The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Scholarly EUs Assemble!

Hey all, so to keep it short and sweet, I have a few links that present what I perceive to be some very legitimate underpinnings against EU/CU/PUR as some of us trust and understand. I believe in Biblical UR so I’m not declaring that I believe any of what these folks espouse but rather, am looking for (but am not limiting this to) you seasoned Greek scholars, apologists, and historians who subscribe to Biblical manuscript based UR and have experience in dealing with objections to UR (@JasonPratt, wise elder elohim, this one’s for you when you have the time, which I’m sure is limited as is lol.) This may be a challenge for the bold-hearted to dismantle but I’m confident that you can do it since I know I can’t. NOT for the weary of reading or faint of heart. These are some very deep waters one ought not take on if like myself, are unprepared, or uninterested in the nuances of this subject matter. God bless and good tidings as we embark on our quest to unbiasely examine these weighty claims (with their source material) of having the monopoly on Biblical truth. May the Spirit lead us into all truth:

  1. Steve Rudd -

  2. “r/AcademicBiblical” thread on reddit. Feel free to skim, scan, and sift through this 7 part monstrosity of a treatise like wheat (though I’m only looking for response to the first in the following link provided) needed but the main attraction is the arguments of redditor “koine_lingua” who apparently is athiest/agnostic yet argues in favor of ETC from early Jewish-Christian literature and etymological angles claiming to refute the claims of Ramelli and Konstan’s latest book using grammatical Koine Greek commentary:αἰώνιος_aiōnios_in_jewish_and_christian/

  1. An Abridged Summary/Prologue of the reddit thread (link #2) by a CU redditor:

/u/koine_lingua’s arguments against universalism. What do you guys make of them
PhilthePenguin • 2y
It seems that koine_lingua is giving a critique to this book. It’s one academic disputing the conclusions of two other academics. I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on its quality. But a tl;dr of koine_lingua’s criticism is:

Part 1: Koine_lingua considers modern universalist interpretations of aionios to be “revisionist”. He points out that other Jewish and Hellenic sources at the time considered afterlife punishment to be eternal (because they used other words that more clearly mean eternity). Koine_lingua critcizes the way universalists break aionios down to mean “pertaining to an age”. He says that a word’s usage should determine its meaning, and that “characterizing a span of time that is so long as to be virtually incalculable, or indeed truly infinite” is the best definition because of how it is used in the NT. He notes that it could still mean a finite period of time if it is being used rhetorically, as in "It took me forever to fix this computer.

Part 2:Koine_lingua attacks another universalist interpretation: that aionios means “pertaining to the age to come.” Ramelli and Konstan (in the book linked above) compile several Greek citations to support this definition. But Koine_lingua claims that a large majority (190 out of 200) of these citations are mistranslated or misconstructed. He provided a grammatical argument as to why “pertaining to the age to come” doesn’t work.

Part 3: Koine_lingua debates Ramelli and Konstan’s reading on aionios vs aidios in 4 Maccabees.

Part 4-8: Further discussion of other passages. I’m afraid I can’t give a tl;dr here. It comes down to koine_lingua’s interpretation of terms vs Ramelli and Konstan’s interpretation of terms. I’m not a Greek scholar, so I can’t weigh in on the debate."

Hmm, good looking qaz. I will definitely look into that. If you’d like, you are still free to briefly or abundantly address any fallacies or scriptural mishandlings you may have had with the Steve Rudd link though you certainly don’t have to if you’d rather not lol. I don’t mean to sound redudant or bothersome but have you checked out my last post “2nd Thoughts on PUR?” I’d love to hear your genuine thoughts and critiques, be they terse or lengthy as you’d like. My objective is just to get multiplicitous views on it and to harvest a fruitful dialogue and attempt to to reconcile any perceived differences between as many dissenting viewpoints on Hell and judgement as possible w/o changing my premise; almost like a poll but with added explanations and cordial clarifications. Thanks again for saving me and others’ the headache. May God bless you greatly and richly brother.

The Steve Rudd page seems quite amateurish. In his conclusion, he states:

“There are many other aspects of Universalism that directly contradict the Bible like…Matthew 7:13-14”

Yet offers nothing in support of this conclusion re Matthew 7:13-14, which has already been addressed on this site (& elsewhere) in many threads, e.g.

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qaz, post:3, topic:12856"]
But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” ~ Genesis 20.3

Now here God does not mean that Abimelech is literally a corpse or is undead or anything like that.

I am truly amazed that so many translations render the Hebrew word “muwth” as the idiom “You are a dead man.” I haven’t studied Hebrew, but lexicons indicate that the word means to die or to be put to death as a penalty. The Douay translation has it right, “Thou shalt die.” The NRSV “You are about to die.” The Septuagint, a translation from Hebrew to Greek around 300 B.C. also renders it “You will die.”

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I doubt anyone here is going to attempt a point by point critique of the entire Steve Rudd page let alone the “7 part monstrosity” of koine lingua. OTOH if one were to bring up one point at a time that concerns them, others would be more likely to contribute. Also a search of the site reveals that koine lingua has been answered in the “Discussion Negative” section. The same section has discussions re Matthew 25:46 that deal with Rudd’s questionable opinions re Hab.3:6 in the general topic of Mt.25:46 & Dan.12:2, such as here: Matthew 25:46

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I wouldn’t put much faith in an anonymous online poster with no known credentials, degrees, expertise or publications in NT Koine Greek. Does he know more than early church father universalists who were within a few centuries of the writing of the original Greek NT, whose mother tongue was Koine Greek & who were Greek scholars? Does he know more than the highly acclaimed LSJ Lexicon whose first definition of aionios is “lasting for an age”? Does he know more than Greek scholar Marvin Vincent who said:

“The adjective aionios, in like manner, carries the idea of “time.” Neither the noun nor the adjective, in themselves, carry the sense of endless or everlasting, though they may acquire that sense by their connotation. Aionios means “enduring through or pertaining to a period of time.” Both the noun and the adjective are applied to limited periods.”

ECF John Chrysostom said:

“For that his[Satan’s] kingdom is of this age,[αἰώνιος] i.e., will cease with the present age[αιώνι] …” (Homily 4 on Ephesians, Chapter II. Verses 1-3).

Where aionios is clearly used of finite duration.

Hey there, I’m the original author of the Reddit post referred to here (@marcthedawn). And apologies in advance to anyone who tries to sift through it. At one point it was a reasonably cohesive piece; but I edited it so much over the past couple of years that it’s basically just a series of unorganized notes at this point.

In any case though, I just wanted to say a couple of things first, and then I’m going to try to respond as more replies (presumably) come in, too.

  • @qaz : you already mentioned a couple things that I talk about in this section. I’ll add that one thing people don’t often realize about Jonah is that the “hymn” in ch. 2—the chapter in which the disputed word ʿolam appears (aionios as it’s translated in the Septuagint)—isn’t actually Jonah’s hymn; or at least not originally. Jonah 2:2-9 was in fact an originally independent composition having nothing to do with Jonah, but which was incorporated into the book of Jonah because of some themes it has in common with Jonah’s situation/plight. This original self-contained composition is similar to several individual Psalms (themselves self-contained compositions); and in any case, it’s actually fairly easy to see how several elements of the hymn don’t sync up with the broader plot of Jonah. When viewed in this light, we can see how in the original composition, it expresses the idea of death as going to one’s “eternal home” (or, as it is here, the “eternal bars” of the underworld)—an idea found elsewhere throughout the Hebrew Bible and elsewhere: see for example Ecclesiastes 12:5; Tobit 3:6; Jubilees 36:1. (See the metaphor of death as “eternal sleep.”) Job 7:9 and 10:21 also express a similar idea, in similar language to the Jonah passage. So the idea here in Jonah isn’t about the length of the stay (in the land of death), in the way that universalists will try to emphasize. Instead, it’s fundamentally about fate, and its reversal—that is, salvation from an otherwise permanent death: “you brought up my life from the Pit,” etc.

  • On a more general note that should preface pretty much any discussion here: the Greek noun aion—the etymological root of the adjective aionios—is used throughout Greek literature with a range of meanings. It could suggest everything from “(finite) age” to “spinal marrow” (!), to suggesting a state of permanence or “eternity”; the latter especially in Greek philosophical usage. To limit the meaning of aion to any one of these would be a mistake. This is why Greek lexicons don’t just have one meaning for a word, but have multiple definitions and multiple sections for virtually every word that exists in the language.

  • When we do a comprehensive survey of how the adjective aionios is used throughout the full range of ancient Greek literature, it becomes abundantly clear that, etymologically speaking, the adjective derives from aion not in meaning of “age,” but specifically in its denotation of permanence. This is supported by a huge amount of evidence; but just to take one example, this is how, for example, you can see the tenures of gymnasiarchs described as aionios: they were to retain this office in perpetuity, a.k.a. for as long as they lived. Now, someone might object and say that a lifetime is clearly just a finite amount of time. But the precise reason it was described as permanent is because no one knew how long someone would live, and “permanent” is designed to cover the maximum amount of time possible here, no matter how long someone might live—even if they lived forever! (In my original Reddit post, in terms of understanding how aionios is used, I place great importance on this idea of “maximum amount of time possible.”)

  • Now, does this mean that every instance of aionios as it’s used throughout the entirety of ancient Greek literature always literally suggests “permanent” or “the maximum amount of time possible”? Not at all. (It’s not even the case that every usage of aionios in the New Testament itself suggests this.) Very few words in any language denote just one thing and one thing only in all of their uses. But the exceptions here aren’t exceptions that disprove the rule. (As it pertains to the Biblical debate, the real question is whether aionios denotes permanence specifically when it’s used in eschatological or afterlife contexts in the Bible. As suggested, here it indeed retains its standard denotation of permanence—again, despite the aforementioned sporadic exceptions, when it’s used in other contexts.)

  • @Origen: when it comes to New Testament lexicography, the premiere lexicon is BDAG (and now perhaps DGE), not LSJ. I’m highly familiar with the entries to aionios in both lexicons, and I’m happy to discuss these (and their faults and merits) in greater detail if anyone wishes.

  • @Origen: The fact of the matter is that in many ways we actually do have a superior understanding to that of the early church fathers, etc., even when it comes to things like lexicography and Biblical interpretation itself. This is due to a variety of factors, including how easily available a huge amount of ancient literature is to us (and not just Greco-Roman literature, but that of many other cultures, too); also, our increased understanding of the wider history of language and etymology that the ancients had no idea about (try handing Robert Beekes’ Etymological Dictionary of Greek to anyone in antiquity, and see if they would understand any of what it says about Indo-European linguistics and how it elucidates Greek etymology/linguistics); and finally, we’re in a superior position because of our sophisticated knowledge of the more obscure and complex Jewish and Greco-Roman backgrounds to Biblical texts and concepts, etc. (For example, we can hardly say that any of the early church fathers had a very sophisticated understanding of ancient Israelite culture and language, much less the cultures and languages of the wider ancient Near East.)

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[waits in nail biting suspense for the others to respond] :cold_sweat::grimacing:

Look in the sky! It’s a bird, no it’s a plane, no it’s Trinitarian Theist apologist extraordinare for EU @JasonPratt to the rescue! Lmao :joy: I’m enjoying this diametric train of thoughts, very edifying.

I think koine_lingua is currently about where I am on the topic, at least regarding the OT and the NT: the Greek adjective, and its related Greek prepositional phrases which are more literally translating the Hebrew prepositional phrases built from olam and AHD (I don’t recall the root vowels there) which the Greek translators also often use the adjective to translate {inhale!}… have a variable-application meaning, which as Paidion likes to say, could be translated into English vernacular as “lasting”. (Although I don’t think we can rule out the influence of Platonic thought in the NT usage for the adjective meaning something like “divine”, coming uniquely from God. The conceptual links would be overlapping anyway.)

It’s permanent until when-if-ever it isn’t permanent, and that could be pretty quick (and depends on God typically), but it could also be ages of ages, and might be permanently forever. In effect, context determines how far the meaning goes, which is what I have always argued; and that neutral stance is plenty to allow universal salvation.

Where k_ a and I disagree materially seems to be on the point of what the context indicates, to wit: “As it pertains to the Biblical debate, the real question is whether aionios denotes permanence specifically when it’s used in eschatological or afterlife contexts in the Bible. As suggested, here it indeed retains its standard denotation of permanence—again, despite the aforementioned sporadic exceptions, when it’s used in other contexts.” On this however we should have to go to context on a case-by-case basis. But I am fine with a cultural default (for the time period and culture of the NT writers generally) for never-ending continuance as a first expectation.

On the Patristic evidence for term usage, while I can agree the ones who aren’t Syrian (i.e. Aramaic), or maybe even not those, have some of our advantages on being able to historically compare language usage and development, they DO have the advantage of being familiar with term usage in their day, and the advantage of being closer in time and continuity of teaching (although that isn’t infallible I acknowledge) to the NT authors who are translating into Greek the ideas of people speaking and thinking in Hebrew-Aramaic in 1st century Palestinian contexts. So if they generally (not universally) use “eonian” as an adjective without a never-ending continuance meaning, which is certainly demonstrated by context (and a chief point to Dr. Ramelli’s tome), then that weight isn’t nothing. I don’t recommend bluntly applying it back to NT authorship meaning, but the Patristics are applying their notions in continuity with NT (and sometimes OT) data.

On Jonah, considering the timeframe of the story (although as noted it seems like a parable, albeit one featuring a minor prophet listed in the historicals briefly), I regard it as entirely plausible and in character for Jonah to be borrowing Psalmic wording for his poetic prayer. It doesn’t have to be added into the story at a later date (than the original event or the original composition of the text, either one); but I’m not going to curl up and die if it was added in later either. (Job is an example of poetic form being added in a lot later, one way or another!) The salient point in any case is that what looks like being sentenced to a never-ending result, turned out not to be. This is totally in keeping with how royal authority worked in practice in ancient near middle-eastern contexts, too. (An example can be seen in the famous parable ending out the main Gehenna warning scene of GosMatt 18: the king states the punishment for embezzlement as an opening position for bargaining. The threat is real but the sentence doesn’t have to be carried out necessarily, nor in the way originally stated.)

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It is true that “aionios” is applied to limited time periods. But it is also applied to infinite time periods. For example God Himself is described as “aionios” in Romans 16:26. Thus the word cannot mean “enduring through or pertaining to a period of time.” The meaning of the word does not directly refer to time at all—neither finite nor infinite. It simply means “lasting.” If you wish to say that idea of “lasting” suggests time, I won’t argue with that.

I think koine_lingua is currently about where I am on the topic

I’ve certainly been accused of being a pedant before, but I have to disagree with a few of the things you said here—just to be 100% clear about my positions.

the Greek adjective, and its related Greek prepositional phrases . . . have a variable-application meaning, which as Paidion likes to say, could be translated into English vernacular as “lasting”.

I think suggesting that trying to incorporate its various uses into a single meaning here runs into the same problems as when people try to say that the fundamental meaning of aion is “age” (and thus that the fundamental meaning of aionios must be “age-lasting”). But, again, “age” is not the fundamental meaning of aion. As I suggest, aion in face has no singular fundamental meaning. Even historically speaking, some of the absolute earliest Greek uses of the word are in the sense of “spinal marrow” or even something like “life-force,” which obviously bear little to no relationship to time whatsoever.

Of course, we don’t have any comparable use of the adjective aionios in the sense of “pertaining to spinal marrow” or anything like that. But 95%+ of the uses of aionios are used in the sense of permanence in particular. By contrast, if you analyze how aion is used in the first 3 or 4 centuries of ancient Greek, I’d imagine you’d find a fairly even split between “life” or “life-force,” “spinal marrow,” “age,” and “eternity.” (See also here Helena Keizer’s monograph on aion, which is entitled Life–Time–Entirety.)

This is why it’d be a mistake to try to reduce the primary denotation of aionios to “lasting,” based merely on the very few uses of it that don’t suggest permanence in particular. That is to say, I think there’s a real sense in which we can characterize some of the rare/idiosyncratic uses of aionios as more or less variations on its base denotation of permanence. But, again, the keyword here is “rare/idiosyncratic.” It’s pretty clear when it’s being used in a rare or unusual sense—like in Diodorus Siculus 17.112.2, in some of its Septuagint usage (especially when we can characterize it as a “mistranslation”), or in Romans 16:25.

Maybe you actually agree with me on some/most of these things; but again I just wanted to be very clear.

(Although I don’t think we can rule out the influence of Platonic thought in the NT usage for the adjective meaning something like “divine”, coming uniquely from God. The conceptual links would be overlapping anyway.)

I’m unaware of any evidence that it suggests anything even close to “divine,” Platonic or otherwise.

It’s permanent until when-if-ever it isn’t permanent, and that could be pretty quick (and depends on God typically), but it could also be ages of ages, and might be permanently forever. In effect, context determines how far the meaning goes, which is what I have always argued; and that neutral stance is plenty to allow universal salvation.

I mean, in some sense I’d agree with what you said here. I would disagree, though, in that I don’t think BIblical readers could have ever reasonably been expected to hear about “permanent/everlasting punishment,” but then to do complex exegetical connect-the-dots to somehow realize that God may bring this otherwise permanent punishment to an end (“permanent until when-if-ever it isn’t permanent”).

By the same token, I don’t see how anything in the Bible could be taken at face value, if someone could always say “oh but if you just look at this obscure passage in Ezekiel, you can see where [whatever] really means the opposite of what it appears to mean.”

So if they generally (not universally) use “eonian” as an adjective without a never-ending continuance meaning, which is certainly demonstrated by context (and a chief point to Dr. Ramelli’s tome), then that weight isn’t nothing.

I don’t think it’s fair to characterize the patristic usage this way (“an adjective without a never-ending continuance meaning”). For one, I’ve demonstrated in exhaustive detail that Ramelli (and Konstan) frequently misrepresents the patristic data, sometimes in a very egregious way. And this would be widely recognized if her studies were more well-known than they were.

There’s also something to be said about aionios being used “organically”—when early church writers use the word without self-consciously reflecting on what the word itself might signify, exegetically—versus when people are doing conscious, explicit analysis of the word (or using the word with an idiosyncratic meaning that they’re assigned to the word based on self-conscious analysis).

For example, when @Origen mentions how Chrysostom glosses aionios as something that implies “belonging to the present age” or whatever (Ὅτι καὶ αἰώνιος αὐτοῦ ἡ ἀρχὴ, τουτέστι, τῷ παρόντι αἰῶνι συγκαταλυομένη), he’s self-consciously reflecting on the components of the word here. In effect, he’s basically doing what we call “folk etymology.” (See his earlier comment ἡ ἀρχὴ ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ. In other words, Satan’s rule is called aionios because it’s “in this aion.”)

As another similar example, this is kind of like Philo of Alexandria’s interpretation of God’s ὄνομα αἰώνιον in LXX Exodus 3:15 (ὡς ἂν ἐν τῷ καθ᾿ ἡμᾶς αἰῶνι ἐξεταζόμενον, οὐκ ἐν τῷ πρὸ αἰῶνος)—where he understands this not in the sense of “everlasting name,” as is the true original meaning, but instead in the sense of God’s revealed name to the current “age.” Keizer translates Philo’s gloss here as “as it were in the aiōn related to us, not in that (which is) before aiōn.”

But again, this isn’t an actual “organic” use of the word, but a deliberately interpretive one. And for what it’s worth, elsewhere Chrysostom uses aionios in the true sense of “permanent, everlasting” any number of times.

Now this may sound really pedantic, but just to be completely clear—for those who may unsure of my position—the issue of what aionios signifies in the NT isn’t exactly synonymous with whether it teaches eternal torment or not. But yeah, I think there are indeed some passages in the NT that are more amenable to ECT than they are even to annihilationism, much less universalism. (Mark 9:43-48 is almost certainly one of those.)

And this despite the fact that I think annihilationism is the best represented eschatological perspective both in Second Temple Judaism and almost certainly in the New Testament more broadly, too.

As for universalism in the New Testament, there are very few passages that I find even remotely convincing in favor of this. I think most of the passages from Paul that are enlisted in support of it are largely misinterpreted. I also think there are some fundamental misunderstandings about Revelation here. Honestly, in some ways, one of the closest things to this may be something like Matthew 5:26/Luke 12:59—but even this most likely suggests just a limited purgatorialism for the elect in particular. (Especially if someone want to harmonize the data from the gospels more broadly.)

It might also be noted that Romans 11:26 seems to suggest a highly uncharacteristic “limited universalism” for Jews in particular.

A moderated debate between you and @JasonPratt for the Wondering Pilgrims show may be a great idea… Or not lol I’m not sure…maybe one day. You certainly keep me on my toes in my belief. You seem ironically enough to be a great and formidable devil’s advocate for those who believe unwaiveringly in ETC, makes me wonder why you’re not an Independent Baptist apologist or something dude :joy:

Also, what’re your thoughts on the Steve Rudd article I posted?

I don’t think it necessarily follows that aionios in Romans 16:26 means eternal just because it is associated with God. In fact it has been argued that it refers to a finite duration since it is in context with aionios in verse 25, which a number of scholars & lexicons consider to be a finite use of aionios. Also Greek scholar A Deissman uncovered a tablet from around the time of ECF Origen that spoke of God as aionion and epiaionion (more than/beyond aionion).

Regarding your comment “Thus the word cannot mean “enduring through or pertaining to a period of time”, even if aionios means eternal in Romans 16:26 or some other passages, i assume the author included in his understanding of a “period of time” both finite periods of time and infinite periods of time.

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Following is the first of my two consecutive posts re Jewish intertestamental writings in reply to a blog by an EO “father” Lawrence who is pro ECT: where did first century Jews learn about eternal punishment?

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If that is indeed Koine_LIngua’s position, or that aionios means eternal except when used figuratively or in hyperbole as with the English word “forever”, then i would ask what lexicons, Greek scholars, church fathers or even mere commentaries he can quote & reference that agree with such a position. Certainly the vast majority of Greek scholars either do not concur with such a position or often clearly oppose it, including the authors of BDAG, LSJ, Vine’s, & TDNT lexicons, to name a few. So even pro endless punishment biased sources oppose such a view.

Additionally, if one who supports biblical harmony & endless punishment extends such a view of aionios to olam in the OT, it faces the problem of the following passage:

Lamentations 3:22 and 3:31-33, The steadfast love of the Lord NEVER ceases, his mercies NEVER come to an end. . . .
Lam.3:31 For the Lord will NOT cast off FOR EVER:
32 For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion According to His abundant lovingkindness. 33 For He does not afflict willingly Or grieve the SONS OF MEN.…

Which clearly opposes endless punishment.

BTW, speaking of “for ever”, here are my 12 points (in 2 consecutive posts) re the NT phrase “for ever & ever” being a mistranslation & referring to finite duration:

If true that is devastating to the endless punishment positions (ECT & CI).


In the forementioned linked to thread re Matthew 25:46 there is, if i recall, in the OP a reference to ECF Origen speaking of “after aionios life” & “beyond aionios life”. Such quotes as these & the Chrysostom quote are not cited let alone quoted in pro endless punishment biased lexicons & scholars writings. Their lexicons might not sell so well to the mostly pro endless punishment buyers if they did.

Why would that limit salvation to the Jews anymore than Mt.1:21+2:6, Isa.45:25 & similar passages or anymore than God being the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob limits Him to being God of only 3 people rather than the whole earth & all mankind.