Does Eternal Punishment Even Make Sense?

This will be my last post on the understandings of hell in early Christianity.  There is a lot more to be said, of course, but for our purposes this is enough.  I’ve been trying to show that there was a minority view held by some prominent thinkers – and possibly a lot of other Christian folk; there’s no way to tell – that said in the end everyone would be saved.   The dominant view, though, was that for non-believers and ...

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Eternal Torment Even for Christians?

I have been discussing the “universalistic” strand in parts of Christianity in the early centuries, which said that ultimately, everyone will be saved.  This was very much a minority opinion.  Most Christians continued to think that non-believers would be damned, forever, to some very nasty torments that would never end.

In fact, in many circles, more and more people came to be subject to the fires of eternity in the Christian imagination.  In the fourth and fifth centuries, with a massive ...

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The Happy News! No One Stays In Hell!

I don’t want to leave the impression that Origen was the only early Christian thinker who held to the idea of universal salvation, that in the end, everyone gets saved.  Very few (hardly any) would have agreed that the Devil too would get redeemed.  But that all humans will eventually “make it” was an attractive view to others – even “orthodox” Christian thinkers.

Among scholars from the later church, the most famous theologian to countenance universal salvation was a self-confessed advocate ...

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Did Early Christians Believe in Reincarnation?

In my previous post I talked about how Origen’s view that souls existed before being born as humans related to his view that in the end, all things — including the most wicked beings in the universe — will convert and return to God: salvation for all!   Also connected to this idea was Origen’s notion that after death people would be reborn to, in a sense, “give it another go.”  Origen is our most famous Christian proponent of the idea ...

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Did We Exist Before We Were Born?

Yesterday I started explaining how the influential early Christian theologian Origen believed that at the end of time, all souls — including the most wicked to have ever lived, even the demons and the devil — will be saved.  To make better sense of why this happens at the end, it’s important to understand what Origen thought happened at the beginning — where souls came from in the first place

In the first book of his theological work On First ...

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Does Everyone Get Saved in the End?

I return now, at last, to the question of why the Apocalypse of Peter, an account of Peter’s tour of the glories of heaven and the torments of hell, did not make it into the New Testament.  It was a fairly widely known book in the first couple of Christian centuries, was accepted by some church leaders as part of the Scriptures, seemed to support acceptable Christian views, and was said to have been written by Jesus’ apostle himself.  So ...

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Introducing the Apocalypse of Peter

As I said in my last post, I have been putting a lot of time into reading the scholarship on the Apocalypse of Peter, an early-second-century text that describes the torments of the damned in some graphic detail, and that almost came to be accepted as part of the New Testament canon.  I’m puzzling long and hard over why, in the end, it did not make it in.   It’s not an easy question to answer, given our scant discussions of ...

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The De-apocalypticized Jesus of the Gospel of John

 

An important request I received recently!

 

QUESTION

At some point, I would like to hear more about the Gospel of John not having an apocalyptic view of Jesus.

 

RESPONSE

This question relates closely to the work I’ve been doing on the views of the afterlife in the early Christian tradition.   As I’ve pointed out on the blog many times before, John was the last canonical Gospel written, probably 60-65 years after Jesus’ death.  One of the most striking things about John’s account of Jesus ...

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Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise?

Here is an interesting question I have received closely connected with the work I’ve been doing on the different views about the afterlife – what happens to us when we die? – in the early Christian tradition.  It has to do with a key verse that has been much debated over the years, a verse found only in Luke’s Gospel, in which Jesus assures the “robber” being crucified with him, that he will that day awaken in paradise.  Or *is* ...

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Jesus and Hell

The second of my two boxes today from the new edition of my textbook.  This one of even more pressing importance: what did Jesus think of hell?

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Another Glimpse Into the Past

Box 15.8  Hell in the Teaching of Jesus

Jesus sometimes indicates that on the Day of Judgment sinners will be cast, unburied, into the most unholy, repulsive, God-forsaken place that anyone in Israel could imagine, the valley known as “Gehenna.” He says, for example that ...

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