Dr. Edward Robinson
Dividing Line Between Destruction of Jerusalem and General Judgment – Matthew 24:43
(On Matthew 10:23 ; The Nature of Christ’s Return)
‘The coming alluded to is the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jewish nation; and the meaning is, that the apostles would barely have time, before the catastrophe came, to go over the land warning the people to save themselves from the doom of an untoward generation; so that they could not well afford to tarry in any locality after its inhabitants had heard and rejected the message. (‘The training of the Twelve, p. 117)
(On Matthew 24:34, and the “Genea” means race theory)
‘The question now arises whether, under these limitations of time, a reference of our Lord’s language to the day of judgment and the end of the world, in our sense of these terms, is possible. Those who maintain this view attempt to dispose of the difficulties arising from these limitations in different ways. Some assign to (genea) the meaning suddenly, as it is employed by the LXX in Job v. 3, for the Hebrew. But even in this passage the purpose of the writer is simply to mark an immediate sequence — to intimate that another and consequent event happens forthwith. Nor would anything be gained even could the word (genea) be thus disposed of, so long as the subsequent limitation to ‘this generation’ remained. And in this again others have tried to refer genea to the race of the Jews, or to the disciples of Christ, not only without the slightest ground, but contrary to all usage and all analogy. All these attempts to apply force to the meaning of the language are in vain, and are now abandoned by most commentators of note.” (Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 1 – 1843)
THEN AND NOW
“In 1843 Dr. Edward Robinson, of New York, began the publication in that city of the Bibliotheca sacra; or, Tracts and essays on topics connected with Biblical literature and theology. Three numbers only were issued … one in February, another in May, and the last in December, making a volume of 575 pages. This volume is known as the first series of the Bibliotheca sacra.” (Pref. to Index v. 1-30.)
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
“The peculiarity of the views expressed by this eminent scholar consists chiefly in his adopting as the basis of his calculation the largest measure of a generation, a hundred years, and in his finding the accomplishment of the predictions in Matt. xxiv. 29-31, not in the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, but in ” the great final catastrophe of the Jewish people ” in the time of Adrian, in that ” bloody tragedy ” which ” was at length brought to a close at the unknown city of Bether, in the eighteenth year of Adrian, A. D. 135.” Even if we may not fully appreciate his reasons for this extension of the time, and may be looking for a higher spiritual and practical sense than he has developed, still we cannot read without great interest so able an argument for the figurative ‘interpretation, from one whose opinions are commended to our confidence by so much thoroughness of research and so much soundness of judgment.” (The Second Advent, pp. 131,132)
John Humphrey Noyes
“The Coming of Christ; as announced in Matt. 24: 29-31. THE above is the title of a learned article in the third number of the Bibliotheca Sacra, (Dec. 1843,) by the editor, Edward Robinson, D. D. We will review it, for the sake of exhibiting to our readers the position of the learned world in relation to the predictions of the second coming. Dr. Robinson first gives his views of the meaning of the disciples’ question in the 3d verse of Matthew 24, notices the predictions in the former part of the chapter, introduces the whole of the 29th, 30th and 31st verses, with the parallel passages in Mark and Luke, closing with a sketch of the parable of the fig-tree, and the emphatic designation of time in the 34th verse, and then says :
It is conceded by all, I believe, that the representation as far as to the end of the 28th verse of Matthew, and in the parallel verses of the other evangelists, applies solely to the overthrow of Jerusalem. Or, if there be still those who would refer any portion of these preceding verses to the judgment day, it seems to me that they must first show that the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Matthew and Luke has nothing to do with the ‘ compassing of Jerusalem with armies,’ mentioned in the same connexion by Luke : and then, further, that all these things could have no connexion with the ‘ treading down’ of Jerusalem by the Gentiles, which Luke goes on to speak of as the result of all these antecedent circumstances. This, however, cannot well be shown, without disregarding every rule of interpretation, and without violating the very first principles of language. “The subject is now before the reader ; and the question to be considered is : Whether the language of Matthew in the passage above quoted, is to be referred to the judgment of the last great day ; or, rather to the then impending destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation? It is a question on which good men have ever differed ; and on which, perhaps, entire unity of feeling is not lo be expected, until the night of darkness and ignorance in which we are here enveloped, shall be chased away by the morn of pure light and perfect knowledge.
But with the 29th verse a new specification of time is introduced : ‘ Immediately after the affliction of those days’ shall appear the harbingers of our Lord’s coming : and these are depicted in language which elsewhere, it is said, is employed only to describe his coming to the final judgment. The ‘coming’ here meant, is EOBINSON ON MATT. 24: 29—31. 811
But on the other hand, it is replied, that the phrase ‘immediately after’ indicates a very close connexion of this ‘coming’ of our Lord with the preceding events ; and the Savior himself goes on to declare, that ‘ this generation shall not pass away, till all these things be fulfilled.’ We must then assume, it is said, that the prediction had its fulfilment within a period not long subsequent to our Lord’s ministry ; or, it it is to be referred to the day of judgment, then we must admit that our Lord was in error, inasmuch as he here foretold that it would take place immediately after the downfall of Jerusalem. For these reasons many commentators have understood the language as applicable only to the destruction of the Holy City : forgetting, apparently, that the very expression which they urge against a remote future application, is equally stringent against an exclusive reference to the latter catastrophe;” [i.e., the expression ‘immediately after,’ while it preeludes reference to events far distant from the destruction of Jerusa. lern, at the same time necessarily goes beyond that event.] p. 538. thett to be subsequent to the downfall of Jerusalem ; end can therefore only mean the coming of the Messiah in lúa kingdom at the judgment day. This opinion is perhaps, at the present time, the most prevalent one among commentators, and even with those whose views in other respects have little in common ; as in the case of Olshausen and De Wette, [eminent German commentators.]
In his examination of the language of the passage, preliminary to a presentation of his own views, Dr. Robinson says : ”
The word culhcos means literally straightway, and implies a suceession more or less direct and immediate ; so that there can be no doubt, as De Wette justly remarks, that the coming of the Messiah, as here described by Matthew, was straightway to follow the destruction of Jerusalem. Indeed no meaning can possibly be assigned to eutheos, which will admit of any great delay ; much less of an interval so enormous as that between the destruction of the Holy City and the end of the world, as understood by us. From this it is manifest, that ‘ the coming’ of Christ here spoken of, as occurring after the downfall of Jerusalem, could not be meant to refer solely to that event.
Our Lord himself limits the interval within which Jerusalem shall be destroyed and his ‘ coming’ take place, to that same generation : Verily I say unto you, thi» generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. The language is here plain, definite, and express ; it cannot be misunderstood, nor perverted. It follows, in all the evangelists, the annunciation of our Lord’s ‘ coming,’ and applies to it in them all, just as much as it applies to the antecedent declarations respecting Jerusalem ; and more directly, indeed, inasmuch as it stands here in a closer connexion.” p. 540.
The writer then descants upon the word generation, and expresses the opinion that it is to be taken ‘ in the largest sense, and in accordance with popular Hebrew usage, as implying a hundred years,’ or thereabouts. He then proceeds : ”
The question now arises, Whether, under these limitations of time, a reference of our Lord’s language to the Jay of judgment and the end of the world, in our sense of these terms, is possible? Those who maintain this view attempt to dispose of the difficulties arising from these limitations in different ways. Some assign to eulheos the meaning suddenly, as it is employed by the Seventy in Job 6: 3, for the Hebrew pithom. But even in this passage, the purpose of the writer is simply to mark an immediate sequence—to intimate that another and consequent event happened forthwith. Nor would any thing be gained, even could the word culheos be thus disposed of, so long as the subsequent limitation to ‘ this generation’ remained. And in this, again, others have tried to refergenes to the race of the Jews or to the disciples of Christ; not only without the slightest ground, but contrary to all usage and all analogy. All these attempts to apply forco to the meaning of the language, are in vain ; and are now abandoned by roost commentators of note. Two or three general views, however, are current on the subject, which demand some further remark.
One is that of De Wette and others, who do not hesitate to regard our Lord as here announcing, that the coming of the Messiah to the judgment of the last day would take place immediately after the fall of Jerusalem. This idea, according to De Wette, is clearly expressed by our Lord, both here and elsewhere ; and was likewise held by Paul. But as the day of judgment has not yet come, it follows, either that our Lord, if correctly reported, was himself mistaken, and spoke here of things which he knew not; or else, that the sacred writers have not truly related his discourse. The latter horn of this dilemma is preferred by De Wette. According to him the disciples entertained the idea of their Lord’s return with such vividness oi faith and hope, that they overlooked the relations of time, which Jesus himself had left indefinite; and they thus connected his final coming immediately with his coming to destroy Jerusalem. They give here, therefore, their own conception of our Lord’s language, rather than the language itself aa it fell from his lips. They mistook his meaning; they acted upon this mistake in their own belief and preaching ; and in their writings have perpetuated it to the world throughout all time.
This view is, of course, incompatible with any and every idea of inspiration on the part of the sacred writers; the very essence of which is, that they were commissioned and aided by the Spirit to impart truth to the world, and not error. To a believer in this fundamental doctrine, no argument can here be necessary, nor in place, to counteract the view above presented. To state it in its naked contrast with the divine authority of God’s word, is enough.” p. 541. In his next paragraph, Dr. Robinson criticises the preceding views of the German commentators, very much in the way Prof. Stuart criticises Tholuck and others in his commentary on Rom. 13: 11. (See p. 301.) The Doctor proceeds: ”
Another form of the same general view is that presented by Olshausen. He too refers the verses of Matthew under consideration directly to the final coming of Christ; but seeks to avoid the difficulty above stated, by an explanation derived from the alleged nature of prophecy. He adopts the theory broached by Hengstenberg, that inasmuch as the vision of future things was presented solely to the mental or spiritual eye of the prophet, he thus saw them all at one glance as present realilirs, with equal vividness and without any distinction of order or time,—like the figures of a great painting without perspective or other marks of distance or relative position. ‘ The facts and realities are distinctly perceived ; but not their distance from the period, nor the intervals by which they are separated from each other.’ Hence our Lord, in submitting himself to the laws of prophetic vision, was led to speak of his last coming in immediate connexion with his coming for the destruction of Jerusalem : because in vision the two were presented together to his spiritual eye, without note of any interval of time.— Not to dwell here upon the fact, that this whole theory of prophecy is fanciful hypothesis, and appears to have been since abandoned by its author ; it is enough to remark, that this explanation admits, after all, the same fundamental error, viz. that our Lord did mistakenly announce his final coming as immediately to follow the overthrow of the Holy City. Indeed, the difficulty is even greater here, if possible, than before ; because, according to the former view, the error may be charged upon the report of the evangelists; while here it can only be referred to our Lord himself.” p. 544.
The writer next proceeds to show by examples from the Old Testament, (such as Isa. 13: 9, 34: 4, &c.,) that the language of Matt. 24: 29—31, may be only a figurative description of ‘ civil and political commotions and revolutions.’ lus conclusion from these examples is thus stated : ” We come then to the general result, that the language of the three verses under consideration docs not necessarily in itself apply to the general judgment ; while the nature of the context shows that such an application is inadmissible. On the other hand, there is nothing in the language itself to binder our referring it to the downfall of Judaism and the Jewish people ; but rather both the context and the attendant circumstances require it to be understood of these events.”— p. 549.
Finally, the writer actually applies the tremendous announcement of the coming of the Son of man in Matt. 24: 29—31, to a second Jewish war—the final catastrophe of the nation, which took place some time after the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70. The following paragraph presents the concluding epitome of his theory : ”
After these illustrations, I may sum up here in a few words the views suggested to my own mind in respect to the discourse of our Lord under consideration. In reply to the question of the four disciples: ‘When shall these things be?’ Jesus first points out what was to happen after his departure—the trials and dangers to which his followers would be exposed. Then comes the ‘ abomination of desolation :’ Jerusalem is ‘compassed by armies,’ and is ‘trodden down by the Gentiles :’—all this referring to its desolation by Titus in A. D. 70. Immediately afterward the Lord would come and establish more fully his spiritual kingdom, by crushing in terrible destruction the last remnants of the power and name of Judaism ; and this within the general limit of a generation of a hundred years from the time when he was speaking. There might, therefore, literally have been some then ‘ standing there, who did not taste of death till they saw the Son of man [thus] coming in his kingdom.’ Then it was, when this first great foe of the gospel dispensation should have been thus trampled down, that Christians -were to look up. ‘ Then look up, and lift up your heads ; for your redemption draweth nigh!’ The chains of religious despotism and the terrors of Jewish persecution would then be at an end forever ; and the disciples of Christ, thus far disenthralled and triumphant, might rejoice in the prevalence of the gospel of peace and love,—the coming of Christ’s spiritual kingdom upon earth!”— p. 652.
One of the laws of interpretation which Prof. Stuart and the Germans most earnestly insist upon, is, that a ‘frigid and inept meaning can be no true meaning.’ It seems to us that this law alone decisively condemns Dr. Robinson’s interpretation. What can be more ‘ frigid and inept’ than to refer a description of the coming of Christ to blast his enemies and gather his elect, to an obscure Jewish war, and the consequent prevalence of the gospel ! This is the old theory of the Universalists in a new form. They refer the whole of Matt. 24: 15—31 to the well known destruction of Jerusalem, and the resulting enlargement of Christianity ; while Dr. Robinson refers the first part of the passage (as far as verse 28) to that catastrophe, and the remainder to a subsequent and certainly less distinguished series of transactions. He has the advantage of them in that he gives a plausible meaning to the -words ‘ immediately after.’ But we think they have the advantage of him, in that they apply the most sublime part of the passage to the most sublime transaction, which he does not. Both parties rob the passage of all reference to the invisible world and eternal judgment.
Again, how will he dispose of Rev. 6: 12—17, and the chapter that follows? This is a repetition, almost verbatim, of Matt. 24: 29—31. No candid man can doubt that the two refer to the same coming of Christ. But in Rev. 6: 15—17, we have as strong a description of the judgment—’the great day of the wrath of the Lamb’—as can be found in the Bible. If no eternal judgment, but only civil commotions and temporal disasters are to be recognized here, we might safely engage to expurgate, by plausible exegesis, the whole Bible of all allusions to a day of judgment, or even to an invisible world. In the 7th chapter, immediately following this description of Christ’s coming, we have an extended account of the sealing and gathering of the hosts of the redeemed. This obviously corresponds to Matt. 24: 31,—’ He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, (see Rev. 7: 1,) from one end of heaven to the other.’ Now of these ‘ elect’ thus gathered, it is said (verse 14—17)— ‘ Tliese are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple : and he that sitteth on the throne slnill dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more ; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters : and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’ Can this be conjured into a description of any deliverances of the saints that have ever taken place in this world ? Nay, verily ; here is language that ‘ entereth into that within the veil ;’ and as surely as it does, so surely it demonstrates that the coming of Christ described in Matt. 24: 30, came to pass within the veil, and was to ‘ many’ the harbinger of eternal judgment. But waiving this general objection, we would ask Dr. Robinson, how according to his theory are we to understand verse 27—’As the lightning com- eth out of the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be’ ? Does not this describe an instantaneous and omnipresent manifestation of Christ ? What plausible fulfilment of these words can be found in the history of the second Jewish war, or of the first, or in the history of the external world ? The Doctor says nothing about this passage.
Our author concludes his article with some remarks on the remainder of Christ’s discourse in the 24th and 25th of Matthew. He thinks the latter part of the 25th chapter certainly refers to the final judgment ; and finds the point of transition from that part of the discourse which relates to tin- catastrophe of Judaism, to that which relates to the judgment, at the 43d verse of the 24th chapter. Now let the reader take his Testament and examine this transition point. The 42d verse, which the Doctor admits belongs to the former division of the discourse, enjoins upon the disciples to wateh, because they knew not what hour their Lord would come. The 43d verse illustrates the necessity of watehing, by the example of the good man of the house and the thief. Here certainly is no change of discourse. Watching is the key note still. The 44th verse is almost a literal repetition of the 42d. ‘Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.’
What conceivable reason is there for supposing that the coming of the Son of man here alluded to, is not the same as that mentioned in the 42d verse —as also in the 39th, 37th, 30th, and 27th verses ? If there is a change of meaning here, the discourse is an egregious imposition ; for there is no change of language, and no hint of any change of meaning. From the 45th verse the remainder of the chapter stands in undeniable connection with what goes before, i. e., as we have seen, with the coming of Christ at the destruction of Jerusalem. The 25th chapter commences with—’ THEN shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins.’ This points directly back to the great event of the preceding chapter. The whole parable of the ten virgins therefore belongs to the discourse on the advent connected with the destruction of Jerusalem. This brings us to the 12th verse. The 13th verse isanother repetition, almost word for word, of the 44th and 42d verses of the preceding chapter. There is not a shadow of authority for referring it to any event but that announced in Matt. 24: 27, 30, &c. The parable of the talents that follows, from the 14th to the 30th verses, is confessedly a sequel to the parable of the ten virgins, and belongs to the same train of thought. We are sure, then, that all that goes before the 31st verse of the 25th chap- ter, is part of the discourse relating to the coming of Christ at the destruction of Jerusalem. But it is manifest that the 31st verse introduces a new train of thought. ‘ When the Son of man shall come in his glory, &c., [this is the same coming as that which is the subject of the whole preceding discourse,] then shall he SIT upon the throne of his glory.’ Here is a new action.
COMING was the previous theme. Now SITTING on the throne—a continuous administration of government, is the subject of discourse. ‘ And before him shall be gathered all nations.’ It is not stated how long a period this gathering will occupy. It may, for aught that appears in the text, have been the work of the past eighteen hundred years. In order that he may thus gather all nations, he must first ‘ put down all rule and all authority and power ;’ and this is represented by Paul as the business of his whole mediatorial reign. (See 1 Cor. 15: 24.) The separation and the award of destinies described in the remainder of the 25th chapter, is the proper judgment ; and this, in our view, is yet future. We recognize in the predictions of the 24th and 25th of Matthew, two judgments—one at the beginning, and the other at the end of Christ’s mediatorial reign. With this theory, we find plain sailing through those chapters, as well as through many other regions of scripture which have long been famous for perils and shipwrecks.
We confess we cannot but be astonished at the pertinacity with which the churches and their great men keep themselves away from the marrow of the truth in relation to the second coming ofChrist. The simple idea that he actually came according to his promise, and commenced the judgment in Hie world of souls, immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem, seems to be avoided, as though it were forbidden fruit. The commentators of Germany and this country go around and around it, and seem to be ever drawing nearer to it. How they keep from hitting it, we cannot tell. But somehow they never touch it. The old ways of managing the 24th of Matthew are all abandoned. The double-sense scheme is scouted at Anderer. Twisting the word generation is given up. Still the learned come to no conclusion that is satisfactory to themselves or to one another. In Germany, where skepticism is licensed, one wise man thinks the evangelists misreported Christ. Another thinks Christ mistook the purport of his own visions, and misreported the Holy Ghost. In this country, Robinson finds a dubious history of Jewish wars subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem, and forthwith applies to them the splendid prophecy of the second coming. And Bush thinks that ‘ the grand nodus of this remarkable prophecy remains yet unsolved.’ When will all this end ? Is not the long delusion of Christendom on this subject, ‘ a veil on the heart,’ which mere learning and critical sagacity cannot rend ?” (The Berean, 811-816)
ROBINSON, EDWARD (1794-1863), American Biblical scholar, was born in Southington, Connecticut, on the loth of April 1794, the son of William Robinson (1754-1825), minister of the Congregational Church of Southington. He graduated in 1816 at Hamilton College. In 1821 he came under the influence and teaching of Moses Stuart, the second edition of whose Hebrew Grammar he helped to, prepare for the press in 1823, and through whom he was appointed in the same year instructor in Hebrew in Andover Seminary. With Stuart he translated in 1825 the first edition of Winer’s Grammar of New Testament Greek; and alone he translated Wahl’s Clans Philologica Noiii Testamenti (1825). In 1826-30 he studied in Germany, especially at Halle, under Gesenius, Tholuck and Rodiger, and at Berlin, under Neander. He was professor (extraordinary) of sacred literature and librarian at Andover in 1830-33, resigning because of dangerous epileptic attacks; and in 1831-35 he edited the Biblical Repository, which he founded and carried on very largely by his own contributions, assisted somewhat by his young German wife, Theresa Albertina Luise (1797-1869), the daughter of Professor Ludwig Heinrich von Jakob of Halle, a linguist of considerable ability, and a writer (in her early years under, the pseudonym ” Talvi “) of essays and stories. In 1837 he accepted the professorship of Biblical literature in Union Theological Seminary, and left America for three years of study in Palestine and Germany, the fruit of which, his Biblical Researches, published in 1841, brought him the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1842. A second volume of Researches appeared in 1856. His plans to sum up his important topographical studies in a work on Biblical geography were cut short by cataract in 1861 and by his death in New York City on the 27th of January 1863. A great Biblical scholar and exegete, Robinson must be considered the pioneer and father of Biblical geography his Biblical Researches, supplemented by the Physical Geography of the Holy Land (1865), were based on careful personal exploration and tempered by a thoroughly critical spirit, which was possibly at times too sceptical of local tradition. Of scarcely less value in their day were his Greek Harmony of the Gospels (1845 and often) and his Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament (1836; revised 1847 and 1850). He established in 1843 an(i edited for some years the Bibliotheca Sacra (in which the Biblical Repository was merged in 1852), for which he wrote until 1855. See Henry B. Smith and Roswell D. Hitchcock, The Life, Writings and Character of Edward Robinson (New York, 1863); a biography of Mrs Robinson was published, with a collection of her stories, in Leipzig, in 1874.”
Milton S. Terry
“American scholarship has as yet produced comparatively little that bears favorable comparison with the great exegetical works of British and German authors. But the translators of Lange’s Commentary, nearly all Americans, have exhibited therein an exegetical ability quite equal to those of the original writers, and, in some of the volumes, the additions made by the translators are the most valuable parts of the work. In the earlier part of this century Moses Stuart and Edward Robinson did more than any other two men in the United States to promote an interest in exegetical studies. The former published commentaries on Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Daniel, Romans, Hebrews, and the Apocalypse, all of which show the skill of a master, and have maintained, up to the present time, a place among the very ablest expositions of these books. But Robinson’s contributions to biblical literature were even more profound and valuable than those of Stuart. His translation of Wahl’s Clavis Philologica was superseded by his own Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament, a work that has had incalculable influence in directing the studies of theological students and ministers, and only now gives place to the admirable Greek‑English Lexicon of the New Testament, prepared by J. H. Thayer, another American scholar.” (Biblical Hermeneutics, Intro.)
“PROF. EDWARD ROBINSON, in 1840, made a careful survey of Palestine, including the Jordan river. His statements corroborate those of others, as to the abundant supply of water both in the Jor-dan and in the city of Jerusalem itself. He cites the earlier but well-known travelers whose published works are familiar to the reading public: Seetzen, who visited the country in 1806; Burckhardt, who explored it in 1812; Irby and Mangles, in 1818, and Buckingham, who traveled through it at about the same time. These distinguished explorers published the results of their travels, which can be consulted.” (Rob. Bib, Resear., Vol. II., pp. 257-267.)
“Our Lord here makes a transition, and proceeds to speak of his final coming at the day of judgment. This appears from the fact that the matter of these sections is added by Matthew after Mark and Luke have ended their parallel reports relative to the Jewish catastrophe; and Matthew here commences, with ver. 43, the discourse which Luke has given on another occasion, Luke xii. 39, &c.” (Harmony of the Four Gospels, § 129)
What do YOU think ?