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Old 06-11-2018, 08:00 PM
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I read the book Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment by Robert Peterson. He makes a solid argument. Would recommend it. He includes this quote from Augustine's City of God,

what a fond fancy is it to suppose that eternal punishment means long continued punishment, while eternal life means life without end, since Christ in the very same passage spoke of both in similar terms in one and the same sentence, "These shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into life eternal!" Matthew 25:46 If both destinies are "eternal," then we must either understand both as long-continued but at last terminating, or both as endless. For they are correlative — on the one hand, punishment eternal, on the other hand, life eternal. And to say in one and the same sense, life eternal shall be endless, punishment eternal shall come to an end, is the height of absurdity. Wherefore, as the eternal life of the saints shall be endless, so too the eternal punishment of those who are doomed to it shall have no end.
"This specious argument goes back at least to Augustine. As has long ago been said, however, due to its unreasonableness, it ought never be heard again."

Augustine was rather ignorant of Greek.

For some other parallels in Scripture consider:

Rom 5:18 Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just act for all mankind for life's justifying."

Rom 5:19 For even as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just."

1 Cor.15:22 AS in Adam ALL die SO ALSO in Christ shall ALL be made alive.

1 Cor.15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

Lamentations 3:22 and 3:31-33, The steadfast love of the Lord NEVER ceases, his mercies NEVER come to an end. . . .Lam.3:31 For the Lord will NOT cast off FOR EVER: 32 For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion According to His abundant lovingkindness. 33 For He does not afflict willingly Or grieve the SONS OF MEN.…

David Burnfield makes an interesting point re Matthew 25:46:

"None of the sins listed in [the context of] Matt.25:46 can be considered blasphemy of the Holy Spirit."

He quotes Mt.12:31:

"Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven." (NASB)

And emphasizes the words "any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people".

He then says "If we can believe what Christ tells us, then the 'only' sin that is 'not' forgiven is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which obviously does not include the sins listed in Matt.25:34-44."

Then he quotes from Jan Bonda's book "The One Purpose of God...":

"Verse...46, in particular, has always been cited as undeniable proof that Jesus taught eternal punishment. Yet it is clear that the sins Jesus listed in this passage do not constitute the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Assuming Jesus did not utter this word with the intention of contradicting what he said moments before [Matt 12:31], we must accept that the sins mentioned in this passage [Matt 25:46] will eventually be forgiven. This means, however strange it may sound to us, that this statement of Jesus about eternal punishment is not the final word for those who are condemned."

(pg 220-221, Patristic Universalism: An Alternative To The Traditional View of Divine Judgement, 2nd ed, 2016, by David Burnfield)


The NT translation of Eastern Orthodox scholar Bentley Hart does not use the words "eternal" or "everlasting" at Mt.25:46, but instead reads "chastening of that Age" & "life of that Age". (The New Testament: A Translation, 2017, Yale University Press).

Many other versions do likewise, as listed here:

Some literal translations of Mt.25:46 have:

Young‘s Literal Translation: ―punishment age-during.
Rotherham Translation: ―age-abiding correction.
Weymouth Translation: ―punishment of the ages.
Concordant Literal Translation: ―chastening eonian."

eonian, "αἰώνιος...lasting for an age...partaking of the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting... (also used of past time, or past and future as well) Derivation: from G165;"

"2851. kolasis...Short Definition: chastisement, punishment..."

"In the late 2nd century/early 3rd century, Clement of Alexandria clearly distinguished between kólasis and timoria: “For there are partial corrections [padeiai] which are called chastisements [kólasis], which many of us who have been in transgression incur by falling away from the Lord’s people. But as children are chastised by their teacher, or their father, so are we by Providence. But God does not punish [timoria], for punishment [timoria] is retaliation for evil. He chastises, however, for good to those who are chastised collectively and individually” (Strom. 7.16)."

The "eternal" (eonian) fire that burned Sodom went out long ago:

Jude 1:7 As Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them in like manner to these committing ultra-prostitution, and coming away after other flesh, are lying before us, a specimen, experiencing the justice of fire eonian."

The fire wasn't eternal & neither is the "eternal fire" or punishment in Mt.25:41,46.

As regards the fate of the Jewish people, earlier in the same gospel of Saint Matthew Jesus' word does correct them re the false teachings of endless torments and annihilation, as follows:

Mt.1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Mt.2:6b people Israel.

That includes the murderous Pharisees, Judas Iscariot & all other Jews. And since God is no respecter of person, the Gentiles will also be saved, as the Scriptures reveal.

Considering the Greek word kolasis ("punishment", Mt.25:46, KJV) can refer to a corrective punishment, that should tell the reader of Matthew 25:46 what the possible duration of aionios ("everlasting", KJV) is & that it may refer to a finite punishment. Why? Because since if it is corrective, it is with the purpose of bringing the person corrected to salvation. Once saved the person no longer has need of such a punishment & it ends. So it isn't "everlasting". Therefore this passage could just as easily support universalism as anything else.

From a review of a book by Ilaria Ramelli, namely The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena (Brill, 2013. 890 pp):

" a passage in Origen in which he speaks of “life after aionios life” (160). As a native speaker of Greek he does not see a contradiction in such phrasing; that is because aionios life does not mean “unending, eternal life,” but rather “life of the next age.” Likewise the Bible uses the word kolasis to describe the punishment of the age to come. Aristotle distinguished kolasis from timoria, the latter referring to punishment inflicted “in the interest of him who inflicts it, that he may obtain satisfaction.” On the other hand, kolasis refers to correction, it “is inflicted in the interest of the sufferer” (quoted at 32). Thus Plato can affirm that it is good to be punished (to undergo kolasis), because in this way a person is made better (ibid.). This distinction survived even past the time of the writing of the New Testament, since Clement of Alexandria affirms that God does not timoreitai, punish for retribution, but he does kolazei, correct sinners (127)."

"Augustine raised the argument that since aionios in Mt. 25:46 referred to both life and punishment, it had to carry the same duration in both cases. However, he failed to consider that the duration of aionios is determined by the subject to which it refers. For example, when aionios referred to the duration of Jonah’s entrapment in the fish, it was limited to three days. To a slave, aionios referred to his life span. To the Aaronic priesthood, it referred to the generation preceding the Melchizedek priesthood. To Solomon’s temple, it referred to 400 years. To God it encompasses and transcends time altogether."

"Thus, the word cannot have a set value. It is a relative term and its duration depends upon that with which it is associated. It is similar to what “tall” is to height. The size of a tall building can be 300 feet, a tall man six feet, and a tall dog three feet. Black Beauty was a great horse, Abraham Lincoln a great man, and Yahweh the GREAT God. Though God is called “great,” the word “great” is neither eternal nor divine. The horse is still a horse. An adjective relates to the noun it modifies. In relation to God, “great” becomes GREAT only because of who and what God is. This silences the contention that aion must always mean forever because it modifies God. God is described as the God of Israel and the God of Abraham. This does not mean He is not the God of Gentiles, or the God of you and me. Though He is called the God of the “ages,” He nonetheless remains the God who transcends the ages."

"In addition, Augustine’s reasoning does not hold up in light of Ro. 16:25, 26 and Hab. 3:6. Here, in both cases, the same word is used twice—with God and with something temporal. “In accord with the revelation of a secret hushed in times eonian, yet manifested now…according to the injunction of the eonian God” (Ro. 16:25, 26 CLT). An eonian secret revealed at some point cannot be eternal even though it is revealed by the eonian God. Eonian does not make God eternal, but God makes eonian eternal. “And the everlasting mountains were scattered.…His ways are everlasting” (Hab. 3:6). Mountains are not eternal, though they will last a very long time. God’s ways however, are eternal, because He is eternal."

Jude 7 speaks of the fire that destroyed Sodom as an example of "aionion fire" (the same words aionion fire used in Mt.25:41, compare v.46). Did Sodom burn forever?

Philo was contemporary with Christ & we have this translation of his words which use the same words Christ used at Mt.25:46:

"It is better absolutely never to make any promise at all than not to assist another willingly, for no blame attaches to the one, but great dislike on the part of those who are less powerful, and intense hatred and long enduring punishment [kolasis aiónios] from those who are more powerful, is the result of the other line of conduct." Philo: Appendix 2: Fragments

In the year 544 A.D. the emperor Justinian wrote a letter:

"It is conceded that the half-heathen emperor held to the idea of endless misery, for he proceeds not only to defend, but to define the doctrine.2 He does not merely say, "We believe in aionion kolasin," for that was just what Origen himself taught. Nor does he say "the word aionion has been misunderstood; it denotes endless duration," as he would have said, had there been such a disagreement. But, writing in Greek, with all the words of that abundant language from which to choose, he says: "The holy church of Christ teaches an endless aeonian (ateleutetos aionios) life to the righteous, and endless (ateleutetos) punishment to the wicked." If he supposed aionios denoted endless duration, he would not have added the stronger word to it. The fact that he qualified it by ateleutetos, demonstrated that as late as the sixth century the former word did not signify endless duration.

If Christ meant "endless" punishment at Mt.25:46, why use the ambiguous aionios? Why not instead use the word aperantos ("endless"; 1 Timothy 1:4)? Or why not use the words "no end" as in Lk1:33b: "And of His kingdom there will be no end"? The answer seems obvious.

Early Church Father universalists who were Greek scholars & many others of the time did not see Mt.25:46 contradicting their belief:

"The first Christians, it will be seen, said in their creeds, "I believe in the æonian life;" later, they modified the phrase "æonian life," to "the life of the coming æon," showing that the phrases are equivalent. But not a word of endless punishment. "The life of the age to come" was the first Christian creed, and later, Origen himself (an Early Church Father universalist) declares his belief in æonian punishment, and in æonian life beyond. How, then, could æonian punishment have been regarded as endless?"

"Adolph Deissman gives this account: "Upon a lead tablet found in the Necropolis at Adrumetum in the Roman province of Africa, near Carthage, the following inscription, belonging to the early third century, is scratched in Greek: 'I am adjuring Thee, the great God, the eonian, and more than eonian (epaionion) and almighty...' If by eonian, endless time were meant, then what could be more than endless time?" "

"Walvoord appeals to Matthew 25:46 (“And these shall be coming away into chastening eonian, yet the just into life eonian,” CV), declaring that if the state of the blessed is eternal, as expressed by this word, there is no logical reason for giving limited duration to punishment."

"This specious argument goes back at least to Augustine. As has long ago been said, however, due to its unreasonableness, it ought never be heard again. From the fact that the life of the just nations and the chastening of the unjust nations are herein described by the same adjective, descriptive of duration, it does not follow that the latter group of nations, therefore, will be subjected to endless punishment. The argument assumes what is at issue by presuming that the life of the just, here, is termed an endless life. Simply because, on certain grounds, the life of those persons comprising the just nations will prove to be endless, it does not follow that the blessing of life afforded here to any such nations is therefore that of endless duration. It is as unreasonable to assume that eonian life doubtlessly signifies endless life as it would be to claim that youthful life actually signifies aged life, simply because our presuppositions and predilections may dictate such a conclusion."

"Professor Tayler Lewis (who was not a universalist) in commenting on what he calls the Olamic or Aeonian words of the Scripture, affirms that “they denote . . . the world [i.e., in the sense of duration] in time, or as a time-existence” (i.e., the “life” of the object thus described or delineated). He insists that these words are, in themselves, wholly indefinite (even though he conceives that, in Matthew 25:46, the scene is one of “finality”). Hence, concerning aiõnios, he states: “It would be more in accordance with the plainest etymological usage to give it simply the sense of olamic or aeonic, or to regard it as denoting, like the Jewish olam habba, the world [i.e., duration] to come."

“ ‘These shall go away into the punishment [the restraint, imprisonment] of the world to come, and these into the life of the world to come.’ That is all we can etymologically or exegetically make of the word in this passage. And so is it ever in the Old Syriac Version [i.e., the Peshi*to], where the one [i.e., uniform] rendering is still more unmistakably clear: ‘These shall go away to the pain of the olam, and these to the life of the olam’–the world to come.”

"...It is simply contrary to historical fact to suggest that the essence of these time expressions is that of endless duration. As Thomas De Quincey, the nineteenth century essayist and literary critic states: “All this speculation, first and last, is pure nonsense. Aiõnios does not mean ‘eternal,’ neither does it mean of limited duration . . . . What is an aiõn? The duration or cycle of existence which belongs to any object, not individually of itself, but universally, in right of its genius [i.e., inherent nature] . . . . The exact amount of the duration expressed by an aiõn depends altogether upon the particular subject which yields the aiõn.” "

"...Likewise, the Presbyterian Bible scholar, M. R. Vincent, in his extensive note on aiõn/aiõnios states: “Neither the noun nor the adjective, in themselves, carry the sense of endless or everlasting.” "

"...not only Walvoord, Buis, and Inge, but all intelligent students acknowledge that olam and aiõn sometimes refer to limited duration. Here is my point: The supposed special reference or usage of a word is not the province of the translator but of the interpreter. Since these authors themselves plainly indicate that the usage of a word is a matter of interpretation, it follows (1) that it is not a matter of translation, and (2) that it is wrong for any translation effectually to decide that which must necessarily remain a matter of interpretation concerning these words in question. Therefore, olam and aiõn should never be translated by the thought of “endlessness,” but only by that of indefinite duration (as in the anglicized transliteration “eon” which appears in the Concordant Version).

"In this response to your “deeply troubled” encounter with the Concordant Version, I have principally sought not to prove my position, but to open a door to its consideration; a door of further inquiry, with a view toward your attaining an awareness of the grace of God in truth, even as of the purpose of the eons, which He makes in Christ Jesus, our Lord (Eph.3:11). May our God and Father be pleased to use this writing unto such an end."


Last edited by ClementofA; 06-11-2018 at 08:14 PM..
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