Evangelical Eisegesis: SJ Thomason on “God’s Promises,” part 6

This is the sixth post in a seven-part series responding to the blog post “Babylon Will Never Be Inhabited” by pop-apologist S. J. Thomason. You can read the fifth post here.

All biblical references, unless otherwise noted, are from the English Standard Version (Crossway, 2001).

PROMISE #6 – “THIS GENERATION WILL NOT PASS AWAY”

Thomason writes,

In Matthew 24:34, Jesus states “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

The interpretation of the word “generation” has led some people to believe that Jesus was referring to a generation of people. The original Greek word for generation is “genea (γενεά),” which means generation, race, family, times, or nation. In Acts 14:16, genea translates to times. “In the past times, he let all nations go their own way.” In Acts 15:21, genea also refers to times. “For the Law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” In Philippians 2:15, genea translates as a nation. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” Some scholars believe genea refers to the nation of Israel. The translation to times may also be the case, considering the earth’s age (4.5BY) and the time since Jesus walked the earth is relatively short.

It is not clear to me what “promise” Thomason is writing of when she quotes Matthew 24:34 and then offers up her opinion on what γενεά refers to in context. Given her reworking of the text and her appeal to various English translations to make the text say what it clearly does not say, perhaps she means to say that the “generation” or “time period” Jesus speaks won’t pass until “all these things” take place. Since Thomason fails to offer anything resembling exegesis, it is difficult to say what she thinks on this matter.

However, we can do what Thomason refuses to do and offer some analysis of the text and context of Matthew 24:34. First, we will discuss the expectation of early Christians regarding the return of Jesus according to the Christian scriptures. Then we will briefly examine Matthew 24:34 and what is meant by “this generation.”

THE RETURN OF JESUS IN EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITING

The death of Jesus of Nazareth likely happened sometime around 30 CE. He was hanged for crimes against the state on a cross and, according to the Gospels, was taken down after he died and placed in a tomb. Three days later, his followers claimed, Jesus emerged from that tomb alive. Forty days later, Jesus departs this world by ascending into the sky to sit at God’s right hand.

Paul and the Return of Jesus

Though Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are typically the first books that appear in most New Testaments, in reality those books were not among the first Christian documents to be composed in the first century. That honor goes to a Christian-killer turned Jesus-follower by the name of Paul of Tarsus. Within just a couple of decades after the death of Jesus, Paul begins writing various letters to churches he had visited in his missionary journies. They include a letter to the Christians in Thessalonica, a letter to the Galatians, two letters to the Corinthians, a letter to the Philippians, a letter to Philemon, and a letter to the Romans. These seven “authentic” letters represent Paul’s responses to circumstances within various Christian communities in the mid-first century as well as his own thoughts on various theological and practical matters. [1] 

One of the many theological matters with which Paul was concerned was the return of Jesus. Alexandra R. Brown identifies a number of explicit and implicit references Paul makes to the return of Jesus and the various ways he communicates that eschatological expectation. (Brown, 2000, 52-58) He uses words like παρουσία, ἀπάντησις, ἀποκάλυψις (and cognates), φανερόω, and more. He also talks about “the day,” or “the day of the Lord,” or “the day of Christ,” all terms that hearken back to the “day of Yahweh” used throughout the Hebrew Bible. “What he seems to anticipate at the return of Christ, his writings indicate, is the final overtaking of the ‘present evil age’ (Gal 1:4) by the future and final triumph of God.” (Brown, 48)

The first of the seven letters written by Paul is one to the Christian community in the city of Thessalonica, a port city in Macedonia where the Roman governer of the province lived. (Bruce, 1982, xx-xxi) In 50 CE, not long after he visited Thessalonica, Paul writes his letter to them. One of the topics he addresses is the return of Jesus. He wrote,

But we do not want you to be uninformed brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, ESV)

Much ink has been spilled commenting on this section and I have no desire to reinvent the wheel. What I would like to do briefly is touch on a few eye-opening things Paul has written here that should affect our own view of early Christian expectations regarding the return of Jesus.

First, Paul is writing to offer encouragment to Thessalonian Christians who have watched their brothers and sisters die before Jesus’ return. These numerous deaths “have left some wondering about the delay of the parousia [i.e. coming of Jesus] and somehow, too, about the relation of the dead to the living at the last day.” (Brown, 67) What Paul writes here is to ensure that they are not “uninformed” (ἀγνοεῖν) about the last day and so that they do not lost hope. (4:13)

Second, Paul believes that since Jesus died and was raised back to life then those who had died “in Christ” (4:16) will also rise again. (4:14) Paul here is appealing to the common Jewish belief in a general resurrection at the end of the world. (Daniel 12:2) But Paul claims that more than just a general resurrection will occur at the last day. According to a revelation from God (4:15), anyone still alive at the return of Jesus will not be taken up before those who have died. Instead, the dead will rise first and then the living will be “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet [ἀπάντησιν] the Lord in the air.” (4:17)

Third, Paul is not writing this in general terms. Instead, Paul contrasts “those who are asleep” (τῶν κοιμωμένων) and “those who have fallen asleep” (τοὺς κοιμηθέντας) in verses 13, 14, and 15 with “we who are alive, who are left” (ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι) in verses 15 and 17. By employing the personal pronoun ἡμεῖς Paul is lumping himself in with “those who are alive” (οἱ ζῶντες) and “those who are left” (οἱ περιλειπόμενοι). Had Paul wanted to make a general truth about the return of Jesus with relation to the living and the dead, Paul could have dropped ἡμεῖς and left the participles alone. Then the text would have read, “Then those who are alive, who are left” rather than, “We who are alive, who are left.” (4:17) But Paul does not do this and ἡμεῖς displays the emphasis Paul places on his own expectation of the return of Jesus, namely that it will happen within his own lifetime. 

We see this again in another letter Paul wrote, this time to the Christians in Corinth. Apparently some in the church were teaching that there was no resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12). Paul employs a reductio ad absurdum in his reply to that notion.

But if there is no resurrection from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain….And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (15:13-14, 17)

For Paul, the denial of this aspect of eschatology had soteriological consequences.

Paul then lays out for the Corinthians the order of events that will take place at the end of the age. The end began with the resurrection of Jesus – “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (15:20) The next to be raised from the dead are “at his coming [ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ) those who belong to Christ.” (15:23) Then comes τὸ τέλος, “the end.” (15:24) Paul does not mention what will happen to those who are alive at τὸ τέλος until verses 50-57. He writes there, 

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52)

Paul speaks to the Corinthians of a “mystery.” The mystery is this: “we shall not all sleep [πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα], but we shall all be changed [πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα].” (15:51) In other words, even those alive at the coming of Jesus will experience a change from perishable to imperishable. It is isn’t only the dead that will experience it. 

There are some interesting similarities between what he writes here in 1 Corinthians 15 and what he wrote to the Thessalonians. For example, Paul says that the change will happen “at the last trumpet [ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ σάλπιγγι].” (15:52) Similarly, in 1 Thessalonians 4 Paul writes that Jesus will return “with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God [σάλπιγγι θεοῦ].” (4:16) And just as in 1 Corinthians after the trumpet sounds “the dead [οἱ νεκροὶ]will be raised imperishable” (15:52), so too in 1 Thessalonians, after the sound of God’s trumpet “the dead [οἱ νεκροὶ] in Christ will rise first.” (4:16) 

But there is more. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that after the trumpet sounds and after the dead are “raised imperishable” then “we shall be changed [ἡμεῖς ἀλλαγησόμεθα].” (15:52) In 1 Thessalonians Paul says that after the trumpet sounds and after the dead “rise first” that “we who are alive, who are left [ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱπεριλειπόμενοι], will be caught up together with them in the clouds.” (4:16) Notice the personal pronoun ἡμεῖς shows up in 1 Corinthians 15:52, set in contrast with οἱ νεκροὶ, “the dead.” Paul didn’t have to write ἡμεῖς there at all since the future tense verb ἀλλαγησόμεθα is in the first person plural – “we shall be changed.” ἡμεῖς must have been inserted there by Paul for emphasis. [2] But why? Because Paul believed that he would be among those alive at the coming of Jesus. 

The Book of James and the Return of Jesus

The book of James is another example of New Testament pseudgraphia and was likely written toward the end of the first century CE. (Moreschini & Norelli, 2005, 117) Yet in it we see references to the return of Jesus. To begin with, James writes his treatise “to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (1:1), a reference to Jewish Christians living at that time but couched in terms that connect them to the Assyrian and Babylonian exile of Jews beginning in the eighth century BCE. There was an eschatological expectation among Jews that Yahweh would restore them in the land and return Israel to glory. (For example, see Jeremiah 30-31.)

The major theme of the book of James is steadfastness and patience during suffering. Jewish Christians should “count it all joy” when they endure trials because “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (1:3), and steadfastness will work in them so that they will be “perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (1:4) The word translated as “steadfastness” (ESV) or “patience” (ὑπομονή) appears three times in James (1:3, 1:4, and 5:11) while the verb “to be patient” or “to have patience” (μακροθυμέω) appears twice (5:7 and 5:8). A related noun, μακροθυμία, appears in 5:10. Over and again the theme of patience appears in the beginning and the end of the book.

In chapter five, James tells his readers, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming [παρουσίας] of the Lord.” Just as the farmer patiently waits for his crops to appear after it receives “the early and the late rains,” so too they must be patient. (5:7, 8a) He commands them, “Establish your hearts.” Why? “For the coming of the Lord [ παρουσία τοῦ κυρίου] is at hand [ἤγγικεν].” (5:8b) What does he mean that the coming of Jesus is “at hand”? 

For starters, the word translated as “at hand” comes from ἐγγίζω, a verb meaning “to come near” or “to draw near.” James uses this verb elsewhere in the letter when he writes, “Draw near [ἐγγίσατε] to God, and he will draw near [ἁγνίσατε] to you.” (4:8) The idea of coming near God may have roots in the Hebrew Bible where Yahweh tells Moses to have the priests “who come near [LXX, οἱ ἐγγίζοντες] to the LORD” consecrate themselves. (Exodus 19:22) By cleansing their hands and purifying their hearts, James readership can experience the nearness of God.

So when James writes that the coming of Jesus is “at hand,” he means to say that it is “near.” That is, James expected Jesus to return sooner rather than later. And while it is true that the emphasis for James isn’t so much on the timing of the return but upon the conduct of Christians prior to it (Martin, 1998, 192), his usage of ἐγγίζω suggests that the urgency of living a pure and holy life was because the return of Jesus was rapidly approaching. “The Judge is standing at the door.” (5:9)

The Letters of Peter and the Return of Jesus

There are two letters in the New Testament that claim to have been written by Peter but in all likelihood neither of them were from the prominent disciple of Jesus. (Morchesini & Norelli, 117-118 and 121) Though 1 Peter was written sometime in the 90s CE and 2 Peter sometime after 100 CE, both convey messages concerning the return of Jesus.

Like the book of James, 1 Peter is written “to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion” (1:1), language reminiscient of the days of the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles. The Christians that Peter writes to “has caused us to be born again to a living hope,…who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation read to be revealed [ἀποκαλυφθῆναι] in the last time [ἐν καιρῷ ἐσχάτῳ].” (1:3, 5) But these born again believers who have been kept by the power of God have undergone suffering “for a little while [ὀλίγον ἄρτι]” (1:6) with the purpose of bringing “glory and honor at the revelation [ἀποκαλύψει] of Jesus Christ.” (1:7) 

Throughout the epistle, Peter calls his readers to holiness (1:13-2:12) and to live in harmony with one another and the world. (2:13-3:22) But these are not ends in and of themselves; rather, they are to “be self-controlled and soberminded” because “[t]he end of all things is at hand [Πάντων δὲ τὸ τέλος ἤγγικεν].” (4:7) Just as we saw in James 5:8, the verb ἐγγίζω makes it clear that the author fully expected Jesus’ return soon. Peter also exhorts the elders of the churches to which he is writing to be “examples to the flock” so that “when the chief Shepherd appears [φανερωθέντος], you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (5:3-4) Peter seems to be aware of the book of James by his usage of ἐγγίζω, the “crown [στέφανον] of glory” (c.f. James 1:12), his shared use of Proverbs 3:34 (LXX), and his command to his readers to “humble yourselves” before God. (5:5, James 4:10) Peter, like James, had a similiar view and this extended to his expectation of Jesus’ return. The time was drawing near. 

The epistle of 2 Peter also contains direct eschatological language, perhaps more so than 1 Peter. In the final chapter, Peter addresses “scoffers” about whom the prophets and Jesus himself had predicted would come “in the last days [ἐπ’ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν].” (3:3) In mocking tones they say, “Where is the promise of his coming [τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ]? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (3:4) Given that 2 Peter was likely composed sometime after the turn of the first century and that, as we have seen, the Pauline expectation was that Jesus would return within just a few decades of his departure, this question from the scoffers seems fitting. But Peter has an answer. 

For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (5:5-7)

In other words, the same God who promised Jesus’ return is the one who formed the world by his words in Genesis and by that same word stores up the current world for future judgment of the ungodly. He is “not slow to fulfill his promise” as some would say but his delay is his “patience toward you” because he is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (3:9) When “the day of the Lord” comes it will be sudden and unexpected, “like a thief,” and then the ungodly will be exposed for who they are. (3:10)

Peter tells these Christians that because the world is so transient, they ought to be holy and godly, “waiting for and hastening [σπεύδοντας] the coming [τὴν παρουσίαν] of the day of God.” (3:11-12) Hastening? To what is Peter referring? As Richard Bauckham shows in his work on 2 Peter, it is likely that Peter is drawing from rabbinic ideas about God’s response to his people’s holy living that he would hasten the time of the End. Such views influenced other Christian literature (the epistle of 2 Clement, for example) and likely influenced the author of 2 Peter. So what does it mean then here in 2 Peter 5:12? Bauckham writes,

Clearly this idea of hastening the End is the corollary of the explanation (v 9) that God defers the Parousia because he desires Christians to repent. Their repentance and holy living may therefore, from the human standpoint, hasten its coming. (Bauckham, 1983, 325)

So then the author of 2 Peter likely believed that his readers could expedite the return of Jesus by living holy and godly lives. The end, then, would be near.

The Epistle of Jude and the Return of Jesus

The short epistle written by “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (1:1) was likely not written by anyone named Jude and was certainly not penned by the brother of James who was the brother of Jesus. In all liklihood , the epistle of Jude was written sometime near the end of the first century and before the epistle of 2 Peter as it is very clear that 2 Peter draws extensively from Jude. (Carroll, 2000, 138-139) Jude also uses extra-biblical sources such as the book of 1 Enoch in 1:9, despite the fact that it had not been accepted into the rabbinical canon, though in some Jewish and Christian circles it had been considered sacred scripture. (Moreschini & Norelli, 119)

Jude’s main concern in his epistle is false teachers who have “crept in unnoticed” and whose interest is in “pervert[ing] the grace of our God into sensuality” and in “deny[ing] our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (1:4) He gives examples of judgment ranging from the Jews during the Exodus (1:5), the “angels who did not stay within their own position of authority” (1:6), and Sodom and Gomorrah. (1:7) The false teachers have judgment coming on them for soon “the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment.” (1:14, 15)

The author of the epistle then reminds his readership of “the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:17) who had said, “In the last time [ἐσχάτου τοῦ χρόνου] there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” (1:18) This is an interesting verse because Jude is appealing to the tradition of the apostles in the past and their future prediction that “in the last time there will be scoffers.” And then Jude writes, “It is [εἰσιν] these who cause divisions [οἱ ἀποδιορίζοντες], worldly people, devoid [μὴ ἔχοντες] of the Spirit” (1:19) using a present tense verb and two present tense participle. Jude, then, connects the prediction of the apostles to the current situation that the Christian community finds itself in at that time which he considered “the last time.” So it appears that the author of Jude believed he was living in the time right before the return of Jesus who comes “with ten thousands of this holy ones.” 

The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Return of Jesus

One of my favorite New Testament books is the epistle to the Hebrews. The letter itself is anonymous but it is clear that it has been connected to the apostle Paul for some time. The earliest papyrus we have containing Hebrews – P46 – includes the epistle immediatley after the book of Romans. Other manuscripts place it after 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, Titus, Philemon, Philippians. (Metzger, 1994, 591-592) The inclusion of the letter in with Pauline-related epistles reveals that many thought Hebrews to have been penned by Paul. However, others still did not agree, including Irenaeus (second century CE), Tertullian (second century CE), and Hippolytus (third century CE). Tertullian connected it with Barnabas, a colleague of Paul’s. (Carson & Moo, 2005, 601) Dating the book of Hebrews is a nearly impossible task and it has been dated as early as before 64 CE (Bruce, 1964, xliii) to as late as the 90s CE. (Borg, 2012, 278) Regardless, it is likely a first-century document that was not written by the apostle Paul.

The epistle begins by connecting the work of God in the past to the work of God in the present.

Long ago [πάλαι], at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days [ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν ἡμερῶν τούτων] he has spoken to us by his Son.” (1:1-2) 

From the outset, the author reveals that the ministry of Jesus inaugurated the “last days” and that he and his readership are living in them. The letter contains various warnings against straying from the fath (2:1-4, 3:7-4:13, etc.) conveying a sense of urgency. Since Jesus had not returned by the time of his writing, perhaps some Christians had abandoned their faith causing them “to fall away from the living God.” (3:12) Regardless, the author’s interest is in promoting firm belief in Jesus since the return of Jesus “in these last days” was imminent. After all, Jesus had “appeared once for all at the end of the ages [συντελείᾳ τῶν αἰώνων] to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (9:26) He will “appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (9:28) 

It is clear, then, that the author of Hebrews – whoever he may be – believed that Jesus inaugurated the last days through his death “at the end of the ages,” and that he and his readers were living in those last days prior to Jesus’ return.

The Johnannine Literature and the Return of Jesus [3]

The Johannine literature – the Gospel of John, the three epistles of John, and the book of Revelation – were all likely composed in the 90s CE (or later). While the Gospel is anonymous, the three epistles and the book of Revelation all claim to have been written by John, a disciple of Jesus. For various reasons, this seems highly unlikely but it is possible that there was a “Johannine community” that penned material in his name. (Moreschini & Norelli, 83-84) The first of the Johannine material to be written was probably the Gospel though it is likely the product of redaction. (Borg, 304) The last to be written is perhaps the epistles.

The Gospel of John

The Gospel of John, though not overt in its eschatology, does reveal something about the author’s views on the return of Jesus. In the episode of the resurrection of Lazarus, Martha, Lazarus’ sister, says to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” (11:21-22) Jesus’ replies, “Your brother will rise again.” (11:23) Martha takes this to mean that Jesus is speaking of “the resurrection on the last day. [ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ]” (11:24) Jesus responds with one of the most famous of his sayings.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (11:25-26)

Notice that Jesus does not correct Martha’s understanding of the resurrection on the last day. Rather, Jesus clarifies that the resurrection of the last day is grounded in himself.

The eschatological rule of God for which Martha hopes, with all its blessings for humankind, is vested in Jesus. The greatest gift of God’s saving sovereignty is precisely life eternal under that sovereignty and entry upon it through resurrection. The power to initiate it resides in Jesus (“the Resurrection”) and to grant it in its fulness (“the Life”). (Beasley-Murray, 1999, 190)

Elsewhere, Jesus connects the resurrection to his present context.

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming [ἔρχεται ὥρα], and is now here [νῦν ἐστιν], when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live…..Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming [ἔρχεται ὥρα] when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (5:25, 28-29)

According to Jesus, an hour was coming and “is now here” (literally, “and now is”) when the dead would hear his voice and live. While some have tried to connect “the dead” who live when they hear Jesus’ voice to those who are “spiritually dead” (Calvin, 2009, 205-206), this seems unwarranted. Jesus is saying that the resurrection that comes on the last day is coming and now is because he is that resurrection. The last days, from his persepective, were then and there.

As we already noted above, the Gospel of John shows signs of redaction. One of those signs appears in the final chapter of the book. The Gospel shows all signs of reaching a natural end in 20:30-31 with the author’s own epilogue.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (20:3-31)

If the book ended there it would not affect the tone or message of the Gospel at all. And yet in 21:1-23 we read of another miracle of Jesus along with his words to Peter. After this the book seems to have yet another prologue. [4]

This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain athe books that would be written. (21:24-25)

Between 20:30-31 and 21:24-25 we have a story about an appearance of Jesus along the Sea of Galilee (“the Sea of Tiberias,” cf. 6:1). The disciples had gone fishing the night before and had caught nothing. (21:1-4) In the morning, they see someone on the shore and this man says to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” When they respond negatively, the man says, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” This they do and they caught so many fish that the could not bring the net onto the boat. Then “the disciple whom Jesus loved” said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (21:4-7)

Peter’s response is immediate. He put on his outer garment and dives into the water. The other disciples follow in their boat which was only a few hundred feet off shore. They find Jesus cooking fish on a charcoal fire. He tells them to bring their fish to cook as well. (21:8-14) After breakfast, Jesus asks Peter a question. “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter replies, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus then says to him, “Feed my lambs.” (21:15-15) This series of question, answer, and command is repeated two more times (21:16-17) and finishes with Jesus telling Peter about the disciple’s fate.

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go. (21:18)

The narrator then comments, “This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.” (21:19)

Peter was probably taken back by this prophetic utterance and he immediately wonders why he has been singled out. He sees the disciple whom Jesus loved and asks Jesus, “What about this man?” (21:20-21) Jesus replies, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (21:22) There is a strong implication that Jesus meant John would not die before his return, so strong that the author of the Gospel says, “So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die.” But the author tries to clarify: “[Y]et Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?'” (21:23) Why this clarification? Why does the author try to correct the misunderstanding?

In the opinion of some scholars, it was because some members of the Johannine community had expected that their beloved leader, this unnamed disciple, would not die before the coming of the end. When he did, they were thrown into confusion. Had the Lord gone back on his promise? The Johannine author constructs the story to explain that Jesus never had said “that he would not die” (21:23). If this interpretation is correct, then the Gospel would have been published in its final form, with the addition of chapter 21, only after the death of the beloved disciple, and probably after the martyrdom of Peter as well (see 21:18-19). (Ehrman, 183)

The community of believers clearly believed that the coming of Jesus would happen soon, in the lifetime of their leader. The death of John, then, was an indicator that perhaps it had been delayed.

The Book of Revelation

The book of Revelation is the only canonical Christian apocalyptic work. It is pure eschatology, but not of the Left Behind variety. The author of Revelation says that the information in the book of Revelation was revaled to him “to show to his servants the things that must soon take place” (1:1) and he makes it known that “the time is near” (1:3) and that Jesus would be “coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.” (21:7) Jesus himself says to the angel of the church in Pergamum, “I will come to you soon and war against [the Nicolaitans] with the sword of my mouth.” (2:16)

The end of the book of Revelation reveals the same. An angel says to John that “these words [i.e. the book of Revelation] are trustworthy and true” and God sent the angel to John “to show his servants what must soon take place.” (22:6, cf. 1:1) The angel also commands John to not seal up the book “for the time is near.” (22:10, cf. 1:3) Three times Jesus says, “I am coming soon.” (22:7, 12, 20) It is quite clear that the viewpoint of the book of Revelation is that the return of Jesus would happen “soon.”

The Epistles of John

The first epistle attributed to John are far more explicit in its eschatology than is the Gospel. John writes, “Children, it is the last hour [ἐσχάτη ὥρα], and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore [ὅθεν] we know that it is the last hour.” (2:18) While 2 John does mention the antichrist (1:7), neither 2 or 3 John have anything significant to say regarding the return of Jesus. Nevertheless, the view in at least 1 John is that the return of Jesus would be happening soon because they were living in “the last hour.”

The Gospel of Mark and the Return of Jesus

Mark’s Gospel, the earliest of the four canonical Gospels to be written, shares its imminent eschatological view with the rest of the New Testament. The Gospel opens with a quote from two Hebrew prophets – Malachi and Isaiah. The citation from Malachi is from its third chapter. In context, the question had been asked, “Where is the God of justice?” (2:17) The answer from Yahweh through Malachi is,

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come in his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap. (3:1-2)

Mark’s appropriation of Malachi’s words in Mark 1:2 is an indication that his narrative of Jesus’ life and ministry is part of the end of time, that the God of justice is coming. So when we read Jesus’ very first words in Mark – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (1:15) – we can feel the sense of urgency with which he speaks. He has inaugurated the end of all things.

It has been observed that one of Mark’s themes is discipleship through suffering. “The way of Christian discipleship,” writes theologian David Garland, “is not a triumphant procession with victory after victory but a way barbed by enmity and pocked by personal failures.” (Garland, 2015, 510) And since it is likely that Mark is writing to a group of believers just before or just after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, this theme of the book would have been readily apparent. The destruction of the temple is in Jerusalem in 70 CE is a concern taken up by Jesus through Mark in 13:1-2 and is followed up by a discourse on the end of the age. (13:3-37)

Because there is significant overlap between Mark 13 and Matthew 24, the passage we are interested in exegeting, I will not go into the text of Mark 13. I will draw comparisons in our exegesis on Matthew 24. For now, it would be worthwhile to note the significant parallels between Mark 13 and Mark 14-15. (Garland, 512)

  1. A prediction is made about the destruction of the temple. (13:2) It is claimed of him that Jesus said he would destroy the temple and build it again in three days. (14:58) He is mocked on this point. (15:29)
  2. There is a command for the disciples to watch in chapter 13 (13:5, 9, 23, 33, 35, 37) and in chapter 14 (14:34, 37-38).
  3. There is a prediction made by Jesus that the disciples will be handed over to various  religious councils and political authorities. (13:9) Jesus is handed over to a religious council and to the Roman authorities.
  4. There is a prediction that the disciples will be betrayed by family members. (13:12) Jesus is betrayed by one of his own disciples. (14:10, 11, 18, 21, 41-45)
  5. There is a mentioning of the hour. (13:23, 33) Jesus states that the hour has come. (14:41)
  6. There is a prediction that the sun will be darkened in “those days.” (13:26) At his crucifixion, darkness sweeps over the land. (15:33)
  7. Jesus predicts that the Son of Man will come in the clouds and with power and glory. (13:26) Jesus predicts before the council that they will see him seated at God’s right hand and coming with the clouds of heaven. (14:62)
  8. There is a warning to watch so that when the master returns the servants are not found sleeping. (13:35-36)
  9. The disciples fall asleep while on watch and Jesus finds them sleeping. (14:17, 37, 40)

It is clear that the Mark 13 discourse serves not just the function of giving Mark’s readers an eschatology but to set up the narrative for the events about to unfold in Jesus’ life. These events in Jesus’ life serve as reminders to Mark’s readers that just as Jesus faced great opposition and persecution, so to will they as the end approaches. Yet “the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (13:13)

Luke-Acts and the Return of Jesus

The Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are two books likely written by the same author. The Gospel tells the story of Jesus and his ministry among his disciples and the book of Acts tells the story of the disciples after Jesus had left this world.

Luke’s Gospel, after the dedication to Theophilus (1:1-4), essentially begins with eschatology. As Zechariah the priest is serving in the temple, an angel appears to him and tells him that he and his barren wife Elizabeth will have a child who will “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God…to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (1:16, 17) Prepared for what? The answer comes in 1:30-33. To Mary an angel says,

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

Jesus’ entry into the world was a sign that the promises made to David (2 Samuel 7:12-16) as well as the expectation and promise of Yahweh that “the house of Jacob” would be restored. (Isaiah 9:1-7) John the Baptist served as the one who would prepare the people of Israel for this coming king.

One of the first signs in Luke that Jesus has inaugurated the end comes in 4:16-21. Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth and, “as was his custom,” he goes into the synagogue on the sabbath and reads. That day, the reading was from Isaiah. Jesus unfurls the scroll and locates Isaiah 61:1-2. It says,

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn.

We must not forget that chapter and verse divisions were not added to biblical texts until centuries after they were written. So Jesus finds a particular section he wants to read and ends at “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” But what Jesus does next is telling. He rolls the scroll back up, hands it to the attendant, sits down, and as everyone is staring at him he says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (4:20-21) The year of Jubilee and the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel that “whereas you have been forsaken and hated, with no one passing through, I will make you majestic forever” (Isaiah 60:15) is in Jesus’ arrival to Israel. The kingdom of God was in their midst. (Luke 17:21)

As we indicated in our discussion on Mark 13, Luke 21 contains a discussion of the destruction of the temple and the end of the age that is featured in Matthew 24. (Though Luke offers more details, likely from his post-fall of Jerusalem perspective.) Let’s shift to the book of Acts and its eschatological view point.

In Acts 1:6-11, Jesus is asked if he will restore the kingdom of Israel. (1:6) He tells the disciples that it isn’t for them to know “the times or the seasons” of God’s plan. However, the power of God through the Holy Spirit would come upon them and they would be Jesus’ “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (1:8) As he says this to them, he is taken up into a cloud where two men say to the disciples, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (1:11)

While the disciples are gathered together “in one place” (2:1) the Holy Spirit comes and they begin to speak in other tongues. People think they are drunk (2:13) and so Peter preaches a sermon to the scoffers. He appeals to the Hebrew prophet Joel and quotes Joel 2:28-32. There the prophet had written,

And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.

Now, if you compare Joel’s words and Peter’s you might have noticed a major difference. Whereas Peter says, “And in the last days it shall be [καὶ ἔσται ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις],” Joel says, “And it shall come to pass afterward [וְהָיָה אַחֲרֵי].” In the LXX, Joel’s words are translated as Καὶ ἔσται μετὰ ταῦτα, “And it will be after this.” So where is Peter getting “in the last days”?

In all likelihood, Peter is getting it from Joel himself. [5] The book of Joel uses the phrase “the day of the LORD” five times: 1:15, 2:1, 2:11, 2:31, and 3:14. Peter recognizes that the last days, those leading up to “the day of the LORD,” are upon them. The change from καὶ ἔσται μετὰ ταῦτα to ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις is probably “to emphasize that the events of Pentecost do belong to the activity of God in the last days: a new age has arrived.” (Marshall, 2007, 534) For Peter (and therefore Luke) the last days had arrived and one of the signs was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Later while Peter and John are in Solomon’s Portico, a crowd gathers and Peter offers another sermon about Jesus. (3:11-26) He calls them to repent of their sins so that

times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of the holy prophets long ago. (3:19-21)

The connection to repenting and the return of Jesus is also evident in 2 Peter where we saw that believers were called to repent (2 Peter 3:9) and were to live holy and godly lives to hasten the coming of Jesus’ return. (3:11-12) Here, Peter is calling the “men of Israel” (Acts 3:12) to repent of their wickedness so that “your sins may be blotted out” (3:19), “that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,” “and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.” (3:20) For Luke in the book of Acts, then, Christ’s return was imminent and the characters in his narrative believed they were living in the last days.

The subject of Jesus’ return does not come up in the rest of Acts though Paul mentions “day on which [God] will judge the world in righteousness.” (17:31) The return of Jesus as such is not in view and Acts ends with Paul in Rome “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (28:31)

The Gospel of Matthew and the Return of Jesus

I have left Matthew for last because it is in that Gospel we read Jesus words that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:34) Matthew and Luke draw much of their material from Mark, the earliest of the Gospels (see above). So does Matthew display an imminent eschatology also? Yes, but with a catch.

Although Jesus speaks in Matthew of the near approach of the parousia for his generation (10:23; 16:27-28; 24:34; cf. 23:36), the narrative addresses an audience that has experienced a delay in the fulfillment of the promised eschatological events. (Carroll, 20)

In other words, while Matthew’s Jesus certainly believes the end was coming soon, its delay was explained by the parables of 24:45-25:13. The master/bridegroom had been delayed; the end would still be soon but “concerning that day and hour no one knows…but the Father only.” (24:36)

The eschatological motif isn’t surprising. We see it all over in Matthew. For example, Jesus proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (4:17) Jesus also differentiates between two ages: the present and the one to come. (12:32) It is this present age that is coming to an end to make way for the next and Jesus’ coming into the world signifies that the end is near. It is no surprise that before he is crucified, Jesus discusses the end of the world. He has come to Jerusalem to be its king but there was still some events that had to take place before that could happen. And so in Matthew 24 we read in the Olivet Discourse the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem and the “sign of the Son of Man.” (24:30) Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the Son of Man would return “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” But this didn’t happen and the readers of Matthew’s Gospel knew it. So why? Well, the parables that don’t appear in Mark or Luke explain. There has been a delay!

I must confess here that I had fully intended to compose an exegesis of Matthew 24 and I did in fact write well over three thousand words on it with much of the passage left to work on. I decided against including it here for two reasons: 1) I was running out of time to get this post done so that it can be posted with the rest and 2) I needed to really dig deeper into both the Markan and Lukan accounts, especially the Markan account, to bring out more fully what the Matthean version is saying. Sometimes comparing and contrasting parallel passages can highlight the purposes of each.

Summary

We have touched on every single New Testament work except for Deutero-Paul. In passing we can note that there are eschatologically interesting passages (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, for example) that have been dealt with in various commentaries. I have not been as thorough as I perhaps should have been in my own analysis but we must move on. Suffice it to say, the view of the New Testament seems to be that 1) Jesus’ arrival in the world inaugurated the last days and 2) the return of Jesus was expected to happen in the lifetime of the authors of the New Testament.

“THIS GENERATION”

Now we can ask the question as to what Jesus meant when he said, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (24:34) Thomason wrote,

The interpretation of the word “generation” has led some people to believe that Jesus was referring to a generation of people. The original Greek word for generation is “genea (γενεά),” which means generation, race, family, times, or nation. In Acts 14:16, genea translates to times. “In the past times, he let all nations go their own way.” In Acts 15:21, genea also refers to times. “For the Law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” In Philippians 2:15, genea translates as a nation. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” Some scholars believe genea refers to the nation of Israel. The translation to times may also be the case, considering the earth’s age (4.5BY) and the time since Jesus walked the earth is relatively short.

Reading Thomason’s botched exegesis would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. While she is correct that the word translated in 24:34 as “generation” is γενεά, the rest is problematic.

For starters, she doesn’t bother to see how Matthew uses the term and compare it with 24:34. Instead, she runs to Acts and Philippians, works written by other New Testament authors. Had she bothered to see how Matthew uses the word γενεά she would have discovered her error. The word γενεά appears over forty-times in the New Testament and ten of those occurences is in the Gospel of Matthew. Over and over again when γενεά appears it is almost exclusively in reference to Jesus’ contemporaries. The only exception to this would be the four occurences of γενεά in Matthew 1:17, and even then a generation is only about forty years. Let’s list the other six times γενεά appears.

Matthew 11:16-17

But to what shall I compare this generation [τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην]? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 

We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.”

In context, τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην must refer to the critics of both John the Baptist and Jesus who apparently couldn’t make up their mind as to what Jesus’ ministry should look like. In other words, it is in reference to a specific group of Jesus’ contemporaries. 

Matthew 12:38-42

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation [γενεὰ] seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation [τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης] and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation [τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης] and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

There are three instances of γενεά here, two with the form of τῆς γενεᾶς ταύτης. It is quite clear that the “evil and adulterous” γενεά to which Jesus is referring is the generation of the scribes and Pharisees who are seeking a sign from Jesus. Jesus tells them that the “men of Nineveh” – the ones who repented when they witnessed Jonah and listend to his preaching – would judge them – “this generation” – because something far greater than Jonah was in their midst. Similarly, the queen of the South would rise up in judgment against “this generation” because though she came from afar to hear the great Solomon, Jesus was far greater than Solomon. In other words, because the scribes and Pharisees would not listen to Jesus, their generation would be judged. That is, these contemporaries of Jesus would face great condemnation for not following Jesus. 

Matthew 16:4

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation [γενεὰ] seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

As in 12:38-42, Jesus’ opponents try to entice him to show him a sign but he reiterates that the only sign that will be given to them is the sign of Jonah. Why? Because they are “an evil and adulterous” γενεὰ. Again, Jesus is using γενεὰ to refer to a specific group at a specific time – they are his contemporaries!

Matthew 17:17

And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation [γενεὰ], how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

This response of Jesus is because a man brought his son to Jesus telling him that his disciples could not heal the boy. Jesus’ words are almost a lament that he will not be with them – a “faithless and twisted” γενεὰ – for long. He would have to leave to go to his Father at some point. But it is clear that γενεὰ here refers to Jesus’ own contemporaries.

Matthew 23:29-36

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation [τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην]. 

Here we have the famous “woes” Jesus makes against the “scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” In his final woe, Jesus mocks the Pharisees who claim that they would not have been so wicked and murdered the prophets if they had been alive during their fathers’ day. But Jesus tells them that he will send to them “prophets and wise men and scribes,” people whom they will murder. Such murderous actions will be undertaken by “this generation,” that is, the Pharisees and scribes Jesus was speaking with.

Matthew 24:34

This brings us to the final γενεὰ of Matthew.

Truly, I say to you, this generation [ γενεὰ αὕτη] will not pass away until all these things take place.

The “these things” Jesus is referring to is what preceded in Matthew 24:4-31. So the destruction of the temple and the return of the Son of Man would happen before the current generation would pass away. To claim, as Thomason does, that it means something other than this is to ignore how Matthew has used γενεὰ throughout his work. She has offered no plausible reason why Matthew would suddenly use γενεὰ in a way other than how he has used it in every case before 24:34!

The fact of the matter is that the full expectation of Jesus and of his followers was that the end of the world was close at hand, within their own lifetimes. Thomason’s poor, eisegetical understanding of γενεὰ in Matthew 24:34 is just her attempt to make the text “work” so as to avoid its clear implications.

ENDNOTES

[1] The letters of Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, and Titus were likely not composed by Paul and are considered “Deutero-Paul.” For more, see Ehrman, 2016, 438-457.

[2] Greek does not require that a pronoun be used to accompany a verb. Verbs contain in their own conjugation information about their tense (present, imperfect, aorist, future, perfect, pluperfect), voice (active, middle, or passive), mood (indicative, imperative, subjunctive, or optative), number (singular or plural), and person (first, second, or third).

[3] For an excellent run down on the return of Jesus in the Johannine Literature, see Carroll, 77-112.

[4] For more on this and other signs of apparent redaction see Ehrman, 177-182.

[5] It should be noted that some ancient manuscripts (B, 076, etc.) of Acts change ἐν ταῖς ἐσχάταις ἡμέραις to μετὰ ταῦτα so that it fits with the Septuagint reading. Metzger notes that such a change “is inappropriate for the context” and that “the presence of μετὰ ταῦτα” in these other manuscripts “should be regarded as the work of an Alexandrian corrector who brought the quotation in Acts into strict conformity with the prevailing text of the Septuagint.” (Metzger, 256)

PRINTED WORKS CITED

Richard J. Bauckham. Jude, 2 Peter. WBC, vol. 50. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1983.

Marcus J. Borg. Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2012.

Alexandra R. Brown. “Paul and the Parousia.” In John T. Carroll. The Return of Jesus in Early Christianity. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000.

F.F. Bruce. The Epistle to the Hebrews. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964.

F.F. Bruce. 1 & 2 Thessalonians. WBC, vol. 45. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.

John T. Carroll. “The Parousia of Jesus in Other New Testament Writings.” In John T. Carroll. The Return of Jesus in Early Christianity. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000.

Bart D. Ehrman. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

David E. Garland. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.

Bruce M. Metzger. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. Second edition. Germany: German Bible Society, 1994.

Claudio Moreschini and Enrico Norelli. Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature: A Literary History, volume 1. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005.

Featured Image: By Unknown – My own collection, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52494035

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Excellent work on this. And the conclusions you draw from the textual data are faithful to each author’s views and beliefs. With reference to Matthew, your exegesis assumes that we are analyzing the words of Jesus, “generation” in relationship to his contemporaries. I recall reading some time ago, that instead we might understand these words as those of Matthew, where his Jesus is peaking to Matthew’s audience. This understanding—and I’m not saying this is the correct reading—doesn’t change your conclusions on the term gennea; it just moves us from one generation to the next, where it is now Matthew and his audience that—like Paul before them—believe Jesus’ parousia to be at hand in their generation.

    On another note, I find it disturbing that not many modern Christians actually grapple with these ancient texts and come to terms with the fact that this author believed one thing, another believed another thing, and they as modern Christians believe yet another. The “exegetical” impulse is to read to validate the modern reader’s beliefs and to reduce the beliefs (varied) of these authors to those of the modern reader. There is no attempt to understand the hows and whys of the beliefs of these ancient writers—as you have done here—but rather merely to authenticate a modern belief about these texts, and often at the expense of these authors’ beliefs.

    I’ve been working too long with the Pentateuch, need to get back to the NT.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Your exegesis assumes that we are analyzing Jesus’ words….”

      That is a good point. It seems unlikely he uttered those words, though from what I’ve read people predicting the end of the world and the destruction of the Temple were a dime a dozen. But as you indicated, the author of Matthew may be using it in a way so that every generation before the parousia is “this generation.”

      Thank you for your comment!

      Like

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