Saturday, September 03, 2016

Robert Bowman and Matthew 10:28 (God's Ability to Destroy in Gehenna)

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna]" (Matthew 10:28 NET Bible).

It is also important to notice that Jesus said God "can"
(DUNAMENON) destroy both body and soul in Gehenna. The Messiah is not necessarily saying that God WILL destroy both the body and the soul, though this text obviously serves as a reminder that God is the One we should reverence and fear (not man). Other biblical passages also tell us that God will everlastingly destroy those who do not know God or obey the Gospel about the Christ (2 Thess 1:6-9).

I'm not clear as to the point of the above observations, though
I'm guessing they may in some way anticipate my question above. It is
true, technically, that Jesus said that God "can" and not
that God "will" destroy both body and soul in Gehenna. But the
warning to fear God in this verse (Matt. 10:28a) would have no "teeth"
if this were understood as an abstract possibility only and not as
something that was actually going to befall some people. The use of "can"
(DUNAMENON) in the second half of the saying is meant to be taken,
not in contrast to an unstated "will," but as part of the
deliberate contrasting parallel with "cannot" (MH DUNAMENWN) in the
first half of the saying:

IMHO, if we are going to deal with what this verse actually says, then we must pay attention to details like the foregoing. While Jesus admittedly contrasts the "can" of God with the "cannot" of man, he is clearly juxtaposing human incapability with divine omnipotentia. This passage plainly does not say what God "will" do; it simply warns Jesus' disciples what God "could" do in certain attendant circumstances. Other verses do, however, assure us that God will actualize His potential in this regard (contra Thomas Aquinas and others).

In view of this careful parallelism, the word "can" (DUNAMENON) in Matthew 10:28b ought to be understood as set in contrast to "cannot," and the notion that Jesus is saying that God "could" do something that he won't will have to be set aside as foreign to the context.

Note bene [sic]: I am not contending that Jesus declared God can do something "that he won't." But I am suggesting that one cannot necessarily infer on the basis of Mt 10:28 alone that God "will" destroy body and soul in Gehenna. The passage simply does not say that. If S says that he CAN chew O up and spit him/her out, it does not logically follow that S WILL chew O up and spit him/her out. A more down to earth example might also be that of a parent who "can" revoke a child's privileges or ground a son or daughter for misbehavior. Parents have even been known to make their ability to ground or revoke privileges known to their children. We cannot infer that a parent will punish his/her child just because he or she makes known his/her ability to do such. I do not think that a parent's warning has any less "teeth" because he or she never actualizes his or her respective potentia. But the main point I am trying to make is that Mt 10:28 only affirms God's capacity to destroy "soul and body." The text does not technically say that God WILL carry out the aforesaid action.


Killa Jules said...

I wonder how those that believe in unconditional immortality grapple with this passage.

Edgar Foster said...

If you see and try their comment section--type in Mt 10:28--I can almost guarantee that you'll find many who interpret 10:28 as confirmation of the immortal soul. Bowman sees things that way.

Anonymous said...

Bowman seems to miss what logically follows from this verse: There is no immortal soul. "kill" and "destroy" are being used synonymously, and the obvious picture that the verse conjures is that the same thing that happens to the body when we die can happen to the soul. We all know what happens to the body when we die: It stops being alive and eventually returns to the dust from which it came.

I think that Bowman is correct that if souls will not in fact be "killed" then the verse has no teeth, but somehow he doesn't grasp that the teeth it does have just chewed up his immortality view and spit it out.


Edgar Foster said...

Hello Kaz,

I'm not going to belabor the point about possibility or capability, but I still don't read the verse as explicitly teaching that God will destroy soul and body, but only that he could. Other texts do state that some people will undergo destruction. It's like a parent who says, I brought you into this world and I can take you out.

Anyway, I will post more from Bowman later.

Anonymous said...

Hi Edgar,

Yeah, I'm happy to agree to disagree with you on this one. It's not the first time and it probably won't be the last:-)


Duncan said...

φοβείσθε and φοβήθητε. I see this has the focus of phobeō. Fear is about the potential of threat, so I read this verse in the same way as you do, Edgar.

Anonymous said...

Hi Edgar,

I've thought about this and I think I should change my answer to the question, "Do I agree with Edgar?", from "No" to "Yes, and no";-)

I think you are correct that there is nothing in the text making it explicit that God will definitely destroy souls. On the other hand, we know that he will based on the entirety of the biblical testimony. I think it somewhat likely that Jesus made that statement with the knowledge that some souls would parish in mind, and so while the text doesn't explicitly state that, I take it as implied.

Anyway, you may be right, but for now I'm with you and against you (metaphorically speaking) ;-)


Edgar Foster said...

Hi Kaz,

Don't worry, I'm more surprised when people agree with me than I am when they don't. And that includes my wife and stepson. :)

I understand that it's nothing personal, "just business."