A Critique of Raising Hell by Julie Ferwerda

John C. Rankin

In 2012, I was asked by a friend to read and critique the book, Raising Hell, where Julie Ferwerda argues that hell is an unbiblical concept. I wrote a long review, and published it here in due course. Then in 2017, Eric Metaxas asked me to write a book after he interviewed me during “hell week” on his radio show. I had been invited to address this debate five times, and the second time was in reviewing Ferwerda’s work. So I did, and published it in 2017 (The Freedom to Choose Hell: see johnrankinbooks.com). Chapter Two is a more concise review of Ferwarda, and in the larger context of the book itself. Each of the first five chapters have questions for the chosen author, and chapter six is a full proactive theological review of the subject. Here is the chapter on Ferwerda.

Chapter Two 

Questions for Julie Ferwerda 

In Raising Hell, Julie Ferwerda makes her case that hell is an unbiblical concept. There are four dominating realities in the book.

First, Ferwerda writes experientially throughout. She, like each of the other four writers, has visceral reactions to any church doctrine that views hell as arbitrary in nature, and for whom most people are destined. I agree.

  1. Does Julie understand the Wesleyan quadrilateral of Scripture, tradition, reason and experience?
  1. If we start with an experientially reactive posture, do we not reverse this classical interpretive leverage?
  1. Accordingly, can she articulate a different, proactive and better starting point for understanding the Bible and any church doctrine?
  1. Otherwise, how can a cycle of reactions to reactions not take over and pollute the whole discussion?

Second, Julie embraces the freedom to pose any and all questions, and this is good. She asks many very valid questions that need a biblically literate response.

Third, Julie uses the English word “hell” as the lynchpin idea, but never defines its etymology.

  1. If the word “hell” is the foundational idea for critique, why is it not defined properly?

And fourth, Julie does not know the biblical Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, yet is willing to tell translators, who know the original languages, where they have made mistakes. The resources she uses to critique the translators are in fact dependent on the same translators who are trained to do what she is not trained to do.

  1. In reactionary mode, is this not still an act of remarkable hubris?

This matter deserves some up-front attention.

In her Introduction, Julie states, “You might also be asking, who am I to question or doubt the majority of today’s mainstream Bible translators, theologians, and pastors?” (p. 5). In also including “scholars” in a subsequent list, she then asks, “which ones should I listen to?” (ibid.).

  1. To what extent do scholars serve as scapegoats for Julie’s angst?

She then posits that “Arminianism declares that God desires but is not able to save all people because he cannot infringe upon the ‘free will’ of man … Calvinism declares that God is unwilling – does not desire – to save all of his children because He has only ‘elected’ a few for salvation” (ibid).

This may be a caricature of a far larger historical reality, but it does honestly represent how many people view this theological debate. And all of us should recoil at the idea that God is either 1) weak or 2) arbitrary toward those made in his image.

  1. What is the responsibility of biblical scholars and pastors to listen to, understand and address such a heartfelt concern?

In an appendix that pits “scholars” versus “common people,” in reference to “Bible study tools online,” Julie states: “Through these resources, practically anyone can learn basic study of Hebrew and Greek Scripture in order to begin identifying problematic translation issues and correcting them on their own. In fact, learning how to identify and improve many translation errors is so simple, a little kid could do it” (p. 239).

  1. Is this not dangerous and facile language?
  1. Is Julie able to debate face-to-face Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek scholars, sustain her online abilities to “correct them,” fix their “translation errors,” and also make her claim that such scholars are often dishonest?
  1. How can Julie be so categorical, herself being without the training to know the nature of translating from one culture to another, from antiquity to the present age?

Whereas Julie shows real aptitude to grasp certain ideas, she is nonetheless ill equipped to make such translation judgments. For example, she makes assumption that words or phrases are stand-alone units, in the English, with no knowledge of the proto-Ugaritic etymology of the Hebrew, and no recognition of grammar, syntax, mood, tense and voice in both the Hebrew and Greek.

Julie states: “We’ve already discovered that often times when words are being mistranslated, nouns are swapped out for adverbs or adjectives, or other variations. This is a fundamental no-no when translating any language. There must be consistency, and if you find an adverb or adjective replacing a noun (or any other substitution), be suspicious” (p. 251).

  1. How can Julie define what a “no-no” is when “translating any language”?
  1. What are her translation skills that give her such expertise to make such a judgment?
  1. Julie only uses English, her entire grammatical prism, but how can that suffice as the reference point for translation choices?
  1. With English, or even Latin-based assumptions, how can parts of speech be defined and understood as used in Hebrew or Greek?
  1. What is an adjectival noun in any language, and thus what happens when, grammatically speaking, one form of a noun replaces another form of a noun due to different linguistic use of nouns and/or various modifiers?
  1. What is the nature of one-for-one word comparisons across languages and cultures?

Translation is an art form that requires great inter-cultural and trans-historical knowledge and skills. It is not a mathematical science where equivalencies are easily swapped. Here are three specific examples:

First, in Exodus 34:6 the Hebrew text states literally that “Yahweh has a long nose” (cf. the same construction and content in Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15, 103:8 and 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:3 and Nahum 1:3). Julie can certainly go to these verses in an English translation and see how it is translated as “slow to anger.”

  1. What is the Hebrew word for “nose,” and why is it not translated here “literally?”
  1. And thus, does Julie define this as a mistranslation, a dishonest substitution of “slow to anger” for “long nose?”

A verbal clause indeed renders an adjectival noun to convey an honest translation. In Hebrew, the word for “nose” is anap. Hebrew men in the first two millennia B.C. had high cheeked thick dark beards, and when they got angry, it did now show up as flushed cheeks, but only when the heat of it reached the nose did it become visible. And thus anap, in context, is the word for anger. To have a “long nose” means it takes a long time for the anger to reach the end of patience, thus “slow to anger.”

In English, we do not have this metaphor, so a word for word translation makes no sense. And if we say God has “a long nose,” one of our literary metaphors would be Pinocchio, and this does not work, as though God were being called a liar. A workable metaphor is “a long fuse,” but too, the ancient Hebrews did not have dynamite.

Second is the well-known text in Isaiah 53 where the prophet states, according to an English translation: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (v. 5 in the 1984 New International Version [NIV]). Without getting too technical here, the simple reality is that the past tense is used three times, and the present tense is used once, all in reference to a future event.

  1. The dishonest switching of tenses?
  1. Why does the Hebrew text use the past and present tenses to indicate the future?
  1. Does Julie know that biblical Hebrew has no future tense, and accomplishes the purpose with grammatical dexterity?
  1. Or does Julie also call this a mistranslation?

And third is a text we have already noted, Jonah 2:8. The NIV renders it: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” A wooden translation straight from the Hebrew is: “They who honor themselves with empty vapors leave steadfast love.”

The NIV, in its use of “cling,” does well enough. The first verb in play, shamar, is strategically important across the biblical text. In Genesis 2:15, Adam is charged to “guard” (shamar) the Garden from what proves to be the entrance of the serpent. “To guard” is the principle understanding, with a cognate “to keep.” In the piel (intensive) form in Jonah 2:8, it is “to honor” that which is being guarded, and hence “to cling” is a reasonable choice for readers in the English.

To the one literate in the Hebrew text, we see opposite guardianships, the former guards the good, and the latter guards evil. Complete opposites. Also, the word for “idol” here is one of various terms used in the Hebrew, hebel, for a “vapor” or “emptiness.”

When Paul says that idols are both nothing and demons at the same time (1 Corinthians 10:19-21), he is tracing a line of biblical theology back to the Garden and through Moses, Jeremiah, Jonah and others. We may think of physical idols in antiquity, but Jonah is writing about the underlying reality that idols are demons that are vapors in the presence of the steadfast love of God. Evil has no intrinsic power.

The verb “to leave” can be synonymous with “to forfeit” as context has its input, and the word the NIV translates as “grace” is another strategically important word in the Hebrew Bible, hesed – the “steadfast love,” “loving-kindness” and “gracious love” that is only found in Yahweh Elohim. And we could parse this text further into the weeds. No translation can be fully satisfactory, by definition, so when we translate we make the best interpretive (hermeneutical) choices rooted in good exegesis, and then start mining the riches.

  1. Is this a rich field in which Julie can find mistranslations, mistakes and dishonesties?
  1. Or might she – like all of us – be humbled and edified by such a rich text?
  1. And thus, might she see how an English language perspective cannot interpret the Hebrew text?

And thousands of examples here can easily multiply. Let’s walk through Raising Hell and identify the salient questions.

As already noted, Julie places experience first in her undefined and visceral reaction to the English word “hell.” It is in her book title, and it is the word and concept to which she objects consistently. Yet she never defines it.

  1. What is the biblical source and definition for the word translated in the English as “hell?”

This we have already touched on. Rather, the book starts with her daughter’s uneasiness with the concept of hell as taught in their church upbringing, and an overseas missions trip where she could not reconcile a message that damned people to hell if they did not hear the Gospel before they died. Later Julie embraces the same, and finally she arrives at a point of declaring “there is no hell!” (p. 17). Julie starts with an English word, and then looks backward into the subject via interlinear Bibles.

On page 15, in Chapter One, she states: “The Bible mentions hell repeatedly, doesn’t it?”

  1. How tricky is it to use a loaded rhetorical question to serve a serious concern?
  1. In other words, exactly how many times is “hell” mentioned in English translation?

In her introduction, Setting the Stage, Julie says “I was born to ask questions” (p. 3). Good. But then she makes analogies to the stereotypes of Jim Jones and Hare Krishna: “… but please keep reading and give me a fair chance to build my case. I’m not asking you to go to South America to drink Kool-Aid, or to wear a toga and sell flowers at the airport …” (p. 4).

  1. Why such reactive, hyperbolic and petty reactions?
  1. Is the pain that deep?
  1. And if so, how is it best addressed?

The reactive is not consonant with asking good questions, and does not serve a proactive argument as to the nature of the Bible on the question at hand.

In Chapter One, Julie begins by raising questions about the inclusive love of God, as she does often, and quotes lists of atomized Scripture verses.

  1. How can selected verses suffice for a biblical argument apart from their contextual linkages?

And likewise, with various quotes from church history.

  1. Likewise?

In Chapter Two, Julie hits the ethical core with her daughter’s concerns as raised in missions-work: “She couldn’t accept the seeming contradiction of God’s ‘character’ and ‘injustice’ that billions of people would be eternally punished because they had no knowledge of Jesus (p. 17). This is the strength and appeal as she speaks for so very many who are in the evangelical church.

On page 22, Julie demonstrates a monstrous interpretive mistake and in the process, challenges biblical integrity:

“Ironically, what initially encouraged me that we were not getting off base in discovering so many translation errors and at all times even suspecting foul play or agenda was a verse I happened upon in Jeremiah 8:7-9: ‘But my people do not know the ordinance of the LORD. How can you say, “We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us”? But behold, the lying lips of the scribes have made it into a lie. The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and caught; Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, and what kind of wisdom do they have?’ ” (italics added by Julie).

She then gives her diagnosis: “Right there, Jeremiah confirmed that the scribes had inserted lies into the Old Testament writings, many centuries before a Bible was ever published or canonized.” This is not true, even apart from the question of what “publication” means. The scribes here are not writing the Hebrew Bible, but they are misrepresenting the Law of Moses for their own purposes, for their own lies. They are false prophets, and Jeremiah is exposing them.

  1. If “lies” have been inserted into the Bible, and if a biblical prophet confirms such an insertion, what else in the Bible is thus liable to being charged as false?
  1. Therefore, how can any argument for or against “hell” by appeal to the Bible be trusted, and therefore why does the subject matter at all, since biblical trustworthiness is eschewed in the priority of a presuppositionally visceral and reactive agenda?
  1. Does Julie know the nature of and differences between exegesis and eisegesis, and thus the concern for idolatry?
  1. Does Julie know the context of Jeremiah as the final prophet in Jerusalem before its Babylonian exile in 586 B.C.?
  1. Does she know the decades-long tussle Jeremiah has with false prophets who embrace or turn a blind eye to the pagan practices of sorcery, sacred prostitution and child sacrifice that are ripping Judah apart at that time?
  1. Has she considered Jeremiah 7-8 in the whole context, as opposed to proof-texting a verse or two out of context?

On p. 23, Julie compounds this error, asserting that “somewhere along the line” it is “not a stretch to imagine that ‘stuff happened’ ” – leading to serious translation mistakes.

  1. Where is the evidence in point concerning the Jeremiah text?
  1. How can broad sweep and amorphous generalizations be taken seriously, without factual basis, as they apply to two select verses or any biblical context?

On p. 25, Julie lists a series of questions, and they are all sound, but also rooted in certain presuppositions of a slice of the American church. Then, on pp. 27-28, Julie says: “If you look into it, Jesus never even spoke to the crowds about ‘hell’ (that we read about), only privately and in smaller contexts to His disciples and the Pharisees – religious people – and only, at the most, on three or four unique occasions.”

Not true. First, e.g., Jesus speaks about it most often to the crowds; and second, he does not teach it privately to the Pharisees, but confronts them in public. Here are the seven contexts, six unique, plus one partial parallel, for the thirteen uses of the word of gehenna (actual Greek term properly translated as “hell): In Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches his disciples in the presence of multiple thousands who had gathered to hear him; in Matthew 10, Jesus sends out the twelve to heal and drive out demons, and teaching/preaching the Good News is assumed as always for their given “authority”; in Matthew 18, Jesus is teaching the disciples in public, and as he calls a little child to stand in their midst; in Matthew 23, Jesus rebukes the religious elitists before large crowds in the Court of the Gentiles; in Mark 9, he is teaching the disciples in public, partly parallel to Matthew 18, but with additional text; in Luke 12, he addresses the disciples in the presence of a crowd of thousands; and in James 3, the apostle – half-brother to Jesus – is writing a letter to the wide Jewish Christian diaspora.

  1. Why does Julie not quote and review these texts?
  1. Why has Julie tried to make the teaching about hell, by Jesus, into a “private” and “smaller” setting, when the biblical texts show the opposite?
  1. What point is being made that ignores or misses the context?
  1. To minimize the importance Jesus places on hell when he brings it up?

Julie then reaches beyond sound reason when she states on p. 30: “Did you know that if Evangelical America just put their church building funds toward feeding the poor that they could drastically reduce, if not eradicate, world hunger?”

This is facile – to thus imagine eradicating world hunger – and used as a supporting argument for Raising Hell, even though many churches can readily make an idol of a church building project. But too, without church property, and its good stewardship, the church would be seriously handicapped in organizational efforts needed to minister to the world at many fronts. As well, this is neither a biblical nor an economically sound strategy, where it is not a mathematical quid pro quo of wealth transference that serves justice, but healthy relationships rooted in the family unit defining honest government. The Greek word for economics is oikonomos, referring to the management of the household, the family unit. The chosen absence of the biological father, in concert with corrupt government, are the overwhelming reality of poverty worldwide.

  1. Has Julie been burned by the idolatry of church-building programs?

To add one component to a statement John Wesley once said: The power of sound economics is when we “earn all we can, save all we can, employ all we can [or invest all we can], and give away all we can.” Charity or investment needs prior production rooted in biblical ethics. Poverty and hunger need the prophetic presence of the church in undergirding the faithful marriage of man and woman, and parenthood, then in challenging the idolatry of “big daddy” government.

  1. Is Julie aware of how her reactions to reactions beget further reactions that spin her so far afield?

On pp. 33-34, Julie speaks of the Good News of the Gospel – amen. She raises good questions about motivation v. manipulation – amen. But then on p. 35, Julie steps into it again.

In citing Acts 17:31, Julie renders it this way: “He has fixed a day in which He is about to be judging the inhabited world in justice through a Man whom He has appointed, furnishing belief to all by raising him from the dead” (MLT).

She cites the MLT, her own definition of a “More Literal Translation” from her use of interlinear Bibles. Yet she has no knowledge of biblical Hebrew or the koine Greek or the art of translation.

  • This is a foolishly wanton act of eisegesis, where Julie critiques the honest art of translation as though it involves changing words, as it were, in the English. Yet here she changes a word deliberately.

Straight from the Greek text, here is a literal, if wooden, translation of Acts 17:31: “Accordingly, he has caused to stand a day in which he judges the household world in righteousness in the man he has set aside. He offers trust to all, causing to raise him from the dead.” In order to make this substance easy to read and honestly understood, translators need to know the art of going from one culture to the next. There are different as well as overlapping grammatical rules at play, for example, between Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, German, French and English. And thus, necessary flexibility where the “literal” is honored, but not the “literalistic.”

Julie’s MLT is neither. It is a hopscotch skip through an interlinear, and English translations, where she places into the text what she wants to be there.

  1. Furnishing belief?

There is no such verb for “to furnish” present. As well, the verb commonly translated as “believe,” pisteo, is rooted in a deeper and prior reality of “trust.” We can only believe in whom or what we trust. Then, when Julie inserts the idea of furnishing, she does so by changing the Greek term for “offering.” And the difference is both subtle and dramatic. To “offer” gives active freedom to say no. “To furnish” implies, at the level of the metaethics of language, a simple supply in a passive capacity.

Trust cannot be just supplied, in the implicitly passive sense that Julie’s language intends. Trust is first earned, then chosen. The ministry of Jesus offers us the opportunity to trust him, but he does not do the trusting for us. Julie here – as is her wont across the whole book – challenges human freedom. She says God is furnishing belief to all in a passive capacity, in the context of saying there is no hell.

  1. By depending on interlinear translations of given words, is Julie aware of the assumed trust she places in the expertise of these scholars as true, to thus buttress her presuppositions through which she challenges other scholars whose expertise she claims are suspect?
  1. Can she delineate the difference between what is “literal” (and thus the larger reality of biblical literature and its multiple genres) and what is “literalistic,” and how can she say she is doing a “translation?”
  1. And too, how can she reconcile this with the warning in Revelation 22:18-19 not to add to or subtract from the words of this Book, which itself wraps up all Scripture, tying together the themes traced from Genesis 1-3ff.?
  1. And how would her MLT render Revelation 20:11-15 and its final judgment?

In terms of sovereignty and choice, Julie has missed an opportunity to look at the larger context in Acts 17, of Paul’s entire address to the Greek Philosophers in Athens. God “commanded the appointed times for them and their fixed dwelling places … so that men would seek and grope about for him …” (vv. 26-27). Sovereignty and choice, the latter made fully possible by the former. But no passive “belief” furnished.

  1. Does Julie, in her “translation,” provide a new twist on hyper-Calvinism, a “single-predestination” as opposed to a “double-predestination,” where in both cases the human will is ruled over by a supreme deity for whom fate is reality?
  1. Though she has made early and passing reference, what is Julie’s depth of knowledge about the Calvinistic and Arminian debate in church history?

Of critical importance on p. 40 (the beginning of Chapter Five) is where Julie says that Genesis should be the obvious first place to find the doctrine of hell if such a doctrine exists, but it is not there. On the back of the book cover, she states it this way: “Why does He fail to mention hell in Genesis as the price for sin?”

  • This proves to be the most strategic and important question raised among these five writers.

Julie says that the language, “you will surely die,” in Genesis 2:17 (from an English translation) means: “It just says they will die, as in stop breathing, or kick the bucket.”

  • The use of this English language, and her definitive statement of what it means, is completely wrong. The actual Hebrew usage in Genesis 2:16-17 is so dynamically different, that once the actual, yes, the literal translation is grasped, we will see how it interprets all biblical language of blessings versus judgment, of heaven versus hell.
  1. Given that Julie has identified this as a key leverage point in Genesis 2:17, and if my translation of vv. 16-17 proves satisfactory in showing a radically different understanding, and is indeed beautiful in its context, what impact would this have on the rest of her theological construction?

In the balance of Chapter Five of Raising Hell, Julie raises many interesting questions, all of which deserve proactive attention. In Chapter Six, Julie talks about “assumptions I grew up with” (p. 51). Okay, but such experiences need to be interpreted by the Bible first. She then delves into some church history (okay), but history or tradition is always subject to the Scripture.

  1. As Julie uses many biblical verses atomistically, does she do so likewise with church history?
  1. How much church history does Julie know apart from scouring it to furnish her objections to hell?

On p. 56, Julie then lists “the astonishing incongruency” of how many times “hell” appears in 14 chosen English translations, from 56 down to zero. Again, this is backward, as she has no reference point in the Hebrew and Greek. If she had, she would know the lexigraphic answer is that ge’hinnom (Hebrew antecedent for the Greek gehenna for hell) has seven explicit references and one dynamic allusion. And, as we have already noted, there are thirteen explicit uses of gehenna in the Greek New Testament. Now I agree that “hell” is a wrong translation too often. But still:

  1. What difference does it make on the putative number of times a word is mentioned?
  1. Is the Bible interpreted by stand-alone words or verses, or through the whole storyline, its wide variety of literary genres, constructions and strategic leverage points?

In Chapter Seven, Julie raises the question of God or Satan “winning” in the question of heaven and hell.

  1. What is the biblical definition of “winning” and “losing?”
  1. If there is no hell for human beings, what is the final identity and abode of Satan and his demons?
  1. Heaven?

In this chapter, Julie again steps into dangerous territory, approvingly quoting scholar Bart Ehrmann, who has discarded trust in the Bible – due principally to personal ethical reasons:

“ ‘There came a time when I left the faith. This was not because of what I learned through historical criticism, but because I could no longer reconcile my faith in God with the state of the world that I saw around me. There is so much senseless pain and misery in the world that I came to find it impossible to believe there is a good and loving God who is in control, despite my knowing all the standard rejoiners [sic in Julie’s quote] that people give.’ ”

Ehrmann places subjective experience first, not exegesis of the text. He says he has heard all the rejoinders.

  1. What does it mean to be “in control?”
  1. What is the biblical definition of power?
  1. For Ehrmann, if there is no “good and loving God who is in control,” what then controls the universe?
  1. Is it a godless cosmos that is dehumanizing at the beginning and the end, like evil and the abyss that is nearly co-extensive with the place of hell?
  1. Has Julie gone “scholar shopping” for a fellow traveler in all her questions?

In this chapter, Julie also speaks of whether God is angry forever, with death being swallowed up and the language of fire. These are secondary and real issues, needing proactive address.

In Chapters Eight through Ten, pp. 73ff., Julie raises many good questions in the experiential mode. Yet, on p. 100, she states: “I now know that the ultimate atonement for sin is not throwing someone away, or damning them to everlasting punishment, but providing a way for that person to repair damages they’ve caused and to restore their relationships between God and their fellow man.”

She says this is not a “works-based salvation,” making a distinction that people are only “saved from death,” and thereafter, they somehow can make things right.

  1. Is a classic Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory in view?
  1. Does Julie believe salvation is only from, and not also for?
  1. How deep is her theology mired in growing internal incongruencies because she starts in a reactive posture?

Also here, Julie addresses lex talionis, the “law of equal justice,” a vital topic worthy of proactive address, but she is in way over her head. Then, beginning in Chapter Eleven, she rehashes the issues of “only one chance?”

  1. Does this also allow for some definition of hell, as with those who advocate an “ultimate reconciliation” universalism?

Julie also raises the good question of whether God could have prevented sin, which needs proactive address, and the meaning of “all” as we have already touched on.

In the middle of these catch-all categories, Julie states: “I love looking for common themes or threads because, at closer inspection, the Bible is really one big interwoven Masterpiece” (p. 120). Good.

  1. But, has Julie biblically defined such a theme?
  1. Does “one big interwoven Masterpiece” include her charge that there are errors in the Bible, and that Jeremiah supports a lie as part of such a Masterpiece?

In Chapter Twelve, Julie again traces some church history, but still, Scripture defines all. In Chapter Thirteen, she steps into it again, in seeking to teach about “Hebrew ABCs.” She gleans some interesting data, but only in piecemeal ability in the English.

So, when she says there is no reference to eternity in Hebrew, she is mistaken. This is a classic example of not knowing Hebrew.

For example, olam, the main word in the Hebrew for “forever” is not a word of strictly linear quality – a human grasp of time without end, as it were. It aims to define the human perspective for that which is greater than space, time and number. In its 300 or so uses in the Hebrew Bible, it touches on the remote past as well as the distant future, and with certain prepositional uses in the Hebrew Bible, it means unlimited, incalculable, continuance, eternity.

It is likely rooted in the word alam, which means something “hidden” from human comprehension. In the prior Ugaritic, of which Hebrew is a cognate, the word lm means “eternity.” In Ecclesiastes 3:11, Solomon states: “He has also set eternity (olam) in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” The last three words here would be literally “upon the days.”

In the Hebrew, Yahweh Elohim is greater than space, time and number, as his name indicates. Adam and Eve are not created to die (but to live forever). And the language of olam, along with other constructions in the Hebrew, aim beyond the limits of human understanding to relate to Yahweh Elohim.

  1. If Julie were convinced there is no Hebrew reference to eternity, where does the concept enter in, what is the nature of life and death in Genesis 2, and how then can she believe in eternal life but not eternal death?

In Chapters Fourteen and Fifteen, Julie continues her errors, depending on interlinears and her perspective within the English language. In Chapter Sixteen, she addresses the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, and issues of the millennial kingdom. This covenantal treatment is a secondary matter to her defining question about hell.

In Chapter Seventeen, she addresses the harvests of the Hebrew festival seasons, but this again is secondary material to the question at hand. It is as though she is glad to impart her understandings on many interesting issues, but without the textual ability to relate them to a cohesive whole, and keep a simple focus on her main question.

In Chapter Eighteen, Julie looks at the question of evil, and comes up with a dualistic understanding that it is necessary in order for us to know the difference between good and evil.

  • Here, Julie has identified a foundational question, one in need of biblical review.

In Chapter Nineteen, she states in its title, “What God Wants, God Gets,” a topic we have already reviewed.

  1. What, again, is power, and how does God define and use it, and does he force his way?

In Chapter Twenty, Julie addresses “Lazarus and the Rich Man,” as we have already reviewed. In Chapter Twenty-One, Julie purports to redefine the soul. This is at best a reactionary position relative to its misuse, and she does come up with the right understanding that nephesh and psuche, the Hebrew and Greek terms for soul, or personhood, is what we are, not what we have.

So, she doesn’t redefine it, but she rediscovers it. But she also here touches on Plato and the Jews – this is an enormously huge and defining topic, but way beyond the scope of her passing reference.

  • Nephesh proves to be the most crucial leverage point in Scripture for defining “salvation.”

Chapter Twenty-Two is Julie’s formal conclusion before many afterthoughts, experientially rooted in a story. In Section Four, she then addresses a series of addenda, first with “The Scriptures: For Scholars or Common People?”

She then gives “Simple Steps for Identifying Mistranslations,” again rooted in the same folly of comparing English translations side-by-side as though this gives any understanding to the Hebrew, Greek, and nature of translation. Julie then continues with “Common Misunderstandings of Scripture” in the same vein, and then with a section on “You’ve Got Questions for Me?”

Here the book concludes its long descent into potpourri feelings about various subjects, closely or distantly related to the central question at hand. It continues to its conclusion with a section on “Talking Points,” largely with a list of proof texts, a section on “Verses Proclaiming God Will Save All,” and finally, “Further Reading and Study.”

In sum, Julie 1) starts with a reactive experiential posture, a visceral repulsion against a doctrine that believes God sends people to hell arbitrarily; 2) is highly selective in how she cites Scripture; 3) is willing at points to challenge the integrity of the whole inspiration of Scripture; 4) minimizes the question of God’s judgment; 5) does not give a biblical interpretive structure; and 6) confusedly addresses the underlying question of biblical freedom, even muting it.