The signs (Lk 21:25-21:25)

“There will be signs

In the sun,

The moon,

And the stars.

On the earth,

There will be

Anxious distress

Among the nations

With the roaring noise

Of the sea

And the swelling waves.”

 

Καὶ ἔσονται σημεῖα ἐν ἡλίῳ καὶ σελήνῃ καὶ ἄστροις, καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς συνοχὴ ἐθνῶν ἐν ἀπορίᾳ ἤχους θαλάσσης καὶ σάλου,

 

Luke indicated that Jesus said that there would be signs (Καὶ ἔσονται σημεῖα) in the sun (ἐν ἡλίῳ), in the moon (αὶ σελήνῃ), and in the stars (καὶ ἄστροις).  On the earth (καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς), there would be anxious distress among the gentile nations (συνοχὴ ἐθνῶν ἐν ἀπορίᾳ) because of the roaring noise of the sea (ἤχους θαλάσσης) and the swelling waves (καὶ σάλου).  This was a unique use of the term ἀπορίᾳ that means perplexity, anxiety, or doubt, not found elsewhere in the Greek biblical literature.  This Jesus saying is similar to Matthew, chapter 24:29, that is actually closer to Mark, chapter 13:24-25.  Mark indicated that Jesus said that in those days (Ἀλλὰ ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις), after the sufferings (μετὰ τὴν θλῖψιν), there would be a cosmic upheaval.  The sun would be darkened (ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται).  The moon would not give its light (καὶ ἡ σελήνη οὐ δώσει τὸ φέγγος αὐτῆς).  The assumption was that the moon had its own source of light, not merely a reflection of the sun.  The stars would fall from the skies (καὶ οἱ ἀστέρες ἔσονται ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πίπτοντες).  Matthew indicated that Jesus said that immediately after the sufferings mentioned earlier in those days (Εὐθέως δὲ μετὰ τὴν θλῖψιν τῶν ἡμερῶν ἐκείνων), there would be a cosmic upheaval.  The sun would be darkened (ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται).  The moon would not give its light (καὶ ἡ σελήνη οὐ δώσει τὸ φέγγος αὐτῆς).  The stars would fall from the skies (καὶ οἱ ἀστέρες πεσοῦνται ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ).  This is fully in line with the great Israelite prophetic tradition of the Day of Yahweh, like Ezekiel, chapter 32:7, Joel, chapter 2:10, Amos, chapter 8:9, and Zephaniah, chapter 1:15.  Luke did not have the details that were in Mark and Matthew.  What kind of cosmic upheaval do you expect at the end times?

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Watch for the heavens (Mk 13:25-13:25)

“The stars

Will be falling

From heaven.

The powers

In the heavens

Will be shaken.”

 

καὶ οἱ ἀστέρες ἔσονται ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πίπτοντες, καὶ αἱ δυνάμεις αἱ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς σαλευθήσονται.

 

This is almost word for word in Matthew, chapter 24:29, with a vague reference to this in Luke, chapter 21:25.  Mark said that the stars would fall from the skies (καὶ οἱ ἀστέρες ἔσονται ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πίπτοντες).  The powers of the heavens would be shaken or stirred up (καὶ αἱ δυνάμεις αἱ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς σαλευθήσονται) in this time of complete darkness, during this celestial disturbance.  This was fully in line with the great Israelite prophetic tradition of the Day of Yahweh, like Ezekiel, chapter 32:7, Joel, chapter 2:10, Amos, chapter 8:9, and Zephaniah, chapter 1:15

The darkness in the skies (Mt 24:29-24:29)

“Immediately

After the sufferings

Of those days,

The sun

Will be darkened.

The moon

Will not give its light.

The stars

Will fall

From heaven.

The powers

Of the heavens

Will be shaken.”

 

Εὐθέως δὲ μετὰ τὴν θλῖψιν τῶν ἡμερῶν ἐκείνων ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται, καὶ ἡ σελήνη οὐ δώσει τὸ φέγγος αὐτῆς, καὶ οἱ ἀστέρες πεσοῦνται ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, καὶ αἱ δυνάμεις τῶν οὐρανῶν σαλευθήσονται.

 

This is exactly the same, almost word for word, in Mark, chapter 13:24-25, with a vague reference to this in Luke, chapter 21:25.  Jesus said that immediately after the sufferings mentioned earlier in those days (Εὐθέως δὲ μετὰ τὴν θλῖψιν τῶν ἡμερῶν ἐκείνων), there would be a cosmic upheaval.  The sun would be darkened (ὁ ἥλιος σκοτισθήσεται).  The moon would not give its light (καὶ ἡ σελήνη οὐ δώσει τὸ φέγγος αὐτῆς).  The stars would fall from the skies (καὶ οἱ ἀστέρες πεσοῦνται ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ).  The powers of the heavens would be shaken or stirred up (καὶ αἱ δυνάμεις τῶν οὐρανῶν σαλευθήσονται) in this time of complete darkness, during this celestial disturbance.  This is fully in line with the great Israelite prophetic tradition of the Day of Yahweh, like Ezekiel, chapter 32:7, Joel, chapter 2:10, Amos, chapter 8:9, and Zephaniah, chapter 1:15

A vision of the day of Yahweh (Joel 2:10-2:11)

“The earth quakes

Before them.

The heavens tremble.

The sun is darkened.

The moon is darkened.

The stars

Withdraw their shining.

Yahweh utters

His voice

Before his army.

How vast is his host!

Numberless are

Those who obey

His command.

Truly,

The day of Yahweh

Is great.

It is so terrible!

Who can endure it?”

Thus, there is a fusion of the swarm of locusts with the day of Yahweh. The earth would quake. The heavens would tremble. The sun and the moon would become dark. The stars would not shine. Yahweh would utter his strong voice before this vast numberless army. They all would obey his command. The day of Yahweh would be a terrible, but great day. Who would be able to endure this?

Nature obeys (Bar 6:60-6:65)

“The sun,

The moon,

The stars

Are bright.

When sent

To do a service,

They are obedient.

So also the lightning.

When it flashes,

It is widely seen.

The wind likewise blows

In every land.

When God commands

The clouds to go

Over the whole world,

They carry out

His command.

The fire sent from above

To consume mountains

Or woods

Does what it is ordered.

But these idols

Are not to be

Compared with them

In appearance

Or power.

Therefore anyone

Must not think

That they are gods.

They are not called gods.

They are not able

Either to decide a case

Or to do good to anyone.

Since you know then

That they are not gods,

Do not fear them!”

This author notes that the sun, the moon, and the stars are bright. However, they do what they are told to do. The same is true about lightning flashes and the wind. It blows wherever God commands it. The clouds go all over the whole world as they carry out God’s commands also. Fire does what it is ordered to do. How can you compare these great works of obedient nature to these false idol gods, since they have no power. They cannot solve cases or do good for any humans. How can you call them gods, since you know that they are not gods? Thus there is no need to fear them.

Wisdom and creation (Bar 3:32-3:34)

But the one who knows

All things

Knows her.

He found her

By his understanding.

The one who prepared

The earth

For all time

Filled it

With four-footed creatures.

The one who sends forth

The light,

Then it goes.

He called it.

It obeyed him

Trembling.

The stars shone

In their watches.

They were glad.

He called them.

They said.

‘Here we are!’

They shone

With gladness

For him

Who made them.”

Baruch connected wisdom with creation, a great theme of late wisdom literature. Once again, this puts into doubt the Baruch authorship. God, who knows everything, knew about wisdom. Somehow wisdom was separate from God. God was able to find this wisdom, because of his understanding. God prepared the earth for all time in this static view of the earth. He filled it with four-footed creatures, while other creatures were not mentioned. God sent the light and it happened. He merely had to call it, and it happened. This is much like the first creation story in Genesis, chapter 1. The stars in the sky gladly followed his commands. They were like the prophets with this personification of stars saying that they were ready to shine with gladness in obedience to the creative God who made them.

The fixed order and Israel (Jer 31:35-31:37)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘Who gives the sun

For light by day?

Who has the fixed order

Of the moon

With the stars

For light by night?

Who stirs up the sea

So that its waves roar?

Yahweh of hosts

Is his name.

If this fixed order

Were ever to cease

From my presence,

Then also the descendants

Of Israel

Would cease

To be a nation

Before me forever.’

Says Yahweh.

Thus says Yahweh.

‘If the heavens above

Can be measured,

If the foundations

Of the earth below

Can be explored,

Then I will reject

All the offspring of Israel

Because of all

That they have done.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh says that he makes sure that there is a sun for daylight with the moon and the stars for light at night. Yahweh stirs up the seas so that they roar. It is Yahweh who keeps all this in a fixed order. If these things ceased to exist, then the descendants of Israel would cease to be a nation forever before him. In other words, as long as there is a sun, a moon, stars, and a roaring sea, Israel will be a nation, according to Yahweh.  Yahweh then said that if they could measure the heights of the heavens or the depths of the earth’s foundations, then he would reject the offspring of Israel, because they must have done something wrong.