Reflections on the Lectionary: Mark 13:1-8
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Reflections on the Lectionary: Mark 13:1-8 

In this passage, Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple as well as wars, earthquakes, and famines. He declares, “this is but the beginnings of the birthpangs.” Many scholars think that Mark was written after the revolt against Romans, and they suggest that these words attributed to Jesus about wars and the destruction of the Temple are not predictions but rather statements about history. There have been few times in human history when predictions about wars failed to materialize within a few generations. Are Jesus’ predictions actually statements of history or just safe guesses, or do they relate to Jesus’ ministry itself?
Jesus championed those who were outcasts – the widows, orphans, poor people, and disabled people who could be easily blamed as scapegoats during times of trouble. Scapegoating always involves violence or threats of violence, but in the short term it can alleviate violence because people believe (falsely) that they have eradicated or controlled the evil in their midst. They become united in their hatred for scapegoats, and their mutual feelings of relief after scapegoats are punished (often by death) reduces strife between each other. If Jesus could expose scapegoating as a lie, then there would be a risk of conflict before real peace might someday prevail.
How does scapegoating relate to earthquakes and famines? I offer two theories. These events were once attributed to human activities, and typically people sought scapegoat victims to blame for natural disasters. If there are no scapegoats, these events become more terrifying, because people have less sense of control. If the people cannot blame and kill scapegoats, the people feel vulnerable to further events.
A second theory is that Jesus was being rhetorical. He understood that societies engage in scapegoating in an effort to prevent both man-made and natural disasters. He wanted to warn people that ending scapegoating would not end disasters. Ultimately, however, his path would lead to the “kingdom of God” in which there would be peaceful coexistence. 

Go on to: Reflections on the Lectionary: Luke 21:25-36
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