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?


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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  • How does this theology address the question, the meaning of the Greek word γενεά? Whether this verse is prophetic or it ever came about offers no insight into the meaning of the vocabulary. – Schuh Oct 20 '16 at 21:10
  • It is difficult to avoid theology when discussing the scripture. Perhaps the best way to translate the word is to use the first reference: – LXX Researcher Dec 4 '16 at 3:56
  • I didn't realize my comment would post if I hit "Enter". This is the first instance of γένεσις in the New Testament: '"The book of the generation [γένεσις] of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." -- Mat 1:1 KJV' – LXX Researcher Dec 4 '16 at 4:01


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 
   b) metaph. a group of men very like each other in endowments, pursuits, 
      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.


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").


"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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I agree with your subtext, if I am not mistaken, that getting Matt 24:34 (“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”) correct is key to understanding the Olivet discourse.

However, I don’t think that a detailed investigation of the “dictionary definition” of γενιά (generation) is the way to go in this case. (Forgive me if my copy-and-paste lexicon Greek is not up to scratch!)

By looking at the use of the phrase this generation in v.34’s broadest biblical context (taking Ps. 12 and Ps. 24 as examples) and then homing in to the synoptic gospels (in particular the two aimed at a Hebrew audience, namely Matthew itself, and also Mark), I believe that the meaning of this phrase becomes immediately and abundantly clear, resulting in a cascade of clarity around v.34’s immediate context (v.32-35: “‘Now learn the parable from the fig tree…but My words will not pass away.’”) as well as the broader context of the entire discourse.

Psalm 12:7

  • “You, O Lord, will keep them; You will preserve him from this generation forever.”
  • It is clear from the context that "this generation" is evil. They are ungodly (v.1a [by implication]); unfaithful (v.1b [by implication]); deceitful (v.2a) and hypocritical (v.2b).
  • The focus is not on a group of people traveling through 70 revolutions of the Earth around the sun, but rather on their attitude and behaviour in relation to God and his will.

Psalm 24:6

  • “This is the generation of those who seek Him, Who seek Your face — even Jacob.”
  • In this case, it’s clear from the context that the phrase is referring to people who are earnestly desiring a closer walk with God. They are for God, unlike the group in Ps. 12, who are against him.

Turning now to the synoptic gospels:

Matthew 12:41

  • “‘The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.’”
  • The group referred to stands in opposition to God. The focus is, again, on their attitude, not their lifespan.

Matthew 12:42

  • “‘The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it…’”
  • "This generation" will be judged for their refusal to recognize the greatness of Jesus.

Mark 8:12

  • “Sighing deeply in His spirit, He *said, ‘Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.’”
  • Again, the focus is on the rebellious nature of this group’s heart towards God.

Mark 8:38 :

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.

  • The pattern is clear, I’m sure.

These examples represent just a sample of the use of this phrase - the full gamut of which can be researched exhaustively using an online tool like Biblegateway.com.

Now, if we take the liberty of unpacking the use of this phrase slightly in Mk 24:32-34, we get:

“‘Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this adulterous and sinful generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.’”

I believe that this is what Jesus was getting at – that for as long as Earth continues in its fallen, judged state, there will be people around who stand in opposition to his lordship, and that this will continue up until the second coming and the ushering in of his perfect kingdom in all its spiritual and physical fullness.

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  • i'm not disagreeing with you necessarily. I jus wonder who'd think rebellion and sinfulness might pass away before all these things take place – Walter S Jun 15 at 0:21
  • Ah, yes I kinda short-circuited my response near the end.. I think the reason Jesus talks about the sinful generation not passing away until the end, is related to his corrective of the error in the disciples eschatological timing, betrayed in their concertinaed query around the destruction of the temple. It’s as if Jesus says “hang on - the end will indeed come, but before then there’ll be a bunch of stuff brought about by this sinful generation. But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, run for your lives! And these sinful things will keep occurring till judgement day, mark my words. – Ashley Roberts Jun 15 at 20:32
  • Welcome to BH. I have edited one of your quotations so that you can see how it is done - to highlight a quoted reference. Please feel free to roll back if you wish. – Nigel J Jun 17 at 21:51

If it is assumed that Jesus was not trying to trick his disciples then “the generation” of My “the words” in Matthew 24:34 and 35 are sure to find fulfillment. The events preceding verse 34 are sure to occur because He spoke them – He generated them.

A look at the phrase ho genea in the gospel writings will bear out the lack of any discrete time component and will conversely usually reveal the use of a supporting phrase to further define the specific ho genea. For example, the events in the first part of Matthew 12:45 results in tE genea tautE tE phoEra - the generation this the wicked, or this (the) wicked (the) generation. The “wicked generation” is a specific generation, which might stand in contrast a “good generation.” There is no timeframe limits given for either generation.

When “all these things” in Matthew 24:34 have been fulfilled then the generation (ho genea) of His words will pass away (parerchomai), but not before. So sure is His word that even heaven and earth are more likely to be passing away (parerchomai), yet by comparison His “the words” (verse 35) shall not be passing away (parerchomai). In other words, His words shall not pass away is more sure than the continuous existence of the heaven and the earth.

The actual day and hour that His generation will find fulfillment (pass away) is delineated in Matthew 24:36. Only Father knows the timing of that final generation (genea) of people that will “see” all these things that Jesus spoke (generated - ho genea) fulfilled.

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  • 1
    So, what is the best English translation of the Greek γενεά, in your view? – Schuh Oct 20 '16 at 21:14
  • Schuh - "Generation" works well. Discover what is being generated and there is a generation. – LWise Oct 21 '16 at 23:19

Yes, in the Greek the word is genea. The best translation of that word (especially in context) is race. Jesus is talking about the fig tree. That is the Israelite race. Look also at what He says about the fig tree after leaving the temple in Matthew 21. All of this is about the Nation of Israel not passing away before all these prophecies are accomplished. A lot of confusion has arisen because of the misinterpretation of this word (full/hyper preterist beliefs). But, I believe they are missing the point of what Jesus was saying here. The Israelite race will not disappear until the Son of Man returns.

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"Generation" is a perfect word! Just because it is a very precise word, it also creates an alogism and paradox, for, in fact, Jesus speaks not only about the destruction of the Temple, but intertwines and, so to express, "rubs into" or "kneads into" the narrative of Tempe destruction also the narrative of the End of Times.

Now, this is exactly the "stumbling block" for interpreters, and in fact all the above interpreters dodged this stumbling block, having made thus a desperate and doomed, not to say, tasteless attempt of "taming" as it were, untamable words of Jesus! Because, it is clear, that those people standing there all died before the End of Times, did not come even close to its unknown remoteness! Then, what? - was Jesus mistaken? Did He, who possesses Spirit unlimitedly and infinitely (John 3:34) and knows Father just as is Himself known by the Father (John 10:15), err with regard of future? Blasphemy and idiocy to entertain such a rotten thought even for a second! Then what, indeed, then what? - does He imply in that also the people standing in front of Him, who would die within 20-50 or max. 70 years, will also be fully participants of the events of the End of the World?

The only possible answer is that in all epochs there is the absolutely same intensity of opposition between Good and evil (I write first with capital letters, for Good has ontological substance and reality, whereas evil is just a deviation without having ontological substance). As the physical birth happens equally with all humans of all epochs, and also the physical death happens equally with all humans of all epochs, so also all humans of all epochs equally participate or do not participate in second birth in Spirit (John 3:3) and in voluntary death for sin (Romans 6:11).

Thus, the good and brave Christian guys who will live in the time of Antichrist and will valorously withstand the persecution of the latter will in no way have any advantage over us, who will not be there, because in our own historical time too there happens the fight of Christians against powers of evil with absolutely same intensity, and so, we participate or not participate in this fight absolutely similarly as the guys during historical End of Times will participate or not participate in it. Therefore, it is quite possible for me not to go to Machu Picchu in Peru and die without seeing this wonderful sightseeing, but it is absolutely excluded that either I, or anybody else, will circumvent the great fight of Good and evil both in our hearts and in our present history, and either to succumb to evil and live in and for our sins, or to die for our sins, defeat evil and be born in Spirit.

So it is impossible for any of us not to undergo the experience of the End of the Times, for all of us will stand in front of the dilemma "either"-"or": either be courageous in Christ and defeat evil, or be pusillanimous and be defeated.

Therefore, it is a thought-provoking truthful paradox given by the Lord to people, that they will participate both in the destruction of Jerusalem Temple, and in the End of the Time events.

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Generation, γενεά, first occurs in Matthew 1:17, Πᾶσαι οὖν αἱ γενεαὶ ἀπὸ Ἀβραὰμ ἕως Δαυὶδ γενεαὶ δεκατέσσαρες, καὶ ἀπὸ Δαυὶδ ἕως τῆς μετοικεσίας Βαβυλῶνος γενεαὶ δεκατέσσαρες, καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς μετοικεσίας Βαβυλῶνος ἕως τοῦ Χριστοῦ γενεαὶ δεκατέσσαρες.

It is likely that Matthew enumerates Abraham's seed after Genesis 15:5, And He took him outside, and He said, "Please look heavenward and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So will be your seed." because Matthew begins with: Βίβλος γενέσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ Δαυὶδ υἱοῦ Ἀβραάμ, since βίβλος translates Hebrew סֵ֔פֶר, "sefer", like in Genesis 5:1, זֶ֣ה סֵ֔פֶר תּֽוֹלְדֹ֖ת אָדָ֑ם -- LXX αὕτη ἡ βίβλος γενέσεως ἀνθρώπων, "sefer" being from the root "safar" = to count

And more Matthew 2 continues with the appearance of a star. Matthew 2:2, εἴδομεν γὰρ αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀστέρα ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ LXX Genesis 15:5, ἀνάβλεψον δὴ εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ ἀρίθμησον τοὺς ἀστέρας

ἀριθμὸς = number; even gematrial (Revelation 13:18, ὁ ἔχων νοῦν ψηφισάτω τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ θηρίου - the one who has understanding let him calculate the number of the beast)

The number of Hebrew "kochav", star, being 42 , like the 3x14 generations (at least if you leave out the "vav" as being mater lectionis)

It suggests that "this generation" of Matthew 24:34 coincides the 42nd and last generation of Abraham's promised seed, a generation that lasts until the end of time. After the birth of Jesus Christ no other Christ(s) will ever be born. Matthew 1:18, Τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἡ γένεσις οὕτως ἦν.

The same is suggested in Matthew 28:20, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ μεθ' ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος. And see I am with you all the days until the end of time

which finally answers the question the disciples did ask in Matthew 24:3, Εἰπὲ ἡμῖν πότε ταῦτα ἔσται, καὶ τί τὸ σημεῖον τῆς σῆς παρουσίας καὶ συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος Tell us when these things will be, and what is the sign of your presence and of the end of time

the sign might be well the sign of Jonah -- i.e. the plucked off olive leaf in it's mouth (Genesis 8:11)

The olive has to be pressed to obtain the oil https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/32421/22953

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Matthew 24 begins with the disciples admiring Herod's magnificent temple compound and Jesus raining on their parade by announcing that not only is the temple compound going to be utterly destroyed in divine judgement but so also Jerusalem will be judged and destroyed:

NIV Matthew 24:1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Later they ask him when this will happen:

NIV Matthew 24:3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Note that they ask him about the end of the age not the end of the world. This is why "preterism" is also called "covenant eschatology". That is, the eschatology found in Matthew 24 and the rest of the NT is ALL about the 1st century, not our modern times because it is in the first century that "all these things" came to pass, just as Jesus foretold:

NIV Matthew 24:34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

[Act 3:24 YLT] 24 and also all the prophets from Samuel and those following in order, as many as spake, did also foretell of these days.

Notice that it can't be the "race" he is speaking of because he clearly distinguishes the current generation from their fathers, upon whom the visitation did not fall:

[Mat 23:32-38 KJV] 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 [Ye] serpents, [ye] generation [IE: "babies"] of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? 34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and [some] of them ye shall kill and crucify; and [some] of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute [them] from city to city: 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth [IE: "promised land"], from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, **All these things shall come upon this generation. 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [thou] that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under [her] wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

In Matthew 24 Jesus clearly predicts a divine visitation on the Jews that rejected him and those he sent:

[Mat 21:36-45 KJV] 36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. 37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39 And they caught him, and cast [him] out of the vineyard, and slew [him]. 40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out [his] vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. 42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. 44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. 45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.

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  • The disciples didn't just ask about the sign heralding 'the end of the age', but also the sign 'of your coming'. Jesus appears to describe both - in verses not addressed here, he specifically mentions 'the coming of the son of man'. Is he referring to two separate events (many years apart) or are they to occur at the same time (or one immediately after the other)? – Possibility Dec 20 '18 at 22:54
  • He came in judgment in 70ad and joined with the Roman army in destroying Jerusalem and the temple. This is a decent introduction: youtube.com/watch?v=KtMDncVazHk – Ruminator Dec 20 '18 at 23:26
  • Are you suggesting that he sent his angels at that time to also separate out the 'weeds' and throw them into the fire? This same 'end of the age' συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος is also described in Matthew 13:40 & 49. – Possibility Dec 21 '18 at 1:56
  • Yes, the very same. There is only one end of the age and that was when God used Rome to judge Israel, destroy the temple and end the covenants with Israel. Jesus also emptied Hades and judged the dead. And death has been destroyed ("swallowed up in victory"). – Ruminator Dec 21 '18 at 2:01
  • And the coming of the Son of man? This happened at the same time or directly after? – Possibility Dec 21 '18 at 2:07

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