Future Punishment And Recent Exegesis -- By: William Arnold Stevens

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 046:181 (Jan 1889)
Article: Future Punishment And Recent Exegesis
Author: William Arnold Stevens


Future Punishment And Recent Exegesis

William Arnold Stevens

The problem of human probation involves two questions which are now widely engaging the attention of thoughtful men in the Christian church. The first: Are the issues of human probation eternal? The second: When does that probation end? or rather, Does man’s present life determine his eternal future? The latter of the two can be approached only through the former. It is the former which I propose to consider in the present paper, to state and on certain points briefly to vindicate the testimony of modern New Testament exegesis concerning it.

Do the New Testament Scriptures teach the eternity of future punishment?

The science of biblical interpretation, I maintain, has answered this inquiry in all but unanimous affirmative. That this to-day is the dictum of scientific research into the New Testament, the general consensus of the leading modern exegetes, will be evident to any one familiar with the recent literature on the subject, who considers the form which the

controversy has taken. Those who deny that this is the doctrine of the New Testament take the attitude of protest. They practically admit that the authority of the great body of scholars is against them. Their discussions recognize the fact that the onus probandi is thrown upon themselves.

It will perhaps be the clearest and fairest mode of presentation to formulate the leading objections or arguments advanced by those who deny that the New Testament Scriptures teach the eternity of future punishment, and to consider the validity of them from the exegetical standpoint.

One premise, however, requires emphatic enunciation at the outset. The question before us is one of interpretation, and not of theology in the ordinary sense of the word. Interpretation is a science, in its own right. It is a science inductive in its method, with certain defined principles of procedure, in the use of which it is on the line of progress and discovery, advancing step by step to the ascertainment and verification of Christian truth. The question whether the New Testament does or does not teach a given proposition is one to be ascertained through the scientific methods proper to the domain of biblical interpretation, and in no other way. On a given proposition it is one thing to ask whether the church holds it as an article of faith, or whether philosophical theologians hold it as a necessary postulate or deduction—it is another to ask what testimony concerning it is elicited by scientific interpretation from the Holy Scriptures. The problem is a simple one in statement, difficult as it may be in solution. A group of Greek documents lie...

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