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. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Josephus on Pharisees on Compatibilism and Hell

Various Jewish sources of the Pharisaical (or related) stripe, provide us with useful background information on the subject of hell.  

Josephus, Jewish Wars, Book II, Chapter 8, Section 14:

But then as to the two other orders at first mentioned, the Pharisees are those who are esteemed most skilful in the exact explication of their laws, and introduce the first sect. These ascribe all to fate [or providence], and to God, and yet allow, that to act what is right, or the contrary, is principally in the power of men; although fate does co-operate in every action. They say that all souls are incorruptible, but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies, but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment. But the Sadducees are those that compose the second order, and take away fate entirely, and suppose that God is not concerned in our doing or not doing what is evil; and they say, that to act what is good, or what is evil, is at men’s own choice, and that the one or the other belongs so to every one, that they may act as they please. They also take away the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades. Moreover, the Pharisees are friendly to one another, and are for the exercise of concord, and regard for the public; but the behaviour of the Sadducees one towards another is in some degree wild, and their conversation with those that are of their own party is as barbarous as if they were strangers to them. And this is what I had to say concerning the philosophic sects among the Jews. 

What do we know about Jesus and the Apostles?

Matthew 23:1-3

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Acts 23:6

But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

Now, I would not go so far as to suggest that we should simply embrace wholeheartedly whatever one particular Pharisee, such as Josephus, said.  Nevertheless, Josephus' comments provide us with a background to the New Testament.  They provide us with the cultural assumptions of the first century readers.

Similarly, Philo writes: "Clearly this indicates the incorruptibility of the soul, which removes its habitation from the mortal body and returns as if to the mother-city, from which it originally moved its habitation to this place." (Questions and Answers on Genesis 3.11) 

Many modern-day Jewish sects reject eternal damnation.  Nevertheless, we find traces of this idea in, for example:

And, the following are they that have no share in the World to Come but suffer excision and loss of identity, and are damned for ever and ever for their exceeding wickedness and sinfulness: atheists, infidels, traducers of the Torah, dissenters of resurrection and the coming of a Redeemer, apostates, enticers of many to sin, seceders from the congregation, a public perpetrator of sins emulating Jehoiakim, informers, leaders who cast fear upon the congregation not for the sake of God, shedders of blood by defaming people in public, evil-tongued people, he who abolishes circumcision.

Mishneh Torah, Repentance 3.6

Once again, I must reiterate, we do not base our doctrines on those of the unbelieving.  We base our beliefs on Scripture.  These views merely provide background and help us to identify the appropriate interpretation of words within their first century context.