The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Was Jesus an universalist?

Super-busy at work (and will be for a while, plus other projects outside work), but as an aside: Judah = Judas. The two names mean the same thing (like Jude and Judah), and if I recall correctly are spelled the same way in the Greek texts. English translations habitually to spell it “Judas” to help distinguish characters. German translations might not.

Somewhere around here I’ve posted detailed notes about the “better for him” verse; grammatically I agree it’s talking about being better for Judas, although that isn’t as easy to establish as it might seem!

More relevantly, though, the saying is habitually used in scripture everywhere else to be a cry for salvific pity on the object of the saying (which also lends weight for this to apply to Judas, as the “better for him” and “not been born” parts both typically apply to the same person elsewhere).

Admittedly, it’s also typically a reflexive saying, where the speaker is talking about himself and begging for pity and salvation; but while that would fit okay with Jesus being the first ‘him’ it wouldn’t with Jesus being the second ‘him’, which may be why I’ve never seen anyone try to claim both ‘hims’ refer to Jesus!

At any rate, I would argue that there is also a strong though implicit theological argument from the subsequent scene in GosJohn’s final discourse where Jesus is trying to get the disciples prepared to forgive and reconcile with Judas. Obviously they had trouble with that later (if Peter’s opening speech in Acts is anything to go by). I’m kind of wasted this morning, though, and I don’t recall if I’ve posted it on site yet anywhere. :slight_smile:

Oh, yay, I did already collect the analyses here!

Better for Judas if Judas had not been born

Jesus’ intentions about Judas part 1 (and first half of Final Discourse generally)

Jesus’ intentions about Judas part 2 (GosJohn 17)

Comments can come back to this thread for convenience, of course; just be aware I’m spottily in and out of the forum right now.

Reading back over the argument, I see that my grammatic conclusion was only decisive about “if that very man had not been born” referring to Judas; grammatically “better regarding him” could refer to either Jesus or Judas. The argument from stylistic unity, i.e. how the saying is typically used, is what lands the first “regarding-him” (third-person singular pronoun in the dative case) on Judas instead of Jesus.

Sturmy: I am a inclusivst who believes that God will still try to reach out to people beyond the grave.
But He will respect their desire NOT to be with Him.

“One could presume many things about the comment about Judas. But it doesn’t refute the restoration of Judas, Christ is only making the observation that the actions of Judas would continue for generations ( in a negative context, it is tragic for the legacy of Judas name) , but it in no way is making the final destiny of Judas as being grim. For Christ made many comments to the 12 disciples that one could assume a negative outcome. Such as the comment to Peter as”

I don’t buy it because an eternity of bliss would LARGELY outshine millions of years spent in shame

This is the theological speculation of John and probably not a true saying of Jesus.
Moreover, it can be interpreted as meaning that all men will be submitted to Him as their Judge and not necessarily as their Savior.

Jason: I’ll take a look!

Sorry, I don’t understand what you mean by bliss largely outshine of shame ? Can you explain what you mean ? I would think that restoring all that God creates would far outshine destroying most of it or some of it because it escaped the creators knowledge in how to transform a wayward disciple.

That isn’t John’s speculation at all, that’s you selectively ignoring a text you think is difficult.

How is God triumphant if He loses anyone at all? It doesn’t work. God is Love, and Love never fails. There’s no arguing this point. Jesus as the Son of God did divest Himself of His divinity to walk among men (if Trinitarianism is true), and that means He may have lost a chunk of knowledge of the over-all plan (so as to show us how to walk trusting in the Father’s knowledge above our own), but i still believe firmly that the judgements He promised for evil-doers was not ever intended to be permanent.


The key question about appealing to theological speculation from the Evangelist rather than accurate reportage of what Jesus said, is whether you’re willing to respect an ECT proponent or a Kath (universalist), or for that matter a Calvinistic proponent (either ECT or anni), making a similar appeal on a text that’s giving difficulty for their positions. :wink:

Having said that, I’m posting up a little early a cluster of planned Easter entries for the Exegetical Compilation which happen to feature the two “drag all to Me” sayings, plus a related saying on the goal of the Son’s judgment at the resurrection of the evil and the good – now added to the series list here under GosJohn’s tab. (And they should be visible as added to the general EU discussion category.)

The contexts definitely indicate (not even counting other testimony about what submission involves such as at 1 Cor 15, i.e. submitting to Christ as the Son submits to the Father) that all men will be submitted to Christ as their Savior as well as their Judge; that’s God’s goal and He’s going to see it gets done. There is no passive letting go of people (into non-existence or otherwise) who just refuse to accept eonian life: God’s active judgment itself is eonian life, though it’s better to receive eonian life without being punitively judged first of course.

It seems to me the Paul understood Jesus to affirm that through being lifted up, all would be drawn to Him (Jn.12), reconciled to Him as Paul saw it (Col.1.20). Jesus came to save the world, the cosmos, not just some of it, but all of it. He did not come to condemn, but to save.

Jason: I would not accept this from a Conservative Evangelical because **they **view this very text to be inerrant.

That’s not my case at all.

But you would accept or at least respect such an argument from a moderate evangelical or someone with a fairly broad idea of inerrancy, if they used this kind of rebuttal on a text you use as evidence for annihilation (or for a final unrighteousness more generally), right?


But if Jesus Himself taught annihilation, this is rather different…

Not at all, because you have to allow a parallel theory where anything that you think suggests Jesus teaching annihilation isn’t “Jesus Himself” but was rather a theological guess by the Gospel author or a misremembrance or a theological correction or preference or whatever.

The arguments which dissolve GosJohn’s historical accuracy tend to work (with variations where appropriate) on the Synoptics, too, after all. They even have a special weakness unique to them and not to GosJohn: they very demonstrably vary their wording on their reports, and selectively include or ignore material from the same incident, even when working from what is demonstrably one or two or three common sets of programmatic material (the Triple Tradition, Q, and the Passion bloc.) Unlike GosJohn, they also don’t make internal claims to be based on direct eyewitness testimony and recollection. (GosLuke comes closest by claiming to be based on eyewitness testimony at secondhand, in a proper historiographic fashion.)

In other words, source-critical sauce for GosJohn’s goose, tends to be source-critical sauce for the Synoptics’ gander.

By the same token, careful arguments in favor of the Synoptics’ general reliability tend to work for GosJohn, too. I am not appealing to GosJohn or the Synoptic data simply because it says so, but because I am convinced on the evidence (very meticulously and rather boringly detailed evidence :wink: ) that they are reliable enough at reportage to feasibly use for figuring out what Jesus taught.

I am willing to grant that anyone (sceptic or Christian) who hasn’t reached the same conclusions cannot be expected to accept the data to the same degree for applicable usage. But for fairness’ sake in the other direction, you ought to be willing to grant that I am within my rights to appeal to GosJohn for my religious beliefs on the topic, in just the same way I appeal to the Synoptics. (It is a whole other question whether I am doing so in a valid fashion with accuracy and sufficient inclusion to the data I accept, of course: am I leaving out important pieces, am I getting pieces significantly wrong, am I not putting them together validly, etc.?)

Perhaps you’re right.

I consider it extremely unlikely that Christ spoke like in John’s Gospel because it is incredibly dissimilar to His sayings in the synoptics.

This is the mainstream critical view which can be overturned if reasonable arguments are offered.

Huh, I never knew this. I think it’s pretty interesting though, that Jesus was betrayed by a man amongst his own disciples, with the same name as one of the tribes of Israel.

Eh, Judah was one of the top five common male names of the period – probably for Messianic hope reasons. “Judah” shows up several times in the NT, but only in one example does it have anything to do with betrayal. One of the loyal apostles was also named Judah.

Anti-bishop John Shelby Spong tried (maybe still tries) to make some hay out of this, back when he wrote Sins of Scripture – he regarded Judas’ name as his fifth “easily identifiable, documentable fact” for concluding that Judas never existed. As I wrote during my analysis of his overall argument, “at least he gets some credit for having an actual easily identifiable, documentable fact this time as his ‘source of suspicion’.” :laughing:

It’s a pretty irresponsible argument overall, terrible at marshaling facts or even stringing them together validly. He mostly relies on arguments from suspicious innuendo. :unamused: Still, it provided me an excuse to write an epic 13-part discussion of the issues one summer, so, yay?

Still, it is interesting given the nature of Jesus’ interactions with Israel. A final poke at Israel’s complete betrayal, if you will.

To paraphrase Stalin, it isn’t only typology if they’re really out to get you. :mrgreen:


I interpret that passage in which Jesus says that it were better if Judas had never been born thus:

Our existence begins at conception, not at birth. Jesus was therefore not saying that it would have been better if Judas had never existed. Rather, Jesus was saying that it would have been better if Judas had died in his mother’s womb.

This actually seems to be a rather new idea. The Hebrews did not seem to view life as beginning at conception.

The word translated as “born” in the passage comes from “γενναω”, which seldom means “to give birth to”, but usually means “to beget” or “to generate”.

The word which is usually used to mean “to give birth to” is “τικτω”. This is the word which was used in Matthew 2:2, "“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?”

Indeed, if "“γενναω” were translated as “give birth to” in Matt 1:2, it would read as follows:

“Abraham gave birth to Isaac, Isaac gave birth to Jacob, and Jacob gave birth to Judah and his brothers.”