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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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The word ἀπώλεια is rendered both ‘destruction’ and ‘perdition’ in the NT (AV_ and RV_). It is not always easy to say with positiveness which translation is preferable. Jesus came ‘to seek and to save that which was lost’ (τὸ ἀπολωλός, Luke 19:10), those who were still alive, not destroyed. Judas is called ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας (John 17:12), ‘son of perdition,’ and the same phrase is used of ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας, ‘the man of sin,’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, which is variously interpreted of the Roman Emperor, the Roman Empire, or a false Messiah (cf. Revelation 13). The notion here is not the ruin wrought by ‘the son of perdition’ so much as that coming to him. In Philippians 3:19 the RV_ translates ὧν τὸ τέλος ἀπώλεια, ‘whose end is perdition,’ not ‘destruction’ as the AV_, because τέλος is a future and final punishment. And yet in 2 Peter 3:7 the RV_ has displaced ‘perdition’ of the AV_ by ‘destruction.’ So the RV_ has ‘destruction’ in the other passages in 2 Pet. (2 Peter 2:1 bis 2 Peter 3:16). In 1 Timothy 6:9 εἱς ὄλεθρον καὶ ἀπώλειαν the RV_ distinguishes between the two and gives ‘destruction and perdition,’ but no consistent principle of distinction exists in the translation of ἀπώλεια in the NT. The advocates of annihilation and conditional immortality appeal to the etymology of the word ἀπόλλυμι. The advocates of probation after death likewise argue that there is nothing in ἀπώλεια to mean interminable punishment. The contrast, however, is sharply drawn in Philippians 1:28 and Hebrews 10:39 between those who are saved and those who fall into perdition; cf. also Revelation 17:8; Revelation 17:11, where it describes the state of eternal misery, the lot of those excluded from the Kingdom of God. The word is common in the LXX_ and appears in Aristotle, Nic. Eth. IV. i. 5, Polybius, VI. lix. 5, etc. Even when translated ‘destruction’ in the RV_ the word may still have the notion of eternal misery and not mere annihilation (see Destruction). But it must be admitted that the term ἀπώλεια does not decide the question whether ‘perdition’ is interminable or limited (see Fire, vol. i. p. 409 f.). We may well leave the problem of a second probation to God, after remarking that it has very slender support in the NT outside of the possible interpretation of 1 Peter 3:19 f. The Christian preacher is on safe ground when he warns the sinner not to risk the vague chance of that alternative. The problem of eternal life or death is settled by the issues of this life. See, further, Destruction, Eschatology, and Fire.

A. T. Robertson.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Perdition'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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