#413: The Abomination of Desolation

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #413, on the subject of The Abomination of Desolation.

I received a question by private message.  I prefer to answer questions publicly, partly so that more can benefit and partly so I don’t have to answer them again, so I am copying it here:

Have another biblical question for you.  What is the desolating sacrilege?  I have always been puzzled by this verse in Mark.  Is it in fact referring to the destruction of the Temple and the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans?

It should be said that there are interpreters who believe that it in fact refers to events still in the future, and that is not impossible.  However, there are at least three reasons to believe that it is about the destruction of the city in the first century.

The reference appears in Mark 13:14, and is paralleled rather closely in Matthew 24:15, and particularly the words my questioner cites as “desolating sacrilege” which is usually referenced as “the abomination of desolation”.  Looking at the context, in Mark 13:1 the disciples comment on the grandeur of the temple, and in the next verse Jesus declares that the entire structure is going to be totally demolished.  Two verses later the disciples ask when that is going to happen, and Jesus launches into a teaching which we think is about the end of the world but which if it is answering the question that was asked and not the question that the disciples thought they were asking is actually about the destruction of the temple.  The same sequence happens in Matthew 24:1ff.  Thus when we get to the abomination of desolation, it logically is still about that destruction.  Titus and the Roman Legions wrought that kind of devastation in 70 A.D., and so the prediction is consistent with that event.

We have the same circumstance launching the same question and the same teaching in Luke 21:5ff, and that gives us our second reason.  Following all three accounts, they go through the same pattern up to the statement that the one who endures will be saved, in Mark 13:13, Matthew 24:13, and Luke 21:19, and in Matthew and Mark the next verse is the one in question here.  However, in Luke 21:20 the following text translates (my translation) to “Yet when you see encircling Jerusalem by armies, then know that her devastation is impending”, and the next verses in all three accounts tell us to flee to the mountains.  It thus seems that Luke has replaced “abomination of desolation” with “Jerusalem besieged”–but Luke fairly commonly replaces phrases that would have particular meaning to a Jewish audience with words expressing the same concept to those in the greater Greco-Roman world.  Thus if we honor Luke’s understanding, what Mark and Matthew called “the abomination of desolation” was understood to refer to the siege of Jerusalem, which again fits the events of A.D. 70.  Some will say no, Luke is talking about something else, but since in the next verse he is back on track with the others either we have to say that Luke’s Gospel is in error here, or Luke has provided us with the correct meaning of that phrase.

What might be most telling, though, is that next part, where all three Gospels tell us to flee from Jerusalem.  The problem is that once the city is surrounded, it’s too late to escape.  However, history tells us that Titus brought his legions to Jerusalem and surrounded it, but then was called to withdraw due to a different problem, leaving the city for a brief period, then returning and finishing the job.  It was probably the case that devout but unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem believed that the withdrawal of Titus was the hand of God saving them, but Christians had this prophecy and so would have known to leave.

It might be suggested that a similar siege will occur in the future, but warfare has changed since then and such a siege is unlikely as a military strategy in the modern world.  The circumstances seem to be very particular to that event, and thus we should probably understand Jesus as predicting the first century destruction of Jerusalem.

As a footnote, we don’t have much in the way of historic confirmation of the fact that the Christians did leave Jerusalem at that time, and the suggestion has been made from that that Luke interpreted the statement after the fact to make it fit the events.  However, C. S. Lewis has somewhere noted that this is irrelevant.  By the end of the century the book was certainly in circulation, so either Christians did exit the city or they had to explain why having been warned in advance they had failed to do so, and on a naturalist viewpoint Luke would have been very foolish to include a prophetic command that had not been followed.  Therefore Luke is either providing the warning in advance or explaining after the fact why it was that Christians knew to flee the city at that time.  Either way, the pre-existence of the prediction (before the event) is confirmed.

I hope that helps.

#412: The Song “When I Think”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #412, on the subject of The Song “When I Think”.

I have long had a sort of love/hate relationship with this song.

It started when I was writing it.  I fought with the second and third verses for quite a while, and when I was finished fighting I was still quite unhappy about it.  I thought that the the second verse should be about Him always being there, and the third about being brought back, but from the first notes I knew this was a deathbed song, and it seemed obvious that the third verse had to establish that to lead into the fourth, and I could not get the words to work that way with the verses in that order.  Meanwhile, the second half of the second verse just always struck me as trite, and the third as a touch awkward, and I couldn’t make them better than that.

Plus, it was a deathbed song, and I was a bit uncomfortable as someone who struggled with suicidal tendencies related to clinical depression singing about dying.

Still, I included it on the program for the last concert of The Last Psalm.  We had the vocalists for it, and I did not know whether I would ever have the right combination for it again.  It was probably the only time the song was ever sung for an audience the way I envisioned it.

Not long after The Last Psalm dissolved, Jeff Zurheide asked me to play in Jacob’s Well.  In the interim I had written a song that I thought was perfect for that band–three vocals, guitar, bass, drums, and a solid upbeat feel with a good message.  (That song comes later on the list.)  He said no.  He wanted to do this song–a song I had not yet decided that I liked, and completely wrong for the band.  Jacob’s Well had no female vocals, no piano.  I didn’t see it–but it wasn’t my choice, so Jacob’s Well did an arrangement that was not at all what I envisioned for the song.  It did not endear the song to me.

I might have sung the song for myself sometimes; I might have done it solo somewhere.  No other band ever did it.  In fact, it could have slipped into oblivion itself had it not been for that request from Jess Oldham that I produce a disk of Last Psalm songs and I was scratching around trying to find songs I could record that had at some point been part of that band’s repertoire.

Even then, it gave me more unhappiness.  It was obvious that the soprano, which soared to an F on the fourth verse, was entirely out of my range, so I had to rearrange vocals so that that became the tenor and the top part was what had been the alto.  Even then, though, it was trouble.  I had written it in the key of F, and as I tried to record what was now the soprano there were so many Cs my voice gave out.  I had to go away and come back, pitch the whole song down to the key of D, and record the vocals with A as the highest note.  So it didn’t sound as bright as the original, and frankly it would be more difficult for any of the instruments to play it in this key.

All that said, there is something about the song that touches something, and ultimately I would pick this song to be played at my funeral.  It says something worth saying.

This recording is four vocals over midi instruments.  I ranked the song twenty-eighth for the music and lyrics, twentieth for the performance and recording quality; it did not make Tristan’s list, putting it twenty-eighth overall.

When I Think.

So here are the lyrics.

When I think of what You’ve given me
I just want to praise Your name.
When I think of what You’ve been for me,
I’m so glad You’ve stayed the same.
All my trials are over now.

When I think of how You’ve brought me back
Ev’ry time I’ve gone astray–
When I thought I’d really blown it bad,
You had something nice to say.
All my trials are over now.

When I think of how You’d be right there
Ev’ry time I’d need a friend.
And You’ve shown me that You always care
Right up to this very end.
All my trials are over now.

Now I know You’re gonna take me home
Now to live with You above,
Holy Father and Your Holy Son,
Holy Spirit, live in love.
All my trials are over now.

In my last words I would like to say
You should do as I have done:
Always follow, trust, love, and obey
Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.
All my trials are over now.
All my trials are over now.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.


Previous web log song posts:

#301:  The Song “Holocaust” | #307:  The Song “Time Bomb” | #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal” | #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods” | #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe” | #320:  The Song “Free” | #322:  The Song “Voices” | #326:  The Song “Mountain, Mountain” | #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice” | #334:  The Song “Convinced” | #337:  The Song “Selfish Love” | #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul” | #341:  The Song “Joined Together” | #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them” | #349: The Song “I Can’t Resist You’re Love” | #353:  The Song “I Use to Think” | #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good” | #362:  My Life to You | #366:  The Song “Sometimes” | #372:  The Song “Heavenly Kingdom” | #378:  The Song “A Song of Joy” | #382:  The Song “Not Going to Notice” | #387:  The Song “Our God Is Good” | #393:  The Song “Why” | #399:  The Song “Look Around You” | #404:  The Song “Love’s the Only Command” | #408:  The Song “Given You My Name”

Next song:  You Should Have Thanked Me