Were the Wailing Women a Prophecy of the End Times?

Peter Balbirnie

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Dear Catholic Exchange:

I read Luke's gospel of the crucifixion and was stunned by the section surrounding the wailing women. In his comment to the women about a time to come when not having children, is this truly a prophecy of the end times? I am not an alarmist but are there any discussions available on this topic?

Looking for insight?


Mike May

Dear Mr. May,

Peace in Christ!

It appears from your question that you are referring to the following passage:

“And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him.

But Jesus turning to them said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’” (Lk. 23:27-31)

Scripture scholars Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch indicate that Jesus, here, is warning the women of Jerusalem that another tragedy is heading for the city: the siege, war, fire, and destruction of the Temple in AD 70. For even barrenness would seem like a blessing in such dreadful days. This catastrophe is understood by many scholars as an historical preview of the end of the world, showing how God’s judgment upon the nation of Israel at the end of the Old Covenant prefigures the judgment of all nations (see The Gospel of Luke in Ignatius Catholic Study Bible series, p. 66, 61).

While this passage is not specifically addressed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church contains an Index of Citations, beginning with Sacred Scripture. One can often find a traditional understanding of a particular biblical passage by looking at its presentation in the Catechism. One can look up the passage in this index and then find the paragraph in which it is presented or referenced.

In addition to the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible series, you may want to check out one or more Bible Commentaries. Examples of one-volume commentaries include the New Jerome Biblical Commentary edited by Raymond Brown et. al. . Generally speaking, this scholarly commentary relies on modern historical-critical methods and its analyses may not be helpful to some readers. Another example is A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture edited by Bernard Orchard (currently out of print but available in libraries and online from used book dealers). There are also multi-volume commentaries such as the Word Biblical Commentary series and the Anchor Bible series. In reading these commentaries, one must realize that they represent opinion and interpretation according to one or more scholars. It should be understood that many of these commentaries do not necessarily seek to build up the reader’s faith and may even contain opinions or interpretations which appear to contradict the faith. They should be read only as helpful resources and not definitive solutions.

Another helpful tool in understanding Scripture is a Bible dictionary. Again, these dictionaries are often based on critical scholarship and reflect interpretive positions and opinions. Two Bible dictionaries that have been recommended by theology faculty at Franciscan University of Steubenville are John McKenzie’s Dictionary of the Bible and the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary.

United in the Faith,

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