Application of Exegesis Methods to Disputed Biblical Passages
Text. Modern English translations (ESV, HCSB, NASB, NET, NIV) as well as major modern Italian ones (CEI, LND, NR2006), reveal no significant variation in the rendering. NET provides extensive translations notes, and no particular dispute in translating this passage is reported. Davies & Allison (2004) agree.
Paralles are found in Mark 13:14 and Luke 21:20.
Historical Background. Christ’s discourse is set around forty years prior to AD 70, during His final week before the crucifixion (Kostenberger, Stewart, & Makara, 2018). In Roman-controlled Israel, the messianic expectation was that “Messiah would lead the nation to throw off Gentile domination” (Myers, 2006, p. 42). Thus, Jesus’ statement in 24:2 puzzles the disciples, who then ask for clarifications in 24:3 regarding three things: the events about to happen; His coming into His Kingdom; and the end of the age (Walvoord, 1971).
Literary Analysis. Similar to ancient Greco-Roman biographies, Gospels uniquely combine teaching and action in a preaching-based document (Carson & Moo, 2005), whilst still comprising of various familiar genres: parable, discourse, dialogue, biography, etc. (Magnum, 2020). In Matthew’s chiastic structure, the Olivet Discourse is situated at the antipodes of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7), the latter laying down the qualifications to enter the Kingdom, and the former explaining when it will actually come (Derickson, 2006).
The word for “standing” is neuter (ἑστὸς) in Matthew, whilst in the Marcan parallel it is masculine (ἑστηκότα), suggesting a personification of the abomination, lending support to the “future Antichrist” view (Davies & Allison, 2004). See also 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Dydache 16; Apoc. Elijah 2:41; 4:21.
Theological Analysis. The crucial theological element is the explicit reference to Daniel and his ‘abomination of desolation’ (cf. Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11), thus it is interesting that no references to the ‘abomination’ or the prophet Daniel are found in the Lucan parallel, whilst the Marcan parallel does not mention the ‘holy place’ explicitly, and does not directly attribute the ‘abomination of desolation’ to Daniel.
Interpretation. The verse is part of the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24-25). Some scholars rightly observe that Daniel’s prophecy seems fulfilled in history by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 BC (1 Maccabees 1:54, 59; 6:7; 2 Maccabees 6:1–5), yet Jesus clearly intends a future fulfilment for it. This first puzzle is solved by noting that not all of Daniel’s abomination passages refer to the same event. Daniel 11:31 (11:20-35) is about Antiochus (Walvoord, 1971), but 11:36-45 refer to an eschatological future (so Daniel 9:27), the one Jesus refers to (also Paul in 2Th 2:3). The debate regarding whether Matthew 24:15 refers to a historical future or an eschatological one (Theophlos, 2009) is resolved similarly, through the early Jewish hermeneutical idea of ‘patterns of fulfilment’ (Haug, 2003), though we favour the “law of double reference” rather than that of “double fulfilment” (Fruchtenbaum, 2003, p. 4-5). Preterists (Bigalke, 2008) use the Lucan parallel to support the idea that the siege of Jerusalem (AD 70) was the historical fulfilment of the passage, since Luke explicitly mentions Jerusalem surrounded by armies and its desolation being near. However, we must observe that Luke (21:7) only reports the first of the disciples’ three original questions that we find in Matthew (24:3); and that first question is what is answered in Luke 21:20-24. Christ’s prophecy, as a whole, contains multiple references, some to the events of AD 70, some to an eschatological future; the latter is what is addressed in the Matthean account, which links the ‘abomination’ to Daniel and to the ‘holy place’. This agrees with Matthew’s chiastic centre being the postponement of the Kingdom (Derickson, 2006, p. 429).