'This Generation'

by fairchild 71 Replies latest jw friends

  • Leolaia
    How on earth can it be that many of the things that Jesus expected did not happen?? This just doesn't make sense to me. So, if 'this generation' ONLY entailed the generation living in Jesus' time, this means that we HAVE to conclude that Jesus was wrong, and that some of the things he expected didn't happen. Since it seems totally unlikey that Jesus could have been wrong, don't we have to conclude then that there should indeed be a greater future fulfillment?

    But you are assuming that what the anonymous author of Matthew says is synonymous with what Jesus originally said. How do we know that the author (or the authors of the other gospels) isn't putting his own words into Jesus' mouth? Why is it that Matthew has reworded the disciples' question in 24:3 (compare with Mark 13:4 and Luke 21:7)? Indeed, the original phrasing of the question in Mark and preserved also in Luke implies that the coming of the Son of Man and the destruction of the Temple (see Mark 13:1-2, Luke 21:5-6, Matthew 24:1-2) were connected -- for in his reply Jesus mentions the "coming of the Son of Man in great glory" and celestial signs as part of what would happen when the Temple is destroyed (Mark 13:24-27 in reference to 13:1-3). But the parousia did not happen in the wake of the events of AD 70. The question is modified in Matthew 24:3 so that the disciples were asking him about several different things, including the parousia and "end of the world" in addition to the destruction of the Temple, which were implicitly tied together though named separately. Since Matthew was written after Mark (as indicated by the fact that most of the text of Mark was absorbed into Matthew), it makes intuitive sense that Jesus would not be the one who lumps together the two but that his disciples would do this (as it was the Christian community, Jesus' disciples, who had expected the end then) so that Jesus could clarify the matter in his reply. The author still clearly expected the end to come before the generation that rejected Jesus had passed away. So, in essence, AD 70 had failed as the date of the second coming, but the parousia was still very soon. This fits very well with a date around AD 80-90 for Matthew, as many scholars have suggested.

    More on this here:


  • Narkissos

    I think Matthew's Gospel offers a good example of the revisions of future expectations which come about along with time and events (in that sense, there is a precedent for the WT "evolution" -- and many others). Just notice how the connection between the mission of Jesus' followers and the "end" evolves.

    Stage 1 (Matthew 10): the mission is limited to a (religious/ethnic) Jewish and (geographic) Palestinian scope: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (v. 5f) "Truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes." (v. 23).

    Stage 2 (Matthew 24): the mission is still limited to the Jews but geographically extends to the world (ie the Jewish diaspora). Strictly speaking, there is nothing more in v. 14: "And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come." This doesn't yet need to mean "preaching to the Gentiles": the kingdom preaching to the Jews everywhere is a(n indirect) testimony to the Gentiles (cf. 8:4 and 10:18 for the indirect meaning of "testimony"). The whole chapter presupposes the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD (which doesn't suit the time of Jesus) and the spreading of Judeo-Christianity out of Palestine. The end is to follow immediately the events of the Jewish war:

    Immediately after the suffering of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see 'the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven' with power and great glory.

    Stage 3 (Matthew 28:18ff): The mission is extended to the Gentiles worldwide and any sense of "immediate end" is dropped.

    Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
    Notice how the last sentence shatters the WT interpretation of parousia as presence. Jesus is present with his disciples down to the "end" which is postponed sine die.
  • Leolaia

    I forgot to mention two more things that are relevant to the point I was making. If you compare Mark's eschatological discourse with that of Matthew, we can see that the author of Matthew has added a series of parables (Matthew 24:37-25:30) that have as a theme the apparent delay of the parousia (cf. "My master is delaying" in 24:49), the need to stay awake for the later-than-expected arrival of the bridegroom (25:6), and that a period of time would elapse so that the money deposited with the bankers would accrue with interest (25:27). This theme of an apparent DELAY is missing entirely in Mark 13, which fits again with the general picture -- that Mark was published close to the events of AD 70 whereas Matthew was published sometime later and reflects the concern at the time about this apparent delay (seen also in other writings of the sub-apostolic period: James 5:7-8; 2 Peter 3:1-10; 1 John 2:18-19; Jude 17-18; Revelation; 1 Clement 23:1-5). The other thing I forgot to mention relates to the reworked question in Matthew 24:3, which adds specific reference to a sign of Jesus' "coming" (parousia) and a reference to the end of the age. Each of these are refered to explicitly in Matthew 24:14 ("and then (tote) the end will come") and 24:30 ("and then (tote) the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven"), and both of these phrases are also unique to Matthew and do not occur in Mark or Luke. This suggests that the changes to the disciples' question and changes to the text of the eschatological discourse were connected and reflected the creativity of the author of Matthew.

  • steve2

    So, what seemed to happen in the gospels, over the years of their composition, was an elaborate "re-write" because the end had not happened. It's called trying to explain THE DELAY. This is precisely what happens in our age when end-times religions realise the world still has not ended, despite confident assertions that it should have...by now.

    One of the hardest lessons I faced after leaving the Witnesses was this: Because I needed something to be absolutely certain and beyond a shadow of a doubt, did not mean it ever would be. Groups like JWs thrive on the need for absolute clarity among its members who have been conditioned to have a very low threshold for ambiguity; that is, they need to have everything spelt out and explained and if it is not? Look out there's bound to be an existential crisis. Hence, the Governing Body obligingly re-interprets ancient texts and proclaims, "Now the light is brighter". Hey people, the emperor really is naked.

    Part of getting on the road to recovery from all of this is learning to tolerate the basic simplicity of "scriptures": "This generation" was Jesus's generation. End of story...although, not the end of the world.

  • Greenpalmtreestillmine


    I highly recommend you make a careful verse by verse study of Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Luke 17:20-37. Please note the differences not only of wording but in the general tone, the urgency. Leave behind the JW teachings on these chapters and take careful note of which chapter uses what terminology. Do not think of them as applying to the same time period, start with that possibility anyway. I will say no more about this for now.

    Brotherly love to you,


  • Leolaia

    steve2....A different rationalization is given in 2 Peter, a tract best dated to the second century A.D. Here the delay is explained as not apparent and not real, that time is nothing to God (a thousand years as one day), and God is simply desiring for everyone to be saved as can be. The Stoic concept of the conflagration is also at work here, which holds that the coming conflagration of fire is a gradual process and may take generations before the elements reach a flash-point.

    "I am trying to stir up your sincere disposition, to recall the words previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and savior through your apostles. Know this first of all, that in the last days scoffers will come (to) scoff, living according to their own desires and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? From the time when our ancestors fell asleep, everything has remained as it was from the beginning of creation." They deliberately ignore the fact that the heavens existed of old and earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God; through these the world that then existed was destroyed, deluged with water. The present heavens and earth have been reserved by the same word for fire, kept for the day of judgment and of destruction of the godless. But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard "delay," but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:1-9).

    For a statement on the urgency of the "Lord's coming," and how he is even already "at the door," see James 5:7-9.

  • Justin

    I think, too, that the lack of evidence for there being a crisis in the Christian communities after the "delay in the Parousia" provides a contrast between the Church and the JWs today. In reading the Apostolic Fathers (late first, early second century) and the Apologists (2nd to 3rd centuries) we do not find any attempt to set new dates for the end, as Adventists, Russell and JWs have done. We find no written record of any disappointment, which I suppose could be used to argue that in fact there was no perceived delay - although I personally would not use this as an argument. But it does indicate that the community was not so imbedded in apocalyticism that it could not move on. What had been expected as an early fulfillment was but off indefinitely and, by the fifth century, Augustine dealt a death-blow to apocalypticism by interpretting the Millennium symbolically - the so-called "amillennial" theory which was considered orthodox until recently. The fact that there have been some apocalyptic revivals over the course of 2,000 years does not negate the fact that the post-70 C.E. church handled the situatation quite successfully.

  • steve2

    What comes through the various points of view is, there is more than one plausible way of viewing the concept of "this generation" (I happily concede that my very literal interpretation of Jesus's words about "this generation" is just one interpretation).

    Where a belief system starts to come "unstuck", however, is when its proponents insist theirs is the only correct way to view the matter and then impose severe consequences on those who question it. A few centuries ago, the consequences were persecution and death, whereas today, the consequences are more psychological, but not necessarily any less devastating to those on the receiving end. All because one group elevates its current interpretations to the level of divine-led conclusions. Talk about human pride!

  • Justin


    In your previous comment, you mentioned the lack of tolerance for ambiguity. Have you noticed that this tendency is displayed, not only by ex-JWs who accept a new set of religious beliefs in place of their old ones, but also by the unbelievers as well? In other words, unbelievers may be just as sure about what is not true as believers are sure of what is. In the area of critical evaluations of scriptures there are usually various theories about any given issue. Do you ever see a post which says, in effect, "It may be this way or it may be that?"

    It is quite possible that Western culture is now shifting from a worldview of modernity to post-modernity. The modern worldview came about as a result of the Enlightenment, in which reason and science were used to arrive at ultimate reality as opposed to traditional faith or revelation. Fundamentalism is a reaction to the Enlightenment, but it also accepts Enlightenment principles in arriving at faith. That's why we have creation science and expeditions to find Noah's ark, etc. Fundamentlists (including JWs) are actually agreeing with the modern worldview that we can find truth using rational and scientific principles.

    In a post-modern worldview, the idea of truth itself becomes relative. We are faced with the prospect that there may not be an ultimate truth for us to apprehend. What becomes important is our own subjective experience based in the communities to which we belong. How are we to proceed with such a worldview? This is a problem which is faced, not just by those whose decision is to remain religious or even Christian (such as myself), but by those who are unbelievers as well.

    I do not find anyone on this board working on this issue. And yet, if post-modernism does indeed become the emerging worldview of the West, it will leave fundamentalists, the JWs, and former JWs whatever their persuasion devestated.

    This is a subject for a whole series of posts, but as you brought up the issue of ambiguity here, I thought I'd mention it. If you can do anything to help us, please do.

  • fairchild
    (AlanF)I have no idea, but the fact that they didn't is indisputable. The obvious conclusion is that, having made a bunch of false prophecies, Jesus was a false prophet.

    Okay, but then what do we do with the prophecies regarding the Messiah? Like the time and place of his birth, his line of descend, his betrayal for 30 pcs of silver, etc.. isn't it true that Christians say that the fulfillment of the prophecies about the Messiah as written in the Hebrew scriptures are proof that he really was the messiah?

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