The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Intermediate State of the Dead

Strong’s 3705


1.) that which is seen, spectacle
2.) a sight divinely granted in an ecstasy or in a sleep, a vision

From 3708


1.) to see with the eyes
2.) to see with the mind, to perceive, know
3.) to see, i.e. become acquainted with by experience, to experience
4.) to see, to look to
a.) to take heed, beware
b.) to care for, pay heed to
5.) I was seen, showed myself, appeared

From 3700

Strong’s 3700


1.) the act of exhibiting one’s self to view
2.) a sight, a vision, an appearance presented to one whether asleep or awake

They’re related words, with the same origin and meaning.

Of course there is.

If Philip and Nathanael had been conversing under a fig tree within sight of Jesus, Nathanael wouldn’t have been amazed that He had seen them.

And if Jesus truly came in the flesh, and His eyes were truly human, He would need to be given a vision to see them talking under some distant fig tree.

Of course, and Nathanael thought enough of himself to recognize this insight into his character as proof that Jesus was the Messiah (and not just flattering him.)

He called Jesus “the Son of God, the King of Israel” because he was amazed at how well Jesus discribed his character.

Your interpretation would make Nathanael vain and gullible (and maybe even a little blasphemous.)

Hi Jim,

You wrote:

Before I respond to your two reasons, I’m curious to know whether you agree or disagree that the placement of the comma in this verse is a matter of interpretation, and that there’s no grammatical reason why the comma couldn’t be placed where I think it should be placed?

If Luke 23:43 is one of the primary “proof texts” that leads you to believe that the OT teaching concerning the state of the dead was a “misconception” (and if it wasn’t I doubt you would’ve been so quick to mention it in this thread!) doesn’t that make your 1st reason a bit circular?

Also, where do you see it being progressively revealed in Scripture that the dead are conscious? Do you think it was being progressively revealed in the OT? Do you think it was being progressively revealed in the NT?

You seem to be referring to the so-called “Harrowing of Hell.” Perhaps I’m mistaken, but the only “church fathers” that I’m aware of who wrote about this are Melito of Sardis, Tertullian, Hippolytus and Origen. But for the sake of argument let’s assume that the post-apostolic church was indeed “unanimous” in this belief. But what would this prove? The Christians in that age were just as fallible as the Christians in our age. They were just as liable to misunderstand Scripture because of an embracing of pagan philosophy as we are today (and perhaps even more so, since they were more inclined to try and unite the two). Their closer proximity to the apostolic age didn’t make them any less likely to be taken captive by philosophy and human tradition, which Paul warned the 1st century Colossian church against (Col 2:8). To quote 19th century Universalist E.E. Guild:

I should also add that, not only were there heretical beliefs popping up in the churches recently established by the apostles, but there is indication that doctrinal error was soon going to permeate the church (Matt 24:11; Acts 20:29-31; 1 Tim 4:1-3; 2 Tim 4:3-4; 2 Pet 2:1-3) which makes even the “unanimous” beliefs of the early church highly suspect (and I’m certainly not saying everything the post-apostolic church believed was wrong; I simply think we should caution ourselves against seeing a belief as being more likely correct just because it was generally held by the “church fathers”).

The following could be taken as indications that doctrinal error would not “permeate the church” till long after Paul’s death.

Do not let anyone deceive you in any way, because that Day will not come unless first comes the falling away, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition (2 Thes. 2:3.)

It would seem misleading to say the falling away was a sign of “that day” being near, if it were to ocur in the first few centuries of the Church (when the Church has already lasted over two thousand years.)


But the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, cleaving to deceiving spirits and teachings of demons (1 Tim. 4:1.)

This again seems to place the time of deception toward the end of the Christian era.

It’s true that Paul warned the Ephesian elders that (after his death) false teachers would arise from among them, but he said they’d go out and draw people with them (as Gnostic and Arian heretics did.)

Then take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit placed you as overseers, to shepherd the assembly of God which He purchased through His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure grievous wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and out of you yourselves will rise up men speaking perverted things, in order to draw away the disciples after themselves. (Acts 20:28-30.)

He didn’t say the Church would fall away.

The language of the New Testament was the native tongue of the early Church Fathers, and the following passages might just suggest that they’re deserving of a little more respect than you give them here.

Then take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit placed you as overseers (Acts 20:28.)

But when that One comes, the Spirit of Truth, He will guide you into all Truth, for He will not speak from Himself, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will announce the coming things to you. (John 16:13.)

And what things you heard from me through many witnesses, commit these things to faithful men, such as will be competent also to teach others (1 Tim. 2:2.)

For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee (Titus 1:5.)

I write these things to you, hoping to come to you shortly. But if I delay, that you may know how to behave in the house of God, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:14-15.)

Those scriptures could be taken as evidence that God’s been guiding the Church, but one obvious question for those of us who believe in UR is why the Church hasn’t explicitely taught the finite nature of hell?

The Eastern Church has never denied the hope that all would be saved, and there are Roman Catholics who would argue that such a hope is still an option for them (because a lot of what’s taken for dogma isn’t really dogma, and because the Church has sometimes repeated the words of scripture [in what [b]are dogmatic statements] without defining what those words mean.)

But even if the Church has left the question open, we could still ask why God hasn’t made the Church’s teaching clearer.

Ann Bronte asked herself a similar question, and her answer was that God didn’t want to make it any clearer than it is.

She was a firm believer in UR, and to her it was clear enogh in scripture, but she believed God could have made it clearer.

And when she asked herself why He didn’t, she came to the conclusion that the carnal mind was too prone to say “if I’m gonna be saved in the end anyway, I’ll do what I want now and repent later.”

So prone that the knowledge that all would be saved would actually do some of us more harm than good.

I believe George MacDonald expressed the same opinion, and I submit that as one reason the Church (though guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit) might not teach UR as explicitely as I might like it to.

Now if you don’t mind Aaron, I’d really like to get back to Nathanael.

There isn’t?

If Philip and Nathanael had been conversing under a tree within sight of Jesus, there would be nothing in what Jesus said to have amazed Nathanael the way it did.

(And if Jesus truly came in the flesh, and His eyes were truly human, He would “need to be given a vision” to see them talking under some distant fig tree.)

Of course, and Nathanael thought enough of himself to recognize this insight into his character as proof that Jesus was the Messiah (and not just flattering him.)

He called Jesus “the Son of God, the King of Israel” only because he realized that Jesus had uncany insight into his own sterling character.

Is that your interpretation Aaron?

If so, it makes Nathanael both vain and gullible (and maybe even a little blasphemous.)

Now can you explain how it is that you see “no indication” that Nathanael was hidden from view when Jesus saw him under the fig tree?

1 Like

Hi Michael,

You wrote:

I never denied that the words weren’t related, or that they couldn’t have some overlap in meaning. But once again, horama is the word consistently used by Luke to refer to a mental sight throughout Acts, and is even the word used in contrast with an objective experience (Acts 12:9). It is also the word used in the LXX to refer to supernatural visions (see, for example, Dan. 7:1; 8:13; 10:1). Now, the fact that Luke uses the word so often in the sequel to his gospel but chose not to use the word in this passage leads me to believe that he considered it a less appropriate word to describe something seen with the physical eyes, and not merely something seen in the mind’s eye. And I believe Jesus would have understood the word in a similar way as Luke (as well as the translators of the LXX), and would not have used a word that was regularly employed to refer to a mental sight if that wasn’t the meaning he was intending to convey to his disciples.

As far as the passage about Nathanael and Christ in John’s Gospel, I think you make some valid points. So I’m actually going to concede that your interpretation of these verses is more probable, and that Jesus did in fact see Nathanael in a horama (in fact, I think you could’ve given a better example of a living person being seen in what is said to be a horama: see Acts 9:10-12; 16:9). But I fail to see how this fact makes your interpretation of the transfiguration accounts more probable than mine. If it was by means of a horama that Jesus was able to see Nathanael, it still means a horama should best be understood to mean a “mental sight.” And this fact is all that my argument requires. It means that what Peter, James and John “saw” that night was in their minds, and was not something they could’ve seen with their eyes. It was not unlike the vision Peter received on the roof of his house, where he saw things that were not actually there, and heard things that others most likely would not have heard (Acts 10:9-19). And of course, if Moses and Elijah were not actually there (e.g., because they were dead and in the grave), it would certainly explain why Peter, James and John had to be given a horama in order to “see” them. Your interpretation, however, requires that what the Jews believed in the OT was simply a misconception, and that the “truth” that the dead are conscious was kept from them until a later time when many Jews had begun to believe what the heathen believed! But is this how God normally reveals important truths to his people? By waiting until they have become imbued with pagan beliefs and then confirming them in their beliefs with what is called a “vision?”

Here’s the thing, Michael: Taken by itself, I don’t see the transfiguration account as either affirming or denying that the dead are conscious. When read in isolation from the rest of Scripture, I see nothing decisive in this account either for or against our views. But of course, we can’t read it in isolation from the rest of Scripture. Now, if God had revealed to the Hebrew people what their heathen neighbours believed regarding the state of the dead, and the doctrine that the dead are conscious could thus be derived from the OT, I would be more inclined to see the transfiguration account as confirming what had previously been revealed by God to the Jewish people. But that’s just not the case. Consequently, it seems much more probable to me that the disciples’ experience being called a “vision” by Jesus entails that Moses and Elijah were not actually present. And the fact that Jesus appeared in this vision in what seems to be his post-resurrection glory leads me to believe that Moses and Elijah were also meant to be understood as appearing in post-resurrection glory.

No Aaron.

What it requires is that your interpretation of what the Jews believed in the Old Testament (the one that requires you to conjecture that God “temporarily” raised Samuel from the dead) is a misconception–and your interpretation overlooks several things.

When the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah were being written, the only canonized scripture the Jews had was the Torah.

Where in the Torah is there any promise of any life after death, any reward or punishment of the individual after death, or any resurrection of the dead?

The religion of Israel was wholly national, with blessings and curses for national obedience or disobedience, and with no promise of any kind of eternal life (which is why the Sadducees denied the resurrection.)

Nothing about life after death was reveled until after Israel had broken the Covenant (unless it was revealed to all manknd, and passed down as oral tradition from Adam or Noah.)

That doesn’t mean the Hebrews didn’t believe in something after death, their conception of Sheol seems to be similar to their neighbor’s (and to the Greek conception of Hades–and maybe this does go back to something revealed to Adam, or Noah), but it does mean they were more focused on community, and the dead couldn’t praise God in the community of Israel.

(BTW: The Hebrew/Greek conception of Sheol/Hades would make sense of the theif accompanying Christ to paradise while He preached to spirits in prison, and would allow us to take both passages at face value.)

I believe the Psalmist and Hezekiah were thanking God for the fact that they could now continue to prase Him within the communal life of Israel (as any pious, community minded Jew would.)

The author of Ecclesiastes explicitely says he’s deducing his conclusions from what he can see under the sun, and if he has any hope in any life after death, it’s because he sees injustice under the sun, and believes God will bring everything into account.

To read more than this (concerning what Jews believed regarding Sheol in the O.T.) into Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, or Hezekiah’s prayer, you’d have to believe that Saul’s conception of the dead being conscious somewhere was uncommon in Israel, that God temporarily raised Samuel, and that Isaiah was using wholly figurative language when he pictured the king of Babylon’s descent into Sheol (figuretive language a Hebrew prophet, who advised his people not to try to communicate with the dead as Saul did, might be expected to avoid btw.)

I find it just as easy to believe that the Psalmist and Hezekiah used figurative language when they said “the dead praise not the Lord” (i.e. to the benefit of the living, in the corperate worship of God’s people.)

Thank you Aaron.

Hi Aaron:

Am enjoying the discussion immensely here (thanks Michael and James etc too) but may I pause here for a moment and ask you to clarify/confirm for me your views on when all come to UR. :question: :question:

As it sits, I’d guess you believe that some come to this decision prior to dying here on earth. Die = bodily death.
Since you also believe that there is no such thing as a conscious soul apart from an alive body, that must mean that the rest are eventually saved after the resurrection. Right? And this must happen over some period of time.
Not asking you Aaron for an in-depth understanding (unless you WANT to supply that :smiley: ) of the timing of your precise eschatology but just a general portrait of how it evolves and progresses.

Also, more generally, to Michael or Aaron or James, who mentioned the idea of “progressive revelation”…
Isn’t it possible that understanding really did advance over time and thus what an “ancient” believed to be true wasn’t actually so?
If one held to “an-eye-for-an-eye” he had no less than the full authority of Moses to back him up. Yet that clearly was a revelation that was improved upon later. Same with slavery; the case against it becomes stronger as one progresses in time.
My own suspicions are that IF all the bible writers were sitting in the same room right now discussing the true nature of things they’d have some raucous and energized disagreements! Sorta like what we have in the church today!


Hi Aaron,

Per your questions:

“Before I respond to your two reasons, I’m curious to know whether you agree or disagree that the placement of the comma in this verse is a matter of interpretation, and that there’s no grammatical reason why the comma couldn’t be placed where I think it should be placed?”

The placement of the comma is a matter of language translation. Careful study on the original language is required to see where the comma should be placed in English translations. Ancient Greek is typically a precise language. The forms of the Greek words made punctuation unnecessary. I would have to do a careful study of that verse in the original Greek to see if all of the respective English translation committees messed up the translation by placing the comma in the wrong place related to the English word “today.”

“If Luke 23:43 is one of the primary “proof texts” that leads you to believe that the OT teaching concerning the state of the dead was a “misconception” (and if it wasn’t I doubt you would’ve been so quick to mention it in this thread!) doesn’t that make your 1st reason a bit circular?”

No. The Bible itself teaches about progressive revelation and the New Testament (NT) clarifying and developing Old Testament (OT) concepts such as the book of Hebrews teaching about the new covenant. Also, the OT had very little to say about the afterlife in general while the NT taught a lot about the afterlife.

“Also, where do you see it being progressively revealed in Scripture that the dead are conscious? Do you think it was being progressively revealed in the OT? Do you think it was being progressively revealed in the NT?”

The OT only taught about a dreary Sheol. The NT progressed by teaching a lot more about the fate of the dead.

Hi guys, sorry for the delayed responses. I’ve been really busy with work and other things this past week that I haven’t had much time to contribute to this or other threads as I would like to. :frowning:

Michael wrote:

I believe the “falling away” and “the coming of the man of sin” were first century events, and occurred in connection with the persecution of the church under Nero just before the Jewish revolt in A.D. 66. As persecution intensified, so did apostasy and false teaching. The NT is full of warnings and exhortations for believers against apostatizing and giving heed to false teaching (2 Cor 11:13; Gal. 2:4; 5:4; 1), especially in the later writings (Tim 1:3-11; 4:1; Heb. 2:1-3, 3:6, 14; 6:4-6; 10:26-27; 1 John 2:18-20, 24; 4:1-3; 2 Pet 2:1-2, 20-21; Jude 1:3-4; etc.). That such warnings became more frequent as that first century generation drew to a close indicates that what Christ had prophesied of in the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:4, 10-13, 24-25) was then being fulfilled. So I don’t see the apostasy that Paul mentions as taking place “long after Paul’s death.”

The “latter times” of what? Not the Christian era, but the dispensation that was going to be ending before that generation passed away (i.e., in Timothy’s lifetime), when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Scripture is clear that the “last days”/“last times” were a first-century reality (Heb. 1:1-2; 1 Cor. 10:11; James 5:1, 3, 8-9; 1 Pet. 1:20; 4:7; 1 John 2:18; 4:3; Jude 1:17-19). Paul is exhorting Timothy to hold fast to the faith because the “latter times” of which he speaks here were fast approaching. That is, the days of which Paul speaks were about to be passing from prophesy into history, and so he wanted Timothy to be on his guard and remain faithful amidst the “perilous times” that were on the way (2 Tim 3:1-15).

If Paul believed “the disciples” (i.e., “the flock” over which the elders were made overseers) were going to be “drawn away” by “men speaking perverted things,” and those drawn away were in the majority, then it would mean that the Ephesian church was headed for some very rough water, and that many would end up “falling away.” While I would agree that Paul did not have in mind here a complete and universal apostasy of the Church, it does show that, after the deaths of the apostles, the Church would become much more vulnerable to heresy and false teachers, such as those who sought to elevate themselves to positions of spiritual authority over other believers and make the church an institution in which a “clerical order” (presided over by a monarchial bishop) governs a “laity.” That this practice began to become the norm soon after the deaths of the apostles is evident from the writings of Ignatius of Antioch, who wrote: “Your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the apostles, along with your deacons.” (Mag. 46:1). And to the Ephesians (!) he wrote: “It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself” (Eph. 6:1; cf. Sm. 9:1). While some have sought to downplay such language, it is evident that, even in Ignatius’ day, we see a serious departure from the ecclesiology of the New Testament (a departure which ultimately led to the monstrosity of popery). What if the “fierce wolves” and “men speaking twisted things” were the very men who ultimately gave birth to the ecclesiastical institution that was able to successfully keep such “heresies” as Arianism (as well as universalism) from winning the day when they challenged the majority, “orthodox” view?

Well I certainly don’t think it was an ignorance of the Greek language that caused the “church fathers” to embrace erroneous doctrine and practices. I think they were able to read the Greek NT just fine (just like the Pharisees were able to read the language of the OT). Rather, I believe it was pagan beliefs (e.g., Greek philosophy) which caused them to stumble in their interpretations. Besides, Arius of Alexandria spoke Greek just like the “early Church Fathers” of whom you speak, but most “orthodox” Christians have little respect for him but rather view him as one of the greatest heretics in church history (Interestingly, in the Wikipedia article on Arius we read: “Arius was accused of being too liberal in his theology and too “loose” with heresy (as defined by his opponents). However, some historians argue that Arius was actually quite conservative, and that he deplored how, in his view, Christian theology was being too freely mixed with Greek paganism.”).

Did the Holy Spirit place the “Church Fathers” as overseers?

Were the “Church Fathers” being referred to here as those who would be guided into all Truth by the Spirit of truth?

Were the “Church Fathers” the “faithful men” to whom Timothy committed the things of which Paul speaks here?

Were the “Church Fathers” the elders appointed by Timothy in every city?

Were the “Church Fathers” the “pillar and foundation of the truth?”

Not only is the answer to all of my questions “no,” but none of these verses state or imply that those constituting the true Church after the deaths of the apostles would be in the majority. I’m rather inclined to believe those who have been “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (assuming the true Church has always been on the earth throughout “Christian history”) have been in the minority, and that, since the deaths of the apostles, the true Church has been comprised of a very small remnant. Moreover, if a belief in universal salvation is essential to a right understanding of the Gospel (which I think is the case) then what most people refer to when they speak of “the Church” throughout history was not really “the Church” at all, but rather a human institution claiming a title that did not rightfully belong to it.

First, your view requires you to “conjecture” that God “temporarily” raised Samuel from a place he would not have otherwise left on his own, as well as caused him to appear visibly before a pagan medium. As I asked you earlier, how often do you think God causes people’s disembodied “shades” to come up from their subterranean abode in the netherworld and visibly appear to the living? That is what you think happened when Samuel, Moses and Elijah appeared on those two separate occasions, right? But the dead don’t normally do that sort of thing, do they? Are we told that Samuel came up from wherever you think he was and made any more appearances after that? Or that Moses and Elijah made subsequent visits to the sunlit regions? And in the vision that Moses and Elijah appeared in, not only did they look like men with physical bodies (although according to your view they were but “shades of their former selves”) they were said to have “appeared in glory!” Even if they weren’t as glorious looking as Jesus, it still must have been a pretty spectacular sight to see too men who were dead appear so “alive” with physical-looking forms. But aren’t people’s “shades” (a word which doesn’t exactly convey the idea of physicality or “glory”) invisible when they leave the body at death? Whatever your opinion is on all of this, it’s evident that God must do something highly out of the ordinary in order to make the “shades of people’s former selves” appear visibly before mortals, and that such an act of God is the exception and not the rule. So I’m rather perplexed that you would scoff at my view that God might have temporarily raised Samuel from the dead for a specific purpose (i.e., as a judgment against Saul) and then returned him to his former state of unconsciousness. It’s not like the miracle of raising someone from the dead is any more challenging for God than bringing up a “shade” from the netherworld and causing them to visibly appear before the living so that a person can see and hear what they otherwise could not have seen or heard at all.

Second, if one thinks my interpretation of what the Jews believed in the OT is a misconception, then I suppose it must be believed instead that the utter silence of Moses, David, Job, Solomon and all the other inspired authors of the OT regarding the supposed consciousness of the dead should be interpreted to mean the exact opposite of what such silence would reasonably entail. But they’re not only silent regarding the consciousness of the dead, they say and emphasize things that implies a belief that is completely contrary to the idea! (see my first and second posts on this thread).

Exactly, Michael. The inspired authors were silent concerning that which wasn’t understood as having been revealed to them by God. While they no doubt enjoyed and were thankful for what God had chosen to reveal to them, anything that God didn’t reveal to them (but which would’ve required a divine revelation in order for them to have any knowledge of) was not believed in or written about. Instead, they simply spoke of death and the dead as if the appearance was the reality. Why wouldn’t they, since God hadn’t revealed otherwise? It was the heathen who believed and taught things that God had revealed nothing about (such as that the dead are conscious and have power to help or hurt the living, and must therefore be worshipped). The inspired authors of the OT only believed what God revealed to them, and wrote accordingly. What Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes concerning the state of the dead was Jewish orthodoxy (i.e. it was consistent with what had been revealed in the Torah, as well as with all that would be written later, by the prophets). But Saul’s belief that the dead are conscious and can be contacted by the living was not.

How did you come to this conclusion? Saul certainly didn’t get his understanding of the state of the dead from the Torah. What he did was in direct violation of God’s law, and manifested a false belief about the state of the dead that was not shared by any inspired author, but was instead derived from the pagan beliefs of Israel’s neighbours. That is, when Saul visited the medium with the intent of speaking to and hearing from a dead prophet, his beliefs and actions reflected pagan thinking, not Jewish thinking.

You keep saying that the dead can’t praise God in the community of Israel. I agree. What I would like to know is where it is revealed in Scripture that the dead can praise God anywhere else. Where is it revealed that the dead can praise God in any sense whatsoever? I don’t see this taught anywhere in the OT or in the NT. Instead, I find this repeatedly denied several times - and that without any kind of qualification (which you insist on adding to the inspired record). And you can’t show where this is taught anywhere in the NT without begging the very question in debate. All you have are a small handful of proof-texts (2 from the OT and 4 or 5 from the NT) that you think support your theory that the dead are conscious, when the only statements that come closest to actually addressing this issue flatly deny that the dead are conscious of anything. The two passages you’ve relied on most (the story of Lazarus and the rich man and the transfiguration accounts) offer no support at all for your theory, as the former is obviously a fictional parable and the latter is called a “vision” by Jesus (which everywhere else in the LXX and NT refers to a subjective experience).

There was no “paradise” in the OT conception of Sheol. You’ll search in vain to find anything in the OT about the grave having “dual compartments” where the wicked and the righteous would be separated until a future, general judgment. It’s just not there. And the abode of the righteous after death is never referred to as “paradise” in the apocrypha; this is a later Jewish belief that seems to have developed after the time of Christ.

And just because I don’t interpret these passages the way you think they ought to be interpreted doesn’t mean I don’t “take them at face value.” I could argue that you’re not taking the entire OT “at face value,” and that when you come to the NT you’re reading foreign concepts into a few select passages to support your theory that, appearances notwithstanding, dead people are actually conscious.

Of course the dead can’t praise God within the communal life of Israel. Scripture teaches plainly that the dead don’t praise God, period. Once again, please show where the Psalmist or any other inspired author expected people to be praising God after death outside of “the communal life of Israel.”

You’re begging the question when you assume that the author of Ecclesiastes believed that, “because he sees injustice under the sun,” God would consequently judge people “after death.” I believe Scripture teaches that God judges people during this existence, and that there’s no need for God to punish or reward people after they die. And I see nothing in Ecclesiastes that gives me reason to believe that Solomon’s understanding of divine judgment was different from mine.

I see no reason to believe that Saul’s belief regarding the state of the dead was anything but “uncommon in Israel.” And we know the actions which his beliefs justified were certainly not common. Saul was desperate and was willing to do anything at that point in his life to hear from God; whether he truly expected to hear from Samuel is unknown. But it’s really irrelevant what was common or uncommon at any period during Israel’s history, because this doesn’t determine what the Israelites ought to have believed, based on what God had chosen to reveal to them. So the question is not, “Was a belief common or uncommon in Israel,” but rather, “Was the belief consistent with what God had revealed to them?”

Why is it more difficult for you to believe that God temporarily restored Samuel to life than that God temporarily brought Samuel up from a place of disembodied ghosts (a place which the OT says nothing about) and made him visibly appear before the medium? Does the passage say that Samuel was dead when he appeared to the medium and spoke to Saul? No. Is there anything that God had revealed to Israel previous to this incident which was consistent with what the pagans believed about the dead? No. The only kind of human beings that the OT reveals as being able to talk or do anything at all are living human beings - unless, of course, you want to interpret a couple of figurative, poetic verses from Isaiah and Ezekiel as literal statements that reveal to the Jewish people something on which God had previously been completely silent.

Why would a prophet be “expected to avoid” using figurative language of any kind? The very fact that the language is meant to be understood figuratively and not literally undermines any argument that it would have been inappropriate to use. Isaiah wasn’t intending to teach that the dead are conscious here; the language is so obviously poetic and figurative that your attempt to use these verses to support your position ends up weakening your entire argument, in my view. The day you prove that trees can literally rejoice and speak is the day you will have proven that the dead referred to in Isaiah 14 can literally speak or do anything that requires a conscious existence. It would also seem that, by Christ’s day, God had replaced the worms and maggots in Sheol (which evidently served as the beds and covers for the slumbering dead there - v. 11) with fire to torment the wicked and make them cry out for a single drop of water to cool their scorched tongues (I guess God decided there was too much sleeping going on in Sheol/Hades and not enough screaming, so he kicked it up a notch).

But you don’t really think this is figurative language. You think it’s literally true that the dead don’t praise God - you simply qualify this to mean that “they don’t praise God among the living.” But as I’ve argued, the dead don’t praise God in Sheol either, because those in Sheol don’t think or do anything (Eccl 9:10), which includes praising and remembering God. Because the dead have no capacity to praise God, God’s steadfast love and faithfulness is not declared in Sheol, and his wonders and righteousness are not made known there (Ps 30:9; 88:10-12). Those who reside in Sheol have no remembrance of God (Ps. 6:5; 88:12) and do not praise him (Ps 6:5; 30:9; 88:10-12; 115:17). Why? Because only living people have a capacity to think and remember. Moreover, it is our love for God that motivates us to praise him - so how can the dead praise God when their love has “perished?” Answer: they can’t.

Bob wrote:

Hi Bob,

In a nutshell, I believe all will be subjected to Christ and reconciled to God when the dead are raised and the living changed. I believe the last sin that any human being will ever commit will be before “mortality is swallowed up in life.” Sin, I believe, is confined to this mortal existence, and will be absent from the state that follows the resurrection. As for when the resurrection is going to take place, I’m not really sure; all I know is that it is still future. After Christ’s death and resurrection we’re told that he “sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Heb 10:12-13). While I believe a “virtual coming” of Christ “with the clouds of heaven” took place in 70 AD at the overthrow of Jerusalem (in fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel 7:13-14), I don’t believe this coming of Christ was personal. I don’t believe Christ will personally and bodily leave heaven until the time comes for his enemies to be destroyed (I believe Christ’s “enemies” are whatever is presently preventing God’s kingdom from being universal - e.g., sin and death). When this takes place I believe all mankind will be subjected to Christ and reconciled to God (i.e., brought into harmony with God’s moral will). Some verses and passages that I think refer to Christ’s personal, bodily coming to accomplish this future universal subjection/reconciliation are the following: Acts 1:9-11; 3:19-21; John 14:2-3; Rom 11:26-27; 1 Cor 15:22-23; 51-52; Phil 3:20-21; 1 Thess 4:13-18. When all are made alive in Christ and subjected to him (and thus made immortal subjects of God’s kingdom), I believe Christ will then deliver the kingdom (i.e., the kingdom he is represented as receiving from God in Dan 7:13-14, but now including all people as subjects and not just those few who presently constitute the church) back to God so that God may be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:23-28).

Hope that helps! :slight_smile:

For the record, I do believe in “progressive revelation” and that the understanding of inspired men concerning certain truths “advanced over time.” I just don’t see the “consciousness of the dead” or the “immortality of the soul” as being among those truths that were progressively revealed. If it can be shown where the understanding of inspired men regarding the state and condition of the dead advanced over time, I’ll believe it. But I see no more evidence for this knowledge advancing among inspired men of God than I see for their understanding that men are sinful, or that angels exist, or that “God created the heavens and the earth,” advancing. As I’ve tried to demonstrate in my discussion with Michael, there’s no progressive revelation regarding the state of the dead in the OT - the only texts that have been raised as evidence that the inspired men of the OT believed the dead to be conscious aren’t evidence for this at all. If Samuel really appeared to the medium and spoke to Saul, we have no good reason to think he wasn’t alive at the time. And there’s nothing remotely ambiguous about the language used by Isaiah; it’s clearly figurative, poetic language, and was meant by the prophet to be understood as such. So when did the progressive revelation concerning the state of the dead take place? It had to have been after the inspired writings that make up the OT were completed. In other words, either the idea that the dead are conscious was progressively revealed to Israel during the intertestamental period (although we have no evidence that anything was revealed by God to inspired men during this time) or it was progressively revealed during Christ’s day and the apostolic period. But again, I see no evidence for this; each of the 4 or 5 NT “proof texts” that are used to argue that the dead are conscious can (I think) be reasonably interpreted in a way that is wholly consistent with what is taught in the OT concerning the state of the dead. Also, if this truth was progressively revealed to the Jewish people, then it must have been revealed much more quickly and much sooner to the heathen people from whom the people of Israel were forbidden to learn, for the belief that the dead are conscious was held by the pagans long before it became a part of Jewish thinking. :open_mouth:

Well since the Greek language is so precise (and I agree that it is), why do “all of the respective English translation committees” use the Anglo-Saxon word “hell” (a word which these translation committees knew full well would convey to the minds of most modern English readers the idea of endless torment!) to translate the name of an actual place that lies to the south of Jerusalem? Aren’t they interpreting this word for the reader instead of translating (or transliterating) it? Did the translators do this because they didn’t know Greek? No; they did it because of their theological bias. And I don’t think the verse from Luke is much different. There’s no grammatical necessity for placing the comma after “you” rather than after “today.” It all comes down to what the translator considers to be the most likely meaning of Christ’s words. I encourage you to do a careful study on this and let me know if you find out anything differently.

Now, as I’ve said before, I believe Jesus’ use of “today” (or “this day”) in Luke 23:43 is a common Hebrew and Aramaic idiom that is used to introduce a solemn and important statement. In this idiom, “today/this day” is emphatic and often follows a verb of declaration, testification, command or oath. Paul uses this idiom in Acts 20:26: “Therefore I testify to you this day (semeron) that I am innocent of the blood of all of you” (Acts 20:26). This idiom occurs about 70 times in the Bible, with 42 being found in the Book of Deuteronomy (see, for example, Deut. 4:26, 39, 40; 5:1; 6:6; 7:11; 8:1, 11, 19; 9:3; 10:13; 11:2, 8, 13, 26, 27, 28, 32; 13:18; 15:5; 19: 9; 26:3, 16, 18; 27:1, 4, 10; 28:1, 13, 14, 15; 29:12; 30:2, 8, 11, 15, 16, 18, 19; 32:46). Moreover, semeron (the Greek adverb rendered “today” or “this day” in Luke 23:43) appears in the LXX and the NT 221 times. In 170 of these places the adverb follows the verb it modifies (some examples of this in the NT are Luke 2:11; 5:26; 22:34; Acts 20:26; 22:3; 24:21; 26:29). There are thus 170 witnesses against 51 in favor of placing the comma after “this day.” Therefore, it would not only be grammatically legitimate to punctuate Luke 23:43 with the comma after “this day” (so that the adverb follows the verb it modifies) it would also be consistent with how semeron is most frequently used in Scripture.

It may be objected that nowhere else is Christ’s frequently-used formula, “Truly I say to you” modified by an adverb of time. It may thus be argued that semeron should be understood as most likely being part of the expression that follows the “Truly I say to you” formula. But this objection loses its force when we take into account the well-known Hebrew/Aramaic idiom that uses “today/this day” to emphasize the significance and solemnity of an occasion. And as noted before, the great solemnity and importance of this event in the life of Christ (as well as in the life of the criminal to whom he spoke) cannot be denied by anyone, so it would make sense for Jesus to speak in a way that recognized this fact. It may be further objected that in the instances where this idiom appears in the LXX we do not find the same verb word used in Jesus’ “Truly I say to you” formula (legô). While this is true, this argument is undermined by the fact that the OT idiom exhibits some variation in the verbs used; the only constant in the idiom is that the word “today” modifies a verb of declaration, testification, command, oath (etc.). In Luke 23:43 Jesus simply employed an idiom with which he and the thief would have been familiar, and in a way that was most consistent with how Jesus normally declared things to people.

Moreover, the earliest translation of the Greek New Testament was into the language of Palestine’s nearest neighbor, Syria. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic, which most scholars believe Jesus spoke at least on occasion, if not regularly (for example, Jesus’ words on the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” appear to be the Aramaic form of the words of Psalm 22:1). So it is a reasonable inference that in his reply to the thief on the cross Jesus spoke in the idiom that was common to both his own Aramaic language as well as the Hebrew language of the Old Testament. It is therefore not surprising that in one of the oldest Syriac manuscripts of the Gospels (the 5th century Curetonian Syriac) the Hebrew/Aramaic idiom was evidently recognized by the translator. In this ancient manuscript the verse is translated so that the adverb “this day” clearly qualifies the verb “say” (and not “will be”): “Amen say I to you today that with me you will be in the garden of Eden.” By introducing the word “that” the translator removed the need for any punctuation to determine the sense of Jesus’ words. And while it’s true that the Syriac Sinaitic (the only other Syriac translation of the 4 Gospels that is thought to predate the standard Syriac version, the Peshitta) has the more common translation, the Curetonian Syriac (which, like the Syriac Sinaitic, predates all the English versions by hundreds of years) is still a very ancient witness for the interpretation of Luke 23:43 that I believe is correct.

So just as I disagree with the decision of all modern translation committees to “translate” the word “Gehenna” as “hell” in the NT, so do I disagree with their decision to place a comma after “you” instead of after “today” in Luke 23:43. The least they could have done was provide a footnote that gives the equally grammatically legitimate reading. J.B. Rotherham (who, in his Emphasized Bible, translates Luke 23:43 as follows: “Verily, I say unto thee this day: With me, shalt thou be in Paradise.”) was fair enough to include a footnote giving the more traditional reading, even though he disagreed with it. Of course, he didn’t have as much to lose as the people working on modern translation committees, who likely would not have been on the committees in the first place were it not for their commitment to “historic evangelical orthodoxy” (to quote from the preface to the English Standard Bible). While holding a belief that the dead are unconscious would not be considered as serious an error as, say, a rejection of the doctrine of hell or of the trinity, this belief is still considered inconsistent with “historic evangelical orthodoxy,” and would likely disqualify someone from being on the translation committee to begin with. And think about all the big-name endorsements they would lose if they were to even include a footnote with the alternate translation. This decision would be seen by some as an attempt to undermine a fundamental belief of “historic evangelical orthodoxy” (and the publishing company would probably be accused of being in league with the “Watchtower!”).

I agree that the NT “taught a lot about the afterlife.” But what kind of afterlife does the NT teach a lot about? Answer: an afterlife in which people are actually alive as a result of being raised from the dead. It was “life and immortality” (i.e., the life and immortality that Christ presently enjoys in his resurrected state) that was “brought to light through the gospel” - not the pagan idea of the soul’s immortality. I deny that the NT teaches anything (let alone “a lot”) about the dead being conscious. According to the NT, the dead are asleep in the grave (except in one of Jesus’ parables, of course!).

Don’t you mean “a dreary Sheol where the dead know nothing?” :wink: And yes, the NT progressed a lot by its emphasis on the resurrection.


Jesus used the word Gehenna as a figure of speech for hell. And the Talmud clearly teaches that popular ancient Jewish conceptions of hell included that most people escaped hell after twelve months, regardless if the English language is mostly ignorant of this.

I suppose that your trying to argue that biblical translation is based on theological bias instead of objective parsing of the ancient texts. However, careful cross examination of various commentaries indicate that many translators and commentators clarify honest notes about ambiguities and theological bias in their translation.

Also, your comments on the Greek verse don’t come close to thoroughly parsing the verse. And as I said earlier I hope to parse the verse, but that project isn’t on my short list. And I clarify that I don’t claim to be a Greek scholar, but I study commentators by Greek scholars who are honest about their biases and Greek syntax.

Concerning the Old Testament on a dreary world of Sheol, Isaiah 14:9 provides imagery of dreary consciousness for the dead. And I understand that your interpretation of your proof texts in the OP necessitate that Isaiah 14 cannot be teaching about consciousness in Sheol.

Hi Jim,

You wrote:

  1. The literal meaning of “Gehenna” is the name of a valley just south of Jerusalem. Why didn’t the translators just leave it as “Gehenna” and allow the reader to interpret whether the word is a “figure of speech,” or should instead be understood as denoting the actual valley south of Jerusalem? Answer: Because they wanted to convey to the reader what they thought Jesus meant when he used the word.

  2. While I’m familiar with how many universalists define the word “hell,” the translators of most popular English Bibles chose the word “hell” to most accurately convey what they thought “Gehenna” meant, and it’s very unlikely that the meaning you’re ascribing to the word “hell” is the same meaning that the translators ascribed to it. I submit that the word “hell” was chosen by the translators of our modern English Bibles to convey the idea of “eternal conscious torment,” because that’s what the word means to most Christians and non-Christians when it’s understood in a religious or theological context. If they’d understood “Gehenna” to mean a place of remedial punishment they could have translated it as “purgatory,” which would convey this idea much better than “hell.” So it’s irrelevant what we, as a universalists, think “hell” means (or can mean), because that’s not what the word meant to the translators or to the majority of their English-speaking readers, for whom they were translating. So no, Jesus didn’t use Gehenna as a “figure of speech for hell,” at least not as the word is commonly defined and understood.

  3. As has been recently discussed in two related threads (viewtopic.php?f=10&t=1057&start=0&st=0&sk=t&sd=a), there is no evidence that “Gehenna” was understood prior to or during Christ’s day to denote a place of punishment “that most people escaped after twelve months.” The idea of “Gehenna” as figuratively denoting a place of remedial punishment is a later development in Jewish theology. And as myself and others have argued (or tentatively concluded, in Sherman’s case!), it is unlikely that Jesus was even talking about a post-mortem punishment at all. I believe he was referring to the literal valley where the corpses of those slain in the national judgment of 70 AD were cast. But perhaps you have some evidence or a new argument that hasn’t been advanced yet. If so, feel free to present it in the “Gehenna” thread.

The fact is that if the translators of most popular English Bibles truly wanted to provide the reader with an unbiased translation of Jesus’ words when he spoke of “Gehenna” they wouldn’t have translated the word as “hell.” By rendering a word that literally denotes a valley south of Jerusalem as “hell” (which, again, is the word that has traditionally conveyed, and still conveys to most English-speaking people today, the idea of ECT) they’re interpreting the word for the reader instead of allowing the reader to interpret for himself what Jesus is saying.

Not at all. All that I’ve been trying to argue is that, in certain instances, the theological bias of the translator plays a definite role in determining how a verse or a word is translated. Again, the rendering of “Gehenna” as “hell” is just one example that many believers in UR (both past and present) would take issue with, for the traditional and commonly understood meaning of the word “hell” among English speakers (i.e., eternal conscious torment) is not inherent in the word “Gehenna.” To render “Gehenna” as “hell” is to interpret the word for the reader.

Now, if the comma in Luke 23:43 does belong after “you” (i.e., “Truly I say to you,”) instead of after “this day” (i.e., “Truly I say to you this day,”), it’s not because the grammar requires it. The adverb SHMERON may qualify either LEGW or ESHi. And because either is grammatically possible, the question of where the comma should be placed when translating the verse into English must be determined by other considerations. With that said, here are some more facts concerning the placement of the comma that I think are both interesting and relevant to this discussion (the following is from … 17129.html):

It may be objected that the above-mentioned readers were in the minority. But so what if they were? If truth is determined by the beliefs of the majority then the doctrine of UR is false.

Well when you do get around to parsing this verse I look forward to seeing your findings, as I don’t anticipate them being in conflict with my position. :slight_smile:

And as I said to Michael, when you’re able to prove that trees can rejoice and speak (v. 8) you will have proven to me that the dead persons referred to in v. 9 can do the same. Moreover, in my OP I think I showed pretty conclusively that the literal meaning ascribed to “Sheol” by the inspired OT writers was simply the place or state in which people’s corpses reside (i.e., “the grave” - hence Solomon’s declaration that “there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol”). But since Isaiah represents Sheol as being “stirred up” to meet the king of Babylon after his death, and as “rousing” the slumbering dead to greet him, do you think Isaiah understood the word to denote a conscious personal being (perhaps the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek god, Hades)? Or do you instead understand Isaiah to be using the literary device “personification” (which, as you know, is common in poetry)? And since you seem to believe Sheol to be the temporary abode of people’s ghosts, do you also believe that these ghosts in Sheol sleep on a bed of maggots and have worms as covers? Or do you instead see this figurative language as alluding to the resting place of decomposing corpses?

Hi Aaron,

This is from a Church group that used to teach soul sleep (and that used to insist that the comma belonged where you “think it should be placed.”)

And this is from the BGreek Forum (a scholarly forum for those interested in New Testament Greek.)

Moving on to another topic.

Inspired OT writters like the author of 1 Samuel?

Could you explain why God would “temporarily raise” Samuel from the dead, so he could answer a woman’s call and speak to Saul, if Sheol were nothing more than a state of non-existence (and that’s the sole thought God wanted the inspired OT writers to convey by using that word)?

He could just as easily sent an angel to say “what do you think you’re doing? Samuel is dead, and in a day you will be too.”

As a prophet, who’s listed among the hero’s of faith in Hebrews 11, and who would be both among the spirits of just men made perfect, and in the cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 12, Samuel was just as holy as any angel.

If He didn’t want to answer Saul Himself, why would He go through the trouble of “temporarily raising” Samuel, if an angel would have done just as well (and if raising Samuel to answer a call from earth would convey a false impression regarding the unseen relm of Sheol)?

And remember, the inspired OT writer wrote “When the woman saw Samuel…” (1 Sam 28:12), and “Now Samuel said to Saul”… (1 Sam. 28:15.)

P.S. Regarding Isaiah 14.

The king of Babylon is pictured as a tree that was cut down in verse 8, so the other trees rejoicing over him is a fitting figure, but that figure is dropped in verse 9–and there’s no reason not to take the deceased rulers who meet him in Sheol, and who say “Have you also become as weak as we?” literally (given the scriptural fact that Samuel was able to speak to Saul after he had died and gone to Sheol.)

It’s true that in verse 11 these rulers allude to the fact that the King of Babylon’s body will share the same fate as theirs, but this isn’t suprising, since the belief that the dead continued to have some attachment to their bodies is seen in the burial practices of Israel and all her neighbors.

**And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa. And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people. And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan. And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul; All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there. And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days. ** (1 Sam. 31:8-13.)

And the time drew nigh that Israel must die: and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt: But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he said, I will do as thou hast said. And he said, Swear unto me. And he sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head. (Gen. 47:29-31.)

And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. (Gen. 50:24-25.)

Here’s an interesting article that has some relevance to the topic at hand…

Hey Jeff,

Here are some Talmud quotations on Gehenna. And note that both the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel see Gehenna as temporary for the majority, who are in the middle of wholly righteous and the wholly evil. And both Shammai and Hillel were first-century BC Jewish rabbis, perhaps the two greatest rabbis of the second temple period. Shammai was known for his strictness while Hillel was known for his loopholes while their schools agreed abut Gehenna. I’ll note that the schools of both Shammai and Hillel include ideas that were developed after their death, so we cannot dogmatically trace all theology in these schools to the first century BC, but we cannot also dogmatically say that all of the theology in their schools developed after the destruction of the second temple.

*R. Jeremiah ben Elazar said again. “Hell has three gates: One in the desert, one in the sea, and one in Jerusalem.” “In the desert,” as it is written [Numbers xvi. 33]: “And they went down, they, and all they that appertained to them, alive into the pit (Sheol-Gehenna).” “In the sea,” as it is written [Jonah ii. 3]: “Out of the depth of the grave have I cried, and thou hast heard my voice.” “And one in Jerusalem,” as it is written [Isaiah xxxi. 9]: “Who hath a fire in Zion, and a furnace in Jerusalem.” And the disciples of R. Ishmael taught, that by a fire in Zion is meant Gehenna, and by the furnace in Jerusalem is meant the gate of Gehenna. (Tractate Erubin, chapter 2)

We have learned in a Boraitha: The school of Shammai said: There are three divisions of mankind at the Resurrection: the wholly righteous, the utterly wicked, and the average class. The wholly righteous are at once inscribed, and life is decreed for them; the utterly wicked are at once inscribed, and destined for Gehenna, as we read [Dan. xii. 2]: “And many of them that sleep in the dust shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” The third class, the men between the former two, descend to Gehenna, but they weep and come up again, in accordance with the passage [Zech. xiii. 9]: “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and I will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; and he shall call on My name, and I will answer him.” Concerning this last class of men Hannah says *: “The Lord causeth to die and maketh alive, He bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up again.” The school of Hillel says: The Merciful One inclines (the scale of justice) to the side of mercy, and of this third class of men David says [Psalms, cxvi. 1]: “It is lovely to me that the Lord heareth my voice”; in fact, David applies to them the Psalm mentioned down to the words, “Thou hast delivered my soul from death” [ibid. 8]. (Tractate Rosh Hashana, chapter 1)

Transgressors of Jewish birth and also of non-Jewish birth, who sin with their body descend to Gehenna, and are judged there for twelve months; after that time their bodies are destroyed and burnt, and the winds scatter their ashes under the soles of the feet of the righteous, as we read [Mal. iii. 23]: “And ye shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be as ashes under the soles of your feet”; but as for Minim, informers and disbelievers, who deny the Torah, or Resurrection, or separate themselves from the congregation, or who inspire their fellowmen with dread of them, or who sin and cause others to sin, as did Jeroboam the son of Nebat and his followers, they all descend to Gehenna, and are judged there from generation to generation, as it is said [Isa. lxvi. 24]: “And they shall go forth and look upon the carcases of the men who have transgressed against Me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched.” Even when Gehenna will be destroyed, they will not be consumed, as it is written [Psalms, xlix. 15]: “And their forms wasteth away in the nether world,” which the sages comment upon to mean that their forms shall endure even when the grave is no more. Concerning them Hannah says *: “The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces.” R. Itz’hac b. Abhin says: “Their faces are black like the sides of a caldron”; while Rabha remarked: “Those who are now the handsomest of the people of Me’huzza will yet be called the children of Gehenna.” (Tractate Rosh Hashana, chapter 1)

Said Abayi to R. Dimi: To what thing do the Western people pay more attention? And he answered. To make pale the face (i.e., putting people to shame). As R. Hanina said: All descend to Gehenna, except three. All! Is it possible? Say, All who descend to Gehenna return thence, except the following three, who descend and do not return: An adulterer, one who makes pale the face of his neighbor in public, and one who applies vile names to his neighbor. But is it not the same as making pale his face? i.e., even when he was already used to be named so. (Tractate Bava Metzia [The Middle Gate], chapter 4)

R. Simeon b. Johai said: “All these things they have instituted for their own sake. Their markets are gathering-places for harlots; they have built baths for the purpose of indulging themselves in their comforts; they have built bridges to collect tolls from those who cross them.” Jehudah, the son of proselytes, went and reported this conversation, and it came to the ears of the government. Said (the rulers): “Jehudah, who has praised (our doings), shall be promoted; Jose, who said nothing, shall be exiled to Sophoris; Simeon, who spoke disparagingly, shall be put to death.” R. Simeon and his son then went and hid themselves in the college, and their wives brought them every day some bread and a pitcher of water, and they ate. When the decree became imperative, he said to his son: “Women are of a pliant disposition. They (the government agents) will perhaps trouble them, and they (the women) will reveal our whereabouts.” They then went and hid themselves in a cave. A miracle occurred, that a date tree and a spring of water came out for them. They stripped themselves naked and sat down covered with sand up to their necks. Thus they sat all day studying; only at the time of prayer they put on their garments, and after performing their devotion they took them off again for fear they might wear them out. In this wise they spent twelve years in their cave. Elijah then came to the opening of the cave and said: “Who will inform the son of Johai that the Cæsar (governor) is dead and his decree is annulled?” Hereupon they left the cave. They then went forth and saw men who were ploughing and sowing grain. Said R. Simeon: “These people leave the works which lead to everlasting life and occupy themselves with worldly things.” After this every place where they chanced to turn their eyes was burned. Suddenly a “Bath-kol” (heavenly voice) was heard, which said unto them: “Have ye come to destroy my world? Go, return to your cave.” They returned and stayed in the cave another twelvemonth, saying the punishment of the wicked in Gehenna only lasts twelve months. At the end of that time came again the heavenly voice and said: “Go out of the cave,” and they came out. And R. Simeon said to his son: “It is enough for this world that I and you are occupied with the study of the Torah and with good deeds.” This happened on a Friday near sunset. They saw a man hurrying with two bunches of myrtle in his hand. "What are they for? they asked him. “To honor the Sabbath,” was the reply. “Would not one bunch be enough?” “Nay; one is for the command ‘remember,’ 1 the other for the command ‘observe,’” said the man. Said R. Simeon to his son: “Behold, how Israel loves the commands (of God).” This reassured them. (Tractate Shabbat, chapter 2)

R. Na’hman bar Itz’hak said: The small Hallel is recited for another reason, namely, because it contains the transposition of the souls of the righteous from Gehenna to Heaven, as it is written [Psalms cxvi. 4]: “I beseech thee, O Lord! release my soul” (from Gehenna). (Tractate Pesachim, chapter 10)

Hi Michael,

You wrote:

The author’s argument for where the comma should be placed is not a grammatical argument but rather depends on a particular interpretation of the exchange between Christ and the thief. But this interpretation fails to take into account the idiomatic use of “today” by the Hebrew people, which I’ve made note of in previous posts. If Christ is in fact employing this idiom, then to place a comma after “today” would not at all make Jesus’ statement redundant (as the author of the article claims). I see the author’s lack of familiarity with this idiom as undermining what would otherwise be one of the better arguments I’ve seen for placing the comma after “you” instead of “today” (and if the author was familiar with the argument that Jesus was employing a Hebrew idiom I find it hard to believe that he or she wouldn’t have mentioned or responded to it in their article).

Now, when we take the Hebrew idiom into account it becomes evident that, in response to the thief’s request (which was likely a good-intentioned attempt at humoring a sincere and innocent man that he believed to have been mistaken and/or delusional), Christ was in effect saying: “Although you may not believe it, I give you my solemn word that you will be with me in God’s very presence.” In other words, Christ was promising the thief more than what he asked for, and in the most emphatic way possible. Rather than simply responding with, “I will do what you’ve asked,” Jesus gives the man the full and present assurance that he would receive a blessing greater than anyone could ever ask for or imagine: being with the Messiah in the “third heaven” (which, according to Paul, was equivalent to “paradise”).

What I found interesting is that, even though the author of the article you quote thinks the comma should be placed after “you,” he or she still interprets this verse in a way that is consistent with the general position to which I hold. This appears evident from the final paragraphs of the article:

(emphasis mine)

In other words, the author of this article believes that by promising the thief that he would be with him in “paradise,” Christ was using the common language of the day to figuratively convey the idea that the man would be counted among the righteous in the grave, awaiting the resurrection of the just - not that they would actually be conscious after death or literally in “Abraham’s Bosom.”

If you go on to read the subsequent responses on this forum you’d see that there is no consensus on where the comma should be placed. And in response to the first argument given in favour of placing the comma between LEGW and SHMERON it need only be said that there is no reason to reject a translation based upon the premise that a particular construction must be found in other texts to be valid grammar. And it is not improbable that Jesus might, on occasion (especially during highly exceptional circumstances), modify the introductory formula that he used most often during his earthly ministry. The mere fact that “we have lots of expressions that read something like AMHN SOI LEGW followed by a solemn statement” in no way means that Jesus could not have incorporated a well-known Hebrew idiom into the introductory expression he used before declaring something of great importance to his listeners. That Jesus sometimes modified this introductory formula cannot be denied. To quote another contributor to the BGreek forum:

As far as the second argument that the “most natural way to understand this exchange is that Jesus has answered the brigand’s vague time reference with a positive, affirming ‘today,’” I believe it’s begging the question to assert that this interpretation is “most natural.” It assumes that it was Jesus’ intention to respond to the thief with a less vague time reference than that given by the thief. I don’t see why this needs to be assumed at all, especially considering the idiomatic use of “today” in the Hebrew language. Moreover, the thief wasn’t even asking to be with Jesus in paradise at some unspecified time, so Jesus’ response cannot be understood as a more immediate granting of the thief’s request. Regardless of whether one understands the comma to be after “you” or “this day,” the fact is that Jesus was promising the thief something different (and I would say far greater) than what he asked for or believed he would receive from Jesus.

I think so. I don’t see anything in 1 Samuel that is inconsistent with the idea that the inspired author of this work believed Sheol to denote the place or state in which people’s corpses resided. Assuming the author believed Samuel actually appeared to the medium and spoke with Saul (which is questionable), how do you know he didn’t believe Samuel to have been resurrected? Why do you think it’s more likely that the author shared Saul’s view concerning the state of the dead (which was reflective of pagan thinking) rather than, say, Solomon’s (whose view in Ecclesiastes seems most reflective of what is revealed - and not revealed - in the Torah concerning death and the state of the dead)?

I believe the same objection applies equally to your position. In an earlier post, I wrote:

I should also add that, according to the medium, Samuel apparently looked like an old man (1 Sam 28:14). Is that how you think dead people - or rather, their “disembodied spirits” or “shades” - normally appear? As the age they were when they died?

If Samuel actually made a personal appearance, then regardless of whether he was conscious or unconscious prior to appearing to the medium it still required God to do something he doesn’t normally do. Moreover, even if one believes that Samuel, although dead, was still conscious somewhere, God could have just as easily sent an angel to say, “What do you think you’re doing, Saul? Trying to contact the dead is a sin deserving of death. Samuel is where all the dead go, and in a day you will be there, too.” Or, to make the judgment upon Saul a little more personal, God could have just as easily raised Samuel from the dead as send an angel. In doing so, God would have simply been answering a fool according to his folly: “Ok, Saul, since you want to speak to Samuel so badly, I’ll resurrect him for you. But you’re not at all going to like what he has to say.”

Where is it said that the “spirits of just men made perfect” are the “disembodied spirits” of believers who have died? When the same author speaks of God as “the Father of spirits” (Heb 12:9) did he mean “the Father of disembodied spirits?” No; he’s referring to men who were still alive (see Num 27:16). “Spirit” can refer to either a person’s life or to their mental disposition (which, in the case of just men who have been made perfect, is one of purity and holiness).

Concerning this verse, Methodist commentator Adam Clarke (who, like all “orthodox” Christians, believed the intermediate state to be one of conscious existence) notes:

Clarke closes his commentary on this chapter of Hebrews with the following reasons why he believes the author to be speaking of “the Church militant” (i.e., the Church on earth) in this passage:

When we become members of the Body of Christ we are placed in spiritual communion with those believers who have reached the highest level of Christian maturity attainable in this life, and may thus be said to have come to “the spirits of just men made perfect.” Whether “spirit” here refers to a person’s life or to that which is “born again” by faith (i.e., our mental disposition), the general meaning is the same.

But what about the “great cloud of witnesses?” Answer: While this verse does refer to those who had died in their faith (i.e., the OT saints mentioned throughout chapter 11), I see no reason to believe that the author was teaching that this “great cloud of witnesses” was conscious and watching the living from heaven (or wherever one thinks the dead are). The word translated “witnesses” is martus, and does not suggest that the dead believers referred to in ch. 11 were spectators, but rather that they are testifiers who, by their lives of faith, are examples to us of how we are to live in this world. But these “witnesses” (“martyrs”) no more literally “surround” us than Abel literally “still speaks” (Heb 11:4; cf. Heb 12:24). The imagery is figurative, and not to be understood literally. Even those who believe these dead men and women of faith are still conscious don’t believe they literally “surrounded” every believer to whom the author was writing. Again, the language is figurative.

But couldn’t I ask you the same thing? You seem to have this mistaken notion that it would have been more difficult for God to temporarily raise Samuel from the dead than it would have been to bring him up from a place of “departed spirits” and make him visibly appear before the medium and speak to Saul. Neither would be more difficult or more trouble for God. The question is, which is more likely? Well given that there is nothing in the OT indicating that the dead are literally conscious (and even you would agree that the Torah doesn’t say anything about this) I believe we should conclude that Samuel (assuming he was personally present) was not dead at this time but had been temporarily restored to life by God. At the very least, there’s no indication that Samuel was conscious prior to appearing before the medium and speaking to Saul.

Convey a false impression to whom? Answer: only to those who already believe that the dead are conscious. If Saul thought Samuel was a disembodied spirit when he appeared, then so what? Like I said, if God caused Samuel to appear it would be a prime example of answering a fool according to his folly. And we know God sometimes confirms deceived people in their false beliefs as a judgment upon them (2Thess 2:11), so it’s possible that God was doing just this in the case of Saul. Moreover, Saul’s beliefs and actions were inconsistent with what the Jews were supposed to believe based on what God had revealed to them, and it was this pagan belief that led to the sin for which he was about to die the following day. Saul’s beliefs and actions are meant to be seen in a negative light, and not as representing the norm among the people of Israel. If one doesn’t believe that the dead are conscious (as I’m convinced was the case with the inspired authors of the OT), Samuel’s appearance need not be understood as re-enforcing this idea; one need only believe that, if Samuel personally appeared, then his life had been temporarily restored to him by God for the purpose of a judgment upon Saul.

I think you have it backwards; the death of the king of Babylon is referred to using “tree imagery” because of the figurative imagery already employed, in which trees are represented as rejoicing and speaking. According to the Oxford Annotated Bible, Assyrian and Babylonian kings used great quantities of cedars for their palaces. Because cedars (and apparently cypresses as well) were prized for lumber and often carried off to Babylon, they are represented as rejoicing at the death of the king since no one had come to cut them down. But the main point I want to emphasize is that figurative, poetic imagery is being employed in which unconscious, inanimate things are represented as if they were animate and conscious. And while it’s true that the tree imagery is dropped after v. 8, the use of figurative imagery continues into v. 9: “Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the dead to greet you…” Do you believe Sheol is a conscious person who can be “stirred up” to meet people, and rouse others to do the same? This isn’t literally true; just like the trees of v. 8, Sheol is represented as if it were a conscious person. And I see no reason to understand the rest of v. 9 and v. 10 any differently. Just as trees and Sheol are represented as animate, conscious persons, so are the dead. So once again, when it can be shown by you or anyone else that trees literally rejoice and speak I’ll concede that the dead have a capacity to speak as well. Until then, there’s nothing in this passage that I see as supporting the idea that the dead of whom Isaiah speaks here are literally conscious, and I can’t help but see your persistent attempts at trying to literalize the obviously figurative language of this passage as betraying the general weakness of your position that the dead are conscious.

There would be reason not to take the imagery in Isaiah 14 literally if Samuel (assuming Samuel was personally present) wasn’t dead when he spoke to Saul - and you haven’t yet proven that he was. The rest of the OT is inconsistent with the idea that the dead are conscious, but instead suggests an understanding of death that is entirely consistent with what I’ve been arguing for (i.e., that the appearance is the reality). Moreover, if Samuel was actually present when he spoke to Saul, then he wasn’t in Sheol. And if he wasn’t in Sheol then what he was able to do while not in Sheol is no indication of what those in Sheol can or can’t do. And there is nothing said in Scripture about the dead being able to leave Sheol while remaining dead. To be in Sheol is to be in the state of death, and to be delivered from Sheol is to be delivered from death (Ps. 89:48). And in 1 Sam 2:6 we read the following in Hannah’s prayer: “YHWH kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.” The Hebrew parallelism in this verse is clear: those who are killed are brought down to Sheol, and those who are brought to life are raised up from Sheol. If you believe Samuel was raised up from Sheol, then, according to what we read in 1 Sam 2:6, Samuel must have been brought back to life. That is, if Samuel was actually present before the medium (and thus not in Sheol), then there is nothing in Scripture which suggests he was still dead; rather, the implication would be that he had been brought back to life by God.

Now, having shown that, if Samuel was personally present at this time, then it follows that he was not dead but alive, I would now like to suggest for the consideration of you and anyone else reading that Samuel wasn’t actually present at all, but that the medium was simply deceiving Saul. I mentioned this possibility in my OP and provided a link to a blog article that I think articulates this position pretty well ( … -fake.html), and in the course of this discussion I’ve begun to find this view somewhat more likely than the idea that God raised Samuel from the dead (which I should again note would have been no more difficult for God to do than for him to bring up the “disembodied spirit” of Samuel from the netherworld and make it speak to Saul and appear before the medium as an “old man wrapped in a robe”). If the account is to be understood as the blogger understands it (and he’s certainly not the only one to interpret the passage in this way), then the inspired narrator is simply recording what took place from the deceived perspective of Saul (who is, of course, the primary focus of this story), and not as it would have appeared to an objective witness. To this it will no doubt be objected that we’re told the woman “saw Samuel” and that “Samuel” spoke to Saul. But sometimes (for literary purposes and other reasons) the authors of Scripture adopt language that is not actually or objectively true but rather reflects a certain limited or erroneous perspective, with no explicit indication that this perspective was mistaken.

For example, in Gen 18:2 Moses speaks of “three men” visiting Abraham, although at least two of these persons were actually angelic beings who only appeared to be (and were initially thought to be) men (Gen 19:1).

In Job 26:11 and 1 Sam 2:8 we read of the “pillars of heaven” and the “pillars of the earth” on which God “set the world,” which reflects an ancient cosmology that has since been shown to be erroneous by science.

Similarly, in Joshua 10:12-13 we read that the “sun stood still” and “stopped in the midst of heaven.” But this did not actually happen (most likely, God slowed down the rotation of the earth); the inspired author simply records what took place as it appeared to Joshua.

In Exodus 7:22, Moses writes that the Egyptian magicians were able to imitate God’s early plagues upon Egypt. However, this was not actually true (not only did the magicians have no real supernatural powers, if all of the Nile water had been turned to blood it would have been impossible for the magicians to turn some of it into blood); Moses is simply adopting the false perception of Pharaoh.

In Jer 28, Hananiah is referred to repeatedly as a “prophet” by Jeremiah, although we later find in this chapter that he was not a prophet after all; Jeremiah’s contemporaries simply perceived him to be a prophet, and Jeremiah adopts their false perspective when referring to him.

Zephaniah speaks of YHWH as “starving” or “famishing” the gods of the earth as if they really existed (Zeph 2:11); however, the idea that the “gods” had any real, personal existence was only the false perception of the pagans.

In Mark 6:48 the author writes that Jesus “meant to pass by” his disciples in the boat during the storm. But this is only how it appeared to the frightened disciples; in actuality, Jesus’ intent was to join them in the boat (cf. Luke 24:28, where Jesus does something similar).

Luke 5:32 records Jesus as saying, “I came not to call the righteous but sinners,” although those to whom he spoke were not actually “righteous” at all - Jesus simply speaks according to how the Pharisees perceived themselves (and perhaps how others viewed them).

In John 5:18 the inspired author writes that Jesus was “breaking the Sabbath.” But Jesus was not, in actuality, breaking the 4th commandment when he healed a man. John is not giving his own view but rather the mistaken beliefs of those who were trying to kill Jesus.

So the only objection to the above interpretation of the account of Saul and the medium is that the author writes as if Samuel were present and speaking. But I think the above Scriptural examples demonstrate that a straight-forward reading of this passage does not require us to believe that Samuel was actually present; rather, the inspired author could have simply been describing what took place from Saul’s perspective, leaving the reader to determine what actually was going on (i.e., a phony séance and some convincing ventriloquism by the medium). But regardless of whether one understands Samuel to have been actually present or not, there is no reason to believe that those in Sheol are conscious.

There’s nothing said in the Bible that reveals that man is constituted by something other than his physical body, so of course the dead “have some attachment to their bodies” - without a body man has no existence. But your position requires you to understand the “you” of vv. 9-10 to refer to some disembodied, conscious “part” of the king of Babylon (a part of man which Scripture reveals nothing about), and the “you” and “your” of v. 11 to refer to something else entirely. According to my position, the “you” and “your” of all 3 verses refers to that which constituted the “king of Babylon” when he was alive. As I noted in the OP, throughout Scripture the person who died is identified with the body that is buried (or not buried), and not with some conscious “part” of a person that was thought to leave the body at death (Genesis 15:15; 49:29, 31; 1 Kings 2:2; Job 10:9; 14:10-15; Psalm 90:3; 104:29; 146:4; Matt 12:40; 27:59-60; Acts 2:29, 39, 13:29, 36; 1 Cor 15:3-5 13:36). That the inspired writers identified the dead with their bodies is also evident from the often-used “sleep” metaphor (e.g., Matt 27:52), which derives its meaning from how dead people appear to the living.

The above passages further support my position that people were thought to be constituted by their bodies. Notice the personal pronouns used in reference to people’s corpses (e.g., “…I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying place.”) It is evident from these passages that the body was central to the Hebrew understanding of personal identity, and was consequently treated with respect by them, as something sacred (which is why the enemies of Saul desecrated his body after his death). There’s nothing in these verses that suggests the inspired writers believed that some conscious part of man (i.e., what many might call the “real man”) existed in a disembodied state after death. Again, such a belief was well-known among the pagans, but we have no evidence that God ever revealed this to the Hebrew people as something they ought to believe.

And it came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni but his father called him Benjamin. (Gen. 35:18.)

Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. (Jer. 31:15.)

**For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. ** (1 Cor. 2:11.)

I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. (2 Cor. 12:2.)

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. (2 Cor. 5:6-9.)

I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. (1 Peter 1:13-14.)

It’s from a Church that has historically believed in soul sleep (and most, if not all of it’s remaining membership probably still believes in soul sleep), which makes the admission that the comma belongs before the word “today” all the more significant.

I wouldn’t expect a consensus, because those who are commited to your interpretation of scripture will always deny the obvious.

If they appear, I should think that they appear in whatever way they want to (or that God wants them to.)

Even after His resurrection, Christ seems to have had some control over how familar He wanted His appearance to be (and wasn’t always recognized immediately, even by those who knew Him very well when He was between 30 and 33 years of age.)

Even today we speak of the four corners of the earth, and using figurative language to refer to cosmological facts in a pre-scientific age may have been unavoidable.

That’s called the condescension of God (God condescending to speak in language that man could understand.)

But that has nothing to do with deliberately misleading the reader as to what personage is doing the talking in a straightforward narraton of events (like 1 Samuel 28:12-19.)

They had humanoid form, they ate, and for all intents and purposes they were men when they appeared in this form (what other word would you have had the author use to discribe them?)

In any case, the text in Genesis goes on to show that they were all more than ordinary men, and the author of 1 Samuel does not go on to show that Samuel wasn’t Samuel (so there’s nothing in the context of 1 Samuel to justify your presupposition.)

And Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah. And David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran. (1 Sam. 25:1.)

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. (1 Sam. 28:3-7.)

And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines. (1 Sam. 28:12-19.)

Samuel was dead, He spoke to Saul after he died, and there is nothing in the context to indicate that God “temporarily raised him from the dead” (with a body invisible to Saul), that the woman was deceiving Saul, or that a demonic spirit was impersonating Samuel.

All these things are read into the text by people who simply don’t want to believe the dead are conscious apart from the body.

As to whether God would allow a sorceress to contact the spirit of Samuel, let’s not forget that He allowed a sorcerer to contact Him.

And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam. And God came unto Balaam… (Num. 22:8-9.)

Instead of Balaam cursing Israel (the way the Elders of Moab and Midian wanted), God blessed Israel and foretold the coming of the Messiah through his mouth; and instead of delivering Saul from his fears (as he hoped), God’s prophet pronounced judgment against him through the mouth of the witch of Endore.

That’s the only interpretation possible given a straightforeword reading of the text.

Hi Michael,

Thanks for your thoughtful and challenging contribution to this thread; I’ve really been enjoying our discussion! :slight_smile:

I wrote:

You wrote:

Here the word “soul” (nephesh) denotes Rachel’s life, not some part of Rachel that continued to consciously exist in a disembodied state (for a few examples where nephesh means “life” see Gen 1:20, 30; 19:17; Ex 4:19; 21:23; 1Sam 22:23; Job 12:10; Esther 7:7; Prov 12:10; Jonah 4:3). And we know Rachel was not constituted by her nephesh because, after she died, we’re told that “she * was buried on the way to Ephrath…and Jacob set up a pillar over her [Rachel’s] tomb” (v. 19). Rachel, like all human beings, was constituted by her physical body, and not by that which was said to “depart” from her (i.e., her life). The woman, Rachel, died when her body died, and from this it follows that Rachel was constituted by her body.

I believe this refers to their existence as living, conscious persons, which they ceased to be when that by which they were constituted (i.e., their physical body) died. It is in this sense that they (and all the dead) are “no more.”

The Hebrew and Greek words rendered “spirit” refer to that which, although unseen, has visible effects. Depending on the context, the words can refer to the wind (Gen 8:1; Ex 10:19; 15:10; Num 11:31; 2Sa 2:11; 1Ki 19:11; Job 1:19; Ps 83:13; 107:25; Ecc 1:6; Isa 64:6; Jer 10:13; Dan 7:2; etc.), the vitality or life of human beings and animals that is manifested through breathing (Gen 2:7; 6:17; 7:15; Num 16:22; 1Ki 10:5; Job 7:7; 12:10; Ps 146:4; Eccl 3:19; 12:7; Jer 10:14; Eze 10:17; 37:5; etc.), and the mental disposition or conscious thought-life of the human mind, which can only be manifested by one’s actions and behaviour (Deut 34:9; Num 5:14, 30; 1 Sam 1:15; 1 Kings 21:5; Psalm 51:17; Prov 16:9, 18, 19; Eccl 1:14; 7:9; Isa 11:2; 19:14; 61:3; Rom 11:8; 1 Cor 4:21; Gal 6:1; Eph 4:23; Phil 2:19; 2 Tim 1:7; 1 Pet 3:4; 1 John 4:6). The last meaning of “spirit” appears to be what Paul had in mind in the above verse. It is this “spirit” that is “born again” when a person becomes a child of God by faith in Christ. While both animals and humans share the second “spirit,” only humans possess the third.

When we’re told that Christ breathed his last and committed his “spirit” (pneuma) into the hands of his Father, the meaning of pneuma is “life” (i.e., that which is possessed by both humans and animals, and is manifested in breathing). And we know Christ was not constituted by that which he committed to the Father, because we’re told that, after his death, he (Christ) was in a tomb for 3 days, and not in heaven with the Father (which is where he would have been if he had been constituted by his “spirit” or life). James 2:26 is a good example of “spirit” being used to denote the vitality or life of the body that is common to all living things, and which is manifested in breathing. Notice that it is the body that is said to be dead, not the spirit. This confirms my view that we are constituted by our body, for when our body is dead, we are said to be dead as well. But if we were constituted by the “spirit” or life which departs from our body when we die, then we couldn’t be said to die or be dead.

“In the body” denotes an objective experience (like what Elijah experienced); “outside of the body” denotes a subjective experience (like what Ezekiel experienced). Paul was not certain whether he was actually bodily present in heaven, or only there in vision while his body remained on earth. Concerning the expression, “outside of the body,” Paul used somewhat similar figurative language in 1 Cor 5:3-4: “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus…” And in Col 2:5 Paul states, “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.” It is evident that Paul’s “spirit” was not literally present with the Corinthian or Colossian believers while his body was absent from them. Rather, he was “with them” in his thoughts, feelings and mental disposition. It was as if he were with them personally, and in this sense it could be said that Paul was “outside of the body” when he was with them. But he was not actually with them or outside of his body. Similarly, if Paul received a vision in which he was caught up to paradise, it would have been as if he were outside of his body (since, although he would have experienced himself travelling to heaven, his body wouldn’t have actually gone anywhere).

You can read my thoughts on this passage here: viewtopic.php?f=14&t=1084&st=0&sk=t&sd=a#p14912

We’ll be “at home with the Lord” when “mortality is swallowed up by life” (v. 4). And when we are in heaven clothed with our new, immortal bodies we’ll be absent from these perishable, mortal bodies (which, being made of “flesh and blood,” cannot “inherit the kingdom of God” - 1 Cor 15:50).

I think you’re reading a foreign concept into Peter’s words here. The expression “put off this tent” is figurative language, and does not suggest that some part of us leaves the body at death to enjoy or suffer in a conscious, disembodied state. Our body is not literally a “tent,” nor is it literally “put off” at death. When Peter “put off” his “tent” (i.e., when his existence as a mortal man came to an end) he was “no more.”

In a previous post, I wrote concerning this verse:

(i.e., beings with rational, first-person perspectives). But why would Paul and Peter figuratively refer to this body as a “tent?” Answer: because it emphasizes the temporary nature of his mortal body and suggests that we belong in something more permanent and lasting. The “putting off” of one’s “tent” is figurative language meant to convey the idea that, at death, our sojourn on earth is over, and a new and permanent state of existence awaits us. But to “put off” our “tent” (i.e., to cease to live in this temporary body) doesn’t mean we then begin living (or “existing” if you prefer) as disembodied “shades” of our former selves!

I find it even more significant that the author was either unaware of the Hebrew idiom being used or didn’t want to bring it to the reader’s attention.

And those who aren’t universalists would argue that their interpretations of the verses and passages that they think support their partialist views regarding human destiny are more “obviously” correct than those of universalists. Most people think their own position is “obvious,” and that those who disagree with them are “denying the obvious.” So it should come as no surprise to you that I don’t see anything “obvious” about the proof-texts you think support your belief that the dead are conscious. I’m rather inclined to think the following verses (and others like them) are far more “obvious” in what they reveal about the nature of man and the state of the dead:

You wrote:

Whether we still use such language today is, I think, beside the point. The fact is that the inspired author was not describing things as they actually were, but rather as they appeared to be from the perspective of those who did not have the scientific knowledge we have today. In all of the examples I gave, that which was recorded by the inspired author is simply an appearance and not the reality. For whatever reason, the perspective that the Holy Spirit inspired the author to record or include was an inaccurate one. This does not make the truth being revealed in the inspired record inaccurate, however.

So when 1 Sam 28 speaks of “Samuel” it could simply be adopting the inaccurate perspective of Saul, who had been deceived by the medium. In v. 14 we read: “And Saul knew that it was Samuel and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage.” How did Saul “know” it was Samuel? It wasn’t because he actually saw Samuel. Rather, the medium had convinced him that Samuel was present by the description she gave (“an old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe”). Moreover, if the inspired author/editor assumed that his readers would realize that Saul was being duped by the medium and that Samuel, being dead, would have been unable to communicate with Saul, then the author would not have been “deliberately misleading the reader.” For the inspired author/editor to have added, “But Samuel had not actually been conjured up by the woman; the woman was only deceiving Saul,” would have been superfluous, since this much could be inferred from the immediate context of the narrative and the larger context of the Torah. This is actually a pretty straight-forward interpretation of the narrative, since the reader is supposed to know that this woman is a deceiver, and that her livelihood depends on her ability to fool people into thinking she can actually conjure up the dead so that they can speak to the living. That is, the reader is supposed to realize that, being a medium by trade, this woman’s “job description” is that of pretending to conjure up the dead and of making people think that the dead are present and speaking. So it’s only natural that the narrative would read in such a way that shows her doing what she does best (i.e., fooling gullible and desperate people) without any explicit disclaimer that she was not really conjuring up Samuel, and that Samuel was not actually present.

This interpretation (along with the interpretation that Samuel had been raised from the dead) becomes even more likely when we realize that Solomon, who would have undoubtedly been very familiar with this story about his grandfather Saul, expressed a view concerning the state of the dead that is inconsistent with the interpretation of 1 Samuel 28 which presupposes that a dead prophet could do or know anything. Apparently, Solomon did not understand this account to reveal anything about the dead that conflicts with his declarations that both man and beast return to the dust after death (Eccl 3:19-20), that “the dead know nothing” (Eccl 9:5), and that “there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol” (v. 10). It follows, then, that unless Solomon believed that “Samuel” was really a supernatural being pretending to be the dead prophet (which was the understanding of a number of the “Early Church Fathers,” as you’re probably aware!), then he probably interpreted this passage in one of the two ways I have suggested (i.e., either Samuel had been raised, or the account adopts Saul’s deceived perspective).

But they were not really men, which is the only reason I included this verse. In reality, they were angels who had the appearance of men (even you say they “appeared” in a “humanoid form,” which implies they weren’t actually or literally men). As for what other word I would have had the authors use to describe them, how about “angels” (which is how they’re described later in ch. 19)? And so as not to be misunderstood, I have no problem with how the account reads because I realize Moses was simply describing these heavenly beings according to how they appeared to Abraham. Moreover, this was only one of the verses I provided to support my position that the inspired men who wrote the Bible sometimes adopted an inaccurate perspective when recording events that took place - not to “deliberately mislead” the reader, but because it more effectively pulls the reader into the story by allowing the reader to see things from the perspective of those who actually experienced what took place. It’s also, I think, a way of using fewer words to convey something to the reader that would still be implied by the immediate or larger context, and which could be easily inferred.

So unless the text explicitly denies that Samuel was actually present, then you don’t think we can interpret this account as being from Saul’s perspective. Ok. But again, if Samuel was actually present then I believe he was not dead but alive. And as I’ve said before, I believe any objection to the view that Samuel had been raised applies equally to your own view that God temporarily brought the disembodied “shade” of Samuel up from the netherworld and made him appear visibly before the medium (while keeping him invisible - yet audible - to Saul, according to your view).

Yes, Samuel was dead, and (if the account is to be understood as providing us with an objective perspective) he spoke to Saul after he died. Similarly, Samuel was in Sheol, and spoke to Saul after he’d gone to Sheol. But he wasn’t in Sheol when he spoke to Saul; God caused him to leave Sheol and speak to Saul. But we’re not explicitly told that Samuel left Sheol; this has to be inferred. Similarly, although we aren’t explicitly told that Samuel had been raised from the dead, this can be reasonably inferred from the fact that he had a physical, embodied appearance, was conscious, and could both hear and speak. What could be said of Samuel at this time is the exact opposite of what Solomon had to say about the state of the dead. The fact that Samuel had died is no evidence that he was still dead when he spoke to Saul. Just as it can be inferred that Samuel was no longer in Sheol when he spoke to Saul, it can also be inferred that he wasn’t dead.

As for him having “a body invisible to Saul,” that’s not what I believe. You must have overlooked what I said in my OP about mediums in that day using a pit in the ground (called an ob) in their rituals. It was from this pit that the medium would pretend to summon the dead. So if Samuel had been resurrected by God from within the medium’s conjuring pit (which, again, would be no trouble at all for God), then there’s no reason to think he would have been initially visible to Saul.

It’s not that I don’t want to believe it, Michael. When I used to believe what you believe now (i.e., that the dead are conscious), I didn’t believe it because I wanted to believe it; I believed it because that’s what I was taught from an early age. And while I could argue that you simply don’t want to believe that the dead are unconscious, I don’t think that’s true (although I must admit that a lot of people seem to find much comfort in the idea that their loved ones are still conscious somewhere, either living among us or watching us from above); like me, you’ve simply become convinced that Scripture teaches something different than what you were taught to believe at some point.

It’s not a matter of whether God would allow such a thing. I simply don’t think such a thing could happen in the first place, since I don’t believe the dead are able to know or do anything. And unless 1 Sam 28 is the only exception, I believe this to be the consistent teaching of Scripture. Contrary to the belief of the medium (and apparently the belief of Saul in his state of apostasy and desperation), there’s no part of us that remains conscious after the brain stops functioning. We’re constituted by our bodies; when our “spirit” or life leaves our body and our body dies, we die. When the neurons in our brain stop firing and all brain activity ceases, we lose consciousness.

When you refer to “the spirit of Samuel” are you referring to the “spirit” that Solomon says “returns to God who gave it?” If so, then if this “spirit” wasn’t conscious when it came from God, I see no reason to believe it is conscious when it returns to God. Moreover, if it returns to God, then it wouldn’t be in Sheol (which is where you think “the spirit of Samuel” came from when it was summoned by the medium).*

Hi Jim,

You wrote:

Actually, only the school of Shammai believed Gehenna to be a place of temporary punishment for those not “thoroughly wicked.” The school of Hillel believed only the thoroughly wicked would go to Gehenna, and that the thoroughly good and the third, intermediate class would bypass Gehenna and go straight to paradise. I also don’t see it taught in the passages you quote that the third class of sinners constituted the “majority” of mankind.

Again, it’s not true that “their schools agreed about Gehenna.” The account of the death of Johanan ben Zakkai (who was apparently Hillel’s youngest pupil and also largely responsible for the inclusion and preservation of the teachings of both Hillel and Shammai in the Mishnah) is, I think, pretty significant, as it reveals that, toward the end of the first century, the place of punishment signified by the word “Gehenna” was something greatly feared by even those who held to the more “liberal” school of thought in that day:

From the above quote it would appear that ben Zakkai understood Gehenna to signify a place of everlasting punishment where the wicked were destined, and was contrasted with Paradise, the destiny of the righteous (As a side note, if this is the same word translated “paradise” in Luke 23:43 then it shows that, toward the end of the first century, this word was not thought by the Jewish people to refer to a compartment of Sheol/Hades).

That’s true, but I see no good reason to believe that the view of Gehenna that was held by the school of Shammai by the time the Talmud was redacted was known in Christ’s day. And even if it was known in Christ’s day, I see even less reason to believe that it was sanctioned by Christ as something his followers should believe and teach others about.

If I’m not mistaken, the above rabbi lived in the 3rd century. And I see nothing in the above quote about Gehenna being a place of remedial punishment.