- According to Josephus, a Jewish man called Jesus Ben Hananiah in 62AD spoke a prophecy against Jerusalem and the sanctuary that alluded to Jeremiah 7, which as you may know is about the destruction of Solomon's temple. (Josephus, Ant. 10.276)
- And Josephus, by the way, took the Roman overthrow of Jerusalem in his lifetime as the fulfilment of prophecies found in Daniel 9:26-27.
- A later tradition is that Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai went to the Romans during the Jewish War (66-70AD) and quoted the Isaiah 10:34 prophecy: "Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one." With Lebanon being a figure for the Temple in Jewish midrash and in the Bible (Isaiah 60.13; Psalm 92:12), this was a prediction of the fall of the Temple. Yohanan also used Zecharaiah 11.1 as a prediction of the fall of the Temple. (See Aboth deRabbi Nathan A 4.41ff. (ed. Schechter, p.11b).)
- Testament of Judah 23:3
- Testament of Levi 14:1-15:1
- 1 Enoch 89:72, 90:28, 91:13
- Sibylline Oracles 3:665
- 11QTemple 29:9 (Dead Sea Scrolls)
We know that pre-70AD, writing in the 50s, St Paul was already in practice decentralising the idea of temple. This ends any hope of placing all such Christian views post-70AD. This is one of the unique features that must inform our conclusions, and is grounds for re-considering the secular academic consensus.
Let us consider some of the things known after 70AD: decades passed after Jesus before the temple actually fell, by which time most of Jesus' contemporaries would already be dead. Beyond a mere rumour, the Roman-Jewish war actually happened, and lasted years; the siege of Jerusalem started at the religiously notable time of Passover 70AD and lasted months; so long that the horrific privations resulted in cannibalism of babies according to Josephus. More than alarming, the war was cataclysmic. And when the Romans overran Jerusalem, they burned down the temple, the fire was visible from miles away. Still, some of the temple remained standing afterwards - one of its walls is still standing to this day (the "Wailing Wall"). So if Mark was writing after 70AD and being smart, putting words into Jesus' mouth about 70AD to make Jesus look like a great prophet, why on earth would Mark write this? -
If Mark had been writing after the temple fell, you might wonder if he would make use of the fact that the Roman siege of Jerusalem began at Passover, a fact that Mark could have made much of, since Jesus had been executed at Passover. But we find Mark doing nothing of the kind, and what we do find seems rather weak by comparison. Mark 13 tells us that as Jesus was leaving the Jerusalem temple, he is asked when it will be destroyed. His answer:
- Jesus urged prayer that the crisis wouldn't be in winter, not knowing when it might be
- Jesus didn't know the siege would start at the religiously significant time of Passover
- Jesus is saying that every stone would be brought down, when that didn't happen?
- Jesus talks about every stone falling down, without knowing that the temple burned down?
- Jesus doesn't use Old Testament verses about the temple burning down?
- Jesus is saying not to be afraid of rumours of war - after a cataclysmic one?
- Jesus is saying God would cut the time short when it was a prolonged crisis?
- Jesus is saying this generation will not pass away, when actually most of it probably had by 70AD?
So could Jesus have made such a prediction before 70AD? Yes, of course he could.
Of course, allowing that Jesus made a prediction before 70AD does not in itself mean that the gospels were written before 70AD. But it does call into question the default ex eventu assumption of scholars that says that the prediction must have originated post-70AD and therefore the gospels must have originated post-70AD. Each of these gospels must be judged case by case. If there is unique evidence, that must be taken into account. If it looks like Mark was written before 70AD, it means we cannot rest on our laurels, but have to look at each of the gospels in turn with a fresh eye.
So, is Jesus' Temple prediction really grounds for saying that the gospels must all have been written later than 70AD? No, of course not - you can't decide when the gospels were written just like that, not when there are unique features in the evidence that set it apart from a world of other ancient religious literary 'predictions'. We have to go with the evidence, wherever it takes us.
Other gospel-related blogs:
Was Luke’s Gospel written by the year 62AD, and the Book of Acts?
Did Jesus exist? 6. Do the gospels believe in a historical Jesus?