The Evangelical Universalist Forum

JRP's Exegetical Compilation: Matthew 12:22-45

This is part of my Exegetical Compilation Project, which can be found here.

Matthew 12:22-45: despite the sin against the Holy Spirit being mentioned in the middle of this scene, the tenor of the scene as a whole involves Christ warning His opponents among the Pharisees for calling the salvation of sinners by Christ the act of Satan.

Specifically the sinner in view is the deaf/mute demented man, already healed previously by Christ on His late arrival into Capernaum, as reported by Matthew back at Matt 9:32-34 with foreshadowing as to how this was going to relate to the scene in Matt 12 later. (“But the Pharisees were saying, ‘He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.’”) The man who was previously only mute thanks to demon-possession returns now deaf as well as mute despite having been healed by Christ, and the Pharisees use this as a pretext to condemn Christ. Christ explains that even if a person is exorcised, if he does not repent and fill his heart with God then his last state shall be worse than his first (v.45; Luke also includes this portion in his account of the incident, GosLuke 11:14-26, although he saves the statement about the sin that will not be forgiven until a little later). Yet even this was not hopeless for the man in such a worse state!–and it is a sin against the Holy Spirit to insist that the man’s condition must have been hopeless, and so to insist that such (apparent) salvation of him must be from the devil not from God.

This of course applies just as well to interpretations of the sin against the Holy Spirit!–to interpret it as being hopeless for the one who sins that way, is to fall into the same sin one’s self. (Although the attitude of the heart in doing so makes the difference, not merely a well-intentioned error of theological misinterpretation.)

Whoever does not gather with Christ scatters instead (12:30, Luke 11:23), and so is not with Christ but against Christ. Who is Christ gathering? – those captured by Beelzebub (or Beelzeboul, or Satan), even the one whom Jesus had to rescue from a latter state worse than his former. To deny that God gathers such people, results in people scattering away from Christ. This not only involves acting against Christ in several ways (directly hindering Christ’s mission, and also setting one’s self against the competency and completion of Christ’s evangelical mission), but also insultingly misrepresents the Holy Spirit’s reputation among men.

In Mark’s report of the same incident (3:28-29), Jesus also insists (strongly stressed in the Greek) that every sin and blasphemy whatever shall be forgiven men: it is necessary to interpret verse 29 by verse 28, or vice versa, but to interpret 28 by 29 is to claim (in effect) that where grace exceeds sin super-exceeds for not as the grace is the sin.

Note that Christ’s repeat of the warning (at a later scene during the final approach to Jerusalem) reported at Luke 12:8-10, is given under the opening warning to “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” The Pharisees were willing to contradict their own principles of judgment in order to condemn Christ for saving a man who, by natural expectations, should have been permanently lost.

**** On “Eonian Sin” ****

The most serious problem left over, is Mark 3:29 which reads in most ancient Greek texts “eonian sin”. The evidence from textual copies (not only in Greek but other ancient translations and applications of GosMark) that “sin” was the original reading here is very strong, even though there is disagreement about the precise grammatic form of the word; and there is no disagreement at all about {aiôniou}. This would be the only time sin is called “eonian” in the New Testament.

An impressive number of other Greek texts, some early, as well as other languages (some early) feature “crisis” {kriseôs} here instead (with a couple of texts using another term for judgment from which we now derive “crime”, and a couple using both “crisis” and “sin”, and a couple using “kolasis” instead as in Matthew 25.) The textual evidence in itself is about equal either way, although either way (eternal sin or eternal crisis) the term would be unique in the New Testament; but the majority existence of an odd form of the term for sin {hamartêmatos}, with a few Greek texts and most translations from Greek witnessing to the more expected form {hamartias} instead, is hard to explain if “sin” was not the original reading.

If “punishment” or “crisis” (judgment) was the original reading, then certainly that would come uniquely from God, and so the term would be entirely neutral to the question of whether or not the sin (and thus the punishment) ever ends. Such variants themselves actually testify to the notion that “eonian” was understood to mean that the noun described by the adjective comes uniquely from God, which would be theologically shocking if “sin” was the noun! But fairness requires me, at this time, to acknowledge “sin” as, most likely, the original reading.

What does the phrase “eonian sin” necessarily imply, if so? By the evidence of surrounding context, the other Synoptic accounts of the saying, and the usage of the term elsewhere in both the OT and the NT, nothing fatal to universalism.

1.) The argument previously given, from story details, about Jesus’ intention in talking about the sin against the Holy Spirit, still stands on its own merits, over-against a hopeless interpretation of the phrase. This in itself might be considered decisive! – unless a case can be made for a hopeless meaning which does not involve charging God with having no intention or no capability of saving those who have been plundered by the Plunder-possessor (against Jesus’ own sarcastic retorts to the criticisms of the Pharisees). Which interpretation gathers the most with Christ, and which interpretations involve scattering instead? – and does gathering with Christ or scattering instead involve being for or against Christ?! Which interpretations involve bringing shame onto the Holy Spirit, even defying salvation “into the Holy Spirit” (as Mark puts it, as into the face of the Person of God Who convicts sinners of sin) and which does not? Any Christian should carefully consider the varieties of options, whether Calvinistic, Arminianistic, or universalistic.

2.) In Mark’s report, the grammar is very strange in any case. Jesus says whoever blasphemes against (or rather into) the Holy Spirit, is not having pardon into the eon (which is clear enough grammar, regardless of what “into the eon” may or may no mean), “but a liable-one is sin-effect of eonian.” In other words, in that last clause (which is a small independent sentence in itself) “a liable one” or “the liable” one (or the guilty-one, or the one obliged one, or the one held fast like the prisoners Christ just talked about rescuing from Satan) is the subject of the verb “is”, and “sin-effect” is the object of the verb, or more accurately the predicate nominative. {Hamartêmatos} isn’t the object of the preposition implied by {aiôniou} which is in the genitive form.

In other words, the grammar doesn’t read “X is guilty of-sin”, so doesn’t read “X is guilty of-eonian-sin” either. In English terms, the grammar is more like “the-guilty-one”, that which is under judgment, “is sin of-eonian”. If this doesn’t mean God, the Eonian One, is guilty of sin-effect (which would be ridiculous), it would mean eonian sin-effect itself, not the sinner, is what is bound for judgment!

No doubt this is why some Greek texts, and many translations into other languages from Greek, replace the term either with {hamartias} which is a genitive noun to fit with the “of-eonian” (thus matching the usual translation “of eonian sin”), or with {kriseôs} which is also a genitive noun to fit the prepositional phrase as “of-eonian-judgment”. But notice then that the one who is guilty, is the one who insists on eonian judgment, or who insists on an eonian sin-effect! (The guilty-one is of-eonian-judgment, or is of-eonian-sin-effect. The phrasing matches that for identifying someone who holds to a particular party, or who follows a person, or comes from a certain place. For example, St. Paul’s complaint of factions disputing because “I am of Apollos!” “I am of Paul!”)

Putting it another way, the actual strange grammar of the end of Mark 3:29 fits the idea that the ones being condemned of sin against the Holy Spirit are those who insist on some eonian effect of sin in a way that insults the reputation of the Holy Spirit before men, a way that involves rejecting (as the work of Satan not of God) Christ’s salvation of the man whose latter state was worse than his former, and a way that involves scattering instead of gathering with Christ. That way would not be Christian universalism, obviously!

Admittedly, the grammatic issues here are extremely difficult, and so perhaps open to other interpretations. (Possibly there is an underlying Aramaic grammatic issue here explaining the oddity in some other way, for example.) But the difficulties of the grammar do provide at least some evidence in favor of a more hopeful reading of the text, in conjunction with the various contextual details around the text.

Assuming, then, that these two points are not sufficient to carry the rebuttal against using “eonian sin” as testimony of a hopeless result, I will continue with some other observations about the situation, first by clarifying a point previously mentioned:

3.) As I indicated previously, the peculiar form of the term in GosMark, {hamartêmatos}, which agrees with Jesus’ previous extremely strong statement one verse prior about all sins and blasphemies being forgiven, indicates a result of the action of the sin with the {-ma} type of suffix. This explains why “eonian” can be used to describe the noun: the sin is not “eonian”, the results of the sin are “eonian”, and the results are (at least) judgmental punishment uniquely from God (thus explaining substitutions in many texts with “crisis”). On the theory that “eonian” in the NT refers to things which come uniquely from God, this term still fits (not referring to sin coming uniquely from God!) Whether the crisis or the punishment/kolasis continues never-endingly is a whole other question.

4.) On the other hand, at least once indisputably in the New Testament (at Romans 16:25), and often in the Greek Old Testament, the term “eonian” refers to something which has an end. Whether that applies in this example or not, is admittedly a question of contextual evidence; but this is why I have given the topical and thematic contextual argument first!

5.) In Luke’s report of the saying (probably intended to represent a later time in Jesus’ ministry), Jesus doesn’t use any emphatic statements about a lack of forgiveness. But in Matthew’s report, Jesus says such sin {ouk aphethêsetai}, shall not be being pardoned, and {ouk aphethêsetai aut(i)ô oute en tout(i)ô t(i)ô aiôni oute en t(i)ô mellonti}, shall not be being pardoned to him neither in to this eon nor in to the coming one. And in Mark’s own report (not present in a few Greek copies of the text, though respectable ones) Jesus says that whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit {ouk echei aphesin eis ton aiôna} is not having pardon into the eon.

The phrasing here opens up the possibility that Jesus is talking about the eonian sin-effect or sin-penalty (per Mark’s account) being restricted to this age and then to only one of the following ages to come. But to be fair, all the ages of ages to come may also be regarded as one overarching Age-Day of the Lord, so even a limited distinction of ages might involve continuing forever in the never-ending grand Age to come.

It could be replied that, if so, it’s odd that Luke (or Jesus Himself by report) doesn’t include this emphasis in Luke’s account; but a lack of detail somewhere doesn’t count against an inclusion of detail elsewhere.

Much relevantly, the term (in two forms) {aphesis} has a primary meaning of being released from bonds or imprisonment; thus also (more commonly in the NT) by metaphor, being released from imprisonment and other effects of sin or rebellion against an authority.

All three Synoptic authors connect this incident (though Luke for whatever reason disconnects the sin against the Holy Spirit warning from this incident and reports a saying of it later) to general reports of exorcism, and for Matthew and Luke to a specific case of Jesus setting people free from demons. Matthew and Mark also connect it to saving people on the sabbath (the man with the withered hand), whereas Luke connects it to the material about how we ought to expect good things from God, not harmful things. Matthew does, too, with the denunciation that a “brood of vipers” expects bad fruit from an ideal tree, and that a wicked man is pulling forth wicked things from the overflowing superabundance of his heart. All three reports connect it to Jesus’ pun on plundering the Plunder-possessor, raiding the chief of raiders to tie him up and take his things from him, which in context of Matthew and Luke’s report of the healing of the mute and deaf demented man (which is explicitly treated as an exorcism) must refer to freeing the prisoners of the bandit chief.

The nearby context for all three Gospels (though it’s more specifically obvious in GosMatt and GosLuke), is about Jesus being called the servant of Satan for releasing people from bonds or imprisonment. In retort to that accusation, Jesus says such people shall not be set free from their bonds or imprisonment neither in this age nor the age to come.

It could be replied that Jesus is talking about God imprisoning such people and so naturally no one can rescue them from God’s imprisonment – which is true – and that God has no intentions of setting them free, thus they can never be set free. But this means they are imprisoned by God in their sins and so God either fails or chooses not to save them from their sins! The position comes back around to being that criticized by Jesus here! – to take the position that God would not or could not save someone from his sin, earns this denunciation! Besides which there are many scriptures speaking of God releasing prisoners and reconciling with them, whom He Himself has imprisoned for their sins.

Matthew’s account, being the fullest, makes this point even stronger by saying that “this wicked generation” who seeks a sign that, in effect, God can and does save sinners whose later state is worse than their former, the deaf-mute man being the explicit example (and shown earlier by Matthew in his former condition, with responsive language calling forward in connection to this incident), and will punish those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit by insisting only Satan saves the worst sinners, not God, shall be put into the position of the man whose later state was worse than his former: “And the last state of that person is becoming worse than the first. Thus will it be to this wicked generation also!”

At best they were using Jesus’ second salvation of that man as evidence that His healing, being imperfect, must come from Satan not from God – although Jesus’ denunciations indicate it wasn’t the need to heal again which was the problem but the idea that God would keep on trying to save the sinner until He gets it done. Consequently, in a very typical judgment saying of Jesus (and of God in the OT), they shall have done to them what they wanted to hopelessly condemn in others.

But if we insist their imprisonment is hopeless because God is the one imprisoning them, we put ourselves in their place in turn!

Relatedly, “If I in the Spirit of God am casting out the demons, consequently the kingdom of the God {ephthasen eph humas} overruns you!” (Matt 12:28; Luke 11:20) The primary verb there involves moving ahead or moving beyond; and combined with a prepositional phrase “upon / over you”, when applied against enemies, tends to involve punitive authoritative action: the metaphorical idea would be of a king running down his opponents on the field of battle. Thus talking of the same kind of people in 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets: “They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all people, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to overrun them!” Why? Because they are not pleasing to God and are hostile to all men. How? In insisting that those outside should not be saved by God!

Satan doesn’t keep at saving people from sin even when they relapse. Satan hinders people from being saved from their sins at all. That has a parallel at 1 Thess 2, too, verse 18, “For we wanted to come to you [in Gentile lands for the Gentile mission], I Paul more than once, yet Satan hindered us,” like the false Jewish teachers, hindering evangelization of the Gentiles so that they may be saved.

(1 Thess 2:16 also says the wrath, of God implicitly (and so added in a few texts), overruns them {eis telos} into completion. What that completion is, could be strongly connected to how the term is used in universalistic evidential texts elsewhere, though nothing in the immediate context points that way.)

6.) If the final clause of Mark 3:29 doesn’t mean that (especially in context) that the idea of hopelessly final sin is what Jesus is judging against presently, but rather that the persons themselves who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit (whatever that means) are guilty of an eonian sin, or bound for an eonian sin-effect, the grammar at least indicates that those who do so are presently this moment (when they do it) under judgment (like His Pharisee opponents at that moment, who are insulting His reputation before men by claiming that salvation of those they deem unsavable is the work of Satan not of God). This would also fit Jesus’ double-emphasis reported by Matthew in the same scene: shall-not-be-forgiven in this eon (nor in the eon to come). The sin is already active now. But even most non-universalists in Christian history have acknowledged that those currently guilty of this sin can be forgiven if they repent; otherwise they have trouble accounting for the example of Saint Simon Peter, chief of apostles, who rebelled so hard that he called curses against Himself in order to deny Christ the night before the crucifixion, and who at another time (in denial of the coming crucifixion) was denounced by the name of Satan by Jesus Himself! Or else, if somehow those didn’t count as sins against the Holy Spirit but “only” as blasphemies and sins against the Son of Man, it becomes increasingly difficult to figure out what would count as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – not without schisming between the Persons of God (as if the Spirit could be blasphemed against apart from blasphemy against the Son), or schisming the two natures of Christ (as if someone could sin against Christ’s humanity and not against the divinity of Christ). This was most likely why in late texts (much too late to be counted as evidence in favor of an original reading) some Church authorities interpretatively changed the reading here at Mark to say that the one sinning against the Holy Spirit “is in danger of” eonian sin.

(This cannot be the original text, based on the evidence of the manuscripts, so I cannot use this variation as a mitigating option. Notice that this would be another way of “fixing” the strange grammar where the sin of-eonian is itself what is being bound for judgment, or what is guilty, in contrast to {alla} the sinner against the Holy Spirit.)

But if a person can be freed from the sin against the Holy Spirit, and its eonian sin-effect, despite being guilty of it now, and despite the sin not being forgiven in this eon (per GosMatt’s account), there is nothing in the saying or its context which locks the sinner from repenting and being forgiven in the age to come either.

7.) Relatedly, the term for forgiveness (here in Mark, and in the Synoptic parallels) is {aphesis}, remitting the sin, sending the sin away from the person, freeing the person from the sin, not merely passing by the past sin {paresis}. No sin can be sent away from the person if the person insists on holding to it. But if someone stops holding to their sins, and cooperate with the Holy Spirit, God will send their sin away. Whether God fails, or never even tries, to lead someone to stop holding to their sin, is a whole other question. But people (like the Pharisee opponents in this scene) who deny God can or does send away sins for someone, are at least acting against the notion that God can or does send away their own sin, too.

This accounts for most of the conversions between Arminian and Calvinist soteriologies, not incidentally. Former Arminians worried that God might give up on them or be defeated by some sinner, or worried that they haven’t done quite the right things to convince God to keep persisting for them, but not worried that God intends to save them (since that is the great assurance of Arminianism), find Calvinism (or its Catholic analogs) a great relief. Former Calvinists worried that God might not have ever intended to save them, or even that their feelings of assurance (or their “human logic” about their assurance) may be self-deception (or even a divine deception where God sends pitfalls for His enemies etc.), but not worried that God will succeed in His salvation of sinners from sin (since that is the great assurance of Calvinism), find Arminianism (or its Catholic analogs) a great relief.

Each convert is still holding to the former great assurance, at least in regard to themselves if not for other people; and each convert is gaining the signature great assurance of the other system, at least in regard to themselves if not for other people. But a lack of assurance in either great assurance about other people, leaves open a technical possibility of doubt about assurance in one’s own salvation, too.

Yet even in this hard saying from Jesus (reported by all three Synoptic authors, in somewhat different ways), there is hopeful assurance that God can competently and does intend to save the sinners whom religious authorities declare would be a sin for God to save.

Beyond all this, I will add that no Calvinist anywhere at any time should be particularly comfortable appealing to this incident as evidence in favor of hopeless punishment, because Calvinist soteriology either reduces the warning to nonsense, or the warning voids Calvinistic soteriology. Who is this warning supposed to apply to? It cannot apply to the Calvinistic elect, not and mean a warning about hopeless punishment which on the terms of the warning (especially in GosMatt) may still be avoided. On the other hand, what is the point of warning the non-elect about some kind of special sin which is unforgiveable? – on Calvinistic notions of the non-elect, God not only never intended to forgive any of their sins at all, but never even intended to give them the ability to not sin, much less to repent of sin! Every sin is a hopelessly unforgiveable sin to the Calvinistic non-elect in several ways; no sin is hopelessly unforgiveable to the Calvinistic elect. This is a major criticism by Arminians vs Calvinists (and their Catholic analogues either way), too. It is at least a major problem, not to be lightly dismissed except perhaps by appeal to inscrutable mystery – and if that appeal can be made with expectation of acceptance, then the Calvinist ought to be prepared (at least in fair play principle) to accept a similar appeal by Christian universalists against an argument for salvific hopelessness and final unrighteousness.

(For further discussion of the incident of the sin against the Holy Spirit, in reply to a popular internet Calv apologist attempting to marshal the incident against Christian universalism, you may refer to the pdf or doc file appended below, which also features a link to the Calv article by Matt Slick. My reply to him dovetails a little on the exegetical side as already discussed, but is more about the principles involved since that’s what he focuses more on.)

JRP vs Matt Slick on Unforgivable Sin.doc (66 KB)
JRP vs Matt Slick on Unforgivable Sin.pdf (132 KB)

Naturally these verses get discussed a lot, here on the forum and elsewhere, as they’re important testimony one way or another for God’s intentions and/or capabilities. Members are invited to comment below, and are especially encouraged to provide links to other sites, or threads on this forum, where these verses are discussed.

If you find my compilations helpful, feel free to tip me $5 here at Amazon, near or at the top of the list. You can tip me for multiple articles of course. (I get $2.50 of each single $5 tip.)

I should add, although this isn’t strictly necessary for interpreting the incident, that I agree with George MacDonald that the sin against the Holy Spirit, the sin that cannot be forgiven, is any sin at all which we refuse to come out of. As long as we refuse to repent, we cannot be forgiven, even though God wants to forgive us and leads us to repentance from the sin.

I write a lot about the metaphysical concept of sin (within a framework of trinitarian theism theology) starting around here in Sword To The Heart, including the sin against the Holy Spirit.

I was just thinking this, that the unforgivable sin is the willful sin – either we knowingly and obstinately choose what we know is wrong, or knowing what we ought to do, we do not do it.

A couple of passages come to mind:

Hebrews 10:26ff “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”

Rom 1:18ff “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness … For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”


The most recent discussion of Matt 12 on this forum can be found here, by the way. I’m sure there are several others.

Updated for another more recent discussion; including my 2011 paper responding to Matt Slick’s critique of universalism vis-a-vis the eonian/unforgivable sin.

Updated with extensive further commentary, mostly on GosMark’s phrase “eonian sin”.

Thank you for writing this out. It is a very strange verse indeed. I am still not sure what to think of it yet I appreciate your detailed context! I do take great comfort since Paul admits to countless Blasphemies however I’m not sure if it was this particular one. I would assume he would take part in it though, knowing the man he was before his encounter?

So this brings me to, what shall we define as blaspheming the holy spirit? Ok now this is kind of off the wall… Benny Hinn… So taken many peoples opinion of him I am to assume some believe he acts out of Greed and ultimately the power of Satan. People saw his healing and what not and did not believe he was acting out of the Holy Spirit. So what if Benny was in fact filled with the Holy Spirit and healing people. Would the mass of deniers be subject to this verse?

Ok so in my own life context I was told I had cancer 4 years ago by a surgeon verified by several other doctors. Now knowing the miraculous power of God my entire family prays for me and many others as well. The day before my second surgery which would leave me unable to walk (tumor left leg) the Mayo clinic which we brought into the conversation said negative results for cancer, however it was an extremely close tissue that has been dubbed Fools Cancer by myself. So some say it was a powerful healing from God. If I deny that it was, would I be blaspheming the Holy Spirit?

How far do we take this and how far should we go to avoid blaspheming the Holy Spirit? If I walk up on Jesus in the act of obvious and great miracles am I then in the only position to commit such a sin?

I’m pretty sure none of the examples you gave fit the three possible criteria I talked about:

1.) Did any example involve an insistence that to save someone from their sins must be the work of the devil instead of the work of God? – in other words, a sin against the very notion of salvation from sin (denying the Lord saves thus denying the very name of “Jesus”)? No.

2.) Did any example involve a willful intention to cheat by contradicting what the denier would have insisted on accepting in his own favor? – in other words, a sin against the very notion of truth, thus against the Spirit of Truth? No.

3.) Did any example involve the denier sinning at all, much moreso impenitently sinning? – in other words, did any example fit the broad criteria of any sin being a sin against the Holy Spirit, which cannot be forgiven even into the eons so long as someone insists on holding to the sin? No.

Some sins God can “wink at” (as St. Paul very daringly puts it in his Mars Hill Forum speech – so daringly it tends to be obscured in English translations ; ), not holding those sins against a person who sins out of ignorance or misunderstanding or bad training or a disaffected nature. Those sins still have to go, and there should be reconciliation with the people hurt by the sins, but they’re more slated to be healed and people rescued from them (like rescuing captives from the Plunderer in Jesus’ parable in that incident).

But such sins being evidenced by Jesus’ religious opponents in this incident are sins of the intentional will, and beyond even that are sins which strike in various ways against the person repenting of sin. So long as a person denies salvation from sin, how can he himself be saved? – so long as a person cheats in his own self-refuting favor against the truth, how can he accept the truth against his own sin? – so long as a person insists on fondling his sin, he is not setting aside the sin and accepting forgiveness and seeking reconciliation offered to him.

“How then can such a person be saved?!”

“With man it is impossible – but with God, all things are possible!” Which all things? All things of salvation.

From Paidion over in a recent thread on the topic:

Strong’s dictionary (or the abbreviated version in my NASB) also suggests that the noun {hamartêma} (which it gives Mark 3:28 but not 29 as an example, though the lack of v.29 isn’t relevant) describes a “properly concrete” sin, and the noun {hamartia} describes the idea of sin or in the abstract.

However, I’m not sure appealing to {hamartêma} helps, although it’s an option that ought to be reckoned with, since that term has neutral gender (doesn’t it?) but the adjective form of eonian is feminine. Which naturally explains why alternate terms in the textual record, like {hamartias} and {kriseôs}, are genitive singular feminine to match with the adjective.

“Eonian punishment-for-sin” (or perhaps “sin-effect” as I followed some translators up in my analysis) would certainly make better intrinsic sense, considering the various ancient meanings of “eonian”, than “eonian sin”: the punishment is divine, it lasts for an age (whichever age that is), etc.

Updated with corrections to an important oversight I originally made in point 5; plus some extensive expansions of how the term used (in two cognates) by Matthew and Mark there connects to the immediate, local, and extended topic context of the incident.

Updated with a further correction to point 5, this time on how the verb ephthasen is actually used in the NT. The overriding point is still the same (pun entirely intended). :wink:

And now that I’ve had time to write up in detail why I originally put the term as “outstripped” and interpreted it as whipping flesh into strips, allow me to add that here as a technically trivial followup. :wink:

Almost every NT Greek word with a phth- base, means decay in some way. By a poetic application some of those words mean envy or spite, but that isn’t the underlying root meaning. The underlying meaning, as Strong’s mentions in passing, is to fall off, which is why the term for late autumn for example, {phthinopôrinos}, means literally “stripped of leaves”. (That’s how Strong puts it. The term doesn’t intrinsically mean “to strip” but in certain circumstances it carries that connotation.) Similarly it’s a base construction for words meaning corruption, ruin, that kind of thing.

There are two main exceptions. The first is a subfamily of words (which take the first two consonants, add a vowel, and then the “ng” double-gamma, plus various suffixes), which somehow relates to sound and, by application to voice, to speaking clearly.

The other main exception, which is much more important and prevalent, is {phthanô} and its grammatic forms, which has a very general meaning of moving forward, and then some more specific contextual meanings, such as to arrive ahead of something, or to get before something. Usually these meanings are pretty positive, unlike the decay-based family of meanings. The exception to that is how the term is used in 1 Thess 2, in conjunction with a prepositional phrase meaning “upon” or “over” the objects of the verb; and the incident here where similar false Jewish teachers, hindering salvation, are being described as being acted upon by God with the same verb and {epi} phrase (though prepositional phrase refers to “you” not “them” of course.)

The connotation would be something like being overrun by a king on the field of battle, though in the Gospel(s) the false teachers are being overrun or overtaken or overpowered by the finger of God, and in 1 Thess 2 they’re being overrun by the wrath (of God, implicitly by prior context). Which naturally connects back to the idea of them being ruined or destroyed or being caused to fall to pieces.

(If I had to hazard a guess how the two rather different ideas developed from the same root word, I’d suppose, tentatively, that it involved plants shedding their leaves as the seasons moved forward, or maybe carpentry planing, or competitors running in assigned lanes. I ought to try searching Robinson’s historical grammar and see if he has any ideas. I have not the slightest clue how the term came to be associated with clear sound.)

Rather than try to explain that out, in an already very long analysis, I just short-cut to the image of a whip taking skin off in strips, since that also combined the ideas – not for every time phthanô appears, but just where it’s used in a punitive sense (contextually) modified by an {epi} prepositional phrase. And the other time I could think of, 1 Thess 2, happens to have several topical connections to what’s going on here.

Technically that interpretation isn’t true, of course; and the way I explained it would look falsified quickly by fairly frequent positive uses of that particular family of the term in the NT. But I couldn’t think of another relatively quick way to get the idea across.

A fellow Greek student has called me on the application, though, offsite; so I have made a minor but relevant correction in my main argument notes, and have here appended an explanation for why I originally tried to explain it as stripping skin with whips.