Hell is on my mind, and it is not even November. Presumably, any one of the Four Last Things can serve as matter for reflection any time of year. But after my last column, which was on David Bentley Hart’s denial of the traditional notion of eternal punishment, some readers said that they wished I had spent more time on what Jesus said on Hell. So this time I want to oblige them by discussing, paradoxically, what Jesus did not say.
From many years spent interpreting texts, especially Aristotle, I find that people commonly make a certain mistake. They think the only evidence for or against a theory are words or sentences that can be identified in advance.
Here’s what I mean: Suppose the view in question is whether Jesus taught that we’re at risk of being judged worthy of eternal punishment – Hell. Someone bent on denying Hell might go through the New Testament, pick out the twenty or so verses that seem to imply the existence of Hell, and taking these verses to be the only evidence, argue that they don’t really imply that. ….