This weekend my pastor and I were discussing the narrator’s cryptic statement “Let the reader understand” in Mark 13.14. We were wondering what he wanted the reader to understand. Let me give you my interpretation and then I’d like to hear from anyone willing to leave a comment.

The author wanted to grab the reader’s attention by using the phrase “the abomination of desolation” (τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως) which should bring to mind Daniel 9.27; 11.31 (βδέλυγμα ἐρημώσεως); and 12.11 (τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως). What the author of the Book of Daniel intended is secondary. The primary point is that it provides imagery of a pagan ruler corrupting the temple of God. Whether this was first Antiochus Epiphanes is relevant only in that it provides a physical example of such an event happening (and it may have been the event that inspired the writing of this part of Daniel depending on when you date the “final form” of the book).

I don’t know that Jesus or the evangelist intended hearers/readers to think of an event that “fulfilled’ the Book of Daniel (Matthew’s Gospel does connect this to the Danielic prophecy), but that they were concerned primarily with their audience being prepared to flee when they saw a Gentile ruler enter the temple or one could suggest even move toward the temple.

That said, I tend to see Jesus’ prophecy and the Mark’s recording as being fulfilled when Titus embodied the symbolism of the “Abomination of Desolation” by leading the Roman forces to devastate Jerusalem in 70 CE. I am very, very sure that this Luke understood this to be fulfilled in 70 CE because of the words he has Jesus say in 21.20-25. I think Luke realizes the tension of how the fall of Jerusalem seems to have been a single event that would result in the coming of the Son of Man in judgement which is why he provides the caveat that “Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” He follows this statement with “cosmic collapse” language and then the Son of Man comes.

OK, your turn: What is Mark saying in 13.14?