A Translation of Mark Chapter 13

RomansText1“For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders in order to deceive the elect, if that were possible.” (Mark 13:22)

I believe these verses in the book of Mark refer back to what happened in the nation of Israel between the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the time that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans about forty years later. The topic of Mark chapter 13 is clearly the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. In that context, Jesus warns against false messiahs and prophets who would attempt to lead God’s people away from truth. Of course, Jesus didn’t limit this phenomenon to just that time period. It has been an evident problem throughout much of history since then. It is one of those problems that seems never to go away.

That is why Jesus’ promise is so wonderful. He states that these false messiahs and prophets would target the elect in order to lead them away from God, and then adds, “if that were possible.” The clear meaning is that the elect cannot be targeted for deception in such a fashion. It is impossible to deceive them in this way.

This might appear puzzling at first, since most of us feel deceived by false voices on occasion. However, it is clear what Jesus meant. The elect are God’s people, those he has chosen. The apostle Peter described the elect in this way: “But you are an elect family, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s possession, so that you might make known the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (I Peter 2:9 My Translation). These people are the people of whom Jesus speaks in Mark 13. If you are reading this blog, it almost certainly includes you, by the virtue of the fact that you are so interested in God’s truth that you are spending some of your precious time reading commentary on a translation of a chapter in the book of Mark. Since you belong to this elect group, the promise of Mark 13 can be applied. You are unable to be deceived in the way Jesus describes in Mark 13.

Note that I must add that qualification about the type of deception. At this exact point in our lives, most all of us reading this post are deceived about a whole variety of things in and around us. Some of it happens because people do not always tell us the truth. Some of it is because we draw wrong conclusions about things. Some of it is because of our prejudices. Although God is most certainly working in our lives diligently bringing us into as much truth as we can handle on all things, these normal deceptions are not the type of which Jesus speaks. He is speaking about being deceived in such a way that we fall away from God. False messiahs and false prophets invariably target our faith. Although we may be confused by them for a time, they will not ultimately win the battle.

I truly appreciate this promise, and have over the years. If we are honest, there are so many competing voices and theologies in the Christian Church that seek our allegiance, discerning truth can be a daunting task. There are those who step firmly into fear because there are so many competing voices, but there is no need. Truth seekers will always find their way through the cacophony. They will always find their way back to the truth. They will not be deceived by the false messiahs and false prophets. We have Jesus’ word on that.

On to our translation:

Mark 13:1-37
A Translation by Randal Cutter

13:1   While he was going out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, notice the impressive stones and buildings.”

13:2   But Jesus responded to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not even one stone will be left upon another. They will all be pulled down.”

13:3   Later, while he was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,

13:4   “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what sign will there be that all these things are about to be accomplished?”

13:5   Then Jesus began to tell them, “Watch that no one deceives you.”

13:6   “Many will come in opposition to my name.* They will say, ‘I am the Christ,’* and they will deceive many.”

13:7   “But when you hear of wars and reports of wars, do not be alarmed, it must happen, but the temple’s end* has not yet come.”

13:8   “For people group will rise against people group, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in place after place. There will also be famines. These things are the beginning of labor pains.”*

13:9   “But you all must pay attention. They will deliver you to the Sanhedrin and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings on account of me as a witness to them.”*

13:10   “It is of first importance* that the good news must be preached to all the Gentiles.”

13:11   “Whenever they take you and deliver you to the authorities, do not worry ahead of time about what you will say. On the contrary, speak what is given to you in that hour. For it will not be you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”

13:12   “Brother will deliver brother unto death at the hands of the authorities, and a father his child. A child will rise up in rebellion against his parents, and the authorities will put them to death.”

13:13   “You will be hated by everyone on account of my name. But the one who endures to the temple’s destruction, will be delivered.”*

13:14   “So, when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it must not be (let the one reading understand),* then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.”

13:15   “Anyone on top of his house must not descend from the roof in order to enter his house to take anything from it.”

13:16   “Anyone in the field must not turn back to take his cloak.”

13:17   “How terrible it will be for those who are pregnant and those who are nursing in those days.”

13:18   “So pray in order that it not happen in harsh weather conditions.”

13:19   “For those days will be filled with tribulation of a kind that has not occurred from the beginning of the creation, from when God created it, until that moment. Such tribulation will never happen again.”

13:20   “Unless the Lord shorten the time, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect whom he has chosen, he will shorten that time.”

13:21   “If someone says to you at that time, ‘Look, here is the Christ,’ or, ‘Look he is there,” do not believe them.”

13:22   “For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders in order to deceive the elect, if that were possible.”

13:23   “But you pay attention. I have told you all this ahead of time.”

13:24   “Then in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.”

13:25   “The stars will be falling from heaven, and the rulers that are in the heavens will be shaken.”

13:26   “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with much power and glory.”*

13:27   “At that time he will send his messengers, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the earth to the other.”*

13:28   “Learn from the parable of the fig tree. When its branch is already tender and it puts out leaves, you know that summer is near.”

13:29   “In the same way also you, when you see these things happening, know that it is near at the door.”

13:30  “I am telling you the truth, this current generation* will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

13:31  “The heaven and the earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away.”

13:32  “Now concerning that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father.”

13:33  Watch and stay alert, for you do not know when that time will come.”

13:34  “It will be like a man going on a journey who leaves his house and gives to each of his servants the authority to accomplish his master’s work. He then charges the doorkeeper to keep watch.”

13:35  “Therefore keep watch. For you do not know if the Lord of the house will return in the evening, at midnight, before sunrise, or in the morning;”

13:36  “you do not want him to come unexpectedly and find you sleeping.”

13:37  “Now what I say to you, I say to all of you, ‘Keep watch.’”

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13:6  In opposition to my name: The Greek preposition can be translated “in,” as the NIV translates it, or it can be translated “against” or “in opposition” (the Greek text is not using the normal word for “in” that one would expect if they were coming “in Jesus’ name”). I have translated it “in opposition” because the context demands it. When one comes “in Christ’s name,” it means to come in connection to everything that Jesus is. The concept of name in that culture was profound. Hypocrites and deceivers could not come in Christ’s name. Since these people were coming to deceive, this sentence is best translated in the way in which I have translated it.

13:6  I am the Christ: Rather than use the word Christ or Messiah, Mark uses an idiom that everyone recognized as a claim to being Messiah. Other translations are correct when they translate the word, “I am he.” However, what the people heard was, “I am the Messiah” or “I am the Christ.” I have translated the meaning of the idiom here.

13:7  Please note that the disciples only asked about the destruction of the temple. Many of those who read this are programmed to immediately think that this is a discussion of the end of the world. It is not. Mark is only focused on one topic, the destruction of the temple. I have translated this entire section contextually in order to remind everyone who has been programmed to view Jesus’ words in another fashion, that he is only speaking of the destruction of the temple in these verses.

13:8  Labor pains: The rabbis recognized a concept of Messianic birth pains, drawn on their understanding of the prophetic scriptures. When Jesus brings up birth/labor pains, he was speaking of a well-known teaching among the Jewish people.

13:9  Sanhedrin: The book of Acts fills in the details about how all of this took place.

13:10  It is of first importance: There are two ways to translate proton, the Greek word used here. One is to translate it in a way that highlights the order of things (first, second, third, etc.). The other equally valid translation is as I have translated it, to indicate degree of importance of something. In this context, a context where Jesus has just told the disciples they will be witnesses to kings and those in authority, and immediately after this Jesus teaches that it is so important that the Holy Spirit will be using their vocal chords to communicate to these kings and authorities, it seems more fitting to translate it as indicating degree of importance, not order of sequence.

13:13  The one who endures to the temple’s destruction: The Greek word used here describes completion or fulfillment. If we look back to verse 4, it is clear that Jesus is describing the events surrounding the destruction of the temple. In this context, there can be virtually no doubt that Jesus is referring to it as a line of demarcation for the believing community. If they could hold on until this awful fulfillment, the persecutions would greatly diminish.

13:14  Let the one reading understand: Both Mark and Matthew use an obscure reference to the Old Testament “abomination of desolation” to conceal some of their meaning. That is why they add “let the one reading understand.” They are asking their readers to give extra thought to the meaning of this phrase because they are writing in a type of biblical code. Only Luke, writing to the Greeks, drops the obscure reference and spells it out, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city.” (Luke 21:20-21 NIV).

13:26  Coming in the clouds with much power and glory: When one studies the cloud imagery of the Old Testament, we see God coming in the clouds against a variety of nations. This imagery was used in the Old Testament to describe judgment against a nation. The reason the Chief Priest would later rip his robes when Jesus used this same imagery (see Matthew 26:65) is that it was a clear reference to judgment coming against the Israel of the time. It was a horrifying image for a political or religious leader of that time. It referenced judgment.

13:27  At that time he will send his messengers, and they will gather his elect: God’s messengers have been gathering in the elect from the four corners of the earth ever since.

13:30  This current generation: The word I have translated “generation” means a generation or lineage. When Jesus adds the word translated “this,” he can only mean the current generation of people who were living in his time. For theological reasons, many commentators want the word to also mean race, because they want to shoehorn the end of the world into this discussion. But the word does not mean race, and when well-meaning commentators attempt to make it mean race, they set the stage for some alarming heresies in other passages that use this word. I know this may be unfamiliar ground to some of my readers. If you do a word study of this word (genea), and simply look up every instance of its use in the New Testament, you will see that it means generation or lineage every time it is used. The only time people attempt to make it mean race is in the parallel passages of Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13. They do so for theological reasons, not linguistic.

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Image credit: Randal Cutter/iPhone 6s/Photoshop Oil Paint Filter