The Fire Is Not Quenched: Annihilation and Mark 9:48 (Part 2)

A few months ago we took a look at Mark 9:48, in which Jesus quotes Isaiah 66:24 and refers to gehenna as the place where “their worm does not die.” Critics of conditionalism often misquote or misunderstand the idiom as depicting a consuming maggot that eternally feeds upon but never fully consumes its host, and I had explained that quite the opposite is true. Similar to the scavengers of Deuteronomy 28:26 and Jeremiah 7:33 which will not be frightened away and prevented from fully consuming carrion, the worm “will not be prevented by death from fully consuming dead [bodies] … their shame is made permanent and everlasting by being fully consumed.”1

Of course this image is only the first of two which Isaiah and Jesus use to paint their horrifying picture of final punishment. Just as the worm will not die, they promise that “the fire is not quenched,” an idiom that appears in a very similar form just a few verses before Christ’s appeal to Isaiah when he calls gehenna “the  unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43). Elsewhere John the Baptist says that God “will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12 and Luke 3:17). Traditionalists typically understand these phrases to mean that the fire will never go out, implying that its fuel—the unredeemed—will exist eternally, being burned forever, yet never completely consumed. But as we’ll see, this idiom is as misunderstood as its abhorrent parallel.

To quench or not to quench

Traditionalists typically assume that Isaiah contrasts a natural worm, which normally dies after it has consumed its food, with a supernaturally undying worm that never runs out of food. In a similar way, traditionalist Robert Peterson reasons that, “Although all earthly fires eventually consume their fuel and go out, the fire of hell never comes to an end because its work is never done.”2 Edward Donnelly concurs, explaining that conquerors would burn the corpses of their enemies to shame them, but “at least the fire went out when it had used up all its gruesome fuel … Here, however, the fire is never quenched.”3

This line of reasoning, however, is based on a very peculiar definition of the word quenched. As illustrated by Donnelly’s words above, traditionalists understand quenched in this passage to mean “went out.” Yet that is not how the word is typically used. When we speak of quenching things, such as a thirst, we are talking about extinguishing it. When firefighters are called upon to quench a house fire, they don’t typically arrive on the scene only to stand idly by and watch a family’s home burn to the ground; even if it were unquenchable, it would still go out naturally after it consumes its fuel. One might, in fact, be forgiven for doubting that traditionalists ever use quench to mean “die out” in any other context besides Scripture.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the English word primarily as, whether literally or figuratively, “to put out or extinguish the fire or flame of (something that burns or gives light).”4 Other definitions include “to put out, extinguish, douse,” “to destroy the sight of (an eye); to blind,” “to oppress, crush; to kill, destroy,” and “to put (a person) down; to reduce to silence; to quell.” Most definitions of quench likewise carry some form of the meaning “to put an end to.” Only a tiny handful of its many definitions connote something like “to go out.” (And those meanings are rare or obsolete.)

Still, though very rare, this use of the English word quench does exist. The same appears to be true in the original biblical languages. The Hebrew and Greek words translated quench primarily mean something like “to extinguish,” but they are capable of being used to mean “to go out.” For example, Proverbs 26:20 reads, “For lack of wood the fire goes out [kabah]. And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” Matthew 25:8 reads, “The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out [sbennymi]’.” So which meaning, then, is intended in Isaiah 66:24 and Mark 9:48 and similar texts?

Quench in Hebrew

In some texts where kabah connects to ordinary fire the Hebrew word, our English quench, might mean something like “die out.” Aside from Proverbs 26:20, it’s used twice in Leviticus 6:12-13 to say, “The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out.” 1 Samuel 3:3 says, “The lamp of God had not yet gone out.” Proverbs 31:18 says of a good wife that “her lamp does not go out at night.” Although it could be argued to mean “put out” in these texts, the consensus among major translations might be reason enough to concede that it can occasionally mean “die out.”

In other places, on the other hand, and in a variety of contexts, kabah takes “put out” as its primary meaning. A widow tells the king that she fears the execution of her only remaining son and his heir, that in so doing “they will extinguish my coal which is left, so as to leave my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth” (2 Samuel 14:7). When David wearies in battle, risking being killed by a Philistine, his men swore to him, saying, “You shall not go out again with us to battle, so that you do not extinguish the lamp of Israel” (2 Samuel 21:17). God promises to “extinguish” Pharaoh in Ezekiel 32:7. Hezekiah tells the priests and Levites in 2 Chronicles 29:6-7 that “our fathers have been unfaithful and have … put out the lamps.” Additional uses like this include Song of Solomon 8:7 and Isaiah 43:17.

It is interesting to note at this point that the aforementioned consensus among translators—which might prompt one to concede that kabah can occasionally mean “go out”—is the same consensus which therefore ought to prompt traditionalists to concede that it does not carry that meaning in Isaiah 66:24. Major translations almost universally render it something like “go out” when it is believed to be used in that way, such as in Proverbs 26:20, otherwise translating it “put out,” “extinguish,” or “quench.” With few exceptions, the vast majority of these translations render kabah in Isaiah 66:24 as “put out,” “extinguished,” or “quenched.” Their consensus suggests the word carries its primary meaning there.

It is the remaining uses of kabah which are most useful for determining whether or not the consensus among most major translations of Isaiah 66:24 is correct, for their contexts are similar: the fiery, inextinguishable wrath of God. In Ezekiel 20:47-48, God tells Ezekiel to say,

47 … Behold, I am about to kindle a fire in you, and it will consume every green tree in you, as well as every dry tree; the blazing flame will not be quenched and the whole surface from south to north will be burned by it. 48 All flesh will see that I, the Lord, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched.

The meaning of kabah in this text is clearly “put out.” Whether to be taken literally or not, although the fire “will not be quenched,” it is clear that the trees which fuel the fire will not burn eternally, for the fire will “consume” (‘akal) them. When the word translated “consume” describes what fire does, it means completely burn up. Hence the text of Exodus 3:2 uses it to say that although Moses saw that “the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed [‘akal].” The bush, though burning, was not burned up completely; but the green and dry trees would be, by the unquenchable fire of God.

Similarly, Jeremiah 17:27 reads, “If you do not listen to me … I will kindle a fire in its gates and it will devour [‘akal] the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched [kabah].” God did not threaten that the buildings of Jerusalem would burn perpetually forever, but that, unable to be extinguished, his fire would reduce them to rubble. Amos 5:6 likewise says, “He will break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph, and it will consume [‘akal] with none to quench it [kabah].”

Even traditionalists often recognize that in these texts and others, in which the fire of God is not able to be quenched, it does not mean the object of God’s wrath will burn forever, but that the fire will burn unabated until its intended destruction is complete. John Gill, for example, writes of Ezekiel 20:47-48 that it refers to “either the succession of these calamities one after another; or the force and strength of them, which should not be abated until the ruin of the city was completed … no stop put to it by all the art and power of man” (emphasis mine).56 Commenting on Jeremiah 17:27 Gill wrote that the fire would not be quenched “until it has utterly destroyed the city: this was fulfilled by the Chaldeans” (emphasis mine).7 And of Amos 5:6 he wrote, “His wrath and fury break out like fire as the Targum, by sending an enemy to invade the land, destroy it … [they] would not be able to avert the stroke of divine vengeance, or turn back the enemy, and save the land from ruin.”8

God’s burning wrath which wouldn’t be quenched, prophesied in 2 Kings 22:17 and 2 Chronicles 34:25, found its fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem in the subsequent chapters of both books. Still other examples could be brought to bear, but from all of these it’s evident that the unquenchable fire of Isaiah 66:24 need not refer to a fire which burns forever because its fuel is never fully consumed, but can instead—and likely does, given these parallels—refer to a fire which cannot be extinguished prematurely before it completely consumes the wicked. And since the worm that won’t be prevented by death from fully consuming the wicked is the parallel to the unquenchable fire, we have every reason to believe that’s what the fire likewise does.

Unquenchable in Greek

Besides Matthew 25:8 where it may mean “die out,” and besides Mark 9:48 (because it is the verse in question), everywhere sbennymi (quench) is used in the New Testament it means “put out.”9 As we’ve seen, the best understanding of Isaiah 66:24 is that it likewise refers to a fire which, being inextinguishable, completely consumes. Lacking any indication that the meaning is being changed, it means the same thing when cited by Jesus in Mark 9:48. But what about the “unquenchable” (asbestos) fire in verse 43 and other texts?

Matthew records John the Baptist saying of Jesus, “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clear his threshing floor; and he will gather his wheat into the barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable [asbestos] fire” (Matt. 3:12; cf. Luke 3:17). When chaff is separated from wheat and burned, we know what happens to it: it is completely burned up and reduced to ashes. What’s more, given that the context is the fiery wrath of God, the precedent set in the Old Testament informs us that Jesus is referring to a fire which, incapable of being put out prematurely, will burn up the object of God’s wrath entirely.

Furthermore, the Greek word translated “burn up” is katakaiō which, like its Hebrew equivalent (‘akal), means to completely consume. When the Jewish translators of the Septuagint rendered Exodus 3:2 in Greek they wrote that while the bush was burning it was not katakaiō or consumed. On the other hand, Paul said that the work of some believers will remain but that the work of others will not remain, instead being katakaiō or “burned up” (1 Cor. 3:14-15).

Perhaps the most graphic use of katakaiō in connection with the unsaved can be found in Matthew 13. Jesus tells the parable of the wheat and the tares, saying in verse 30, “In the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn’.” Interpreting the parable as analogous to the fate of the wicked, beginning in verse 40 Jesus says,

40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned [katakaiō] with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire… (Matt. 13:40-42)

Beyond likening the fate of sinners to chaff completely burned up by fire, Jesus says they will be thrown into a “furnace of fire,” alluding to Malachi 4:1-3 in which the Lord says (all emphases mine),

1 For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze … so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name … 3 You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing …

So when Jesus and his forerunner John liken the destiny of the lost to chaff burned up by “unquenchable” fire, they are not saying that the unredeemed will suffer forever in flames. Instead, they are saying that those flames are incapable of being extinguished prematurely, and will therefore irresistibly and completely consume the wicked until all that remains is no more than remains.

The fire is not quenched

Isaiah 66:24 which says “their fire will not be quenched,” and its citation by Jesus in Mark 9:48, as well the “unquenchable fire” of Mark 9:43, Matthew 3:12, and Luke 3:17, have been believed by traditionalists through the centuries to depict a fire which never dies out, and in which the lost consciously suffer for eternity. If one were to compile a list of the texts most frequently cited by traditionalists, these verses would, no doubt, appear toward the top of that list. But a simple look at how the idiom is used by the authors of the Old and New Testaments reveals that this is not at all what they had in mind.

Instead, when the authors of Scripture wrote that the fiery wrath of God is incapable of being quenched, they meant that it irresistibly consumes. Like a raging house fire which firefighters are unable to extinguish, therefore burning the building to the ground, the unquenchable fire of God completely destroys. Like chaff separated from wheat and burned up, the risen wicked, Jesus says, will be thrown into a furnace of fire and reduced to remains. Far from supporting the position of critics of conditionalism, these verses, some of the favorites of traditionalists, clearly teach the final annihilation of the unsaved.

Notes:

  1. Date, C. (2012, July 17). “Their worm does not die: Annihilation and Mark 9:48.” Rethinking Hell [blog]. Retrieved 16 July 2012. http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2012/07/their-worm-does-not-die-annihilation-and-mark-948/
  2. Peterson, R. Hell On Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1995), 64.
  3. Donnelly, E. Biblical Teaching on the Doctrines of Heaven and Hell (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001), 37-38.
  4. quench, v. Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition, September 2007; online version June 2012; accessed 07 September 2012.
  5. Gill, J. “Commentary on Ezekiel 20:47.” The new John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible. 1999. http://www.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?book=eze&chapter=020&verse=047.
  6. Gill. “Commentary on Ezekiel 20:48.” Exposition. http://www.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?book=eze&chapter=020&verse=048.
  7. Gill. “Commentary on Jeremiah 17:27.” Exposition. http://www.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?book=jer&chapter=017&verse=027.
  8. Gill. “Commentary on Amos 5:6.” Exposition. http://www.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?book=am&chapter=005&verse=006.
  9. Matt. 12:20; Eph. 6:16; 1 Thess. 5:19; and Heb. 11:34.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/anomalousmettaur Jacob Arthur Stevens

    Chris, I’m glad you’re posting so many detailed articles like this. Are these basically your notes from when you studied this out, or are you putting lots of new study time into the topic?

    • Chris Date

      It’s a combination of the two :)

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  • http://www.wholereason.com Daniel G. Sinclair

    Excellent

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  • Christopher Carnell

    Glad to see someone else who believes about the bible’s lack of need to be illogical and come up with convoluted doctrines to come to any conclusions. Everything can be found by study to make quite a lot of sense and doesn’t need stretching the imagination to come up with the right interpretation of something.

  • Tony Huy

    Hi Chris, thanks for the detailed article. To preface, I stand behind the traditionalist view. Just today I preached on this passage so I used your article as background. I’m curious why in such a detailed article about the meaning of “unquenchable” you did not refer to Matt 18:8, which is the parallel passage and seems to put the discussion to a close. There in the ESV, NASB, NIV, KJV – it all says “eternal fire”. It seems like that would help us interpret “unquenchable” as never ending rather than unable to be put out. Maybe I’m missing something and would love to hear your thoughts on (a) why this discussion did not reference the parallel in Matthew and (b) what you make of the parallel in Matthew as it pertains to the understanding of “unquenchable” here in Mark. Thanks in advance.

    • Peter Grice

      // interpret “unquenchable” as never ending //

      Are you suggesting that our English translations should say “the fire is never ending” rather than “the fire is not quenched”? Quench means to put out. This is not an annihilationist argument. The translators have it right for Mark 9:48—”the fire is not quenched.”

      Certainly the “Gehenna of Fire” (Matt 18:9) is fueled by “eternal fire” (v8). This has been “prepared” (Matt 25:41) for the devil and his angels:

      // For a burning place [Topheth, in Gehenna] has long been prepared; indeed, for the king it is made ready, its pyre made deep and wide, with fire and wood in abundance; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of sulfur, kindles it. //—Isaiah 30:33

      Eternal fire is eternal at its source, issuing from the manifest presence of God, who is eternal. It streams forth from God’s holy presence in judgment against evil, sometimes mingled with sulfur as at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude 7 says that Sodom and Gomorrah “serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire,” and 2 Peter 2:6 says “he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly.” Clearly, the people of those cities are not still being burned alive in eternal fire, so the argument that the concept of eternal fire overturns the biblical point that it is not quenchable, if you’ll pardon the pun, holds no water…

      • Tony Huy

        actually, I’m suggesting that we interpret Mark 9:48 “unquenchable” with Matt 18:8 “eternal”. That seems like that straight forward way to resolve what “unquenchable” means, unless we want to say that it is both “eternal” (Matt 18:8) AND “unable to be put out” (Mark 9:48)

        • Peter Grice

          Right, that’s what I understood you to be saying. But “unquenchable” will mean just what the lexicon/dictionary says it means, and this article argues that the normative meaning in Hebrew and Greek (just as in English) is “to put out,” rather than “to go out.” The latter meaning is obscure, and if it applies to Matt 25:8 at all, that is the sole NT example. So rather than assert that unquenchable fire “never goes out,” traditionalists need to fall into line with the standard meaning of the term. The first part of this article series shows how the idea fits very well with similar Hebrew idioms to do with consuming agents and abhorrent treatment of corpses.

          // unless we want to say that it is both “eternal” (Matt 18:8) AND “unable to be put out” (Mark 9:48) //

          We should want to say both of those, because that is what those texts do say. There’s absolutely no contradiction in affirming both. Indisputably, “eternal fire” rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah. Nobody was able to quench it (put it out), but nonetheless, it did eventually go out. One can even affirm that eternal fire is eternal at its source, issuing as it does from God’s manifest presence.

          See Isaiah 33:12-14 for the likely origin of the eternal fire motif of the NT. This is the consuming fire of God’s presence.

          • Tony Huy

            Actually Peter, all the lexicon / dictionary that I have does not make the latter meaning of “to go out” obscure, but rather primary. I’ve listed them below. But my bigger question is what I wrote to William – why exclude an analysis of Matt 18 if that’s talking about the exact same situation. And why not analyze the legitimacy of understanding “eternal” in Matt 18 as not forever (i.e. like eternal punishment and eternal destruction and eternal life – regardless of how one understands punishment and destruction) and instead understand it from loan reference in Jude 7?

            Here’s all the lexicon/dictionary meaning of “unquenchable” that I have in my Logos system. It seems that Chris’ analysis actual goes contra to the main definitions here:

            >> Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) – 812 ἄσβεστος (asbestos), ον (on): adj.; ≡ Str 762—LN 14.71 unquenchable, not able to go out, inextinguishable (Mt 3:12; Mk 9:43; Lk 3:17+; Mk 9:45 v.r.)

            >> Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : updated edition – 762. ἄσβεστος asbestos; from 1 (as a neg. pref.) and σβεστός sbestos (quenched, extinguished); unquenched, unquenchable:—unquenchable(3).

            >> Liddell, H. G. (1996). A lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English lexicon (p. 123). Oak Harbor, WA: – ἄ-σβεστος, ον, and η, ον, unquenchable, inextinguishable, of fire, Il.; of laughter, etc., Hom.; ἄσβ. πόρος ὠκεανοῦ oceans ceaseless flow, Aesch.

            >> (2011). The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. – ἄσβεστος (asbestos), inextinguishable. Cognate word: σβέννυμι 14.71 (5) unquenchable Mt 3:12; Mk 9:43; Lk 3:17; 2Cl 17.7; IEph 16.2

            >> Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 1, p. 16). Bellingham, WA:-
            762. ἄσβεστος asbĕstŏs, as´-bes-tos; from 1 (as a neg. particle) and a der. of 4570; not extinguished, i.e. (by impl.) perpetual:—not to be quenched, unquenchable.

          • Peter Grice

            // But my bigger question is what I wrote to William – why exclude an analysis of Matt 18 if that’s talking about the exact same situation. And why not analyze the legitimacy of understanding “eternal” in Matt 18 as not forever (i.e. like eternal punishment and eternal destruction and eternal life – regardless of how one understands punishment and destruction) and instead understand it from loan reference in Jude 7? //

            In our interaction, you called Matt 18:8 “the parallel passage” (it’s not), suggesting that this would put the discussion about the meaning of “unquenchable” to rest, making it mean “never ending.” Perhaps you mean something more broad and general, but this article is about the meaning of a particular word in Mark 9:48, and your proposal would be poor methodology. I see that William has replied, so I won’t say more than I’ve already said on it, but please note again some salient points:

            — “eternal fire” in Jude 7 is manifestly not talking about fire that never goes out at the site of destruction (nonethless it is aptly called “eternal” if its source is eternal), so you cannot assert the contrary.

            — There’s absolutely no logical contradiction in affirming that the fire is eternal (Matt 18:8) and that it is unable to be quenched (i.e. put out, doused, extinguished; Mark 9:48). The phrase, “the eternal fire cannot be put out” is highly parsimonious.

            — The claim of traditionalists that the fire burns forever is critical to eternal torment, but incidental/trivial for annihilation. The article is polemical in nature, and the issue being treated arises from the mental construct of eternal torment, not from any acknowledged inherent ambiguity or suggestion of eternal torment in the text itself.

            In short, in Mark 9:48 there’s no good objective reason to depart from the primary meaning of quench in Hebrew, Greek and English.

          • Tony Huy

            Hi Peter, my mistake. I my thought to William below on connecting Matt 18:8 to Mark 9:43, as I assume everyone agrees that Mark 9:43 is conveying the same idea as Mark 9:48.

            As for Jude 7: my thought is that eternal fire conveys judgement. God judged Sodom. In your thought, that judgement burned the city to the ground and hence the fire is now gone. It is not eternal. But I think that assumes a meaning here and is not proved by the text. I say that because if that was the case, then God’s judgement on Sodom would be done. But it is not:

            “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”” (Matthew 11:23–24, ESV)

            So Jude 7 and eternal fire can mean just that – forever judgement against Sodom. It does not have to mean that literal hailing of fire down on the city. That was just a manifestation of God’s judgement. The “fire” idea in conveying judgement does not always (and maybe is not mostly) a literal fire.

            So again, while some can say Jude 7 shows that God’s judgement on Sodom is done once for all (i.e. eternal fire), the reality is His judgement is still yet to come.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            Discussing only the issue of eternal fire:

            //In your thought, that judgement burned the city to the ground and hence the fire is now gone. It is not eternal.//

            It’s crucial that this is not our argument. The fire can be both past and future eternal (or only future eternal) or any other construction you want. What Jude 7 shows is that for our single example of the punishment of eternal fire, although the fire is eternal, the target is _not_. The eternal fire can burn without needing to burn in the place of the thing’s destruction.

            //It does not have to mean that literal hailing of fire down on the city. That was just a manifestation of God’s judgement.//

            Unfortunately for your claim, the verse in question (Jude 1:7) is explicitly about the manifestation of judgment. Every passage that speaks of this judgment explains it as being a punishment of destruction, reduction to ashes, smoke rising up; and there’s even one passage that speaks of their suffering as brief (Lam 4:6), as of course Jesus does in discussing how the Day will be more tolerable for them than for the cities He ministered in.

          • Tony Huy

            When you say “our argument,” I’m not sure there is a consensus, as Peter describes “eternal” as referiring to “its source is eternal” (ala Fudge in some cases) and you seem to be implying “eternal” denotes not source but perhaps time past or future. Please correct me if I’m wrong in my understanding.

            As for Jude 7, I think what confuses me about how you are using that verse to demonstrate that “eternal fire” is not “forever fire” is that you mention the target is not eternal. But the case you’re making only shows that the city proper – SODOM – is not eternal. If that’s what you’re saying (and please correct me if I’m wrong), that’s a very rigid understanding of “Sodom”, as Matt 11;23-24 does imply that Sodom exists after Sodom was destroyed. And in that case, one can easily understand, when Jude 7 says:

            “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7, ESV)

            … one can take it to mean Sodom is an example of forever punishment – they suffered and will suffer, not just that they once suffered. (1) Again, Matt 11 implies this and (2) a strong clue is that the word “undergoiong” (or in some translations “suffer”) is in the present – active tense, implying happened and continually happening. It’s not in the past tense.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            //When you say “our argument,” I’m not sure there is a consensus, as Peter describes “eternal” as referiring to “its source is eternal” (ala Fudge in some cases) and you seem to be implying “eternal” denotes not source but perhaps time past or future.//

            I believe /aionios/ normally means everlasting through future time; sometimes it has a more intensive meaning that’s past AND future. Sometimes it has a less intensive one that’s actually the common Greek meaning “of an age”, in which case it doesn’t refer to duration at all, but might mean wealth or horrible or whatever that age refers to. (I usually have to deal with that objection with universalists.)

            Both Peter and I agree that /aionios/ means everlasting in time, and apply to the fire. However, both of us notice that this eternal fire does not burn things eternally, but instead burn them to ashes. Peter explains that the fire is eternal because it’s always burning at its source, and I explain that it’s eternal because it’s always burning. We agree — but I didn’t mention the word “source”.

            //As for Jude 7, I think what confuses me about how you are using that verse to demonstrate that “eternal fire” is not “forever fire” is that you mention the target is not eternal.//

            I believe that eternal fire is forever fire — I just believe the target is not eternal.

            //But the case you’re making only shows that the city proper – SODOM – is not eternal.//

            That’s what the verse says, so I believe my point is visible to you.

            //If that’s what you’re saying (and please correct me if I’m wrong), that’s a very rigid understanding of “Sodom”, as Matt 11;23-24 does imply that Sodom exists after Sodom was destroyed.//

            Matt 11 does not exhibit Sodom as an example of undergoing the penalty of eternal fire, though. So it’s not part of what Jude is referring to as an example. It’s no more right to use this than it would be to use Abraham’s rescue of Sodom’s plunder and returning it to them, or Ezekiel 16‘s promise that Sodom will be restored to its former place along with Jerusalem.

            //And in that case, one can easily understand, when Jude 7 says … … one can take it to mean Sodom is an example of forever punishment – they suffered and will suffer, not just that they once suffered.//

            Actually, that’s only possible if you ignore the term “set forth as an example”. If Jude had said simply that Sodom and Gomorrah suffer the punishment of eternal fire, we might be able to read that as a new revelation, not present in any previous text, that S&G are suffering in fire right now. But this is ruled out because Jude is not here giving new revelation; he’s pointing to an example already available to the reader.

            //(1) Again, Matt 11 implies this//

            That “they will suffer”, yes. But not that they suffered — it makes no mention of it. And that they will suffer endlessly it contradicts — it only says “it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment.” Note that this is not forever or for an unmentioned time — it’s specific to “the day”.

            //and (2) a strong clue is that the word “undergoiong” (or in some translations “suffer”) is in the present – active tense, implying happened and continually happening. It’s not in the past tense.//

            Ah! I’ve seen this objection before. The “undergoing” is a participle, not a primary verb; it is governed by its primary verb, which is “set forth” or “given as an example”. As such, the readers are told that they are to look for examples of Sodom undergoing punishment, and to think that what happens to the wicked in the Judgment Day will be like that. Where are those examples _presently_ to be found? They are in the Bible, all over it.

            In particular, there’s the parallel passage (almost certainly a literary parallel, one is probably preaching on the other’s sermon, or both are preaching on the same common source) in 2 Peter 2:6 can hardly be more explicit: “if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly…” This passage actually _calls_ itself the “example” the other passage talks about. Nor is it the only one, nor is there any exception: all of the passages speak with one voice, that the punishment they were experiencing was flame leading to death, and afterward there was only ashes and a blackened spot.

          • Tony Huy

            (I like the style of quoting with // so if you don’t mind, I’ll copy you)

            // Matt 11 does not exhibit Sodom as an example of undergoing the penalty of eternal fire, though. So it’s not part of what Jude is referring to as an example. It’s no more right to use this than it would be to use Abraham’s rescue of Sodom’s plunder and returning it to them, or Ezekiel 16‘s promise that Sodom will be restored to its former place along with Jerusalem.//

            I’m not following that logic. My point was to say that though the city proper is destroyed by fire and no one would argue that destruction by literal fire will continue for Sodom the city, what Matt 11 does tell us is that Sodom has yet more judgement to incur. That being the case, whatever we conclude about “eternal fire” for Sodom as it relates to judgement should correlate with Matthew. And unless one is arguing for the literal destruction by literal fire, then Jude 7 and Matt 11 do in fact connect very much.

            As for Abraham and Eze that your referenced, I’m not seeing the connection between your example and my point that Jude 7 speaks of Gods judgement on Sodom, but that judgement is not yet done, hence Jude 7 is not an example of ‘eternal fire’ meaning ‘judgement that is done’

            // Actually, that’s only possible if you ignore the term “set forth as an example”. If Jude had said simply that Sodom and Gomorrah suffer the punishment of eternal fire, we might be able to read that as a new revelation, not present in any previous text, that S&G are suffering in fire right now. But this is ruled out because Jude is not here giving new revelation; he’s pointing to an example already available to the reader.//

            Actually, I’m not saying this is new revelation. I’m saying that the example set forth is that Sodom is a place that is undergoing eternal fire, and yes, it references clearly soemthing that has happened. But nothing here mandates therefore that we use this as an example of judgement done once and never again. And when we bring in Matt 11, then we clearly (I think) should not conclude that this is a prooftext to demonstrate that eternal fire (judgement) for Sodom is done.

            // 2 Peter 2:6 //

            I’m not seeing the logic here. Yes it says Sodom was turned to ashes by flames, but here again is where I struggle with the rigid interpretation. Just because the city proper is in ashes and “death”, what we know from Matt 11 is that Sodom has yet more judgement to undergo. Now I’m not saying 2 Peter 2:6 is a good prooftext for eternal torment, I’m just saying neither is it a good prooftext to demonstrate that “eternal fire” on Sodom was not “forever”.

            The assumption I make here is that “fire” = “judgement” here and that jugement can but does not have to be literal fire.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            //what Matt 11 does tell us is that Sodom has yet more judgement to incur.//

            We already know that, right?

            Even if I accept this as pertinent to Jude 7 (which I don’t, because it is a still-future vague prophecy rather than an actual example of Sodom undergoing something that we can tell evildoers to fear), all it tells us about is abstract tolerable judgment that happens on the Day — a finite time. It’s exactly the opposite of what you need for your case to be true — it doesn’t give any example of punishment, AND it explicitly describes a finite duration.

            //That being the case, whatever we conclude about “eternal fire” for Sodom as it relates to judgement should correlate with Matthew. And unless one is arguing for the literal destruction by literal fire, then Jude 7 and Matt 11 do in fact connect very much.//

            I don’t understand your claim here. The fire can be literal or non-literal, destruction or non-destruction, and the two passages still correlate perfectly well. What they unconditionally cannot do, is make Matt 11 an _example_ of eternal fire, because it says nothing at all to make it an example. Rather, Matt 11 is a prophecy just like Jude 1:7 is.

            (And really, it’s a very NICE prophecy so far as Sodom is concerned.)

            //As for Abraham and Eze that your referenced, I’m not seeing the connection between your example and my point that Jude 7 speaks of Gods judgement on Sodom, but that judgement is not yet done, hence Jude 7 is not an example of ‘eternal fire’ meaning ‘judgement that is done’//

            My point is that both are transparently false connections because none of them CAN serve as examples of eternal fire. The point of eternal fire cannot be “it means they’ll be resurrected later to go into more eternal fire” (your claim for Matt 11), nor “it means they’ll be resurrected later to be restored to wealth and prosperity” (the universalistic claim from Ezekiel).

            I mean, even if your example was _valid_ it would appear to mean that the wicked would be killed and resurrected again and again forever. Nobody actually claims that. (I’ve talked to universalists who say that they COULD claim that. But they always back down.)

            My point: not every passage about Sodom is _automatically_ a passage that serves as an example of them suffering the punishment of eternal fire as an example of what the wicked will undergo. Some passages put Sodom into some other role.

            //Actually, I’m not saying this is new revelation. I’m saying that the example set forth is that Sodom is a place that is undergoing eternal fire,//

            That’s _exactly_ the new revelation you’re claiming, because the teaching that Sodom is presently in fire is not present anywhere in the Bible — your only possible claim is that it’s present _here_ in Jude, in which case because it’s nowhere else, it’s new revelation to Jude. (The idea that Jude contains new revelation is not a bad thing, BTW. I don’t want to leave that hanging. I’m trying to explain that you can’t have it both ways.)

            //and yes, it references clearly soemthing that has happened.//

            That’s what I affirm, and it’s mutually exclusive with the reading you gave above. Either this passage is affirming that Sodom is NOW in fire, OR it’s affirming that whatever’s set forth about Sodom undergoing punishment *elsewhere* is the same as the punishment of eternal fire.

            //But nothing here mandates therefore that we use this as an example of judgement done once and never again.//

            Who says _that_? Not me! It’s unbelievably clear that Sodom’s judgment is an example of a future event. Undeniably, that means it’ll happen again!

            What’s unique about Jude 7 is that it ties the past event of Sodom’s judgment to the future event of the judgment of ALL the wicked (including the wicked from Sodom).

            //And when we bring in Matt 11, then we clearly (I think) should not conclude that this is a prooftext to demonstrate that eternal fire (judgement) for Sodom is done.//

            That’s the opposite of what I’m saying. Jude 1:7 alone makes it clear that it’s comparing the example of Sodom’s punishment (which we find all over the Bible) to the Judgment Day (which is a future event that cannot serve as an example because it’s future). Matt 11 unmistakably speaks not about the past example, but about the future fulfillment.

            //I’m not seeing the logic here. Yes it says Sodom was turned to ashes by flames, but here again is where I struggle with the rigid interpretation. Just because the city proper is in ashes and “death”,//

            You cannot be serious about “struggling” with this. Read what the passage is saying. Read any commentary.

            I could take this much more seriously if you said that the LITERAL example of S&G was FIGURATIVELY being applied to the future fate of the wicked. But here you’re saying that the entire teaching of the Bible about S&G is to be taken purely figuratively — that they weren’t actually _dead_ dead but rather were (something else) and not literally turned to ashes but rather surrounded by them.

            Believe it or not, I’m not saying that you should let one passage overthrow your entire eschatology. I’m just saying that you should interpret this passage straightforwardly and in light of its context and let it add its voice to your theology.

            //I’m just saying neither is it a good prooftext to demonstrate that “eternal fire” on Sodom was not “forever”.//

            I’m not saying that either. I’m saying that the example of the punishment of eternal fire IS to be reduced to ashes.

            //The assumption I make here is that “fire” = “judgement” here and that jugement can but does not have to be literal fire.//

            I’m OK with that. But that’s not the actual content of this teaching! In fact, that’s not content at all; it’s merely a loose interpretive rule. You still have to do _something_ to interpret the passage.

            Awesome discussion, BTW; thank you.

          • Peter Grice

            // The assumption I make here is that “fire” = “judgement” here and that jugement can but does not have to be literal fire. //

            Tony, that could be a misleading assumption in this case. Look at 2 Peter 3:7 and that whole chapter. On “the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly,” Peter describes a literal fire doing its consuming/destroying work in the heavens and earth. This is God’s fire of judgment which has been manifest numerous times in the OT. The direct comparison is drawn to the water of Noah’s flood, and Peter describes the work of the fire as melting/dissolving.

            In 2 Peter 2:6, “what is going to happen to the ungodly” is exemplified in what happened at S&G. You seem to miss the metonym, which is meant to refer to the fate of the ungodly of S&G at that time, and not to “the city proper.” Destroying/saving the buildings was never the point in the original narrative—it was all about the people. Lot was rescued, Peter goes on to say, and the pattern of rescue from destruction is essentially the same as Noah through the Flood. There’s no need to add a “yeah, but…” to it, as many traditionalists do. “Yeah, but” … “those people aren’t really extinct” or “those people will be resurrected.” This doesn’t overturn the example, which was never intended to bundle abstract systematic theology. The example of punishment by eternal fire (Jude 7) which will also happen to the ungodly in future (2 Pet 2:6) is just what happened to those people at that time.

            See if you can read the following passage about judgment day without any theological supposition or constructed schema, apart from that recalled from the accounts of Noah and Lot. See if you can read it straightforwardly, embodying ordinary human concerns about staying alive and not dying, and our concern about our ultimate fate:

            “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”

            Now if you realize that Jesus is not simply gleaning an analogy to suddenness, but is actually making a direct comparison to those two elemental destruction events, to say that some people will lose their lives by being destroyed (should they love the sinful world, like Lot’s wife), and others will keep their life by being rescued from harm, then you are beginning to see what we see.

            Next, consider that on this same day of Christ’s sudden return, Jesus will defeat the coming man of lawlessness. How will he do this? According to 2 Thessalonians 2:8, he “will kill [him] with the breath of his mouth and bring [him] to nothing by the appearance of his coming.”

            This is theophany language, reminiscent of Isaiah 30:33 and its passage. Or v8—”his breath is like an overflowing stream that reaches up to the neck; to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction.” The very presence of Christ will issue forth in fiery destruction. The scene is set for us:

            //… when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believe. //—2 Thessalonians 1:7-10.

            When we think of this presence, should we think of a vague heavenly realm where disembodied human spirits are confronted by God’s intangible presence, or should we instead think of the return/descent of YHWH to earth as the manifestation of God’s mighty, fearsome, awesome Shekinah glory? The fire related to/issuing from this presence of God is not exclusively called “eternal fire,” but is also known as “consuming fire” (Exod 24:17). It is the fire of God that either descends from heaven when God is not manifest in the earth, or issues forth from God’s presence when God is manifest in the earth.

          • Peter Grice

            Tony, your interest was Mark 9:48 (as with this article), and now you’re quoting lexicons for ἄσβεστος, which doesn’t appear in that text. In fact it appears only thrice in the NT. As the article above points out, Matt 3:12 and Luke 3:17 say that the ἄσβεστος fire will “burn up” (κατακαίω) the chaff—an allusion to the burning of those who don’t repent. κατακαίω really does mean to utterly consume, as happens to chaff in fire. But unless you’re trying to make a trivial point about whether ἄσβεστος fire ever goes out (annihilationism works fine either way), you appear to be arguing with traditionalism that it necessarily does burn forever, because on eternal torment, the object of wrath is burned alive forever. Here, that means you must argue that the object is not “burned up” (κατακαίω) like chaff after all, which would be an unenviable thing to have to argue.

            In any case, of the five references you posted, only one of them gives “not able to go out” as one of the term’s meanings. Even that possible meaning falls short of the traditionalist construct of something that necessarily must never go out—is even God unable to make it go out?

            Sorry, but your claim that these five lexicon references make your asserted definition “primary” and that “Chris’ analysis actual goes contra to the main definitions here” is simultaneously untrue and by nature unable to challenge Chris’ whole analysis.

    • William Tanksley Jr

      What you’re doing here is picking a _different_ text that needs to be treated with entirely different analysis, and simply skipping all of the analysis because you assume it will support your existing position. We have already done this analysis in a number of articles; as we did here, we examine the use of the expression “eternal fire” though the Bible, and explain a model for how the expression operates. One example is the section of http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2012/06/chris-date-vs-joshua-whipps/ titled //JUDE 7, MATTHEW 18:8, AND “ETERNAL FIRE”//. You can find other articles with a Google “site:” search.

      Although “eternal fire” does (I believe) mean fire that burns forever, it does not mean fire that burns a single thing forever. The Bible does not mention “eternal fire” in many places, but one of its uses is Jude 1:7, in which the author points out that Sodom and Gomorrah “…are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” Where are they exhibited? Only in the Bible — including the parallel passage of 2 Peter 2:6. None of the mentions of S&G exhibit them as suffering greatly (although surely they did); Biblically they’re exhibited as nothing more than a black spot on the plains and smoke going up.

      But there’s a more serious problem with what you’re doing here. You’re defining a meaning for “unquenchable” based not on lexical data, but rather based on theological data. “Unquenchable” _lexically_ means fire that cannot (or will not) be deliberately put out; it doesn’t mean fire that simply burns forever. Even if the fire that is unquenchable actually IS the fire that’s eternal, this does not make “unquenchable” mean “eternal.” This is important in general, and in this case it’s important because although “the eternal fire” is eternal, “their fire” is not eternal — because they will not be.

      • Tony Huy

        Hmmm… I’m perplexed on why you would feel like this is cherry picking verses to simply support my position. In my thinking, it is most obvious in trying to figure out what Jesus meant when he was explaining the “fire” of hell to analyze the exact same reference but from Matthews angle. It also seems obvious to me that in coming to a conclusion about what that fire is, that one would need to reconcile that conclusion Mark 9 with what one would conclude from Matthew 18. To not do so would be to miss the most basic of analysis. Scripture has given us two witnesses to what Jesus has said here. Let’s go there before we go everywhere else. After all, these two verses (Mark 9 and Matt 18) have the most correlation – i.e. they’re speaking of the exact same event.

        Now it may be that you conclude that the fire is both “unquenchable” and “eternal”. And it may be that you conclude “eternal” in Matt 18 leans more towards “eternal” in the Jude 7 rather than what “eternal” means in “eternal life” or “eternal punishment” or “eternal destruction” (i.e. “forever” – regardless of ones understanding of what is destruction or punishment, as even Chris affirms elsewhere). You may do all this and that is my point. It seems to me you MUST do this – that is, give this analysis of reconciling Matthew 18 and Mark 9 to present a cogent analysis. My question was why skip this? And of course my question would be why assume “eternal” in Matt 18 is of the “eternal” in Jude 7 instead of the “eternal” in all the other places (especially in Matthew’s chapters / verses). But primarily, why skip this analysis. It’s primary.

        Again, I’m perplexed that you would feel this is simply to support my position. I think this is a very fair and absolutely necessary question.

        • William Tanksley Jr

          I don’t think you’re cherry picking — I don’t think I said that. If I did, I now reject it :) . Matt 18 is an important passage that’s on-topic, and I happily interacted with you on it.
          My complaint was that we cannot _replace_ the analysis of one verse with the assumed (but unexamined) meaning of a completely different verse. I’m _not_ skipping anything; I’m urging you to not skip something.
          Interpreting one verse in light of another is important, but contrary to your claim, it is not “the most basic of analysis”. It comes after interpreting the verse itself in its own context.
          It can’t be skipped, of course, and I did not skip it.
          OK, I’m off to work.

        • William Tanksley Jr

          As an aside, Matt 18 is not parallel because it is not a quote of Isaiah 66. It is probably parallel to one of the other verses in Mark 9, but not this one.

          • Tony Huy

            You’re correct. Sorry, I was making a connection here without explicitly making the connection :)

            I assume that the “unquenchable” in Mark 9:43 conveys the same idea as the “unquenchable” in Mark 9:48. I think this fair in that this article does the same thing and it’s reasonable (i.e. that’s how Matt 3:12 and Luke 3:17 is brought into the discussion, because “unquenchable” in those verses are closer in Greek to Mark 9:43 than they are to Mark 9:48)

            That said – Mark 9:43 is the exact parallel in instance to Matt 18:8. So I made the logical analysis that in understanding “unquenchable” in Mark 9:43 (in order to understand Mark 9:48), one should reference / analyze Matt 18:8.

            Peter Grice – the lexicon for unquenchable I listed was for mark 9:43.

            In the end though, my question and thought still remains the same…..

          • William Tanksley Jr

            Your thought is fine, and I agree that it’s essential to understand that the eternal fire punishes the wicked (you can see that I’m engaging you in exactly that above). What you’re missing is that you don’t get to redefine the word “unquenchable” in the process of understanding the eternal fire. That word serves an independent role in teaching us, and it must be allowed to communicate on its own.

            What you’re doing is using all the teaching that’s related to ‘quench’ to build a complex theological model, and then you’re reading that model back into all of the words. This is a fallacy whose name and description was invented by Barr in a review of the TDNT, which tended to help people do what you’re doing. The result is that it becomes impossible to study a doctrine in the Bible, because all of the words used in the Bible about the doctrine all mean the same thing, and it’s whatever the TDNT thought the correct doctrine was.

            As an example of this type of exegesis, what if translators attempted to understand every appearance of the Greek /logos/ using the ideas that are behind John 1:1‘s philosophical use of the word?

            Here’s a discussion in depth of this problem:
            http://www.academia.edu/2158856/The_Semantics_of_Biblical_Language_Redux

          • Tony Huy

            Actually, avoid a “complex theological model” (if possible) was the very reason I posted my question.

            This article’s logic works like this:
            - Define how traditionalist understand Mark 9:48
            - Explain English different definition of “quench”.
            - Explore potential understandings of “quench” as “go out” vs “put out” in verses like Prov 26:20; Matt 25:8; Lev 6:12-13; 1 Sam 3:3; 2 Sam 14:7; 2 Sam 21:17; Eze 32:7; 2 Chro 29:6-7; Sos 8:7; isa 43:17
            - Zero in on Eze 20:47-48 and talk about fire and quench in terms of trees
            - Zero in on Jer 17;27 (along with Amos 5;6) and talk about fire and quench in terms of gates
            - Talk about unquenchable in Greek by examining Matt 25:8; Matt 3:12; Luke 3:17

            - Relate “katakaiō” to “‘akal” which means “to completely consume”, tie that to Exo 3:2 in the Septuagint
            - Connect that to Matt 12:40-42 and Malachi 4:1-3
            - And from all that, summarize that Isa 66:24 (quoted in Mark 9:48), “as well the “unquenchable fire” of Mark 9:43, Matthew 3:12, and Luke 3:17, ” ultimately means “irresistibly consumes” and not “a fire which never dies out”.

            Now I understand that sometimes we need to do a big loop to get a meaning. I’m ok with that if and when it’s needed. And here, the article was trying to be thorough so I appreciate the many references. But the logic here is a hop and hop and hop to get the conclusion. And again, I think that’s fair. But in my thought process, the much less “complex theological model” would be to say:
            - Ok what does Jesus mean here in Mark 9:48?
            - Apparently Mark 9:48 and Mark 9:43 are conveying the same idea “unquenchable fire”. Let’s note that.
            - So what does this mean? “put out” or “never ending”
            - Well, since this is a gospel and we have 4 different gospels telling the same story and recording the same thing but from 4 different angles, let’s start there first for insight. This seems most obvious to me.
            - Ok, whereas Mark describes it as “unquenchable” fire, Matthew describes it as “eternal” fire.
            - Ok, now i have two options: either “unquenchable=eternal” or the fire is both “unquenchable and eternal”. Which one? Regardless though, the point that we know from Matthew that is true, of the exact verse of Mark 9:43, is that the fires of hell are “eternal”, whatever that means. I have to determine this because Matthew 18 is the most related, most connected, most direct, least “complex” avenue to understand the nature of the fire of hell as it is in regards to Jesus saying in Mark 9.

            So again, I think wrestling with Matt 18:8 is primary and all the other verses may be necessary, but are secondary. Or put it this way. If one where to make a conclusion about the nature of hells fire from Mark 9 that contradicts the verses mentioned in this article, one might have an argument that the verses mentioned in this article do not MANDATE that Mark 9 stay consistent with them. However, one’s conclusion in Mark 9 cannot contradict Matt 18 and therefore, Matthew 18 is the must do analysis.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            No, we are not providing a _theological_ model; we are doing a lexical analysis. Lexical analysis requires lexical data — where else is the word used, and what does it mean in context. Our examples are strictly limited to passages with _that word_, not some other words we think might mean a similar thing.

            Lexical analysis is primary. Theological analysis is secondary, and does not, MUST not, change lexical analysis, at risk of Barr’s fallacy.

            //So again, I think wrestling with Matt 18:8 is primary and all the other verses may be necessary, but are secondary.//

            If this kind of acontextual versehopping is permitted, there is no way whatsoever to define the meaning of any word. To make a verse penned a century after Isaiah was translated to Greek define the meaning of Isaiah in the Greek and Hebrew, against all the lexical data… it’s not conceivable.

          • Tony Huy

            Point taken about lexical analysis verse theological model.

            Perhaps our foundation differs. You might be saying “to understand Jesus’ saying let’s understand Isa 66 first. And to do so, let’s produce an analysis of what isa 66 might mean from a variety of old testament spots. This is the PRIMARY step. Explore the OT. Make connections and try to come up with an understanding.”

            In my thought, why not start with the discussion between the disciples and Jesus. yes, it was 1000 years later, but we are trying to understand how Jesus used that quote, so analyzing the understanding and explanations in that context (1 century AD) seems more primary. That is not to say the lexical analysis in the OT does not matter. But I would argue that the lexical analysis of verses that do not explicitly tie themselves together has less bearing than verses that explicitly do tie together (i.e Mark 9:43 = Matt 18:8). Of course if someone doesn’t believe Mark 9:43 is the same idea as Mark 9:48 in regards to unquenchable fire, then Matt 18:8 is mute in this discussion.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            No, I don’t think we should jump to the OT either — my point is that we should only use parallels in lexical analysis when they are actually clearly lexically parallel, and that lexical analysis should be prior to semantic (theological) analysis.
            The best way to illustrate the problem would be if I reversed your own argument on you — what if I told you that Matt 18:8 _had_ to be interpreted in light of Mark 9:48, and “eternal fire” actually meant “unquenchable fire”? If you were consistent in your principles you’d now have to admit that the arrow can point either way. By my principles, because the same fire is both eternal and unquenchable, we can understand the two separately and THEN understand them together — and there can be no dispute which direction the arrows point.

            For a deliberately comedically bad example (please don’t take this seriously), Matt 10:28 and Luke 12:5 are parallel and plausibly record the same speech-event (and thereby prophesy the same judgment), but they are not lexically parallel. We cannot conclude that “throw into” means “destroy in” merely because one passage says “throw into gehenna” while the other says “destroy … in gehenna”. And to make it worse, what if I applied that bad lexical analysis to Revelation 20:15, so that I claimed “thrown into the lake of fire” meant they were actually being “_destroyed_ in the lake of fire”? (End of TERRIBLE example.)

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