Sign-Seeking Generation

& LOY Commentary 12 Comments

What was "the sign of Jonah"? This LOY segment offers a new and surprising answer.

Matt. 12:38-40; 16:1-2, 4; Mark 8:11-13; Luke 11:16, 29-30

(Huck 87, 119, 152; Aland 119, 154, 191;
Crook 141, 173, 218)[1]

Updated: 8 December 2021

דּוֹר זֶה דּוֹר רָשָׁע הוּא סִימָן הוּא מְבַקֵּשׁ וְסִימָן לֹא יִנָּתֵן לוֹ [אֶלָּא] כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהָיָה יוֹנָה לְאַנְשֵׁי נִינְוֵה לְאוֹת כָּךְ יִהְיֶה בַּר אֱנָשׁ לְדוֹר זֶה

“This generation is a wicked one! It desperately searches for any sign of deliverance, but no such sign will be given to it. Rather, as Yonah was a portent of doom to the inhabitants of Nineveh, so henceforth will the Son of Man be a portent of doom to this generation.[2]

A reproduction of our reconstruction in an ancient Hebrew script. Font, based on the Isaiah Scroll from Qumran (1QIsaa), created by Kris Udd.




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Sign-Seeking Generation has charted an unusual course in the process of transmission through pre-synoptic stages to Luke and then to Mark and finally to Matthew. Originally an expression of Jesus’ pessimism regarding the militant nationalist ambitions of his contemporaries, Sign-Seeking Generation came to be used as an apology for the failure or refusal of the Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. To counter the argument that if Jesus had been the Messiah he would have proved it to the entire Jewish people, Sign-Seeking Generation was variously used to suggest that Jesus had intentionally declined to give his contemporaries an authenticating sign (so Mark), or that Jesus’ death and resurrection was the sign that “the Jews” were unwilling to accept (so Matthew).

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Illuminated Armenian manuscript (1678 C.E.) depicting Jonah awaiting the destruction of Nineveh. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). Joshua continued his studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, where he obtained a Master of Divinity degree in 2005. After seminary…
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