What is the meaning of generation? Some controversy surrounds the term generation in Matthew 24:34. Does it refer to the Jews as a "race" or does it refer to an interval of time, an age, as in a step in genealogy. See the The Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 79
Some commentators translate the word to mean race. That in my opinion from the research I've looked at fails to satisfy a more critical examination. "Genea" primarily means "birth," or "progeny: as in a generation of mankind, a step in genealogy to mean an interval of time, or an age.
This is the manner in which the term is used in Matthew 1: 1-17 to speak of the genesis of Jesus Christ, i.e. the birth of Jesus Christ. In summarizing each generation beginning with Abraham to Christ, the bible segregates them into 3 distinct lists of 14 generations each.
All the descendants with exception of Rahab the harlot, were of the lineage of Abraham. From Abraham to David were 14 generations, from David to the Babylonian captivity were 14 generations and from the Babylonian captivity to the Christ were 14 generations.
Try inserting the "Jewish race" as the meaning of generation here and the theory falls flat on its face. To argue there were 42 races of the Jews would mean there was no race.
Each success birth in the genealogical tree would start a new race. Who then would pick and choose which was the right one? Now it is that term that is used several times in Matthew's gospel, i.e. Matthew 11:16 and 23:36.
In the former, Jesus identifies the generation as his contemporaries who refused to respond appropriately to John, the immerser's ultra conservatism or Jesus’ seeming eccentricity.
Nevertheless, he was addressing his contemporaries. In Matthew 23:36, a verse which is germane to this discussion and is the spring board which launched the discussion in Matthew 24, Jesus clearly states that the temple and ancient Jerusalem would suffer desolation.
Note how in verse 37, he links O' Jerusalem, Jerusalem, with verse 36, "Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (Matthew 23:36). I can't think of anyone who ascribes "race" as the meaning of that verse.
That's the same term, "genea" used in Matthew 24:34, and by the way, refers to the exact same event.
That statement is what prompted the disciples to show Jesus the seemingly impregnable stones to which he began his discussion in Matthew 24, including his comments on verse 36.
By way of contrast, 1 Peter 2:9, translates race, not from genea, but from genos. But you are a chosen "generation." This term means family, kindred or lineage and can mean race, nation or people.
However, one must be careful even here because of the context. Peter, writer to those who had been "born" again, not of the flesh but of water and of the Spirit. This means they were baptized and received the Holy Spirit. (1 Peter 1:22; 1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 19:1-6).
Paul said of those who were baptized that they were neither Jew nor Greek. (Galatians 3:26-28) but were sons of God by faith in Christ. Thus, the "chosen race" is not an ethnic group based on their genetics. Rather, they belong to a group of people who have been saved out of a world of unbelievers.
More important is the fact that this group to whom Peter writes as the "chosen" race, in addition to being comprised of Jews and Gentiles in the one body of Christ, are exclusively "firstfruits" saints (See James 1:18)
Hence, they cannot belong to any other generation other than the first century. So, the point about "race" even from genos as used in this text is a moot issue. Firstfruits saints or Christians are exclusively, the first Christians of the first century. No other generation of Christians can be styled firstfruits as no other person can be the first of firstfruits (Christ).
Therefore, exegetically, genea of Matthew 24 means a contemporary group of people all living at the same time. In addition, "genos" in 1 Peter 2:9, means the "race" or generation of firstfruits Christians living in the first century.
In neither case examined does the word apply to the Jews as a race. Finally, the point therefore stands conclusive, that genea (translated generation) in Matthew 1:17, 11:16; 23:36, and 24:36, all refer to Jesus' own contemporary generation.
Genos, in 1 Peter 2:9, refers to the first century Christians, to the exclusion of any other generation, as no other generation received the firstfruits of the Spirit.
Incidentally, Peter addressed that same group in chapter 4:7 and 17, saying that the end had drawn near, and that the time for the judgment had arrived and would begin at "us" meaning first century saints. This point corroborates the interpretation of Matthew 24:34, that it would occur shortly within the first century.