And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple.
All Commentaries on Matthew 24:1 Go To Matthew 24
Cornelius a Lapide
And Jesus went out, &c, according to His custom at eventide, to the Mount of Olives, to pass the night, and partake of food at Bethany, in the house of Martha and Mary, after He had been teaching all day without food in the Temple.
And His disciples, &c. The occasion was because Christ, at the end of the preceding chapter, had predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, and consequently of the Temple. The disciples therefore, being amazed at this desolation of so great a city, show Him the wonderful fabric of the Temple, its beauty and magnificence, which seemed worthy of lasting for ever, in order that they might move Christ to pity, and to revoke the sentence of destruction. For this Temple was the wonder of the world, as Josephus says (de Bello Jud. vi6), "Its exterior had everything for the mind and the eye to admire. The roof was entirely covered with very heavy gold plates. At sunrise it was seen from afar with such a fiery splendour as to dazzle the eyes of beholders, as though they were gazing at the sun itself." See S. Hilary, "After Christ had threatened the destruction of Jerusalem, they show Him the magnificence of its construction, as if He could be moved by the desire of it." Song of Solomon , too, Origen, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Jansen, and others. But none of this magnificence moved Christ to recall His sentence. In like manner God overthrew all the magnificence of Babylon, Nineveh, Antioch, and Rome, as well on account of the wickedness of their inhabitants, as that He might show that all such splendour is transitory, and of little worth, that so He might draw the minds of men to regard and desire the magnificence of Heaven, which is far greater, as well as eternal.
Truly and piously saith S. Augustine, "He will not be a great man who thinks it much that wood and stone should fall and mortals die." Such were the thoughts with which S. Austin was wont to comfort himself, when Hippo, the city of which he was bishop, was besieged by the Vandals, and which was taken by them and burnt after his death.
But Jesus said, &c. One stone shall not be left upon another. This is a hyperbole, meaning, there shall be utter and total destruction. The Romans did not spend so much time upon the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple as not to leave a stone upon a stone; but yet it was burnt by them, and destroyed in so effectual a manner, that it was razed to the ground, and a plough caused to pass over its site, as S. Jerome testifies on Zech. viii, and Josephus. And this is what Christ here indicates.
Listen to Josephus (l7 , Bell. c18), "Titus bid them utterly destroy the city and the Temple. But there was left standing the three towers, Hippicus, Phaselus, and Mariamne, and that part of the wall of the city which defended it on the west. This was done for the sake of the garrison which he left. And the towers were allowed to stand, in order to be a witness to posterity how strongly fortified was the city which the valour of the Romans had captured. But the remainder of the fortifications they so completely levelled with the ground, that persons who approached would scarcely have believed that the city had ever been inhabited."
And as He sat, &c. Disciples: Mark speaks of four, viz, Peter, James ,, John , and Andrew, who were on more intimate terms with Christ, and admitted to His secrets. Privately, apart not only from the multitude, but from the rest of the Apostles. The Syriac has, between themselves and Him. For it was a matter full of danger to prophesy, indeed even to speak about the destruction of the Temple, on account of the Scribes and the Magistrates. It was on account of this that the Jews stoned S. Stephen. This is plain from Acts 6:14.
Tell us: the Disciples here ask two things; the first, that Christ would tell them when Jerusalem was to be destroyed; the second, when the destruction of the world and the Day of Judgment would be, when He should come to judge all men. The Disciples thought that Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed at the glorious Advent and reign of Christ at the end of the world, as if He were about to destroy them in punishment and vengeance for His death. For they supposed that these three things, namely, the destruction of the city, the end of the world, and the Day of Judgment would all take place at the same time. And as they knew from the words of Christ that the destruction of the city was nigh at hand, they thought that the end of the world and the Day of Judgment was also at hand. They seemed to come to this conclusion from the words of Christ ( Matthew 22:7-8 , and Matthew 23:5), where He seems to join all those events together, and speak of them unitedly.
Let no man seduce you (Vulgate), i.e, from faith in Me and My Gospel.
For many shall come, &c. Such were, 1. that Theudas, of whom in Acts 5:362. That Egyptian impostor, of whom Josephus (l2 , .Bell. cap12) and Acts 21:383. Simon Magus, of whom Acts viii10 , who, as S. Jerome asserts, was wont to say, "I am the word of God: I am beautiful: I am the Paraclete: I am Almighty: I am all in all." For this Simon, as Irenus testifies (lib1 , c20), used to say that he had appeared in Judea as the Song of Solomon , in Samaria as the Father, and had come down among the Gentiles as the Holy Ghost. Thus this proud Titan, as it were another Lucifer, was wont to say that he was not only Messiah, or Christ, but the whole Blessed Trinity. He it was who, by his magic spectres, so deluded Nero and the Romans , that a statue was erected to him at Rome, between two bridges, with this inscription, To Simon, a great god4. Such were Menander, Saturninus, the Gnostics, and the rest who sprang from the family of Simon. Lastly, such will be Antichrist, who will proclaim himself to the Jews to be Christ, according to the words of the Lord in John 5:43, "If another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive," which every one understands of Antichrist, as S. Augustine says (Serm45 , de Verb. Dom.).
When ye shall hear of wars, &c. Rumours: Gr. Î±Ì‰ÎºÎ¿Î¬Ï‚, reports; Arab. news, which are often more miserable than the battles themselves, and more thoroughly torment the mind with the fear of evils to come, even though they do not come. Here is another sign given by Christ, prior to the destruction of the city and the world, viz, tumults, wars, seditions, &c. Josephus shows that such took place before the destruction of Jerusalem (lib2 , de Bello, cap. xi). As S. Chrysostom says, "He declares there shall be a twofold war, one by the seducers, the other by the enemies."
Take heed, &c That through fear of the enemy ye do not depart from My faith, or by despairing of fruit give up preaching the Gospel; but with generous minds struggling against fear and all opposition, go forward and proclaim faith in Me and My Gospel. He adds the reason why the Apostles must not be troubled, saying,
For all those things must be. The Greek has all, which the Vulgate omits. But the end is not yet, the end of Jerusalem and the Temple, much less of the world, also of the battles and evils prior to the destruction of both. For the end of any one battle or trouble will be but the beginning of some greater one, as Josephus says happened at the siege of Jerusalem. Be not troubled, or lose confidence, but have greater courage, that ye may be prepared for the greater evils which shall follow, so as to sustain and overcome them. Do not hope for peace on earth, but by bearing troubles here, pass on to the eternal and happy rest of Heaven.
For nations shall rise, &c. For, as S. Jerome and Bede observe, and S. Augustine (Epist80 , ad Hesych.), Christ answers His Apostles, who were asking in a confused manner about the destruction of the city and the world, mingling the two events together, after the same way that they asked. This He does as far as the15th verse. And He did it with this object, that the Apostles and the faithful might always be in suspense, and so carefully prepare and fortify themselves for both events. From the15th verse He treats expressly of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the signs which should precede it, up to the29th verse. After that, up to the end of the chapter, He speaks of the signs which shall precede the end of the world. Now that He is speaking both of the destruction of the city and the world in this verse, and as far as the15th, is manifest from the signs themselves, which were to precede both. Therefore S. Hilary and S. Gregory (Hom1 , in Evang.), and Irenus (l5 , c25), understand them of the destruction of the world. For it shall be preceded by the most dreadful tumults, battles, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, false Christs. Again S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact, rightly understand them of the destruction of Jerusalem. This is plain from S. Luke 21:8-12, "But before all these things they shall lay their hands upon you, and persecute you, bringing you into the synagogues." Which happened to the Apostles before the destruction of Jerusalem, as we learn from the Acts of the Apostles. Before that event, 1. "nation rose up against nation." After the Jews had captured and slaughtered the Roman garrison of Jerusalem, almost immediately the inhabitants of Ascalon, Ptolemais, Damascus, Alexandria, the Syrians, Romans , and all the neighbouring nations rose up against them. And this state of things continued until the most miserable destruction of Jerusalem. See Josephus, Bell. Jud. passim.
2. That Juda was afflicted with famine before the destruction of the capital, is plain from Acts 11:28.
3. Although Josephus says nothing about pestilences or earth quakes, yet it is certain from this prophecy of Christ that they must have happened. And both are usual concomitants of war and famine.
S. Luke adds, "fearful sights and great signs shall there be from Heaven." That these shall precede the destruction of the world is plain from Apoc. chaps. viii, and ix. It is equally certain that they preceded the destruction of Jerusalem. For, 1. a dreadful comet, in the shape of a sword, hung over Jerusalem a whole year before its destruction2. At the Passover, when the people were gathered together, three hours after midnight, a light as bright as noon-day shone for half an hour in the Temple3. A bullock that was about to be offered in sacrifice brought forth a lamb4. The eastern gate of the Temple, made of brass, and so heavy that it could be with difficulty closed by twenty men, opened of its own accord at the hour of midnight5. There was seen in the air the appearances of armies, chariots, and battles6. There was heard at Pentecost the voices of angels, saying in the Temple, "Let us depart hence." 7. An ignorant man of the lower orders, Jesus the son of Ananus, began suddenly to cry aloud, "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the Temple, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, a voice against the whole people." And this he continued to cry night and day without ceasing, perambulating all the streets of the city. This he did for seven years, crying with a dreadful voice, like one astonied, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem," until at last, when the city was besieged by Titus , as he was crying upon the wall with a louder voice than usual, "Woe to Jerusalem, to the Temple, to the people, and to myself," he was struck by a stone hurled from one of the military engines of the besiegers, and killed. For all these things, see Josephus, Bell712 , and Eusebius, H. E. iii8.