Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


The Old Testament and Universalism

posted by Scot McKnight

GregMacd.jpgRobin Parry’s major focus, in his book The Evangelical Universalist  , is a biblical case for universalism, and that means one eventually has to take a good hard look at the Old Testament.

Which he does.
After sketching some suggestive Adam-Israel parallels, making Adam a type of Israel in the Land, Parry (aka, Gregory Macdonald) makes the very important observation that God’s covenant with Abram/Abraham had within it the (great) commission of being a blessing to the nations.
Israel was to be a kingdom of priests to mediate between YHWH and the Nations. This role leads Israel to be a light to the nations and to the nations making pilgrimage to the temple on Mount Zion. And Israel’s fate is embodied in the Servant of Isaiah. But Parry finds — as do many others — universalism in Isaiah 45:

45:20 Gather together and come!

Approach together, you refugees from the nations!

Those who carry wooden idols know nothing,

those who pray to a god that cannot deliver.

45:21 Tell me! Present the evidence!

Let them consult with one another!

Who predicted this in the past?

Who announced it beforehand?

Was it not I, the Lord?

I have no peer, there is no God but me,

a God who vindicates and delivers;

there is none but me.

45:22 Turn to me so you can be delivered,

all you who live in the earth’s remote regions!

For I am God, and I have no peer.

45:23 I solemnly make this oath -

what I say is true and reliable:

Surely every knee will bow to me,

every tongue will solemnly affirm;

45:24 they will say about me,

“Yes, the Lord is a powerful deliverer.”‘”

All who are angry at him will cower before him.

45:25 All the descendants of Israel will be vindicated by the Lord

and will boast in him.

Notice v. 23: this is an oath of YHWH, not just a hope that the nations will respond. All will bow and all will confess and all will say “the Lord is my righteousness and my strength” (alternative translation). He sees a kind of universalism at work here. [He has other texts too, but this is probably enough to see the direction. He also states that it was only with development in the belief of resurrection that a full universalism emerges.]



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Scott Volltrauer

posted December 30, 2009 at 1:40 am


Jesus used hyperbole, Paul used hyperbole, and here the author of Isaiah 45 does the same: “‘Surely every knee will bow to me, every tongue will solemnly affirm…”



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Rick

posted December 30, 2009 at 6:59 am


v. 22 seems to indicate the opposite. He is asking for a response SO they can be delivered. He is not saying they all will be delivered.



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Larry

posted December 30, 2009 at 7:39 am


Jesus used hyperbole, Paul used hyperbole, and here the author of Isaiah 45 does the same: “‘Surely every knee will bow to me, every tongue will solemnly affirm…”
How do you know that the passages that seem to speak of an ever-lasting hell aren’t the hyperbolic ones?



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Jeff Doles

posted December 30, 2009 at 9:47 am


I notice that, after the bolded part in verse 23 (bolded, I suppose, to support the case for EU), the last line of that verse reads, “All who are angry at him will cower before him.” That doesn’t sound quite so EUish. Rather, it sounds like there are those who will bow the knee and confess, and there are those who are angry at God and end up cowering before Him. And these angry, cowering ones do not seem to be identical with “all the descendants of Israel” in the following verse, who “will be vindicated by the LORD and will boast in Him.”



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Marcus

posted December 30, 2009 at 9:50 am


Doesn’t the unitalicized portion of verse 24 show that this passage shouldn’t be taken to imply universal redemption? Cowering doesn’t seem like an action of the redeemed. It sounds like some are begrudgingly acknowledging YHWH’s lordship.



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Jeff Doles

posted December 30, 2009 at 11:15 am


Cowering in fear and being angry at God is not what I would call a blessed state. More like a bummed out state :)



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Larry

posted December 30, 2009 at 1:15 pm


The NRSV makes verse 24 to be:
Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; all who were incensed against him shall come to him and be ashamed.
Which fits much more nicely with a universalist theme.



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dopderbeck

posted December 30, 2009 at 1:46 pm


What Marcus (#5) and Jeff (#6) said …



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Gregory MacDonald

posted December 30, 2009 at 3:21 pm


Gentlefolk
Hi. Just a couple of points:
1. Is it being suggested (on the hyperbolic view) that there will be some that do not bow before God? Don’t let St Paul know because that would mess up Philippians 2. :-)
2. On the end of v. 24. The translation that Scott has quoted is a paraphrase (and leaves out v. 25). The full text contrasts the fate of Israel (v. 25) with the fate of those who raged against Yhwh (v. 25). Israel will be found/made righteous and will exault in Yhwh. Those who raged will be put to shame (Heb. “bosh”).
The contrast, then, is between the shamed ones and Israel. The shamed ones are, in context, the nations. Now if being shamed means that one is not saved then according to these verses only Israel is saved (v. 25). Now we see the same contrast earlier in this very chapter – the idol-worshipping nations will be shamed and Israel will be vindicated by Yhwh (Isa 45:16-17).
Fortunately for the nations being shamed is not the opposite of being saved. You can see that in Ezekiel 16 where we see that Israel, after a period of idolatry, will be atoned for and will be ashamed (same Heb word – “bosh”) as they return to Yhwh (Ezek 16:63). So too when the nations turn from their idols to Yhwh they come in shame at their past.
Such is my interpretation at any rate.
Kind Regards
Robin



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Paul Luedtke

posted December 30, 2009 at 6:59 pm


The preponderance of the Biblical record says that God looks for faith in this life. I gave this some thought several years ago. Take a look at my blog article.



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JoanieD

posted December 30, 2009 at 7:50 pm


When it all comes down to it, we really don’t know what will happen in the end. If there was only one way of interpreting the Bible, we would not have so many Christian denominations. If your interpretation help you to be loving, kind, generous, unafraid…you may be on the right track. Jesus told us to not be afraid, to always love, to always forgive. When I get confused, I bring my mind back again to focus on Jesus. He IS the Resurrection and the Life. We would like to have all our “i”s dotted and our “t”s crossed in our theological understandings, but it won’t fully happen on this side of life. We just need to love, pray and worship in the most faithful way we know how. I am not saying that we should not study or TRY to understand, because we should. God gave us brains and we should use them. But we have to live with the understanding that our brains cannot hold all that God is. We can barely even imagine all that God is. I know you all know this, so I am not saying anything new. Sometimes, I just like to say it!
For those of you unable to find Robin’s book, you are welcome to borrow mine. You can put your mailing address here or if you don’t want it so public, email it to Scot and he can email it to me. First address I get, gets the book! Then you can pass it on to someone else. Eventually, it may make its way back to me. I once loaned out a book by Brennan Manning called Ragamuffin Gospel and I never did see that book again! That’s OK, though, as that is a great book to get around.



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ScottL

posted January 2, 2010 at 4:47 am


Could it not just be, as with this being referred to in Phil 2, that every knee will bow and every tongue confess but that some do it out of choice and some do it out of being forced to in the end (the ‘day of the Lord’)?



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Tom Nicholson

posted January 12, 2010 at 6:49 pm


The quotation of Is 45:23b in the New Testament, in Phil 2, is even more clearly universalistic:
10 “And so, in honour of the name of Jesus
all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below
will fall on their knees,
11 and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
In the Greek NT, the “openly proclaim” word is only ever used of joyful praise. They openly proclaim “Jesus Christ is Lord” …
Surely no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). I don’t think any of this can include forced confession.
But we mustn’t leave Ezek 16 without solving a piece of Bible trivia:
Why does Ezek 16 verses 53 & 55 in the King James (AV) begin with the word “when”? Neither the Heb. nor LXX have the words, nor does any modern translation. Moreover, when the King James uses English words not found in the original, it always puts these words in italics. So why are these two “whens” not in italics?
53 When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them: … 55 When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate.
ANSWER: It’s a bit of a mystery, but here’s a possible clue: Calvin wanted to add that meaning to the text, saying that the text is using irony. Calvin could not believe that (as the text says) Sodom and Samaria would be saved along with Jerusalem. So translators probably followed Calvin by adding “When” meaning “as if” in the sense of “no such thing could ever happen.”
On two occasions in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus mentions Sodom:
at 10:15 he says Sodom will be less harshly judged than places which hear the Gospel and reject it;
at 11:23&24 Jesus says if Sodom had seen what Capernaum had seen, it would not have been destroyed.
I think our only prayer can be, God bless us and save us ALL.
TN



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TN

posted January 12, 2010 at 6:59 pm


The quotation of Is 45:23b in the New Testament, in Phil 2, is even more clearly universalistic:
10 “And so, in honour of the name of Jesus
all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below
will fall on their knees,
11 and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
In the Greek NT, the “openly proclaim” word is only ever used of joyful praise. They openly proclaim “Jesus Christ is Lord” …
Surely no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). I don’t think any of this can include forced submission.
But we mustn’t leave Ezek 16 without solving a piece of Bible trivia:
Why does Ezek 16 verses 53 & 55 in the King James (AV) begin with the word “when”? Neither the Heb. nor LXX have the words, nor does any modern translation. Moreover, when the King James uses English words not found in the original, it always puts these words in italics. So why are these two “whens” not in italics?
53 When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them: … 55 When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate.
ANSWER: It’s a bit of a mystery, but here’s a possible clue: Calvin wanted to add that meaning to the text, saying that the text is using irony. Calvin could not believe that (as the text says) Sodom and Samaria would be saved along with Jerusalem. So translators probably followed Calvin by adding “When” meaning “as if” in the sense of “no such thing could ever happen.”
On two occasions in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus mentions Sodom:
at 10:15 he says Sodom will be less harshly judged than places which hear the Gospel and reject it;
at 11:23&24 Jesus says if Sodom had seen what Capernaum had seen, it would not have been destroyed.
I think our only prayer can be, God bless us and save us ALL.
TN



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