Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This Generation

On the Answering Muslims blog the question of the meaning of "this generation" as used in the Olivet Discourse as found in the synoptic Gospels came up (see the comment section - here). Some argued that it could mean "this race" or something other than "this generation". Many Christians believe it is necessary to make this move in order to prove that Jesus (or the disciples) did not make a false prediction that He would come in the first century. Ironically, it is just because people have argued that Jesus did not return in judgment in the first century that has led unbelievers who take the phrase "this generation" according to its clear meaning to argue that Jesus and the early Christians were wrong in their expectations. But taking the phrase as it is uniformly translated does not at all create a problem, at least not if one interprets the rest of the passage(s) that bear on the subject according to the way such language is used throughout the Bible, particularly in apocalyptic sections. In other words, the phrase should be translated "this generation", and these things did come to pass exactly as Jesus, interpreted against the backdrop of the Old Testament prophets, predicted that they would.

The following are my reasons for thinking the phrase is properly translated as "this generation". Perhaps in future posts I will go through the entire discourse in Matthew, beginning back in chapter 23, and show how all of these things comport with what happened in the first century. Suffice it to say here, beginning back in Matthew 23 Jesus is clearly indicting His first century hearers, particularly the Jewish leadership, for rejecting Him, and telling them the wrath of God would fall on them. As Jesus exits the Temple area with His disciples, they point out the beauty of the Temple, apparently because He has just said it will be desolated, which provokes Christ to respond that the Temple would be destroyed. At this the disciples ask Jesus when these things will be, and Jesus proceeds to tell them what to look for. He speaks of many things that will happen before the end, including earthquakes, wars, famines, the coming of false Christ's, the abomination of desolation being set up in the temple, Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, etc. After they see all of this happen, they are to flee from Jerusalem, for her destruction is near. Immediately after all of the above happens, the very heavens would be shaken, the sign of the Son of man would appear in the sky, and faithless Jerusalem would be no more. He concludes this part of the discourse by saying, "All these things shall come upon this generation". [This of course is a paraphrase and a rough synopsis.]

When one interprets these things in light of their Biblical context, and when one compares this to what happened in the first century, as we have recorded for us in detail by Josephus, who was an eyewitness, there is every reason to believe that they happened just like Jesus predicted.

There were wars, famines, earthquakes, false prophets, and false Messiah's during that time period. (Many of these things are listed several times over in the book of Acts.)

Jerusalem was surrounded by the armies of imperial Rome. The armies briefly withdrew only to return a short time later, and during the interim while the Jews were rejoicing thinking their disaster had been averted, the Jewish Christians left the city according to Christ's command.

The Son of Man did coming riding the clouds in judgment, and Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed just like He predicted. In fact, they were destroyed within a generation - AD. 70.

There is, therefore, no problem on this view with taking the phrase "this generation" literally.

None of this impinges on the truth of the return of Christ at the end of history to resurrect the dead, judge the world, and create a New Heavens and a New Earth. There are several other passages that speak of these events in contexts that are not qualified by time texts or other temporal indicators.

With that said, here are my reasons for taking "generation" and "this generation" to be the correct translation of the words, as did many of the early Christians (Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Theophlacyt, et. al.) and many other able men closer to our own times (John Gill, J. B. Lightfoot, Albert Barnes, John Wesley, C. H. Spurgeon, John A. Broadus, F. F. Bruce, and D.A. Carson, just to list a few).

1. All standard English translations render the Greek word genea in the Olivet Discourse as “generation”, not race (KJV, NKJV, NAS, ESV, etc.). Many other translations are even more explicit.

2. Greek lexicons and reference works on Greek grammar give “generation” as the primary meaning of the word (Thayer, BAGD, et. al). Even those who say the word could sometimes mean “race”, and many do not, list it as a very remote meaning.

3. A number of lexicons even make reference to the relevant passages in the Olivet discourse when giving “generation” as the meaning of the word (e.g. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, rev. ed., 112; Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Vol. 1), as do other reference works.

4. No example can be brought forward from anywhere in the New Testament outside of the Olivet discourse – excepted here because that is the verse in question – where genea must be translated as “race”. Furthermore, “race” does not appear to even be a very likely reading of any verse outside of the Olivet discourse.

5. If the disciples wanted to say race, the best word for this, a word that was at their disposal since they use it elsewhere, would have been genos.

6. Every time the word genea is used in Matthew’s Gospel (and the other Synoptics) outside of the Olivet discourse it is not only translated as “generation”, but that is the only possible translation. Translating it as “race” in such places would not fit.

7. Most importantly, the full phrase, “this generation,” which is only used by Jesus in the New Testament, can never mean “that generation”, “this race”, or “that race”. The following is every time the phrase is used (outside of the times it occurs in the Olivet discourse as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels):

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." But wisdom is proved right by her actions. “ Matthew 11:16ff.

“The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. “ Matthew 12:41-42

“The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him. 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." Mark 8:12

“To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.' For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, 'He has a demon!' "The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'” Luke 7:31

“As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, "This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. Luke 11:29-32

“One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, "Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too." But He said, "Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. "Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. "So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. "For this reason also the wisdom of God said, 'I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.' "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering." Luke 11:50-51

Note the following salient facts:

a. Often in these verses Jesus is directly addressing His contemporaries making it clear that what he is saying has particular reference to them.

b. To make the word mean race in many of these contexts is to put the Jews of all time under a perpetual curse. It was the generation then living that was guilty of rejecting Jesus and on whom the wrath of God would fall, not a future generation.

It is for such reasons that commentators almost never give an example where “generation” or “this generation” could be translated as “race” or “this race” and make it fit the context; they most often just assert that the word or phrase could mean the latter. On those rare occasions when they do try to give examples, I would maintain that they are not dealing squarely with the facts.

Interestingly enough, even the unprovable (and demonstrably false) assumption that the phrase means “that race” does not refute the view that the passage is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, for people who have thought this to be a possible translation have still recognized the incredible fit of everything in the passage – using the Bible of course to control how they interpret prophetic discourse, rather than ignoring Biblical idioms and imposing on the passage what such words “literally” mean to them – with what happened in the first century. For instance, the relatively well known commentator Adam Clarke, writing in 1810, believed that the phrase “this generation” could mean “this race”, though he gave no argument for this (which is but to be expected). But interestingly enough, Clarke interpreted the passage as a reference to Jerusalem’s destruction.

“This chapter contains a prediction of the utter destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, and the subversion of the whole political constitution of the Jews; and is one of the most valuable portions of the new covenant Scriptures, with respect to the evidence which it furnishes of the truth of Christianity. Everything which our Lord foretold should come on the temple, city, and people of the Jews, has been fulfilled in the most correct and astonishing manner….” Clarke’s Commentary, 3:225

Saturday, July 10, 2010

To The Believers Is He Most Kind and Merciful

The New articles are out at Answering Islam. I haven't read them all yet but as usual I am looking forward to it and would encourage others to look them over as well.

I contributed an article showing yet another way the Qur'an violates it's own criteria of "pure monotheism". Check it out here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

God is Love; Not so Allah

Someone recently asked me a question via e-mail and I thought I would include it here along with my brief response (of course names and other sensitive material have been edited out):

Greetings my brother in Christ,

I am working on [something]. [It] consists of a handful of articles that I have written critiquing world religions. One of them of course being Islam. Mike Robinson told me a little bit about you so I would like your input on a question that I am asking a few apologists.

Men like Francis Schaeffer and John Frame as well as some historic greek philosophers, have made a similar argument that God cannot be personal or love if he is a unitarian type god etc. For these two things require multi-persons.

I am kinda surveying a couple of Christian apologist to see how they feel about this argument. At one time I believed that [the] majority of Christian apologist would agree to this statement, but after a few recent conversations I am not to sure how many Christians believe this argument. The response argument being that God can have self love for himself etc. What do you think?


Greetings _______,

For my part, a unitarian god looks like little more than an abstraction, so it is very difficult to conceive of such a being loving "himself" much less others. But if we grant the personality of such a god for the sake of argument, and therefore the possibility that he could "love" himself, then we must ask if loving oneself is really what we mean by love. Usually a person who is defined by self-love is not really thought of as loving in the true sense of the term. Certainly this is not the Biblical definition of love, where love is seen in giving itself away to others and for the sake of others. In fact the word used for love in 1 Corinthians 13 in the King James Bible communicates the point quite well: charity.

4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Would we consider a person charitable if he gives things to himself?

"That Ebenezer Scrooge, what a guy! he just took a million dollars out of his account and stored it in his personal vault at home. Have you ever seen anything so charitable as that in your life? Oh, if the world were only filled with more people who were so charitable as that."

I don't think so.

Likewise, to say that the monad of post-Christian apostate Judaism or the new-fangled "god" of Islam are love because the "god" of either loves himself is to use the word "love" in an equivocal sense, i.e. not in the sense we mean when we say that God is love and when we say that love requires a God who is multi-personal.

I hope that helps. If you have any follow up question, by all means feel free to write back.

Semper Paratus,


Sam Shamoun has written an article related to the above that is well worth reading: The Triune God - The Greatest Conceivable Being that Exists.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Civilization and Self-Control

By Bojidar Marniov
“I don’t want men looking at me lustfully when I work here.”

This is how a Muslim girl, cashier at Wal-Mart, replied to my wife’s question about the purpose of her head-covering, wrapped tightly around her head, covering everything except her face. My first reaction was, “Phew, how do you look ‘lustfully’ at a woman’s hair?” In a Christian society, the hair is the glory of a woman (1 Cor. 11:15). We don’t normally expect Western men to fantasize over a woman’s hair; and hair is a legitimate ornament for a woman, as far as the Bible is concerned. Deviations, of course, have existed in every culture, but are they so common in the Western societies as to warrant such strict dress-code? What made this Muslim girl have such strange views about modesty?

Her views are not informed by the norms of the Western society but by the tenets of her Muslim worldview. According to the teaching of the Muslim religious teachers, a woman is a sexual object from her hair to her feet, and every part of her body is an occasion for seduction. Westerners usually believe that the burqas and the yashmaks of the Muslim women have some religious significance – something like the head coverings Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 11. They don’t. The only significance of Muslim clothing for women is the avoidance of sexual seduction by the woman. Burqas are not a religious symbol; they are a protective barrier, protecting both men and women from the male sexual lust.

Read More

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Trinity in the Old Testament: A Brief Summary of the Evidence

The latest articles on Answering Islam are all up now. I contributed the following article on the Trinity.


In order to establish some kind of continuity between the message of the prophets and the doctrine of Tawheed, which Muslims allege is taught in the Qur’an, some Muslims argue that the Old Testament (not to mention the New) does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. With an eye to this, the following aims to present a brief summary of the evidence that the prophets taught the Trinity....

To read the rest of this article, go here. After reading, come back and leave your comments/questions.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Missing Quotes

Many years ago when I was in a position to avail myself of an excpetionally large theological library, one that well exceeded my own personal library of 4,000 plus books, I took a great many notes, some of which I failed to include all the information for. For example, I have a number of references written down on points of interest from the Babylonian Talmud, but I did not copy out the relevant quotes. I have seen portions of the Talmud online, but not the portions relevant to the references I have. Similarly, I also wrote out some quotes, but failed to copy down the references. To get to the point, I wonder if anyone out there who reads this blog has access to the Babylonian Talmud and could look up a couple of things for me. I have seen that the Babylonian Talmud is now available on CD-Rom and do plan to avail myself of it at my nearest convenience, but since I don't know when that will be anyone who has easy access to it now could be a blessing to me if they would look up the references I have. Please let me know. Thanks.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Some Miscellaneous Quotes on Islam From Various Christian Confessions of Faith

"To pray for the propagation of the gospel and kindgom of Christ to all nations; for the conversion of the Jews, the fulness of the Gentiles, the fall of Antichrist, and the hastening of the second coming of our Lord; for the deliverance of the distressed churches abroad from the tyranny of the antichristian faction, and from the cruel oppressions and blasphemies of the Turk [i.e. Muslims];...(The Directory for the Publick Worship of God: Agreed Upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, With the Assistance of Commissioners from the Church of Scotland, As a Part of the Covenanted Uiformity in Religion Betwixt the Churches of Christ in the Kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland)

"Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term "person" they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.

They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article, as the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good and the other Evil- also the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all such. They condemn also the Samosatenes, old and new, who, contending that there is but one Person, sophistically and impiously argue that the Word and the Holy Ghost are not distinct Persons, but that "Word" signifies a spoken word, and "Spirit" signifies motion created in things." (Augsburg Confession, Article I: Of God)

"HERESIES. Therefore we condemn the [unbelieving] Jews and Mohammedans, and all those who blaspheme that sacred and adorable Trinity. We also condemn all heresies and heretics who teach that the Son and Holy Spirit are God in name only, and also that there is something created and subservient, or subordinate to another in the Trinity, and that their is something unequal in it, a greater or a less, something corporeal or corporeally conceived, something different with respect to character or will, something mixed or solitary, as if the Son and Holy Spirit were the affections and properties of one God the Father, as the Monarchians, Novatians, Praxeas, Patripassians, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, Aetius, Macedonius, Anthropomorphites, Arius, and such like, have thought." (The Second Helvetic Confession, Ch. III - OF God, His Unity and Trinity)

"This doctrine of the Holy Trinity hath always been defended and maintained by the true Church, since the times of the Apostles to this very day, against the Jews, Mohammedans, and some false Christians and heretics, as Marcion, Manes, Praxeas, Sabellius, Samosatenus, Arius, and such like, who have been justly condemned by the orthodox fathers." (The Belgic Confession, Art. IX.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Blunder in the Qur'an

Okay, so the following is not really about a blunder in the Qur'an. It is about a blunder in my copy of Yusuf Ali's The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an: New Edition with Revised Translation, Commentary and Newly Compiled Comprehensive Index (amana publications).

I've read and referred to YA's translation (among others) a lot over the years, but I only recently noticed that my copy has a numbering error in Surah 6. After properly enumerating verses 1-120 it suddenly skips to 140. At first I thought a camel might have snuck in and ate some of the verses - either that or my dog did it, proving that she really will eat anything, however distatsteful it might be - but after picking up a copy of Muhammad Asad's translation which was close at hand, I discovered they were all there and were only wrongly numbered.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Yahya Snow Challenged to Debate the Trinity

See the following blog posts on my debate challenge to Yahya Snow:

My Challenge

Yahya's Response

My Reply

Anyone interested in seeing this debate go forward, please contact Yahya Snow and encourage him to accept both the challenge and the debate topic.