I was just reading Matthew 24, had a few thoughts.
24:1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
These are the remnants of the 1st century Stairs of Ascent, discovered by archaeologist Benjamin Mazar, to the entrance of the Temple Courtyard. Pilgrims coming to make sacrifices at the Temple would have entered and exited by this stairway.
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
A lot of people seem to miss that the disciples are asking 3 questions here. 1) When will this happen? 2) What will be the sign of your coming? 3) What will be the sign of the end of the age?
- When will this happen, i.e. .."not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
In 66 C.E. the Jews began a rebellion against Roman rule. Gessius Florus was the Roman procurator of Judea, “When tax revenues were low, he seized silver from the temple. As the uproar against him grew, in A.D. 66, he sent troops into Jerusalem who massacred 3,600 citizens. Florus’s action touched off an explosive rebellion - the First Jewish Revolt….” The result was of that revolt was that the Roman governor of the region Cestius Callus, “…marched from Syria with twenty thousand soldiers. He besieged Jerusalem for six months, yet failed. He left six thousand dead Roman soldiers, not to mention weaponry that the Jewish defenders picked up and used.” This and the following excerpts are from Christianity Today: Christian History issue 28: 100 Most Important Events in Church History (1990): 6.
In response the Emperor Nero, “…then sent Vespasian, a decorated general, to quell the Judean rebellion. Vespasian put down the opposition in Galilee, then in Transjordan, then in Idumea. He circled in on Jerusalem.” However before he could finish off Jerusalem Emperor Nero died. “Vespasian became embroiled in a leadership struggle,” which he ultimately won. “One of his first imperial acts was to appoint his son Titus to conduct the Jewish War.” Titus took command of about 30,000 troops to deal with the rebellion. Flavius Josephus informs us that, “The Romans, though it was a terrible struggle to collect the timber, raised their platforms in twenty-one days, they stripped the whole area in a circle round the town to a distance of ten miles.” After a 143-day siege which began at Passover the Roman force battered down the walls and entered the city in 70 C.E.
They destroyed everything, including Herod's Temple, exactly as spoken by Jesus Christ 40 years earlier. The population and the great number of Passover visitors who had been trapped there were brutally slaughtered, with an estimated 600,000 to 1,000,000 people killed. Titus took the precious booty and treasury of the Jerusalem Temple back to Rome. It is interesting to note that according to Josephus, Titus reportedly refused to accept a wreath of victory, as there is “…no merit in vanquishing people forsaken by their own God.”
This is the world-famous monumental Arch of Titus that stands on the Via Sacra in the Roman Forum. Which is decorated with, Scenes of Titus’s victory in Judaea—culminating with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. As per Estelle Reed, “A Second Triumphal Arch of Titus Discovered: Archaeology news,” Biblical Archaeology Review (2015).
Not only was Jerusalem destroyed, but the Temple was also completely destroyed by fire. The fires were so hot that the gold fittings, and the gold gilding on the inside and on the outside walls melted, and ran into the cracks in between the stones. During the pillaging of the Temple these stones were broken up to get at the gold. So that, “…not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down,” as per Luke 21:6.
Excavated stones from the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, knocked onto the street below by Roman battering rams in 70 A.D.!
It is interesting to note as per James Charlesworth (“Jesus Research and Archaeology: A new Perspective,” in Jesus and Archaeology, 2006), “The seam in the eastern section of the Temple Mount reveals the extent to which Herod extended the Temple.” He then goes on to relate how a stone, which was found in situ, in the Temple’s western retaining wall, just north of the legendary “Wailing Wall,” may be much heavier than previously thought. He believes that it could weigh as much as 600 tons, giving some credence to Mark 13:1 where a disciple says to Jesus, ”Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
Prof. Boaz Zissu, the head of Bar Ilan University's Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, points out that, “In Jerusalem, when you dig in the area of the Jewish Quarter and remove the later layers, you'll reach the complete destruction. You'll find houses that sometimes burnt with their residents inside, or the remains of their residents. One of the more exciting finds was a cut-off arm, which was found nearby a spear.” He further notes that, “In a structure that was destroyed in a fire in 70 CE, we've found coins that the rebels minted themselves in Jerusalem with writing in Hebrew… At the foot of the Western Wall, a street was uncovered that had on it remnants of the destruction of the Temple.” (Boaz Zissu in Tal Barkai, “Destruction of both Temples supported by archaeological findings,” Ynetnews (August 2016). Online: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4841735,00.html)
It is fascinating to note that many of the people that were in Jerusalem when it was destroyed, were the very people that had heard Jesus speak, saw him perform miracles and rejected him, many were the ones that shouted for him to be crucified. They had 40 years to repent, they had Christians in their midst for 40 years, and still they would not believe. So the judgement of God came.
It is further interesting to note that it is widely assumed there were very few if any Christians in Jerusalem when it was destroyed in 70AD. Because the Christians remembered the words of Jesus in Luke 21:20-24
"When you see armies all around Jerusalem, you will know it will soon be destroyed. 21 At that time, the people in Judea should run away to the mountains. The people in Jerusalem must get out, and those who are near the city should not go in.22 These are the days of punishment to bring about all that is written in the Scriptures.23 How terrible it will be for women who are pregnant or have nursing babies! Great trouble will come upon this land, and God will be angry with these people. 24 They will be killed by the sword and taken as prisoners to all nations. Jerusalem will be crushed by non-Jewish people until their time is over.
That is exactly what happened. The Christians fled Jerusalem when they saw the Roman Armies surround it. They fled into the mountains, and then went throughout the land of Israel. Indeed it was a terrible time, the Romans spared no one. Not woman or child. Jerusalem was consumed and destroyed.
Eusebius (325) is quoted as saying, "But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella. " (History of the Church 3:5:3)
"The whole body ... of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella. Here those that believed in Christ, having removed from Jerusalem.... (Eusebius, 3:5.)
While I am distressed by the destruction of Jerusalem, and can only imagine the horrors experienced by those that were in the city during the siege and subsequent destruction. I am also amazed by a creator that took time to warn of the coming destruction. I imagine that there were a number of people in the city when it was surrounded and the Romans began their siege, that must have thought to themselves, "Crumbs those Christians were right, I wonder if they were right about Jesus?" I hope that many of them were able to repent before the end. There are not many people that are giving the foreknowledge of their impending death, and the time to set themselves right with God. The only other example I know of is my father, but that is a story for another time. I will complete part 2 and 3 as and when I can. May the Lord of peace be with you and yours.