Damn, Damnable, Damnation


These words appear in the KJV, but not in the RSV. “Damnable” is found only in 2 Peter 2:1, where the apostle warns of false teachers who will secretly bring in “damnable heresies” (RSV “destructive heresies”). The word “damnable” does not really express the force of the Gr. word used, apōleia, which implies that the leading characteristic of the heresies of which the apostle speaks is that they lead men to destruction or perdition. The same Gr. word is tr. “damnation” in 2 Peter 2:3, where the apostle says of the false teachers that “their damnation slumbereth not” (RSV “their destruction has not been asleep”)—that is, destruction will certainly overtake them.

In the KJV the word “damnation” is used ten times and “damned” three times as trs. of the Gr. word krínō and its cognates, which the KJV renders “judge” eighty-seven times, “judgment” forty-one times, “condemn” twenty-two times, and “condemnation” eight times. There is no good reason why on thirteen occasions the stronger words “damnation” and “damned” should be used. They have a connotation today that they did not have in 1611. The Lat. word damnare, from which “damnation” is derived, means “to judge,” “condemn.” Under the influence of theology, however, the Eng. words derived from it acquired the sense of “condemnation to eternal punishment in hell,” which they have today, but which the KJV trs. did not have in mind.

In Matthew 23:14 Jesus warned the Pharisees that because of their hypocrisy they would receive “the greater condemnation,” not “the greater damnation” (KJV); and in Matthew 23:33 He asked them how they were “to escape being sentenced to hell,” not how they were to “escape the damnation of hell” (KJV).

The Lord did not warn that those guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost are in danger of “eternal damnation” (KJV), but rather that they are “guilty of an eternal sin” (RSV) (Mark 3:29); that is, this sin belongs to the sphere of the world to come.

The KJV of Mark 16:16 says that “he that believeth not shall be damned”; the RSV has, correctly, “will be condemned.”

Jesus foretold that some day all men shall rise from their graves, the good to a resurrection of life, the evil to a “resurrection of judgment” (KJV “resurrection of damnation”) (John 5:29).

Paul says of some Jews who have slandered him that their condemnation (KJV “damnation”) is just (Rom 3:8); that is, the judgment of God which will fall upon them is just.

In Romans 13:2 Christians are urged to obey the state, for those who resist it will incur “judgment” (KJV “damnation”).

The Christian who has doubts about what he eats is “condemned” (KJV “damned”) (Rom 14:23)—that is, he is condemned both by his own conscience and the Word of God.

The Christian who observes the Lord’s Supper carelessly brings “judgment” (KJV “damnation”) upon himself (1 Cor 11:29)—exposing himself to severe temporal judgments from God.

God will send upon unbelievers and evildoers in the tribulation period a strong delusion “so that all may be condemned” (KJV “damned”) (2 Thess 2:12).

Young widows who have violated their first pledge incur “condemnation,” not “damnation” (KJV) (1 Tim 5:12). See Condemn.

Bibliography R. Bridges and L. A. Weigle, The Bible Word Book (1960), 92, 93; TNDT, III (1965), 921-942.