August 18, 2017 Steve Sabz
Old engraving of Jesus teaching on the Mount of Olives (Stock Illustration)

Old engraving of Jesus teaching on the Mount of Olives (Stock Illustration)

How long is a Biblical generation? When trying to interpret prophetic passages in Scripture, it's important to first establish the correct timeframe reference and historical context. Fortunately, this is revealed in the Bible by the Lord himself:

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Jesus Christ to his disciples in Mark 13:30 (circa 50s or 60s AD)

In the passage above, Jesus clearly stated that his contemporaries (see also Matthew 12:39, 23:35-36, 24:34, Luke 11:50-51, 21:32, Acts 2:40) would not pass away until all of the events described in verses 2 through 30 have taken place. Since we are now about 1,993 years removed from the time that Jesus spoke these words, the logical conclusion would be to investigate past events in order to falsify or confirm Jesus' prophecy. However, for the sake of argument and the purpose of this article, let us assume that past events do not confirm the fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy, even though they actually do from an Orthodox (aka Partial) Preterist perspective..

Another article I wrote shows how Futurism's Premillennialist belief about the length of a Biblical generation has flip-flopped many times over the past 100 years and must be reset in order to appear credible to those unfamiliar with past history (i.e., in the 1st-century AD when in fact Jesus' prophecy was both historically and Biblically reported and fulfilled). In this article, we will answer the question: "How long is a generation [genea] in the Bible?"

A simple calculation will show that a Biblical generation equals approximately 40 years. For example, according to Matthew's genealogy, there were "fourteen generations [genea] in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah" (Matthew 1:17). Knowing the dates of these three events, we find that an average generation from Abraham (1813 BC) to David (1040 BC) was about 55 years; the average generation from David (1040 BC) to the exile to Babylon (586 BC) was about 32 years; and the average generation from the exile (586 BC) to the Messiah (1 AD) was about 41 years:

 1,813 - 1,040 = 773 / 14 generations = 55 years
 1,040 - 586 = 454 / 14 generations = 32 years
 586 - 1 = 585 / 14 generations = 41 years
 TOTAL: 128 / 3 = 42.7

The average of the three time periods equals 42.7 years. And, since Jesus' first-century audience was proximal to the third group (i.e., "from the exile to the Messiah"), it would be prudent to infer that Jesus also considered a generation to be about 40 years. This is consistent with Numbers 32:13 where the Hebrew term, "dowr," for generation is explicitly described as a forty year time period. The same term is used by Moses in Deuteronomy 2:14 where he equates a generation to be thirty eight years.

The unknown author of the letter to the Hebrews corroborates this view when he refers to Numbers 32:13 in his comparison of Jesus and Moses (Cf. Psalm 95:9-10)

...where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation... Unknown author in Hebrews 3:9-10 (circa 60-70 AD)

The Book of Job also provides a reference for the number of years contained within a generation:

And after this [the latter days of Job] Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days. Unknown author in Job 42:16-17 (circa 1500-500 BC)

Here, the author writes that Job lived through four generations during which "the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning" (Job 42:12). If we divide the 140 years that Job lived after his trial by four generations we find that a single generation equals 35 years.

Sabz, S. (2017, August 18). This generation. Retrieved from

Steve Sabz

Steve Sabz

Steve Sabz is the author and founder of Science and Bible Research. He is a professional educator with a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Physiology from William Paterson University, where he also completed graduate level courses in Human Physiology and Endocrinology. Steve has been studying theology since 2015 and has successfully completed seminary level courses in Textual Criticism, Biblical Hermeneutics, Eschatology, Puritan Theology, Ancient Church History, Soteriology, Biblical Theology, Prolegomena, and Biblical Greek from Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dallas Theological Seminary. Steve is also the author of Evolution's Complexity Problem and End Time Rewind.