81 The Signs of the Times.

Signs of the Times

In Mark 13:29 we are confronted with an interesting situation where the Greek can be translated in two ways. Jesus says: “Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it/He is near (ἐγγύς στιν), right at the door.” The verb ἐστιν in this sentence is third person singular, and personal endings do not designate gender. It could be “…it is near” or it could be “…He is near”. When there are more than one possible translation, the translator has to choose what he deems the most probable meaning of the sentence. In this case the subject of the sentence might be the destruction of the temple, or the coming of the Lord, or even the time for the event might be the subject of the verb in this sentence.

Let us look at a few ways translations have handled this verse:

(KJV)  “So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.”

(RSV) “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.”

(NLT) “In the same way, when you see these all things taking place, you can know that His return is very near, right at the door.”

(CEV) “So when you see all these things happening, you will know that the time has almost come.

As a general rule the subject nearest to the verb would be indicated, yet all possibilities should be considered. The context of the passage as a whole should be our guide.

John Gill, (1690-1771) has already pointed out this ambiguity: “know that it, or he is nigh, even at the doors; either that the destruction of Jerusalem is near; or that the son of man is just ready to come to take vengeance on it…”

Directly preceding the example of the fig tree (Vs. 28) Jesus mentions His return which would be the easiest choice. Yet His next statement in verse 30 causes a problem. “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Jesus seems to be saying that He will return within a single generation, but that  of course, didn’t happen.

According to prof. Bill Mounce (http://www.koinoniablog.net) the chapter is in an ABAB structure. The disciples’ question in verse four, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” according to the parallel in Matthew 24:3, is really two. (1) What are the signs that the temple will be destroyed? (2) What will be the signs preceding Jesus’ return?

The first A asking for the signs that the temple is about to be destroyed, is answered in verses 5 – 23, the first B, inter alia that Jesus’ followers will be prosecuted and wars will rage. But verse seven says (NIV): “Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” or as GODS’ WORD translates it: “These things must happen, but they don’t mean that the end has come.

If indeed these signs were to indicate the end of the world and Jesus’ return, why would He advise His followers to flee to the mountains? (Vs.14)

In typical prophetic telescoping, Jesus then skips thousands of years between verses 23 and 24, and talks about his return, bringing us to the second A, implicated in verse 4. “What will be the signs preceding Jesus’ return?”

The second B answers this question in verses 32 – 37. There will be no preceding signs or reason to flee. It will be completely unexpected for “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”! (vs.32) That is why Jesus warns in verse 37: “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’

Between the answer to the question concerning the preceding signs for the destruction of the temple, (the first B, vs. 5-23) and the answer concerning the returning of the Lord, (the second B, vs.32 – 37) Jesus gives the sign of the fig tree. Does it refer to the destruction of the temple, or to the return of Christ?

If indeed we accept that Mark 13:29 refers to the destruction of the temple and not the return of Christ, it is in accordance with verse 30: “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened ”, for the temple had indeed been destroyed within that generation.

If you had to translate this passage, would you translate with “it” or “He”?

God bless.

Please leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

About Herman of bibledifferences.net

The reasons for the differences between older Bibles like the King James Version and newer Bibles like the New International Version have fascinated me ever since my studies in Theology at the University of Pretoria in the seventies. I have great respect for scribes through the ages as well as Bible translators, so there must be good reasons for the differences. With more than 5600 Greek manuscripts and more than 19000 manuscripts of ancient translations to our disposal, the original autographs of the New Testament can be established without doubt. I investigate the reasons behind the differences and publish the facts in a post on my blogs www.bibledifferences.net (Afrikaans: www.bybelverskille.wordpress.com) to enable my readers to judge for themselves. Personally I love to make an informed decision based of facts. That is why I endeavor to provide that same privilege to the readers of my blogs. Since 1973 I am married to my dear wife and greatest friend, Leah Page, founder director of Act-Up Support (www.actup.co.za) a prayer ministry for families struggling with drug-, occult- and other dependencies. We are blessed with two daughters and two sons, four grand sons and two grand daughters. God is alive and omnipotent! Glory to His Name! Herman Grobler.
This entry was posted in Context, Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, KJV/NIV Controversy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to 81 The Signs of the Times.

  1. For 2000 years all those who said Jesus return was imminent have been wrong.

    • Thank you William for this statement. Prof. Bill Mounce calls this one of the great conundrums of the New Testament. For at least 400 years the King James Version translated with “it” and not “He”. Yet so often it is only when we look at the different possibilities that we become aware of the implications of the translation.

  2. I was wondering about the textual variants of Mark 13:30. Is it a ‘solid’ feature of most texts, or not?

    • Dear friend,
      Thank you for this question. Both the Nestle Aland and the United Bible Societies texts indicate no manuscript at all lacking this verse. The editors of both these texts scrutinize all known manuscripts for any variation, which they then indicate at the bottom of the text in their critical apparatus. Since not a single manuscript amongst more than 5000 Greek, or 18000 manuscripts of ancient translations, or any quotation of more than 200 Church Fathers lack this verse, we can be sure it had been part of the original autograph of Mark.
      God bless,

      • Utterlyreformed says:

        Thank you. Those NA and UBS texts are awesome, but I don’t know Greek. Is there an English text that does the same job, listing all the variants, etc?

  3. Unfortunately there is no such edition to my knowledge.
    That is why I post the knowledge (hopefully tangible and understandable) on my blog.
    May I invite you to look at the scriptures I have already studied on this blog at: https://bibledifferences.net/scriptures/ If there are any other Scriptures or verses that interest you, feel free to give it through to me and I will gladly provide you with the data.
    God bless

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