Luke 11:50

ESV so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation,
NIV Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world,
NASB so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation,
CSB so that this generation may be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world --
NLT As a result, this generation will be held responsible for the murder of all God’s prophets from the creation of the world —
KJV That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation;

What does Luke 11:50 mean?

This is a difficult verse to unpack. Jesus is talking to lawyers in the sect of the Pharisees. They follow the Mosaic law, but also insist on extra-biblical rules. This Oral Law was set in place as an attempt to prevent people from breaking the Mosaic law. These regulations were put into place after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon. Religious leaders thought strictly controlling the people's behavior was the only way to prevent another exile.

Jesus is pointing out the hypocrisy of the lawyers who decorate the tombs of the prophets while being complicit in their murders. The context can be complicated to explain.

There is a tomb outside of Jerusalem for the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Over the centuries, the tomb has been expanded into an elaborate mausoleum. Zechariah was murdered (2 Chronicles 24:20–22) but tradition says Haggai and Malachi died peacefully.

Other prophets were also murdered, such as Jeremiah. He had the unenviable task of trying to convince the Jews to submit to their Babylonian conquerors because their defeat and exile were God's judgment. While the Bible does not record Jeremiah's death, it is believed that the Jewish leaders tortured Jeremiah, kidnapped him, dragged him to Egypt, and murdered him there.

The lawyers Jesus is speaking to were born hundreds of years later. Yet Jesus still says they are complicit in the murders of Zechariah and other prophets. Metaphorically, they are. The prophets foretold details of the coming of the Messiah, and Jesus fulfilled them, including being born of a virgin and healing the blind (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 35:5; John 9:7). The lawyers know this, and yet claim that Jesus' power comes from Satan (Luke 11:14–15). In contrast, the evil city of Nineveh fell to its knees in repentance at the word of Jonah, and the Queen of Sheba heard Solomon's wisdom and recognized the voice of God (Jonah 3:6–10; 2 Chronicles 9:8; Luke 11:30–32).

God will prove the lawyers' guilt by sending more prophets and apostles whom the lawyers will have a hand in killing. Of course, God didn't send prophets and apostles for the sole—or even primary—purpose of being murdered by Pharisees. But the truth is the lawyers will have a hand in the deaths of God's messengers, proving that had they been alive at the time of Zechariah and the other Old Testament prophets, they would have killed them, too (Matthew 23:29–36; Acts 7:54–60; 9:1–2).

Besides Jesus, the Bible records the murders of Stephen by a mob (Acts 7:54–60) and the apostle James by Herod Agrippa I, which pleased the Jewish leaders (Acts 12:1–3). Paul admits, "I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them" (Acts 26:10). We also know that before he was a believer, Paul persecuted the church greatly (Acts 8:3; 9:1–2) and that after he became a Christian, several men, with the Sanhedrin's approval, tried to murder him (Acts 23:12–15).

Jesus says the prophets were murdered "from the foundation of the world." In the next verse, He mentions Abel who was murdered by his brother (Genesis 4:1–8). Abel was not a traditional prophet, but he did live out and presumably speak the truth of God. In Matthew 23:35, Jesus covers the same warning as in Luke 11:50–51 but at a different time and place.
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