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Thursday, 11 July 2019

Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI, and Paul the Apostle (Part 1)

51 years ago, in July 1968, Pope Paul VI published an encyclical letter called Humanae Vitae ('Human Life') that is one of the most counter-cultural documents ever produced by the Catholic Church. In 1968, the Sexual Revolution was in full swing in the West, and social norms (and legal codes) concerning sexual behaviour were rapidly changing or would change in the future as a result. Specifically, sexual and related behaviours that were becoming or would become increasingly normalised in society included artificial contraception (especially the Pill), abortion, pornography, masturbation, premarital sex, casual sex, and homosexual sex. The common denominator to all of these items is the driving of a wedge between sex and procreation. The only essential purpose of sex is enjoyment (including relational bonding, for the more conservatively and monogamously minded); pregnancy is an incidental side effect that can be welcomed, avoided, or terminated as desired.

Against this background—and against the advice of some of his theological advisers—Pope Paul VI authoritatively taught in Humanae Vitae that the sexual act has two essential purposes, namely unitive and procreative. The unitive purpose is to unite married couples in mutual love, thus strengthening the marital bond. The procreative purpose is to produce offspring and thus perpetuate the human race. These purposes are intimately related in that a strong marital union contributes to a healthy setting for raising children. By declaring both of these purposes to be essential to the sexual act, the Pontiff implicitly reinforced the Church's long-standing prohibition on non-procreative sexual acts (e.g., masturbation, oral sex, anal sex) and explicitly forbade the use of contraception: 'any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation' is excluded. The only family planning method that is permitted is periodic abstinence, i.e. to 'take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile.' In effect, the Pope ruled all the 'fruits' of the Sexual Revolution off-limits. This was a radical stand to make, as by this time most of the Protestant world had embraced contraception as an acceptable family planning method, and many observers—Catholic and non-Catholic—assumed that the Pope would follow suit.

Humanae Vitae does not quote any Scripture, since it is intended more as a pastoral instruction than a theological treatise. Nevertheless, my recent study of the letters of St. Paul have led me to marvel at how aptly Pope Paul VI was named; for his teachings in Humanae Vitae are anticipated in the writings of his namesake apostle. (This is true despite the fact that Paul (and Scripture generally) offers no direct teaching on contraception.) In what follows I will briefly comment on Paul's ideas on sexuality and marriage based on passages in Romans and 1 Corinthians, and compare them to Humanae Vitae.

Injunctions against sexual immorality (porneia) are a common feature of the Pauline and deutero-Pauline1 epistles (1 Cor. 6:9-10; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Thess. 4:3-5; Eph. 5:3-5; Col. 3:5-9; 1 Tim. 1:9-10). However, these are generally brief warnings and 'vice lists' that offer little insight into the theological grounding of Paul's sexual ethic. We do observe that sexual immorality is of 'the flesh,' the morally compromised aspect of human nature (Gal. 5:19), and that it correlates with idolatry and 'the Gentiles who do not know God' (1 Thess. 4:5; Eph. 5:5). The material that gives us greater insight into Paul's sexual ethic is found in Romans 1:18-32 and in 1 Corinthians 5-7.

Romans 1:18-32 is a section of the letter that contributes to a wider argument. Paul here effectively assumes the guise or role of a scrupulously law-observant Jew or Jewish Christian in order to indignantly condemn Gentiles for their idolatry and resulting loose morals. By v. 32 his Judaeo-centric readers are cheering him on as he unloads on the 'Gentile sinners' (for this phrase see Gal. 2:15). However, it is all a setup: beginning in 2:1 he turns the tables on self-righteous fellow Jews in order to eventually conclude that 'all, both Jews and Gentiles, are under sin' and in need of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:9, 24). The point is not that Gentiles are actually good and Jews are bad, but that everyone is bad. Therefore, Paul's attack on Gentile sin in Romans 1:18-32, although a clever rhetorical device, does represent his actual views.

The main thrust of Romans 1:18-32 is that the Gentiles are culpably ignorant of God and idolatrous, and that as a result God has 'given them up' to their human fallenness ('the lusts of the hearts,' 1:24; 'degrading passions,' 1:26; 'their undiscerning mind,' 1:28), resulting in all kinds of wicked behaviour enumerated in vv. 29-31. However, in vv. 25-27 Paul singles out certain immoral sexual behaviour for special censure:
25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, 27 and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity. (NABRE)
Now, Romans 1:26-27 is one of what LGBT Christians refer to as 'the clobber passages' that are used as proof texts (often without any nuance) to oppose same-sex relationships/marriage, or simply to make gay people feel unwelcome. My intention is certainly not to 'clobber' anyone but only to carefully examine Paul's contextual meaning. Notice that the immoral sexual behaviour described in vv. 26-27 results from denying God's creatorship.2 This implies that, for Paul, sexual morality is grounded in God's creative design, i.e., in nature. This is confirmed when Paul describes the illicit behaviour as an exchange or abandonment of 'the natural function' or 'the natural relations' (Greek: tēn phusikēn chrēsin) and as 'contrary to nature' (para phusin). By referring here to humans in their sexuality as 'male' (arsēn) and 'female' (thēlus) (terms Paul rarely uses),3 Paul alludes to the Genesis creation story ('he made them male [arsēn] and female [thēlus],' Gen. 1:27 LXX) and so grounds his understanding of 'the natural function' in the sexual complementarity of creation and the accompanying responsibility to procreate (Gen. 1:28). This reading of Paul's intent is supported by evidence from his historical context in Hellenistic Judaism.4

In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI follows in his namesake's footsteps, emphasising that the Church's teaching on marriage 'is based on the natural law as illuminated and enriched by divine Revelation'. The Church acknowledges and defers to God's 'wisely ordered laws of nature,' including the natural phenomenon of sexual procreation. While Paul in Romans 1:26 probably refers to female-female homoerotic acts,5 just as 1:27 clearly refers to male-male homoerotic acts,6 it would be consistent with Paul's reasoning to regard as 'contrary to nature' and thus immoral any sexual act that involves a departure from 'the natural function' of sex, which includes its procreative purpose. Thus, in prohibiting measures intended to 'obstruct the natural development of the generative process,' Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae drew a conclusion that had been anticipated by Paul the Apostle in Romans 1:26.

The second part of this article will look at Paul's teaching on sex and marriage in 1 Corinthians 5-7, and how this too anticipates the teaching of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae.


Footnotes

  • 1 The deutero-Pauline epistles are those that claim to have been written by Paul but that many modern scholars believe were written by someone else in his name, even after his death. The deutero-Pauline letters mentioned here are Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Timothy. Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, and 1 Thessalonians were all indisputably written by Paul himself.
  • 2 The link that Paul identifies between idolatry and sexual immorality is causal: the one leads to the other. Of course, in making this connection Paul would have been well aware of the sexual debauchery and prostitution that often accompanied idolatrous worship. However, this does not mean that Paul condemns sexually immoral acts only when practiced as part of idolatrous worship. The text is clear that he condemns such acts because they are intrinsically contrary to the natural order.
  • 3 Neither of these words occurs elsewhere in Paul's letters apart from Gal. 3:28, where the gendering of humans is again the point at issue. In the entire rest of the New Testament, the words arsēn and thēlus occur together only in Matt. 19:4 and Mark 10:6, both quotations from the creation story of Gen. 1:27 made to ground Jesus' teaching on marriage.
  • 4 For example, Paul's contemporary Philo of Alexandria describes homoerotic acts as 'contrary to nature' (para phusin, the same phrase Paul uses in Rom. 1:26) and condemns pederasty not only because of the damage it does to the violated young men but because the pederast disregards his responsibility to procreate (Special Laws 3.37-39). Elsewhere, he condemns the men of Sodom for discarding 'the law of nature' regarding sexuality (On Abraham 133-136). Josephus, Paul's younger contemporary, explains that Jewish laws allow no sexual intercourse except that 'according to nature' (kata phusin), namely of a man with his wife, and that only for procreation (Against Apion 2.199). He later condemns the Elean and Theban Greeks for doing 'that contrary-to-nature (para phusin, again same phrase as Rom. 1:26) and licentious thing of intercourse with males,' adding that they attribute such practices to their gods in order to justify their 'improper and contrary-to-nature (para phusin) pleasures' (Against Apion 2.273-275). The Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides (first century B.C.E./first century C.E.) makes it obligatory to marry and procreate to 'give something to nature' (phusei, 175-76) and to 'Go not beyond natural (phuseōs) sexual unions for illicit passion' (190) (text and translations from Walter T. Wilson, The Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides [Berlin: de Gruyter, 2005]). The same general moral principle that God's laws follow from the created order of nature is apparent in 4 Maccabees (late first century C.E.): 'Therefore we do not eat defiling food, for, believing that the law is divine, we know that the Creator of the world shows us sympathy by imposing a law that is in accordance with nature (kata phusin)' (4 Macc. 5.25-26 NETS). Finally, Wisdom of Solomon 14 identifies idolatry as the origin of sexual immorality (porneia, v. 12) and more specifically of 'inversion of procreation' (geneseōs enallagē, v. 26). The similarities between this passage and Romans 1:18-32 are so striking that numerous scholars have argued for some sort of literary dependence.
  • 5 It is also possible, though less likely, that the sexual acts 'contrary to nature' involving females that Paul has in mind here are heterosexual oral and/or anal sex. The former is condemned in one other early Christian text, the Epistle of Barnabas (cf. 10.8). What makes female-female homoerotic acts the most likely meaning is that only females are mentioned as the actors and that the male-male acts in v. 27 are likened to those in v. 26 using the word 'likewise' (homoiōs).
  • 6 Most English translations, for understandable reasons, neglect to convey the sexual explicitness of the Greek text. The phrase translated 'Males did shameful things with males' in the NABRE renders arsenes en arsesin tēn aschēmosunēn katergazomenoi. Aschēmosunē does literally mean 'disgrace' but is used as a euphemism for genitals in the Septuagint (Ex. 20:26; Lev. 18:6; Deut. 23:14) as well as in Rev. 16:15 (cf. BDAG 147). Given the sexual context of Rom. 1:27 it is best understood in this sense here, and so a literal translation of this phrase would be, 'Males working the member in males,' an obvious reference to male-male sexual intercourse.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Gender Attraction and the Meaning of 'This Is My Body'

Having celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) yesterday, it seems appropriate to reflect on the words of institution found in four New Testament passages (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24), the last of which was part of yesterday's Mass Readings. There is perhaps no biblical instance of the verb 'to be' that is more debated in meaning than the phrase, 'This is my body.' In the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, since antiquity, 'is' has been understood literally. He who had previously miraculously transformed water into wine and multiplied loaves now miraculously transforms bread into his flesh and wine into his blood. Since the Reformation, however, most Protestants have understood 'is' metaphorically: the bread only symbolises or evokes the body of Christ. This article is not going to end this long-running debate; it seeks only to draw attention to a subtle feature in the Greek text of these passages that may have some bearing on the meaning.

In all four above-mentioned texts, the words of institution are (in some order) τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου, a 'copular clause' consisting of subject (τοῦτό, 'this'), copula (ἐστιν, 'is') and predicate nominative (τὸ σῶμά μου, 'my body'). Nothing remarkable here. What is remarkable is the gender of the word τοῦτό, a feature that is impossible to convey in an English translation. The word τοῦτό is neuter in gender, whereas its apparent referent, ἄρτος ('bread') is masculine. Ordinarily, the gender of a pronoun agrees with the noun for which it stands, and so we would expect the pronoun to be masculine, οὗτος.1

Before pondering what this little grammatical anomaly might mean, let us look more closely at the key Greek clause (following the NA28 critical text) in all four passages (with my translations of the immediate context):
While they were eating, Jesus, taking bread and giving thanks, broke it. And giving it to his disciples, he said, 'Take, eat; this is my body' (Λάβετε, φάγετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου). (Matthew 26:26)
And while they were eating, taking bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them and said, 'Take; this is my body' (Λάβετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου). (Mark 14:22)
And taking bread, giving thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body which for you is given (τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διδόμενον). This do in my remembrance.' (Luke 22:19)
That the Lord Jesus, on the night on which he was betrayed, taking bread and giving thanks, broke it and said, 'This my body is for you (τοῦτό μού ἐστιν τὸ σῶμα τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν). This do in my remembrance.' (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)
Again, the gender of the word τοῦτό ('this') does not agree with the gender of ἄρτος ('bread'), as it ought to do if, as generally assumed, 'this' does refer to the bread that Jesus has just broken. How do we explain this? Some scholars have argued that 'this' does not refer to 'bread,' or to any other noun, but rather to an action, such as Jesus' action of breaking the bread. A recent blog post by Steve Black defends this interpretation, which can also be found in print, for instance in a book by Bruce W. Winter.2 'This,' Jesus says as he tears the bread, 'is my body.' It is a visual metaphor: as the bread has been torn; so will his body be torn.

There are, however, two contextual problems with this interpretation. The first is that, in all four passages above, the words of institution are accompanied by a command, and in at least three of the four, the command appears to entail eating 'this,' which must therefore be a physical substance and not an action.3 The second contextual problem is that, in all four passages, 'This is my body' is paralleled by words of institution for the cup, which also commence in all four cases with τοῦτό. And, in all four cases, this τοῦτό unmistakably denotes 'the cup' (or, more specifically, its contents)4 and not an action.5 Given the obvious parallel structure between the two sayings ('This is my body'; 'This [cup] is my blood/the new covenant in my blood'), which is surely deliberate (for liturgical symmetry), it is far more likely that 'this' refers to the physical substance at hand than that it refers to an action.

If 'this' denotes the physical substance at hand, and not an action, then why the neuter gender? What we have here is a syntactical feature of ancient Greek that Daniel B. Wallace refers to as 'gender attraction.'6 This occurs in a copular clause (subject + copula + predicate nominative) when the subject is a pronoun but, instead of taking the gender of the noun to which it refers, it takes the gender of the predicate nominative. Hence, although 'this' is a pronoun referring back to 'bread,' it does not take the gender of 'bread' but attracts the gender of the predicative, 'body.' According to Wallace, gender attraction 'occurs when the focus of the discourse is on the predicate nominative: the dominant gender reveals the dominant idea of the passage' (my emphasis).

NT examples of gender attraction cited by Wallace, along with others identified by myself, are summarised in the table below.7 It appears that, in like manner, the four NT passages containing the words of institution 'This is my body' use gender attraction, using the neuter τοῦτό instead of the masculine οὗτος to stress that 'my body,' not 'bread,' is the dominant idea.

Reference
Pronoun Subject
Noun Referred to
Predicate Nominative
Comment
Matt. 13:38
οὗτοι, ‘these’ (masc. plural dem. pronoun)
τό...καλόν σπέρμα, ‘the good seed’(neut. singular)
οἱ υἱοί τῆς βασιλείας, ‘the sons of the kingdom’ (masc. plural)
Stresses masculine allegorical referent of good seed in parable of the wheat and weeds8
Mark 15:16
, ‘which’ (neut. rel. pronoun)
τῆς αὐλῆς, ‘the palace’ (fem.)
πραιτώριον, ‘praetorium’ (neut.)
Fairly mundane example; emphasis falls on praetorium as more specific descriptor; cf. similar instance in Mark 15:42 (/παρασκευὴ/προσάββατον)  
Acts 16:12
ἥτις, ‘which’ (fem. rel. pronoun)
Φιλίππους, ‘Philippi’ (masc.)
πόλις, ‘city’ (fem.)
Another mundane example; emphasis falls on Philippi’s status as a city rather than the name itself
Gal. 3:16
ὅς, ‘who’ (masc. rel. pronoun)
τῷ σπέρματί σου, ‘your seed’ (neut.)
Χριστός, ‘Christ’ (masc.)
Places emphasis on Christ as ultimate identity of ‘seed’ promised to Abraham in Genesis.
Eph. 6:17
, ‘which’ (neut. rel. pronoun)
τὴν μάχαιραν τοῦ πνεύματος, ‘the sword of the Spirit’ (fem.)
ῥῆμα θεοῦ, ‘the word of God’ (neut.)
Stresses neuter allegorical referent of sword in ‘armour of God’ metaphor
1 Tim. 3:15
ἥτις, ‘which’ (fem. rel. pronoun)
οἴκῳ θεοῦ, ‘the household of God’ (masc.)
ἐκκλησία θεοῦ ζῶντος, ‘the church of the living God’ (fem.)
Stresses ‘church’ as more formal, precise descriptor than ‘household’
Phlm 12
τοῦτ’, ‘this’ (neut. dem. pronoun)
αὐτόν, ‘him’ (masc.), referring to Onesimus
τὰ ἐμὰ σπλάγχνα, ‘my beloved,’ ‘my very heart’
Stresses emphatic, emotive description of Onesimus’ closeness to Paul
Rev. 4:5
, ‘which’ (neut. plur. rel. pronoun)
ἑπτὰ λαμπάδες πυρὸς, ‘seven flaming torches’ (fem. plur.)
ἑπτὰ πνεύματα τοῦ θεοῦ, ‘seven spirits of God’ (neut. plur.)
Emphasises reality denoted by torches seen in vision
Rev. 20:14
οὗτος, ‘this’ (masc. dem. pronoun)
λίμνη τοῦ πυρός, ‘the lake of fire’ (fem.)
θάνατος δεύτερός, ‘the second death’ (masc.)
Emphasises reality denoted by lake seen in vision

Now, this insight does not unambiguously resolve the sacramental vs. metaphorical, Catholic vs. Protestant debate over the meaning of the words of institution. One could associate 'This is my body' with allegorical cases of gender attraction such as Matt. 13:38 and Eph. 6:17 (see table above), in order to classify it as a fundamentally metaphorical statement. Or, one could associate 'This is my body' with mystical cases of gender attraction such as Rev. 4:5 and 20:14 (see table above), in which a visible thing is some transcendent reality, and so assert that the bread really is Christ's body. Unquestionably, 'This is my body,' with 'this' denoting something visible and about to be eaten, is far more vivid than elements of a fictitious parable. However, all that we can say for certain is that the text is constructed so as to make 'my body' the dominant idea, the point of emphasis, in Jesus' words as he describes the food he is distributing to his disciples. The syntax alone cannot definitively resolve the issue.

There is, however, one last point to which I would like to draw attention. In Eph. 1:22-23 we have a statement that is remarkably similar to the words of institution: God gave Christ as 'head over all things in the church, which is his body.' In this instance, Catholics and Protestants should be able to agree that this is not a literal statement. It describes a mystical reality deeper than a metaphor (a reality very much linked to the Eucharist), but no one asserts that the Church literally is the flesh-and-blood body of Christ. In view of this, it is fascinating to note the syntactic difference between Eph. 1:22-23 and the words of institution. Here, we have τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ ('the church,' fem.), ἥτις ('which', fem.) ἐστὶν τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ ('is his body,' neut.). Gender attraction is not used here; the pronoun remains feminine, so 'the church' remains the dominant idea in view.9 Given that this statement falls within the Pauline corpus,10 as do the words of institution in 1 Cor. 11:24, it marks a significant syntactic contrast. Why is it that when describing the Eucharistic food as 'my body,' gender attraction is used (so heightening the emphasis on 'my body' as opposed to the visible specimen of bread), but when describing the Church as 'his body,' gender attraction is not used? One possible explanation is that the Eucharistic food 'is' Christ's body in a more fundamental way than the Church is. The Church is Christ's body indirectly, as a result of her partaking of the Eucharistic food that is directly, actually Christ's body.

Footnotes

  • 1 The word 'this' is a proximal demonstrative pronoun: pronoun because it stands in for a noun, demonstrative because it points something out (in the speaker's/writer's physical or conceptual setting), proximal because it points out something nearby, drawing attention toward the speaker (as opposed to the distal demonstrative pronoun 'that,' which points out something distant, away from the speaker). Notice that in English, the form of a demonstrative pronoun changes if it stands in for a plural noun: 'these' rather than 'this'; 'those' rather than 'that.' The number of the pronoun must agree with the number of the noun for which it stands. The same is true in ancient Greek, but because—unlike English but like many modern languages such as French and German—all nouns are also gendered, the demonstrative pronoun ordinarily agrees with the noun for which it stands not only in number (singular or plural) but also in gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter, in Greek).
  • 2 Bruce W. Winter, After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 153-54.
  • 3 In Matthew and Mark, the accompanying command immediately precedes the word 'this' and clearly concerns a physical substance: 'Take, eat' (Matthew); 'Take' (Mark). Contextually, 'this' surely refers to that which they are to take and eat. In 1 Corinthians and Luke, the accompanying command is 'this do' (τοῦτο ποιεῖτε) and immediately follows the words of institution. Here, τοῦτο does refer to an action, but not exclusively the action of breaking the bread. The Pauline context shows that Paul interprets 'this do' primarily in terms of eating.In Paul's discussion of the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 10-11, while he does refer once to 'the bread we break' (10:16), his emphasis is on eating the bread (10:17; 11:20, 26, 27, 28, 29, 33). Indeed, the same command 'this do' accompanies the words of institution for the cup, where no obvious action is in view. In 11:26, Paul directly explains the two 'this do' commands thus: 'For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.' The command in Luke is admittedly ambiguous: the Lucan context offers few clues as to what 'this do' entails, and does not repeat the command for the cup (presumably Luke assumes his audience is familiar with the liturgical implications). Luke does elsewhere show special interest in the 'breaking of bread' (Luke 24:35; Acts 20:7), but nevertheless 'this do' for Luke probably refers to the entire procedure of taking bread, giving thanks over it, breaking, distributing, and eating.
  • 4 'The cup' in Luke and 1 Corinthians is an instance of synecdoche, referring to the liquid in the cup rather than the container. This is particularly clear in Paul, where the repeated phrase 'drink the cup' (1 Cor. 10:21; 11:26-28) makes no sense if 'cup' (the direct object) refers only to the container. Matthew 26:27 and Mark 14:23, by contrast, refer to drinking from the cup (ἐξ αὐτοῦ); but in these instances, τοῦτό in the words of institution probably refers specifically to the liquid and not to the cup: in the phrase 'this is my blood,' 'this' can hardly denote a container. Matthew and Mark do use the idiom 'drink the cup' elsewhere (Matt. 20:22-23; 26:42; Mark 9:41; 10:38-39).
  • 5 'This is my blood of the covenant that for many is poured out... (τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης πολλῶν ἐκχυννόμενον...', Matthew 26:28); 'This is my blood of the covenant that is poured out for many. (τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ ἐκχυμμόμενον ὑπὲρ πολλῶν', Mark 14:24); 'This cup [is] the new covenant in my blood, which for many is poured out.' (τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐν τῷ αἷματί μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἐκχυμμόμενον, Luke 22:20); 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood' (τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐστιν ἐν τῷ ἐμῷ αἷματι, 1 Corinthians 11:25). In Matthew and Mark, 'this' is the object of the pouring-out action, and so can only be the cup. In Luke and 1 Corinthians the word 'cup' (ποτήριον) is explicitly supplied: 'this cup'.
  • 6 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 338.
  • 7 There are several other instances that are text-critically uncertain: Eph. 1:13-14 (ὅς/τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἁγίῳ/ἀρραβὼν, where however NA28 reads ὅ rather than ὅς; Col. 1:27 (ὅς/τὸ πλοῦτος or τοῦ μυστηρίου/Χριστὸς, where however NA28 reads ὅ rather than ὅς); Rev. 5:6 (ἅ/ὀφθαλμοὺς/τὰ [ἑπτὰ] πνεύματα τοῦ θεοῦ, where however NA28 reads οἵ rather than ἅ, and κέρατα could also be the referent noun in addition to ὀφθαλμοὺς)
  • 8 Similar gender attraction occurs in the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:14-15, where τὸ (neuter) implicitly denotes seed, for which the masculine plural pronoun οὗτοι is then used. Cf. Matt. 13:19-22; Mark 4:15-20.
  • 9 A reverse case can be seen in Col. 1:24, which speaks of 'his body, which is the church' (τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ, ὅ ἐστιν ἡ ἐκκλησία), where gender attraction likewise does not occur: the relative pronoun ὅ is neuter, agreeing with the referent noun τοῦ σώματος ('his body') rather than the feminine predicate nominative ἡ ἐκκλησία ('the church').
  • 10 Granting that the authorship of Ephesians is a subject of considerable scholarly debate, with Pauline authorship being a minority position.

Monday, 10 June 2019

What or Who is the Holy Spirit? Christadelphian and Trinitarian Definitions

There is no better time than Pentecost Sunday to reflect on pneumatology: the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. In my years of blogging, often in conversation with the theology of Christadelphians (the unitarian sect in which I was raised and to which I formerly belonged), I have written a fair bit about the activity of the Holy Spirit, criticising the traditional Christadelphian view that the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the post-apostolic church and remains dormant today (a position I have called hyper-cessationism). I have previously focused my critique of Christadelphian pneumatology on this functional aspect, because it is not only totally foreign to the New Testament vision of the Church, but quite literally fatal to the whole Christian project, since "the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor. 3:6). Without the Spirit no one can confess that Jesus is Lord or belong to him (1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 8:9). It is, to me, perplexing and disturbing that anyone can think that they are capable of following Jesus without the Holy Spirit working in their hearts and in their ecclesial community. Jesus warned his disciples, "Without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), and went on to explain that the Holy Spirit would be his means of empowering them after his physical departure from the earth. We could paraphrase Paul's question to the Galatians (Gal. 3:3) by asking Christadelphians, "Having begun its mission by means of the Holy Spirit, is the Ecclesia of God to complete its mission by mere human will and power?"

Because of this fundamental impasse over functional pneumatology, it always seemed a bit pointless to me to interact with Christadelphian ideas on the more abstract matter of ontological pneumatology, i.e., what or who the Holy Spirit is. However, ontology is actually the more fundamental issue, since what the Holy Spirit does follows from what or who the Holy Spirit is. Moreover, while the hypercessationist functional pneumatology is not universally held among Christadelphians—it was never explicitly codified in their Statement of Faith and my sense is that it has been toned down or abandoned by significant swathes of Christadelphians today—what does seem to be universal among Christadelphians is the denial "that the Holy Spirit is a person distinct from the Father" (Doctrines to be Rejected #6). This is part of Christadelphians' broader denial of Trinitarian orthodoxy in favour of a unitarian view of God.

In this article, as a prelude to further intended writings on pneumatology and personhood, my aim is to summarise what Christadelphians affirm about the Holy Spirit and contrast it with classical Christian dogma.

Christadelphian Definitions of the Holy Spirit

The Christadelphian Statement of Faith does not contain any article specifically about the Spirit (which is telling in itself). The first article of the BASF does affirm, within a proposition about God, that God is "everywhere present by His Spirit, which is a unity with His person in heaven." This affirmation, properly qualified, would not be objectionable from a Trinitarian standpoint. However, as the Doctrine to be Rejected quoted above clarifies, the BASF is not declaring that God and His Spirit (and His Logos-Son) are a unity of persons, but that God's Spirit is numerically and personally indistinct from God. The Spirit is mentioned three further times in the BASF, but all of these are passing references to the Spirit's role in the earthly life of Jesus. The Christadelphian Statement of Faith does not offer a definition of the Holy Spirit. It clearly states what Christadelphians do not believe the Spirit to be: a person. However, it does not clearly state what Christadelphians do believe the Spirit to be.

For more insight into Christadelphian ontological pneumatology—what the Holy Spirit is, according to Christadelphians—we can look to other Christadelphian literature. We will have to offer the same disclaimer as for any other Christadelphian doctrinal issue: anything we find in Christadelphian literature amounts to privately held opinions; there is no such thing as an official Christadelphian position on this doctrine.1

The most widely encountered definition of the Holy Spirit found in Christadelphian literature is that the Holy Spirit is "God's power." For example, a website called Australian Christadelphians summarises Christadelphian beliefs about God thus: "There is only one eternal, immortal God. Jesus Christ is his only begotten son and the Holy Spirit is his power." Catechetical materials produced by the Christadelphian Bible Mission (CBM) state that "The Spirit of God is His power through which He makes and supports all things." 

A slightly more nuanced definition of the Holy Spirit is offered by Christadelphian apologists James H. Broughton and Peter J. Southgate: "The Holy Spirit is the Father's mind and power."2 They go on to describe God's Spirit as "His agent," while qualifying that this agent is "not a separate person" and does not have "its own volition."3

A biblical unitarian article—not Christadelphian, but endorsed by Christadelphian apologist Dave Burke in an online debate on the Trinity—gives a two-pronged definition of the Holy Spirit:
In every verse of Scripture in which pneuma hagion, holy spirit, is used, it can refer either to (a) one of the names of God, one which emphasizes His power in operation, or (b) the gift of God.
A problematic feature of all of these definitions of the Holy Spirit—God's power, God's mind, God's impersonal agent, one of God's names, the gift of God—is their lack of ontological or philosophical precision. Consider the most common Christadelphian definition: the Holy Spirit as God's power. There is plenty of biblical evidence identifying or linking the Spirit with God's power, but does this amount to an ontological definition? Does it tell us what the Holy Spirit really is? Clearly not. For instance, this definition does not on its own resolve the issue of whether the Holy Spirit is a person. Christ is also identified in Scripture as the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:24), but I doubt that anyone would claim that "the power of God" is an adequate definition of Jesus Christ.4 Likewise, the statement "the Holy Spirit is the power of God" is true but is not a satisfactory definition of the Holy Spirit. It raises more ontological questions than it answers: "What do you mean by 'power'? What sort of power?"

19th-century Christadelphian writers like John Thomas (the founder of the movement) and Robert Roberts (his protégé) did, to their credit, attempt to clarify further what they meant by defining the Holy Spirit as God's power. They described the Spirit in quasi-physical terms as a kind of energy or matter.5 Indeed, Robert Roberts appears to have identified God's Spirit as nothing other than electricity.6 I suspect that most Christadelphians today who are aware of Roberts' claims are a little embarrassed by them. Nevertheless, one has to commend the early Christadelphians for recognising that "God's power" does not suffice as an ontological definition of the Spirit, and seeking to provide greater clarity. The "electricity hypothesis" seems to have been quietly dropped but not replaced with another ontologically precise definition.

Other definitions of the Holy Spirit that one encounters in Christadelphian literature, such as God's mind, God's agent, etc., are no more ontologically satisfying.7 Perhaps most puzzling is the biblical unitarian definition of the Holy Spirit as one of the names of God or the gift of God. This definition suggests that "Holy Spirit" does not name a real entity; it is merely a term used in Scripture to refer to other entities (two in particular). The Holy Spirit is thus reduced to a label, rather than a distinct reality.

In light of the shortcomings of the above definitions, I think the question needs to be put to Christadelphians and other unitarians anew, "What is the Holy Spirit?" Is it an abstraction, like a property or attribute of God? Something more concrete, like a force or form of energy or matter? Is "Holy Spirit" merely a label or does it name a specific transcendent reality?

The Trinitarian Definition of the Holy Spirit: Is it Worth Considering?

The Christian dogmatic consensus that was formalised at the Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) and has stood ever since defines the Holy Spirit as a divine person, numerically distinct from the Father and the Son but consubstantial (of one substance or nature) with them as God. Unpacking this definition in detail will have to await another article. What I want to do here is to try and convince Christadelphian readers at least that a closer look at this definition is merited. To do so I want to make two brief observations and one brief biblical argument.

The first observation is that the Trinitarian definition of the Holy Spirit achieves what the Christadelphian and unitarian definitions do not. It is ontologically precise, assigning the Spirit to a specific ontological category, namely person, and even more specifically, divine person. Moreover, one notices in Christadelphian and unitarian discourse a concern to both identify the Spirit with God and distinguish the Spirit from God; hence in the biblical unitarian definition above the Spirit is one of God's names (completely identified with God) or God's gift (distinct from God). The Church Fathers shared this same concern, but addressed it not by bifurcating the Spirit into two different things (an impossibility since the Spirit is one), but by offering a definition of the Spirit that simultaneously affirms both the identification with God and the distinction from God, holding them in tension.

The second observation concerns apologetic writings and debates about the Holy Spirit involving Christadelphians or other unitarians. In my experience, the main Christadelphian apologetic objective is to prove from Scripture that the Holy Spirit is not a person (thus countering the Trinitarian claim). However, the argument usually proceeds without any attempt to define what a person is. (To be fair, quite often the Trinitarian interlocutor in the debate makes the same omission.) Cases in point can be seen in The Great Trinity Debate between Dave Burke and Rob Bowman,8 and Broughton and Southgate's book.9 This is a crucial oversight for two reasons. First, it is obvious that in any debate over the proposition, "X is a person," the truth or falsehood of the proposition hinges on what is meant by "person." Second, "person" is not the sort of simple, obvious concept for which a definition can be assumed without stating it. The concept of personhood has been debated by philosophers up and down the centuries and remains a hot topic today (e.g., concerning ethical debates over the rights of fetuses, humans suffering from dementia, and animals). If even human person is not a concept one can take for granted, a fortiori the same holds for the concept of divine person. Thus, a good definition of personhood may help to resolve the theological differences between Christadelphians and Trinitarians concerning the Holy Spirit.

Some Christadelphians are likely to become uncomfortable with or even tune out any attempt to rigorously define what a person is. "Away with your philosophy; just look at what the Bible says, which is simple and straightforward." In my view, this is a case of trying to having one's cake and eat it too.10 Nevertheless, hoping to reach Christadelphians who may have this mindset, I want to close this article with a short argument for the Holy Spirit's personhood that does not require a technical definition of personhood.

Certain biblical passages, especially in the New Testament, speak of the Holy Spirit in quasi-personal terms. Christadelphian/Trinitarian debates on the Holy Spirit typically go back and forth over whether such quasi-personal language amounts to literary personification (describing a non-personal entity in personal terms for effect) or literal personification (describing an actual person). In the absence of a definition of personhood, this back-and-forth seems futile. However, what I find compelling for the Trinitarian case is not the quasi-personal language per se but a specific claim of Jesus that flows from the Farewell Discourse (chapters 14-17) of the Gospel of John. According to John 14:16, Jesus told his disciples, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate (allos paraklētos) to be with you always" (NABRE). Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit is an Advocate. Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit is sent from the Father (John 15:26 cp. 8:42). Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit teaches (John 14:26 cp. 7:16-17). Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit does not speak on his own, but what he hears (John 16:13; cp. 5:30; 7:17). Throughout the Farewell Discourse, the template that Jesus uses to teach his disciples about the Holy Spirit is himself. Crucially, however, he does so while simultaneously distinguishing the Spirit both from the Father and from himself: "the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name" (14:26); "the Advocate...whom I will send you from the Father" (15:26). Trine formulas used elsewhere in the New Testament—most notably in Matthew 28:19 but also, inter alia, in 2 Corinthians 13:14, reinforce this idea: Jesus Christ, the Son, is another of what the Father is, and the Holy Spirit is another of what the Father and the Son are. It is this eminently biblical insight that gave rise to the doctrine of the Trinity.

Of course, this insight gives rise to a very important question: what are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? To what category do these three belong? The early Church wrestled with this question at length and finally settled on the answer that they are hypostases, a Greek word whose accepted English translation (in this context) is "persons." Our next article will therefore explore the concept of personhood in more depth.


Footnotes

  • 1 As Christadelphians do not have any structure or body authorised to make rulings at a higher level than the local congregation, there is no mechanism by which dogma can be constructed for Christadelphians collectively.
  • 2 James H. Broughton and Peter J. Southgate, The Trinity: True or False? (2nd edn; Nottingham: The Dawn Book Supply, 2002), 82.
  • 3 Broughton and Southgate, The Trinity, 93, 97.
  • 4 Some Samaritans also acclaimed Simon Magus as "the 'Power of God' that is called 'Great'" (Acts 8:10). This claim was false, but it does show that in the historical context of the early Church, identification with the power of God and identification as a person were not mutually exclusive.
  • 5 John Thomas writes that "This ruach, or spirit, is neither the Uncreated One who dwells in light, the Lord God, nor the Elohim, His co-workers, who co-operated in the elaboration of the natural world. It was the instrumental principle by which they executed the commission of the glorious Increate" (Elpis Israel [4th edn; Findon: Logos, 1866/2000], 34). He goes on to define God's ruach as His "instrumentally formative power," adding, "From these testimonies it is manifest that the ruach or spirit is all pervading...The atmosphere expanse is charged with it; but it is not the air: plants and animals of all species breathe it; but it is not their breath: yet without it, though filled with air, they would die" (Elpis Israel, 34). Finally, after discussing the chemical composition of the atmosphere, he concludes, "These three together, the oxygen, nitrogen, and electricity, constitute 'the breath' and 'spirit' of the lives of all God's living souls" (Elpis Israel, 35). Robert Roberts describes God's Spirit as "that mighty effluence which radiating from Himself, fills all space, and constitutes the basis of all existence" (Christendom Astray [Birmingham: The Christadelphian, 1884/1969], 142). Becoming more ontologically detailed, he continues: "the higher forms of intelligence cannot exclude the perception that if God has evolved the material universe out of His own energy, and sustains and controls it by His power, that energy cannot be a nullity, but must be an actually present force in the economy of things. Now, it is a fact that in our day, there has been discovered a subtle, unanalysable, incomprehensible principle, which, though inscrutable in its essence, is found to be at the basis of all the phenomena of nature—itself eluding the test of chemistry or the deductions of philosophy. Scientists have called it ELECTRICITY... Could a better name be devised than what the Scriptures have given it—SPIRIT?" (Christendom Astray, 143-44). Roberts goes on to distinguish "Holy Spirit" from "Spirit" in general: "Spirit concentrated under the Almighty's will, becomes Holy Spirit, as distinct from spirit in its free, spontaneous form" (Christendom Astray, 144-45).
  • 6 See quotation in previous note. The Christadelphians' reduction of the Spirit to energy and matter was subjected to blistering criticism by one of Roberts' contemporaries, one David King. In an 1881 pamphlet entitled The History and Mystery of Christadelphianism, preserved online here, King quotes statements from Thomas and Roberts like the above and comments, "God, then, we are asked to believe, is a material being, residing in some local centre. That which, in scientific terms, is called Electricity is in the Bible described as Spirit; the Omnipresence of God means that electricity flows from Him everywhere; the Holy Spirit is, 'that same free spirit, gathered up, as it were, under the focalization of the divine will, for the accomplishment of divine results.' Well, we have always felt something like awe at the thought of the immediate presence of the Holy Spirit, which, of course, if this doctrine be true, was but foolish superstition, seeing we have merely to do with electricity, which we control by lightning rods, send along wires at pleasure, convey into lamps to light our streets and entertainments, and get manifestation of its indwelling in the body of our puss, when in the dark we stroke its black coat the wrong way! We use this language in no flippant manner, but in sober sadness. Christadelphianism is responsible for thus terribly trifling with the nature of Deity, for this letting down of God to their sensuous conception."
  • 7 Defining the Spirit as the mind of God is not very helpful. To speak of God's "mind" is anthropomorphic, analogical language, and clearly not ontologically precise. To speak of the Spirit as God's "agent" is no more helpful, particularly when it is stated that this agent is not personal and not distinguishable from God. How can one exercise agency without volition, and without being distinguishable from the one on whose behalf one acts?
  • 8 In this debate, Burke argued at length that the Holy Spirit is not a "divine person" or a "literal person," without ever stating what he meant by "person," "divine person," or "literal person." In his opening statement, Burke had declared that "God is a personal being Who exists as a single divine Person (Yahweh; the Father)," affirmed "the unitary nature of His personhood," and declared the Father and the Son to be "two separate persons who exist as individual beings." Commenting on the Shema (Deut. 6:4), Burke states, "Biblical Unitarians can read this verse and accept what it is saying without any qualification whatsoever: Yahweh is one; ie. one person." Despite repeating such statements over and over, Burke never offers any definition of "person" or "personhood," although he does criticise Trinitarians for having "developed new definitions for the words 'being' and 'person.'" He implicitly appeals for his own definition of 'being' and 'person' to "regular human communication" (!), still without stating how he defines these terms. Having declared earlier in his opening statement that "Any proposed definitions of a word must be supported from several examples of identical usage," Burke defaults on his own principle by not even proposing a definition of the word "person," much less supporting his definition. Bowman, for his part, also does not offer a definition of personhood even as he seeks to defend "the Trinitarian position that the Holy Spirit is a divine person."
  • 9 Broughton and Southgate devote a subsection of their book to the question, "Is the Holy Spirit a person?" To defend their negative answer to the question, they explore various biblical passages about the Holy Spirit and pose such rhetorical questions as, "Is a 'person' divisible into fractions?" and "Is a 'person' a 'fluid'?" (The Trinity, 102-103), but offer no definition of "person."
  • 10 This is so for two reasons: one, because the Christadelphian Statement of Faith uses the word "person" to describe God, and "person" is not a simple and straightforward concept. Two, because anyone engaging in argument is practicing philosophy, and the typical Christadelphian aversion to technical, philosophically rigorous argument is itself the result of a philosophical approach (rooted in a philosophical school known as Common Sense Realism).

Monday, 27 May 2019

Moral Theology vs. "What the Bible Says"

Over the years I have observed, in discourse amongst Christians, a certain approach taken to moral questions that arise, say in a Bible study group or an online discussion, along the lines of, "Is it wrong to x?" or, "Is it okay to x?" where x is a particular behaviour or practice. In my experience, I have often seen the question rephrased, either by the questioner or someone else, in the form, "What does the Bible say about x?" In this brief (by my standards) article, I will argue that this approach to constructing Christian morality, which on its face appears ideal, is problematic, and that thoroughgoing moral theology is better.

The question, "What does the Bible say about x?" implicitly makes direct biblical witness—what the Bible does or does not say about x—the definitive criterion for answering the original right-or-wrong question. An obvious difficulty is that there are numerous behaviours of contemporary relevance—e.g., abortion, same-sex marriage, gambling, masturbation, smoking marijuana, cremation, contraception, cloning, physician-assisted suicide, littering, polluting—about which the Bible has little or nothing to say directly. If we take same-sex relationships as a (particularly controversial) case in point, there are about half a dozen passages that together form the crux interpretum for those debating the 'biblical' point of view. In the equally heated debates over abortion, there are even fewer texts that directly bear on the matter. On numerous other issues mentioned above, the Bible is completely silent.

Christians taking the "What does the Bible say about x?" approach to morality often disagree on both the meaning and relevance of the salient passages (if there are any). There is inevitably a "No" camp (those who hold behaviour x to be forbidden) and a "Yes" camp (those who hold behaviour x to be permissible, or at least subject to personal freedom of conscience). However, both sides of the debate often appear to presuppose that a binding conclusion on the goodness or wickedness of behaviour x can be reached only if the Bible makes an explicit statement on the matter. The Bible's silence is equated with God's silence, and in a civilisation in which personal liberty and autonomy are paramount values, God's silence is understood as his signal that each individual is free to arrive at a personal position and behave accordingly. This is why the "No" camp clings doggedly to a handful of proof-texts that they assert are airtight and unambiguous (to overcome the force of personal autonomy), while the "Yes" camp is often content to merely cast reasonable doubt on the "No" proof-texts (more specifically, by pointing to ambiguities in exactly what behaviour is being forbidden, or disputing whether the prohibition is still in force). If God's will concerning behaviour cannot be discerned with the explicitness of a "Thus says the Lord," it is safer to refer the matter to the court of personal autonomy.

Serious problems with the "What does the Bible say about x?" approach to morality should be apparent to the reader. For one, by limiting the scope of God's revealed moral law to direct biblical testimony on specific behaviours (prescriptions and proscriptions), we are handcuffed—perhaps even God is handcuffed—from making decisive judgments, and speaking as Christians with collective conviction, on a large number of relevant moral issues. The church, endued with heavenly authority to "bind and loose," seems only to be able to hand its members slipknots, which they may pull or not as they see fit. The "Yes" camp seems to have overlooked the possibility that God's will concerning behaviour x might be discernible even in the absence of a direct biblical commandment or precedent. Meanwhile, the "No" camp entrenches itself behind proof-texts and becomes almost obsessively concerned with behaviour x as the moral battleground for the present generation. Their opposition to behaviour x strikes others as pedantic and mean-spirited because the "No" camp seems to oppose it simply because "the Bible tells me so" and not as part of a holistic, coherent moral framework. "The Bible says you can't do x," moreover, is likely not the best formula for proclaiming the Good News.

If "What does the Bible say about x?" is not a sound approach to discerning the will of God, what is the alternative? It is moral theology. Mostly, but not exclusively, associated with the Catholic Church, moral theology can be defined as
That branch of Theology which states and explains the laws of human conduct in reference to man's supernatural destiny, the vision and fruition of God. As a science, it investigates the morality of human acts, that is, the moral good and the moral evil in conduct in relation to man's ultimate end.1
The difference between moral theology and the approach criticised above does not lie in the authority assigned to Scripture. The Catholic Church holds Sacred Scripture to be divinely inspired and infallible, biblical interpretation plays an indispensable role in moral theology, and indeed the Ten Commandments are the rubric within which Catholic moral theology is usually expressed (as, for instance, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church). Rather, what distinguishes moral theology from "What does the Bible say about x?" is, firstly, that moral theology draws on resources other than revelation, such as philosophy (especially natural law) and science; and, secondly, moral theology does not seek a "Yes/No" judgment on the morality of a behaviour as an end in itself, but only in relation to humankind's ultimate purpose, as ordained by the Creator. Moral theology first posits underlying aspects of the human condition, such as free will, knowledge, responsibility, and sin. It defines virtues and vices. It sets the moral law concerning specific aspects of human life (e.g., sexuality) within their divinely intended purpose. These features of moral theology enable the Church—not by her own strength but under the direction of the Holy Spirit—to arrive at sound, authoritative judgments concerning the rightness or wrongness of specific behaviours, even when those behaviours are not directly addressed in the Bible.

We might summarise by saying that, whereas the "What does the Bible say?" approach to morality is concerned primarily with the what of right and wrong, moral theology is concerned with the why, convinced that God's law is not arbitrary or helter-skelter but rational, coherent, and compelling. If you want to see Catholic moral theology at its best, read the famous encyclical Humanae Vitae ("Human Life") of Pope Paul VI (1968), which set out the Catholic Church's (much-maligned) teaching concerning contraception. The document makes no attempt to claim that the Bible says anything directly concerning contraception, and does not address contraception as one more isolated moral issue, but places it in the context of a coherent theology of human sexuality, oriented toward the divinely ordained purpose of human life itself—hence the choice of title.

I must say in closing that I have used the "What does the Bible say about x?" approach to morality as a foil, knowing full well that there is not a sharp dichotomy between this approach and moral theology, but rather a continuum. Many Christians who make this question their starting-point for investigating a moral issue still attempt to situate the behaviour in question in relation to more fundamental moral-theological concepts, and to arrive at general principles of conduct rather than merely a list of dos and do nots. In like manner, moral theologians are not averse to seeking direct biblical testimony concerning a particular behaviour. Even where the Bible is crystal clear on the "what" of morality, though, moral theology helps to illuminate the "why," which is equally important. There are too many Christians making arguments like, "Behaviour x is wrong, because the Bible says it is, end of discussion," or, conversely, "The Bible says nothing about behaviour x, and therefore it is permissible," or, "therefore, it is subject to personal freedom of conscience." The antidote to this muzzling of the will of God is moral theology.

Footnotes

  • 1 Henry Davis, Moral and Pastoral Theology: A Summary (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1952), 1.

Monday, 29 April 2019

The Spiritual Side of Donating Blood

I am approaching my 36th birthday, and for the first 35 years of my life I never donated blood. Why not? I cannot name a specific reason. In my years as an eligible adult in Canada, I heard appeals on the radio from time to time from Canadian Blood Services that included the punchy double entendre, "Blood: it's in you to give." I was aware from these appeals that the public health system had a need for blood donors. It probably crossed my mind more than once that I ought to donate blood, but it never reached the point of a deliberate intention, much less an action.

Now, some people have legitimate medical or lifestyle reasons why they are ineligible to donate blood. However, of those who are eligible, only a minority actually donate. For instance, one NGO reports that "Although an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood at any given time, less than 10 percent do so annually." Meanwhile, a 2015 NHS report in the U.K. indicates that only 3% of England residents in the eligible age range (but including both eligible and ineligible persons) had donated blood in the past year. What is it that prevents most eligible people—like me, from ages 17 to 35—from donating blood? Perhaps it is a fear of needles or the sight of blood; perhaps a general apathy or sense of being  too busy; perhaps a belief that other people are doing it, so I don't need to.

Probably no one actually relishes having a needle stuck in their arm, but some people subject themselves to this relatively mild discomfort willingly. Perhaps, then, the better question is not what prevents people from donating blood but what motivates them to do so? Psychologists offer all sorts of explanations for human altruism, and of course many people donate blood and engage in other altruistic acts toward complete strangers for non-religious, humanitarian reasons. However, other donors may be motivated at least partly by their religious convictions; I am one of the latter.

Although the practice of blood donation and blood transfusions is a marvel of modern medicine (the science being about 350 years old), it has fascinating symbolism in relation to the ancient Christian faith. Think about it: one person willingly gives—sheds, in fact—his or her blood to preserve the health or even save the life of another. This is precisely what Jesus did for all of us on the cross. As he said to his disciples at the Last Supper, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many" (Mark 14:24). The good shepherd laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:15-17). In a sense, then, we imitate in a small way Jesus' sacrifice and show solidarity with him when we willingly surrender some of our blood, and thus some of our life (since "the life of the flesh is in the blood," Lev. 17:11) in order to save another from death.

The symbolism can be taken further. The miracle of the Eucharist, in which the blood of Jesus truly becomes present to us and enters our bodies (cf. John 6:53-57), is paralleled in a small way by the medical marvel of the blood transfusion, in which one person's blood enters the body of another to preserve life and restore vitality. In this twofold sense, then, Jesus at the Last Supper and in his Passion is the archetypal blood donor.

Reflecting on such rich spiritual symbolism, the idea of donating blood becomes compelling to me almost to the point of a moral imperative. For, as Jesus said, "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life" (John 12:25). How can I love my life so much that I cannot face a little fear and bear a little discomfort, when by hating it only that much I could save the life of another? Of course, I am not advocating a practice of mandatory blood donation for Christians or anyone else; the practice would then lose all the beauty of a self-sacrificial gift. However, I do think every Christian ought to examine his or her conscience if he or she is medically eligible to donate blood but has never seriously considered doing so.

Faced with the above, it seems incredible that there is at least one professedly Christian religious group, the Jehovah's Witnesses, that not only neglects to advocate for blood donations and blood transfusions but actually forbids its members either to donate blood or to receive a blood transfusion. The FAQ page on JW.org explains the reason:
This is a religious issue rather than a medical one. Both the Old and New Testaments clearly command us to abstain from blood. (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10; Deuteronomy 12:23; Acts 15:28, 29) Also, God views blood as representing life. (Leviticus 17:14) So we avoid taking blood not only in obedience to God but also out of respect for him as the Giver of life.
Now, the above texts, insofar as they are explicit (Acts 15:28-29 is more ambiguous) forbid eating or drinking blood. It is by no means an obvious hermeneutical inference that these texts also forbid donating or transfusing blood—practices that did not exist at the time, at least with any appreciable medical efficacy. There is obviously a stark difference between the practice of eating or drinking blood—which may convey some nutritional value but is quite unnecessary—and that of donating and transfusing blood, which under proper medical supervision can improve and save many lives without inflicting any lasting harm on the donors.

For me, the fundamental moral principle of proportionality ought to govern our judgment on this issue. This principle was famously invoked by Jesus in his disagreement with certain scribes and Pharisees over Sabbath observance. The scribes and Pharisees were enraged with Jesus for curing a man on the Sabbath, when no work should be done. Jesus gave examples of life-preserving actions that might justify violating (by the letter) the prohibition against work on the Sabbath, such as untying an ox or an ass and leading it out for watering (Luke 13:15) or rescuing a son or an ox that had fallen into a cistern (Luke 14:5). His rhetorical question brings home the underlying issue: "I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?" (Luke 6:9) So also, with the issue of blood donation and transfusion, the primary question must be, how can we save life rather than destroying it? Blood donation and transfusion saves lives. Forbidding these practices can, in effect, destroy them.

Through the advances of modern medicine, the God-given fluid that brings life to our organs and tissues can also bring life to our fellow humans. It took me 35 years to recognise the precious gift that courses through my veins. I hope no longer to let this gift go to waste.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Review of "The Fire That Consumes" by Edward W. Fudge (Part 3)

This is the third article in a three-part series reviewing the late Edward W. Fudge's important and influential book on hell, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment (3rd ed.; Eugene: Cascade, 2011; 593 pages). This book, over its three editions dating back to 1982, has helped to make the doctrine of annihilationism—that the final punishment of the ungodly is the absolute termination of their existence—an acceptable and growing (if still minority) view within Evangelical Christianity. Thus the traditional Christian view of hell as a place of unending suffering, which used to be an area of theological common ground between Evangelicals and Catholics, is no longer reliably such.

In Part 1 of this series, I interacted with Fudge's first ten chapters, which cover some introductory issues, the Old Testament, and Second Temple Jewish literature (Apocrypha, Dead Sea Scrolls, Pseudepigrapha). I found myself in substantial agreement with Fudge's characterisation of Old Testament teaching on the fate of the wicked when interpreted at a strictly grammatical-historical level, but argued that Christians cannot limit their reading of the Old Testament to the grammatical-historical level, because the New Testament writers did not. I further took issue with Fudge's interpretation with a couple of late passages from the Hebrew Bible (Isaiah 66:24 and Daniel 12:2). I noted that Fudge and I are in agreement that Judith 16:17 presupposes a traditionalist view of final punishment, but that Fudge regards this text as apocrypha whereas the Catholic Church has always (at least since the late first century, on the evidence of 1 Clement) regarded it as Sacred Scripture. Finally, while I agreed with Fudge's claim that Second Temple Jewish literature is diverse in its perspectives on final punishment, I differed with his interpretation of some of that literature, devoting particular attention to three apocalyptic works: 4 Ezra, Jubilees, and 1 Enoch.

In Part 2, I interacted with Fudge's exegesis of New Testament passages about final punishment (his chapters 11-23). In contrast to Fudge, who finds the New Testament evidence to be uniformly in support of annihilationism, I followed historian Alan E. Bernstein in distinguishing between two distinct traditions within the New Testament, the "positive tradition" and the "symmetrical tradition."1 The positive tradition, whose most prominent representatives are the Gospel and Letters of John and the Letters of Paul, emphasises what the ungodly will not receive (eternal life; the kingdom of God) and prefers to describe their fate in vague or abstract terms (e.g., wrath, distress, death, destruction) rather than vivid imagery. This part of the New Testament witness is consistent with an annihilationist view, and arguably most plausibly interpreted in terms of annihilation, and to that extent my reading of this material aligns with Fudge's. However, the positive tradition does not actually contradict the traditionalist view. The possibility remains open that these writers held a traditionalist view of hell but preferred not to express it, perhaps for pastoral reasons. At least one passage in the Pauline corpus (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) appears to lend support to this reading. On the other hand, the symmetrical tradition, whose most prominent representatives are the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and Revelation, describe the fate of the ungodly in vivid detail as equal and opposite to the fate of the godly, thus painting a symmetrical picture. Differing sharply with Fudge's assessment of this material, I argue that it depicts the suffering of the ungodly as interminable.

In this final installment, I interact with Fudge's treatment of patristic literature, later Church history, and his theological findings and concluding reflections (chapters 24-36). I devote most of my attention to chapter 24 ("Apostolic Fathers and Their Successors") for two reasons. The first reason is that these earliest post-apostolic writings are the only ones that both Protestants and Catholics are likely to regard as in any way normative. Protestants have no qualms about rejecting the teachings of such luminaries of Church history as Augustine of Hippo, John Chrysostom, Ambrose of Milan, Anselm of Canterbury, and Thomas Aquinas (all held to be saints and Doctors of the Church in Roman Catholicism),2 as Fudge does in chapters 27-29. Conversely, Catholics do not regard the teachings of the Reformers (e.g., Luther and Calvin) or later Protestants as normative. However, most Protestants and Catholics are likely to share Fudge's conviction that, while not infallible, the Apostolic Fathers are important due to their proximity to the apostles: "these are men who were taught by the apostles, or by those whom the apostles had taught" (p. 375). The second reason why this review concentrates mainly on the writings of the earliest post-apostolic period is simply that I happen to be more familiar with them than with writings of the third century and beyond.


Chapter 24: The Apostolic Fathers and Their Successors
  The Didache  
  1 Clement  
  2 Clement  
  Ignatius of Antioch  
  Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians  
  Martyrdom of Polycarp  
  Epistle of Barnabas  
  Epistle to Diognetus  
  Justin Martyr  
Later Christian History
Fudge's Concluding Chapters
My Concluding Remarks



In this chapter, Fudge undertakes to describe the views of final punishment of the Apostolic Fathers and Justin Martyr. These writings roughly span the period from the end of the first century to the middle of the second century C.E. (though the collection of these particular writings into a corpus called "Apostolic Fathers" occurred many centuries later). Before interacting with Fudge's analysis of individual writers, I wish to point out three major shortcomings of this chapter that detract significantly from the value of the historical aspect of his "Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment."

The first shortcoming is that Fudge omits from his book a number of Christian texts from this period that contain relevant material, such as the Ascension of Isaiah (late first/early second century),3 the Apocalypse of Peter, the Shepherd of Hermas4 (which is among the Apostolic Fathers!) and the Epistula Apostolorum. The Apocalypse of Peter is an especially glaring omission, since it discusses final punishment in far more detail than any other Christian text of the period, and since it was influential enough to be reckoned by the earliest extant New Testament canon list (the Muratorian Fragment, c. 200 C.E.) as on the fringes of the canon.5 The second shortcoming is that Fudge appears to rely entirely on dated Greek texts and translations of the Apostolic Fathers and Justin Martyr, and has not interacted with any scholarly commentaries or articles in arriving at his exegesis.6 The third shortcoming is a general lack of attention to detail. Several important early Christian texts are passed over in a couple of sentences that do not even mention the relevant passages about eschatological punishment.

That said, let us attend to Fudge's comments on individual writings and offer our own assessment of the ideas about final punishment presupposed therein.


Fudge deals with this important church manual or handbook, often dated to the first century, in just five lines, citing only two passages (Did. 1.1 and 16.5), which refer to "death" and "perish[ing]." Fudge avers, "There is no mention of unending conscious torment. There is no pretense that 'perish' means continued existence, though in a state of ruin. The author seems to use 'perish' with its ordinary meaning of die" (p. 378). As with some New Testament passages, Fudge asserts without argument that the Didache uses the verb apollumi ("perish") in the sense of "die," and in turn uses the word "death" of "ordinary" physical death that entails annihilation. Simply assuming that a text has an annihilationist perspective is not very compelling exegesis. What is more problematic is that Fudge has overlooked some contrary evidence. In its description of the Way of Life, the Didache states:
'Give to everyone who asks you, and do not demand it back,' for the Father wants something from his own gifts to be given to everyone. Blessed is the one who gives according to the command, for such a person is innocent. Woe to the one who receives: if, on the one hand, someone who is in need receives, this person is innocent, but the one who does not have need will have to explain why and for what purpose he received, and upon being imprisoned will be interrogated about what he has done, and will not be released from there until he has repaid every last cent. (Did. 1.5)7
In a text that obviously shares some tradition-history8 with Matthew 5:25-26 and 18:34-35 (discussed in Part 2 of this review), despite being applied to a different moral situation, the Didache clearly conceives of eschatological punishment in terms of enduring imprisonment that ends—if it ends at all—not with annihilation but with release. If this statement is combined with a subsequent statement that warns against testing prophets who speak in spirit, since "every sin will be forgiven, but this sin will not be forgiven" (Did. 11.7), it appears that the Didache conceives of eschatological punishment in terms of imprisonment that for some ends in forgiveness and release, and for others does not end. The Didache's references to "death" and "perishing" must be interpreted through this lens. The ending of the Didache is missing from the extant text, and may have included a description of the final judgment with symmetrical fates for the righteous and wicked.9


Fudge discusses both 1 Clement and 2 Clement under the heading of "Clement of Rome," although most scholars today regard these as works written decades apart by different authors. The two documents do share some close similarities; for instance, they both quote the same passage from an otherwise unknown scriptural source.10 1 Clement is a long, anonymous letter from the church of Rome to the church of Corinth, usually dated to the late 90s C.E. Fudge treats this important text in just two sentences and quotes just one passage (1 Clem. 9.1) that warns that jealousy "leads to death." Again, Fudge appears to assume without argument that "death" in any early Christian text denotes annihilation.

Many of this letter's statements about punishment of the ungodly consist of references to divine judgments from the biblical past taken from the Septuagint. The writer makes it clear that these past judgments are proof of future divine judgment, but does not describe the future judgment in much detail beyond that it entails "punishment and torment."11 There are, however, several passages that appear to depict the destiny of the ungodly as more than death, although they are too vague to be conclusive. In 1 Clement 41.3-4, the writer emphasises how violation of ministerial duties under the Levitical cult result in the death penalty. He then implies that the punishment for such disobedience under the Christian dispensation is something greater: "as we have been considered worthy of greater knowledge, so much the more are we exposed to danger."12 In 1 Clement 46.7-8, the writer quotes a saying of Jesus that parallels Matt. 26:24 and Luke 17:2 (which were discussed in Part 2), comparing the fate of the ungodly favourably with never having been born and with a gruesome execution. It is also worth noting that the author of 1 Clement believed in a beatific intermediate state for Christian martyrs (as I have discussed previously here and here) and was thus apparently a body/soul dualist.

On the whole, 1 Clement should probably be assigned (like Paul, whose letters the writer holds in high regard) to the positive tradition. The writer sometimes describes the fate of the ungodly negatively in terms of exclusion from eternal life (e.g., 1 Clem. 57.2), and otherwise uses mainly general terms like "death" and "perish" rather than describing eschatological punishment in vivid detail. The letter does not explicitly refer to unending conscious torment, and is on the whole consistent with annihilation, notwithstanding a reference to "punishment and torment." However, the statements in 1 Clem. 41.3-4 and 46.7-8 imply that a fate worse than death is in store for the ungodly, which makes it possible that the writer conceived of final punishment in traditionalist terms.


2 Clement is an anonymous homily composed in the mid-second century. Fudge devotes two paragraphs to this text and cites six passages from within it (2 Clem. 2.7; 4.5; 5.4; 6.7; 7.6; 17.6-7). However, for most of these passages he merely offers a translation, with no detailed comment on their meaning. On 17.6-7, he comments that "Traditionalists" interpret the homily's teachings in terms of "unending conscious torment" whereas "Conditionalists understand the author of 2 Clement to affirm horrible pains from a[n annihilating] fire that cannot be extinguished" (p. 378). It strikes me as odd that Fudge assumes that traditionalists will interpret an early Christian text as traditionalist while conditionalists will interpret it as conditionalist. Is it unrealistic to hope that traditionalists and conditionalists might hold their own theological biases in check and offer balanced and impartial exegesis rather than automatically interpreting texts as supporting their own theological position?

2 Clement 1.4 expresses indebtedness to Christ in that "while we were perishing (Greek: apollumi), he saved us." This pre-salvation state is described further: "our entire life was nothing other than death...we were beset by darkening gloom...a great error and destruction was in us" (2 Clem. 1.6-7). Fascinatingly, the writer also states, "For he called us while we did not exist (ouk ontas), and he wished us to come into being from nonbeing (ek mē ontos)" (2 Clem. 1.8).13 All of this language, especially that of v. 8, sounds like annihilation talk (death, destruction, non-existence) but is clearly not literally such, since it refers to a state from which people subsequently were rescued. It would thus be inadvisable to assume (as Fudge seems to) that the language of "perishing" and "destruction" in 2 Clement 2.5-7 refers to annihilation.14

2 Clement's language about final punishment is reminiscent of that of the Synoptic Gospels and falls squarely within the symmetrical tradition. In 2 Clement 4.5, a quotation of an otherwise unknown saying of the Lord expresses the negative eschatalogical verdict in terms of being "thrown away" (Greek: apoballō)15 and commanded, "Depart from me" (upagete ap' emou; cf. Matt. 7:23; 25:41; Luke 13:27). This is the language of spatial exclusion, not annihilation. 2 Clement 5.4 mentions Gehenna in a saying that parallels that of Matt. 10:28 and Luke 12:4-5 (discussed in Part 2), and 2 Clement's form of the saying implies both transcendent postmortem punishment and anthropological dualism.16 In an unmistakably symmetrical description of eschatological fates, 2 Clement 6.7 contrasts the "place of rest" for the obedient with the "eternal punishment" (aiōniou kolaseōs) of the disobedient.17 In 2 Clement 7, the homilist uses "the games" as a metaphor for the Christian walk, and in 7.4-6 he uses the metaphor to make an a fortiori argument about eschatological punishment:
4 We must realize that if someone is caught cheating while competing in an earthly contest, he is flogged and thrown out of the stadium. 5 What do you suppose? What will happen to the one who cheats in the eternal competition? 6 As for those who do not keep the seal of their baptism, he says: 'Their worm will not die nor their fire be extinguished; and they will be a spectacle for all to see.'18
This text describes the earthly cheater's punishment in terms of corporal punishment and being "thrown out," a verb we have already seen the writer use of eschatological punishment. Then, the writer quotes Isaiah 66:24 LXX, implicitly applying it to Gehenna (as does Mark 9:43-48). We saw in Part 1 of this review that Isaiah 66 already conceives of an unending fire of punishment, albeit one that incessantly burns cadavers rather than conscious persons. 2 Clement 7.6 does not make it clear whether the victims of this unending fire are conceived of as conscious, but 2 Clement 17.5-7 quotes Isa. 66:24 again and describes the righteous on the day of judgment as observing "those who have deviated from the right path and denied Jesus through their words or deeds...punished with terrible torments in a fire that cannot be extinguished".19 Unquestionably, then, the writer of 2 Clement understands the unending Gehenna fire of Isaiah 66 as a tormenting fire. This is also confirmed by the verses following 2 Clement 7.6.

In 2 Clement 8.1-4, the homilist contrasts the present, "while we are still on earth...still in the world," when repentance is still possible, with the hereafter: "For after we leave the world we will no longer be able to make confession or repent in that place (eti)" (2 Clem. 8.3).20 The writer thus clearly conceives of Gehenna as an otherworldly, postmortem "place" of punishment in which repentance is no longer possible—a statement that presupposes that people still consciously exist in that place.21 Other passages refer to eschatological punishment in terms of "torment" (basanos) and a "double penalty" (2 Clem. 10.4-5), being "miserable" (2 Clem. 11.1), a "blazing oven" (2 Clem. 16.3), "death" (2 Clem. 16.4), and punishment "with chains" (2 Clem. 20.4).

On the whole, 2 Clement describes fiery eschatological punishment with a vividness comparable to that of the Synoptic Gospels. It is unmistakably a postmortem punishment of conscious persons in a transcendent place, and the writer describes it as "eternal" and its fire as "unquenchable" without giving any indication that the punishment will end in annihilation.


Concerning the seven epistles of Ignatius of Antioch, usually dated to the early second century, Fudge states that "four [epistles] contain references to our subject" (p. 378). He proceeds to quote five passages from these four letters (Eph. 11.1; 16.2; Smyrn. 6.1; Magn. 5.1; Trall. 2.1) with little comment. He sees Ignatius' judgment language as drawn mainly from Scripture, and thus (given his exegesis of Scripture) consistent with annihilation. He offers one positive argument: in Trallians 2.1, Ignatius writes that Jesus Christ "died for us that you may escape dying by believing in his death."22 Since Ignatius gives no indication that the "dying" that the faithful may escape is metaphysically different from the "death" through which Jesus delivered them, Fudge implies that both refer merely to physical death.

Ignatius' letters show considerable dependence on some of Paul's letters, and reflect an indebtedness to the positive tradition, speaking of "the wrath to come" (Eph. 11.1) and contrasting "to live at all times in Jesus Christ" with "to die" (Eph. 20.2).23 He also describes the fate of the ungodly simply as "death" in Magn. 5.1 and (as noted above) Trall. 2.1, as "perish[ing]" (Smyrn. 7.1), and as "[not] inherit[ing] the kingdom of God" (Phld. 3.3; cf. Eph. 16.1). However, there are four passages from Ignatius' letters—three noted by Fudge, one not—suggesting that Ignatius' view of eschatological punishment entailed something more than physical death.

In Eph. 16.2, Ignatius makes an a fortiori argument: if those who corrupt their own households "die," "how much more the one who corrupts the faith of God through an evil teaching, the faith for which Jesus Christ was crucified?"24 He adds a more specific description of the punishment: "Such a person is filthy and will depart into the unquenchable fire; so too the one who listens to him." While Fudge states that Ignatius "does not further explain" this language, the verb of motion chōreō suggests that "the unquenchable fire" refers to a place (Gehenna) and not merely a method of execution. Moreover, ceteris paribus, we should interpret "the unquenchable fire" in a way consistent with the use of this expression in the Synoptic Gospels, 2 Clement, and their biblical source, Isaiah 66:24. As has been argued previously in this review, in those texts, "unquenchable" refers to a fire that does not go out, not merely to a fire that cannot be extinguished until it has consumed its fuel (as Fudge maintains).

The second text is Magn. 5.1, where Ignatius contrasts the opposite destinies of "death and life" (probably alluding to Deut. 30:15-19), and adds, "and each person is about to depart to his own place".25 The same relatively rare verb chōreō that is used in Eph. 16.2 occurs here, suggesting that the "place" to which the unbelievers are about to depart is "the unquenchable fire" mentioned in Eph. 16.2. The reference to "his own place" also recalls what Acts 1:25 says about Judas (discussed in Part 2), implicitly aligning Ignatius' eschatology with that of Luke-Acts. The third passage is Smyrn. 6.1 which, as Fudge notes, states that "Judgment is prepared even for the heavenly beings, for the glory of the angels, and for the rulers both visible and invisible, if they do not believe in the blood of Christ."26 Presumably the "judgment" that is "prepared" for disobedient angels, in Ignatius' view, is not physical death, but imprisonment of the kind described in detail in 1 Enoch and alluded to in New Testament passages like Matt. 25:41, Rev. 20:10, 2 Pet. 2:4, and Jude 6.

Ignatius' most distinctive statement about eschatological punishment is one that Fudge does not mention. In Smyrn. 2.1-3.3, Ignatius is affirming that Jesus "truly suffered" and "truly raised himself," in opposition to "some unbelievers" (apparently the Docetists), who say "that he suffered only in appearance."27 Ignatius then explains how their punishment will fit their crime: "their fate will be determined by what they think: they will become disembodied and demonic."28 Needless to say, punishment that entails being disembodied and demon-like can only be a postmortem punishment and not merely physical death.


Fudge discusses Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians and the account of his death, the Martyrdom of Polycarp, under the same heading of "Polycarp," but it makes sense to separate them, since clearly only the first can have been written by Polycarp. The Letter to the Philippians, as Fudge acknowledges, shows dependence on the Letters of John, and (like those letters) has little to say about the fate of the ungodly. Polycarp makes repeated reference to judgment. For instance, "our Lord Jesus Christ...is coming as a judge of the living and the dead; and God will hold those who disobey him accountable for his blood" (Phil. 2.1). Alluding to 1 Cor. 6:9, he warns that those guilty of certain vices will not "inherit the kingdom of God" (Phil. 5.3). He declares heretical those who say "that there is neither resurrection nor judgment" (Phil. 7.1). Thus, Polycarp clearly believes in a final judgment, and that those who live wickedly will be excluded from the kingdom of God, but he says nothing about the eschatological punishment that will come upon the ungodly. Polycarp's letter falls within the positive tradition.


According to Ehrman, this theologised account of Polycarp's martyrdom is dated by "probably the majority of scholars" to c. 155-156 C.E.29 Fudge cites two passages within the Martyrdom (2.3; 11.2), both having to do with an eschatological fiery punishment. He regards these passages as ambiguous as to whether the writer(s)—apparently member(s) of Polycarp's congregation from Smyrna—conceived of the eschatological fire as unending or merely irresistible (so long as it lasts). Let us consider these two passages, which are the only two that shed light on the writer's view of final punishment.30 Martyrdom of Polycarp 2.3 describes the courage of certain martyrs thus:
And clinging to the gracious gift of Christ, they despised the torments of the world, in one hour purchasing for themselves eternal life. And the fire of their inhuman torturers was cold to them, because they kept their eyes on the goal of escaping the fire that is eternal and never extinguished (to pur...to aiōnion kai mēdepote sbennumeon).31
Fudge translates the key phrase, "the eternal and never-to-be-quenched [fire]," and regards it as uncertain what these two adjectival expressions mean. We conceded to Fudge in Part 1 a certain ambiguity in the adjective aiōnios, which could mean "eternal" in a temporal sense (endless) or in a qualitative sense (transcendent; pertaining to the age to come). However, the second expression here is unambiguously temporal, since it has a temporal adverb (mēdepote, "never") affixed. "Never-to-be-quenched" can only plausibly mean just that, and not irresistible until it consumes its fuel, whereupon it is quenched. The second relevant passage reads thus:
Again the proconsul said to him, 'If you despise the wild beasts, I will have you consumed by fire, if you do not repent.' Polycarp replied, 'You threaten with a fire that burns for an hour and after a short while is extinguished; for you do not know about the fire of the coming judgment and eternal [punishment], reserved for the ungodly. (M. Polyc. 11.2)32
Fudge observes that the text explicitly contrasts "man's fire with God's fire" (p. 380), but seems not to have noticed that the point of contrast is that man's fire is temporary, being "extinguished" after it has "consumed" its victim. The Martyrdom's description of man's fire corresponds precisely to how Fudge understands God's eschatological fire. It is thus obvious that Martyrdom of Polycarp conceives of the eschatological fire not as temporary and not merely as consuming but as punishing endlessly; otherwise the contrast breaks down. It is also worth noting that Martyrdom of Polycarp shows literary dependence on 4 Maccabees, a Jewish martyr-acts likely written in the late first century C.E. To give just two examples, in both 4 Maccabees and Martyrdom of Polycarp, the martyrs regard the fire of their earthly torture as "cold" (4 Macc. 11.26; M. Polyc. 2.3). Moreover, like 4 Maccabees (9.5-9; 13.14-15), Martyrdom of Polycarp (11.2) contrasts the temporary torture by the persecutors, which leads to eternal life for the martyrs, with the eschatological punishment that awaits the persecutors themselves. Given these similarities, it seems likely, ceteris paribus, that Martyrdom of Polycarp shares the view of 4 Maccabees that the eschatological punishment consists of "endless torment" (4 Macc. 10.11). All told, Martyrdom of Polycarp unquestionably belongs to the symmetrical tradition.


Fudge quotes four passages (4.12; 20.1; 21.1; 21.3) from this anonymous early-second-century letter (which was not written by the Barnabas of Acts and does not claim to have been). Fudge avers that, "Taken at face value, [the writer's] words suggest the final extinction of sinners after some righteous recompense that involves 'suffering'" (p. 381). Certainly, Barnabas must be assigned to the positive tradition. The writer warns about the risk of the evil one "hurling us away from our life" (Barn. 2.10) and "forc[ing] us out of the Lord's kingdom" (Barn. 4.13).33 In Barnabas 4.12, the writer states that "Each will receive according to what he has done" and refers to "the reward for...wickedness" without describing what it is.34 Barnabas 5.4 and 21.1 use the verb "perish" (apollumi) to describe the fate of the ungodly, while 10.5 and 14.5 respectively describe the impious as "condemned already to death" and "already paid out to death." It is noteworthy that, according to Barnabas 21.3, "the evil one" is also destined to "perish." Since the evil one (Satan) is an angelic being (cf. Barn. 18.1), it is unlikely (though not impossible) that the writer conceives of "perishing" as annihilation. Similarly, the transitive use of apollumi for various vices that "destroy people's souls" appears to bear a meaning like "ruin"; certainly the vices themselves do not literally annihilate souls.

The one text that goes beyond the typical language of the positive tradition—and may imply a punishment more than physical death—is Barnabas 20.1, which describes "the path of the Black One" (or, the path of blackness) as "the path of eternal death [which comes] with punishment (hodos...thanatou aiōniou meta timōrias)"35 The phrase "eternal death" on its own already suggests something of a higher order than mere physical death. The occurrence of the words "with punishment" after the words "eternal death" suggests a postmortem punishment; an ordinary capital punishment would more likely be described as something like "punishment unto death" or "the punishment of death." Thus, while this expression is somewhat oblique and Barnabas on the whole belongs to the positive tradition, like 2 Thess. 1:8-9 within the Pauline corpus, Barnabas 20.1 suggests that the writer envisioned an eschatological punishment more transcendent than mere physical death.


The Epistle to Diognetus is generally dated later than the rest of the Apostolic Fathers writings (late second century). Fudge discusses this text briefly, citing only one passage (Diog. 10.7-8) and concluding that this passage indicates annihilation, either as "a destroying fire that burns until all is consumed" or a fire that "keeps burning forever after its victims are consumed" (p. 381). Before looking at this passage, which provides the letter's most detailed description of eschatological punishment, let us consider a couple of other relevant passages. Diognetus 6.8 states straightforwardly that "The soul, which is immortal, dwells in a mortal tent."36 Thus, this writer is obviously not a conditionalist. Diognetus 8.2 denounces "the vain and ridiculous teachings of those specious philosophers, some of whom asserted that God was fire," adding the ironic parenthetical remark, "(where they themselves are about to go, this is what they call God!)"37 Diognetus 9.2 describes the "ultimate reward" of an unrighteous way of life as "punishment and death" (kolasis kai thanatos).38 This brings us to Diognetus 10.7-8:
7 Then even while you happen to be on earth, you will see that God is conducting the affairs of heaven. Then you will begin to speak the mysteries of God. Then you will both love and admire those who are punished for not wanting to deny God. Then you will condemn the deceit and error of the world, when you come to know the true life of heaven, when you despise that which merely seems to be death here and come to fear that which is truly death, which is preserved for those who are condemned to the eternal fire, which will punish those who are given over to it until the end [of time]. 8 And then, when you know that other fire, you will admire and bless those who endure the fleeting fire of the present for the sake of righteousness.39
The writer here contrasts two "deaths" and two "fires." The one death "merely seems to be death" (seemingly because it sets Christians free to the life of heaven),40 while the other is "truly death." The "true death" entails being "condemned to the eternal fire," which contrasts with "the fleeting/temporary fire" (to pur to proskairon). This temporal adjective demonstrates that aiōnios is likewise meant temporally here, i.e. "the eternal/endless fire." Since (as we have seen) this writer affirms that the soul is immortal, it is unlikely that the fire burns endlessly (for what purpose?) after its victim has been annihilated. Rather, "until the end" coincides with aiōnios and means (as per Ehrman's gloss) "until the end of time." The fiery punishment continues eternally. The Epistle to Diognetus unmistakably belongs to the symmetrical tradition.


Justin Martyr was a mid-second century Christian apologist and martyr whose ideas survive in his Dialogue with Trypho and his two Apologies. As I have discussed previously, Justin depicts his ideas as "ours" and not "mine," giving every impression that he is a doctrinal traditionalist and not an innovator, notwithstanding his vocation as a philosopher. This, together with the sheer volume of his writings (which have a greater total word count than all of the Apostolic Fathers together), makes Justin a very important witness to early Christian doctrine.

We perceive Fudge's legal mind at work in his discussion of Justin. Fudge essentially depicts exegetical debate over Justin's ideas as a hopeless stalemate, thereby casting reasonable doubt on attempts to use Justin's writings to support the traditionalism:
Round and round they have gone over Justin...In the end, most non-biblical references are of little help except for refuting the dogmatic extremes too commonly found on both sides. We need someone to explain the explainers. Better to read them quickly, and turn our attention back to Scripture. (p. 385)
Fudge sets certain passages that seem to feature a "Traditionalist Justin" against certain others that seem to feature a "Conditionalist Justin," and leaves it at that. Fudge's advocacy of reading extra-biblical texts "quickly" and his reference to his study of Justin's works as a "perusal" (p. 383) do not instill confidence in the diligence of his efforts to understand the doctrine of final punishment found in Justin's writings. As already noted, Fudge cites only 19th-century translations of Justin, and does not appear to have interacted with the Greek texts. Furthermore, Fudge cites just fourteen individual passages from Justin (eight from 1 Apology, four from 2 Apology, and two from Dialogue with Trypho), whereas by my count there are 54 passages that have a bearing on our subject (18 from 1 Apology, six from 2 Apology, and 30 from the Dialogue). One must agree with Fudge that there is evidence for both a "traditionalist Justin" and a "conditionalist Justin" that is difficult to harmonise. However, the evidence is not balanced: numerous passages in both of Justin's Apologies and his Dialogue witness unambiguously to traditionalism, while only one highly philosophical passage from the Dialogue suggests annihilation of the wicked.

Let us first examine the evidence for a traditionalist view. Justin's dominant image for final punishment is that of fire. He refers frequently to "eternal fire" (pur aiōnios) and "eternal punishment" (kolasis aiōnios), and less frequently to "Gehenna," terms taken directly from the Synoptic tradition, and cites several sayings of Jesus about final punishment.41 This evidence will be disputed since the Synoptic Gospels' evidence is disputed. However, it is clear that Justin envisions the "outer darkness" and the "eternal fire" as interchangeable terms for the same punishment, and not two sequential punishments (as Fudge appears to think).42 It is also clear that Justin understands Gehenna as a "place" (topos), equivalent to the "regions of punishment [Greek: hai kolastēria]" (1 Apol. 12.1-2; 19.8).

There is much more evidence of what kind of punishment Justin envisioned the eternal fire to be. Justin's main proof text for his doctrine of final punishment from the Jewish Scriptures is Isaiah 66:24 LXX, which he quotes or paraphrases four times (Dial. 44.3, 130.2; 140.3; 1 Apol. 52.8). Notably, Justin once says that the worm will not "die" (Greek: teleutaō), following the extant LXX text, but twice (Dial. 140.3; 1 Apol. 52.8) he paraphrases the text, saying that the worm will not "cease" (Greek: pauō), thereby heightening the verse's temporal emphasis. Justin provides more direct evidence of his interpretation of Isaiah 66:24: in Dialogue 130.2, he states, "Isaiah tells us that 'the limbs of sinners shall be consumed by the worm and unquenchable fire,' but with it all remaining immortal [Greek: athanata menontaso as to be 'a spectacle to all flesh.'"43 In 1 Apology 52.7-9, Justin cites Isaiah 66:24 to prove "in what kind of consciousness and punishment [Greek: aisthēsei kai kolasei] the unjust are going to be," adding after the quotation, "And then they shall repent when they shall gain nothing."44 Unquestionably, Justin (like Judith already in pre-Christian Judaism) interprets Isaiah 66:24 in terms of unceasing conscious punishment. Another scriptural text Justin uses for his idea of hell is Deuteronomy 32:22, which he paraphrases (rather differently than the LXX) as stating that "Everlasting fire [Greek: aeizōon pur, literally "ever-living fire"] will come down and will consume unto the depth beneath" (1 Apol. 60.9).45

Several other statements from Justin make it clear that he envisions final punishment as both conscious and unceasing. In Dialogue 45.4, Justin states that "some will be sent to the judgment and sentence of fire to be punished unceasingly [Greek: apaustōs kolazesthai],"46 which is explicitly contrasted with the freedom "suffering, corruption, sorrow, and death" that will be the lot of the righteous.47 In 1 Apology 52.3, he describes those sent to the eternal fire as being "in eternal sensation [Greek: en aisthēsei aiōnia]."48 In 1 Apology 8.4, Justin says that the unrighteous "will be punished with eternal punishment [Greek: aiōnian kolasin kolasthēsomenōn]," explicitly contrasting the Christian position with that of Plato, who said that Rhadamanthus and Minos would punish people only for a period of a thousand years. This shows unmistakably that he understood the word aiōnios temporally when it modifies "punishment" or "fire." In 1 Apology 18.1-3, Justin argues that "if death led to unconsciousness," this would be "a godsend to the unjust"; instead, "consciousness endures for all those who have existed, and eternal punishment lies in store...even after death souls remain in consciousness."49 In 1 Apology 28.1, Justin declares that the devil "will be sent into the fire with his army and with the human beings who follow him to be punished for an unending age [Greek: kolasthēsomenous ton aperanton aiōna]."50 In 1 Apology 45.6, Justin contrasts "punishment through eternal fire" with mere killing (cf. 1 Apol. 19.7-8). In 2 Apology 7.3-4, Justin states that the demons will be "imprisoned [Greek verb: egkleiō] in eternal fire," adding that humans who serve them will share the same punishment.51 The evidence for Justin having been a traditionalist is overwhelming.

Let us now turn to the evidence that Fudge brings forward in support of "Conditionalist Justin." In 1 Apology 44.4-7, Justin comments on the phrase "a sword will devour you" from Isaiah 1:20. According to Fudge, this passage is evidence that "Justin explicitly says that the wicked will finally pass away" (p. 384). However, Justin explains that Isaiah is not referring to a literal sword, i.e. one "that cuts and dispatches instantly"; otherwise the prophet would not have used the word "devour." For Justin, this passage is not about being "slain by the sword"; rather, "the sword of God is the fire, of which those who choose to do evil things become food." Justin says immediately after these comments that "whatever both the [Greek] philosophers and poets said concerning the immortality of the soul or punishments after death...they were enabled to understand...because they took their starting-points from the prophets" (1 Apol. 44.9).52 This implies that Justin understands the devouring sword of Isaiah 1:20 in terms of a postmortem punishment of the soul, i.e. eternal fire.

Fudge says that conditionalists "proudly point to" 2 Apology 6(7).1-253 as proof that the wicked will "finally pass away forever." In this passage, Justin contrasts Christian eschatology with Stoic philosophy. The Stoics taught the notion of ekpyrōsis, a periodic conflagration through which the entire universe was destroyed by fire and started over again.54 Justin counters that God "refrains from" or "delays causing"55 "the dissolution and destruction of the whole universe, which would entail an end [Greek: mēketi hōsi, literally "they would no longer exist"] to wicked angels and demons and human beings".56 A conditionalist interpretation of this statement requires that God is eventually going to reduce wicked angels, demons, and humans to non-existence. However, if we read on, Justin argues "that the conflagration will occur, but not as the Stoics said" (2 Apol. 6.3, emphasis added). The way Justin envisions the conflagration is that "the race of angels and the human race...will reap the just retribution in eternal fire for whatever wrong they do" (2 Apol. 6.5), which retribution (as we have seen) involves being "imprisoned in eternal fire" (2 Apol. 7.3). Thus, the argument of 2 Apology 6-7 is consistent with the traditionalist position espoused throughout Justin's writings.57

Finally, let us consider the one passage that does teach conditionalism and appears to espouse annihilation of the wicked: the detailed philosophical discussion on the soul in Dialogue 5-6. Fudge construes Justin's position thus: "Justin believed the soul was mortal, that it would suffer only as long as God willed, and that finally it would pass out of existence" (p. 384). In the early chapters of the Dialogue Justin contrasts the Christian view of the soul with those of Greek philosophies. In Dialogue 1.5, Justin denounces the Stoic idea that the next life will be a recurrence of the present life and the Platonic idea that "the soul is immortal and incorporeal," both of which, in Justin's view, contradict the notion of divine punishment.58 In Dialogue 4-6 Justin recounts a discussion he had with an old man that was instrumental in his conversion to Christianity; the old man's opinions can therefore be assumed to reasonably represent Christian views (as Justin understands them). In Dialogue 4.6-7, the old man attacks the Platonic doctrine of the soul, and specifically the notion that souls transmigrate into other bodies (e.g., animal bodies) after death. Again, the objection is that this undermines the idea of divine punishment, since imprisonment in a beast's body would leave the soul unaware of the punishment: "they suffer no punishment at all, unless they are conscious that it is a punishment" (Dial. 4.7).59 This shows that, for Justin, consciousness is fundamental to the idea of punishment. In Dialogue 5.1-2, the old man states (contra the Platonists) that the soul cannot be called immortal, "for, if it were, we would certainly have to call it unbegotten." Justin agrees with the old man that "Souls...are not immortal."60 However, they are objecting to the Platonic notion that souls are intrinsically immortal;61 the old man instead appears to espouse a "theory of mortal souls which actually do not die."62 The old man's key qualification is as follows:
'On the other hand,' he continued, 'I do not claim that any soul ever perishes [Greek: alla mēn oude apothnēskein phēmi pasas tas psuchas egō], for this would certainly be a benefit to sinners. What happens to them? The souls of the devout dwell in a better place, whereas the souls of the unjust and the evil abide in a worse place, and there they await the judgment day. Those, therefore, who are deemed worthy to see God will never perish, but the others will be subjected to punishment as long as God allows them to exist and as long as he wants them to be punished.'
The Greek of the first statement is ambiguous; apothnēskein...pasas tas psuchas could mean "any souls die" (like Slusser's rendering) or "all souls die" (so van Winden, and the translation quoted by Fudge).63 Van Winden, like Fudge, infers that some souls do die, namely those of the wicked. Whereas "the good souls...do not die any more, the wicked are punished as long as God wants them to be punished, and then die."64 The problem with this interpretation is that Justin's old man objects to the idea of souls dying precisely because this would be a boon to the wicked. This makes it unlikely that the old man expected the souls of the wicked to be finally annihilated. In Dialogue 5.4-5, the old man adds that the soul, like the world itself,
can be destroyed, since it is a created thing, but...will not be destroyed or be destined for destruction since such is the will of God...For, whatever exists or shall exist after God has a nature subject to corruption, and therefore capable of complete annihilation, for only God is unbegotten and incorruptible.65
Thus, the point of the old man's statement that the wicked "will be subjected to punishment as long as God allows them to exist" is that God could annihilate the souls of the wicked, not necessarily that he will do so. The passage continues, "This is also the reason why souls die and are punished" (Dial. 5.5). Since, if the old man/Justin expects souls ever to die, this would only be after the judgment day, "souls die" (present indicative) cannot be taken as a concrete statement here; it is a philosophical statement of an abstract truth: "souls die," i.e., are mortal. As the old man adds in Dialogue 6.1-2,
the soul partakes of life because God wishes it to live. It will no longer partake of life whenever God doesn't wish it to live... whenever the soul must cease to live, the spirit of life is taken from it and it is no more, but it likewise returns to the place of its origin.66
As van Winden explains, this passage, after arguing that the soul comes to an end, then explains "how the soul comes to an end."67 Again, these are abstract statements about the soul. The soul is not intrinsically immortal; it partakes of life as long as God wills this, and when he no longer wills this, it ceases to exist. The question is, when and indeed whether God ever wills for the souls of the wicked to cease to exist. Abundant evidence from the rest of the Dialogue and the Apologies suggests that Justin's answer is "No"; God wills unending punishment for the wicked. Again, even in the immediate context, the old man states that soul death would be a boon to the wicked.

When interpreting Dialogue 5.3-6.2 it is important to remember that the main topic at hand in this passage is not Christian eschatology (hence the absence of any mention of resurrection or eternal fire) but philosophical anthropology: the nature of the soul. The main point is that souls are not (contra Platonism) intrinsically indestructible, but exist only because, and as long as, God wills this. This leaves us with two possibilities: either Justin's ideas here contradict his eschatology as stated elsewhere, or his unstated corollary here is that the souls of the wicked, though essentially mortal, will not actually die because God wills them to be punished perpetually. (In fact, according to 1 Apology 8.4 it is not only the soul but also the body that is punished eternally.) Scholars such as van Winden and Bobichon prefer the incoherence solution,68 but I think that where a coherent synthesis is possible—as it is in this case—this synthesis is a better solution than positing that Justin's theology was self-contradictory. What is beyond doubt is that, outside of Dialogue 4.6-6.2, Justin consistently takes a traditionalist view of final punishment.


Due to the length of my interaction with Fudge's chapter 24, I will just briefly describe his subsequent chapters on church history. The Apologists of the late second and early third centuries (Tatian, Athenagoras, Tertullian, but not Irenaeus) are the first Christians whom Fudge unambiguously acknowledges to have believed in unending conscious punishment (in chapter 25, "The Apologists: A Fire That Torments"). Consequently, at this point Fudge shifts from describing early Christian authors' views on final punishment to rebutting them, which is in my view not a very sound historical method.

In chapter 26 ("Apokatastasis: A Fire That Purifies"), Fudge discusses the views of Clement of Alexandria and Origen and uses the opportunity to discuss and rebut the doctrine of universal salvation. (He does not, however, interact at length with the Catholic doctrine of purgatory.) Fudge makes one glaring error in his description of Clement of Alexandria's views: he attributes to Clement a passage from the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions (p. 400), which depict themselves as written by Clement of Rome (not Clement of Alexandria), but which are believed by modern scholars to be a fourth-century work that drew on an earlier novel composed c. 220 C.E. by a Syrian Jewish Christian.69 The Recognitions have nothing to do with Clement of Alexandria!

In chapter 27, Fudge offers a detailed discussion of the views of Arnobius (the first Christian writer to defend a doctrine of annihilationism in detail), and briefer comments on the views of other writers from the fourth and fifth centuries, such as Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, and Ambrose of Milan. At the end of chapter 27 and through chapter 28, Fudge interacts in detail with the views of Augustine of Hippo, whom he views as instrumental in solidifying eternal torment as orthodox Christian doctrine (p. 432).

In chapter 29 ("Middle Ages to Reformation"), Fudge discusses the views of medieval theologians Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas Aquinas, and then those of the Reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin (as well as William Tyndale and the Anabaptists). In chapter 30, he gives special attention to John Calvin's efforts to combat the Anabaptist idea of soul sleep.

In chapter 31 ("An Old Tradition Questioned"), Fudge notes that the traditionalist view of unending conscious torment had become "the fixed orthodoxy of the Roman Catholic Church" from Augustine's time, and had a secure place in Protestant doctrine as well due to "the backing of Calvin and Luther, but especially that of the creed writers Bullinger and Melanchton" (p. 479). He then documents how various nonconformist individuals and movements of the 17th to 19th centuries challenged the traditional view of hell. In chapter 32 ("Roots of the Current Recovery"), Fudge discusses the resurgence of conditionalism in 20th-century Evangelical circles. Despite the rise of fundamentalism, which made traditionalism a non-negotiable and stifled debate on the subject, three British scholars helped the conditionalist cause to gain momentum: Harold Ernest Guillebaud, Basil F. C. Atkinson, and John W. Wenham. At this point in the narrative, Fudge begins to weave in his own story. Fudge wrote what he describes as a "largely noncontroversial" 1976 article in Christianity Today entitled, "Putting Hell in Its Place," and was subsequently commissioned by an Australian theologian to carry out a research project that led to the publication of The Fire That Consumes in 1982. In chapter 33 ("The Evangelical Recovery Continues"), Fudge discusses the momentum that annihilationism has gained in recent years, naming numerous prominent biblical scholars and theologians who have "publicly rejected traditionalism's doctrine of unending conscious torment" (p. 505). He states that annihilationism "now appears poised to enjoy exponential growth for many years to come." In this chapter he also documents some of the recent Evangelical efforts to defend the traditionalist view and refute annihilationism.

In chapter 34 ("A Kinder and Gentler Traditionalism"), Fudge argues that many traditionalists today have shied away from preaching on hell. He contrasts those who follow in Jonathan Edwards' footsteps with fire-and-brimstone preaching with those who "cower in embarrassment at his name" (p. 523). However, Fudge thinks the fire-and-brimstone approach is more justifiable: "If the wicked are to be made immortal for the purpose of enduring everlasting torture in agony," he says, writers who make this very plain "do sinners an inestimable favor" (p. 530). His main point in this chapter is that "Traditionalism's problem is not that it is unsympathetic but that it is unscriptural." In other words, the doctrine cannot be rescued by toning it down; it must be abandoned because it is false. I personally believe that the shying away from hellfire preaching in contemporary pulpits reflects postmodern society's high valuation of tolerance at the expense of divine judgment, and not pastors' misgivings with traditionalism specifically. I am skeptical that annihilationist pastors today preach their idea of hellfire with much more enthusiasm than do traditionalist pastors.


In chapter 35 ("Refreshing the Memory"), Fudge recapitulates his main arguments and interacts once more with "some of the sidetracks, arguments, and objections that have appeared along the way" (p. 532). After briefly highlighting various biblical images of punishment and attendant theological issues, Fudge avers that
One issue alone divides traditionalists and conditionalists: Does Scripture teach that God will make the wicked immortal, to suffer unending conscious torment in hell? Or does the Bible teach that the wicked will finally and truly die, perish, and become extinct forever, through a destructive process that encompasses whatever degree and duration of conscious torment God might sovereignly and justly impose in each individual case? (p. 538)
Fudge thinks that the evidence is "clear and uncomplicated" and points decisively to the second view. In chapter 36 ("Afterword"), Fudge briefly discusses the matter of burden of proof, as well as the distinction between issues and people. He warns against the temptation "to think of one's own view as a badge of faithfulness to God, and to demonize any who differ" (p. 542), i.e. "the sectarian impulse." Fudge expresses his view that the doctrine of hell is a serious matter but is not an essential doctrine of Christianity nor a definitive component of an Evangelical identity.


In this three-part series I have interacted at length with Edward Fudge's influential book, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment. Although meticulous in its argumentation, Fudge's work in my opinion does not present a compelling case for annihilationism. It does not adequately address the weight of evidence for a traditional view of hell represented by those New Testament documents that belong to what I have called (following Alan E. Bernstein) the "symmetrical tradition"—especially the Synoptic Gospels and Revelation. As we saw in the first part of the review, the "unending conscious torment" view did not originate in patristic Christianity, nor in the New Testament, but in Second Temple Judaism, including in works such as 1 Enoch and Judith (the latter part of Sacred Scripture in the Catholic tradition) whose ideas unquestionably influenced early Christian apocalyptic eschatology. The Second Temple Jewish and early Christian "symmetrical tradition" was in turn influenced by certain key texts from the Hebrew Bible such as Isaiah 66:24 and Daniel 12:2.

Since the scope of Fudge's book was "Biblical and Historical," the scope of my review has likewise focused more on exegesis of biblical and ancient extra-biblical texts than on systematic theology. In closing I just want to make a couple of theological comments. The first is that the biblical language about the punishments of hell, like the language about God, about eternal life and about other transcendent realities, is analogical rather than literal. N.T. Wright has appropriately described biblical eschatology in terms of sign-posts pointing into a fog. We cannot claim that any one biblical image of hell—whether as a fiery furnace, a dark prison, a place of exile, torture, destruction, (second) death—is definitive while others are metaphorical. All of these images gesture toward an awful reality. Many traditionalist theologians today describe the punishments of hell more in terms of psychological suffering than physical suffering, perhaps with some justification. Imagery that sounds like annihilation—destruction, perishing, death—is part of the picture: hell represents the total and final ruination of a human person and the loss of all that can be called life. In this very important respect, traditionalists and annihilationists are on the same page. However, in view of the whole range of images and descriptions revealed by God, the Catholic Church has since antiquity taught, and continues to teach, that the destruction of hell does not entail an end of all existence. That view, as we have seen in this third part of the review, was presupposed in some of the earliest Christian literature outside the New Testament.

One of the main theological problems with the doctrine of hell is one of theodicy: how can a righteous and loving God consign people to unending conscious torment? A "biblical and historical" review is not the place to offer a detailed answer to this legitimate philosophical question. However, a couple of brief comments are in order. First, we humans may not have as complete a grasp either of the magnitude of sin or of the exact nature of eternal punishment as we think we have, which means we are not well positioned to question God's judgment in this matter (think of Paul's potter-clay metaphor). Second, a pertinent issue that I touched on briefly in the first part of this review is that of the philosophy of time. We may be wrong if we assume that eternity as an unending epoch of time as we currently experience it, so notions of "unending" or "eternal" punishment built on this assumption may well be unfounded. Third, it does not automatically follow that for God to annihilate the wicked would be either more good or more merciful than for God to consign them to unending conscious torment. Fudge himself appears to argue (pp. 212-13) that annihilation is no less severe a punishment than unending conscious punishment.

Fourth, some would argue that a finite human being cannot do enough sins (or a great enough sin) in a finite lifetime to deserve punishment of infinite duration. Medieval theologians such as Anselm of Canterbury countered that punishment is infinite because the sinner has sinned against an infinite God, and no finite duration of punishment will qualify as satisfaction for this debt. We can also add that the premise of the argument is flawed: a finite human being can in a finite lifetime commit sins of infinite proportions. Consider the sin of scandal: leading others into sin. This sin is described in Scripture as particularly egregious. Of all the evil kings of the northern kingdom of Israel, none is condemned as frequently in 1-2 Kings as Jeroboam son of Nebat, who is named repeatedly as the one "who caused Israel to sin" (1 Kings 22:53 etc.), the archetypal bad king. Jesus speaks about the sin of scandal in Luke 17:1-2, warning that a gruesome execution compares favourably with the punishment for this sin. If I lead someone else into sin, and thereby cause them to miss out on eternal life, the consequences of my sin are unending. As long as the eternal reward of the blessed endures, that person is excluded from it because of my sin. Now, everyone commits sins that amount to scandal, inasmuch as every sin that is known to others sets a bad example for those others. In that sense, we are all guilty of contributing to the guilt of others and therefore the loss of eternal life for others. Since our sins have consequences that are never repaired but endure forever, it follows that we merit punishment that is not relieved but endures forever. Only God in his mercy can deliver us from this fate worse than death.

Footnotes

  • 1 Alan E. Bernstein, The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993).
  • 2 This, of course, does not mean that their doctrinal teachings are infallible, so in fact Catholics may disagree with particular teachings of Doctors of the Church, but will generally approach them with a greater degree of reverence than Protestants. If Fudge is correct in characterising Gregory of Nazianzus as skeptical about eternal torment (he devotes only a couple of sentences to this Cappadocian Father, on p. 428), then this is one Doctor of the Church whose ideas on final punishment did not align with what became official Church doctrine.
  • 3 Chapters 6-11 of the Ascension of Isaiah, which are believed to have been composed before chapters 1-5, have little to say about eschatological punishment. However, in Ascension of Isaiah 10.8, the Father commands Christ to "descend through all the heavens" (for the incarnation), and specifies, "You shall descend through the firmament and through that world as far as the angel who (is) in Sheol, but you shall not go as far as Perdition" (trans Michael A. Knibb, in OTP 1:173). Norelli comments that this statement, which is found only in the Ethiopic text, seems to refer to an area of hell (viewed as a subterranean region) other than Sheol, and seemingly the place of imprisonment—whether temporary or definitive—of those dead who have no hope of salvation. He adds that for the author of this passage, Perdition already contains the damned (since Christ is specifically ordered not to descend there) (Enrico Norelli, Ascensio Isaiae: Commentarius [Turnhout: Brepols, 1995], 508-509). In chapters 1-5, the author describes the second coming of the Beloved, and states that the Lord "will drag Beliar, and his hosts also, into Gehenna" (Ascen. Isa. 4.14). He adds that "There will be a resurrection and a judgment in their midst in those days, and the Beloved will cause fire to rise from him, and it will consume all the impious, and they will become as if they had not been created" (Ascen. Isa. 4.18). Since chapters 1-5 give no evidence that anything other than annihilation is envisioned for the wicked, this is best understood as a description of annihilating fire. Norelli regards this passage as teaching annihilation of wicked humans but not necessarily of Beliar (Satan) (Commentarius, 274-75).
  • 4 Hermas speaks of the eschatological fate of the wicked primarily in terms of death (Vis. 1.3.7; Mand. 12.1.2; 12.2.2-3; Sim. 5.7.2; 8.6.4-6; 9.18.2; 9.20.4; 9.26.2; 9.32.4-5), though other texts use metaphors of exclusion and banishment (Vis. 3.9.5-6; Sim. 1.5; 9.14.2; 9.15.3), or of captivity and imprisonment ("death and captivity," Vis. 1.1.8; "lest by denying [the Lord] you get thrown in prison," Sim. 9.28.7), suggesting that "death" may not entail annihilation. The apocalypse's only reference to "torments" refers to temporary, purgatorial torments that can lead to repentance and salvation, but can also lead to death (Vis. 3.7.5-6; Sim. 6.3-5). Echoing a dominical saying, Hermas warns the disobedient that "it would have been better for them not to have been born" (Vis. 4.2.6). Similitudes 4.4, in an agricultural parable, foretells that the sinners, likened to withered and fruitless trees, will "be burned as firewood" in the world to come. Similitudes 6.2.1-4 states that those who live in luxury will be destroyed, "some to death and some to corruption." Hermas asks for clarification on what "to death" and "to corruption" mean, and the angelus interpres explains that "corruption has some hope of renewal, but death has only eternal destruction (apōleian aiōnion)." It is not entirely clear whether this "death" or "eternal destruction" entails annihilation or torment. Hermas never describes death in terms of annihilation, and he seems to use the term "death" to describe the (potentially temporary) torments and punishments that come upon the deceived (Sim. 6.5.3-4). Moreover, it is clear that Hermas does not equate physical death with non-existence, since Similitudes 9.16.5-6 states that the apostles, after falling asleep, "preached also to those who had previously fallen asleep". All things considered, Hermas belongs to the positive tradition rather than the symmetrical tradition, since his dominant language for the eschatological fate is that of death and destruction, but his witness is consistent with traditionalism, and his language of punishment and torment is actually mainly concerned with a temporary purgatorial state.
  • 5 For text and translation of Apocalypse of Peter, see Dennis D. Buchholz, Your Eyes Will Be Opened: A Study of the Greek (Ethiopic) Apocalypse of Peter (Atlanta: Scholars, 1988). All translations herein are from Buchholz. The Apocalypse of Peter's prologue describes the apocalypse's content as "about those dead who die from their sins because they did not observe the laws of God who made them." Peter is shown "how the righteous and sinners will be separated...and how the evildoers will be rooted out forever and ever" (Apoc. Pet. 3.2-3). The apocalypse continues with description of "the river of fire which does not go out, a fire which flames as it burns" (Apoc. Pet. 5.8), a "devouring fire" (Apoc. Pet. 6.4). The fate of "the evildoers and the sinners and the hypocrites" is that they "will stand among the abysses of the darkness which does not go out and their punishment (is) the fire. And the angels will bring their sins and prepare for them a place where they will be punished forever, each one according to his guilt" (Apoc. Pet. 6.5-6). The work proceeds to give a tour of hell that describes particular torments assigned to particular types of sinners (idolaters, adulterers, etc.) It is apparent that the punishment is conscious and unending: "And they are punished without rest while their pain is felt by them. And their worm multiplies like through a cloud of darkness" (Apoc. Pet. 7.9); "they are set on it that they might be punished (with) a punishment of pain which does not end" (Apoc. Pet. 9.6); "Other men and women from a height throw themselves headlong. And again, they return and run and demons force them... And they force them to the end of existence and they throw (themselves) over. And this like this they do continually. They are punished forever." (Apoc. Pet. 10.2-3); "With one voice [and] all of those who are in punishment will say, 'Have mercy on us, for now we have learned the judgment of God which he told us beforehand and we did not believe.' And the angel Tatirokos will come and rebuke them with punishment increasingly and he said to them, 'Now you repent when there is no time for repentance and life did not remain.'" (Apoc. Pet. 13.4-5).
  • 6 Fudge states (p. 387 n. 9) that his quotations from the Apostolic Fathers are his translations of Bihlmeyer's Greek text (published in 1924). The only other texts and translations that he mentions are the Ante-Nicene Christian Library (edited by Roberts and Donaldson, 1867-85), J.B. Lightfoot's edition (1869-77), and Goodspeed's (1950). Available to Fudge at the time of his first edition of The Fire That Consumes, but not consulted, were Robert M. Grant's translation and commentary (1964-68) and the relevant volumes from the highly respected Sources Chretiennes series (published continuously from the 1940s onward). New critical texts, translations, and commentaries that appeared after the first but before the third edition of The Fire That Consumes, and also not consulted, include the Hermeneia series (1980s to present), Holmes's critical text and translation (1992; 2nd edition 2007), Ehrman's critical text and translation (2003), and the German Kommentar zu den Apostolischen Vätern series (1991-2007). In discussing Justin Martyr, Fudge cites only the 19th-century edition of Roberts and Donaldson, and not the more recent critical texts and/or translations of, for instance, Falls (1948; revised by Halton and Slusser, 2003), Marcovich (1997) or Bobichon (2003) (for the Dialogue with Trypho) or Marcovich (2005) or Minns and Parvis (2009) (for the Apologies).
  • 7 Trans. Michael W. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 252-53.
  • 8 Although some scholars regard the Didache as dependent on Matthew and others regard Matthew as dependent on the Didache, the scholarly consensus is that there is no literary dependence between the two but rather use of shared traditions (implying a similar religio-historical context). See Aaron Milavec, "A Rejoinder," Journal of Early Christian Studies 13 (2005): 519-23.
  • 9 Evidence for the content of the Didache's lost ending consists of a fourth-century text called Apostolic Constitutions that includes a loose paraphrase of the Didache, and a late Georgian version of the Didache. Robert E. Aldridge renders the Apostolic Constitutions ending—which he thinks "may be accepted as the Didache's proximate true ending"—thus: "8 Then the world will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven with the angels of His power, in the throne of His kingdom, 9 to condemn the devil, the deceiver of the world, and to render to every one according to his deeds. 10 Then shall the wicked go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous shall enter eternal life, 11 to inherit those things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, such things as God hath prepared for them that love Him. 12 And they shall rejoice in the kingdom of God, which is in Christ Jesus" ("The Lost Ending of the Didache," Vigiliae Christianae 53 [1999]: 12-13). Kurt Niederwimmer renders the ending of the Georgian version of the Didache thus: "(coming with the clouds) with power and great glory, in order to repay every human being according to his [or her] works in his holy righteousness, before the whole human race and before the angels. Amen" (The Didache: A Commentary [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998], 226-27). Only the Apostolic Constitutions ending has the reference to "everlasting punishment." Given that the Apostolic Constitutions' ending is more verbose than both the surviving portion of the Didache's apocalyptic ending (Did. 16.1-8) and the Georgian version's ending, and that the Apostolic Constitutions' reference to "everlasting punishment" can be explained as an interpolation drawn from Matthew 25:46, on the whole it seems unlikely that the Didache's lost ending referred to everlasting punishment.
  • 10 Possibly the Book of Eldad and Modad. See Dale C. Allison, Jr., "Eldad and Modad," Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 21 (2011): 99-131.
  • 11 For example, the writer gives a series of biblical examples of the negative consequences of jealousy in 1 Clement 4. The examples include "Jealousy brought Dathan and Abiram down alive into Hades" (1 Clem. 4.12), but this is merely a paraphrase of Numbers 16:33 LXX and thus provides little information about the author's understanding of Hades. In 1 Clement 14.5 and 22.6 the writer quotes from two psalms (36:35-37 LXX and 33:12-18 LXX) that refer to the end of the wicked. The one psalm states that the ungodly "was no more," and the other that "the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to destroy any remembrance of them from the earth." Undoubtedly these psalms referred in their original grammatical-historical context to physical death and the end of one's family line, but it is not clear what kind of eschatological meaning the author of 1 Clement might have assigned to these statements. In 1 Clement 11.1, the writer alludes to Lot's rescue from Sodom and the judgment of the region "by fire and sulfur." His theological inference: "The Master thus made it clear that he does not abandon those who hope in him, but hands over to punishment and torment (eis kolasin kai aikismon tithēsin) those who turn away" (trans. Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers [2 vols.; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003], 53-55; Holmes renders the last clause, "but destines to punishment and torment those who turn aside" [Apostolic Fathers, 41]). The writer thus implies that "punishment and torment" are in store for the ungodly, and he adds that Lot's wife is a "sign" of such judgment. For other allusions to divine judgments from the biblical past, see 1 Clem. 17.5; 51.3-5; and a lengthy quotation from Prov. 1:23-33 in 1 Clem. 57.3-7, which is said to describe "the dangers foretold by Wisdom, which threaten the disobedient" (1 Clem. 58.1; trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:139).
  • 12 Trans. Holmes, Apostolic Fathers, 75.
  • 13 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:167.
  • 14 This passage reads, "5 This means that he was to save those who were perishing. 6 For it is a great and astonishing feat to fix in place something that is toppling over, not something that is standing. 7 Thus also Christ wished to save what was perishing. And he did save many; for he came and called us while we were on the brink of destruction" (Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:169).
  • 15 See discussion of "throwing out" language in the Gospels in Part 2.
  • 16 2 Clement's form of the saying is distinct from both Matthew's and Luke's and is the most detailed of the three: "Jesus said to Peter, 'After they are dead, the sheep should fear the wolves no longer. So too you: do not fear those who kill you and then can do nothing more to you; but fear the one who, after you die, has the power to cast your body and soul into the hell [lit. Gehenna] of fire'" (trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:171-73). Like Matthew, 2 Clement is explicit that it is both body and soul that are punished in Gehenna; like Luke, 2 Clement is explicit that this punishment takes place after death and that Gehenna is a place into which one's body and soul can be "thrown." Thus, 2 Clement clearly does not conceive of the punishment of Gehenna as a definitive but merely physical execution; he conceives of it as a transcendent postmortem punishment. Moreover, 2 Clement conceives of the soul as something that can be spatially "thrown," and thus not as a mere abstraction like "life-force."
  • 17 The same phrase occurs in Matt. 25:46, where it is equivalent to "eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (25:41)—unquestionably a transcendent punishment. Fudge takes "eternal punishment" to denote annihilation with unending consequences. However, as discussed in note 12 of Part 2 of this review, the same phrase is used in 4 Maccabees interchangeably with "eternal torment."
  • 18 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:175-77.
  • 19 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:195.
  • 20 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:177.
  • 21 This passage also uses a pottery metaphor in which once the potter "has already put [the vessel] in the kiln (eis tēn kaminon), he can no longer fix it" (2 Clem. 8.3). The Greek word kaminos is the same word used in Matt. 13:42, 50 to describe Gehenna as a "furnace."
  • 22 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:257-59.
  • 23 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:241. Holmes has "to live forever in Jesus Christ" (Apostolic Fathers, 151).
  • 24 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:235-37.
  • 25 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:245.
  • 26 Trans. Ehrmans, Apostolic Fathers, 1:301.
  • 27 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:297.
  • 28 Trans. Holmes, Apostolic Fathers, 186. Ehrman translates differently: "and it will happen to them just as they think, since they are without bodies, like the daimons" (Apostolic Fathers, 1:297). Ehrman's translation has Ignatius explaining a future prediction ("it will happen to them") with reference to a present reality ("since they are without bodies"), which makes little sense. With Holmes, it seems preferable to take the final clause (ousin asōmatois kai daimonikois) as subordinate to the prior ones (kai kathōs phronousin, kai sumbēsetai autois). My translation would be: "And just as they think, so it will happen to them, [namely] being bodiless and demon-like."
  • 29 Apostolic Fathers, 1:362.
  • 30 The text also predicts that those members of Polycarp's household who betrayed him to the Roman authorities would "suffer the punishment of Judas himself" (M. Polyc. 6.2), but does not give any further details about the nature of this punishment.
  • 31 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:369.
  • 32 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 1:383. I have replaced Ehrman's translation of kolasis, "torment," with "punishment," which is the more common translation of this word. Holmes translates "eternal punishment" here (Apostolic Fathers, 236).
  • 33 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 2:17, 25.
  • 34 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 2:25.
  • 35 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 2:81. I have added the square brackets to indicate that these words are not in the Greek.
  • 36 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 2:143.
  • 37 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 2:147.
  • 38 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 2:151.
  • 39 Trans. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 2:153-55. Square brackets have been added around the words "of time" since these are not in the Greek.
  • 40 See Diog. 5.12: "They (Christians) are put to death and made alive."
  • 41 Justin refers to "eternal fire" (apart from quotations of dominical sayings) in 1 Apol. 12.2, 17.4, 21.6, 45.6, 52.3; 2 Apol. 1.2, 2.2, 6.5, 7.3-4, and 9.1. He refers to "eternal punishment" in Dial. 117.3, 1 Apol. 12.1, and 18.2, and to "Gehenna" in 1 Apol. 19.7-8. Other references to eschatological punishment by fire are found in Dial. 35.8, 45.4, 47.4, 116.2, 117.3, 120.5; 1 Apol. 28.1 and 54.2. Direct quotations of sayings of Jesus or John the Baptist are found in Dial. 49.3 (cf. Matt. 3:11-12), Dial. 76.4-5 (cf. Matt. 7:22-23; 8:11-12; 25:30, 41; Luke 13:28), 120.5-6 (cf. Matt. 8:11-12; Luke 13:28), 122.1 (cf. Matt. 23:15), 140.3-4 (cf. Matt. 8:11-12; Luke 13:28), 1 Apol. 15.2 (cf. Matt. 5:29; 18:9), 16.2 (cf. Matt. 5:22), 16.12-13 (cf. Matt. 3:10; 7:19; 8:12; 13:42, 50), 17.4 (cf. Luke 12:48), 19.7 (cf. Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:4-5). Some of these quotations do not exactly correspond to the Gospel sayings they parallel.
  • 42 See Dialogue 76.4-5, where Justin paraphrases the saying of Matt. 25:41 as "Depart into outer darkness, which the Father has prepared for Satan and his angels" (Matthew has "Depart...into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels"). See also Dialogue 120.5-6, where a saying of Jesus about the "outer darkness" is quoted as proof that Christ will condemn some to "unquenchable fire."
  • 43 Trans. Slusser 196; text in Bobichon 1:534.
  • 44 Text and translation Minns and Parvis 210-13.
  • 45 Text and translation Minns and Parvis 234-37.
  • 46 My translation. The adverb apaustōs is a form of the verb pauō that Justin uses in his paraphrase of Isa. 66:24 (as was noted above).
  • 47 Similarly, in Dialogue 117.3, Justin contrasts those who will be made "incorruptible, immortal, and free from pain" with those whom Christ will dispatch "into the eternal punishment of fire." Of course, annihilation also entails freedom from pain, so it is odd that the language of "freedom from pain" should be used so prominently of the righteous (see also Dial. 46.7; 69.7) if he thought this was the lot of the unrighteous as well.
  • 48 Text in Minns and Parvis 210-13.
  • 49 Text and translation Minns and Parvis 122-23.
  • 50 The adjective aperantos means literally "endless" or "without completion" (cf. BDAG 101). Text and translation Minns and Parvis 158-59.
  • 51 Text and translation Minns and Parvis 298-99.
  • 52 All translations from 1 Apology 44 are from Minns and Parvis 194-95.
  • 53 The 19th-century edition used by Fudge has the relevant passage as chapter 7; recent critical texts such as Minns and Parvis have it as chapter 6.
  • 54 See Anthony Preus, Historical Dictionary of Ancient Greek Philosophy (2nd edn; Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 140.
  • 55 Minns and Parvis, 291, render the verbal expression epimenō...mē poiēsai as "refrains from bringing about," while the translation used by Fudge renders it "delays causing." Kyle Pope renders the phrase "waits and does not cause" (The Second Apology of Justin Martyr: with Text and Translation [Shawnee Mission: Ancient Road Publications, 2001)], 25).
  • 56 Trans. Minns and Parvis 291.
  • 57 Minns and Parvis state, "Although he does not believe the soul to be inherently immortal (D 5.3; 6.1-2), Justin does not mean that wicked angels, demons, and human beings will cease to exist, but that they will be punished everlastingly (2A 7.3; 1A 28.1; 52.3; D 117.3)" (Justin: Philosopher and Martyr, 291 n. 1).
  • 58 The Platonists, says Justin, "conclude that they will not be punished even if they are guilty of sin; for, if the soul is incorporeal, it cannot suffer; if it is immortal, it needs nothing further from God" (trans. Slusser 4). On the identity of the philosophies Justin is denouncing here, see J. C. M. van Winden, An Early Christian Philosopher: Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho, Chapters One to Nine: Introduction, Text and Commentary (Leiden: Brill, 1971), 39.
  • 59 This is the old man's statement, and Justin explicitly agrees with it: "'No, indeed,' I conceded" (trans. Slusser 11).
  • 60 Trans. Slusser 11-12.
  • 61 "Since the soul had a beginning, it is necessary that it is essentially perishable, i.e., can be non-existing. This does not mean that it has an end. In fact, this is the opinion of the old man (Dial. 5, 3)" (van Winden, Early Christian Philosopher, 88).
  • 62 van Winden, Early Christian Philosopher, 92.
  • 63 van Winden: "'But, on the other hand, nor do I contend that all souls die, for that would indeed be some good luck for the bad...'" (Early Christian Philosopher, 90).
  • 64 van Winden, Early Christian Philosopher, 90.
  • 65 Trans. Slusser 12.
  • 66 Trans. Slusser 13.
  • 67 van Winden, Early Christian Philosopher, 101. He adds: "The death of the soul, treated by the old man in the second part of the passage, is described as a process exactly parallel with bodily death. When this comes to man, the soul leaves the body and he exists no more. In the same manner, when death comes to the soul, the life-giving spirit leaves the soul and the soul is no more. In other words, just as man is compounded of corporeal matter and soul, so the soul is a compound of soul matter and life-giving spirit. And just as at corporeal death the bodily matter (=the body) reverts to the earth from which it was taken, so, the soul matter (=the soul) goes back whence it was taken" (van Winden, Early Christian Philosopher, 101).
  • 68 van Winden comments that what the old man defends in Dialogue 5.3-6.2 "clearly conflicts with what Justin teaches on the matter elsewhere...the theory of the death of the wicked soul contradicts Justin's statements elsewhere" (Early Christian Philosopher, 106). van Winden's solution to the contradiction is simply to acknowledge it: "In the time of first confrontations of Christianity with philosophy the Christian problem of the here-after could as yet not be worked out, also because the Scriptures are not always clear either. Hence it had to happen that the first centuries of Christian philosophizing at times embodied inconsistencies" (Early Christian Philosopher, 108). Bobichon concurs that "Les affirmations que contiennent le Dialogue et l'Apologie à propos de la survie des âmes et de la durée du châtiment ne paraissent pas toujours cohérentes" (2:592-93).
  • 69 See F. Stanley Jones, "Jewish Christianity of the Pseudo-Clementines," in A Companion to Second-Century Christian 'Heretics', ed. Antti Marjanen and Petri Luomanen (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 315-34.
  • 70