Wednesday, February 18, 2009

There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth...The missing verse clarification from the manuscript tradition

At church, I've been teaching a class entitled, "Hell, Heaven, and the Afterlife." Recently, I've been discussing the literal and metaphorical understandings of Hell. Among the stack of books I've utilized is Four Views On Hell (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1996). I found the following citation from William Crockett's chapter most interesting:

Fire and darkness, of course, are not the only images we have of hell in the New Testament. The wicked are said to weep and gnash their teeth, their worm never dies, and they are beaten with many blows. No one thinks hell will involve actual beatings or is a place where the maggots of the dead achieve immortality. Equally, no one thinks that gnashing teeth is anything other than an image of hell's grim reality. In the past some have wondered about people who enter hell toothless. How will they grind their teeth? In 1950, Professor Coleman-Norton at Princeton University tried to provide an answer to this momentous question in an article entitled, "An Amusing Agraphon." He claimed to have found, in a Moroccon mosque during the Second World War, a Greek fragment containing Matthew 24:51, "there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." When one of the disciples asks how this can before those without teeth, Jesus replies, "Teeth will be provided." "However amusing one may regard this account," comments Bruce Metzger, "there is no doubt at all that the agraphon is a forgery." Before the war, says Metzger, Coleman-Norton often told the story "about dentures being provided in the next world so that all the damned might be able to weep and gnash their teeth." (p.60)


David Waltz said...

Hello James,

Very interesting ‘find’. I know that I read this book shortly after its publication, but have totally forgotten about this variant reading. Given the fact that the fragment was from a “Moroccon mosque”, I suspect that there was some influence from the Qur’an, which depicts the replacing of body parts in hell.

Grace and peace,


Churchmouse said...
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Churchmouse said...

I don't know if anyone would agree, but I've always thought that "weeping and gnashing of teeth" indicated the sadness and torment in hell. In the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, found in Luke 16, it is evident that the rich man retained his memories. He asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his father's house, to warn his brothers of "this place of torment" (NASB). To retain memories of loved ones in an eternal hell must be a great source of sadness. To "gnash teeth" implies substantial pain. The rich man was in "torment" (Lk. 16:23...being in torment. Vs. 24...I am in agony in this flame. are in agony. Vs. that they will not also come to this place of torment. I believe that Scripture is clear that hell is a place of torment, but it does indicate that the torment will be duofold.