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Commentary on Joseph Smith—Matthew
TitleCommentary on Joseph Smith—Matthew
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsSmoot, Stephen O.
Book TitleThe Pearl of Great Price: A Study Edition for Latter-day Saints
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT

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1 Although the canonical text is a revision of Matthew 24, the text actually begins a verse previous at Matthew 23:39. The Olivet Discourse (compare Mark 13:1–8; Luke 21:5–11) was delivered during Jesus’s final mortal week, after the triumphal entry (see Matthew 21) but before the Last Supper (see Matthew 26).

1:1–3 In both the King James Version and here, Jesus’s Olivet Discourse is delivered in the context of the Apostles inquiring concerning His prophecy of the destruction of the temple. This framing is brought out more explicitly in Joseph Smith’s revision. Blessed . . . with him. Paraphrase of Psalm 118:26 and Daniel 7:13. Compare Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Mark 14:62. Destruction of the temple. The temple of Herod was destroyed in AD 70 when Rome sacked Jerusalem after the outbreak of a Jewish nationalist revolt.

1:4 The Mount of Olives is located east of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley (compare Zechariah 14:4). Jesus likely chose to deliver this discourse here to avoid the large crowds gathered in the city for the celebration of Passover. Herod’s temple would have been plainly visible as Jesus delivered this discourse.

1:6 New Testament writings preserve mention of some contemporaries of Jesus claiming to be the Messiah (Acts 5:36–37; 21:38) and of anti-Christs attempting to deceive the early church (1 John 2:18).

1:7 NT1 originally read, “You shall be hated of all men,” which was emended to read, “You shall be hated of all nations” (as also in NT2).

1:8 NT1 adds, “And shall hate one another.”

1:9 Compare Matthew 7:15.

1:11 NT1 reads, “He that shall endure unto the end the same shall be saved.”

1:12 The “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Jesus is a reference to Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11, which speaks of the “desolating abomination(s)” (šiqûṣîm mĕšômēm, ha-šiqûṣ mĕšômēm, šiqûṣ šômēm, captured in the Greek of Matthew as the dbelygma tēs erēmōseōs). It refers to a pollutant that sacrileges the holiness of the temple, leaving it desolate. The desecration of the Jerusalem temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes during the Maccabean Revolt of 167–160 BC, wherein he erected an image of Zeus in the temple, is often linked to this prophecy in the book of Daniel (compare 1 Maccabees 1:54). Jesus uses this imagery from Daniel as a type for both the imminent desolation of Jerusalem (and with it, Herod’s temple), as well as the desolating sacrileges preceding His Second Coming (Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:32). The disciples are admonished to stand in holy places when they encounter such sacrilege.

1:13–17 To escape the foretold calamities, Jesus warns His disciples to be prepared to flee at a moment’s notice. The instruction to flee into the mountains went against conventional ancient thinking, which prompted people during a siege or prolonged warfare to secure themselves in walled cities (such as Jerusalem) for better protection. With this, Jesus warns that the disciples will not find safety in manmade artifices. Those with vulnerable family members such as children will find their situation exacerbated since hunger and famine frequently follow disruptive events like those described here. Likewise, those forced to flee during the rainy winter, when travel is difficult, or the sabbath, when travel is forbidden, will likewise be at a great disadvantage.

1:18–20 The tribulations of the Jews following the disastrous outcome of the Jewish Revolt are described in graphic detail in such sources as works by Josephus, the first century Jewish historian. Variant reading. NT1 originally read, “. . . such as was not before since the begining of the world to this time no nor ever shall be and except those days should be shortened all these things are the beginings of sorrows and except those days should be shortened there should flesh be saved but for the elects sake those days shall be shortened.” This was revised both in NT1 and again in NT2 with other additions to produce the current reading.

1:21 Jesus informs His disciples of the immediate context of the previous verses—namely, the events of the first century connected to the destruction of the temple and its aftermath. Here He pivots into a description of future signs that will precede His glorious return, beginning in 1:22–26 with a description of false Christs that will arise in the vacuum left by the destruction of the temple and, more broadly, in the Great Apostasy. Lo here, lo there. Compare Joseph Smith—History 1:5.

1:25–26 Jesus promises that His return will be accompanied by great glory that will cover the earth. Those who claim to be Christ but insist on secreting themselves away into small factions are to be dismissed as false Christs.

1:27 The first of four parables illustrating the principles of Jesus’s discourse commences with this verse. Eagles. The Greek aetoi can indeed mean “eagles,” but in this context it more likely means “vultures.” The imagery, especially appropriate in the context of war and tribulation, is that of a flock of carrion raptors circling over a rotting carcass (compare Deuteronomy 28:25–26; 1 Samuel 17:44; Psalm 79:1–2; Ezekiel 39:17–20). True to His hyperbolic didactic method (see Matthew 5:29–30), Jesus uses this vivid imagery to great effect in this parable describing the gathering of the elect in the last days. But the imagery is powerful not just because of its setting in a reeling, rotting world but also because it highlights the speed at which vultures seem to rapidly converge from long distances to find their nourishment (that is, the rapidity and scale of the final gathering).

1:30 NT1 reads, “He that shall endure unto the end the same shall be saved.”

1:32 The prophecy of the abomination of desolation (compare Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:12) is explicitly said to have two fulfillments or types: one concerning the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in the first century and another concerning the events of the last days before Jesus’s glorious return.

1:33 Quotation of Isaiah 13:10 (compare Joel 2:10).

1:34 As recorded in Matthew 24:34, Jesus prophesied that the events described in the previous verses would occur in His own generation (genea autē). This has historically proven problematic for Christian interpreters since the events described obviously were not fulfilled in the first century. As revised here, the events of Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:27–33 are projected onto a future date and are yet to be fulfilled.

1:36 Jesus evokes similar language at the beginning of this discourse (see 1:1). Compare also Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62, where Jesus repeats this language (a paraphrase of Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13) during His interrogation before Caiaphas.

1:38–40 The imagery in the parable of the fig tree is correlated to the need for the disciples to remain watchful for the return of the Son of Man. Just as the budding branches of the fig tree anticipate the coming of summer, so the events described in the previous verses anticipate the coming of the Son of Man. By recognizing such, the disciples can be on their guard for when the Second Coming commences (the timing of which only God himself knows).

1:41–43 See Genesis 6–7; Moses 8:12–30. The final cataclysm will parallel the primeval cataclysm, with the majority of the world unaware of or otherwise unconcerned with paying heed to the signs of the forthcoming danger.

1:44–45 The text revises Matthew 24:40 to include reference to an otherwise unknown or unattested written prophecy. These verses at Matthew 24:40–41 have been marshalled to support the doctrine of the rapture, or the teaching that Jesus’s true disciples will be snatched away suddenly to meet Him in the clouds at his coming (compare 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Modern revelation speaks of righteous Saints being “caught up” to dwell with the Lord at His coming but does not elaborate on what precisely this means (see Doctrine and Covenants 27:18; 88:95–97). Compare also Moses 7:62–65. A sense of what early Latter-day Saints imagined by being “caught up” to meet the Lord at His Second Coming can be gained from the lyrics to the hymn “Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise,” composed by Edward Partridge and included in the first hymnbook of the Church, published in 1835.

1:47–48 With this parable Jesus again emphasizes that the disciples cannot know when He will return, so they must be watchful and diligent.

1:49–50 Jesus uses one more parable to ask rhetorically who qualifies as a good servant and then provide the answer: those who are prepared for His coming and are found working diligently over their stewardship (compare Matthew 25:1–13). By contrast, evil servants are those who abandon their duty because of the delay in the Lord’s return (see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:51–54).

1:54 Similar language is used in Jewish texts from Jesus’s time to refer to excommunication from the community (compare Galatians 5:11–12).

1:55 NT1 originally read, “. . . and thus cometh the end of the world but the end of the earth is not yet but by and by,” and was revised to replace “world” with “wicked according to the prophcy of Moses saying they should be cut off from among the people,” as reflected in NT2 and the current text. The prophecy of Moses. Likely referring to Deuteronomy 18:15–19. The quotation offered in this verse is not present in this passage as preserved in the Hebrew Bible. However, it does feature elsewhere in the books of Moses (see Genesis 17:14; Exodus 12:15, 19; 31:14; Leviticus 7:20–21, 25; 7:27; 17:4, 9, 14; 18:29; 19:8; 20:17–18; 22:3; 23:29; Numbers 9:13; 15:30; 19:13, 20).

Scripture Reference

Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:1