"(ta panta) all men: The phrase must not be limited in any way. It cannot mean merely 'Gentiles as well as Jews,' or 'the elect,' or 'all who believe.' We must receive it as it stands."
-Dr. Brooke Foss Westcott
"Under the instruction of those great teachers many other theologians believed in universal salvation; and indeed the whole Eastern Church until after 500 A.D. was inclined to it."
Dr. Brooke Foss Westcott says of John 12:32, in the Speaker's Commentary: "(ta panta) all men: The phrase must not be limited in any way. It cannot mean merely 'Gentiles as well as Jews,' or 'the elect,' or 'all who believe.' We must receive it as it stands (Rom. 5:18; 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:15; Eph. 1:10;
1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2). The remarkable reading 'all things' (omnia) points to a still wider application of Redemption (Col. 1:20)."
John MacIntyre, in his book Christian Doctrine of History, wrote (pp. 5-6), "What we regard as the Biblical view of time and history can only by anachronism be said to be that of the biblical writers themselves, yet that is the anachronism of which so many of our contemporaries are guilty."
G.T. Stevenson, in his Time and Eternity, says (p. 63), "Since, as we have seen, the noun aion refers to a period of time, it appears very improbable that the derived adjective aionios would indicate infinite duration, nor have we found any evidence in Greek writing to show that such a concept was expressed by this term." And on page 72, "In 1 Cor. 15:22-29 the inspired apostle to the Gentiles transports his readers' thoughts far into the future, beyond the furthest point envisaged elsewhere in holy writ. After outlining the triumph of the Son of God in bringing all creation under His benign control, Paul sets forth the consummation of the divine plan of the ages in four simple, yet infinitely profound words, 'God all in all.' This is our God, purposeful, wise, loving and almighty, His Son our Lord a triumphant Savior, Who destroys His enemies by making them friends."
Professor William Barclay comments in his The Letter to the Corinthians, concerning 1 Cor. 15:22-28, "God sent forth His Son to redeem the world so in the end God will receive back a world redeemed and then there will be nothing in heaven or in earth outside the love and power of God."
From The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge comes (vol. 12, p. 96), "Under the instruction of those great teachers many other theologians believed in universal salvation; and indeed the whole Eastern Church until after 500 A.D. was inclined to it. Doederlein says that 'In proportion as any man was eminent in learning in Christian antiquity, the more did he cherish and defend the hope of the termination of future torments.'" Many more church historians could be quoted with similar observations.
Concise summaries of universal salvation appear in the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, vol. 12, pp. 95-97; and in the McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, vol. 10, pp. 656-665.
Karl Barth, in his book Christ and Adam, Man and Humanity, wrote concerning Romans 5 (p. 109), "But in vv. 12-21 Paul does not limit his context to Christ's relationship to believers, but gives fundamentally the same account of His relationship to all men. The context is widened from church history to world history, from Christ's relationship to Christians to all men. ...What is said here applies generally and universally, and not merely to one limited group of men. Here 'religious' presuppositions are not once hinted at. The fact of Christ is here presented as something that dominates and includes all men." On page 112 of the same work: "vv. 12-21 are revolutionary in their insistence that what is true of Christians must also be true of all men."
Professor Marvin Vincent, in his Word Studies in the N.T., commenting upon Col. 1:20 wrote (vol. 3, p. 471), "All things (ta panta) must be taken in the same sense as in vv. 16, 17, 18. The whole universe, material and spiritual. The range of discussion opened by these words is too wide to be entered upon here. Paul's declarations elsewhere as to the ultimate fate of evil men and angels, must certainly be allowed their full weight; yet such passages as this and Eph. 1:10 seem to point to a larger purpose of God in redemption than is commonly conceived." And in vol. 4, p. 291, about 2 Tim. 1:9: "Before the world began (pro chronon aionion) Lit. Before eternal times. If it is insisted that aionion means everlasting, this statement is absurd. It is impossible that anything should take place before everlasting times." In vol. 4, pp. 58-62, commenting upon the Greek word aion, he says, "Aion, transliterated aion, is a period of time, of longer or shorter duration, having a beginning and an end, and complete in itself... The word always carries the notion of time and not eternity. It always means a period of time. The adjective aionios in like manner carries the idea of time. Neither the noun nor the adjective, in themselves, carries the sense of endless or everlasting... aionios means enduring through, or pertaining to, a period of time. Both the noun and the adjective are applied to limited periods."
Dr. S.S. Graig, in The Presbyterian, Jan. 30, 1930, wrote, "According to the latter (Dr. B.B. Warfield), there is no warrant for saying that the Scriptures teach that but few are saved, and that while some will be lost, yet that when the Scriptures say that Christ came to save the world, that He does save the world and that the world shall be saved by Him. They mean that He came to save and does save the human race, and that the human race is being led by God to a racial salvation, that in the age-long development of the race of men, it will attain at last to a complete salvation, and our eyes will be greeted with the spectacle of a saved world. Thus the human race attains to the goal for which it was created, and sin does not snatch it out of God's hands; the primal purpose of God with it is fulfilled; and through Christ the race of men, though fallen into sin, is recovered to God, and fulfills its original destiny."
Dr. Warfield believed what Paul taught in 1 Tim. 4:9-11: "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, Who is the Savior of ALL men. Specially of those that believe. These things command and teach." While Dr. Warfield spend most of his life teaching the Calvinist "election doctrine" which usually meant few would be saved, it seems Dr. Warfield softened up quite a bit in his latter years. This is a phenomenon which seems to occur quite frequently with dogmatic minds. Time and wisdom have a way of tempering the zeolot's demand for justice. As the zeolot wanders through his own sins and lifelong character flaws which he seems never to be able to overcome, he looks for mercy for himself, and in so doing, discovers that same fountain of mercy flows to all mankind. God becomes bigger as we become smaller.
Dr. J.R. Dummelow, in his commentary of Col. 1:20: "The Son's atoning death, availed for the whole angelic world, as well as for the world of men, since the Son is head of both. Very difficult." Although the Dr. admits the truth of universal reconciliation, it is "very difficult" for him to do so from his denominational position.
St. Clemens of Alexandria says, "He saves all, but converting some by punishment, and others who follow by their own will-that every knee may bend to Him, of things in heaven and earth and under the earth." (See Phil. 2:9-12)
St. Isadore states, "When the Lord says 'neither in this world nor in the world to come' He shows that, for some, sins are there to be forgiven." (Read Matt. 12:31-32)
John Scotus Erigena said, "This, however we say, not that nature will be happy in all, but that in all it will be set free from death and misery."
St. Anselm: "It is not just that God should altogether suffer to perish His creatures which He hath made. God demands from no sinner more than he owes; but since no one can pay as much as he owes, Christ alone paid for all more than the debt due."
Professor Friedrich D.F. Schleiermacher says, "Through the force of the Redemption, a universal restoration of souls will follow."
Perrone stated, "All agree in saying that it is too violent to admit at once into heaven all those who only repented of their past evil life at the end, and who indulged too much in the sensualities of this life, since nothing defiled enters there; also it is too harsh to assign all such to eternal torments."
Dr. Thomas Guthrie: "My belief is that in the end there will be a vastly larger number saved than we have any conception of. What sort of earthly government would that be where more than half the subjects were in prison? I cannot believe that the government of God will be like that."
Dean Richard W. Church: "I should be disloyal to Him whom I believe is as the Lord of truth if I doubted that honest seeking should at last find Him here, man's destiny stops not at the grave, and many, we may be sure, will know Him there who did not know Him here."
Dean A.P. Stanley says that: "In the 'world to come' punishment will be corrective and not final, and will be ordered by the Love and Justice, the height and depth of which it is beyond the narrow thoughts of man to conceive."
Professor Challis says: "...so that the end of divine punishment is for correction, and for giving effect to the establishing of universal righteousness."
William Law: "As of
the purification of all human nature either in this world or some
after ages, I fully believe it." And again, "Every number of
destroyed sinners ...must through the all-working, all redeeming
love of God, which never ceaseth, come at last to know that they
had lost, and have found again, such a God of love as this." (Read
Psa. 103:9; Mic. 7:18; Lam 3:31-33; Isa. 57:16)
Dr. Lightfoot: "In our English translation the word 'hell' seems to speak what is neither warrantable by Scripture or reason."
Rabbi Loewe: "Olam simply signifies for a long time. The Hebrew Scriptures do not contain any doctrine referring to everlasting punishment."
Philippson, in his Israel Religionslehre, says (11:255), "The Rabbi teach no eternity of hell torments; even the greatest sinners were punished for generations."
Charles H. Welch wrote in An Alphabetical Analysis, (vol. 1, p. 279), "Eternity is not a Biblical theme." And (vol. 1, p. 52), "What we have to learn is that the Bible does not speak of eternity. It is not written to tell us of eternity. Such a consideration is entirely outside the scope of revelation." Welch was the editor of The Berean Expositor, and a man well versed in Greek.
A.E. Knoch wrote in his small booklet What are the Facts, Eternal Torment or Universal Reconciliation? (page 51), "To sum up: though the Bible and the various views are contradictory on this subject, an accurate inquiry into the grammar, the scope and the application of each text shows us that most of them refer to the process, not the goal; they are temporary, not eternal; they include few, not all, therefore we can believe all that God has said. The last and highest revelation through the apostle Paul stands as it is written, that ALL mankind shall be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 4:10), justified (Rom. 5:18), vivified (1 Cor. 15:22), and the universe (Col. 1:20) in heaven as well as on earth, will be reconciled with God through the blood of His cross." Mr. Knoch worked with the Hebrew and Greek texts for more than fifty years. He is the author of so many articles concerning the Scriptures that his writings make a complete library.
While our versions in common use vary where the English translation of the words "eon" and "eonian" occur in relation to "punishment;" nevertheless, where universal reconciliation is in view, all are translated similarly, including the KJV. (See Rom. 5:18-19; 8:18-25; 11:25-36; Eph. 1:9-11; 3:11; Phil. 2:10-11; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Tim. 2:3-6; 4:9-11; Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2; Rev. 4:11.)
Those who see and believe the truth of universal salvation as the purpose of God's plan for the eons, or ages, say those verses in some versions which are translated so they teach endless punishment have been incorrectly translated; yet no one seems to suggest that the verses which teach universal reconciliation have been. It would seem that many of the "translators" were simply commenting upon what they believe, rather than translating what the Greek and Hebrew convey. The work of a translator is to literally and faithfully bring over into another language what the text of the Greek and Hebrew say, and to let the commentators make of it what they will.
Paul told Timothy (2 Tim. 3:16) that "all Scripture is inspired by God and is beneficial for teaching, for exposure, for correction, for discipline in righteousness, that the man of God may be equipped, fitted out for every good act." Each word in the whole of the Scriptures was carefully chosen by God that He might reveal to mankind His plan and purpose for it. Jesus spoke of the importance of even the smallest letter of the law (Matt. 5:18). Paul's instruction to Timothy emphasized the importance of having a "pattern of sound words which you hear from me" (2 Tim. 1:13). The writers of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures were inspired to write exactly what God told them to write. Unfortunately, no translator was so inspired. One cannot see the truth of the word aion as it is translated in our common version without the aid of a knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew themselves, or without some study aid, such as a concordance, lexicon, or a faithful literal translation or other such help. Such versions as Rotherham's Emphasized Version, or the American Standard Version with marginal notes, are of help, as are the concordances previously mentioned, to those who do not know the languages of inspiration.
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