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Showing posts with label individual eschatology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label individual eschatology. Show all posts

Sunday 22 August 2021

Review of "The Immortality of the Soul: Is it Biblical?" by Fr Emmanuel Cazanave

This article reviews an article entitled, «L'immortalité de l'âme est-elle biblique?» ("The immortality of the soul: Is it biblical?") by Fr Emmanuel Cazanave.1 Rev Dr Cazanave is a priest of the diocese of Toulouse, France and a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Theology at the Institut catholique de Toulouse. The topic is of interest to me as a reader who has moved from a confessional community that answers an emphatic "No" to the titular question (the Christadelphians),2 to one that affirms the immortality of the soul as a matter of dogma (the Roman Catholic Church).3 In my view, Fr Cazanave offers insights that could be useful to a diverse audience. I refer firstly to those who deny the immortality of the soul and hold an "annihilationist" position (that death reduces the human person to nothing). Secondly, I refer to myriads of Catholics who are misinformed about Church teaching and regard death as a welcome escape from bodily existence. Since the article is probably inaccessible to most readers of this blog, due to being written in French, I thought I would offer a review with a little of my own commentary. I should mention that I also do not have access to the published version of the article, but Fr Cazanave kindly sent me a preprint.4

The article is broader in scope than the title suggests. It is divided into four main sections, only one of which deals primarily with biblical exegesis. Fr Cazanave first explains what the Magisterium—the teaching office of the Catholic Church—has stated on the subject of the immortality of the soul. Secondly, he lists some theological objections to the doctrine of the soul's immortality and attempts to answer them. Thirdly, he surveys biblical evidence pertaining to the topic. Fourthly, he discusses the contributions of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), one of the Church's most important theologians.


In the article's introduction, Fr Cazanave briefly surveys much of the ground that he will dig into more deeply later on. He begins by acknowleding an apparent incongruity between the notion of the immortality of the soul—understood as the existence of a disembodied human soul after death—and the biblical vision of the human person, which exhibits a profound unity that seems to exclude any notion of a separable soul. He further points out that the idea of an immortal soul brings with it the danger (also highlighted in recent times by Protestant luminaries such as Oscar Cullmann and N.T. Wright) of a distorted Christian doctrine of resurrection. He admits that many Christians conceive of resurrection as simply an afterlife of the soul without the body, and indeed that the majority of Catholics no longer believe in the resurrection of the body (notwithstanding that Catholics testify to such belief at every Mass when reciting the Creed).

In view of these problems, Fr Cazanave concedes that the opposition of some theologians to any concept of a soul or an immortal soul, which they denounce as a pollution of Judaeo-Christian thought by Greek philosophy, is understandable. But what is the alternative? One option is what he refers to as "total death": after death, the body returns to dust and whatever is meant by "soul" also no longer exists. Death is therefore the annihilation of the person. Corresponding to "total death," therefore, is "total resurrection," whereby God at the eschaton resuscitates humans in both their bodily and psychological or pneumatic dimensions. This doctrine both preserves the unity of the "biblical human" and avoids any confusion between the resurrection and ideas about the soul.

Nevertheless, Fr Cazanave expresses a number of reservations about accepting this "total death and total resurrection" doctrine. First, and obviously significant for a Catholic priest such as himself, the Church's Magisterium has for many centuries affirmed and reaffirmed the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Second, while conceding the Bible does not offer a notion of the immortality of the soul in the manner of a philosophical definition or a positive affirmation, he argues that this observation leaves the question unresolved, because the Bible is not written like a theological manual. This seems to me to be a vital point, since many Protestants—particularly of a fundamentalist or sectarian disposition—approach the Bible precisely as a doctrinal treatise or dogmatic constitution, and therefore presuppose that if a doctrine is "biblical," it must be expressly defined within the Bible.5 And, as Fr Cazanave observes, there is no shortage of biblical passages that at the very least call into question efforts by "total death" theologians to annul the notion of  a soul and its immortality.

Fr Cazanave proceeds to ask whether the doctrine of "total death for total resurrection" really corresponds to biblical anthropology. What, he asks, would it mean to be created in the image of God if that image in no way reflects the eternity of its Creator? Fr Cazanave also underlines the notion of progressive revelation: the idea of the "biblical human" is not static, but evolves organically throughout the biblical revelation. The later texts do not contradict the earlier, but develop their ideas further in the same direction.6

Fr Cazanave concludes his introduction by emphasising that the notion of an immortal soul existing in a disembodied state is paradoxical, since God wills for humans to be whole, which entails embodiment. The notion of a disembodied soul is thus tied up in the mystery of sin, of death, and of the permanence of the divine purpose despite them. No one faithful to the biblical idea of resurrection can deny, he says, that a soul no longer giving form to matter in its own body is «une absurdité». Yet it is an absurdity in the same measure that sin is absurd! Since neither sin nor death was part of God's purpose for humanity, the same is true of a disembodied soul, which is only possible in death. Nevertheless, could not, asks Fr Cazanave, the latter be the sign of the permanence of the divine plan in the face of sin?

1. The Teaching of the Magisterium

Fr Cazanave does not discuss the teachings of the Church Fathers concerning the soul. However, as I have written elsewhere, it is clear from the earliest post-apostolic writings that, even as early Christian writings such as 1 Clement and Justin Martyr strongly emphasised bodily resurrection or even polemicised against Neo-Platonist ideas that denigrated bodily existence, they nonetheless affirmed the real existence of the faithful between death and resurrection.7 Fr Cazanave instead focuses on magisterial teaching that has emanated from ecumenical councils. At the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17), the Catholic Church dogmatically affirmed the existence of a human soul as well as its immortality. An implication of this is the notion of an "intermediate state" between individual death and resurrection during which the human soul may be said to subsist "separately" without a body. Moreover, Pope Leo X at the Fifth Lateran Council condemned those who assert that the soul is mortal. This teaching has been constantly reaffirmed since, including in the document Gaudium et Spes from the most recent ecumenical council, Vatican II (1962-65). In a 1979 letter to bishops, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirmed the use of the word "soul" for that conscious element of the human "me" that subsists after death, without ignoring that this word takes on several meanings in Scripture.

2. The Difficulties Posed by the Doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul

2.1. Is the immortality of the soul incompatible with resurrection?

Fr Cazanave next addresses theological objections that have been raised against the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, some of which had already been mentioned in the introduction. He quotes Protestant theologian Philippie-Henri Menoud to the effect that the ideas of immortality of the soul and resurrection of the body are not compatible but mutually exclusive notions between which one must choose, with the New Testament coming down decisively on the side of the latter. In response, Fr Cazanave reiterates an important point he has made earlier: Sacred Scripture is not a treatise on psychology and does not give conceptual definitions as a work of systematic philosophy would. He describes the practice of looking for an anthropological treatise in the biblical writings as a «piège» (trap), commenting that even if one were to assemble all the passages that describe man,8 this would not equate to the logical components of a systematic discourse on the subject.9 

Instead, Fr Cazanave argues that research into biblical anthropology must be theologically oriented, focusing not on man in himself but on God and the intent he reveals through the manifestations of his presence and action in the economy of salvation. Hence, he regards as a key text Wisdom 1:13-14, which asserts that God "did not make death nor does he delight in the destruction of the living. For he created all things that they might exist..." (NETS)10 Fr Cazanave comments that death certainly exists and things disappear when it reaches them. Nevertheless, man exists by virtue of a form that transcends his matter while constituting only a single actus essendi (Latin, "act of being"), matter and form. It is this paradox by which man uniquely exists in the image of God. In a world characterised by signification (the presence of divine signs), the sustenance of the human form beyond the destruction of its matter is the sign of persistence of the divine plan. Fr Cazanave reiterates the analogy between sin and death: just as sin has wounded mankind but not annihilated it, so death does not annihilate man but signals the absurdity of sin by the unthinkable separation of soul from body. The disembodied soul subsists without realising what it is essentially made for—to "in-form" matter, thereby making it into a body—and thus conveys the gravity of sin and the tragedy of death. In this sense, the terminology "immortality of the soul" is rather unfortunate.11 In Scripture, immortality is not mere existence but a hoped-for reward: life in all its fullness. Moreover, the term "immortality" suggests imperviousness to death, whereas—in terms of Fr Cazanave's description—the soul is wounded or denuded by its paradoxical separation from the body. The term "immortality" in "immortality of the soul" should be understood in the sense of subsistence and not in the biblical sense of eternal blessedness.

Fr Cazanave then points out a central truth of biblical revelation, namely that God created man to be in covenant with him. God does not change and his covenant is eternal. Yet how can a covenant continue when one of the parties to it no longer exists? He therefore argues that the subsistence of man's being after death, the fact of his remaining without returning to nothingness, provides a point of connection between the One who simply Is and his creature. The immortality of the soul thus witnesses to the irrevocability of God's covenantal plan. Fr Cazanave thus summarises that the apparent absurdity of the soul's subsistence without the body is a sign conveying two important truths:
  1. The gravity of sin, which upsets the order of God's creation but does not cause him to renounce it altogether; 
  2. The irrevocable power of the Creator's merciful plan of redemption
A key text cited by Fr Cazanave in support of this theological anthropology is Romans 14:7-9, where St. Paul declares that we belong to the Lord in death as in life. The Lord, infers Fr Cazanave, is not the Lord of nothingness or of a memory of that which has lapsed into nothingness.

2.2. Is the idea of the immortality of the soul a pollution of Christian thought by Greek philosophy?

Having quoted some theologians—including the great Karl Barth—who describe the idea of the immortality of the soul as a contamination of Judaeo-Christian thought by Greek philosophy, Fr Cazanave poses two questions. Firstly, is there really a clearly defined Greek anthropology that posits a body/soul dualism? Secondly, is Christian thought in its development—especially the scholasticism of the second millennium—truly dualistic and does it really oppose soul and body?

To the first question, Fr Cazanave responds that, according to recent research, the Greek heritage is one of questioning and exploration rather than of clearly established definitions. It would be reductionist to think of "Greek philosophy" in monolithic terms. Even Plato, although influenced by the mystery religion of Orphism (in which the soul is clearly distinct from the body and imprisoned by it), only uses this tradition in the service of a philosophical vision. Plato did not bequeath a coherent philosophical definition of the soul and its relation to the body that could simply be passed on by others. Fr Cazanave grants that the school of Neo-Platonism systematised some of Plato's ideas in the direction of a dualistic anthropology in which the body imprisons the soul. However, he warns, this line of thought is not the only representative of Greek philosophy. On the contrary, in Aristotelian thought, the principle of animation (the soul) and the matter so animated (the body) are so unified and interdependent that they disappear together in death (though some interpreters of Aristotle maintain that, for Aristotle, something of the soul remains after death.) It is clear, therefore, that early Christianity did not simply inherit a well-defined "Greek anthropology." The thought of the Church Fathers and later the scholastics draws on various currents of the Greek tradition but does not adopt them uncritically. And Magisterial teaching on the soul, as promulgated dogmatically in the second millennium, is unambiguously Aristotelian—not Neo-Platonist—in its philosophical orientation.

2.3. Is "total death for total resurrection" biblical?

Fr Cazanave next observes that contemporary theologians present us with a stark choice: either be faithful to the unitary anthropology of the Bible and adopt a "total death for total resurrection" doctrine, or pollute biblical faith by clinging to the notion of an immortal soul that subsists in an "intermediate state" between death and eschatological resurrection. The first option not only entails choosing the Bible over Greek influence, but also restoring the primacy of divine action over against an exaltation of human autonomy expressed in the natural immortality of the soul. He notes that at their most extreme, detractors of the immortality of the soul concept regard it as an exemplification of human pride just as occurs in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) and at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11).

The notion of "total death for total resurrection" may appear to do justice to biblical notions of divine primacy and unitary anthropology, but for Fr Cazanave a serious concern arises: what of the intermediate time between the moment of death and that of resurrection? The annihilation of the deceased makes it impossible to think of a continuity of the personal "me" and in this respect is hardly biblical, for there is then not a resurrection but a re-creation.12 The person who is rewarded is not the same "me" as the one who died. Fr Cazanave notes two solutions to this conundrum that theologians typically offer. The first is that the dead person is held in God's memory (cf. Isa. 49:15-16). However, is it really "existence" for one to exist only within the memory of God? To refer to an earlier point, can annihilation really be the sign and witness of the irrevocability of the divine plan? Can a covenant subsist while one of its parties does not? Moreover, does the notion of an annihilation that is attenuated by an absorption into the memory of the divine Word not resemble the Neo-Platonist idea of the divine part of the soul merging with the divinity?13 This resemblance is ironic, given that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is often accused of being a Neo-Platonist corruption of Christianity.

Fr Cazanave notes that other theologians have sought to address this problem by positing that resurrection takes place immediately after death (e.g., due to the dead passing outside of linear time). However, such a doctrine is at odds with the biblical vision of history and time, which compels us to situate the resurrection of the body at the Parousia of Christ.

3. The "Biblical Man"

3.1. The human person and death in the Hebrew Bible

Fr Cazanave quotes the Protestant theologian Oscar Cullmann to the effect that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul represents a serious misunderstanding of both Old and New Testaments. In response, Fr Cazanave surveys biblical anthropology. Beginning with the Hebrew Bible, he asserts that it presents a man who is fundamentally one, and that any kind of soul/body dualism is foreign to it. A man is characterised by three dimensions or elements: the nefesh, the basar, and the ruah.14 Nefesh designates the throat and respiration and can be understood as the breath that signifies man as a living being who desires, who possesses an appetite. Nefesh is therefore the person, who is not self-sufficient but fulfilled by aspiring to something beyond oneself. The basar is then the bodily and carnal expression and manifestation of the nefesh, the two being dimensions of one psycho-physiological being. The ruah is the spirit of God, which communicates to man something of divine energy and establishes him in relation to God.

Death, then, occurs when God withdraws the ruah (Qoh. 12:7) and the basar perishes (Job 34:14-15). Fr Cazanave states that, since the biblical man is characterised by profound unity, one could be tempted to conceive of biblical death as the disappearance of the whole person. However, while the early biblical vision of the afterlife is less than cheerful and akin to the Babylonian idea of a dark abode, there are indications that the deceased do not return to nothingness. The deceased are rephaim, mere shadows of themselves (e.g., Job 26:5; Prov. 9:18; 21:16; Isa. 14:9); but being reduced to a shadow, to sleepiness or a comatose state, is not equivalent to ontological annihilation. Thus, Fr Cazanave infers that the nefesh, despite being deprived of the vital breath (ruah), does not return to nothingness at death. In a similar vein, Fr Cazanave argues that descriptions of the dead as being in a place, Sheol—albeit a place of darkness, shadow, and disorder (Job 10:20-22; cf. 3:13-19, Ps. 88:9-12)—imply that the dead have not completely ceased to exist.15 Death in the Hebrew Bible is an unenviable, unfulfilling state but it is not annihilation.

3.2. Not the God of the dead, but of the living

Fr Cazanave asserts that Jesus' affirmation to the Sadducees, "He is not the God of the dead but of the living" (Mark 12:27 par.) confirms the evolution of intertestamental Jewish eschatology, in which faith in bodily resurrection appears, the fruit of reflection on the faithfulness of God to his covenant. While some early biblical texts on resurrection probably refer—at the grammatical-historical level—to political or national revivals within history (e.g., Isa. 26:19; Ezekiel 37), the hope of individual bodily resurrection at the end of history appears explicitly in late strata of the Old Testament, such as Daniel 12:2 and 2 Maccabees 7. 

Jewish faith in the resurrection required, argues Fr Cazanave, a harmonisation between two convictions: (i) a certain continuation of the "I" after death, albeit in a shadowy state; and (ii) the eschatological resurrection of the flesh. Together, these two affirmations necessitate an "intermediate state" in which the person exists in a kind of "standby" between death and resurrection. Fr Cazanave reasons that later biblical authors—particularly the author of Wisdom of Solomon—adopted the Hellenistic notion of the immortality of the soul to help conceptualise the post-mortem continuation of the nefesh. He emphasises that this adoption is not a pollution of biblical thought by "Greek philosophy" (which did not offer a monolithic concept of the soul) but the assimilation of a concept useful in the ongoing development of biblical thought. Moreover, it was not Greek thought in its entirety, nor even a thoroughgoing dualism, that was adopted. The selective and discerning assimilation of Greek ideas about the soul does not necessarily result in a dualism that elevates the soul, denigrates embodiment, and destroys the unity of the human person. Fr Cazanave warns that reductionism on this point is the source of widespread misunderstanding.

A further clarification offered by Fr Cazanave is that a doctrine of the immortality of the soul that is compatible with Scripture would not be a doctrine of natural immortality. That is, the soul's immortality is not due to its own intrinsic nature but to the faithfulness of God (Wisdom 3:1-4).

3.3. The Soul in the New Testament

Fr Cazanave points to Matthew 10:28 ("Fear not those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul") as a text that mentions the soul/body distinction. He acknowledges that psyche ("soul") in this text designates the whole person in her capacity to transcend the earthly dimension of life. Nonetheless, he considers it significant that a distinction between body and soul is made (and that the whole person is not annihilated by earthly death).

Our author identifies the Gospel of St. Luke as the New Testament book with the greatest interest in the question of the fate of the dead before the Parousia. In this respect, he points to the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31) and Jesus' saying on the cross to the good thief, "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).16 The emphasis in the latter text is on presence with Christ. This same emphasis emerges in St. Paul's concept of the intermediate state (2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:20-24). Fr Cazanave asserts that, by equating his death with "being with Christ," St. Paul clearly shows that he does not think of death in terms of annihilation. Moreover, if he was thinking merely of a datum in God's memory, he would not have used the term sun Christō einai ("being with Christ"). These passages draw out the afterlife implications of Paul's assertion in Romans 14:8-9 that "whether we live or die, we are the Lord's" and that Christ is "Lord of both the dead and the living." St. Paul's experience of union with Christ is so intimate that he cannot conceive of it being dissolved, even temporarily, by death (cf. Rom. 8:38).

Fr Cazanave draws another important insight on Pauline anthropology from 2 Corinthians 12:2. This text is concerned with a mystical experience rather than death, but for Paul to twice say of the experience "whether in the body or out of the body I do not know" shows that a strict identification of the "I" with the body is not in accordance with Paul's thought. Indeed, his words imply some separability from bodily existence (without in any way denigrating embodiment).

There are numerous other New Testament texts relevant to the subject of the intermediate state that the article does not discuss. The subject is obviously not a major concern of the New Testament writers (why would it be, since they expected an imminent Parousia?) and is never treated systematically, but there is enough evidence to conclude that they anticipated the ontological continuation of the person in Christ's presence between death and resurrection.

4. St. Thomas and Scholasticism: A Keen Awareness of the Difficulty

In the last part of the article, Fr Cazanave interacts with the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. The Common Doctor's anthropology draws on Aristotelian thought, in which the soul is the form of the body: it in-forms (gives form to) matter, allowing it to realise its potential as a human body. The soul is for a body and the body is for a soul; they are so profoundly united that the body is like the skin of the soul. The soul is a single actus essendi ("act of being") with the body, but being made spiritually in the image of God, is personal and immortal. The body and soul are not two beings that come together but together constitute a single being.

Within this framework, the notion of a human soul without a body is a contradiction, and St. Thomas so acutely appreciates the difficulty of thinking of a soul separated from its body after death that he wonders whether such a soul can even be described as a person. Clearly, St. Thomas cannot be accused of a Neo-Platonic dualism in which death is the soul's liberation from its bodily prison. Fr Cazanave quotes at length from Joseph Ratzinger's assessment of the anthropological problem faced by medieval theologians and St. Thomas' solution thereto. Theological anthropology had, on the one hand, to recognise in each human person a unique creature of God, created as a unified whole and willed to exist. On the other hand, it had to distinguish between that which is ephemeral in man and that which endures. The ephemeral accounts for the reality of death brought on by sin, while the enduring opens the way to resurrection (as opposed to re-creation ex nihilo). 

Although St. Thomas' anthropology is Aristotelian in orientation, he does not adopt Aristotelian anthropology uncritically. For Aristotle, "form" is a reality only when united with matter, and thus the soul dies with the body. If, conversely, the soul is "immortal," it is immortal in a universal, not an individual, sense. The idea that the human soul is at once personal and "form" of matter would have been inconceivable to Aristotle. Thus, St. Thomas goes beyond Aristotle by conceiving of the soul as an intellectual substance, a substantial form of matter. In short, St. Thomas' idea of the soul as the substantial form of the body provides a philosophical anthropology that at once preserves the fundamental unity of the human person (against the Neo-Platonist idea of the body as the soul's instrument), the particularity of each human person (against any notion of a "universal spirit" into which one is absorbed at death), and the substantial soul as the subject of rationality (against the materialist idea of the rationality of un-in-formed matter).


Fr Cazanave begins his conclusion by acknowledging that the idea of the immortality of the soul presents dangers (that do not, however, invalidate the doctrine). Firstly, there is the danger of veering into a Neo-Platonist anthropology in which the soul is the real person and the body a mere vehicle. This danger is all too commonly seen in popular Christian piety, including among Catholics, and reduces resurrection to a redundant afterthought. The profound unity of the human person, as taught by the Bible, must be reaffirmed, and the resurrection of the body reaffirmed as the Christian hope.

Secondly, there is a danger that the idea of an immortal soul leads to a proud self-exaltation by man in the face of his Creator. If the Church affirms that the soul endures in death, this is not to surrender to the quest for vain consolation, but is a reflection of the eternal purpose of God for his image-bearers. The absurdity of a soul without a body to give form to is not bypassed but becomes the sign of another absurdity—sin—that however did not defeat the Creator's plan.

It seems, therefore, that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is widely misunderstood by many of its adherents and detractors alike! Many on both sides seem to conceive of the doctrine as elevating the soul at the expense of the body and obviating the need for resurrection. In my estimation, Fr Cazanave's article makes an important contribution toward correcting misconceptions of the Church's teaching. 

From an exegetical standpoint, one of Fr Cazanave's most significant observations is that the Bible cannot be approached as though it were a systematic theological treatise (either at the level of individual passages or formed by assembling various texts). Scripture does not conform to human expectations by treating subjects with a level of detail and precision proportional to our level of interest. Scripture does not, in fact, offer us either a philosophically precise account of the human person or of human death. It does, however, offer a vision for man, individually and collectively, as purposed by his Creator. In reflecting on that vision, the Church has seen fit to promulgate a doctrine of the immortality of the soul—or, as it might be termed to avoid confusion—the subsistence of the human person despite death and until resurrection.
  • 1 Cazanave, E, «L'immortalité de l'âme est-elle biblique?», Bulletin de Litterature Ecclesiastique 120 (2019): 7-43.
  • 2 Article 7 of the Doctrines to be Rejected of the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith reads, "We reject the doctrine - that man has an immortal soul." The main statement affirms belief in the Resurrection of (some of) the Dead at the Second Coming of Christ, with the final judgment leading to one of two destinies: bodily immortality or annihilation.
  • 3 See, for instance, articles 362-68 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Following St. Thomas Aquinas and others, the Catholic Church follows an Aristotelian anthropology in which the soul is described as the "form of the body." The Church does not in any way denigrate corporeality or materiality. The Catechism states 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" (CCC 366). The Church's teaching on what happens at death is summarised thus: "Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers to his life in Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven—through a purification or immediately,—or immediate and everlasting damnation" (CCC 1022). Thus, the Church affirms an intermediate state that is incorporeal but already anticipates the final state that will occur after the Resurrection of the Dead and the Last Judgment.
  • 4 For this reason, I will not cite page numbers in referencing the work.
  • 5 No one who has spent much time with Scripture can suppose that Scripture always reveals truths in this way. The New Testament epistles, much as the Old Testament prophets, for instance, are largely of an occasional nature. They bear witness to theological truths as often as they explicitly teach them. Hence, rather than imposing on the Holy Spirit an obligation to reveal the dogma of the immortality of the soul (or any other truth) on our terms, our task is to carefully interpret what Scripture does reveal, even indirectly.
  • For instance, contemporary biblical scholars now widely agree that the earliest texts in the Hebrew Bible convey nothing of a beatific afterlife, including personal resurrection; this is a development that appears only well into the Second Temple Period.
  • 7 On 1 Clement, see my article, A Systematic-Theological Analysis of Mortalism as an Evangelical Position (written while I was still an Evangelical). On Justin Martyr's ideas about the soul and afterlife, see my article, Justin Martyr, the Soul, and Christadelphian Apologetics.
  • I follow Fr Cazanave in using the term "man" to describe humanity or the generic human; this term should be understood in a gender-inclusive sense.
  • 9 The point was already made in the introduction but bears repeating since this seems to be precisely the hermeneutical methodology taken by some interpreters of Scripture.
  • 10 A number of important biblical texts bearing on our subject come from the deutero-canonical books, which are of course not considered as divinely inspired by Protestants. The reader may to refer to my prior article here for evidence that the early Church regarded these books as Scripture long before the canon was formally defined at councils held at the end of the fourth century.
  • 11 This is my own observation, not Fr Cazanave's.
  • New Testament language about resurrection, as exemplified by the noun anastasis and the associated verb anistēmi, depicts it not as an act of creation ex nihilo but as a rising. The dead are therefore conceived of as compromised—fallen, prostrate, in a state analogous to "sleep"—but not as non-existent.
  • 13 Since the creature loses its separate existence, its distinctness from God, after death, the notion of "total death for total resurrection" seems to border on pantheism and call into question the particularity of the human person. This is my observation, not the article's.
  • 14 I am following the transliterations as they are in the preprint version of the article.
  • 15 Other Old Testament texts that imply an ontological continuation of the person after death include 1 Samuel 28:11-20, where a medium succeeds in summoning Samuel from beyond the grave, and 2 Maccabees 15:12-16, where Judas Maccabeus relates a dream in which two deceased saints, Onias the high priest and Jeremiah the prophet, offer prayers and encouragement in the Jews' battle for their city and law.
  • 16 For my own commentary on these and other passages, see my article, A Systematic-Theological Analysis of Mortalism as an Evangelical Position, as well as—on Luke 23:43—my more detailed article, "Today in Paradise? Ambiguous Adverb Attachment and the Meaning of Luke 23:43," Neotestamentica 51 (2017): 185-207.

Sunday 28 June 2020

The Rich Man and Lazarus, Reversals of Fortune, and the Eternal Banquet

100-Word Summary

The afterlife scene in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is much debated. Is it merely incidental to the story, or a description of what the afterlife is really like, or not like? To answer these questions, this article examines how the scene squares with the rest of the Gospel of Luke. The finding is that the parable's afterlife scene is very much at home in Luke, both in its use of a reversal of fortunes motif and in its implicit reference to an eschatological banquet. Thus the scene does form part of Luke's eschatological teaching.

A Much-Debated Afterlife Scene

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16:19-31 (hover to read),1 is one of the most fascinating, but also most disputed, parables of Jesus in the canonical Gospels. The story depicts a scene from the afterlife, and there are three main views on what the story teaches about the afterlife. The first view is that the story conveys an accurate idea of what happens after death. The second view is that the story's message is entirely a moral one, about the use of money and obedience to God's Word; the afterlife scene is just a setting for this message. Thus, the parable teaches nothing about life after death, just as the Parable of the Sower teaches nothing about agriculture. The third view is that the parable parodies popular ideas about the afterlife from Jesus' day and is thus intended to subvert belief in the kind of afterlife depicted in the story. Observe that these three interpretations are as different as they could possibly be! Jesus is either telling us what the afterlife is like, or what it is not like, or is telling us nothing about the afterlife. We will refer to these three interpretations of the parable's afterlife scene as the face value view, the parody view, and the incidental view, respectively.

Before trying to decide between these three alternatives, a couple of preliminary observations. (i) The parody view must shoulder the heaviest burden of proof. Luke certainly does not say that the afterlife story is a parody, intended to subvert popular ideas. At least on the surface, the story makes sense when taken at face value. Occam's Razor dictates that this simplest solution is most likely the right one. The parody interpretation is the most complicated, requiring us to see a subtle irony in Luke's construction that has escaped most readers, ancient and modern. In my estimation, the evidence advanced in support of the parody view is very flimsy indeed.2 (ii) The parody view is antithetical to both of the other two views, whereas the first two views lie on a continuum. Obviously the face value view and the parody view contradict each other. The parody view also contradicts the incidental view, because it is implausible that the parable's primary purpose is to convey a moral message about the use of wealth and obedience to the law and prophets, and yet at the same time to use subtle irony to subvert certain ideas about the nature of the afterlife. By contrast, the face value view and the incidental view are not contradictory. If present moral obligations have eternal consequences, then there is a fundamental consistency between a moral message and an afterlife scene. The difference is mainly a matter of emphasis.3

How then are we to judge between the three interpretations? The answer lies in content and context. Historical context is important: an understanding of ancient Jewish ideas about the afterlife would enable us to receive the parable's afterlife imagery as its original hearers and readers would have received it. As I have written previously, Outi Lehtipuu has done a lot of this historical legwork for us in her book, The Afterlife Imagery in Luke’s Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. After a thorough survey of Second Temple Jewish literature, Lehtipuu concludes that Jesus' "description of the otherworldly conditions is believable according to the parameters of his cultural world."4 In this article, however, I want to consider another level of context: the Lukan literary context. If it can be shown that the afterlife scene in this parable is consistent with wider Lukan teaching, the logical conclusion will be that Luke wants his readers to take the parable's afterlife imagery seriously. There are two major themes or motifs from the Gospel of Luke that are reflected in the afterlife scene in this parable. One is the reversal of fortunes motif and the other is the eschatological5 banquet or eternal banquet motif.

Reversal of Fortunes in the Gospel of Luke

A major theme in Luke is that of reversal of fortunes.6 People's fates in this life will be reversed in the next. Perhaps the most succinct statements of this idea are in Luke 13:30 ("For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last") and Luke 17:33 ("Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it"; cf. 9:24). However, the classic Lukan statement of the reversal of fortunes is found in Luke 6:20-26, the Lukan version of the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Plain:
20 And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. 21 Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. 24 But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. 26 Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.
This passage differs from the more famous Matthaean Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) in three significant ways. First, and most obviously, Matthew's text has only beatitudes (blessings), whereas Luke's also has woes that are the exact opposite of the corresponding beatitudes. Second, Luke's criteria for blessedness are physical (e.g., poor, hungry), while Matthew overtly spiritualises the criteria (e.g., poor in spirit, hunger and thirst for righteousness). Third, in Luke's case the relationship between the present state and future result is primarily that of reversal: the hungry will be filled (and vice versa), the weeping will laugh (and vice versa); in Matthew the reversal pattern is less obvious.7 Thus, a distinctive feature of Luke's moral and eschatological teaching is that those who enjoy the good life now will later have their fortunes reversed, and vice versa.8 If you read through the Gospel of Luke you will find numerous examples of this motif;9 but nowhere is it put more vividly on display than in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

The rich man is the quintessential addressee of the Four Woes of Luke 6:24-26. He was rich, wore expensive clothing, and "dined sumptuously every day." This statement implies the other three attributes: the rich man is "filled," "laughs," and "all speak well of him." Here I would refer the reader to my previous article which gave background on dining in the Roman world. The Roman banquet was indeed an opulent affair, as firsthand accounts such as those of Horace and Plutarch illustrate. There was course after course of fine food, wine aplenty, laughter and entertainment. The host was honoured and flattered by his guests and could expect an invitation to the next fine banquet (cf. Luke 14:12). The parable implies that the rich man moved in a social circle where he hosted or was hosted at such banquets daily. In the afterlife, however, the reversal of his fortune is complete. He who had it all has lost it all. His sensual pleasure has been traded for fiery torment, and he who banqueted daily now pleads, unsuccessfully, for a single drop of water!

Lazarus is, by contrast, the quintessential addressee of the Four Beatitudes of Luke 6:20-23. He is poor, lying homeless at the rich man's door. He is hungry, longing to eat scraps from the rich man's table (like a dog; cf. Matt. 15:26-27). He is despised and excluded; the only attention he gets is from dogs (an unclean animal) that come and lick his sores. It goes without saying that he is miserable to the point of weeping. Yet, when he dies, he is carried by angels to Abraham's bosom (the meaning of this expression will be discussed below). Luke has Abraham explicitly justify the afterlife situation of the two men in terms of a reversal of fortunes: "My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented" (Luke 16:25). It is evident, then, that the afterlife scene in this parable is a vivid illustration of the reversal of fortunes principle described in Luke 6:20-26. The afterlife scene thus accurately reflects Lukan ideas about individual eschatology; consequently it cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the parable's meaning, much less viewed as an afterlife concept that Luke seeks to discredit.

The Eternal Banquet in the Gospel of Luke

All four canonical Gospels show interest in banquets and dining—both in the narratives and in the teachings of Jesus—but above all Luke. Jesus is a frequent guest at banquets in Luke. Levi the tax collector throws him a "great banquet" (Luke 5:29-30). He is invited to dine with a Pharisee named Simon (7:37-50), and later with another unnamed Pharisee (11:37-54), and still later with yet another (14:1-24). In the Roman world, as today, dining was not just about the food, but the socialising. To share table fellowship with someone was understood as accepting them socially; hence the offence Jesus caused by dining with tax collectors (Luke 5:29-32). As discussed in the previous article, the dining room setup was not of sitting in chairs around a large table, but reclining on three couches (a triclinium) around a small table.10 Strict rules of social hierarchy determined the reclining positions on the couches, with positions near the host being the most coveted. This social dynamic is often apparent in Luke. At the Sabbath-day banquet of Luke 14:1-24, Jesus notices how the other guests "were choosing the places of honour" and uses this as the occasion for a parable about humility (one that reflects the reversal of fortunes motif; Luke 14:7-11). Jesus' denunciation of the scribes mentions their love of places of honour at banquets (Luke 20:46). At the Passover meal (Last Supper) of Luke 22, an argument about social precedence breaks out among the apostles, which Jesus again uses as a teaching moment (Luke 22:24-27).

A banquet is one of the most prominent images used in Luke to describe the afterlife rewards of the blessed. The image comes up in parables, such as that of Luke 12:36-37 (which depicts a master waiting tables on his slaves—a stunning reversal of social custom), 14:16-23 (the Parable of the Great Feast), 15:1-31 (the Parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and Lost Son).11 It is also present in more literal sayings, such as Luke 13:28-29,12 Luke 14:12-15,13 and Luke 22:16, 18, 30.14 Finally, anticipations of the eternal banquet can also be seen in Jesus' remarks about his eating and drinking as bridegroom (Luke 5:34; 7:34), in the feeding of the five thousand (Luke 9:11-17), in the Last Supper (particularly the institution of the Eucharist, Luke 22:14-20; cf. 24:30-35).

What does all of the above have to do with the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus? The answer is that we should probably see in the phrase "the bosom of Abraham" (to which Lazarus is carried by angels) an allusion to the place of honour at the eternal banquet. Because of the way diners reclined diagonally on the triclinium couches, the head of the person to one's right was adjacent to one's chest, and so that person could be said to be "in his bosom" (en tois kolpois autou).15 The same expression is used to describe the position of the Beloved Disciple relative to Jesus at the Last Supper in John 13:23-25. Notice also that Luke has earlier described the kingdom of God in terms of a banquet where people recline at table in the presence of Abraham, within sight of those who previously banqueted but are now excluded (13:28-29).16  Moreover, in view of the reversal of fortunes motif, Lazarus being escorted by angels to the place of honour at the eternal banquet is a fitting reversal of his earlier predicament of lying among dogs longing for table scraps.

A possible objection is that the rich man sees Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom; how could he see inside a dining room from a great distance? A plausible answer is that the eternal banquet takes place outdoors. Dunbabin notes that first-century stone triclinia and tables are preserved in Pompeii in gardens and in half-enclosed rooms.17 In this respect it is noteworthy that Luke elsewhere describes the setting of the eschatological kingdom as "Paradise," a word meaning garden (Luke 23:43).18 Biblical scholars have probably been correct, therefore, in regarding the phrase "in the bosom of Abraham" in Luke 16:22, 24 as a reference to a place of honour at the eternal banquet.19


In this article, we have sought to situate the afterlife scene in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in relation to wider Lukan ideas about people's ultimate destiny. We have seen that in two important respects, the parable's afterlife scene exemplifies Luke's eschatology. First, this scene is the Gospel's most vivid depiction of the prominent reversal of fortunes principle described in Luke 6:20-26. Second, the scene depicts Lazarus' reward in terms of a place of honour at a banquet hosted by Abraham, which the excluded rich man watches from afar. This places the scene in continuity with the banquet image that dominates this Gospel's concept of what the consummated kingdom of God will be like. The parallel between Luke 16:22-24 and 13:24-30 is particularly striking.

Given the cohesion between the parable's afterlife scene and wider Lukan eschatology, it is implausible to regard the afterlife scene as irrelevant to the meaning of the parable as intended by Luke. Yes, the parable's primary purpose is to warn of the dangers of wealth and the culpability of those who have the law and the prophets, but the afterlife consequences are an essential part of that warning. It is still less plausible to regard Luke as trying to subvert the afterlife concept used in the story. Is the parable providing us with a literal snapshot of exactly what the afterlife will be like? No. All biblical language about the transcendent only gestures toward what is admittedly beyond our ability to comprehend.20 However, the afterlife scene in the parable, including its indication that personal existence continues after death,21 is an indispensable part of divine revelation concerning "the last things." It is not an outlier that can be set aside.

  • 1 19 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. 20 And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. 22 When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ 25 Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. 26 Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ 27 He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’” (NABRE)
  • 2 The most common argument concerns the rich man's request that Lazarus be sent to dip his finger in water and cool his tongue due to his fiery torment. This detail is said to be absurd, since the amount of water that can be borne on a fingertip could never cool the tongue of one who is tormented by fire. However, the description is not intended to render the story ridiculous; it is hyperbole, emphasising the extent of the rich man's predicament in that even such a meagre request is denied. This ties in with the Lukan reversal of fortunes motif to be discussed below.
  • 3 Hence, in my previous article on this parable, I referred to four views, the fourth being essentially a compromise between the face value and incidental views: the parable does teach about the fate of the wicked, but its afterlife scene cannot be pressed too far as a precise, literal description of that fate.
  • 4 The Afterlife Imagery in Luke’s Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 299. My previous article on this parable refers to other academic literature representing various viewpoints on the parable's interpretation.
  • 5 The word "eschatology" comes from the Greek word eschatos, meaning "last," and is a technical term for Christian doctrine pertaining to the last things, including the afterlife.
  • 6 This theme also occurs in Matthew and Mark, too, but our focus here is on Luke since it is only Luke who gives us the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
  • 7 Matthew does have some reversal, e.g., those that mourn will be comforted.
  • 8 Luke's negative view of wealth is, it must be noted, more nuanced than simply condemning the rich per se. For instance, the message of the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21) is "to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions," and that a bad end awaits "the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God." Similarly, after recounting the story of the rich young man who declined to sell his possessions and follow Jesus (Luke 18:18-23), Luke records Jesus' saying, "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:25). This elicits the audience's question, "Then who can be saved?" to which Jesus responds, "What is impossible for humans is possible for God." Thus, Luke does not write off the rich, but he does make it clear that their standing before God is precarious.
  • 9 The earliest instance in the Gospel occurs in Mary's Magnificat prayer in Luke 1:53: "The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty."
  • 10 Luke never explicitly mentions triclinia or dining couches (Mark probably does, in 7:4), but this dining setting and style is implied by the use of verbs meaning "to recline," such as anakeimai (Luke 22:27), katakeimai (Luke 5:29; 7:37), anapiptō (Luke 11:37; 14:10; 17:7; 22:14), anaklinō (Luke 12:37; 13:29), and kataklinō (Luke 7:36; 9:14-15; 14:8; 24:30). The last two words verbalise the word klinē, meaning "couch" or "bed."
  • 11 The first two parables end with the finder calling together friends and neighbours to rejoice with her/him, a probable reference to a banquet; the third explicitly results in the father declaring, "Let us celebrate with a feast".
  • 12 "And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God."
  • 13 "Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”" The implication here is that you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous by being invited into the eternal banquet. One of the guests correctly makes this inference and says, "Blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God" (v. 15).
  • 14 "for, I tell you, I shall not eat it [again] until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God... for I tell you [that] from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes... I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
  • 15 This expression is used in the Septuagint more generically of any intimate embrace, such as that between a husband and wife (Gen. 16:5; Deut. 13:7(13:6), 28:54, 28:56, 2 Kgdms 12:8, Sir. 9:1), or between a parent and child (Ruth 4:16; 3 Kgdms 3:20, 17:19; cf. 2 Kgdms 12:3). The expression is used in this latter sense to describe the intimate relationship between the Father and the Son in John 1:18. Since Abraham is a patriarchal figure and is explicitly addressed as "Father Abraham" by the rich man in the parable (Luke 16:24, 27, 30), it is possible that "in Abraham's bosom" has this sense of parent/child intimacy. However, this does not conflict with the notion that Lazarus is in this intimate position next to Abraham at the eternal banquet.
  • 16 This passage is itself a good example of the reversal of fortunes motif, since it envisions people who have previously dined with the Lord (and thus consider themselves entitled to a place at the eternal banquet) thrown out into a place of "wailing" while others enter into the banquet. The pericope ends with the reversal saying par excellence, "For, behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."
  • 17 Katherine M. D. Dunbabin, The Roman Banquet: Images of Conviviality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 38.
  • 18 We should probably see in this an allusion to the Garden of Eden; cf. Rev. 2:7.
  • 19 "Lazarus, who hungered in earthly life, now rests on 'Abraham's bosom' in the afterlife. Clearly this is a reference to a banquet scene in which the banqueters recline and thus rest on the bosom of the diner to their left. Lazarus is said to be on the bosom of Abraham in order to indicate that he is to the right of the host, Abraham, and therefore in a position of honor. The image is that of a sumptuous banquet, a potent image for the joys of heaven. The rich man, meanwhile, in a true reversal of situations, begs for a single drop of water" (Dennis E. Smith, "Table Fellowship as a Literary Motif in the Gospel of Luke," Journal of Biblical Literature 106 [1987]: 625-26). Similarly, "[B]eing in Abraham’s bosom should be taken as a metaphor that plays a key role in the composition of Luke 16:19-31. In this parable an opposition is evident between two banquets: the earthly banquet, at which the inhospitable rich man feasts and there is no place for Lazarus, and the heavenly banquet hosted by Abraham, who is known from the Genesis narrative for his hospitality, where Lazarus is granted the most honored position. The metaphor being in Abraham’s bosom includes both the components 'place of honor' and 'banquet.' This makes the structure of the parable symmetrical and the reversal of the fates of the rich man and Lazarus more noticeable." (Alexey Somov and Vitaly Voinov, "'Abraham's Bosom' (Luke 16:22-23) as a Key Metaphor in the Overall Composition of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 79 [2017]: 633).
  • 20 Paul stresses that no eye has seen nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9) and that "At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror" (1 Cor. 13:12).
  • 21 This idea is also implicit elsewhere in Luke-Acts, such as in Luke 23:43 and Acts 7:59 (of reward after death) and Luke 12:4-5 and Acts 1:25 (of punishment after death).

Friday 24 March 2017

A Systematic-Theological Analysis of Mortalism as an Evangelical Position

It's been awhile since I posted any content since I've been busy with my Honours dissertation which is due at the end of April. However, I recently uploaded an essay onto my Academia.edu page and would like to make the link available here as well. This essay assesses mortalism, a theological position on the state of the dead which is significant for me personally since I grew up in the Christadelphian sect, which holds to mortalism as a matter of dogma.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

The intermediate state in 1 Clement (part 2)

In the previous post, we noted the claim of Christadelphian apologist Dave Burke that the core theological teachings of 1 Clement correspond exactly to those of Christadelphians today. We found that, although this claim has repeatedly been portrayed as factual information by Dave in his interactions with Christadelphian audiences, it is in fact at odds with contemporary scholarship. In particular, we surveyed the scholarly literature concerning Clement's individual eschatology and found that most scholars agree that Clement believed in an intermediate state for the righteous dead prior to the resurrection; some scholars explicitly locate this post-mortem existence in heaven.

We now turn to a closer exegesis of the relevant passages in 1 Clement. Perhaps the most significant is 1 Clement 5.3-6.2, already quoted in the previous post but reproduced here for convenience:
3. We should set before our eyes the good apostles. 4. There is Peter, who because of unjust jealousy bore up under hardships not just once or twice, but many times; and having thus borne his witness he went to the place of glory that he deserved. 5. Because of jealousy and strife Paul pointed the way to the prize for endurance. 6. Seven times he bore chains; he was sent into exile and stoned; he served as a herald in both the East and the West; and he received the noble reputation for his faith. 7. He taught righteousness to the whole world, and came to the limits of the West, bearing his witness before the rulers. And so he was set free from this world and transported up to the holy place, having become the greatest example of endurance. 6.1. To these men who have conducted themselves in such a holy way there has been added a great multitude of the elect, who have set a superb example among us by the numerous torments and tortures they suffered because of jealousy. 2. Women were persecuted as Danaids and Dircae and suffered terrifying and profane torments because of jealousy. But they confidently completed the race of faith, and though weak in body, they received a noble reward. (1 Clement 5.3-6.2)1
A person with the user name Evangelion, whom I believe was Dave, discussed this passage on a Christadelphian web forum in 2005 and offered the following explanation:
‘I see no reference to heaven (or any form of afterlife) in these passages. I see only a reference to the reward of superlative rank that was promised to him (“…the place of glory due to him… the holy place”) with the word “place” here signifying not a literal abode but a position of authority. The truth of this interpretation is confirmed by Clement’s use of the phrase “due to him”, which makes no sense in the context of a place to which one departs (how can a literal place be “due” to someone?) but perfect sense in the context of a glorious promotion to the heavenly host. It is also vindicated by the New Testament, which is replete with similar language; not least from the writings of Peter himself.’2
It is unclear exactly how Dave conceives of a 'glorious promotion to the heavenly host', a 'position of authority' which yet does not constitute 'any form of afterlife'. It is not obvious how a person who is in no sense alive could receive such a promotion. However, let us for the sake of argument assume the internal consistency of Dave's interpretation.

Evangelion/Dave also comments on 1 Clement 44.4-5, which contains language relevant to our passage. It reads thus in Ehrman’s translation:
Indeed we commit no little sin if we remove from the bishop’s office those who offer the gifts in a blameless and holy way. How fortunate are the presbyters who passed on before, who enjoyed a fruitful and perfect departure from this life. For they have no fear that someone will remove them from the place (topos) established for them.3
Evangelion/Dave writes concerning 1 Clement 44.5:
As in the passage which spoke of Peter’s reward, "the place appointed for them" here is clearly a reward of rank, as opposed to an actual location (such as heaven.) This is confirmed by the context, which makes repeated references to the presbyters' "office", "place" and "ministry."
The key claim is that topos (‘place’) in 1 Clement 5.4, 5.7 does not refer to a location, an abode, but to a position of authority. Evangelion/Dave makes three arguments in favour of this interpretation. 

(1) It is said that the phrase ‘due to him’ (Greek: opheilomenon) makes no sense in relation to a literal place. However, this is not an exegetical argument but merely an assertion for which no lexical or other evidence is provided. If the ‘place’ to which Peter went is construed as a reward (as it clearly is, given the parallel expression ‘noble reward’ in 1 Clement 6.2), then prima facie it is reasonable that it be called his due. Moreover, the same word is used in a similar way by Polycarp in his Letter to the Philippians 9.2, where he says concerning the apostles that ‘they are in the place they deserved, with the Lord’ (kai hoti eis ton opheilomenon autois topon eisi para tō kuriō). Here it seems that topos denotes a location since it is 'with the Lord'.4 Also comparable is Barnabas 19.1, which uses a different word but has a similar idea: ‘Anyone who wants to travel to the place that has been appointed (ton hōrismenon topon) should be diligent in his works.’

(2) It is claimed that the New Testament is replete with similar language confirming his interpretation of topos in 1 Clement 5.4 and 5.7. However, none of the New Testament passages he cites use the word topos, and none of them explicitly refer to something gained immediately after death. Hence, they provide no support for Evangelion/Dave's interpretation of topos in 1 Clement 5.4 and 5.7.

(3) It is claimed that topos in 1 Clement 44.5 refers to an office or rank is highly plausible and, since this would provide a precedent for interpreting topos in the same way in 1 Clement 5.4 and 5.7, it represents the strongest aspect of Evangelion/Dave's argument. It does appear that the place (topos) established for the presbyters who have departed from this life is a position, given the contrast with removal from office in v. 4.5 However, it is possible that there is wordplay here, so that topos simultaneously refers to the presbyters' permanent position as well as the transcendent location of reward. A likely parallel to such wordplay is found in Acts 1:24-25:
And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place (topos) in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place (topos)." (ESV)
A quick survey of scholarly interpretations of the last clause of v. 25 is in order. Apparently the majority view is that 'his own place' refers to 'a transcendent region related to one's final destiny...In this case...a place of punishment after death'.6 Johnson thinks there is a double entendre so that Judas’ ‘own place’ refers both to his ‘place of final destiny’ and ‘the abandonment of the apostolic circle symbolized by his purchasing of his property’.7

A different, but still spatial, interpretation of ‘his own place’ is Keener’s, who interprets it simply as ‘the field he bought, where he met his gory end’.8 McCabe thinks ‘his own place’ refers to Judas’ ‘solitary and shameful death’;9 this is still a quasi-spatial interpretation. Van de Water thinks this clause alludes to Psalm 36:36 LXX where the plight of the wicked is described thus: ‘and his place was not found.’10 However, this text does not help to explain what place Judas did find according to Acts 1:25 (and van de Water does not elaborate on this point). Whitlock regards Acts 1:24-25 as a poem in which the repetition of the word ‘place’ plays an important role: ‘The place of service is contrasted with Judas’s own place. The contrast is made explicit by the repetition of topos’. Whitlock does not clearly opt for an exclusively spatial or metaphorical meaning of Judas’ own place, but says it leaves readers ‘with a tragically precise summation of Judas’s conflict and fate’.11

If topos can be used poetically in Acts 1:25a and 1:25c to refer to Judas’ position and to his spatial location or destiny respectively (and possibly takes on spatial and positional meanings in 1:25c), then such multivalence should also be regarded as a possibility in 1 Clement 44.5. That topos refers at least partly to a transcendent reward and not merely an office in 1 Clement 44.5 is argued by Hill12 and suggested as a possibility by Lindemann13 Lona regards τόπος in this text as an office only.14

Thus, while the context suggests a metaphorical meaning for topos as 'office' or 'position' in 1 Clement 44.5, it is plausible that there is wordplay here and that a spatial sense is also intended, referring to the presbyters' place of reward. Even if topos takes an exclusively metaphorical sense in 1 Clement 44.5, this does not necessarily mean it takes on an exclusively metaphorical sense in 1 Clement 5.4, 7. This passage must be considered on its own terms. Below are six exegetical arguments which, collectively, in my view, represent a compelling case for interpreting topos spatially in 1 Clement 5.4, 7 (more specifically, as referring to the heavenly sanctuary) and thus concluding that Clement believed in an intermediate state.

(1) Religion-historical parallels adduced by Hill strongly support a heavenly interpretation of 'the place of glory' and 'the holy place' to which Peter and Paul respectively are said to have gone. Concerning the 'holy place' he notes the following important background:
τὰ ἅγια is the customary name used by the author of Hebrews for the holy place, or the holy of holies, whether the earthly (9.8[?], 25; 13.11) or the heavenly (8.2; 9.12, 24; 10.19). It is moreover significant that in Hebrews, which almost certainly Clement knows,15 we have clear evidence of the belief that the "spirits of just men made perfect" now congregate at the cultic precincts of the heavenly Mount Zion (12.22-4).16
A further parallel is adduced from 'Clement's Jewish contemporary at Rome, Josephus' from Bellum Judaicum 3.374:
in accordance with the law of nature and repay the loan which they received from God, when He who lent it is pleased to reclaim it, win eternal renown (κλέος);17 that their houses and families are secure; that their souls, remaining spotless and obedient, are allotted the most holy place in heaven (χῶρον οὐράνιον λαχοῦσαι τὸν ἁγιώτατον), whence, in the revolution of the ages, they return to find in chaste bodies a new habitation.18
Hill comments that 'This teaching is remarkable for its resemblance to that of 1 Clement' and 'In it the "most holy place" is expressly set in heaven'.19 Finally, Hill adduces 'another document of Roman Christian provenance' which 'Within a few decades'20 of 1 Clement portrays 'the celestial lot of Christian martyrs after death as the "right hand portion of the sanctuary" (τοῦ ἁγιάσματος) (Hermas, Vis 3.1.9; 3.2.1), a place also characterized by glory.'21

These religion-historical parallels from Hebrews, Josephus and Hermas support interpreting ‘the holy place’ as a reference to the heavenly sanctuary. To this can be added some relevant OT texts. Throughout the OT, a part of the earthly sanctuary is denoted ‘the holy place’22 and in certain instances the mountain of the Lord (Ps. 24:3; Ps. 68:5 cp. 68:17) or God’s heavenly dwelling-place (Isa. 26:21) is described as God’s ‘holy place.’23 If you asked a person steeped in Second Temple Judaism what ‘the holy place’ (or ‘the place of glory’) was (note the presence of the article in Greek), he would no doubt tell you either that it was the earthly sanctuary (the temple), or the heavenly sanctuary (of which the earthly is merely a copy, according to Heb. 9:24). Since Clement obviously does not mean that Peter and Paul went to the Jerusalem temple, he must mean they went to the heavenly sanctuary. There is, to my knowledge, not one instance in the OT, Second Temple Jewish literature, or early Christian literature where ‘the holy place’ takes on any other spatial meaning, much less a metaphorical meaning such as an office or position! Certainly Dave has not produced any such evidence that suggests otherwise.

(2) There is a text-critical issue concerning the verb used in the description of Paul’s martyrdom in 1 Clement 5.7. Holmes’ critical text follows the two Greek manuscripts in reading ἐπορεύθη, and so he translates, ‘he thus departed from the world and went to the holy place.’24 Ehrman’s critical text, however, follows the Latin, Coptic and Syriac versions in reading ἀνελήμφθη, and so he translates, ‘he was set free from this world and transported up to the holy place.’25 This reading is also favoured by Hill,26 as well as Arndt et al.27 That ἀνελήμφθη is not attested in any extant Greek manuscript is not very significant, because the presence of equivalent verbs in Syriac, Latin and Coptic versions essentially proves the existence of a Greek textual tradition that read ἀνελήμφθη, since it is extremely unlikely that three translators would have made the same semantic change independently. If Ehrman’s text has the correct reading, then Paul explicitly ascended to the holy place, which supports its spatial location in heaven.

(3) Even the verb poreuō (in 5.4 and in the Greek manuscripts 5.7) usually takes on the spatial meaning ‘go’. The only metaphorical meanings attested in Arndt et al are ‘to conduct oneself’ and ‘to die’,28 neither of which are possible in this context. Certainly, for an expression consisting of a verb (‘go’) and a noun (‘place’) which both have a spatial meaning as their primary sense, a spatial interpretation is most natural.

(4) In 1 Clement 5.7, the explicit contrast between ‘this world’ (the place from which Paul departed or was set free;29 cf. John 13:1; 1 Cor. 5:10) and ‘the holy place’ implies spatial movement. ‘This world’ is not an office or position. It is a place; an abode.

(5) In 1 Clement 50.3, the writer uses a different Greek word to refer to the ‘place’ of the righteous dead: chōros. This text reads:
3 All the generations from Adam till today have passed away, but those perfected in love through the gracious gift of God have a place (chōros) among the godly. And they will be revealed when the kingdom of Christ appears. 4 For it is written, “Come into the inner rooms for just a short while, until my anger and wrath pass by; and I will remember a good day and raise you up from your tombs.”30
These inner rooms are regarded by Clement not metaphorically but as a spatial place, since chōros means ‘an undefined area or location, place’;31 ‘a definite space, piece of ground, place’ or ‘land’, ‘country’, ‘estate’, etc.32 and, unlike topos,  does not have any attested metaphorical sense. The sense of 1 Clement 50.3-4, therefore, is that the righteous dead dwell in a spatial place, identified with the ‘inner rooms’ (ta tameia) of Isa. 26:20 LXX, until the resurrection. Thus it is best to interpret ‘place’ spatially in 1 Clement 5.4 and 5.7 as well. We note further that Josephus, writing in the same city as Clement around the same time (see above), uses the same word chōros to refer to the heavenly abode of the souls of the righteous dead while they await the resurrection of the body.

(6) Remarkably, the passage on which Clement explicitly depends for his doctrine of the intermediate state in 1 Clement 50.3-433 is also the passage which contains the clearest OT reference to ‘the holy place’ as a transcendent location: ‘For look, the Lord from his holy place (tou hagiou) brings wrath upon those who dwell on the earth’ (Isa. 26:21 LXX, NETS). Since we can be certain that Clement’s ideas about the intermediate state have been influenced by this passage, it makes sense to interpret his reference to ‘the holy place’ in 1 Clement 5.7 in line with the reference to ‘the holy place’ in Isa. 26:21 LXX. Accordingly, ‘the holy place’ in 1 Clement 5.7 is best understood as a reference to heaven.

Besides all of this evidence concerning the spatial meaning of topos in 1 Clement 5.4 and 5.7, we redirect the reader’s attention to 1 Clement 6.2, which says of some female martyrs that they received ‘a noble reward’ (geras gennaion). Arndt et al define geras as ‘a material exhibition of esteem, prize, reward’.34 For these martyrs to have received a prize after their death but before their resurrection, they must have still existed. Dave’s post does not mention this verse.

In conclusion, there is substantial evidence that Clement believed in an intermediate state for the righteous dead, or at least for martyrs. The idea that the ‘place’ of the righteous dead refers to a position of authority is plausible in 1 Clement 44.5 but untenable in 1 Clement 5.4 and 5.7 (where it also seems to have no scholarly support). Rather, the ‘place of glory’ and ‘holy place’ to which Peter and Paul are said to have gone (or ascended, in Paul’s case) is best understood as the heavenly sanctuary.

What are the implications of this finding? First, the theology of 1 Clement is not exactly as Christadelphians believe, as Dave claims. In particular, the theology of 1 Clement shows that belief in an intermediate state was entrenched in the church of Rome before the end of the first century. This doctrine was being projected back onto the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul at a time when the church elders in Rome likely included individuals (even Clement?) who had known them personally and sat under their teaching.35 This is reason enough for Christadelphians to take a long look at their materialistic anthropology, and revisit their exegesis of New Testament texts such as Acts 7:59, Phil. 1:22-24 and Heb. 12:22-24 which appear to presuppose belief in an intermediate state. Second, in early Christian theology, heaven-going and resurrection were not mutually exclusive, competing models of individual eschatology. Rather, they could be held simultaneously as two sequential components of individual eschatology – as they still are today in orthodox Christian theology.


  • 1 Ehrman, B.D. (2003). The Apostolic Fathers (Vol. 1). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, pp. 43-47; emphasis added.
  • 2 He goes on to quote Matt. 19:28; 1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Tim. 4:8; Jas 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4.
  • 3 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 115.
  • 4 Evangelion/Dave disputes this in a separate post on the same discussion board, claiming that 'with the Lord' is symbolic. Space does not allow further discussion of this text here, but suffice it to say that a symbolic meaning for 'with the Lord' is not 'clear' as Dave claims.
  • 5 Unquestionably, topos takes on a figurative sense in 1 Clement 40.5: ‘For special liturgical rites have been assigned to the high priest, and a special place (topos) has been designated for the regular priests, and special ministries are established for the Levites.
  • 6 Oropeza, B.J. (2010). Judas’ Death and Final Destiny in the Gospels and Earliest Christian Writings. Neotestamentica, 44(2), 342-361; here pp. 352-353. Also favouring this view are Barrett (Barrett, C.K. (1994). Acts 1-14. London: T&T Clark, pp. 103-104; he also considers the possibility that Judas’ own place refers to his position as a traitor); Witherington, B., III. (1998). The Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 122; Marshall, I.H. (1980). The Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction and Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 66; Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 1011; Bock, D.L. (2007). Acts. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, p. 89; Gaertner, D. (1995). Acts. Joplin: College Press, p. 64; Peterson, D. (2009). The Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 128; Zwiep, A.W. (2004). Judas and the Choice of Matthias: A Study on Context and Concern of Acts 1:15-26. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, pp. 166-168. Zwiep offers perhaps the most comprehensive exegesis, considering five possible interpretations of ‘his own place’ before concluding that it ‘is a euphemism for his postmortem state, in Luke’s view geenna.’ Among the parallels cited by scholars in support of this interpretation, the most impressive are Targum on Ecclesiastes 6.6 and Ignatius Magnesians 5.1. The former reads, ‘On the day of his death his soul goes down to Gehenna, the one place where all the guilty go’ (Talbert, C.H. (2005). Reading Acts: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. Macon: Smyth & Helwys, p. 21, trans., who also cites this text in connection with Acts 1:25 and thus presumably holds to the same interpretation.) The latter reads, ‘the two things are set together, death and life, and each person is about to depart to his own place’ (Ehrman, op. cit., p. 245). In this text, the expression ‘his own place’ parallels that in Acts 1:25, and appears to refer to one’s final destination.
  • 7 Johnson, L.T. (1992). The Acts of the Apostles. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, p. 37.
  • 8 Keener, C.S. (2012). Acts: An Exegetical Commentary (Vol. 1). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, p. 771.
  • 9 McCabe, D.R. (2011). How to Kill Things with Words: Ananias and Sapphira under the Prophetic Speech-Act of Divine Judgment (Acts 4.32-5.11). London: T&T Clark, p. 208.
  • 10 Van de Water, R. (2003). The Punishment of the Wicked Priest and the Death of Judas. Dead Sea Discoveries 10(3), 395-419; here p. 405.
  • 11 Whitlock, M.G. (2015). Acts 1:15-26 and the Craft of New Testament Poetry. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 77(1), 87-106; here pp. 104-105.
  • 12 ‘In one other place Clement uses the word τόπος to denote “the post-mortal place of honour.” This time, in an ironical jab at the Corinthians, he is speaking of the lot of deceased presbyters… The directional quality of προοδοιπορήσαντες, not merely “predecessors” but those who have traveled or gone before, is reinforced by the clear terminus for the journey in the τόπος of the departed. Despite, then, prima facie resemblance to Irenaeus’s “appointed place” (ὡρισμένος τόπος, Against Heresies V.31.2), Clement’s “established place” (τόπος) represents a conception of the place of the dead entirely at odds with that notion. There is every reason to assume that the teaching here is of a piece with that of chapter 5, in which the due place of glory and the holy place must be understood as the heavenly sanctuary and not as a subterranean holding place’ (Hill, C.E. (2001). Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp. 83-84).
  • 13 ‘τόπος meint die irdische Amtsstellung der Presbyter (vgl. 40,5), die ihnen nicht mehr genommen werden kann, oder aber den "himmlischen" Ort wie in 5,4.7 (so nachdrüklich Aono, Entwicklung 67; dann wäre ἱδρυμένος allerdings uneigentlich gemeint); vielleicht soll gar nicht präzise unterschieden werden’ (Lindemann, A. (1992). Die Clemensbriefe. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 132)] and (apparently) Arndt et al (op. cit., p. 1011), who list 1 Clement 44.5 under the ‘position’ meaning of topos but also asks the writer to ‘Cp. 44:5’ when listing 1 Clement 5.7 under the ‘transcendent site’ meaning.
  • 14 ‘Die Presbyter haben nun keinen Anlaß mehr zur Furcht, von ihrem Platz bzw. Amt entfernt zu werden (μεθίστημι wie in 1 Kön 15,13; 1 Makk 11,63; Lk 16,4). Die Ausdrucksweise verrät in zweifacher Weise das Interesse, die Vorstellung von einer schon soliden, feststehenden Einrichtung wachzurufen. Einmal ist von τόπος der Presbyter die Rede, was in diesem Zusammenhang an I Clem 40,5 erinnert: καὶ τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν ἴδιος ὁ τόπος προστέτακται. Sodann wird das bedeuteungsvolle  ἱδρύειν gebraucht, um die Errichtung des Amtes zu bezeichnen. Die Passiv-Form  ἱδρυμένος weist wie in 40,5 auf Gott als den Urheber hin, das Perfekt auf die Gültigkeit des den Presbytern errichteten τόπος. Der Terminus paßt in das Gesamtbild. Der fest gegründete Platz der Presbyter hat sich für einige von ihnen als nicht sicher erwiesen, da sie aus ihrem Amt hinausgedrängt wurden. Dieser Gefahr sind die schon verstorbenen Presbyter entgangen.’ (Lona, H.E. (1998). Der erste Clemensbrief. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, p. 470)
  • 15 1 Clement 36 appears to borrow extensively from Hebrews, quoting several of the same OT texts quoted in Hebrews 1, and referring to Jesus as ‘the high priest of our offerings, the benefactor who helps us in our weaknesses’ – language reminiscent of Heb. 2:18; 3:1 (cf. Ehrman, op. cit., pp. 26, 99-100).
  • 16 Hill, op. cit., p. 83.
  • 17 Hill notes that this same Greek word is used in 1 Clement 5.6.
  • 18 quoted in ibid.
  • 19 ibid.
  • 20 If the Visions were the first part of The Shepherd of Hermas to be written, around the end of the first century, as Osiek 1999: 20 suggests, then this text would have arisen around the same time as 1 Clement from within the same local church!
  • 21 Hill, op. cit., p. 83. He discusses this text in more detail in his discussion on the Shepherd of Hermas, ibid., pp. 92ff.
  • 22 following LXX: Ex. 28:26; 29:31; Lev. 6:27-36; 10:13-18; 16:2-27; 24:9; Num. 4:16; 28:7; 1 Ki. 8:10; 1 Chr. 23:32; 2 Chr. 5:9-11; 29:7; 31:18; Eccl. 8:10; Ezek. 41:21; 42:14; 44:27; 45:4; 45:18; Dan. 8:11; cf. 1 Macc. 14:36; 2 Macc. 2:18; 8:17; 3 Macc. 2:1; 4 Macc. 4:12; 1 Enoch 25.5.
  • 23 Cp. 1 Enoch 12.4, which refers to the Watchers having ‘left the high heaven, the holy eternal place’.
  • 24 Holmes, M.W. (2007) The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, p. 53.
  • 25 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 53.
  • 26 ‘Both Greek mss have ἐπορεύθη (he went), but ἀνελήμφθη (he was taken up) is presumed by the Syriac, Latin, and Coptic versions. Since ἐπορεύθη here may also be accounted for as an assimilation to v. 4, ἀνελήμφθη is preferred by Harnack, I. Clemensbrief, and Lake, ApF. It is also adopted by Funk-Bilhmeyer, though not by Jaubert. Knoch assumes ἐπορεύθη and does not even mention the variant…If  ἀνελήμφθη is original, it would, of course, be very unsuitable for depicting a removal to Hades but utterly natural for depicting an ascension to heaven. (Hill, op. cit., p. 82 n. 19).
  • 27 Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 66.
  • 28 op. cit., p. 853.
  • 29 Ehrman's translation above has Paul being 'set free' from this world, whereas Holmes (op. cit., p. 53) translates 'he thus departed from the world...' Both 'set free' and 'depart' are possible meanings of the verb apallassō (Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 96).
  • 30 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 125, trans.
  • 31 Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 1096.
  • 32 Liddell, H.G. & Scott, R. (1940). A Greek-English Lexicon (revised and augmented throughout by H.S. Jones with the assistance of R. McKenzie). Oxford: Clarendon Press. Retrieved from http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Dxw%3Dros1, 21 December 2015.
  • 33 Lona's comments on this text, already quoted in Part One of this article, are as follows: 'Zitat, dessen Herkunft in einem zweiten Schritt erörtert wird, will offensichtlich das zuvor Gesagte unterstreichen. Gemäß der vom Vf. praktizierten Schriftauslegung ist der als Zitat angeführte Text wörtlich zu nehmen. In diesem Fall sind τὰ τεμεῖα (die Kammern) identisch mit dem χῶρος εὐσεβῶν von V.3. Der Aufenthalt dort hat eine beschützende Funktion, aber er ist nicht dauernd, sondern nur für die Zeit des göttlichen Zornes gedacht, bis Gott sich des guten Tages erinnert und die Gläubigen auferstehen läßt. Zwei Aspekte sind in diesen Wort enthalten, die das Verständnis der Stelle im Kontext bestimmen. Der erste und vordergründige ist der eschatologische. Präzis ist er aber nicht. Die in der Liebe Vollendeten würden in diesen Aufenthaltsort eingehen - was nur als postmortales Ereignis vorstellbar ist - , um dort auf den guten Tag zu warten, an dem Gott sie auferstehen lassen wird. ἀναστήσω ist als Auferstehungsverheißung auszulegen. Die jüdische Apokalyptik kennt ähnliche Vorstellungen über einen Zwischenzustand. Sie sind auch dem NT nicht fremd (vgl. Phil 1,23; Lk 23,43), wenngleich die Ausdrucksweise dort nicht so bildreich ist wie in I Clem 50,4' (Lona, op. cit., p. 534).
  • 34 Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 195.
  • 35 1 Clement 44.3, 6 may indicate that among the ministers who had been deposed in Corinth were some who had been appointed by the apostles.