Interesting post Aaron. Thank you.
One puzzling thing about your interpretation is that it does not take into account the change from plural (those who destroy the body) to singular (he who is able to destroy also the soul).
Doesn’t your interpretation refer (in both cases) to earthly men and wouldn’t two plurals be the more likely writing if the author had your idea in mind?
Interesting post Aaron. Thank you.
It’s certainly a big difference - some thinking God, some Satan.
SO it means:
Do not fear people who (only) destroy the body but fear Satan who can put us in a ‘hell on earth’?
I’m not sure that people are incapable of putting others in a ‘hell on earth’. In which case, why shouldn’t we fear people as much as fear Satan?
Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood your post.
… because God can, not only kill us, but also destroy our souls in Gehenna?
So Gehenna is being used figuratively (ie as Hell) and God can destroy us in Hell?
It is interesting that further down in the same passage Jesus says:
Mat 10:39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
The word translated twice in that verse as “life” should actually be “soul.” It’s the exact same word as used above.
Not “figuratively” or “literally” but “hyperbolically”, as in over-statement. “God brought you into this world and He can certainly take you out.” Statements concerning punishment are often worse-case scenarios, even worse than reality scenarios, meant to drive the point home. Note how often Jesus is quoted warning of Gehenna in the context of the hyperbole of cutting off one’s hands or plucking out one’s eyes. Of course, cutting off one’s hands or plucking out one’s eyes is not meant to be taken literally, but understood as an overstatement, a hyperbole. So it makes sense to me that warning of destruction in Gehenna could, even should, be understood along the same lines, as hyperbole, overstatement, and with Gehenna possibly vaguely alluding to both the historical destruction of Jerusalem and/or the Pharisee’s use of Gehenna as a place of purification and destruction of the soul in the afterlife.
The passage isn’t meant to teach on Gehenna, but to encourage one to not fear man, but fear God who is the one who is really in charge of life and death. To assume a specific teaching on Gehenna from this passage is getting more from the passage than is warrant, imo.
- And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. *
There are many killers here on earth who may threaten us with death. Often these people carry our their threats. Many early Christians were put to death by burning them at stake, or by throwing them to the lions, or subjecting them to gladiators. In the middle ages, even the religious leaders put many to death among those who disagreed with them.
When “the body” is killed, the person is gone, seemingly never to return again. But our Lord assures his listeners that these murdered persons are not gone forever! As stated three times in John 6, Christ will raise them up again at the last day. So their very essence, their “soul” is not permanently wiped out by death. They cannot “kill the soul”. The whole person will be raised to life on the last day.
*Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. *
It is important to recognize that some scriptures use “destroy” in a different way from that which the modern person thinks of it. We think of destruction as annihilation, or we think of it as smashing something in such a way that it is rendered useless. It’s original form has been altered. Sometimes “destroy” is used in the New Testament in the sense of refining something, so that the original form is altered to a purified form. Consider the following passage from I Peter 1:3-6 ESV and verse 7, in another translation:
*Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials… *
… in order that the proving of your faith, much more valuable than gold that is being destoyed through fire and being proved , may be found for praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
The Greek word for “destroyed” here is the same word as the one in Matthew 10:28. Some translations translated the word here as “perishes”.
Notice it is the proving of your faith which is much more valuable than the proving of gold. Peter speaks of “gold that is being destroyed through fire”. Now we know that gold is not annihilated or even destroyed in the sense of being rendered useless (such as a toy that is destroyed by smashing it). Rather the original form of the gold, the ore, is destroyed and the impurities removed so that after the refining process is complete, only the pure gold remains.
So it is with the proving of our faith through various trials. We are refined, impurities removed until we come forth as “pure gold”.
So fear God who is able to destroy a person’s original character in Gehenna, by refining that character, and thus altering it. Why should we fear God lest we are required to be so refined? Because it is a very painful process ---- much better that we should coöperate with the enabling grace of God for purification now, so that we won’t have to undergo that severe process. Even now, we may have to endure hardships which will help us to submit to present purification as the text indicates.
I always love your posts, Paidion…
Not necessarily. The “him” who “can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna (Hinnom Valley)” could refer to the Roman General Titus, who laid siege to and destroyed the city and Temple of Jerusalem. It was Titus who had the authority and who gave the orders, so I think he may be a likely candidate. Of course, as was the case with Pilate (John 19:11), Titus couldn’t have had any authority over the Jewish people unless it had been given to him “from above.” But that was just as much the case for those Jews who were able to flog Jesus’ disciples in their synagogues (Mt. 10:17).
That’s an interesting post. Thank you. Can you clarify what you take ‘soul’ to mean then? Is it ‘personality’? ie that Saul was given a new personality? Or character? Or something else? But not one’s life-force?”
I can’t say it any better than Paidion said it above. Sometimes something is so completely transformed that we can describe it’s prior form as “destroyed”. The formation of a chick destroys the white and yolk inside the egg. The fresh green shoot destroys the seed. We can look back at our own selves and say “I’m not the same person” even though our personality may be much the same.
I guess the simplest answer is “character”. Our sufferings destroy our weak fleshly character and produce a more godly character. Paul in Romans 5 describes this mechanism with which we are all painfully personally familiar:
"1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
I’m not sure why Christ would be concerned to say “Don’t worry about those who just torture/inflict pain - worry about those who kill you” (my crude interpretation) after all, doesn’t your theology mean they get a short-cut to heaven? Neither am I convinced by the extra-ordinary use of terms required for your analysis despite your stunning defence. But thanks for your thoughts.
(You have probably missed my post in ‘Please help me thread’ because I was late replying - but I have written to you over there)
Personally, (Like Nottirbrd?) I find myself (not for the first time) most sympathetic to Paidon’s view.
Thanks to all. It’s obviously not an easy text to discern and I remain open to further thoughts.
Perhaps it’s the only text in the entire bible where some think the object is Satan and others God!
According to your view, weren’t Jewish believers who were alive when Jerusalem began to be surrounded by armies in 70 AD more likely to sooner enjoy post-mortem happiness than the unbelieving Jews who perished during the siege? And yet Jesus exhorted his faithful followers to depart from the city and flee to the mountains to save their lives rather than hang around and get slaughtered (Mt. 24:9-13, 15-18; cf. Lk. 21:19-22). Apparently, Jesus considered it worthwhile for his 1st century Jewish followers to do what was necessary to avoid being killed during this judgment upon the Jewish nation. For Jesus, perishing in this judgment was something for them to “worry about” (as you say) even though it was true that their next conscious experience after death would most likely (according to your view, I think) be an enjoyable one .
Yes - I agree with Paidion. We “fear” God (hold him in awe, respect him above all, tremble at his holiness and glory) but we don’t “fear” Him in the sense we believe him to be nefarious or malicious.
“I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.”
So neither do we fear the second death. Though we suffer (as our Master did), we understand that perseverence brings (new, holy) character, and that character brings hope. Those who, as Paideon said, don’t cooperate with this process have much to fear (because they are so invested and attached to their flesh.)
“Thou shalt break them! Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron! Thou shalt dash them in pieces, like a potters vessel.”
i had to post before i forgot what i was going to say, and sorry but i didn’t get farther than Sherman’s first post
so sorry if i go over old ground.
alot of good points being raised.
i think Jesus would’ve taken the same route of doctine about death that the Bible talks about in the old testament. Hades was used as the word for Sheol, and David and Solomon both tell us that there is no conscious thought in the grave.
if psuche and soma are used here, but not pneuma…wouldn’t that imply a destruction of the body AND the ability to think, as would normally happen with death, at least according to David and Solomon.
in which case, it’s an odd thing for Christ to say, as any human can take a life, and the dead person would undergo Sheol and not become a conscious being again until the resurrection, where pneuma is reunited with body and soul.
but this doesn’t seem right, as it does seem to be implying that we should not fear humans…we should fear this agent who is able to kill both body and soul…
so basically i am confused. i will read the rest now and possibly edit this!
no, there’s that bit in Chronicles and Kings (i think) where variously God and the satan are given credit for inspiring a census (i think).
i think Paidon makes a good point, though the context seems odd for that.
i think Sherman is correct that it’s not one for doctine. this is a statement that says to me don’t fear man, fear…God? or satan as Gem said? it’s a bit confusing, but there are always going to be things that niggle, no matter what school of thought you embrace.
Fair point Aaron, thanks.
"Consider the following passage from I Peter 1:7, in another translation:
“… in order that the proving of your faith, much more valuable than gold that is being destoyed through fire and being proved , may be found for praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The order doesn’t sound right, what translation is this?
This rendering sounds incorrect, what translation was this taken from?
I’m not sure why I didn’t answer this before. It could certainly suggest annihilation, but obviously I don’t take it that way. God has a history of destroying and restoring, and as He is the creator of all things in the first place, I don’t see why it should pose a difficulty to suggest that He can do so!
God is able to do a lot of things that He doesn’t do.
This is the Paidionion Translation.
Yes, it actually is my translation. I studied Greek formally for several years; it is an ongoing study. I was wondering why the “order doesn’t sound right” to you. Perhaps you are comparing it to a translation you use in which the translator has changed the order. Sometimes it necessary to change the word order of the Greek in order to make sense in English. But I didn’t do it with this verse. I retained the same order as the Greek text itself. You can see that this is the case by studying the order in the interlinear below:
ινα------------- το δοκιμιον υμων της-- πιστεως πολυτιμοτερον------- χρυσιου του
in order that the proving–of you the faith---- much more valuable of gold-- of the
απολλυμενου---- δια------πυρος δε-- δοκιμαζομενου ευρεθη---------εις —επαινον και δοξαν
being destroyed through fire----and being proved—may be found for----praise–and glory
και τιμην— εν αποκαλυψει ιησου— χριστου
and honour in–revelation—of Jesus Christ