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Saved as through Fire: The Fiery Ordeal in New Testament Eschatology

FRAYER-GRIGGS, DANIEL,FREDERICK (2012) Saved as through Fire: The Fiery Ordeal in New Testament Eschatology. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 19 October 2015.

Abstract

The aim of this thesis is to contribute to the understanding of the fire of eschatological judgment and testing, as distinct from the fire of hell or Gehenna, in the New Testament. The relevant texts, which indicate that both the righteous and the wicked are subjected to fire, can be subsumed under the general category of the “fiery ordeal.” Through an analysis of this understudied motif, the thesis demonstrates that belief in the dual (purificatory and punitive) function of fire is attested to in the Christian tradition at a date earlier than is frequently recognized.

The first chapter of Part I introduces the topic, provides the historiographical context, reviews the relevant literature, and lays out the basic methodology. Chapter 2 attends to matters of Religionsgeschichte, paying special attention to fire in Zoroastrian apocalypticism and in Greek and Roman thought. Part II establishes the Jewish apocalyptic context from within which the expectation of judgment by fire originated. Chapter 3 draws attention to the multiple functions of fire in the Hebrew Bible, including its role in theophanies, while giving primary attention to its role in judgment, testing, and refining. In Chapter 4 we turn our attention to the apocalyptic literature of Second Temple Judaism, noting that judgment by fire comprises not only punishment for the wicked but also testing and even purification for the righteous or repentant.

Part III of our investigation discerns elements of the fiery ordeal motif in the New Testament. After a brief survey of the various functions of fire in the New Testament in Chapter 5, Chapter 6 examines the preaching of John the Baptist and the historical Jesus, particularly with regard to “baptism in fire” (Q 3:16; Mark 9:49; Luke 12:49-50) and several of Jesus’ more enigmatic sayings concerning fire (Luke 17:26-32; 23:31; Gos. Thom. 82). Chapter 7 traces the contours of the development of this motif in Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (3:10-15) and in the Petrine Epistles (1 Pet 1:7; 4:12; 2 Pet 3:10-13), noting the distinctive ways in which 1 and 2 Peter reinterpret the fiery ordeal. In Chapter 8 we conclude that the above traditions, which encompass both very early and very late New Testament texts, testify to a shared belief that everyone, both the righteous and the wicked, would be subjected to eschatological judgment by fire and that the righteous would experience this judgment as a fiery ordeal through which they would be tested and, in some cases, ultimately purified.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:22 Oct 2012 08:26

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