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Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Review of "The Fire That Consumes" by Edward W. Fudge (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a three-part review of The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment by the late Edward W. Fudge (3rd ed.; Eugene: Cascade, 2011; 593 pages.) In Part 1 I looked at Fudge's introduction and epistemology, his treatment of the Old Testament, and his treatment of Second Temple Jewish literature (chapters 1 to 10). In this second part, I review the Fudge's chapters that discuss the New Testament (chapters 11 to 23). The third part of this review will attend to his treatment of other early Christian literature, and his theological findings (chapters 24 to 36).

The Positive Tradition and the Symmetrical Tradition
Chapters 11 to 15: Jesus
  Gehenna: Jewish Background  
  Gehenna in Mark  
  Gehenna in Matthew  
  Gehenna in Luke  
  Other Terms for the Same Place of Punishment  
  Imprisonment and Torture  
  Non-Existence and Execution vs. Eschatological Punishment  
  The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus  
  The Gospel (and Letters) of John  
Chapters 16 and 17: Golgotha: Judgment Revealed
Chapters 18 to 20: Paul's Letters
Chapter 21: Hebrews, James, and Acts
Chapter 22: 1-2 Peter and Jude
Chapter 23: Revelation
  Fiery Torment without Relief  
  The Lake of Fire  
  The Second Death: No Mere Repeat of the First  
  The Final Picture of the New Jerusalem: Evil not Absent but Outside  
Conclusion on New Testament


Before turning to the New Testament (or rather Fudge's treatment thereof), I would like to draw attention to an insightful distinction made by Bernstein in his book The Formation of Hell (an important historical study of belief in hell that unfortunately does not feature in Fudge's bibliography).1 Bernstein distinguishes between two strands of tradition on the fate of the ungodly within the New Testament, which he calls the positive tradition and the symmetrical tradition. The positive tradition, exemplified by the letters of Paul and the Gospel of John,
recognizes the need of assent from fortunate human beings who have been given the opportunity of redemption, and it states with varying degrees of clarity the possibility that not all will respond positively. Failure to respond earns the wrath of God expressed as a denial of eternal life, exclusion from the kingdom. Although they deny the reward of the blessed to those who are excluded, these positive texts do not actually describe the consequence of exclusion or the nature of any further existence.2
Thus, New Testament writers in the positive tradition regard the unsaved as headed toward an "indeterminate wrath or evil fate," which is not specified but in Bernstein's view is best interpreted as annihilation.3 "The symmetrical tradition," writes Bernstein, "leaves no such ambiguity."4 Exemplified by the Synoptic Gospels and the Book of Revelation, the symmetrical tradition does not shy away from describing the fate of the ungodly but explicitly proposes separate, contrasting destinies for the good and the bad: "both fates are described in full."5 Once we recognise that these two traditions coexist in the New Testament we can let Paul be Paul and Matthew be Matthew, interpreting each writer's language on its own terms and only then attempting a theological synthesis.

Fudge devotes five chapters to the teachings of Jesus concerning hell, and rightly so, since Jesus has a great deal to say in the Gospels about the fate of the ungodly.6 Fudge divides up the material thematically, with "fire" as the organising principle: chapter 11 covers "Fire (Gehenna)," chapter 12 "Fire (Gehenna Not Named)," chapter 13 "Fire (Parable of the Sheep and the Goats)," chapter 14 "Fire (Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus)," and chapter 15 "Non-Fire Images." It might have been wiser to consider the individual Gospels separately, since the distinct eschatological emphases of the different Evangelists are blurred by considering them all together.7 Be that as it may, Fudge begins by discussing the background to the term Gehenna. There is, in fact, no pre-Christian use of the term "Gehenna" apart from the Septuagint, where it refers merely to the literal Valley of Hinnom. The concept of Gehenna as the place of eschatological punishment appears to have developed out of Jeremiah's prophecy that the Valley of Ben-Hinnom would become a place of slaughter due to the abominable idolatry practiced there (Jer. 7:31-32; 19:2-6) together with the imagery associated with the outside of Jerusalem in Isa. 66:24 (discussed in Part 1 of this review). Fudge is sympathetic to the idea that the Valley of Hinnom served as a continually burning garbage dump during antiquity, though he acknowledges that "some have asked for more evidence" (p. 182). In fact, the earliest "evidence" for this idea seems to be a comment by a medieval rabbi (c. 1200 C.E.)8 Fudge notes the occurrence of the term in Jewish texts such as 4 Ezra 7.36 and 2 Baruch 59.10-11 (which, however, post-date Jesus' ministry) and the occurrence of the concept (though not the term) in the "accursed valley" outside the transcendent Jerusalem in 1 Enoch 27.2-3 (cf. 90.25-27).9 A well-developed concept of Gehenna is found in rabbinic literature, but cannot be assumed to go back to Jesus' day. Fudge correctly acknowledges (p. 183) that the rabbis were divided on whether the fires and torments of Gehenna would last forever or eventually end.10 We saw in Part 1 of our review that the Hebrew Bible (in Isa. 66:24) already speaks of a punitive fire that will never go out, and that Second Temple Jewish literature—particularly portions of 1 Enoch—speak of transcendent fires that torture angels and men unceasingly. The exegetical question we must ask (but that Fudge does not adequately consider) is whether the Synoptic Gospels' fire of Gehenna is an ordinary physical fire (albeit a very hot and destructive one) or a transcendent, unceasing fire.
Probably the earliest New Testament reference to Gehenna is found in Mark 9:42-48, where the Markan Jesus warns about going "into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire" (eis ten geennan, eis to pur to asbeston). He adds, quoting from Isa. 66:24 LXX, that Gehenna is "where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched'" (hopou ho skōlēx autōn ou teleuta kai to pur ou sbennutai). Now, Fudge thinks that "unquenchable" here (and elsewhere in the Gospels) means that the fire "keeps burning until nothing put in it finally remains" (p. 191). However, Mark has clearly drawn the term "unquenchable" (asbestos) from Isa. 66:24 LXX, where (as discussed in Part 1 of this review) the fire clearly burns indefinitely, "month after month and Sabbath after Sabbath" (v. 23). Moreover, we have seen that already in the second century B.C.E. (Judith 16:17), some readers of Isa. 66:24 were interpreting its fire and worms in terms of unending torment ("they will weep and suffer forever") and not merely unending burning of inanimate corpses. It is not clear which of these two views Mark takes, but Mark 9:42 favourably compares a gruesome form of execution (being cast into the sea with a millstone around one's neck) with Gehenna, suggesting that Gehenna is a fate worse than death.
Most of Matthew's seven uses of Gehenna are too cursory to provide clues about the nature and duration of the punishment.11 However, he too understands it as a place of fire, and "eternal fire" at that (to pur to aiōnion, Matt. 18:8-9). As he had already proposed in Chapter 4 (discussed previously), Fudge takes the word aiōnios ("eternal") here not as infinite in duration but as infinite in consequences and as pertaining to the age to come rather than the present age. However, we have already seen that both Isaiah 66:24 and Second Temple texts that depend on it (e.g., Judith 16:17; 1 Enoch 10.13-14; 23.1-24.1; 103.7-8; 108.3-6, 14-15), including Mark, envision an unending fire. Ceteris paribus, this makes it likely that aiōnios for Matthew likewise denotes the unending duration of the fire (in addition to its transcendent, age-to-come nature).12 Moreover, in a phrase that Fudge passes over far too quickly (pp. 190, 208), Matthew adds that the "eternal fire" was "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41). This detail, which certainly does not come from the Old Testament, strikingly parallels a number of statements in the Enochic corpus that link the eschatological punishment of sinful humans to that of sinful angels. For example, in 1 Enoch 54.1-6, Enoch is shown "a deep valley burning with fire" into which "the kings and the mighty" are thrown. He also sees there "iron chains of immeasurable weight," which "are being prepared for the hosts of Azazel" (who is also called "[the] Satan" in this passage).13 In 1 Enoch 62-63, a judgment scene involving the "Son of Man" sitting "on the throne of his glory" (a striking parallel, given that this phrase occurs only in the Parables of Enoch and in Matthew) ends with the kings and the mighty stuck in "the flame of the torment of Sheol" forever without respite. That Matthew's eternal fire is also prepared for suprahuman beings and that this notion is unmistakably dependent on the Enochic tradition (with its notion of unending torment for angels and humans) provides a compelling argument for interpreting Matthew's Gehenna as a place of unending torment.

Fudge's main argument that the Gospels' Gehenna is a place of annihilation comes from Matt. 10:28, which contrasts "those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" with "the one [i.e., God] who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." Fudge emphatically asserts that "destroy" here refers to annihilation, and there are a number of commentators who agree with him. However, lexical sources and the usage of the verb apollumi and its noun form apoleia confirm that this word connotes total destruction or ruination that may, but does not necessarily, entail the cessation of all existence (cf. Matt. 9:17).14 1 Enoch 10.13-14 speaks of those who are "destroyed" being bound together with the fallen angels in the fiery abyss; clearly such destruction does not entail the end of all existence. The word destroy/destruction also seems not to imply annihilation in 4 Ezra.15 Fudge's exegesis of Matt. 10:28 relies entirely on an assumption about the meaning of apollumi here.16 Fudge believes that Jesus here "equates 'kill' and 'destroy,' making them interchangeable" (p. 188). However, given that this saying is an antithetical parallelism, it seems more likely that "destroy" is intended to contrast with "kill." Moreover, the emphasis in Fudge's exegesis is purely time-oriented: the death that humans inflict is limited by the resurrection, whereas God's killing encompasses "both now and hereafter" (p. 187). Yet Matthew's specific emphasis here is not on the when but on the what and the where. Humans can kill body but not soul; God can destroy body and soul in Gehenna. These last two words are superfluous in Fudge's interpretation, but essential to Matthew's point. Moreover, Matthew elsewhere describes the "furnace of fire" (undoubtedly Gehenna) as a place "where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth" (Matt. 13:42, 50).17 Matthew thus clearly characterises Gehenna as a place of torment and not merely of killing. Unfortunately, in Fudge's discussion of Matt. 13:42 (pp. 204-205) he seems not to notice that Matthew explicitly locates the "wailing and grinding of teeth" in the furnace of fire.
Fudge devotes less attention to the Lucan version of this saying (Luke's sole mention of Gehenna), but Luke clearly depicts Gehenna as a postmortem punishment, a place one can be "thrown into" after having been killed (Luke 12:4-5). Imagery involving being "thrown," for Luke, can refer to being discarded or cast into fire (Luke 3:9; 14:35), but more denotes imprisonment (Luke 12:58; 23:19, 25). In Luke 13:28, Jesus does not name Gehenna but describes the place of punishment simply as "there" or "that place" (ekei), a term also used as a stand-alone designation for the place of eschatological punishment in 1 Enoch 22.11.18 That this place is Gehenna is evident from the idiom "wailing and grinding of teeth," which Matthew locates in the furnace of fire (Gehenna). Notably, the evildoers who are in "that place" have been "thrown out" of the kingdom of God and can see Abraham and the prophets in the kingdom of God—they are unmistakably conscious. If Luke envisioned the new world as a macrocosm of Jerusalem (as was common in apocalyptic Judaism and early Christianity), then it appears that the kingdom of God is the new Jerusalem. The evildoers have been killed, thrown out of the transcendent city and thrown into Gehenna outside, where they remain conscious. This is clear from Matt. 24:51, which says that the master "will dismember (dichotomeō) [the disobedient servant] and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth" (my translation).
Fudge's treatment of non-fire punishment imagery from Jesus' teachings in a separate chapter is unfortunate, since it seems to have caused him to erroneously conclude that such imagery depicts something other than Gehenna, whereas in fact these other texts depict the same place of punishment in different language. Matthew's use of the phrase "wailing and grinding of teeth" (and Luke's, in Luke 13:28) consistently locates this activity too in the place of eschatological punishment—in other words, in Gehenna—using the adverb ekei ("there"; "in that place"): "the outer darkness" (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30), "the furnace of fire" (13:42, 50), "with the hypocrites" (24:51). Crucially, Fudge seems to misconstrue the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" as a prelude to the punishment of Gehenna whereas, in the text, this phrase describes the punishment of Gehenna.19 Although never explicitly located in "Gehenna," it is located in "the furnace of fire," which is obviously synonymous with Gehenna/the eternal fire.20 Nothing in Matthew or Luke suggests that the "throwing out" of evildoers (e.g., into outer darkness) is a separate event that precedes their being "thrown into" Gehenna.21 The outer darkness is Gehenna.22 Fudge also seems to take language of exclusion from God's presence as automatically implying annihilation, since "God is the ground of our being and the only source of our existence" (p. 245), but the Gospels repeatedly describe this exclusion as equivalent to going to a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth—clearly not a description of non-existence.
Fudge notes various other Synoptic Gospel judgment metaphors that he regards as implying annihilation but which are consistent with either annihilation or traditionalism.23  However, I want to comment on a couple of other pictures that seem to explicitly favour traditionalism. One is that of imprisonment with torture. Matthew 5:25-26 and Luke 12:57-59 contain a saying about settling with one's opponent before the matter comes before the courts. While the final saying, "I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny" could relate merely to a this-worldly court situation, the solemn introductory formula "I say to you" suggests an eschatological application:24 failure to settle accounts with God before the final judgment could lead to imprisonment until one's debts have been paid in full (forever?) The eschatological connotation is even clearer in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matt. 18:23-35), which ends thus: "Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart" (NABRE). Like the earlier saying, this one refers to indefinite confinement in a debtors' prison, and in this case the ten-thousand-talent debt is effectively infinite.25 Moreover, the servant is not only thrown in prison but handed over to "the torturers" (tois basanistais). As Reiser points out, the basanos word-group is used in early Jewish literature for "the sufferings of the damned in hell."26 In the Gospels this word occurs in eschatological contexts in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (discussed below) and in the Matthean Gadarene demoniacs story, in which the demon(iac)s express fear of their own eschatological punishment: "They cried out, 'What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?'" The clear implication is that there is an "appointed time" (kairos; cf. Matt. 13:30) when God will torment the demons, and Matt. 25:41 aligns punishment of evil humans with that of evil transcendent beings.

 Non-Existence and Execution vs. Eschatological Punishment

Another significant judgment image is the saying concerning Jesus' betrayer, "It would be better for that man if he had never been born" (Mark 14:21||Matt. 26:24). It appears that Jesus favourably compares non-existence with the eschatological punishment, which is odd if the eschatological punishment is non-existence. Fudge states that "Jesus does not say that this is a fate worse than death, but a fate worse than non-birth" (p. 251). However, another saying of Jesus explicitly compares a horrible execution favourably with the eschatological punishment of those who cause little ones to offend.27 Fudge adds that 1 Enoch 38.2 uses the same better-never-born idiom, in the context of annihilation (as he interprets this text). However, in Part 1 of this review we saw that the Book of Parables—although not necessarily entirely consistent in its eschatology—clearly envisions unending torment for the wicked.28 This Gospel saying once again ties in the eschatological teachings of Jesus on judgment with those of 1 Enoch and the Book of Parables in particular. Moreover, 4 Ezra also contains statements similar to this, and they are explicitly interpreted in terms of postmortem judgment.29 Thus it appears that Jesus' betrayer would have been better off never born because of the punishment that awaits him after death (see below on Acts 1:25).
The final text from the Synoptic Gospels to be considered is the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Fudge is dismissive of the relevance of this passage to his study: this parable "likely was not intended to teach anything on that subject [i.e., hell's torments] at all" (p. 226); he devotes a chapter to it only "because of its long public association with the topic of final punishment." There is indeed debate over whether this parable is intended to teach anything about the afterlife. As I have discussed in more detail elsewhere, some scholars maintain that the afterlife imagery in this story is only incidental to the primary message, which is a moral one. Others go further and claim that the parable intentionally subverts existing Jewish ideas about the afterlife!30 However, a detailed recent monograph by Outi Lehtipuu has, I think, shown conclusively that the parable's afterlife imagery is "believable according to the parameters of [its] cultural world."31 Furthermore, Lehtipuu argues rightly that while the main point of the parable is ethical, "The reversal of fate of the rich man and the poor man in the afterlife is a vital part of the message of repentance and thus central to the story."32 Thus, the story of the selfish rich man suffering fiery torments in an afterlife must be taken seriously as part of Luke's (and Jesus') eschatology. Fudge expresses doubt "that Jesus, merely by relating this revised rabbinical parable, thereby endorses any parabolic details concerning the state of the departed" (p. 231), but this fails to take into account Luke's editorial hand, which weaves the parable seamlessly into the Gospel narrative, its imagery aligned with other Lucan texts on eschatological punishment (e.g., Luke 12:5; 12:59; 13:28).

Fudge seems to think it very significant that the parable describes the place of punishment as Hades rather than Gehenna ("this parable never comes within viewing distance of gehenna," p. 231). In fact, "Hades" may simply function as a translation of "Sheol" here.33 In the Enochic corpus, the place of eschatological punishment is sometimes a valley (presumably Gehenna) but elsewhere is Sheol (1 Enoch 63.10; 103.7).34 Similarly, in 4 Ezra 7.36-38, "the furnace of Gehenna" is also called "the pit of torment," an expression that "indicates the transformation of Sheol to the place of punishment of the wicked."35 The choice of Sheol/Hades rather than Gehenna as the place of punishment may reflect that the afterlife imagery is that of the intermediate state rather than the post-resurrection final judgment. Certainly Lazarus, although in the "bosom of Abraham," remains "dead" (Luke 16:31) from the vantage point of the story. Yet situating the rich man's torments in the intermediate state does not render the parable irrelevant to final punishment.36 The setting of the afterlife imagery in the intermediate state was necessary to make the story's chronology work (i.e. to make feasible a visit from the dead to the rich man's living brothers). Moreover, Luke seems to concentrate on immediate postmortem retribution for the wicked (cf. Luke 12:5, 20) whereas Matthew emphasises retribution at the final judgment.37

The best reason to take the parable's depiction of postmortem punishment seriously is that it aligns closely with other passages in Luke. Most strikingly, in Luke 16:23-26 the rich man can see Abraham despite being physically separated from him, just as the evildoers in Luke 13:28 can see Abraham in the kingdom of God despite being "thrown out" into the place of punishment. Lazarus "in the bosom of Abraham" implies reclining at table with Abraham (cp. John 13:23), just as people in Luke 13:28-29 come to the kingdom of God, where Abraham is, and "recline at table." The association of a subterranean place of punishment with "torment" is paralleled in Luke 8:28-31.38 The disbursement of rewards and punishments after death is paralleled in Luke 23:43 and 12:5 respectively (cf. Acts 7:59),39 while the severity and irreversibility of the punishment is paralleled in Luke 12:59 ("I tell you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.") The afterlife picture of this parable coheres with the afterlife picture of the rest of the Gospel and therefore cannot be dismissed as incidental or irrelevant. The rich man's fate is, in the teaching of the Lucan Jesus, the fate of all the selfish rich who ignore the plight of the poor.

Fudge also treats the Gospel of John in these chapters (and the Letters of John later). As I have already mentioned, I follow Bernstein in assigning the Fourth Gospel to the "positive tradition." John describes the fate of the unredeemed negatively or vaguely: non-entry into the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5), perishing (3:16), abiding "wrath" (3:36), something "worse" than illness (4:14), "condemnation" (5:24, 29), dying in one's sins (8:24), "no inheritance" (13:8), burning in fire (15:5-6), "destruction" (17:12), and "death" (1 John 5:16-17). This ambiguous data is consistent with annihilation and perhaps most plausibly explained in terms of annihilation. However, it is also possible that for pastoral reasons the Fourth Evangelist downplays the idea of hell (notice how, in 1 John 4:18, the same writer sets his love commandment in antithesis with "fear," which "has to do with punishment.") In any case, since there is tension but no contradiction between the symmetrical picture in the Synoptic Gospels and the positive picture in John's Gospel, the theologian's task is not to force them to be saying the same thing but to arrive at a coherent synthesis of the two pictures.


In these two chapters, Fudge offers a formidable argument for annihilationism that is more theological than exegetical. Fudge notes that theologians of various traditions "agree...that the Passion of Jesus Christ uniquely revealed God's judgment against sin—the same judgment that those who knowingly and persistently reject Christ now will face at the end of the world" (p. 262). His argument, then, is that if Jesus suffered the ultimate penalty for sin in our place, then that punishment must correspond to what Jesus actually suffered, which was physical death and not unending torment. A detailed response to this argument is not possible here, since the argument is tied up in the theology of the atonement—itself a complicated matter. I have argued elsewhere that Paul's model of atonement is not one of penal substitution but of participation. Jesus' sinless death condemned sin, opening the way for all who participate in his death through faith and baptism to participate also in his resurrection life. In order for Jesus to condemn sin, it was necessary for him to physically die but not to exhaust divine punishment against sin. Indeed, while Fudge maintains that "The Bible exhausts the vocabulary of dying in speaking of what happened to Jesus" (p. 262), this is clearly not the case. The Bible says that Jesus laid down his life, died, and was killed, but not that he perished, was destroyed, underwent the "second death," was thrown into Gehenna, etc.40 Moreover, while Fudge mentions in passing the ancient doctrine of the Descensus ad Inferos ("Descent into Hades"), this doctrine is not about Christ suffering the torments of hell but about Christ opening the way to heaven for the just who had gone before him, and announcing victory to the powers of darkness. In short, while the Cross of Christ may create a serious theological problem for a traditionalist view of hell among proponents of a strict penal substitutionary model of the atonement, more ancient models of the atonement do not demand that Christ have experienced the fullness of eschatological punishment.


In chapters 18 to 20, Fudge discusses the epistles of Paul: 1 and 2 Thessalonians (chapter 18), Galatians and 1 and 2 Corinthians (chapter 19), and Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (chapter 20). As was mentioned earlier, I concur with Bernstein in assigning Paul to the "positive tradition" that does not describe the fate of the lost in detail but emphasises that they do not receive the rewards of the saved and otherwise speaks of their fate in general terms. In what Fudge agrees (p. 308) is Paul's most detailed statement on the fate of the ungodly (Rom. 2:8-12), he offers no descriptive imagery but merely four abstract nouns ("wrath and anger...trouble and distress") and one verb ("perish," apollumi). Paul elsewhere speaks of the unrighteous not inheriting the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21; 1 Cor. 6:9) but reaping corruption and death (Gal. 6:8; Rom. 8:13). As with the Gospel of John, the Pauline witness is consistent with annihilation, and annihilation is arguably the most plausible interpretation of Paul's view, but Paul does not contradict the symmetrical tradition. This leaves open the possibility that he opted, perhaps for pastoral reasons, not to delve into the details of eschatological punishment in his letters. Again, the systematic theologian is required, not to choose between the symmetrical and positive traditions, but to build a synthesis from the two.

One Pauline text that may suggest an eschatological punishment beyond annihilation is 2 Thess. 1:8-9, which speaks of the coming of the Lord Jesus "in blazing fire, inflicting punishment on those who do not acknowledge God..." (NABRE). It adds, "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction (dikēn...olethron aiōnion) from the Lord's presence and from the glory of his power (apo prosōpou tou kuriou kai apo tēs doxēs tēs ischuos autou)" (my translation). The latter part of the statement is drawn almost verbatim from Isa. 2:10 LXX, which tells idolaters, "And now enter into the rocks, and hide in the earth from the Lord's fearsome presence and from the glory of his power" (cf. 2:19-21). The Greek of Paul's phrase is identical to that of Isa. 2:10 LXX apart from the absence of the word phobou (fear). In the Isaianic context, the idolaters are hiding from God's presence on their own initiative. Perhaps due to Isa. 2:10 LXX being expressed as an imperative, Paul understands this as their punishment, a pronouncement of sentence. Fudge states that the Greek of 2 Thess. 1:9 is ambiguous and "can be interpreted as causal (the everlasting destruction issues from the presence of the Lord) or as separative (the 'destruction' consists of exclusion from the presence of the Lord" (p. 289), and that both views are consistent with annihilation. These two views are not mutually exclusive, but the context in Isaiah 2 is unambiguous: there is spatial movement of the idolaters away from the Lord's presence and entry "into the rocks...in the earth...into the caves and into the clefts of the rocks and into the holes of the earth". It is plausible that Paul has interpreted this topographical language as referring to a place of eschatological punishment.41 In any case, the spatial movement implies that the evildoers are going somewhere, not simply ceasing to exist. Fudge states that "The text plainly speaks of eternal destruction" (p. 291, resorting to a strategy already seen in Matt. 10:28 of assuming without argument that certain biblical terms denote annihilation). However, olethros has a semantic range that includes both "destruction" and "ruin" and does not intrinsically imply annihilation.42 Fudge notes that "The phrase 'eternal destruction' appears also in 4 Macc. 10:15" but claims that this passage "offers no insight into Paul's meaning here" (p. 287). In fact, in 4 Maccabees the term "eternal destruction" (aiōnios olethros) is used interchangeably with "eternal torment" (aiōnios basanos, 4 Macc. 9.9; 13.15), which proves conclusively that the term is consistent with the notion of unending torment and does not necessarily entail annihilation. 2 Thess. 1:9-10 does not enable conclusive inferences about Paul's understanding of final punishment, but this intriguing text suggests that there may be more to his eschatological outlook than what we have described as the positive tradition.43


Fudge discusses Hebrews, James, and Acts within a single chapter. Hebrews should probably be assigned to the positive tradition (though Bernstein's book does not discuss it), in view of ambiguous language such as "how shall we escape?" (Heb. 2:3), "they shall not enter into my rest" (4:4), and "eternal judgment" that takes place after death (6:2; 9:27). Heb. 10:27-31 refers to "a fearful prospect of judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries," and intimates that this punishment is "much worse" than death. The punishment is described as perishing (apōleia, 10:39). While references to consuming fire (10:27; 12:29) appear to favour an annihilating function of the fire, we should note that the roughly contemporaneous 4 Ezra speaks of the wicked being "consumed" in a context that clearly anticipates ongoing torment (4 Ezra 7.86).44 Fudge avers that "James is one of the strongest New Testament witnesses against the traditional view of conscious unending torment" (though he does not really say why this is). He adds, "It is no surprise that traditionalists prefer to say as little as possible about the Epistle of James" (p. 328), but Fudge himself spends only a couple of pages on the letter, and does not even discuss Jas 3:6, the only New Testament text outside the Synoptic Gospels where Gehenna is mentioned. However, we can heartily endorse Fudge's comments on Jas 4:12, where he emphasises that we are not in a position to make pronouncements about the eternal fate of our peers. Fudge interacts here with a traditionalist, John Gerstner, who makes statements implying that he knows that most Christians are on their way to hell and even knew that a particular individual whose death he witnessed had gone to hell. Gerstner's statements have nothing to do with a traditionalist understanding of hell but seem only to reflect a misguided belief that he has divine insight into the eternal destiny of other people.

Fudge discusses only one passage from Acts: Peter's warning in 3:23 (paraphrasing from Deut. 18) that "Everyone who does not listen to that prophet [i.e. Jesus] will be cut off from his people." The expression "cut off from the people" is a phrase that the LXX uses to translate a common idiom in the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Gen. 17:14; Ex. 30:33; Lev. 17:9; 23:29; etc.). And, as biblical scholar Richard C. Steiner has argued (as discussed in my comments on chapter 5 in the first part of this review), this idiom in the Hebrew Bible may denote a negative postmortem fate in contrast to being gathered to one's people (an opposite biblical idiom). Thus Fudge's claim that this verse supports annihilationism may be premature. Fudge claims that Acts "specifically references final punishment only once" (p. 330), but this is not strictly accurate. The account of Paul's speech before Felix in Acts 24 alludes to final punishment in that Paul speaks of "a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous" and later of "the coming judgment," causing Felix to become frightened. However, a more direct reference to final punishment is in Acts 1:24-25, where the disciples prayed, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place" (NABRE). There is a wordplay on the word topos ("place") here: in its first occurrence, "place" refers to the apostolic office vacated by Judas, but in its second occurrence, it is a spatial "place" to which Judas has gone. In the view of numerous scholars, "his own place" is a euphemism for the postmortem place of punishment.45


In 1 Peter, as Fudge notes, "little is said about the end of the wicked" (p. 334). 1 Peter 4:17-18 poses the question of what their end will be, but does not answer it. Another text that Fudge might have discussed is 1 Pet. 3:19, which speaks of Christ having gone "to preach to the spirits in prison." Although this is a famously difficult text, the most prevalent view among scholars since Dalton's influential study has been that these "spirits in prison" are the fallen angels of Gen. 6:1-4 and the Enochic tradition; the "prison" is thus their place of confinement pending the final judgment.46 In any case, there is no doubt that 2 Peter speaks of fallen angels confined in a transcendent prison ("gloomy chains in Tartarus") to await the final judgment (2 Pet. 2:4). Fudge thinks this allusion "adds nothing to our understanding of the final doom of human sinners" (p. 337). However, combining the story of God condemning the fallen angels with the story of the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, 2 Peter infers that "the Lord knows how...to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment" (2 Pet. 2:9 NABRE). It is unlikely that "the unrighteous" refers only to the fallen angels; this generic term undoubtedly includes the "godless" humans of Noah's day and of Sodom and Gomorrah. The implication is therefore that not only the fallen angels but also unrighteous humans of the past are currently being "kept (or, guarded) under punishment for the day of judgment."47 The writer of 2 Peter evidently assumes the existence of a prison-like intermediate state for ungodly humans, like that observed in 1 Enoch (on which this writer also depends for his details of the angels' punishment). This observation vitiates Fudge's claim (p. 336) that 2 Peter cites the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as instances of annihilation. Fudge draws attention to other terms from 2 Peter for the end of the wicked, such as "destruction" (2:12) and "the gloom of darkness" (2:17). Fudge thinks this language "suggests and harmonizes with the idea of final, total extinction" (p. 337), but the statement, "for them the gloom (zophos) of darkness has been reserved" is clearly intended to recall the punishment of the fallen angels described in 2:4, which uses the same rare word zophos. Since the angels' punishment was not annihilation but confinement in a gloomy place, it follows that this is what 2 Peter envisions for unjust humans as well.

This brings us to Jude, which has a close literary relationship with 2 Peter and uses much of the same imagery. Paralleling 2 Pet. 2:4, Jude describes the apostate angels as being "kept in eternal chains, in gloom, for the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6). Paralleling 2 Pet. 2:17, Jude states that for the apostate humans "the gloom of darkness has been reserved forever" (Jude 13). He also explicitly quotes from 1 Enoch 1 about the final judgment (Jude 14-15), showing the dependence of his eschatological outlook on the Enochic tradition. Jude 7 makes an intriguing statement about Sodom and Gomorrah that Fudge renders, following the RSV, "[they] serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire" (p. 341). He criticises the NIV for translating, "serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire," noting that the words "of those who" are not in the Greek text. However, the word "by" in the RSV translation is also interpolated. A woodenly literal translation would be, "are exhibited [as] an example of eternal fire undergoing penalty." One syntactic question is whether the genitive phrase puros aiōniou ("of eternal fire") modifies deigma ("example") or dikē ("penalty"). The first option seems more likely to me.48 In either case, though, what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah is held out as an example, a specimen, of eternal fire. How could Jude have conceived of the fire that rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24) as eternal? Fudge thinks the word "eternal" indicates that it is "a fire from God which destroys sinners totally and forever" (p. 342). However, while we cannot be sure for Jude, other New Testament writers clearly did not think that the people of Sodom had already been destroyed totally and forever.49 A more likely explanation is provided by Fudge's own discussion: he notes that scholars have pointed out how some Jewish writings of the period (e.g., Wisdom of Solomon 10:7) express a belief that the region once occupied by Sodom and Gomorrah was still smoldering up to the present day. If Jude accepted this tradition (with the help of texts like Isa. 34:10), he likely regarded the fire of Sodom and Gomorrah as literally "eternal," unending. Support for this explanation can be seen in Jude 6, where the punishment of the apostate angels is described as "eternal chains." The idea is not that the angels were chained briefly with unending consequences, but that the angels have been kept in chains unceasingly. It is likely, then, that in Jude's view there was already an unending fire in the world, which served as an example of the unending fire still to be revealed at the final judgment.


 Fiery Torment without Relief

The last part of the New Testament discussed by Fudge is the Apocalypse of John. Like the Synoptic Gospels, this book is assigned by Bernstein to the symmetrical tradition,50 and Fudge concedes that it contains "the strongest biblical statements that seemingly favor unending conscious torment" (p. 367). However, he nonetheless argues that Revelation teaches "that not only wicked humans, but also wicked angels and (most probably) even the devil himself, will finally be wiped out and be no more" (p. 367). Although there is much judgment language in this highly symbolic book, let us go directly to the most debated texts. In Rev. 14:9-11, an angel says in a loud voice,
Anyone who worships the beast or its image, or accepts its mark on forehead or hand, 10 will also drink the wine of God’s fury, poured full strength into the cup of his wrath, and will be tormented in burning sulfur before the holy angels and before the Lamb. 11 The smoke of the fire that torments them will rise forever and ever, and there will be no relief day or night for those who worship the beast or its image or accept the mark of its name. (NABRE)
The language of fiery "torment" (basanismos) without relief closely parallels the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, as well as certain Jewish apocalyptic texts such as 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra. That the torment "in burning sulfur" happens "before the holy angels and before the Lamb" makes the image concrete. The language of v. 11 draws on Isa. 34:9-10,51 but the writer of Revelation goes further than his source: not only does the smoke rise forever, unquenched day and night, but this is the smoke of a fire that tortures people, and they have no relief day or night. There is no doubt that a plain reading of the text points to unending conscious torment, or that the nearest literary parallels support this interpretation. Fudge holds that "the destructive process encompassed such conscious suffering as God saw fit to require" (p. 357), but denies that the torment goes on forever. To reach this interpretation, Fudge posits a sharp distinction between the smoke, which ascends forever, and the torment, which continues "day and night" but only for an unspecified, finite period. However, "day and night" and "forever and ever" are complementary expressions for the same process, the one indicating that it is uninterrupted (cf. Rev. 7:15; 12:10) and the other that it is unending. A similar statement in Rev. 20:10 combines them ("There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever") and so there is no warrant for separating them here.52 

 The Lake of Fire

Other key texts about final punishment in Revelation speak of "the lake of fire" (hē limnē tou puros), an expression derived from the "river of fire" of Dan. 7:10-11 that surges forth from the throne of the Ancient of Days and into which the body of the beast is thrown. Fudge notes that "Conditionalists and traditionalists agree that the lake of fire stands for the same ultimate destiny called Gehenna in the Gospels" (p. 361). Once again, Revelation goes beyond its source: in Dan. 7:11 the beast is killed and then its body is thrown into the river of fire, but in Rev. 19:20 the beast and the false prophet are "thrown alive into the lake of fire burning with sulfur." They are not thrown in alive in order to be killed but, as Rev. 20:10 makes clear, to be tormented perpetually: "The Devil who had led them astray was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever" (NABRE). Fudge maintains that this is "clearly symbolic language," since the beast and false prophet are not literal persons but represent human institutions (tyrannical political authorities and idolatrous religious authorities). However, Rev. 20:10 clearly depicts the same event as Rev. 14:9-11, where the burning sulfur imagery is concretised by the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb, and those tormented are clearly human worshipers of the beast. We can thus infer that Rev. 20:10 uses the beast and the false prophet as synecdoche, including their human adherents. Rev. 20:10 thus aligns with Matt. 25:41 in having wicked humans consigned to the same fiery fate as the devil. As a last-ditch exegetical effort, Fudge suggests, "It is possible that even the picture of unending torment can symbolize everlasting extinction" (p. 362).

 The Second Death: No Mere Repeat of the First

Rev. 20:11-15 describes the general resurrection and final judgment. After "Death and Hades gave up their dead," they were "thrown into the lake of fire." Fudge states that "it is uncontroverted that Death and Hades are abstractions and not persons, and that the lake of fire here represents annihilation" (p. 363). However, the throwing of "Death and Hades" into the lake of fire does not represent the annihilation of punishment, but the obsolescence of these lesser fates and their subsumption into the ultimate fate, the lake of fire. Rev. 20:14 states that the lake of fire "is the second death." Fudge states that "second death" is the "clearer meaning" of "lake of fire" (p. 364), but he seems to think that the second death is ontologically identical to the first death (i.e. the Death that was cast into the lake of fire), differing only in chronology. This cannot be so; "Death" cannot have been destroyed if an identical, second "Death" remains. Here is the paradox: the picture of the new Jerusalem features "no more death" (Rev. 21:4) and yet still includes "the second death" (21:8). Evidently, "second death" does not simply mean "death again";53 it denotes a punishment of a different order than the ordinary death that will be no more.54 Revelation unmistakably associates the lake of fire/second death with "torment" that lasts "day and night forever and ever." It is a punishment for human beings (Rev. 14:9-11; 20:15; 21:8) and for the devil (20:10).

 The Final Picture of the New Jerusalem: Evil not Absent but Outside

Perhaps the most striking statement about final punishment in Revelation is Rev. 22:14-15.55 In this final picture of the eschatological city and its gates, evildoers still exist, outside the city. As Bernstein explains,
[E]vil remains to the very end of the tour of the new Jerusalem. The symmetrical tradition conceives of bliss in contrast to suffering, the city and its garden in contrast to the surrounding plane, the new heaven in contrast to the lake of fire. Evil is not annihilated but contained, and those in its thrall will suffer forever.56
Fudge never discusses this text, and seems to have overlooked it when arguing that the statement "the sea was no more" in Rev. 21:1 indicates "the end of all that stands opposed to life" (p. 366). Revelation envisions the wicked as excluded from the eschatological city and rendered impotent, but not annihilated.


I find myself largely in agreement with Fudge's exegesis of the Pauline and Johannine portions of the New Testament (not counting Revelation as Johannine), and would concur with Bernstein in seeing in these books a "positive tradition" that expresses the fate of the ungodly primarily as a loss of eternal life rather than a specific alternative eternal destiny. However, I find myself in sharp disagreement with Fudge's exegesis of the Synoptic Gospels and Revelation, as well as 2 Peter and Jude. Although some of my differences with Fudge may be down to our respective theological biases, Bernstein's historically oriented study (without an obvious theological axe to grind) has recognised the existence of a "symmetrical tradition" within the New Testament that regards the destiny of the ungodly as equal in duration and intensity but opposite in quality to the destiny of the godly. A theology of hell must incorporate and synthesise both traditions. This necessarily entails affirming the symmetrical tradition's more detailed and vivid pictures of eschatological punishment. On the other hand, since the gospel message is one of love and grace and not of fear and threats, the Church has often found it prudent to emulate the sensitivity of the positive tradition by downplaying the doctrine of hell. For example, the classical Christian creeds that are used liturgically in the Catholic Church and many other Christian communities—the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed and the Apostles' Creed—belong to the positive tradition. When the faithful recite them, they express their belief in the resurrection of the dead and in eternal life, but make no explicit reference to the fate of the lost, stating only that Jesus will "judge the living and the dead."

In the third and final part of this review, I will look at Fudge's treatment of early Christian literature outside the New Testament, and offer some theological reflections.

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 Bernstein, The Formation of Hell, 227.
  • 3 Bernstein, The Formation of Hell, 262. Bernstein explicitly affirms that Paul and John believed in the annihilation of the wicked (The Formation of Hell, 208, 247).
  • 4 Bernstein, The Formation of Hell, 262.
  • 5 Bernstein, The Formation of Hell, 227.
  • 6 Marius Reiser writes that there emerges from the authentic sayings of the historical Jesus "an astonishingly clear and consistent picture of Jesus’ preaching of judgment" using "a variety of images and designations" (Jesus and Judgment: The Eschatological Proclamation in Its Jewish Context [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997], 304-307).
  • 7 See above on the Fourth Gospel belonging to the positive tradition and the Synoptic Gospels to the symmetrical tradition. Furthermore, Chaim Milikowsky's influential study argues that Matthew envisions the punishment of Gehenna as being dispensed at the last judgment, whereas Luke envisions it as dispensed immediately after death ("Which Gehenna? Retribution and Eschatology in the Synoptic Gospels and in Early Jewish Texts," New Testament Studies 34 [1988]: 238-49).
  • 8 See Lloyd R. Bailey, "Gehenna: The Topography of Hell," Biblical Archaeologist (September 1986): 188. Conditionalist scholar Kim G. Papaioannou is also dismissive of this legend concerning the Valley of Hinnom ("The Development of Gehenna between the Old and New Testaments," in Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism [ed. Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, and Joshua W. Anderson; Cambridge: Lutterworth, 2014], 254). Fudge makes the odd statement, "Even if it should someday be shown that the Valley of Hinnom was not used as a garbage dump in the first century..." (p. 188). This reverses the burden of proof; the problem is that no one has ever produced evidence that the Valley of Hinnom was used as a garbage dump in the first century.
  • 9 These Enochic texts were discussed in Part 1 of this review. Papaioannou is skeptical of whether the valleys of 1 Enoch 27.2 or 1 Enoch 90.25-27 are the Valley of Hinnom ("The Development of Gehenna," 252-53), but the scholarly consensus seems to be that they are.
  • 10 For example, "The fire of Gehenna was created on the second day and will never be extinguished, as it says, [quotes Isa. 66:24]" (t. Ber. 6.7, trans. Tzvee Zahavy, "Mishnah-Tosefta Berakhot," in The Law of Agriculture in the Mishnah and the Tosefta: Translation, Commentary, Theology [3 vols.; ed. Jacob Neusner; Leiden: Brill, 2005], 1:541). Seder Olam Rabbah 3 states that most sinners are annihilated after spending twelve months in Gehenna, but that for certain heretics, "Gehinnom is locked before them and they are judged there forever...Not only this, but the netherworld will cease to be but they will not cease to be...From His dwelling place He will wear out their form, and their form will wear out the netherworld" (trans. Rabbi Mike Feuer). A similar view is found in the Babylonian Talmud (b. Rosh Hashanah 17a); both of these texts cite Isa. 66:24 in support. The Targum to Isa. 66:24 states, "and the wicked will be judged in Gehinnam until the righteous say of them, we have seen enough" (trans. Bruce D. Chilton, The Glory of Israel: The Theology and Provenience of the Isaiah Targum [Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1982], 83).
  • 11 See Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 23:33.
  • 12 This is also suggested by the parallelism between "eternal life" and "eternal punishment" in Matt. 25:46. Notice that in 4 Maccabees (a Jewish text probably from the first century C.E. that Fudge agrees presupposes unending torment), the word kolasis ("punishment") entails basanos ("torture") (4 Macc. 8.9), and the term "eternal torment" (aionios basanos, 4 Macc. 9.9, 13.15) is synonymous with "endless torment" (akatalutos basanos, 4 Macc. 10.11) and "eternal fire," i.e. "tortures that for all ages will not release you" (4 Macc. 12.12).
  • 13 Nickelsburg notes that a Noachic interpolation in 1 Enoch 67.4-13 identifies this same valley "as the place of punishment for both the rebellious angels and the kings in the mighty" (1 Enoch 2, 51). See also 1 Enoch 10.13-14; 108.3-6.
  • 14 See, e.g., BDAG 115-116; TDNT 1:394-97. Fudge argues that the use of apollumi for "losing" one's life or reward in close proximity to Matt. 10:28 (10:39-42) shows that it entails annihilation in 10:28. However, standard lexical authorities like those just mentioned recognise "lose" as a distinct, literal meaning of apollumi, and this meaning obviously does not apply in Matt. 10:28.
  • 15 See note 40 of Part 1 of this review.
  • 16 As Fudge states later concerning "destruction" (apoleia) in Matt. 7:13, "The traditionalist must explain why 'destruction' should not mean what the word most naturally brings to mind" (p. 246). The question is, of course, brings to whose mind? And, of course, exegesis does not proceed from English words but from the original Greek.
  • 17 Fudge makes much of the meaning of this phrase, which he argues refers to emotional pain rather than physical pain. For purposes of the traditionalist/annihilationist debate, it really does not matter; the important point is that in order to weep and grind one's teeth, one must conciously exist.
  • 18 "Verse 11 makes both a local and a temporal distinction. ‘Here’ (de) one experiences ‘this great torment’ (t µe ßsa tat), which will last until the great day of judgment. ‘There’ (e), after the judgment, in the place where they will be bound, those who are cursed forever will have ‘scourges’ and ‘torments’ (µste, ßsa) inflicted on them. The identity of the place of this eternal punishment, designated as ‘there,’ is less than certain" (Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 308).
  • 19 Fudge writes, "Weeping indicates sorrow, as the doomed begin to realize that God has thrown them out as worthless and as they begin to recognize the immanence [sic] of their own upcoming permanent demise...Those who are banished into this darkness do weep and gnash their teeth, just as Jesus says, but concerning the duration of that activity, our Lord reveals not even a clue." (p. 241, emphasis added).
  • 20 Note that 4 Ezra 7.36, a Jewish apocalypse roughly contemporaneous with Matthew, uses the term, "the furnace of Gehenna." In Apocalypse of Abraham 15.1-7, Gehenna is shown to Abraham as a furnace in language that draws on both Gen. 15:17 and Gen. 19:28.
  • 21 The order of events (if they are separate events) in Matt. 24:51 (quoted above) is the opposite of what Fudge's reading requires: the evildoer is dismembered (killed) and then put in the place of weeping and grinding of teeth.
  • 22 The imagery of fire and darkness appear together repeatedly in descriptions of the place of punishment in 1 Enoch (e.g., 62.10-11; 103.7-8; 108.3-15; cf. 4 Ezra 7.36, 7.125.
  • 23 These include burning  of unfruitful tree, chaff, or weeds, discarding of worthless salt or bad fish, ruin of house, disowning, loss of life or reward, no forgiveness, condemnation, humiliation, confiscation of goods, cutting down of tree or uprooting of plant, exclusion from the kingdom of God, and locking out/banishment.
  • 24 See Reiser, Jesus and Judgment, 307-308.
  • 25 Reiser remarks, "To the ears of Jesus' hearers, that sum had to sound like something out of a fairy tale; it would immediately carry them into the atmosphere of the level of society in which people played with such fantastic sums. Haman promised to contribute ten thousand talents to the royal treasury following the destruction of all the Jews in the Persian empire and the seizure of their property (Esth. 3:9). Darius tried to purchase peace from Alexander for ten thousand talents. Alexander set aside ten thousand talents for the mausoleum of his beloved Hephaestion. Obviously, the servant can never produce such a sum" (Jesus and Judgment, 273-73).
  • 26 Reiser, Jesus and Judgment, 279. The examples he gives are 1 Enoch 10.13; 22.11; 25.6; Wis. 3:1; 2 Macc. 7:17; 4 Macc. 9.9; 12.12; 13.15; 4 Ezra 7.36; 7.67; 9.12-13.
  • 27 "it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Matt. 18:6||Mark 9:42||Luke 17:2).
  • 28 1 Enoch 38.1-6 reads, "1 When the congregation of the righteous appears, the sinners will be judged for their sins, and from the face of the earth they will be driven; 2 And when the Righteous One appears in the presence of the righteous, whose chosen works depend on the Lord of Spirits, and light appears to the righteous and chosen who dwell on the earth; Where (will be) the resting place of those who have denied the Lord of Spirits? It would have been better for them, if they had not been born. 3 When his hidden things are revealed to the righteous, the sinners will be judged, and the wicked will be driven from the presence of the righteous and chosen. 4 And thereafter, it will not be the mighty and exalted who possess the land, and they will not be able to look at the face of the holy, for the light of the Lord of Spirits will have appeared on the face of the holy, righteous, and chosen. 5 And then the kings and the mighty will perish, and they will be given into the hand of the righteous and holy, 6 and from then on, no one will seek mercy for them from the Lord of Spirits, for their life will be at an end." (trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 2, 95). Although this section of the Book of Parables provides little detail about the punishment of "the sinners" and "the kings and the mighty," the statements that the condemned will be driven away and "will not be able to look at the face of the holy" implies that they still exist. Similarly, the statement that, after the kings and the mighty "perish," "no one will seek mercy for them," implies that they still exist. In chapter 63, the kings and the mighty explicitly seek mercy for themselves from the place of torment and are denied.
  • 29 E.g., 4 Ezra 7.65-69: "65 Let the human race lament, but let the beasts of the field be glad; let all who have been born lament, but let the four-footed beasts and the flocks rejoice! 66 For it is much better with them than with us; for they do not look for a judgment, nor do they know of any torment or life promised to them after death. 67 For what does it profit us that we shall be preserved alive but cruelly tormented? 68 For all who have been born are involved in iniquities, and are full of sins and burdened with transgressions. 69 And if we were not to come into judgment after death, perhaps it would have been better for us" (trans. Michael Edward Stone, A Commentary on the Book of Fourth Ezra [Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990], 225-26).
  • 30 See especially Kim G. Papaioannou, Places of Punishment in the Synoptic Gospels (Ph.D. dissertation, Durham University, 2004), 155. Fudge gives credence to this reading, stating, "no one can seriously claim that the details [of the parable] should be understood literally: a drop of water would provide no palliative benefit against hadean fire; the redeemed and unredeemed do not converse face to face across a literal chasm" (p. 232). However, that the rich man requests only a drop of water is likely intended to underscore the severity of punishment: even the smallest request for respite is refused. The redeemed and unredeemed are clearly depicted as at least within sight of each other in Luke 13:28. All of this is not to say that the parable provides a literal description of the details of the afterlife. Any description of transcendent realities is necessarily constrained by the limits of our immanence. The point, however, is that the story does reveal something about the afterlife, and we ought to reflect on what it reveals rather than seeking to explain it away.
  • 31 The Afterlife Imagery in Luke’s Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 299.
  • 32 Lehtipuu, Afterlife Imagery, 6.
  • 33 Compare Acts 2:27, where the author (presumably Luke) has followed Psalm 15:10 LXX in translating Psalm 16:10 MT's Sheol with Hades.
  • 34 Particularly striking is the parallel between Luke 16:23-24 (the rich man in Hades complains, "I am suffering torment in these flames") and 1 Enoch 63.10 ("Now they will say to themselves, 'Our souls are full of ill-gotten wealth, but it does not prevent us from descending into the flame of the torment of Sheol"). Luke 16:19-31 and 1 Enoch 62-63 also have a shared motif of an unsuccessful request for respite on the part of the sufferer(s).
  • 35 Stone, 4 Ezra, 221. This is a place of "fire and torments." The eschatological punishment that awaits "the multitude of those who perish" in 4 Ezra 7.55-59 consists of "thirst and torment," another close parallel to the description of the rich man's fate in Luke 16:24.
  • 36 Fudge writes that even if the parable's language "teaches something of punishment after death, it occurs before the final judgment while others are still living on earth...There is no clear exegetical basis in Luke 16 for any conclusions concerning the final end of the wicked" (p. 231).
  • 37 So Milikowsky, "Which Gehenna?", 242-44.
  • 38 The demoniac begs, "Do not torment me!" and the demons, in what is evidently a synonymous request, beg Jesus "not to order them to depart to the abyss."
  • 39 On Luke 23:43 see Thomas Farrar, "Today in paradise?: Ambiguous Adverb Attachment and the Meaning of Luke 23:43," Neotestamentica 51 (2017): 185-207.
  • 40 Fudge claims, following Matt. 27:20 KJV, that Jesus "was destroyed," but this verse discusses what the chief priests and elders sought to do to Jesus, not what happened to him or what God did to him.
  • 41 In 1 Enoch 22.1-4, the place of punishment is described as "hollow places" within a "great mountain of hard rock" (1 Enoch 22.1-4). Elsewhere in 1 Enoch, places of punishment are similarly topographical, consisting of jagged stones (1 Enoch 10.4-6), a pit, valley, or abyss in the middle of the earth (1 Enoch 27; 90.25-27), etc. Since we know that Paul read Isa. 2:10-21 in terms of eschatological punishment, it is likely that, influenced by his Jewish background, he read the topographical language of the passage as referring to a place of punishment: the evildoers are removed from God's presence and consigned to the rocky, cavernous place of punishment.
  • 42 BDAG 702.
  • 43 Bernstein writes that "Paul had no desire to describe the condition of those not rewarded with the kingdom." He names 2 Thess. 1:9 and Eph. 2:2-3 as two "marginal texts, where it is only just conceivable that he envisaged something other than annihilation"; he considers 2 Thess. 1:9 "especially anomalous" and "apparently so foreign to his thinking on the matter," but he doubts whether these two letters are attributable to Paul (The Formation of Hell, 224, 261).
  • 44 This passage was quoted in note 39 of the first part of this review.
  • 45 "when combined with the implied curses from Psalms and the reason for his replacement, Judas' 'place' (topos) more likely refers to a transcendent region related to one's final destiny, a sense topos connotes on a number of occasions (e.g., BDAG, 1011). In this case the term most likely refers to a place of punishment after death (cf. Luke 16:28; T. Ab. A13; B10; Tg. [Eccl.] 6.6; Hermas Sim. 9.4.7; Ign. Magn. 5.1). The Lukan audience would probably conclude that Judas died an apostate, and apostates will not be with Christ. Their place is with the wicked" (B. J. Oropeza, "Judas' Death and Final Destiny in the Gospels and Earliest Christian Writings," Neotestamentica 44 [2010]: 352-53). See, similarly, Arie W. Zwiep, Judas and the Choice of Matthias: A Study on Context and Concern of Acts 1:15-26 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), 166-68.
  • 46 William J. Dalton, "The Interpretation of 1 Peter 3,19 and 4,6: Light from 2 Peter," Biblica 60 (1979): 547-555; similarly, D. Edmond Hiebert, "The Suffering and Triumphant Christ: An Exposition of 1 Peter 3:18-22," Bibliotheca Sacra 139 (1982): 146-58.
  • 47 The Greek verb tereo can mean "keep" in a general sense but also has the technical meaning "to retain in custody, keep watch over, guard" (BDAG 1002; cf. Matt. 27:36, 54; Acts 16:23; etc.), which seems appropriate in this context. The expression kolazomenous terein thus means something like "keep in custody being punished," and implies imprisonment.
  • 48 2 Pet. 2:6 states that Sodom and Gomorrah are "an example of what is coming" (hupodeigma mellonton), so the word "example" is modified by a genitive construction. This suggests that the author of 2 Peter saw the word "example" in Jude 7 as also modified by a genitive construction (puros aioniou).
  • 49 2 Peter 2:9, as we have seen, assumes that the unrighteous of the past are currently being held under punishment for the day of judgment, while some sayings of Jesus in Matthew and Luke assume that Sodom will be present on the day of judgment (Matt. 10:15; 11:24; Luke 10:12).
  • 50 The Formation of Hell, 260.
  • 51 "9 Edom’s streams shall be changed into pitch, its soil into sulfur, and its land shall become burning pitch; 10 Night and day it shall not be quenched, its smoke shall rise forever." (NABRE)
  • 52 Equally implausible is Fudge's sharp separation of the "burning pitch/sulfur" from the "smoke" in Isa. 34:9-10: he claims that the fire "burned in the daytime and in the nighttime" but eventually "went out; and then its smoke ascended as a memorial to God's thorough destruction" (p. 358). Smoke, of course, does not only begin to ascend after a fire goes out; it serves as evidence of a fire. The text gives no indication that Edom's fire goes out but explicitly calls it "unquenched" day and night. The two clauses in Isa. 34:10 are a synonymous parallelism, not two contrasting statements.
  • 53 Note similarly the two senses of the word "death" in 4 Ezra, as discussed by Stone (see quotation in note 40 of the first part of this review).
  • 54 Fudge criticises the patristic idea that the second death is like a "deathless death," a concept he says "is nowhere found in Scripture." Yet Rev. 9:1-6 speaks of smoke that comes out of "the passage to the abyss...like smoke from a huge furnace," resulting in locusts that torment the ungodly. Verse 6 states the consequence: "During that time these people will seek death but will not find it, and they will long to die but death will escape them." Bernstein regards this passage—which Fudge does not discuss—as a description of the second death."Here then is a new description of death, a death so miserable that those not resurrected from it long to die. Yet this is the second death; so it is not in Sheol. It is the fate of those who suffer the second death" (The Formation of Hell, 255).
  • 55 "Blessed are they who wash their robes so as to have the right to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates. Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the unchaste, the murderers, the idol-worshipers, and all who love and practice deceit" (NABRE).
  • 56 The Formation of Hell, 260.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Review of "The Fire That Consumes" by Edward W. Fudge (Part 1)

Until now I have never touched the subject of hell on my blog or website, apart from one brief article on The Rich Man and Lazarus. Having recently been challenged by a close relative as to whether I agree with Catholic teaching on hell,1 though, I thought I ought to give a thoughtful response. Now, the traditional Christian doctrine of hell, which British philosopher Bertrand Russell famously described as "a doctrine of cruelty,"2 has been out of vogue in Western society for some time. This trend has not been confined to secular critics of Christianity; the doctrine has increasingly been rejected by (mainly Protestant) Christian theologians over the past few decades.3 Many of these theologians have agreed with Russell's view that the traditional doctrine is cruel and at odds with the love of God. However, their primary reason for rejecting the doctrine has been simply that they do not consider it to be biblical.

Most contemporary Christian theologians who reject the traditional doctrine of hell ("traditionalism" herein) have replaced it with the doctrine of annihilationism, which is usually part of a broader doctrinal framework called conditionalism. Traditionalism, annihilationism, and universalism are the three main views that have existed in church history concerning the final destiny of the wicked. Traditionalism, sometimes referred to as "eternal conscious torment," maintains that the wicked enter a state of separation from God in which they still exist perpetually and consciously. Annihilationism maintains that the ultimate punishment of the wicked is annihilation: the total and permanent termination of existence. Annihilationism is a sub-doctrine of conditionalism, which maintains (in contrast to the traditional doctrine of the "immortality of the soul") that human immortality is conditional rather than innate, and granted only to the redeemed. Universalism maintains that all divine punishment is remedial rather than retributive, and therefore all the wicked will eventually repent and be saved. The three views are conveniently summarised in the diagram below (developed by the conditionalist website RethinkingHell.com).
Now, a "must-read" book for anyone interested in conditionalism is The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment by the late Edward W. Fudge (3rd ed.; Eugene: Cascade, 2011; 593 pages.). The third edition of The Fire That Consumes contains a foreword from no less a biblical scholar than Richard Bauckham, who declares the book a "standard work" and "the fullest and most thorough exposition and defense of the view that the fate of the unsaved will be final destruction, not (as in the traditional doctrine of hell) eternal torment." The earlier editions received similarly glowing forewords from other eminent biblical scholars, F. F. Bruce and John Wenham. Therefore, I could think of no better way to wade into the traditional/conditionalism debate than to read and review The Fire That Consumes.

Edward Fudge (1944-2017) was a man of erudition and integrity who was apparently forced out of a career in ministry because of his non-traditional views on final punishment. Thereafter, he qualified as a lawyer and practiced law as a "day job" while continuing to pursue his theological vocation (his keen legal mind is evident in the cogent arguments in his writing). The Fire That Consumes may fairly be called Fudge's magnum opus, due to the great influence that its three editions had (and have) on the Evangelical world and beyond. Fudge's theological journey and writing testify to his good character. He changed his views on hell after carefully studying the biblical evidence, persevered in what he believed even when it cost dearly, and interacted with theological opponents without the polemical bitterness that so often accompanies theological argument. In The Fire That Consumes, Fudge is consistently charitable in his interactions with opponents, repeatedly calling them "Brother" and dismissing any notion that such unconventional forms of address might be unsuitable for a scholarly work. Brother Edward Fudge was undoubtedly a remarkable man, and it is unfortunate that I will not be able to interact with him in this life.

The Fire That Consumes consists of 36 chapters. In many of these chapters, the third edition has added an "Interaction" section at the end where Fudge briefly interacts with traditionalist responses to his earlier editions. In what follows I will give blow-by-blow observations on and interactions with Fudge's arguments. The first part of my review will discuss Fudge's first ten chapters, which cover his introductory material, some overarching doctrinal issues about humanity, death, and eternity, and his treatment of the Old Testament and ancient Jewish writings. The second part will discuss chapters 11 to 23, which cover his treatment of the New Testament. The third part will discuss chapters 24 to 36, which focus on the development of the Christian doctrine of hell after/outside the New Testament, and Fudge's theological findings.

Chapter 1: Rethinking Hell: Apostasy or New Reformation?
Chapter 2: Back to the Bible: The Protestant Principle  
Chapter 3: Souls: Immortal or Otherwise
Chapter 4: Aiōnios: Duration, Quality, or Both?
Chapter 5: Sheol/Hades: Gravedom?
Chapters 6 to 8: Divine Justice (When?; Historical Examples; Messiah and the End)
Chapters 9 and 10: Diversity (Apocrypha and Dead Sea Scrolls; Pseudepigrapha)
  4 Ezra  
  Jubilees  
  1 Enoch  


In Chapter 1, Fudge comments on the disappearance of hell from preaching and public discourse, and intimates that "a deeper, widespread problem with the traditional interpretation of hell" could be the cause. (One wonders, though, whether sermons on the horrors of eschatological punishment are any more in vogue in annihilationist congregations than traditionalist ones.) Noting a recent pattern of rethinking the traditional doctrine of hell in Evangelical circles, Fudge sets out to undertake his own inquiry into the matter. He is transparent about his own presuppositions: he is "a theist, a Christian and an evangelical, persuaded that Scripture is the very Word of God written...without error in anything that it teaches" (p. 26). This high view of Scripture is shared by the Catholic Church.


In Chapter 2, Fudge sets out his epistemology, which is avowedly Protestant: the Bible is our only source of special divine revelation, and Rome's claims of authority are "false" (p. 39). He and I must already part ways at this point since, as a Catholic, I uphold Sacred Tradition as a source of revelation on equal footing with Sacred Scripture, and defer to the Church's Magisterium (ultimately vesting in the Roman Pontiff) as the final interpretative authority. He and I are also not working with the same biblical canon, which is significant since Fudge affirms that at least one book in the Catholic canon, Judith, teaches a traditionalist view of hell.4 Nevertheless, since we share the same high view of Sacred Scripture, have 66 biblical books in common, and both presuppose that divine revelation is concordant with human reason, his "biblical and historical study" can still provide a Catholic like myself with much food for thought and dialogue.


In Chapter 3, "Souls: Immortal or Otherwise," Fudge tackles the subject of theological anthropology, which is closely related to the doctrine of hell. If human souls are innately immortal—created to exist perpetually by default—then annihilationism can ipso facto be ruled out. All human souls will spend eternity somewhere, not cease to exist. Fudge argues, however, that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul (DIS herein) is a Platonic idea foreign to biblical anthropology that was smuggled into the early church. He thus sets out and briefly defends the doctrine of conditional immortality (conditionalism), as a jumping-off point for his defense of annihilationism. As a Catholic, I reject conditionalism and uphold DIS,5 albeit not within a Platonic dualism that denigrates the body as a prison for the soul but within a "holistic dualism"6 that regards embodiment as good and necessary for the fullness of human life. I will not delve into the anthropological debate here in detail, since it is a massive subject and not essential to the traditionalism/annihilationism debate.7

However, I do want to comment on some important semantic issues. Unlike Fudge's traditionalist interlocutor Robert A. Peterson, I do not deny that the early Church Fathers were influenced by Platonic dualism. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church drew on the resources of Greek philosophy (both Platonic and Aristotelian) to refine the doctrine of the human person.8 Furthermore, the term "immortality of the soul" is taken from the philosophical discourse and not from the Bible. Therefore, biblical texts about humans receiving immortality conditionally do not disprove DIS, because "immortality" in these biblical texts does not mean what it means in DIS. The one is intrinsically positive and entails embodied life (i.e., enjoyment of God's blessings in a body that is forever impervious to death), while the other is intrinsically neutral, entailing only continued existence (particularly disembodied existence). Certain biblical texts presuppose that humans exist between death and resurrection in a disembodied intermediate state (as I have argued at length elsewhere), but in biblical parlance, persons in the intermediate state are not "immortal" nor even fully "alive"—they may legitimately be called dead.9

Similarly, biblical texts about the "soul" dying do not disprove DIS, because the word translated "soul" in such passages does not mean what "soul" means in DIS (i.e., an immaterial component or aspect of a human being). Matthew J. Suriano writes that "The meaning of [népeš] in the Hebrew Bible is complicated…a history of the term emerges from the sources that suggests that the concept of selfhood began with the nuance ‘life’ (in an individualized sense) and encompassed ‘corpse,’ which extended to ‘tomb’ and ‘cenotaph,’ and ultimately the external ‘soul’ (in the modern sense)."10 Moreover, while the Hebrew term népeš is certainly not identical with the later Christian concept of an immortal soul, biblical scholar Richard C. Steiner has recently argued that "ideas about disembodied souls and their punishment in the afterlife were current among the Israelites far earlier than generally assumed" and that the Hebrew Bible presupposes that the népeš can exist in a disembodied state.11 The Hebrew word népeš is most commonly translated with the Greek ψυχή (psuchē) in the Septuagint, which in turn influences the meaning of the latter word in the New Testament. The BDAG lexicon notes concerning psuchē that "It is often impossible to draw hard and fast lines in the use of this multivalent word."12 Since the Hebrew and Greek words often translated "soul" in the Bible are generally not technical terms meaning what theologians mean when they speak of an immortal soul, it is no surprise to the traditionalist to find texts speaking of "souls" dying. Now, the conditionalist may triumphantly declare, "We use biblical words with their biblical meanings and you use biblical words with non-biblical meanings." Point taken,13 but this does not mean that DIS is false or unbiblical; it only means that it is not aptly named. Perhaps we should rather speak of "the doctrine of the unannihilability of the immaterial aspect of human nature," but unless this term catches on—unlikely—we will be forced to continue using the prevailing expression "immortality of the soul," appropriately nuanced. The upshot is that I have no quarrel with most of what Fudge writes in this chapter about the meaning of the biblical words usually translated "immortality" and "soul." However, I think Fudge has underestimated the biblical evidence for anthropological dualism, which consists primarily not of word studies of anthropological terms but rather of texts presupposing an intermediate state.


In Chapter 4, Fudge attends to another important biblical word, the adjective aiōnios, which modifies "fire" and "punishment" in Matthew 25:41, 46 and other important texts about final punishment. The adjective is typically translated "eternal" or "everlasting," and is seen by many traditionalists as a slam dunk: clearly the fire/punishment is going to last forever. Not so fast, says Fudge. Aiōnios, biblically, "can describe either character (quality) or duration (quantity), or both" (p. 73). It can mean something like "pertaining to the age to come" (qualitative) or in some sense unending (p. 74). Fudge notes biblical references to "eternal sin" (Mark 3:29) and "eternal judgment" (Heb. 6:2) and points out that these texts do not imply an unending act of sinning or judging, but an act of sinning or judging with age-to-come and unending consequences. Thus, he understands "eternal fire" and "eternal punishment" to refer to fire/punishment of the age to come that has permanent, eternal consequences. I think Fudge's argument in this chapter is balanced and reasonable. It is semantically possible that Matthew intended aiōnios to convey that the fire or act of punishment would itself last forever, but it is not semantically necessary. The word aiōnios itself does not settle the question.

One area that I think Fudge could have explored further, here or elsewhere, is that of philosophy of time. Fudge seems to assume throughout that in the age to come, time will pass, and be experienced as passing, in the same or a similar manner as now. However, there are various philosophical-theological theories of time and God's relation to time, each with their own eschatological implications.14 For example, if one conceives of "the age to come" as an endless interval of time-as-we-know-it, the idea of eternal torment conjures up a rather different (and perhaps more sinister) image than if one conceives of "the age to come" as a timeless state, or a reality where the passage and experience of time are fundamentally different. One could not expect Fudge to have ventured too far into philosophical debates about time and spacetime in a "biblical and historical" study, but he might have acknowledged that such debates exist and have implications for our understanding of all things "eternal."


In Chapter 5, Fudge considers the biblical view of the state of the dead, particularly as captured in the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek word hades. He argues that "There is simply no basis for making Sheol an exclusive place of punishment for the wicked" (p. 85). This is true enough: the basic sense of Sheol in Scripture is that of the underworld. However, biblical scholar Philip S. Johnston points out that "Sheol cannot be identified simply as the Hebrew term for the underworld which awaits all. It is almost exclusively reserved for those under divine judgment, whether the wicked, the afflicted righteous, or all sinners."15 Fudge also doubts that the Hebrew Bible attributes any real existence to the dead in Sheol. One can certainly agree with Fudge that the Sheol of the Hebrew Bible is not the "hell" of later theology, but Sheol in the Hebrew Bible might be more accurately described as a place of "pale half existence" than non-existence.16 Moreover, Steiner finds very ancient evidence for a differentiation of postmortem fates in the opposing biblical idioms "brought in to his people" (ויאסף אל־עמיו, e.g., Gen. 25:8) and "cut off from his people" (ונכרתה הנפש ההוא מעמיה, e.g., Gen. 17:14).17


In Chapters 6 to 8, Fudge works through the (Protestant) Old Testament, seeking to answer the question, "What data does the Old Testament contain about the end of the wicked?" (p. 95). In Chapter 6, Fudge summarises various Old Testament descriptions of the end of the wicked (mainly from the Psalms) as follows: "The godless will come to nothing. They will perish, will disappear, will not be found. Their place will be empty. They will no longer exist" (p. 102). By contrast, he observes that the OT passages considered "say nothing of conscious unending torment...They do not envision the presence of the wicked forever...Rather, they picture a time and a world where the wicked will not be" (p. 102). In Chapter 7, he reviews historical examples of divine judgment from the Hebrew Bible, such as the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, and prophetic judgment oracles, pointing out that the punishment consistently entailed ending the earthly existence of the wicked. From the standpoint of grammatical-historical interpretation, I suspect that most exegetes, traditionalists included, would say "Amen" to most of Fudge's commentary in these chapters. However, Fudge seems to think that these texts' grammatical-historical meaning dominates or even exhausts their theological meaning, and it is here that traditionalists would disagree with him. A major problem with Fudge's theological inferences from grammatical-historical meaning in the Hebrew Bible is that, from a grammatical-historical standpoint, most scholars agree that the Hebrew Bible has little to say about the afterlife in general.18 Mark T. Finney matter-of-factly observes, "Hell, as a place of eternal suffering and punishment, does not exist in the Hebrew Bible. Early Israelite thought on death simply assumed that it marked, for all people, the end of worthwhile existence."19 In the Second Temple Period, influenced by Maccabean martyrdom and other horrific this-worldly experiences, an apocalyptic-eschatological worldview developed that included the expectation of resurrection to a beatific afterlife. However, if belief in a beatific afterlife for the righteous developed, notwithstanding the lack of expressions of such belief in earlier strata of the Hebrew Bible, surely beliefs about the future of the wicked might also have developed. This is one reason why Fudge's evidence in chapters 6-7 is not compelling. The other reason is that, in line with such developments, apocalyptically-minded Second Temple Jews and early Christians did not limit themselves to grammatical-historical meaning when reading their Bibles. They interpreted the texts through apocalyptic lenses, giving them typological and other non-literal meanings. This tendency is exemplified by Jesus himself, who in Mark 12:26-27 infers a doctrine of resurrection from Ex. 3:6, a text that, from a grammatical-historical standpoint, obviously has nothing to do with resurrection.

In Chapter 8, Fudge reviews a number of texts that, in his view, speak directly about eschatological punishment. Some of these, from a grammatical-historical standpoint, arguably are not expressions of apocalyptic eschatology, and so the same hermeneutical problem highlighted above would apply. Of special importance are Isaiah 66:24 (due to its citation in Mark 9:48 in connection with Gehenna) and Daniel 12:2-3 (which clearly does refer to eschatological fates). Isaiah 66:23-24, in the book's closing description of the New Jerusalem, states:
23 From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, All flesh shall come to worship before me, says the Lord. 24 They shall go out and see the corpses of the people who rebelled against me; For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be extinguished; and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. (NABRE)
Fudge is quick to point out that v. 24 "contains not one hint of conscious torment"; he instead describes it as a "simple narrative" providing "a final view of dead bodies being consumed by maggots and by fire until nothing finally remains" (pp. 126-27). He further opines that the fire in view here is an "unquenchable" one, but that this "does not mean ever-burning, but irresistible"; in Fudge's view this fire "eventually goes out, when it has consumed its fuel." I would remark that Fudge is again too concerned with demonstrating that this text, in its original, grammatical-historical sense, did not proclaim a traditionalist hell (which it did not),20 and too little concerned with how this text, read through apocalyptic Jewish lenses, might have contributed to the development of ideas about eschatological punishment.21 This text is important because it locates the eschatological punishment in the Valley of Hinnom (anticipating the New Testament term "Gehenna"),22 and because, pace Fudge, it depicts a supernaturally unending fire.23 The only ingredient missing for this to be a picture of the traditionalist hell is the consciousness of the punished persons. Daniel 12:2 supplies this ingredient (consciousness of the punished persons) without the other two (fire and location): "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; Some to everlasting life, others to reproach and everlasting disgrace" (NABRE). This text is ambiguous about what the "everlasting disgrace" entails,24 but situates it after the eschatological resurrection. If we combine these two texts, as ancient Jewish exegetes likely would have,25 we have a picture of the wicked dead rising to face "everlasting disgrace" including a punishment that does not terminate with physical death but continues unceasingly. Although the two texts make no reference to the victims' ongoing consciousness, this picture is otherwise remarkably similar to the traditionalist hell. Thus, I believe Fudge has underestimated the Old Testament support for traditionalism.


In Chapters 9 and 10, Fudge turns his attention to Second Temple Jewish literature. Concerning the "Apocrypha," Fudge concedes (as already mentioned) that Judith 16:17 teaches a traditionalist view of hell. For Catholics, however, Judith is not "Apocrypha" but a book of the Old Testament and thus authoritative. Of Judith 16:17's use of Isaiah 66:24, Fudge states: "Judith is not drawing on Isaiah's conviction; she is denying it. She is not following Isaiah. She is reversing Isaiah" (p. 145). Besides adopting a polemical tone toward an ancient text (rather poor historical method, regardless of questions of canonicity), this statement reflects Fudge's minimalistic reading of Isaiah 66:24 noted above. Isaiah already depicted unending fiery punishment; Judith only adds a detail, namely that these corpses are still conscious and so "weep and suffer forever." Weeping is, of course, also a characteristic of the punishment of Gehenna according to Matthew's Jesus (8:12, 13:42; etc.) Would Fudge contend that Matthew (or Jesus himself) is also "denying" or "reversing" Isaiah? Surely not—which makes his comments about Judith rather unfair.

Fudge's main aim in chapters 9 and 10 is to establish that intertestamental literature attests to diverse views about the fate of the wicked, and therefore to counter the claim that "By the time Jesus was born...the idea of unending conscious torment had become 'the Jewish view'" (p. 140). His counterclaim reads thus:
This diversity [in Second Temple Jewish ideas about final punishment] means that we cannot presume, based on some supposedly uniform ‘Jewish view,’ that Jesus believed in everlasting torment. We must consider Jesus’ own words and allow him to speak for himself. (p. 140)
Fudge's point is a valid one; any claim that "unending conscious torment" represents a default position (much less universally held position) within Second Temple Judaism is untenable. However, my sense is that Fudge's interest in the Second Temple texts he discusses is largely defensive. He seems to want to demonstrate their theological diversity and so rule them inadmissible as evidence. He does not seem to appreciate that this literature represents a treasure trove of historical data showing how Old Testament punishment passages were being reread apocalyptically and thus providing contextual background for interpreting New Testament passages about final punishment.

Concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), Fudge restricts his attention to those scrolls that had been made available to non-scholars at the time of his first edition (1982). He adds in a footnote that in preparing the third edition, he read an English translation of the DSS in its entirety, and that while some ambiguities need to be acknowledged, his original opinion stands unchanged, namely, that "So far as the authors of these ancient scrolls give any indication, the community whose views they record anticipated a day when the wicked would be thoroughly destroyed and be no more" (p. 152).26 While we should allow for the possibility of diverse views within the Qumran community itself, there are certainly DSS texts that appear to speak of the eschatological annihilation or termination of the wicked. However, the picture is not always as simple as the wicked being thoroughly destroyed in a day.27 A number of passages describe prolonged suffering in a transcendent place of misery that finally terminates with annihilation.
The judgment 12 of all who walk in such ways will be multiple afflictions at the hands of all the angels of perdition, everlasting damnation in the wrath of God's furious vengeance, never-ending terror and reproach 13 for all eternity, with a shameful extinction in the fire of Hell's outer darkness. For all their eras, generation by generation, they will know doleful sorrow, bitter evil and dark happenstance, until 14 their utter destruction with neither remnant nor rescue. (1QS 4.12-14, part of an originally independent text known as the Treatise of the Two Spirits)
Although the torment in this passage appears to finally terminate with annihilation ("extinction"; "until their utter destruction"), it is nonetheless a torment of very prolonged duration ("never-ending terror...for all eternity...all their eras, generation by generation").28 Other texts even appear (depending on the translation)29 to depict the suffering as unending:30
7 May you be damned without mercy in return for your dark deeds, an object of wrath 8 licked by eternal flame, surrounded by utter darkness. May God have no mercy upon you when you cry out, nor forgive so as to atone for your sins. 9 May He lift up His furious countenance upon you for vengeance. May you never find peace through the appeal of any intercessor. (1QS 2.7-9)31
The differences of the above translation from that quoted by Fudge32 are rather stark. Although praising the fairly recent DSS translation edited by Martinez and Tigchelaar,33 Fudge's third edition did not update his quotations, which are all taken from the very early translation of Géza Vermes (1st ed. 1961), which was not a direct translation of the Hebrew but a translation of André Dupont-Sommer's French translation of the Hebrew.34 This translation-of-a-translation does not reflect the wealth of DSS scholarship of the intervening five decades, including publication of many scrolls that were not available to Dupont-Sommer or Vermes in 1961. It thus appears that, at very least, the notions of final punishment that emerges from the DSS are rather more complex than Fudge allows.

Coming to the pseudepigrapha, Fudge agrees "that the intertestamental literature can sometimes provide important background and context for interpreting the New Testament" (pp. 159-60), and that the New Testament writers are not "limited to the original meaning of Old Testament languages" (p. 160). Nevertheless, Fudge does not seem particularly interested in identifying parallels between, or tracing traditional trajectories from, pseudepigraphical literature to the New Testament. Instead, his focus is again squarely on diversity: showing that a range of opinions (including what are now called traditionalist and conditionalist views of eschatological punishment) existed in the Second Temple period. He is again out to debunk the illusion of a monolithic Jewish view of hell in Jesus' day, and he debunks it successfully. In terms of canonical authority, he is right to describe the Old Testament Scriptures as "towering over" the Apocrypha (apart from those seven books that are part of the traditional Old Testament), the Pseudepigrapha, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, as we shall see in Part 2 of this review, the New Testament uses language for final punishment that is not drawn directly from the Old Testament but reflects traditional ideas found in other Second Temple Jewish literature. For the correct interpretation of such texts, non-canonical background information is of crucial importance.

Fudge discusses twelve individual texts in this chapter, of which he classifies four as unambiguously annihilationist (Sibylline Oracles Books 3 and 4, Damascus Document [which should have been discussed with the DSS], Psalms of Solomon, and 4 Ezra), three as ambiguous (Assumption of Moses, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Life of Adam and Eve), three as containing "mixed testimony" (Book of Jubilees, 1 Enoch, 2 Baruch), and two as unambiguously teaching "unending conscious torment" (2 Enoch4 Maccabees). I would first note that for a scholarly work, Fudge's interaction with the secondary literature is very disappointing. His quotations are all from Robert Henry Charles Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (originally published 1913), and he cites very few studies or commentaries concerning the origin or exegesis of these texts. Moreover, while some of the texts that he discusses do (having not studied them closely) appear straightforwardly to presuppose annihilation of the wicked, I would like to take a closer look at three of the texts on which Fudge comments in some detail: 4 Ezra, Jubilees, and 1 Enoch.

  4 Ezra

Fudge includes 4 Ezra (a Jewish apocalypse from c. the late first century C.E.) among those pseudepigrapha that unambiguously teach that "The Wicked Will Totally Pass Away." In discussing this massive and important apocalypse, Fudge offers just one citation from a scholarly source—a Bible dictionary entry35—despite that a major English-language commentary on 4 Ezra appeared between the first and second editions of The Fire That Consumes.36 Fudge quotes 4 Ezra 7:61 without comment as self-evidently conclusive evidence of the book's annihilationism (p. 163). This text reads as follows:
60 So also will be the judgment which I have promised: for I will rejoice over the few who shall be saved, because it is they who have made my glory to prevail now, and through them my name has now been honored. 61 And I will not grieve over the multitude of those who perish; for it is they who are now like a mist, and are similar to a flame and smoke—they are set on fire and burn hotly and are extinguished. (4 Ezra 7.60-61)37
Clearly, this text emphasises the transience of the many wicked in contrast to the righteous few. However, it may not even be discussing the fire of final punishment, and must be interpreted in context of the book's wider eschatological teachings.38 Fudge concedes that 4 Ezra anticipates that the souls of the wicked enter into torments after death while they await a final punishment. In 4 Ezra 7.78-86 the writer describes seven ways in which the souls of the wicked deceased shall be "ever grieving and sad." These include consideration of "the torment laid up for themselves in the last times," i.e. "the torments coming upon them from now on." Notably, v. 87 states that these souls "shall utterly waste away in confusion and be consumed with shame, and shall wither with fear...before whom they are to be judged in the last times."39 The text uses characteristic annihilation language (including the verb used in Fudge's book title, "consume") to describe something that is clearly not annihilation. Elsewhere in the apocalypse, the writer uses terms such as "perish," "death," "destruction," and "perdition"—often assumed by annihilationists to refer uniformly to annihilation in the New Testament—for a fate that entails more than physical death.40 4 Ezra thus provides important evidence that language of perishing, destruction, and death in the New Testament cannot be assumed, prima facie, to refer to absolute annihilation of all existence.

Describing the final, post-resurrection punishment, 4 Ezra is not as explicit as we might like about its duration but definitely describes it as a place of torment:
36 Then the pit of torment shall appear, and opposite it shall be the place of rest; and the furnace of Gehenna shall be disclosed, and opposite it the paradise of delight. 37 Then the Most High will say to the nations that have been raised, ‘Look and understand whom you have denied, whom you have not served, whose commandments you have despised! 38 Look opposite you: here are delight and rest, and there are fire and torments!’ Thus he will speak to them on the day of judgment. (4 Ezra 7.36-38)41
The text does not explicitly describe either the "delight and rest" or the "fire and torments" as unending, and we cannot rule out the possibility that the author envisioned the torments as eventually ending in annihilation. However, given that we know the author believed in transcendent torments of the soul in the intermediate state, and that the text does not say the post-resurrection torments will end, it seems more plausible to conclude that the author believed Gehenna to be a place of unending fire and torments.42


The Book of Jubilees is a retelling of Genesis and part of Exodus composed in the second century B.C.E. Fudge spends several pages discussing it but again cites no scholarly literature other than an entry in the Interpreter's Bible Dictionary. In what follows I will provide translations from O.S. Wintermute in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (ed. James H. Charlesworth), which were available to Fudge well ahead of his second edition. A two-volume Hermeneia commentary by James C. VanderKam came out just a few weeks ago, but I do not yet have access to it.

Fudge declares, "Again and again Jubilees stresses that the wicked will be utterly destroyed and perish from the earth" (p. 166). This is true, but most of the passages in the book about divine punishment concern temporal judgments in history (e.g., Jubilees 21.22, 26.34, 31.16-17) and not transcendent punishments executed after the final judgment. Jubilees 15.34 foretells that the children of Israel will someday neglect to circumcise their sons, with the result that "great wrath from the LORD will be upon the sons of Israel because they have left his covenant and have turned aside from his words… And there is therefore for them no forgiveness or pardon so that they might be pardoned and forgiven from all of the sins of this eternal error."43 We have here the notion of an eternal sin but no description of the punishment other than "great wrath." In Jubilees 22.22, Abraham describes to Jacob the fate of the idolatrous. Fudge quotes Charles' translation as a proof text for annihilation, but Wintermute's more recent translation suggests postmortem punishment.44 Jubilees 24.30-32 speaks of "the day of the wrath of judgment" whereupon an "eternal curse" will befall the Philistines. The punishment still seems to be envisioned as historical rather than transcendent, although the text states that "if they go down to Sheol, even there their judgment will multiply, and also there will be no peace for them there".45

Jubilees has surprisingly little to say about a postmortem or eschatological fate. In chapter 10, the book describes how demons begin to lead Noah's children astray, causing Noah to pray to God to "Shut [these spirits] up and take them to the place of judgment" (Jubilees 10.5).46 God answers Noah's prayer by commanding the demons to be bound, but their chief, Mastema, comes and petitions God to leave some of them as his servants, "because if some of them are not left for me, I will not be able to exercise the authority of my will among the children of men because they are (intended) to corrupt and lead astray before my judgment because the evil of the sons of men is great" (Jubilees 10.7-8). God then declares, "Let a tenth of them remain before him, but let nine parts go down into the place of judgment" (Jubilees 10.9). Thus we have a place of judgment where demons may be confined (indefinitely, it seems),47 and we have the prince of evil spirits anticipating "my judgment" (either a judgment that he will inflict or that will be inflicted on him). This passage, not mentioned by Fudge, certainly presupposes transcendent punishment of demons; and we have already seen that Jubilees 22.22 uses the same term, "place of judgment," for the destiny of idolaters. Could it be that, as later expressed in Matthew 25:41, the place where suprahuman and human beings are punished is the same?

The only other passage in Jubilees that appears to refer to a postmortem fate is 36.9-10. Here Isaac, giving final advice to Jacob and Esau, warns of the fate that awaits the one who seeks evil against his brother.48 The first part of the description sounds like temporal punishment by fire, but verse 10 speaks of being written in a book "which will be destroyed and will pass on to eternal execration so that their judgment will always be renewed with eternal reproach and execration and wrath and torment and indignation and plagues and sickness." It is not clear, at least in translation, whether it is the wicked person or the book that "will pass on to eternal execration." In any case, the "always...renewed...torment" appears to refer to unending conscious torment, unless this is a temporal punishment that will always be renewed upon his descendants (admittedly a possibility).49

To summarise, Jubilees says little about eschatological judgment, or at least appears to envision eschatological judgment as taking place within never-ending human history rather than a transcendent world to come. However, the book does refer to "the place of judgment," identified with Sheol, where demons are confined and where idolatrous humans also "walk" after their death. There is no reference to the annihilation of this place of judgment or its inhabitants.

  1 Enoch

The last pseudepigraphical work that I will discuss in some detail is 1 Enoch. This book is divided into five major parts with distinct origins (as Fudge notes), and so it should not surprise us if these source materials contain differences in eschatological outlook. Like Jubilees, 1 Enoch predates Jesus and the New Testament and is thus an important source of background information on the Jewish apocalyptic milieu from which the Jesus movement emerged.50

Fudge states that "At times 1 Enoch has sinners finally exterminated; at other times he has them enduring conscious pain forever" (p. 170). This assessment may be fair,51 but I take issue with the number of passages from 1 Enoch that Fudge assigns to each of these views. Fudge cites about eight passages from the Book of Parables as teaching that sinners are "exterminated forever," together with one text from the Astronomical Book, chapters 72-82 (1 Enoch 81.7-8), one text from the Dream Visions, chapters 83-90 (1 Enoch 90.25-27), and numerous texts from the Epistle of Enoch, chapters 91-108.52 In support of "unending conscious torment," Fudge adduces one text from the Book of the Watchers, chapters 1-36 (1 Enoch 27.1-3), one text from the Parables of Enoch (1 Enoch 67.4-13), and one from the Epistle of Enoch (1 Enoch 108.3-6), but his comments suggest that he finds all three texts ambiguous. It is therefore not clear whether Fudge actually concedes for any individual text that 1 Enoch "has [sinners] enduring conscious pain forever."

Again, despite spending several pages on 1 Enoch, Fudge cites very little scholarly literature in his discussion.53 Today we have the advantage of George W. E. Nickelsburg's masterful two-volume Hermeneia commentary on 1 Enoch. The first volume, which covers chapters 1-36 and 83-108 (Book of the Watchers, Dream Visions, and Epistle of Enoch) was published in 2001, well in time to be considered for the third edition of Fudge's book, but the second volume, which covers chapters 37-82 (Book of Parables and Astronomical Book) appeared in 2012, only after Fudge's third edition. Even so, Fudge could have had recourse to the editions and translations of Michael Knibb (1978) and Matthew Black (1985) as well as E. Isaac's translation (1983) from Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. It is disappointing that Fudge's exegesis of this very important ancient Jewish source is largely limited to his musings on Charles's dated translation.

Nickelsburg describes "The Coming Judgment" as the focal point of the entire Enochic corpus.54 However, he cautions that "1 Enoch's religious thought lacks consistency and defies systematization" and that this is "perhaps nowhere as evident as in the corpus's descriptions of and statements about the great judgment."55 The Book of the Watchers, the earliest part of the Enochic corpus, describes the fall of the watcher angels (cf. Gen. 6:1-4) and then their punishment, which entails the watchers being bound in dark valleys until the day of judgment, whereupon "they will be led away to the fiery abyss, and to the torture, and to the prison where they will be confined forever."56 It appears that wicked humans will undergo the same punishment as the watchers, though the humans' punishment may be for a finite period.57 In chapters 13-14, the watchers ask Enoch to intercede with God on their behalf; he does so, but their petition is denied and they are told that "it has been decreed to bind you in bonds in the earth for all the days of eternity" (1 Enoch 14.5).58 This petition-and-denial motif underscores the unending duration of the punishment. In chapters 18 and 21, Enoch is shown respectively the prison of the stars (understood as celestial beings) and of the angels. The stars are to be bound only "until the time of the consummation of their sins—ten thousand years" (1 Enoch 18.16) whereas the angels "will be confined forever" (1 Enoch 21.10).59 In chapter 22, Enoch is shown the Mountain of the Dead and receives more detailed information about the fate of righteous and wicked humans. The mountain contains hollow places "that the spirits of the souls of the dead might be gathered into them" and "pits for the place of their confinement...until the time of the day of the end of the great judgment" (1 Enoch 22.3-4).60 Concerning the wicked, Enoch is told, "Here their spirits are separated for this great torment, until the great day of judgment, of scourges and tortures of the cursed forever, that there might be a recompense for their spirits. There he will bind them forever" (1 Enoch 22.11).61 In chapters 23-24, Enoch sees "a fire that ran and did not rest or quit its course day and night...mountains of fire that burned day and night" (1 Enoch 23.1-24.1).62 In chapters 26-27, Enoch views a transcendent Jerusalem at the centre of the earth, and near it the place of punishment, the accursed valley (which scholars identify as the Valley of Hinnom).63

Within the Dream Visions (1 Enoch 83-90) is an Animal Apocalypse (chapters 85-90) in which Israel's history is recounted and the last things foretold through an allegorical vision. The watchers, represented by stars, are to be bound and thrown into "an abyss...narrow and deep and desolate and dark" (1 Enoch 88.1).64 The shepherds (representing bad human leaders) are also cast into the fiery abyss with the stars,65 while the blinded sheep (representing the sinners of Israel) are separately thrown into another abyss that is identifiable as the Valley of Hinnom, where they burn.66 Since this vision is allegorical, it is not clear whether the burning of the sheep is intended to convey merely a fiery execution of people or a fiery transcendent punishment. The Epistle of Enoch (chapters 91-105) contains numerous pictures of consummate divine judgments, but the nature and duration of the punishments are ambiguous. For instance, in 1 Enoch 99.11-16, the wicked are warned that they "will be brought to an end" and be destroyed "with the sword," but also that they "will have no peace" and "will have no rest."67 In 1 Enoch 100.9, the unrighteous are warned that "in the heat of a blazing fire you will burn."68 The above may sound like annihilation, but a remark made by sinners about the righteous dead suggests that the author regards perishing as distinct from the afterlife of the soul.69 A warning in 1 Enoch 103.7-8 appears to confirm that the writer envisions unending torment for the souls of the unrighteous.70 A similar picture emerges in 1 Enoch 108 (not part of the Epistle of Enoch but described by Nickelsburg as "another Book of Enoch"), where "evildoers are brought to an end" and "their seed will perish forever" and yet this does not entail annihilation but transcendent torment.71

Finally, let us consider the Book of Parables (1 Enoch 37-71), which Fudge construes as teaching that sinners are "exterminated forever" and which he singles out as particularly "relevant to New Testament doctrine." Nickelsburg acknowledges that the Parables "lack overall uniformity" on the subject of eternal punishment, since "The Parables' statements that the kings and the mighty will be driven (or will perish) from the face of the earth (38:1) is not compatible with their punishment in a deep valley at earth's perimeter [52:9; 53:2]."72 The first part of the book is ambiguous about the ultimate fate of sinners.73 It is in chapters 62-63 that the unending, conscious nature of final punishment becomes clear. Here, after the Lord of Spirits seats the Son of Man "upon the throne of his glory" (1 Enoch 62.2), the Son of Man "will press [the kings and the mighty], so that they will hasten to depart from his presence, and their faces will be filled with shame, and the darkness will grow deeper on their faces. And he will deliver them to the angels for punishment, so that they may exact retribution from them" (62.10-11).74 That this punishment is not annihilation is clear from chapter 63, in which the kings and the mighty beg the angels of punishment for a little respite, since "darkness is [their] dwelling forever and ever" and they are in "the flame of the torment of Sheol." Their petition is denied.75

The above discussion of three major Second Temple Jewish texts is important, not only because Fudge may have underestimated their evidence for belief in unending conscious torment for the wicked, but also for information they provide that can help us to correctly interpret the New Testament. Three insights in particular are noteworthy. (1) These texts use terms like "perish," "destroy," and "end," which might otherwise be assumed to connote annihilation, in the context of clear statements about transcendent, unending torment. This means that we cannot assume a priori that such terminology connotes annihilation when used in the New Testament. (2) The passages in the above texts that speak, or appear to speak, of unending torment for the wicked are the very passages containing some of the closest parallels to judgment sayings of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. They speak of departing, being thrown, being cursed, being punished together with angels, weeping, fire, darkness, etc. (3) Second Temple Jewish texts that presuppose some notion of unending torment for the wicked do so while unmistakably drawing on major Old Testament judgment texts, such as Isa. 66:24, Dan. 12:2, the historical examples of Noah's Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. This underscores that, when the New Testament also draws judgment language and imagery from these texts, we cannot assume a priori that the New Testament writers have only the grammatical-historical meaning of the Old Testament in mind.

Summing up thus far, I would say that Fudge handles the evidence of the Hebrew Bible capably, although the hermeneutical question of whether the grammatical-historical meaning of judgment texts in the Hebrew Bible exhausts their significance for the Church remains. One major sticking point is that, while Fudge and I agree that Judith 16:17 presupposes a traditionalist concept of hell, Fudge dismisses this text as apocryphal whereas I, as a Catholic (and following a tradition that goes back to the first century), regard it as part of the Old Testament. Where Fudge's book disappoints is in its treatment of non-canonical Second Temple literature. The lack of attention to detail and lack of engagement with academic literature in his exegesis of several important Second Temple texts, such as 4 Ezra, Jubilees, and 1 Enoch, leaves him vulnerable to interpreting New Testament language about final punishment with an inadequate understanding of its religio-historical context. In the second part of this review we will consider Fudge's treatment of the New Testament, and in the third part, his treatment of Christian beliefs about hell down through Church history and his theological conclusions.

Footnotes

  • 1 For an overview of this teaching, see paragraphs 1033-1035 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
  • 2 In his 1927 lecture/essay Why I Am Not a Christian.
  • 3 Dissent from the traditional Christian doctrine of hell has existed throughout the post-Reformation period. See, for example, Philip C. Almond, Heaven and Hell in Enlightenment England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). There has also been pushback against a traditional view of hell from Catholic theologians, but such theologians, such as Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar, have not challenged the traditional doctrine of hell directly. Rather, they have suggested that Christians may legitimately hope that hell turns out to be empty.
  • 4 Fudge writes concerning Judith 16:17, "This language is unmistakable. It describes the traditionalist hell" (p. 144). Note that, as I have discussed elsewhere, Judith was considered part of "sacred Scripture" in the Roman church at least as early as the late first century, as is evident from 1 Clement.
  • 5 "The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God - it is not "produced" by the parents - and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 366).
  • 6 This term is borrowed from Reformed theologian John W. Cooper, who has written an excellent book on the intermediate state and theological anthropology (Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989]).
  • 7 Even without "immortal souls," traditionalism would still possible if, for instance, all persons receive unannihilable bodies at the resurrection.
  • 8 The Catholic Church has always regarded philosophy as a good, a resource to assist our human reason in understanding and articulating divine revelation; and all of us engage in philosophy, and are influenced in our thinking by classical Greek philosophy, whether we like to admit it or not. For a broader defence of the use of Greek philosophy in the early church, see here.
  • 9 See, e.g., Luke 16:31, where Lazarus in Abraham's bosom is nonetheless among "the dead."
  • 10 Matthew J. Suriano, “Breaking Bread with the Dead: Katumuwa’s Stele, Hosea 9:4, and the Early History of the Soul,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 134(3) (2014): 389-90.
  • 11 Richard C. Steiner, The Nefesh in Israel and Kindred Spirits in the Ancient Near East, With an Appendix on the Katumuwa Inscription (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2015), 126.
  • 12 BDAG 1098.
  • 13 Note that limiting our theological discourse to biblical words does not ensure a sound hermeneutic—to the contrary, it precludes it. The very word "hermeneutic" is not in the Bible, but few would dispute its usefulness in theological discourse.
  • 14 The two basic views of time is that past/present/future are objectively distinct [view A, "presentism"] or "purely mind-dependent: things in time are no more objectively 'now' than things in space are objectively 'here' [view B, "eternalism"]" (William Lane Craig, "Time, Eternity, and Eschatology," in J. L. Walls (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008], 596). Craig remarks that "Weighty arguments can be brought to bear" for both views, and "the controversy shows no sign of abating" ("Time, Eternity, and Eschatology," 598). He further notes that philosophers and theologians debate "whether God’s eternity is to be construed as a state of timelessness or of infinite, omnitemporal duration" ("Time, Eternity, and Eschatology," 598). Which view one takes on these respective philosophy-of-time questions clearly affects how one would interpret eschatological realities such as "eternal life," "eternal punishment," "eternal destruction," etc.
  • 15 Philip S. Johnston, Shades of Sheol: Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 83.
  • 16 Alan E. Bernstein, The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), 196.
  • 17 Steiner, Disembodied Souls, 99-100.
  • 18 John J. Collins writes that "Daniel 12:2-3 is the only clear attestation of a belief in resurrection in the Hebrew Bible. The standard view in ancient Israel was that the dead had a shadowy afterlife in Sheol, where they could not even praise the Lord" (A Commentary on the Book of Daniel [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993], 394).
  • 19 "Afterlives of the Afterlife: The Development of Hell in its Jewish and Christian Contexts," Biblical Reception 2 (2013): 150-51.
  • 20 As John Goldingay rightly states, this passage "refers hyperbolically to an enhanced version of what regularly happens in ordinary life, when bodies either rot or are burned in order to anticipate that rotting, and not to something corresponding to the later idea of heaven and hell" (Isaiah 56-66: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary [London: Bloomsbury, 2014], 523).
  • 21 As Joseph Blenkinsopp states, "A reading of Isa 66:24, together with texts from Jeremiah that identify the Valley of Hinnom as a place of punishment for the wicked (7:30-34; 19:6-7), contributed to the idea of eternal punishment involving fire and worms (Sir 7:17, Greek text; Jdt 16:17) and to the transformation of the Valley of Hinnom (gê hinnôm) into Gehenna, familiar from the Gospel sayings of Jesus (Matt 5:22, 29-30; Mark 9:43-48, where the influence of Isa 66:24 is apparent)." (Isaiah 56-66: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary [New York: Doubleday: 2003], 317).
  • 22 "As the prophecy refers to the literal Jerusalem, so it refers to the literal Hinnom Canyon outside the city" (Goldingay, Isaiah 56-66, 523); "The scene is no doubt the Valley of Hinnom" (Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 56-66, 317).
  • 23 "Their fire shall not be extinguished" cannot merely refer to an "irresistible" fire that burns "until nothing finally remains" and then "goes out," as Fudge suggests. Isaiah's picture explicitly has "all flesh" viewing the burning, maggot-infested corpses month after month and week after week, i.e. long after an ordinary, natural fire would have burned itself out and maggots would have run out of food. As Bernstein states, "a new continuator of Isaiah called Trito-Isaiah transfers the interminability of the reward to the punishment when he imagines another fire – one that would not end...Whatever the precise associations, the condition will not end. The fire will burn and the worms will gnaw those carcasses unceasingly. It would be an exaggeration to claim this image as a synthesis of the two types of punishment: destruction and long-lasting suffering. The poetic device leaves a paradox that is not explained. The fire and the worm do not destroy, or else the burning and the gnawing would cease. Yet, since these are cadavers, the ‘persons’ involved cannot suffer. To interpret this passage further would be to 'theologize' and to insist on a more systematic statement than actually exists" (The Formation of Hell, 171-72). Nevertheless, Isaiah 66:24 "extends the punishment of the wicked beyond their death" and "states that the torments applied to the bodies of the dead will not end" (The Formation of Hell, 172).
  • 24 Collins writes, "The term used by Daniel, 'will awake,' does not require that the sinners are raised from Sheol. In 1En 22:13 one of the groups of the dead awaiting judgment consists of sinners who 'will not be killed on the day of judgment, nor will they rise from there.' In 1 QS 2:4-9; 4:11-14, sinners are damned in the shadowy place of everlasting fire. Daniel does not elaborate on the punishment of the damned and makes no mention of a fiery hell, but he does seem to go beyond Isaiah 66 in having the sinners restored to life to experience their disgrace" (Commentary on Daniel, 393).
  • 25 As David Instone Brewer notes, an ancient rule of Jewish exegesis called gezerah shavah entailed interpreting two passages jointly when they share an important phrase (Techniques and Assumptions in Jewish Exegesis before 70 CE (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1992), pp. 17-18). Isaiah 66:24 and Daniel 12:2 are the only two places in the Hebrew Bible where the word דראון  ("abhorrence") occurs, which together with their other similarities would have made them prime candidates for gezerah shavah.
  • 26 The footnote referred to is pp. 155-56, n. 42.
  • 27 Immediate and total annihilation of the wicked in the eschatological battle seems to be in view in the best-preserved War Scroll (1QM). Straightforward annihilation also seems to be in view in the Damascus Document.
  • 28 For another DSS that appear to describe the annihilation of the wicked after a prolonged period of punishment, see 4Q286 7ii.5-6.
  • 29 DSS translations herein are from Emanuel Tov (ed.), The Dead Sea Scrolls Reader, 6 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 2003-2004), unless otherwise indicated.
  • 30 Another text that, although fragmentary, may describe the eschatological misery of the wicked as unending is 11Q11 IV.4-12; V.8-11. A variant form of the War Scroll (4Q491 8-10i.14-16) states, "[Let] the light of Your majesty [shine forever...upon god]s and men, 15  [...as a fire bur]ning in the dark places of the damned. Let it bu[rn] the damned of Sheol, [as an eternal burning among the tra]nsgressors 16 [...] in all the appointed times of eternity."
  • 31 This is not part of the Treatise of the Two Spirits and is thus originally an independent text from 4.12-14 quoted above.
  • 32 "Be cursed in all the works of your guilty ungodliness! May God make you an object of dread by the hand of the Avengers of vengeance! May he hurl extermination after you by the hand of all the Executioners of punishment! Be cursed without mercy, according to the darkness of your deeds! Be damned in the night of eternal fire!"
  • 33 Florentino Garcia Martinez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar (eds.), The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).
  • 34 André Dupont-Sommer, The Essene writings from Qumran (trans. Géza Vermes; Oxford: Blackwell, 1961)
  • 35 Fudge cites Turner, "Esdras, Books of," 2:140-42, from the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible.
  • 36 Michael Edward Stone, A Commentary on the Book of Fourth Ezra (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990).
  • 37 Trans. Stone, Fourth Ezra, 225.
  • 38 Stone comments, "The use of the image [of vapor] to stress the impermanence of humans has biblical origins...Smoke serves the same end in Ps 37:20, while the burning of fire symbolizes impermanence in Isa 43:17 and Ps 118:12...Arabic1, Arabic2, and Armenian seem to construe the fire as hell fire" (4 Ezra, 232 n. 39). This comment on the Arabic and Armenian versions suggests that the original text did not construe this fire as hell fire. Rather, "The wicked are likened to mist or vapor, fire and smoke, all evanescent phenomena. These images are commonplace and may be found in the Hebrew Bible as well as in 4 Ezra and other apocryphal literature" (Stone, 4 Ezra, 232).
  • 39 "78 Now, concerning death, the teaching is: When the decisive decree has gone forth from the Most High that a man shall die, as the soul leaves the body to return again to him who gave it, first of all it adores the glory of the Most High. 79 And if it is one of those who have shown scorn and have not kept the ways of the Most High, and who have despised his law, and who have hated those who fear God—80 such souls shall not enter into treasuries, but shall immediately wander about in torments, ever grieving and sad in seven ways. 81 The first way, because they have scorned the law of the Most High. 82 The second way, because they cannot now repent and do good that they may live. 83 The third way, that they shall see the reward laid up for those who have trusted the injunctions of the Most High. 84 The fourth way, that they shall consider the torment laid up for themselves in the last times. 85 The fifth way, that they shall see the treasuries of the other souls guarded by angels in profound quiet. 86 The sixth way, that they shall see the torments coming upon them from now on. 87 The seventh way, which surpasses all the ways that have been mentioned, because they shall utterly waste away in confusion and be consumed with shame, and shall wither with fear since they see the glory of the Most High before whom they sinned now while they were alive, and before whom they are to be judged in the last times." (4 Ezra 7.78-86, trans. Stone, 4 Ezra, 235-36).
  • 40 For instance, 4 Ezra 8.55-59 speaks concerning "the multitude of those who perish" of "the thirst and torment which are prepared" for them (trans. Stone, 4 Ezra, 277). Stone offers an excursus on "The Concept of Death in 4 Ezra" in which he states that "4 Ezra uses the language of death in two major fashions. The first is of physical death...The second major use of this notion is more general, less precisely defined. In it death appears as the equivalent of perdition or damnation and in opposition not just to life but to eternal life...in 8:31 death is simply the equivalent of eternal punishment" (Stone, 4 Ezra, 65-67). Concerning references to "destruction" and "perdition" in 4 Ezra 10.10, Stone writes, "‘Destruction’ here may go back to Greek pea and Hebrew , a technical term for the underworld, parallel to ‘Sheol’ and ‘Mawet’ in the Hebrew Bible. Note, therefore, the parallelism of ‘corruption’/’ways of death’/’paths of perdition’ in 7:48. Consequently, the term ‘perdition’ does not necessarily imply annihilation but death, which is regarded in 4 Ezra either negatively or neutrally" (Stone, 4 Ezra, 322).
  • 41 Trans. Stone, 4 Ezra, 203.
  • 42 Commenting on 4 Ezra 7.36-38, Stone states, "The term 'appear' may be thought to imply that paradise and Gehenna are already in existence...The two parallel bicola of which the verse is composed gives us two terms for the place of reward and two for the place of punishment. 'Torment' is a word often used in 4 Ezra for eschatological punishment or for the intermediate state of the wicked souls. 'Pit' is a common term for the underworld in the Bible (see, e.g., Ezek 31:16 and Ps 28:1); so the expression 'pit of torment' indicates the transformation of Sheol to the place of punishment of the wicked. The 'furnace of Gehenna' is of course related to the idea that Gehenna will be a fiery place. The place of fire in the punishment of the wicked is preeminent from early times. One verse that had great influence in later times in this connection was Isa 66:24" (4 Ezra, 221). See also 4 Ezra 7:119-126, in which the wicked ask questions concerning the world to come such as, "For what good is it to us...that the faces of those who practiced self-control shall shine more than the stars, but ours shall be blacker than darkness? For while we lived and committed iniquity we did not consider what we should suffer after our death" (trans. Stone, 4 Ezra, 253).
  • 43 Trans. Wintermute, OTP 2:87.
  • 44 "And for all of those who worship idols and for the hated ones, there is no hope in the land of the living; because they will go down into Sheol. And in the place of judgment they will walk, and they will have no memory upon the earth. Just as the sons of Sodom were taken from the earth, so (too) all of those who worship idols shall be taken away" (Trans. Wintermute, OTP 2:98).
  • 45 "30 And no remnant will be left to them, nor one who escapes on the day of the wrath of judgment; because all of the Philistine seed is (destined) for destruction and uprooting and removal from the earth. And, therefore, there will not be any name or seed which remains upon the earth for any of the Caphtorim. 31 Because if they go up to heaven, from there they will fall; and if they are set firm in the earth, from there they will be torn out; and if they are hidden among the nations, from there they will be uprooted; and if they go down to Sheol, even there their judgment will multiply, and also there will be no peace for them there. 32 And if they go into captivity by the hand of those who seek their life, they will kill them along the way. And neither name nor seed will be left for them in all the earth, because they shall walk in an eternal curse" (Wintermute, OTP 2:104).
  • 46 Trans. Wintermute, OTP 2:76.
  • 47 It is apparent from the language of "binding" that the place of judgment is a place of confinement, not annihilation.
  • 48 "9 And if either of you seeks evil against his brother, know that hereafter each one who seeks evil against his brother will fall into his hands and be uprooted from the land of the living and his seed will be destroyed from under heaven. 10 And on the day of turmoil and execration and indignation and wrath, (then) with devouring burning fire just as he burned Sodom so too will he burn up his land and his city and everything which will be his. And he will be wiped out from the book of the discipline of mankind, and he will not be written (on high) in The Book of Life for (he is written) in the one which will be destroyed and pass on to eternal execration so that their judgment will always be renewed with eternal reproach and execration and wrath and torment and indignation and plagues and sickness" (trans. Wintermute, OTP 2:124).
  • 49 Fudge admits that these words "sound much like the unending conscious torment of the traditional hell," but suggests that "always renewed" means only that the punishment is "not exhausted in this life, it extends into the age to come" (p. 168). I think that, noting the contrast between the singular "he will not be written" and the plural "their judgment" in the preceding clauses, an argument for a temporal punishment that is always renewed on the wicked person's descendants is a more promising alternative to unending conscious torment of one person.
  • 50 There is some debate about the date of the Parables of Enoch since it is the only part of 1 Enoch not represented in fragments from Qumran, but as I have written previously, a broad consensus among specialists now dates the Parables to around the reign of Herod the Great (late first century B.C.E. or early first century C.E.)
  • 51 The reference to 1 Enoch's author as "he" raises the question of whether Fudge is aware that the book as we have it was composed and compiled by numerous authors and redactors over several centuries.
  • 52 George W. E. Nickelsburg restricts the Epistle of Enoch to chapters 91-105 and considers chapters 106-107 and 108 as two separate books (The Birth of Noah and Another Book of Enoch respectively) (1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch Chapters 1-36, 81-108 [Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001], 7).
  • 53 Fudge once again cites an Interpreter's Bible Dictionary entry; he further cites R. H. Charles's century-old edition of the pseudepigrapha and an article by F. F. Bruce ("A Reappraisal of Jewish Apocalyptic Literature, Review and Expositor 72 [1975]: 305-15).
  • 54 1 Enoch 1, 37.
  • 55 He continues: "What is important and central is that God does act as judge to set the world right. The Enochic authors are not theologians but religious teachers and preachers who assert in many different ways and forms their belief in the faithfulness and justice of God, the vindicator and savior of the righteous" (1 Enoch 1, 49).
  • 56 "4 To Raphael he said, ‘Go, Raphael, and bind Asael hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness; And make an opening in the wilderness that is in Doudael. 5 There cast him, and lay beneath him sharp stones and jagged stones. And cover him with darkness, and let him dwell there forever. Cover up his face, and let him not see the light. 6 And on the day of the great judgment, he will be led away to the burning conflagration" (1 Enoch 10.4-6, trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 215); "11 And to Michael he said, ‘Go, Michael, bind Shemihazah and the others with him, who have united themselves with the daughters of men, so that they were defiled by them in their uncleanness. 12 And when their sons perish and they see the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, until the day of their judgment and consummation, until the eternal judgment is consummated. 13 Then they will be led away to the fiery abyss, and to the torture, and to the prison where they will be confined forever. 14 And everyone who is condemned and destroyed henceforth will be bound together with them until the consummation of their generation. <And at the time of the judgment, which I shall judge, they will perish for all generations.> (1 Enoch 10.11-14, trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 215).
  • 57 On v. 14, Nickelsburg comments, "According to the first sentence, the place of wicked humanity’s confinement is the same as the watchers’ temporary prison. This may suggest that both watchers and people will have the same place of final punishment, but this is by no means certain. Only such late texts as Matt 25:41 and Rev 20:10, 15 (cf. 19:20) speak of a single such place of final punishment. Both 1 Enoch 21:7-10 and 27:2-3||90:24-27 distinguish two places, identifying the place of humanity’s punishment with the Valley of Hinnom (see comm. on 27:2-3)" (1 Enoch 1, 225).
  • 58 Trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 251.
  • 59 Trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 276, 297).
  • 60 Trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 300).
  • 61 Trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 300.
  • 62 Trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 310.
  • 63 1 Then I said, ‘Why is this land blessed and all filled with trees, but this valley is cursed?’ 2 Then answered <Sariel>, one of the holy angels who was with me, and said to me, ‘This cursed valley is for those who are cursed forever. Here will be gathered all the cursed, who utter with their mouth an improper word against the Lord and speak hard things against his glory. Here they will be gathered, and here will be (their) habitation 3 at the last times, in the days of righteous judgment in the presence of the righteous for all time. Here the godless will bless the Lord of glory, the King of eternity. 4 In the days of their judgment they will bless in mercy accordance with how he has apportioned to them.’ (1 Enoch 27.1-4, trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 317).
  • 64 Trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 364.
  • 65 "24 And judgment was exacted first on the stars, and they were judged and found to be sinners. And they went to the place of judgment, and they threw them into an abyss; and it was full of fire, and it was burning and was full of pillars of fire. 25 And those seventy shepherds were judged and found to be sinners, and they were thrown into that fiery abyss." (1 Enoch 90.24-25, trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 402). Nickelsburg comments that the seventy shepherds are "consigned to the same fiery abyss as the watchers" (1 Enoch 1, 404).
  • 66 "26 And I saw at that time that an abyss like it was opened in the middle of the earth, which was full of fire. And they brought those blinded sheep, and they were all judged and found to be sinners. And they were thrown into that fiery abyss, and they burned. And that abyss was to the south of that house. 27 And I saw those sheep burning and their bones burning." (1 Enoch 90.26-27, trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 402). "The final part of the judgment (vv 26-27) is introduced as a separate event, ‘And I saw…’ With an allusion to the idea in chaps. 26-27, the pit of the Valley of Hinnom is opened up ‘in the center of the earth’ (90:26; cf. 26:1). On the significance of this place as the locus of eschatological punishment, see comm. on 27:2-3a" (Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 403-404).
  • 67 Trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 495.
  • 68 Trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 503.
  • 69 "When you die, then sinners say about you, 'The pious have died according to fate...And they perished and became as those who are not, and their souls descended with pain into Sheol'" (1 Enoch 102.6, 11, trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 511).
  • 70 "7 Know that down to Sheol they will lead your souls; and there they will be in great distress, 8 and in darkness and in a snare and in a flaming fire. Into great judgment your souls will enter, and the great judgment will be for all the generations of eternity. Woe to you, you will have no peace." (1 Enoch 103.7-8, trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 511).
  • 71 "3 ...their spirits will be slaughtered, and they will cry out and groan in a desolate, unseen place, and in fire they will burn, for there is no earth there. 4 ...And flames of fire I saw burning gloriously, and something like glorious mountains were turning over and quaking to and fro. 5 And I asked one of the holy angels who were with me, 'What is this glorious (place), for there is no heaven, but only flames of fire that are burning and the sound of weeping and crying and groaning and severe pain.' 6 And he said to me, 'The place that you see—here are thrown the spirits of the sinners and blasphemers and those who do evil and those who alter everything that the Lord has said by the mouth of the prophets (about) the things that will be done...' 14 And the righteous, as they shine, will see those who were born in darkness cast into darkness; 15 and the sinners will cry out and see them shining; and they, for their part, will depart to where the days and times are written for them." (1 Enoch 108.3-6, 14-15, trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, 551). Nickelsburg comments that "The final tristich of v 3 looks beyond the removal of sinners to their punishment in the fiery pit," and that the sinners appear to be punished in the prison of the stars mentioned in chapters 18 and 21, implying "a single place of punishment for angels and sinners" as had already been indicated in 10.13-14 (1 Enoch 1, 555).
  • 72 George W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 2: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 37-82 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), 51.
  • 73 Sinners will be "driven from the presence of the righteous and chosen...and they will not be able to look at the face of the holy" (1 Enoch 38.4), while "the kings and the mighty will perish...and from then on, no one will seek mercy for them from the Lord of Spirits, for their life will be at an end" (1 Enoch 38.5-6, trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 2, 95). The remark that no one will seek mercy for them suggests that they still exist after they "perish." Again, in the second parable (1 Enoch 45), the sinners are said to be "kept thus for the day of affliction and tribulation. On that day...their souls will be <distressed> within them, when they see my chosen ones... the judgment of the sinners has drawn near to me, that I may destroy them from the face of the earth" (1 Enoch 45.2-3, 6, trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 2, 148.) 1 Enoch 46.6 further states that "The face of the strong he will turn aside, and he will fill them with shame. Darkness will be their dwelling, and worms will be their couch. And they will have no hope to rise from their couches..." (trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 2, 153). In 1 Enoch 53.2-5, both the sinners and the kings and the mighty are said to "perish." However, there is a text-critical problem affecting the meaning of the verb translated "perish": "Depending on whether one reads the verb ‘perish,’ with its one-letter negative adverbial prefix... or without it as two mss. do, the last line of the verse refers either to the sinners’ being eternally punished (and thus not perishing) or to their annihilation" (Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 2, 196). That the instruments being prepared by the angels of punishment "for the kings and the mighty of the earth, that they may perish thereby" (1 Enoch 53.5) are undoubtedly the "iron chains" mentioned in 1 Enoch 54.3 (so Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 2, 196) suggests that this "perishing" consists of eternal imprisonment and not annihilation, since chains are instruments of confinement and not execution.
  • 74 Trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 2, 254.
  • 75 "6 Now we desire a little respite and do not find it, we pursue it and do not lay hold of it. And light has vanished from our presence, and darkness is our dwelling forever and ever. 7 For in his presence we did not make confession, nor did we glorify the name of the Lord of the kings. Our hope was on the sceptre of our kingdom and <throne of> our glory. 8 But on the day of our affliction and tribulation it does not save us, nor do we find respite to make confession, that our Lord is faithful in all his deeds and his judgment and his justice, and his judgments have no respect for persons. 9 And we vanish from his presence because of our deeds, and all our sins are reckoned in righteousness.’ 10 Now they will say to themselves, ‘Our souls are full of ill-gotten wealth, but it does not prevent us from descending into the flame of the torment of Sheol.’ 11 And after that their faces will be filled with darkness and shame in the presence of that Son of Man; and from his presence they will be driven, and a sword will abide before him in their midst." (1 Enoch 63.6-11, trans. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 2, 255).