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wars and rumours of wars, nor famines and earthquakes and pestilences, nor persecutions, nor a compassing of Jerusalem with armies, can furnish a sufficient token that “the same generation” is arrived. Nor can this be supplied by an abomination of desolation on the very site of the temple ; for such has existed long ago. No event earlier in the prophecy than the appearance of the infidel antichrist in the restored temple can thus identify the generation foretold. Hence it follows that the words of Christ, delivered with such solemnity, reveal far less than was previously known.' For all who agree in expecting this infidel abomination agree also in confining its period, on the warrant of other prophecies, to less than four years. How totally unmeaning, then, does the statement become. If we refer it to the first events of the prophecy, it is open to two fatal objections. Those events are too indeterminate in their own nature to supply a fixed point of departure ; and events quite similar have already taken place long ago, in the apostolic age, without being followed, in immediate succession, by all the other particulars. If, again, we refer the statement to the first distinctive events predicted, it will then teach us much less than was revealed in Daniel long before. For certainly “a generation" offers a much wider latitude than a half week of seven years."
(4). The allusion to our Lord's warning in the previous chapter is also destroyed. He had there asserted, “All these things shall come upon this generation”—TÈ tņv yeveày távtnu--(xxiii. 36). The expression here is directly the same-η γενεά αύτη. Now in the former passage it cannot possibly refer to the last generation of the Church, on the widest latitude of interpretation. Therefore it is most unnatural to assign it that meaning in the present verse. Both ought surely to be expounded in the same manner; for, besides their strict
verbal correspondence, they both relate to the same subject-the retributive vengeance of God upon the Jewish nation.
(5). Further, the words of the text will not allow of such a translation. The Greek phrase for “the same generation” is certainly ή αυτή γενεά, and not η γενεά aütn. The difference is not merely in the aspirate; though even this would be expressed by a letter in the early manuscripts, and there is no variety in the reading; but it consists in the arrangement of the words. No instance can be found in the New Testament where the phrases do not keep their proper meaning. The exceptions are all of them apparent, and not real, and arise from a slight inaccuracy of translation.
Again, if we preserve the rendering " this generation,” we have no warrant for explaining it of any other generation than that of the apostles themselves. There are, indeed, eight or ten passages of simple history where the expression “ these days” is used for the times which the writer has just described. But in those discourses which occur in the sacred narrative, out of nearly forty passages, there are two only where the word this relates to the time spoken of, and not the time when the discourse itself is given; and these are both of them passages where no ambiguity could arise (Luke xvii. 34, xxi. 22). On the contrary, the other demonstrative is used in such cases above thirty times. The constant usage of Scripture is therefore altogether opposed to the suggested version or exposition.
(6). The solution involves a further difficulty. When the word this is used, even in simple narrative, as Acts vi. 1, to denote the time spoken of, it always refers to the events last mentioned. In the passage before us, if such latitude of interpretation were allowed, it must therefore refer to the generation when the sign of the
Son of Man should appear. The words then become little more than a tautology. No one who believed that the events predicted would ever occur, could doubt that the generation who are alive when the sign of the Son of Man shall be seen, will not pass away until all the prophecy should be fulfilled. And yet the words, on this rendering, will by no means imply that the same generation was living when the fulfilment began.
(7). Finally, the contrast between these words and the thirty-sixth verse is entirely destroyed by the suggested version. The uncertainty in this case would be, when the predicted generation should begin. When it is once begun, the coming of the Son of Man would be fixed within a narrow range. Hence the solemn declaration of concealment would naturally have assumed the form—“But of that generation knoweth no man. In its present form, on the contrary, it implies a contrast between events which were fixed, and others whose place is concealed ; or else between the certain continuance of the generation intended, whatever is thereby meant, and the uncertain time of the Lord's advent.
These reasons, and almost any one of them alone, are enough to disprove entirely this second explanation of the verse, however respectable the names of those who have received it.
3. A third solution has been derived from the words translated “fulfilled" (ryevntai). This is a different term from that which is usually employed; and hence has been supposed to denote an incipient accomplishment merely. The words of our Lord would thus signify that the first events of the prediction would be accomplished within that generation.
There are serious objections to this view also. First, the
proper term in this case would be different (yivntai). Next, the word here used is employed elsewhere to de
note strict fulfilment (Matt. v. 18). Further, the exposition is open to the charge of uncommon vagueness. For where is the distinction between some of the events and all of them beginning to be fulfilled ? If they are successive, as they are clearly, an incipient fulfilment must be a partial fulfilment; and the form of the expression seems unaccountable. Nor is it easy to conceive why a statement so general and undefined should be attended by so impressive and solemn an asseveration.
4. A more frequent solution than the last is that which depends on some modified sense of the word (ryeved) generation. Of this there are two or three varieties. Sometimes it is explained to be the Jewish nation. By others it has been referred to the Gospel age or dispensation. It might also, with perhaps more apparent reason, be applied to the race of unbelieving Jews only.
The first of these views was suggested by Mede, and has been adopted by several judicious writers. Yet it may be questioned whether any warrant for such an use of the term can be found in the New Testament, where it is always applied in reference to moral character, or a period of time; or else to a race of men who are all contemporary with each other. Again, the sentence thus explained would seem to imply the extinction of the Jewish nation when these events should be accom. plished. And besides, no peculiar object can be assigned, on this view, for so solemn an averment; for no one supposed, among the disciples, that the Jews would be extinct before the promises of their future glory were fulfilled.
The second form of this exposition is open to the Serious objection, that the word gevea receives a sense which there appears no authority for assigning to it, either from the New Testament or from other authors.
The third of these interpretations is, perhaps, the
most simple and natural, if we depart from the common sense of the word, as a note of time. Our Lord continually speaks of the unbelieving Jews under this title, “an evil generation," and “a sinful and adulterous generation." It is very much in this light that, in the previous chapter, He denounces against them a series of terrible woes. After the events here described are accomplished, the whole nation of Israel will be a righteous nation : the Pharisee and the Sadducee will alike be extinct for ever. But it will only be after the severest afflictions, and the most terrible judgments, and the appearing of the Son of Man himself, that their stubborn heart shall be bowed to repentance, and the obstinate transgressors be purged from the midst of the nation. There would thus be a sufficient reason for the emphasis in words of the text, which will receive the following sense : “ This evil and rebellious generation, the impenitent hearts of unbelieving Israel, will never cease, or be brought to repentance, till these heavy judgments shall all have been fully accomplished. No slighter strokes of vengeance will suffice. The race of Jewish unbelievers shall not be extinct till all shall be fulfilled.”
5. This last explanation seems the most satisfactory of those which have yet been noticed : but the verse has so much the appearance of a note of time, and this use of the word yeveà is so general, that it ought not to be abandoned without decisive reasons. There is, therefore, one other exposition, which scarcely varies at all from the meaning that the words suggest at the first view, while it leaves unaltered the evident reference of the latter part of the discourse to the second advent.
The disciples, we have seen, propose two questions, distinct in themselves, and separate also in their apprehension of them. :. There was nothing in their views