A SHORT WORD STUDY ON “TORMENT”

hear on fire

Revelation 14:10–11 (NKJV)

 “he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

In this well-known passage of scripture from Revelation in the New King James Bible and is similar in other popular translations we have as our subject the word “tormented”. It is translated from the Greek word BASANIZŌ. In the Strong’s Greek dictionary it is number 928. When we begin our study of this word one can quickly become quite puzzling as to the actual meaning of the original Greek word. Here are a few examples:

The new Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson: – Strong, J. (1997).

  1. βασανίζω basanizō, bas-an-id´-zo; from 931; to torture:— pain, toil, torment, toss, vex.

In the – Ephesians Four Group. Greek Dictionary:

to test (metals) by the touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the color of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal

In the New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : Updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.:- Thomas, R. L. (1998).

  1. βασανίζω basanizō; from 931; to torture:—battered(1), felt … tormented(1), pain(1), straining(1), torment(4), tormented(4)

In the  Vine’s Expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words (325). Old Tappan NJ: Revell.- Vine, W., & Bruce, F. (1981). Vol. 2:

BASANIZŌ (βασανίζω , (928)), properly signifies to test by rubbing on the touchstone (basanos, a touchstone)

Here is the misunderstanding

In these four references we have conflicting meanings. You will notice that two of them have the meaning of the word as is traditionally taught “torture” “pain” “torment” etc. that’s all! No other definition is given i.e. exclusively torment! This is what these would have you believe to be the word’s only meaning... In the other two dictionaries we have it as literally “a touchstone” meaning to test for purity. As I said, traditional readings have for the most part chosen to go with the definition “torment” without giving the English reader any idea that there is actually another and more literal definition; closer to the original writer’s intent. The reason for this choice can be found in the following work in this reference;


theo.dictVol. 1 of 10: Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (561–562). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

The βάσανος originally belongs to the calling of the inspector of coins. It is linked with the Heb. root בחן (“to test”) and the Egyptian bḫn; (“basalt”). According to K. Sethe. bhn is the word which underlies the Heb. בחן2 and the Gk. βάσανος. βάσανος is generally accepted to be a loan word. βασανίτης is most closely related to it. Βασανίτου λίθου ὄρος is the mountain of the bḫn stone. R. Herzog3 thinks that he may deduce from the etymological development that the ars spectandi, the testing of gold and silver as media of exchange by the proving stone, was first developed by the Babylonians, then came to the Aramaeans and Hebrews by way of Lydia (Λυδίαλίθος [Bacchyl. Fr., 14, 1, Blass]; βάσανος, Bacchyl., 8, 58), and from them to the Gks. In non-biblical Gk. βάσανος is a commercial expression, or is used in relation to government. It then acquires the meaning of the checking of calculations, which develops naturally out of the basic sense of βάσανος, βασανίζειν (P. Oxy., 58, 25 [288 A.D.]). In the spiritual sphere it has the figure, sense, which is closely related to the original concrete meaning, of a means of testing (Anth. Pal., VII, 54: ἀνδρῶν κρινομένων ἐν βασάνῳ σοφίης).

  The word then undergoes a change in meaning. The original sense fades into the background. βάσανος now comes to denote “torture” or “the rack,” espec. used with slaves (P. Lille, I, 29, 22; Ditt. Syll.3, 356, 12). βάσανος occurs in the sense of “torment” in Theocr. Idyll., 13, p. 13, 5, Meineke; Thom. Mag., p. 94, 4, Ritschl; Demetr. Eloc., 201, 4. An inscription from Cyprus (Salamis), BCH, 51 (1927), 148, 18, contains the malediction: ἐν βασάνοις ἀπόλοιτο. Vet. Val., IV, 13, p. 182, 19, Kroll has a reference to torments of soul (ψυχικὰς βασάνους).5

None of the works cited above showing the change in meaning of the word from its ORIGNAL MEANING – from testing to torment is earlier than the third century AD. (Keep this in mind)

The change in meaning is best explained if we begin with the object of treatment. If we put men instead of metal or a coin, the stone of testing become torture or the rack. The metal which has survived the testing stone is subjected to harsher treatment. Man is in the same position when severely tested by torture. In the testing of metal an essential role was played by the thought of testing and proving genuineness. The rack is a means of showing the true state of affairs. In its proper sense it is a means of testing and proving, 6 though also of punishment. Finally, even this special meaning was weakened and only the general element of torment remained 

[End excerpt]


Now let’s look closely at this. This reference above repeatedly says the original meaning of the word is and I quote

“the testing of gold and silver as media of exchange by the proving stone, was first developed by the Babylonians”

“the original concrete meaning, of a means of testing”

“the thought of testing and proving genuineness”

“a means of testing”

Then this resource says:

“Finally, even this special meaning was weakened and only the general element of torment remained”

The defenders of eternal torment and those who would justify these bible translators and their translations use of the word “torment and tormented” instead of a means of testing or proving and even purifying – I will get to that a little later; will say that because of the “change in meaning of the word in secular writings” therefore people’s understanding of the word would have changed.  They thereby justify not only changing the meaning in their translations but as you can see above even in the dictionaries definitions. I would like to remind the translators and editors of these translations and dictionaries and those who would agree with them as I have pointed out above in the previous resource on the etymology of the word – the reason for and justification of the change in meaning of the word through the works that are cited ARE THREE HUNDRED PLUS YEARS LATER THAN BIBLICAL TIMES!!!  So they think they should use a definition or a secular understanding of the word that didn’t come into existence until over three hundred years later; to justify their translating what the biblical writers meant in their writings that are Three Hundred Years Prior to that definition even coming into existence is totally irrational!  This type of thinking from especially supposed scholars is just plain scary.  Unless you factor in the possibility that they are PURPOSELY trying to mislead you and justify themselves with a ridiculous argument that they hope you will not notice. They must be counting on you not thinking for yourself and doing a little studying on your own. There seems to be an agenda here, it is obvious when you have authorized dictionaries contradicting each other. They can’t both be right. One has to be SERIOUSLY WRONG considering the grave nature of the subject! I think I just proved beyond any doubt which it HAS TO BE.

Now, to further clarify and verify that this word BASANIZŌ Strong’s number G928 must and logically means to “test for the purpose of proving” then leading on to purifying within the context of its use here; let’s look at a couple other words in the context of this passage. The words “fire” and “brimstone” are connected to the word torment. Let’s see what they mean in the original language as it would apply to the context of this passage:

FIRE G4442 – In The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers: Zodhiates, S. (2000).

  1. πύρ púr; gen. purós, neut. noun. Fire

(C) Of evils, calamities, TRIALS WHICH PURIFY the faith in hearts of Christians, as fire tries and purifies the precious metals (cf. Mark 9:49; 1 Pet. 1:7; Rev. 3:18; Sept.: Is. 10:17). In 1 Cor. 3:10–15, the works of men are represented as a building of which only the inflammable parts (“gold, silver, precious stones”) can withstand fire; the worker (builder) “HIMSELLF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as BY FIRE,” means that he will escape from the fire which destroys those of his works which are “wood, hay, [and] stubble.” Fire is used in a proverbial expression, “out of the fire,” implying “with difficulty,” “scarcely” (Jude 1:23). [emphasis mine]

BRIMSTONE G2303 – In  Word studies in the New Testament (Re 14:10). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. Vincent, M. R. (2002).

Revelation 14:10Brimstone (θείῳ). Commonly taken as the neuter of θεῖος DIVINE; that is, divine incense, since burning brimstone was regarded as HAVING POWER TO PURIFY AND TO AVERT CONTAGION. [emphasis mine]

Now you see…

 The underlying Greek word translated “torment” actually meaning “a touchstone to test or proveleading to purification is in total agreement with the context in the original language! This passage is NOT speaking of eternal torment. It would have been understood by its original readers to plainly mean a period of (Greek aionion – age lasting – Not eternal – see Young’s Literal Translation of the bible) testing for purification of all things that don’t belong in the Kingdom of God; and this by God θεῖος Himself! Resulting in the eventual salvation of the lowest of sinners. You say “You mean God will let that horrible sinful so-n-so in heaven!!!” No I am NOT! Because that horrible sinful so-n-so will no longer exist because he will have had all that horrible sinful so-n-such burned up (so to speak) and so may lose all would’ve-been rewards enjoyed in eternal life – but he himself will, YES, be saved (1Cor 3:10-15) Just like you are not the same person you were before you were saved they will not be either!

Nevertheless, I would encourage one to put their faith in Christ now rather than then and not have to go through the above scenario. Because the truth is we just don’t know how long, short, horrible, hard or easy that may be for each individual. What we do know is according to Jesus, you don’t want to go there! What we also know is that in the end Christ does not lose ONE (Luke 15:1-32) – ALL will come to Him and be gathered into Him and His Kingdom which will be victorious over ALL; so then GOD will be ALL in ALL! (1Cor 15:22,28; Eph 1:10,23; Phil 2:10-11; Eph 4:10; Col 1:20; 1Tim 2:6)

HALLELUJAH!!!

Dennis D. Caldwell

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, NKJV)

Adam brought death to all of us, and Christ will bring life to all of us.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, CEV)

Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28, NKJV)

that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.” (Ephesians 1:10, NKJV)

for the government of the world when the times are ripe for it—the purpose which He has cherished in His own mind of restoring the whole creation to find its one Head in Christ; yes, things in Heaven and things on earth, to find their one Head in Him.” (Ephesians 1:10, WNT)

which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:23, NKJV)

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10–11, NKJV)

He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)” (Ephesians 4:10, NKJV)

and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” (Colossians 1:20, NKJV)

And God was pleased for him to make peace by sacrificing his blood on the cross, so that all beings in heaven and on earth would be brought back to God.” (Colossians 1:20, CEV)

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (1 Timothy 2:5–7, NKJV)

that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.” (1 Timothy 2:5–7, The Message)

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4 thoughts on “A SHORT WORD STUDY ON “TORMENT”

  1. I was raised to believe that eternal condemnation awaits those who die “not in Christ.” Admittedly, I have been unable to rule out or confirm the possibility of a poet-mortum salvation. I am not a student of Greek and, unfortunately, must rely on scholars’ interpretations. I Peter 3: 18-20 is a passage that has always intrigued me. My understanding is that the “spirits in prison” to whom Jesus preached were the souls of the antediluvian wicked who had physically died in the flood. The question raised is, “why would Jesus preach to those who had no hope of salvation (those who had died in sin)? Some have answered distinguishing the pre-cross lost from the post-cross lost, but I find this preferred position of the B.C.ers inconsistent with the “For there is no respect of persons with God” of Romans 2: 11 and weak in view of Christ’s omnipotence which includes transcending time dimensions (Even before Abraham was, I am. John 8:58).
    I don’t presume any person to have perfect knowledge, especially yours truly. You do sound like somebody who has done their research and I found your post well organized, thought-provoking and faith-challenging.

    Like

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