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calls the idea of such a place of punishment, and by many it will be deemed the worst of heresies, to give it any other signification. The cry of heresy ought not, however, to deter us from candidly inquiring, “what is truth?” on this deeply interesting question.
It is well known that there are four words in the original languages of the Bible, which are all translated by the word hell, in our common English version. These are Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna. The two first of these words are sometimes translated
grave, as well as hell; the two last always hell in the common translation.
There is one fact, which deserves attention at the outset, of which many readers of the Bible are ignorant. The fact I allude to, is, that the word sheol, hell does not occur in the Old Testament, where it means a place of eternal misery for the wicked.* The fact is indisputable; no man can doubt it who will take the trouble to examine this matter for himself. Nor is this a novel opinion, or a new discovery of mine. The fact is attested by some of the ablest writers, who believed in this doctrine. Dr. Campbell, in bis 6th Preliminary Dissertion, thus writes :—" as to the word Hades which occurs in eleven places of the New Testament, and is rendered hell in all, except one, where it is translated grave, it is quite common in the classical authors, and frequently used by the Seventy, in the translation of the Old Testament. In my judgment it ought never in Scripture to be rendered hell, at least in the sense wherein that word is now universally understood by Christians. In the Old Testament, the corresponding word is Sheol, which signifies the state of the dead in general, without regard to the goodness or badness of the persons, their happiness or misery. In translating
* Professor Stuart says—" sheol designates future punishment,” but adds, we must also admit, that it does not determine, of itself, the duration of that punishment.” Exeget. Essays, p. 107.
that word, the Seventy have almost invariably used Hades. This word is also used sometimes in rendering the nearly synonymous words or phrases bor and abne bor, the pit, and stones of the pit, tsal moth, the shades of death, dumeh, silence. The state is always represented under those figures which suggest something dreadful, dark, and silent, about which the most prying eye, and listening ear, can acquire no information. The term Hades, is well adapted to express this idea. It was written anciently, as we learn from the poets (for what is called the poetic, is nothing but the ancient dialect) aides, ab a privativo et eido video, and signifies obscure, hidden, invisible. To this the word Hell in its primitive signification, perfectly corresponded. For, at first, it denoted only what was secret or concealed. This word is found with little variation of form, and precisely in the same meaning, in all the Teutonic dialects.
“But though our word hell in its original signification, was more adapted to express the sense of Hades than of Gehenna, it is not so now. When we speak as Christians, we always express by it, the place of the punishment of the wicked after the general judgment, as opposed to heaven, the place of the reward of the righteous. It is true, that in translating heathen poets, we retain the old sense of the word hell, which answers to the Latin orcus, or rather infernus, as when we speak of the descent of Eneas, or of Orpheus, into hell. Now the word infernus, in Latin, comprehends the recepta, cle of all the dead, and contains both elysium, the place of the blessed, and Tartarus, the abode of the miserable. The term inferni, comprehends all the inhabitants good and bad, happy and wretched. The Latin words infernus, and inferni, bear evident traces of the notion that the repository of the souls of the departed is under ground.* This appears also to have been the opinion of both Greeks and Hebrews, and indeed of all antiquity. How far the ancient practice of burying the body, may have contributed to produce this idea concerning the mansion of the ghosts of the deceased, I shall not take upon me to say, but it is very plain, that neither in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, nor in the New, does the word Hades convey the
* What sacred writer, I ask, says, “the repository of the souls of the
meaning which the present English word HELL, in the Christian usage, always conveys to our minds.
“ It were endless to illustrate this remark, by an enumeration and examination of all the passages in both Testaments wherein the word is found. The attempt would be unnecessary, as it is hardly now pretended by any critic, that this is the acceptation of the term in the Old Testament. Who, for example would render the words of the venerable patriarch Jacob, Gen. xxxvïi. 35, when he was deceived by his sons into the opinion that his favorite child Joseph had been devoured by a wild beast, I will go down to hell to my son mourning? or the words which he used, ch. xlii. 38, when they expostulated with him about sending his youngest son Benjamin into Egypt along with them, Ye will bring down my gray
hairs with sorrow to hell ? Yet in both places the word, in the original, is Sheol, and in the version of the Seventy, Hades. I shall only add, that in the famous passage from the Psalms, xvi. 10, quoted in the Acts of the Apostles, Acts ii. 27, of which I shall have occasion to take notice afterwards, though the word is the same both in Hebrew and in Greek, as in the two former quotations, and though it is in both places rendered hell in the common version, it would be absurd to understand it as denoting the place of the damned, whether the expression be interpreted literally of David the type, or of Jesus Christ the antitype, agreeably to
departed is under ground ?" We shall see afterwards, from Dr. Campbell himself, and Whitby, that this is a heathen notion. Mr. Stuart confirms this.
its principle and ultimate object.”—I have made this long quotation from Dr. Campbell at the outset for several reasons.
1st, It shows that Sheol of the Old Testament, and Hades of the New, both translated by our English word hell, did not originally signify a place of misery for the wicked, but simply the staie of the dead, without regard to the goodness or badness of the persons, their happiness or misery. It follows of course, that wherever those two words are used in Scripture, though translated by the word hell, we ought not to understand a place of misery to be meant by the inspired writers.
2d, It establishes also, that our English word hell, in its primitive signification, perfectly corresponded to Hades and Sheol, and did not, as it now does, signify a place of misery. It denoted only what was secret or concealed. What we wish to be noticed here, is, that people generally have connected the idea of misery with the word hell, but it is evident that it is a very false association. It is beyond all controversy, that the word hell is changed from its original signification to ex
press this idea.
3d, It is also obvious from the above quotation, and from other authors which might be quoted, that Gehenna is the word which is supposed to express the idea of a place of endless misery. The correctness of this opinion we shall consider afterwards. At present it need only be observed, that if the opinion be correct, it is somewhat surprising that the English word hell must
a new sense to accomodate it with a name. Nor, was this the original sense of the term Gehenna, as I shall show afterwards.
4th, I add, in regard to the statements made in the above quotation, that they are not opinions broached by a Universalist, in support of his system. No; they are the statements of Dr. Campbell, who was not a Universalist. Nor are they his own individual singular opin
ions, but are now admitted as correct by learned orthodox critics and commentators. In Mr. E. J. Chapman's critical and explanatory notes, we find very similar statements made, on Acts ii. 27, which, to save room I forbear transcribing.
5th, It is now generally conceded, that the doctrine of endless punishment, is not taught in the Old Testament. Mr. Stuart does not pretend that it is taught there ; but begs of his readers to grant, that probably, future punishment may be taught in five texts.
Was it then brought to light
by the gospel ? This cannot possibly be true; for the fact is indisputable, that the doctrine of endless punishment was current among the heathen nations, long before the appearence of Jesus Christ. Who then I ask, revealed this doctrine to the heathen nations, yet left the Jewish nation in ignorance concerning it? If it is said, it originated in early revelations which are now lost, I ask, how happened it, that the heathen knew so much, and the Jews so little about them? And if Moses, learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, believed that the doctrine of endless misery originated in lost revelations, why did he not teach it in his writings?. But how could he refrain from teaching it, had he believed it true? The Jews could not avoid endless misery, for they knew nothing about it, they died, went down to hell, and the torments of the place, give them the first notice that such misery awaited them. If they did know any thing about it, they might thank the heathen around them for the information ; notwithstanding God had prohibited intercourse with them, or learning doctrines from them.
As the doctrine of endless punishment, being taught in the Old Testament, is abandoned, our attention must be directed to the inquiry, does it teach future punishment after death? Is this taught by the term Sheol? Let us examine the passages where it occurs and see? I shall take them up, in the order they occur in the common version.