Summary This chapter in Mark is known as the "little apocalypse." As the disciples and Jesus are coming out of the temple, one of the disciples remarks concerning the large buildings and large stones. Jesus replies by saying that all will be destroyed. Jesus and his disciples cross the Kidron Valley in order to get to the Mount of Olives. There, the disciples ask when the temple will be destroyed and ask for signs of this coming event. Jesus mentions that many will come saying "I am" and will gain followers. Wars and rumors of war will signal the end. The disciples are told that before the end, nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. Birth pangs of the day of the Lord will be signaled by earthquakes and famines.
Next, the disciples hear probably what they do not want to hear: they themselves will be brought before councils and beaten in the synagogues; they will stand before governors and kings where they will be asked to testify of their commitments. Before the end, the Gospel must be proclaimed to all nations. The disciples are told, furthermore, not to try to prepare for the trials relative to what to say in their own defense; rather, the Holy Spirit will speak on their behalf. Brothers, fathers, and children will rise against each other with children having their own parents put to death. The disciples are told they will be hated but will be saved if they endure until the end.
The end will be signaled by "desolating sacrilege" in the temple itself, and the religious will flee to the mountains. At this time of flight, people will not take time to take anything from their houses, including coats; those who are pregnant will be pitied for their condition; hopefully, they will be spared having this happen in the winder. The disciples are told the suffering will be more intense than any they've seen since the beginning of the world, and there will never be greater suffering. God himself will cut short mortal days for the sake of his elect; if, in fact, people hear others proclaiming themselves Messiah, they are not to believe them; for another sign of the day of the Lord will be false prophets and messiahs. The disciples, having been instructed, are to stay alert and not be led astray.
The suffering will be followed by a darkened sun and moon; stars will fall from the heavens, and the heavens themselves will be shaken. At this time the Son of Man will come in the clouds with great power and glory. He will send out angels and gather the elect from the four winds and the ends of earth and heaven.
Christ recalls the lesson the fig tree which he has earlier cursed for bearing leaves but no fruit. Symbolically, once again, another sign, this time of summer, will be that the fig tree puts out leaves. When all these things have been seen, then the day of the Lord will be near; in fact, this generation, Christ tells his disciples, will not pass away until these things come to pass. He continues, heaven and earth will pass away but not my words.
The disciples are told to keep alert, for they will not know when the end is to come; this end, neither the angels nor the Son knows, but only the Father. The disciples are told to keep awake:
34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."
Dom Henry Wansbrough provides a careful analysis of the discourse in this chapter, this then illustrated by the suggested literary division of the chapter:
After the introduction, each of the three sections is ruled by a biblical quotation, from Daniel in vv. 14, 26, from Isaiah in v. 30.
The first and third sections are each in the form of a chiasmus, that is, each is symmetrically shaped, with the climax in the centre. Thus vv. 5-6 balance vv. 21-22 (false prophets); v. 7 balances v. 14 (‘when you hear’, ‘when you see’) and the climax is the persecution of vv. 9-13. Similarly vv. 28-29 balance vv. 33-34 (parables); v. 30 balances v. 32 (solemn prophecy), and the climax is the certainty of v. 31.
The whole is wrapped by ‘Be on your guard’ in vv. 5 and 33, repeated in vv. 9 and 23. The conclusion is wrapped by the insistent ‘Stay awake’, vv. 35 and 37, linked to vv. 33 and 34.
The language is unlike the rest of Mk. Predictions and imperatives are rare in Mk, whereas here they are constant. Count the number of occurrences of ‘will’ and of commands! By contrast, the tedious ‘And’, at the beginning of almost every verse in Mk (35 times in the 45 verses of Mk 1), has almost disappeared (10 times in vv. 5-37). The question has been raised whether Mk wrote this chapter. It has been suggested that Mk built upon a previous document and made it his own.
1As he was leaving the Temple one of his disciples said to him, `Master, look at the size of those stones! Look at the size of those buildings!' 2And Jesus said to him, `You see these great buildings? Not a single stone will be left on another; everything will be pulled down.' 3And while he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, facing the Temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew questioned him when they were by themselves, 4`Tell us, when is this going to happen, and what sign will there be that it is all about to take place?'
The beginning of sorrows
5Then Jesus began to tell them, `Be on your guard that no one deceives you. 6Many will come using my name and saying, "I am he," and they will deceive many.
7When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this is something that must happen, but the end will not be yet. 8For nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is the beginning of the birth-pangs.
9`Be on your guard: you will be handed over to sanhedrins; you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as evidence to them, 10since the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11`And when you are taken to be handed over, do not worry beforehand about what to say; no, say whatever is given to you when the time comes, because it is not you who will be speaking; it is the Holy Spirit. 12Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will come forward against their parents and have them put to death. 13You will be universally hated on account of my name; but anyone who stands firm to the end will be saved.
14`When you see the appalling abomination set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judaea must escape to the mountains; 15if a man is on the housetop, he must not come down or go inside to collect anything from his house; 16if a man is in the fields, he must not turn back to fetch his cloak. 17Alas for those with child, or with babies at the breast, when those days come! 18Pray that this may not be in winter. 19For in those days there will be great distress, unparalleled since God created the world, and such as will never be again. 20And if the Lord had not shortened that time, no human being would have survived; but he did shorten the time, for the sake of the elect he chose.
21`And if anyone says to you then, "Look, here is the Christ" or, "Look, he is there," do not credit it; 22for false Christs and false prophets will arise and produce signs and portents to deceive the elect, if that were possible. 23You, therefore, must be on your guard. I have given you warning.
The coming of the Son of man
24`But in those days, after that time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, 25the stars will come falling out of the sky and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 And then they will see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27And then he will send the angels to gather his elect, from the ends of the world to the ends of the sky.
The time of this coming
28`Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, right at the gates.
30In truth I tell you, before this generation has passed away all these things will take place.
31Sky and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32`But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.
33`Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. 34It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from his home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own work to do; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake.
Conclusion 35So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow or dawn; 36if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. 37And what I am saying to you I say to all: Stay awake!'
Wansbrough next explains the convention of farewell speech common to literature of the era as well as help for understanding the background of the "abomination," these followed by hints for understanding the timing of the "kingship of God" as occurring in stages, the bulk pointing to the Transfiguration and Resurrection; but before following Wansbrough on this, it may be useful to explain the farewell speech more carefully, provided in the historical analysis by Michael Turton:
Although this is typically labeled an "apocalypse," Bruce Malina (2002) has argued that this is not, in fact, an apocalypse:
"What is distinctive of final words before death in the Mediterranean (and elsewhere) is that the person about to die is believed capable of knowing what is going to happen to persons near and dear to him or her. Dying persons are prescient because they are closer to the realm of God (or gods) who knows all things than to the realm of humans whose knowledge is limited to human experience. The dying process puts a person into specific type of Altered State of Consciousness, a special way of knowing from the viewpoint of God (or gods), as it were. There is ample evidence of this type of Altered State of Consciousness in antiquity (see Pilch 1993; 1995; 1998; Malina 1999). Consider these instances, collected by Gaster (1974 vol. 1: 214; 378). Xenophon tells us: "At the advent of death, men become more divine, and hence can foresee the forthcoming" (CYROP. 7.7.21). In the ILIAD (16.849-50) the dying Patroclus tells of the coming death of Hector at the hands of Achilles, and the dying Hector predicts the death of Achilles himself (22.325). Similarly, in Sophocles' play, "The Women of Trachis," the dying Heracles summons Alcmene so that she may learn from his last words "the things I now know by divine inspiration" (TRACHINIAE 1148 ff.). Vergil finds it normal to have the dying Orodes predict that his slayer will soon meet retribution (AENEID 10.729-41). Plato too reports that Socrates made predictions during his last moments, realizing that "on the point of death, I am now in that condition in which men are most wont to prophesy" (APOL 39c; cf. Xenophon, ANAB. APOL. 30). Cicero reports concerning Callanus of India: "As he was about to die and was ascending his funeral pyre, he said: `What a glorious death! The fate of Hercules is mine. For when this mortal frame is burned the soul will find the light.' When Alexander directed him to speak if he wished to say anything to him, he answered: `Thank you, nothing, except that I shall see you very soon.' So it turned out, for Alexander died in Babylon a few days later" (DE DIVINATIONE 1.47).
The Israelite tradition equally shared this belief, as is clear from the final words of Jacob (Gen. 49) and Moses (Deut 31-34); see also 1 Sam 12; 1 Kgs 2:1-17; Josh 23-24. The well-known documents called "Testaments," written around the time of Jesus, offer further witness to this belief (e.g. Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Testament of Moses; see also Jubilees 22:10-30, 1 Macc. 2:47-70; Josephus, ANTIQUITIES 12.279-84).
In the U.S., with economics as the focal social institution, last words and testaments will deal with the disposition of goods. However in Mediterranean antiquity, with the kinship institution being focal, final words will deal with concern for the tear in the social fabric resulting from the dying person's departure. Hence the dying person will be deeply concerned about what will happen to his/her kin group. As the examples just cited indicate, toward the close of the dying process, the person soon to expire will impart significant information about what is soon to befall the group in general and individuals in the group. This includes who will hold it together (successor), and advice to kin group members on how to keep the group together. Of course, before passing on the dying person tries to assure the kin group of its well-being, offering abiding good wishes and expressing concern for the well-being of the group. It is within this cultural framework that Jesus' final words and actions need to be understood."
Interestingly, where Turton and Malina question the genre of apocalypse, Wansbrough suggests the farewell-speech makes use of the apocalyptic convention:
3. MESSAGE: THE PERSECUTION AND RESCUE OF THE DISCIPLES
1. A farewell-speech to a great man’s followers is a convention of ancient literature. One of the most famous is Socrates’ farewell-speech before he commits suicide, the Apologia. Biblical examples are the Last Supper Discourses in Jn 14-17 and Paul’s discourse to the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20.17-35). Such a speech normally warns of perils and dangers to come and assures the followers of help and eventual success. Mk 13 is just such a speech, warning the disciples of persecution and defections to come, and assuring them of eventual release and vindication. It makes use of the conventions of apocalyptic especially in vv. 24-27.
2. The clue to the interpretation is the ‘appalling abomination’ in v. 14. This quotation of Daniel is an allusion (and the apocalyptic genre works by biblical allusions) to the idolatrous altar set up in the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes during his persecution of Jews in 167BC. Now, however, it refers to the desecration of the Temple by the Romans in AD70. The turmoil of wars and rumours of wars, nation fighting against nation, false Messiahs and false prophets is the upheavals leading up to the Sack of Jerusalem. The formal, prophetic and allusive language is so much a part of the idiom of apocalyptic that it is impossible to tell whether the Sack has already taken place or is simply seen as inevitable. It is, however, seen as the birth-pangs (v.8), and the Sack of Jerusalem as somehow marking a significant stage in the coming of the Kingdom. This indeed it did, for the demise of Jerusalem marked the moment of liberation of Christianity from Judaism.
3. The timing of the coming remained a worry and a puzzle. There are three decisive sayings of Jesus in Mark which suggest that the realisation of the kingship of God is not to be long delayed:
a. Before the Transfiguration Jesus declares,
There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingship of God come with power (9.1).
This is 'one of the most discussed verses in the whole of Mk's gospel'. Firstly a distinction must be made between the original meaning in Jesus' mouth and the meaning which the verse takes in Mk. In Mk the striking position surely indicates that Mk is pointing it towards the Transfiguration itself, and regards the Transfiguration as at least partly fulfilling it. Was this the original sense, or has Mk given the saying a different sense by inserting it in this context?
b. At the Last Supper Jesus says,
I shall never drink wine any more until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God (14.25).
This saying is not part of the original tradition of the institution of the eucharist; it has no inherent connection with this event. The saying must be an independent saying garnered by Mk and deliberately placed here. Mk therefore placed it here with the intention that the reader should see its fulfilment in the immediately-following Passion and Resurrection account.
c. Similarly, before the high priest Jesus replies,
You will see the son of man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven (14.62).
Here it is the 'you will see...' that is remarkable. Mk must have considered that in some sense the Coming would happen within their lifetime. This can only have been the Resurrection itself or the events foretold in Mk 13; the similarity of language points to the latter.
The fulfilment of the Kingship must therefore be seen as occurring in stages. There was no one utterly decisive moment. Included must be: (the conception of Jesus, the birth of Jesus – not in Mk), the preparatory message of the Baptist, the proclamation of Jesus, the death-&-resurrection of Jesus, the liberation from Judaism, the final coming of Christ. About the timing of this last Mk 13 gives no indication beyond the urgent and repeated ‘Stay awake’ and the parables of 13.28-34. If Mk was written before the imminent Sack of Jerusalem, the question must be asked whether he foresaw this event as the occasion of the final Coming. This would coincide with Paul’s pressing expectation of the End in 1 Thess 4.15-5.3 and 1 Cor 7.29-31 and the early Christians prayer Maranatha (1 Cor 16.22).
Morna Hooker, The Gospel of Mark, p. 211
Michael Turton follows Tate (1995) in seeing a structural parallel between this chapter and the Passion:
Prefaced by an explanation of extensive allusion to the tradition of Scripture, Turton's understanding of the parallel makes even more sense; he begins by suggesting a use of the Elijah-Elisha cycle that may be, perhaps, a generic parallel of construction by tropes, then moves to other references; the argument would seem to be that Mark is structurally intentionally settled into its surrounding context:
v2: Prophecies of Jerusalem's destruction are found in both Micah 3:13 and Jeremiah 26:18. There is no mention that the Temple will be rebuilt (Donahue and Harrington 2002, p368).
v2: Josephus conveys well the awe with which the Jews viewed the Temple:
"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 coming to it at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for as to those parts of it that were not gilt, 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. Before this temple stood the altar, fifteen cubits high, and equal both in length and breadth; each of which dimensions was fifty cubits. The figure it was built in was a square, and it had corners like horns; and the passage up to it was by an insensible acclivity. It was formed without any iron tool, nor did any such iron tool so much as touch it at any time."(War, V,v,6)
v2: By the same token, it is well to remember that in many traditions of esoteric Judaism, the First Temple was idealized, while the Second was condemned as corrupt and polluted. The Gospel of Mark, with its strong Temple focus, navigates among a complex formation of attitudes toward the Temple, not merely a monolithic, shallow, and superstitious awe. Margaret Barker offers an excellent discussion of some of the complexities of the connections between attitudes toward the Temple and early Christian history.
3: And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately,
v3: The Mount of Olives is where the messiah traditionally will begin his triumph and restoration of Israel (Zech 14:4). Note how in v3 Mark has set the Mountain and the Temple in opposition to each other, and how, once again, an epiphany is delivered on a mountain. Jesus was facing the Temple Treasury; now he faces the entire Temple. This opposition of Temple to mountain recalls the similar oppositions that occur in such eschatological texts as Zechariah 14, Joel 3, and Ezekiel 38-9, where Mt. Zion is opposed to the Temple and where God sits upon it to pass judgment on his enemies (Fletcher-Louis 1997). Zech 14 plays an important role in Mark. In Daniel 2 the Kingdom of Israel is envisioned as a mountain that fills the whole earth. This complex imagery is itself simply a subset of a larger myth complex of cosmic mountains that is found all over the ancient Near East.
v3: "privately." The writer frequently uses "privately" (kat'idian) when Jesus is about to deliver a parable or explain a problem.
4: "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?"
v4: "How long?" Myers (1988, p326) terms this the "apocalyptic query." It is found in Daniel 12:6.
7: And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is not yet.
v7: some exegetes have suggested Daniel 2:28
8: For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places, there will be famines; this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs.
v8: from Isa 19:2 and/or 2 Chronicles 15:6:
Isa 19:2 "I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian- brother will fight against brother, neighbor against neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom.(NIV)
The passage betrays the usual Temple focus of Mark, with a prophecy that there will be an altar in Egypt where the Assyrians and Egyptians will worship the God of Israel together. It also contains the words redolent with Markan themes, such as fisherman, palm branches and reeds, and cornerstone, as well as the messianic phrase "on that day."
v8: Evans (1998, p381) identifies Zech 114:5 behind this verse:
5: And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzzi'ah king of Judah. Then the LORD your God will come, and all the holy ones with him.(RSV)
12: And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;
v12: from Micah 7:6, or perhaps 4 Ezra 6:24
Mic 7:6 For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law- a man's enemies are the members of his own household. (NIV)
Micah 7:1 has already been cited as a source of the incident of the cursing of the fig tree in Mark 11:12-14. Perhaps there is a possible interreference to that passage.
13: and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
v13: "my name's sake." The term "Christian" to describe Jesus' followers is a much later term, and is a true anachronism here. Note that "Christ" is not a name but a title. Paul often used "Christ" as a name.
v13: Who is "you" here? Is Jesus addressing Christians in general, or the people standing next to him?
v13: Weeden (1971, p84) pointing out that the phrase for my sake appears only here in Mk 13:9-13, 10:23-31, and 8:34-9:1, argues that there is a structural similarity between these passages.
14: "But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains;
v14: from Daniel 9:7 and 12:11, and Genesis 19:17. Some have argued that this verse contains a clear marker of a previous written source, which Mark has adapted (let the reader understand...). It is often used to date this passage to a time after the destruction of the Temple, although some exegetes argue that the writer is referring to the attempt by Caligula in 40 to set up a statue of himself in the Temple in Jerusalem. A. Y. Collins (2003) argues that it refers to a statue that the writer believes will be erected in the Temple once the Romans consolidate control over the area.
v14: Whitney Shiner (2003) observes:
"I see no reason to believe that the eschatological discourse ever existed as an independent
entity. It is fundamentally important to the structure and meaning of the gospel. It is the longest speech in the gospel and the requirements of performance make it stand out from the surrounding narrative..."
Shiner goes on to argue that the structure and vocabulary of the long speech in Chapter 13 indicate it may have been performed.
v14: As Robert Fowler (1996) points out, the "reader" here could refer to someone reading it silently to himself, the kind of paid performer/reader used to read to groups in Hellenistic society, or someone in the audience of such a person. Fowler also points out that "readers" here would really fall into two groups, those who recognized the citation (any one of the three above) and those who did not (any one of the three above).
v14: 1 Maccabees also offers an abomination in the Temple Jerusalem, twice. In 1 Macc 1:54 it describes Antiochus IV Epiphanies, the Hellenistic King who placed a pagan image on the altar of burnt offering;
54: Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege upon the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding cities of Judah,(RSV)
Similarly, 1 Macc 6:7 records the destruction of that idol:
1: King Antiochus was going through the upper provinces when he heard that Elymais in Persia was a city famed for its wealth in silver and gold.
2: Its temple was very rich, containing golden shields, breastplates, and weapons left there by Alexander, the son of Philip, the Macedonian king who first reigned over the Greeks.
3: So he came and tried to take the city and plunder it, but he could not, because his plan became known to the men of the city
4: and they withstood him in battle. So he fled and in great grief departed from there to return to Babylon.
5: Then some one came to him in Persia and reported that the armies which had gone into the land of Judah had been routed;
6: that Lysias had gone first with a strong force, but had turned and fled before the Jews; that the Jews had grown strong from the arms, supplies, and abundant spoils which they had taken from the armies they had cut down;
7: that they had torn down the abomination which he had erected upon the altar in Jerusalem; and that they had surrounded the sanctuary with high walls as before, and also Beth-zur, his city.
8: When the king heard this news, he was astounded and badly shaken. He took to his bed and became sick from grief, because things had not turned out for him as he had planned. (RSV)
v14: 1 Maccabees may also be the source of inspiration for the flight to the hills. 1 Macc 2:28 says:
27: Then Mattathias cried out in the city with a loud voice, saying: "Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!"
28: And he and his sons fled to the hills and left all that they had in the city.(RSV)
16: and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle.
v16: Note the conjunction here of fleeing believers and lost mantles, just as in Mk 14.
19: For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will be.
v19: from Daniel 12:1
At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people-everyone whose name is found written in the book-will be delivered. (NIV)
That passage also offers a "man in linen" (recall the Young Man of Mark 14:43-52) who explains the secret that is sealed until the end of time.
22: False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
v22: from Deut 13:2
1 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. (NIV)
24: "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,
v24: refers to Isa. 13:10:
The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. (NIV)
May be a reference to demons in Septuagint, as demons appear in the LXX 13:21 instead of "goats leaping about" as in the modern version. Thus this may be a reference to the source of demons in the Gospel of Mark.
25: and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
v25: from Isaiah 34:4
4 All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.
Note the shriveled figs again. Isa 34 also offers the word "demon" in the Septuagint version of Isa 34:14, and may also be a source for demons in the Gospel of Mark.
26: And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory.
v26: from Daniel 7:13
27: And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
v27: is from Zech 2:10 and Deut 30:4; also Zech 2:6
28: "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.
v28: note the allusion to the fig tree of Mark 11. The writer has reversed the image of a leaf-dropping fig tree taken from Isaiah 34:
4 All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree. (NIV)
30: Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place.
v30: recalls Mark 9:1. It offers an apparent contradiction with v32, as Meier (1994, p347) points out. Thus, some exegetes conclude that one or the other must be an interpolation.
31: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
v31: combines Isaiah 51:6 and 40:8. Donahue and Harrington (2002) write:
"This saying constitutes the center of a carefully constructed unit: A -- parable (13:28-29), B -- time saying (13:30), C -- saying about Jesus' authority (13:31), B' -- time saying (13:32), A' -- parable (13:33-37)(p376). Myers (1988, p331) reconstructs this as an ABCC'B'A' chiasm sandwiched between the two injunctions to Watch!
Turton further explains the literary structure and Scriptual references as making dating the gospel problematic:
Ludemann has pointed out that this section may be based on a Jewish source overlaid by Christian reworking. He sees it as descending from a polemic against the erection by Emperor Caligula of statues of himself in the Jerusalem Temple (Ludemann 2001, p87-8), a position also held by Nick Taylor (2003b). Given the extensive references to the Old Testament as well as its composition in a future time where Christians suffer persecution and encounter false Christs, it is not necessary to posit an earlier source. In any case the statue was never actually erected as Caligula was assassinated in 41. The writer of Mark is referring to some later event.
This section has traditionally been used to date the Gospel to either during or just after the Roman war against the Jews and the destruction of the Temple. The extensive use of OT creation, and its literary features make dating problematical. It may refer to that war. It may also refer to the rebellion of Bar Kochba, which ended in 135. It may represent some other conflict. it could even have been written long before 70, for the details of the predictions are drawn from the OT and could have been written anytime in the first or second century. On the basis of this passage, the writer is often held to have known that the Temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed and thus, that the Gospel dates from after 70.
The numerous references to the future of persecution and false Christs (v9), as well as lavish quoting of the OT, and supernatural prophecy of Jesus own death, all indicate that nothing in this pericope can support historicity.
Turton, in an extended discussion of "community" in Mark underlines the literary and symbolic structure of the gospel:
1. The writer of Mark does not live near the sea, nor does he live near the Sea of Galilee. He doesn't know anything about seas, and thus does not know that the Lake Gennesaret is really just a piddling little thing that no one would call a "sea."
2. The writer of Mark lives near a real sea, but has never been to the Sea of Galilee, and does not know that it is not a real sea. Thus he imputes sea-like behavior to the Sea of Galilee.
3. The writer of Mark just doesn't give a damn what the Sea of Galilee is like. He is writing a story in which the Sea is a body of water that plays a symbolic role and he uses it as he wills, and not as reality would have it.
Of the three alternatives, the last is the most likely. This is indicated by the general unreality of the Sea of Galilee scenes – they are often created from the Elijah-Elisha Cycle, and use the Sea of Galilee as the site of miracles like water walks and feedings. Additionally, the narrative function of the Sea of Galilee in the Gospel of Mark is to act as a border between the Gentiles and the Jews. The reality is that the writer of Mark simply doesn’t give a damn what the reality of the Sea of Galilee is.