Historical Jewish Sources

Historical Jewish Sources


Talmudic Midrashim, Aramaic Targumim and Hebrew Seforim

Torah – Or “TaNaKh”, an acronym denoting these three sections:
    –  Torah (Teaching)
–  Nevi’im (Prophets) –  Former (Deuteronomic Code); Latter (Literary)
– Ketuvim (Writings) Canonical Collection From Post-Prophetic Age
Talmud – Documents that Comment and Expand Upon Mishnah
– Mishnah 1st-2nd Century Rabbinic Study Book of Laws/Values
– Gamara (Agadah – Tales and Morals ; Halacha – Code of Jewish Law)
          – Babylonian (“Bavli”) Gemara (200-600)
– Palestinian (“Yerushalmi”) Gemara (200-500)
Midrash Exegetical Interpretation of the Torah’s Text
– Halakhah – Interpreting Law and Religious Practice
– Aggadah – Biblical Narrative ; Ethics, Theology, Homily (200-1000)
Targums – Translations of the Bible into Jewish Aramaic
Dead Sea Scrolls – Collection of Materials Found in Judean Desert
Josephus – One of World’s All-Time Greatest Non-Biblical Historians
Apocalyptic Genre – “Turn of Era” Lit. Exploring Eschatological Salvation
Liturgical Texts – Routine Prayers Said Spontaneously
Reference Works – Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Concordances

“Jewish writings stipulate that forty years after the coming of the Messiah there will be a resurrection of the dead, and all who are lying in dust will rise to new life.”

Why Was Temple Destroyed?Michel Wex Haaretz Interview – Scholar and popularizer of Yiddish, whose latest offering draws from two millennia of Jewish tradition to serve as a primer for being a mentsh “You look at something like the story in the Talmud about the destruction of Jerusalem, about Kamtso and Bar Kamtso. Ultimately it turned on a piece of khnoykishkayt [hypocritical sanctimoniousness]” // Wex focuses on the Talmudic explanation for the destruction of the Second Temple, which is attributed to a feud between two Jews of firstcentury C.E. Jerusalem. The servant of a man throwing a party mistakenly invites Bar Kamtso, an enemy of his boss, instead of his friend Kamtso. The host, rather than making the best of an awkward situation, pointedly refuses to admit Bar Kamtso when he shows up at the gathering. An embarrassed Bar Kamtso offers to cover the cost of the entire party if he is only allowed to stay, but the host kicks him out, humiliating him before his peers, none of whom bothers to come to his defense. Bar Kamtso decides to take his revenge by sabotaging an offering of a calf that the Roman emperor has sent to the Temple. In a fatal display of small-minded pettiness, the Temple’s priests refuse to accept the blemished offering, thereby insulting the emperor, who then orders the city attacked and the Temple destroyed.  In Michael Wex’s − and the Talmud’s − eyes, everyone involved in the tale behaved badly, schmuckishly in fact, and with devastating consequences. Each character allows his anger to get the better of him − and self-control, the author argues, is one of the most basic lessons of Judaism.

The Generation of the Messiah | The Ninth of Ab | Daniel’s Weeks Prophecy | The Heavenly Temple | The Destruction of the Temple | New Heavens and Earth | Symbols for Rome

Significance of Forty Year Period
c.f. – A.D. 30 (Death of Christ) to A.D.70 (Fall of Jerusalem)

‘THE GENERATION OF THE MESSIAH’

Maimonides
“Jewish writings stipulate that forty years after the coming of the Messiah there will be a resurrection of the dead, and all who are lying in dust will rise to new life.” (The 13 Principles and the Resurrection of the Dead)

The Rebbe often quotes the Zohar to the effect that the Resurrection will take place 40 years after the advent of Mashiach. (See Igros Kodesh, Vol. II, p. 75; Sefer HaSichos 5752, Vol. I, p. 274. However, there are also other references in the sichos (e.g., Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXVII, p. 206; Sefer HaSichos 5733, Shabbos Parshas Balak, footnote 3)

THE NINTH OF AB

Misu. Taanith
“On the “ninth of Ab” it was decreed concerning our fathers, that they should not enter into the land (of Canaan), the first and second temple were destroyed, Bither was taken, and the city ploughed up.” (Misu. Taanith, c. 4. sect. 7. T. Hieros. Taanioth, fol. 68. 3. & Maimon. Hilch. Taanioth, c. 5. sect. 2.)

Rabbi Yochanan
“Had I been alive in that generation, I would have fixed [the day of mourning] for the tenth [of Av], because the greater part of the Temple was burnt on that day.” ( The 10th of Av: When the Temple was in Flames)

DANIEL’S WEEKS PROPHECY

Aquila
“On thy people, and on thy sacred city.. For ending disobedience, and for completing transgression. For the fulfilling of their disobedience and the completion of their sin, For the propitiation of their transgression, For the bringing in of everlasting righteousness, And for fulfilling the vision and the prophet. For the anointing of the most consecrated,”  (Quoted in Demonstratio Evangelica (Proof of the Gospel) ;  BOOK VIII)

Josephus
“A sufficient proof of this is afforded by the passage, Josephus Arch. 10:1 l, 7, ‘Daniel predicted also the Roman supremacy, and that our country should be desolated by them.’

Rabbi Judah (Main Compiler of the Talmud)
“These times were over long ago” (Regarding Daniel’s prophecy – Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 98b and 97a)

Rabbi Moses Abraham Levi
“I have examined and searched all the Holy Scriptures and have not found the time for the coming of Messiah clearly fixed, except in the words of Gabriel to the prophet Daniel, which are written in the 9th chapter of the prophecy of Daniel.”

Samuel Levine (1925)
“Christians, for lack of a better answer, claim that the 70th week will take place when Jesus returns in his second coming as a king.  The problem was caused because Daniel mentioned a total of 70 weeks, and then he specified 7 plus 62, leaving one remaining.  The Christians say that the first 69 weeks were consecutive, then there is at least a 1900 year gap, and sooner or later the 70th week will occur.  This is obviously a very forced explanation, born of desperation.” [You take Jesus, I’ll Take God: How to Refute Christian Missionaries (Los Angeles: Hamoroh Press, 1980)p. 31]

The Four Kingdoms in Book 4 of the Sibylline Oracles:

  1. The Assyrians for 6 generations-49-53
  2. The Medes for two generations-54-64
  3. The Persians for one generation prosperous-65-87
  4. The Macedonians-88-101
    The rise of Italy, Rome-102-114
    The destruction of Jerusalem-115-129
    Rumors of Nero’s return-130-151
    Impiety of end Times-152-161
    Exhortation to convert-162-170
    Conflagration-171-178
    Resurrection & Judgment-179-192

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE SECOND TEMPLE

“from the time that the temple was destroyed, the wise men, and sons of nobles, were put to shame, and they covered their heads; liberal men were reduced to poverty; and men of violence and calumny prevailed; and there were none that expounded, or inquired, or asked. R. Elezer the great, said, from the time the sanctuary were destroyed, the wise men began to be like Scribes, and the Scribes like to the Chazans, (or sextons that looked after the synagogues,) and the Chazans like to the common people, and the common people grew worse and worse, and there were none that inquired and asked;” (Misn. Sotah, c. 9. sect. 15.)

THE HEAVENLY TEMPLE

Midrash on Nathan’s Prophecy (Qumran)
“It is the house which [He will create] for [himself at the E]nd of days, as it is written in the book of [Moses the sanctuary of] the Lord, which Thy hands have established.  The Lord will reign forever and ever..” (DJD V [1968]: 53)

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 149a
“… the structure of the Tabernacle corresponds to the structure of heaven and earth.”

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 231a
“Now, the Tabernacle below was likewise made after the pattern of the supernal Tabernacle in all its details. For the Tabernacle in all its works embraced all the works and achievements of the upper world and the lower, whereby the Shekinah was made to abide in the world, both in the higher spheres and the lower. Similarly, the Lower Paradise is made after the pattern of the Upper Paradise, and the latter contains all the varieties of forms and images to be found in the former. Hence the work of the Tabernacle, and that of heaven and earth, come under one and the same mystery.”

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 235b
“Now, the lower and earthly Tabernacle was the counterpart of the upper Tabernacle, whilst the latter in its turn is the counterpart of a higher Tabernacle, the most high of all. All of them, however, are implied within each other and form one complete whole, as it says: “that the tabernacle may be one whole” (Ex. XXVI, 6). The Tabernacle was erected by Moses, he alone being allowed to raise it up, as only a husband may raise up his wife. With the erection of the lower Tabernacle there was erected another Tabernacle on high. This is indicated in the words “the tabernacle was reared up (hukam)” (Ex. XL, 17), reared up, that is, by the hand of no man, but as out of the supernal undisclosed mystery in response to the mystical force indwelling in Moses that it might be perfected with him.”

Menacoth 29a
It was taught: R. Jose b. Judah says, An ark of fire and a table of fire and a candlestick of fire came down from heaven; and these Moses saw and reproduced, as it is written, And see that thou make them after their pattern, which is being shown thee in the mount. Will you then say the same [of the tabernacle], for it is written, And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which hath been shown thee in the mount! — Here it is written ‘according to the fashion thereof’, whilst there ‘after their pattern’.”

b.Hag. 12b
“ZEBUL is that in which [the heavenly] Jerusalem and the [heavenly] Temple and the Alter are built, and Michael, the great Prince, stands and offers up thereon an offering, for it is said: I have surely built you a house of habitation [ZEBUL] a place for you to dwell in forever (1Kn. 8:13) And where do we derive that it is called heaven? For it is written: Look down from heaven, and see, even from your holy and glorious habitation. (Is. 63:15)

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 164a
Then he began to expound to them this verse: A song of degrees for Solomon (li-shelomoh). Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord guard the city, the watchman waketh but in vain (Ps. CXXVII, 1-2). Said he: ‘Was it Solomon who composed this Psalm when he built the Temple? (for li-shelomoh could be understood to mean “of Solomon”). Not so. It was King David who composed it, about his son Solomon, when Nathan came to him (David) and told him that Solomon would build the Temple. Then King David showed unto his son Solomon, as a model, the celestial prototype of the Temple, and David himself, when he saw it and all the activities connected with it, as set forth in the celestial idea of it, sang this psalm concerning his son Solomon.

RoshHaShannah 24b
Abaye replied: The Torah forbade only those attendants of which it is possible to make copies, as it has been taught: A man may not make a house in the form of the Temple, or an exedra in the form of the Temple hall, or a court corresponding to the Temple court, or a table corresponding to the [sacred] table or a candlestick corresponding to the [sacred] candlestick, but he may make one with five or six or eight lamps, but with seven he should not make, even of other metals.”

  1. Ta’an 4.8
    “the Holy of Holies below is aligned opposite the Holy of Holies above”

Yitzhak Baer
“The most essential principle in the worldview of our forefathers was that the lower world serves only as a reflection of the upper world.  There follow from this the details of their human Torah, both universal and individual, and their outlook regarding the place of the Jewish people in history; and one cannot separate between these two aspects.” (Yisra’el ba’Amim, 83-84)

Haamek Davar
“A faithful God, never false, just and upright is He”… 
these praises are intended to justify God’s destruction of the two temples, as will be explained: “A faithful God, never false” – referring to the destruction of the first and second temples, “just and upright is He”– referring to the destruction of the first and second temples …It is known that the first destruction was due to idolatry, sexual immorality, and the shedding of blood which angered The Holy One, Blessed Be He; the second temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred, and we have explained (Bemidbar 35:34) that they did practice study of Torah and the service of God, but most of the shedding of blood was done for the sake of heaven, for they would condemn one who commits some transgression as being a Saduccee, one worthy of death and incarceration, etc. In this, their behavior became very corrupted – all in the name of heaven… “never false” – even though they acted for the sake of heaven, He cannot bear iniquity.”  (Rashi, Devarim 32:4)

Flavius Josephus
“and the Temple shall be made according to the measure and the vessels that he Himself showed him.” (Ant. 3.99-101)

Rivka Nir (2003)
“One may also include within this group (pseudepigraphic-apocalyptic literature) the literature of the Qumran sect, which expresses conceptual and linguistic relations and ideological and theological characteristics similar to those of the pseudepigraphic and apocalyptic literature.  Like the apocalyptic literature, the Qumran sect’s theological focus was on the eschatological anticipation of the approaching end of days, on the war between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, and on the appearance of the expected messianic age.  Similar to the apocalyptic literature, the Qumran scrolls expressed absolute negation of the historical Jerusalem and temple.  The sect anticipates a new Jerusalem and a new temple in which atonement will be achieved, not by means of the flesh of burnt-offerings and the fat of the sacrifices, but by  a spiritual sacrifice “of lips of justice like a righteous fragrance” (1QS ix 4-5).  The scrolls of this mysterious sect also include chapters and fragments of works from the apocalyptic literature (such as the Book of Enoch, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Book of Jubilees, etc.), which likewise betray an ideological proximity to the world of Christianity.” (The Destruction of Jerusalem and the idea of Redemption, p. 13)

“The Jerusalem that God promised to engrave on the palms of His hand is not the Jerusalem that is about to be destroyed, the historic Jerusalem of the Second Temple.  Rather, he refers here to another Jerusalem, one kept by God in the heavens, which He himself created before time, alongside paradise — a transcendent and preexistent Jerusalem.” (p. 20)

“The author of this book is not at all interested in the rebuilding of the temple and of Jerusalem; indeed, not a word is said in the entire book regarding the hope and anticipation for its future restoration.  According to his view, the historical Jerusalem and temple, which were built by man on earth, were from the outset inferior and condemned to a limited life span, as against the heavenly Jerusalem and sanctuary, which were formed by God in hoary antiquity and will enjoy eternal existence.” (p. 21)

Philo of Alexandria
“It was determined, therefore, to fashion a tabernacle, a work of the highest sanctity, the construction of which was set forth to Moses on the mount  by divine pronouncements.  He saw with the soul’s eye the immaterial forms of the material objects about to be made, and these forms had to be reproduced in copies, perceived by the senses, taken from the original draught, so to speak, and from patterns comprehended in the mind.. So the shape of the model was stamped upon the mind of the prophet, a secretly painted or moulded prototype, produced by immaterial and invisible forms; and then the resulting work was built in accordance with that shape by the artist impressing the stampings upon the material substances required in each case.” (Mos. 2.74-76 [LCL; 6:485-87])

Rabbi Yochanan
“Yerushalayim was destroyed only because they ruled according to the law of the Torah.”  What? Are we then to judge according to the laws of the gentiles?!  Rather say “Because they based their law on the law of the Torah and did not act beyond the letter of the law.  (Bavli, Bava Metsia 30b).

Ethiopian Book of Enoch
“Then I stood still, looking at that ancient house being transformed: all the pillars and all the columns were pulled out; and the ornaments of that house were packed and taken out together with them and abandoned in a certain place in the South of the land.  I went on seeing until the Lord of the sheep brought about a new house, greater and loftier than the first one, and set it up in the first location which had been covered up — all its pillars were new, the columns new; and the ornaments new, as well as greater than those of the first, (that is) the old (house), which was gone.  All the sheep were within it.” (I En. 90:28-29)

Testament of Dan
“and the saints shall refresh themselves in Eden, the righteous shall rejoice in the new Jerusalem, which shall be eternally for the glorification of God.” (Test. Dan 5:12)

THE NEW HEAVENS AND EARTH

“For Behold — from the great goodness that there will be, as if the world will be renewed, a new heavens and a new earth”

Maimonides
“Thus describing the state of Exile and its various particularities and thereupon the restoration of the kingdom and the disappearance of all those sorrows, he says, speaking in parables:  I shall create another heaven and another earth and those that are now will be forgotten and their traces effaced.  Then he explains this in continuity, saying: When I have said “I shall create,” I meant thereby that I shall produce for you, instead of those sorrows and hardships, a state of constant joy and gladness so that the former sorrows will not be remembered.” (Guide for the Perplexed II.29)

Rome in Jewish Sources


ON DEUTERONOMY 28:49

“Trajan, being sent for by his wife to subdue the Jews, determined to come in ten days, and came in five; he came and found them (the Jews) busy in the law on that verse, “the Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far”, &c. he said unto them, what are ye busy in? they answered him, so and so; he replied to them, this is the man (meaning himself) who thought to come in ten days, and came in five; and he surrounded them with his legions, and slew them:” (T. Hieros. Succah, fol. 55. 2.)

Rambam
“Vespasian and his son Titus came from Rome to conquer the Land of Israel and destroy Jerusalem and the Second Temple.  The awful conditions described though verse 57 took place during the siege of Jerusalem.” (History through a Jewish lens: The War of Tisha B’av)

ROME AS KITTIM

Ida Froehlich (1999)
“The rule for the use of t he typological name Kittim –and most probably for other terms as well– is that the name has a collective, general meaning (in the case of the Kittim: “strangers arriving from the sea, from the direction of Cyprus”). The actual meaning of the name in a given instance is always determined by the characteristics of the term, that is, those events which the text mentions as a reference in connection with the name (sometimes, as in the case of Acco in the aforementioned text, one key word is the determining factor).

The kittim mentioned in pHab are to be identified with the Romans. Pesher Habakkuq IX.4-10 interprets the conquest of the kittim as divine punishment, in the course of which “the riches and booty of the last priests (_____ _¿______) of Jerusalem shall l be delivered into the hands of the army of the Kittim”, “at the end of the days (_¿____ _____)”. This reference most likely concerns the fight for the throne between the sons of Alexandros Jannaios, in the course of which both pretenders gave handsome sums and gifts to Aemilius Scaurus, the Roman general, and Pompeius, who was the arbiter in their dispute (cf. Jos. Ant. XIV.2-3; 3.1).” (History as seen from Qumran)

Rivka Nir (2003)
“One may also include within this group (pseudepigraphic-apocalyptic literature) the literature of the Qumran sect, which expresses conceptual and linguistic relations and ideological and theological characteristics similar to those of the pseudepigraphic and apocalyptic literature.  Like the apocalyptic literature, the Qumran sect’s theological focus was on the eschatological anticipation of the approaching end of days, on the war between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, and on the appearance of the expected messianic age.  Similar to the apocalyptic literature, the Qumran scrolls expressed absolute negation of the historical Jerusalem and temple.  The sect anticipates a new Jerusalem and a new temple in which atonement will be achieved, not by means of the flesh of burnt-offerings and the fat of the sacrifices, but by  a spiritual sacrifice “of lips of justice like a righteous fragrance” (1QS ix 4-5).  The scrolls of this mysterious sect also include chapters and fragments of works from the apocalyptic literature (such as the Book of Enoch, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, the Book of Jubilees, etc.), which likewise betray an ideological proximity to the world of Christianity.” (The Destruction of Jerusalem and the idea of Redemption, p. 13)

Peter Schafer (2003)
“One thing both movements (Qumran and Bar Kochba) would have had in common was the fight against Rome, for it is almost certain that the term “Kittim” in the Qumran texts stemming from the final phase of the Qumran community is a reference to the Romans.” (The History of the Jews in the Greco-Roman World, p. 152)

Nosson Scherman (1994)
(On Daniel 11:30) “Kittim is another name for the Romans.  Rome will ignore its prior pact with the Hasmoneans (v. 23), and nullify the treaty.   It will realize that Jewish disunity, brought about by their forsaking the Torah, “the Covenant of Sanctity,” provides Rome the opportunity to conquer.” (Tanach, p. 1808)

Lawrence Schiffman (2001)
“For many years, the Dead Sea sect had expected the Roman conquest of Palestine.  The Dead Sea sectarians felt confident that the coming of the Kittim – as they called the Romans – would trigger the great eschatological battle.  But this final, expected war failed to materialize after the Romans easily defeated the divided Hasmonaean state in 63 B.C.E.  By the time Jewish resistance developed into the full-scale revolt of 66-73 C.E., the Dead Sea sect had stabilized and had completed the gathering – with some possible exception – of its manuscript collection at Qumran.”  (Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scroll, p. 395)

Kittim – A place-name in the Aegean Islands, perhaps Kition in Cyprus, that in Dead Sea Scrolls texts serves as a code word for “Romans” (Glossary)

Neil Silberman (1993)
“All these manuscripts, taken together, might be read as the recorded faith of a community of alienated, dispossessed Jewish priests and their followers who remained true to the strictest possible interpretation of the biblical laws.  They also remained true to the hope for national redemption from the yoke of the people they called the Kittim — and we call the Romans — idolatrous invaders from across the sea “who trample the earth with their horses and beasts.” (The Hidden Scrolls, p. 3)

NERO AS ENEMY / BELIAL

Barbara Levick
“The fourth ‘Sibylline Oracle’, composed by a Jew just after Vespasian’s death, encapsulates the grievances of Jews and Greeks, interpreting the eruption of Vesuvius as requital for the fate of Jerusalem, prophesying natural destruction and the return of Nero leading a Parthian army.” (Vespasian)

Jewish Sibylline Oracles (Written “Sometime after A.D.70”)
“Then Beliar will come from the Sebastinoi [i.e., the line of Augustus] and he will raise up the height of mountains, he will raise up the sea, the great fiery sun and shining moon, and he will raise up the dead. . . . But he will, indeed, also lead men astray, and he will lead astray many faithful, chosen Hebrews, and also other lawless men who have not yet listened to the word of God. (Sibylline Oracles 3:63-70; OTP 1:363.)

“One who has fifty as an initial will be commander, a terrible snake, breathing out grievous war, who one day will lay hands on his own family and slay them, and throw every-thing into confusion, athlete, charioteer, murderer, one who dares ten thousand things. He will also cut the mountain between two seas and defile it with gore. But even when he disappears he will be destructive. Then he will return declaring himself equal to God. But he will prove that he is not. Three princes after him will perish at each other’s hands.” (.5:28-35; OTP 1:393.)

“a savage-minded man, much-bloodied, raving nonsense, with a full host numerous as sand, to bring destruction on you.” (5:96; OTP 1:395.)

“a terrible and shameless prince whom all mortals and noble men despise. For he destroyed many men and laid hands on the womb. (5:143- 145; OTP 1:396.)

“There will come to pass in the last time about the waning of the moon a war which will throw the world into confusion and be deceptive in guile. A man who is a matricide will come from the ends of the earth in flight and devising penetrating schemes in his mind. He will destroy every land and conquer all and consider all things more wisely than all men. He will immediately seize the one because of whom he himself perished. He will destroy many men and great rulers, and he will set fire to all men as no one else ever did. Through zeal he will raise up those who were crouched in fear. There will come upon men a great war from the West. Blood will flow up to the band of deep-eddying rivers. Wrath will drip in the plains of Macedonia, an alliance to the people horn the West, but destruction for the king.” (Oracles 5:361-374; OTP 1:401-402.)

“making himself equal to God.” (12:79, 81, 86; OTP 14-47.)

ROME AS EDOM

“When Nero came to the Holy Land, he tried his fortune by belemnomancy thus:—He shot an arrow eastward, and it fell upon Jerusalem; he discharged his shafts towards the four points of the compass, and every time they fell upon Jerusalem. After this he met a Jewish boy, and said unto him, “Repeat to me the text thou hast learned to-day.” The boy repeated, “I will lay my vengeance upon Edom (i.e., Rome) by the hand of my people Israel” (Ezek. xxv. 14). Then said Nero, “The Holy One—blessed be He!—has determined to destroy His Temple and then avenge Himself on the agent by whom its ruin is wrought.” Thereupon Nero fled and became a Jewish proselyte, and Rabbi Meir is of his race. (Gittin, fol. 56, col. 1.)

ROME AND JUDAISM / ZAKKAI

Yochanan Ben Zakkai Sets up Yavneh
Gittin 56a describes how Yochanan ben Zakkai succeeded in establishing the court (beit din) at Yavneh despite the destruction of the Temple.

Gittin 56b:

Abba Sikra, the head of the biryoni (rebels, bandits, looters) in Jerusalem, was the son of the sister of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai.

He (Yochanan) sent to him saying, Come to visit me privately. When he came he said to him: How long are you going to carry on in this way and kill all the people with starvation?”

He replied: What can I do? If I say a word to them, they will kill me.

He said: “Devise some plan for me to escape. Perhaps I shall be able to save a little.”

He said to him: “Pretend to be ill, and let everyone come to inquire about you. Bring something evil-smelling and put it by you so that they will say you are dead. Then let your disciples get under your bier, but no others, so that they shall not notice that you are still light, since they know that the living being is lighter than a corpse.”

He did so, and R. Eliezer went under the bier from one side and R. Joshua from the other. When they reached the gate, some men wanted to put a lance through the bier.

He said to them: Shall [the Romans] say, They [soldiers] have pierced their [the Jews’] Master?”

They wanted to give it a push. He said to them: “Shall they say that they pushed their Master?” They opened a town gate for him and he got out.

When he reached the Romans, he said: “Peace to you, O King. Peace to you, O King.”

He [Vespasian] said: “Your life is forfeit on two counts, one because I am not a king and you call me king, and again, if I am a king, why did you not come to me before now?”

He replied: “As for your saying that you are not a king, in truth you are a king, since if you were not a king Jerusalem would not be delivered into your hand, as it is written, ‘And Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one ‘[Isaiah 10:34]. “Mighty one” is applied only to a king, as it is written, And their mighty one shall be of themselves… [Jeremiah 30:21] and Lebanon refers to the Sanctuary, as it says, This goodly mountain and Lebanon [Deuteronomy 3:25]. As for your question, why if you are a king, I did not come to you until now, the answer is that the biryoni among us did not let me.”

He said to him: “If there is a jar of honey around which a serpent is wound, would they not break the jar to get rid of the serpent?”

He could give no answer.

R. Joseph, or as some say R. Akiba, applied to him the verse,’God turns wise men backward and makes their knowledge foolish [Isaiah 44:25].’ He ought to have said to him: We take a pair of tongs and grip the snake and kill it, and leave the jar intact.

At this point a messenger came to him from Rome saying: “Up for the Emperor is dead, and the notables of Rome have decided to make you king.”

He had just finished putting on one boot. When he tried to put on the other he could not. He tried to take off the first but it would not come off.

He said: What is the meaning of this?”

R. Yochanan said to him: “Do not worry: the good news has done it, as it says Good tidings make the bone fat [Proverbs 15:30]. What is the remedy? Let someone whom you dislike come and pass before you, as it is written ‘A broken spirit dries up the bones [Proverbs 17:22].’

He did so, and the boot went on.

He said to him: “Seeing that you are so wise, why did you not come to me until now?”

He said: “Have I not told you?”

He retorted, I too have told you.”

He [Vespasian] said: “I am now going and will send someone to take my place. You can, however, make a request of me and I will grant it.”

He said to him: “Give me Yavneh and its wise men, and the family chain of Rabban Gamaliel, and physicians to heal R. Tzaddok.”

R. Joseph, or some say R. Akiva, applied to him the verse, ‘[God] turns wise men backward and makes their knowledge foolish.’ He ought to have said to him: “Let them off this time.”

He, however, thought that he (Vespasian) [Vespasian] would not grant so much, and so even a little would not be saved… ” (Gittin 56b, Babylonian Talmud)

ON AION/OLAM

 This two age/world schema is a thoroughly Jewish conception which the Christians picked up on.

Adam Clarke in his commentary frequently quotes Jewish thought in this regard The rabbis have a saying similar to this: “It is better for thee to be scorched with a little fire in this world than to be burned with a devouring fire in the world to come.”

“This money goeth for alms, that my sons may live, and that I may obtain the world to come. —Bab. Rosh. Hashshanah.

[Verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.] The rabbis have a similar saying: “He that gives food to one that studies in the law, God will bless him in this world, and give him a lot in the world to  come.” —Syn. Sohar.

This distinction of `owlaam (OT:5769) hazeh (OT:2088), this world, and of `owlaam (OT:5769) ha-ba’ (OT:935), the world to come, you may find almost in every page of the rabbis.

“The Lord recompense thee a good reward for this thy good work in this world, and let thy reward be perfected in the world to come. —Targum on Ruth.

“It (that is, the history of the creation and of the Bible) therefore begins with the Hebrew letter beth (b), in the word bªree’shiyt (OT:7225) because two worlds were created, this world and a world to come. —Baal Turim.

“The world to come hints two things especially (of which see Rambam, in Sanhed. cap. 2 Chelek.)
I. The times of the Messiah: `Be mindful of the day wherein thou camest out of Egypt, all the days of thy life: the wise men say, by the days of thy life is intimated this world: by all the days of thy life the days of the Messiah are superinduced.’ In this sense the apostle seems to speak, Heb 2:5, and 6:5.

  1. The state after death: thus Rab. Tancum, The world to come, is when a man has departed out of this world.”

Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.  [Whose wife shall she be of the seven?] The rabbis have said, That if a woman have two husbands in this world, she shall have the first only restored to her in the world to come. —Sohar. Genes. fol. 24.

[Ye do err] Or, Ye are deceived-by your impure passions: not knowing the scriptures, which assert the resurrection:-nor the miraculous power of God (teen (NT:3588) dunamin (NT:1411) tou (NT:3588) Theou (NT:2316)) by which it is to be effected. In Avoda Sara, fol. 18, Sanhedrin, fol. 90, it is said: “These are
they which shall have no part in the world to come: Those who say, the Lord did not come from heaven; and those who say, the resurrection cannot be proved out of the law.”

Perhaps the Scriptures were never more diligently searched than at that very time: first, because they were in expectation of the immediate appearing of the Messiah; secondly, because they wished to find out allegories in them; (see Philo;) and, thirdly, because they found these scriptures to contain the promise
of an eternal life. He, said they, who studies daily in the law, is worthy to have a portion in the world to come, —Sohar. Genes. fol. 31.

From the tract Kiddushin, fol. 81.“Some captive women were brought to Nehardea, and disposed in the house and the upper room of Rabbi Amram. They took away the ladder (that the women might not get down, but stay there until they were ransomed.) As one of these captives passed by the window, the light of her great beauty shined into the house. Amram (captivated) set up the ladder; and when he was got to the middle of the steps (checked by his conscience) he stopped short, and with a loud voice cried out FIRE! FIRE! in the house of Amram! (This he did that, the neighhours flocking in, he might be obliged to desist from the evil affection which now prevailed in him.) The rabbis ran to him, and (seeing no fire) they said, Thou hast disgraced us. To which he replied: It is better that ye be disgraced in the house of Amram in this world, than that ye be disgraced by me in the world to come.

There is a saying among the rabbis very like that of the apostle in this and the preceding verse. Siphri, in Yalcut Simeoni, page 2, fol. 10: “The faces of the righteous shall be, in the world to come, like suns, moons, the heaven, stars, lightnings: and like the lilies and candlesticks of the temple.”

It is remarkable that the Jews themselves maintained that Abraham was saved by faith. Mehilta, in Yalcut Simeoni, page 1., fol. 69, makes this assertion: “It is evident that Abraham could not obtain an inheritance either in this world or in the world to come, but by faith.”

FIRE AND THE BURNT HOUSE

Psalm 66:12.  You humbled us, you made our creditors ride over our heads; you judged us as if by fire[115] and water, and you brought us out to a broad place. Another Targum: The Medes and Greeks rode over us, they passed over our heads; you brought us among the Romans, who judge us like the cruel Chaldeans, who cast our father Abraham into the fiery furnace, and the Egyptians, who cast our infants into the water; yet you brought us up to freedom.”

The Burnt House was found buried under a thick layer of destruction. Throughout the house, scattered in disarray among the collapsed walls, ceilings and the second story, were fragments of stone tables and many ceramic, stone and metal vessels, evidence of pillaging by the Roman soldiers. Leaning against a corner of one of the rooms was an iron spear, which apparently had belonged to one of the Jewish fighters who lived here. At the entrance to the side room, the arm bones of a young woman were found, the fingers clutching at the stone threshold. The many iron nails found in the ruins are all that was left of the wooden roof, the shelves and furnishings which were completely burnt. Numerous coins minted during the rebellion against the Romans (66-70 CE) attest to the date of the destruction of this house. In one of the rooms a round stone weight, 10 cm. in diameter, was found. On it, in square Aramaic script was the Hebrew inscription (of) Bar Kathros, indicating that it belonged to the son of a man named Kathros. The “House of Kathros” is known as that of a priestly family, which had abused its position in the Temple. A ditty preserved in talmudic literature speaks of the corruption of these priests:

Woe is me because of the House of Boethus,
woe is me because of their slaves.
Woe is me because of the House of Hanan,
woe is me because of their incantations.
Woe is me because of the House of Kathros,
woe is me because of their pens.
Woe is me because of the House of Ishmael, son of Phiabi,
woe is me because of their fists.
For they are the High Priests, and their sons are treasurers, and their sons-in law are trustees, and their servants beat the people with staves.  
(Babylonian Talmud, Pesahim 57, 1 Tosefta, Minhot 13, 21)  

ON AQUILA

Translator of the canonical Scriptures from Hebrew into Greek. He was by birth a Gentile from Pontus, and is said by Epiphanius to have been a connection by marriage of the emperor Hadrian and to have been appointed by him about the year 128 to an office concerned with the rebuilding of Jerusalem as “Ælia Capitolina.” At some unknown age he joined the Christians, but afterward left them and became a proselyte to Judaism. According to Jerome he was a disciple of Rabbi Akiba. The Talmud states that he finished his translations under the influence of R. Akiba and that his other teachers were Eliezer ben Hyrcanus and Joshua ben Hananiah. It is certain, however, that Aquila’s translation had appeared before the publication of Irenæus’ “Adversus Hæreses”; i.e., before 177.

The work seems to have been entirely successful as regards the purpose for which it was intended (Jerome speaks of a second edition which embodied corrections by the author), and it was read by the Greek-speaking Jews even in the time of Justinian (Novella, 146). It was used intelligently and respectfully by great Christian scholars like Origen and Jerome, while controversialists of less merit and learning, such as the author of the “Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila” (published in 1898 by F. C. Conybeare), found it worth their while to accuse Aquila of anti-Christian bias, and to remind their Jewish adversaries of the superior antiquity of the Septuagint. But no manuscript until quite recently was known to have survived, and our acquaintance with the work came from the scattered fragments of Origen’s “Hexapla.” The reason of this is to be found in the Mohammedan conquests; the need of a Greek version for Jews disappeared when Greek ceased to be the lingua franca of Egypt and the Levant.

Fragments in the “Hexapla.”

The “Hexapla”—a colossal undertaking compiled by Origen (died about 254) with the object of correcting the text of the Septuagint—consisted of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Hebrew text in Greek letters, the Septuagint itself as revised by Origen, and the Greek versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, all arranged in six parallel columns. With the exception of two recently discovered fragments of the Psalms, one coming from Milan, the other from Cairo,The Milan fragments, discovered by Dr. Mercati, are described by Ceriani in “Rendiconti del Real Istituto Lombardo di Scienze e Letteratura,” 1896, series ii., vol. xxix. The Cairo fragment (now at Cambridge) was edited by Charles Taylor in 1901. the “Hexapla” itself is no longer extant, but a considerable number of extracts, including many readings from Aquila, are preserved in the form of marginal notes to certain manuscripts of the Septuagint. These have been carefully collected and edited in Field’s great work (“Origenis Hexaplorum quæ Supersunt,” Oxford, 1875), which still remains the chief source of information about Aquila’s version.

Contrary to expectation, the readings of Aquila derived from the “Hexapla” can now be supplemented by fragmentary manuscripts of the translation itself. These were discovered in 1897, partly by F. C. Burkitt, among the mass of loose documents brought to Cambridge from the geniza of the Old Synagogue at Cairo through the enterprise of Dr. S. Schechter and Dr. C. Taylor, master of St. John’s College, Cambridge. Three of the six leaves already found came from a codex of Kings (i.e., they probably formed part of a codex of the Former Prophets), and three came from a codex of the Psalms. The portions preserved are I Kings xx 7-17; II Kings xxiii. 11-27 (edited by F. C. Burkitt, 1897); Ps. xc. 17, ciii. 17 with some breaks (edited by Taylor, 1900). The numbering is that of the Hebrew Bible, not the Greek. The fragments do not bear the name of the translator, but the style of Aquila is too peculiar to be mistaken. The handwriting is a Greek uncial of the sixth century. Dr. Schechter assigns the later Hebrew writing to the eleventh century. All six leaves are palimpsests, and in places are somewhat difficult to decipher.

The special value of the Cairo manuscripts is that they permit a more just conception of the general effect of Aquila’s version, where it agrees with the Septuagint as well as where it differs. It is now possible to study the rules of syntax followed by Aquila with far greater precision than before. At the same time the general result has been to confirm what the best authorities had already reported.

Literal Transmitter.

It would be a mistake to put down the harshness of Aquila’s translation to ignorance of Greek. He resorted to mere transliteration less than any other ancient translator, and had command of a large Greek vocabulary. Field (introduction, xxiii. et seq.) has collected a number of expressions that show Aquila’s acquaintance with Homer and Herodotus. It was no doubt from classical Greek literature that Aquila borrowed the use of the enclitic δε to express the toneless ה of locality. The depth of his Hebrew knowledge is more open to question, if judged by modern standards. But it is the special merit of Aquila’s renderings that they represent with great fidelity the state of Hebrew learning in his own day. “Aquila in a sense was not the sole and independent author of his version, its uncompromising literalism being the necessary outcome of his Jewish teacher’s system of exegesis” (C. Taylor, in Burkitt’s “Fragments of Aquila,” p. vi.).

Original Text of the Septuagint.

More important for modern scholars is the use made of Aquila’s version in Origen’s revision of the Septuagint. The literary sources of the Latin Vulgate are merely a point of Biblical archeology, but the recovery of the original text of the Septuagint is the great practical task which now lies before the textual critic of the Old Testament. Recent investigation has made it clear that Origen’s efforts to emend the Greek from the Hebrew were only too successful, and that every known text and recension of the Septuagint except the scanty fragments of the Old Latin have been influenced by the Hexaplar revision. One must learn how to detect Origen’s hand and to collect and restore the original readings, before the Septuagint is in a fit state to be critically used in emending the Hebrew. The discussion of this subject belongs rather to the criticism of the “Hexapla” than to a separate article on Aquila. It will suffice here to point out that Aquila’s version is one of the three sources by the aid of which the current texts of the Septuagint have been irregularly revised into conformity with a Hebrew text like that of our printed Bibles. For the association of the Targum of the Pentateuch with his name see Onkelos. nullSee also Bible.

Bibliography: Field, Origenis Hexaplorum quœ Supersunt, Oxford, 1875;
Wellhausen and Bleek, Einleitung in das Alte Testament, 4th ed., pp. 578-582, Berlin, 1878;
Burkitt, Fragments of the Books of Kings According to the Translation of Aquila, Cambridge, 1897;
Taylor, Origen’s Hexapla (part of Ps. xxii.), Cambridge, 1901;
S. Krauss, in the Steinschneider-Zeitschrift, 1896, pp. 148-163.
[See also Taylor’s Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, 2d ed., pp. viii. et seq.]T. F. C. B.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

“Aquila the Proselyte” and his work are familiar to the Talmudic-Midrashic literature. While “the Seventy” and their production are almost completely ignored by rabbinical sources, Aquila is a favorite personage in Jewish tradition and legend. As historical, the following may be considered. “Aquila the Proselyte translated the Torah (that is, the whole of Scripture; compare Blau, “Zur Einleitung in die Heilige Schrift,” pp. 16, 17) in the presence of R. Eliezer and R. Joshua, who praised him and said, in the words of Ps. xlv. 3 [A. V. 2], ‘Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips; therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.'” This contains a play upon the Hebrew word “Yafyafita” (Thou art fairer) and the common designation of Greek as “the language of Japhet” (Yer. Meg. i. 71c). In another place similar mention is made that Aquila announced his translation of the word  in Lev. xix. 20 in the presence of R. Akiba (Yer. Ḳid. i. 59a). The parallel passage in the Babylonian Talmud to the first-cited passage (Meg. 3a) shows that by “translated in the presence of” is to be understood “under the guidance of”; consequently, Eliezer, Joshua, and Akiba must be regarded as the three authorities by whom Aquila governed himself. This agrees with what Jerome says (in his commentary on Isa. viii. 11); viz., that, according to Jewish tradition, Akiba was Aquila’s teacher—a statement which was also borne out by the fact that Aquila carefully rendered the particle  every time by the Greek σύν, the hermeneutical system first closely carried out by Akiba, although not original with him (B. Ḳ. 41b). This would place Aquila’s period at about 100-130, when the three tannaim. in question flourished.

This accords with the date which Epiphanius (“De Ponderibus et Mensuris, ” chap. xiii-xvi.; ed. Migne, ii. 259-264) gives when he places the composition of Aquila’s translation in the twelfth year of Hadrian (129). A certain Aquila of Pontus is mentioned in a tannaite source (Sifra, Behar I. 1 [ed. Weiss, 106b; ed. Warsaw, 102a]). And, seeing that Irenæus (l.c. iii. 21) and Epiphanius (l.c.) agree that Aquila came from that place, it is quite probable that the reference is to the celebrated Aquila, although the usual epithet, “the Proselyte,” is missing. Aquila of Pontus is mentioned three times in the New Testament (Acts xviii. 2; Rom. xvi. 3; II Tim. iv. 19), which is only a mere coincidence, as the name “Aquila” was no doubt quite common among the Jews, and a haggadist bearing it is mentioned in Gen. R. i. 12. Zunz, however, identifies the latter with the Bible translator. Friedmann’s suggestion that in the Sifra passage a place in the Lebanon called “Pontus” is intended has been completely refuted by Rosenthal (“Monatsschrift,” xli. 93).

Relation to Onkelos.

A more difficult question to answer is the relationship of Aquila to the “proselyte Onkelos,” of whom the Babylonian Talmud and the Tosefta have much to relate. There is, of course, no doubt that these names have been repeatedly interchanged. The large majority of modern scholars consider the appellation “Targum of Onkelos,” as applied to the Targum of the Pentateuch, as a confusion (originating among the Babylonians) of the current Aramaic version (attributed by them to Onkelos) with the Greek one of Aquila. But it will not do simply to transfer everything that is narrated of Onkelos to Aquila, seeing that in the Tosefta (see index to Zuckermandel’s edition) mention is made of the relation of Onkelosto Gamaliel, who (if Gamaliel II. is meant) died shortly after the accession of Hadrian, while it is particularly with the relations between the pious proselyte and the emperor Hadrian that the Haggadah delights to deal. It is said that the emperor once asked the former to prove that the world depends, as the Jews maintain, upon spirit. In demonstration Aquila caused several camels to be brought and made them kneel and rise repeatedly before the emperor. He then had them choked, when, of course, they could not rise. “How can they rise?” the emperor asked. “They are choked.” “But they only need a little air, a little spirit,” was Aquila’s reply, proving that life is not material (Yer. Hag. ii. V. beginning 77a; Tan., Bereshit, ed. Vienna, 3b).

Concerning Aquila’s conversion to Judaism, legend has the following to say: Aquila was the son of Hadrian’s sister. Always strongly inclined to Judaism, he yet feared to embrace it openly in the emperor’s proximity. He, therefore, obtained permission from his uncle to undertake commercial journeys abroad, not so much for the sake of profit as in order to see men and countries, receiving from him the parting advice to invest in anything the value of which was temporarily depreciated, as in all probability it would rise again. Aquila went to Palestine, and devoted himself so strenuously to the study of the Torah that both R. Eliezer and R. Joshua noticed his worn appearance, and were surprised at the evident earnestness of the questions he put to them concerning Jewish law. On returning to Hadrian he confessed his zealous study of Israel’s Torah and his adoption of the faith, surprising the emperor, however, by stating that this step had been taken upon his, the emperor’s, advice. “For,” said he, “I have found nothing so deeply neglected and held in such depreciation as the Law and Israel; but both, no doubt, will rise again as Isaiah has predicted” (Isa. xlix. 7, “Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship”). Upon Hadrian’s inquiry why he embraced Judaism, Aquila replied that he desired very much to learn the Torah, and that he could not do this without entering the Abrahamic covenant: just as no soldier could draw his pay without bearing arms, no one could study the Torah thoroughly without obeying the Jewish laws (Tan., Mishpaṭim, V. ed. Buber, with a few variations, ii. 81, 82; Ex. R. xxx. 12). The last point of this legend is no doubt directed against Christianity, which acknowledges the Law, but refuses obedience to it, and is of all the more interest if taken in connection with Christian legends concerning Aquila. Epiphanius, for instance, relates that Aquila was by birth a Greek from Sinope in Pontus, and a relation (πενθερίδες) of Hadrian, who sent him, forty-seven years after the destruction of the Temple (that is 117, the year of Hadrian’s accession) to Jerusalem to superintend the rebuilding of that city under the name of “Ælia Capitolina,” where he became first a Christian and then a Jew (nullsee Aquila).

A reflection of the alleged adoption of Christianity by Aquila, as related by Epiphanius, may be discerned in the following legend of the Babylonian Talmud in reference to the proselyte Onkelos, nephew of Titus on his sister’s side. According to this, Onkelos called up the shade of his uncle, then that of the prophet Balaam, and asked their counsel as to whether he should become a Jew. The former advised against it, as the Jews had so many laws. and ceremonies; the latter, with characteristic spitefulness, replied in the words of Scripture, “Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity” (Deut. xxiii. 7 [A. V. 6]). He then conjured up the founder of the Church, who replied, “Seek theirpeace, seek not their harm; he who assails them touches the apple of God’s eye.” These words induced him to become a Jew (Giṭ. 56b, 57a). The founder of the Church (according to the Jewish legend) and the mother-church in Jerusalem (according to the Christian version) were the means of Aquila’s becoming a Jew.

The traces of the legend concerning Flavius Clemens, current alike among Jews and Christians, seem to have exerted some influence upon this Onkelos-Aquila tradition; but Lagarde goes so far as to explain Sinope in Pontus as being “Sinuessa in Pontia,” where Dimitilla, the wife of Flavius Clemens, lived in exile. Irenæus, who wrote before 177, states that Pontus was Aquila’s home. It is very questionable whether the account of Aquila in the Clementine writings (“Recognitiones,” vii. 32, 33)—an imperial prince who first embraced Judaism, and then, after all manner of vagaries, Christianity—was merely a Christian form of the Aquila legend, although Lagarde supports the assumption. The following Midrash deserves notice: Aquila is said to have asked R. Eliezer why, if circumcision were so important, it had not been included in the Ten Commandments (Pesiḳ. R. xxiii. 116b et seq.; Tan., Lek Leka, end; ed. Vienna, 20b, reads quite erroneously “Agrippa” in place of “Aquila”), a question frequently encountered in Christian polemic literature. That Aquila’s conversion to Judaism was a gradual one appears from the question he addressed to Rabbi Eliezer: “Is the whole reward of a proselyte to consist in receiving food and raiment?” (see Deut. x. 18). The latter angrily answered that what had been sufficient for the patriarch Jacob (Gen. xxviii. 20) should be sufficient for Aquila. When Aquila put the same question to Rabbi Joshua, the latter reassured him by expounding “food and raiment” as meaning metaphorically “Torah and ṭallit.” Had not Joshua been so gentle, the Midrash adds, Aquila would have forsaken Judaism (Eccl. R. to vii. 8; Gen. R. lxx. 5; Ex. R. xix. 4, abbreviated). The purport of this legend is to show that at the time Aquila had not been firmly convinced.

ON PAROUSIA DELAY

Question: What does “this generation” mean in the verse, “Truly I say to you this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:32, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32)?
Answer: Mark’s Jesus, after listing all the tribulations that the world must endure before he returns a second time (Mark 13:3-29, see also Matthew 24:3-33) exclaims: “Truly I say to you this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Mark 13:30, Matthew 24:34, Luke 21:32). Jesus was directing this remark specifically to his contemporary generation and not to some unknown future generation. Jesus, addressing his disciples “privately” (Mark 13:3, Matthew 24:3) listed what was going to happen before his return. He then added, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you and you shall be hated of all nations for my names sake” (Matthew 24:9). Concerning this, Mark’s version adds, “he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved” (Mark 13:13). Thus, it appears from this last remark that at least some of the disciples would survive and be present to witness the second coming and the end of time.

According to Mark and Matthew, Jesus expected the tribulation period to occur before the last of his generation died out. Thus, a limit is given within which the prophecies are to be fulfilled. It should be noted that these “tribulations” were not fulfilled in the events of the years 66-73 C.E., the period of the First Jewish- Roman War. Jesus’ own statement shows that the culmination of the “tribulation period” was to see the parousia, the second coming of Jesus (Mark 13:26; Matthew 24:3, 30), which certainly did not occur during the war nor subsequently.

All of Jesus’ contemporaries died without seeing the fulfillment of his tribulation prophesy. As a result, Jesus’ words, especially the expression, “this generation” have undergone reinterpretation. Nevertheless, the translation of genea is “generation” or as Thayer explains it, giving Matthew 24:34 and Mark 13:30 as examples, “the whole multitude of men living at the time . . . used especially of the Jewish race living at one and the same period” (Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979, p. 112). G. Abbott-Smith writes that the Greek word genea means “race, stock, family,” but in the New Testament always “generation” (G. Abbott-Smith, Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, 2nd ed., Edinburgh: T.&T. Clarke, 1923, p. 89). Arndt and Gingrich note that the term means “literally, those descended from a common ancestor,” but “basically, the sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time, generation, contemporaries” (W.F. Arndt and F.W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957, p. 153).

There is no need to interpret the verse, “Truly I say to you this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” otherwise than that Jesus was speaking here of his contemporary generation. The expression “this generation” appears fourteen times in the Gospels and always applies to Jesus’ contemporaries. That generation passed away without Jesus returning. Therefore, we are confronted by another unfulfilled promise by Jesus. Jesus did not return during the period he himself specifically designated. Some commentators are of the opinion that “this generation” means the generation alive when this prophecy comes to pass, which they believe has yet to occur. However, the text shows that Jesus was not speaking to an unspecified future generation; he was speaking to his contemporary disciples and directed this prophecy to them personally.

Content Copyright Gerald Sigal, 1999-2003