Apollumi: How Do Pollock’s and Slough’s Arguments Stack Up?

Since I provided both A. J. Pollock’s (see “Point-Counterpoint: Pollock on Apollumi”) and E. D. Slough’s (see “Point-Counterpoint: Slough on Apollumi”) analysis of the Greek word apollumi I thought I should weigh in with how convincing I think their arguments were.

Since I quoted from Pollock first I will evaluate his analysis first. Pollock set for himself the more difficult task; in the page or so he wrote he tried to convince the reader that apollumi is never consistent with the idea of annihilation. He then quoted four different passages from the New Testament to support his case.

The first passage Pollock remarks on is Matthew 27:20:

For instance we read,

“The chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy [Gk. apollumi] Jesus” (Matt. 27:20).

Could the Jews annihilate the Lord? Assuredly not. But they could (being allowed of God) put Him to death, and that is what is meant here.

Earlier in his treatise Pollock emphasized the point that scripture often records true events as they happened. This includes wrong ideas held by historical figures. Do I believe that the chief priests and elders could have annihilated the Lord? Of course not! However the question is: did the chief priests and elders believe they could have annihilated the Lord? Since they rejected Jesus’ messiahship they may very well have believed they could annihilate him.

Next Pollock quotes from Mark 2:22:

“No man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred [Gk. apollumi]” (Mark 2:22).

Evidently, destruction here means bottles burst and rendered useless and not bottles annihilated.

I have read this argument before, it is very common one made by the proponents of eternal conscious torment (ECT). I generally don’t like philosophy but I think we do need to ask the philosophical question “when does a bottle stop being a bottle”? I see no reason to agree that a burst bottle is still a bottle, it is something that used to be a bottle which is not the same thing.

Pollock again:

Again,

“Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost [Gk. apollumi]” (Luke 15:6).

Could the Good Shepherd have found something that was annihilated – something that was not something? No, it was a lost or destroyed sheep He found and He saved it from its lost estate and recovered it from destruction.

Here Pollock is doing something that I have objected to in the past. The Lord is the Good Shepherd and members of His flock (aka sheep) are believers. No one is advocating the idea that believers will be annihilated. Are there passages where apollumi is used of unbelievers and it is clear that they are not annihilated? That would help his case much more than this passage.

Pollock again:

“If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost [Gk. apollumi]” (2 Cor. 4:3).

Most evidently the lost or destroyed here are sinners in this world. It would be useless talking of the Gospel being hid from those who did not exist.

I agree that the translation of apollumi in 2 Corinthians 4:3 does not mean annihilated. Does that mean that annihilated is never a valid translation of apollumi? I don’t think Pollock provides enough of an analysis to be convincing on this point.

It would have helped me a lot if Pollock provided the Greek word that he believes the authors of the New Testament would have used if they actually wanted to say “annihilate”. The argument that they would have used “word x” instead of apollumi would have been more convincing.

Slough on the other hand does one thing that I really liked, he provides statistics on how many times apollumi is used in the New Testament and bases his argument on New Testament usage. By arguing that translating apollumi as annihilated is within the word’s range of meaning Slough makes it possible that New Testament authors do mean annihilate at least in some instances. That is the argument he needs to make.

Slough provides the statistic that apollumi is used ninety-two times in the New Testament and that in ninety of those instances it is translated “perished, destroyed or lost”, once as “marred”, and once as “die”. His claim, of course, is that “perished, destroyed and lost” are all consistent with annihilation. Here is Slough’s summary paragraph on apollumi:

“It is translated once ‘marred,’ once ‘die.’” Thus we see, out of the ninety-two times it occurs, in every instance it carries with it the primary and original sense except one, “to mar.” And it must carry a like meaning or be counted a corruption of the word. For the Lexicon gives no such definition as “Marred” for “Apollumi.” Look and see for yourself.

     Thus, instead of giving support to eternal torment, a volume of “ninety-two applications against it.

Slough is overstating his case that all ninety-two times apollumi is used it supports the doctrine of annihilation. All he needs to show is that annihilate is a reasonable translation of apollumi in some instances. This is a much lower bar than the one Pollock set for himself.

I would have liked Slough to provide more is detail on is his statement that translating apollumi as “lost” is consistent with annihilation. Being lost is not the same as being annihilated. It does seem to me that Slough could have made a statement something like: the fifty-nine times that apollumi is translated “persished or destroyed” it is consistent with annihilation. This would still have been strong support for his position.

[Click on this link to see the next installment in this series: Point-Counterpoint: Pollock on Aionios]

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