Thursday, October 08, 2009

"Eternal life"

“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Among other inconvenient verses for the universalist, Mt 25:46 is hard to get around. So the universalist has to take cover in whatever shelter he can find–even if it’s shivering beneath a freeway overpass. Here is Jason Pratt’s attempt:

On the other hand, I'm not aware of any theologian who thinks "zoe eonian" merely means living forever, either. {wry g} It means something very much more qualitatively important than that, concerning the ultimate source of that life. Which ought to be applied, by parallel, to the "kolasis eonian," too.

The main issue, then (as I stated earlier--but which you notably didn’t address at all, out of everything else I wrote), is whether “eonian” primarily means only some ongoing quantitative continuance when speaking of “zoe eonian”. I’m pretty sure I’m standing with virtually all Christian theologians in history, on this one, when I deny that “eternal life” is only (or even primarily) about mere immortality.

Needless to say, that’s a classic semantic fallacy. The fact that the Biblical concept of immortality involves more than sheer duration doesn’t begin to imply or even suggest that the adjective aionios (or phrase, zoe aionion) means more than that. Pratt confuses the meaning of a word with the meaning of a concept.

Suppose I said Marlene Dietrich had a long life. Now, there was much more to her life than mere longevity. She was a glamorous movie star and nightclub singer. She fell in love with Jean Gabin. And so on and so forth.

Would we therefore define the adjective “long” (or the phrase, “long life”) as synonymous with “a glamorous movie star and nightclub singer who fell in love with Jean Gabin”?

Perhaps I’m mistaken, but to my knowledge not everyone who lives a long time was a glamorous movie star and nightclub singer who fell in love with Jean Gabin.


  1. Sure, taken completely out of its context (and if one were to assume this one sentence was inspired directly by God) you would have a good point.

    But the phrase you're quoting was inserted by someone who, plainly, was not paying attention to what he had copied beforehand! No doubt, he thought he was ramping up the message for any future readers, adding in a ton of extra fear!

    However, the context makes it impossible for this verse to have been part of what Jesus originally said! Here's why: imagine Jesus going to such great pains to get it through his disciples thick skulls that he wanted them to care about the suffering! He'd been trying to explain, but they had been so flippin used to believing God was out to hurt people. So finally, he says, "Would you guys help ME if **I** were hurting? Sick, hungry, in jail?" Sure they would. So then he tries to get them to understand something about God, the way HE saw God anyway, by saying, "OK, when you see someone sick, hungry or even in jail, think of them as if s/he were ME! And not just good people or faithful Jews or any of my other disciples, but do this for the LEAST of all people."

    But as usual, his original message go lost along the way! Matthew, catering to Jews in his gospel, encapsulated Jesus message into a typical Warning to Be Ready for the Coming Jewish Messiah parable. There are 3 other such parables preceeding this one (known as the Sheep and the Goats), which threaten a punishment, but NOT an eternal, damning one! These parables were designed to warn Jews that if they were not faithful to God, would be LEFT OUT of reigning with the coming, earthly Messianic King in his administration over all the Gentiles. They'd end up very sad and ashamed, having to take a lowly place in the coming kingdom alongside the Gentile surfs. A tough punishment to be sure. But nothing at all like eternal torment!

    Later, Greek Christians (as well as Evangelicals of today) distorted Jesus' message even further, by trying to say the "leaving out" had to do with being left out of Heaven! And then, to ice this cake of distortion, someone inserted a threat of eternal punishment in verses 41ff and 46.

    Plainly, Jesus could not have, all in the same breath, sought so hard to convey how important it was to relieve human suffering only to turn right around and say, "Oh but yeah, just wait! I'm totally gonna get around to making people really hurt, and there'll be no end to it!" For him to have said this would be to unravel his main point entirely.

    But if you remove these two adulturations, the text reads very smoothly, and is then, once again, consistent with the other 3 parables in the same sequence.

    By the way, I explain all of this in my book----"Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell," (still available as a free ecopy at my website:

  2. Let's set aside, for the moment, Rick Lannoye's ridiculous interpretation of Matthew 25 and its context. His view of the textual history of the New Testament is highly unlikely.

    We have a large amount of manuscript, patristic, and other evidence relevant to the text of the New Testament from the second century onward, indicating a highly stable process of textual transmission. See here. Why should we think that the text was radically less reliable during the first few decades the documents circulated? The authors and their contemporaries would have been alive at the time. They could have noticed and opposed any significant corruption of the text. It was common practice for authors in antiquity to have public readings of their documents before circulation. An author would often keep a copy of his own document before sending out a second copy or more. And the use of scribes and other writing assistants was common.

    Take John's gospel as an example. What if John had his gospel read publicly while he was in the process of drafting it, had the assistance of Papias and others in composing the document, kept one or more copies before circulating other copies elsewhere, and lived for a few years or longer after the document was published? How would somebody go about significantly changing the text without leaving any trace of the change in the historical record? John was still alive when the earliest copies were circulating. Papias lived even longer, and he would have remembered what he had composed under John's supervision. Other people would have remembered hearing the document read while it was being drafted and in its early circulation, other associates of John would have remembered what the document contained, it's unlikely that everybody would accept a corruption of the text that was occurring in some circles, etc. While it's possible to imagine a scenario in which every safeguard fails and a significant textual corruption occurs, a possibility isn't a probability. Your ability to imagine such a scenario doesn't make that scenario the best explanation of the evidence.

  3. First, one must always be suspicious of he-who-uses-many-exclamation points! Secondly, it is quite obvious that every single correctly-spelled word that Rick Lannoye used was lifted from the Oxford English Dictionary (the world's first poem written about everything), and therefore cannot be trusted!

    Obviously, someone came by and changed Rick's words after he hit the "Publish Your Comment" button! Proof of this is in the fact that no sane human being would have said what "Rick" says, and since we do not wish to impugn the sanity of someone (which could cause harm to his non-gender neutral ego), it is quite apparent that mystic gnomes altered the text in cyberspace!

    You can read more about this in my ebook, "Cyber? Space! Why You Can Be Certain That You Can't Be Certain of Anything" available for free at my website!