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by Patrick Navas

I just finished reading Edward Fudge’s newest work, A Final Word on Hell, a book that, in my opinion, needs to be read by every professing “evangelical” and Bible-believing Christian. How any Christian could read this book carefully and still come away believing that the traditional doctrine of never-ending-torture is biblical is, truly, mind-boggling—though experience tells me that such would prove to be so in the case of most traditional pastors, preachers and church-goers.

Fudge makes all the points that need to be made with utmost clarity and impact, with the exception of one. Fudge makes statements like “hell” is “real,” hell is “bad,” “hell” is “eternal,” etc., and uses the word “hell” with seeming approval all throughout the book. What Fudge should have explained in the very beginning of his book is that, from a strictly biblical perspective, “hell” does not exist. That is to say, the word “hell” is a misnomer and never should have been used as an English translation of the Greek word “gehenna” to begin with. Gehenna is a proper name, just like “Galilee” or “Jerusalem,” and should have been translated (or transliterated) as such, as it thankfully is in several, though less popular, Bible translations (New American Bible, New World Translation, Concordant Literal, Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible, Young’s Literal Translation). It is good that at least some translations (like ESV, RSV, and others) have footnotes on the word “hell” which point out that the underlying Greek word is gehenna. Philip’s Modern English gives a good paraphrase for gehenna at Matt 10:28: “the fires of destruction,” certainly much better than the traditional “hell.”

I could be wrong, but I get the impression that a lot of evangelical annhilitionsists, including Fudge, want to preserve the word “hell” in the official “Christian vocabulary” in an attempt to “appease” the status quo on some level—as if to say, “yes, you can still believe in ‘hell,’ and continue to preach it; you just have to define it as a place of destruction as opposed to a place of everlasting torment.” This is certainly a vast improvement over the traditional view because it correctly defines the concept, at least, as a place where both body and soul can be “destroyed” by God as opposed to kept alive throughout the endless stretches of eternity only to be tormented (See Matt. 10:28). But why not go further and abandon the unbiblical word “hell” altogether and use the biblical gehenna?

Fudge’s inconsistency on this point stood out most to me on page 133 where he correctly says of 2 Peter 2:4:

“Some translations say these angels are in ‘hell,’ but that is misleading. Second Peter says ‘Tartarus,’ a location in Homer’s ‘Odyssey.’ It does not say gehenna, the New Testament’s ‘hell’ of final punishment.”

If Fudge were consistent, he would have said the same thing about Matthew 10:28 and about every other text containing the word Gehenna yet translated erroneously as “hell” in most English Bibles. If it is “misleading” to translate tartarus as “hell,” as Fudge points out, then it is equally misleading to translate gehenna as “hell” which, for most modern Bible readers, is a word that signifies a fiery place of everlasting pain and suffering, something that Jesus did not mean when he made reference to gehenna.

This reminds me a bit of the word “church.” Most English translations retain the word as a translation of the Greek ekklesia, probably because people are so accustomed to it and because they like the “traditional’” flavor of it. William Tyndale was right, however, in the 1500s when he translated it as “congregation,” since that is what the word actually means, a gathering of people, an assembly, not a “religious-building-with-a-pulpit-and-pews,” or a “religious-organization-or-denomination-with-a-hierarchical-structure-and-property-holdings,” i.e., the concept perhaps most people have in mind when they think of the word “church” or the phrase “going to church.”

To me this was the only (minor) “flaw” in the book. Overall, I wholeheartedly agree with the book and recommend it to all Christians who take the Scriptures seriously. Fudge is right. The doctrine of everlasting torture is based on a combination of (1) the widespread yet unbiblical belief in the soul’s inherent immortality, and (2) a misinterpretation of the relevant biblical texts, which has, unfortunately, resulted in a centuries-long misrepresentation of the biblical message and the biblical God.

by Patrick Navas

12 Responses to “Book Review: A Final Word on Hell”

  1. on 28 Aug 2012 at 3:25 pmMike Gantt

    Fudge comes closer to the truth than the traditional heaven-or-hell scenario, for sure. However, hell is on this earth in this life. Life in the kingdom of God is the way to avoid its pains. Oh, and everyone is going to heaven.

    Therefore, let us repent of our fleshly lives and live to imitate Him who loved us, died for us, and rose for us.

  2. on 28 Aug 2012 at 4:44 pmBrian Kelly

    I have really enjoyed some of Edward Fudge’s videos on YouTube on this subject. He does a very thorough job; and then there is his book “The Fire that Consumes” which is a more complete exposition of the topic.

  3. on 28 Aug 2012 at 6:45 pmSheryl

    Thank you for this review, Patrick. I am excited to read this book and share its truths with others.

  4. on 28 Aug 2012 at 7:31 pmSarah

    For those who have read both “The Fire That Consumes” and “Hell: A Final Word” – what is the difference between them and would you recommend one over the other?

  5. on 29 Aug 2012 at 9:07 amSean

    Sarah,

    I don’t have the new one, but from what I’ve seen of it (Amazon preview, reviews, etc.) it is more autobiographical. Fudge weaves together is doctrinal presentation with his own personal history, which presumably makes for a much more interesting read than his very dry Fire that Consumes. Also, this last book is the work of an older man (68) with presumably much more experience presenting this material than his earlier work, which was completed when he was in his 30s. You may also want to check out his debate book called Hell: Two Views.

  6. on 29 Aug 2012 at 9:29 amSarah

    Thanks, Sean. I recently bought “Hell: Two Views” but haven’t read it yet. Sounds like this latest by Fudge will be a good one, and I’ll probably add it to my collection.

  7. on 29 Aug 2012 at 11:03 pmRay

    Why should any Christian deny that hell exists? It truly does exist and truth has a name.

  8. on 30 Aug 2012 at 4:20 pmDoubting Thomas

    Hi Ray,
    Haven’t heard from you in awhile. I don’t speak Greek, but from what I understand the word “Hell” (as found in our modern bibles) is actually translated from 3 different words. 2 of those words when properly translated should actually mean grave (or place of the dead). The 3rd. word is Gehenna (not sure of proper spelling) which was a garbage dump just outside the ancient city of Jerusalem. This garbage dump always had a fire burning in it where they would burn waste, like dead animal carcasses and the bodies of criminals, etc…

    In the 1600’s, when the bibles were first translated into English, the concept of hell was widely accepted and taught by the church of the day. Unfortunately for them the word hell didn’t appear anywhere in the ancient Greek manuscripts. So they deliberately took 3 different Greek words and mistranslated them as “hell” so their cherished beliefs about hell could be found in the new bibles they were translating. There is no mention in the bible of any place where there will be eternal torment and suffering for non-believers. This idea was created by the R.C. church in order to try to scare pagans into becoming Christians.

    The bible does talk about eternal punishment, but that is the eternal separation from our Father and creator. This eternal separation occurs at the final judgment day when the chaff is thrown into the lake of fire. The wages of sin are death (eternal separation), not eternal torment and suffering in this unbiblical place called hell. The concept of hell was actually stolen directly from Greek philosophy and does not have it origins in the holy scriptures.

    If you really think about it would a fair, just and loving God tell people to worship Him and love Him, and if they don’t they will then be tortured and tormented for eternity???

  9. on 01 Sep 2012 at 10:01 pmRay

    It seems to me that all blasphemers will have their part in the lake of fire.

    How could God be fair, just, and loving if he would not judge the world according to truth and justice? Don’t those who refuse his love also refuse heaven itself?

    If a man refuses God’s love, doesn’t he also refuse fairness, justice, honesty, goodness, kindness, patience, gentleness, justice, mercy, and everything else that God is?

  10. on 02 Sep 2012 at 10:12 pmDoubting Thomas

    Hi Ray,
    I agree with you that some people (the chaff) will be thrown into the lake of fire (lake of destruction). Eternally separated from their Father and creator (the final and eternal death). I just don’t agree with this idea that a fair, just and loving God would tell people to worship Him and love Him, and if they don’t they will then be tortured and tormented for eternity. I just don’t believe that the bible supports this idea that the lake of fire will be a place of eternal torment…

  11. on 02 Sep 2012 at 11:45 pmRay

    I believe that people often talk in their sleep and that there is also a talk that is sweet and heavenly when they are really about the kingdom of heaven.

  12. on 03 Sep 2012 at 12:07 amDoubting Thomas

    I agree… 🙂

  

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