“This Generation” In The Trilogy Of Matthew 24:34–35 -- By: Kenneth E. Guenter

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 175:698 (Apr 2018)
Article: “This Generation” In The Trilogy Of Matthew 24:34–35
Author: Kenneth E. Guenter

“This Generation” In The Trilogy Of Matthew 24:34–35

Kenneth E. Guenter

Kenneth E. Guenter is Associate Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History at Briercrest College and Seminary, Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada.


Rather than three puzzling promises, the disciples heard in Jesus’s predictions a coherent trilogy, consoling them that, despite the tragedies awaiting Jerusalem, the Jews would survive as Yahweh’s people. A chorus of echoes earlier in Jesus’s discourse prompted his disciples to understand from Moses and the Prophets that “this generation” was their nation, “heaven and earth” were the witnesses to their covenant with Yahweh, and though these witnesses will pass away, Jesus’s promise “will never pass away.” Echoing Moses and the Prophets, Jesus reaffirmed Yahweh’s pledge to his people throughout their generations.

As his disciples admired Herod’s temple, Jesus described its destruction and how “after the distress of those days . . . all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” (Matt 24:29–30).1 To his predictions Jesus added three promises that continue to puzzle scholars: “This generation will certainly not pass away. . . . Heaven and earth will pass away. . . . My words will never pass away” (vv. 34–35). Were the disciples also puzzled by this trilogy? Earlier in this discourse Jesus echoed a chorus of texts from Moses and the Prophets.2 This article examines

the echoes in Matthew 24:30–35 and suggests how they could have informed the disciples’ appreciation of Jesus’s three promises.

Despite widespread interest in the use of the Old Testament when it is cited by New Testament authors, echoes and allusions are less often noticed and studied. This is especially true in Matthew 24:34–35.3 Scholars have not routinely turned to Israel’s Scriptures to understand Jesus’s trilogy in Matthew4 or in the parallel accounts of Mark5 or Luke.6 Even scholars who view “this

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