A Response To J. Paul Tanner’s “The Outer Darkness In Matthew’s Gospel” -- By: Bob Wilkin

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 31:60 (Spring 2018)
Article: A Response To J. Paul Tanner’s “The Outer Darkness In Matthew’s Gospel”
Author: Bob Wilkin


A Response To J. Paul Tanner’s “The Outer Darkness In Matthew’s Gospel”1

Bob Wilkin

Associate Editor
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society

I. Introduction

The expression the outer darkness is found only three times in the Bible, all in Matthew’s Gospel (8:12; 22:13; and 25:30). In each case the Lord says that in the outer darkness there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The majority view among Evangelicals has been that the outer darkness is a reference to the lake of fire and eternal torment, and J. Paul Tanner adopts this position.2 In this article I will examine and respond to Tanner’s arguments. It is my contention that the loss of rewards understanding better fits the particulars of the three outer darkness passages.

II. Tanner’s Thesis: The Outer Darkness Refers To Eternal Condemnation

In the Abstract, at the beginning of the article, Tanner does not mention eternal condemnation, Hades, or the lake of fire. Nor does he discuss eternal destiny directly or the outer darkness. Instead, he indicates “that the main persons in view in these passages are those

among the Jews who were resisting Jesus as Messiah.”3 Implicitly he suggests at the outset that the outer darkness refers to eternal condemnation and that the people cast there are unbelievers.

Throughout the body of the article, Tanner generally avoids direct statements as to what the outer darkness is.

He starts with Matt 22:1–14 and the Parable of the Wedding Feast (which he calls “the Parable [of] the Improperly Dressed Wedding Guest at the Wedding Feast”).4 After suggesting that the improperly dressed man is unregenerate, he says that “the outer darkness imagery must have been a commonly understood way of speaking of eternal condemnation.”5 That is the only place in the body where he specifically says that the outer darkness refers to eternal condemnation.

His discussion of the healing of the centurion’s servant (Matt 8:5–13) does not explicitly identify what the outer darkness is. Tanner ends that brief section in...

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