The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Talbott on Matthew 25:41, 46?


Agreed either way. :slight_smile:

Incidentally, the main spelling difference between the adjective {aio_ni-} and the noun {aio_n-} is that iota at the end, suffix variations notwithstanding. One of the common prepositional forms of plural {aio_n} looks almost like the typical form of the adjective {aio_ni}, except for the iota.

{aio_nio_n} – typical adjectival form
{aio_no_n} – plural object of a prepositional class (I forget which one at the moment, but common).

Also, I would like to state again, if I haven’t done so recently, that I hate Biblical Greek and all other foreign languages. :stuck_out_tongue:PPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!! :mrgreen:

(Well, no, I like hearing other people speak and deal with them, and hearing about what kind of etymology things they come up with. And I very much enjoy hearing them enjoy the languages they know. :sunglasses: I admire linguists greatly, because it’s something I’ll probably always have to struggle with. I just wanted to clarify that I’m far from being an expert in these things… the most I can do is try to follow the lead of other people insofar as I can see and understand their rationales. I desperately wish I had the help of someone-I-can’t-really-talk-about in these matters. But… not something I can ever rightfully hope for, so… all I can do is drag myself along bit by bit; probably obscuring whatever progress I’ve made along the way. :frowning: )


Thank you Jason.

I’m no linguist either, but I don’t hate foreign languages.

I’ve taken some Spanish, and I know a little (spoken, modern) Greek–but I would love to learn to speak and write these languages fluently (if I had the time.)

I’d be even more interested in learning to speak and write New Testament Greek fluently (if I had the time)–but with things as they are, I have to rely on study helps like analytical concordances and reverse interlinears.

Yasou and hasta luego mi amigo.

P.S. I noticed both a typo and some oversights in my last post.

The perenthetical “(or ‘ton’)” would probably be grammatically incorrect, and the “BTW” should have read “Let me reiterate that I agree with those who (like Dean Farrar, Prof. Talbott, and yourself) maintain that aio_nio_n (as used in the New Testament) often has a 'thematic connection to the Deity.”

Having made those corrections, let me add that I’ve visited your web site (“Sword to the Heart”) and find it very interesting (as are all your posts here.)

I have nothing but the highest respect for you, I enjoy reading your posts, and I thank you for your comments.


See my notes below, but the passage in question is (so you can reference):

31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 

40 "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' 

41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' 

44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' 

45 "He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' 

46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." 

While I certainly appreciate the insight given here on aionios and the unlikeliness that it literally means endless, have we missed the broader point of the parable, which seems painfully obvious when read through a time or two? Neglecting those in need is neglecting Jesus himself, and helping those in need is helping Jesus himself. The warning is deadly serious, even if the punishment itself is not punitive and everlasting. This is the only known metric Jesus uses to determine righteousness/unrighteousness as it pertains to one’s future destiny, whatever that may look like, although in The Rich Man and Lazarus, we have something similar, as it was relatvely apparent the rich man ignored the beggar at his door.


No. We just weren’t talking about the broader point, for this thread. :slight_smile:

Since you mention the reason why the goats were sent in for God’s-own-brisk-cleaning, however: interpreters of this passage have a tendency to imply that those whom the sheep visited in prison were unjustly prisoned. This isn’t stated in the text, though; whereas the list of objects of mercy is similar to that from Isaiah with which Jesus inaugurated His official ministry efforts during the sermon in Nazareth: where those in prison, who are being set free, are not unjustly prisoned (which was probably what His audience was thinking of, too), but those who had been justly imprisoned by no less than God Himself.

We should not be surprised, then, if we discover that God Himself visits those who have been justly imprisoned and expects us to do the same, in order to have mercy on them.

Which personally I take to understand, that it isn’t only if I refuse to have mercy on “the deserving poor” that I may be judged as a goat and not a sheep. (Edited to add: though that, too, of course. F&B’s reminder of the larger context is very appropriate.) I may be judged as a goat if I refuse to have mercy and compassion on the rightly imprisoned criminals, too: those who, among other things, refused to have mercy on the poor. The moment I condemn those goats to hopeless imprisonment, in my heart, I am setting up myself to be a goat and not a sheep.


Speaking as a goat - when I bleat on in threads on this board about being more impressed by unwarrented concern and kindness than preaching - this is exactly the kind of thing I’m driving at (not easy to drive with these hooves by the way).

If I am to find myself herded together on the wrong side of the dividing line, I for one, would be very likely to be moved by the love of those sheep over there.


For those who may be interested, I’ve found the following quote (from Thomas Allin) extremely helpful.


I probably read over this before, but it’s not something that should be read over.

It’s a brilliant observation. :open_mouth:

Everlasting correction permanently corrects, everlasting fire permanently consumes, and to perish everlastingly would be to permanently cease to exist (at least as one was prior to perishing–2 Cor. 5:17.)

Very interesting.

BTW: This may or may not fit here, but even Bishop Jeremy Taylor once quoted Justin Martyr to the effect that “everlasting” (when used of “everlasting fire”) “signifies only to the end of it’s proper period.” (Sermon on Christ’s Advent to Judgment.)


“Eternal Fire” would permanently destroy ( or consume ) that which needs to be destroyed.


This whole discussion becomes moot once we realize that Matt 25 is part of a speech Jesus gave called the |
“Olivette Discourse.” Why? because Jesus tells us explicitely that ALL of these events MUST take place before that generation passed away. Jesus ascended his throne 2000 yrs ago. This is not refering to some final judgment at the end of time. In response to the reprobate Jewish religious leaders, Jesus was predicting the impending judgment they called down upon themselves when they declared to Pilate, “Let his blood be upon us and our children.” It was an awesome curse they declared upon themselves and history records the results of that curse.

But Jesus is not prophesying about the final fate of individuals when they meet their maker. Rather he is predicting his judgment upon Israel, and any nation for that matter that doesn’t bow the knee to him. Any nation that persecutes Christians shall receive chastisement through out the age to come.Which age? The age of Christ. The age that began when he ascended from the grave and declared that all power and authority has been (note - past tense) given unto him. Israel received one generation reprieve to repent, failed to do so and was judged. Some of the generation Jesus spoke to upon the Mount of Olives were still alive. No all, perhaps not many, but some. James Stuart Russell things the nations refers to the “tribes” of Israel, but it probably refers to all the surrounding nations. If Jesus were referring to individuals we would have him contradicting everything else i the Bible, because he would be advocating salvation by works. what works? The works of treating Christians well. According to the traditional interpretation, Jesus blesses and damns people exclusively on the basis of how they treat Christians. This is nOT the Gospel. So this cannot be the meaning.


We’ve been discussing Matt 24 (though not yet Matt 25, last I checked, despite my trying to introduce the relevant extension of the topic) here in this thread which was originally about the Rapture and universalism.

Would you also repost this comment over there, in order to consolidate recent conversations? (Keep it here, too, of course. If you do, I’ll add a more specific link here for interested readers to follow the conversation over there. :slight_smile: )


“And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:” - Matthew 25:32

Is it possible to interpret eternal life and eternal punishment in the permanent sense if we view the sheep and the goats as nations, without compromising the universalist stance?

Therefore, the sheep nations are those who collectively fed the poor, gave drink to the hungry, visited the sick and in prison, took in strangers, etc. (though I would be unclear as to who catagorically ‘my brethren’ would consitute: Jews, Christians, or the general population, since Christ died for the world and will eventually make everyone brethren :smiley: ).

The reward, therefore, would be those nations will survive any coming judgement and be granted access to the Messianic Kingdom, as suggested in Rev. 21:24.

“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

The goat nations, on the other hand, would be cease to be nations as a permanent consequence, thus eternal punishment. Thus would gel with the pronouncements Jesus had with various cities:

“Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” - Matthew 10:15

Here, for example, those cities that didn’t receive the disciples (who were commissioned of the Lord to preach the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons; you know, freely giving, the sort of things listed in Matt 25) to nor give them peace are to be judged more harshly than Sodom and Gomorrah, for these cities would know better to treat the disciples kindly, whereas Sodom and Gomorrah was rude to begin with.

*"Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.

And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." - Matthew 11:20-24 *

Evidently, these are the resulting cities Jesus anticipated in Matthew 10. Particularly interesting is Capernaum’s status: one from being exalted in heaven, to one being brought down to hell. Capernaum, btw, is nothing but a ruined archeological site today, though existed up until 750 A.D.

Now I realize that Jesus was condemning cities within Israel, not nations. However, I tend to look at Israel in the OT before Christ as a microcosm of the world at large after Christ. So the idea extends to the nations of the world in their treatment of Christ’s brethren, whomever that may be (I tend to lean toward the Jews and Israel, specifically, and by extension, Christian nations, but am open to other interpretations). I see a microcosm in the parable of the Good Samaritan as well.

Israel, as an example, have a unique national identity, for with they take pride in, for which they have strong cultural and religious traditions. Likewise, Japan, Spain, France, Great Britain, the Philippines, Kenya, Russia, New Zealand, even the U.S, as diverse as it is. To take that identity away is a tremendous loss for that people. Yet what if this is the very punishment awaiting those nations that do not abide by the criteria of Matthew 25. That all the cultural traditions held dear are ruined, the country destroyed, and the people of those nations have nothing left. They would be refugees, people without anymore identity, no nationality to grasp onto. They are no longer who they were. They would be nothing. Dead as a nation. No longer remembered.

“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me”

But then, there is the healing of the nations…


BTW, the above view also preserves *individual * salvation by faith, not by works, while the judgment of the nations are by the collective works of the people within those nations.


common sense prevails!


BDAG (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 2000) offers a very straightforward explanation of αἰωνιος: "pertaining to a period of unending duration, “without end.” (page 33)

Furthermore the eschatological context of that passage, combined with wider NT evidence for a final judgment with equally viable outcomes, makes any other translation impossible.

BDAG = … roduct_top

BDAG on aionios

Thanks for posting. Be prepared for a thorough analysis- this is a pretty heady bunch here. Be rigorous with all the arguments that are thrown back. If you are right, we all need to listen!

My first response is this:
1- Can you post what their argument actually is? To claim that it is “straightforward” (Uncomplicated and easy to understand) is merely an assertion without demonstration. Do the hard work involved, folks will listen. If you merely assert, however, why should anyone accept it?

2- You actually mentioned two interpretations that are quite different:
a) pertaining to a period of unending duration
b) without end
Which is it? Option a doesn’t contradict universalism, option b does.


BDAG is like the Oxford Dictionary of NT Greek (It’s the standard reference work), I simply copied the definition it provided for αἰωνιος, much like the way we would if we were arguing about the definition of an English word.


Luke, a warm welcome to the board, and thanks for reminding us of the classic translation that is dominant! Like most, all my training was with the BDAG lexicon (though we were not to take it as inspired, but to do the only thing they could do: study the ancient Greek! For no dictionary can settle debates over an author’s meaning apart from wrestling with his usage in context, and Arndt and Gingrich’s discussion is much more complex than you quoted).

I am less sure that I follow your reasoning as to why all other meanings are “impossible.” On your rationale 1: In every account of events considered “eschatological,” are you saying that they are always of “unending duration”? On your second argument, when you say that all judgment passages have “equally viable outcomes,” do you mean that they all are explicitly of unending duration? How would it help either side’s case if “viable” simply meant that given meanings are merelypossible?

My impression is that: (1)many prophetic and eschatological events are explicitly said to be limited in duration. (2) Applying the modifier “final” to judgment passages involves inserting a word there that does not exist in the Biblical text. Whereas many times when the time-frame of a judgment is expressly delineated, it is plainly stated to be limited in duration (or even conditional).

If you nonetheless perceive that what is implied in such passages makes it “impossible” to think there could be any other meaning than one of the human perceptions (one of A & G’s), perhaps you could present examples, and spell out more specifically how you come to that conclusion. It seems to me that the pattern I perceive described in paragraph two would actually incline one against assuming that BDAG’s definition would apply in Matthew 25.


Thanks for the welcome Bob,

But I think your missing my point, why is the definition provided by BDAG unacceptable?

I don’t mind engaging in a debate about context or nuances in meaning but am happy to wait until we clear up why using a standard Greek-English Lexicon is unacceptable.


Isn’t the ball in your court as well as to answering the question: "why are we obligated to accept the point of view of the authors of BDAG?


Luke, dictionary definitions are perfectly acceptable. But on this forum, we want to see reasons for accepting or rejecting dictionary definitions.

I apologize but I’ll delay dialoging about this until I finish a draft of a chapter that looks at Matthew 25:41, 46. After that, I should be able to quickly and clearly respond to that dictionary definition.