Thursday, April 08, 2010

This generation will not pass away...?

In Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32. Yeshua (Jesus) is quoted as saying, "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." But, what did he mean by this statement? In order to understand, it is important of look at the context of the statement, and also to look at the word meaning.

In context, this statement must be speaking of the future. According to Matthew 24:3 (Syriac versions), Yeshua is responding to his disciples' question regarding "your coming and the age of shalom."

Some believe that Yeshua was proposing a rapid emergence of the "Kingdom of God," and anticipated that those living would see such an end. Others say that Yeshua was giving a prophecy with a "double fulfillment"--Some of what He was predicting was going to occur in that generation, some later. Yet another tortured explanation holds that Yeshua did not mean "this" generation, but "a" generation, meaning that the end would take place quickly (rather than soon).

Of course these explanations are not needed if one understands the meaning of the words used. The extant Greek versions of the Bible use the word genea, which is translated (normally) as the English "generation," which is understood to refer to related people living around the same time and making up a single step in a line of descent. Also, many commentators have pointed out that other references using the word genea refer to a single step or "generation." This, however is clearly untrue. The word appears thirteen times in the TR text of the gospels, and each time, it can (and does) refer to the Jewish race. In fact, in Luke 11:30, the word is equated to a race by the statement, "For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so the Son of Man will be a sign to this generation (genea).

More importantly, the word appearing in extant Syriac texts for genea is sarbeta, "continuing." The words is also defined as "family stock."

The Syriac for Matthew 24:34 says:

amyn amrna lkwn dla tabr Shrbta hda adma dhlyn kwlhyn nhwyn

A better translation:

Truly I say to you (all) not abolished is this race until all these things they come to be.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Not peace, but a sword?

Matthew 10:34 quotes Yeshua as saying:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword."

The meaning of these words have been highly debated. Some say that this verse points to proof that Yeshua advocated violence. Others struggle to show that the word for "sword" actually means something other than the violent idea it conjures. Most Christians believe that the sword is a metaphor for ideological conflict, rather than physical violence and that Yeshua did not advocate violence. A fair reading of the verse in context, however, leads to the conclusion that the word for "sword" actually does mean violence, and also an understanding of Syriac word-meaning leads to the conclusion that Yeshua was not advocating violence, but rather warning his disciples of the violence that they would soon bring upon themselves.

Matthew 10 tells of Yeshua sending his disciples out to minister to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." He commanded his disciples to "heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." This does not sound like the advocacy of violence.

In verse 13, Yeshua informs his disciples that they should not expect to be warmly received. He instructs them to depart from homes and cities that will not receive them. Yeshua then warned his disciples that they would encounter violent resistance on their ministry. In verse 16 he is quoted as saying, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves..."

So, the context of Matthew 10 is certainly one of shalom and not violence. What about word meaning? The Peshitta translates verse 34 as:

LA TSBRWN DATYT DARMA ShYNA BAREA LA ATYT DARMA ShYNA ALA XRBA

The key word is DARMA (or DA'RMA) - "to place." But, the common Syriac use of this word included a causative sense "to cause to come," or "to bring about," or "to arouse." It is this sense that Yeshua intended it. Additionally, he forms an interesting wordplay between the words DA'RMA (to bring about), which has an idiomatic meaning of "slaughter" and XRBA (sword), which also means slaughter. He was warning his disciples that their actions would soon bring a slaughter (XRBA) upon themselves.

A better translation:

"Do not suppose I come to arouse tranquility in the land, I have not come to arouse tranquility, but rather, a slaughter."