Generation is another word that is more broadly defined in the Old Testament than in the new; it is also one in which the emphasis shifts somewhat between the two languages. The purpose of this brief paper is to discuss the definitions of the three Hebrew and four Greek words from which this Biblical word is rendered.

The most numerous, but not first, Hebrew word rendered generation is dôr (H1755). It is derived from the root dûr (H1752) which literally means to gyrate (Strong H1752). Thus dôr means a revolution of time which may represent an age or a human generation, by extension it can mean a habitation or dwelling[1]. Of the 137 times the word appears it is rendered generation or generations 132 times. Other renderings are age(2), evermore(1), never(1) and posterity(1)[2]. The Aramaic word dâr (H1859) occurs four times in Daniel and is the equivalent of the Hebrew dôr; it is always rendered generation.

The first Hebrew word rendered 'generation' occurs very early in Scripture (Gen 2:4) and covers the alternate aspect of the word generation. The word is tôledâh(H8435) and it means descendants; commonly literal human progeny but also metaphorically used of the heavens[3]. The vast majority of the 39 occasions it is used are in the context of an introduction to a genealogy. The one other time the Hebrew word appears it is rendered birth.

The Hebrew notion of tôledâh (human generation) is then taken and divided into four different but related Greek words all of which are rendered generation. The first which appears only three times and is rendered 'generation' once is genesis (G1078) and it appears in the first verse of the New Testament. We are familiar with the word in transliteration as a book of the Bible. It really means 'source' or 'origin' and thus in terms of human generation looks to the 'ultimate parent' of the person in question. The word is also rendered nature twice.

The commonest Greek word rendered generation is genea G1074 it is a noun describing the class of those that have been begotten. Thus it can refer to the whole of mankind living at one time, successive waves of a genealogy or even an age[4]. The word is rendered generation or a derivative 37 times, otherwise ages(2), time(2) or nation(1). Thus it may be seen as a division of tôledâh but also as moving closer to dôr.

The Greek word gennēma (G1081) is rendered generation on four occasions; each time in the context: 'Oh generation of vipers!' The meaning here is simply one of progeny; the other five occasions upon which gennēma occurs it is rendered fruit.

The final division of generation in the Greek, again occurring only once, is genos (G1085). It is used to describe us as a chosen generation. The meaning really is 'kin' or 'kindred' and the implication is that we are of the same stock[5].

We therefore see that throughout scripture the meaning of generation that is mostly closely perceived in the English; a band of human individuals within a 30 year age band roughly corresponding to 'children, parents, grandparents' is about right. To flesh the meaning out a little the Old Testament primarily emphasizes the ongoing nature of time and the ongoing nature of procreation within it. The New Testament does not so-much place man within time as define time by the generation of man. Thus it distinguishes origin from those alive at one time from those of the same type independent of time.


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