Tuesday, April 18, 2017

This generation: Luke 21, Matthew 24, and Mark 13... What did Jesus mean by those words? Part 1

"I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place." 
(Luke 21:32 HCSB)

This is the favorite verse of atheists. They use that to show that Jesus' prophecy did not come to pass and discredit him. There are several meanings that theologians have used to explained what He meant. Yes, they are conflicting. So, there is uncertainty in the real meaning of the passages that theologians have labeled the "little apocalypse." This is especially true when one takes the plain simple meaning of the text. Anyone who is honest would have to admit that it appears at first blush that Jesus referred to the generation alive at the time of his speaking, which would have meant within forty years at the most.

It all boils down to the meaning of the Greek word genea which is translated as "this generation." According to Strong's Greek Lexicon, it can mean either generation or nation. These two meanings account for all of the various interpretations out there. In a nutshell, it is thought to be this nation shall not pass away, or this generation alive at the time of the end will not pass away, or there are those who believe that it is the forty-year generation alive at the time of Jesus.

My answer to this interpretative conundrum is that he indeed meant the forty-year generation alive at the time he spoke. This of course has implications that tend to fly in the face of orthodoxy, but that should not alarm any of my regular readers as I challenge orthodoxy all the time.  It is however very important to unbelievers and believers alike.  We will look at this from several angles, but the first one that I would like to deal with is this: what was the question from his disciples that he was answering? This is an important question in establishing meaning as it provides context for the meaning of this generation.

"Teacher," they asked Him, "so when will these things be? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?" 
(Luke 21:7 HCSB)

"While He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached Him privately and said, "Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?" 
(Matthew 24:3 HCSB)

"Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign when all these things are about to take place?" 
(Mark 13:4 HCSB)

The statement that begat each of the above questions was as follows; Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here on another that will not be thrown down!" (Mark 13:2 HCSB) So then to be clear, the event predicted is the destruction of the temple. It is fair to say then that Jesus answer, has to be seen tied to the destruction of the temple. The time frame is indeed the destruction of the temple. Many of those who speak of this bring up Matthew 24:3 and claim that it is tied to the end of the space time universe. This is largely because of the fact that the King James Version reads "your coming and the end of the world." However notice that in the other two accounts, the only question asked is when will these things take place. What things? Since Jesus only mentioned the destruction of the temple, it is imperative to see that they were asking the question based on the destruction of the temple.

So why was "his coming" and the end of the age mentioned in the Matthew account and not mentioned in Luke and Mark? I believe the answer is fairly strait forward and simple. Luke and Mark were written to a Gentile audience, and Matthew was written mostly for the Jews. The Jews alone, based upon Daniel prophecies were looking for the end of the age. Let's be clear that the end of the age in no way was considered to be the end of the space-time continuum by the first century Jews. Likewise, his coming, was considered only by the Jews as "a coming" in judgment against his enemies, in which he would make his enemies his footstool. This was based upon all of the prophecies in the Old Testament. Therefore, one could legitimately say that they were only asking about the destruction of the temple also. The only difference was that they included the destruction of the temple with the prophesied judgment, and the end of the age. All three accounts of the question his disciples asked were before any apocalyptic language was introduced.

The most important thing to consider in this first post is that the entire conversation was linked directly to the destruction of the temple and cannot be removed from that event. I have not yet mentioned genea and its use but will in subsequent posts.

You can read Part 2 Here


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