Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 22, 2015  -  Comments Off on 14.01.03 JESUS PREDICTS THAT THE TEMPLE WILL BE DESTROYED

14.01.03 Mk. 13:1-2 (See also Mt. 24:1-2; Lk. 21:5-6) Leaving the Temple, Tuesday




1 As He was going out of the temple complex, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, look! What massive stones! What impressive buildings!”

2 Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here on another that will not be thrown down!”



14.01.03.A. HERODIAN ASHLARS OF THE WESTERN WALL.  Herod the Great created his own unique face edging design on the large stones he used in his buildings.  Known as Herodian ashlars, the Western Wall and the southeast corner of the Old City Wall have some of the largest stones ever used in ancient world construction. These were not part of the temple building, but part of the retaining wall that supported the temple court yard. Photograph by the author.


The disciples were stunned when Jesus told them that the temple would be destroyed to the point that not a single stone would remain upon another. Yet Jesus was hardly the first to predict its destruction – others questioned how long God would permit His corrupted temple to stand.[1] The massive cretaceous limestone blocks required thousands of men and heavy construction equipment to move and place into position to build walls. Shown above (14.01.03.A) are some of the smaller ashlars of the retaining wall commonly known as the Western Wall, which part of the complex Josephus described as the most prodigious work that was ever heard of by man.[2] To destroy the temple would be a formidable task, yet that is precisely what happened in A.D.70.

“What massive stones!” Beginning in 20 or 19 B.C. Herod the Great intended to build one of the wonders of the world, and his dream was completed decades after his death, in A.D. 63, only seven years before its destruction.  The magnificent temple truly was an ancient wonder, with its massive limestone blocks,[3] nine gates overlaid with silver and gold, and the tenth gate was of solid Corinthian brass.  Carved in the walls by the gates were grape clusters, with each cluster being the size of a man.  Inside were two towering 25-meter gilded menorahs, stately pillars, and surrounding porches that invoked a sense of awe in anyone.[4] The plates of gold reflected the rays of the morning sun with a dazzling brightness that overpowered the eyes.[5]    This incredible beauty was carved in white limestone, but not in the hearts of men. Josephus said that when approaching Jerusalem the temple appeared like a snow-capped mountain.

The foundation stones uncovered at the temple site are the largest building stones found anywhere in the world. These massive stones were laid by Herod the Great in the first three years of the reconstruction and remodeling of the temple.  After his death, no one built with such huge stones (known as ashlars) anymore.  Unfortunately, the temple, like these leaders, had become a symbol of extreme hypocrisy.


“What magnificent buildings!” The temple complex was the pinnacle of architectural achievements built by Herod the Great.  At least two ancient writers described this magnificent building: Josephus and Philo.  First are the words of Josephus, who had visited the temple many times.


Now the outward face of the temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men’s minds or their eyes, for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away just as they would have done at the sun’s own rays.  But this temple appeared to strangers when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow, for, as to those parts of it that were not gilded, they were exceeding white.  On its top, it had spikes with sharp points to prevent any pollution of it by birds sitting upon it.  Of its stones, some of them were forty-five cubits in length, five in height, and six in breadth.[6]  Before the temple stood the altar, fifteen cubits high and equal both in length and breadth each with of which dimensions was fifty cubits.[7]  The figure it was built in was a square and it had corners like horns, and the passage up to it by an insensible acclivity. It was formed without any iron tools, nor did any such iron tool so much as touch it at any time.[8]


Josephus, Wars 5.5.6 (222-225)[9]


The Jewish philosopher Philo described the glory and magnificence of the temple to the Roman Emperor Caligula in his work, On the Embassy to Gaius (37).


But why need I invoke the assistance of foreign witnesses, when I have plenty with whom I can furnish you from among your own countrymen and friends?  Marcus Agrippa, your own grandfather on the mother’s side, the moment he arrived in Judea, when Herod, my grandfather was king of the country, thought fit to go up from the seacoast to the metropolis (Jerusalem), which was inland.  And when he had beheld the temple, and the decorations of the priests, and the piety and holiness of the people of the country, he marveled looking upon the whole matter as one of great solemnity and entitled to great respect, and thinking that he had beheld what was too magnificent to be described.  And he could talk of nothing else to his companions but the magnificence of the temple and everything connected with it.


Philo, On the Embassy to Gaius 37



Therefore, every day that he remained in the city, by reason of his friendship for Herod, he went to that sacred place, being delighted with the spectacle of the building, and of the sacrifices, and all the ceremonies connected with the worship of God and the regularity which was observed, and the dignity and honor paid to the high priest and his grandeur when arrayed in his sacred vestments and went about to begin the sacrifices.


What again did your other grandfather, Tiberius Caesar do?  Does not he appear to have adopted an exactly similar line of conduct?  At all events during the three and twenty years that he was emperor he preserved the form of worship in the temple as it had been handed down from the earliest times, without abrogating or altering the slightest particular of it.


Philo, On the Embassy to Gaius 294-296, 298[10]


The Greeks and Romans always mocked the Jews for what was deemed to be a superstitious religion. The Gentiles could not imagine worshiping a god they could not see. However, as Herod’s remodeling progressed and the reputation of the beautiful structure spread, Gentiles gave Judaism a greater level of respectability. Among ancient buildings, the Jewish temple was equal to what today would be called a “skyscraper.” But whatever honors the Jewish people enjoyed from their temple and neighbors, was short lived.


Not one stone will be left here on another.” The words of Jesus most certainly were not shocking to all rabbis who eventually heard them.  There were a number of righteous rabbis who recognized the deteriorating condition of the Jewish leadership in the temple, and concluded that divine judgment was at hand. Note the following comments which were written before the destruction:


Therefore, the sanctuary which the Lord chose shall become desolate through your uncleanness, and you will be captives in all the nations.


Testament of Levi 15.1



After his death there will come into their land a powerful king of the West who will subdue them, and he will take away captives, and a part of their temple he will burn with fire.  He will crucify some of them around their city.


Testament of Moses 6.8-9


The unknown Essene writer wrote prophetically in his description of the Sadducees and the temple elitists. He said that they would accumulate riches and plunder the people.  However,


…In the last days their riches and their loot will fall into the hands of the army of the Kittim. (Blank) For they are Hab. 2:8a “the greatest of the peoples,” Hab 2:8b for the human blood [spilt] and violence done to the country, the city and all its occupants.


Dead Sea Scroll, Habakkuk Pesher 1QpHab 9.6-7[11]


Extra-biblical comments as these present the very real possibility that God was also moving in the hearts and minds of righteous rabbis of the time. Clearly they recognized the proverbial “writing on the wall.” [12]


Jesus did not curse the temple, but gave a prophecy of its future.  This is a striking contrast between the Old Testament Covenant, which can never be broken (Jn. 10:35), and the temple which will be destroyed.  The rejection of Jesus by national Israel, that is, the official Jewish leadership, would be the cause of the temple’s destruction.  These words, “Not one stone…” were spoken as He left the temple for the last time.


Decades later, when General Titus and the Tenth Roman Legion came to Jerusalem, Titus asked his commanders if the temple should be destroyed, for he too appreciated the beauty of the architectural wonder and considered its destruction as shameful.  The commanders, however, encouraged the destruction for it was rumored that gold was hidden in the walls. Whatever gold found would become booty for those who uncovered it.  Therefore, the destruction came with great anticipation and excitement although no gold was ever found within the sacred walls.  The rumor was not without merit, since there was an abundance of gold throughout the massive building. Centuries later the Talmud recorded that:


It used to be said: He who has not seen the temple of Herod has never seen a beautiful building…. He originally intended to cover it with gold, but the Rabbis advised him not to, since it was more beautiful as it was, [the stones] looking like the waves of the sea.


Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 4a[13]



Of the ten measures of beauty that came down to the world, Jerusalem took nine.


Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 49b


Later, in A.D. 135, Jerusalem was destroyed again by the Romans and this time all the Jews were expelled from the Holy City.  With these two destructions, they realized that their proverbial “fence around the Torah” [14] had failed. Yet the early church did not consider these two destructions of Jerusalem (AD 70 and 135) as being the prophetic fulfillment of judgment known as the “Day of the Lord.” [15]


After Jesus gave the warning of the pending destruction (Mt. 24), He led His disciples across the Kidron Valley and they rested upon the Mount of Olives.  Ironically, a prophecy concerning the destruction was essentially a threat to Rome, as that would obviously entail a huge riot and massive social unrest.[16] To threaten a destruction of the temple was a capital crime, but evidently, those words never went beyond the inner circle of disciples.


Obviously, by this time the disciples realized some changes were about to occur, so they asked Him about the future.  His response in Matthew 24 is often referred to as either the “Olivet Discourse,”  “the Synoptic Apocalypse,” or “the Little Apocalypse,” in which He discussed the signs that would occur prior to His return.[17]  While He mentioned these events, He never indicated precisely when He will return.   His advice was to be aware, be watchful, and be faithful.  The focus of prophecy, as this is, has always been on Jesus and how to respond to Him.  Prophetic words were also a source of comfort as they confirm the knowledge that God alone knows what the future holds.


The Olivet Discourse (below) has parallels with the book of Revelation. For example, Matthew 24:4-8 has a parallel theme in Revelation 6.  Since the Revelation of Jesus, as recorded by John is clearly an apocalyptic event, this suggests to critics that the words of Matthew represent futuristic occurrences that are far more intense or severe than those of the past.  Matthew 24:9-14 describes the second half of the Tribulation.  In essence, it will be a time of widespread deception, persecution, and death.  The “Beast” will be the persecutor of those who fail to worship him (Rev. 13:7).  Yet those who faithfully withstand the cruelty of the times will be saved (Mt. 24:13).  While the Antichrist (or Beast)[18] attempts to blot out the Christian faith, the gospel will be preached throughout the world (Mt. 24:14).


Four disciples, James and his brother John, and Peter and his brother Andrew, asked Jesus a question in response to the Jewish request for the Messiah to come. Jesus was seated, as a teaching rabbi would teach his students, and responded with the following discourse.

[1]. Righteous Jewish writers who believed the temple leadership was unfaithful, and therefore, placed the nation at risk predicted the temple destruction in Testament of Levi 15:1; Testament of Moses 6:8-9; Dead Sea Scroll 1QpHab 9:6-7; and even Josephus wrote of it later in Wars 6.5.3. (301).


[2]. Josephus, Antiquities 15.11.3.


[3]. According to Leen Ritmeyer, an architectural archaeologist, some of these massive stones, known as “ashlars,” are up to 35 feet long and weigh over 70 tons. One door lintel was nearly 27 feet long and 7 feet high. See Kathleen and Leen Ritmeyer. “Reconstructing Herod’s Temple Mount in Jerusalem.” Biblical Archaeology Review 15:6. (Nov/Dec, 1989). 23-45.


[4]. Farrar, Life of Christ. 358-61.

[5]. Josephus, Against Apion 2.8; Wars 5.5.6.


[6]. Forty-five cubits in length, five in height, and six in breadth is equal to approximately sixty-seven feet in length, seven and a half feet in height, and nine feet in breadth.  Some foundational stones that are still in their original position, have a weight in excess of three hundred tons, in comparison, the largest stone in the Egyptian pyramids is only fifteen tons.

[7]. Fifteen cubits high is equal to approximately twenty-two and a half feet.  The altar was fifty cubits square, or seventy-five feet by seventy-five feet.

[8]. Iron was the symbol of war, death, and punishment, whereas the altar was where sacrificial offerings were made to God; hence it was to be a holy place of divine love, mercy, and grace.

[9]. Josephus wrote an incredible description of Jerusalem in Wars 5.4.1-4 and of the temple in Wars 5.5.1-8.

[10]. Elwell and Yarbrough, Readings from the First-Century World. 83.

[11]. Cited by Bock and Herrick, Jesus in Context. 148.  See also http://www.angelfire.com/md/mdmorrison/nt/1qphab.html and https://books.google.com/books?id=ZR57AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA436&lpg=PA436&dq=1QpHab+9&source=bl&ots=auBR0BGkKN&sig=pAdIG9xlijTgU2pN78EnasaNAl8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-_uJVKL3C8iVNvLSgNAJ&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=1QpHab%209&f=false. Retrieved December 11, 2914.


[12]. Righteous Jewish writers who believed the temple leadership was unfaithful, and therefore, placed the nation at risk predicted the temple destruction in Testament of Levi 15:1; Testament of Moses 6:8-9; Dead Sea Scroll 1QpHab 9:6-7; and even Josephus wrote of it in Wars 6.5.3. (301).


[13]. See also Babylonian Talmud, Succah 51b.


[14]. See video 02.02.16.V by Messianic Rabbi John Fischer who discusses the term “fence around the Torah” from a first century Jewish perspective.


[15]. For example, see Zech. 14; Acts 2:20; Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10.

[16]. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 24, page 12.


[17]. Wenham, “Olivet Discourse.” 2:1116.

[18]. See Appendix 26.

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