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Editor's Table
JUDGE SEPTIMUS J. HANNA, CSD


         There are perhaps no texts or verses of the Bible which furnish more ground for the conception of eternal punishment, or upon which this doctrine is more especially based, than the thirty-second and thirty-third verses of the 12th chapter of Matthew:

         Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

         To get a correct understanding of the meaning of these verses, it is necessary, and we suppose quite admissable, to consider the use and significance of the language employed. All previous interpretations surely have been arrived at in this way. The translators from the original tongues were obliged, in making their translations, to give the best meaning they were able to the terms employed in such original tongues, and inasmuch as there are varied meanings attaching to nearly all of the original words, they very naturally selected such rendition as would give the clearest and best meaning from their standpoint. It is therefore of the first importance that we know as best we can, whether or not the translation is made from the true standpoint.

         The first word of the verses we are considering, it seems to us, the meaning of which we should be sure of, is the word Sin. We cannot know what the Master meant without having a clear idea of the sense in which he used this word. Sin in its most comprehensive meaning is transgression of the law of God. If we give to the word God its Anglo-Saxon meaning, Good (which we must do in order to be correct), it then follows that sin is the transgression or violation of, or going counter, to Good. To know whether or not we are transgressing Good, we must know what Good is. It is evident that we cannot rest the question of what it is on mere speculation, supposition or hypothesis. This would leave it in the realm of relativity. It must be placed on the side of the absolute to give it a definable and unalterable character.

         This brings us to the Christian Science definition of Good: that it is the one Law of the universe, and that therefore there is but one Good, one God, and that one Good, God, is the only creative and controlling force extant. Basing our premises thus, we ever have a certain starting point, and from this starting point we are enabled to make certain and indisputable deductions. To sin then, is to act in a way or in ways that are contrary to the one and only Good. It follows from this that we avoid so acting only in the degree in which we know what Good is, and are governed accordingly. In proportion as we fail thus to know, or in the degree in which we are apart from the understanding of Good, we are transgressing. We may be either wilful or ignorant transgressors. In either case we are shut out from the benefits of the knowledge of Good in the ratio of our living apart from it. It is undoubtedly true that we suffer more from wilful than from ignorant transgression. There are severer penalties attached to intentional wrong or disobedience than to that which is the result of blindness, but in the nature of the case, there must be penalty in either event.

         The question then recurs, Is the sin to which the Master refers the sin of wilful disobedience or of ignorant disobedience? The only view of the question that would conform it to a correct sense of justice, would be the former, — that it is wilful disobedience. And wilful disobedience of Good is what?

         The words Holy Ghost mean Pure Spirit. Pure Spirit means absolute Good, Good unmixed with evil; hence to sin against the Holy Ghost is to wilfully and obdurately violate the Law of Good. So long as this wilful violation is continued there is of course, — there can be, — no forgiveness.

         So long as a man consciously rejects divine Truth, and in that sense hates God, he must of necessity remain a sinner against that Holy Ghost which is God. Then the only remaining question is whether God, Good, who by all who believe in him at all is admitted to be almighty, shall be ultimately overpowered by finite man's sense of hatred. Finite man's sense of hatred cannot be infinite, and unless it is infinite, or the expression of the infinite, it cannot be eternally enduring. If it is not eternally enduring, it is temporal. If it is temporal it is subject to destruction. The sense of hatred, the belief that one can successfully hate another, is a delusive sense. In order then to say that the delusive sense can continue forever, we must believe that delusion is more powerful than reality. Is it not more rational to say that the real is the everlasting, and the delusive the temporal; and that sooner or later in each individual experience, the self-deluded victim will be awakened by the power of divine Love, of almighty Good, to a sense of the folly and impotency of his belief of hatred? When he is thus awakened, his sin — that of hatred — will cease, because his wrong conception has given way to the true, and his conduct will be according to his conception. It would not otherwise be a true conception. In other words his delusive sense of hatred has been swallowed up — destroyed — by his understanding of Truth.

         With this definition of the words Sin and God, or Holy Ghost, let us take up the next most important word. This seems to us to be the word Speak. What is the sense of the word "speak" as here used? Does it mean simply utterance, vocalization, profanity of the tongue and lips? or does it mean speaking in the sense of conversation? A frequent use of the word "conversation" in the Bible is the conversation of living, the "walk and conversation " of daily life. It seems clear that this is the sense of the word "speak" as used by the Teacher. If there were any doubt of this it is removed by the language of the following verses: "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh; a good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things; . . . for by thy words shalt thou be justified, and by thy words shalt thou be condemned."

         Here is certainly a larger interpretation than that of mere oral declaration, or blasphemy in the ordinary sense of the term. Therefore he who liveth intentionally and wilfully against the Holy Ghost, who keeps himself purposely away from the understanding of divine Truth, who prefers the things of the flesh to the things of Spirit, — he it is who is guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.

         The next most important words are these: "Neither in this world, neither in the world to come." The correct understanding of this language — as indeed of all the language we are considering — involves the sense in which the word "world" is used. We have sufficiently inquired into the meaning of this Anglo-Saxon word world, to have become satisfied that its use as here translated is wholly unauthorized. It has no derivation which will warrant such use. Its derivative is the Greek word Aeon, or Aion, which by all modern writers who are uninfluenced by the traditions of the old or authorized translation as found in the King James Version is rendered Age, or pluralized into ages. Rotherham, who aims to translate as literally from the Greek as may be, thus uniformly renders it. Mr. Wilson in his Emphatic Diaglott so renders it. And a Doctor of Divinity who has recently been giving this question especial and painstaking attention, is thoroughly convinced that the original Greek word is susceptible of no other translation than that of Age or Ages.

         These are referred to as authority entirely outside Christian Science circles because we are often accused of putting our own interpretations upon the Bible. We give our authority upon this point from outside sources so that, in this instance at least, we may not be thus accused. It is true that Christian Science does interpret from the spiritual rather than from the literal standpoint. Did it not do so, it would be as literally bound by established methods of translation as so many others believe themselves to be; and yet the fact remains that all interpretations of Scripture, which have come down to us, are the result of individual interpretation. The best exegesis possible to the standpoint of established methods of thinking have been arrived at and, no doubt, arrived at conscientiously; but that infallibility has been attained, no one should have the presumption to assume.

         Now if we adopt the true rendition of the word Aeon, we have this language as our guide: "Neither in this age, neither in the age which is to come, or, the coming ages." And what is an age? It is simply a condition of human experience, or more properly of human conceptions.

         False conceptions are age-abiding, but they cannot be eternal, unless we admit that falsity is a real entity and has the enduring quality of Truth. Who will maintain that a lie, the false, is as lasting as Truth?

         When the age or ages of human misconception then shall have vanished away, or been destroyed, the true will remain, and the Holy Ghost can no longer be blasphemed. Then will be fulfilled the words of John in the Apocalypse: "And the seventh angel sounded; and there followed great voices in heaven, and they said, The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever."

         As additional evidence of the misuse of the word world, and of the error of interpretation to which its misuse has led, we call attention to Eph. 3: 21. The Old Version thus gives it: "Unto him be the glory in the church by Christ throughout all ages, world without end." The Revised Version thus: "Unto him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations forever and ever."

         Thus it will be seen that the meaning of the passage as rendered in the Old has been completely reversed in the New. Instead of having an endless world, we have a forever and ever. The authority therefore for an eternity of human error or false conceptions, otherwise sin, no longer exists so far as this rendition is concerned, and the long established formulary in the Prayer Book which concludes with "world without end" will have to be revised in order to conform to the views of the Revision Committees. Rotherham thus renders Eph. 3: 21: "To him be the glory, in the assembly and in Christ Jesus, to all the generations of the age of ages. Amen." The word “all" is the emphatic word of this sentence, and would seem to settle the question of the "salvation" (saving) of all.

 

"Editor's Table" by Judge Septimus J. Hanna, CSD
The Christian Science Journal, September, 1894

 

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