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Resident #fundie blog.bibleplaces.com

*Context: A debate on Hell, and how a lack of eternal punishment is disrespectful for the damned*


CGrim: "Everlasting is only aionios in Greek, so that everlasting hell becomes only age-during garbage dump"
Uhh... no. Check out Matt 25:46. By your rationale, the "everlasting life" Jesus promised really only meant life until AD 70.

Jerry62: Not only that, if there were any doubt, Jesus is further clarifying what was already mentioned in Daniel 12:2... eternal is an appropriate word for the English translation. That's why Jerome translated it aeternam in Latin as well, because he knew what was implied by the Greek.

J: Two different thoughts on the Matthew verse. One is that the age-during is modified by what it refers to. In the case of life age-during, that life is with God, who is eternal. The chastisement is in reference to the Second Death, which can't be eternal if we are to take any of the passages about death itself being destroyed literally.
OR, the age-during life with Christ could be just that, since in 1 Corinthians it talks about Christ giving up his kingdom to the Father at the end of time.
And, Christ's wonderful promise into banality? The wonderful promise that is "You lot will experience everlasting happiness while the rest of the world suffers unimaginable torment for eternity"?
That is not a wonderful promise, that is a concept more horrific and disturbing than anything any horror writer could come up with.


Resident: Yes, wonderful promise. If you don't like it, go and take something else but don't put your thoughts into Christ's mouth.
"age-during" isn't a word but if you are insisting on such literalist readings, you should be consistent and take things literally. And then "the age" is either eternal both times or it is temporal.
Saying "God is eternal" is chickening out. One can have a temporal stay with the eternal God.
The rest of the world will not "suffers unimaginable torment for eternity" - the world will be with God, whose judgement is just, even in regard to the damned.
But you are faking compassion - you don't want the damned to suffer but have no problem with seeing them dead.


Anonymous: Jerome also used the phrase "en aeturnum et ultra" ("in eternity and beyond") in his commantary on Collosians. If 'aeturnum' always means 'eternal' then Jerome put his foot in his mouth when he wrote this. What can be beyond eternity?
One of the strange things about all of the talk about whether punishment is eternal or not is the fact that if the Lord had wanted to communicate the idea that punishment would be eternal, there are several ways to do this in Greek and make it crystal clear. That did not happen. Instead we have bibles that translate 'aion' and 'aionion' in several different ways. If it was consistently translated as 'eternal' people would see how ridiculous that idea is.
It is also very instructive to study the writings of the early church fathers and church history to see how prevalent a belief universal salvation was, and then compare the conditions that surrounded the second council at Constantinople where they decided that a confession of belief in an eternal hell was one of the conditions for being accepted into "the church". The first post-apostolic council at Nicea was chaired by Gregory Nazianzen who was a universalist. Gregory of Nyssa, another prominent teacher of universalism, drafted the part of the Nicean creed dealing with the trinity. If eternal hell doctrine is so clearly taught in scripture as we have been told, where was the protest over these men even being allowed to attend the council, much less play major roles? If you look at the political and religious power struggles going on at Constantinople it is apparent that the doctrine of eternal hell was used to scare people and get them to submit to those who had control of the church, so they could hold their kingdom together.
The objection that "eternal punishment" and "eternal life" are used in parallel in Matthew 25:46, and therefore aionian must means eternal is based on a false presumption that the "aionian life" which is spoken of would have to come to an end at the same time that the "aionian" punishment does. The thing is, that as the "aion" during which the punishment takes place is coming to an end,DEATH WILL BE SWALLOWED UP BY LIFE! THE LAST ENEMY TO BE DESTROYED IS DEATH! So at that point there will be no more "aionian" life, it will be the same life as was lived in the "aion", but now it will continue outside of time. It will not end, it will just no longer pertain to an 'aion' or time period. There is no corresponding situation for punishment having it's opposite destroyed thus allowing it to continue outside of time.
As for Isaiah 66:24, it cannot be referring to eternity, as v.23 which is in the same context states that "from one new moon to another and from one sabbath to another all flesh shall to worship before Me, says the Lord." (Actually it says "from one new moon to IT'S next", meaning the same new moon one year later)Time is clearly still in view in this context. I also don't think we will be taking field trips out to look at burning and worm eaten bodies in eternity.

Resident: I cannot vouch for Jerome, his meaning or his wording. Words can indeed mean different things at different times, with different context and different people. Jerome is one, Christ may be another.
And Christ spoke (e.g. Matthew 25) of the "blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" and of the "cursed ... into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels ... these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
The verses are clearly parallel, so that eternal MUST mean the same for the blessed and the cursed.
Also, to pin this on one word is a common folly. There are quite a few verses in the gospel expressing the same idea in different words, e.g. "the worm never dies" - how do you turn never into "sometime in the future"?
Add to that the teaching of the church since the earliest days. But of course, some know-it-all flippig through pages will know it better! Your idea about "universal salvation" among church fathers is wrongheaded. There were some that believed in such things but they all went into trouble with it. Most did not.
So your attitude "If the Lord had wanted to communicate this" is not only arrogant towards him (he chose his words as he saw fit, not you) but also false: he did clearly communicate this.
You are also disrespectful towards the damned - it is one thing, as God does, to give them their just deserts, but quite another to simply blot them out from existence and pretend everything's fine.
Finally, you are also mistaken about time and the eternal life. Eternal life doesn't mean that there is no time just as it doesn't mean there is no space. The New Jerusalem will contain people body and soul living in space in time, with God in happiness for all eternity.
And that's probably what Jerome is after, distinguishing between this end-less but not time-less eternity and the God's eternity without such constraints, wihtout beginning or end.

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Todd Bolen #fundie blog.bibleplaces.com

The Myth of the Burning Garbage Dump of Gehenna

I have long wanted to do a little work to debunk the endlessly repeated myth that the Hinnom Valley (Gehenna) was a perpetually burning trash dump. There simply is no evidence to support the idea, but because it seems a reasonable explanation for the origin of the Hinnom Valley as “hell,” writers and preachers accept and propagate the story.

Yesterday Louis McBride raised the issue (HT: BibleX). He writes:
"I consulted over a dozen study Bibles on Matthew 5:22 and no less than eight of them made a reference to the rubbish heap. Almost every major commentary on Matthew that mentions Gehenna also spoke of the garbage dump. I’ve always thought that this was an established fact."

Then he quotes Peter Head, G. R. Beasley-Murray, and Lloyd Bailey in tracing the origin of this notion to Rabbi David Kimchi in AD 1200. Specifically, Bailey states:
"[Kimchi] maintained that in this loathsome valley fires were kept burning perpetually to consume the filth and cadavers thrown into it. However, Strack and Billerbeck state that there is neither archeological nor literary evidence in support of this claim, in either the earlier intertestamental or the later rabbinic sources."

As with the legend about the rope around the high priest’s ankle, this popular myth seems to have originated in Jewish circles in the Middle Ages. McBride has more details and the sources in his post.

The explanation for the “fire of Gehenna” lies not in a burning trash dump, but in the burning of sacrificed children. Jeremiah is explicit that such occurred here:

Jeremiah 7:31–32 (ESV) — And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere.

Isaiah had already envisioned Topheth as the fiery destiny of an enemy of God.

Isaiah 30:33 (HCSB) — Indeed! Topheth has been ready for the king for a long time now. His funeral pyre is deep and wide, with plenty of fire and wood. The breath of the Lord, like a torrent of brimstone, kindles it.
Thus already in Old Testament times, the Valley of Hinnom was associated with the destiny of the wicked. That the valley was just outside the city of Jerusalem made it an appropriate symbol for those excluded from divine blessing. Isaiah closes his book with these words:
Isaiah 66:24 (ESV) — “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

It is not difficult to see, from these and other texts (e.g., 2 Kgs 23:10; 2 Chr 28:3, 33:6; Jer 32:35), why Jesus and his contemporaries used the word Gehenna (“valley of Hinnom”) as synonymous with the place of everlasting fiery torment. Indeed, there is no reason to search further for ancient burning piles of discarded newspapers, product packaging, and junk mail.