Jesus’ Prophecy About the Destruction of the Temple

Jesus and His disciples were going away from the Temple and going up to the Mount of Olives located east of the Temple area. Then His disciples pointed to Him the buildings of the Temple. Mark wrote, “And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings” (Mk. 13:1; cf. Lk. 21:5)! Doubtless, they have noticed the Temple with admiration for its beauty and significance.

The Temple was Herod’s renovation of the second Temple of Solomon. It took Herod more than 80 years to expand the Temple. It was famous for its shining beauty and massive stones.

“The Jewish historian Josephus says that the temple was covered on the outside with gold plates, that were so brilliant that when the sun shone on them, it was blinding to look at. Where there was no gold, there were blocks of marble of such a pure white that strangers, from a distance, thought there was snow on the temple.” (Guzik)

“The Roman historian Tacitus reported that it was a place of immense wealth . . . Some of the stones measured 40 feet by 12 by 12 and weighed up to a hundred tons, quarried as a single piece and transported many miles to the building site.” (MacArthur)

The Prophetic Declaration

The disciples were evidently impressed about the Temple. But Jesus threw water into their fire. “But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Matt. 24:2). Matthew used the adversative conjunction, “but” (de), indicating a strong rebuttal of their impression about the Temple. Jesus introduced his prophecy with the words, “Truly, I say to you.” With the verb “say,” the word “truly” (amen) is used “to emphasize that what is being said is a solemn declaration of what is true.” (Friberg)  Jesus is making a serious prophetic declaration about the Temple.

It is a negative future. Jesus said, “There will not be left here.” The word “not” in the English version does not capture the Greek. In the Greek, there is the double negative, o me, “no not.” The Greek can be translated thus, “There will be left here no not a stone upon stone” (o me apethe hode). The double negative is “for the purpose of stating denials or prohibitions emphatically.”[1] The “ou + the indicative denies a certainty, ou me + the subjunctive denies a potentiality. . . ou me rules out even the idea as being a possibility.”[2] The verb “left” is aorist subjunctive. Hence, there is no possibility whatsoever that there will be left one stone upon another.

If you go visit our apartment building in A. Lopez, you will see the very thick walls inside. The thickness may be 8-10 inches thick. It’s so thick that you cannot break through a wall with a hammer. You cannot hear people talking in the other room. You can shout inside the room without anyone hearing you.

The phrase “one stone upon another” in the Greek is literally, “stone upon stone” (lithos epi lithon). Literally, “There will be left here no, not one stone upon stone.” Jesus emphatically removes any possibility that one stone upon stone will be left in this Temple.

[1] H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1927), 266.

[2] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond The Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 468.

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