The ad hoc Generation

by TD 14 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • TD

    To me, the word, "Generation" has always been one of those fuzzy terms with an annoyingly slippery definition set.

    I have a blood relative who was the very youngest child in a family of 13. The age difference between him and his oldest siblings is more than twenty years and some of them were actually married and had children of their own before he was even born. Therefore some of his nieces and nephews are actually older than he is. One nephew that he was especially close to when he was growing up is almost exactly his age, as they were both born in the same month of the same year.

    A situation like this; where an uncle is the exact same age as his nephew can easily occur in very large families and makes you think about what exactly the term, "Generation" really means. Were these two men in the same generation? It all depends on how you look at it.

    From the standpoint of age, they were. They were both born within twenty days of each other and under any other circumstances there would be absolutely no question that they were of the same generation.

    But from the standpoint of descent, they are definitely not the same generation, since this man's father was his nephew's grandfather.

    When you compare this man to his older brothers and sisters, the same thing occurs. Whether they're the same generation or not depends entirely upon how you look at it.

    From the standpoint of descent, they are all the same generation, since they all had the same father and mother.

    But if you pick a different type of event to define a generation, then they aren't necessarily in the same generation at all. For example, this man's two oldest brothers served in the Second World War and are referred to today as the "World War II generation." This man missed being in that generation because the war was over before he was born. He falls into the "Post war generation" along with his nephew.

    The latest iteration in the series of JW interpretations of Matthew 24:34 which was explained in some detail at this summer's 2010 District Convention is based on this "Large family" phenomenon. The following quotes are a transcription from the final discourse at the 2010 convention: "Remain in the Secret Place of the Most High."

    "Well a generation really consists of contemporaries and that means individuals who live at the same time and whose lives overlap. Now there's a key scripture to help us understand Matthew 24:34, keep your place there and go over to Exodus Chapter 1 verse 6:

    Exodus Chapter 1 verse 6: Notice it says regarding Joseph: "Eventually Joseph died and also all his brothers and all that generation" Exodus 1:6, Let's read it on more time: "Eventually Joseph died and also all his brothers and all that generation" Now notice the word "Generation" occurs in this verse; How are we to understand it? Well it's interesting when it came to Joseph, ten of his brothers witnessed events before Joseph was born. Ten of his brothers witnessed events that Joseph never saw; before he was born. And we know that at least two of his brothers lived on after he died.

    So although they were of various ages; perhaps lived at different times you notice it says in verse 6 all his brothers were still considered what? "All that generation." So that's where we get the concept of a generation being a group of contemporaries; the lives of ten [sic] of Joseph's brothers you see overlapped with his so that they are considered one generation. Well, by the same token, we can have a clearer understanding of Mathew 24:34 again go back to that...."

    You can see that the JW's have chosen a situation similar to the one I gave above to define a generation. Jacob had a large family with twelve sons and an undisclosed number of daughters. But despite whatever disparity of age that existed between the very oldest and the youngest, they all would be in the same generation since they all had the same father.

    There's been a lot of talk about this new interpretation being based solely on a simple overlap of lifespan. That is a gross oversimplification and untrue. By that reasoning, Joseph and his eleven brothers would have also been in Jacob's generation, and no such claim was made. The overlap of lives is only one side of the coin. Of equal importance is sharing a generation defining event together and both sides of the coin are required for a group to be considered the same generation. In the case of Joseph and his brothers, descent is obviously the generation defining event.

    With that in mind, the secondary application of Matthew 24:34 was made thus:

    "Well apparently this generation is composed or comprises two groups of anointed Christians who would be contemporaries whose lives would overlap just like the lives of those ten [sic] brothers of Joseph overlapped with his, constituting a generation. Well, who is in this first group of anointed ones? Well Jesus tells us that uh they would see the sign of his presence uh they would be on hand when the sign started in what year? 1914. They would be anointed at that time. And then there would be a later group of anointed who would come on the scene whose lives would overlap with this first group who saw the beginning of the sign. And Jesus said that they would not die off but would be on hand when the Great Tribulation would break out. This helps us to see that the length of the generation is limited. It is not open-ended.

    Let's illustrate it this way. Brother F. W. France [sic] When was he born? 1893. When was he baptized? The year 1913. And our understanding then was your anointing occurred at the time of your baptism. So brother France [sic] was anointed in 1913; thus he would have been alive to discern the sign that started when? In 1914. He was, if you did your math, twenty [sic] years old. Now Brother France [sic] lived on to the year 1992, so obviously he's part of that first group. So, any present day anointed ones who were anointed before, let's say individuals like Brother France [sic] in that first group died off would be considered contemporaries of the first group. They would be part of that generation that would see the beginning of the Great Tribulation."

    Members of the "Second group" would have to have been anointed before members of the first group died off because in this interpretation, anointing is the generation defining event. Not only must their lives overlap, but the event they share in common must overlap as well. The basic concept is a valid one, but I think the JW's have made an ad hoc application of it.

    It's true that a generation can be a group of contemporaries who share a common, usually major experience together. The term, "Greatest Generation" (i.e. Those that grew up during the depression) is one common example today, but there are plenty of others.

    Generation defining events must of necessity be fairly short in duration because the longer the event in question lasts, the less it could be said that the experience is unique to any one contemporaneous group of people.

    For example, defining a generation using World War II as the event is a perfectly viable idea. World War II began on September 1st of 1939 with the invasion of Poland and ended on September 2nd of 1945 with the formal surrender of Japan. A very large and diverse group of people all experienced this event, since it only lasted six years

    In contrast, defining a generation using the Renaissance as your event would run contrary to the basic meaning of the word, "Generation." The Renaissance spanned from roughly the 14th to the 17th centuries and therefore was not unique to any particular group of people that were in any way contemporaneous with each other.

    Similarly, in JW theology, Christian anointing has been going on for nearly twenty centuries and is not by any stretch of the imagination unique to any one contemporaneous group of people. Now it's quite obvious that the speaker did not have all anointed Christians from the time of Pentecost on in mind, but what basis he had for selectively including some anointed Christians while excluding others was not at all clear and never openly stated.

    In this regard, his choice of Frederick Franz was perhaps unfortunate because it makes it impossible to restrict the scope of anointed ones to only those who became such during the "Time of the end." The tightest category you could possibly draw that still includes Franz would be, "Anointed ones who live during some part of the time of the end." But that would be a problem in its own rite, because it would broaden the scope of anointed ones well beyond a contemporaneous group, to include people like C. T. Russell. Suggesting that such a group could be a single generation would be akin to suggesting that there was a generation of the Hundred Years War. Even though some lives within the group might overlap, that doesn’t render the group contemporaneous as a whole.

    Therefore it's apparent that the reasoning presented at this summer's District Convention is entirely a definition of convenience. It's a viable concept applied in a completely arbitrary way without a word of explanation to justify such an application.

    Any way you look at it, a "Sign" that drags out for 96 years (And counting) destroys any legitimate parallel with Matthew 24:34.

  • BurnTheShips

    The ham hock generation is over and gone. We've moved into leaner meats for heart health.


  • palmtree67

    In Matt. 24:34, Jesus was talking to people who were definately going to experience the fall of Jerusalem in their lifetime. When he said, "this generation" it happened to those people he was talking to.

    So why does the generation in the supposed modern day fulfillment not mean the same? Suddenly a "generation" can be centuries long?

    Good topic, as usual, TD.

    Thank you.

  • jwfacts

    I agree that the defn is one of convenience.

    The Watchtower uses the Hebrew Scriptures as support for what generation means, and modern definitions to support its case. I think it makes most sense when looking at what generation meant in Greek to the author of Matthew. The Greek word means (according to Strongs)

    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

    Other uses of the term in Matthew mean either (2a) successive members of a genealogy or (3) the whole multitude of men living at the same time.

    Mat 1:17So all 3956 the generations 1074 from 575 Abraham 11 to 2193 David 1138 [are] fourteen 1180 generations 1074 ; and 2532 from 575 David 1138 until 2193 the carrying away 3350 into Babylon 897 [are] fourteen 1180 generations 1074 ; and 2532 from 575 the carrying away 3350 into Babylon 897 unto 2193 Christ 5547 [are] fourteen 1180 generations 1074 .

    Mat 23:36Verily 281 I say 3004 unto you 5213 , All 3956 these things 5023 shall come 2240 upon 1909 this 5026 generation

    As Palmtree67 mentions, it is obvious from the Scripture that Mat 24 meant the group of people living around 33AD would be alive at 70AD. It is dubious to think Jesus had a second fulfillment for our time, and completely unsupported to say the generation will last so long it overlaps.

  • sir82

    Members of the "Second group" would have to have been anointed before members of the first group died off because in this interpretation, anointing is

    the generation defining event. Not only must their lives overlap, but the event they share in common must overlap as well.

    I've thought of this, wondering if that is really what they had in mind.

    If that were the case, then (still using the Franz example) only those who became anointed in 1992 or before could constitute the "overlappers".

    Does anyone know if the younger 7 of the current GB all start partaking prior to 1992?

    If that is their intent, that would certainly play into their "urgency" meme. Rather than just "being alive" in 1992 as being sufficient to overlap, with the resulting stretching of "this generation" for perhaps 80 more years, "being anointed" in 1992 or before would cut that timeframe down considerably.

    It's likely that no one under the age of 40 or so who began to partake would be viewed as "legitimate" by the Society hierarchy. If that is the case, the youngest "new anointed overlappers" would be in their 60's or so now - cutting the end point of "this generation" down to 20 years or so from now.

    But then I thought, if that's what they meant, why not spell it out more clearly? It seems it would be in their best interests to do so - it would ramp up the "sense of urgency" among the R&F.

  • Doubting Bro
    Doubting Bro

    I think the DC talk as well as the CO talk actually did spell it out clearer saying that the overlap took place between those such as Franz who were "annointed" in 1914 and those who were annointed prior to Franz dying. I either saw or hear verbage to the effect of "annointed when the sign was first recognized". Since he lived to be almost 100 and was "annointed" prior to 1914 but barely, he would be a good example to use to make the point. I'm pretty sure Loshe started prior to 92 but not sure about the others.

    They aren't going to put it in writing because they really don't believe it. They want to give themselves wiggle room so when 20 years does pass and the end isn't here yet, they can say "well what we meant was alive in 1914" to give themselves another 10-20 years. Then, it will be GB 3.0's problem to deal with.

    TD - I agree that they are hanging their hat on the definition of generation as it relates to Joseph and his brothers being part of the same generation of family decendants. But, as others have mentioned, its clear that Jesus was talking to his disciples (who varied in age but had the common event of being is apostles at around the same time) and telling them that they would not pass away as a group without seeing Jerusalem destroyed.

    Even if Matt 24 had an future application, the timeframe between the "sign" and the end would also need to be about the same amount of time.

    I'm not sure why they don't just change the inspection/appointment to a more current date (say 1975) and either leave the "last days" at 1914 or even move it. They've done it before and it would make more sense than attempting to change the meaning of a common word.

  • TD

    Thanks for your comments!

    Like I've said before, my handicap here is that my association with the JW's was fairly brief and many years ago, so sometimes I miss things.

    Sir 82:

    But then I thought, if that's what they meant, why not spell it out more clearly? It seems it would be in their best interests to do so - it would ramp up the "sense of urgency" among the R&F.

    This particular speaker (His name was Perez) was pretty clear on that:

    "So, any present day anointed ones who were anointed before, let's say individuals like Brother France [sic] in that first group died off would be considered contemporaries of the first group."

    As a side note, I have no idea why he kept mispronouncing the name Franz. Apparently he was not even a JW prior to 1992, so there's no overlap there!

  • BluesBrother

    "A definition of convenience" - that is a good way of putting it. In other words, twisting the English language to make it say whatever you want it to and eliminating other possibilities...reminiscent of "NewSpeak" in Orwell's 1984

  • sir82

    Well, OK, in the talk it's pretty clear. But it's not clear at all in the WT article.

    Why make it clear in one place but not the other? Maybe they didn't think it was unclear in the WT article, then as they got feedback, they saw they had to make it more explicit, and thus devoted the last DC talk to it?

    If that's the case, I expect we'll see a "(Completely made up) Questions From Readers" on it soon.

  • Olin Moyles Ghost
    Olin Moyles Ghost

    Sir82--you have a PM.

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