Dispensational Anti-Semitism

Hal Lindsey wrote a book (which I own as a curiosity) in which he accused Theonomic Reconstructionists of anti-semitism.  The basic argument seems to be that theonomists believe the Church has replaced ethnic Israel, and this will lead to all sorts of end-of-the-world bad things.  However, I would suggest that radical Dispensationalists have a huge anti-semitic beam in their own eye.  The problem is with two verses in Matthew (23:36 and 24:34) and with the meaning of the word “generation.”

Matthew 24:34 reads: “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”  The Greek word for generation is “genea” (genea.n).  Charles Ryrie helpfully explains this away for us: “No one living when Jesus spoke these words lived to see ‘all these things’ come to pass.  However, the Greek word can mean ‘race’ or ‘family,’ which makes good sense here; i.e., the Jewish race will be preserved, in spite of terrible persecution, until the Lord comes” (Ryrie Study Bible, Expanded Edition).   One reason for this “terrible persecution” may be slips of logic like this.  Let’s look at some of the other things Jesus said about that “generation”:

 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation(ESV, emphasis mine).

The Greek word here “genea” (genea.) is the same as in 23:36.  So, did Jesus really mean that the Jewish race would be punished forever for killing the prophets from Abel to Zechariah?  Of course, we need to add the execution of the Prophet Jesus to that list.  If this is true, then why do people complain about Christians persecuting Jews throughout history?  According to Ryrie’s logic, this is simply the will of God!  Or, did the meaning of “genea” suddenly switch between chapters?  It maketh no sense.

A more sane way to read these passages, though it may appear harsh, is to say that God did indeed judge that generation of Jews in 70 AD when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.  That was it.  No further punishment needed.  Any mistreatment of Jews because they are Jews (whatever that means now, in the New Covenant) is wrong and sinful.  Period.  That generation did reject Jesus and they were judged for it.  Their house really was left desolate (Matt. 23:38).  And, of course, it makes more sense to read most of Matthew 24 as fulfilled in the 1st century.  But, that’s a much bigger point… At the least, Dispensational exegesis is not consistent with the plain meaning of Greek words.  At the worst, some Hitler wanna-be could read their exegesis and find himself a handy proof-text. 

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