Archive for the ‘Chris Date’ Category

Pressing Chris Date’s Retreat

April 9, 2013

Over at “Rethinking Hell,” Mr. Chris Date has retreated a few steps in his discussion of the meaning of the term “punishment.”

Recall that the argument that “punishment” in this case was a “result” noun was one of Mr. Date’s first supposedly “positive” arguments for his position. Now, Mr. Date tries to argue for ambiguity. He states: “First, it should be noted that many deverbal nouns are polysemous, ambiguous between a process or result meaning.”

Of course, this is true – it’s something that Mr. Blauser and I already pointed out in our supplement. It’s true, but it’s not necessarily relevant.

Moreover, while it is true, it can be misleading. While – in some cases – a word standing alone can be ambiguous, even words with a range of meaning that includes both process and result can unambiguously express one or the other in context. In other words, the fact that something is a deverbal noun doesn’t make it automatically ambiguous in a particular context.

Mr. Date even admits:

I do not dispute that “punishment” does sometimes—even often—refer to the process of punishing. But since such deverbal nouns are often polysemous, it does not follow that therefore “punishment” carries a process meaning every time it’s used. “Punishment” may often describe “a manner of treatment, not the result of that treatment,” but this is not always the case.

This is similar to the post-modern fallacy of assuming that just because people sometimes revise their opinions – or even often revise their opinions on many things – that therefore there is nothing that should be held absolutely.

Similarly, it’s not true that just because some (or many) deverbal nouns are polysemous, that therefore all deverbal nouns are polysemous. Moreover, there are kinds and degrees of polysemeity. For example, there are words like “punishment” that (in English) nearly always refer to a process, just like there are words like “injury” that almost always refer to a result.

After an irrelevant tangent over whether a fine is a process or result (it’s a result), Mr. Date points out that “capital punishment” is a use of “punishment” that carries a “result” sense.

Of course, the only reason it carries a “result” sense in English is that it is being modified by a term that requires that sense. In other words, it is the modifier that goes with the word “punishment” that determines whether it carries its usual process sense, or this exceptional “result” sense.

In like way, “fine” can refer to the process of transferring the money. For example, “During the fine of Mr. Date, the bank discovered that there were insufficient funds in his account.” In this case, a word that normally refers to a result carries a meaning that refers to a process.

“Capital punishment” is just an example in the opposite direction, where a term that is normally about the process is used to refer to a result. Just as we make result nouns function as though they were process nouns, we can make process nouns function as though they were result nouns. For example, slap “completed” on a process noun, and you now have a usage that refers to result.

Moreover, “capital punishment” is not a term used in Scripture, and this particular example of the semantic domain of “punishment”, therefore, does not have a corresponding expression in Koine Greek (that I could locate – perhaps there’s some use I’m unaware of). In short, this is an exception to the general rule in English – but not one that Mr. Date will find in the Biblical text.

Taking the usage of “punishment” in the King James Version, the only modifiers aside from “everlasting” in Matthew 25:46, are “my” (Genesis 4:13), “no” (1 Samuel 18:10), “strange” (Job 31:3), and “sorer” (Hebrews 10:29). The only other place where the corresponding Greek word is used, the KJV translates it as torment, not punishment.

Moreover, in this case – the word that modifies “punishment” is the word that means “everlasting.” It’s a word that relates to duration. As such, it’s a word that unmistakably suggests that “process” or “manner” sense of “punishment” is intended, just as if it had said “long punishment,” “lengthy punishment,” or “short punishment.”

So, Chris Date has two uphill battles to try to make his supposedly positive case. First, he has to deal with the fact that “everlasting” here suggests a process, and second he has to deal with the fact that “punishment” normally refers to a process.

Chris Date attempted to rely on Augustine.  Regarding his misuse of Augustine, Mr. Date asks:

Did we not see Augustine explicitly stating that the measure of capital punishment is not in the duration of the punishing, but rather in the duration of the consequent lifelessness?

No, we did not. We saw him explicitly saying that it was not in the duration of the act of killing but in the duration of the exile (“As to the award of death for any great crime, do the laws reckon the punishment to consist in the brief moment in which death is inflicted, or in this, that the offender is eternally banished from the society of the living?”).

Mr. Date turns from there to a rebuttal argument extracted from Jonathan Edwards.  Jonathan Edwards argues that if the Biblical descriptions of punishment in the afterlife all refer simply to a state of annihilation, and if being in that state eternally meets the description of “eternal punishment,” then there is no reason for a lengthy period of suffering prior to such annihilation.

Mr. Date mistakenly takes comfort in this argument, supposing that Edwards is saying that continuing in the state of being annihilated is legitimately viewed as an “eternal punishment.”  On the contrary, while Mr. Date cited section 31 of the chapter, in section 1 Edwards explicitly states “Eternal punishment is not eternal annihilation.” (get the book, here)

Finally, Mr. Date uses an argument worth laying to rest here, although perhaps it could be addressed anywhere.  He writes:

The phrase Jesus uses a mere verses earlier, “eternal fire,” carries a certain meaning elsewhere, which along with the rest of Scripture must be the lens through which we interpret “eternal punishment,” rather than the other way around.

The argument Mr. Date is referring to here attempts to read the shadow into the substance, instead of recognizing that the shadow is just a shadow.

Thus, in this example:

Matthew 25:41
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

There is that fire that lasts forever.  It’s the same fire that whose smoke will rise up forever (as we discussed here).

It’s also referred to earlier in Matthew:

Matthew 18:8
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

Chris Date’s argument is to rely on the fact that the fire sent against Sodom and Gomoorrha is also called “eternal fire.”

Jude 7
Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

The argument is that the fire and brimstone against Sodom was not eternal in the duration of its burning.  But Sodom is just an example – a shadow or type of future punishment.  Similarly, Gehenna and Tophet/Topheth are types of the future burning, but the fires there were not literally unending.

And, I should add, this concept of fire that burns forever is not a strictly New Testament concept:

Isaiah 33:14
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?

I should note that a similar thing occurs when the “read the limitations of the shadow into the substance” hermeneutic encounters similar types:

Jeremiah 17:4
And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.

Yet the Babylonian captivity was only for a matter of years.

Or to take another example:

Leviticus 6:13
The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.

Nevertheless, the fire on the altar did go out.  It was relit by God at the building of Solomon’s temple, and then went out again, at the latest at the time of the captivity (but probably significantly before then).

The fire on the altar, like the fire that consumed Sodom, are pictures of the unquenchable fire that is coming:

Matthew 3:12
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Luke 3:17
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.

Trying to reconcile the idea that the “fire” is “eternal” with the claim that it is not unending results in people like Mr. Date having to argue that the fire is only “eternal” in the sense of being from the eternal God.

If we are to read “eternal” as merely “from God” with respect to the fire and the punishment, then we should do so also with “eternal life.”  But surely Scripture makes it abundantly clear that eternal life is forever.

All this to say this verse:

Matthew 25:46
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

makes it perfectly clear that both hell (i.e. the lake of fire) and heaven are eternal.


Supplement Response to Chris Date on Result Nouns

June 20, 2012

This post is heavily reliant (to the point that it would be plagiarism if I did not give full credit) on Adam Blauser’s comment in the previous post. 

First, he provided an article that states:

Deverbal nouns that allow a result interpretation often allow an event interpretation too.
In order to separate the different meanings of a deverbal noun, one usually employs distributional
tests. If we assume result objects to be concrete entities then result object nouns
should be usable in complement positions of verbs which require concrete objects:

(1) a. Die F¨alschung wurde der Polzei ¨ubergeben.
‘The forgery was handed over to the police.’

b. Er ber¨uhrte versehentlich seine Verletzung.
‘He inadvertently touched his injury.’

c. Er verbarg seine neuste Erfindung im Keller.
‘He hid his newest invention in the basement.’

d. Die Beurteilung wurde ihm gestern zugesandt.
‘The assessment was sent to him yesterday.’

He points out that words like “injury” and “forgery” are deverbal result nouns, yet one can easily think of contexts in which the focus is not on the result, but upon the action. Consider:

His back was injured during the first quarter of last night’s game. During the injury, he also hurt his left forearm.


He could have honestly worked for the money necessary to buy a house in the time the forgery took.

Notice how, in each of those instances, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to say that the only or primarily result is in view. While one might think that we are talking about the results of the act of injuring occurring, it is much more rational to assume that we are talking about when the act of injuring itself took place, especially since it is connected temporally with another event, namely, the “hurting” of his forearm. The same thing can be said of the second example. “The forgery” clearly refers to the making of the false document, with no focus on the result, especially when it is coupled with a parallel reference to a process verb (“worked”) and a reference to time.

His point (he used different but similar illustrations) that, even if Date were correct that “punishment” were a deverbal result noun, he would have to argue that the context favors a result interpretation, not an event/process/manner interpretation.

He goes on to state:

However, it gets even worse when he deals with the Greek and the Hebrew. From a historical linguistics perspective, the Greek term κολασις has the ending -σις, which is typical of words that are nominalized forms of actions. Consider the following:

ερημοω-to lay waste [to a city] ερημωσις-destruction, depopulation

κρινω-to judge κρισις-judgment

ζητεω-I seek ζητησις-investigation

ελευσομαι-I will come ελευσις-coming

πιπτω-I fall πτωσις-a fall

As can be readily seen, the meaning “the action itself as a noun” is typical of Greek nouns formed by adding the ending in -σις to the root. However, this is why historical linguistics can never settle these issues. The reason is that some of these nouns would go on to develop resultant meanings, for example, ποιησις comes from the Greek verb ποιεω which means “to do.” While ποιησις *can* mean “the act of doing something” [James 1:25], most of the time, it means the result of doing something, namely, “a work.”

However, in Matthew 25:46, the “result” meaning very clearly cannot be sustained, as it is put in parallel with “eternal life.” Living is something that will be done eternally, and thus, why would anyone think that punishment is something that will not be done for all of eternity? Even though this is my final point, I think it is what I would want to emphasize. Meaning in language cannot be taken from historical linguistics or semantic categories. Semantic classification is, itself, subject to change by multiple factors, including context, background assumptions, etc. Thus, when we discuss the deverbal character of nouns, how they morphologically came into existence, or their meaning, we cannot simply give universal labels, but must consider how this particular term is understood in the light of the communal and authorial context of our target text. If we don’t do that, we can fall badly into the fallacy of defining words by roots, and thus, a person who is feeling “awful” is “full of awe!”

I want to underscore what I see as his most crucial point. Words can have a range of meanings, known as the “semantic range” of the word. When there is a question about which meaning of the range of meanings applies, the very best clue to that meaning is the immediate context.

Recall that, above, “injury” and “forgery” are deverbal result nouns (generally speaking), yet clues from the sentence allowed us to recognize that they were being used in a “event” or “manner” sense. Likewise, when “eternal punishment” is placed in parallel with “eternal life,” we are given an unmistakable clue that the “event” or “manner” sense is intended.

Thus, while my previous post sinks Mr. Date’s argument, even if Mr. Date were correct about punishment being (generally speaking) a result noun, Mr. Date’s argument is still sunk.


Punishment is a Deverbal Manner Verb – Response to Chris Date

June 18, 2012

In his constructive speech (in a recent debate with Joshua Whipps), Mr. Date alleged that noun “punishment” is a “deverbal result noun.” He stated:

Linguists call this a deverbal result noun: a noun referring to the results of its corresponding verb.

He cites no authority for this contention. The noun “punishment” is a deverbal noun, but it is not a deverbal result noun (as previously discussed in the comments box here).

Roget’s Thesaurus provides the following entry for “punishment”:

Definition: penalty
Synonyms: abuse, amercement, beating, castigation, chastening, chastisement, comeuppance, confiscation, correction, deprivation, disciplinary action, discipline, forfeit, forfeiture, gallows, hard work, infliction, just desserts, lumps, maltreatment, mortification, mulct, ostracism, pain, penance, proof, punitive measures, purgatory, reparation, retribution, rod, rough treatment, sanction, sequestration, short shrift, slave labor, suffering, torture, trial, unhappiness, victimization, what for
Antonyms: encouragement, exoneration, praise, protection, reward

(Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, Third)

As you can see, most of the descriptions of “punishment” are of processes, not of results. The punishment may be the beating, whereas the hoped-for result is correction of behavior.

Thus, for example, “eternal punishment” would be similar to “eternal abuse,” “eternal amercement,” “eternal beating,” “eternal castigation,” etc. When each of those words is modified by “eternal,” what is referred to is the duration of the process, not the duration of the effect. An “eternal beating,” is a beating that does not have an end, in contrast to something like an “eternal scar” which would be a scar that would last forever.

So, “punishment,” like “walk,” is a manner noun, not a “result” noun. Mr. Date quotes from Augustine who says that people wouldn’t consider capital punishment as measured primarily by its duration. This is true, but it misses the point. Capital punishment is severe regardless of its duration, because of the kind of punishment it is. But “eternal punishment” is specifically a comment on the duration of the punishment.

The lexical analysis is a little complex (see here and here), but it should be intuitive, particularly when you see the synonyms above.

Punishment describes a manner of treatment, not the result of that treatment. Thus, “punish” is more like “walk” (a manner verb) than “go” (a result verb) – it’s more like “wash” (a manner verb) than “clean” (a result verb). It tells you more about the process than about the outcome. But “punish” and “punishment” are about the process.

Therefore, Mr. Date is all wet in his linguistic claim. Linguists may refer to a category of “deverbal result nouns,” but Mr. Date has not identified any that treat the noun, “punishment,” that way.


P.S. Incidentally, while Mr. Whipps and I advocated for the same side in our respective debates against “conditionalism” (aka annihilationism), our presentations are quite different.

Annihilationism / "Conditionalism" Debate

November 26, 2011

I recently debated the topic of Annihilationism in the specific form of “Conditionalism.”  The debate can found in two sections (link to first part)(link to second part). Thanks very much to Chris Date (the moderator) as well as to Ronnie (my opponent) for this debate.

Trinitarian Universalism Debate

October 17, 2011

I recently engaged in a debate with Jason Pratt who heavily emphasized that he is a Trinitarian, and who considers himself an “Evangelical Universalist.”  I argued from five passages that judgment is coming, that it will be eternal, and that some people will experience it.  Chris Date moderated the debate and has hosted the debate in the form of three podcasts:

Resolved: Some people will not be saved from their sins according to the following passages and their contexts: 2 Thess. 1:9, Matt. 25:41/46, Matt. 18:8, Romans 9:22 and Jude 1:6.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Chris Date’s own podcast pages can be found here (first, second, third), which also contains links to the “raw” audio and other information.


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