The Fall of Jerusalem

[1]The Arch of Titus is a 1st-century AD triumphal arch found in Rome. Architecturally it has provided the general model for many triumphal arches erected since the 16th century including the most famous one, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France. It was constructed in c. 82 AD by the Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus’s victories, including the Siege of Jerusalem (70 AD.) Titus was the Roman Emperor who sacked Jerusalem and destroyed its Temple, bringing to an end the Second Temple Era of Judaism. This event radically altered the state of the Jewish people and in a sense they have never since fully recovered. [2]There is a tableau on the arch depicting this catastrophic event which has now been digitally restored and can be seen in the video below.

Now this event was not recorded in the Bible but the Gospels and perhaps Revelation (depending on when you thinking it was dated) anticipate this event. For the Christian it is very important because these are things that Jesus himself prophesied. It is recorded in the synoptic tradition and hinted at in John (Mark 13; Matthew 24; Luke 19:41-48; John 11:45-54.) As with all apocalyptic prophecy, they were not straightforward, rote predictions. However, it is clear that Jesus believed that there was some imminent cataclysm going to befall his people centred on Jerusalem and the Temple. Herod’s Temple was the central symbol of the Jewish people therefore its fall was the destruction of the Jewish people.

[3]Historians tell us that the events that led to Jesus execution were due to his temple related activity which in the gospel narratives includes the prophecies of its destruction. Within the Jewish worldview when Jesus sacked the temple it was a prophetic parable indicating the temple was under divine judgment. It seems that Jesus believed that his martyrdom would be the sacrifice that would save his people from this impending doom. Interestingly enough, 40 years later when Titus did lay siege it seems the Christians did not participate in the Jewish military rebellion against Roman rule which might have been in adherence to Jesus’ warnings. There was a great slaughter of perhaps hundreds of thousands of Jews during the First Jewish-Roman War.

When Christians talk about the Passion they never talk about Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple. This Gnostic bent towards de-historicising events in the Bible is so prevalent among Christians. We therefore do not know what to do with Israel or the very Jewishness of Jesus and the Gospel message. A careful look at the gospel narratives tell us clearly that the Messiah’s mission was inextricably tied to Jerusalem and the Temple. In fact, we see the gospels entering their closing stages when Jesus begins his final journey to the City of God. We should not take his prophetic words for granted because they were intrinsic to what he was about to accomplish in his death and resurrection. They are also red letter words which we must take seriously.

 

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arch_of_Titus, 2030h, 16/05/17.

[2] http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/archaeology-today/cultural-heritage/true-colors-the-arch-of-titus/, 2044h, 16/05/17.

[3] The work of N.T. Wright in Jesus and the Victory of God, the second volume in his Christian Origins and the Question of God, offers an excellent scholarly, historical and theological account of the events surrounding Jesus’ execution.

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