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Matt 24:34. "by no means"


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Since 2009 there has been a great deal of discussion around the concept of an "overlapping generation" in connection with Jesus words at Matt. 24:34.

I don't see anything particularly difficult about the idea myself. 

I mean, you have a two stage relay. Start point: 1914 CE on one end. Finish point: the "great tribulation" on the other end. The track between is the stream of time.

As it is impossible for one team of runners to span the distance from the start, 1914 CE, to the finish, the "great tribulation", there are two teams of "anointed" Christians. Starting the race, those who saw the year 1914 eventually meet up with those (born later) who will see the outbreak of the great tribulation. The baton is passed and the race completed by the second group.

The entire group are seen as the (anointed) generation of the last days in Jesus prophecy. Not really rocket science is it?

But, in all the discussion around this, I see a phrase in Jesus words at Matt 24:34 I find intriguing. He said that "this generation will by no means pass away"  (NWT)

Other translations render this differently, many saying simply "will not pass" or words to that effect. Why does the NWT render it in this particular manner?

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Because it's a double negative. In Greek, a double negative emphasizes the negation (in most cases), rather than the way it works in many modern languages where (formally, at least) it creates a posit

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51 minutes ago, Eoin Joyce said:

Why does the NWT render it in this particular manner?

In my opinion this is because it is taken into consideration one small word of the original text. Let me explain.

The original text reads:  "ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ παρέλθῃ ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη ἕως ἂν πάντα ταῦτα γένηται."If you want only to convey the message that the generation will not pass you could simply say " ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ παρέλθῃ ἡ γενεὰ αὕτη ἕως ἂν πάντα ταῦτα γένηται". That small word μὴ gives more emphasis and certainty to what is described. The translation thus becoming not simply "will not pass" but more something like " most certainly will not pass" or as the NWT renders it "by no means...etc".

You can see the original text and the key word highlighted in the photo below. It's from the Codex Sinaiticus. (Matthäus, 23:39 - 24:35  Archiv: BL  Folio: 213b  Schreiber: A)

JWInsider is correct that there is a double negative in the syntax. The 2 words giving it are οὐ and μὴ (no and not respectively in free translation).

Just to be clear. The meaning is always the same whether μὴ is taken into consideration or not. The more faithful rendition of the verse is the one NWT gives because it follows more closely the wording of the text and in this particular case conveys these extra layers of informatino too.

ct.jpg

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58 minutes ago, Eoin Joyce said:

I mean, you have a two stage relay.

Really? Why do you believe that a "two-stage relay" is an appropriate analogy. As long as we are using a slippery definition of the word "generation" why not a "four-stage relay"?

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2 hours ago, JW Insider said:

why not a "four-stage relay"?

That's a bit too loose because you are introducing a new concept here. You can have as many stages as you like in your race, but that's not the one I am looking at.

Actually, there are at least 10 teams in this race. But for the purpose of the illustration, (which is to illustrate the proposition we have been presented with), only 2 count because only 2 teams can span the full course with one interchange.

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2 hours ago, ThePraeceptor said:

Just to be clear.

Getting there.

Now is this construction just for the sake of emphasis? Or could it be construed in an additional sense? The English expression, by no means, seems to convey more than just an emphasis that something will or will not take place. Would that be true of the Greek expression?

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My view, for what it's worth, is that this particular translation ("by no means") is just one way to state the emphasis. I believe that ThePraeceptor called it a little more accurately when he used the term "most certainly will not pass." 

In other words, in Greek, it does not necessarily carry the same literal idea that can be hinted at in the English expression "by no means."

In English, it can seem to be the equivalent, in this context, of saying: "You should not expect any attempts, or circumstances, or methods, or ways, or means to make this prediction fail." But in Greek, at best, it's a way of saying: "Do you think this prediction might fail? No way!!" [Matching a colloquial expression that creates an emphatic "No."]

Of course, depending on the immediate context, it might still imply that first idea. But it is just as likely that it was a stylistic preference where the common term for "no" or "not" is worded with slightly more definiteness. I say that because there are other examples in the style of Jesus' words where Jesus intentionally comes across with a not-too-subtle "sureness" or speaks with "authority" with such expressions. (Also, it's fairly common in the Greek Scriptures to use this same "οὐ μὴ" expression where the emphasis doesn't seem to be much needed, or doesn't seem to add much emphasis anyway.) In this case, the emphasis on the fact that this prophecy cannot fail is re-stated in the next verse: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away."

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4 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

Would that be true of the Greek expression?

JWInsider nailed it. I couldn't explained it better. The only thing that this expression conveys is emphasis, certainty. There is nothing else implied by the text. Of course if you want to overthink things and use some fantasy you can ascribe more than one meanings or intentions to the frase but that would not be consisten with the contex. There is nothing cryptic here. Just plain old grammar and syntax. To arrive to other conclusions in this verse equals "most certainly" to take too many liberties with the translation. ;)

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2 hours ago, JW Insider said:

it's fairly common in the Greek Scriptures to use this same "οὐ μὴ" expression

Correct! A very good example of this is Luke 6:37 where the same expression of the original is translated in the same way in the NWT. (I color coded the words so as to make cleares what is translated into what)

"και μη κρινετε και ου μη κριθητε " (Nestle-Aland)

"Moreover, stop judging, and you will by no means be judged" (NWT)

Strong gives various alternative meanings to the ου μη expression making it more easy to understand that it's used for emphasis.

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Thanks @JWInsider and @ThePraeceptor for very helpful input.

For me, the expression by no means, and it's context, seems to imply a condition.

For example, either the generation may look as if it will pass away, hence the emphatic reassurance it will by no means pass away... or,

the generation will by no means pass away in that, at the time of reference, the generation will be so evidently present that it will be ummistakeable, i.e. not a dwindling remnant.

4 hours ago, ThePraeceptor said:

you want to overthink things and use some fantasy

I don't think I want to do that at all. But, point taken, and your reassurance that the Greek is a mere emphasis without further implication is useful and I shall bear it in mind when considering the context of the many other instances of this device.  

"That day and hour", of course, remains...... unknown. :)

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3 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

the generation will by no means pass away in that, at the time of reference, the generation will be so evidently present that it will be ummistakeable, i.e. not a dwindling remnant.

That's exactly what the level of emphasis already implies here! Even if we cannot always pick up that level of emphasis out of the expression [οὐ μὴ] alone, it alerts us to the idea that there is a "confident assertion" being proposed, and the next verse tells us that the emphasis was indeed intended to instill extra confidence in the prediction about the generation not passing away. (In this case, the confidence is that under no circumstances will this generation have died off before the stones of the Temple area are thrown down.) That level of confidence appears in the next verse. I'll choose Luke's version below for comparison, because sometimes if an additional meaning is appropriate, it shows up in the other gospel accounts:

(Luke 21:31-33) 31 Likewise also you, when you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all things happen. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.

Of course I also used Luke's version to show that the arrival of Kingdom of God has clearly not already happened during the generation, or at the beginning of the generation, as our doctrine requires, but arrives after these things have occurred.

There are some similar constructions of the idea that probably give the exact sense of Matthew 24:34:

(Matthew 10:23) . . . for truly I say to you, you will by no means [οὐ μὴ] complete the circuit of the cities of Israel until the Son of man arrives.

(Matthew 16:27-28) 27 For the Son of man is to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will repay each one according to his behavior. 28 Truly I say to you that there are some of those standing here who will not taste death at all [οὐ μὴ] until first they see the Son of man coming in his Kingdom.”

(Mark 9:1) . . .“Truly I say to you that there are some of those standing here who will not taste death at all [οὐ μὴ] until first they see the Kingdom of God already having come in power.”

(Luke 9:27) 27 But I tell you truly, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death at all [οὐ μὴ] until first they see the Kingdom of God.”

A couple of these verses were referencing the fact that some of the apostles were given a direct visionary experience or revelation of that Kingdom of God, and a couple of them were in direct reference to the time when "no stone would be left on top of another, and not be thrown down." While the Temple destruction was not the final judgment, it was treated as another vision or revelation of that same final judgment which could now immediately follow at any time after the judgment on the Jewish system of things.

All the Bible contradictions that derive from the Watch Tower's traditional view about the parousia (since before 1879) can easily be resolved by understanding that Jesus' "presence" begins at the end of this generation. It is the only solution that works for both the judgment on the Jewish system of things and the final judgment on the world-wide Gentile system of things. 1914 is therefore superfluous, in addition to directly contradicting Jesus' words about the times and seasons being in the Father's jurisdiction.

It also resolves the idea of the "generation" perfectly, because Jesus refers to the fact that the stones of the Temple would indeed come crashing down within the lifespans of many of those who heard him predict it. It would not be just a dwindling remnant. And of course Jesus was right, it wasn't just a dwindling remnant. These things were predicted around 33 CE and occurred between 66 and 70 CE, only 33 to 36 years into the future. By no means did that generation pass away within 36 years; many lived to see it. No one had to come up with some means of making it work with a two-phase generation, or by some other meaning imposed upon the term.

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3 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

Thanks @JWInsider and @ThePraeceptor for very helpful input.

For me, the expression by no means, and it's context, seems to imply a condition.

For example, either the generation may look as if it will pass away, hence the emphatic reassurance it will by no means pass away... or,

the generation will by no means pass away in that, at the time of reference, the generation will be so evidently present that it will be ummistakeable, i.e. not a dwindling remnant.

I don't think I want to do that at all. But, point taken, and your reassurance that the Greek is a mere emphasis without further implication is useful and I shall bear it in mind when considering the context of the many other instances of this device.  

"That day and hour", of course, remains...... unknown. :)

To me, the phrase "by no means" means "unless [a] happens then [b ] won't happen". In the Maori Bible, the expression uses "e Kore rawa [never] tenei [this] whakatupuranga [generation] e pahemo [to die], kia puta katoa [all be through] ra ano [until] enei mea [these things] "

So, it might be rendered:

This generation will never die, until all these things are through.

It's interesting...

 

 

 

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