WHY CHOOSE MATTHEW FOR STUDYING OLIVET?

PMW 2022-084 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Each of the three Synoptic Gospels records the Lord’s Olivet Discourse, though with slight differences.

When studying this intriguing and much abused discourse, we ultimately need to deal with all three versions. But sometimes it might not be possible to do a proper harmony of the three, such as when preaching a sermon series or teaching a Bible study under time constraints. Which one would you choose in such situations?

I believe Matthew’s version is the key to understanding the discourse, and even to understanding the other two versions. Let me provide seven reasons why I recommend focusing on Matthew’s Olivet Discourse.

First, Matthew’s version is in the most Jewish Gospel

“It is agreed on all hands that this is a very ‘Jewish’ Gospel.” [1] This is significant in that the Discourse is sparked by deeply Jewish concerns raised by the Lord’s disciples (Matt. 24:1–3; cp. Mark 13:4). This includes highlighting the Jewish temple (“holy place,” v. 15; cp. vv. 1–2), its geographical setting in Judea (v. 16), and a distinctly Jewish Sabbath concern (v. 20). Robinson declares that “Matthew is more concerned than any other evangelist with the relationship of Christianity to the temple, the priesthood and the sacrifices.” [2]

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Olivet Discourse Made Easy (by Ken Gentry)

Verse-by-verse analysis of Christ’s teaching on Jerusalem’s destruction in Matt 24. Shows the great tribulation is past, having occurred in AD 70, and is distinct from the Second Advent at the end of history.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Osborne notes that “Matthew writes a Jewish gospel,” because he “especially had the Jewish Christian church and the Jewish people in mind.” [3] Nolland speaks of “the profound Jewishness of the whole of the Gospel of Matthew,” [4] reminding us that it is “often and truly described as the most Jewish of the Gospels.” [5] Bock writes that Matthew “is the one most focused on Jewish issues and concerns.” [6] Gundry speaks of “the profound Jewishness of the whole of the Gospel of Matthew.” [7]

As I have shown in my Olivet Discourse Made Easy, Matthew presents a quite negative view of first-century Israel. And the Olivet Discourse forms the very climax to this negative angle in his teaching. Thus, the Discourse finds its fuller context in its setting in the whole Gospel. It should be helpful, therefore, to consider the Jewish nature of Matthew’s presentation of Olivet.

Second, Matthew’s version is in the most influential Gospel

Though many scholars argue for Marcan Priority, the evidence from the early church Fathers strongly suggests Matthew was the first Gospel produced. [8] Because of this, Matthew was the most influential Gospel in the early church, being the one most cited by the Fathers. As ISBE2 (3:280) notes: “The Gospel of Matthew dominated the attention of the early Church, at least so far as the Synoptic Gospels are concerned, to the extent that it all but eclipsed the others.”

Matthew still remains the most influential of the three Synoptic Gospels even today. Osborne notes to this end: “Matthew has always been the gospel most widely read and the one first consulted for details about the life of Christ.” [9] As one major Bible encyclopedia comments: “The Gospel according to Matthew has always occupied a position of highest esteem in the faith and life of the Christian church…. It may be that the early Christians placed it in first position in the NT canon precisely because of the profound influence of its contents” (ZEB 4:131).

Third, Matthew’s version appears climactically as Jesus’ final discourse

A well-known feature of Matthew is its highlighting five major discourses: the Sermon on the Mount [10] (Matt. 5–7), the Missionary Discourse (Matt. 10), the Kingdom Parables (Matt. 13), the Community Life Discourse (Matt. 18), and finally the dramatic Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24–25). As Osborne observes: “Matthew has structured his gospel very differently from the others and organized it around the five discourse units.” [11] Each one of these ends with: “when he had finished these words” (Matt. 8:1; 11:1; 13:53; Matt. 19:1)). But as Gibbs points out, Matthew inserts a “summarizing addition of ‘all’ to it transitional formula” at Matt. 26:1, which concludes the five discourses: :when Jesus had finished all these words.”

As Christ’s last large-scale, formal instruction, it powerfully serves as the climax to his whole teaching ministry. Thus, it gives us insights into his ministry to Israel, which ministry was rejected by the nation as a whole (Matt. 23:37; 27:25). Olivet, therefore, serves as the Lord’s final warning to Israel.

However, Jesus is not merely a Jewish sage with a narrow, local, ethnic focus. The first part of the Discourse focuses on Jerusalem and the temple (Matt. 24:4–34). But this focus also provides a springboard for his warning of the Final Judgment of “all the nations” (Matt. 25:32), which is his concern in Matt. 24:37–25:46.

J. K. Brown well argues that “Jesus’ teachings turn from the signs portending the temple’s imminent destruction (24:4–35) to his reappearing (his parousia at the end of the age [see 24:3]), which will occur without warning (24:36–51).” This is significant in that as Jesus’ ministry unfolds to its end, Israel is turning more vehemently against him. This opens the door for the nations, which is the goal of the Gospel in its final verses containing the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20; contra Matt. 10:5–6; 15:24).

Fourth, Matthew’s version is the longest in the Synoptic Gospels

Matthew devotes two whole chapters of ninety-seven verses to Olivet. The second longest version is Mark’s, which is much shorter being contained within one chapter of only thirty-seven verses. [12] The fuller record of the Lord’s instruction should be helpful to better understanding that teaching. Plus this gives us more material to analyze as we seek a better understanding of Olivet. This also fits well with the observation that Matthew’s Gospel has a negative approach to first-century Israel. As Bock well notes: “For Matthew, Jesus’ relationship to Israel and explaining Israel’s rejection are major concerns.” [13] Thus, Matthew’s longer Discourse denouncing Israel shows his great interest in Jesus’ judgment against her.

 


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This 5 DVD lecture set was filmed at a Bible Conference in Florida. It explains the entire Olivet Discourse in Matt. 24–25 from the (orthodox) preterist perspective.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Fifth, Matthew’s version has the fullest historical introduction

The Discourse appears just after Jesus’ calling down seven woes upon the scribes and Pharisees, which finally demonstrates the failure of Israel’s leadership and the doom that awaits them. In Matthew the woes consume an entire chapter of thirty-nine verses (Matt. 23:1–39). But in Mark the woes are summarized in only three verses (Mark 13:41–44).

Literary context is an essential aid to proper interpretation. In their highly-regarded work on interpretation, Kaiser and Silva urge: “Do emphasize the context. This is the fundamental principle. It is in fact the guideline that undergirds all of the others…. Before tackling a specific problem in one verse, we ought to read and reread the whole chapter — indeed, the whole book of which it is a part.” [14]

Osborne provides a study of how to determine meaning in a text. He notes several errors of interpretation arising from focusing on smaller units of meaning: “Ignoring the Context. In one sense this is the basic error that encompasses the others and makes them possible…. The failure to note context may be the most frequently occurring error.” [15] Thomas notes that “traditional interpretation has consistently insisted on the importance of context in determining the meaning of a word or passage.” [16]

Sixth, Matthew’s version has the fuller question of the disciples

Matthew’s record of their question contains sixteen words in the Greek (Matt. 24:3). And though Mark’s version has about the same number with fourteen words (Mark 13:4), Matthew’s version contains two distinct terms that cast more light on the matter: the Greek word parousia (“coming, presence”) and the Greek noun sunteleia (“completion, close, end”). [17]

Seventh, my final observation

I was just kidding when I said I would give seven reasons for studying Matthew’s version of the Discourse. Thus, I will only give six reasons. But at least you can stop reading sooner, freeing up more time for your chores. Can you tell that I have been married for over fifty-one years? I really have to run now myself. My wife . . . er, I mean, my chores are calling me.

NOTES

  1. Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew (PNTC) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 743.
  2. John A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976), 104.
  3. Grant R. Osborne, Matthew (ECNT) (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2010), 31. See also ZEB 4:152.
  4. John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew (NIGTC) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 17.
  5. Nolland, Matthew, 46.
  6. Darrell L. Bock, Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 26.
  7. John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 17.
  8. For a helpful defense of the priority of Matthew, see Robert L. Thomas and F. David Farnell, The Jesus Crisis: The Inroads of Historical Criticism into Evangelical Scholarship (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996). Gary W. Derickson, “Matthean Priority/ Authorship and Evangelicalism’s Boundary,” TMSJ (Spring 2003): 14:1: 87–103. See also Jeffrey A. Gibbs, Matthew 1:1–11:1 (St. Louis: Concordia, 2006), 64–66.
  9. Osborne, Matthew (ECNT), 21.
  10. Of Jesus’ five major Discourses in Matthew, only the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1; 8:1) and the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:3). specify a mountainous location.
  11. Osborne, Matthew (ECNT), 23
  12. Though Mark’s version of Olivet is much shorter than Matthew’s, Mark’s version is the long discourse in Mark’s Gospel: “The speech in vv. 5–37 is the longest and most coherent of all those attributed to Jesus in Mark.,.. The length and coherence in 13:5–37 indicate the importance of the teaching there expressed.” Adela Yarbro Collins, Mark: A Commentary (Hermeneia) (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), 593.
  13. Darrell L. Bock, Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), p. 27.
  14. Bock, Jesus according to Scripture, p. 27.
  15. Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 1991), 75.
  16. Robert L. Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Versus the Old (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2000), 204.
  17. Mark 13:4 has the related verb form suntele. But this suggests a different nuance: “to complete, accomplish.”
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One thought on “WHY CHOOSE MATTHEW FOR STUDYING OLIVET?

  1. William Sikes November 8, 2022 at 11:01 am

    Thanks

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