Monday, May 23, 2022

Where are all the ashes?

 If Annihilationists were right, one might expect to see the end of the wicked more often equated with non-existence.  Of course, not all Annhilationists say that man ceases to exist, sometimes they will say he is reduced to ashes.

One nice thing about the ashes argument is that there is a Biblical "ashes" motif that it can be drawn from.  For example, at Genesis 18:27, Abraham calls himself "dust and ashes" (עָפָר וָאֵֽפֶר).  The Hebrew word for ashes, transliterated 'epher, is used about two dozen times in the Old Testament.

The first is Abraham's usage.

The second/third is in the ordinance of the red heifer, which is burned up, reduced to ash, the ashes are gathered up, and then placed in a clean place outside the camp.  Even the person who touches the ashes is considered ceremonially unclean.  The purpose of the sacrifice is the purification of sin. (Leviticus 19:1-10)

Many are ashes that are applied to the body as a sign of mourning (2 Samuel 13:19, Esther 4:1, 3, Isaiah 58:5, 61:3, Jeremiah 61:3, Ezekiel 27:30, Daniel 9:3, Jonah 3:6)

Several are in the book of Job.  In Job 2:8, Job sits down amongst the ashes with a potsherd.  In Job 13:12, Job compares his friends to ashes and bodies of clay.  In John 30:19, Job complains that he has become like dust and ashes.  In Job 42:6, Job repents in dust and ashes.

The afflicted person in Psalm 102 complains that he has eaten ashes like bread (Psalm 102:9).

Psalm 147:16 compares the hoarfrost to scattered ashes.

Lamentations 3:16 describes a person having their teeth broken with gravel and covered with ashes.

The main two places of interest to annihilationists are two places where they are described in ashen terms.  

The first is Ezekiel 28, regarding the destruction of the King of Tyre.  In this passage, a picture is painted of the King of Tyre that describes him in lofty terms, but then calls for his destruction in terms of a fire coming from inside of him, devouring him, turning him to ash, and him becoming nothing more than a terrifying experience for those who saw it, concluding with "never shalt thou be any more."  (Ezekiel 28:19)  This end is similar to those described by Ezekiel 26:21 (where it is about the city of Tyre) and Ezekiel 27:36 (also about the city of Tyre).  The most natural understanding, therefore, of this pericope is that it is about the destruction of the city of Tyre as such.  Interestingly, one of the defensive strategies that the men of Tyre used was to set their own ships on fire and kamikaze attack Alexander the Great's causeway.  It was initially effective, apparently, but ultimately they suffered a humiliating defeat.

The final reference is Malachi 4:3, where the wicked are describes as being "ashes under the soles of your feet" in the day that comes that burns the proud like stubble in an oven.  If this were the only, or the dominant description of the afterlife, then annihilationism would be a lot more tempting. 

I would be remiss if I did not point out that another word for ashes was used in Exodus 9:8&10 to describe the ashes that Moses sprinkled toward heaven, resulting in the plague of boils. Likewise, there is a further word for that can mean fat or the ashes thereof (deshen), which is used of sacrificial ashes in Leviticus 1:16, 4:12, 6:10-11, 7:10, and 1 Kings 13:3&5.  The only place where deshen might be of particular interest to annihilationists is in Jeremiah 31:40, describing a valley of dead bodies and ashes.  This may be awkward, though, as that valley is described as being holy to the Lord.

The New Testament refers to the same sackloth and ashes practice (interestingly in reference to a hypothetical preaching of the gospel to Tyre) at Matthew 11:21 and Luke 10:13.  Likewise, the New Testament mentions ceremonially cleansing ashes (apparently of the red heifer) Hebrews 9:13.    

Finally, the English word "ashes" is typically used as part of the translation of the verb in 2 Peter 2:6, which refers to the incineration of Sodom and Gomorrha.

While the Old Testament speaks of some kind of annihilation of the city of Tyre, there is not any closely similar statement made regarding unbelievers.  The closest would be 2 Peter 2:6, which we may consider under a separate post.

In short, if annhilationism were correct, one would expect the Scriptures to be more full of ashes than they are.  They are not ash-free, but certainly the few mentions of ashes are not really enough to justify annihilitionist reliance on them over against explicit didactic teachings on the subject.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Ignatius an Annhiliationist?

 In a recent video, Chris Date (CD) claims that Ignatius of Antioch was an annihilationist (link).  CD generally uses the term "conditional immortality" to describe his position.  

Before getting into a discussion of Ignatius himself, CD includes the bizarre claim that Tatian of Adiabene (c. 120-180) is the "oldest Christian advocate of eternal torment" (30:45 in video) Not only do we see such teachings in 1 Clement (which CD disputes as we analyze here), Polycarp (which CD also disputes as we analyze here), and Ignatius of Antioch (as discussed below) but even more clearly in others, such as Justin Martyr.

Justin Martyr (c. 100-165), First Apology, Chapter 52: "For the prophets have proclaimed two advents of His: the one, that which is already past, when He came as a dishonoured and suffering Man; but the second, when, according to prophecy, He shall come from heaven with glory, accompanied by His angelic host, when also He shall raise the bodies of all men who have lived, and shall clothe those of the worthy with immortality, and shall send those of the wicked, endued with eternal sensibility, into everlasting fire with the wicked devils." (link)  CDlater weakly concedes (around 43:10 in the video) that Justin Martyr seems in some places to be ECT and in some places annihilationist.  Nevertheless, the quotation above is an extremely clear statement of eternal conscious torment.  I suspect, and perhaps we'll be able to investigate this more another time, that the problem is CD's optimistically annihilationist hermeneutic of the early Christian writers.  

CD finally begins to discuss Ignatius' teaching around 47 minutes into the video (link to point). CD states that he's going to be working from what he refers to as the "middle recension" of Ignatius.  There is actually remaining debate over what exactly the original text of Ignatius is, and where there are differences amongst the recensions, relying on a variant reading is a tricky matter.

The first piece of evidence that CD points to is actually evidence in support of eternal conscious torment.  Ignatius' Epistle to the Ephesians, Chapter 16, states, "If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with any one who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such an one becoming defiled [in this way], shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him."  The longer recension is somewhat different on this point, reading: "And if those that corrupt mere human families are condemned to death, how much more shall those suffer everlasting punishment who endeavour to corrupt the Church of Christ, for which the Lord Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, endured the cross, and submitted to death!"  The difference in meaning is not significant if Ignatius held to ECT, and indeed the reference to "everlasting fire" is a reference to ECT. The only reason to read it otherwise is based on hoping that Ignatius is just using Biblical language and that the annihilationist interpretation of everlasting fire is correct.   There is, quite frankly, no sound reason to think this.  We can and will discuss the annihilationist interpretation of everlasting fire, but for now suffice to say that this is an example of Ignatius affirming the eternal torment view.

The second piece of evidence that CD points to is Ignatius' Epistle to the Magnesians, Chapter 5.  There, Ignatius writes, "Seeing, then, all things have an end, these two things are simultaneously set before us—death and life; and every one shall go unto his own place." (shorter recension)  The longer recension is more expansive but has the same core: "Seeing, then, all things have an end, and there is set before us life upon our observance [of God’s precepts], but death as the result of disobedience, and every one, according to the choice he makes, shall go to his own place, let us flee from death, and make choice of life." (longer recension).

I should be quick to point out that "go to his own place" points to death not simply as a biological state, but rather to a place.  This view is, naturally, more compatible with the ECT view than its annihilationist alternative.

CD argues that Ignatius "consistently" uses death to mean simply biological death.  CD is wrong about that.  For example, Ignatius uses "death" to refer to spiritual death in his Epistle to the Trallians, Chapter 11: "Flee, therefore, those evil offshoots [of Satan], which produce death-bearing fruit, whereof if any one tastes, he instantly dies." (shorter) "Avoid also the children of the evil one, Theodotus and Cleobulus, who produce death-bearing fruit, whereof if any one tastes, he instantly dies, and that not a mere temporary death, but one that shall endure for ever." (longer)

Notice, by the way, that the editor who produced the longer recension affirmed everlasting punishment (as pointed out above), so the editor that says "death ... that shall endure forever" is referring to ECT.  This should be basically an aside, since the longer recension is presumably not the original.

It is a bit vexing to deal with this issue of CD claiming something is used consistently one way, presenting evidence to allegedly support that claim, and then it turning out that CD has not included the counter-evidence. 

CD even points to Ignatius' Epistle to the Smyrnaeans Chapter 2, which states: "And He suffered truly, even as also He truly raised up Himself, not, as certain unbelievers maintain, that He only seemed to suffer, as they themselves only seem to be [Christians]. And as they believe, so shall it happen unto them, when they shall be divested of their bodies, and be mere evil spirits." (shorter) The longer recension doesn't discuss this divestment of bodies.

I really cannot approve of CD's excerpting of "and be mere evil spirits" in his effort to make Ignatius look more like an annihilationist than Ignatius was.

Moreover, CD refers the reader to Igantius' Epistle to the Smyrnaeans Chapter 5, which states: "But he who does not acknowledge this, has in fact altogether denied Him, being enveloped in death." (shorter - longer is essentially the same on this point)  Note that being enveloped with death once again cannot refer to biological death, because it is that they area already experiencing.

CD then points to Smyrnaeans 7, which states: "Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again." (shorter) "They are ashamed of the cross; they mock at the passion; they make a jest of the resurrection." (longer) The textual variation seems markedly significant here.  Nevertheless, even assuming the shorter recension is accurate, the sense of "rise again" is probably best understood as "rise again with Christ" as opposed to being a claim that there is only a resurrection of the just.

CD next turns to Ignatius' Epistle to the Trallians, Chapter 2, where Ignatius states: "ye appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, ye may escape from death." (shorter) "ye appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order that, by believing in His death, ye may by baptism be made partakers of His resurrection." (longer)  I note that the longer seems to convey the sense meant by the shorter.  More pointedly, though, believers do not escape from just ordinary death in the sense of not experiencing ordinary death.  Instead, they escape from death by resurrection from the dead to eternal life.  I can appreciate why this statement, by itself, could be taken in an annihilationist sense, but it doesn't directly address the issue.

CD talks briefly about the sense of the word, life, namely that it is not necessarily a special technical term.  I suppose probably some people argue this, but since I don't, I'll pass this by, except in one particular.

On the second or third slide of his presentation about Ignatius' use of "life," CD comes to the place in Ignatius' Epistle to the Trallians, Chapter 9, where Ignatius states: "He was also truly raised from the dead, His Father quickening Him, even as after the same manner His Father will so raise up us who believe in Him by Christ Jesus, apart from whom we do not possess the true life." (shorter) (the longer has no equivalent statement)  Even setting aside the troubling textual variant issue, the statement "apart from whom we do not possess the true life" is a statement of the ECT position on what eternal life is, as distinct from the annihilationist/reductionist view that reduces life to biological life.

Likewise, in the keystone evidence that Chris presents, the off-quoted passage of Ignatius in Epistle to the Ephesians, Chapter 20: "breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which causes] that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ."  (Schaff only provides a single recension here, and I haven't taken the time to investigate which it is.) there is a similar expression of life that matters being life "in Jesus Christ."  CD seems to overlook this important qualifier.  CD claims that "life" and "dying" here have no special theological significance, but it should be obvious that Ignatius who longed for martyrdom did not think that the bread of the Eucharist would stop him from suffering martyrdom.  The idea that there is no special theological significance is totally unthinkable.

CD goes so far as to change Ignatius' words in the spoken part of the presentation, to go from "prevent us from dying" to "cures death and makes it possible for us to rise immortal."  That change in wording is significant to CD's claim that Ignatius' terms don't have special theological significance, but they are not the words that Ignatius used.  In point of fact, "prevent dying" means you don't die, whereas "cures death" means raises to life after you die.  Of course, Ignatius does affirm the resurrection of the believers, but one to a new life in union with Christ, which is what the ECT position teaches.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Is the Spirit Immortal?

Unlike animals, humans have an immortal soul.

Ecclesiastes 3:21

Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

Early Christians understood and believed in the existence of disembodied spirits.

Acts 12:15

And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.

This contrasted with Sadducee teachings.

Acts 23:8

For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.

It was not just superstitious Christians that believed that the spirit lives on after the body dies.  Jesus endorsed and argued for an anti-annihilationist view specifically against the Sadducees. 

Matthew 22:32

I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Likewise, Jesus taught us that the souls of believers immediately pass into glory.

Luke 23:43

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Nevertheless, death is something.  That is why we treat death as separation.  Indeed, James provides a clear statement to that effect:

James 2:26

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Clement and Eternal Conscious Torment

Chris Date (CD) has a video in which he claims that Clement of Rome held to "conditional immortality" (link - if you're interested to hear what he has to say about Clement of Rome, you can jump forward to timestamp 26:00 and listen to 44:09).  

First, note that we refer to the book we refer to as 1 Clement, a letter from the church at Rome to the church at Corinth, is traditionally identified as having been written by Clement of Rome, even though Clement may not have written the letter or may not have done so in an individual capacity.   The author of the book avoids using the first person to refer to himself, does not identify himself as Clement in the text of the work, and the letter begins, "The Church of God which sojourneth in Rome to the Church of God which sojourneth in Corinth...."  Likewise, the postscript of the letter asks that the messengers (who presumably carried the letter) be speedily returned to "us."  Although the author of 1 Clement is traditionally identified as Clement of Rome, I will refer to the author as "the author of 1 Clement." 

At least one other letter has been attributed to Clement of Rome (it's referred to as 2 Clement), but it is by another author.  The mid-second century author of that work does refer to "eternal punishment" (2 Clement 6:7), affirms that the dead will be judged (2 Clement 1:1), uses "death" to refer to something like spiritual death ("our whole life was nothing else but death" 2 Clement 1:6), suggests that the fire of the afterlife will have a hardening effect like fire has on clay with the effect of repentance being impossible there (2 Clement 8:1-3), and identifies the punishment of the damned with "grievous torments in unquenchable fire" (2 Clement 17:7) after quoting from Isaiah 66:24 (2 Clement 17:5).  Naturally, CD does not provide his detailed comments on this work, and he does not need to, since it is not the work of Clement of Rome.  I merely mention it as a minor aside against the false and ridiculous notion that the doctrine of eternal conscious torment should be associated with Augustine, centuries later despite being the understanding of Christians before then.

Returning to 1 Clement, the full text of the epistle in the original Greek and parallel English can be found at the following link (link to full text of 1 Clement).  

While Hell is not the central focus of the letter, the author of 1 Clement, does touch on the subject a little.

XI. Διὰ φιλοξενίαν καὶ εὐσέβειαν Λὼτ ἐσώθη ἐκ Σοδόμων, τῆς περιχώρου πάσης κριθείσης διὰ πυρὸς καὶ θείου, πρόδηλον ποιήσας ὁ δεσπότης ὅτι τοὺς ἐλπίζοντας ἐπ’ αὐτὸν οὐκ ἐγκαταλείπει, τοὺς δὲ ἑτεροκλινεῖς ὑπάρχοντας εἰς κόλασιν καὶ αἰκισμὸν τίθησιν. 2. Συνεξελθούσης γὰρ αὐτῷ τῆς γυναικὸς ἑτερογνώμονος ὑπαρχούσης καὶ οὐκ ἐν ὁμονοίᾳ, εἰς τοῦτο σημεῖον ἐτέθη, ὥστε γενέσθαι αὐτὴν στήλην ἁλὸς ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ταύτης, εἰς τὸ γνωστὸν εἶναι πᾶσιν ὅτι οἱ δίψυχοι καὶ οἱ διστάζοντες περὶ τῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ δυνάμεως εἰς κρίμα καὶ εἰς σημείωσιν πάσαις ταῖς γενεαῖς γίνονται.

11. For his hospitality and godliness Lot was saved from Sodom, when all the country round about was judged by fire and brimstone; the Master having thus fore shown that He forsaketh not them which set their hope on Him, but appointeth unto punishment and torment them which swerve aside. [2.] For when his wife had gone forth with him, being otherwise minded and not in accord, she was appointed for a sign hereunto, so that she became a pillar of salt unto this day, that it might be known unto all men that they which are double-minded and they which doubt concerning the power of God are set for a judgment and for a token unto all the generations.

The author of 1 Clement argues that God has appointed unbelievers to "κόλασιν καὶ αἰκισμὸν" (punishment and torture).  Even if we were to accept annihilationist claims that kolasin can refer to a death penalty, as such (and that seems to be a stretch at best), aikismon is not similarly ambiguous: it means torture not death.  Moreover, the author of 1 Clement links these punishments and tortures with the fire and brimstone (πυρὸς καὶ θείου) that was put on Sodom.  

Furthermore, the author of 1 Clement suggests a perpetuity to the judgment by saying that the judgment will be "unto all generations" like Lot's wife who "unto this day" is a pillar of salt. 

Because CD has convinced himself to reduce the punishment of Sodom to annihilation, he fails to account for the "torment" aspect of the comment.  Indeed, eternal conscious torment fits much better both with "punishment" and "torment."  Likewise, while one can certainly appreciate that the memory of a death can serve as a reminder, the ongoing existence of Lot's wife as a pillar of salt suggests an emphasis on the damned continuing to exist in some form so that they serve a similar memorial function. 

What remains to be said?  The author of 1 Clement does not explicitly say that the torment will last forever.  So, if someone wants to claim that 1 Clement does not rule out the idea that the torment might end some day, I think it's fair to acknowledge that 1 Clement does not directly address this topic.

That said, because the author of 1 Clement focuses on the punishments and torture of the wicked, 1 Clement is not consistent with the annihilationist focus on cessation of being as the reward of the wicked.

CD argues from 1 Clement 9 that capital punishment (a term the author of 1 Clement never uses) awaits the wicked.  That section reads as follows:

IX. Διὸ ὑπακούσωμεν τῇ μεγαλοπρεπεῖ καὶ ἐνδόξῳ βουλήσει αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἱκέται γενόμενοι τοῦ ἐλέους καὶ τῆς χρηστότητος αὐτοῦ προσπέσωμεν καὶ ἐπιστρέψωμεν ἐπὶ τοὺς οἰκτιρμοὺς αὐτοῦ, ἀπολιπόντες τὴν ματαιοπονίαν τήν τε ἔριν καὶ τὸ εἰς θάνατον ἄγον ζῆλος. 2. Ἀτενίσωμεν εἰς τοὺς τελείως λειτουργήσαντας τῇ μεγαλοπρεπεῖ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ. 3. Λάβωμεν Ἐνώχ, ὃς ἐν ὑπακοῇ δίκαιος εὑρεθεὶς μετετέθη, καὶ οὐχ εὑρέθη αὐτοῦ θάνατος. 4. Νῶε πιστὸς εὑρεθεὶς διὰ τῆς λειτουργίας αὐτοῦ παλιγγενεσίαν κόσμῳ ἐκήρυξεν, καὶ διέσωσεν δι’ αὐτοῦ ὁ δεσπότης τὰ εἰσελθόντα ἐν ὁμονοίᾳ ζῷα εἰς τὴν κιβωτόν.

9. Wherefore let us be obedient unto His excellent and glorious will; and presenting ourselves as suppliants of His mercy and goodness, let us fall down before Him and betake ourselves unto His compassions, forsaking the vain toil and the strife and the jealousy which leadeth unto death. [2.] Let us fix our eyes on them that ministered perfectly unto His excellent glory. [3.] Let us set before us Enoch, who being found righteous in obedience was translated, and his death was not found. [4.] Noah, being found faithful, by his ministration preached regeneration unto the world, and through him the Master saved the living creatures that entered into the ark in concord.

CD is not wrong that the author of 1 Clement has in mind death as a consequence of sin.  However, the death that the author of 1 Clement uses as an illustration is the ordinary death that we all eventually face, and that even Noah himself eventually faced.  Thus, "capital punishment" as a description is a spin too far.

CD argues that the author of 1 Clement uses "death" in simply the ordinary way.  This is inaccurate.  First, the author of 1 Clement uses "death" in a way that also seems to refer to spiritual death in his quotation of "death into the world" (1 Clement 3).  Moreover, this usage is particularly relevant, because it links jealousy with death: "seeing that they have conceived an unrighteous and ungodly jealousy, through which also death entered into the world" (ζῆλον ἄδικον καὶ ἀσεβῆ ἀνειληφότας, δι’ οὗ καὶ «θάνατος εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον».  1 Clement 3)  This word for jealousy is, of course, the same Greek word used in 1 Clement 9.

Moreover, jealousy is what the author of 1 Clement identifies as a critical problem in Corinth.  Thus, jealousy is discussed in 1 Clement 3, and then repeatedly in 1 Clement 4, 5, and 6.  The author of 1 Clement comes back to jealousy in 1 Clement 9, 14, 43 and 45.  Finally, the author of 1 Clement brings up jealousy one last time in the conclusion at 1 Clement 63.

Perhaps even more significantly than the jealousy-death connection in general, the author of 1 Clement states at 1 Clement 4: "Jealousy caused Joseph to be persecuted even unto death, and to come even unto bondage." (Ζῆλος ἐποίησεν Ἰωσὴφ μέχρι θανάτου διωχθῆναι καὶ μέχρι δουλείας εἰσελθεῖν.)  

We know, and it seems fair to assume the author of 1 Clement knew, that Joseph was not literally persecuted to physical death, but instead to an imprisonment.  In case you are wondering, it's not because a different Greek word for death is used: it's the same Greek word for death.  

CD presents six other examples of this word use in the text, which falsely suggests that the author of 1 Clement only uses the word in one particular way. 

Moreover, the translation CD provided for 1 Clement 51 seems inaccurate and misleading in the context of our discussion.

LI. Ὅσα οὖν παρεπέσαμεν καὶ ἐποιήσαμεν διά τινας παρεμπτώσεις τοῦ ἀντικειμένου, ἀξιώσωμεν ἀφεθῆναι ἡμῖν· καὶ ἐκεῖνοι δέ, οἵτινες ἀρχηγοὶ στάσεως καὶ διχοστασίας ἐγενήθησαν, ὀφείλουσιν τὸ κοινὸν τῆς ἐλπίδος σκοπεῖν. 2. Οἱ γὰρ μετὰ φόβου καὶ ἀγάπης πολιτευόμενοι ἑαυτοὺς θέλουσιν μᾶλλον αἰκίαις περιπίπτειν ἢ τοὺς πλησίον· μᾶλλον δὲ ἑαυτῶν κατάγνωσιν φέρουσιν ἢ τῆς παραδεδομένης ἡμῖν καλῶς καὶ δικαίως ὁμοφωνίας. 3. Καλὸν γὰρ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐξομολογεῖσθαι περὶ τῶν παραπτωμάτων ἢ σκληρῦναι τὴν καρδίαν αὐτοῦ, καθὼς ἐσκληρύνθη ἡ καρδία τῶν στασιασάντων πρὸς τὸν θεράποντα τοῦ Θεοῦ Μωϋσῆν, ὧν τὸ κρίμα πρόδηλον ἐγενήθη. 4. «Κατέβησαν γὰρ εἰς ᾅδου ζῶντες», καὶ «θάνατος ποιμανεῖ αὐτούς». 5. Φαραὼ καὶ ἡ στρατιὰ αὐτοῦ καὶ πάντες οἱ ἡγούμενοι Αἰγύπτου, «τά τε ἅρματα καὶ οἱ ἀναβάται» αὐτῶν οὐ δι’ ἄλλην τινὰ αἰτίαν ἐβυθίσθησαν εἰς θάλασσαν ἐρυθρὰν καὶ ἀπώλοντο, ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸ σκληρυνθῆναι αὐτῶν τὰς ἀσυνέτους καρδίας μετὰ τὸ γενέσθαι τὰ σημεῖα καὶ τὰ τέρατα ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ διὰ τοῦ θεράποντος τοῦ Θεοῦ Μωϋσέως.

51. For all our transgressions which we have committed through any of the wiles of the adversary, let us entreat that we may obtain forgiveness. Yea and they also, who set themselves up as leaders of faction and division, ought to look to the common ground of hope. [2.] For such as walk in fear and love desire that they themselves should fall into suffering rather than their neighbors; and they pronounce condemnation against themselves rather than against the harmony which hath been handed down to us nobly and righteously. [3.] For it is good for a man to make confession of his trespasses rather than to harden his heart, as the heart of those was hardened who made sedition against Moses the servant of God; [4.] whose condemnation was clearly manifest, for they went down to hades alive, and Death shall be their shepherd. [5.] Pharaoh and his host and all the rulers of Egypt, their chariots and their horsemen, were overwhelmed in the depths of the Red Sea, and perished for none other reason but because their foolish hearts were hardened after that the signs and the wonders had been wrought in the land of Egypt by the hand of Moses the servant of God.

Rather than "death shall be their shepherd," CD provides "and death swallowed them up," and omits "alive" from "into hell."  When he mentions this same section a few minutes later, to claim that "alive" has a uniform meaning in 1 Clement, he asserts that they go there to die, which is not what the text says.  

The author of 1 Clement is referring the rebellion of Korah described in Numbers 16, and particularly quoting from Numbers 16:30, which says that "they go down quick (i.e. alive) into the pit (i.e. hell)" (LXX: καταβήσονται ζῶντες εἰς ᾅδου), and from Psalm 49:14 (LXX Psalm 48:15, θάνατος ποιμανεῖ αὐτούς - [NETS] death shall be their shepherd ), which is about the sons of Korah.

If anything, the judgment of Korah is suggestive of the eternal conscious torment view.  The shepherding of those in Hades by the personification of Death is one that treats the dead as, in some sense, alive.

I will point out that "Death shall feed upon them" is another interpretation of the underlying Psalm.  The difference is similar to the difference between feeding someone and feeding upon someone.  Nevertheless, I agree with Lightfoot's translation of 1 Clement, which agrees with the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) translation of Psalm 48:15. 

Regarding 1 Clement 11, CD argues that "torture" is not a good translation of aikismos, because aikismos can also just refer to "bad treatment." Even if aikismos can more broadly include other kinds of bad treatment, the context is the reason it gets translated as "torture" or the like.  Moreover, if the meaning is even softer than "torture," this would only further undermine, not support, the denial that the author of 1 Clement held the eternal conscious torment view.  In any event, I disagree with CD's criticism of the translation.

I don't know of anyone who has translated it merely "bad treatment." Instead, here are some of the translations in addition to Lightfoot's translation (1869).
  • William Burton (1647) translated: "punishment and plagues" (link at XIV in Burton's sectioning of the text)
  • William Wake (1719) translated: "punishment and correction" (link
  • Temple Chevallier (1833) translated: "punishment and correction" (link)
  • John Keith (1897) included in Schaff's edition: "punishment and torture" (link)
  • Kevin Edgecomb (2006) translated: "punishment and torments" (link)
  • Adolf von Harnack (English ed. and trans. Jacob Cerone) (2021) translated: "punishment and torment" (p. 15)
Incidentally, I criticize the translation 1 Clement 51 that CD provided, but I don't know what translation CD is using.  I think the original language text of the epistle does not support his reading, though, regardless of his translation choice.

CD makes an argument that because the author of 1 Clement sees immortality and life as a gift from God for the righteous, that this implies that he does not think that the wicked will live forever in hell.  This is one of what I would refer to as the fundamental errors of CD's method of argumentation.  He provides a reductionist interpretation of life and death, and then imposes that interpretation onto certain texts.

CD argues that the author of 1 Clement takes the position that only believers will be resurrected.  On the other hand, this would not make a 1 Clement a holder of the conditional immortality position for which CD usually advocates, since that position affirms a general resurrection.  More bluntly, this reductionism misses the fact that for 1 Clement the resurrection that matters is the resurrection to life, not the resurrection to torment.

Moreover, 1 Clement's way of considering life, death, and resurrection does not follow CD's reductionism, as evidenced by 1 Clement 24, where the resurrection is compared to our daily sleeping and waking and to the growth cycle of plants.  Further evidence is provided in 1 Clement 25 where the author relates the myth of the Phoenix.  In the case of 1 Clement 24, the author of 1 Clement is following gospel metaphors for death, but - of course - these are metaphors.

I further criticism I have is that CD tends to spin 1 Clement and then treat the spin as though it was what 1 Clement says.  For example, around 39:00 to 39:15, CD repeatedly emphatically says that the author says "only ..." when, at most, CD would be justified in saying that the author of 1 Clement "only says" or "implies that only ...."  There are about 17 uses of "only" in the English of 1 Clement, the majority of those are "not only" and none of them is in the context of any of the above-discussed issues, except that the Phoenix is the "only one of its kind," despite its unusual 500 year cycle of life. 

According to CD, if Clement (and Ignatius) denied the general resurrection, they would still be "conditionalists" because of their denial of continued union of body and soul of the wicked.  This is because the "conditionalist" movement is being defined negatively, as a rejection of the eternal conscious torment position.

CD suggests to his listeners to claim that Clement and Ignatius are "indisputably conditionalists," which is a dramatic oversell of his conclusion.  We will address Ignatius in another post.  For now, suffice to say that there is no strong reason to deny that Clement held to the same view as the author of 2 Clement or other early Christian writers, who believed that what awaits the lost is an eternity of torment.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Polycarp and Eternal Torment

Chris Date has a video arguing for the idea that Polycarp of Smyrna held to conditional immortality (link to video).

CD's arguments hang on several points:

1) Ignatius writes to Polycarp that Polycarp views immortality and eternal life as being the prize set before him (Ignatius' Epistle to Polycarp, Chapter 2).  However, this would only be relevant to CD's contentions if eternal torment is rightly said to be immortality and eternal life.  CD tends to argue that eternal torment is (or at least would be if it happened) immortality and eternal life.

As a minor aside of interest probably only to me, I point out that the Epistle to Polycarp exists in a long recension and a short recension.  The wording that CD relies on includes a variant.  I don't think the variant directly or meaningfully affects his argument.  One recension describes immortality and eternal life as a prize and the other describes it as the will of God. 

2) The Martyrdom of Polycarp reports Polycarp as having said that resurrection, incorruption, and immortality will be his reward (Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14, 17, and 19)

While this is the case, the author of the Martyrdom of Polycarp argues that the martyrs did not flinch before the torments they were faced with, because they were set in contrast to eternal torments.  CD tries to argue that duration was not the contrast that the author of MoP had in mind, but the contrast between "eternal" and "single hour" is fairly straightforward.  Moreover, the contrast is between two different torments.  See Martyrdom of Polycarp, 2.

Moreover, CD's own position has to affirm that the damned are resurrected and that Polycarp believes that they will be.  After all Polycarp avers that Christ will come to judge not just the living but the dead:

Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, Chapter 2, (translation in Schaff) "He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead. [Acts 17:31] His blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him."

Lightfoot translation (link to translation): "who cometh as judge of quick and dead; whose blood God will require of them that are disobedient unto Him."

Now, "his blood God will require" seems to be a usage of the Hebraism originating at least as early as Genesis 9:5 (see also, Genesis 42:22, 2 Samuel 4:11, Ezekiel 3:17, 18, and 20, 33:6&8, Luke 11:50-51).  Contrary to CD's gloss, to "require his blood" does not necessarily mean to die a violent, bloody death.  It means to be held accountable for the blood that was shed.  It is interesting that Polycarp's letter uses this wording, as it relates to the doctrine of the atonement, but that's not a subject for this particular post.

I would echo CD's comments about the potential unreliability of the work, the Martyrdom of Polycarp.  Candida Moss's "The Myth of Persecution," mentions some of the issues associated with the work. 

3) Polycarp in his Epistle to the Philippians implies that only the righteous will be raised and live:

Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, Chapter 2, (translation in Schaff) "But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise us up also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved," 

Lightfoot translation (link to translation): "Now He that raised Him from the dead will raise us also; if we do His will and walk in His commandments and love the things which He loved," 

Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, Chapter 8, (translation in Schaff) "Let us then continually persevere in our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, who bore our sins in His own body on the tree, [1 Peter 2:24] who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, [1 Peter 2:22] but endured all things for us, that we might live in Him."

Lightfoot translation (link to translation): "Let us therefore without ceasing hold fast by our hope and by the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ who took up our sins in His own body upon the tree, who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, but for our sakes He endured all things, that we might live in Him."

Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, Chapter 1, (translation in Schaff) "our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sins suffered even unto death, [but] whom God raised from the dead, having loosed the bands of the grave."

Lightfoot translation (link to translation): "our Lord Jesus Christ, who endured to face even death for our sins, whom God raised, having loosed the pangs of Hades;"

While this is certainly the case, the solution is not to insist that Polycarp means "it will be as if they hadn't been resurrected," but instead that Polycarp considers eternal punishment to be something other than the promised eternal life.

Just as Polycarp doesn't count the resurrection of damnation as the resurrection, so also Polycarp doesn't count eternal punishment as eternal life. The only people who seem to count it that way are opponents of eternal conscious torment.

Monday, May 02, 2022

Some Thoughts on Meros (μέρος)

One of the key texts regarding hell is Revelation 21:8, which states:

But the fearful, and

unbelieving, and

the abominable, and

murderers, and

whoremongers, and

sorcerers, and

idolaters, and

all liars,

shall have their part (τὸ μέρος αὐτῶν) in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Some folks commenting on this verse are quick to rush past "their part," and just act as though the various folks mentioned are just thrown into the fire, like one might through ingredients into a soup.

On the other hand, the word translated "part" has in mind something closer to a geographic area.  This is not like our English "take part in," meaning "have a role in."  It's more like having a portion or an allotment, or in the real estate sense, a lot.

In context, the portion of these wicked is in contrast to Revelation 20:6

Blessed and holy is he that hath part (μέρος) in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Recall that Christ went to prepare a place for us (John 14:2-3).

Likewise, Revelation 19:22 uses the word to describe a place in the tree of life (or book of life, if you follow the KJV reading there).  Revelation 16:19 uses the word to describe that Babylon is carved up into three parts.

Matthew, the gospel with the greatest focus on hell, uses the word in connection with hell:

Matthew 24:51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion (τὸ μέρος αὐτοῦ) with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew similarly uses the term as a geographic designator in Matthew 2:22 ("parts of Galilee"), 15:21 ("coasts of Tyre and Sidon"), 16:13 ("coasts of Caesarea Philippi").  

Luke does the same in the parallel to Matthew 24:51:

Luke 12:46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion (τὸ μέρος αὐτοῦ) with the unbelievers.

Luke doesn't use the term geographically in Luke (though Mark does at Mark 8:10 "parts of Dalmanutha"), but Luke uses the term of divided portions in Luke 11:36 ("no part dark" of your body), 15:12 ("portion of goods" requested by the prodigal son), and 24:42 ("piece of a broiled fish" given to Jesus after his resurrection).  Luke uses the term geographically in Acts 2:10 ("parts of Libya about Cyrene"), 19:1 ("upper coasts" passed on the way to Ephesus), 20:2 ("those parts" he passed over on the way to Greece).  Luke also uses the term to describe parts of the crowd (part Sadducees and part Pharisees) in Acts 23:6 and 9. The idol-makers used the term to describe their profession in Acts 19:27.   Finally, Luke also uses it to describe the part of the sale of land that was kept back by Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:2).  

In John 13:8 Jesus tells Peter that he doesn't have a part with Jesus if Jesus doesn't wash his feet.  John also uses this word to describe the parts of Jesus garments that the soldiers took for themselves (John 19:23) and the right side of the ship (John 21:6) that Jesus told Peter and the others to fish on after the resurrection.  

Paul uses the term to refer to the grave ("the lower parts of the earth") in Ephesians 4:9.  Paul also uses the term in a variety of other ways, usually in the sense of something being partial rather than complete or according to some defined partitioning (Romans 11:25, 15:15&24, 1 Corinthians 11:18, 12:27, 13:9-10&12, 14:27, 2 Corinthians 1:14, 2:5, and Ephesians 4:16). In a few places, Paul uses the term to mean something like "in regard to," (2 Corinthians 3:10, 9:3, and Colossians 2:16) which we could equate to something like "about this part."  Peter uses the word that same way in 1 Peter 4:16.

The author of Hebrews uses the term to refer to the details of the temple (Hebrews 9:5).  

In short, the word can have a range of meanings, but the general sense is one of a part, portion, or the like.  The point is that the lake of fire is the destination of the wicked.  The righteous have a place in the tree (or book) of life, but the wicked have place in a lake of fire.  

Yes, the lake of fire is a metaphor for a place of pain and suffering.  The point, however, is that this is where the wicked are going.  

Saturday, April 30, 2022

What about Olam (עוֹלָם), Ad (עַד), and Nesah (נֶצַח)?

If you are going to consider the subject of the eternal torments of hell, you cannot limit yourself to the New Testament.  You also should not limit yourself to English, but should also consider the usual words translated as "eternal" or the like in the Old Testament text.

Olam, Ad, and Nesah

One fairly common (439 uses) word in the Old Testament is the masculine noun, Olam (עוֹלָם), which is usually translated ever, everlasting, old, perpetual, or evermore.  It is the word used to describe the effect of the tree of life in Genesis 3:22 ("live for ever").  It is also the word used to describe Jehovah as the "everlasting God" in Genesis 21:33 and the reign of God as being "for ever (עוֹלָם) and ever (עַד)" in Exodus 15:18.  It's a word that typically refers to a long duration.  So, even when it doesn't mean eternity, it means a long time (like the pre-flood "mighty men which were of old").  Sometimes olam is used in connection with an ordinance or law, such that it is designated a perpetual law.  Many times we are told (especially in Psalm 136) that God's mercy endures for ever. 

Ad (עַד) mentioned above in Exodus 15:18 is a less common word (49 uses) that has a similar sense of continuity.  Sometimes it's used as a poetic variety word choice, as in Habakkuk 3:6, where it is parallel to olam, or Amos 1:11 where it is parallel to nesah (נֶצַח), or as an emphatic, as in Genesis 3:22 and Micah 4:5 where it is piled onto olam ("for ever and ever").  

Nesah (נֶצַח) is used about as often (43 uses) as ad.  While it is often translated as "ever," the connotation is more forward looking, as to a distant goal.  In 1 Samuel 15:29 God is called the "Strength of Israel" using this word (נֵצַח יִשְׂרָאֵל) and this word translated as "Victory" is also treated as one of God's attributes, alongside greatness, power, and glory in 1 Chronicles 29:11.  

Some Key Verses 

There are a number of Old Testament verses that are key to any discussion about hell being a place of eternal torment.

Daniel's Two Resurrections

Daniel 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life (לְחַיֵּי עוֹלָם), and some to shame and everlasting contempt (לַחֲרָפוֹת לְדִרְאוֹן עוֹלָֽם).

In this verse, Daniel is given a prophesy about the general resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.  The former are resurrected to everlasting life, whereas the latter are resurrected to everlasting shame/contempt.

Isaiah's Contrasting Destinations

Isaiah 45:17 But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation (תְּשׁוּעַת עוֹלָמִים): ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded (לֹא־תֵבֹשׁוּ וְלֹא־תִכָּלְמוּ) world without end (עַד־עוֹלְמֵי עַֽד).

Of course, there are two ways of looking at this promise in Isaiah 45:17.  One way is as a promise of endless (the use of "ad" twice and "olam" once is translated here as "world without end") protection from shame/confounding.  This may indeed be the best way.  The other way is as contrasting endless salvation with endless shame/confounding.  Even if the former way is correct, when you compare Isaiah 45:17 with Daniel 12:2 it becomes clear that Daniel is making a claim about perpetual shame.

Imprecatory Psalm  

Psalm 83:17 Let them be confounded and troubled for ever (עֲדֵי־עַד); yea, let them be put to shame, and perish:

In this psalm, Asaph prays for the wicked to be "confounded and troubled" "for ever" using an emphatic duplication of ad.  Does Asaph have in mind the punishments of hell or merely the temporal punishments of this life? Perhaps it is the latter.  Nevertheless, the perpetual administration of God's wrath on the wicked is the point being conveyed.

Unquenchable Fire

Isaiah 34:10 It shall not be quenched night nor day (לַיְלָה וְיוֹמָם); the smoke thereof shall go up for ever (לְעוֹלָם): from generation to generation (מִדּוֹר לָדוֹר) it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever (לְנֵצַח נְצָחִים).

"Day and night" is a Hebrew way of saying "constantly" or "without interruption."  See, for example, Leviticus 8:35, Deuteronomy 28:66, Joshua 1:8, 1 Samuel 25:16, 1 Kings 8:59, 1 Chronicles 9:33, 2 Chronicles 6:20, Nehemiah 1:6 and 4:9, Psalms 1:2, 32:4, 42:3&8, 55:10, Isaiah 60:11, Jeremiah 9:1, 14:7, 16:13, 33:25(?), and Lamentations 2:18.  It's the same reason that Jesus three day and night burial does not mean 6 half days, but instead an uninterrupted period that starts on the first day and ends on the third day. 

The point about the fire not being quenched day or night is that there is no relief from the fire. It's not as though the fire burns for one hour and then there is a break.  No, the fire is continual.

The endless (olam) ascent of the smoke is not that the column of smoke is a really high column that never gets to the top of the atmosphere.  The endless ascent of the smoke is an indication that the fire continues forever.

The phrase "from generation to generation" (מִדּוֹר לָדוֹר)(midor lador) is another Hebrew idiom for "forever."  See, for example, Exodus 17:16, Isaiah 13:20, 34: 17, and 51:8, Jeremiah 50:39, Lamentations 5:19, Daniel 4:3 and 4:34, and Joel 3:20. Mary uses this same idiom (as translated into Greek) in Luke 1:50.  It's similar to the expression, "to all generations" (לְדֹר־וָדוֹר)(ledor vador) (Exodus 3:15 and numerous places in the Psalms).  Likewise, Mary uses this idiom (as translated into Greek) in Luke 1:48.

To "lie waste" here refers to the land being, in essence, desert - ruined, destroyed, or the like.

Finally, the duplication of nesah (forever and ever) is used to describe the fact that one one will pass through the land.  This seems to be connected to the idea that this a wasteland, as per the "lie waste." All the goodness of the land is gone.

Interestingly, though, this same verb, "to pass," is used like in English to refer to death.  When someone dies, we say they passed away. I'm reluctant to dogmatically insist that the sense of this verse is that no one will die.

Fire that Burns Forever

Jeremiah 17:4 And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever (עַד־עוֹלָם). 

This passage is not necessarily primarily about the fires of hell.  Nevertheless, this verse demonstrates that the idea of God's judgment wrath burning like a never-ending fire is one Old Testament picture of God.

Everlasting Reproach, Shame, and Confusion

Jeremiah 20:11 But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.

Jeremiah 23:40 And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.

I mention these verses as examples of God's never-ending judgment including not only pictures of physical suffering (like that caused by fire) but also of mental anguish (reproach, shame, and confusion).  Hence the weeping/wailing and gnashing of teeth that Matthew mentions (link to post) or the darkness (fear) and furnace (pain) metaphors Matthew employs. 

Psalm 9:5 Thou hast rebuked (גָּעַרְתָּ) the heathen, thou hast destroyed (אִבַּדְתָּ) the wicked, thou hast put out (מָחִיתָ) their name for ever and ever (לְעוֹלָם וָעֶֽד).

The heathen and wicked are the same group in mind, and rebuking them should be taken as something more akin to cursing them as opposed to just offering constructive criticism.  Destroying them uses the word, abad, which we have seen above.  The putting out their name here refers to something like blotting out or erasing their name. There is a similar expression in Deuteronomy 9:14, Deuteronomy 29:20, and 2 Kings 14:27.  The 2 Kings reference refers to the LORD contrasting such a judgment with salvation.  The Deuteronomy passages provide interesting parallels.  Deuteronomy 9:14 says, "Let me alone, that I may destroy them (וְאַשְׁמִידֵם), and blot out (וְאֶמְחֶה) their name from under heaven: and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they."  Here the parallel word, a form of samad, is a very strong term for destruction. Similarly, Deuteronomy 29:20 states, "The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out (וּמָחָה) his name from under heaven."  Notice that here the cursing is explicit and God's negative disposition is described as "smoking."  

While the putting out of their names could have various senses, it seems to have at least a negative psychological connotation, namely a reputational loss. 

Psalm 78:66 And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetual (עוֹלָם) reproach (חֶרְפַּת).

The hinder parts would be the rear ends of the enemies.  Children get smitten there when they disobey their parents.  Part of the punishment of God's enemies is the shame of being punished by God.  The humiliation is part of the punishment.  

Destroyed Forever  / Perish Forever

Psalm 92:7 When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed (לְהִשָּֽׁמְדָם) for ever (עֲדֵי־עַֽד): 

There are cases where the Old Testament uses "for ever" in the context of destruction, in a way that when taken in isolation may sound a bit like annihilation.  Everlasting destruction can have a very different connotation from everlasting punishment.  So, it's easy to understand how this verse could be interpreted as though the wicked will be permanently destroyed, if it were taken alone.

Job 4:20 They are destroyed (יֻכַּתּוּ) from morning to evening (מִבֹּקֶר לָעֶרֶב): they perish (יֹאבֵֽדוּ) for ever (לָנֶצַח) without any regarding it.

From morning to evening is another Hebrew way of saying "continuously" (Exodus 18:13, Exodus 27:21, and Acts 28:23).  The first word translated "destroyed" (katat) here has the sense of receiving a beating or smashing.  Thus, this is more of a picture of continually being struck.  

The word for "perish" here (abad) implies death and seems to literally come from the sense of wandering away or being lost in that sense.

The best way of understanding this verse, however, is that the being destroyed and perishing are characteristics of humanity as such, and not about individuals.  The point of the text is about how the human race is continually dying off.

Job 20:7 Yet he shall perish (יֹאבֵד) for ever (לָנֶצַח) like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he?

The comparison here is interesting. Dung is (generally speaking) something which we make sure goes away, never to be seen by us again.  The point is not just that the wicked will get temporarily misplaced but that he will be gone (abad) and not be coming back.  By itself, this verse might seem to suggest that the wicked will not be resurrected.  Nevertheless, we know from other Scripture that the death of the wicked is their end in this life only, but that they will face eternal judgment in the next life.

Numbers 24:20 And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish (אֹבֵֽד) for ever (עֲדֵי). 

Numbers 24:24 And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish (אֹבֵֽד) for ever (עֲדֵי).

Once again, the word for "perish" here is abad.   The thing being discussed is the personification of Amalek.  In the case of Amalek (as a nation), one can say that it was annihilated.  You may recall that a significant destruction of the Amalekites came under Saul (whose failure to completely destroy them cost his family the kingdom) and then a further destruction of the Amalekites came under David (who killed all but 400 of them) and then the final destruction of the Amalekites came under Hezekiah.  The verses don't have much to do with our subject, but I've included them anyway just for the sake of completeness.

Poetic Uses

Psalm 143:3  For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long (עוֹלָֽם) dead.

To dwell in darkness is here demonstrated to refer to those who have been dead for a while, as distinct from those recently deceased. It provides contrast to the beauty of Isaiah 9:2,  "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."

Jonah 2:6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever (לְעוֹלָם):  yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.

I find this fascinating.  Obviously, Jonah does not mean he literally was underground nor that he was literally there forever.  Moreover, we know from the New Testament that the sign of Jonah was a sign of Jesus Christ.  So, it is interesting to reflect on the sense in which Jonah's death forever under the earth, kept in by the bars of the earth (Hell's gates), was something that Christ experienced for us.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Gnashing (Brygmos βρυγμός) of Teeth

Amongst the various descriptions of suffering in hell, one notable description is the gnashing of teeth.  In the New Testament, Matthew provides this description six times, and Luke just once.  While we use a gerund, the Greek is usually a noun, Brygmos.

Matthew 8:12  But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing (βρυγμὸς) of teeth.

Matthew 13:42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing (βρυγμὸς) of teeth.

Matthew 13:50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing (βρυγμὸς) of teeth.

Matthew 22:13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing (βρυγμὸς) of teeth.

Matthew 24:51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing (βρυγμὸς) of teeth.

Matthew 25:30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing (βρυγμὸς) of teeth.

Luke 13:28 There shall be weeping and gnashing (βρυγμὸς) of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

There is one Septuagint use of the term, in a passages that is wrath-related but probably not particularly relevant:

Proverbs 19:12 The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion (βρυγμῷ λέοντος); but his favour is as dew upon the grass.  (Cf. Proverbs 20:2 and see the discussion below)

Aside from the Lex Taliones, Matthew only references teeth in connection with them being gnashed in suffering.  While Mark does not speak of the Brygmos of teeth, Mark similarly describes of a demonic gnashing (τρίζει) his teeth in Mark's only mention of teeth (Mark 9:18).  Teeth show up for the last time in the NT in them mouths of the locusts from hell (Revelation 9:8).

The corresponding verb Brycho (βρύχω) is used once in Acts and a number of times in the Septuagint, in a similar way.

Acts 7:54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed (ἔβρυχον) on him with their teeth.

Job 16:9  He teareth me in his wrath, who hateth me: he gnasheth (ἔβρυξεν) upon me with his teeth; mine enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon me.

Psalm 35:16 With hypocritical mockers in feasts, they gnashed (ἔβρυξαν) upon me with their teeth.

Psalm 37:12 The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth (βρύξει) upon him with his teeth.

Psalm 112:10 The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash (βρύξει) with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Lamentations 2:16 All thine enemies have opened their mouth against thee: they hiss and gnash (ἔβρυξαν) the teeth: they say, We have swallowed her up: certainly this is the day that we looked for; we have found, we have seen it.

Except for Proverbs 19:12, the OT examples of gnashing are some form of haraq (חָרַק).  Proverbs 19:12 uses naham (נַהַם), which means something like "roar,"  While this may seem unrelated, the related word (nāham) can refer both to the roarings/growlings of wild animals and also to the groanings of those suffering.  Ultimately, though, the point is fundamentally the same.  It is a sense of anguish and frustration.

Matthew associates this gnashing of teeth with:

  • Outer Darkness (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30)
  • Furnace of Fire (Matthew 13:42&50)

This may seem paradoxical as fire produces light, not darkness.  Nevertheless, when one remembers that the darkness and fire here are images to represent an underlying idea, and not the thing itself, darkness is a source of fear (mental anguish) and fire is a source of pain (physical anguish).

Moreover, notice the connection between Luke 13:28 about seeing Abraham and all the prophets and the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (e.g. Luke 16:23), in which the Rich Man sees Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham.  This emphasizes that the punishment of the wicked will include a consciousness of their own relative misery set in contrast to the blessedness of the believers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

What about Apollymi?

Sometimes a person who is an annihilationist will argue as follows (Please note that I'm not endorsing any aspect of this representation except the spelling of the lexical form of the Greek word):

1) The most common description of the fate of the wicked is that are destroyed, using the verb, ἀπόλλυμι (apollumi or apollymi).

2) The verb ἀπόλλυμι is the same verb used by certain apparently annihilationist Greeks to describe their own view, as well as by Athenagoras to describe a view he rejects in favor of the eternal conscious torment view.  

3) Therefore, an annihilationist understanding of "perish" should be understood as the meaning of ἀπόλλυμι in passages that speak of the fate of the wicked.

I answer:

A) Reading minority Greek views of the afterlife into New Testament usage is a terrible, terrible hermeneutic.  While the New Testament uses Greek, and while Hellenistic views are part of the cultural background of the New Testament, the "mainstream" Greek view of the afterlife was not annihilation, but continued conscious existence as a disembodied spirit in a place of the dead.  So, it makes little sense to apply the seemingly minority views of certain Greek philosophers.

B) We cannot simply adopt the dominant Greek understanding of the afterlife.  After all, Paul consciously rejects the Greek view by teaching a resurrection from the dead, which the Greeks rejected as foolish (see Paul's message on Mar's Hill, Acts 17). So, just because Greek mythology regarding the afterlife is anti-annihilationist, is in itself insufficient to resolve the question. 

C)  There is no undisputed New Testament usage where the verb ἀπόλλυμι refers to annihilation of body and soul. While this may seem like a trivial point, it distinguishes this discussion from cases where a word has an undisputed meaning in other parts of the New Testament.  In this case, however, the annihilationist meaning is never the undisputed meaning.  

D) In the places where the meaning of the verb ἀπόλλυμι is undisputed, it has a semantic range similar to the English word, "lost."  The meaning is very context dependent.  If a ship is lost at sea, we never see it again.  If you get lost driving to Grandma's house, you arrive an hour late.  If a sheep is lost, a shepherd goes and finds it.  If soldiers are lost in battle, a funeral is appropriate. Similarly, as shown below, while the word usually just means to kill a person, there is a wide range of meanings.

E) In at least one relatively undisputed place, the meaning of  the verb ἀπόλλυμι referring to a human loss of life cannot be interpreted in annihilationist sense: "He that findeth his life shall lose it (the disputed use; cf. John 12:25): and he that loseth (the undisputed use) his life for my sake shall find it." (Matthew 10:39; and the same again in Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24-25)  The undisputed use here does not refer to annihilation, but simply death from which the person is resurrected.  

F) The verb ἀπόλλυμι in some form occurs about 92 times in about 86 verses in the NT, and about 271 times in about 263 verses in the canonical books of the Septuagint. The following surveys the NT use.

Most often the meaning is something like "kill" or "die":

- Matthew 2:13 Herod wants to kill the young child

- Matthew 8:25 (Mark 4:38; Luke 8:24) The disciples woke up Jesus because they thought they would die in the storm

- Matthew 10:39 (as mentioned above and similarly Matt. 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33) speaks about people being martyred for Christ

- Matthew 12:14 (Mark 3:6; Mark 11:18; Luke 19:47) Jewish leaders plot to kill Christ

- Matthew 21:41 (Mark 12:8; Luke 20:16) Master of the garden will kill the wicked husbandmen

- Matthew 22:7 King killed the murderers

- Matthew 26:52 Sword will kill those who use it

- Matthew 27:20 Jews ask Romans to kill Jesus

- Mark 9:22 Devil tried to kill possessed man by quasi-suicide

- Luke 6:9 Killing on the sabbath

- Luke 9:56 Jesus didn't come to kill people

- Luke 11:51 Zacharias was martyred

- Luke 13:33 Jesus must die at Jerusalem

- Luke 15:17, 24, and 32 Prodigal son was dying of starvation and was presumed dead

- Luke 17:27 (2 Peter 3:6) Flood killed everyone except Noah and his family

- Luke  17:29 Fire from heaven killed those of Sodom 

- John 11:50 better to prevent the whole nation from dying

- John 18:14 better for Jesus to die instead of the people

- Acts 5:37 Judas of Galilee died

- 1 Corinthians 10:9-10 Rebellious Israelites killed in the wilderness by the serpents and the destroyer

- Jude 5, 11 Rebellious Israelites killed in the wilderness

Sometimes the meaning is something like "lose" in the sense of not having the thing any more:

- Matthew 5:29-30 losing an eye or a right hand (by being plucked out or cut off) rather than being cast into hell
- Matthew 10:42 (Mark 9:41) not losing the reward (a seemingly idiomatic usage) for giving a cup of cold water
- Luke 21:18 losing a hair from your head
- 2 John 1:8 not losing a reward

Sometimes the meaning is something like "spoil" in the sense of the thing going bad:
- John 6:12 uncollected fragments of food going to waste
- John 6:27 food going bad

Sometimes the meaning is something like "ruin" or "spoil":
- Matthew 9:17 (Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37) Breaking old wine skins by putting new wine in them
- John 10:10 Thief comes to destroy (the word in question) in addition to stealing and killing
- Romans 14:15 (1 Corinthians 8:11) Don't hurt your brother with your Christian meat-eating liberty
- James 1:11 of the decay of flowers
- 1 Peter 1:7 of the decay of gold

Sometimes the meaning is something like "misplaced":

- Matthew 10:6 & 15:24 The lost sheep of the house of Israel

- Luke 15:4, 6 the 100th sheep that was lost

- Luke 15:8-9 the 10th silver piece that was lost

Sometimes the meaning is similar to mentally ruin:

- 1 Corinthians 1:19 the wisdom of the wise will be destroyed  in parallel to prudence being despised 

Dead without resurrection:

- 1 Corinthians 15:18 (if there is no resurrection then ...)

Disputed (at least I assume they would be) passages:

- Matthew 10:28
- Matthew 10:39 (the first usage in that verse, as discussed above)
- Matthew 18:11 & 14
- Mark 1:24 & Luke 3:34 (about devils)
- Luke 13:3, 5
- Luke 19:10
- John 3:15-16
- John 6:39
- John 10:28
- John 12:25
- John 17:12 and 18:9 (regarding Judas)
- Romans 2:12
- 1 Corinthians 1:18
- 2 Corinthians 2:15
- 2 Corinthians 4:3, 9
- 2 Thessalonians 2:10
- Hebrews 1:11
- James 4:12
- 2 Peter 3:9 (cf. 6)

We could (and perhaps in a future post we will) distinguish the disputed uses into various categories.  For example, sometimes "those who perish" or "the lost" is a collective term for those who are not saved.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Lake of Fire and the Abyss

In any discussion on Hell, I would be remiss to omit discussion of the Abyss, sometimes translated the "deep" or the "bottomless pit."

In most places in the Scripture, the abyss seems to be watery place (for example, the Spirit of God moves over the watery abyss in Genesis 1).  The main exceptions in the Old Testament are the Red Sea as dried (Psalm 106:9, Isaiah 51:10, and Isaiah 63:13 and possibly Isaiah 44:27).  

Amos 7:4 is the most interesting (for our discussion) exception to the typical usage in the Old Testament.  Amos 7:1-9 provides three pictures of judgment, of which the first is the locusts coming and eating the already-mown grass, and the second is of a fire that devours the Abyss and a part.  These judgments are deemed too severe for Jacob and so a final image of a wall with a plumber's line is provided.  Fascinatingly, the revelation given to John combines these two images with locusts coming forth from the smoking Abyss (Revelation 9:3).     

Paul seems to use the abyss as equivalent to Sheol (Romans 10:7), but for Luke and John it seems to be the place of the fallen angels and the beast (Luke 8:31, Rev. 9:11, 11:7, 17:8, and 20:3).  John may not explicitly mention fire in the Abyss, but it smokes like a furnace (Rev. 9:2).

Moreover, there may be a connection between the Abyss and the lake of fire.  After all, in Revelation 20:7 Satan is loosed from his prison (which is the Abyss per Rev. 20:1-3), wreaks a measure havoc, and is then sent to the lake of fire for eternal torment:

Revelation 20:10

And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. 

They were consigned to the lake of fire in Revelation 19:20.  That's the same place that the reprobate come, according to Jesus: 

Matthew 25:41

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Likewise the Abyss is the place from which the Beast ascends (Revelation 11:7 and Revelation 17:8).

So, it may be reasonable to connect the two, such that while the Abyss is not explicitly identified as being the Lake of Fire or a part thereof, it is still an image of the same place of eternal torment.