The Evangelical Universalist Forum

A Couple Difficult Verses Matthew 12:32; 26:24

Jesus promised 12 thrones to the twelve apostles. Judas was one of them. I cannot believe Jesus called him “Friend” in one breath, and rejected him forever in the next.

On blaspheming the Holy Spirit, I think Jesus is saying Israel will be cut off in this age (before Jesus died), and in the age to come (the time of the Gentiles), but not forever (as Paul made clear in Romans 9-11).


Strictly speaking, Jesus promised twelve thrones to a group of disciples, not to the apostles specifically although they were part of the group; later during the last supper (and reported in a different Gospel) Jesus doesn’t mention the number of thrones while talking specifically to the apostles.

I have to be fair about that: the evidence doesn’t add up to Judas being given a throne.

I talk about this in great detail during my series vs. John Shelby Spong’s “argument” (charitably so called :wink: ) that Judas was a fictional character, specifically in this part.

(I do point out that if Christian universalism is true, then Spong’s case from this evidence would be even more in ruins; but I cannot in honesty grant this as evidence in favor of Judas’ salvation, even though being a universalist I expect God to save Judas as well.)

Assuming that one takes 12:32 literally, and not hyperbolically (as Jesus seems prone to use, like in cutting off one’s hand), then those who speak against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven in this age or the age to come as long as they refuse to repent. In context, Jesus’ warning is for the Pharisees who were so hardend against God that they called a man being delivered from demons the work of Satan. They were so hardend by their religious traditions that they refused to allow compassion to move them. Even seeing a demonized person delivered did not cause them to question their traditions. Jesus is saying, it’s one thing to speak against me, a man, but to deny a miracle that one sees and knows is true by attributing it to Satan reveals a hardness of heart that is beyond reason. I tend to think that Jesus was using hyperbole to reach the emotion of his hearers, though.

I’ve finally gotten around to posting my exegetical compilation commentary on Matt 12, since this was a good excuse to do so. :sunglasses:

I’ll post my notes on Matt 26:24 later this afternoon I hope – there are several other relevant portions of scripture to also post notes on along the way, so that’ll take a bit longer to compile.

Hi Dan,

The simplest response to the question about the “unforgivable sin” is that, since the sin will not be forgiven, the consequences of it must be suffered. I don’t think the just consequence of any sin is endless punishment.

And, just as a side note, I think people often are so distracted by the “unforgivable sin” that they miss what Jesus is saying in this passage. The Pharisees saw Jesus do something good, and they said it was of the devil. Jesus goes on to say that the tree is known by it’s fruit. Where we see good fruit, it is evidence of the Spirit at work. When we see bad fruit, we know we’re looking at something bad.


And now the comments on Matt 26:24 are up, along with some brief comments on Acts 1:15-16and some more extensive comments on Psalm 69.

(And Psalm 68 while I was nearby, just to show that King David can in fact think of punished super-rebels being brought to faithfulness in God eventually despite being shattered again for their sins after being imprisoned the first time!)

Hi Dan… I give a very “non-dispensational or a non-Pre-Millennial perspective” right HERE, though it may also challenge one or two assumptions you’ve made above as well.

I’d agree with Sherman above that this is Jesus using very earthy rhetoric i.e., “hyperbole” – just like any of us might breathe such a terse threat against someone likely cause us great angst. I seriously doubt Jesus was going any further than this, IMO.

Thank you everyone.

It seems that for Matthew 12:32, there are as many interpretations offered as there are eschatalogical positions. :exclamation:

As for Matthew 26:24, I am thinking maybe y’all have a point with the hyperbole. As for determining what the antecedent is of the “that man” in the second clause is, that’s all Greek to me, so I’ll leave that alone.

Thanks for the ideas to chew on.


Here’s my take on the sin against the Holy Spirit which I hope complements the other contributions and restates points already made. First I give three notes -

1st note Demonic possession –

I think perhaps people misunderstand NT demonic possession and its context. I think what is happening in the NT narratives is that Jesus encounters people whose minds and hearts have been broken because they have been scapegoated by their communities – people are often picked on in institutions to this day to bear the brunt of others people’s inadequacies, but in those days the stakes were higher. It is well know by anthropologists that when a country is under occupation by a brutal Imperial power lots of people develop these symptoms of ‘possession’ – people are living with feelings of hatred and revenge against the powers of oppression mixed up with envy at the vastly superior power of the oppressor – and some poor souls have to be picked on and hated to bear this toxic mix, and they often develop hysterical illness as well as mental derangement. The possession is real but comes from the toxic psychic energies of a web of social interconneciotns. And Jesus heals the cast out ones by his loving acceptance of them – and one meaning of forgiveness is ‘to heal’. In the related story of the Gadarene swine –which seems to me to relate an actual event while giving it a symbolic meaning at the same time – Jesus actually casts out the demon ‘Legion’ (the names for the unit of Roman soldiers and by extension for the fear and hatred that has colonised the minds of the oppressed) into the swine, the unclean animal, and they drown falling over a cliff (returning to the waters of chaos from whence they emerged – but apparently there is no literal cliff in the area). I’m not denying the supernatural nature of all miracles – far from it; but Jesus’ healing of possession is also about a healing of body mind and emotion in both possessed and the community.

2nd note The Pharisees

The people spoken of as ‘the Pharisees’ in this narrative are actually representatives of the Temple authorities and Sanhedrin who are trying to trap Jesus – they are keeping tabs on him to compile a case against him, and perhaps they hope that they might in the meantime stir up a spontaneous lynch mob to spare them the trouble of a kangaroo court trial. I think it is unlikely that they represent all of the Pharisees – some of Pharisees Jesus gets on well with, like Simon the Pharisee (who he at least shares table fellowship with), of course ,Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. We know there were two sects of the Pharisees; the party of Hillel that was flexible and anxious for peaceful solutions, and the party of Shammani – that was exclusive, inflexible and wanted war with Rome. I can understand the party of Shammani Pharisees, along with the Sadducees and the Zealots would hate Jesus and would not want him to bring healing in a time of strife, or teach love of enemies. It was the party of Hillel that survived the destruction of Jerusalem and went on to found synagogue based Judaism (their leader Jonathan ben Zakki was carried out of the besieged city in a coffin by his followers and did a deal with the Romans)

3rd note Beelzebub

Beelzebub means ‘Lord of the Flies’ – you and I can hear the onomatopoeia in ‘zeebub, zeebub, zeebub’ – buzz, buzz, buzz. Flies feed on dead flesh and - funnily enough- when Paul speaks of the ’flesh’ in a negative sense in his epistles he uses the Greek word ‘sarx’ which means dead flesh; and when he talks about a living body he uses the Greek word ‘soma’ which means a living body animated by spirit breath. The use of ‘Beelzebub’ here suggests a village setting – for it is the name for Satan used in local Jewish folklore – a bit like ‘Old Nick’ in UK English). Perhaps these Pharisees are tailoring their religious language to appeal to the superstitions of village based folk Judaism here

The saying concerning the ‘sin against the holy spirit’ has a context in narrative. Jesus has just healed someone possessed by a ‘demon’. Some people who are named as ‘Pharisees’ say that he has cast out a demon on the authority of Beelzebub the king of the demons. Jesus turns back the accusation against them with ‘how can Satan cast out Satan?’ If you see good happening, loving kindness happening, mercy and healing happening and call it ‘evil’ you are very far from God is what he is saying to them.

So in doing this – in accusing Jesus and perhaps intending to stir people up to lynch him – they haven’t actually offended the Creator God, they haven’t actually offended Jesus- you can blaspheme against both and a no hard feelings pardon is available. But what these particular Pharisees have done is turn their backs on the Holy Spirit which is the voice of God speaking within them – and if this is done persistently hearts become hardened. Healing does not come with ‘no offence taken forgiveness’ - it takes real repentance, and almost inevitably learning through suffering that strips away pride.

The idea that this particular sin will not be forgiven in this age or the age to come may just be Jesus peaking in hyperbole – this sin is very, very serious. Or we might well ask ‘what is this age?’, ‘what is and the age to come?’ – the present age in Gospel time is the crisis age that Jesus addresses before the Fall of Jerusalem. The coming age is the age after this has taken place. But the consummation of all thing when UR is established is not in this age or the next age but in ‘the age of ages’ - that is in eternity which is beyond and outside the progression of ages in linear time.

The old pastoral counsel has always been ‘if you think you have committed the sin against the holy spirit and are concerned in any way, then you just haven’t come within a mile of it; no way’. Good advice. As regards whether any of our loved ones can or will commit this sin – perhaps so, if they become very wicked for some reason, But this doesn’t mean they will remain in this state beyond the age of ages – no way.

All the best


A couple of other thought regarding the above – but feel very free to disagree with me

First -I always try and think of Jesus sayings in the narrative context inasmuch as this is possible. When he’s been challenged in this way by representatives of the Jewish authorities they aren’t just being mean to him and argumentative – if he doesn’t answer them in a way that silences them he is probably going to be lynched every time the situation arises. OF course Jesus knows that he will face his passion eventually but he answers to refute them in the time before his hour has come (and when it has come he mostly retains the silent dignity of the innocent victim). The Pharisees questions are all about attempts to take away his honour and make him open to attack – hence his use of hyperbole to deflect them.

Second the demoniacs restored to sanity are very much like the other outsiders that Jesus heals and returns to community. Perhaps the Gadarene demoniac had been called many names – including traitor, collaborator, Roman lover, unclean. And Jesus calls him by his real name instead. This also reminds me of the prostitutes that Jesus speaks to in the Gospels with compassion. They were not only regarded as unclean because of their profession but also for who they plied their trade with – the occupying army were major clients. And they remind of the prostitutes in France in the second world war. After the war had finished these girls bore the wrath of the whole population – they were paraded naked and shaven headed and daubed with swastikas in front of baying male crowds (but collaboration, serious collaboration had been much wider than prostitution and some of those who joined the baying crowds had almost certainly turned over Jews and French Resistance fighters to the Nazis at some stage.

Third - Jonathan ben Zakki mentioned above is an interesting one. I came across the story of him being taken out of Jerusalem in a coffin when I was reading up on Jewish eschatology earlier this year. There is a passage in the Talmud which speaks about him on his death bed saying that it is a fearful and terrible thing to fall into the hands of a wrathful God, and that his pupils must spend their days in lamentation. It has been cited by some ECT Christians as support for the idea that first century Jews believed in ECT. I think the passage may well be a midrash describing ben Zaki’s escape from Jerusalem.

Sonia, that’s very good. I’ve not thought of it from that perspective. It does not affirm that a person will never be reconciled to God, or that the debt will never be paid, but that it will not be forgiven but must be paid. It reminds me of the parable of the servant who refused to forgive a debt owed to him by another servant; the king sent him to jail until he fully paid the debt (which I think refered to the debt owed him, not his that was forgiven). The point is that it was “until” the debt was paid. Anyhow, thanks for pointing that out.

The term may actually be Beezeboul == Baal-zeboul, plunder-lord or plunder-possessor, a name for Satan as a chief of rebel bandit raiders (terrorizing the countryside in rebellion against the rightful authority of the land). The textual transmission is somewhat divided on this, but it would fit into the imagery and running wordplay Jesus continues with:

“Whenever the strong one guards his own court fully armed, his possessions are secure. How can anyone enter the strong one’s house, and carry off his plunder, unless he binds the strong one first? Yet if a stronger one ever attacks and overpowers him, he takes away all his armor on which he was relying, and binds him up. Then he plunders the (Plunderer’s) house, giving away that plunder!!”

Aw - and I so liked ‘Lord of the Flies’ :laughing:

Of course, this will lead right back in to the penal substitution discussion, which I am trying to stay away from for now, but the penal substitution proponent would argue that there are (infinitely) greater consequences for sins against God than against people:

If you kill a fly, there are no consequences.
If you kill a fish without a fishing license, they slap you on the wrist.
If you kill your neighbor’s cat, you might spend a few days locked up.
If you kill a man, you spend several years locked up.

The higher the relative value of the entity offended, the greater the penalty for the same act.

Sins against animals have a relatively low consequence. Sins against people have higher consequences. Sins against an infinite God would have infinite consequences.


I have no doubt one of the terms is meant as an appropriate pun for the original term, whichever is which. :slight_smile:

You should add a link for this thread over at the Exegetical commentary thread for Matt 12.

Incidentally in regard to the cliff, I’m not sure we know where the lake was at back then, but it was almost certainly a lot larger based on how the Dead Sea has fallen off, so a lack of any cliff along the coastline in relatively recent times is of no importance (and might have been eroded away anyway).

Moreover, it would only need to be a drop-off into relatively deep water as opposed to a beach. There’s a pond about 700 yards from where I’m sitting that a herd of pigs (or anything else that couldn’t swim) could easily fall into and drown at several points around its circumference, even though the edge of the pond is maybe 6" above water level, because most of the ‘cliff’ is under water.

(This is similar to the question of where the ‘cliff’ is supposed to be that Jesus was nearly pushed off by the mob while leaving Nazareth on one of His last visits there. Even if the geography was identical 2000 years ago, which is dubious, they would only need to use a three or four or five foot drop, just somewhere lower where they could throw rocks down on Him. This is illustrated with Barabbas’ newly Christian prostitute girlfriend in the 1961 Anthony Quinn movie: she’s taken outside the gates of the city, thrown into a relatively shallow potter’s field (which does indeed have a small sharp cliff!–about as tall as she is on one side of the pit), and stoned by a mob.)

Specifically the debt for which he was thrown to the torturers was the debt of mercy he owed to the one who had sinned against him! – that’s the debt the king expects him to pay the final cent on. “You wicked slave!–I forgave you all that debt, because you pleaded me! Was it not required of you, to also have this mercy on your fellow slave, as I am merciful to you!!?”

That’s exactly the context of Jesus giving that parable, too: Peter was looking for a limit to the number of times he had to forgive a penitent brother! “Up to seven times?” “I am not saying up to seven times, but seventy times and seven!” “So. This is how My Father in the heavens also shall be to you; if you, each one of you, does not forgive your brother, from your heart.”

Sure Jason - with the narrative of the Gadarene swine a real miracle happened and perhaps it is literally true too, but the symbolic truth is also at the heart of it. It clicked for me and spoke to me - to the guts of me - when I started to consider the symbolic truth (which I hadn’t done in my youth). But hey - perhaps I’m a bit of an Alexandrian on the quite.

How do I add a link?

Blessings to you my friend

Dick :slight_smile:

One hardly needs to be a PSA proponent to accept that line of thinking, but it doesn’t matter because even the lightest sin against anyone less than God is the same as sinning against God: one cannot be even slightly unrighteous without sinning against Righteousness Most High.

The point however is not a question of legal propriety, but of acting against the source of our existence: apart from the active charity of the source of our existence, we would immediately and permanently cease to exist (at least as persons) by doing so.

It is even active charity by the source of our existence to allow us the ability to choose to act against the source of our existence at all: any sin, consequently, is an abuse of the grace of God, regardless of the specific person we immediately sin against. Beyond even that, any person is also loved by God into existence, especially into existence as a person at all, thus any sin is also an abuse of God’s beloved. Sinning against God is bad enough, but sinning against someone God loves is actually worse!–in the lowest deep, a lower deep!

(One does not have to advocate PSA to recognize this either, or deny it: the concept is neutral to the question of any variety of penal sub atonement.)

I have no problem with that at all; Jesus didn’t blight that tree out of petty vengeance against something that couldn’t help behaving that way in the first place, either, there were points to be illustrated by doing so. :slight_smile:

I just added a link myself; I’m not sure how to describe doing so. Copy the address for the thread, and add it to a url BBCode tag like this but use [square brackets] instead of {fancy brackets}:

{url= or whatever}write your text description for the link here.{/url}

The result would look like this, which you can check by quoting this message to reply (thus showing the BBCode): write your text description for the link here.