Witherington on Annihilationism


patheos.com/community/biblea … versalism/


I’m a big fan of BW3, and I know he’s an annihilationist (can’t say I’m much of a fan of his in that regard of course :wink: ); and I think I can say that it’s a sign of how poor religious education generally is that anyone would even wonder whether universal salvation and annihilationism are the same thing. The answer to this question is “duh”. (It would be a rather different question whether UR can involve and account for apparent scriptural testimony to some kind of annihilation.)

I have to say that the notion that the one we ought to fear who can destroy both body and soul/psuche in hell is Satan, is a new one to me, though. It flies pretty hard against a lot of scriptural testimony about God (including Jesus) being the one doing the destroying, such as in Thessalonians.

His contextual appeal to Beelzebul back at Matt 10:25 is bizarre as well: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household! Therefore do not fear them etc.”

That doesn’t have anything in the least to do with fearing Beelzebul, much less anything to do with Beelzebul doing anything! (And no, the situation doesn’t change when looking at the textual variants or the Greek, either. That was the NASB version, btw.)

What’s more bizarre is that annihilationists generally have no problem identifying the One to fear as God. Who else has the authority, after he has killed you, to cast you into hell (as the parallel in GosLuke puts it)?–Satan!?! Holy Christ, maybe we should be worshiping that guy just to be safe!!

Not incidentally, Luke 12:1-12 doesn’t even have the ultra-tenuous topical connection to Beelzebul that Matt 10 has. Just as not-incidentally, Luke 12 does close by have a repeat of the warning about the sin against the Holy Spirit! (It’s a different scene that probably takes place about a year later in Jesus’ ministry, but still…)



“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Heb 12:14-15

I think hell is a present day reality on earth and Satan still has the same job description in this age.

“deliver up such a one to the Adversary for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Cor 5:5


Oh, hey, that was a colorful way to emphasize phrases. Cool. :smiley:

The 1 Cor 5 example, however, doesn’t fit; Satan is very explicitly only destroying the flesh, and only does so (in this case) explicitly by the authority of St. Paul (thus by God in delegation through the apostle). Satan is not presented there as having authority to kill and then to throw the person into Gehenna where he can destroy both body and soul.

Heb 12 is quite vague about what the devil’s power of death is, so it certainly doesn’t count as testimony that the devil has authority not only to kill the flesh but to kill and then to throw the person into Gehenna where he can destroy both body and soul.

The concept of someone who has authority not only to kill but to afterward put the person body and soul into Gehenna (compared explicitly to those who after they kill the body can do no more to the person), is connected to the concept of who has the authority to resurrect people from death (so as to put them body and soul into Gehenna). And in the OT and NT both, that authority belongs to God Most High (and/or Christ) as both the authoritative resurrector and the authoritative judge.


I agree that Satan does not have the final authority nor is it permitted to touch anyone without God’s authorization.

We have different presuppositions. Again, my theory is that HELL (including the Matt 10:28 destruction of body and soul) is on earth where Satan does have a lot of leeway.

I can agree with Prof Ben that the destroyer of body and soul in Gehenna (which I take to be here on earth) is Satan.


Yes, I’m having fun with that! :smiley:


BTW, to clarify, I don’t see anywhere that Satan can destroy a person’s spirit.

Soul is psuche from which we get the English word psyche.
Satan can bring death to people’s souls (psyches) and bodies.
(WITH God’s authorization)

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Gal 6


I wouldn’t say different presuppositions so much as different conclusions from the data. (I have very few prior “presuppositions”, none of which are especially controversial; but I do have tons of inferences, many of which get used as consequent premises for further inferences.)

I admittedly haven’t been following BW3 much recently (and usually when I do I’m interested in his historical apologetics more than his theology); but my impression, though it may be wrong, is that BW3 doesn’t think of Gehenna as being here on earth–not in the sense that he was applying when considering that passage. He was talking about eschatological punisment of some sort, not mediant punishment in this age.

And if that’s what he meant, my critique of his application of Matt 10 (especially without reference to the GosLuke parallel) still stands.

Be that here or there. :slight_smile:

Not a testimony that Satan has authority to kill and then after killing to throw the body and soul into Gehenna to be destroyed. And especially not a testimony to this on your theory, since (on your theory) Gehenna only refers to something that happens in this life and world!

I must reiterate again that even though the two sayings are most likely a repeat by Jesus at different times and in different scenes, they nevertheless should not be interpreted without considering their relation to each other. And the GosLuke version talks about someone (or Someone) who (or Who) has authority to throw body and soul into Gehenna after killing the body.

I am a little fuzzy about testimony that this happens. Bodies, yes. Psuches, no. And yes, I understand that sometimes there is some sort of distinction intended by the scriptural authors (and God by inspiration) between, in Greek, psuche and pneuma in regard to the life of a created creature. (Other times there appears to be no such distinction intended.)

Nevertheless, you haven’t quoted a situation yet where Satan/the devil kills/destroys the psuche (or in Hebrew Nephesh, if I recall correctly) of a man. That includes Job, and that also includes after the portion you quoted where Satan was given permission to afflict Job’s body (not only Job’s family and possessions)–but was not given permission to kill Job’s body, much less Job’s soul/nephesh/psuche.


Indeed, Ben and you agree that Hell is post mortem. I’m the one who disagrees with that

Ben and I agree that Matt 10:28 is talking about Satan. I always thought it was. It surprised me when I realized that most Christians think its talking about God and I have considered that but it doesn’t sit right…

Satan’s control over “the whole world” refers only to THIS age on the earth IMO. So the verse does match my theory that hell is on this earth.

That would be based on personal testimony and observation of people’s lives, Jason.
Satan destroys people’s psyche’s (and bodies) and puts them into “hell on earth”


“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Deut 30:11ff