Abstract

When Jesus dies in Mark’s account, the sky darkens, a loud voice declares that it has been forsaken by its god, and the temple curtain tears in two. These phenomena closely resemble the omens thought to have taken place before Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE as recorded by Josephus, Tacitus, 2 and 4 Baruch, the Pesiqta Rabbati, and the Talmudim. By surveying the ancient belief that tutelary deities would abandon cities before they were destroyed, I propose that the portents described by Mark and elaborated in subsequent gospels are another version of the popular tradition reporting the Judean god’s departure from the temple before 70 CE.

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