The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Did Gregory of Nyssa renounce his universalism?

I’ve read 3 books by Gregory: On the Soul and the Resurrection, A Treatise on the First Corinthians 15.28, and On Infants’ Early Deaths. The first two obviously teach universalism but the third one obviously doesn’t.

Here’s an extract: “Certainly, in comparison with one who has lived all his life in sin, not only the innocent babe but even one who has never come into the world at all will be blessed. We learn as much too in the case of Judas, from the sentence pronounced upon him in the Gospels (Matthew 26:24); namely, that when we think of such men, that which never existed is to be preferred to that which has existed in such sin. For, as to the latter, on account of the depth of the ingrained evil, the chastisement in the way of purgation will be extended into infinity; but as for what has never existed, how can any torment touch it?” According to this, Judas and some similarly grievous sinners (devils and demons presumably included) will never be saved. God tries to purify them but the evil is just too deeply ingrained to ever be fully removed, and so their purification will turn into endless torment. Thus, it would better for them never to have existed.

Toward the end of the same work, Gregory seems to be trying to explain why God would allow for infinite punishment. However, the argument that he makes might disturb or disgust some of you: “Somewhere in his utterances the great David declares that some portion of the blessedness of the virtuous will consist in this; in contemplating side by side with their own felicity the perdition of the reprobate. He says, “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance; he shall wash his hands in the blood of the ungodly” (Psalm 58:10); not indeed as rejoicing over the torments of those sufferers, but as then most completely realizing the extent of the well-earned rewards of virtue. He signifies by those words that it will be an addition to the felicity of the virtuous and an intensification of it, to have its contrary set against it. In saying that “he washes his hands in the blood of the ungodly” he would convey the thought that “the cleanness of his own acting in life is plainly declared in the perdition of the ungodly.” For the expression “wash” represents the idea of cleanness; but no one is washed, but is rather defiled, in blood; whereby it is clear that it is a comparison with the harsher forms of punishment that puts in a clearer light the blessedness of virtue.” Aquinas later borrowed this line of reasoning if I’m not mistaken.

Gregory describes himself as aged at the beginning of the work, so the most logical conclusion to me appears to be that he stopped believing in universalism toward the end of his life. What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever encountered other statements in Gregory that directly contradict univesalism?

Good question. I am merely posting an opinion, and in hopes that others will weigh in on this (reason being, some threads don’t go anywhere until someone starts posting in them). I’ll say this: I can’t fathom someone going from Salvation of all to Salvation of few. That progression (IMO regression) doesn’t seem likely. It seems to me that as we experience life, our hearts grow larger, not smaller. The older I get, the harder it is for me to accept all the suffering in the world. That said, people are people and we have 30,000+ denominations already, with thousands of religions. If Christianity is exclusive, and if only a few are saved, we are all in very deep trouble, even Christian’s, because most of them don’t live up to their calling. I know I don’t, despite my sincerity and effort and I have never met another human being, even a Christian no matter how impeccable of character, tell me that they are have ‘arrived’ and their conduct is holy and pure in all matters. Hence, it scares me, but if Christianity is exclusive, not many of us are making the cut. Though, one has to wonder “Elected for what?” and “Rule and Reign over What?” In other words, it seems a bit strange to think only the “Elect” are saved, because who will these people govern? Who will they reign over? The pour souls in Hell? Doubtful. As if any son (an elect son) could see his imperfect, but loving father rotting in Hell, let alone other sons,fathers, mothers, grandmothers, etc… rotting away in agony.

I agree with you that infinite torment does seem illogical (that doesn’t make it categorically impossible though). And I too learn to have more empathy for the shortcomings of others and more awareness of my own imperfections as I grow old. Btw, I don’t think God commands us to be perfect in the sense of being sinless superhumans, but rather to be merciful and loving: “For the one who has shown no mercy will be judged without mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13) “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7) If you love, you don’t have to be afraid.

As for what seems like a regression, I think there are many people even today who are regressing the same way. Of course it’s kind of weird, and so if one encounters an ambiguous passage in a universalist’s writings, one should choose the interpretation that harmonizes with universalism. But what I quoted can’t be interpreted universalistically in my opinion. That’s why I brought it up. However, whoever wrote the footnotes was trying to blow it out of proportion by commenting, “Such passages as these must be set against others in Gregory, such as the concluding part of the De Animâ et Resurrectione, in arriving at an exact knowledge of his views about a Universal Αποκατάστασις.” The person writing this wanted readers to think Gregory’s universalistic declarations can be somehow interpreted non-universalistically in the light of this passage. His agenda evidently was to show that Gregory never taught universalism, and ultimately, that universalism has always been considered an unacceptable heresy by the orthodox. But the reality is that the teaching on the final destiny in On Infants’ Early Deaths is wholly incompatible with the one in On the Soul. So the possible explanations that occur to me are these: 1. Gregory changed his mind. 2. For some reason he pretended to believe something he didn’t. 3. The part about Judas’s hopeless damnation is fabricated. 4. The entire work On Infants’ Early Deaths has been written by someone else.

To me personally, the last two options don’t seem likely. As a layman, I find the style of the work to be consistent with his other writings, and if the part about Judas is a fabrication, I must say it’s an ingenious one as it fits perfectly into the whole argument. Although according to the first footnote, the treatise “has been thought to be spurious (Oudin, p. 605)”. Perhaps there were good reasons for doubting its authenticity. Some scholar who’s honest enough to admit that On the Soul teaches eventual salvation of every creature should definitely look into this.

Nevertheless, even if the first option is correct, Gregory didn’t start believing that only few are saved. In this treatise just like in his other works, he describes God’s punishment as purgatorial. The only difference is that the purgation will fail in the case of Judas and others who’ve plunged themselves into a similar depth of sin. This means Gregory still believed the majority of mankind will be saved. There was still a big difference in the scope of salvation between him and Augustine, let alone Calvin.

The “doctrine of reserve” is one explanation:

By the time of his advanced age, universal salvation was coming under attack from various quarters, and this might have had a bearing – assuming for purposes of argument that this isn’t a spurious text.

However, I’m suspicious of the phrase “into infinity”, upon which modern strength of the term the whole argument hangs. (So far as you quoted his remarks on the psalm, he seems rather to be justifying the phrase about washing hands in what would ordinarily defile the person, not necessarily justifying infinite punishment.) If this is “into the eons of the eons” or something like that (much less a lesser phrase like “into the eon” or even “into the eons”), we already know Gregory did not regard this as being infinite in regard to punishment, but rather that the continuation due to the situation of the soul would proceed for ages of ages, an indefinitely and emphatically long time, which is entirely consonant with purgatorial universalism.

Okay, the footnote may or may not be Schaff’s, but probably is. The Greek phrase is εἰς ἄπειρον παρατείνεται, {eis apeiron parateinetai}. I’ll have to look that up. Dr. Ramelli regards the full phrase {eis apeiron parateinetai h_e dia t_es katharse_os kolasis} as meaning “the punishment aimed at purification tends to the unlimited” or “tends to an indefinite duration”.

Amusingly, the ground for thinking the text spurious involves a later compiler inserting a comment about the purgatorial fire! Schaff (or whoever is commenting there) shows he misunderstands the purpose of divine judgment after the chastening fire, since he can only conceive of judgment as punishment and so since Gregory understands final judgment coming after the fire then for Schaff this refutes a purgatorial universalism in De Anima.

The idea that God’s right judgment is applied to all and extends the time of the punishment according to the amount of evil, is parallel to De Anima (On the Soul etc.) 101-104 where the same idea occurs smack in the middle of a bunch of teaching about final salvation, and regards the time as restitution of the debt. Of course he might have changed his mind in his old age, but then again De Anima is written after the death of his older brother Basil, while their sister Macrina the Younger is still living, where Gregory goes to seek solace from grief after the death. (I have continually gotten the idea that Macrina the Elder, their grandmother, was whom he was reporting this teaching from, but the text seems different??)

Gregory’s own summary in De Inf suggests that those who died young or before birth were curtailed by God’s foreknowledge that had they lived they would have sinned worse than Judas etc. and so, by the previous argument would have been punished more, which excludes the idea of infinite punishment for Judas etc. (although Gregory’s point is more along the line of afflicting the world with sin more than Judas etc. But the principle still holds, for if the only contributing good of Judas etc. in their preeminence of crime is that their punishment affords a slight good for others to compare themselves to, then how could a worse sinner provide no such good in comparison?)

Gregory also, in De Inf, involves the analogy of the Artisan taking adamantine resistance which cannot be softened, to be used as an anvil. How well this fits with his beliefs about whether God is impotent to soften even the anvil at last, is debatable.

Gregory would still be minimally universalist in the worst case here, since he would be teaching that God still never stops acting toward purifying the impenitent wicked after death, intending to save all sinners from their sins and keeping at it until He gets it done, the non-end result being a never-ending stalemate. The action remains {katharse_os}. (I’m typing from a keyboard where I cannot put a signifier over the long omegas and etas, so I’m putting an underscore in front instead.)

Of course if De Anima also comes from late in Gregory’s life then it is unlikely Gregory jumped from one belief to the other, or he might have temporarily relapsed and then jumped back with De Anima, but this is naturally why the commentator suggests we use this text over-against what Gregory seems to be saying in De Anima about the apokatastasis. Yet no one (including Schaff) would deny that what Gregory writes there is far more detailed on the topic. (And then again, in giving the honor of this teaching over to Macarina, whether the Younger or the Older, perhaps he was deflecting mounting criticism against himself for his beliefs, seeing that at the same time Epiphanius the heretic hunter had convinced Jerome to vocally abandon universalism – although the latter, as his friend Rufinus sarcastically observes, still greatly honors known universalists without censure as teachers and even still teaches it himself in his writings!)

I didn’t come to the conclusion that On Inf contradicts universalism just because of the phrase “into infinity”. Gregory (?) also writes: “in comparison with one who has lived all his life in sin, … even one who has never come into the world at all will be blessed. We learn as much too in the case of Judas, from the sentence pronounced upon him in the Gospels; namely, that when we think of such men, that which never existed is to be preferred to that which has existed in such sin.” It wouldn’t be better for them never to have existed if they were to receive eternal life at the end, no? Matthew 26:24 teaches hopeless damnation for Judas if one interprets it literally, which Gregory seems to be doing in this case. It occurs to me now that perhaps he chose this interpretation to strengthen his case for an infant’s death possibly being a good thing. If one were to become an incurable sinner destined for infinite suffering, it would be an infinitely good thing for God to kill him in infancy. In this rare case the doctrine of eternal torment actually helps theodicy :open_mouth: Although I think affirming that some will infinitely suffer isn’t needed for the argument to work. It would be enough to say that those who would become unsaveable sinners if they remained in the world are killed by God in every case. But the argument might seem weaker when infinite torment is only hypothetical.

When it comes to Epiphanius, he only attacked the idea that the devil will repent, but I imagine some Greek speaking churchmen in Gregory’s lifetime insisted on irrevocable perdition of Judas as well. Do we have evidence though? As for the doctrine of reserve, it seems unlikely to me in the case of Gregory and this short treatise. In his major and most famous works, he unequivocally taught and celebrated universal restoration. I can’t imagine him thinking, “People seem to be sinning more than they used to. Could it because of what I wrote? I know what I’ll do! I’ll write in some obscure letter that Judas will never be saved. That’ll fix it.” :laughing: Seems like a rather silly attempt at damage control if you ask me, but then again much of what happened in the 4th century can seem silly to us nowadays.

What intrigued me after reading On Inf again is that just a couple lines before saying it’s better for some to have never existed the “all in all” passage is brought up: “if a single luminary can occupy everything alike that lies beneath it with the force of light, and, more than that, can, while lending itself to all who can use it, still remain self-centred and undissipated, how much more shall the Creator of that luminary become “all in all,” as the Apostle speaks, and come into each with such a measure of Himself as each subject of His influence can receive!” I wonder how Gregory could harmonize it with ECT, especially considering how he interpreted it in his other works: “He that becomes “all” things will be “in all” things too; and herein it appears to me that Scripture teaches the complete annihilation of evil. If, that is, God will be “in all” existing things, evil; plainly, will not then be amongst them; for if any one was to assume that it did exist then, how will the belief that God will be “in all” be kept intact?” (On the Soul) “evil will come to nought and will be completely destroyed. The divine, pure goodness will contain in itself every nature endowed with reason; nothing made by God is excluded from his kingdom once everything mixed with some elements of base material has been consumed by refinement in fire. Such things had their origin in God; what was made in the beginning did not receive evil.” (Treatise on 1st Cor 15.28)

Yes, I know; that’s why once I addressed that topic I went on to the Judas topic. :wink: You’re welcome to comment on what I pulled from De Inf on that! – Gregory’s actual point for bringing in Judas at-least-somewhat excludes his punishment being infinite, because Gregory uses him as evidence for his speculation that children who die before birth or otherwise as infants would have been worse than Judas in their effects on the world, and worse off in the judgment than any sinner who actually lived.

Which Gregory, among other teachers of the Alexandria school (and eventually the Antiochian school), was also teaching.

Depends on the guy he was writing to, whom we don’t know much about other than his name. (Which I forget offhand.)

Since he thought sinners could theoretically be even worse off in the judgment than the actual worst-off sinners, then he wasn’t actually teaching ECT and thus no conflict. It also answers his analogy of the adamantine impenitence of the anvil among other metals: he still thinks God can bring even the anvils to accept Him and to repent and do love and justice eventually, even if in their lives and in their punitive judgment meanwhile God brings other good from them, minimal as those goods are, until they repent.

I don’t wanna start a mathematical argument, but it seems to me that not all infinities have to be equal. Two persons may both suffer for an infinite length of time, but the measure of pain each experiences at a single moment may greatly differ. That’s what most ECT believers think, right? So I don’t see how the fact that Judas isn’t the worst sinner (and thus also the one punished the most) means his punishment can’t be endless. When reduced ad absurdum, your argument amounts to saying that only the most sinful creature can be punished eternally. Also, the anvil analogy as Gregory presents it doesn’t tell us whether the anvil will ever stop being an anvil (someone whose sins are used by God for good). That Judas isn’t the worst sinner and that God makes use of his sins in His good design are statements every Christian can accept (universalist, annihilationist, traditionalist) because they don’t say anything about Judas’ ultimate destiny.

The part of On Inf that I can’t explain universalistically is where Gregory writes it would be better to have never existed than to exist as Judas. How can a universalist say it would be better not to exist? According to universalism, all sinful creatures in existence will be infinitely blessed after they’ve suffered for a finite amount of time – existence is a blessing for everyone.

Hiya 

I’ve recently been reading stuff about Gregory. I know that the passage about Judas from ‘Infant Mortality’ is cited by those who argue that Gregory was not a Universalist and/or changed his mind about it. I know that Illaria Ramelli thinks that she has given a definitive answer to those who argue thus. I’ve not read her essay. But I’ve read other stuff by her – so I’ll attempt an answer from what I know (I’m not saying I’ll be completely right – but I’ll have a bash)

If I am right the context of Gregory’s argument in ‘Infant Mortality’ is the question of whether it is not more beneficial to die in infancy untainted by sin than to live a long life struggling against sin. Now Gregory does not believe in inherited guilt as Augustine later did; so he doesn’t have to contemplate those who die un-baptised suffering in eternal torment. He’s not working within the Augustinian paradigm at all. For Gregory this life is very much worth living because it enables the Christian to grow in virtue as part and parcel of ‘theosis’ (being transformed into the likeness of God). Nor is Gregory working with the assumptions of later Protestant pietism in which a child who dies young id views as going straight to heaven. For him the child who dies in the womb or in infancy does not have this opportunity to progress in virtue – and so Gregory thinks it must be given the opportunity at another stage of existence. As to why some children die in infancy – and in Gregory’s day it was a common occurrence – he is sure that this happens in accord with God’s providence and he speculates that at least when this happens to children from Christian families it is probably because God foreknew that the child would grow up to be especially wicked.

I understand that one theory is that this is a homily in response to the grumblings of a novice monk. It seemed unfair to the novice that he should have to submit to ascetical disciplines when children who die in infancy go straight to God without having to discipline themselves. Perhaps this is why the argument ‘reserve’ here makes sense – the novice would not be able to take solid foods as it were. This is a homily of exhortation rather than a work of philosophical theology like ‘on the Soul and the Resurrection’ (the latter is certainly a work of advanced theology only for the spiritually mature with the dying Macrina giving a Christina and universalist corrective to what the dying Socrates says in Plato’s Phaedo).

Regarding the Psalms – the full teaching of Gregory which is found in his Inscriptions of the Psalms is that they all have their culmination and key in Psalm 150 where ever living creature praises God. This is the Psalm that tells of the end in Apocatastasis. The earlier Psalms speaks of stages of the individual and universal journey before Apocatastasis. This is not incompatible with what Gregory says in ‘Infant Mortality’. So when Gregory here speaks of (Psalm 58:10) with the righteous rejoicing at the well earned rewards of their virtue in comparison to the perdition of the unrighteous, this is an exhortation to the novice to persist in cultivating virtue – but it speaks of a reward that is not the ultimate one of universal restoration. I don’t know whether Aquinas was influenced by Gregory in his vision of the Blessed looking down on the torments of the damned from heaven and begin satisfied with this. But for Aquinas this is the final Act. For Gregory there is another Act – the mercy of restoration through purgation after judgment.

Regarding what is said about Judas This is the only point in his opus where Gregory seems to hint at eternal loss (apparently he also does so in his Great Catechism for example) . The same is true of Origen – he sometimes speaks as if there is a punishment that is never ending. In Against Celsus Origen tells us that some would be encouraged to live licentiously if they were told about Apokatastasis before they were ready for this true because they had developed sufficiently in virtue and understanding.

I think the point about Judas is again probably stated with reserve for those who are spiritually immature here. Jesus says ion Matthew that is would have been better is Judas had never been born. What this actually means in Matthew is the subject of debate. What Gregory takes it to mean here is that Judas would have been spared a punishment of purgation extending into infinity if he had not been born because if he had not been born he would not have committed the deed of such wickedness that made this purgation necessary. So this is an exhortation against wickedness with Judas as the example and also part of Gregory’s speculative argument about why children die young

But Judas punishment – even if it extends into infinity – is purgative rather than retributive. I think that is already leading is on to a deeper understanding.

Enlightening, Dick, thanks. :smiley:

Thanks Dave :smiley: - me dear old china. Now I’m a complete bungling amateur here; but this one drew me in and I hope some of my hunches are fruitful. Final thoughts are:

“Certainly, in comparison with one who has lived all his life in sin, not only the innocent babe but even one who has never come into the world at all will be blessed. We learn as much too in the case of Judas, from the sentence pronounced upon him in the Gospels (Matthew 26:24); namely, that when we think of such men, that which never existed is to be preferred to that which has existed in such sin. For, as to the latter, on account of the depth of the ingrained evil, the chastisement in the way of purgation will be extended into infinity; but as for what has never existed, how can any torment touch it?”

Looking at this passage – the one that seems a cause for stumbling regarding Gregory’s universalist credentials – I note two things (if the translation is accurate).

First Gregory is talking comparatively here. If you compare the fate of those who have existed in great sin like Judas with the life of an innocent babe or one who has never come into the world then it is true to say that it would have been better if Judas never had existed because his purgation will be infinitely painful. However – he does appear to be emphasising that this is only true in comparative terms. In absolute terms of course Judas’ coming into existence is a blessing because like all human beings his actual being is created by God who is absolute Good. The evil into which Judas sank is not part of creation and has no lasting substance. So again the comparative issue with Judas is the pain involved in the annihilation of evil in him

(Note here: presumably ‘one who has never come into the world’ in Gregory’s view – if he is not using an abstraction for the sake of argument - must mean a baby who has died in the womb. For Gregory who did not believe in pre-existence a child is ensouled at the point of creation which is conception.

I also note that Origen was guarded when speaking of the salvation of the devil and of Judas – even thought his writings about Judas are the most compassionate to be found in all of the Church fathers. Gregory was less guarded than Origen in speaking about the salvation of the devil but it seems was equally reticent when it came to Judas).
Finally the idea that the chastisement of purgation extending into infinity for Judas does not suggest to me that the chastisement will last forever. It surely must have something to do with Gregory’s dynamic view of the world to come. We all will spend infinity journeying into God – our knowledge of God and our realisation of the likeness of God will never be done and dusted. For Judas part of this infinite journey is going to be the chastisement of purgation. The fact that this takes place on the infinite journey does not suggest to me that it will be everlasting.

I’d bet there were always many people wondering what happens to the souls of little children who pass away, but On Infants’ Early Deaths was obviously dedicated to some governor (according to the footnote his name was Hierius) whom Gregory extravagantly praises. The opening sentence of the work is this: “Every essayist and every pamphleteer will have you, most Excellent, to display his eloquence upon; your wondrous qualities will be a broad race-course wherein he may expatiate.” Gregory praises his understanding, generosity and love: “Your intellectual eyes are indeed as numerous, it may perhaps be said, as the hairs of the head; their keen unerring gaze is on everything alike; the distant is foreseen; the near is not unnoticed; they do not wait for experience to teach expedience; they see with Hope’s insight, or else with that of Memory… your ingotten wealth will be envied above the ingots of Crœsus. For whom has sea and land, with all the dower of their natural produce, enriched, as thy rejection of worldly abundance has enriched thee? … Grant me, however, leave to say, that you do not despise all acquisitions; that there are some which, though none of your predecessors has been able to clutch, yet you and you alone have seized with both your hands; for, instead of dresses and slaves and money, you have and hold the very souls of men, and store them in the treasure-house of your love.” Then he goes on to say: “our pen, veteran as it now is, is to rouse itself only so far as to go at a foot’s pace through the problem which your wisdom has proposed; namely, this—what we are to think of those who are taken prematurely, the moment of whose birth almost coincides with that of their death.” If all this isn’t just empty flattery, it seems unlikely Gregory would consider the governor too immature to be taught about at least the salvation of the entire human race.

However, I find interesting the proposition that “what has never existed” refers to those who died in the womb. Gregory also refers to such a person as “one who has never come into the world at all” which lends some validity to that theory imo. “To come into the world” usually means “to be born” rather than be conceived. But I read in a thread about Judas that “to be born” and “to be conceived/begotten” is the same thing in ancient Greek, which might also be relevant in this discussion. Also, it would be very bizarre to hear an English speaking Christian who believes life starts at conception say miscarried fetuses never existed. Still, what really matters is the Greek underlying the English translation and whether those expressions of Gregory’s have any precedence of being used to talk about unborn babies in ancient Greek literature. Sadly, I know about as much Greek as Augustine did :wink:

Alternately, as I’ve suggested before, Gregory might have adopted the position that the most depraved sinners will suffer eternally only for the purpose of the particular work – to show that dying in infancy can be infinitely good as it may prevent infinite misery.

As for the righteous rejoicing when seeing the damned, we should be careful not to misconstrue that argument. Neither Gregory nor Aquinas see this as some sadistic sort of joy – it seems to me they perceive it as joy derived from realizing how well-off one is by comparison to the damned and how much the the right choices in this life pay off. Aquinas explains it thus: “A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways. First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy.” (Summa Theologiae) Now I don’t know whether Aquinas was inspired by Gregory but the argument is pretty much the same. Of course, it doesn’t necessitate eternal damnation, but it provides a rationale for why it could be good to let some suffer forever – their suffering increases the happiness of the righteous. This is especially the case if, as Gregory says, “it may be reckoned as not a slight element in that happiness, nor, on the other hand, as one unworthy of God’s providing.” Just for the record, I don’t subscribe to this view as I think the pity for the damned would drown out the joy of appreciation of one’s blessedness in comparison with damnation and of justice being served.

Thank you all for your contributions. I think we can all agree that Gregory unambiguously taught universalism on many occassions, and to deny that is dumb and/or dishonest. On the other hand, the work in question is kinda ambiguous. If anyone read what Ramelli or another expert says about the problematic parts of the work, please let us know. Furthermore, if you encounter apparently anti-universalistic statements in other works of Gregory, this thread is the right place to discuss them. As concerns the Great Catechism, I’ve only read a few chapters, but I remember that universalism was explicitly taught there, especially in chap. 26.

Hiya Questorius -

Fair point about the governor –my conjecture based on half remembered stuff; I said that I could be talking twaddle here :smiley:. So conjecture about reserve is unsound.

The Great Catechism bit that I’ve seen cited against Gregory’s universalism is the suggestion there that that while every human will be resurrected, salvation will only be accorded to the baptised (don’ t know what to make of that).

I think Ramelli’s essay is about Dr Mario Baghos’ interpretation of Gregory.

All the best


Gregory says only the baptized will be accorded salvation at the resurrection, but he also says that others will be saved later having been baptized by fire: “not everything that is granted in the resurrection a return to existence will return to the same kind of life. There is a wide interval between those who have been purified, and those who still need purification. For those in whose life-time here the purification by the laver has preceded, there is a restoration to a kindred state. Now, to the pure, freedom from passion is that kindred state, and that in this freedom from passion blessedness consists, admits of no dispute. But as for those whose weaknesses have become inveterate, and to whom no purgation of their defilement has been applied, no mystic water, no invocation of the Divine power, no amendment by repentance, it is absolutely necessary that they should come to be in something proper to their case,—just as the furnace is the proper thing for gold alloyed with dross,—in order that, the vice which has been mixed up in them being melted away after long succeeding ages, their nature may be restored pure again to God. Since, then, there is a cleansing virtue in fire and water, they who by the mystic water have washed away the defilement of their sin have no further need of the other form of purification, while they who have not been admitted to that form of purgation must needs be purified by fire.”(

I’m not sure that Matthew (and Mark) wrote that Jesus said that it would have been better is Judas had never been born.

The first “that man” (in red) clearly refers to Judas, the one by whom the Son of Man was betrayed. But do we KNOW that the second “that man”(in green) also refers to Judas? The second “that man” is closer to “the Son of Man” than it is to the first “that man.” Some say that the second “that man” refers to the Son of Man in the sentence. They say that it would have been good for Jesus if he had not been begotten (the word is “begotten” not “born”). As far as Jesus Himself is concerned, if He had not been begotten or conceived, He would not have had to endure the agonies of death on the cross. That would have been good for Him personally.

I am not convinced that this is the correct understanding, though I found it an interesting view. I am just throwing it out there.

I found this answer to Judas at stackexchange.

This, along with that fact we cannot be certain “That man” in the second case is Judas. We don’t know. But this answer is SOLID. Incredible answer. By the way, this guy is WRONG about Bart Ehrman. Bart did not leave the faith as a result of that. In fact, Bart is an incredibly honest scholar whom I have the utmost respect for. Bart was a fundamentalist Christian all the way up until near his PhD IIRC, which was in 1985. Then moved to “Liberal” Christianity towards that point and eventually to Agnosticism in 1995, according to him. I subscribe to his blog and he shares a lot of his personal life and faith on them. I find nothing but honestly in his approach and I find it a shame that so many people assassinate his character because he broke away from fundamentalism scholarship. It took an act of courage to do that. Again, much respect to Bart.

I’m inclined to agree Gabe… such was a figure of speech and not a theological treatise or the like.

Wow, that passage of Ecclesiastes really throws a new light on the whole thing. Thank you so much, Gabe. I really should read the OT more. I’m now certain that when Jesus said it would be better if Judas had never been born, he was referring to Eccles 6:3: “…if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.” Jesus basically prophesied Judas wouldn’t enjoy his prosperity or be properly buried: “With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.” (Acts 1:18)