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Possibilities in the Darkness: The Apocalypse of the Cross: Part 10

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Apocaylpse of the CrossEssay Posts

In my last two posts I looked at the text in Matthew’s crucifixion narrative where account of the darkness accompanying Jesus’ death is found. As I have stated previously, these three posts serve as a transition from the introductory material about the apocalyptic framework which was contemporary to the time the gospel’s writing to a more detailed look at the intertextual and innertextual allusions which the darkness evokes. These three post have looked at the exegetical perplexities and historical issues of the text itself; its relation to its Markan source, the extent of the darkness, and finally, here, the various interpretations of the darkness which scholar have proposed.

As stated previously, the darkness has been variously interpreted, each position having greater or lesser degree of validity. Having discussed in the pervious two posts the significant textual issues Matthew’s account of the darkness presents for us, I will here overview the possible interpretations that have been suggested. It is important to note that not all of these interpretations are mutually exclusive.

Douglas Moo summarizes what he sees as eight distinct interpretations that have been proposed for the darkness:

(a) portents accompanying the death of extraordinary men,

(b) a generic apocalyptic sign,

(c) the activity of Satan or demons,

(d) the beginning of a new era of salvation history,

(e) God’s intervention,

(f) God’s wrath,

(j) the Day of YHWH containing themes of both divine judgment and redemption

(k) an allusion to the chaotic darkness at creation.[1]

For my purposes it is enough to mention the diversity of opinion without examining the arguments for each. Rather, I will highlight those interpretations relating particularly to textual allusions.

W. D. Davies and Dale Allison Jr. mention the possibility, to be examined more closely in subsequent posts, of the use of the darkness to cause Jesus’ death to resemble the death of other great men, most notably Julius Caesar in 44 BCE, whose death many sources recorded as occasioned by an eclipse.[2] Outside the scope of this series, though still worth noting, is Nolland’s suggestion that the darkness is a signal of Satan’s activity or points to the moment of evil’s triumph.[3] What is most significant for my series are the various Old Testament usages of darkness, of which Amos 8.9-10 and Exodus 10.21-23[4] are primarily offered as the strongest sources of textual allusion. In the coming posts I will take a close look at these texts and how they inform a reading of the darkness.


[1] Douglas J Moo, The Old Testament in the Gospel Passion Narratives (Sheffield, England: Almond Press, 1983). 342-343.

[2] Davies and Allison Jr., Matthew XIX-XXVIII. 622-623.

[3] Nolland, Matthew. 1205.

[4] Donald Senior, The Passion Narrative According to Matthew: A Redactional Study (Louvain: Leuven University Press, 1982). 293-294. Brown, Death. 1037. Luz and others, Matthew. 544. Davies and Allison Jr., Matthew XIX-XXVIII. 622. Moo, The Old. 343. Robert Horton Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1982). 572. Keener, Matthew. 685. France, Matthew. 1075.

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Author: Kendall Beachey

I am an aspiring Biblical Studies and Theology student living in Kansas City. My goal is to attend seminary and give myself to Christian teaching and Ministry.

One thought on “Possibilities in the Darkness: The Apocalypse of the Cross: Part 10

  1. Pingback: Under the Darkness of Exodus: The Apocalypse of the Cross: Part 11 | The Cosmic Cathedral

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