The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Universalism in the OT?


Some verses in the OT really sound like they’re teaching anni. Do you think any OT texts teach universalism?


These are the instances of OT universalism given by Dr Ramelli Qaz :slight_smile:


‘’In the OT important elements that could inspire the doctrine of Apokatastasis are found in Isaiah. In Isa. 42:13-4, the Servant of Jahweh, who is regularly interpreted by the Fathers in reference to Christ – Jesus applied Isaiah’s words to himself in Luke 4:16ff. - , is said to be going to bring about justice to the nations. That this justice means salvation is clear from the mention of the sight given again to the blind and of the liberation of prisoners from darkness. In Isa. 49:6 God wants ‘’my salvation to reach the boundaries of the earth’’ and in Isa. 51:4-5 the prophet announces the justification and salvation given by God as a gift so that the peoples will hope for God’s saving power, his ‘’arm’’. Thus, Isaiah foretells in 19:23-35 that even the Egyptians and Assyrians – traditionally included amongst the worst idolaters – will adore God, and the latter will bless them together with Israel itself. In Isa. 49:15 God promises never to abandon his people, in very emphatic terms: ‘’Can a mother forget her own child and have no mercy on the little one she has given birth to? But even if a mother could ever do so, I shall not forget you.’’ Isa 66:18 proclaims that all nations and languages will see the glory of God; and ALL PEOPLES , and the remotest parts of the earth, will see salvation brought about by God.; this is why the Lord declares in Isa. 66:23: ‘’ALL will come and worship Me.’’ These expressions are strongly inclusive…’

(She does not mention Amos 9:7 where Yahweh berated Israel’s pride in being ‘chosen’ in very inclusive terms -“Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?” declares the LORD. “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?.’’ I would add this to her list)


‘’I have already shown how the Septuagint translation of Jeremiah uses ‘apocatastasis’ in 15:19 in the promise that God will restore Israel if they return, which Origen interpreted as reference to the eventual (universal) Apocatastasis ‘’

[One of the key meaning of apocatastasis is ‘to restore an exile to their homeland and it is used thus to translate the Hebrew original in Jeremiah]

…(In the Septuagint) likewise Wisdom 11:23.26 emphasises God’s mercy as implied by his omnipotence: ‘’You have mercy upon all, because you can do everything. You do not look at the sins of human beings… You spare all beings because all of them are yours, Lord, you who love life.’’

[A large part of the Book of Wisdom is a polemic against pagan idolatry – the universal love of God here is also for the idolaters which makes the declaration all the more remarkable].

(See Illaria Ramelli, ‘Apokatastasis’, pp 25-6)


Thanks sobornost. I’m not sure any of those verses teach universalism. They definitely teach that members of each nation will be saved, but I’m not sure they teach that each member of each nation will be saved.


The OT hardly even has life beyond death, but some texts do suggest moving toward a more universal hope. E.g. “To You, all people will come.” (Psalm 65:2,5). “God will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples… He will swallow up death forever. The Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces…” (Isa 25:7f; cf 40:5).


I agree Qaz :slight_smile: – the set of quotations from Dr Ramelli are evidence of an arc of development towards God’s inclusion of the nations in his plan in Hebrew Scriptures (and away from ethnic and religious exclusivism). This emphasis is necessary for the eventual development of the Christian doctrine of universal salvation of all individuals – but it is not the same thing. I think Bob’s answer regarding Hebrew Scriptures that show any hint of actual universalism is to the point and excellent.

There is a passage in the Greek, Septuagint version of Jewish scripture that was written by an Alexandrian Jew which does seem to be hinting at/tending towards universalism in the strong sense. It comes from the Book of Wisdom:

‘’For it is always in your power to show great strength, and who can withstand the might of your arm?

Because the whole world before you is like a speck that tips the scales, and like a drop of morning dew that falls on the ground.

But you are merciful to all, for you can do all things, and you overlook people’s sins, so that they may repent.

For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it.

How would anything have endured if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved?

You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living.’’

(Wisdom of Solomon 11; 21-26)

I know that this book is relegated to the Protestant Apocrypha, but it is one text among many that inspired Origen’s thinking about Apokatastasis I understand (he quotes it at the end of Book I of ‘Against Celsus’ – that much I am sure of). Also I’m aware that Paul quotes from the Septuagint a lot in his letters – sometimes from memory, and that the Book of Wisdom seems to have inspired him in parts of Romans for example.


one must understand where annihilation fits in the timeline. It is during the next eons

This is a far cry from eternal annihilation. And a far cry from some “remedial purgatory” situation.


Hope this helps.


Do you guys think Psalm 22 teaches universalism?

Ps 22:29
All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive.


I’m not sure Qaz :slight_smile:


How could we forget Isaiah 45:23?


A note in connection with Isaiah verse:

The theme of our dignity in freedom is one that Origen found throughout the Bible. Dr Ramelli gives a key example:

When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:28, English Standard Version)

This text speaks of submission of all to Christ, after evil and death (physical and spiritual) cease to exist. This submission must be voluntary. For Origen, freewill was paramount and voluntary submission is the only thing that is worthy of God, for God is not an earthly king who crushes people into submission.’

Dr Ramelli refers to a Psalm of David that Origen used as support for this contention

‘’Shall not my soul be subject to God?
For from him is my deliverance ‘’

(Psalm 61; 1-2 from the Septuagint – which is Psalm 62 in the Hebrew text)

From these words Origen concluded that the subjection of all to Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:28 must mean the salvation of all – because subjection to God is the same thing as deliverance/freeedom/salvation.

Furthermore, Dr Ramelli says in her ‘Social Justice and the Legitimacy of Slavery’ (p.210) that:

  1. Origen, like Gregory after him, draws a sharp distinction between being a slave of/ subject4d to a human person and being a slave of/subjected to God. While the former bears a negative connotation, the latter is decidedly good. For serving God does not mean that God needs help or that we are diminished in our dignity, as is the case with serving humans, but it means receiving a benefit and becoming ‘without afflictions or passions’ (Contra Celsum 8.8.)

  2. Origen makes the repeated claim that submission to God , as opposed to submission to humans , is voluntary and coincides with salvation (E.g. Commentary on John 6.295-6; Peri Archon 1.1.6; 3.5.6-7)

  3. Origen insists that Christ recommends the subversion of any logic of power. The highest ought to be slaves of all (Commentary on Matthew 16.8.). Gregory extended this insight to teach that followers of Christ should overturn every logic and institution of power and oppression and chiefly to overturn the human institution of slavery.


Jason Pratt et al address Lamentations 3 & v.31-33 of the same here:

.Lamentations 3:31

.JRP's Exegetical Compilation: Lamentations 3

.Does god love and save everyone ?

31For the Lord will NOT cast off FOR EVER:
32But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
33For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve THE CHILDREN OF MEN. (KJV, emphasis mine)