It's long been accepted by Bible scholars and historians that the earliest of the so-called 'Gospels' later incorporated into the Christian Bible was that attributed to 'Mark', a legendary companion of Paul of Tarsus. However, the so-called 'synoptic' Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all appear to draw on an earlier, now lost, source - called 'Q' which may have been a collection of sayings of the, by then, legendary Jesus. So 'Q' is probably the earliest written account of Jesus and so likely to be closer to what was actually being talked about at that time.
One of the reasons why Jesus's immediate circle never actually wrote anything down probably include the fact that they thought the end of the world was close, so there was not going to be any posterity to preserve anything for. Another reason of course could have been that, if they actually existed at all, they were probably illiterate - the normal state of ordinary people in those days.
So what evidence is there in 'Mark' that Jesus was a doomsday merchant?
Firstly, right after the curious account of John baptising Jesus, which, given the tradition that the more righteous one baptises the less righteous one and that baptism cleanses sin, tells us that in the earlier tradition, Jesus was a mere human 'prophet', not a manifestation of the Jewish god.
Then we find:
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.So right off, Mark makes a link between the executed John and Jesus with Jesus taking up the reins as apocalyptic prophet in chief. He maintains this link with the tale about Herod:
And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.The author of Mark is in no doubt that he is writing about someone who is prophesying the imminent Day of Judgement. At the end of Chapter 8 we have:
Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets. But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.
For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.Followed immediate in Chapter 9 by:
And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.Strange how Jesus is talking in the third person about the 'Son of Man' - when he comes in the glory of his Father.... Some might think that Jesus isn't talking about himself here, especially when he is clearly the object of the first clause of that sentence - ...me and my words...
To find out who this 'Son of Man' is we need to delve into the Old Testament, to Daniel in fact:
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.So it's not at all clear here whether Mark is writing about someone who is merely prophesying the fulfilment of Daniel's vision, especially when earlier we had been told:
And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.where Mark seems to be distinguishing between Jesus, the Son of God, and Daniel's Son of Man.
But that's a side issue. The important thing here is how Mark confidently had Jesus saying that some of those present will see the 'kingdom of God' come with power, clearly within their own lifetime. Maybe not tomorrow but real soon.
He says it again later, as though to emphasise the point:
But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.Again, no doubt at all that this is about to happen in the lifetime of some of those present.
And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.
Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.[my emphasis]
Saint Paul is also in little doubt that he is preparing people for the impending apocalypse, as he says to the Romans:
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.So there we are. There is little doubt that, in the early days of the nascent Jesus myth, starting with John the Baptist and continuing through whoever the later scribes decided Jesus Christ was, and continuing with Saint Paul, that what was being taught was an impending apocalypse; the very thing that all manner of charlatans and phoney prophets have been regularly predicting ever since, and which has never yet happened.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?[my emphasis]
In many ways, the myth seems very similar to the Millerite cult of America in the 1840s when a charlatan managed to convince a band of followers that the end was to occur on October 22, 1844. When it failed it led to 'The Great Dissapointment' but undaunted, Miller and a loyal band decided that God had postponed the apocalypse because he had been so impressed by their piety, so they went on to found the Seventh Day Adventist fundamentalist Christian cult.
Amazingly, Christianity seems to stagger along from one apocalyptic prediction to another, never phased by yet another failure and being taken in by yet another in a long line of false prophets going right back to Jesus and beyond, and this, despite being specifically warned about false prophets in their holy book, allegedly by Jesus himself with:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?Oops! Maybe someone should have reminded Jesus; "Know thyself"
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.