Mark 3:28-29 and Universalism

The universalist states that there is no unforgivable sin because all people who have ever lived will ultimately be reconciled to God; in other words, all sins from all people who have ever lived will be forgiven. However, if there were a sin that will never be forgiven, then Universalism would be proven wrong. Mark 3:28-29 are important verses in showing that there is an unforgivable sin.

"Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin," (NASB).

The Greek Interlinear of Mark 3:28-29 is as follows:

Verses 28 and 29 are in contrast to each other. Verse 28 says that all sins shall be forgiven. Verse 29 clarifies the statement and flatly says that there is a sin that "never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin." This sin is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit -- which is stating that Jesus did His miracles by the power of the devil.

Verse 29 has the contrasting preposition "but", Greek "de." The use of the word "but" is showing that there is a contrast, or an exception to the previous statement. All sins are forgivable, but blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not. That is why the word "but" is there, to show that there is a qualification, an exception to the first statement.

So, how do the universalists answer this verse? They do it in two ways. First, they say that the word "aiona", "age" can mean a period of time that ends. Now, this is true sometimes and not others. There are verses that use the word "aiona" that can refer to non-eternal duration (John 8:35; Luke 1:55) and there are verses that use it and mean eternal duration (Matt. 21:19; Mark 11:14; John 4:14; 6:51; 6:58, etc.). It is the context that determines the meaning of the word. But it is big mistake to think that "aiona" always means a finite time.

It is a conjecture on the Universalists part that the word "age", in Mark 3:29, means a definite period of time that will end. But that isn't the case. As I said, Jesus is contrasting the second statement (unforgivable sin) with the first statement (forgivable sin). Second, the Universalist will go to Matt. 12:32 which says,

"And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come."

They state that "the age to come" is the 1000 year reign of Christ which will end. Therefore, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will be forgiven after the 1000 year reign. They then state that Mark 3:29 must be interpreted in light of Matt. 12:32.

Granted, we must look at all the verses on a subject in order to get an accurate understanding what is said. But, the logic of the Universalist is wrong. Here is why.

  1. Mark 3:29 states that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (BHS) will never be forgiven.
    1. This verse clearly states the impossibility of forgiveness of this sin.
  2. Matt 12:32 states that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven "in this age or the age to come."
    1. If Matt 12:32 is interpreted to mean that BHS will be forgiven, then that contradicts Mark 3:29 which states it will not be forgiven.
    2. If Matt 12:32 is interpreted to mean that BHS will not be forgiven, then it does not contradict Mark 3:29.
  3. Therefore, the only way to harmonize both verses is to say that Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is unforgivable.
  4. If Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is unforgivable, then Universalism is wrong.

A comparison of translations

Instead of trying to define the Greek text ad nauseum explaining how and why words are translated, I've simply supplied ten Bible translations along with a commonly used Universalist translation of these two verses.

Bible Version Mark 3:28-29
NASB "Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"
NIV I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."
NKJV "Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29"but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation"
KJV Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:
RSV "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"
1901 ASV Verily I say unto you, All their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and their blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29but whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin:
Phillips "Believe me, all men's sins can be forgiven and all their blasphemies. But there can never be any forgiveness for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. That is an eternal sin."
Darby Verily I say unto you, that all sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men, and all the injurious speeches [with] which they may speak injuriously; 29 but whosoever shall speak injuriously against the Holy Spirit, to eternity has no forgiveness; but lies under the guilt of an everlasting sin;
BWE `I tell you the truth. All wrong things that people do and say about anyone will be forgiven. 29 But people who say wrong things against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. A person who does that will be punished for ever.'
Weymouth "In solemn truth I tell you that all their sins may be pardoned to the sons of men, and all their blasphemies, however they may have blasphemed; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, he remains for ever unabsolved: he is guilty of a sin of the Ages."
Concordant
(Universalist translation)
28 "Verily, I am saying to you that all shall be pardoned the sons of mankind, the penalties of the sins and the blasphemies, whatsoever they should be blaspheming, 29 yet whoever should be blaspheming against the holy spirit is having no pardon for the eon, but is liable to the eonian penalty for the sin" --

First of all, the ten translations above, all done by very reputable scholars, all say the same thing: Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven -- ever!

If you notice, the Concordant version (done by Universalists) did not translate the Greek words "eon" (age) and "eonian" (eternal) into English, but left them transliterated. In fact, the word in Greek is not "eon" but "aiona."

All other words are in plain English accept for these two. Why? I believe it is because they wanted to influence the way the text sounds and is interpreted. By not translating the words, and by telling you that the word "eon" only means a duration of time with an ending, then, the universalists can get you to accept the idea that Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is forgivable and that their theology is correct. There is just one problem. It isn't.

 

 

 

 
 
CARM ison
 
 

CONTACT US:
CARM Office number: 208-466-1301
Office hours: M-F; 9-5 pm; Mountain Time
Email: [email protected]
Mailing Address: CARM, PO BOX 1353, Nampa ID 83653