Eternal Punishment – Is It Really of God?: Distortion In Translation

Mr. Salisbury believes God’s Holy Word has been distorted. The distortions are deliberately made by men. The distortions of scripture become doctrine. I find myself agreeing with Mr. Salisbury. The distortions in translation perpetuate false doctrines of which eternal conscious torment is one.


Distortion in Translation

People insist upon the doctrine of “eternal punishment” because the King James Bible (and others influenced by it) associate the word eternal with punishment and destruction.

God raised up scholars to give us concordances, lexicons, and both Greek and Hebrew word studies, because no translation is perfectly true to the original manuscripts. The Christian’s surest guide to truth is the Holy Spirit who Jesus said will “teach you all things” (Jn.14:26).

Leave the doctrine of eternal conscious torment aside for a moment. Consider all the other divisions that have been built up by good Christian men and women. Leaders of churches cannot agree on a multitude of doctrines. Each Leader will expound on theories and theologies developed by other leaders who developed theories and theologies based on men they studied.

The purest early Christian church was remarkably simple. There was a person known to the congregation as an authority and that person led the community of believers. This role was originally held by the Apostles. The church grew so large that Peter and the others could not adequately lead the church. There were factions growing between the Jews who lived in Israel and the Jews who lived in Greece, but stayed on in Jerusalem after Christ’s ascension. Barnabas was among this group. The Apostles appointed others to serve and to fill the unmet needs of the community. Stephen was among this group.

Early on there is a division developing in the church. This one in the form of privilege. Organic Jews were seemingly better treated than foreign Jews.

Divisions formed one upon another until we come to today and there are divisions within the divisions of the church. The church first formed in Jerusalem would look nothing like churches today.

Mr. Salisbury is correct in his assessment that “God raised up scholars to give us concordances, lexicons, and both Greek and Hebrew word studies….” As Mr. Salisbury alludes there is nothing perfect in any resource developed by human scholars. Translations of the Bible have been in disagreement for centuries.

It is impossible to say the biases of the scholars have not made their way into the translations.

There are divisions in the church over which translation is truly the “Authorized Version.” God fearing men will consciously and even conspicuously disdain any other believer who does not follow their Bible interpretation exclusively.

There is a core of dedicated Christian believers who are convinced the King James Version of the Bible’s translation is the only “authorized version.” Learn more about this division in the church: “What Is The King James Only Movement?

Our loyalties are to the original manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments, written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Only the original languages are the Word of God as He inspired it. A translation is only an attempt to take what is said in one language and communicate it in another. The modern translations are superb in taking the meaning of the original languages and communicating it in a way that we can understand in English. However, none of the modern translations are perfect. Every one contains verses that are at least somewhat mistranslated. By comparing and contrasting several different translations, it is often easier to get a good grasp on what the verse is saying than by only using one translation. Our loyalty should not be to any one English translation, but to the inspired, inerrant Word of God that is communicated by the Holy Spirit through the translations (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

There is a certain Truth. That Truth is Light. That Truth destroys darkness. That Truth is in every person ever created.

Jesus told His Disciples that the Holy Spirit would cause them to remember all He had taught them. The Holy Spirit would teach them all.

John 14:26
Now the consoler, the holy spirit, which the Father will be sending in My name, that will be teaching you all, and reminding you of all that I said to you. (CLV)

I think it is provable that the traditions of men block or distort the teaching of the Holy Spirit. It’s provable in the fact the Christian church is fractured into thousands of denominations. The Holy Spirit still “teaches all.” For a time the traditions of men try to overwhelm the Truth. The Truth cannot be overpowered by the traditions of men. The traditions of men will be exposed by the Truth.

Paul describes to Timothy what the world looked like. Paul pointed out there were charlatans everywhere. Paul told Timothy that there were men in the world making a profit on the Word of God.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
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.

“Hold fast!” Paul says. We know what is true because it is the Holy Spirit teaching us all. “All scripture is inspired by God.” It is the Spirit of God that teaches us all. He is not a God of confusion, yet men have distorted His inspired word in many ways.

Men use God’s inspired Word to persuade themselves and others that eternal conscious torment is indeed inspired by God. Eternal conscious torment is a man made tradition that has been elevated to scriptural fact in orthodoxy Christendom. The theology is thin, but it carries a great deal of weight in the Western world.

The scholars have written volumes regarding every imaginable spiritual lesson to be gleaned from God’s Holy Word. Scholars have written studied theses and have been rebutted by other scholars of scripture.

Distortion in Translation: Eternal?

The King James Bible translated the Greek noun “aion” and its adjectival form “aionios” variously as world, age, eternal, and everlasting. One word should not be translated to have so many separate meanings when there are specific Greek words with these meanings.

World means the material earth on which man lives, and is properly translated in “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world [kosmos] are clearly seen” (Rom.1:20).

Age means an indeterminable period of time which has a beginning and an end, and is properly translated in “the mystery which hath been hid from ages [aion] and from generations”(Col.1:16).

Eternal means that which is perpetual, with no beginning and no end, as is properly rendered in “His eternal [aidios] power and Godhead” (Rom.1:20). Please note the Greek word “aidios” which actually means eternal. But “aidios” is never found in relation to punishment of unbelievers.

Some would suggest that the Greek form in which the adjective “aionios” is used allows for the translation “eternal”. The most basic laws of grammar prohibit this. A word derived from a parent word cannot have a meaning greater than or different from the parent word. The meaning of the adjective form of a word depends upon and corresponds to the meaning of the noun from which it is derived.

As an example, a daily (adjective) paper comes every day (noun) not monthly or hourly.

A reasonable objection may well be “why didn’t the King James translators translate “aionios” to be age instead of eternal? Or why does the commonly accepted Vines’ expository dictionary (V.E.D) insist that “aionos” means eternal?

The beloved brethren who have given themselves to these scholarly pursuits are to be honored, but they, like us, are subject to seeing “through a glass, darkly” (1Cor:13:12). V.E.D. for example, states that the gift of tongues ceased after apostolic times and that both the gifts of knowledge and prophecy are unnecessary since the Holy scriptures are sufficient for guidance, instruction and edification.

Mr. Vine’s viewpoint is typical of the “fundamentalist” school of theology, which for all practical purposes eliminates the need and expectancy of God’s people to hear directly from Him. To the many who have come into the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and today comprise the Pentecostal and charismatic segment of the church, V.E.D. is obviously biased.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit did not terminate with the early apostle, but are to be just as much in evidence today. The same kind of prejudice is perpetuated with the doctrine of “eternal punishment.”

Numerous Greek scholars have sought to bring correction. A sampling of some of their works follows:

  • Young’s Analytical concordance to the Bible, by Robert Young, LL.D.; Thomas Nelson Publishers.
  • Young’s Literal translation of the Holy Bible, by Robert Young, LL.D.;Baker House.
  • Greek English Concordance, by J.B. Smith; Herald Press.
  • The Emphasized Bible, by J.B. Rotherham;Kregel Publications.
  • Concordant Literal New Testament, by the Concordant Publishing Concern.


Eternal conscious torment is a doctrine that is easily disputed. The arguments for such a doctrine are specious at best or outright lies from the pulpits of Western churches at worst.

I have maintained that if there is even a remote possibility that eternal conscious torment is a false doctrine it should not be preached.

What strikes me as overwhelmingly sad is the length so called Biblical scholars will go to “prove” eternal conscious torment is a fact. I have confronted Pastors after sermons in which they declare in certain terms that the unbeliever will suffer God’s undying wrath in eternal conscious torment. They all fall in behind the doctrine and buttress it with poorly developed ideas. They’ll cite the same passages of scripture that others like me use to disprove the false doctrine. Their explanations fall short and when confronted their best fallback is to lay off accusations of “blasphemy” or “heresy.”

About Jim Barnes

A man seeking to please the Lord. A man striving to abide in Christ Jesus. A man whose hope is to see just one more come into the fold.
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