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The Aberrant View of the Afterlife in the Apocalypse of Peter

As we have seen on the blog before, when church leaders were deciding which books should be counted among the Christian Scriptures, to go along with the “Old Testament,” they used a range of criteria:   a book had to be written by an apostle or at least by an active companion of an apostle; it had to be widely used throughout the early Christianity communities; and it had to convey teachings that were widely accepted (by the “right” thinkers) as “orthodox.”  No false teachings allowed.

And so my question about the Apocalypse of Peter.  What went wrong?  It was allegedly written by the apostle Peter himself.  Check.  It was known and used in widespread churches in the second and third centuries – not as much as, say, the Gospels and letters of Paul, but still, more than other books, such as 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude, that eventually made it into the NT.  So, widely enough used.  Check.  And its teachings about eternal torments for sinners and everlasting blessings for the saved were very much in line with what Christian leaders, teachers, and theologians were saying.  Check.   So what’s the problem?

My sense is that there were a couple of things, most intriguingly …

To see how this thought plays out, you’ll need to read the rest of the post.  But to do that, you need to belong to the blog.  If you don’t, repent and change your ways!  Join the blog.  It won’t cost much and all the money goes to charity.

[privaete] … most intriguingly the passage that I cited yesterday, found in the fifth-century Rainer Fragment of the book (NOT, in the Akhmim version discovered in 1886-87 or in the Ethiopic translation).  After describing the eternal torments of sinners, the author acknowledges that in fact they were not always eternal.  Some lucky souls would get let off the hook.

And (or But?) I will give to my elect and chosen ones whomever they ask of me out of their torment, and I will give them a good baptism for salvation in the Acherousian Lake which is said to be in the Elysian Field.

According to this verse, anyone roasting for eternity in hell will be saved if there is one of the elect who asks Christ to let them go.   That certainly was not an acceptable view for later Christian leaders and theologians.

As we have seen, there was one highly dominant view of hell that developed within Christian thinking of the 2nd – 5th centuries, the view that then became the standard view of all time.   Once a person dies and is assigned to hell, theystay there forever.  Not for the length of time they were cognizant sinners while living; not for the length of their entire life from infancy to death; not for a few thousand years, or a few trillion.  Forever.

There was, to be sure, an alternative view that resided at the margins, possibly adumbrated in some of the NT (notably, some of the comments of Paul) promoted most forcefully, as we have seen, by the third-century Origen and picked up sometimes later, principally among his followers, that in the end, if God is truly Sovereign, his plan cannot be trumped and his will cannot be resisted.  Eventually, over time – even if it is an “infinity of ages” as Origen seems to have thought (which, of course, cannot technically be right) – everyone will come around, even the worst of sinners, and worship the Lord God.  They then will be granted eternal salvation.

But this view was very much a minority opinion and was itself condemned as a false teaching by the later church.   The great theologian Augustine – the most influential Christian thinker of all time (apart from Paul I suppose) – spent most of the entire book 21 of his classic The City of God, arguing against anyone who maintained that eternal damnation would not be eternal, including Origen and his followers, but also others who took less than severe views on the matter: anyone who is not a believer in Christ will burn forever.

It is true that even Augustine realized this was not completely fair, since there are some sinners who are worse than others (like the guy across the street).   Augustine’s solution was that all sinners will indeed burn forever, but God in his mercy has arranged for some to experience the heat more intensely than others.   So, I suppose, for some it will be only 3000 degrees, not 6000.  And hey, that’s *something* at least.

The problem with the verse in the Apocalypse of Peter is that some sinners get completely out of the heat and into heaven.  Not because of God’s decision to be merciful to sinners in general.  And not because they were better than other sinners.  They may, in fact, have been much worse.  But if there is a saint who would like to see a friend or loved one off the hook, all she or he needs do is ask Christ and the person will be saved and brought into eternal glory.   Anyone who doesn’t happen to have a friend or loving family member among the elect, well, as we say, tough cookies.   It’s baking forever, with no help of remission.

This is a completely arbitrary and random distribution of justice.   The majority view was clear and straightforward: saints who believe in Christ will be saved forever; sinners who do not will roast for eternity.   Nothing arbitrary.  So too Origen’s view – which itself came to be condemned as being too slack: everyone eventually gets saved.  Not some random few who happen to have a merciful relative or next-door-neighbor saint who prays for them.

The view expressed in this verse of the Apocalypse of Peter almost certainly had developed because of concern that there must be *some* leniency and not a hard-fisted, clad-iron application of “justice.”  God must show *some* mercy on those who don’t deserve it.  And so the solution: a saint who prays for another can get them relieved from the heat.  But it’s mind-bogglingly random nature must have seemed completely unacceptable.  There has to be some kind of rule applied to all, otherwise justice is not true justice.  It’s just arbitrary.  Arbitrary enforcement is the opposite of true justice, and so cannot be the way of God.

None of the church fathers who reject the Apocalypse of Peter says what its problem was.  But my guess is that this was it.  And there is some evidence for that.   I mentioned that this passage in ch. 14 of the book is found only in our very oldest witness to it, the fifth-century Rainer fragment.  It is almost certainly the original wording of the text.  But it is missing from the later editions, both the Akhmim manuscript that dates from the sixth century and the Ethiopic version that, though more reliable, dates from even later.  Why is it missing from these versions of the text?  Scribes must have omitted it.  Why did they omit it?   Almost certainly because they found it problematic.

So did the church fathers who read the book.  It came at the very end of the description of eternal torments.  But it indicated that the torments were eternal only for some.  Others could be relieved, if they happened to be chummy with one of the saints.  That was a completely unacceptable idea.   For orthodox church thinkers, that meant the book could not have been written by one of the apostles.  That meant the book could not be accepted as a Scriptural authority.

And so the book was simply left out of the canon.   As a result, it was scarcely ever copied.  And that’s why we didn’t have it until 1886-87.[/private]


Finally. Why Did the Apocalypse of Peter Not Make It Into the Canon?

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Comments

  1. AstaKask  January 30, 2019

    You’ve said that in oral traditions, the exact words are not important – what is valued is the gist of the story and it is always being adapted for new audiences. But before the printing press, exactitude was beyond the scribes as well. Did they expect scribes who copied a manuscript to get it letter-perfect or were they more lenient?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 30, 2019

      Yes, scribal culture was very different from oral culture. Now we’re talking about the *written* tradition, not the oral.

  2. craig@corbettlaw.org  January 30, 2019

    I never thought of this before, but in light of these orthodox ideas, why would it be of any benefit to a “sinner” to have “Holy Mary, Mother of God” pray for them “in the hour of” their deaths?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      It has to do with purgatory (a temporary place) rather than hell (a permanent one)

      • Eric  February 11, 2019

        But might not this historical tradition underlie the development of purgatorial thought?

        • Bart
          Bart  February 12, 2019

          In the scholarly book I’m working on now I’m going to be arguing that it was an alternative path to answer the same question, of how God can be truly just if punishment for simple sinners is eternal, never ending torture.

  3. jhague  January 30, 2019

    Did/does the Roman Catholic Church teach that someone can be prayed or penance can be paid to get someone else out of hell (or purgatory)?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      Yes, it’s a big difference. Purgatory was temporary, and prayers could be effective for helping someone leave more quickly. Hell was permanent. No exit.

  4. NulliusInVerba
    NulliusInVerba  January 30, 2019

    Did Origen or Augustine have anything to say about the souls of those who never heard the good news of Christ’s salvation? Were they damned by accident of time and place? After all, they didn’t have the opportunity to believe,

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      Origen thought they would all be saved in the end. Augustine: I can’t recall offhand. Maybe someone else on the blog can help?

      • godspell  February 2, 2019

        I don’t know offhand either, but as I feel sure you are already aware, Augustine argued that unbaptized infants went to hell. A milder version of hell, perhaps. Minimum security. He didn’t like making the argument, but he was a slave to his own internal logic. Having come up with a rationale for why people need baptism (the taint of original sin from Adam and Eve, passed on through sexual reproduction), he couldn’t upend it to make an exception for children. It all had to be a coherent perfect system, with no loopholes. Habit of mind.

        Though always controversial (I would imagine it had some influence on the creation of a place in the afterlife for the virtuous unbaptized, or limbo in some instances) Augustine’s argument proved quite persistent–I remember reading in a biography of Clarence Darrow (the section dealing with the Scopes Trial) which described some backwoods preacher telling a weeping couple their unbaptized baby who had died was burning in hell. A man told him “That isn’t religion, it’s superstition!” “H’its our religion and we’re sticking by it!”

        I know there was some idea out there that those who hadn’t heard the good news got an exemption–maybe they didn’t go to heaven, but they weren’t damned. Jesus had preached the good news to everyone he could, and it was the missionary ideal to bring it everywhere in the world, so everybody would have to choose.

        I’ve told this story before, and I don’t know its origin, but this missionary explains all this to a savage, who thinks about it, and this discussion ensues

        “You mean if you hadn’t told me all this, I’d just go to some neutral place when I die, but now that you have, I’m in danger of going to a place of eternal torment?

        “Well–yes.”

        “So why did you tell me?”

        And the punchline is, Jesus never believed any of this.

        😉

        • dankoh  February 6, 2019

          Augustine himself was baptized as an adult (in Milan), as was the common practice in those days. It’s when he became bishop of Hippo (near Carthage) that he encountered the practice of infant baptism. His ruminations on why it might be necessary was one of the forerunners that led him to codify the idea of original sin as lust, transmitted to all of Adam’s offspring through sex (the idea was not original with Augustine, but he is the one who gave it its theological foundation and made it official church doctrine).

          As I recall, the Paris church authorities experimented with in utero baptism in the XIX century as a way of getting around the problem of a baby dying before it could be baptized, but nothing came of it.

  5. francis  January 30, 2019

    Dr Ehrman. That was a great read…

  6. Lev
    Lev  January 30, 2019

    Are Christian Universalists right in their claim that the dominant view of the church within the first five centuries was that all human beings will ultimately be “saved” and restored to a right relationship with God? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_universalism)

    If so, this would support your theory, as it is within this era that the Rainer Fragment was written (in the 400s), and as all sinners would eventually be saved, having a select few rescued over time would present no problem.

    The difficulty with this is that the biblical canon was mostly settled in the 300s and if the Universalists are right, and the doctrinal shift had yet to occur, then the motivation for omitting the Apocolypse of Peter on the basis that it allows for some of the dammed to be saved seems illogical.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      No, defintely not. It was a marginal view.

      • dankoh  February 6, 2019

        Granted that it was not “dominant,” but was it truly “marginal” given that Origen had espoused it, or would it be better to call it “unsettled” prior to Augustine?

        • Bart
          Bart  February 7, 2019

          We don’t have record of too many Christians accepting it, except Origen’s own followers.

  7. Leovigild  January 30, 2019

    Bart,

    How does your view square with the widespread idea (common to this day in the Catholic Church) that praying for the souls of the deceased by the living is efficacious? If it works when the living do it, why not the souls of the saints?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      This has to do with souls in purgatory, not hell. Purgatory was temporary, and prayers could be effective for helping someone leave more quickly. Hell was permanent. No exit.

      • Leovigild  February 2, 2019

        But my reading of your summary of the orthodox objection to the Apocalypse of Peter wasn’t so much that it suggested that Hell was not eternal, but rather that prayer could have any effect on those in a non-eternal Hell. From that standpoint, it shouldn’t matter if we’re talking about Purgatory or Hell. The problem is that prayer has any effect on the decisions of a just God. In your words above: “There has to be some kind of rule applied to all, otherwise justice is not true justice. It’s just arbitrary. Arbitrary enforcement is the opposite of true justice, and so cannot be the way of God.”

        Nothing there about the eternity or non-eternity of punishment. If you meant to say something different, I would suggest updating the post.

        • Bart
          Bart  February 3, 2019

          No, that’s the problem. There is no purgatory here. That’s a later development. Since it wasn’t developed yet, the idea that some people could randomonly be removed from eternal hell by the prayers of saints was seen to be bizarre and offensive. The doctrine of Purgatory developed later to explain how some punishment could be temporary instead of permanent. Without an explanation like that, the random salvation of some from eternal flames was seen as a weird and possibly dangerous view.

          • dankoh  February 6, 2019

            When did purgatory develop, and is there any likely connection to the Jewish view in the Talmud that all postmortem punishment is temporary?

          • Bart
            Bart  February 7, 2019

            I don’t know avbout the relationship to Talmud. I thought I had posted on purgatory: I’ll see!

          • dankoh  February 7, 2019

            To follow up on your response: What I had in mind is the general Talmudic idea of Gehenna as a place where souls go who have sinned sufficiently in life to merit punishment after death. But this punishment lasts no more than 12 months according to the majority of rabbis (and is the reason why children say kaddish for their parents for 11 months, so as not to imply their parents deserve the maximum). See b. Erub. 19a and b. RH 17a. The truly wicked are punished by extinction, not by eternal torment.

            (One view is that punishment consists of being held at a distance from God, and postmortem repentance is manifested by the soul’s desire to come closer.)

            So what I was asking was whether the Talmudic view of Gehenna had any influence on the Christian development of the idea of purgatory. I’m not specifically aware of cross-confessional dialogues, but I find the similarities intriguing.

          • Bart
            Bart  February 8, 2019

            I”m not aware of any evidence that it did, but it’s certainly worth thinking about. But on the other hand, whynot think the influence went the other direction, since the Christian sources suggesting temporary instead of eternal punishments are much earlier?

  8. ayunas  January 30, 2019

    Insightful Post. Thanks so much for your work Dr. Ehrman! So the apocolypse of Peter didn’t make it because of the concept of sinners being saved from hellfire. In the Islamic tradition, this concept exists. Not everybody’s crimes are equal. So punishment is dependent on the crimes. In the mainstream Islamic position, only arrogant rejectors of God and certain types of sinners end up going to hellfire. Many sinners are forgiven by God and enter into Paradise without ever going to Hell. In other words, not all sinners must go to hellfire automatically, they can be forgiven by God if they show any signs of remorse, since God is most Merciful. Then there’s people who enter into Hell for some time, and are taken out according to how much evil they did, without showing signs of remorse. And there’s even a scholarly position that holds that hellfire is not eternal, and God will eventually get rid of it completely after people have suffered for their crimes and justice was served.

    The concept of intercession also exists in the Islamic tradition, where some righteous people are given the status of being able to intercede with God to take certain people out of hellfire, or to lessen their punishment, or even to raise people in higher levels of paradise. But God the Father is the one who gives permission to these people to intercede for people.

    Bottom line, because everybody has a unique circumstance, the judgments and punishments cannot be uniform, it has to reflect a balance of justice and mercy.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      It’s not just that sinners could be saved, but the arbitrary nature that *some* would be saved if someone else just happened to pray for them

  9. Tom  January 30, 2019

    I know this is mostly a theological question, but, since you mentioned Augustine and his theological answer to the basic conundrum of “not as bad a sinner as others,” I’ll ask it anyway
    Are the (medieval) inventions of Purgatory and indulgences somehow related to the idea of “non-eternal-eternal punishment in this fragment?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      Yes, it’s a different way of getting to the issue of how eternal punishment makes sense for everyone.

  10. Anton  January 30, 2019

    Would this be similar to the catholic teaching about purgatory. That praying for those there will eventually go to heaven.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      Not quite, but close. Purgatory was temporary, and prayers could be effective for helping someone leave more quickly. Hell was permanent. No exit.

  11. godspell  January 30, 2019

    The problem here is one of internal logic. Trying to rationalize matters of non-rational belief (which is not a fallacy limited to those of a religious bent). Taking things to their logical extremes leads, almost invariably, to irrational results.

    Still, I don’t think the Christian idea of redeeming even sinners in hell ever went away entirely. Dostoevsky told a version of that in his “Parable of the Onion” in “The Brothers Karamazov.” Grushenka tells it.

    “Once upon a time there was a peasant woman and a very wicked woman she was. And she died and did not leave a single good deed behind. The devils caught her and plunged her into the lake of fire. So her guardian angel stood and wondered what good deed of hers he could remember to tell to God; ‘She once pulled up an onion in her garden,’ said he, ‘and gave it to a beggar woman.’ And God answered: ‘You take that onion then, hold it out to her in the lake, and let her take hold and be pulled out. And if you can pull her out of the lake, let her come to Paradise, but if the onion breaks, then the woman must stay where she is.’ The angel ran to the woman and held out the onion to her. ‘Come,’ said he, ‘catch hold and I’ll pull you out.’ he began cautiously pulling her out. He had just pulled her right out, when the other sinners in the lake, seeing how she was being drawn out, began catching hold of her so as to be pulled out with her. But she was a very wicked woman and she began kicking them. ‘I’m to be pulled out, not you. It’s my onion, not yours.’ As soon as she said that, the onion broke. And the woman fell into the lake and she is burning there to this day. So the angel wept and went away. So that’s the story, Alyosha; I know it by heart, for I am that wicked woman myself. I boasted to Rakitin that I had given away an onion, but to you I’ll say: ‘I’ve done nothing but give away one onion all my life, that’s the only good deed I’ve done.’

    God doesn’t damn us. We damn ourselves.

  12. Steefen  January 30, 2019

    Acts: An Exegetical Commentary by Craig S. Keener, $163.21
    = = =
    Joseph B. Tyson (Editor): Acts and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Paperback: $29.00

    The Acts of the Apostles is not history.

    Acts was long thought to be a first-century document, and its author Luke to be a disciple of Paul—thus an eyewitness or acquaintance of eyewitnesses to nascent Christianity. Acts was considered history, pure and simple. But the Acts Seminar, a decade-long collaborative project by scholars affiliated with the Westar Institute, concluded that dates from the second century. That conclusion directly challenges the view of Acts as history and raises a host of new questions, addressed in this final report.

    The Acts Seminar began deliberations in 2001, with the task of going through the canonical Acts of the Apostles from beginning to end and evaluating it for historical accuracy.

    = = =

    Richard Pervo, Acts: A Commentary (Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible – $74.34

    The Acts of the Apostles joins the Gospel of Luke with the ministry of Paul. Renowned New Testament
    scholar Richard I. Pervo shows how this masterful storyteller worked his magic, drawing on first-century
    literary techniques of narration and characterization. *Luke’s literary skills did not prevent scribes from re-writing
    his masterwork…*

    Steefen: This sounds like instead of Misquoting Jesus with Jesus Interrupted, this is Misquoting Luke with Luke Interrupted

    = = =
    Hi Bart,
    You brought to the attention of the general public errors and manipulations of the gospels. It seems with Richard Pervo’s commentary on Acts, scribes rewrote his masterpiece? Do you totally agree? In what classes you teach do you teach your students about that? In which of your textbooks or trade books do you teach students about that? It seems to be an important sequel to your reveals about the gospels to go one book further and discover the reveals about Acts of the Apostles.

    I’m working on an “Acts of the Apostles” search here on the Bart Ehrman Blog to see what you posted about that book of the New Testament.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      Actually, I’m not sure what he means about scribes rewriting it, unless he’s referring to the fact that we have two separate textual traditions of Acts, the so-called Western text and the Alexandrian text, that have some significant differences between them.

      • Steefen  February 2, 2019

        I’m thinking all of the Bible in English in the United States and Britain are using the Western text.
        The Greek Orthodox use the Alexandrian text?

        Should we explore the significant differences you mention?
        = = =
        In the meantime, a google result:

        Bruce Metzger on the “Western Text” of the Book of Acts

        Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1975), pp. 259-72.

        The text of the book of the Acts of the Apostles circulated in the early church in two quite distinct forms, commonly called the Alexandrian and the Western. The former, which has been traditionally regarded as the authentic text of Acts, is represented by p45 p74 א A B C Ψ 33 81 104 326 and 1175. The other form is represented chiefly by D and the fragmentary papyri p29 , p38 , and p48, by the readings marked with an asterisk or standing in the margin of the Harclean Syriac version (syrh with *, syrh mg), by the African Old Latin ms. h (a fifth or sixth century fragmentary palimpsest that preserves about 203 of the 1007 verses of Acts), and by the citations of Acts made by Cyprian and Augustine. These, which are the primary witnesses to the Western text in Acts, are sometimes joined by others that present mixed texts with a relatively high proportion of Western elements. Among such are the Armenian version of the commentary on Acts by Ephraem Syrus, the Old Georgian version of Acts, several mixed Old Latin and Vulgate manuscripts, and a few Greek minuscule manuscripts that were included by von Soden in his I-group. More recent discoveries of witnesses with decided Western affiliations include a Palestinian Syriac fragment (syrms K) from the Kastellion Monastery at Khirbet Mird, dating from the sixth century, and a Coptic manuscript (copG67) written in the Middle Egyptian dialect and dated by its editor in the late fourth or early fifth century.

        The two forms of text differ in character as well as length. The Western text is nearly one-tenth longer than the Alexandrian text, and is generally more picturesque and circumstantial, whereas the shorter text is generally more colorless and in places more obscure.

        http://www.bible-researcher.com/bezae-acts2.html

        = = =

        Bart, I’m sorry to say this, but this is the first time hearing about this.

        • Bart
          Bart  February 3, 2019

          No, the standard text throughout the western world is the Alexandrian text. The Orthodox prefer the Byzantine text, a different beast algotether.

          • Steefen  February 3, 2019

            OMG: do you know of any good books that covers all three and explain the differences?
            Google pretty much has nothing on the Byzantine text of Acts of the Apostles.

            Which one is more historically accurate? Is there anything consumer of the Alexandrian text would benefit from knowing from the others?

          • Bart
            Bart  February 4, 2019

            The Alexandrian is typically understood to be the closest to the originals, the most accurate; the Western is an early aberrant form of the text; the Byzantine is the later smoothing out of the text that became the standard text for many centuries, until about 140 years ago. Yes, lots of books on this, any Introduction to Textual Criticism. The most authoritative account is Bruce Metzger, The Text of the New Testament.

  13. Pattylt  January 30, 2019

    Bart,
    salvation in the Acherousian Lake which is said to be in the Elysian Field.

    Do you think this statement may have also been a problem…maybe a bit too pagan? Did it just add some juice to rejecting it but not the primary concern or was this an acceptable statement?

    I also find it curious that the Catholic Church does not condemn “all others” as they used to. They now nuance in, not only those that never heard the message of Christ, but also allowing Gods mercy to make exceptions. So, people have struggled with the absolutism of Hell for a long time!

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      Yeah, I’ve wondered that. But it shows up in other Christain writings too, as a metaphor I suppose more than a literal statement.

  14. brenmcg  January 30, 2019

    But why not just edit out the offending line? would we not have to conclude that early christians were loathe to make any edits to “scripture”.

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      Some did just that. Others thought that the lines showed the book was *not* scripture.

  15. Mhamed Errifi  January 30, 2019

    Hello Dr Bart

    I have unrelated question to the topic and I would appreciate , if you answer it . In your fields , do you call student who just got his phd degree in biblical studies a biblical scholar ? if not then when can he be called as such ?

    Many thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      Yes indeed, that person is indeed a bona fide scholar. (Assuming the PhD is from a reputable institution, not, e.g., mail order…)

  16. gwayersdds  January 30, 2019

    Is the concept of being released from hell by being prayed for by a saint as seen in the apocalypse of Peter, related to the Catholic concept of purgatory where your time there can be shortened if others pray for your soul?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      Related, but not the same. Purgatory was temporary, and prayers could be effective for helping someone leave more quickly. Hell was permanent. No exit.

  17. Smithjacusmc  January 30, 2019

    I think it is amazing how theses early “church” leaders had to decide how eternal torment should be executed. When did this concept start, was it from Greek culture or later Jewish, from say Babylonian beliefs. Is this known?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      Greek. I go into this at length in my forthcoming book. But I”m afraid you’ll have to wait a year.

  18. fishician  January 30, 2019

    Fascinating, but I wonder about the early Christians’ view of mercy, vs. justice. It seems like God’s mercy was only in effect during your life; after death, no more mercy. Brings to mind things like Paul persecuting Christians but getting a special visit from Jesus so he would convert, while most sinners got no such advantage. Do you think the early Christians saw God as merciful, or not?

    • Bart
      Bart  February 1, 2019

      Yes, definitely merciful. While you were still breathing!

      • Rick
        Rick  February 1, 2019

        Which would be the same as while you could still be influenced, obey, tithe etc…..

  19. Hngerhman  January 30, 2019

    Sign at Athanasius amusement park: The god depicted in your apocalypse must be at least THIS mean to ride this ride.

  20. WLFobe  January 31, 2019

    This brought to mind the later Church practice of indulgences. Slip the Pope a few ducats or guilders and buy a loved one out of purgatory. If the Pope truly had the power, and was compassionate, shouldn’t this be the sort of thing he would want to do? For free?

    • Leovigild  February 2, 2019

      WLFobe,

      The idea was that penance by the living would aid the deceased in Purgatory. Giving money was a form of penance, as it made the giver poorer and helped the Church. Therefore, indulgences. No, the Pope didn’t have the power to let everyone out of Purgatory without penance. That, at least, is the theory.

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