Didache

The apocalyptic XVIth chapter of the Didache – Part eight

The apocalyptic XVIth chapter of the Didache – Part eight

Didache XVI:8 

Then shall the world see the Lord coming on the clouds of heaven.

The arrival of the messiah

Didache XVI

Josephus

NT

Verse 8

 

Mt 24:30

“Then shall the world see the Lord coming on the clouds of heaven.”

 

 

“Immediately after the catastrophe of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light (…) then will appear the sign of the Son of man in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

(Didache) The arrival of the messiah is the crowning event of Didache XVI. Verse 8 starts with τότε, which means ‘then, at that time, simultaneously’. So we have to look at the preceding verses to see when exactly the messiah arrived. What immediately precedes are the signs in verse 6: the column of smoke, the final victory and the rising of the moribund. We know from Josephus that the survivors of the siege appeared from their hiding places immediately after the capture of Jerusalem, so the messiah arrived immediately after the war. Maybe he was one of those risen survivors, and maybe he was considered to be the expected messiah because his survival was utterly spectacular. He was a sign of hope in the deepest despair, the start of a reversal of fortune that would eventually lead to God’s reign over the world, as described in Zechariah 14:9 as well as in Revelation 11:15.

(New Testament) In Matthew 24:30 τότε is used twice, and combined with verse 29 we get the following chronological picture:

  • The catastrophe
  • Immediately (εὐθέως) after the catastrophe a huge column of smoke is spread in the air, that darkens the sun and the moon
  • At the same time (τότε) (a) all the tribes of Israel (γη in territorial sense) understandably mourn for the loss of their national sanctuary, and (b) the Son of man appears.

In both writings there is no trace of a second coming of the messiah.

(Josephus) Of course we do not find corresponding information in Josephus as, according to Origen, Josephus did not believe in Jesus as the messiah. Nevertheless, at the end of his Life Josephus gives an account of an event in the very last days of the siege of Jerusalem that looks quite spectacular: “Once more, when I was sent (…) to a village called Tekoa (… )on my return saw many prisoners who had been crucified, and recognized three of my acquaintances among them, I was cut to the heart and came and told Titus with tears what I had seen. He gave orders immediately that they should be taken down and receive the most careful treatment. Two of them died in the physicians’ hands; the third survived.” Could this spectacular case of a man surviving a thorough method of execution in the holocaust of Jerusalem be the ultimate proof op God’s compassion with his people? Maybe so.

Krijbolder has drawn my attention to the many parallels between this story and the Passion story in the Gospels. Below I have slightly adapted Krijbolder’s findings.

 

Josephus

Gospels

The amount of crucified persons

Three men

Three men

Plea before a Roman ruler

Yes (Pilate)

Yes (Titus)

By whom?

Joseph bar Matthea

Joseph Arimathaias

Kind of intervention

Premature deposition

Premature deposition

Treatment

The most careful treatment

Treated with generous quantities of myrrh and aloe

Outcome

One of the three survives

One of the three rises

Place of execution

Levelled area west of the city

Golgotha = place as bald as a skull = levelled area

There is not only this survival story in Josephus, there is also an intriguing piece of text in the last chapter of the Old Testament pseudepigraphon 4 Baruch (9: 8-13a). This writing dates from the first half of the second century CE. It is a reaction to the destruction of Jerusalem and the second Temple by the Romans, under the veil of describing the first destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians. Of course the protagonists of this texts are not the Jeremiah, Baruch and Abimelech of the Old Testament.

‘And Baruch and Abimelech remained weeping and crying in a loud voice, “Woe to us, because our father Jeremiah has left us; the priest of God has departed.” And all the people heard their weeping, and they all ran to them and saw Jeremiah lying on the ground as though dead (ωσπερ τεθνηκοτα). And they tore their garments and put dust on their heads and wept bitterly. And after these things, they prepared themselves to bury him. And behold, there came a voice saying, “Do not bury one still living, for his soul is coming into his body again.” And because they heard the voice, they did not bury him but remained in a circle around his tabernacle for three days, saying, “At what hour is he going to rise (ἀναστῆναι)?” And after three days, his soul came into his body and he lifted up his voice in the midst of them all and said, “Glorify God with one voice! All of you glorify God!” ’