳ] without ἐν, as in Matthew 12:1; Winer, p. 205 [E. T. 274]. On the Sabbath the rest and the solemnities enjoined by the law, as well as the short distance allowed for a Sabbath-day’s journey (2000 yards, according to Exodus 16:29; see Lightfoot on Luke 24:50; Acts 1:12; Schoettgen, p. 406), could not but interfere with the necessary haste, unless one were prepared in the circumstances to ignore all such enactments. Taken by themselves, the words μηδὲ σαββάτῳ seem, no doubt, to be inconsistent with Jesus’ own liberal views regarding the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1 ff.; John 5:17; John 7:22); but he is speaking from the standpoint of His disciples, such a standpoint as they occupied at the time He addressed them, and which was destined to be outgrown only in the course of a later development of ideas (Romans 14:5; Colossians 2:6). As in the case of χειμῶνος, what is here said is simply with a view to everything being avoided calculated to interfere with their hasty flight. Comp. Matthew 10:23.


Verse 21

Matthew 24:21. Those hindrances to flight are all the more to be deprecated that the troubles are to be unparalleled, and therefore a rapid flight will be a matter of the most urgent necessity.

ἕως τοῦ νῦν] usque ad hoc tempus, Romans 8:22. κόσμου is not to be supplied here (Fritzsche). See, on the other hand, Mark 13:19; 1 Maccabees 2:33; Plat. Parm. p. 152 C, Ep. xiii. p. 361 E. On the threefold negative οὐδὲ οὐ μή, see Bornemann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1843, p. 109 f. For the expression generally, Plat. Tim. p. 38 A: οὐδὲ γενέσθαι ποτὲ οὐδὲ γεγονέναι νῦν οὐδʼ εἰσαῦθις ἔσεσθαι; Stallbaum, ad Rep. p. 492 E.


Verse 22

Matthew 24:22. And unless those days had been shortened, those, namely, of the θλίψις μεγάλη (Matthew 24:29), etc. This is to be understood of the reduction of the number of the days over which, but for this shortening, the θλίψις would have extended, not of the curtailing of the length of the day (Fritzsche),—a thought of which Lightfoot quotes an example from Rabbinical literature (comp. the converse of this, Joshua 10:13), which, seeing that there is a considerable number of days, would be to introduce an element of a very extraordinary character into the usual ideas connected with the acceleration of the advent (1 Corinthians 7:29). Rather comp. the similar idea, which in Barnab. iv. is ascribed to Enoch.

ἐσώθη] used here with reference to the saving of the life (Matthew 8:25, Matthew 27:40; Matthew 27:42; Matthew 27:49, and frequently); Euthymius Zigabenus: οὐκ ἂν ὑπεξέφυγε τὸν θάνατον. Hofmann incorrectly explains: saved from denying the Lord.

πᾶσα σάρξ] every flesh, i.e. every mortal man (see on Acts 2:16), would not be rescued, i.e. would have perished. Comp. for the position of the negative, Fritzsche, Diss. II. on 2 Cor. p. 24 f. The limitation of πᾶσα σάρξ to the Jews and Christians belonging to town or country who are found in immediate contact with the theatre of war, is justified by the context. The ἐκλεκτοί are included, but it is not these alone who are meant (Hofmann).

The aorist ἐκολοβ. conveys the idea that the shortening was resolved upon in the counsels of the divine compassion (Mark 13:20), and its relation to the aorist ἐσώθη in the apodosis is this. had the shortening of the period over which the calamities were to extend not taken place, this would have involved the utter destruction of all flesh. The future κολοβωθής. again conveys the idea that the actual shortening is being effected, and therefore that the case supposed, with the melancholy consequences involved in it, has been averted.

διὰ δὲ τοὺς ἐκλεκτούς] for sake of the chosen (for the Messianic kingdom), in order that they might be preserved for the approaching advent. That in seeking to save the righteous, God purposely adopts a course by which He may save others at the same time, is evident from Genesis 18:13 ff. But the ἐκλεκτοί (see on Matthew 22:14) are those who, at the time of the destruction of the capital, are believers in Christ, and are found persevering in their faith in Him (Matthew 24:13); not the future credituri as well (Jahn in Bengel’s Archiv. II. 1; Schott, Opusc. II. p. 205 ff.; Lange, following Augustine, Calovius), which latter view is precluded by the εὐθέως of Matthew 24:29.

There is a certain solemnity in the repetition of the same words κολοβ. αἱ ἡμέραι ἐκεῖναι. Ebrard lays stress upon the fact, as he supposes, that our passage describes a calamity “cui finis sit imponendus, et quae ab aetate paulo saltem feliciore sit excipienda,” and accordingly infers that the idea of the immediate end of the world is thereby excluded. But the aetas paulo saltem felicior, or the supposition that there is any interval at all between the θλίψις μεγάλη and Matthew 24:29, is foreign to the text; but the end of the above-mentioned disaster is to take place in order that what is stated at Matthew 24:29 may follow it at once.


Verse 23

Matthew 24:23 ff. τότε] then, when the desolation of the temple and the great θλίψις shall have arrived, false Messiahs, and such as falsely represent themselves to be prophets, will again come forward and urge their claims with greater energy than ever, nay, in the most seductive ways possible. Those here referred to are different from the pretenders of Matthew 24:4 f. The excitement and longing that will be awakened in the midst of such terrible distress will be taken advantage of by impostors with pretensions to miracle-working, and then how dangerous they will prove! By such early expositors as Chrysostom and those who come after him, Matthew 24:23 was supposed to mark the transition to the subject of the advent, so that τότε would pass over the whole period between the destruction of Jerusalem and the second advent; while, according to Ebrard (comp. Schott), the meaning intended by Jesus in Matthew 24:23-24 is, that after the destruction of the capital, the condition of the church and of the world, described in Matthew 24:4-14, “in posterum quoque mansurum esse.” Such views would have been discarded if due regard had been paid to the τότε by which the point of time is precisely defined, as well as to the circumstance that the allusion here is merely to the coming forward of false Christs and false prophets. Consequently we should also beware of saying, with Calovius, that at this point Christ passes to the subject of His adventus spiritualis per evangelium. He is still speaking of that period of distress, Matthew 24:21 f., which is to be immediately followed, Matthew 24:29, by the second advent.

ψευδόχριστοι] those who falsely claim to be Messiah; nothing is known regarding the historical fulfilment of this. Jonathan (Joseph. Bell. vii. 11. 3) and Barcochba (see on Matthew 24:5) appeared at a later period.

ψευδοπροφῆται] according to the context, not Christian teachers (Matthew 24:11), in the present instance, but such as pretended to be sent by God, and inspired to speak to the people in the season of their calamity,—deceivers similar to those who had tried to impose upon their fellow-countrymen during the national misfortunes of earlier times (Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 5:13; Jeremiah 6:13; Jeremiah 8:10). Comp. Joseph. Bell. ii. 13. 4 : πλάνοι γὰρ ἄνθρωποι καὶ ἀπατῶντες προσχήματι θειασμοῦ νεωτερισμοὺς καὶ μεταβολὰς πραγματευόμενοι, δαιμονᾷν τὸ πλῆθος ἀνέπειθον, κ. τ. λ. Others suppose that the reference is to such as sought to pass for Elijah or some other prophet risen from the dead (Kuinoel), which would scarcely agree with the use of a term so general as the present; there are those also who think it is the emissaries of the false Messiahs who are intended (Grotius).

δώσουσι] not: promise (Kypke, Krebs), but: give, so as to suit the idea involved in σημεῖα. Comp. Matthew 12:39; Deuteronomy 13:1.

On σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα, between which there is no material difference, see on Romans 15:19. Miracles may also be performed by Satanic agency, 2 Thessalonians 2:9.

ὥστε πλανηθῆναι (see critical notes): so that the very elect may be led astray (Kühner, II. 2, p. 1005) if possible ( εἰ δυνατόν: si fieri possit; “conatus summus, sed tamen irritus,” Bengel).

Matthew 24:25. διαμαρτύρεται ἐξασφαλιζόμενος, Euthymius Zigabenus. Comp. John 14:29.


Verse 26

Matthew 24:26. οὖν] according to the tenor of this my prediction. Matthew 24:26 does not stand to Matthew 24:23 in the relation of a strange reduplication (Weiss), but as a rhetorical amplification which is brought to an emphatic close by a repetition of the μὴ πιστεύσητε of Matthew 24:23.

ἐστί] the Messiah, Matthew 24:23.

ἐν τοῖς ταμείοις] the article is to be taken demonstratively, while the plural denotes the inner rooms of a house. According to Fritzsche, we have here the categorical plural (see on Matthew 2:20): “en, ibi est locorum, quae conclavia appellantur.” That would be too vague a pretence. The phraseology here made use of: in the wilderness—in the inner rooms of the house—is simply apocalyptic imagery. “Ultra de deserto et penetralibus quaerere non est sobrii interpretis,” Maldonatus.


Verse 27

Matthew 24:27. Reason why they were not to listen to such assertions. The advent of the Messiah will not be of such a nature that you will require to be directed to look here or look there in order to see him; but it will be as the lightning, which, as soon as it appears, suddenly announces its presence everywhere; οὕτως ἔσται παρουσία ἐκείνη, ὁμοῦ πανταχοῦ φαινομένη διὰ τὴν ἔκλαμψιν τῆς δόξης, Chrysostom. Not as though the advent were not to be connected with some locality or other upon earth, or were to be invisible altogether (R. Hofmann); but what is meant is, that when it takes place, it will all of a sudden openly display itself in a glorious fashion over the whole world. Ebrard (comp. Schott) is wrong in supposing that the point of comparison lies only in the circumstance that the event comes suddenly and without any premonition. For certainly this would not tend to show, as Jesus means to do, that the assertion: he is in the wilderness, etc., is an unwarrantable pretence.


Verse 28

Matthew 24:28. Confirmation of the truth that the advent will announce its presence everywhere, and that from the point of view of the retributive punishment which the coming One will be called upon everywhere to execute. The emphasis of this figurative adage is on ὅπου ἐὰν and ἐκεῖ: “Wherever the carcase may happen to be, there will the eagles be gathered together,”—on no spot where there is a carcase will this gathering fail, so that, when the Messiah shall have come, He will reveal Himself everywhere in this aspect also (namely, as an avenger). Such is the sense in which this saying was evidently understood as early as the time of Luke 17:37. The carcase is a metaphorical expression denoting the spiritually dead (Matthew 8:22; Luke 16:24) who are doomed to the Messianic ἀπώλεια, while the words συναχθήσονται (namely, at the advent) οἱ ἀετοί convey the same idea as that expressed in Matthew 13:41, and which is as follows: the angels, who are sent forth by the Messiah for the purpose, συλλέξουσιν ἐκ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ πάντα τὰ σκάνδαλα, καὶ βαλοῦσιν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὴν κάμινον τοῦ πυρός, the only difference being, that in our passage the prophetic imagery depicting the mode of punishment is not that of consuming by fire, and that for the simple reason that the latter would not harmonize with the idea of the carcase and the eagles (Bleek, Luthardt, Auberlen). Others (Lightfoot, Hammond, Clericus, Wolf, Wetstein) have erroneously supposed that the carcase alludes to Jerusalem or the Jews, and that the eagles are intended to denote the Roman legions with their standards (Xen. Anab, i. 10. 12; Plut. Mar. 23). But it is the advent that is in question; while, according to Matthew 24:23-27, ὅπου ἐὰν cannot be taken as referring to any one particular locality, so that Hoelemann is also in error, inasmuch as, though he interprets the eagles as representing the Messiah and His angel-hosts, he nevertheless understands the carcase to mean Jerusalem as intended to form the central scene of the advent. It is no less mistaken to explain the latter of “the corpses of Judaism” (Hilgenfeld), on the ground that, as Keim also supposes, Christ means to represent Himself “as Him who is to win the spoils amid the physical and moral ruins of Israel.” According to Cremer, the carcase denotes the anti-Messianic agitation previously described, which is destined to be suppressed and punished by the imperial power (the eagles). This view is erroneous; for, according to Matthew 24:27, the συναχθ. οἱ ἀετοί can only represent the παρουσία τ. υἱοῦ τ. ἀνθρ. Fritzsche and Fleck, p. 384: “ubi Messias, ibi homines, qui ejus potestatis futuri sint” ( οἱ ἐκλεκτοί, Matthew 24:31). Similarly such early expositors as Chrysostom (who thinks the angels and martyrs are intended to be included), Jerome, Theophylact ( ὥσπερ ἐπὶ νεκρὸν σῶμα συνάγονται ὀξέως οἱ ἀετοὶ, οὕτω καὶ ἔνθα ἂν εἴη χριστός, ἐλεύσονται πάντες οἱ ἅγιοι), Euthymius Zigabenus, Münster, Luther, Erasmus (“non deerunt capiti sua membra”), Beza, Calvin, Clarius, Zeger, Calovius, Jansen. But how inappropriate and incongruous it would be to compare the Messiah (who is conceived of as τροφὴ πνευματική, Euthymius Zigabenus) to the carcase; which is all the more offensive when, with Jerome, πτῶμα is supposed to contain a reference to the death of Jesus—a view which Calvin rejected. Wittichen in the Jahrb. f. D. Theol. 1862, p. 337, reverses the subjects of comparison, and takes the carcase as representing the Israelitish ἐκλεκτοί, and the eagles as representing the Messiah. But this interpretation is likewise forbidden by the incongruity that would result from the similitude of the carcase so suggestive of the domain of death, as well as by that universal character of the advent to which the context bears testimony. With astonishing disregard of the context, Kaeuffer observes: “ μὴ πιστεύσητε, sc. illis, nam ubi materies ad praedandum, ibi praedatores avidi, h. e. nam in fraudem vestram erit.” On the question as to whether πτῶμα without a qualifying genitive be good Greek, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 375.

οἱ ἀετοί] are the carrion-kites (vultur percnopterus, Linnaeus) which the ancients regarded as belonging to the eagle species. See Plin. N. H. x. 3; Aristot. ix. 22. For the similitude, comp. Job 39:30; Hosea 8:1; Habakkuk 1:8; Proverbs 30:17; Ezekiel 39:17.


Verse 29

Matthew 24:29. Here follows the second portion of the reply of Jesus, in which He intimates what events, following at once on the destruction of Jerusalem, are immediately to precede His second coming (Matthew 24:29-33); mentioning at the same time, that however near and certain this latter may be, yet the day and hour of its occurrence cannot be determined, and that it will break unexpectedly upon the world (Matthew 24:34-41); this should certainly awaken men to watchfulness and preparedness (Matthew 24:42-51), to which end the two parables, Matthew 25:1-30, are intended to contribute. The discourse then concludes with a description of the final judgment over which the coming one is to preside (Matthew 25:31-46).

εὐθέως δὲ μετὰ τ. θλίψιν τῶν ἡμερ. ἐκ.] but immediately after the distress of those days, immediately after the last ( τὸ τέλος) of the series of Messianic woes described from Matthew 24:15 onwards, and the first of which is to be coincident with the destruction of the temple. For τῶν ἡμερ. ἐκείνων, comp. Matthew 24:19; Matthew 24:22; and for θλίψιν, Matthew 24:21. Ebrard’s explanation of this passage falls to the ground with his erroneous interpretation of Matthew 24:23-24, that explanation being as follows: immediately after the unhappy condition of the church (Matthew 24:23-28), a condition which is to continue after the destruction of Jerusalem,—it being assumed that the εὐθέως involves the meaning: “nullis aliis intercedentibus indiciis.” It may be observed generally, that a whole host of strange and fanciful interpretations have been given here, in consequence of its having been assumed that Jesus could not possibly have intended to say that His second advent was to follow immediately upon the destruction of Jerusalem. This assumption, however, is contrary to all exegetical rule, considering that Jesus repeatedly makes reference elsewhere (see also Matthew 24:34) to His second coming as an event that is near at hand. Among those interpretations may also be classed that of Schott (following such earlier expositors as Hammond and others, who had already taken εὐθέως in the sense of suddenly), who says that Matthew had written פִּתְאֹם, subito, but that the translator (like the Sept. in the case of Job 5:3 ) had rendered the expression “minus accurate” by εὐθέως. This is certainly a wonderful supposition, for the simple reason that the פתאם itself would be a wonderful expression to use if an interval of a thousand years was to intervene. Bengel has contributed to promote this view by his observation that: “Nondum erat tempus revelandi totam seriem rerum futurarum a vastatione Hieros. usque ad consummationem seculi,” and by his paraphrase of the passage: “De iis, quae post pressuram dierum illorum, delendae urbis Jerusalem, evenient proximum, quod in praesenti pro mea conditione commemorandum et pro vestra capacitate expectandum venit, hoc est, quod sol obscurabitur,” etc. Many others, as Wetstein, for example, have been enabled to dispense with gratuitous assumptions of this sort by understanding Matthew 24:29 ff. to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, which is supposed to be described therein in the language of prophetic imagery (Kuinoel), and they so understand the verse in spite of the destruction already introduced at Matthew 24:15. In this, however, they escape Scylla only to be drawn into Charybdis, and are compelled to have recourse to expedients of a still more hazardous kind in order to explain away the literal advent,(18) which is depicted in language as clear as it is sublime. And yet E. J. Meyer again interprets Matthew 24:29-34 of the destruction of Jerusalem, and in such a way as to make it appear that the prediction regarding the final advent is not introduced till Matthew 24:35. But this view is at once precluded by the fact that in Matthew 24:35 οὐρανὸς κ. γῆ παρελεύσεται cannot be regarded as the leading idea, the theme of what follows, but only as a subsidiary thought (v. 18) by way of background for the words οἱ δὲ λόγοι μου οὐ μὴ παρέλθ. immediately after (observe, Christ does not say οἱ γὰρ λόγοι, κ. τ. λ., but οἱ δὲ λόγοι, κ. τ. λ.). Hoelemann, Cremer, Auberlen are right in their interpretation of εὐθέως, but wrong in regarding the time of the culmination of the heathen power—an idea imported from Luke 21:24—as antecedent to the period indicated by εὐθέως. Just as there are those who seek to dispose of the historical difficulty connected with εὐθέως by twisting the sense of what precedes, and by an importation from Luke 21:24, so Dorner seeks to dispose of it by twisting the sense of what comes after.

ἥλιος σκοτισθ., κ. τ. λ.] Description of the great catastrophe in the heavens which is to precede the second advent of the Messiah. According to Dorner, our passage is intended as a prophetical delineation of the fall of heathenism, which would follow immediately upon the overthrow of Judaism; and, accordingly, he sees in the mention of the sun, moon, and stars an allusion to the nature-worship of the heathen world, an idea, however, which is refuted at once by Matthew 24:34; see E. J. Meyer, p. 125 ff.; Bleek, p. 356; Hofmann, p. 636; Gess, p. 136. Ewald correctly interprets: “While the whole world is being convulsed (Matthew 24:29, after Joel 3:3 f.; Isaiah 34:4; Isaiah 24:21), the heaven-sent Messiah appears in His glory (according to Daniel 7:13) to judge,” etc.

οἱ ἀστέρες πεσοῦνται, κ. τ. λ.] Comp. Isaiah 34:4. To be understood literally, but not as illustrative of sad times (Hengstenberg on the Revelation; Gerlach, letzte Dinge, p. 102); and yet not in the sense of falling-stars (Fritzsche, Kuinoel), but as meaning: the whole of the stars together. Similarly in the passage in Isaiah just referred to, in accordance with the ancient idea that heaven was a firmament in which the stars were set for the purpose of giving light to the earth (Genesis 1:14). The falling of the stars (which is not to be diluted, with Bengel, Paulus, Schott, Olshausen, Baumgarten-Crusius, Cremer, following the Greek Fathers, so as to mean a mere obscuration) to the earth—which, in accordance with the cosmical views of the time, is the plain and natural sense of εἰς τὴν γῆν (see Revelation 6:13)—is, no doubt, impossible as an actual fact, but it need not surprise us to see such an idea introduced into a prophetic picture so grandly poetical as this is,—a picture which it is scarcely fair to measure by the astronomical conceptions of our own day.

αἱ δυνάμεις τῶν οὐρανῶν σαλευθ.] is usually explained of the starry hosts (Isaiah 34:4; Isaiah 40:26; Psalms 33:6; Deuteronomy 4:19; 2 Kings 17:16, etc.), which, coming as it does after οἱ ἀστέρες πεσοῦνται, would introduce a tautological feature into the picture. The words should therefore be taken in a general sense: the powers of the heavens (the powers which uphold the heavens, which stretch them out, and produce the phenomena which take place in them, etc.) will be so shaken as to lose their usual stability. Comp. Job 26:11. The interpretation of Olshausen, who follows Jerome, Chrysostom, Euthymius Zigabenus, in supposing that the trembling in the world of angels is referred to (Luke 2:13), is inconsistent not merely with σαλευθής., but also with the whole connection which refers to the domain of physical things. For the plural τῶν οὐρανῶν, comp. Sirach 16:16.

This convulsion in the heavens, previous to the Messiah’s descent therefrom, is not as yet to be regarded as the end of the world, but only as a prelude to it; the earth is not destroyed as yet by the celestial commotion referred to (Matthew 24:30). The poetical character of the picture does not justify us in regarding the thing so vividly depicted as also belonging merely to the domain of poetry,—all the less that, in the present case, it is not political revolutions (Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 34:4; Ezekiel 32:7 f.; Joel 3:3 f.) that are in view, but the new birth of the world, and the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom.


Verse 30

Matthew 24:30. καὶ τότε] and then, when what is intimated at Matthew 24:29 shall have arrived.

φανήσεται] universally, and so not visible merely to the elect (Cremer), which would not be in keeping with what follows.

τὸ σημεῖον τοῦ υἱοῦ τ. ἀνθρ.] accordingly the sign inquired about in Matthew 24:3, that phenomenon, namely, which is immediately to precede the coming Messiah, the Son of man of Daniel 7:13, and which is to indicate that His second advent is now on the point of taking place, which is to be the signal of this latter event. As Jesus does not say what this is to be, it should be left quite indefinite; only this much may be inferred from what is predicted at Matthew 24:29 about the darkening of the heavenly bodies, that it must be of the nature of a manifestation of light, the dawning of the Messianic δόξα which is perhaps to go on increasing in brilliancy and splendour until the Messiah Himself steps forth from the midst of it in the fulness of His glory. There is no foundation for supposing, with Cyril, Hilary, Chrysostom, Augustine, Jerome, Erasmus, that the allusion is to a cross appearing in the heavens; with Hebart, that it is to the rending of heaven or the appearing of angels; with Fleck and Olshausen, that it is to the star of the Messiah (Numbers 24:17); similarly Bleek, though rather more by way of conjecture. Following the older expositors, Fritzsche, Ewald, Hengstenberg, R. Hofmann understand the coming Messiah Himself: “miraculum, quod Jesus revertens Messias oculis objiciet” (accordingly, taking τοῦ υἱοῦ τ. ἀνθρ. as a genitive of subject; while Wolf, Storr, Weiss, Bibl. Theol. p. 56, ed. 2, assume it to be a genitive of apposition). This view is inconsistent not only with what follows, where the words καὶ ὄψονται τὸν υἱὸν, κ. τ. λ. evidently point to something still farther in the future, and which the σημεῖον serves to introduce, but also with the question of the disciples, Matthew 24:3. R. Hofmann thinks that the reference is to that apparition in the form of a man which is alleged to have stood over the holy of holies for a whole night while the destruction of the capital was going on. A legendary story (chronicled by Ben-Gorion); and it may be added that what is said, vv 29–31, certainly does not refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, after which event Hofmann supposes our evangelist to have written. Lastly, some (Schott, Kuinoel) are even of opinion that σημεῖον does not point to any new and special circumstance at all—to anything beyond what is contained in Matthew 24:29; but the introduction of the sequel by τότε is decidedly against this view.

καὶ τότε] a new point brought forward: and then, when this σημεῖον has been displayed.

κόψονται] Comp. Zechariah 12:10; Revelation 1:7; with what a totally different order of things are they now on the point of being confronted, what a breaking up and subversion of all the previous relationships of life, what a separation of elements hitherto mingled together, and what a deciding of the final destinies of men at the judgment of the old and the ushering in of the new αἰῶν! Hence, being seized with terror and anguish, they will mourn (see on Matthew 11:17). The sorrow of repentance (Dorner, Ewald) is not to be regarded as excluded from this mourning. There is no adequate reason to suppose, with Ewald, that, in the collection of our Lord’s sayings (the λογία), ὄψονται probably occurred twice here, and that it was reserved for the last redactor of those sayings to make a play upon the word by substituting κόψονται.

ἐρχόμενον, κ. τ. λ.] as in Daniel 7:13.

μετὰ δυνάμ. κ. δόξ. πολλ.] This great power and majesty will also be displayed in the accompanying angel-hosts, Matthew 24:31. The πᾶσαι αἱ φυλαὶ τῆς are not: “omnes familiae Judaeorum” (Kuinoel), as those who explain Matthew 24:29 ff. of the destruction of Jerusalem must understand the words, but: all the tribes of the earth. Comp. Genesis 12:3; Genesis 28:14.


Verse 31

Matthew 24:31. καὶ ἀποστελεῖ] And He will send forth, i.e. from the clouds of heaven, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.

τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ] the angels specially employed in His service.

μετὰ σάλπιγγος φωνῆς μεγάλ.] with (having as an accompaniment) a trumpet of a loud sound. The second genitive qualifies and is governed by the first; see Buttmann, Neut. Gr. p. 295 [E. T. 343]. The idea is not that the individual angels blow trumpets, but what is meant (Isaiah 27:13) is the last trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:52), the trumpet of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16), which is sounded while the Messiah is sending forth the angels. The resurrection of believers is also to be understood as taking place on the sound of this trumpet being heard (1 Cor. as above; 1 Thess. as above).

ἐπισυνάξουσι] gather together (Matthew 23:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; 2 Maccabees 1:27; 2 Maccabees 2:18), namely, toward the place where He is in the act of appearing upon earth. This gathering together of the elect, which is to be a gathering from every quarter (comp. Revelation 1:7), and from the whole compass of the earth, is an act and accompaniment of the second advent (in answer to Cremer’s distinction, see Hoelemann, p. 171). But the ἁρπάζεσθαι εἰς ἀέρα, to meet the Lord as He approaches (1 Thessalonians 4:17), is to be regarded as taking place after this gathering together has been effected.

τοὺς ἐκλεκτ. αὐτοῦ] the elect belonging to Him (chosen by God for the Messianic kingdom, as in Matthew 24:22). Comp. Romans 1:6.

ἀπὸ ἄκρων οὐραν.] ab extremitatibus coelorum usque ad extremitates eorum, i.e. from one horizon to the other (for οὐρανῶν without the article, see Winer, p, 115 [E. T. 150]), therefore from the whole earth (Matthew 24:14), on which the extremities of the sky seem to rest. Deuteronomy 4:32; Deuteronomy 30:4; Psalms 19:7.

As showing the exegetical abuses to which this grand passage has been subjected, take the following, Lightfoot: “emittet filius homines ministros suos cum tuba evangelica,” etc.; Kuinoel (comp. Wetstein): “in tanta calamitate Judaeis, adversariis religionis Christianae, infligenda, ubivis locorum Christi sectatores per dei providentiam illaesi servabuntur,” etc.; Olshausen: he will send out men armed with the awakening power of the Spirit of God, for the purpose of assembling believers at a place of safety. This is substantially the view of Tholuck also.

It may be observed, moreover, that this passage forbids the view of Köstlin, p. 26, that our Gospel does not contain a specifically Christian, but merely an ethical universalism (as contrasted with Jewish obduracy). See, on the other hand, especially Matthew 8:11, Matthew 22:9 f., Matthew 25:31 ff., Matthew 28:19, etc.


Verse 32

Matthew 24:32 f. Cheering prospect for the disciples in the midst of those final convulsions—a prospect depicted by means of a pleasing scene taken from nature. The understanding of this passage depends on the correct interpretation (1) of τὸ θέρος, (2) of πάντα ταῦτα, and also (3) on our taking care not to supply anything we choose as the subject of ἐγγύς ἐστιν ἐπὶ θύραις.

δέ is simply μεταβατικόν.

ἀπὸ τῆς συκῆς] the article is generic; for ἀπό, comp. on Matthew 11:29. From the fig-tree, i.e. in the case of the fig-tree, see the parable ( τὴν παρ.) that is intended for your instruction in the circumstances referred to. For the article conveys the idea of your similitude; here, however, παραβολή means simply a comparison, παράδειγμα. Comp. on Matthew 13:3.

καὶ τὰ φύλλα ἐκφύῃ] and puts forth the leaves (the subject being κλάδος). Matthaei, Fritzsche, Lachmann, Bleek, on the authority of E F G H K M V δ, Vulg. It., write ἐκφυῇ, taking it as an aorist, i.e. et folia edita fuerint (see, in general, Kühner, I. p. 930 f.). But in that case what would be the meaning of the allusion to the branches recovering their sap? Further, it is only by taking κ. τ. φ. ἐκφύῃ as present that the strictly definite element is brought out, namely: when the κλάδος is in the act of budding.

τὸ θέρος] is usually taken in the sense of aestas, after the Vulgate. But, according to the correct interpretation of πάντα ταῦτα, summer would be too late in the present instance, and too indefinite; nor would it be sufficiently near to accord with ἐγγύς ἐστιν ἐπὶ θύραις. Hence it is better to understand the harvest (equivalent to θερισμός, Photius, p. 86, 18) as referred to, as in Proverbs 26:1; Dem. 1253. 15, and frequently in classical writers; Jacobs, ad Anthol. VIII. p. 357. Comp. also Ebrard, Keim. It is not, however, the fig-harvest (which does not occur till August) that is meant, but the fruit-harvest, the formal commencement of which took place as early as the second day of the Passover season.

οὕτω κ. ὑμεῖς] so understand ye also. For the preceding indicative, γινώσκετε, expressed what was matter of common observation, and so, in a way corresponding to the observation referred to, should ( γινώσκ. imperative) the disciples also on their part understand, etc.

ὅταν ἴδητε πάντα ταῦτα] when ye will have seen all this. It is usual to seek for the reference of πάντα ταῦτα in the part of the passage before Matthew 24:29, namely, in what Jesus has just foretold as to all the things that were to precede the second coming. But arbitrary as this is, it is outdone by those who go the length of merely picking out a few from the phenomena in question, in order to restrict the reference of πάντα ταῦτα to them; as, for example, the incrementa malignitatis (Ebrard), or the cooling of love among believers, the preaching to the Gentiles, and the overthrow of Jerusalem (Gess). If we are to take the words in their plain and obvious meaning (Matthew 24:8), πάντα ταῦτα can only be understood to refer to what immediately precedes, therefore to what has been predicted, from that epoch-making Matthew 24:29 on to Matthew 24:31, respecting the σημεῖον of the Son of man, and the phenomena that were to accompany the second coming itself. When they shall have seen all that has been announced, Matthew 24:29-31, they are to understand from it, etc.

ὅτι ἐγγύς ἐσὶ θύραις] To supply a subject here is purely arbitrary; the Son of man has been supposed by some to be understood (Fritzsche, de Wette, Hofmann, Bleek, Weiss, Gess); whereas the subject is τὸ θέρος, which, there being no reason to the contrary, may also be extended to Matthew 24:33. This θέρος is neither the second coming (Cremer), nor the judgment (Ebrard), nor the kingdom of God generally (Olshausen, Auberlen), nor even the diffusion of Christianity (Schott), but simply the harvest, understanding it, however, in the higher Messianic sense symbolized by the natural harvest (Galatians 6:9; 2 Corinthians 9:6), namely, the reception in the Messianic kingdom of that eternal reward which awaits all true workers and patient sufferers. That is the joyful (Isaiah 9:2) and blessed consummation which the Lord encourages His disciples to expect immediately after the phenomena and convulsions that are to accompany His second advent.

On ἐπὶ θύραις without the article, see Bornemann, ad Xen. Cyr. i. 3. 2; and for the plural, see Kühner, II. 1, p. 17.


Verse 34

Matthew 24:34. Declaration to the effect that all this is to take place before the generation then living should pass away. The well-nigh absurd manner in which it has been attempted to force into the words γενεὰ αὕτη such meanings as: the creation (Maldonatus), or: the human race (Jerome), or: the Jewish nation (Jansen, Calovius, Wolf, Heumann, Storr, Dorner, Hebart, Auberlen; see, on the other hand, on Mark 13:30), or: “the class of men consisting of my believers” (Origen, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, Clarius, Paulus, Lange), resembles the unreasonable way in which Ebrard, following up his erroneous reference of πάντα ταῦτα (see on Matthew 24:33), imports into the saying the idea: inde ab ipsorum (discipulorum) aetate omnibus ecclesiae temporibus interfutura, an imaginary view which passages like Matthew 10:23, Matthew 16:28, Matthew 23:39, should have been sufficient to prevent. This also in opposition to the interpretation of Cremer: “the generation of the elect now in question,” and that of Klostermann: “the (future) generation which is to witness those events,” both of which are foreign to the sense. Comp. Matthew 23:36.

The πάντα ταῦτα is the same as that of Matthew 24:33, and therefore denoting neither the mere prognostics of the second advent, or, to be more definite, “the taking away of the kingdom from Israel” (Gess), nor specially the destruction of Jerusalem (Schott, E. J. Meyer, Hoelemann, Bäumlein in Klaiber’s Stud. I. 3, p. 41 ff.). That the second advent itself is intended to be included, is likewise evident from Matthew 24:36, in which the subject of the day and hour of the advent is introduced.


Verse 35

Matthew 24:35. With the preceding πάντα ταῦτα γένηται will commence the passing away of the fabric of the world as it now exists (2 Peter 3:7-8); but what I say (generally, though with special reference to the prophetic utterances before us) will certainly not pass away, will abide as imperishable truth (v. 18). The utterance which fails of its accomplishment is conceived of as something that perishes (Addit. Esther 7:2), that ceases to exist. Comp. ἐκπίπτειν, Romans 9:6.


Verse 36

Matthew 24:36. The affirmation of Matthew 24:34, however, does not exclude the fact that no one knows the day and hour when the second advent, with its accompanying phenomena, is to take place. It is to occur during the lifetime of the generation then existing, but no one knows on what day or at what hours within the period thus indicated. Accordingly it is impossible to tell you anything more precise in regard to this than what is stated at Matthew 24:34.

εἰ μὴ πατ. μου μόνος] This reservation on the part of the Father excludes even the incarnate Son (Mark 13:32). The limitation implied in our passage as regards the human side of our Lord’s nature is to be viewed in the same light as that implied in Matthew 20:23. See, besides, on Mark 13:32.


Verses 37-39

Matthew 24:37-39. But ( δέ, introducing an analogous case from an early period in sacred history) as regards the ignorance as to the precise moment of its occurrence, it will be with the second coming as it was with the flood.

ἦσαντρώγοντες] not for the imperfect, but to make the predicate more strongly prominent. Comp. on Matthew 7:29. τρώγειν means simply to eat (John 6:54-58; John 13:18), not devouring like a beast (Beza, Grotius, Cremer), inasmuch as such an unfavourable construction is not warranted by any of the matters afterwards mentioned.

γαμοῦντες κ. ἐκγαμ.] uxores in matrimonium ducentes et filias collocantes, descriptive of a mode of life without concern, and without any foreboding of an impending catastrophe.

καὶ οὐκ ἔγνωσαν] The “it” (see Nägelsbach, Iliad, p. 120, ed. 3) to be understood after ἔγνωσαν is the flood that is so near at hand. Fritzsche’s interpretation: “quod debebant intelligere” (namely, from seeing Noah build the ark), is arbitrary. The time within which it may be affirmed with certainty that the second advent will suddenly burst upon the world, cannot be supposed to refer to that which intervenes between the destruction of Jerusalem and the advent, a view precluded by the εὐθέως of Matthew 24:29. That period of worldly unconcern comes in just before the final consummation, Matthew 24:15 ff., whereupon the advent is immediately to follow (Matthew 24:29-32). This last and most distressing time of all, coupled with the advent immediately following it, forms the terminus ante quem, and corresponds to the πρὸ τοῦ κατακλυσμοῦ of the Old Testament analogy.

ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ] without repeating the preposition before (John 4:54). Comp. Xen. Anab. v. 7. 17, and Kühner on the passage; Winer, p. 393 [E. T. 524 f.]; Stallbaum, ad Plat. Apol. p. 27 D. Comp. Matthew 24:50.


Verse 40-41

Matthew 24:40-41. τότε] then, when the second advent will have thus suddenly taken place.

παραλαμβάνεται] is taken away, namely, by the angels who are gathering the elect together, Matthew 24:31. The use of the present tense here pictures what is future as though it were already taking place. But had this referred to the being caught up in the clouds, mentioned 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, Jansen), ἀναλαμβάνεται would have been used instead.

ἀφίεται] is left, expressing οὐ παραλαμβάνεται in its positive form. Comp. Matthew 23:38, Matthew 15:14; Soph. O. R. 599. It is tantamount to saying: away! thou art not accepted. To understand the terms as directly the opposite of each other in the following sense: the one is taken captive, the other allowed to go free (Wetstein, Kuinoel), is grammatically wrong ( παραλαμβ. cannot, when standing alone, be taken as equivalent to bello capere, although it is used to denote the receiving of places into surrender, in deditionem accipere, Polyb. ii. 54. 12, iv. 63. 4, iv. 65. 6), and does violence to the context to suit the exigencies of the erroneous reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. Rather compare John 14:3. It is no doubt admissible to interpret the expression in the hostile sense: the one is seized (Polyb. iii. 69. 2; similarly Baumgarten-Crusius) or carried off (Matthew 4:5; Matthew 4:8; Numbers 23:27; 1 Maccabees 3:37; 1 Maccabees 4:1), namely, to be punished. But the ordinary explanation harmonizes better with the reference to Matthew 24:31, as well as with the subsequent parable, Matthew 24:45 ff., where the πιστὸς δοῦλος is first introduced.

δύο ἀλήθουσαι, κ. τ. λ.] of two who grind at the mill, one will, etc. For the construction, in which, by means of a μετάβασις ἀπὸ ὅλου εἰς μέρη, the plural-subject is broken up into two separate persons, comp. Hom. Il. vii. 306 f.: τὼ δὲ διακρινθέντε, μὲν μετὰ λαὸν ἀχαιῶν ἤϊʼ, δʼ ἐς τρώων ὅμαδον κίε. Plat. Phaedr. p. 248 A, al.; see Dissen, ad Pind. Ol. viii. 37; also ad Dem. de cor. p. 237 f. If we were to adopt the usual course of supplying ἔσονται from Matthew 24:40, we would require to translate as follows: two will be grinding at the mill. But this supplying of ἔσονται is not at all necessary; as may be gathered from the annexing of the participle, we have in this other case, Matthew 24:41, just a different mode of presenting the matter.

ἀλήθουσαι] the hard work usually performed by the lower order of female slaves (Exodus 9:5; Isaiah 47:2; Job 31:10; Ecclesiastes 12:3), and such as is still performed in the East by women, either singly or by two working together (Rosenmüller, Morgenl. on Exodus 11:5; and on the present passage, Robinson, Paläst. II. p. 405 f.). A similar practice prevailed in ancient Greece, Hermann, Privatalterth. § 24. 8. Hemsterhuis, ad Lucian. Tim. 23. On the un-classical ἀλήθειν (for ἀλεῖν), see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 151.

ἐν τῷ μύλῳ] which is not to be confounded (see the critical notes) with μύλωνι (a mill-house), is the millstone (Matthew 18:6) of the ordinary household hand-mill. It may denote the lower (Deuteronomy 24:6) as well as the upper stone (Isaiah 47:2), which latter would be more precisely designated by the term ἐπιμύλιον (Deut. as above). It is the upper that is intended in the present instance; the women sit or kneel (Robinson as above), hold the handle of the upper millstone in their hands (hence ἐν τ. μ.: with the millstone), and turn it round upon the lower, which does not move.


Verse 42

Matthew 24:42. Moral inference from Matthew 24:36-41. Comp. Matthew 25:13.

The following ὅτι κ. τ. λ. (because ye, etc.) is an emphatic epexegesis of οὖν. This exhortation is likewise based on the assumption that the second advent is to take place in the lifetime of the disciples, who are called upon to wait for it in an attitude of spiritual watchfulness (1 Corinthians 16:13; 1 Corinthians 16:22). The idea of watchfulness, the opposite of security, coincides with that implied in the constant ἑτοιμασία τοῦ εὐαγγελίου (Ephesians 6:15). Comp. Matthew 24:44.

ποίᾳ] at what (an early or a late). Comp. Matthew 24:43; Revelation 3:3; 1 Peter 1:11; Eur. Iph. A. 815; Aesch. Ag. 278.


Verse 43

Matthew 24:43. But (that I may show you by means of a warning example how you may risk your salvation by allowing yourselves to be betrayed into a state of unpreparedness) know this, that if, etc.

οἰκοδεσπότης] the particular one whom the thief has anticipated.

εἰ ᾔδειἐγρηγόρησεν ἄν] if he had been aware at what watch in the night the thief comes, to break into his house, he would have watched. But as he does not know the hour which the thief chooses (it being different in different cases), he is found off his guard when the burglary is being committed. The rendering vigilaret (Luther, Kuinoel, Bleek, after the Vulg.) is incorrect. For the illustration of the thief, comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:4; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15.


Verse 44

Matthew 24:44. διὰ τοῦτο] in order that, as regards your salvation, your case may not be similar to the householder in question, who ought to have watched, although he did not know the φυλακή of the thief.

καὶ ὑμεῖς] as the householder would have been had he watched.

ἕτοιμοι] spoken of their spiritual readiness for the second advent, which would take them by surprise (Matthew 25:10; Titus 3:1). This preparedness they were to acquire for themselves ( γίνεσθε).


Verse 45

Matthew 24:45 f. τίς ἄρα, κ. τ. λ.] who therefore, considering the necessity for preparedness thus indicated. The inference itself is presented in the form of an allegory, the δοῦλος representing the disciples whom the Lord has appointed to be the guides of His church, in which they are required to show themselves faithful (1 Corinthians 4:1 f.) and prudent, the former by a disposition habitually determining their whole behaviour and characterized by devotion to the will of the Lord, the latter by the intelligent choice of ways and means, by taking proper advantage of circumstances, etc. The τίς is not equivalent to εἴ τις (Castalio, Grotius), which it never can be; but Matthew 24:45 asks: who then is the faithful slave? and Matthew 24:46 contains the answer; the latter, however, being so framed that instead of simply saying, in accordance with the terms of the question, “it is he, whom his lord, on his return,” etc., prominence is given to the blessedness of the servant here in view. According to Bengel, Fritzsche, Fleck, de Wette, our question touchingly conveys the idea of seeking for: quis tandem, etc., “hunc scire pervelim.” To this, however, there is the logical objection, that the relative clause of Matthew 24:45 would in that case have to be regarded as expressing the characteristic feature in the faithful and wise slave, whereas this feature is first mentioned in the relative clause of Matthew 24:46, which clause therefore must contain the answer to the question, τίς ἄρα ἐστὶν πιστὸς δ. κ. φρ.

οἰκετεία, domestic servants, Lucian, Merc. cond. 15; Strabo, xiv. p. 668. Comp. οἰκετία, Symmachus, Job 1:3; Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 505.

οὕτως] thus, in accordance with duty assigned him in Matthew 24:45; the principal emphasis being on this word, it is put at the end of the sentence.


Verse 47

Matthew 24:47. He will assign him a far higher position, setting him not merely over his domestics, but, etc. The συμβασιλεύειν in the Messiah’s kingdom is represented as being in accordance with that principle of gradation on which faithfulness and prudence are usually rewarded in the case of ordinary servants. Comp. Matthew 25:21 ff.; Luke 19:17 ff.


Verses 48-51

Matthew 24:48-51. ἐὰν δὲ, κ. τ. λ.] the emphasis is on κακός as contrasting with πιστὸς κ. φρόνιμος, Matthew 24:45, therefore ἄπιστος κ. ἄφρων.

ἐκεῖνος] refers back to ὃν κατέστησεν, κ. τ. λ., Matthew 24:45, and represents the sum of its contents. Hence: but suppose the worthless servant who has been put in that position shall have said, etc. To assume that we have here a blending of two cases (the servant is either faithful or wicked), the second of which we are to regard as presupposed and pointed to by ἐκεῖνος (de Wette, Kaeuffer), is to burden the passage with unnecessary confusion.

ἄρξηται] will have begun, does not refer to the circumstance that the lord surprises him in the midst of his misdemeanours (Fritzsche), because in that case what follows would also have to be regarded as depending on ἄρξηται, but on the contrary it brings out the fearless wickedness of the man abandoning himself to tyrannical behaviour and sensual gratifications.

ἐσθίῃ δὲ κ. π.] Before, we were told what his conduct was toward his fellow-slaves over whom he had been set; now, on the other hand, we are shown how he behaved himself apart from his relation to the οἰκετεία.

διχοτομήσει αὐτόν] he will cut him in two (Plat. Polit. p. 302 F Polyb. vi. 28. 2; x. 15. 5; Exodus 29:17), a form of punishment according to which the criminal was sawn asunder, 2 Samuel 12:31; 1 Chronicles 20:3; Hebrews 11:37. Comp. Sueton. Calig. xvii.: “medios serra dissecuit.” Herod, vii. 37. See, in general, Wetstein and Rosenmüller, Morgenl., on our passage. There is no force in the usual objection that, in what follows, the slave is assumed to be still living; for, in the words καὶ τὸ μέρος αὐτοῦ, κ. τ. λ., which are immediately added, we have a statement of the thing itself, which the similitude of that terrible punishment was intended to illustrate. All other explanations are inconsistent with the text, such as: he will tear him with the scourge (Heumann, Paulus, Kuinoel, Schott, de Wette, Olshausen), or: he will cut him off from his service (Beza, Grotius, Jansen, Maldonatus; comp. Jerome, Euthymius Zigabenus), or: he will withdraw his spiritual gifts from him (Basil, Theophylact), or generally: he will punish him with the utmost severity (Chrysostom).

καὶ τὸ μέρος αὐτοῦ, κ. τ. λ.] and will assign him his proper place among the hypocrites, i.e. he will condemn him to have his fitting portion in common with the hypocrites, that thenceforth he may share their fate. Comp. on John 13:8, and the classical phrase ἐν μέρει τινὸς τίθεσθαι. Rabbinical writers likewise regard Gehenna as the portion of hypocrites; see Schoettgen. But the expression τῶν ὑποκριτ. is made use of here because the κακὸς δοῦλος is a hypocrite in the inmost depths of his moral nature, inasmuch as he acts under the impression χρονίζει μου κύριος, though he hopes that when his lord arrives he will be able to assume the appearance of one who is still faithfully discharging his duty, just as he must have pretended to be good at the time when he received the trust which had been committed to him; but now he is suddenly unmasked.

ἐκεῖ] namely, in hell, Matthew 8:12, Matthew 13:42; Matthew 13:50, Matthew 22:13, Matthew 25:30.

REMARK 1.

It is exegetically certain that from Matthew 24:29 onward Jesus announces His second advent, after having spoken, in what precedes that verse, of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of that, too, as an event that was to take place immediately before His second coming. All attempts to obtain, for the εὐθέως of Matthew 24:29, a different terminus a quo (see on Matthew 24:29), and therefore to find room enough before this εὐθέως for an interval, the limits of which cannot as yet be assigned, or to fix upon some different point in the discourse as that at which the subject of the second advent is introduced (Chrysostom: Matthew 24:23; E. J. Meyer: Matthew 24:35; Süsskind: Matthew 24:36; Kuinoel: Matthew 24:43; Lightfoot, Wetstein, Flatt: not till Matthew 25:31; Hoelemann: as early as Matthew 24:19), are not the fruits of an objective interpretation of the text, but are based on the assumption that every trifling detail must find its fulfilment, and lead to interpretations in which the meaning is explained away and twisted in the most violent way possible. The attempts of Ebrard, Dorner, Cremer, Hoelemann, Gess, to show that the prediction of Jesus is in absolute harmony with the course of history, are refuted by the text itself, especially by Matthew 24:29; above all is it impossible to explain Matthew 24:15-28 of some event which is still in the womb of the future (in opposition to Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. p. 630 ff.); nor again, in Matthew 24:34, can we narrow the scope of the πάντα ταῦτα, or extend that of the γενεὰ αὕτη, or make γένηται denote merely the dawning of the events in question.

REMARK 2.

It is true that the predictions, Matthew 24:5 ff., regarding the events that were to precede the destruction of Jerusalem were not fulfilled in so special and ample a way as to harmonize with the synoptical representations of them; still, that they were so in all essential respects, is proved by what we learn from history respecting the impostors and magicians that appeared, the wars that raged far and near, the numerous cases of famine and earthquake that occurred, the persecutions of the Christians that took place, the moral degeneracy that prevailed, and the way in which the gospel had been proclaimed throughout the world, and all shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem (after the Jews had begun to rise in rebellion against the Roman authority in the time of Gessius Florus, who became procurator of Judea in 64). This prophecy, though in every respect a genuine prediction, is not without its imaginative element, as may be seen from the poetical and pictorial form in which it is embodied. Compare on Matthew 24:7, Remark. But it is just this mode of representation which shows that a vaticinium post eventum (see on Matthew 24:1) is not to be thought of. Comp. Holtzmann, Weizsäcker, Pfleiderer.

REMARK 3.

With regard to the difficulty arising out of the fact that the second advent did not take place, as Jesus had predicted it would, immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem,—and as an explanation of which the assumption of a blending of type and antitype (Luther) is arbitrary in itself, and only leads to confusion,—let the following be remarked: (1) Jesus has spoken of His advent in a threefold sense; for He described as His second coming (a) that outpouring of the Holy Spirit which was shortly to take place, and which was actually fulfilled; see on John 14:18 f., Matthew 16:16; Matthew 16:20 ff., also on Ephesians 2:17; (b) that historical manifestation of His majesty and power which would be seen, immediately after His ascension to the Father, in the triumph of His cause upon the earth, of which Matthew 26:64 furnishes an undoubted example; (c) His coming, in the strict eschatological sense, to raise the dead, to hold the last judgment, and to set up His kingdom, which is also distinctly intimated in such passages of John as John 4:40; John 4:54, Matthew 5:28, Matthew 14:3 (Weizel in the Stud. u. Krit. 1836, p. 626 ff.), and in connection with which it is to be observed that in John the ἀναστήσω αὐτὸν ἐγὼ τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ (John 6:39 f., John 6:44; John 6:54) does not imply any such nearness of the thing as is implied when the spiritual advent is in question; but, on the contrary, presupposes generally that believers will have to undergo death. Again, in the parable contained in Matthew 22:1-14, the calling of the Gentiles is represented as coming after the destruction of Jerusalem; so that (comp. on Matthew 21:40 f.) in any case a longer interval is supposed to intervene between this latter event and the second coming than would seem to correspond with the εὐθέως of Matthew 24:29. (2) But though Jesus Himself predicted His second coming as an event close at hand, without understanding it, however, in the literal sense of the words (see above, under a and b); though, in doing so, He availed Himself to some extent of such prophetical phraseology as had come to be the stereotyped language for describing the future establishment of the literal kingdom of the Messiah (Matthew 26:64), and in this way made use of the notions connected with this literal kingdom for the purpose of embodying his conceptions of the ideal advent,—it is nevertheless highly conceivable that, in the minds of the disciples, the sign of Christ’s speedy entrance into the world again came to be associated and ultimately identified with the expectation of a literal kingdom. This is all the more conceivable when we consider how difficult it was for them to realize anything so ideal as an invisible return, and how natural it was for them to apprehend literally the figurative language in which Jesus predicted this return, and how apt they were, in consequence, to take everything He said about His second coming, in the threefold sense above mentioned, as having reference to the one great object of eager expectation, viz. the glorious establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom. The separating and sifting of the heterogeneous elements that were thus blended together in their imagination, Jesus appears to have left to the influence of future development, instead of undertaking this task Himself, by directly confuting and correcting the errors to which this confusion gave rise (Acts 1:7-8), although we must not overlook the fact that any utterances of Jesus in this direction would be apt to be lost sight of—all the more, that they would not be likely to prove generally acceptable. It may likewise be observed, as bearing upon this matter, that the spiritual character of the Gospel of John—in which the idea of the advent, though not altogether absent, occupies a very secondary place as compared with the decided prominence given to that of the coming again in a spiritual sense—is a phenomenon which presupposes further teaching on the part of Jesus, differing materially from that recorded in the synoptic traditions. (3) After the idea of imminence had once got associated in the minds of the disciples with the expectation of the second advent and the establishment of the literal kingdom, the next step, now that the resurrection of Jesus had taken place, was to connect the hope of fulfilment with the promised baptism with the spirit which was understood to be near at hand (Acts 1:6); and they further expected that the fulfilment would take place, and that they would be witnesses of it before they left Judea,—an idea which is most distinctly reflected in Matthew 10:23. Ex eventu the horizon of this hope came to be gradually enlarged, without its extending, however, beyond the lifetime of the existing generation. It was during this interval that, according to Jesus, the destruction of Jerusalem was to take place. But if He at the same time saw, and in prophetic symbolism announced, what He could not fail to be aware of, viz. the connection that there would be between this catastrophe and the triumph of His ideal kingdom, then nothing was more natural than to expect that, with Jerusalem still standing (differently in Luke 21:24), and the duration of the existing generation drawing to a close, the second advent would take place immediately after the destruction of the capital,—an expectation which would be strengthened by the well-known descriptions furnished by the prophets of the triumphal entry of Jehovah and the disasters that were to precede it (Strauss, II. p. 348), as well as by that form of the doctrine of the dolores Messiae to which the Rabbis had given currency (Langen, Judenth. in Paläst. p. 494 f.). The form of the expectation involuntarily modified the form of the promise; the ideal advent and establishment of the kingdom came to be identified with the eschatological, so that in men’s minds and in the traditions alike the former gradually disappeared, while the latter alone remained as the object of earnest longing and expectation, surrounded not merely with the gorgeous colouring of prophetic delineation, but also placed in the same relation to the destruction of Jerusalem as that in which the ideal advent, announced in the language of prophetic imagery, had originally stood. Comp. Scherer in the Strassb. Beitr. II. 1851, p. 83 ff.; Holtzmann, p. 409 f.; Keim, III. p. 219 f.

Certain expositors have referred, in this connection, to the sentiment of the modern poet, who says: “the world’s history is the world’s judgment,” and have represented the destruction of Jerusalem as the first act in this judgment, which is supposed to be immediately followed (Matthew 24:29) by a renovation of the world through the medium of Christianity,—a renovation which is to go on until the last revelation from heaven takes place (Kern, Dorner, Olshausen). But this is only to commit the absurdity of importing into the passage a poetical judgment, such as is quite foreign to the real judgment of the New Testament. No less objectionable is Bengel’s idea, revived by Hengstenberg and Olshausen (comp. also Kern, p. 56; Lange, II. p. 1258; Schmid, Bibl. Theol. I. p. 354), about the perspective nature of the prophetic vision,—an idea which could only have been vindicated from the reproach of imputing a false vision, i.e. an optical delusion, to Jesus if the latter had failed to specify a definite time by means of a statement so very precise as that contained in the εὐθέως of Matthew 24:29, or had not added the solemn declaration of Matthew 24:34. Dorner, Wittichen, rightly decide against this view. As a last shift, Olshausen has recourse to the idea that some condition or other is to be understood: “All those things will happen, unless men avert the anger of God by sincere repentance,”—a reservation which, in a prediction of so extremely definite a character, would most certainly have been expressly mentioned, even although no doubt can be said to exist as to the conditional nature of the Old Testament prophecies (Bertheau in the Jahrb. f. D. Theol. 1859, p. 335 ff.). If, as Olshausen thinks, it was the wish of the Lord that His second advent should always be looked upon as a possible, nay, as a probable thing,—and if it was for this reason that He spoke as Matthew represents Him to have done, then it would follow that He made use of false means for the purpose of attaining a moral end,—a thing even more inconceivable in His case than theoretical error, which latter Strauss does not hesitate to impute. According to this view, to which Wittichen also adheres, it is to the ethical side of the ministry of Jesus that the chief importance is to be attached. But it is precisely this ethical side that, in the case of Him who was the very depository of the intuitive truth of God, would necessarily be compromised by such an error as is here in view,—an error affecting a prediction so intimately connected with His whole work, and of so much importance in its moral consequences. Comp. John 8:46.

REMARK 4.

The statement of Matthew 24:29, to the effect that the second advent would take place immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem, and that of Matthew 24:34, to the effect that it would occur during the lifetime of the generation then living, go to decide the date of the composition of our Greek Matthew, which must accordingly have been written at some time previous to the destruction of the capital. Baur, indeed (Evangelien, p. 605; Neut. Theol. p. 109), supposes the judgment that was immediately to precede the second advent to be represented by the Jewish war in the time of Hadrian, and detects the date of the composition of our Gospel (namely, 130–134) in the βδελ. τῆς ἐρημώς. of Matthew 24:15, which he explains of the statue of Jupiter which Hadrian had erected in the temple area (Dio Cass. lxix. 12). Such a view should have been felt to be already precluded by Matthew 24:1-3, where, even according to Baur himself, it is only the first devastation under Titus that can be meant, as well as by the parallel passages of the other Synoptists; to say nothing, moreover, of the fact that a literal destruction of Jerusalem in the time of Hadrian, which is mentioned for the first time by Jerome in his comment on Ezekiel 5:1, is, according to the older testimony of Justin, Ap. i. 47, and of Eusebius, iv. 6, highly questionable (Holtzmann, p. 405). But as regards the γενεά, in whose lifetime the destruction of the capital and the second advent were (Matthew 24:34) to take place, Zeller (in the Theol. Jahrb. 1852, p. 299 f.), following Baur and Hilgenfeld, üb. d. Ev. Justin’s, p. 367, has sought to make the duration of the period in question extend over a century and more, therefore to somewhere about the year 130 and even later, although the common notion of a γενεά was such that a century was understood to be equal to something like three of them (Herod, ii. 142; Thuc. i. 14. 1; Wesseling, ad Diod. i. 24). The above, however, is an erroneous view, which its authors have been constrained to adopt simply to meet the exigencies of the case. For, with such passages before them as Matthew 10:23, Matthew 16:28, neither their critical nor their dogmatical preconceptions should have allowed them to doubt that anything else was meant than the ordinary lifetime of the existing generation, the generation living at the time the discourse was being delivered (the γενεὰ κατὰ τὸν παρόντα χρόνον, Dem. 1390, 25), and that, too, only the portion of their lifetime that was still to run. Comp. Kahnis, Dogm. I. p. 494; Holtzmann, p. 408; Keim, p. 206; also Köstlin, p; 114 ff.

 


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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 24:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/matthew-24.html. 1832.

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