New scientific findings?


#1

I haven’t followed the discussion for a while now - I was wondering if there have been new scientific findings related to universalism/eschatology in the last two years, e.g. by researching the Dead Sea Scrolls or maybe other new archeological exvacations, papyri etc.?

Or maybe new interpretations of the use of aion in classical Greek literature, eg. Plato


#2

That’s a good question, I’d love to know too :slight_smile:


#3

I would like to bring this topic back, as far as I have researched, one could summarize it thus:

Papyri found in the last 150 years have shown that aion(ios) was used in a finite sense in the New Testament period, newer theological dictionaries like “Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament” acknowledge this. BTW, are there also secular Koine dictionaries to be sure they have no theological bias?

Recent research on the term aion(ios) as Dr. Keizer’s dessertation support a universalist understanding more than it does an infernalist. I’m not aware of any other recent research that might come to opposite conclusions.

The deadsea scrolls have no relevance to universalism, the predominant eschatological views seems to have been that of annihilation as far as I have read. As the dss are largely written in semitic languages, I guess they provide no further understanding about the use of aion(ios).

As I noticed here Professor Ramelli did a recent research on universalism in the early church, her results are yet to become known. Is there any other recent research on the early church and their eschatolical views?; the existing books seem to be very old - 19th century; and to contradict each other. Which makes both universalist and infernalist publications unreliable to a certain degree.

Did I miss anything? Any new historical evidence interesting to know?


#4

Well Sven - there is one thing I’ve not seen mentioned on this site yet. It concerns the Zoroastrians. When I last pondered it was still generally thought that the Magi from the East who came to pay homage to the Christ child were Zoroastrians. Likewise the Medes and the Persians – who were Zoroastrians – get pretty good press in the OT (and many scholars think that Zoroastrian eschatology cross fertilised with Jewish eschatology). And what we do know for certain is that the Zoroastrianism of the period of Cyrus the Great (and later of the Magi) was expecting a universal Saviour who would bring about universal Salvation. I have the information if you or anyone else wants to know more (also there are clear signs of the influence of Zoroastrian beliefs in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls).


#5

I’d be interested Dick. It seems the original zoroastrianism had no lesser deities. Those were added after Zaradust died. It was only God represented by fire. The deva worshippers brought in much of the eschatology.


#6

OK Jeremy –

Happy Easter and - I’ll sing away for you. The source for what I am about to tell you is R.C. Zahener (The Religion of the Magi, and his article on Zoroastrianism from the ‘Hutchinson Encyclopaedia of living Faiths’ which he edited). Zahener was a Catholic but as an academic was the world’s leading expert in Zoroastrianism.

Zoroaster lived circa 628-551 B.C. The religion he founded underwent a great deal of change as it developed – but we can approximate what his original message was from close attention to the Gathas – the ancient liturgical hymns of the religion.
From analysis of the Gathas, Zahener concludes that Zoroaster taught a strict monotheism – rejecting the whole sacrificial system of Aryan polytheism. There is one god – Ahura Mazda – who has created the world good – and Ahura Mazda is the source of all moral goodness and excellence. (I’m nto sure the deva worshippers devloedp Zoaroaster’s escahtology - but certiainly the devas did start to reappear as sobordinate beings in the angelology and demonology of this faith)

Ahura Mazda also creates two spirits; one spirit – The Holy Spirit – chooses freely to obey the will of Ahura; the other Spirit – the evil spirit – chooses freely to disobey. The two spirits are in each human being – we can in turn choose freely to follow the good spirit and do the will of the creator, or choose to follow the bad spirit and frustrate the creator’s will. So in original Zoroastrianism we have a spiritual struggle between good and evil – but a clear belief that good will triumph in the end. As Zoroastrianism developed, one strand held on to this vision – but another unofficial strand started to speak as if the spirits of good and evil were not actually created, but coeternal principles locked in eternal combat – the holy spirit now became identified with Ahura Mazda, and the evil Spirit became Ahriman. The dualistic strand of Zorosatrianim’s later morphed into Manicheanism in which the dualism became cosmic rather than moral – Ahura Mazda now represented pure spirit while Ahriman, the evil one, represented matter.

Well that’s the background – but let’s focus on Zoroastrian eschatology. Zoroaster spoke of both resurrection and judgement. He looked forward to the resurrection of the body at the end of time (or at least hinted at this). He also believed in the judgement after death where souls will be tested with molten metal and with fire; the righteous will be rewarded with heaven, ‘the best existence’, united with the ‘Good Mind’ they will ‘Rejoice in the House of Song’; the wicked on the other hand will be afflicted with a lasting torment, ‘feeding on foul food.’ The Gathas also speak of Saoshyant – the Saviour – but this seems either to refer to Zoroaster himself or to a secular ruler who would establish righteousness on earth (like the Persian King of Kings).

However, during the Achaemenian period which begins with the rule of Cyrus the Great mainstream Zoroastrian eschatology develops somewhat. The developed doctrine is that souls are individually judged at death and sent to heaven or hell according to their deserts. But at the end of time the Saoshayant (the saviour/bringer of good fortune) will be born and finally defeat the powers of evil and the dead shall rise again. Bodies and souls will be reunited, and all will be plunged into a sea of molten metal which will purge them from all remaining stain of sin. After this final purgation the whole human race will enter paradise where they will rejoice for ever and ever. ‘ All men will become of one voice and give praise with a loud voice to the Wise Lord …and the material world will become immortal forever and ever. The evil one and his hosts will be cast into hell where they will either be annihilated or made powerless for all time.
And I just reflect that the Wise Men from the East who came to adore the Christ Child were expecting the birth of the universal Saoshyant.
Hope that’s interesting –

Dick


#7

OK Jeremy –

Happy Easter and - I’ll sing away for you. The source for what I am about to tell you is R.C. Zahener (The Religion of the Magi, and his article on Zoroastrianism from the ‘Hutchinson Encyclopaedia of living Faiths’ which he edited). Zahener was a Catholic but as an academic was the world’s leading expert in Zoroastrianism.

Zoroaster lived circa 628-551 B.C. The religion he founded underwent a great deal of change as it developed – but we can approximate what his original message was from close attention to the Gathas – the ancient liturgical hymns of the religion.
From analysis of the Gathas, Zahener concludes that Zoroaster taught a strict monotheism – rejecting the whole sacrificial system of Aryan polytheism. There is one god – Ahura Mazda – who has created the world good – and Ahura Mazda is the source of all moral goodness and excellence. (I’m nto sure the deva worshippers devloedp Zoaroaster’s escahtology - but certiainly the devas did start to reappear as sobordinate beings in the angelology and demonology of this faith)

Ahura Mazda also creates two spirits; one spirit – The Holy Spirit – chooses freely to obey the will of Ahura; the other Spirit – the evil spirit – chooses freely to disobey. The two spirits are in each human being – we can in turn choose freely to follow the good spirit and do the will of the creator, or choose to follow the bad spirit and frustrate the creator’s will. So in original Zoroastrianism we have a spiritual struggle between good and evil – but a clear belief that good will triumph in the end. As Zoroastrianism developed, one strand held on to this vision – but another unofficial strand started to speak as if the spirits of good and evil were not actually created, but coeternal principles locked in eternal combat – the holy spirit now became identified with Ahura Mazda, and the evil Spirit became Ahriman. The dualistic strand of Zorosatrianim’s later morphed into Manicheanism in which the dualism became cosmic rather than moral – Ahura Mazda now represented pure spirit while Ahriman, the evil one, represented matter.

Well that’s the background – but let’s focus on Zoroastrian eschatology. Zoroaster spoke of both resurrection and judgement. He looked forward to the resurrection of the body at the end of time (or at least hinted at this). He also believed in the judgement after death where souls will be tested with molten metal and with fire; the righteous will be rewarded with heaven, ‘the best existence’, united with the ‘Good Mind’ they will ‘Rejoice in the House of Song’; the wicked on the other hand will be afflicted with a lasting torment, ‘feeding on foul food.’ The Gathas also speak of Saoshyant – the Saviour – but this seems either to refer to Zoroaster himself or to a secular ruler who would establish righteousness on earth (like the Persian King of Kings).

However, during the Achaemenian period which begins with the rule of Cyrus the Great mainstream Zoroastrian eschatology develops somewhat. The developed doctrine is that souls are individually judged at death and sent to heaven or hell according to their deserts. But at the end of time the Saoshayant (the saviour/bringer of good fortune) will be born and finally defeat the powers of evil and the dead shall rise again. Bodies and souls will be reunited, and all will be plunged into a sea of molten metal which will purge them from all remaining stain of sin. After this final purgation the whole human race will enter paradise where they will rejoice for ever and ever. ‘ All men will become of one voice and give praise with a loud voice to the Wise Lord …and the material world will become immortal forever and ever. The evil one and his hosts will be cast into hell where they will either be annihilated or made powerless for all time.
And I just reflect that the Wise Men from the East who came to adore the Christ Child were expecting the birth of the universal Saoshyant.
Hope that’s interesting –

Dick


#8

Thanks Dick.


#9

I was aware of Zarathustrism but I think it has little relevance for biblical eschatology.

I once read that Zarathustra was influenced by the prophet Daniel, others claim that Judaism has been influenced by Zarathustrism. The later would undermine the authority of the Bible, if it had affected also the canonical writings, the former would support universalism to a certain degree (if Zarathustra himself teached universalism with certainty). I’m afraid we won’t find out.

But what would be interesting for me, what was the Persian idea of time/eternity, I have read that Plato was influenced by his idea of Aion by Persian thought, is there anything noteworthy?


#10

Sven why would it undermine the authority on the bible?


#11

Hi Jeremy and Sven -

askwhy.co.uk/judaism/GreekIndex.php

This Jewish site has an article on the influence of Zoroastrianism on Greek Philosophers –Plato and also the pre-Socratics Heraclitus, Empedocles etc. regarding concept of time, eternity, and – indeed – on the idea of the Logos etc. I think this is all fascinating – as long as we don’t see knowing about it as a route to attaining the key to all wisdom. Wisdom only comes with faith hope and love.

Also Jeremy, If I can answer your question - from my perspective I’d say that I don’t think it does undermine the authority of the Bible.

If I were to take a very high view of scriptural authority – verging on inerrancy – and still be a Christian Universalist let’s say, it would still be of relevance to me that the Magi in Luke (whatever the original Zoroaster/Zarathustra believed) were almost certainly expecting a Saviour who would bring about Universal Reconciliation. They were unclear about some very important matters (I am not aware that they were expecting a Saviour who would suffer for our sakes and show that strength comes though vulnerability for example) – but surely the expectation is of significance.

As for me I take a developmental view of how God reveals God’s self in the Bible (I have to be honest about this although I don’t think it is strictly consonant with the official view of this site). I believe God gradually reveals himself in accordance with the capacity of people to understand Him – my favourite metaphor for this is of a light gradually getting brighter (and as it does it actually illuminates the shadows of earlier understanding ). A part of this development – regarding the History of Israel – is the interaction of Israel with other cultures. God taught the Israelites through the other nations/cultures they interacted with. They were taught to reject some things – like the Egyptian cult of death and mummification with the imperative to ‘Choose Life’. And I think they were also taught to learn from and embrace aspects of other cultures (with discernment). I have no problems with thinking that God taught some things to the Children of Israel from their interaction with the Medes and the Persians (and vice versa). This certainly fits with the Logos doctrine of early Christians like Clement, Origen and Justin you mentioned on the thread about Philo (and it fits Quaker understanding too – but I’d think that it is not mainstream among American Evangelicals, even though it has purchase with lots of British Evangelicals).
What do you think Jeremy?
Great to chat

Dick


#12

Yes Dick thats kind of how I see it too. Israel was not in a vacuum, and there is a lot of things in the bible that are from other earlier cultures. I haven’t studied it too much but I know some of the sayings of Jesus for example were said by other non-Israelite people much earlier. Like Buddha for example.

I bring Buddha up because Sidhartha and Zarathustra came on the scene around the same time, and both were reformers of paganism-polytheism. Those are the historic characters. But there seems to be a mythological Buddha and Zarathustra, which date to long antiquity, like 3-5000 BC. There are some who think that Isaac may have been those men. Being a monotheist, and bringing pure religion to the whole of the inhabited world. I’m sorry I can’t remember where I read it, and there is almost no evidence to back it up, but interesting.

The only thing I have that makes me even think twice about it is the Saxons. There are many who claim that the saxons are members of the lost tribes of Israel, and that it comes from Sacca, or Sakya. Those who hold that say that it comes from I-Saac. There are others who attribute the Sacca clan to the family of buddha, and Sidhartha comes from the Sakyamuni clan. I have held the second position mostly, and especially in my previous anti-pagan rantings (see my early posts on this forum for evidence of that :wink: ). But then I thought what if it isn’t an either/or, but a both.

So fear not Sven. Even if zoroastrianism influenced judaism, it may have been Isaac that was the precursor to it all anyway. Who knows??? But Jesus was transfigured on Mt. Hermon (very likely) and that is the MT. of Hermes, who happens to be the same as Buddha (the mythological), and he likened himself to the serpent on the pole, which bares a striking resemblance to the caduceus, which is Hermes’ symbol. Soooo, there may be something going on there. Oh and Moses died on Mt. Nebo, which Nebo is the same as Hermes/Buddha/Thoth.

Blessings


#13

What I meant was, if the canonical writings were verifiably influenced by extra biblical sources, so that core-doctrines would have been notably changed, e.g. a mortal soul in the OT but an immortal soul in the NT (which is not the case) this would speak against divine inspiration, as God does not change.

Thanks @ Sobornost for the link.


#14

Hi well there’s no historical evidence to suggest that Sven – and anyway it’s hard to know which way the influence went because evidence is fragmentary. For example I know there is an eminent scholar – Margaret Barker – who currently has a revisionist theory about Philo’s doctrines about the Logos. Scholars in the past have suggested in the past that this was due to Hellenic influences on Philo – but she argues that it was the influence of the traditions of First Temple Judaism on him. So with our middle period Zoroastrian Universalists – perhaps they were influenced by the Jewish exiles who remembered the liturgy of the First Temple rather than the other way round.

The only hard historical fact (and I think we are talking history rater than science in this thread) is that Zoroastrian scriptures from this period exist which are Universalist – and I think it is perfectly reasonable to infer that this hope of universal salvaiton and the epiphany of a truly universal saviour was the expectation of the Magi. It’s nto earht shattering - but it’s a detail that is intriguing.

And Jeremy – well the resonances of Jesus’ ethical teachings with the moral teachings of other religions has long been explained in terms of natural revelation – what C.S. Lewis calls ‘Tao’ in the ‘Abolition of Man’. I’ll also grant that there are also recurring themes in the symbolism of world religions – again Lewis would have seen this as an example of a sort of mythopoeic ‘Tao’. Personally I wouldn’t try and join up the dots in too neat a system of correspondences – because I think it is possible to get a bit lost in the labyrinth. I’m simply happy to notice the data of a deep structure of common myth and a deep structure of common ethics in human history (despite differences at a surface level). And as a Christian with Lewis I think the Myth was made historic Truth in Jesus Christ.

On a related note, as you’ll know Margaret Barker is a speculative scholar (but a rvery espected one); and she does manage to challenge sacred cows. For example she has challenged the thesis that the Book of Revelation comes from the time of the Neronian persecution (and has had a good reception for this). Instead she places it’s composition in the traumatic aftermath of the Jewish revolt in 70 AD, and argues that John of Patmos was from a priestly family. She also argues that the false prophet mentioned in Revelation was originally actually Josephus – also from a priestly family who went over to the Romans. Well its worth a ponder…

Blessings

Dick


#15

Regarding what C.C. Lewis called the ‘Tao’ – or natural revelation of moral compass shared by humanity across cultures and centuries – here is a quotation from the ancient Chinese sage Mencius (4th century BC),

This is why I say that all men have a sense of commiseration: here is a man who suddenly notices a child about to fall into a well. Invariably he will feel a sense of alarm and compassion. And this is not for the purpose of gaining the favour of the child’s parents or of seeking the approbation of his neighbours and friends, or for fear of blame should he fail to rescue it. Thus we see that no man is without a sense of compassion or a sense of shame or a sense of courtesy or a sense of right and wrong. The sense of compassion is the beginning of humanity, the sense of shame is the beginning of righteousness, and sense of courtesy is the beginning of decorum, the sense of right and wrong is the beginning of wisdom. Every man has within himself these four beginnings, just as he has four limbs. Since everyone has these four beginnings within him, the man who considers himself incapable of exercising them is destroying himself.

And it is this sense of compassion – the beginning of humanity – that universalists claim belief in ETC does violence to.


#16

Dick I completely agree about the resonance or the Tao that you’re speaking of. That is the conclusion I’ve reached, not that there was just a borrowing of previous religions, but that there is only one story, it just depends on how murky that story is. All creation groans with eager longing. And God sends rain on the just and the unjust. They are all seeking God. I agree also that the myth came to fruition in Jesus. One day they will say “ah so thats what buddha really looks like”.


#17

Hey Jeremy – this reminds me of the good Calormene in the ‘Last Battle’ and of something Lewis said elsewhere about knowing that we will one day be aware that whatever we have experienced in this life that is good, beautiful and true is in fact a reminder of God. :slight_smile:


#18

I would like to bump the thread, but I suppose Ramelli’s work is the latest concerning to the topic?

Does she deal with the Dead Sea scrolls, if so, do they have any significance on the topic?


#19

Haven’t been here for a while, any news in the mean time, any new historic evidence?


#20

Dr. R is or was working on two companion tomes, one of them tracing universal salvation theories in the Christian church into and through the medieval periods, and the other tracing notions of apokatastasis (not necessarily as universal salvation though) in the sorts of texts represented by the Nag Hammadi collection.

I don’t recall her working on the Dead Sea Scrolls per se (which are far more Jewish, at Qumran, and related to the Essene movement although not apparently mainstream Essenism); but if so they would be included in the prequel tome, I suppose. Robin Parry has been busy helping her edit the sequel tome, and that seems to be coming soon first.