My review of "Paul on Hell" by Douglas J. Moo


Unfortunately, it’s too hard to include the 49 footnotes here, but apart from that, I want to look at the entire chapter, bit-by-bit. I just bought the ebook, however, it’s free to download from his website

Off to a good start :slight_smile:

Ironically with the qualitative understanding of “eternal” that we find in the NT, I would actually agree with this sentence.

It’s disappointing he’s so dismissive of universalism :frowning: He’s slightly more respectful when talking about annihilationism or conditional immortality.

I don’t think every occurrence of these words is definitely talking about post-judgment Hell, but even if they do, they don’t seem to support ECT/P any more than EU’s understanding of Hell.

Even assuming he’s correct about the first part of the sentence, I object to the last part of the sentence. i.e. just because something continues postmortem, doesn’t imply it will never end.

Again, I have no trouble with the first two sentences, but the third is an assertion with no backing, at least none is offered here.

No problems with this, so long as “final” is in the sense that it happens at the end of this world and only happens once, but I suspect he means irreversible judgment.

I partially agree, in the sense that Rob Bell believes heaven & hell have already begun here and now, but he’s overly simplistic, in that non believers also enjoy life now and believers at least appear to be under the general curse/suffering of this world.

See I was under the distinct impression that we all did/do this, and that Paul actually says that? :confused:

I agree with the “now & not yet”-ness of wrath, but again it seems to me that Paul had everyone in mind. As people repent and believe it changes things, e.g. they can see that God’s wrath ultimately achieves reconciliation, rehabilitation & restoration.

Honest question, but are there actual examples of Paul using the threat of Hell as a backdrop to the Gospel?

Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punish
DJ Moo: Paul’s Universalizing Hermeneutic in Romans
Presuppositions and Interpretations, Part 2 of 3

Amuses me how he speaks of the various ways Paul depicts the fate of the wicked and quotes verses about those who sin and do evil without seeming to realize that he is a member of that group and those verses apply to him. :laughing:

as you observed


I don’t see yet that Moo is necessarily denying that Paul, between the early half of chp 1 and the shift into what we call chp 2, extends the wrath to come on the impenitent to include those who are impenitent of little sins in Paul’s audience, too. Although I can see why Moo’s emphasis on “the unregenerate” might make it seem that way.

From a Calv perspective Paul would be speaking of those in the congregation who, despite appearing to be Christians even to themselves are in fact unregenerates who never had even an opportunity from God to repent and be saved. Not that this would be very comforting to consider, as it leads to just the sort of perfectionistic salvation that Calvs often critique Arms about, except the other way around: instead of needing to be perfectly sinless in order to be saved (cause and effect) one must be perfectly sinless in order to be assured one is of God’s chosen elect-to-be-saved (inferential ground and consequent).

Calvs have often (not always) gotten around this by affirming God leads the elect to perfection through a process and/or that God basically just pretends the elect are righteous regardless of whether they ever improve or not; but neither of those positions (the former of which I actually agree with) comports with an interpretation of Romans 1 & 2 to be speaking of a prophetic (not effectual) warning about (not really to) the unregenerate in Paul’s congregation. No such distinction is made by Paul there: only a general warning that his readers had better not despise God’s longsuffering patience and mercy when it comes to those hugely obvious nasty pagan sinners because God will also just as surely and thoroughly punish ‘small’ impenitent sinning of the sort his readers are (generally speaking) likely to be indulging in.

to be fair, though, Moo may be skipping over the nuances here only because he wants to make the point of continuity between those being punished now (the pagans who, in this example, are being punished by becoming male and female homosexuals!) and those being punished in the Day of the Lord to come. It isn’t only now, it’s also later. (Although as Alex notes, Moo seems to be jumping assertively or at least tacitly far ahead to considering that punishment-to-come as being hopelessly unending. That’s something to be establishing as he goes, if he can, not assertively reading-in at this point. On the other hand, I suppose it’s possible Alex has, conveniently or inadvertently, skipping over text portions where Moo has done this. {shrug} :slight_smile: )


:stuck_out_tongue: no, I’m not skipping anything (except the footnote numbers), however, I’m only a little way through the chapter, so I’m hoping Moo justifies some of his assertions later on…



I agree.

It’s interesting that non-believers are also made eternally alive. My impression was that the Incarnation was the beginning of the union with Christ? And that’s why when He rose from the dead, that enabled humans to rise from the dead. Also isn’t Christ said to be the Second Adam and to represent humanity. Which is why we get passages like “And when I [Christ] am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (NLT)

“Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation of all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” (Rom 5:18)

“And on the basis of the whole human nature with which the divinity was mixed, which is a certain sort of first-fruits of the common dough, humanity exists according to Christ, through whom all humanity is joined to the divinity.” (Gregory of Nyssa, Homily on 1 Corinthians 15:28)

“And now, Christ hath risen out of the dead - the first-fruits of those sleeping he became, for since through man [is] the death, also through man [is] a rising again of the dead, for even as in Adam all die, so also in the Christ all shall be made alive, and each in his proper order, a first-fruit Christ, afterwards those who are the Christ’s, in his presence, then the end [the remainder]” (YLT 1 Cor 15:20-24a)

It’s a “now & not yet” e.g. is the Kingdom of God here? Yes, it is now, but no it’s not yet fully actualized/realized on earth, until the New Creation. So through the Cross, Christ has reconciled all Creation to Himself. “and through Him to reconcile the all things to Himself - having made peace through the blood of His cross - through Him, whether the things upon the earth, whether the things in the heavens.” YLT Col 1:20) However, it won’t be fully actualized/realized until the New Creation is complete (i.e. after the Resurrection, the Judgement Day & the Lake of Fire for most people).

In regards to Eph 2:1, only 2 verses later Paul says, “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved”


Cool, only the other day I was looking for the passages which speak of God judging everyone. It means that when the Bible talks about someone going to face judgment, that doesn’t imply God’s sealing their eternal fate, because we all agree that, at very least, for some (in this case believers), this isn’t the end of the road.


Thanks for doing this, Alex! I’ve just skimmed so far, but from what I’ve seen, this NT scholar is merely question-begging! This shows me the best that the ECT crowd has is assumptions and faulty logic. :unamused: Very disappointing. I’m sure he’ll support his case better as I read more in-depth of what you report and respond to, but so far, I’m not impressed at all. :frowning:


I agree that it will be “unambiguously distressing” for those how reject Christ and that this is mentioned across the NT.

That’s a fair question, and I agree by the time we get to Paul’s teaching, Jesus’ warnings of coming judgment (assuming they weren’t about 70AD which I suspect at least some were) should’ve sunken in! Another plausible reason is that Paul might have thought it more important to focus on the Good News, rather than just scare people “in” with the Bad News. I’m not saying there isn’t a right place to warn people, particularly the proud, rich & unrepentant (like we were).


Sure, I appreciate his honesty here. However, I’d also say there are more that emphasize God’s persistence and mercy on the repentant :slight_smile:


aionion (in the Septuagint) doesn’t always (maybe ever) mean “everlasting” in Koine Greek. See

Although this is quite interesting, personally I haven’t looked into this yet, but I’ve heard from others that there was quite a range of ideas on the afterlife at the time of Jesus. I might be being picky here but he doesn’t say the Jewish works attest to eternal punishment, that’s something he adds in the following sentence. Even if they did, we know Christian teaching clarified & corrected a lot of Jewish teaching, so this could easily have been one of them. I assume here that Paul was always completely inspired, although I know some people object to that. i.e. they would say his Phariseeism tainted his teaching and that we have to try to take that into account.

Again it depends on how many of Jesus’ warnings were about 70AD.



This continues to astound me. I grew up in a tradition of sola scriptura. Where the bible speaks loudly, I speak loudly. Where it speaks quietly, I speak quietly. Where it doesn’t speak, I am silent. That’s what I was taught when it came to making claims on the scriptures. Well, the pharisees only had the old testament and I can confidently say that the scriptures spoke quietly about ECT and afterlife in general. Yet here, scholar after scholar, who hold to sola scriptura keep saying that the first century Jews had a very developed concept of afterlife. HOW? From where? It wasnt’ from the bible and so they had to be getting it from extra biblical literature. You can’t develop theology from extrabiblical literature in the conservative tradition. Whatever they believed they weren’t getting it from the revealed word of God. So how can they give authority to this extra biblical learning that took place? What do you think about that? It really blows me away! Chan also said in his book that it was widely believed and he thought that added authority to ECT. Well, reincarnation was widely believed so should we believe in it as well? There was a lot of really weird beliefs. Should we believe in those as well. Also, don’t forget that these same pharisees that we are giving so much spiritual credit to–THEY MURDERED JESUS! It seems that they weren’t to keen on their spiritual insight.


Maybe the footnotes shed some light…

, Moo"]See the survey in Murray J. Harris, From Grave to Glory: Resurrection in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zonder- van, 1990), 69-79.

, Moo"]See esp. Josephus, War 2.164. Josephus certainly accommodates the Jewish views of his day to standard Greek conceptions; but his reliability on this point is confirmed by other sources. See also the conclusion of E. P. Sanders: Most Jews in Paul’s day probably believed in an afterlife of reward and punishment (Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE-66 CE [Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1992], 303).
It is of some help to have a partial understanding of the views of the audience. However, I do agree with you that extrabiblical views (especially those of the Pharisees which Jesus strongly critiqued!) aren’t as authoritative as the bible, particularly in conservative circles.


Yes, “irreversible” is the issue, but I wouldn’t say I’m trying to “minimize” the evidence :smiley:

I’m not a pluralist, however, I think he’s at least partially right about the reason for the rise of Universalism. The Internet is a similar reason. I’d add that scholarship & understanding of Koine Greek has improved, partly because of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I guess that could be the reason for some people, however not me. If anything, I think I’m elevating intertrinitarian love, as the does the Bible, not just “tolerance”.

Well I’m glad he at least admits this, some don’t! :frowning:

The alternative is to accept that the traditional doctrine of hell is flawed…


It is tragic when influential biblical scholars value their tradition more highly than the true meaning of scripture. Isn’t there a biblical warning against doing that?


At least one… :wink:


Amen. v22 is one of the verses that I think supports what I was saying about there now being a union between Christ & all humanity. As I said to my friend Luke, it seems odd that the union with Christ is strong enough to make all of us alive again, but not strong enough to save all of us??

I don’t think there’s anything “general” about resurrection. Even for ECT/P to work it requires God to raise everyone to “a life that conquers death itself”!

That depends on what you think God’s motivation is for universal resurrection. Life now is described as a blessing, therefore I assume resurrected permanent life is a much greater blessing. Add to that God’s patience and “common” grace now, and you have a lot of blessing/love to people who theoretically God hates. I think it would be uncharacteristic for Him to suddenly turn around and curse those He had loved. I think it was my friend TotalVictory who pointed out that ECT/P seems a lot like spiritual/physical death, which was meant to have been conquered…

I think that initially some will be raised to life from God and some to condemnation from God, however, to fully actualise/realise the victory over physical/spiritual death, the condemnation will come to an end, when God is “all in all”. Seriously, how can God be “all in all” to the people in ECT/P? i.e. if God fills something, it becomes holy, righteous, overflowing with love!

Ah, now I remember why people argue over the meaning of “to telos” in verse 24a. i.e. Moo couldn’t use his argument if it read, “But in this order: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him, then the end [remainder] will come.” (“remainder” is footnoted as an option in the NRSV). Talbott & Parry discuss this in greater depth in their books.

However, regardless of the translation of “to telos”, I think it’s as simple as asking “Who die because of Adam?” All. “Who will me made alive because of Christ?” All. This seems especially strong and the more natural reading, as we both already believe the NT affirms all will be made alive again. I put “because of”, as I think that makes it clearer.

I’ve already mentioned above why I disagree with Moo on this point, but I would add that there is an example of “the nature of that submission”, the Son!


Not only that, but something else gives Moo’s statement about v. 22 here the lie. Notice the word order there: It is not “all in Christ will be made alive” (which is what Moo is asserting), but “in Christ all will be made alive”.

And seriousness aside, I have trouble taking anyone named “Moo” seriously. :wink:


Thanks, the Greek seems to confirm your point.

It’s certainly more memorable than “Smith” :slight_smile:


Strange he felt comfortable just “dismissing” universalism at the start of the chapter :confused:

Sadly, we discover here Moo has not come across Christian Universalism, let alone Evangelical Universalism, as neither denies Jesus being the only way to escape sin & death!

I agree, it’s only those who believe, but that doesn’t imply only believers pre-death.

2 Cor. 5:10 doesn’t rule out postmortem salvation! It simply says we will all be judged, which I acknowledge.

Again this is only a limitation of the means not the overall quantity. i.e. it’s only when people receive grace from God. This rules out people earning it or thinking they can just continue rejecting God’s grace.

So I think we should definitely pray that someone (ok, I’ve just emailed him) explains to Moo that his objections here aren’t a problem for EU, and therefore by his own logic here, he should become a universalist :slight_smile:

Another problem I have with this line of argument is that the damage done by Adam if far greater than the restoration done by Christ.

Also it’s inconsistent that belonging to Christ requires something (belief) whereas we have no choice about belonging to Adam. Don’t misunderstand me, I think we do need repentance & believe in order to enjoy life with God, however Christ has already bought everyone who was in Adam, even before they believed.


And again, we have the same problem as before; Moo is trying to make it say “all in Christ” when the Greek and English grammar both say “in Christ, all”.

It is even clearer to me here that Moo is trying to make the text say what it clearly does not say, to justify his position. He is importing his own idea into what the text actually says both contextually and grammatically, rather than letting it speak for itself.


I’m glad he can acknowledge what it seems to be saying at face value.

I agree.

I think that would be odd, given up until now I thought the point Paul was making was that Israel was cut off for a time, in order to bring all the Gentiles in.

I disagree! I don’t think Paul was thinking just about future Jews around when Christ returns, see my comments on Rom 9.

Wow, is it really that simple to dismiss “all Israel” meaning all Israel without exception? In Joshua 7:25 “all Israel” is inclusive because there wasn’t anyone in Israel who opposed Joshua and said don’t stone him. Furthermore, if you look at the previous verse it wasn’t just Achan, it was “his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his all that he had”. I’m no expert on stoning but it may well have required at least all the able men of Israel, to stone that many people & animals!

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if we could find another “all Israel” in the OT which also means all Israel, so if this is really what’s required to define “all” here, I think that would completely sink this argument.

In Rom 1:18-32 there’s no mention of “all nations” (if this is even a subset, which I’m skeptical about), so why should we think the "all"s in this passage refers to that? :confused: I thought Paul was explaining that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), so that we can’t boast or redeem ourselves by our own efforts, and must rely on Jesus.

Moo even said Paul was talking about the nation of Israel not just a spiritual Israel (which would be only some of the Jews). i.e. I would say the context is that Paul has been talking about all the Jews and Gentiles.

For someone of Moo’s calibre this seems like an extremely inadequate reason to diminish the scope of “all”. What his argument do to Romans 9:2-5

Was Paul only upset for a subset of Israel?? Which Jews are excluded above? Obviously not the current believing ones, nor just the elect ones (if he was a Calvinist), so it must be for the perishing ones.