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Hello my name is Eric Wilson and this is now my fourth video, but it’s the first one in which we’ve been able to actually get down to brass tacks; to examine our own doctrines in the light of Scripture and the purpose of this whole series really, is identifying true worship using the criteria we as Jehovah’s Witnesses have already laid down for many decades in our own publications.
And the first doctrine or teaching that we’re going to examine is one of our more recent changes, and that is the doctrine of the overlapping generations. It’s found, or it’s based on Matthew 24:34 where Jesus tells his disciples, “Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things happen.”
So what is the generation he’s referring to? What is the timeframe he ‘s speaking of, and what are ‘all these things’? Before we can get into it though, we need to decide on a methodology. As witnesses we don’t really understand that there are various methodologies, we just simply believe you study the Bible, and that’s the end of it, but it turns out that there are two competing methodologies that are used widely for studying the Bible. The first is known as eisegesis this is a Greek term and it means literally ‘interpreting in’ or the interpretation of a text as of the Bible by reading into it one’s own ideas, so from out in. That’s eisegesis, and that is a common methodology used by the majority of Christian religions in the world today.
The other way is exegesis. This is ‘interpreting out of’ or leading out of. So it is the Bible in this case, not men, that is doing the interpretation. Now one might say, “How is it possible for the Bible to interpret? It is after all just a book, it is not alive.” Well the Bible would disagree. It says that ‘the Word of God is alive’, and if we consider that this is the inspired Word of God, then this is Jehovah speaking to us. Jehovah is alive therefore his word is alive and surely God, the Creator of all things is capable of writing a book that anyone can understand, and indeed,that anyone can use to understand truth, without having to go to someone else for interpretation.
That is the premise on which we work and that premise was stated in the Bible itself, if we go to Genesis 40:8 we find the words of Joseph. He’s still in prison, his two fellow prisoners have had dreams, and they’re asking for an interpretation. It reads “At this they said to him: ‘We each had a dream, and there is no interpreter for us’ Joseph said to them: ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Relate it to me, please.'”
Interpretations belong to God. Now Joseph was the means, the medium, if you will, by whom Jehovah spoke, because in those days there were no holy writings, but now we have the holy writings. We have the complete Bible and nowadays we don’t have people who are inspired by God to speak to us. Why? Because we don’t need them, we have what we need in the Word of God, and we need what we have.
Okay, so with that in mind let us move forward to examine this doctrine of overlapping generations. Was it arrived at exegetically? In other words did the Bible interpret it for us, that we simply read and understand, or is it an interpretation that comes eisegeticaly, in other words, we are reading into the text something we want to be there.
We’ll start with Kenneth Flodin in a recent video. He’s a helper of the to the teaching committee, and in a recent video he explained something about the generation, so let’s listen to him for a minute.
“Matthew 24:34 ‘This generation will by no means pass away until all these things happen’ Well, we immediately think back to the September 2015 JW Broadcasting edition Brother Splane masterfully explained this generation and what all it entails. He did such a beautiful job. I’m not going to attempt to repeat it. But you know for many years we felt that this generation referred to the unfaithful Jews in the first century and in the modern day fulfillment it was felt that Jesus was referring to the wicked generation that would see the features of the conclusion of the system of things. Well that was likely because oftentimes in the Bible when the word generation is used it was in a negative sense. There were qualifiers like wicked generation, twisted adulterous crooked generation and so it was assumed that the generation that would by no means pass away before the end came would al so be the wicked generation of today. However that notion was adjusted in February 15 2008 issue of The Watchtower. There it referenced Matthew 24 32 and 33, let’s read that: Matthew 24, Keep in mind Jesus was talking to his disciples we know in verse 3 it was the disciples that asked about the conclusion of the system, so they are the ones he’s addressing here in Matthew 24 32 and 33. It says: ‘Now learn this illustration from the fig tree. Just as soon as its young branch grows tender and sprouts its leaves you (Not unbelievers, but his disciples.) YOU know the summer is near. Likewise also you, ( his disciples), when you see all these things know that he is near at the door.’ – Well it stands to reason then when he said the words in the very next verse, verse 34. Who is he talking to? He was still talking to his disciples. So The Watchtower made clear it was not the wicked, it was the anointed who saw the sign, that would make up this generation.”
Okay, so he starts by defining who the generation is. For many decades, really throughout the whole of the twentieth century, we believed the generation were the wicked people of Jesus’ day, and we believed that because every time Jesus uses the word generation, it is in reference to those people. However here we have a change. Now the basis for this change is that Jesus was talking to his disciples, and therefore using the word ‘this generation’, he must have meant them.
Okay Now if Jesus wasn’t doing that, if he wanted to refer to this generation as a separate group, how would he have worded that differently? Would he not have worded it exactly the same way, would you not if you were expressing the same thought? He was talking TO his disciples about somebody else. That seems to make sense, but according to Brother Flodin, no, no, it must be …they must be the generation. Okay, so that is an assumption and right away we’re starting off with an eisegetical thought. We’re interpreting were putting into the text something that is not explicitly expressed in the text.
Now what’s interesting is that this understanding came out in 2008, he mentions the article in which it came out, and I distinctly remember that article. I thought it was a strange article because the whole purpose of a study article, a one-hour study article was to make one point,that the anointed are now the generation and not the wicked, and I thought, “So? What what purpose does that serve? The anointed lived the same lifespans as the wicked. It’s not like the anointed live longer or live less. It’s all the same, so whether it’s the anointed, or the wicked generation, or all the women on earth, or all the men on earth or whatever, it doesn’t really matter because we’re all contemporaries and we all live basically the same, at the same time and for the same length of time on average so why was that put there?” – It was six years later before I realized the purpose of that article and what it really meant.
Now, the problem that the organization faced at the turn of the century was that the generation they had depended on for pretty much the whole of the 20th century as a means to measure how close we are to the end, was no longer valid. I’ll give you a brief history. We in the 60s we thought the generation would be people who were old enough to understand, 15 year olds and up, perhaps. That gave us a nice little end in 1975 so it coincided very nicely with the understanding of 1975 as the end of 6,000 years. However nothing happened in the ’70s so we published a revaluation, and we lowered the age by which we could start counting the generation. Now, anyone who is let’s say 10 years old will probably be old enough to understand. Not babies, that was illogical, but a ten year old, yes they would be old enough because the criteria was you had to understand what was going on.
Of course as the 80’s progressed, it didn’t seem like that was going to work either, so then we came up with the new understanding, and now we allowed for babies, so even a baby born in 1914 would be part of the generation. This bought us some more time. But of course nothing happened we got to the 90s and eventually we were told that the generation the Matthew 24:34 could not be used as a way of counting from 1914 how long the time of the end was. Now the problem with that is that that verse is very clearly a means to measure time. That was why Jesus gave it to his disciples. So we’re saying: well, No it can’t be used that way, we’re actually contradicting the words of our Lord.”
Nevertheless the alternative was to say that the generation still valid which of course we knew it wasn’t because it was the mid-90s, and here we are now in 2014 so anyone born or old enough to understand what was going on in 1914 is long dead. So it seems we got the application wrong. Jesus words can’t be wrong, so we got something wrong. Instead of recognizing that, we decided to come up with something new.
Now someone might object to this and they might say, “Wait a minute, we know the light gets brighter as the day gets nearer, so this is simply a part of that. This is Jehovah slowly revealing to us the truth.” Okay again, are we involving ourselves in Eisegesis? In other words in the interpretations of man. The verse that the brothers are referring to when they say that is Proverbs 4:18. Let’s have a look at that
It says “But the path of the righteous is like the bright light that grows brighter and brighter until full daylight.”, okay notice, it’s one verse. This is a characteristic of eisegesis. That is reading into the verse something that’s not there, and it’s called cherry-picking. You pick one verse and you ignore the context, and that verse then is used to support whatever view. This verse says nothing about prophetic interpretation. So we need to look at the context to find out what it means by the path of the righteous. Is this a path to enlightenment in the sense of a prophetic interpretation, or is it a different path? So let’s look at the context.
In verse 1 of that chapter we read, “Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not walk in the way of evil men. Shun it do not take it; turn away from it and pass it by. For they cannot sleep unless they do what is bad. They are robbed of sleep unless they cause someone’s downfall. They feed themselves with the bread of wickedness and they drink the wine of violence. But the path of the righteous is like the bright light that grows brighter and brighter until full daylight. The way of the wicked is like the darkness. They do not know what makes them stumble.”
Hmm. Does that sound like the scripture used to show that the righteous are going to be enlightened as far as understanding Bible truth and the interpretation of prophecy? It’s very clear that it’s speaking about the wicked and their course of life, a course which is in darkness, which causes them to stumble, a course which is marked by violence and harm to others. By contrast, the righteous, their course of life is one that is enlightened, and leads to a brighter and brighter future. A life course is what’s being referred to here, not Bible interpretation.
Again eisegesis gets us in trouble. We’re trying to use a Bible verse that doesn’t apply to justify a course of action. In our case, ongoing failed prophetic interpretations.
Okay, so here are now; we have failed time and again to find the right definition of this generation as it applies to us today. We might even question whether it applies to us today? But those questions don’t arise, because there is a need to continue to have this doctrine. Why? Because for all our lives we’ve been kept on tenterhooks. We’re always 5 to 7 years away at most. Lately in the convention, we were told that the end is imminent, and Brother Splane will say the same thing in this video. Well, we can’t believe the end is imminent unless we have some way of measuring how close it is, and the generation served that purpose all through the 20th century, but then it didn’t. So now we have to find another way of getting that scripture to apply again.
So what does Brother Splane do? He needs to find a way of lengthening the generation, so he asks us What scripture would we use to define the generation. Let’s listen to what he has to say:
“But of course we have to know What is a generation? and which particular generation was Jesus talking about? Now if you were asked by someone to identify a scripture that tells us what a generation is, what scripture, would you turn to? I’ll give you a moment. Think about that. My choice is Exodus chapter 1 and verse 6. Let’s read that. Exodus chapter 1 and verse 6. It says: ‘Joseph eventually died, and also, all his brothers and all that generation.'”
Hmm well there you have it. What Scripture would you use, he says? I’ll give you a moment to think about it, he says, and what Scripture does he use? I would say, well why don’t we go into the Greek scriptures? Jesus is talking about generation. Why don’t we go to his words surely? Somewhere in the Greek scriptures he uses the word generation in a way that helps us understand what he’s talking about.
Brother Splane doesn’t feel that is the best way. He thinks the best scripture is one that was written 1500 years before that date. That encompasses an event that was 2,000 years before that date. Okay fair enough. Let’s have a look at that Scripture (Exodus 1:6). Do you see anything in it that indicates anything other than what we currently understand a generation to be? Is there any definition in that scripture?
If we look at what the Bible says about generation we do well to use a Bible dictionary just like we use in English, a dictionary that goes into Greek and defines for us how the word is used in various instances. We could start with Thayer’s Greek lexicon although you can use a different lexicon if you wish; there are several, and we’ll find four definitions, and these are all supported by Scripture if we want to take the time to look them up. But really we don’t need to because the third one is actually the one that Brother Splane agrees with, as we’ll see very shortly:
‘The whole multitude of men or people living at the same time: a group of contemporaries.’
Okay, so now let’s listen to how he explains this verse for us.
“What do we know about Joseph’s family? We know that Joseph had eleven brothers Ten of them were older than Joseph. One of them, Benjamin, was younger, and we know that at least two of Joseph’s brothers actually lived longer than Joseph because the Bible says that on his deathbed he called his brothers, plural, to him. But now what did Joseph and his brothers all have in common? They were all contemporaries. They had all lived at the same time, they were part of the same generation.”
Well there you have it. He says it himself: people living at the same time, a group of contemporaries. Now he asks: ‘What did Joseph and all his brothers have in common?’ Well, this is where we get back to that cherry-picking thing. He has picked one verse and he’s not looking at anything else, and he doesn’t want us to look at anything else. But we’re going to do that. We’re going to read the context so instead of just verse six we’ll read from verse one.
“Now these are the names of Israel’s sons who came into Egypt with Jacob, each man who came with his household: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah, Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin, Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. And all those who were born to Jacob were 70 people, but Joseph was already in Egypt. Joseph eventually died and all also all his brothers and all that generation.”
So Brother Splane says it’s a group of people living at the same time, a group of contemporaries. Why were they contemporary? Because they all came into Egypt at the same time. So what generation is it? The generation that came into Egypt at the same time. But that’s not how he looks at it. Now let’s listen how he applies it.
“Now, suppose there was a man who died ten minutes before Joseph was born. Would he be part of Joseph’s generation? No. Because he’d never lived at the same time as Joseph, he was not a contemporary of Joseph’s. Now suppose there was a little baby who was born ten minutes after Joseph died. Would the baby be part of Joseph’s generation? Again, no, because the baby would not have lived at the same time as Joseph. For the man and the baby to be part of Joseph’s generation they would have had to have lived at least some time during Joseph’s lifespan.”
Okay. So the baby born ten minutes after Joseph was not of his generation because they were not contemporaries, their lives did not overlap. The man who died ten minutes before Joseph was born is also not a contemporary, because again their lives did not overlap. Joseph lived 110 years. If that man, let’s call him Larry, if Larry …..died ten minutes after Joseph was born, Larry would be a contemporary. He’d be part of Joseph’s generation according to Brother Slane. If the baby, let’s call her, Samantha; if Samantha were born ten minutes before Joseph died, she would also be part of his generation. Let’s say, Samantha lived the same length as Joseph 110 years, so now you’ve got Larry, Joseph and Samantha all living 110 years, you have a generation that’s 330 years long. Does that make sense? Is that what the Bible’s trying to get across? But here’s something even more interesting. It contradicts Splane’s own definition, right in this video which he states twice. He states it again right after this, let’s listen to that.
“So now we’ve discovered what it means to have a generation, what makes up a generation. It’s a group of contemporaries. It’s a group of people who have lived at the same time.”
And there you have it, the fly in the ointment. Brother Splane can’t create a new definition. The definition for generations been around for thousands of years, it’s well established in the Bible. It’s well established in secular literature. Yet, he needs a new definition, so he’s trying to get his new definition to fit with the current one, hoping that we won’t notice. It’s kind of verbal hocus-pocus.
You see he’s saying that a generation is a group of people living at the same time, contemporaries. Then he explains how that works, and we Illustrated that with our example of Larry Joseph and Samantha. Are they contemporaries? Is Larry and Joseph and Samantha a group of people all living at the same time? Not by a long shot. Larry and Samantha are a century apart. Over a hundred years. You could hardly say they are a group of people living at the same time.
What he wants us to overlook is that a group of… a group of people who happen to have lived at the same time as one individual, Joseph, is the same thing as a group of people living at the same time. He wants us to think that those two ideas are synonymous, they are not. But unfortunately most of our brothers and sisters don’t think too deeply, they just willingly accept what they’re told.
Ok, so let’s say they’ve accepted that, now what do we have? We have another problem. Brother Splane has wanted to extend the length of the generation so that he resolves the problem that was created when the previous explanation failed. Throughout the 20th century we just kept redefining how long a generation was by moving its starting point, we kept moving the goalposts, but eventually we ran out of time. By the end of the century we could no longer stretch it any further, we had to abandon the whole idea. The trouble is, they need the generation to get us all anxious and feeling that urgency.
OK, so redefine the generation, lengthen it and now you can still include 1914, and Armageddon in the same generation. OK, problem is now it’s too long. Let’s say you take Brother Franz as the modern-day Joseph substitute, which is exactly what Brother Splane does later in this video. Franz was born in 1893 and he died in 1992 at the age of 99. So someone according to Splane’s definition who was born ten minutes before Franz died, is of the generation of Franz, of that overlapping generation.
That person if they lived another 99 years would, now we’re well into the end of this century, 2091 I guess it would be. Even if they lived the average lifespan of a woman in North America eighty-five, you’re still looking at late 2070s early 2080s. That’s sixty years down the road, that’s a lifespan, hardly anything to be anxious about. We’ve got plenty of time., And that’s not what they want.
So having created this problem-solving generation, he has created a second problem for himself. It’s too long. He has to shorten it, how does he go about doing that? Well, that’s kind of interesting how he does, and we’ll see that in the next video.
“Now here’s the point, in 1914, who were the only ones who saw these various aspects of the sign and drew the right conclusion that something invisible was occurring. Only the anointed, so ‘this generation’ is made up of anointed ones who see the sign and have the spiritual discernment to draw the proper conclusion about the sign.”
Okay, so that little excerpt shows the technique for shortening the generation. First of all you redefine who it is. Now we’ve already covered that previously in this video, but just to emphasize, the seeds for this were sown seven years ago. Long before this new definition came out, they sowed the seeds for this in that article in 2008. Creating a generation composed only of anointed which at the time didn’t seem to make any sense, it didn’t seem to make any difference. Now it makes a great difference, because now he can do this.
“Would you like an easy way to keep the generation straight? An easy way is to consider the situation of brother Fred W. Franz. Now you’ll see that he’s FWF on the chart. Now as we said before Brother Franz was born in 1893 He was baptized in November of 1913 so as one of the Lord’s anointed in 1914 he saw the sign, and he understood what the sign meant. Now Brother Franz lived a long life. He finished his earthly course at ninety nine years of age in 1992. In order to be part of this generation someone would have had to have been anointed before 1992, because he would have to have been a contemporary of some of the first group.”
Okay, so it’s no longer overlapping lifetimes, now it’s overlapping anointings. A person could be 40 years old and overlapped someone else’s life like Franz for 40 years, but if he was anointed in 1993, he’s not part of the generation even though his lifespan overlapped with Franz by 40 years. So having redefined the word for generation, Brother Splane has redefined the redefinition, and whereas the first definition had no scriptural basis, the second one doesn’t even merit the scripture. At least in the first he tried with Exodus 1:6, but this one there’s no scripture that is being used to support this idea.
Now it’s kind of interesting how the society overlooks that. Let’s go back to Brother Flodin’s talk.
“In the April 15 2010 issue the Watchtower said of Jesus, ‘He evidently meant that the lives of he anointed who were on hand when the sign began to become evident in 1914 would overlap with the lives of other anointed ones who would see the start of the Great Tribulation.’ and then later it was in January 15, 2014 that this more precise description that Brother Splane shared with us was itemized for us. The second group of anointed ones would overlap, they were contemporaries with the first group from 1914 onward.”
So ‘evidently’ Jesus had this in mind. Now when you read the word ‘evidently’ in the publications, and this is coming from someone who’s been reading them for the last 70 years, it’s a code word for: ‘This is speculation.’ Evidently means based on the evidence, but there is no evidence. We’ve just seen there’s no evidence at all. So what it really means is ‘we’re speculating here,’ and in this case quite wildly.
So put this into perspective. Here’s Jesus talking to his disciples, and he’s saying this generation will by no means pass away. Now he just used “this generation” that same day. He talked about “all these things will come upon this generation”. The same words. He was talking about the destruction of Jerusalem, and the wicked generation, ‘all these things will come upon this generation’. He said that, that day, as he went out from the temple. They said “Look Lord the beautiful buildings,!”and he said “I tell you all these things will be destroyed, not a stone be left upon a stone.” Again the same phrase so when later the same day they asked him “when will all these things be?”, they weren’t asking about prophecy in the sense of the sign of his presence, because they hadn’t heard that yet. They were asking about what he just said all these things will be destroyed, and when will all these things be destroyed is what they’re asking. So when he said ‘This generation’, they’re not going to think as The Watchtower suggests that, “Oh, he’s referring to us, but not just to us, but to people who will live after us. They’re part of this generation because they overlap our lifetimes, but wait, not exactly overlap our lifetimes, they overlap our anointing.
But wait a minute, what is anointing? Because he hasn’t talked about anointing yet. We don’t know we’re going to be anointed, he hasn’t mentioned the Holy Spirit, so…?” You see how ridiculous it gets very very quickly? And yet they would have us overlook all this, and just blindly accept this as a true teaching.
Okay, Let’s look at Flodin again to see where it’s going next.
“Now I remember when our current understanding first came out, some quickly speculated. They said well what if a person in his 40s was anointed in 1990? He would then be a part of the second group of this generation. Theoretically he could live into his 80s. Does that mean this old system is going to continue possibly till 2040? Well, indeed that was speculative, and Jesus, remember he said that we weren’t supposed to try to find a formula for the time of the end. In Matthew 24:36, just two verses later, two verses later. He said, “Concerning that day an hour nobody knows,” And even if the speculation is a possibility there’d be very few in that category. And consider this significant point. There is nothing, nothing in Jesus prophecy that suggests those of the second group alive at the time of the end would all be old, decrepit and close to death. There’s no reference to age.”
Oh my…. It’s really quite amazing. He’s telling us not to go into speculation about when the end will be. He even says Jesus told us to not have a formula, and then he gives us the formula. In the very next sentence he says, “Of course the Governing Body who now typifies the second half of the generation” (Oh, yes, there are halves to generations now,) “The Governing Body are not going to be old and decrepit and near to death when the end comes.” Well, we know how old the Governing Body is, their ages are posted. So it’s very easy to do a little calculation, and if they’re not going to be old and decrepit it can’t be that far down the road and so the end must be very very close. Oh, but that’s speculation and we’re not supposed to have a formula. (Sigh)
The question is, What did Jesus mean? It’s all well and good for us to say, “This is hooey.” But it’s quite another thing for us to explain what it does mean. Because we don’t want to just tear down an old doctrine, we want to build up with something new, something valuable Something that will edify, and the best way to do that is by going to God’s Word, because there is no better way for us to be edified or built up in faith than to study God’s Word, but we’re not going to study it eisegetically, with ideas in our mind already that we’re going to try to impose on the text. We’re going to study it exegetically, we’re going to let the Bible speak to us. We’re going to let it interpret for us.
That means we have to enter the discussion with a clear mind free of preconceptions, free of prejudices, free of implanted ideas, and be willing to follow the truth wherever it may lead us, even if it leads us to a place we don’t necessarily want to go. In other words we have to want the truth, wherever it is going to take us, and that’s what we’re gonna do in our next video. We’re going to look at Matthew 24:34 exegetically and you’ll find that the answer makes complete sense, and leads us to a positive place. For now, thank you for listening. My name is Eric Wilson. We’ll see you soon.