Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Matthew 24:36 and Rapture Predictions

In case you missed, it there was another end-times prediction for yesterday.

A ‘biblical numerologist’ who goes by ‘David Meade’—no relation to John—predicted that a rogue planet would appear, the rapture would happen, and the world as we know it would generally come to an end.

And yet, here we are.

Today, then, seems to be a great opportunity to look at the variant in Matthew 24:36:

Περὶ δὲ τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης καὶ ὥρας οὐδεὶς οἶδεν, οὐδὲ οἱ ἄγγελοι τῶν οὐρανῶν οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός, εἰ μὴ ὁ πατὴρ μόνος.

But concerning that day and hour, no one knows. Neither the angels of the heavens, nor the Son, except the Father alone.

The variant in question is the presence or absence of οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός.

According to the NA28:

Absent in: 01^2a K L W Γ Δ f1 22 565 579 700 892 1241 1424 g^1 l vg sy co; Hier^mss and the Majority text
Present in: 01* 01^2b B D Θ f13 l2211 it vg^mss Ir^lat Hier^mss

Bart Ehrman calls this variant “one of the clearest examples of an orthodox change effected to prevent its heretical ‘misuse’” (Orthodox Corruption, p. 91). Ehrman accepts οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός as the earlier reading that scribes then omitted. Dan Wallace, on the other hand, argues that the phrase οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός is indeed original—to Mark’s Gospel. Its absence in Matthew is because Matthew removed it, only for it to be added back in by later scribes.

Ehrman summarises the theological argument for ‘Orthodox Corruption’: “it suggests that the Son of God is not all-knowing and could be used therefore by adoptionists to argue that Jesus was not himself divine” (p. 92). Wallace has a series of responses to the theological argument in his article. I would like to point out that Ehrman does acknowledge that the same phrase is nearly always present at Mark 13:32 (though just a handful of manuscripts do omit it there).

If one reads Matthew and Mark together canonically, neither the presence nor the absence of οὐδὲ ὁ υἱός changes any core doctrines of Christianity. Whether Matthew included the phrase or not, it is clear that Mark did.

Finally, regardless of how one interprets Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32, and regardless of which reading one accepts as original at Matthew 24:36, one thing is clear: Only the Father knows the day and the hour. Not the angels in the heavens, nor the televangelist end-times ‘prophets’.

If you really want to read a book on biblical numerology, I recommend this one.

For the editions of the works I cited here, see:

Ehrman, Bart D. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Wallace, Daniel B. “The Son’s Ignorance in Matthew 24:36: An Exercise in Textual and Redaction Criticism.” In Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity: Essays in Honor of Michael W. Holmes On the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, edited by Daniel M. Gurtner, Juan Hernández Jr., and Paul Foster, 178–205. NTTSD 50. Leiden; Boston, 2015.

EDIT (24 April): I corrected a typo that a reader caught, in which I mistakenly referred to Matthew 24:26 (not 24:36) in the final instance.


  1. I Just have a theological question.
    Jesus don't know what is the time now that he is in Heaven? or just when he was on earth?

    1. Good question... The words of Jesus probably refer to the Feast of Trumpets, though some debate this, because it was on one of two days in the Jewish calendar. There was a cultural phrase used to describe it. The phrase was that only God knew the day or the hour; in reference to when this Feast would begin. Jesus is referring to that.

      Hope this is helpful...


  2. Elijah: "‘David Meade’—no relation to John"

    Perhaps it might be his alter-ego?

    As for everything ending yesterday, I expect those who predicted such will (yet again) claim they "miscalculated", and proceed to set a new date. And why not? Everyone knows that the "war in heaven" of Rev 12 and the effect on 1/3 of the stars will occur on May 4th....

  3. Elijah,
    Even if, as was likely, the Gospels circulated separately, regardless of whether the manuscript you read had ‘nor the son’, all seem to have had ‘except the father alone’ which excludes the son. Whether one excepts the longer reading in Matthew, as I do or not; Ehrman’s Orthodox Corruption theory fails.
    Surely, one would think, since date setting is like 0 - forever, that not only would these charlatans stop setting them, but believers would ignore them.


  4. This verse has always stood out to me. Thanks for making me pause and think about the textual variants involved.

  5. There is an issue with the context inwhich you used this 24:36--- this is in reference to the Second Coming of Christ and not the rapture.

  6. Yeah, there is no rapture language in Matthew 24. This is a misunderstanding of the first-century Jewish text by Gentile readers 2,000 years removed.