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I'm curious specifically regarding the translation of the word "generation" here in Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32.

Matthew 24:34 (NIV) Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

Is the word "generation" a good translation for this word that Jesus uses here? Can (or should) this be translated to something else?

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Here is a related exegetic question about the subject: What does Jesus mean by generation when talking about the end times? – Richard Nov 15 '11 at 16:40

Definition

Let's look at the Greek here:

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The original word for "this generation" is genea. Strong's concordance for this shows:

1) fathered, birth, nativity
2) that which has been begotten, men of the same stock, a family
   a) the several ranks of natural descent, the successive members of a 
      genealogy
   b) metaph. a group of men very like each other in endowments, pursuits, 
      character
      1) esp. in a bad sense, a perverse nation
3) the whole multitude of men living at the same time
4) an age (i.e. the time ordinarily occupied be each successive generation), a 
   space of 30 - 33 years

Definitions 3 and 4 here obviously would include only the people alive at the time that the words were spoken. Definitions 1 and 2 could include people that were not currently alive.

Concordance

If we look at other places where this word is translated, we can see that it's also translated as "times".

Acts 14:16 (NIV) In the past times, he let all nations go their own way.

Acts 15:21 (NIV) For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.

We can also see genea being translated as "nation" in the old King James Version:

Phillipians 2:15 (KJV)
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;

However, the original KJV is the only version that uses this this translation (as even the New King James Version uses "generation").

Summary

"Generation" is the best translation, although "times" could be used. According to the definition, "lineage" could also be a translation. However, given that genea is not translated as "lineage" in any major translation, I would hesitate using that.

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If you assume that Jesus was not trying to trick his disciples, Matt 24:34 would be referring to events Jesus had previously mentioned that were to be fulfilled during the generation of his disciples. Those events included the end of the age:

"And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"" -- Mat 24:2-3 NKJV

We know from the scriptures that some of the things he mentioned were fulfilled; for example:

"But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in ALL THE WORLD as a witness TO ALL THE NATIONS, and then the end will come." -- Mat 24:13-14 NKJV

In that passage Jesus said the gospel would be preached to "all the world", and to "all nations", and then the "end" would come. In a parallel passage in Mark, he said the gospel would be preached to "every creature".

"And He said to them, "Go into ALL THE WORLD and preach the gospel TO EVERY CREATURE." -- Mar 16:15 NKJV

The fulfillments and supporting scripture:

"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that ALL THE WORLD [= the Roman Empire] should be taxed." -- Luk 2:1 KJV

"Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known TO ALL NATIONS for the obedience of faith:" -- Rom 16:25-26 KJV

"For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in ALL THE WORLD; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:" -- Col 1:5-6 KJV

"If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached TO EVERY CREATURE which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;" -- Col 1:23 KJV

We know from history that the temple was completely leveled: that every stone of the temple was "thrown down", as Jesus prophesied.

We know from a combination of history and scripture that the abomination of desolation was the arrival of the Roman armies on Judaean soil. Josephus records an event where General Vitellius was confronted by the Jews when he attempted to march his armies through Judaea:

"So Vitellius prepared to make war with Aretas, having with him two legions of armed men . . . But as he was marching very busily, and leading his army through Judea, the principal men met him, and desired that he would not thus march through their land; for that the laws of their country would not permit them to overlook those images [eagles] which were brought into it, of which there were a great many in their ensigns . . . Whereupon he ordered the army to march along the great plain, while he himself, with Herod the tetrarch and his friends, went up to Jerusalem" [William Whiston, Antiquities of the Jews, "The Works of Flavius Josephus Vol 3." George Bell& Sons, 1889, Book XVIII.5.3, Mat 24:15, pp.284-85]

Jesus warned the Christians to flee when they saw the abomination of desolation standing in the "holy place":

"Therefore when you see the "abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains." -- Mat 24:15-16 NKJV

And Jesus gave the same warning to flee when the armies of Cestius Gallus arrived on Judaean soil:

"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains" -- Luk 21:20-21 NKJV

These three passages are fairly convincing evidence that the abomination of desolation was the arrival of the Roman armies.

For the record, Cestius and his armies left Jerusalem for unknown reasons, giving the Christians time to flee.

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