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An Exegesis of "The Condensed Olivet Discourse" in Luke 17:22-37 Based On A Novel Chiastic Reconfiguration Of The Text

Kuruvilla Thomas K.
Bangalore (8/3/2017)


Abstract

This study treats Luke 17:22-37 as a "Functional Chiasmus" in order to arrive at a coherent reconfiguration of the text. Text that is arranged in the form of a functional chiasmus must be rearranged based on certain logical principles to be correctly interpreted. A functional chiasmus is a new concept; see definition here [1] or follow along below for a simple example. We treat this chiasmus as a shortened version of the Olivet discourse - the one in Matthew 24 [6] for example.

This study also contains an exegesis of the rearranged text. If you wish to skip the technicalities of a chiastic parse, you may read starting from Part 4 of the Discussion section, which has the reconfigured text.




Luke 17:22-37 Timeline

Fig. 1


Introduction

Many scholars have come to the conclusion that the "Olivet Discourse" is an interweaving of several prophecies into one narrative, and we concur. We show how these prophecies can be unravelled by treating the text as a functional chiasm and in doing so we can solve many a confusion with the text. It appears that the chiasmus is one of the techniques used in the Bible to obfuscate prophecy until the time of its revelation comes.



Discussion

1. Presuppositions

One of the difficulties in parsing a functional chiasmus is that you need to have a rough idea of its contents to be able to parse it correctly which is a bit of a catch-22. In the case of this rather complex prophecy we based our parse on the assumption that it refers to 3 periods because another Olivet passage Matthew 24:3 hints at 3 periods with 3 questions: when will this happen? (where "this" is the destruction of the temple alluded to in verse 2), what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age? All three periods have tribulations of various degrees and the signs heralding the each period take different forms.

  1. The First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66AD–74AD) and the destruction of temple in Jerusalem in the summer of 70AD. The sign of this period is the abomination that causes desolation. The tribulations of this period are localized to one geographical area-Jerusalem and its surroundings, and to one people-the Judahites living in the area who did not believe in Jesus. The seven year tribulation period applies only to this time.
  2. The advent of Christ's millennial reign (circa 2000AD). The tribulations of this period appear to be designed to test the faithful through persecution and tend to be less severe in nature - more climatic or man-made than astronomical. Our position is that Christ's 1000 year reign will be enforced on earth by a human representative in the same way that Satan's present reign is through humans; so there will be no glorious return of Christ at this time and because of that, many false messiahs will arise. There are signs indicating the start of this period in this passage and elsewhere in the Bible. The proverbs about the fig tree and the vultures apply to this period because it is possible to guess at the time and place arrival of the Messiah based on signs. In this period, the gospel will reach all nations.
  3. The "End of the Age" or the last days (circa 3000AD). The return of Christ in all His glory and the rapture happen in this period. This is the event for which no one knows the day or the hour - when Christ returns unexpectedly like a thief in the night. The tribulations of the period tend to be more apocalyptic involving the sun, moon and stars - the "end of the world" kind of tribulation from which there is no recovery.


2. Parsing the chiasmus

We will be using the NIV Bible for this parse.

Parsing this chiasmus involves dividing portions of the text into three categories as above. We will call the period of the First Jewish-Roman war Period 1, the Advent of Christ's reign Period 2 and the End-of-the-world time Period 3

Categorizing vs 22-37

Vs 22-25 appear to belong to Period 2. We have in these verses a warning against false messiahs, Although we do not believe that Christ will come in all His heavenly glory at this time, The Messiah's arrival will be made known almost simultaneously around the earth just as lightning in the east is visible in the west.

Vs 26-30 belong to Period 3. Christ's arrival in the last days will be unexpected and sudden as we have seen in our parsing of other Olivet discourses. See Matthew 24 [6] for example. Here Luke says it will be as it was in the days of Noah and Lot. Matthew 24 says it will be as in the days of Noah.

Vs 31-33 belong to Period 1. We know from our parsing of the Olivet discourse in other gospels that these warnings to leave immediately apply to the time of the Jewish-Roman war.

Vs 34-36 belong to Period 3. These rapture references indicate that these verses apply to the last days.

Vs 37 belong to Period 2. We know from our parsing of the Olivet discourse in other gospels [6] that the vulture reference applies to the coming of the Messiah in period 2.



From this parse, it appears that verses 22-37 form a Functional chiasmus as below:

A1   22-25 Period 2. False messiahs, lightning from the east.
  B1   26-30 Period 3. Christ's sudden return as in the days of Noah and Lot.
    X   31-33 Period 1. Leave immediately on seeing the army. Remeber Lot's wife.
  B2   34-36 Period 3. Rapture.
A2   37 Period 2. "vulture" proverb.


3. Build the reconfigured text

We now reconstruct the phrases in the right order based on the chiastic structure we arrived at previously and based on the ordering rules of a functional chiasmus [1].

We lead with central pivot point 'X'. The corresponding subunits (For example; subunit A1 corresponds to A2) are placed contiguously to form units (For example, A1,A2 is a unit ) so that we get a list of such units.


The sequence selected for rearrangement is:

X  [A1,A2]  [B1,B2]        (1)


Translating (1) into verse numbers, we get:

31-33  [22-25, 37]   [26-30, 34-36]        (2)

We arrive at the reconfigured passage in the next section by rearranging the verses so they are in sequence (2). The 3 periods are in the right temporal order.




4. Luke 17:22-37 Reconfigured

Period 1 First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66AD–74AD) (31-33)

31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.

Period 2 The advent of Christ's millennial reign (circa 2000AD) (vs. 22-25,37)

22 Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. 23 People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. 24 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

37 “Where, Lord?” they asked.
He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”

Period 3 The "End of the Age" or the last days (circa 3000AD) (vs. 26-30, 34-36)

26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.

34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” 36 [omitted in this version]





5. An exegesis of the reconfigured text.

The passage has been split into 3 sections for analysis of the 3 periods.

5.1 Period 1 First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66AD–74AD) (31-33)

5.1.1 A Brief history of the First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66AD–74AD)

We go into detail on this war in our paper on "The 70 weeks of Daniel" [2] but here is a short summary condensed [3] from as relevant to this passage:

The Roman General Vespasian and his son Titus began the campaign to crush a Jewish revolt by attacking the Judahite centres surrounding Jerusalem in 67AD. A large number of Judahites in these towns fled Roman punishment to take refuge in the fortified city of Jerusalem. According to fourth-century church fathers Eusebius and Epiphanius, Jerusalem's Judahite Christians fled to Pella before the beginning of the war, so escaping the carnage that befell the rest of the population.

Titus moved to besiege the centre of rebel resistance in Jerusalem in early 70AD. The Roman armies established a permanent camp just outside the city, digging a trench around the circumference of its walls and building a wall as high as the city walls themselves around Jerusalem.

By the summer of 70, the Romans had breached the walls of Jerusalem, ransacking and burning nearly the entire city. The Second Temple (the renovated Herod's Temple), was destroyed on Tisha B'Av (29 or 30 July 70). According to Josephus, in a city of 1.1 million, 1 million Judahites were killed and 100,000 taken captive; it was almost the entire population of the Judahites in the area.

During the spring of 71, the Romans started "mopping-up" operations in Judea to besiege and capture the few remaining fortresses that still resisted. In the autumn of 73, they moved against the last Judean stronghold, Masada. When the Romans finally broke through the walls of this citadel in 74, they discovered that 960 of the 967 defenders had committed suicide.

5.1.2 An analysis of vs. 31-33

31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.


Lot's wife looked back with longing at the life she was leaving and lost her life as a result. So the people of Judea should not try to take their possessions but flee for their life immediately on seeing the Roman soldiers because anyone found tarrying would be killed.



5.2 Period 2 The advent of Christ's millennial reign (circa 2000AD) (vs. 22-25,37)

22 Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. 23 People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. 24 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.
25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

Jesus warns against false messiahs and gives a sign of how we might recognize the Messiah. He will not be in hidden places but the Messiah's arrival will be made known almost simultaneously around the earth just as lightning in the east is visible in the west. We do not, however, believe that Christ will return in Glory at this time.



37 “Where, Lord?” they asked.
He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”


Jesus uses the "vultures" proverb to warn against believing in the wrong Messiah. Just as circling vultures indicate the presence of a carcass on the ground, so also there will be obvious signs that indicate the presence of the real Messiah.



5.3 Period 3 The "End of the Age" or the last days (circa 3000AD) (vs. 26-30, 34-36)

26 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
28 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.
34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” 36 [omitted in this version]


Jesus says that there will be no sign at all for the glorious return of Christ. The coming of the Son of Man and the rapture will happen at a completely unexpected time just as it was in the days of Lot and Noah.



Conclusion

The main idea this paper introduces is the chiastic reconstruction of the text. We hope that we have shown that this allows a far more coherent and straightforward interpretation of this otherwise frustrating passage.


For those who accept this interpretation, there are several implications that are relevant today: .

References

[1] A Definition of Functional Chiasmus - by Kuruvilla Thomas K.
[2] An Exegesis Of "The 70 Weeks Of Daniel" Based On A Novel Chiastic Reconfiguration - by Kuruvilla Thomas K.
[3] First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE) by Wikipedia.
[4] Flight to Pella
[5] Jewish Christian by Wikipedia
[6] An Exegesis of "The Olivet Discourse" in Matthew 24 Based On A Novel Chiastic Reconfiguration - by Kuruvilla Thomas




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