Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 5 Study # 3
November 2, 2008
30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
31 And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?
32 They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.
33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.
1901 ASV Translation
30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God, being not baptized of him.
31 Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation, and to what are they like?
32 They are like unto children that sit in the marketplace, and call one to another; who say, We piped unto you, and ye did not dance; we wailed, and ye did not weep.
33 For John the Baptist is come eating no bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a demon.
34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold, a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
35 And wisdom is justified of all her children.
- I. Jesus' Comparison of "the Men of This Generation".
- A. Jesus' meaning of "the men of this generation".
- 1. At the most superficial level, He meant those who had rejected the counsel of God for themselves: the Pharisees and lawyers.
- 2. Perhaps at another superficial level He also meant those Pharisees and lawyers who were His contemporaries (i.e., of His "generation" in the sense of sharing the same time frame).
- 3. But the most fundamental meaning of "generation" is "those generated".
- a. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament makes some interesting comments. First, we read "the sense of the totality of those living as contemporaries is not found in Gk., though [sometimes] it must be presupposed..."; then, second, it turns right around and says that the Septuagint "...uses the term mostly for..." a word in Hebrew that means age "in the sense of contemporaries...". This has to mean that Hebrew had a "sense of contemporaries" and, since Greek did not, there was something "lost" in the translation.
- b. The main question before us is whether Jesus had a particular "time" in mind (a "generation" in the sense of all of those born in the same time frame) or a particular "origin" in mind or, perhaps, a kind of combination of both wherein the idea of "origin" is combined with "time" so that "over time" those of a given "origin" come to a certain comprehensive characteristic.
- 1) The problem with "generation" as a term for a time frame is that it has no solid meaning: today a "generation" means one thing and tomorrow its meaning has shifted. What I mean is that when one says "this generation" and people take the meaning to be "the people living now", that meaning is fluid because there are people being born and dying every day so that on any given day, "this generation" does not refer to the same people. Nor can it stabilize its meaning by referring to a time frame rather than the people in it for much the same reason: every minute/hour/day/week/month begins a new time frame. The question is whether "generation", even in English, has any meaning if it is applied to either a time frame or to people in such a frame.
- 2) It is fairly clear that in Matthew 12:41 Jesus is contrasting "the men of Nineveh" and "this generation" in both senses (Ninevites vs. Jews as well as those of the time of Jonah vs. those of the time of Jesus). The same can be said of Matthew 12:42 and its use of "the queen of the south". Interestingly, though, this reference actually does give a sense in which a "generation" could mean a "time frame" and/or "the people in such a frame": that sense is the use of a "marker", such as Jonah's visit to Nineveh or the Queen of the South's visit to Jerusalem to see Solomon, to identify everyone whose life fits into that "marker" as "that generation". In this sense, everyone who lived within Jesus' lifetime would be "this generation". Thus, "my generation" would be all those who live while I am alive; "your generation" would be all those who live while you are alive; "his generation" would be all those who live while he is alive. With this in mind, a "generation" requires a specific "marker" and refers to people who live during the existence of that marker.
- 3) It also seems fairly clear in Mark 8:38 that Jesus had His contemporaries in mind in light of a development of "adultery" and "sin" and there seems not to be any question in Mark 9:19 that He specifically meant the "current group of people that had come to 'faithlessness' among whom He walked".
- 4) But, in the text before us in this study, it almost has to be a fact that Jesus was "excluding" those whom Luke called "the people that heard Him, and the publicans" in 7:29 since they had responded properly to John's ministry and, therefore, could not legitimately be "compared" to foolish children. Thus, those of "this generation" are not primarily Jesus' "contemporaries" so much as they are Jesus' "opponents". This brings another aspect of "generation" to the table: an identifying "characteristic" that goes along with the "marker". Those who, in Jesus' lifetime (the marker), were opposed to His Truth (the characteristic) were "this generation".
- 5) What this boils down to, then, is the reality that Jesus was not using "this generation" as a "group in a time frame" because there were those in that time frame who did not fit His "likeness". That means that Jesus was using "this generation" as those who were "unregenerated" in contrast to those who had believed John and were to be "in the regeneration" in the sense of Jesus' words in Matthew 19:28. And that, then, means that He had the issue of their origins in mind as a fundamental issue. Those whose origins are rooted in Adam in his post-fall state are, apart from faith and its impact unto regeneration, like the children in the market place in every time frame of history.
- 6) This precisely fits John's message that his hearers were "the offspring of vipers" who were being offered a "new birth" out of a New Source (God, rather than snakes) that would transform their essential "nature" from that of a viper to that of a child of God. There is only one solution to a grievously wicked "nature": a "re" generation; a "new birth" ... "being born again of an incorruptible seed" (1 Peter 1:23).
- 4. Summary: "this generation" refers to contemporaries of Jesus who have the character of rejectors of Truth and may actually reveal the reason -- they are contemporaries but do not share His "Life" because they are of the "generation" of those generated by Adam and not born again by God.
- B. Jesus' comparison of "this generation" to children playing in the market place.