What Jesus Meant by 'This Generation Shall Not Pass'

Christ Among the Doctors, Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)
Christ Among the Doctors, Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) | Source
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Introduction

Why is Matthew 24:34 difficult to understand?

  • Mat 24:34 KJV Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
  • Mat 24:34 NET I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

'Verily I say unto you' According to Thayer 'verily' in the KJV means 'at the beginning of a discourse - surely, truly, of a truth'.

Jesus used 'verily' to emphasise His statement. Having the attention of His audience, He continued with a simple declaration concerning His generation.

A Quote from the New English Translation Notes

Matthew 24:34 'This is one of the hardest verses in the gospels to interpret. Various views exist for what generation means. (1) Some take it as meaning “race” and thus as an assurance that the Jewish race (nation) will not pass away. But it is very questionable that the Greek term γενεά (genea) can have this meaning. Two other options are possible. (2) Generation might mean “this type of generation” and refer to the generation of wicked humanity. Then the point is that humanity will not perish, because God will redeem it. Or (3) generation may refer to “the generation that sees the signs of the end” (v. 30), who will also see the end itself. In other words, once the movement to the return of Christ starts, all the events connected with it happen very quickly, in rapid succession.'

'This is one of the hardest verses in the gospels to interpret' Seriously, what an embarrassing admission. The New English Translation Notes provide an example of how far some commentators will go to defend their eschatological view. In my opinion, Matthew 24:34 is one of the hardest verses in the gospels to misinterpret!

There is an option the NETN failed to mention; Jesus meant exactly what He said! Did Jesus use ambiguous language? Of course He didn't. The New Testament writers clearly understood Him; all anticipated His return within the lifetime of their generation.

'This generation shall not pass’ Jesus spoke specifically to His generation. Surely, if He had a gap of 2000 years in mind, He would have said so.

Scholars have a dilemma, in particular, those who misrepresent 'this generation' to accommodate their futuristic 'end times' scenario. Many conveniently downplay this prophecy, however, by so doing they also discredit Jesus our Prophet. The repercussions of acknowledging the simple truth of this prophecy would cause the theological world insurmountable embarrassment.

A Quote from C S Lewis

'But there is worse to come. “Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.”'

It is a pity C S Lewis did not consider the Preterist view rather than conclude Jesus got it wrong!

Let's examine other portions of Scripture that include the phrase 'this generation'.

Matthew 24:34

Which generation was Jesus referring to in Matthew 24:34?

  • His generation
  • A future generation
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Jesus' Generation was 'This Generation'

This Generation is Like Little Children

  • Mat 11:16-19 YLT `And to what shall I liken this generation? it is like little children in market-places, sitting and calling to their comrades, 17 and saying, We piped unto you, and ye did not dance, we lamented to you, and ye did not smite the breast. 18 `For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a demon; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Lo, a man, a glutton, and a wine-drinker, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners, and wisdom was justified of her children.'

In this portion of Scripture Jesus admonished the Jews of His generation for their vacillation and fickleness...Luke 7:31-35. He said they were like ungrateful children because nothing pleased them. Was Jesus applying this statement to a future generation? Of course not.

A Faithless and Perverse Generation

  • Mat 17:17 KJV Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.

It is obvious Jesus was speaking to His generation, He rebuked those in His midst...Mark 9:19.

This Generation is Evil

  • Luk 11:29 YLT And the multitudes crowding together upon him, he began to say, This generation is evil, a sign it doth seek after, and a sign shall not be given to it, except the sign of Jonah the prophet,

Without question, ‘this generation’ applied to Jesus’ generation, the ‘sign of Jonah’ was a type and foreshadow of Christ’s resurrection.

Jesus was Rejected of This Generation

  • Luk 17:25 KJV But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.

A Quote from Adam Clarke's Commentary

Luke 17:25 'But first must he suffer many things - As the cup of the iniquity of this people shall not be full till they have finally rejected and crucified the Lord of life and glory, so this desolation cannot take place till after my death.'

This Untoward Generation

  • Act 2:40 KJV And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

In Acts 2:40 Peter's audience was Jesus’ generation.

All These Things Shall Come Upon This Generation

  • Mat 23:35-36 YLT that on you may come all the righteous blood being poured out on the earth from the blood of Abel the righteous, unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar: 36 verily I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation.

In Matthew 23, Jesus condemned the Scribes and the Pharisees, obviously those of His day. He warned them the 'judgement of gehenna’ was about to come upon them. He did not assign this judgement to a generation thousands of years in the future.

Required of This Generation

  • Luk 11:50-51KJV That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; 51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

Jesus prophesied judgement on Old Covenant Israel. In AD 70, the Roman Army decimated His impenitent generation.

This or That Generation

  • Mat 24:34-35 KJV 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

'This generation’ If Jesus had a future generation in mind, He would have said ‘that generation’ or ‘the generation’ instead of 'this generation'.

'Heaven and earth shall pass away’ Referred to the passing of Old Covenant Israel.

'my words shall not pass away’ The words of Jesus concerning the New Covenant and the Kingdom of God will never pass away…Mark 13:30-31; Luke 21:32-33.

If we take Jesus at His word, we must accept He categorically stated His return would be during the lifetime of His generation.

The aforementioned examples concerned Jesus’ generation, therefore, it is imperative we remain consistent when interpreting Matthew 24:34.

A Quote from Joseph Benson's Commentary

Matthew 24:32-35 '.......“It is to me a wonder,” says Bishop Newton, “how any man can refer part of the foregoing discourse to the destruction of Jerusalem, and part to the end of the world, or any other distant event, when it is said so positively here in the conclusion, All these things shall be fulfilled in this generation. And it seems as if our Lord had been aware of some such misapplication of his words, by adding yet greater force and emphasis to his affirmation, Matthew 24:35, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away — That is, heaven and earth shall sooner, or more easily pass away than my words; the frame of the universe shall sooner, or more easily pass away than my words shall not be fulfilled. In another place, (Matthew 16:28,) he says, There are some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see, the Son of man coming in his kingdom, intimating that the event would not take place immediately, and yet not at such a distance of time but that some then living would be spectators of the calamities coming upon the nation. In like manner, he says to the women who bewailed him as he was going to be crucified, Luke 23:28, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children; which words sufficiently implied that the days of distress and misery were coming, and would fall on them and their children. But at that time there was not any appearance of such an immediate ruin. The wisest politician could not have inferred any such thing from the then present state of affairs. Nothing less than divine prescience could have foreseen and foretold it.” '

Luke 11:50-51 'The blood of all shall be required of this generation - That is, shall be visibly and terribly punished upon it. And so it was within forty years, in a most astonishing manner, by the dreadful destruction of the temple, the city, and the whole nation…’

— John Wesley, Explanatory Notes

The Parable of the Fig Tree

  • Mat 24:32 KJV Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:

A Quote from Hal Lindsey

'When the Jewish people, after nearly 2,000 years of exile, under relentless persecution, became a nation again on 14 May 1948 the 'fig tree' put forth its first leaves. Jesus said that this would indicate that He was 'at the door,' ready to return.'

The Mount of Olives was a source of figs as well as olives, summer was near when the leaves appeared on the fig trees; it was inevitable the trees were about to bear fruit. The signs prior to Christ's return in judgement were as dependable as the leaves on the Fig tree.

  • Luk 21:29 KJV And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees

The parable was not specifically about the fig tree, Luke included 'all the trees'. Jesus emphasised the certainty of the signs leading to the end of the Old Covenant Age, not to the restoration of the Israel in 1948.

  • Mat 24:33 KJV So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know it is near, even at the doors.

Audience relevance - Jesus was speaking to His disciples. The timeline - 'it is near, even at the doors'.

  • Mat 24:34 KJV Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

When Matthew 24:32-34 is read in context, it is patently clear Jesus had His generation in mind.

The phrase 'This generation' appears 16 times in the gospels, and always concerning Christ's generation.

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The Predictions of Jesus

When Jesus answered the questions asked by His disciples, He constantly responded:

‘and ye shall hear'

‘when ye shall see'

‘then shall they deliver you

‘and shall kill you'

‘when ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation’

Jesus spoke directly to His disciples when He prophesied the fulfillment of impending events.

The End of the Age

  • Mat 24:3 YLT And when he is sitting on the mount of the Olives, the disciples came near to him by himself, saying, 'Tell us, when shall these be? and what is the sign of thy presence, and of the full end of the age?

Dispensationalism teaches Matthew 24:3 is pertinent to our generation!

To understand the 'end times', it is crucial to identify the 'age' the disciples were anxious about. They lived during the Old Covenant Age, and the Prophets had foretold the judgement during its 'latter days'…Deuteronomy 31:29, Daniel 12:6-13.

  • Eph 1:21 YLT far above all principality, and authority, and might, and lordship, and every name named, not only in this age, but also in the coming one;

What 'age' would have been of most interest to them? Surely, the one in which they were living. Their immediate concern was the end of the Old Covenant with its consequences…Hebrews 8:13. After all, why would they ask about the end of the glorious coming age?

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Conclusion

It is inconsistent to accept all the Scriptures examined refer to Jesus’ generation except for one, Matthew 24:34.

Simply put, those who misrepresent the meaning of ‘this generation’ do so because their eschatology demands it.

Is there a 2000 years 'gap' or have scholars made a 'gaffe'?

What do you think?

Alexander Gibb

© 2011 Alexander Gibb

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Comments 8 comments

flpalermo profile image

flpalermo 5 years ago

As you say, let's interpret this Phrase in context: (Mathew 24:34)

I will quote it here: Mat 24:34 "Verily I say unto you, "this generation" shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled"

"These things" include the following:

(Mat 24:29) Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

(Mat 24:30) And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

(Mat 24:31) And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

NOW we come to Matthew 24 verse 3 : " THIS GENERATION" [that will see the sun be darkened, the moon not give her light, the stars fall from Heaven, that "see" the son of man coming in the clouds, that will see the Angels gather together the elect] this is the generation that will not pass away until all these things are fulfilled.


searchinsany profile image

searchinsany 5 years ago from UK Author

flpalermo

Thanks for your comment, you make a good point and I will answer briefly, as best I can.

Mat 24:29 KJV Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

If taken literally then I agree these things have not happened, however I believe this is Prophetic Metaphorical Language.

If taken literally I would question if Mankind could survive such an event. The real question is: Do I have a premise in Scripture for not taking this literally? The answer is yes!

Here is one example:

Isa 13:10 KJV For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.....Isa 13:13 KJV Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.

Isaiah here prophesied the Fall of the Babylonian Empire and used Metaphorical Language, it was not to be taken literally. In Isaiah 13:17 The Lord explained how He would physically bring about the Babylonian Fall, 'Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them...'.

Compare these verses in Isaiah 13 and Matthew 24, Jesus used very similar Metaphorical Language in Matthew 24:29-30 to describe His return, again not to be taken literally because His Kingdom comes without observation...Luke 17:20.

Joh 14:19 KJV Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.

Jesus' return was a Spiritual reality not a physical one.

In plain language Jesus referred to His generation in Matthew 24:34 when He said 'This Generation.....'

For more on this see my Hub: How to Manage and Make the Most of Metaphorical Language in Scripture.


Disappearinghead profile image

Disappearinghead 5 years ago from Wales, UK

Interestingly Jesus said those times would be shortened or no one would survive and dispensationalism says He is talking about a 7 year tribulation. But considering that the blood of all the prophets would be visited on that generation, then He was obviusly not talking about the future.

with regards to all the fleeing to the hills and pray it wont be in winter, etc, Hadrian unterly destroyed the nation of Israel in AD135 and the Jews were dispersed amongst the nations of the World.

With this in mind I see 'This Generation' as anybody included between AD33-ish and AD135.

Have you read any hubs by Jerami? He has put some effort into a view that Jesus did return shortly after His Revelation to John, based on prophesies given to Daniel.


searchinsany profile image

searchinsany 5 years ago from UK Author

Disappearinghead

Thank you for your comment.

I will visit Jerami's Hubs.

I am persuaded that the timeline of Daniel's 70 Weeks ends with Jesus' generation, it will be interesting to see how Jerami extends Daniel's prophecy to AD 135.


HollisBush 3 years ago

Interesting but didn't Jesus curse the fig tree. When Jesus was at a the fig tree and was to eat he cursed it then gave a parable on how it represents his return as king. Israel of that time had no king only scribes and Sadducees over them with the Romans breathing down their knecks.

Jesus at this point in time with his disciples told him that 32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:

33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

37 But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

So in this manner the tree is related to the house of Israel because many tribes before Jesus came left. It's not until those lost tribes come back will the messiah return to the earth.

This passage of scripture is often interpreted as the state of Israel when it speaks of Israel Gods people. So how can the end of time happen when Manessah and Ephraim are gone? It can't because Jesus said he came for his lost sheep that are scattered to the ends of the earth and likens anyone who follows him as sheep.

Now if scripture is correct when Jesus entered Jerusalem people chanted Hoseanna because they wanted this great guy to be king over them so instead they basically had him killed. Jesus the son of Adam was supposed to be king of Israel of that time but if you liken those people to the fig tree you will see why it can't be so for that generation.

There was people talking about his return to defeat the Romans after they basically ransacked Israel, and yet he hasn't returned. So now that prophecy is half way fulfilled but to bring it into its fullness the tribes must return.


searchinsany profile image

searchinsany 3 years ago from UK Author

HollisBush

Welcome to HubPages and thank you for your comment.

Mat 21:19 KJV And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.

Jesus approached the fig tree to partake of its fruit but found only leaves; hence He declared it would wither away. This incident occurred while travelling to Jerusalem to be crucified. He was teaching His disciples that the children of Israel professed to have the true religion yet despised the Gentiles, because of their hypocrisy and sinful ways they were all leaves and no fruit. Judgement was about to fall on them and subsequently did in AD 70.

Jer 22:30 KJV Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.

The reason there wasn't a king on the throne of David was in fulfilment of Jeremiah’s prophecy.

Mat 24:32 KJV Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:

When Matthew 24 is read in context it becomes clear that Jesus was answering questions put to Him by His disciples, in response to His prophecy concerning the destruction of the temple. In Matthew 24:4-31 He described all the events leading to the Judgement that was about to take place with the destruction of the temple, Jerusalem, and the dispersion, thereby ending the Old Covenant Age.

Mat 24:32 KJV Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:

In my opinion this Scripture has nothing to do with a revived nation of Israel 2000 years later. These signs were given as infallible proof of the approaching ruin of the Jewish state, just as the budding of the trees is proof of the coming summer.

Luk 21:29-33 KJV And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. 31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. 32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.

‘Behold the fig tree, and all the trees’ My point is supported by Luke’s account, he wrote that we know summer is near when all trees ‘shoot forth’. Likewise when the disciples saw all the aforementioned signs they would know it is the end. Jesus was not predicting events that would take place 2000 years later; He was specifically speaking to His disciples.

Mat 15:24 KJV But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Quote ‘This passage of scripture is often interpreted as the state of Israel when it speaks of Israel Gods people.’

Jesus said He was sent to 'the lost sheep of the house of Israel' not to the ‘state of Israel’.

The Elect is mentioned three times in Matthew 24, and was the remnant of all the tribes who was saved by fleeing to the mountains at the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus came to the Jews first, because ‘salvation is of the Jews’. He preached repentance and the Elect received Him, those who rejected Him were destroyed in the fiery Judgement in AD 70 when Christ returned.


HollisBush 3 years ago

Searchinsany

If the Christos came earlier then the rest of the revelation would have happened earlier according to the fact Jesus didn't do away with any covenant but fulfilled it.

Saying the old covenant doesn't apply is going against the fabric of what Jesus is, what he fulfilled, and why its important to listen to the prophets of old.

The fig tree you speak of can be interpreted as Israel and also as just jews returning to where they came from but its common to think of it as the lost tribes of Israel depending on what group you follow me messianic.

And the covenant you speak of is a mark sign or seal and in hebrew is the letter Tav which in pictographs makes a cross, so by the jews not following Christ yes you are right destruction came upon them because Jewish sages had a sang and its when there is no Torah the world will burn. Thing is the world didn't burn just there temple which got ransacked by Romans.

And Jesus predicted ahead of time that the end of the jewish world will be revisited by a latter day/ end time Antiochus because if you know the story of Hanukkah and read revelation they both go hand in hand like with Daniels 70th week.


searchinsany profile image

searchinsany 3 years ago from UK Author

HollisBush

Thank you for your comment.

Mat 5:17-18 KJV Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

According to Matthew’s Gospel, if Jesus has not fulfilled the Law and Prophets then the believer’s salvation is still incomplete, believers would still be under the condemnation of the Law and not under Grace. In context, Jesus referred to the Mosaic Law passing when He said ‘Till heaven and earth pass’.

Heb 8:6-7 KJV But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.

The writer to the Hebrews wrote that Christ is the mediator ‘of a better covenant’.

Heb 8:8-12 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

The writer continued by declaring Christ is the fulfilment of Jeremiah 31:31-34.

Heb 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

During the period AD 30-AD 70 the Old Covenant was decaying, waxing old and ready to vanish away. Jesus fulfilled all the promises made to Israel at His return in judgement when the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed in AD 70; putting an end to animal sacrifices, atonement is now only available through faith in Christ’s sacrificial offering.

Heb 9:8-11 KJV The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

Heb 9:28 KJV So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

‘he appear the second time without sin unto salvation’ The 1st century church lived during a transition period also known as the ‘already but not yet’. The first tabernacle was still standing and not until its destruction, which was the physical evidence of spiritual change, were the believer’s salvation complete and the New Covenant Age fully efficacious.

It wasn't ‘just’ the temple that was burned; the nation was dispersed and the whole Jewish polity ended. The Jewish ‘heaven and earth’ was destroyed by fire.

In Matthew 24 Jesus prophesied the events of the ‘last days’ leading to the end of the Old Covenant Age, not to ‘last days’ 2000 years in the future. Antiochus was a shadow of events to come that being Nero and the Roman Empire.

2Ch 30:6 KJV So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes throughout all Israel and Judah, and according to the commandment of the king, saying, Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he will return to the remnant of you, that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria.

God’s elect from the Kingdom of Israel was saved during the Lord’s judgement at the hand of the Assyrians, when a remnant migrated south to the Kingdom of Judah …2 Chronicles 34:9. The elect mentioned in Matthew 24 consisted of the remnant from all the tribes, saved by escaping from Jerusalem and fleeing to the mountains of Pella.

Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70, many believe there is a gap in that prophecy of 2000 years and counting, which makes it nonsensical. Hanukkah is additional to the Mosaic Law and the Prophets; therefore it is from an extra-biblical source.

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