Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 8c) – Josephus’ Writings

Josephus

In previous articles, more specifically 8a & 8b, I highlighted how Chris Date uses a passage of Josephus’ works to wrongly assert how the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are not currently undergoing eternal conscious torment in eternal fire. Even though the Greek grammar and discourse of Jude certainly affirms that the inhabitants are presently undergoing a punishment of eternal fire, Chris takes a passage from Josephus, where similar words are used, to help him exegete the text. But even though the words are the same, the context and semantics are starkly different. If you have not read article 8b, please do so to get context. But here is a brief understanding of what we are looking at.

Jude 7 says:

just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

ὡς Σόδομα καὶ Γόμορρα καὶ αἱ περὶ αὐτὰς πόλεις τὸν ὅμοιον τρόπον τούτοις ἐκπορνεύσασαι καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας πρόκεινται (serve – present tense, main verb) δεῖγμα (example) πυρὸς (fire) αἰωνίου (eternal) δίκην (punishment) ὑπέχουσαι (undergoing – present tense, participle of means)

The color coding will make sense in a bit. Chris Date (and other conditionalists) believe that Jude is not affirming present suffering when dealing with how Sodom is “serving” as an example, but that he is referring to the historical record found in Genesis. In other words, when you go back to read Genesis, the presentness of serving as an example to us is found “via the historical record of their past destruction” as Chris puts it (see article 8b for reference). He then uses Josephus Wars of the Jews passage (6.103) to try and validate his claim on how a present tense verb can be used in the context of talking about a past event. Which I can agree, depending on the context. But of course, syntax and grammar aren’t always thoughtfully considered. Here is the Josephus passage that Chris is referring to.

“But still, John, it is never dishonorable to repent, and amend what hath been done amiss, even at the last extremity. Thou hast an instance before thee in Jechoniah, the king of the Jews, if thou hast a mind to save the city, who, when the king of Babylon made war against him, did of his own accord go out of this city before it was taken, and did undergo a voluntary captivity with his family, that the sanctuary might not be delivered up to the enemy, and that he might not see the house of God set on fire; on which account he is celebrated among all the Jews, in their sacred memorials, and his memory is become immortal, and will be conveyed fresh down to our posterity through all ages. This, John, is an excellent example in such a time of danger, and I dare venture to promise that the Romans shall still forgive thee.”

Here is it again in Greek:

[103] ἀλλά τοι, Ἰωάννη, καὶ μετανοῆσαι μὲν ἐκ κακῶν οὐκ αἰσχρὸν ἐν ἐσχάτοις καὶ καλὸν ὑπόδειγμα βουλομένῳ σώζειν τὴν πατρίδα σοι πρόκειται (present tense) βασιλεὺς Ἰουδαίων Ἰεχονίας, [104] ὅς ποτε στρατεύσαντι τῷ Βαβυλωνίῳ δι᾽ αὐτὸν ἑκὼν ἐξέστη πρὶν ἁλῶναι τῆς πόλεως καὶ μετὰ γενεᾶς αἰχμαλωσίαν ὑπέμεινεν ἐθελούσιον ὑπὲρ τοῦ μὴ παραδοῦναι ταῦτα πολεμίοις τὰ ἅγια καὶ τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ περιιδεῖν φλεγόμενον. [105] διὰ τοῦτο λόγος τε αὐτὸν πρὸς ἁπάντων Ἰουδαίων ἱερὸς ὑμνεῖ καὶ μνήμη ῥέουσα δι᾽ αἰῶνος ἀεὶ νέα τοῖς ἐπιγινομένοις παραδίδωσιν ἀθάνατον. [106] καλόν, ὦ Ἰωάννη, ὑπόδειγμα, κἂν προσῇ κίνδυνος: ἐγὼ δέ σοι καὶ τὴν ἀπὸ Ῥωμαίων συγγνώμην ἐγγυῶμαι.

Let’s make this as simple as possible for every reader. If you notice, the words from Jude 7 and Josephus have been color coded to show word relationship. The one, blaring thing that you must pay attention to is what is missing from Josephus’ passage that Jude has. That is, a present participle of means!

When you read Josephus, you can clearly see that the word Chris Date uses to make his point (πρόκειται) is the same word found in Jude, just singular form instead of plural, and it is indeed present tense. So far so good. Furthermore, Josephus talks about how King Jechoniah’s actions in the Old Testament are laid out before (πρόκειται) him (present tense) as an example for John (the recipient) via the historical record. No worries here either. This is perfectly normal usage in language. However, the mistake is to make a faulty comparison that just because πρόκειται is used in both passages, the semantics are the same. Not only that, as I already mentioned, what is missing from Josephus’ passage that is found in Jude?  Our participle of means (ὑπέχουσαι) which expounds upon and extrapolates how Sodom and Gomorrah are serving as an example – by presently undergoing a punishment of eternal fire! If you look at Josephus’ passage, you see no such participle modifying or clarifying πρόκειται like it does in Jude. As I already mentioned in article 8b, if you are going to make a comparison, especially if you are going to go outside of Scripture to do so, at the very least, you should find another context that uses identical linguistics to make your point. This is a fatal mistake, but not literally fatal of course.

***Note: I wrote this article months ago, but withheld it to see what conditionalists would say about my previous article on this topic. Now that Chris Date and I have debated, my suspicions have been verified. You can see the debate here.

And you can see my clarifications on this point here. 

-Until we go home

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