Tuesday, May 25, 2021

My brother's latest

Again, in the case of Meditation Two, the basic issues are quite simple. There the difficulty lies in convincing readers to relinquish their certitudes regarding what they imagine they know about the text of scripture, as a result of long indoctrination (fortified in most cases by misleading translations). I have, for example, repeatedly seen readers claim with considerable assurance that the Christ of the Synoptic Gospels spoke of a place called “Hell” where souls suffer eternal torment through the application of unquenchable fire and the tender ministrations of an immortal worm. In fact, Christ spoke of a place called the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) which lay outside Jerusalem, and which had become a rather nebulous image in his time of God’s judgment both within and beyond history; and he described that valley in terms borrowed from Isaiah, as a place where corpses would be consumed by flames that were always burning and by worms that were always devouring carrion. It is an image of the final disposal and destruction of the dead, not of their perpetual suffering. And, given that Jesus told his followers that in many instances he was speaking of things that would occur within their lifetimes, it is also clear that much of that imagery applies to intra-historical calamities, not just to some final judgment at history’s end. Then, too, Jesus used a whole host of other images of judgment as well that, read literally, are not compatible with one another, and certainly provide no simple uniform theology of the afterlife; some, in fact, clearly suggest an eventual deliverance from “final” punishment. But, no matter the imagery he employed, absolutely nowhere did he describe a place of eternal misery.

No comments: