Re: Matt 24:34 - hN GENEA

From: Steven Craig Miller (
Date: Sat Jan 29 2000 - 08:21:37 EST

<x-flowed>To: Roger Hutchinson,

<< Can one adamantly say that the verse must mean such and such and cannot
mean anything else? Might one conclude that the verse (and Jesus' intent)
is to be mystical and that the verse is not decipherable except, perhaps,
within some broader context (whatever that turns out to be)? >>

Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty and Alice had the following conversation:

<< 'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't--till I tell you.
I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'
'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, 'it
means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many
different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master--that's all'. >>

On the one hand, Carroll's Humpty Dumpty does have a point, the meaning of
all words are arbitrary, and yet on the other hand, if we are to have
meaningful communication we must use words which others know and can
understand. As for Matthew 24:34, the NRSV translates:

<< Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these
things have taken place >> (Mt 24:34 NRSV).

Such a passage doesn't read much differently in a more conservative
translation, such as the NIV:

<< I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until
all these things have happened >> (Mt 24:34 NIV).

Although it is true that language can be ambiguous, it would be silly to
think that it is always totoally ambiguous. Unless one is simply
incompetent most of the things one says can be understood.

Actually, if one thinks about it, at the time when Matthew's gospel was
written, the meaning of this statement by the Matthean Jesus would have
been clear enough. It would only have been after "this generation" had all
passed away and after it became apparent that not "all these things have
happened," that Christians would have needed to re-interpret such a passage.

Davies & Allison [1997] suggest that Mt 24:34 means the following:

<< 'All these things' refers to the eschatological scenario as outlined in
vv. 4-31 and declares that it shall come to pass before Jesus' 'generation'
has gone >> (3:367).

Davies & Allison go on to note:

<< If it be objected that this makes for a false prophecy and raises the
issue of 2 Pet 3.3-4, we can only reply that some of Jesus' contemporaries
were perhaps still alive when Matthew wrote, so he did not have the problem
we do >> (3:368).

Davies & Allison also note that "most modern commentators" concur with
their interpretation here. What grammatical justification is there for
taking it any other way?

-Steven Craig Miller
Alton, Illinois (USA)
FWIW: I'm neither a clergy-person, nor an academic (and I have no post-grad

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