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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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GENERATION.—A word of several meanings employed to render two different words in OT and four in NT. All are, however, related in thought, and all have a close connexion with the Gospels and Jewish thought in the time of Christ.

1. In OT ‘generation’ is used to render (1) the Heb. דּוֹר or דּר דּר, connected with Assyr. [Note: Assyrian.] dârú, ‘to endure,’ means primarily a period of time. This meaning has survived in OT chiefly in poetry, and in the phrases דּר וָרר Ps 45:18; Psalms 61:7, לִדר דּר Exodus 3:15, דּר רּרִים Isaiah 51:9, Psalms 72:5, and such like, to indicate time stretching away into the past (Isaiah 51:9), or (more generally) into the future (Psalms 33:11; Psalms 49:12). It may refer both to past and future (Psalms 145:13), and is thus parallel to עולָם (see Eternity).

Originally רד must have meant the period defined by the life of a man or of a family (Job 42:16). Hence by a loose usage it comes to mean the living in that period (Genesis 7:1, Exodus 1:6, Deuteronomy 2:14, Ecclesiastes 1:4, Isaiah 53:8 etc. etc.; cf. the modern use of the word ‘age’). So also it may be used of a of men living contemporaneously and possessing certain characteristics (Deuteronomy 32:5, Proverbs 30:11-14).

(2) The other word in OT (rendered always plural ‘generations’) is תּוֹלְרוֹת. Here the root-idea is ‘birth,’ ‘descent,’ ‘offspring,’ from ילר ‘to bring forth.’ Hence it is used of genealogies (Genesis 5:1; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 10:1; Genesis 11:10; Genesis 11:27, Ruth 4:18 etc.), of divisions by families, etc. (Numbers 1:20; Numbers 1:22; Numbers 1:24 etc.). It is even used of the creation of the world (Genesis 2:4 lit. ‘the begettings of the heaven and the earth’).

2. Of the four words rendered ‘generation’ in NT two are unimportant so far as the Gospels are concerned. (1) In 1 Peter 2:9 ‘a chosen generation,’ γένος ἐκλεκτόν, should be rendered as in RV, ‘an elect race.’ (2) In Matthew 1:1 the rendering should be ‘the book of the origin of Jesus Christ,’ using the word γένεσις in its widest sense. The meaning in Matthew 1:8, Luke 1:14 is slightly different, and is best expressed by ‘birth’ (EV). (3) The most important word used in the Gospels is γενεά, meaning (a) ‘race,’ ‘offspring,’ ‘descent’; (b) the people of any given period; (e) a period loosely defined by the life of a man or of a family; (d) in such phrases as εἰς γενεὰς γενεῶν (Luke 1:50) it is used, apparently as the equivalent of דֹּר דּרִים, to express indefinite time, generally in the future. Cf. the expression in Ephesians 3:21 εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς τοῦ αἱῶνος τῶν αἰώνων, which, however, is considered by Dalman (Words of Jesus, p. 165, Eng. tr.) as referring to all the generations of ‘the current age’ of ‘the world period.’ But the phrase seems rather to be the strongest possible way of expressing ‘for ever.’ That γενεά (rendered ‘generation’) does express ‘the current age’ of ‘the world period’ is obvious in the Gospels (Luke 16:8, Matthew 24:34, and less clearly Matthew 23:36); also the people of that age (Matthew 12:39; Matthew 16:4, Mark 8:12, Luke 11:29). In the sense of (c) it is found only in Matthew 1:17 and apparently never in its original sense (a). (4) This last is expressed by quite a different word, viz. γέννημα. In Matthew 3:7; Matthew 12:34; Matthew 23:33, Luke 3:7, AV has the phrase ‘generation of vipers.’ The Greek is γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν, which RV renders ‘offspring of vipers.’ The rendering of AV is due to Tindale (see Hastings’ DB ii. 142b). Elsewhere the word occurs as γένημα (Matthew 26:29, Luke 22:18, 2 Corinthians 9:10), rendered ‘fruit.’

G. Gordon Stott.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Generation'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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