Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

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Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby james.goetz » Mon Feb 16, 2009 11:00 am

Hi Tom,

I appreciate your work on 2 Thessalonians 1:9. May I ask you how you handle Matthew 25:41, 46?

Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; (Matthew 25:41 NASB)

These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:46 NASB)

Thank You.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby tomtalbott » Wed Feb 18, 2009 9:24 am

james.goetz wrote:May I ask you how you handle Matthew 25:41, 46?

Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; (Matthew 25:41 NASB)

These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:46 NASB)

Thank You.

Hi Jim,

Let’s begin with Matthew 25:46 because so many have appealed to this text in support of the following egregiously fallacious argument: If, according to Jesus, eternal life is literally unending life, then eternal punishment must also be unending torment (or at least unending separation from God). We can illustrate the fallacy in such reasoning, moreover, without entering into any controversy concerning the correct translation of the Greek “aionios” (whether, for example, it should be translated as “eternal,” “everlasting,” or simply “age enduring”). So let us simply grant, at least for the sake of argument, whichever of these translations a given person might prefer.

Whatever its correct translation, “aionios” is clearly an adjective and must therefore function like an adjective, and it is the very nature of an adjective for its meaning to vary, sometimes greatly, depending upon which noun it qualifies. For more often than not, the noun helps to determine the precise force of the adjective. As an illustration, set aside the Greek word “aionios” for a moment and consider the English word “everlasting.” I think it safe to say that the basic meaning of this English word is indeed everlasting. So now consider how the precise force of “everlasting” varies depending upon which noun it qualifies. An everlasting struggle would no doubt be a struggle without end, an unending temporal process that never comes to a point of resolution and never gets completed. But an everlasting change, or an everlasting correction, or an everlasting transformation would hardly be an unending temporal process that never gets completed; instead, it would be a temporal process of limited duration, or perhaps simply an instantaneous event, that terminates in an irreversible state. So however popular it might be, the argument that “aionios” must have exactly the same force regardless of which noun it qualifies in Matthew 25:46 is clearly fallacious.

Accordingly, even if we should translate “aionios” with the English word “everlasting,” a lot would still depend upon how we understand the relevant nouns in our text: the nouns “life” (zoe) and “punishment” (kolasis). Now the kind of life in question, being rightly related to God, is clearly an end in itself, even as the kind of punishment in question seems just as clearly to be a means to an end. For as one New Testament scholar, William Barclay, has pointed out, “kolasis” “was not originally an ethical word at all. It originally meant the pruning of trees to make them grow better.” Barclay also claimed that “in all Greek secular literature kolasis is never used of anything but remedial punishment”--which is probably a bit of a stretch, since the language of correction and the language of retribution often get mixed together in ordinary language. But in any event, if “kolasis” does signify punishment of a remedial or a corrective kind, as I think it does in Matthew 25:46, then we can reasonably think of such punishment as everlasting in the sense that its corrective effects literally endure forever. Or, to put it another way: An everlasting correction, whenever successfully completed, would be a temporal process of limited duration that terminates in the irreversible state of being rightly related to God. Certainly nothing in the context of Matthew 25 excludes such an interpretation.

This would not be my preferred interpretation, however, because the English word “everlasting” does not accurately capture the special religious meaning that “aionios” typically has in the New Testament. Here is how I expressed my own understanding of this matter in Universal Salvation? The Current Debate, p. 46:
The first point I would make is that on no occasion of its use in the New Testament does ‘aionios’ refer to a temporal process of unending duration. On a few occasions--as when Paul spoke of a ‘mystery that was kept secret for long ages (chronios aioniois) but is now disclosed’ (Rom. 16:25-26)--the adjective does imply a lengthy period of time. But on these occasions, it could not possibly mean ‘eternal’ or ‘everlasting’. On other occasions, its use seems roughly Platonic in this sense: Whether God is eternal (that is, timeless, outside of time) in a purely Platonic sense or everlasting in the sense that he endures throughout all of the ages, nothing other than God is eternal in the primary sense (see the reference to ‘the eternal God’ in Rom. 16:26). The judgements, gifts, and actions of God are eternal in the secondary sense that their causal source lies in the eternal character and purpose God. One common function of an adjective, after all, is to refer back to the causal source of some action or condition. [Endnote: A selfish act, for example, is one that springs from, or has its causal source in, selfish motives.] When Jude thus cited the fire that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of eternal fire, he was not making a statement about temporal duration at all; in no way was he implying that the fire continues burning today, or even that it continued burning for an age. He was instead giving a theological interpretation in which the fire represented God’s judgement upon the two cities. So the fire was eternal not in the sense that it would burn forever without consuming the cities, but in the sense that, precisely because it was God’s judgement upon these cities and did consume them, it expressed God’s eternal character and eternal purpose in a special way.

So, even as the fire that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah was eternal in the sense that it expressed God’s eternal character and purpose in a special way, the same is true of the fire to which Matthew 25:41 alludes. That fire is eternal in the sense that, despite the harsh sounding language, it expresses God’s eternal love for us in a special, albeit especially severe, way. For as we read in Hebrews 12:29, the eternal God is also a consuming fire, one that will eventually consume all that is false within us. In no other way could God perfect all of us and express his eternal love for all of us. And similarly for eternal punishment: Like any of God’s eternal actions in time, it should be interpreted theologically as a process or event that has its causal source in the eternal God himself. Or, as William Barclay put it, “Eternal punishment is then literally that kind of remedial punishment which it befits God to give and which only God can give” (A Spiritual Biography, p. 66).

A lot more could be said about the way in which Jesus typically expressed himself. But perhaps we can take up some of that in subsequent discussion.

Thanks, Jim, for raising an important issue.

-Tom
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby JasonPratt » Wed Feb 18, 2009 11:41 am

tomtalbott wrote:which is probably a bit of a stretch, since the language of correction and the language of retribution often get mixed together in ordinary language.


Such as, to give one semi-random example, the term "re-tribution" itself (which literally means to bring a rebel back into giving tribute again, i.e. back to being a loyal subject.)

I love making that example. :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

And I came to pretty much the same conclusion regarding the meaning of {aio_nios} myself several years ago: it means that the object of the adjective comes from God's own essential and unique reality as the One Who is Everlasting. The life is from God, the fire is from God, the whole-ruination is from God, the brisk cleaning is from God, and at least once God is from God. :D (Hardly a problem for an orthodox trinitarian or at least an orthodox binitarian. Also the concept fits very well into the OT notion of the Visible YHWH Who tends to show up frequently in famous, and some not-so-famous, OT stories.)
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Michael » Fri Feb 27, 2009 8:44 am

JasonPratt wrote:...I came to pretty much the same conclusion regarding the meaning of {aio_nios} myself several years ago


So did an Anglican Theologian by the name of Frederick Dennison Maurice.

http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id= ... &ct=result

To him, "eternal punishment" meant "Providential punishment," and to "perish everlastingly" ment to feel the absence of real life.

This may even be relevant to a discusion I started here (as he used this understanding of aionian/aeternum to explain his interpretation of the damnatory clauses in the Athanasian Creed), but he seems to have gone too far.

He seems to have taken timelesness/Divinity to be the essential meaning of "aion."

http://anglicanhistory.org/maurice/jelf_letter1854.html

And this would seem to make gibberish of the expression translated "forever and ever" in our English Bible ("aion tou aionios," if my memory serves me correctly.)

Wouldn't such an expression have to mean something like "unto the age of ages," or "for ages and ages"?
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby JeffA » Sat Feb 28, 2009 12:01 am

Not my strong point but isn't 'The age of ages' (meaning the greatest of ages) similar to 'The King of kings and Lord of lords'?
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Michael » Sat Feb 28, 2009 7:47 am

JeffA wrote:Not my strong point but isn't 'The age of ages' (meaning the greatest of ages) similar to 'The King of kings and Lord of lords'?

I believe the two expresions do have similar meanings, which is why I can't entirely agree with Maurice:

[The Word "Eternal" and the Punishment of the Wicked] I am sorry you spent so much time in seeking for this test, I would have told you at once, if you had asked me, that the word Eternal seemed to me a better equivalent for the word aiwnioV than Everlasting. Since aetas is the obvious translation for aiwn, the cognate Latin adjective seems peculiarly suitable to express the cognate Greek adjective. Since there is nothing that apparently corresponds to the Greek substantive in the Saxon adjective, it must, I should conceive, offer a less adequate substitute. The passages which you have collected to show how closely the use of aiwn is connected in the New Testament with the use of aiwnioV greatly favour this conclusion. I was so convinced on this ground of the superiority of the Latin derivative, that I ventured to complain of our translators for joining with it the word Everlasting in Matthew xxv. 46. My main objection, indeed, was to the ambiguity which arises from the use of two words for one; still I had no doubt which ought to have been chosen, which thrown aside. Two of the apologies which you offer for the translators I am sure they would indignantly have repudiated. They never would have dared to think about the "rhythm" of a passage in which our Lord declares what He will do when He shall sit upon the throne of His glory and before Him are gathered all nations. They could never have taken a word merely because an old translator from the Vulgate, in the infancy of our language, had found no better. Your other reason that they sought to connect the Saxon word with the Latin, offers a more valid--not, I think, a quite satisfactory--excuse for them. I conceive that they felt the value of the word Eternal; they shewed that they did by using it so frequently in spite of their fondness for Saxon. They were too well acquainted with the controversies of the fourth century, and with the history of theology, not to know how important it is that there should be a word expressing a permanent fixed state, not a succession of moments. The word aiwn, or aetas, served this purpose. Like our own word "Period," it does not convey so much the impression of a line as of a circle. It does not suggest perpetual progress, but fixedness and completeness. The word "aiwnioV, or Æternus, derived from these, seemed to have been divinely contrived to raise us out of our Time notions,--to suggest the thought of One who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; to express those spiritual or heavenly things which are subject to no change or succession. The King James translators, therefore, hailed the word with which Tyndale or some one else had provided them, as a precious addition to the resources and powers of the language.

http://anglicanhistory.org/maurice/jelf_letter1854.html

I confess I'm somewhat baffled by the statement:

"Like our own word 'Period,' it does not convey so much the impression of a line as of a circle. It does not suggest perpetual progress, but fixedness and completeness."

I assume he's referring to the word "Period" as it's used in "the Classical Period," but this doesn't convey "the impression of a circle" to my mind.

I would very much like to agree with Maurice (as it would eliminate any problem I might have with the Athanasian Creed), so if anyone understands what he's saying here, please point it out to me.

What would "unto the period of periods" mean, would such an expression make any sense (and if it did, wouldn't it mean more or less the same as "unto the age of ages")?
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Mar 01, 2009 6:43 am

Michael wrote:he seems to have gone too far.

He seems to have taken timelesness/Divinity to be the essential meaning of "aion."


I agree, that would be going too far. But that doesn't seem to be the ground of his paragraph that you presented afterward. While his explication of {aio_n} is far off base (the word as it stands in the Greek NT at any rate simply means a particular span of time, of indeterminate length in the sense that it doesn't automatically mean 1000 years or any specific number--the eon might never end, or it might pass away and transition to a new eon), I do think he is correct about the adjective {aio_nion} (with proper grammatic suffix changes of course, where applicable) pointing to that which is above natural time: i.e. to God. I'm told that this is how the term was used in the metaphysics of some Greek philosophers of the period as well.

It should be noted that this application to Matt 25:41,46 doesn't immediately land in favor of universalism: no non-universalist would disagree that the hopeless punishment comes from God. (Or, rather, quite a few of them do disagree with that and try to disassociate God from such a result!--denying such basic tenets as God's omnipresence, for example, in order to keep the doctrine of hopelessness.) The question has to move to what the noun means at verse 46. But that noun is particularly not associated with hopeless punishment; quite the reverse! It's associated with hopeful cleaning instead. (Which is why it is borrowed for remedial punishment analogies elsewhere.)


I have been building a comment for this thread (or more likely for its own thread) giving examples of the various ways "eon" is used in the NT; but I'm snowed in away from my office today, so it'll have to be next week.


Meanwhile, my opinion, which may have been stated already in your AthCreed thread, is that you've got a lot more to worry about concerning the condemnatory wrappings of the AthCreed than the condemnation language: I would have to reject those wrapper statements as technically heretical even if they didn't say a single thing about condemnation; because they teach salvation by doctrinal knowledge, which is gnosticism.

The salient question to my mind is not what the gnostic wrapping statement means, but what the judgment statements of the Big Three Creeds mean (if there are any in the AthCreed aside from the wrapper statements--away from my ref materials, remember. ;) )

And frankly, I'm more interested in trying to figure out what the NT authors (and most importantly Jesus, by their report) meant by judgment and punishment statements, than in how subsequent centuries tended to understand them as meaning. The relevant question (which the authors of the Creeds would certainly have agreed with), is whether the Creeds accurately synopsize information from the scriptures. (To which I would add, are the ideas presented by the creeds logically coherent? But that's a metaphysics question, not a scriptural exegesis question.)
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Michael » Sun Mar 01, 2009 2:53 pm

frankly, I'm more interested in trying to figure out what the NT authors (and most importantly Jesus, by their report) meant by judgment and punishment statements, than in how subsequent centuries tended to understand them as meaning.


Of course--but I agree with all that you, Gregory MacDonald, Prof. Talbott, and others have said on that here.

The issue for me was in whether or not I had found a Church home that could provide the pastoral needs of myself and my aged parents (and whether or not I could subscribe to a particular denominational affirmation.)

Apparently, the only thing that made this a big issue was my unwillingness to bring up my reservations about the damnatory clauses.

I did today.

The priest I spoke to regards these "wrapper statements" as anathemas that can be viewed separately from the Trinitarian doctrine contained in the Creed, and said that we (Anglicans) leave punishment to God.

He said that the important thing is that the (Trinitarian) doctrine of the Creed is sound, and that's what we fully accept.

That effectively removed any stumbling bloc I had had.

I thank you (and others) for your comments here.

God Bless.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Michael » Mon Mar 02, 2009 2:18 pm

P.S. John Wesley had this to say regarding the Gnosticism of those wrap around statements (and I would have added these comments to the previous post, if I had not found myself unable to edit it for some reason):

"I am far from saying, he who does not assent to this shall without doubt perish everlastingly." For the sake of that and another clause, I, for some time, scrupled subscribing to that creed; till I considered (1.) That these sentences only relate to wilful, not involuntary, unbelievers; to those who, having all the means of knowing the truth, nevertheless obstinately reject it: (2.) that they relate only to the substance of the doctrine there delivered; not the philosophical illustrations of it."

http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/55/

As a universalist, I would have reservations about the duration of punishment that Wesley aparently didn't have (if I accepted the English translation at face value, and were unable to separate the Trinitarian doctrine of the Creed from the damnatory clauses), but I do think that faith in Christ involves some knowledge of who and what He is (after all, Moslems believe He's a Prophet.)

Further, it can become confusing when we (Universalists, who believe all will be saved in the end) speak of anything being required for salvation, unless we clarify the kind of Salvation we're speaking of.

Paul said that God is "especially" the Savior of those who believe, and (in that sense--of a special salvation for those who believe now) I don't think it's necessarily Gnostic to say that one must believe certain things to be saved.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby JasonPratt » Wed Mar 04, 2009 6:29 am

Michael wrote:Paul said that God is "especially" the Savior of those who believe, and (in that sense--of a special salvation for those who believe now) I don't think it's necessarily Gnostic to say that one must believe certain things to be saved.


I agree with this, as a factor of human psychology: the rebel on the cross had to have been believing something about Jesus when he asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus inherited His kingdom. But we have very very little textual evidence about what he believed (and no evidence that he was even accepting Jesus as "Lord" per se.) Whereas, it's debatable whether the sheep in the sheep-and-goats judgment even were expecting Jesus to have any kind of authority in the first place! Still, they believed something--they had to have believed it was right to help the oppressed, for example.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Gabe » Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:19 pm

Michael wrote:I confess I'm somewhat baffled by the statement:

"Like our own word 'Period,' it does not convey so much the impression of a line as of a circle. It does not suggest perpetual progress, but fixedness and completeness."

I assume he's referring to the word "Period" as it's used in "the Classical Period," but this doesn't convey "the impression of a circle" to my mind.


Aion may very well derive from aio, which I understand means, "I breathe." Just as breathing is cyclical, so the ancient Greeks thought of time as cyclical (indeed, this is a very natural way of thinking of time).

Perhaps I'll start a thread on aion/aionios? :twisted:
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Gabe » Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:26 pm

Michael wrote:He seems to have taken timelesness/Divinity to be the essential meaning of "aion."

http://anglicanhistory.org/maurice/jelf_letter1854.html

And this would seem to make gibberish of the expression translated "forever and ever" in our English Bible ("aion tou aionios," if my memory serves me correctly.)


Let me say from the outset that I side with Maurice in thinking that aion/aionios often functions as an epithet of divinity in the NT. That noted, I am inclined to see an important connection between the phrases, "king of kings" "holy of holies" and "aion of aions", and I don't see how Maurice's understanding of aion would render "aion of aions" gibberish.
Remember, idioms need not make literal sense.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Michael » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:43 pm

Gabe wrote:
Michael wrote:He seems to have taken timelesness/Divinity to be the essential meaning of "aion."

http://anglicanhistory.org/maurice/jelf_letter1854.html

And this would seem to make gibberish of the expression translated "forever and ever" in our English Bible ("aion tou aionios," if my memory serves me correctly.)


Let me say from the outset that I side with Maurice in thinking that aion/aionios often functions as an epithet of divinity in the NT.


I think it "often" serves some such function myself.

I find it difficult to agree with Maurice precisely because I don't see him using the kind of qualifier you did (not even when he was discussing the meaning of the verb.)

He seemed to take aion/aetas in a sense it cannot always bear (and to insist on consistently taking it in that sense), and I believe that's wrong.

Gabe wrote:That noted, I am inclined to see an important connection between the phrases, "king of kings" "holy of holies" and "aion of aions", and I don't see how Maurice's understanding of aion would render "aion of aions" gibberish.
Remember, idioms need not make literal sense.


Would "unto (or 'for') the divinity of divinities" mean something less than endless duration (in your opinion)?
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Michael » Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:01 am

P.S. Let me rephrase that last question.

Idiomatically speaking, what do you take "aion of aions" to mean?

(Would it mean "forever," "indefinitely," "for ages," "unto the age of ages," or something else entirely?)
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Mar 15, 2009 10:25 am

Michael wrote:Wouldn't that make gibberish of expressions like "aion tou aionios" (or whatever the exact expression is that's translated "forever and ever" in our English Bibles)?


The short answer is, no; because the phrases translated "forever and ever" don't include the adjective {aio_nion} (or eonian). The suffixing of the adjective changes sometimes, of course, which can make for confusion.

Some example of related terms and phrases:

1.) The adjective "eonian", or {aio_nion}, used in Matt 25:41, 46 (as a topically handy example :mrgreen: ) to describe what kind of "fire" and "chastening" and what kind of life is being given; {to pur to aio_nion} {kolasin aio_nion} and {zo_e_n aio_nion}, each introduced with the preposition {eis} or "into".

(The reference to the fire in verse 41 is extremely interesting: the grammatic construction shows that "eonian" is being thought of as a noun reference in parallel identification with the fire. Literally it would be "into the Fire, the Everlasting". Soooo... how many "Everlastings" are there supposed to exist in all reality?! One One that I am aware of, and acknowledge and profess!! :D :lol: 8-) )

Another highly interesting use of the adjective is at 2 Tim 1:9, where the calling and salvation of God are given to us, not according to our works, but given to us in Christ Jesus according to God's own purpose and grace {pro chrono_n aio_nio_n}. At the very least this has to mean "before eternal times", which again at the least is a reference going back to the heart of God Himself (as the whole context emphasizes anyway). But if we're thinking about the adjective {aio_nion} (here suffixed with an omega, not an omicron, in order to match the suffix of {chron-} in its prepositional phrase link with {pro}) being itself a source-reference to God the Everlasting One, then it makes even more sense: the gift of grace occurs in some way superior to the times-from-God. This has the advantage of not requiring us to treat the times themselves as "eternal", which would be instantly contradictory to the sense of the passage. (Note the relationship of this sentence, as a whole, to a similar statement near the end of Romans, discussed by me elsewhere in its uses of "eonian" as a description of a secret and as a description of God.)

The adjective "eonian" occurs more often than any other form or phrase of the word, but all the other forms or phrases together occur more often (in total) than "eonian".

The form of the word here, {aio_nio_n}, should not be confused with "eons" in genitive form as an object of the preposition "of", {aio_no_n}. This has the same basic meaning of 'a particular segment of natural history' as "eons" in accusative form as the object of some other prepositions, {aio_nas}.

A good example of both of these put together would be:

2.) "into the eons of the eons" {eis tous aio_nas to_n aio_no_n}. Such as in the doxology of Rev 1:7, "To Him is the glory and the might into the eons of the eons".

This phrase occurs quite frequently in the NT, especially as a doxology: Rom 16:26, Gal 1:5, Ph 4:20, 1Tim 1:17, Heb 13:21, 1Pet 4:11, 5:11, Rev 1:7 (as noted). There are probably a dozen other uses as well, including Christ (Rev 1:18) and God (Rev 4:9-10, 10:6, 15:7) living "into the eons of the eons".

Of interest to our present topic, Satan is tormented into the eons of the eons (Rev 20:1); the smoke of the Great Harlot Babylon goes up into the eons of the eons (Rev 19:3); and those who worship the Beast and his Image, receiving the mark on hand or forehead, shall drink the cup of the wrath of God unmixed in the presence of the angels of God and of the Lamb, with the smoke of their torment ascending into ages of ages. (This last has a minor variant where the direct article for {aio_no_n} is omitted.)

Some rare variant phrasings in the NT include:

3.) "the eon of the eons", {tou aio_nos to_n aio_no_n}, Eph 20:21, "the glory of Him in the congregation and in Christ Jesus into all the generations of the eon of the eons." (This version has the genitive in both prepositional phrases.)

4.) "the eon of the eon", {eis ton aio_na tou aio_nos}, Heb 1:8, "The throne of yours, O God, is into the eon of the eon."

5.) "into all the eon", {eis pantas tous aio_nas}, Jude 25, "to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord: glory, greatness, might and authority, before all the eon {pro pantos tou aio_nos} and into all the eon, Amen!"

6.) "before the eons", {pro to_n aio_non}, 1 Cor 2:7, "But we speak of God a wisdom in mystery: that which has been hidden, which God designated beforehand, before the eons, into our glory!"

7.) "from the eons", {apo to_n io_no_n}, Eph 3:9, "the fellowship of the mystery: that which has been hidden from the eons in God Himself, all the things having been created through Jesus Christ."

8.) "from an/the eon", {ap-aio_nos}, Acts 15:18, "known (to the Lord in His work) from an eon". (A few other NT occurrences, too.)

9.) "into an/the eon", {eis aio_na}, Jude 13, "wandering stars (asteres plane_tai), for whom the blackness of darkness into an eon has been kept." (Trivia note: "has been kept", or {tete_re_tai}, sounds rather like a pun for Tartarus, where God thrusts sinning angel/messengers in 2 Pet 2:4.)

More frequent are the phrases:

10.) "into the eon", {eis ton aio_na}, many examples, Matt 21:19/Mark 11:14; Mark 3:29; John 4:14, 6:51, 58, 8:35, 51-52, 10:28, 11:26, 12:34, 13:8, 14:16; 1 Cor 8:13; 2 Cor 9:9; Heb 5:6, 6:20, 7:17, 21, 24, 28; 1 John 2:17; 2 John 2.

11.) "into the eons", Luke 1:33, 55; Heb 13:8; 1Pet 1:25; and obviously also all those doxology places listed back under set (2). :mrgreen:


While there are several other occurrences of the term "eon" in the NT, these are the ones which tend to be translated "eternal", "forever", "everlasting", etc.

The point (recusing back to Michael's question) is that the phrasing might be "ageish" (as an adjective--or as a vocative noun, even, per my Matt 25 example!), or it might be "age of the ages". But it's never "age of the ageish".

But the difference between spelling {aio_nion} and {aio_non} (depending on the suffix of the latter, which is usually an omega instead of an omicron, though: {aio_no_n}) is pretty small.

And now, having presented these for consideration and discussion, I am off to eat lunch at last!
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Mar 15, 2009 10:33 am

Gabe wrote:Aion may very well derive from aio, which I understand means, "I breathe." Just as breathing is cyclical, so the ancient Greeks thought of time as cyclical (indeed, this is a very natural way of thinking of time).


I rather like that as a suggestion. (Although I've also seen it explained "un-if-being", which would still fit into the ancient Greek concept of natural time being the ontological Final Fact: That Which Intrinsically Is.) For one thing, it fits rather suggestively into how I've been translating {aio_nion}, because there is also a theory (which by the way I use in my novels) that reason YHWH is unpronounceable is because it is "pronounced" by breath exhaling and then inhaling. (But proper humility among us derivative creatures would require us to not-pronounce it by inhaling and then exhaling. :) )

And while that wasn't where I originally developed my understanding of positive aseity (God being self-begetting and self-begotten), the cyclical 'nature' of that (in a way, though not as a discreetly repeating process) fits into that theory of YHWH's pronunciation, too.

Be that as it may. Something to tickle around in the back of our minds, I guess. :)
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby JasonPratt » Sun Mar 15, 2009 10:50 am

Michael wrote:P.S. Let me rephrase that last question.

Idiomatically speaking, what do you take "aion of aions" to mean?

(Would it mean "forever," "indefinitely," "for ages," "unto the age of ages," or something else entirely?)


Incidentally, I do kind-of like the idea of "age of ages" to mean something like "king of kings" (i.e. the greatest of ages). But as it happens, "age of ages" is super-rare as a phrase in NT Greek. (Only once that I can find, Eph 3:21.) Almost always it's "the ages of the ages".

Be that as it may. I think the plural of the phrase indicates an indeterminate but vastly long stretch of natural time. The singular of the phrase ("into the eon", "for the eon") may mean the same thing, keeping in mind that sometimes the reference seems to be for this eon (which we know is going to end) and sometimes for the Day of the Lord to come (which isn't going to end).

I will point out that even when the reference is to this current eon, the event being described may not end when this eon ends. Similarly, the event being described might or might not end in the eon to come (even if that eon itself never ends). It's also notable that the Day of the Lord to come, even though it counts as an eon, may itself contain sub-eons, themselves dividable into eons ("into the ages of the ages").

So it isn't altogether simple. :)

However, I will say that if I was a non-universalist, it wouldn't be based on whether an eon didn't end; similarly, my universalism doesn't depend on whether an eon does end. But I will also say that from a rhetorical usage standpoint, if I didn't have many other reasons to think otherwise and only focused on the rhetorical usage of "eon" in regard to punishment, I might very easily think this was a witness to the hopeless permanence of the punishment.

As it is, the stress on duration reminds me that even if the punishment is hopeful (and regardless of severity or lack thereof), it's still going to continue until the soul repents and agrees to cooperate with God in sending away its sins. If I insist on my sinning, it isn't as though I can expect to be freed of God's wrath simply because some period of time has passed.

(Although, not-incidentally, that does seem to be how the prophecies of the OT in regard to the sins of Israel were popularly interpreted during Jesus' day: we've done our time and now we can come out, right? Well, yes, the time of "God's Salvation", YSHuA, is coming and is even already here--but that doesn't mean you're going to automatically be set free of the results of punishment. The far more important thing is to be freed from your sinning, and if you refuse to be free of that... well, "until the last farthing" is rendered up, you won't be coming out!)
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Michael » Thu Mar 19, 2009 8:19 pm

Thank you Jason,

Much of what you wrote was very interesting, but your "short answer" wasn't addressed to my question (what Maurice wrote, or the problem I had with the quote I provided.)

In discussing the meaning of the adjective (eonian) , Maurice (unlike Prof. Talbott) seems to insist that the noun itself (eon) has no time connotations.

Is that not going a bridge too far?

How can you agree with Maurice, and take the expression translated "forever and ever" in Rev. 20:10 to mean "into the eons of eons"?

How can you get "ages" or "sub-ages" from a word "expressing a permanent fixed state, and not a succession of moments"?

(And remember, Maurice said the noun "aion" served that purpose in Greek--how can you agree with that?)

I still don't see how this could fail to make gibberish of the phrases we've been discussing.

What would "into the permanent fixed state of permanent fixed states" mean?

Even idiomatically, what would such an expression mean??
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby JasonPratt » Fri Mar 20, 2009 12:20 pm

Michael wrote:Is that not going a bridge too far?


I had already answered that, several comments previously, when you asked it: "yes, too far." (
Michael wrote:he seems to have gone too far. He seems to have taken timelesness/Divinity to be the essential meaning of "aion."
Jason wrote:I agree, that would be going too far.
)

Since I don't agree with Maurice that the base meaning of {aion}, as applied in the NT, has to do with divinity (despite my appreciation with some suggestions along that line in other more recent comments), I consequently don't have a conflict in translating "into the eons of the eons" as "into the eons of the eons" in Rev 20:10. :)

Translating "into the eons of the eons" as "into the eons of the eons" isn't the difficult thing; that's the easy thing. The far more difficult thing is figuring out how the NT authors are using the adjective "eonian"; which I do find has thematic connection to the Deity.

Michael wrote:How can you get "ages" or "sub-ages" from a word "expressing a permanent fixed state, and not a succession of moments"?


I don't consider "eon" to have a primary meaning of expressing a permanent fixed state in NT usage. Even if I did, though, there might be something equivalent to 'a larger permanent fixed state encompassing a smaller permanent fixed state'.

So, for example: the Lordship of God is a permanent reality in regard to all of natural time as a whole. (Otherwise we're talking about a very different theology than any supernaturalistic theism.) Natural time as a whole could be said to exist in a permanent fixed state within and subordinate to the Lordship of God. (I'm a bit agnostic about this, but I'll grant it hypothetically for purposes of argument.) From our perspective on the timeline, humanity's history before the giving of the Torah on Sinai could be reckoned as an age; and even though this period of time can be reckoned as a succession of moments (as could all of natural time for that matter), that age also from our perspective has certain permanently fixed characteristics as "past history". The whole of history would be one eon; but that whole total eon would be reckonable in terms of sub-eons, each of which has (under God) some set of permanently fixed characteristics: this period happens before the giving of the Law, this period happens between the giving of the Law and the Incarnation, this period happens between the Incarnation and the Second Coming, this period happens after the Second Coming, etc.

I reiterate, though, that I find the NT usage of {aio_n} per se to typically involve reference to what you're calling a succession of moments of indeterminate (but long) length. The aions are not regarded as permanently fixed in the sense that Greek Stoics and similar philosophies regarded them; there isn't, for example, an endlessly repeating cycle of ages of approximately (or even identically) the same events, inescapable and binding upon all reality, even upon the gods (if they exist), eternal in its supreme ontological status. (And even then, each one of the cycle of ages can hardly be said to be essentially a permanently fixed state, since they transition successively into one another.)


Michael wrote:What would "into the permanent fixed state of permanent fixed states" mean? Even idiomatically, what would such an expression mean??


Good question, but not my problem. An even better question, since the phrase occurs very much more often in the NT, would be, "what does into the permanent fixed states of permanent fixed states" mean?


Going back to my "short answer", meanwhile: the first and chief reason that Maurice's proposed underlying meaning for {aio_n} wouldn't make gibberish of expressions like "aion tou aionios" in the scriptures, is because that type of phrase never shows up once in the scriptures. Not in the NT, and (as far as I know or even could imagine) not in the OT Greek LXX either. "Age of ages" yes, once. "Ages of ages", yes, many times. "Age of Agey" (or whatever the adjective {aio_nio_n/ios} would be super-literally translated as, with appropriate direct article), never. (But the plural of eon, when used in a particular prepositional form, looks at first glance very much like the adjective {aio_nio_n}.)

The technical rebuttal doesn't detract from the strength of your complaint, however. :)
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Michael » Fri Mar 20, 2009 6:01 pm

Going back to my "short answer", meanwhile: the first and chief reason that Maurice's proposed underlying meaning for {aio_n} wouldn't make gibberish of expressions like "aion tou aionios" in the scriptures, is because that type of phrase never shows up once in the scriptures. Not in the NT, and (as far as I know or even could imagine) not in the OT Greek LXX either. "Age of ages" yes, once. "Ages of ages", yes, many times. "Age of Agey" (or whatever the adjective {aio_nio_n/ios} would be super-literally translated as, with appropriate direct article), never. (But the plural of eon, when used in a particular prepositional form, looks at first glance very much like the adjective {aio_nio_n}.)

The technical rebuttal doesn't detract from the strength of your complaint, however.


Thank you Jason,

But would Maurice's proposed underlying meaning for aio_n make gibberish of phrases like "aio_n tou (or ton) aio_nio_n/ios"?

(And btw, not having Greek font, and having to spell phonetically using the keys on available on this keyboard, does make this level of technical discussion rather difficult.)

Translating "into the eons of the eons" as "into the eons of the eons" isn't the difficult thing; that's the easy thing. The far more difficult thing is figuring out how the NT authors are using the adjective "eonian"; which I do find has thematic connection to the Deity.


I agree.

I don't consider "eon" to have a primary meaning of expressing a permanent fixed state in NT usage. Even if I did, though, there might be something equivalent to 'a larger permanent fixed state encompassing a smaller permanent fixed state'.


I'd hate to think of what being "tormented into a larger permanent fixed state encompassing a smaller permanent fixed state" might mean.

If not gibberish, I suspect it would mean something like "forever and ever," no?

I had already answered that, several comments previously, when you asked it: "yes, too far." (
Michael wrote:he seems to have gone too far. He seems to have taken timelesness/Divinity to be the essential meaning of "aion."
Jason wrote:I agree, that would be going too far.
)

Since I don't agree with Maurice that the base meaning of {aion}, as applied in the NT, has to do with divinity (despite my appreciation with some suggestions along that line in other more recent comments), I consequently don't have a conflict in translating "into the eons of the eons" as "into the eons of the eons" in Rev 20:10...I find the NT usage of {aio_n} per se to typically involve reference to what you're calling a succession of moments of indeterminate (but long) length. The aions are not regarded as permanently fixed in the sense that Greek Stoics and similar philosophies regarded them; there isn't, for example, an endlessly repeating cycle of ages of approximately (or even identically) the same events, inescapable and binding upon all reality, even upon the gods (if they exist), eternal in its supreme ontological status. (And even then, each one of the cycle of ages can hardly be said to be essentially a permanently fixed state, since they transition successively into one another.)


Then we appear to be in total agreement (aside from the technicalities.)

BTW: Let me reiterate that I agree with those (like Dean Farrar and Prof. Talbott) who say that aio_nio_n often has "has thematic connection to the Deity."
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby JasonPratt » Fri Mar 20, 2009 7:31 pm

Michael wrote:If not gibberish, I suspect it would mean something like "forever and ever," no?


Agreed either way. :)

Incidentally, the main spelling difference between the adjective {aio_ni-} and the noun {aio_n-} is that iota at the end, suffix variations notwithstanding. One of the common prepositional forms of plural {aio_n} looks almost like the typical form of the adjective {aio_ni}, except for the iota.

{aio_nio_n} -- typical adjectival form
{aio_no_n} -- plural object of a prepositional class (I forget which one at the moment, but common).


Also, I would like to state again, if I haven't done so recently, that I hate Biblical Greek and all other foreign languages. :PPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!! :mrgreen:

(Well, no, I like hearing other people speak and deal with them, and hearing about what kind of etymology things they come up with. And I very much enjoy hearing them enjoy the languages they know. 8-) I admire linguists greatly, because it's something I'll probably always have to struggle with. I just wanted to clarify that I'm far from being an expert in these things... the most I can do is try to follow the lead of other people insofar as I can see and understand their rationales. I desperately wish I had the help of someone-I-can't-really-talk-about in these matters. But... not something I can ever rightfully hope for, so... all I can do is drag myself along bit by bit; probably obscuring whatever progress I've made along the way. :( )
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Michael » Sat Mar 21, 2009 5:53 am

JasonPratt wrote:
Michael wrote:If not gibberish, I suspect it would mean something like "forever and ever," no?


Agreed either way. :)


Thank you Jason.

JasonPratt wrote:...Also, I would like to state again, if I haven't done so recently, that I hate Biblical Greek and all other foreign languages. :PPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!! :mrgreen:

(Well, no, I like hearing other people speak and deal with them, and hearing about what kind of etymology things they come up with. And I very much enjoy hearing them enjoy the languages they know. 8-) I admire linguists greatly, because it's something I'll probably always have to struggle with. I just wanted to clarify that I'm far from being an expert in these things... :( )


I'm no linguist either, but I don't hate foreign languages.

I've taken some Spanish, and I know a little (spoken, modern) Greek--but I would love to learn to speak and write these languages fluently (if I had the time.)

I'd be even more interested in learning to speak and write New Testament Greek fluently (if I had the time)--but with things as they are, I have to rely on study helps like analytical concordances and reverse interlinears.

Yasou and hasta luego mi amigo.

P.S. I noticed both a typo and some oversights in my last post.

The perenthetical "(or 'ton')" would probably be grammatically incorrect, and the "BTW" should have read "Let me reiterate that I agree with those who (like Dean Farrar, Prof. Talbott, and yourself) maintain that aio_nio_n (as used in the New Testament) often has a 'thematic connection to the Deity."

Having made those corrections, let me add that I've visited your web site ("Sword to the Heart") and find it very interesting (as are all your posts here.)

I have nothing but the highest respect for you, I enjoy reading your posts, and I thank you for your comments.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Fire & Brimstone » Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:32 am

See my notes below, but the passage in question is (so you can reference):
...........................................................................................................................................
31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40 "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'

41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45 "He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
...........................................................................................................................................
While I certainly appreciate the insight given here on aionios and the unlikeliness that it literally means endless, have we missed the broader point of the parable, which seems painfully obvious when read through a time or two? Neglecting those in need is neglecting Jesus himself, and helping those in need is helping Jesus himself. The warning is deadly serious, even if the punishment itself is not punitive and everlasting. This is the only known metric Jesus uses to determine righteousness/unrighteousness as it pertains to one's future destiny, whatever that may look like, although in The Rich Man and Lazarus, we have something similar, as it was relatvely apparent the rich man ignored the beggar at his door.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby JasonPratt » Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:48 am

Fire & Brimstone wrote:While I certainly appreciate the insight given here on aionios and the unlikeliness that it literally means endless, have we missed the broader point of the parable, which seems painfully obvious when read through a time or two?


No. We just weren't talking about the broader point, for this thread. :)

Since you mention the reason why the goats were sent in for God's-own-brisk-cleaning, however: interpreters of this passage have a tendency to imply that those whom the sheep visited in prison were unjustly prisoned. This isn't stated in the text, though; whereas the list of objects of mercy is similar to that from Isaiah with which Jesus inaugurated His official ministry efforts during the sermon in Nazareth: where those in prison, who are being set free, are not unjustly prisoned (which was probably what His audience was thinking of, too), but those who had been justly imprisoned by no less than God Himself.

We should not be surprised, then, if we discover that God Himself visits those who have been justly imprisoned and expects us to do the same, in order to have mercy on them.

Which personally I take to understand, that it isn't only if I refuse to have mercy on "the deserving poor" that I may be judged as a goat and not a sheep. (Edited to add: though that, too, of course. F&B's reminder of the larger context is very appropriate.) I may be judged as a goat if I refuse to have mercy and compassion on the rightly imprisoned criminals, too: those who, among other things, refused to have mercy on the poor. The moment I condemn those goats to hopeless imprisonment, in my heart, I am setting up myself to be a goat and not a sheep.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby JeffA » Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:01 pm

Speaking as a goat - when I bleat on in threads on this board about being more impressed by unwarrented concern and kindness than preaching - this is exactly the kind of thing I'm driving at (not easy to drive with these hooves by the way).

If I am to find myself herded together on the wrong side of the dividing line, I for one, would be very likely to be moved by the love of those sheep over there.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Michael » Tue May 05, 2009 12:09 pm

For those who may be interested, I've found the following quote (from Thomas Allin) extremely helpful.

Whatever we may think of the Athanasian Creed - its want of conciliar authority - its comparatively late date - its uncertain origin - its doubtful acceptance in the East - when it speaks of "everlasting," that term can mean no more than the Scriptural aionios, which it represents: and as it is clear that everlasting is not the necessary or even the usual meaning of aionios, this Creed is really quite consistent with the larger hope.

http://www.tentmaker.org/books/ChristTriumphant.htm
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Michael » Wed May 13, 2009 10:33 am

tomtalbott wrote:I think it safe to say that the basic meaning of this English word is indeed everlasting. So now consider how the precise force of “everlasting” varies depending upon which noun it qualifies. An everlasting struggle would no doubt be a struggle without end, an unending temporal process that never comes to a point of resolution and never gets completed. But an everlasting change, or an everlasting correction, or an everlasting transformation would hardly be an unending temporal process that never gets completed; instead, it would be a temporal process of limited duration, or perhaps simply an instantaneous event, that terminates in an irreversible state. So however popular it might be, the argument that “aionios” must have exactly the same force regardless of which noun it qualifies in Matthew 25:46 is clearly fallacious.

Accordingly, even if we should translate “aionios” with the English word “everlasting,” a lot would still depend upon how we understand the relevant nouns in our text: the nouns “life” (zoe) and “punishment” (kolasis). Now the kind of life in question, being rightly related to God, is clearly an end in itself, even as the kind of punishment in question seems just as clearly to be a means to an end. For as one New Testament scholar, William Barclay, has pointed out, “kolasis” “was not originally an ethical word at all. It originally meant the pruning of trees to make them grow better.” Barclay also claimed that “in all Greek secular literature kolasis is never used of anything but remedial punishment”--which is probably a bit of a stretch, since the language of correction and the language of retribution often get mixed together in ordinary language. But in any event, if “kolasis” does signify punishment of a remedial or a corrective kind, as I think it does in Matthew 25:46, then we can reasonably think of such punishment as everlasting in the sense that its corrective effects literally endure forever. Or, to put it another way: An everlasting correction, whenever successfully completed, would be a temporal process of limited duration that terminates in the irreversible state of being rightly related to God. Certainly nothing in the context of Matthew 25 excludes such an interpretation.

I probably read over this before, but it's not something that should be read over.

It's a brilliant observation. :shock:

Everlasting correction permanently corrects, everlasting fire permanently consumes, and to perish everlastingly would be to permanently cease to exist (at least as one was prior to perishing--2 Cor. 5:17.)

Very interesting.

BTW: This may or may not fit here, but even Bishop Jeremy Taylor once quoted Justin Martyr to the effect that "everlasting" (when used of "everlasting fire") "signifies only to the end of it's proper period." (Sermon on Christ's Advent to Judgment.)
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Michael » Sun Jun 07, 2009 6:30 pm

Fire: ...10. transitive verb destroy something with fire: to cause something to burn, especially in order to destroy it ( formal or dated )

http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_1861611607/fire.html

"Eternal Fire" would permanently destroy ( or consume ) that which needs to be destroyed.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby wmb2003 » Wed Dec 09, 2009 9:01 pm

This whole discussion becomes moot once we realize that Matt 25 is part of a speech Jesus gave called the |
"Olivette Discourse." Why? because Jesus tells us explicitely that ALL of these events MUST take place before that generation passed away. Jesus ascended his throne 2000 yrs ago. This is not refering to some final judgment at the end of time. In response to the reprobate Jewish religious leaders, Jesus was predicting the impending judgment they called down upon themselves when they declared to Pilate, "Let his blood be upon us and our children." It was an awesome curse they declared upon themselves and history records the results of that curse.

But Jesus is not prophesying about the final fate of individuals when they meet their maker. Rather he is predicting his judgment upon Israel, and any nation for that matter that doesn't bow the knee to him. Any nation that persecutes Christians shall receive chastisement through out the age to come.Which age? The age of Christ. The age that began when he ascended from the grave and declared that all power and authority has been (note - past tense) given unto him. Israel received one generation reprieve to repent, failed to do so and was judged. Some of the generation Jesus spoke to upon the Mount of Olives were still alive. No all, perhaps not many, but some. James Stuart Russell things the nations refers to the "tribes" of Israel, but it probably refers to all the surrounding nations. If Jesus were referring to individuals we would have him contradicting everything else i the Bible, because he would be advocating salvation by works. what works? The works of treating Christians well. According to the traditional interpretation, Jesus blesses and damns people exclusively on the basis of how they treat Christians. This is nOT the Gospel. So this cannot be the meaning.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby JasonPratt » Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:55 pm

We've been discussing Matt 24 (though not yet Matt 25, last I checked, despite my trying to introduce the relevant extension of the topic) here in this thread which was originally about the Rapture and universalism.

Would you also repost this comment over there, in order to consolidate recent conversations? (Keep it here, too, of course. If you do, I'll add a more specific link here for interested readers to follow the conversation over there. :) )
Cry of Justice -- 2008 Novel of the Year (CSPA retailer poll) The first half can be found for free here on the forum.
Sword To The Heart -- progressing metaphysical argument, arriving at orthodox trinitarianism (and from there to universalism)
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Dondi » Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:14 am

wmb2003 wrote:But Jesus is not prophesying about the final fate of individuals when they meet their maker. Rather he is predicting his judgment upon Israel, and any nation for that matter that doesn't bow the knee to him.


"And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:" - Matthew 25:32

Is it possible to interpret eternal life and eternal punishment in the permanent sense if we view the sheep and the goats as nations, without compromising the universalist stance?

Therefore, the sheep nations are those who collectively fed the poor, gave drink to the hungry, visited the sick and in prison, took in strangers, etc. (though I would be unclear as to who catagorically 'my brethren' would consitute: Jews, Christians, or the general population, since Christ died for the world and will eventually make everyone brethren :D ).

The reward, therefore, would be those nations will survive any coming judgement and be granted access to the Messianic Kingdom, as suggested in Rev. 21:24.

"Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:...Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

The goat nations, on the other hand, would be cease to be nations as a permanent consequence, thus eternal punishment. Thus would gel with the pronouncements Jesus had with various cities:

"Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city." - Matthew 10:15

Here, for example, those cities that didn't receive the disciples (who were commissioned of the Lord to preach the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons; you know, freely giving, the sort of things listed in Matt 25) to nor give them peace are to be judged more harshly than Sodom and Gomorrah, for these cities would know better to treat the disciples kindly, whereas Sodom and Gomorrah was rude to begin with.

"Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.

And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." - Matthew 11:20-24


Evidently, these are the resulting cities Jesus anticipated in Matthew 10. Particularly interesting is Capernaum's status: one from being exalted in heaven, to one being brought down to hell. Capernaum, btw, is nothing but a ruined archeological site today, though existed up until 750 A.D.

Now I realize that Jesus was condemning cities within Israel, not nations. However, I tend to look at Israel in the OT before Christ as a microcosm of the world at large after Christ. So the idea extends to the nations of the world in their treatment of Christ's brethren, whomever that may be (I tend to lean toward the Jews and Israel, specifically, and by extension, Christian nations, but am open to other interpretations). I see a microcosm in the parable of the Good Samaritan as well.

Israel, as an example, have a unique national identity, for with they take pride in, for which they have strong cultural and religious traditions. Likewise, Japan, Spain, France, Great Britain, the Philippines, Kenya, Russia, New Zealand, even the U.S, as diverse as it is. To take that identity away is a tremendous loss for that people. Yet what if this is the very punishment awaiting those nations that do not abide by the criteria of Matthew 25. That all the cultural traditions held dear are ruined, the country destroyed, and the people of those nations have nothing left. They would be refugees, people without anymore identity, no nationality to grasp onto. They are no longer who they were. They would be nothing. Dead as a nation. No longer remembered.

"Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:...Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me"

But then, there is the healing of the nations....
"...Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." - Matthew 25:40
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Dondi » Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:22 am

BTW, the above view also preserves individual salvation by faith, not by works, while the judgment of the nations are by the collective works of the people within those nations.
"...Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." - Matthew 25:40
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby AUniversalist » Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:24 pm

common sense prevails!
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Luke » Sun Sep 19, 2010 7:09 pm

BDAG (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 2000) offers a very straightforward explanation of αἰωνιος: "pertaining to a period of unending duration, "without end." (page 33)

Furthermore the eschatological context of that passage, combined with wider NT evidence for a final judgment with equally viable outcomes, makes any other translation impossible.

BDAG = http://www.amazon.com/Greek-English-Lex ... roduct_top
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby roofus » Sun Sep 19, 2010 7:37 pm

Luke wrote:BDAG (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 2000) offers a very straightforward explanation of αἰωνιος: "pertaining to a period of unending duration, "without end." (page 33)

Furthermore the eschatological context of that passage, combined with wider NT evidence for a final judgment with equally viable outcomes, makes any other translation impossible.

BDAG = http://www.amazon.com/Greek-English-Lex ... roduct_top


Thanks for posting. Be prepared for a thorough analysis- this is a pretty heady bunch here. Be rigorous with all the arguments that are thrown back. If you are right, we all need to listen!

My first response is this:
1- Can you post what their argument actually *is*? To claim that it is "straightforward" (Uncomplicated and easy to understand) is merely an assertion without demonstration. Do the hard work involved, folks will listen. If you merely assert, however, why should anyone accept it?

2- You actually mentioned two interpretations that are quite different:
a) pertaining to a period of unending duration
and,
b) without end
Which is it? Option a doesn't contradict universalism, option b does.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Luke » Sun Sep 19, 2010 7:44 pm

BDAG is like the Oxford Dictionary of NT Greek (It's the standard reference work), I simply copied the definition it provided for αἰωνιος, much like the way we would if we were arguing about the definition of an English word.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Bob Wilson » Sun Sep 19, 2010 9:09 pm

Luke, a warm welcome to the board, and thanks for reminding us of the classic translation that is dominant! Like most, all my training was with the BDAG lexicon (though we were not to take it as inspired, but to do the only thing they could do: study the ancient Greek! For no dictionary can settle debates over an author's meaning apart from wrestling with his usage in context, and Arndt and Gingrich's discussion is much more complex than you quoted).

I am less sure that I follow your reasoning as to why all other meanings are "impossible." On your rationale 1: In every account of events considered "eschatological," are you saying that they are always of "unending duration"? On your second argument, when you say that all judgment passages have "equally viable outcomes," do you mean that they all are explicitly of unending duration? How would it help either side's case if "viable" simply meant that given meanings are merelypossible?

My impression is that: (1)many prophetic and eschatological events are explicitly said to be limited in duration. (2) Applying the modifier "final" to judgment passages involves inserting a word there that does not exist in the Biblical text. Whereas many times when the time-frame of a judgment is expressly delineated, it is plainly stated to be limited in duration (or even conditional).

If you nonetheless perceive that what is implied in such passages makes it "impossible" to think there could be any other meaning than one of the human perceptions (one of A & G's), perhaps you could present examples, and spell out more specifically how you come to that conclusion. It seems to me that the pattern I perceive described in paragraph two would actually incline one against assuming that BDAG's definition would apply in Matthew 25.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Luke » Sun Sep 19, 2010 10:53 pm

Thanks for the welcome Bob,

But I think your missing my point, why is the definition provided by BDAG unacceptable?

I don't mind engaging in a debate about context or nuances in meaning but am happy to wait until we clear up why using a standard Greek-English Lexicon is unacceptable.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby roofus » Mon Sep 20, 2010 7:09 am

Luke wrote:Thanks for the welcome Bob,

But I think your missing my point, why is the definition provided by BDAG unacceptable?

I don't mind engaging in a debate about context or nuances in meaning but am happy to wait until we clear up why using a standard Greek-English Lexicon is unacceptable.


Isn't the ball in your court as well as to answering the question: "why are we obligated to accept the point of view of the authors of BDAG?
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby james.goetz » Mon Sep 20, 2010 7:19 am

Luke, dictionary definitions are perfectly acceptable. But on this forum, we want to see reasons for accepting or rejecting dictionary definitions.

I apologize but I'll delay dialoging about this until I finish a draft of a chapter that looks at Matthew 25:41, 46. After that, I should be able to quickly and clearly respond to that dictionary definition.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Bob Wilson » Mon Sep 20, 2010 2:04 pm

Luke, I'm afraid it wrongly seemed virtually self-evident to me that everyone recognizes that it would not be acceptable to settle the meaning of a statement by simply appealing to a dictionary. Let me use an over the top example. If you said, "Bob, I think you are foolish about this. Indeed, you are a crazy nut," and I insisted that according to the Oxford Dictionary, it is impossible for you to be saying anything but that I am a 'hard-shelled fruit'" you might rightly object that the context is a clue to your real intended connotation: that you actually think that I am 'crazy,' or have a screw loose.

An English dictionary simply records human observations of what seems to them to be some of the current conventions of language. This could never be used to prove what it is impossible for someone else to mean. That's why there are competing sources cited for different views of a word's meaning, and why dictionaries are constantly revised.

In the case of a Koine Greek dictionary, it is even far more problematic to hold that it is the last word. For it is trying to sort out definitions for what is now a dead language, and yet one whose usage spanned many years, and wherein there is much evidence of definitions developing and changing (as well as new ancient documents arising, which often clarifies a difficult term), much less being different for the same word in varying contexts.

I fear that I must be missing something about your assumptions. In my Christian tradition, this question appears to be as simple as our protestant consensus that only 'God' is infallible, whereas all human authorities are subject to error. It thereby follows, that no differences in scholarly conclusions can simply be resolved, by one of us citing someone else's human opinion. Unfortunately many religion discussions instead come down to an exchange of dueling authorities: "My 'expert' says this." "But the one I trust says otherwise..." My bias is that we all grow more in our knowledge when we focus on clarifying the actual data that may have led each of us (or our reference works) to differing conclusions.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Luke » Mon Sep 20, 2010 3:21 pm

We could go round all day in circles Roofus, both accusing the other of begging the question.

Ok Bob, I see your point that sometimes words are ambiguous. I also accept God's word is authoritative and not BDAG. However all words without context and explanation are ultimately ambiguous, it's only because of shared assumptions about grammar and meaning that we can understand anything. BDAG is simply a formalized expression of collective research over time about αἰωνιος. And I don't mind debating the ins an outs of the scholarly consensus (as expressed in BDAG) about αἰωνιος but only after establishing why the universalist community (as expressed in this forum) rejects the standard definition from this particular source.

I see of course that the rejection will based on the larger views about the nature of Hell etc but I'm genuinely interested in why this definition from this reference work is rejected?

I'm looking forward to reading your explanation James but is the same level of explanation consistent across Universalism, so would the "all" passages require just as much qualification and explanation as the "eternal torment" passages?
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Bob Wilson » Mon Sep 20, 2010 5:35 pm

Luke, thanks, you captured my view of language perfectly! (You also caught by implication to James that all views reject one or another 'standard definitions;' so e.g. I could reserve discussing pas's meaning only after you explain why you reject BDAG's "all" (the totality of members of the set indicated in context) when e.g. Rom. 5 explicitly says "all men" will be (future tense) justified, or "reconciled" (Col.1), or "made alive in Christ" (1 Cor. 15)).

You also rightly see that one's definition will be influenced by one's "larger view" of what other passages say on connected topics. So I'd say we question BDAG's standard definition because of many passages and uses of aioniois that appear incompatible with it. First, I'm struck that this word is not like "pas," whose original root appears to literally refer to an adjective for the totality of its' indicated set. But aioniois has no root or literal meaning that corresponds to "endless duration." It is derived from the noun which literally meant an "age." Thus, if #2, I see that numerous uses of it in the NT & LXX refer to events of explicitly limited duration, then limiting its' meaning to your citation of BDAG seems incorrect, whereas the literal meaning of the term (pertaining to the age) works well in such contexts. I have further found in the last 5 years in Q & A with those who teach NT Greek at Wheaton, Fuller, and Regent (Vancouver) that all these non-universalist authorities agree that aioniois at least sometimes cannot bear a meaning like "everlasting," and by implication that your understanding of BDAG's implications is incorrect.

Thus, I am left asking if there can be a reasonable explanation for BDAG's popular definition. And my bias is that popular views and translations have often way later been recognized as wrong. Here, I know that the Constantinian Roman Church (I think influenced by pagan Greek concepts) institutionalized the idea of infinitely extending torment as the necessity for sins in finite time as a powerfully motivating way to direct people's lives. It since has been embraced by evangelicals, who often tell me that challenging this traditional reading of aioniois would remove them from their scholarly livlihood. My bias is that such historically developed traditions of men are able to explain why BDAG and the traditional consensus are maintained that aioniois has such a non-literal meaning. If I'm right that its linguistic derivation cannot bear the weight of such a definition, then we are left to settle it, the way the usage of most words are determined, by wrestling with how the term is used in its total context.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby roofus » Mon Sep 20, 2010 5:59 pm

Very interesting post, Bob. It will be interesting to hear Luke's reply. Luke, thanks for the reply. If and when you have time, could you give me your take on my challenge to your initial post (see that points about a and b). If time is scarce, I'd rather hear you dialogue with Bob Wilson than myself!
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Luke » Mon Sep 20, 2010 7:31 pm

So would this particular universalist community reject BDAG's overall reliability or just its particular definition of αἰωνιος?

In other words Bob (and Roofus) are you saying BDAG is incorrect on just this definition or in general? (Although the fact that a word is derived from another or maybe modified by its context doesn't prove BDAG's definition is incorrect.)
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby roofus » Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:05 pm

Luke wrote:So would this particular universalist community reject BDAG's overall reliability or just its particular definition of αἰωνιος?

In other words Bob (and Roofus) are you saying BDAG is incorrect on just this definition or in general? (Although the fact that a word is derived from another or maybe modified by its context doesn't prove BDAG's definition is incorrect.)



First off, I am not a universalist, I just hope that it is true.....
The BDAG is only incorrect on this one word, the rest is absolutely without error :)
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby james.goetz » Mon Sep 20, 2010 8:21 pm

Luke wrote:So would this particular universalist community reject BDAG's overall reliability or just its particular definition of αἰωνιος?

In other words Bob (and Roofus) are you saying BDAG is incorrect on just this definition or in general? (Although the fact that a word is derived from another or maybe modified by its context doesn't prove BDAG's definition is incorrect.)


Luke, please avoid assuming that any given member of this forum community is a universalist or has the same interpretation of any given biblical verse (or the same opinion of BDAG). Anyway, by the way, I already wrote an article that partially addresses Judgment Day in the book of Revelation, which I suppose has something to do about what you call the "wider NT evidence for a final judgment with equally viable outcomes."

http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2010/02/kings-earth-heaven.html
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby roofus » Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:24 am

[quote="Luke"]We could go round all day in circles Roofus, both accusing the other of begging the question.

Luke, I don't think that follows, but whatever- on with the show. You are basically having the same discussion with Bob that I was trying to initiate, so that's cool..........
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby SLJ » Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:07 am

Luke wrote:So would this particular universalist community reject BDAG's overall reliability or just its particular definition of αἰωνιος?

In other words Bob (and Roofus) are you saying BDAG is incorrect on just this definition or in general? (Although the fact that a word is derived from another or maybe modified by its context doesn't prove BDAG's definition is incorrect.)


Hi Luke,
If you stick around, I think you'll find that this is a diverse community of believers. Not all here are universalists--though most are at least friendly to the doctrine, but even among the convinced universalists there are differing varieties of belief. 8-)

As far as BDAG goes, I'm not personally familiar with it, but it looks like a fantastic resource. I would certainly not throw it out simply because I disagree with their interpretation of a single word. No human work is infallible, and I reserve the right to do my own fact checking and accept or reject any particular definition accordingly.

You asked, "Why is the definition provided by BDAG unacceptable?" Here's my answer (the short version) to that:

When I was first looking into universalism I spent a lot of time on aion and aionios, and came to the conclusion that these are not words with simple, straightforward definitions. If 'aion' simply meant 'eternity' (as in: a period without beginning or end) then to translate the corresponding adjective 'aionios' as 'eternal' (meaning: having the quality of unendingness) would be easy and straightforward. But that's not the case.

Aion most closely translates to our word 'age'. An age can be very long, or quite short. My history-teacher husband has all sorts of books on his shelf with names like "Age of Sail" "Age of the Galley" "Age of Calamity" and so forth. You could say we're now in "the Information Age". We all know what an age means. It's a period of of time, set apart by some particular distinguishing and unifying charactaristic.

When a noun is used as an adjective it's proper or original meaning (speaking in general, since word-meanings are very changeable) is that of 'being like' whatever the noun is. Since "aionios" is the adjective form of "aion", it's definition cannot, in my opinion, be said to 'straightforwardly' have a different quality than the noun it derives from. I would expect such a claim to include explanation for the shift in meaning.

The definition you quoted was:
BDAG (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 2000) offers a very straightforward explanation of αἰωνιος: "pertaining to a period of unending duration, "without end." (page 33)


Given the definition of aion, it would seem that a more fitting explanation of aionios would be "pertaining to a period of any length which has a specific character."

Having said all that, I know some will argue that 'aion' can also mean 'having no end'. I disagree with that because, while I agree that it is possible for some particular 'aion' to have no end, it is not defined by that quality. Here's a more obvious example of the point I'm making: If I describe myself as: a brown-haired woman, and then go on to describe another person as 'womanly', you know I'm not saying she has brown hair. Her hair color is irrelevant because it is not the definition of 'woman'. In the same way, the length of an aion is irrelevant to the fact of it's being an aion.

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James 3:13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

Eph 1:10 ...a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
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Re: Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?

Postby Bob Wilson » Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:37 am

Luke,

Coming from conservative evangelical experience, I am baffled by your insistence that the focus remain on our trust in BDAG's reliablity. Perhaps the only consensus on our site would be that trust in any human's lexicon should not be pivotal to settling different interpretations. Rather the debate should rest on the Biblical date itself.

Of course, most lexicons will be helpful in most of their definitions (and BDAG is as good as they come). Still, their interpretation of any given term is subject to the Scriptural data, and especially when they embody theological concepts at the center of historic traditions. Were you taught that trust in certain reference works is crucial for right beliefs?

Let me try another analogy: If there was a debate about what Stephen Hawking's references to "God" meant, would you say that the key is confidence in someone's dicionary definition? Or that the most crucial focus would be in studying how Hawking himself used the word? If #2, should the Bible be the exception, where confidence in other writers of theology and linguistics would be more important than giving oneself to the crucial study of God's own text and use of words? My bias is that there is no legitimate shortcut to the hard work of studying it for ourselves.
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