The Christian Post has an interview with Edward Fudge, author of the book The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment. In his book, Fudge presents an alternative view to the Biblical doctrine of hell.
His view differs from the traditional Christian view of hell. This view teaches that the wicked will be tormented in the fires of hell forever. His view of hell also differs from Universalism, a view that teaches that the fires of hell purify the wicked who, after a time of purification, will be saved.
Fudge’s view is a third alternative to hell, a view which he calls the “conditionalist” view of hell. In this interview with a reporter from the Christian Post, Fudge explains the Biblical reasons for his view.
In the interview Fudge discussed the view of Gehenna. Since Gehenna derives from the Old Testament, I want to quote Fudge’s view on Gehenna:
CP: Can you tell us more about the word Gehenna?
Fudge: It’s the Greek word for hell and it is not found anywhere in the Bible except in the Gospels where it appears 11 times. One time outside the Gospel is in the book of James, when it says the tongue is set on fire by hell, but that is not talking about the end of the wicked. So the only time it is used about the end of the wicked is in the Gospels. It is always only used by Jesus and it is only used speaking to Jews who live around Jerusalem.
The reason for that probably is the word Gehenna, the Greek word, comes from another term, the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and that phrase is found in the Old Testament and that is a literal place outside of Jerusalem, which in the Old Testament is a place of idol worship, it is a place where pagans had burned their babies and sacrifice [sic] to pagan gods, and it is a place in the Old Testament where the prophets say will be cursed and be a horrible place in the future where there will be dead bodies and so forth.
I enjoyed reading this interview with Fudge. I have to confess that I have never heard of him nor of his book. I have included Fudge’s book on my reading list for the summer. Fudge also discusses Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, a book that I also plan to read this summer. Fudge’s view differs from Bell’s, but both have something in common: both reject the traditional Christian teaching on hell.
The interview with Fudge is long, but it is worth reading. I am sure that you will be challenged by Fudge’s argument.
You can read the interview with Fudge by visiting The Christian Post online.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary