Home > Eschatology, Jesus > N.T. Wright’s View of Hell

N.T. Wright’s View of Hell

I am well entrenched in the 8am-5pm work world now.  Many days it is a lot of fun.  Today was really crappy.  Nothing seemed to go right.  After a lousy day, there’s nothing like sitting down with a good beer and a good theology book.  This is where I find solace.  In fact, I have decided that drinking a beer and reading a good theology book are my two favorite things to do in life… okay, two of my three favorite things.

Perhaps the greatest theology book of all time to be read while drinking beer is N.T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God.  Indeed, does not nature itself teach that Tom Wright and Leinenkugel’s go hand-in-hand?  Here is a great quote about the nature of Jesus’ “hell” passages:

The next comment ought to be unnecessary, but misunderstanding has been so long-lasting here that perhaps it is as well to be clear.  The warnings already mentioned, and those about to be discussed, are manifestly and obviously, within their historical context, warnings about a coming national disaster, involving the destruction by Rome of the nation, the city and the Temple.  The story of judgment and vindication which Jesus told is very much like the story told by the prophet Jeremiah, invoking the categories of cosmic disaster in order to invest the coming socio-political disaster with its full theological significance.  The ‘normal’ way of reading these passages withing the Christian tradition has been to see them as references to a general post mortem judgment in hell; but this betrays a fairly thorough lack of historical understanding.  Jesus’ sayings may have wider implications.  That is a topic outside the scope of the present book.  But as historicans we are bound to read at least the passages [traditionally taken to refer to hell] as warnings about a coming national disaster. (p. 323)

I think Wright is absolutely on target with this.  What do you think?  Does Gehennah refer to the afterlife or is it a metaphor for this-worldly judgment?

  1. steph
    April 9, 2009 at 4:52 am

    What is your third favourite thing?

    You’ll have to forgive me but I don’t know the context of this Wrightian quote. I do actually have JVG right next to my desk but it is in one of eight apple boxes full of books waiting for the freight company to collect and ship back to England AGAIN (I feel like a yo yo – up and down the globe!). So, does Wright think Jesus thought that hell was a metaphor?! If he does, I think he is very definitely wrong! I think Jesus is quite clear that hell is a real place.

  2. April 9, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    The other favorite thing was written euphemistically, intentionally left unwritten. Suffice it to say I am happily married. 🙂

    The Wright quote is towards the beginning of his chapter on Jesus’ use of the apocalyptic genre, which, he argues, was meant to be understood metaphorically. Jesus, as a Jewish prophet, stood very much in the tradition of Amos, Jeremiah, and other prophets by predicting a coming judgment. The valley of Hinnom, where earlier generations had sacrificed their own children to the gods, was intended as a metaphor for God’s coming judgment. It was a metaphor for a concrete event – the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

    From other writings it seems that Wright holds a doctrine of hell in line with C.S. Lewis – hell is what happens to people that have rejected God all their lives when they finally get their wish. It is the final loss of the image of God in eternity.

  3. steph
    April 9, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    I hoped it might be something as normal as that 🙂

    I think Wright is imposing his own interpretation of hell on Jesus and the preceding prophets. I don’t see any evidence for anything other than a very real place for Jesus. The destruction of the temple would bring on the judgement and hell would follow for the wicked.

  4. April 12, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I’ll maybe try to post on this later.

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