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By "evangelical" in this context I am referring to those with the common evangelical view that the Bible is the word of God and inerrant in the autographs.

The idea that Judas might be ultimately saved would be required to hold to universalism, but it seems irreconcilable with the idea that he would be saved and yet be one of whom woe is pronounced and that it would be better for him not to have been born. (Matthew 26:24, Mark 14:21)

  • Your definition of "evangelical" as a fundamentalist may preclude universalists from answering. These may be mutually exclusive categories. If you opened this up to those who self-identify as evangelical, you might have more responses. Just a suggestion. – Dan Sep 25 '15 at 11:12
  • The Chicago Statement is generally considered an evangelical statement and not a fundamentalist. I'm specifically interested in the universalists who affirm inerrancy. It's not a difficult question if the universalist in question does not affirm inerrancy. They can just say the author was wrongly quoting Jesus or Jesus himself was wrong. – Ben Mordecai Sep 25 '15 at 12:35
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    @Flimzy it's at least a thing on Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Ben Mordecai Jan 3 '16 at 20:42
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    That was the attempt with "Evangelical". Narrowly defining the notoriously difficult concept of inerrancy is likely to promote answers to the question based on technicalities about inerrancy rather than exegesis of scripture concerning the issue in question. – Ben Mordecai Jan 3 '16 at 21:06
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    @Flimzy Come on, "inerrant" has been defined. People might misuse the word, but it has a specific meaning. No need to be pedantic. – Mr. Bultitude Jan 4 '16 at 2:58
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I identify as an evangelical universalist. I don't know if you'll find this worthwhile, but here's my take.

It sounds an awful lot like a figure of speech to me. If it is, it's best not to draw too many conclusions based on it. (Bart Ehrman left the faith because the mustard seed isn't really the smallest of all seeds.)

In support of the figure of speech reading, I'd point first to a general pattern in Christ (I assume we don't need a list to agree that Jesus used fos's quite a lot), and I'd point second to the fact that we don't even have to go outside the Bible to see a similar occasion of language predating Christ's usage here. It's in Ecclesiastes:

Eccl. 6:3 A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he (my emphasis).

Here we see language similar to Christ's ("a stillborn child is better off") to describe someone who "cannot enjoy his prosperity." This last seems a particularly interesting piece of language when applied to Judas, whose prosperity was the field in which he died.

It gets even more interesting after that:

4 [the stillborn baby] comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded.
5 Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man—

So verse 5 indicates in what way it's better not to be born--"it has more rest."

Then comes v. 6:

6 even if he [the man who can't enjoy his prosperity] lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity.

And then comes the end of v. 6, where, especially if this passage is Jesus's referent (as it seems to be) things get intensely interesting. I kind of want a drumroll for this, so play one in your mind before you read:

"Do not all go to the same place?"

That's the end of v. 6. Interesting, huh? :)

  • Welcome! Thanks for contributing. This is certainly helpful as is, but if you'd like to strengthen your answer, you might consider adding sources to show that this analysis doesn't merely reflect your opinion. I hope you'll take a minute to take the tour and review how this site is different from others. – Nathaniel is protesting Jun 11 '16 at 2:35
  • Thanks, Nathaniel. You're 100% right--I didn't understand how this site is different from others. Thanks for the link! I'm afraid I don't have any links of my own to offer for this. If it doesn't match the charter of the page, I totally understand if it needs to be taken down. – Tim Jun 11 '16 at 2:41
  • Sometimes personal experience is the best we can offer, and that's often fine here if posts are thoughtful and helpful, as yours is. But sources usually are highly regarded, and typically influence the scores that answers get. That's what I was trying to communicate - I hope you'll stick around! – Nathaniel is protesting Jun 11 '16 at 2:58
  • Wow, @Tim , that was beautiful! Being of the persuasion that the so-called New Testament is much more so a midrash [commentary] of the Tanakh, or Hebrew Scriptures, I'm increasingly finding that virtually everything Jesus says therein is based on something or other from the Tanakh. This, I believe, is an example of one which I wish someone had told me about before. – Adinkra Jul 1 '16 at 16:56
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I also identify as an evangelical universalist and would echo Tim's answer here regarding the context of stillbirth.

I thought I'd also add an excerpt from George Macdonald (19th-century Scottish author, poet, Christian minister; spiritual mentor of C.S. Lewis) related to this question, as he is a figure many/most evangelical universalists resonate with. From 'Unspoken Sermons' in the sermon 'It Shall Not Be Forgiven' (all in the public domain):

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," said the Divine, making excuse for his murderers, not after it was all over, but at the very moment when he was dying by their hands. Then Jesus had forgiven them already. His prayer the Father must have heard, for he and the Son are one. When the Father succeeded in answering his prayer, then his forgiveness in the hearts of the murderers broke out in sorrow, repentance, and faith. Here was a sin dreadful enough surely— but easy for our Lord to forgive. All that excuse for the misled populace! Lord Christ be thanked for that! That was like thee! But must we believe that Judas, who repented even to agony, who repented so that his high-prized life, self, soul, became worthless in his eyes and met with no mercy at his own hand,—must we believe that he could find no mercy in such a God? I think, when Judas fled from his hanged and fallen body, he fled to the tender help of Jesus, and found it—I say not how. He was in a more hopeful condition now than during any moment of his past life, for he had never repented before. But I believe that Jesus loved Judas even when he was kissing him with the traitor's kiss; and I believe that he was his Saviour still. And if any man remind me of his words, "It had been good for that man if he had not been born," I had not forgotten them, though I know that I now offer nothing beyond a conjectural explanation of them when I say: Judas had got none of the good of the world into which he had been born. He had not inherited the earth. He had lived an evil life, out of harmony with the world and its God. Its love had been lost upon him. He had been brought to the very Son of God, and had lived with him as his own familiar friend; and he had not loved him more, but less than himself. Therefore it had been all useless. "It had been good for that man if he had not been born;" for it was all to try over again, in some other way—inferior perhaps, in some other world, in a lower school. He had to be sent down the scale of creation which is ever ascending towards its Maker. But I will not, cannot believe, O my Lord, that thou wouldst not forgive thy enemy, even when he repented, and did thee right. Nor will I believe that thy holy death was powerless to save thy foe—that it could not reach to Judas. Have we not heard of those, thine own, taught of thee, who could easily forgive their betrayers in thy name? And if thou forgivest, will not thy forgiveness find its way at last in redemption and purification?

Look for a moment at the clause preceding my text: "He that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God." What does it mean? Does it mean—"Ah! you are mine, but not of my sort. You denied me. Away to the outer darkness"? Not so. "It shall be forgiven to him that speaketh against the Son of man;" for He may be but the truth revealed without him. Only he must have shame before the universe of the loving God, and may need the fire that burneth and consumeth not.

But for him that speaketh against the Spirit of Truth, against the Son of God revealed within him, he is beyond the teaching of that Spirit now. For how shall he be forgiven? The forgiveness would touch him no more than a wall of stone. Let him know what it is to be without the God he hath denied. Away with him to the Outer Darkness! Perhaps that will make him repent.”

1

While not a universalist, I can posit that a universalist inerrantist would principally invoke the classification of hyperbole, and say that for someone to abandon such apostolic potential to enter the messianic community was for the individual ever so tragic. Logically to never have been born, at least if it meant to never have been conceived, could never be better for a person, since there would have been no corresponding meaning to the word ‘person’ – unless we argue for prebiological spirits awaiting mortal homes (Origen). Certainly to say that Judas would have been better if Judas had never existed, is an oxymoron. Yeshua perhaps was not invoking a literalism, and did go in for hyperbole. A universalist might well add that ultimately the son of perdition, like the father of perdition, would be claimed by Love as a true child, howbeit having suffered great loss for his sin.

Nicodemus was born into Yahweh’s kingdom, Ethnic Israel, but could not even see God’s kingdom unless born from above – levels of kingdom meaning are implied in Jhn.3:3. So there is scope to evangelically argue that ‘eternal life’, equated with kingdom entrance, has both a steak on the plate dimension, as well as a pie in the sky one. To a universalist, might losing the former not warrant the dominical lament that one who walked with the light of the world should die in darkness?

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    I imagine that what you include here is a significant part of their argument, but this post would be much stronger with some citations of the writings of evangelical universalists. – Nathaniel is protesting Oct 30 '15 at 23:25
  • Wow. I read two whole paragraphs and had no idea about what I was reading. – Steve Oct 31 '15 at 13:36
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Universalists don't have to "reconcile" any such question or, indeed, any other question whatsoever. The only reconciliation that was ever needed has been taken care of by God: "...through Him to reconcile all to Him (making peace through the blood of His cross), through Him, whether those on the earth or those in the heavens." (Colossians 1:20) The "all" on the earth and in the heavens, includes you, me, Judas and Satan. Judas may not get eonian life (incorrectly translated "eternal life"), but he will certainly be justified and reconciled by the blood of Christ at the consummation (i.e., the end of the eons), when death is abolished and all have immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:22-28)

Here is a set of questions which should stimulate the intellect on anyone contemplating this issue:

  1. Would humanity be better off today had Judas never been born?

  2. Whose intent and purpose was accomplished by the death of Christ on the cross? Was it Satan's or God's?

One other point to consider: Most Christians seem to be stuck on the word "salvation" rather than look to "reconciliation" as the ultimate goal. Salvation is temporary (i.e., it pertains to the eons), while reconciliation goes beyond the eons. In other words, those who are saved get life for the next two eons (i.e., "eonian life") as well as immortality, whereas those who are not saved are dead until the consummation of the eons, at which time they get immortality.

Following is a quote from A.E. Knoch's article "The God of Judas Iscariot," which sheds further light on the fate of Judas (http://www.concordant.org/expohtml/TheProblemOfEvil/evil018.html):

THE GLORY OF GOD

No man is "responsible" for his own birth. "To be or not to be" is not a problem for a creature. The Creator has kept such matters under His own control. Hence He alone is "responsible". If it were good for Judas never to have been born, the only one to be blamed is the One Who alone could foresee his career and prevent his birth. Yet He, on the contrary, predicted his course and made his birth inevitable. God's Word would have been found untrue if Judas had never been born. Hence it was good for God that Judas was born. And what glorifies God is always a blessing to His creatures. It is good for us that Judas was born. And, in view of God's glorious ultimate, we may be sure that Judas himself will praise and adore God for giving him birth. The words in our popular versions are utterly false [see article below to see why this is so]. It would not be good for Judas if he had never been born.

We have well nigh lost the true idea of deity. We speak of God as "allowing" this and "permitting" that, as though He could not help Himself. We have forgotten that He is Elohim, the great Disposer, Who works all according to the counsel of His own will. We refuse to believe that all is out of Him. As a result we are timid when called upon to face the facts in the case of Judas, for we fear for the God of Judas. If Judas is eternally damned our fears are justified, for he will drag down with him the Deity Who predicted his career and doomed him before he had been born. But, if Judas is eventually saved, all of these fears are groundless, and we can look into the face of God unafraid, with holy awe, as we bow in submission and acquiescence to His will. Some day we will see that the terrible tragedy of the present will issue in the unspeakable glory of the future.

Leaving Judas' own fate out of the matter, what about the future of the God of Judas. Shall this man be an eternal eyesore in His universe? Shall God's glory be eclipsed forever by His dealings with the traitor? He claims to be Love. Is it love to doom and condemn the helpless? Justice is the foundation of His throne. But how can He justify His condemnation of Judas before he had even been born? His wisdom can cope with any problem. Then why did it fail in Judas' case? Every attribute that adorns the Deity is called into question if Judas is eternally lost. His is a test case. Declarations are empty unless accomplished by deeds. If God's acts deny His words He will lose the confidence of all His creatures. It is not Judas' fate, but God's deity which is at stake.

But the love of God is wise. The case of Judas will prove it, not deny it. By saving one who sinned so fearfully, God's affection for His creatures will be displayed, not eclipsed. And the love of God is just. In justifying one whose hands were reddened with the blood of the great Sacrifice, His righteousness will be revealed, not violated. Judas' dreadful deed was committed under the very shadow of the cross. Who dares to limit the value of the blood of Golgotha, to confine the abiding efficacy of that august Sacrifice? God has made it the basis of reconciliation with all (Col.1:20). He has the ability. He has the wisdom. He has the love. And He will do it! Adored be His holy Name!

From the article "Better had Judas not been born? Matthew 26:24" (http://www.hopebeyondhell.net/book-update-better-had-judas-not-been-born-mt-2624/):

Matthew 26:24 or 24b from 13 Translations:

“The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him [the Son of man]: but woe to that man [Judas] by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed: it were better for him [the Son of man], if that man [Judas] had not been born.” – Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (Bolding in brackets mine for emphasis. Same principle applies in following translations)

“The Son of Man, indeed, goeth his way, according as it is written concerning him,—But alas! for that man, through whom the Son of Man, is being delivered up: Well, had it been for him if, that man, had not been born!” – Rotherham Translation

“Forsooth man’s Son goeth, as it is written of him; but woe to that man, by whom man’s Son shall be betrayed; it were good to him, if that man had not been born”. – Wycliffe N. T.

“The Son of Mankind is indeed going away, according as it is written concerning Him, yet woe to that man through whom the Son of Mankind is being given up! Ideal were it for Him if that man were not born.” – Concordant Literal Translation

“The Son of Man doth indeed go, as it has been written concerning him, but woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is delivered up! Good it were for him if that man had not been born.” – Young’s Literal Translation

“…for him if that man.” (footnote lit.) – New American Standard Bible (Updated Edition 1995)

“…for him if that man.” (footnote gr.) – Revised Version (1881)

“…for him if that man.” (footnote gr.) – American Standard Version (1901)

“…for him were it better, such a human were never born.” – Dr. Leander Van Ess, German Version

“On the one hand, the Son of the Man (=Adam’s son; = the representative human; = the eschatological messianic figure) is progressively leading the way under (or: is now going away) – just as (correspondingly as) it has been written about and concerning Him. Yet tragic will be the fate for THAT MAN through whom the Son of the Man is in the process of being turned over. It was continuing being beautiful for Him [i.e., for the Son of the man] (or; It was being ideal to Him; It was existing fine for Him) – if THAT MAN was not brought to birth (or: had [just] not been born)!” – Jonathan Mitchell N.T.

“The indeed son of the man goes as it has been written about him; Woe but to the man that, through whom the son of the man is delivered up; good it was to him, if not was born the man that.” – The Diaglot New Testament

“…Ideal it-was to-him if not was-born the human that.” – Online Greek Interlinear Bible http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/mat26.pdf

“o <3588> {THE} men <3303> {INDEED} uiov <5207> tou <3588> {SON} anyrwpou <444> {OF MAN} upagei <5217> (5719) {GOES,} kaywv <2531> {AS} gegraptai <1125> (5769) {IT HAS BEEN WRITTEN} peri <4012> {CONCERNING} autou <846> {HIM,} [Christ] ouai <3759> de <1161> tw <3588> {BUT WOE} anyrwpw <444> ekeinw <1565> {TO THAT MAN} [Judas] di <1223> {BY} ou <3739> {WHOM} o <3588> {THE} uiov <5207> tou <3588> {SON} anyrwpou <444> {OF MAN} paradidotai <3860> (5743) {IS DELIVERED UP;} kalon <2570> {GOOD} hn <2258> (5713) {WERE IT} autw <846> {FOR HIM} [Christ] ei <1487> ouk <3756> {IF} egennhyh <1080> (5681) o <3588> {HAD NOT BEEN BORN} anyrwpov <444> ekeinov <1565> {THAT MAN.}” [Judas] – Interlinear Greek – English New Testament

  • Welcome to Christianity.SE. For a quick overview of what this site is about, please take the Site Tour. Also, please consider registering an account here. Your answer looks like it might be a good one, but it would help if you could refer to materials by Evangelical Universalist leaders or churches supporting your statements. See: What makes a good supported answer? – Lee Woofenden Jan 3 '16 at 19:51
  • For materials supporting my statements, other than the scriptures themselves, the reader can search the writings of A.E. Knoch: "The Problem of Evil and the Judgments of God" (concordant.org/expohtml/TheProblemOfEvil/index.html), and in particular "The God of Judas Iscariot" (concordant.org/expohtml/TheProblemOfEvil/evil018.html). – user9754 Jan 3 '16 at 23:55
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    It's not really the reader's job here to search for the support. The answers themselves are supposed to provide that. If you could edit your answer to add those links, and a few key quotes from each one supporting your statements, it would make your answer a much stronger one. – Lee Woofenden Jan 4 '16 at 0:33
  • @user9754 : Nice breakdown of different translations. Did you find them all in one place or is it from a collection that you've been building up, or something else? – Adinkra Jul 1 '16 at 16:59
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I don't know what category I identify myself in. I'm not a Christian scholar and don't belong to any one church though I have been a member of different sects of Christian beliefs, Pentecostal, Presbyterian and Baptist. I'm y take is somewhat unique in the fact that from the third part of Matt 25 "sheeps and goats" Jesus is asked how do you get into heaven. You see Jewish including Jews for Jesus beliefs include works as a requirement to enter heaven and so this verse reinforces that requirement. The verses that a person who has heard the word and believes in Jesus's redemption but who waylays the flock by Blasphemous mis-quotes or who stubbornly refuses to obey God (unrepentant sins) is cursed so bad that he would be better to have never been born. Seeing that all one needs to have eternal life is to accept Jesus Christ into your heart at least one time and confess your sins and believe that he died as a sacrifice for your sins is the sole requirement for eternal life. There are other parts that supports the concept that belief or salvation and works or obedience to all of God's commandments including those other commandments that Jesus in the flesh stated one must do in order to be with God. Salvation is not enough. We see Jesus stating that throughout the new testament. For example the statement that a lukewarm Christian is distasteful to Jesus, the condemnation of the wolves in sheep's clothing and the Hippocrate who prays in front of the church for all to see. Matt 5 at the beginning reinforces love thy neighbor with love your enemies a radical idea at the time ( and if you don't think that is a commandment than I'm spreading pearls to swine. The statements that works without Faith and Faith without works are dead or avails a man not supports this as well. The reason that I'm writing this is that I've run across an Evangelical belief that tear at the heart of this interpretation and serve to twist the intent of The Word made flesh message by prioritizing faith as the sole indicator of Christian salvation and that one may eschew works and that is okay. This belief is particular to a small but growing number of evangelicals who also might include those who believe that lesser evils are okay as long as they are for the greater good or are done for the greater Glory of God. That is a particularly distasteful concept held by The Catholic church and imported into Protestant circles by Calvin as well as his merit based charity that is also so clearly refuted by Matt 5: the command that we treat sinners and the faithful equally is so clear there that it's a wonder why anyone would believe that nonsense. For does not God make the rain to fall upon and the sun to shine on the wicked and the rightous. Jesus latter tells us to "be perfect like God", if this isn't an order and a definition of Christian beliefs life in action than what the heck is? So in answer to your question yes Judas was cursed when he betrayed Jesus (he heard Jesus the Word professed beliefs in his divine origins (implied rather than stated biblically) and still sinned which when you go back to Jesus's promise that if you believe in him you will have eternal life but willful disobedience is rewarded with wishing you were never born fulfills the curse on Judas. Now here's the fly in the ointment. The question begs another did Judas ever repent after the betrayal of Jesus, it's never answered! Barring the politics and the extreme shame and hurt feelings that the other apostles surely most have felt Judas life after his betrayal is never mentioned so we most go back to God's covenant and Jesus requirements in order to hypothesize any outcomes. So if Judas did repent and turn back to God later in life than the promise or covenant that God and Jesus made is that Yes salvation was in Judas's reach. If he never repented buying into the great lie that all who believe in Christ are tempted with that his sin was my too great than no he was cursed and although he may have eternal life he will be forever barred from entering heaven. While an event such as Judas's reconciliation with God would be worthy of mentioning in the Bible the politics of the time preclude us from ever knowing without a reasonable doubt. Suffice it to say that the question could Judas have been saved and returned to God's good graces is one that explores the patience, love and forgiveness of the Almighty and is itself all the answers that a faithful believer needs in their walk with God! Edit: getting hung up on the question if it would be better if anyone including Judas would never be born some I see here take a somewhat literal direction and confuse serve the purpose of rather than understanding that Jesus's quote refers to the terrible consequences and how one would wish they were never born I mean come on is it not clear. You believe in God you confess your sins you start obeying his commandments both greater and smaller. Than what, something in your life causes you to turn away from God and become an unrepentant wilful sinner. So now you have eternal life and are barred from ever being with God is it not clear that that is the hell the eternal torment mentioned in the Bible. What use is eternal life if you can never touch or be with God or his creation, wouldn't anyone put in that predicament wish they were never born. The statement is made with a conjectural context without a specific person in mind.

  • Please break up this wall of text into comprehensble, and conventional, paragraphs. Welcome to ChristianitySE. The tour and the help center describe how this is not an internet forum. Guidance for how to answer is here. Thanks for joining in. – KorvinStarmast Oct 17 at 16:57

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