I have spent the last few days reflecting upon a previous post about N.T. Wrights view of hell. I offer the following ramblings as a response.. The first set as general reflections (1) and the (2) second by way of critique. They are just notes
1a) Wright is to be commended for offering his thoughts on such a subject. I have been reading(and listening to) Wright for several years and I think that i am right in saying that this is his most extended treatment on the subject. In ‘Jesus and the Victory of God’ he shows in detail how the ‘gehenna’ passages have more to do with the destruction of Jerusalem in Ad70 than with post-mortem existence. If my memory serves me correcting he barely touches the topic in his book ‘Resurrection of the Son of God’ which is surprising. (I will look through the index of ROSOG to check if I am right on this)
1b) Wright does not give detailed biblical support for his position. To do so would, at the risk of him appearing like a ‘proof texter’ have allowed readers to study the texts (and commentaries for themselves.
1c) Wright’s discussion is far from exhaustive. It left me frustrated and it also means that the following critique is aimed more at what Wright doesn’t say than at what he does say.
2a) Wright talks of those who will be kept from ‘resurrection life’ as those who have dehumanised themselves trough continuous rebellion and idolatry. Does this apply to all who are outside of Christ? or only the ‘Hitlers and Stalins’ of this world? Does faith in Christ bring access to the covenantal family of those who are being rehumanised? If so then are we to think of those outside of Christ as being dehumanised.
2b) Wright is correct to see future judgement as a good thing. It is a time when God will set the world to rights, restore peace and destroy evil
2c) Wright, in my opinion, is correct at a general level to point out that Gehenna in the gospels is not a reference to post-mortem existence. However Mark 9:48 which uses the term gehenna alludes to Isa 66:44 which talks about the abode of the dead
But what about the other imagery and language in the N.T. Such as 2 Peter 2:4 which mentions the angels who are cast into hell. The word llying behind this is ‘ταρταρόω 1aor. ἐταρτάρωσα; strictly hurl into Tartarus, regarded by the Greeks as a place of torment and punishment below Hades; probably so regarded in Jewish apocalyptic literature also; consign to Tartarus, throw into hell ‘
Friberg, Timothy ; Friberg, Barbara ; Miller, Neva F.: Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, 2000 (Baker’s Greek New Testament Library 4), S. 375
It is a difficult topic and I appreciate Wright’s comments. We certainly should not draw our language about hell from medieval sadistic images for God does not have an ‘eternal Auschwitz’. Neither as Wright says can we look, in the light of the biblical witness, to universalism. Yes it is a mystery and we will not achieve all the answers. I know that I need to, although reluctantly so, engage in some serious bible study of the topic. Perhaps the results may end up in a blog post?