Guest contributor Dr. Claude Mariottini explains why he concludes that Dr. Glenn Peoples was correct when he wrote that many Hebrew verbs in the Qal form carry a passive reading, including kabah in Isaiah 66:24, which in this form means "to be extinguished."

The Passive Qal and Other Issues

A few days ago Chris Date asked me to read and evaluate an article written by Dr. Glenn Peoples. I read the article and concluded that his argument was valid. I stand by my evaluation of Glenn’s article.

His article drew a stern response from Adam Blauser, a blogger at Old Testament Studies Blog. The issues involved in this exchange between Glenn and Adam deal with the proper interpretation of Isaiah 66:24 and whether the Hebrew word כָּבַה carries a passive meaning.

In this post I will not deal with the interpretation of Isaiah 66:24. That would require another post and a different approach from the one I plan to take in this post. Rather, my purpose today is to address the issue of the passive Qal and comment on other issues raised by Adam as he responded to Glenn’s article.

The problem of interpretation

I believe a major issue in this discussion is the attempt to fit Hebrew grammar into English grammar. English is my third language. When I was learning English I realized how difficult it was to transfer grammatical rules from Portuguese and Spanish into English and vice versa. If transferring the grammar from a living language into another living language is difficult, then imagine how much more difficult it is to transfer the grammar of a dead language into a living language.

Biblical Hebrew is a dead language. When Gesenius wrote his Hebrew Grammar he was not trying to write a grammar to help the biblical writers. He wrote a grammar to explain what was in the Hebrew Bible. This is the reason his grammar presents the basic rule to a subject and all the exceptions to the rule.

At times we take for granted that the biblical writers and their readers were familiar with the grammatical rules that modern day grammarians and literary critics have established for the proper writing and structure of sentences.

What made sense to the biblical writers and their readers, at times, makes no sense to someone today reading what they wrote hundreds or thousands of years ago. Take for instance this sentence from Proverbs 30:1:

נְאֻם הַגֶּבֶר לְאִֽיתִיאֵל לְאִיתִיאֵל וְאֻכָֽל

The writer of this sentence knew what he was trying to say to his readers, and I am sure his readers understood what the writer was trying to communicate to them, but this sentence is not clear when translated into English and this uncertainty is reflected in the various translations of this sentence. What follows are five attempts at translating this sentence from Proverbs 30:1 into English:

  • New Revised Standard Version:
    • “An oracle. Thus says the man: I am weary, O God, I am weary, O God. How can I prevail?”
  • Revised Standard Version:
    • “The man says to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ucal.”
  • The New American Bible:
    • “The pronouncement of mortal man: ‘I am not God; I am not God, that I should prevail.’”
  • Today’s New International Version:
    • “An inspired utterance. This man’s utterance to Ithiel: ‘I am weary, God, but I can prevail.”
  • The Douay-Rheims (1899 American Edition):
    • “The vision which the man spoke with whom God is, and who being strengthened by God, abiding with him.”

These five translations clearly show that sometimes it is very difficult to understand what the biblical writer was trying to communicate to his audience. The translators of Proverbs 30:1 had the same text in front of them, but each one of them came out with a different understanding of what the text said.

Another issue in this dialogue between Glenn and Adam is a problem which all interpreters of the biblical text face. When Christians come to the biblical text, they already know what they believe and that belief tends to color the way they understand and interpret the text.

Take, for instance, the two translations of Daniel 9:25 below:

  • King James Version:
    • “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks.”
  • New International Version:
    • “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven sevens, and sixty-two sevens.”

Whenever Christians read Daniel 9:25 and see the words “the Messiah” and “the Anointed One” they immediately think of Jesus Christ. This is so because the translators saw Christ in this verse and therefore they capitalized the word “Messiah” and the expression “Anointed One.”

The only problem is that in Hebrew the word “the”—as in “the Messiah” and “the Anointed One”—is not in the text. Thus, the English Standard Version (ESV) correctly translates “an anointed one” who was a leader (nāgîd) of the community, probably a priest.

When one comes to Isaiah 66:24 and says that one word in this verse has to be interpreted differently because the sentence deals with “affairs of the age to come,” then a dichotomy is created in interpreting the text that was never intended by the biblical writer. Also, to say that the misinterpretation of one word destroys the divinity of Christ is to misrepresent the intent of Scripture. The divinity of Christ is a matter of revelation. The divinity of Christ is a reality that will not be affected by the way one interprets a Hebrew or Greek word.

The passive Qal

Some scholars are reluctant to accept the existence of the passive Qal in the Hebrew Bible.

The presence of a passive Qal in biblical Hebrew is part of the heritage Israel received from those who spoke the language of Canaan (Isaiah 19:18). Williams, in his article on the passive Qal (1970, 44-45), has found passive Qal forms in the Tell el-Amarna letters, in the Ugaritic literature, and in several other West Semitic languages.

In his article on Arabic language and culture (2002, 74) J. Kaltner wrote, “There are a number of words in biblical Hebrew that suggest that at one time it, too, possessed a passive form of its basic, or qal, stem.”

With the development of Hebrew culture and language, the use of the passive Qal became less frequent. However, in his study of the passive Qal in the Hebrew Bible, Williams discovered “that more than fifty Hebrew roots preserve forms which may properly be classed as passive Qal” (41). He lists 52 words that preserve the passive Qal.

In his article on biblical Hebrew verbs (1929, 54) Ginsberg said that, when the use of the passive Qal became less frequent, the Masoretes assumed “the biblical authors conformed to the later usage with which they were themselves familiar, and repointed the passive Qal as a Niphal.” Referring to the Niphal of כשׁל Ginsberg wrote, “Since the Qal of כשׁל had been obsolete for centuries before the earliest system of vowel-points was invented, it is not impossible that at the time when it was a living use it was a passive Qal” (55).

Gesenius, with others scholars, also believes that “many supposed perfects of Pu‘al are in reality passives of the Qal” (1910, 52e).

Blake wrote that “it has been recognized for many years, however, that a considerable number of Pual perfects and Hophal imperfects are really passives of the Qal” (1901, 53).

All of the sources above are unanimous in accepting the presence of the passive Qal in the Hebrew Bible. Although some passive forms of the Qal were repointed as Niphals, Puals, and Hophals, it is almost certain that some verbs are pointed as Qal perfect but have a passive meaning, as Glenn has demonstrated in his post.

Sources of authority

Now, I want to address several issues raised by Adam in his post.

First, in his post Adam derides Glenn for consulting scholars to support his argument. But Adam himself quotes biblical scholars, grammarians, and literary critics to support his argument. The truth is that we all are beneficiaries of the wisdom and knowledge of our predecessors. As the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Or as Google says, all of us “stand on the shoulders of giants.”1

Second, another issue raised by Adam is the reliability of Brown–Driver–Briggs (BDB). Adam wrote that “BDB is a very old lexicon, based upon the source-critical views of the nineteenth century.” He recommends the use of Koehler Baumgartner instead.

Adam rejects BDB because Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs used biblical criticism in their work. But the fact is that Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner also were critical scholars who were practitioners of the same source-critical views that Brown, Driver, and Briggs used.

Third, Adam said that Glenn relies on BDB for his definition of כָּבַה. The problem, according to Adam, is that BDB is out of date and does not present recent scholarship on the definition of כָּבַה. In defense of Glenn, I will cite three recent works and how they treat the meaning of כָּבַה.

The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (1995): On page 51 The Dictionary says that the word כָּבַה appears 24 times in the Masoretic text, twice in Ben Sirach, and twice in the Dead Sea Scrolls and that the verb’s basic meaning is “be extinguished.” Then on page 353 The Dictionary gives as its primary meaning for the verb כָּבַה: “be extinguished.”

Compendious Hebrew-English Dictionary (1938): The Compendious is a dictionary that includes biblical, Mishnaic, medieval, and modern Hebrew. On page 150 it gives the primary meaning for the verb כָּבַה: “(Kal) to be put out, to be quenched, be extinguished.”

New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (1977): On his article on כָּבַה (2:588) Gary H. Hall lists the primary meaning of the word כָּבַה as “be extinguished.”

In these three sources, which includes the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, all the meanings for the Qal of כָּבַה are passive, just like BDB. Notice that the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, which follows BDB in accepting the passive meaning of כָּבַה, was edited by Willem VanGemeren, the same VanGemeren who said that BDB is out of date.

What these three sources reveal is that the word כָּבַה in biblical, Mishnaic, medieval, and modern Hebrew carries the passive idea when translated into English.

As Glenn mentioned, other words in Hebrew have a passive meaning in the Qal. In addition to the words Glenn mentioned, I will mention one more.

On page 51 the Dictionary of Classical Hebrew says that the primary meaning the verb דָּעַךְ in the Qal is “be extinguished.”

On page 150 the Compendious Hebrew-English Dictionary gives the meaning for the verb דָּעַךְ in the Qal as “be extinguished.”

On page 1:979 the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis gives the meaning for the verb דָּעַךְ in the Qal as “be extinguished.”

Again in these three sources the Qal of דָּעַךְ is presented as passive. The word דָּעַךְ appears together with the verb כָּבַה in Isaiah 43:17: “[The LORD] brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick.”

A personal note

As I read Adam’s post I realize that he is a bright student, well read, a good thinker, and a person who prizes scholarship. However, it is sad that Adam, an MA student, used demeaning language to criticize the work of a scholar. Scholars should disagree without resorting to personal attacks. Adam called Glenn “incompetent” four times in his post, and by his use of the book of Proverbs three times he also indirectly called him a “scoffer” and “one who does not listen to rebuke.”

For someone who likes to brag about his humility—the words “humble” and “humility” appear seven times in Adam’s post, all referring to himself—his concluding words sounds hollow: “I pray that I will not just rely upon individual scholars, but will check things out for myself. More than that, I also pray that I will learn to listen to other people enough to treat them with respect, even if I don’t agree.” Maybe an apology is in order.

When Adam becomes a professor and any of his students criticize his scholarship with the same words he is using to criticize Glenn’s scholarship, I will defend Adam against this kind of criticism out of respect for his work as a teacher, even when we may disagree on theological issues.

 

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

Bibliography

Blake, Frank R. “The Internal Passive in Semitic.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 22 (1901): 45-54.

Clines, David J. A., ed. The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995.

Gesenius, W. Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar. 28th ed. Edited by E. Kautzsch. Trans. A. E. Cowler. Oxford: Claredon Press, 1910.

Ginsberg, H. Louis. “Studies on the Biblical Hebrew Verb.” The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literature 46 (1929): 53-58.

Kaltner, John and Steven L. McKenzie, eds. Beyond Babel: A Handbook for Biblical Hebrew and Related Languages. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002.

Segal, M. H., ed. Compendious Hebrew-English Dictionary. Tel-Aviv: Dvir Publishing Co., 1938.

VanGemeren, Willem A., ed. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1977.

Williams, Ronald J. “The Passive Qal Theme in Hebrew.” In Essays on the Ancient Semitic World. Edited by J. W. Wevers and D. B. Redford. Pp. 43-50.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970.

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  • Private

    Thank you for writing this article. I enjoyed reading it.

  • Peter Grice

    A clear explanation of some important dynamics involved in translation work.

    While it may do little to vindicate Conditionalist exegesis on the whole, Isaiah 66:24 may well be the most critical text in the debate, for two reasons: Jesus quotes it directly (Mark 9:48); and whole paradigms turn on this issue of whether God’s fire of judgment destroys perpetually (never goes out) or consumes definitively (and cannot be resisted, or quenched).

    For the full vindication of Conditionalist exegesis we shall have to wait until we are much further into the conversation. However, it is naive to think that our interpretation isn’t well represented at every level of scholarship. Most disappointingly and implausibly, many high-caliber scholars are implicated in the charge of “heretic” leveled at Glenn by Adam in his article.

    The culture of posturing which has hitherto stymied this conversation is coming to an end. The motivation of the RH Team is not to “win” exchanges, but to promote better engagement, and demonstrate that this view is a viable biblical position to hold.

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  • Robert Holmstedt

    Dr. Mariottini,

    I agree with your last section—I have no tolerance for graduate students (or others) who exhibit unwarranted arrogance.

    However, I disagree with your essay in a few significant ways. (To be clear, I have little interest in the theological debate that provoked this grammatical discussion.)

    Yes, the Qal passive exists. But, having invoked the difference between English and Hebrew their structures, you might have also seen that the “be” in “be extinguished” is confusing your (and Glenn Peoples’) analysis. Thus, though Mr. Adam Blauser may come across as an arrogant twit (and, as a highly educated former Protestant recently turned Catholic, other dismissive posts of his on that topic have impressed me none at all), he is *almost* entirely correct on the issue of the verb in question, כבה.

    Mr. Blauser is correct that כבה is a monovalent verb and its semantics are similar to stative. In fact, it is an *unaccusative* (a category that has yet to enter in BH studies, but should). See here for a description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unaccusative_verb.

    Unaccusative verbs often bear a superficial relationship to the English passive voice. The fundamental problem is that the unaccusative verb in Hebrew has an English gloss that will appear to many to be passive, “be extinguished.” But this neither recognizes the nature of unaccusatives, or the problem with basing semantic analysis of Hebrew on the English of the English glosses (which hits your point about not trying to fit Hebrew grammar into English grammar).

    So, כבה is most definitely not passive, but is also not transitive. Rather, it is unaccusative, and the English translation “be extinguished” should not be taken as passive, but reflecting a change of state without implying the patient-hood and external agent that goes with true passives.

    Robert Holmstedt
    University of Toronto
    ancienthebrewgrammar.wordpress.com

    • Chris Date

      Dr. Holmstedt,

      Thank you for your feedback to Dr. Mariottini’s article. I’m looking forward to seeing how he and Dr. Peoples might respond.

      In the meantime, I thought I’d ask you a question or two, as a humble layperson. Admittedly, I have a bit of a dog in this fight, though I’d love to return to the traditional view if I could find it anywhere in Scripture, so I’m comfortable with the prospect of your (and Blauser’s) position concerning kabah being proved correct. (Besides, it wouldn’t challenge our theological conclusions from the text, given the subject of the fire that isn’t quenched.) And in asking my questions, I’m not at all asking you to weigh in on the theological debate that provoked the discussion.

      First, upon what basis do you conclude that the Qal of kabah is an unaccusative? I’m not challenging your conclusion; I’ll have to leave that to Dr. M and Dr. P. But unlike Dr. M’s and Dr. P’s articles, I don’t see any supporting evidence for your claim in your comment (which is often the nature of comments; I’m not criticizing), so I’m just curious to know why it is one should conclude that the Qal of kabah is an unaccusative verb rather than truly passive.

      Second, if you’re contention is correct, that the Qal of kabah is an unaccusative reflecting a change of state without necessarily implying an external agent’s actions (as with true passives), couldn’t it nevertheless be true that the reflected change of state results from an external agent’s actions? In other words, while it may not semantically imply an external agent’s actions, couldn’t it nevertheless be used with one in mind? And, therefore, when used in the negative (“not be quenched”), isn’t it true that the text isn’t necessarily saying the fire will never cease burning, either?

      I ask the second question because the Qal form of kabah is used in places where it seems clear that an external agent’s actions are the cause of the reflected change of state, even if semantically it isn’t required, and where the author does not at all seem to be saying that the fire will never cease burning. Jeremiah 17:27 and Ezekiel 20:47 say God’s fire will consume or devour palaces and trees, respectively. There seems to be no reason, whatsoever, for concluding that in these two places, the authors are intending to say that the fire will burn forever. Rather, they appear to be using the Qal form of kabah to mean, whether as a true passive or not, that the fire will not change state from burning to not burning by means of an external agent’s actions.

      Thanks for your time, Dr. Holmstedt.

      • Robert Holmstedt

        Mr. Date,

        Those are fair, good questions. But since the answers are available in most reference grammars (GKC, WOC, JM), I don’t cite those sources. I will only point to Bauer-Leander’s Historische Grammatik der Hebräischen Sprache des Alten Testamentes (see below).

        First, כבה is obviously not a passive. It is pointed as a Qal active, not passive, nor even a Pual or Hophal (which are the other two passive binyanim/stems). The claims about there being a Qal passive are based on three legs: 1) symmetry in the verbal binyan/stem system; 2) the existence of what appears to be a Qal passive participle (i.e., the בָּנוּי type); and 3) the existence of some Pual or Hophal verbs where there is no active (i.e., Piel or Hiphil, respectively) counterpart, but only a Qal. But in all the cases of כבה admitted in the posts in this discussion, the Masoretic pointing is unambiguously clear that we are facing a Qal *active* verb. Anyone who actually discussed the Qal passive with a sense of how Semitic verbs pattern suggests a /qutal/ vocalization for the supposed Qal passive (versus the /qatal/ for the Qal active; compare /quttal/ of the Pual; see Bauer-Leander p. 284).

        Second, NO Qal active verbs have passive semantic value. Those that are *translated* as such into English are only confused as such due to target (English) language issues (such as the “be X-ed” passive voice when an appropriate stative does not exist in English), not Hebrew grammar. The closest to passive semantics are the stative and unaccusative verbs, but that is not passive. Whoever started down this path, that the Qal /qatal/ (i.e, active) pattern verb could have a passive sense simply does not understand Hebrew grammar. I can’t say it gently.

        And now I’ll add a non-grammatical opinion. As with most theological issues, Hebrew grammar certainly limits the interpretation and translation options, but rarely solves theological debate. There is no golden grammar bullet. From what I’ve seen in my career so far, most theological positions are equally founded upon a questionable grasp of Hebrew grammar. Folks would do better to admit the authority of tradition, agree to disagree, and call it a day.

        Robert Holmstedt

        p.s. Please don’t associate me too closely with Mr. Blauser. He may have been on the right track, but for the reasons that Claude Mariottini mentioned in his post, I distance myself. Moreover, due to his hostility to Protestants who have become Catholic, I am fairly confident he would like to be associated with me. ;-)

        • Chris Date

          You’ll have to forgive me; I may simply be unable to follow you, but it seems to me as though you’re argument fails to account for some of Dr. M’s arguments in this post. But my ability to press you ends there.
          But what of my second question to you? Unless I’ve misread your reply, it doesn’t appear as though you answered my second question.

          • John Cook

            Hi Chris,

            Since my fellow blogger Rob Holmstedt drew my attention to this discussion, let me see if I can channel and clarify his line of thinking a bit for you. I should say up front that I’m not all that invested in the theological debate, but the exchange about the Qal כבה is interesting because it illustrates (IMO) the lack of adequate terminology to discuss intransitive and/or stative lexemes in Hebrew. So to respond to your questions . . .

            The distinguishing characteristic of the unaccusative verb is that the subject is more akin to the role of an object or patient than an agent, and further, no agent exists to express as it might with passives. Compare the following (based on those on the wiki page as convenient English examples):

            Unaccusative: The vase broke into pieces (*by John).
            Passive: The vase was broken into pieces (by John).

            The * refers to the prepositional phrase as ungrammatical. We cannot express agent with an unaccusative verb.

            Of course such grammatical tests are unavailable for BH, so your question of how we make such a case is a valid one. To begin with, I am a priori suspicious of overuse of the category “passive Qal” for several reasons. First, there is such a construction as Qal passive, which begs the question of what distinction the passive Qal and Qal passive might encode. Admittedly, the Qal passive is marginal in Hebrew by the biblical period, but Nifal frequently acts as a “stand in” for the lost Qal passive. Thus, given that Qal can be intransitive and other more uniform/consistent means exist for expressing the passive of a Qal verb, a passive Qal is unlike a priori.

            More importantly, not one of the 14 examples of Qal כבה has any agent expressed, even where we can imagine one could be. For example, 1 Sam 3:3 might have expressed an agent if it was truly passive: ‘Before the lamp of God was extinguished (by Eli).’ Rather, many instances the best interpretation is that the fire goes out of its own accord. Thus in Lev 6:5, 6 the priest are not being warned not to extinguish the fire but not to let it go out (worse than both options is a passive ‘the fire is not to be extinguished’, because it begs the question “BY WHOM?”).

            Yet further evidence exists indirectly: the Qal דעך (d’k) occurs 7 times and has a very similar range of meaning as כבה—in fact that two verbs appear together in Is 43:17. But more importantly, דעק occurs twice in Nifal, in Job 6:17 and Ben Sira 40:16:

            Job 6:17 ‘When it is hot they will be extinguished from their place’
            Cf. ‘They will be extinguished from their place (by the heat).

            Ben Sira 40:16 ‘which are dried up from before any rain’
            Cf. ‘which are dried up by lack of rain’.

            While there is no grammatically expressed agent in either verse, both can be paraphrased by a passive with agent expression, supporting a passive interpretation of these Nifal forms. In turn, the contrast between these and the Qal of דעך and כבה suggest that Qal are in turn NOT passive but unaccusative.

            As for the specific examples you cite (Jer 17:27; Ezek 20:47 [Heb. 21:3]), I simply disagree with your implied agent: in both cases it states that God will ignite (יצת) a fire in a particular place and it will not die out. There is no compelling reason to read these as implying ‘and they will be be extinguished (by me).’ To make such a case would require that you can show from the context some concern for non-interference from God with the fire he has kindled. Rather, the context seems to underscore that the fire will not be a false start, but will be such a large conflagration that one cannot simply hope to escape because the fire just dies out.

            Hopefully this clarifies how one would set about arguing for the unaccusative. Obviously this does no preclude differences of interpretation in specific passages (as our difference of view on the Jeremiah and Ezekiel passages illustration), but I do think the case made above results in shifting the burden of proof on a passive interpretation in these passages.

            John A. Cook
            Asbury Theological Seminary
            ancienthebrewgrammar.wordpress.com

          • Chris Date

            Yikes, well being an uneducated layperson myself, I’ll have to read and re-read this a few times. Hopefully Dr. Mariottini or Dr. Peoples will respond to your grammatical points.

            As to Jer 17:27 and Ezek 20:47, “I simply disagree” with you :) In both cases, the fire which is lit devours and consumes palaces and trees. Perhaps you think that through the prophets God is referring to a fire which God lights and which burns some fuel other than the palaces and trees which it completely consumes, since said palaces and trees will, as a result of being completely consumed, fail to provide fuel indefinitely for the fire. If that’s your position, I guess I can understand why you contend that the text says the fire “will not die out,” but I think it’s contextually far clearer to see the palaces and trees as that which, by virtue of being what the fire burns, serve as its fuel, and because they are completely consumed by the fire, there’s no reason to believe that the text is intended to suggest that the fire will never cease burning. Rather, the point seems clearly to be that the fire will not be extinguished, which is *why* it will completely consume palaces and trees.

          • Glenn Peoples

            Thanks so much for your comments John. Just a brief observation from me: It seems to me that some of the people I have seen disagreeing with the position of myself and Dr Mariottini (and, I have now discovered, the position of Dr Kaiser and Dr Pratico, and presumably many others) also say enough to give themselves reasons to agree with that position, and yet – as far as I can tell – do not agree with it.

            I notice this in your comment, John. For example, you observe that “not one of the 14 examples of Qal כבה has any agent expressed, even where we can imagine one could be,” and you appear to use this observation to support your contention that a passive meaning is not intended in any of these 14 instances. And yet, when looking at a couple of niphal instances, you say “While there is no grammatically expressed agent in either verse, both can be paraphrased by a passive with agent expression, supporting a passive interpretation of these Nifal forms.”

            It does look as though you may be having it both ways. Where no agent is expressed in the case of the Qal verb in question, you take it that the meaning isn’t passive. And yet where “there is no grammatically expressed agent” with two examples of דעק in the niphal, you say “both can be paraphrased by a passive with agent expression, supporting a passive interpretation of these Nifal forms.” So your argument for passivity here is that they can be paraphrased in the passive. Of course, I agree with this argument, but this does cut both ways, for in the 14 instances where כבה is used without an agent, and agent could have been sensibly added – just as it could have been added for in the two niphal examples of דעק that you refer to. Isaiah 66:24 is a good example: Their fire shall not be quenched (by anyone).

            As I indicated in another comment, I’ve added an addendum to my original article (“What the Qal?”) where I comment specifically on the grammatical issues Adam raises, and I’ve decided to write an article exploring the grammatical issues in further detail (but I’ll do this elsewhere, as it’s tangential to the main subjects that Rethinking Hell deals with). But I do appreciate the irenic way in which these technical issues are being discussed here. Blessings Glenn

          • John Cook

            Glenn and Chris,

            Glen, you have to take my WHOLE argument into account, not just a piece of it (and please interpret my CAPS as equivalent to italics for emphasis—I’m not intending to come across as shouting). The weight of my argument does NOT lie in our (subjective) interpretations of the passages at hand, which can be manipulated in any number of ways to fit one’s argument. Rather, the weight of the argument rests on three points. First, כבה is not a Qal passive—there is no available grammar that will support that; the Qal passive has a unique morphological shape that is not represented here. The argument that the Qal might nevertheless exhibit passive meaning, perhaps under the influence of the Qal passive, goes against every expectation of the language’s development, in which the verbal system becomes MORE not LESS dynamic (e.g., the stative pattern all but falls out of use by the Mishnaic period). Thus, there is NO grammatical expectation that the Qal will express a passive sense, here or anywhere.

            Second, the Nifal does regularly express passive, particularly the passive of an existing Qal (all the grammars agree on this). Thus, when we find a nice contrastive pair such as the Qal and Nifal of דעך, we should be asking what is the semantic distinction between them? If דעך Qal is treated as passive, it begs the question what semantic distinction possibly exists between it and the Nifal דעך.

            Third, that lexica gloss these Qals as English passives (e.g., “be exstinguished”) is due to the lack of a useful category to make the sort of distinction that I (and Robert Holmstedt) have been arguing for—namely, they do not distinguish between unergative and unaccusative intransitive predicates. Having such a universal semantic distinction offered to us by linguists, it proves a useful way to disentangle the ambiguities such as exist between the Qal and Nifal דעך.

            So with this all in mind, my treatment of the data themselves is really no more than to say that none of the examples of Qal כבה (as also Qal דעך) express overtly nor demand implying an identifiable agent. Your gloss of the verse in question as ‘Their fire shall not be quenched (by anyone)’ is an implicit recognition that there is no clearly identifiable agent in question in the context. By contrast, the examples from Job that I gave has an identifiable agent—the heat that is mentioned in the verse. You might have a better argument if you actually said we should understand the unexpressed agent in Is 66:24 as God or the people, but then I think you will have a whole lot of other exegetical issues with which to contend.

            The fact is that within biblical philology/exegesis rarely if ever can an interpretation be arbitrated based on examination of the passage in question alone. There are simply too many variables to interpretation, which is why some have found it possible to argue that there are multiple interpretations for given passages (not that I agree with that view, but the reason I did not respond specifically to your response, Chris, regarding your take on Is 66:24 specifically). As a result, my strategy was to ask NOT what individual passages suggest a given Qal might mean, but what the grammar of the binyan/stem system might suggest we should expect a given Qal to mean. The evidence is scanty to nill that Qal has a passive sense or that the Qal of כבה is the specific Qal passive binyan/stem.

            And just to clarify using your example, Chris, the contrast between the passive and unaccusative in English would be as follows:

            ‘The window will never be broken (by X).’ (passive with the option of expressing an agent)
            ‘The window will never break (*by X).’ (unaccusative with no grammatical option of expressing an agent)

            Thus, the Qal יכבה cannot grammatically express an agent, thus making the implication of one from the context unlikely (to depart somewhat from Robert Holmstedt’s explanation). Essentially, since there does exist a construction for expressing an agent (the passive), why would an author choose a construction that expressly rejects a grammatical agent if the author wanted to imply an agent in the context?

            Finally, to be clear, though you have consulted Drs. Kaiser and Pratico on this issue, Glenn, if they are telling you that Qal יכבה is a Qal passive in Is 66:24 or elsewhere, I am completely comfortable with refuting such a view. If pressed I think they would concede it is self-evidently NOT a Qal passive form (as Robert Holmstedt has pointed out).

            John A. Cook
            Asbury Theological Seminary
            ancienthebrewgrammar.wordpress.com

          • Glenn Peoples

            Thanks for that John. The first two of your three prongs of the argument aren’t in question, it seems. Granted, the verb here doesn’t have the formof a Qal passive, and nobody has suggested this. What’s in question is not theform but the meaning. What Kaiser and Practico affirm is that some Qal verbs that do not have a Qal passive form may nonetheless convey a meaning that we would naturally call passive. It would be parsed as active. Second, yes, the Niphal is indeed characteristically passive. I would only add that it is not by any means a conclusive argument that since דעך has a niphal form, the Qal therefore cannot convey the meaning that Dr Mariottini indicates.

            Lastly, you’re certainly correct about my agreement that there is no stated agent in Isaiah 66:24. Hopefully this agreement is more than implicit, for I have granted that the verb is monovalent. But as I think we’d agree, it’s often the cse that verbs convey a passive meaning without expressing an agent, so I don’t see the force of the argument.

            For what it’s worth: Part of what stands out to me about Adam’s initial response regarding stative verbs was that it was a claim delivered as obvious public fact, when in reality it was the writer’s private judgement. The verbs that I gave as examples present themselves (so to speak) as verbs that would ordinarily be parsed as Qal, imperfect (in some cases perfect), active, and they are sensibly (in fact, I maintain, best) understood as conveying a passive meaning. Of course it is open for someone to say “not so – they are stative,” or as in these comments, “not so – they are unaccusative.” However this sort of claim must be accompanied by some sort of evidence that the verbs should be seen as stative or unaccusative (or whatever the person is claiming they are). Remember – monovalence is not the issue, we can all agree that the verbs in question are monovalent as I did in the article that sparked Adam’s strong response. There would need to be something else.

            I say this because – as again, I presume we all agree – the verbs in question are visibly the same as they would be if I, Dr Mariottini and others are correct. They look like ordinary Qal perfect or imperfect verbs that would be parsed as active. Put differently, we must all agree that if I were to ask the question: “OK so you disagree with me. Tell me then – How would these verbs look different if I were correct?” The answer is: “They would not look different at all if you were correct. They would look exactly as they do.”

            The written evidence thus does not work against what I am saying, and is exactly the evidence that I would expect to see. The view that these verbs are stative or unaccusative and therefore do not mean what I am suggesting is a judgement, and it is inadequate to say with Adam that this is proof that I’m simply unaware of the stative, or to say with Dr Holmstedt that I’ve not noticed that the verb is unaccusative and therefore isn’t saying what I suggest. This is not the kind of thing that I can simply be shown by pointing to the text so that once I see what’s really there I’ll say “Oh! Now that I see it, I agree.” Reasons need to be given for why this judgement should be made. Clearly the passages I and Dr Mariottini have cited make perfectly good sense if the verbs are treated as “ordinary” (I’m sorry to use a term that is rather evaluative in nature, but hopefully you all know what I mean). It is no objection to this observation that this would mean that the verbs in question may convey a passive idea. Indeed, to reject the observations on this basis would simply be to beg the question. These observations are evidence that such verbs are capable of conveying a passive idea.

            So the question for those who reject this claim is this: If I and others were correct, and these verbs could indeed convey a passive meaning, how would the evidence look different?

          • Glenn Peoples

            I messed up the italics in that, typed on a tablet.

          • John Cook

            Okay, one last time to clarify. The evidence is that aside from Pratico and Kaiser, whom I am absolutely sure would recant their opinion if the situation were more fully explained to them, no grammar anywhere claims that the fientive/dynamic/active Qal has a passive meaning. The stative may be translated by a passive, but then keep your argument to the English text and not the Hebrew. That the lexica translate with English passive is a convenient translational equivalent but they are inaccurate because the implication would be that Qal active = passive which is not supportable by any grammar of any age because it makes nonsense of the stem system.

            As to your final question, frankly I hardly care about the philological argument as to what difference in meaning ‘be extinguished’ versus ‘go out’ makes. I’m simply interested in the grammar question, and on that score, I’m sorry but Adam is correct along with his list of grammars and I can (again) assure you that if you posit to Pratico and Kaiser the simple question “Does the Qal fientive stem (i.e., non-stative, non-passive) express passive meaning?” they will tell you NO or they are just being patronizing towards you so you’ll leave them alone. All their comments you cited in your addendum demonstrate is that the Hebrew stative verbs might at times be adequately translated as English passives. I have little interest in arguing translation equivalents; the English is only a convenient meta-language that I hope does not get in the way of analyzing the Hebrew grammar itself.

          • Glenn Peoples

            I do appreciate the time you’ve invested interacting here, Dr Cook, thank you. For the details of specifically what I asked Kaiser and Practico, that is included in my article to which Dr Mariottini linked, so I won’t reproduce it here. I’ve tried to be clear that I’m not talking about (and have never been talking about) the parsing of the Hebrew or how the word should be classified in Hebrew (having said myself that it would be classified as active, not passive). I have also sought to be clear that I am talking about the idea being conveyed (hence my occasional use of words like “a meaning that we would ordinarily regard as passive”). I am sure that I could have been clearer, and again, I have appreciated your input.

          • Robert Holmstedt

            Mr. Date,
            I dont think you are following me. Nothing I’ve said “fails” to account for anything relevant in Dr Mariottini’s post. What I say about כבה applies to the other verbs he mentions. And what I wrote about reconstructing the Qal passive applies to all the scholarship he cites. And finally, what I said about letting English glosses mislead Hebrew analysis applies to all the lexica he referenced. Yes, that’s correct — I’m asserting that there is a deficiency across the board on this issue. It usually is not a significant issue, until someone makes a hell-ish mountain of a molehill.

            My apology–I didn’t even see your second question. I missed the “see more” indicator. My answer is fairly simple: an agent is not indicated, but nor is one necessarily prohibited in context. It’s like saying “the window broke,” which avoids agency but does not prohibit it. And that’s why I say that most theological issues like this boils down to what the person wants to presume when interpreting the text. If you want an agent, by all means, have one. It’s a free agency world.

          • Chris Date

            As I said, I’ll let Dr. M and Dr. P, who are far more capable of pressing you on the grammar, interact with you on this point :) I fully admit the likelihood that I am not following you.

            “an agent is not indicated, but nor is one necessarily prohibited in context.” Great, but I’m not entirely sure that it answers my question, which is likely due to my inability to express it clearly. You see, the analogy you gave is, “the window broke,” but a better analogy would be, “the window will never become broken.” Right? So the question is, were the phrase “become broken” a translation of a Hebrew verb whose form is the equivalent of the Qal of kabah, could the statement rule out the possibility that the window would not be actively broken by an external agent, while not being intended to say anything about whether or not it might one day become broken by, gosh, I don’t know, a reduction in structural integrity resulting from age?
            What I’m getting at is, could Isaiah 66:24 be saying “the fire will not become extinguished” in such a way as to rule out the possibility that an external agent will do the extinguishing, while not being intended to say something like, “the fire will not go out”?

        • Dr. Holmstedt, pardon me if this has been addressed (I admit to only skimming through the largely technical discussion here), but are you of the opinion that “their fire shall not be quenched”—given the meaning of that phrase in English—is actually a mistranslation? If yes, would you say that the HCSB is more accurate (“…their fire will never go out)?

          For the record, I don’t believe that much (if anything) hinges on this question, for reasons I’ve mentioned elsewhere.

          • Chris Date

            I’ll give those reasons :) Even if the Qal of kabah in Isaiah 66:24 can only be understood as “die out,” a) at worst for our position, it means the fire burns lifeless corpses eternally, or b) that the fire burns eternally but nevertheless completely consumes lifeless corpses, but more likely c) that “shall not die out” means it won’t die out in this particular context, before it completely consumes (but can go on to die out thereafter).

          • Peter Grice

            To add to this, a full appreciation for the motif of God’s holy, consuming fire of judgment shows that it is eternal and never-extinguished in the sense that it surrounds and emanates from God and God’s throne (similar to the concept of glory). God “is” a consuming fire, after all. When it is extended into space and time for the express purpose of consuming something / someone in judgment, the temporal nature of this event can entail a natural diminishing of the fire after the fact, which does not undermine the undying nature of God’s fire proper. In other words, both can be true, and the question of which is indicated by the text would become a question of emphasis and perspective.

        • Glenn Peoples

          Thanks so much for your comments, Dr Holmstedt. I’e added an addendum to the article that sparked Adam’s rather spirited response (not sure if it is published yet). In it, I eelate my con5act with Walter Kaier and Gary Pratico on this question. They concur that the Qal can indeed convey a passive sense.

          The “be” is not confusing the analysis. True, a thing can “be X” without any passive verb (e.g. “be large”), even where a verb is involved (“be running”), but it remains true that there are times when a thing is said to “be verbed” where athing can only be so verbed if that verb is performed on the subject, e.g. “be quenched /put out.” The point is not whether or not the verb would be parsed as passive (it would not), but whether or not it conveys a passive meaning, which it does.

          • Robert Holmstedt

            Dr. Peoples,

            Indeed, your analysis is totally confused about “be Xed” passive in English and the passive versus the unaccusative in Hebrew. Since between John Cook’s comments and mine, you still have not recognized what Hebrew grammar cannot be forced to do, I can only suggest you avoid linguistic arguments, just as I would avoid writing on systematic theology.
            And in the meantime, perhaps ask Gary Pratico, since he is your Hebrew authority figure, if what I or John Cook say on matters of Hebrew grammar should be considered a bit more seriously than you have done here. I say the above without malice, but also without much patience for entrenchment when I contribute something on Hebrew grammar. Arrogant of me? Yes. Accurate? Also yes.

          • Glenn Peoples

            Well, I offered a reason for my response, and if that is to be your way of ending our discussion, so be it.

  • Givemhell

    This is a long comment and you might be more comfortable reading it here in the forum: http://rethinkinghell.com/forum/2-general-discussion/1501-a-comment-too-long-for-the-blog#1501

    Before I begin, I would like to point out that I do not represent
    rethinkinghell at all. So, while I am an annihilationist I am a third
    party and would like to give you my own perspective.

    I am not interesting in wading through the muck of this grammatical
    debate but I would like to point out what I believe to be muddled
    thinking on the part of Robert Holmstead, John Cook and Adam Blauser on
    these particular issues. This is not to say that they are unintelligent
    people or that they are not well educated. I’m sure that they are
    both. Probably more so then myself. However, on this particular issue,
    I think that to say that they display muddled thinking is a fair
    assessment.

    I want to start out where the conversation started.

    Adam wrote: “The issue has to do with the second phrase “And their fire
    will not be quenched.” It poses a problem for annihilationists, since,
    if the fire is not quenched, it obviously must be eternal. However, Date
    presents an argument that he believes refutes this interpretation. ”

    Adam then wrote of his own argumentation: “Date’s argument does not
    take that into account, and I believe that not doing so is fatal to his
    position.”

    This argument isn’t “fatal” to our position. In fact, I already held to
    the position that the fire is eternal long before Adam said anything
    about it. There are plenty of verses that say so.

    Mat_ 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from
    Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the
    devil and his angels;

    Mat_18:8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off
    and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame
    than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.

    Jud_1:7 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.

    However, just because I believe that the fire is eternal doesn’t mean
    that I don’t think that the fire will be consuming what it is consuming
    forever. Sodom and Gomorrah aren’t burning today. The fire isn’t
    eternal in the sense that it is still burning on the spot of earth where
    Sodom an Gomorrah were. In fact, we know that it isn’t.

    The theological question relevant to our debate is not, “is the fire
    eternal” but “are these living or dead bodies that are being consumed
    in” Isaiah 66:24. The answer is obvious.

    Isaiah 66:24 “Then they will go forth and look On the corpses of
    the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die
    And their fire will not be quenched; And they will be an abhorrence to
    all mankind.”

    Whether you want to say that the fire will not be “quenched” or that it
    won’t “go out” doesn’t change the fact that this is a depiction of dead
    bodies being consumed by worms and fire.

    Moreover, while it may be an eternal fire, If we investigate the
    language of this verse by cross-referencing it with the language from
    other parts of the scriptures you will see that the fire won’t be
    consuming the dead bodies forever.

    Instead of rehashing this particular point I will simply quote it from
    Chris Date’s article ( which is the original article that Adam attacked
    if memory serves):

    “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 the bible speaks of this fire that burns the wicked it is
    speaking of a fire that burns them up, not a fire that burns them
    forever

    Yet further exploration into the issue will yield further proof:

    Look at a passage from Jeremiah that parallels the passage from Isaiah in several ways:

    “19 Do they spite Me?” declares the Lord.
    “Is it not themselves they spite, to [f]their own shame?” 20 Therefore
    thus says the Lord [g]God, “Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured
    out on this place, on man and on beast and on the trees of the field
    and on the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and not be quenched.”

    21 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Add your burnt
    offerings to your sacrifices and eat flesh. 22 For I did not speak to
    your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the
    land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23 But this is
    [h]what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your
    God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I
    command you, that it may be well with you.’ 24 Yet they did not obey or
    incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the
    stubbornness of their evil heart, and [i]went backward and not forward.
    25 Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until
    this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising
    early and sending them. 26 Yet they did not listen to Me or incline
    their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did more evil than their
    fathers.

    27 “You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to
    you; and you shall call to them, but they will not answer you. 28 You
    shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of
    the Lord their God or accept correction; [j]truth has perished and has
    been cut off from their mouth.

    29 ‘Cut off [k]your hair and cast it away,

    And take up a lamentation on the bare heights;

    For the Lord has rejected and forsaken

    The generation of His wrath.’

    30 For the sons of Judah have done that which is evil in My sight,”
    declares the Lord, “they have set their detestable things in the house
    which is called by My name, to defile it. 31 They have built the high
    places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn
    their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and
    it did not come into My [l]mind.

    32 “Therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it
    will no longer be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom,
    but the valley of the Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth
    [m]because there is no other place. 33 The dead bodies of this people
    will be food for the birds of the sky and for the beasts of the earth;
    and no one will frighten them away. ”

    So, Jeremiah, also speaking of Gehenna says ”
    33 The dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the sky
    and for the beasts of the earth; and no one will frighten them away.”

    First of all, let me remind you that while this may have a future
    fulfillment it does have a past fulfillment. Jerusalem was sacked by
    the Babylonians and taken into captivity and this is the main issue
    that Jeremiah is dealing with in it’s original context.

    So, there literally were dead bodies in Gehenna that were food
    for the birds of the sky and the for the beasts of the earth when
    Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians.

    Now, you could try to make the same argument and say the same thing
    about the birds and the beasts that you do about the fire and worms,
    that they would be there for all of eternity but even if it were true,
    it wouldn’t change the fact that these are corpses that are being eaten.
    It would also be very silly because we know for a fact that those
    birds and beasts died a very long time ago and aren’t still living in
    Gehenna eating those corpses.

    The same goes for this verse from the passage “Behold,
    My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and on
    beast and on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground; and
    it will burn and not be quenched Is God still pouring out His
    wrath there on the men and the animals and even on the plants? No, of
    course not! The plants are fine.

    The same could be said for Isaiah 66:24.

    While the prophecy may have a future fulfillment, I think that a very
    strong case could be made that Isaiah is also talking about Assyria and
    God’s redemption of the Jewish people from Assyria.

    So, when the Assyrian army sieged Jerusalem 2 kings says:
    “Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and
    struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in
    the morning, behold, all of them were dead.”

    So, the image that you have pictured in Isaiah 66:24 (at least in one
    sense) may very well be the dead bodies of 185,000 Assyrian soldiers
    being consumed by worms and fire. Surely that fire isn’t still going on
    in the sense that it is still burning the corpses of the assyrian
    soldiers today just as it isn’t still burning Sodom and Gomorrah today.

    Let’s go back to Jeremiah and let me give you another example:

    Jer 17:24 “‘But if you listen to me,
    declares the LORD, and bring in no burden by the gates of this city on
    the Sabbath day, but keep the Sabbath day holy and do no work on it,

    Jer 17:25 then there shall enter by the gates of this city kings and
    princes who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on
    horses, they and their officials, the men of Judah and the inhabitants
    of Jerusalem. And this city shall be inhabited forever.

    Jer 17:26 And people shall come from the cities of Judah and the places
    around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the Shephelah, from
    the hill country, and from the Negeb, bringing burnt offerings and
    sacrifices, grain offerings and frankincense, and bringing thank
    offerings to the house of the LORD.

    Jer 17:27 But if you do not listen to me, to keep the Sabbath day holy,
    and not to bear a burden and enter by the gates of Jerusalem on the
    Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour
    the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched.’”

    Well, this happened. Jerusalem was sacked by the Bablyonians and they set fire to Jerusalem. Notice the same phraseology: “then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched.’
    well, is Jerusalem on fire? No! Of course not. It isn’t saying
    “then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces
    of Jerusalem and shall never go out.” Instead, it’s saying the same
    thing that Isaiah is saying. The fire isn’t going to be put out. It
    will burn the city. It’s the same with the passage from Isaiah. The
    worms and fire are going to do what they do. They are going to
    desecrate the dead bodies and they aren’t going to be given an honorable
    body, just like in Jeremiah with the birds and the beasts.

    Ok, I’m done with Adam’s comments for now. Let’s start now with John Cook’s comment on Claude Mariottini’s article.

    He wrote: “I should say up front that I’m not all that invested in the theological debate,”

    At first I thought, “maybe he is an atheist or he only teaches on Hebrew
    but out of curiosity I looked up what he teaches and I read that he ”
    regularly teaches the Introduction to Old Testament course, and exegesis
    courses on the book of Psalms, on wisdom literature (Proverbs, Job, and
    Ecclesiastes), and occasionally on Ezekiel or the minor prophets.”

    I find it a little bit troubling that you could teach at a theological
    seminary on these topics with that attitude. How is it possible that
    you are not “invested in the theological debate?” Do your students find
    your enthusiasm inspiring? Don’t you care what God’s word says? How
    is it possible that you teach on the old testament and aren’t “invested”
    in the question of what the old testament means when it speaks on
    death, a topic of which it speaks of profusely. You can’t be serious…
    Perhaps you were only mirroring the words of your fellow-blogger
    Robert Holmstead who said:

    “To be clear, I have little interest in the theological debate that provoked this grammatical discussion.”

    This reminds me of a quote from Martin Luther who when addressing Erasmus wrote “But you would have it understood that you have

    said nothing. here concerning confessing Christ, and

    his doctrines.-:— I receive the admonition. And, in

    courtesy to you, I give up my right and custom, and

    refrain from judging of your heart, reserving that for

    another time, or for others. In the mean time, I

    admonish you to correct your tongue, and your pen,

    and to refrain henceforth from using such expressions.

    For, how upright and honest soever your heart may

    be, your words, which are the index of the heart, are

    not so. For, if you think the matter of Free-Will is

    not necessary to be known, nor at all concerned with

    Christ, you speak honestly, but think wickedly : but,

    if you think it is necessary, you speak wickedly, and

    think rightly. And if so, then there is no room for

    you to complain and exaggerate so much concerning

    useless assertions and contentions : for what have they

    to do with the nature of the cause ? ”

    Although I have no grounds to judge your heart and do not know whether
    you are christian, I feel compelled to ask; If you don’t have a dog in
    this race, then what kind of Christian are you? However, If you do care
    about what the bible has to say on this issue, then you are wrong to
    lie to us in saying that you do not and therefore I must again ask;
    “what kind of Christian are you?”

    Robert Holmstead went on to write: ” From what I’ve seen in my career so far, most theological positions are

    equally founded upon a questionable grasp of Hebrew grammar. Folks would

    do better to admit the authority of tradition, agree to disagree, and

    call it a day.”

    Do you teach on the Old Testament as well? Do you think that the issue
    of what the bible teaches on death is so inconsequential that it should
    be thrown into the wastebasket of indecipherable theological nonsense so
    easily?

    Moreover, you say that we would “do better to admit the authority of
    tradition, agree to disagree, and call it a day”. To which tradition
    should we adhere? Should we hold to the traditions of the papists in
    Rome? Which ones? Perhaps the traditions that teach against the gospel
    of God’s free grace? Which of the conflicting traditions of Rome
    should we follow? Should we follow the Rome that persecuted Galileo for
    teaching Copernican astronomy or the Rome that accepts and teaches
    evolution? What ever did happened to Rome’s tradition of conducting
    horrendously cruel and violent inquisitions anyway? Should we follow
    that tradition?

    Perhaps the most relevant tradition here is that this verse has
    traditionally been translated to say that the fire will not be quenched
    and not to say that the fire will not go out. It seems to me that this
    makes the statement about tradition completely self-refuting.

    Though I am not a professional linguist myself and very much fallible on
    grammatical issues It seems that this verse is translated as being in
    the passive voice in not only the Septuagint’s Greek (which the authors
    of the New Testament saw fit to use) but also in Jerome’s translation of
    the Hebrew in the latin vulgate as well as in the English translations
    from these sources. Still, it is good to know that even if I am wrong
    on this grammatical issue that it doesn’t affect my theological
    position.

    Isa 66:24 καὶ ἐξελεύσονται καὶ ὄψονται τὰ κῶλα τῶν ἀνθρώπων τῶν
    παραβεβηκότων ἐν ἐμοί ὁ γὰρ σκώληξ αὐτῶν οὐ τελευτήσει καὶ τὸ πῦρ αὐτῶν
    οὐ σβεσθήσεται καὶ ἔσονται εἰς ὅρασιν πάσῃ σαρκί

    24 et egredientur et videbunt cadavera virorum qui praevaricati sunt in
    me vermis eorum non morietur et ignis eorum non extinguetur et erunt
    usque ad satietatem visionis omni carni

    I think that we could all stand to be redirected to Chris Date’s original thoughts on this topic.

    “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.” http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2012/11/the-fire-…and-mark-948-part-2/

  • cmariottini

    While I was off for a few days for a deserved vacation, my post on the passive
    Qal received several good comments. The dialogue on this topic is good and it shows
    an interest in a very important topic. I cannot answer all the comments made to my post. However, I would like to say a few things that may deal with some of the issues raised by the people who posted comments.

    First, the existence of a passive Qal in ancient Israel has been acknowledged by scholars and grammarians. This form of the verb became obsolete and it was replaced by other forms of the verb.

    Second, there is no doubt that the verb כבה in Isaiah 66:24 is a Qal imperfect. The form is not passive, but active. I never said in my post that the form of the verb was passive.

    Third, what I said, in agreement with Glenn Peoples, was that “it is almost certain that some verbs are pointed as Qal perfect but have a passive meaning.”

    Take, for instance, the verb זֹרוּ in Isaiah 1:6. BDB locates the verb as follows: Qal Pf. 3 pl. זֹ֫רוּ Is 1:6 (passive). Gesenius says the following about this verb: “In the perfect, isolated examples are found with ō in the first syllable: זֹרוּ especially is rather to be classed among the passives or Qal mentioned in § 52 e.

    Or take the verb ר֤וֹמּוּ in Job 24:24. BDB locates this verb as follows: “[רָמֹם] vb. be exalted (|| form (acc. to Mas.) of רום );—Qal Pf. 3 pl. וְאֵינֶנּוּ רוֹמּוּ מְעַט Jb 24:24 (perhaps pass. form Ges: §67 m.”

    There is no question that כבה in Isaiah 66:24 is a Qal and it is an active verb. In addition, the question is not whether the Qal has a passive. The Qal has a passive participle. Rather, the question is whether in the passive Qal the verb had a passive meaning, which the examples cited above seem to indicate.

    The reason the verb כבה is receiving so much attention is because it appears in Isaiah 66:24, a verse that deals with a theological dispute. It seems that the answer to such a theological dispute depends on how the meaning of a Hebrew verb should be interpreted in English.

    The focus of contention between conditionalists and non-conditionalists, it seems, is the nature of the verb כבה in Isaiah 66:24. The answer to this important theological issue, the eternal destiny of the wicked, cannot depend on whether a single verb is active or passive. Most scholars today are aware of James Barr’s warning about using a single word to prove a theological point.

    The solution to this important theological debate cannot depend solely on the form of a verb in an isolated passage. For the answer to this problem to be valid, it must be based on the whole of Scripture, not whether a verb is active or passive.

    Claude Mariottini

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