The Passive Qal and Other Issues

A few days ago Chris Date asked me to read and evaluate an article written by Dr. Glenn Peoples. I read the article and concluded that his argument was valid. I stand by my evaluation of Glenn’s article.
His article drew a stern response from Adam Blauser, a blogger at Old Testament Studies Blog. The issues involved in this exchange between Glenn and Adam deal with the proper interpretation of Isaiah 66:24 and whether the Hebrew word כָּבַה carries a passive meaning.
In this post I will not deal with the interpretation of Isaiah 66:24. That would require another post and a different approach from the one I plan to take in this post. Rather, my purpose today is to address the issue of the passive Qal and comment on other issues raised by Adam as he responded to Glenn’s article. Continue reading “The Passive Qal and Other Issues”

What the Qal? Revisiting the Unquenched Fire

Does “their fire shall not be quenched” in Isaiah 66:24 really allow for a fire that consumes and then goes out? Or is there a serious challenge to this claim that we have not seen before?
Adam Blauser, a blogger over at Old Testament Studies Blog has been giving us some free rent in his mind of late and has invested a bit of time responding to blog entries here at Rethinking Hell. In his first response Blauser takes issue with my article about the meaning of apollumi in the synoptic gospels. He grants the fact that the term means literally kill and destroy in the examples I discuss but insists that this does not literally inform the word’s meaning when it is used to describe final punishment, for it is wrong to assume that the word there carries the meaning that it universally carries in grammatically similar instances. This is because hell is an eternal matter and we can’t assume that words carry their normal meaning, the meaning they have in normal speech discussing natural matters, when we are speaking about the affairs of the age to come. I responded in the comments section over there and while the argument isn’t substantial enough to warrant lengthy comment here I shall describe it very briefly: Scripture speaks literally about eternal matters with the same language that we use in normal speech about natural affairs all the time. When it comes to apollumi—which, as I showed, in grammatically similar contexts always carries the strong meaning of literally kill or destroy—and the subject is final punishment, the only reason we would have for resisting a natural meaning for that word is if we began by assuming that there is something about final punishment that is not compatible with literal destruction. But how else are we to know what scripture teaches about final punishment if not by learning from the terms that it uses to do so?
However, in a second article on annihilationism, Blauser maintains that he has discovered and provided solid linguistic proof that we have made a mistake when interpreting Isaiah 66. As this is a more falsifiable claim, I was curious to have a look at the evidence. In short, although Blauser invests some time and space reproducing what he takes to be good evidence in fairly technical detail, his claim turns out to crucially depend on assumptions about Hebrew verbs that are simply incorrect, namely, that the form of the verb used in Isaiah 66:24 cannot have a passive meaning due to its stem. In fact, once we review the evidence we find that it only offers further support for our conclusion.
Continue reading “What the Qal? Revisiting the Unquenched Fire”

The Fire Is Not Quenched: Annihilation and Mark 9:48 (Part 2)

A few months ago we took a look at Mark 9:48, in which Jesus quotes Isaiah 66:24 and refers to gehenna as the place where “their worm does not die.” Critics of conditionalism often misquote or misunderstand the idiom as depicting a consuming maggot that eternally feeds upon but never fully consumes its host, and I had explained that quite the opposite is true. Similar to the scavengers of Deuteronomy 28:26 and Jeremiah 7:33 which will not be frightened away and prevented from fully consuming carrion, the worm “will not be prevented by death from fully consuming dead [bodies] … their shame is made permanent and everlasting by being fully consumed.” 1
Continue reading “The Fire Is Not Quenched: Annihilation and Mark 9:48 (Part 2)”

  1. Date, C. (2012, July 17). “Their worm does not die: Annihilation and Mark 9:48.” Rethinking Hell [blog]. Retrieved 16 July 2012.[]

Worms and Fire: The Rabbis or Isaiah?

Imagine that you had never heard of “hell.” The eternal misery of the damned in dungeons of fire, Dante’s Inferno, Jonathan Edwards’ classic sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” you hadn’t heard of any of it. And now imagine that you were about to open a book that tells us what the judgement of God on his enemies will be like. You read this:

The LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to pay back his anger in fury, and his rebuke in flames of fire.

For by fire will the LORD execute judgement, and by his sword, on all flesh; and those slain by the LORD will be many.

From new moon to new moon, and from sabbath to sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the LORD.

And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.

(Isaiah 66:15-16, 23-24)

It’s pretty fearsome stuff, granted, but beyond that, what would you make of it? Endless suffering? Torment forever in the fires of hell? Not likely. Such ideas would never even occur to you when reading a passage like this. Anyone able to read the above passage can see what it describes: Death. Any claim that Isaiah 66 contains anything that would lend support to the doctrine of the eternal torments of the damned in hell is indefensible, even laughable. You cannot find a doctrine like that in this text on the basis of any standard methods of responsible exegesis. Continue reading “Worms and Fire: The Rabbis or Isaiah?”

Their Worm Does Not Die: Annihilation and Mark 9:48

Phaenicia sericata larva ("maggot")
In my recent response to Matt Chandler’s otherwise praiseworthy The Explicit Gospel, I criticized what I believe to be several mistakes Chandler makes concerning final punishment. One of them, I argued, was that in citing Jesus’ words in Mark 9:48 Chandler fails to point out that the passage Jesus quotes “explicitly says that it is corpses whose ‘worm will not die’.” 1 I made the claim that “The idiom communicates the shame of having one’s corpse unburied, and arguably the irresistible and complete consumption of those corpses by maggots.”
Many traditionalists, however, who do point out that the hosts of Isaiah’s undying worms were corpses, nevertheless insist that the imagery supports the traditional view of hell. Whether they believe maggots will literally feed upon the bodies of the wicked for eternity—albeit living, immortal bodies—or whether they believe the idiom symbolically points toward an eternity of conscious torment, either way it is argued that the text of Isaiah, quoted by Jesus, depicts ever-consuming worms which never die. The fire that isn’t quenched will be the subject of a future post here at Rethinking Hell; in the meantime, let us take a look at the gruesome idiom that is its parallel.
Continue reading “Their Worm Does Not Die: Annihilation and Mark 9:48”

  1. Date, C. (2012, July 15). “Explicit Mistakes: A Response to Matt Chandler.” Rethinking Hell [blog]. Retrieved 15 July 2012.[]

Explicit Mistakes: A Response to Matt Chandler

The Explicit Gospel by Matt ChandlerI’ll confess that I really don’t know who Matt Chandler is. Perhaps I’m not as well read and plugged into evangelicalism as I should be. I also haven’t read any reviews of Chandler’s book, The Explicit Gospel, critical or otherwise, and so I don’t know what other people think of him. About a month ago my church began announcing that we would soon begin a series based on this book, and the descriptions of it on posters and flyers—although compelling and engaging to many, I’m sure—left me with no idea what the book was actually about. Designed to captivate and spark interest, the failure of the marketing campaign to communicate ultimately anything meaningful at all about the book left me a little worried that The Explicit Gospel would be theologically vapid.
But a friend of mine who knows me very well, having peeked at portions of the book, told me I was in for a pleasant surprise. He recalled that in the very first episode of my podcast I lamented the fact that seemingly few Christians are being taught to look forward to their bodily resurrection, instead placing their hope in an eternal, disembodied existence floating around on clouds playing harps. He told me I’d be excited to know that Chandler teaches the resurrection in his book, and my friend assured me that this was just one example of several meaty theological topics Chandler addresses.
Indeed I was a little excited. And since I was recently given the gift of a Kindle by my best friend, I decided to purchase the Kindle edition of The Explicit Gospel. I’m only one chapter into the book but I must say that I’m very impressed. Perhaps my praise is a little premature but so far I am blown away by Chandler’s ability to communicate deep and profound theology in potent yet accessible language likely to move the minds and emotions of a diverse audience. Unfortunately, however, curiosity having led me to search the book for the word “hell,” I discovered that Chandler makes some mistakes concerning final punishment.
Continue reading “Explicit Mistakes: A Response to Matt Chandler”