After showing an apparent contempt for the Greek scriptures and his disdain for proper translation of them, Edward Feser moves on in his post to show that not only does he delight in mistranslations of the Bible, but also in misrepresenting what the early fathers said. He traverses sea and land to make one convert to his ideas about the early fathers, ignoring a wealth of information about them which contradicts the hell he desperately wishes all sinners to be immersed in forever.
THE EARLY CHURCH FATHERS:
The earliest Church Fathers pick right up with the theme we see in Revelation, without skipping a beat. Here are some key texts:
The Didache (1st or 2nd century):
Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven; then the sign of the sound of the trumpet; and the third; the resurrection of the dead; yet not of all, but as it is said; The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him.
Though this text lacks the harrowing imagery of Matthew or Revelation, we nevertheless see in it the reiteration of the idea of a final separation of the faithful and the wicked.
First problem with Feser’s thinking: note how he relies heavily on the texts from Matthew and Revelation to continue to try to prove his point that all such discussions in the Early Fathers have to do with the end of the world. Matthew and Revelation have nothing to do with the end of the world, as I proved in Part One. The time indicators in both passages simply do not allow what is being discussed to be anything other than the end of the Jewish Age and the beginning of the next age – the age of the New Covenant.
Feser then moves on to present a number of quotes from the early fathers which he feels are supportive of his position on eternal damnation. I will take just one of them to show the next pit into which he falls:
EPISTLE OF BARNABAS (c. 130):
But the way of darkness is crooked, and full of cursing; for it is the way of eternal death with punishment, in which way are the things that destroy the soul, viz., idolatry, over-confidence, the arrogance of power, hypocrisy, double-heartedness, adultery, murder, rapine, haughtiness, transgression, deceit, malice, self-sufficiency, poisoning, magic, avarice, want of the fear of God. (Epistle of Barnabas 20)
In what language was the original written? That’s right–Greek! With a Google search, I found the original text. By now, you should realize there could be a problem with the translation of this epistle from Greek to Latin, and then to the English we are reading.
The Greek word which has been translated eternal in the Barnabas quote is the same “aionios” which Dr. Ilaria Ramelli has noted, does not necessarily mean “eternal.” There is a specific word for eternal in Greek. The Greek word for eternal is “adidios.” But when you have been taught to translate aionios as “eternal,” you follow what you have been taught as an obedient member of the church. It is also interesting to note that in the full English text online, the translation uses the words “thou” and “thee.” I discount the Epistle of Barnabas as being an indelible proof of eternal hell. This is a late Medieval translation from the Greek–and a bad one.
Here is Feser’s problem, to which he is blind: the translations from Greek to Latin (and eventually to our English language) were not done properly. Contrary to the spasms of rapture into which the defenders of the Douay_Rheims and King James versons of the Bible ascend when discussing the absolute perfection of these Bibles, they are instead a horrible clown show of bad translation. To find out just how bad, read either one side by side with Young’s Literal Translation or the Concordant Literal New Testament.
The issue is that all Western translations which read have come to us from the Latin translators who were struggling with the Greek. Augustine stated publicly that he hated the Greek language and didn’t understand it, yet that didn’t stop him from writing commentaries on the NT, including his famous mangling of Romans 5:12 which ulitmately resulted in the false doctrine of Original Sin as understood by the Roman church. It is said that when Augustine’s works were finally translated into Greek and read by the bishops in Constantinople, they were horrified at some of the theological errors in them.
Feser throws ad hominems at those scholars who have actually brought up this problem, much the same as monkeys in a zoo throw feces at unwanted visitors. Is that any way to do serious debate on a very serious topic? Sounds more like the actions of someone who is too proud to admit that perhaps he has been hornswoggled by those who taught him error.
As for the Early Fathers who taught Apokatastasis, when Feser is not ignoring them, he strives mightily to find any quote he can twist to make them sound as if they really weren’t universalists to begin with. In an attempt to do this to St. Gregory of Nyssa, Feser actually winds up promoting Universalism:
Certainly, in comparison with one who has lived all his life in sin, not only the innocent babe but even one who has never come into the world at all will be blessed. We learn as much too in the case of Judas, from the sentence pronounced upon him in the Gospels; namely, that when we think of such men, that which never existed is to be preferred to that which has existed in such sin. For, as to the latter, on account of the depth of the ingrained evil, the chastisement in the way of purgation will be extended into infinity; but as for what has never existed, how can any torment touch it? (On Infants’ Early Deaths)
Apparently Feser is so smitten with love of hell-fire that he is unable read accurately. When I see the word “chastisement,” I think of the biblical definition as found in Revelation 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten (παιδεύω paideuō): be zealous therefore, and repent.” Feser thinks chastise means send to hell forever. Does God send to hell forever those upon whom He showers His love? Or does He act according to the defintion found regarding this Greek word:
to train children a. to be instructed or taught or learn b. to cause one to learn
to chastise a. to chastise or castigate with words, to correct b. of those who are moulding the character of others by reproof and admonition
of God 1. to chasten by the affliction of evils and calamities 2. to chastise with blows, to scourge
of a father punishing his son
of a judge ordering one to be scourged
This is why I say that this man is a lazy “scholar.” He hasn’t done his homework, and one thinks that he declines to do so because an honest evaluation would torpedo his assumptions. Look, if a schmuck like me, high school educated, can find these things out, he could. He doesn’t want to, and goes to great lengths to either avoid discussing the errors of th church, or come up with elegant malanthropy to cover his ass.
There is nothing in this Greek word which carries the idea of eternal torment by an irate deity. Chastisement is instructive correction to the end of bettering a person. The word “purgation” means to purge something, cleansing it of its impurities. Did he somehow miss this in his haste to prove Gregory a closet hellist? And yes, for the particularly wicked or stubborn, it may well last into the ages of ages, as St. Gregoy Nyssa says.
On the same page, Feser then turns his attention to those annoying verses in scripture which have the nerve to say that God will have mercy on all. When confronted with verses such as I Corinthians 15:22 (“as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”) Feser says: “But the context is an argument for the reality of the resurrection of the body, not the question of who will be saved. Moreover, as we have seen, St. Paul also explicitly says in the very same epistle (at 6:9) that some will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
I have seen this kind of argument before, and not only is it an exampe of nauseating dishonesty, it is changing words to mean what they don’t mean. Calvinists do this when they say that the word “all” in such verses means “only all of the elect.” His argument here assumes that by just being resurrected, one is made alive. This is so far off the mark I am left gasping for breath at the ignorance he shows. The only way to be “made alive” is to be found in Christ. Does Feser not know that death in the Bible means the state of separation from God? This is exactly what happened to Adam and Eve. On the day that they ate of the fruit, they died — yet they remained very much alive. How did they die? They died by being separated from God. That is death, not only according to this passage, but according to the Parable of the Prodigal, in which the father says “For my son who was dead, is alive.” The son was never dead physically, but he was dead unto the father by being separated from his father.
This means that all who die separted from Christ are in a state of death – until they repent (and yes, they can repent after death. Aquinas was wrong!) As I showed you in Part One, after the wicked are plunged into the lake of fire of God’s love, Christ offers this invitation: Let him who is athirst come and drink.” As I said, the saved are not thirsty. They drink of the rivers of living water from the Holy Spirit. It is the lost who are parched in the next age – and the invitation remains open to them forever until the end when Christ turns the kingdom over to the Father and God is all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). Such an invitation is ridiculous if the lake of fire is hell and those in it are forever lost without hope.
When you die, you can inherit one of two places. Your inheritance depends entirely on the choices you have made in this life. Either you inherit Christ and all that goes with union with Him, or you inherit the chastening lake of fire which will cleanse you of your sins. This is what it means to not inherit the kingdom of God. You go to the lake of fire, the furnace of “wailing and gnashing of teeth” until you are cleansed. The fathers describe this fire as the passionate love of God which burns away all that is not like it.
Oh, but I know. Feser will somehow find a way to insist that those who are thirsty are those who are in heaven, saved, and with Christ forever. He will twist and torment the scriptures until he feels his position is secure.
Thirst is a lack. There is nothing lacking to the saved who have escaped the lake of fire by repentance in this life. All tears are wiped away, they are united to Christ and filled with His love. How can they possibly be thirsty, which thirst is an analogy used in scripture to indicate a desire for God? My grandkids could figure this out. How come Feser is so obtuse? Well, presuppositional blindness is probably the answer. An old saying goes: “When you own a hammer, everything suddenly looks like a nail.” And when you believe in eternal hell, everything in scripture looks like it points to people going there.
Add to that a pinch of pride, an unwillingness to ever admit that he, or his hero, Thomas Aquinas could be wrong **GASP** and you have the perfect storm for entrenched belief that will probably never change.
This is the kind of biblical illiteracy which convinced me, when I was a Protestant, that Catholics are by and large clueless when it comes to understanding the Bible. Feser has done nothing to change my mind.