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Romans with their Cæsars. While they lived, they counted them devils, but after death, deified them.
2d, But how came the Jews to believe in a place of endless misery, and at length came to use the term Gehenna to express it? There are several points fixed about this, which enable us to form at least a rational conjecture respecting it. Let it then be observed, Mr. Stuart, Dr. Campbell, and others, seem to admit, that a place of endless punishment is not taught in the Old Testament. Here is one point fixed. Again, it is admitted by all, that the term Gehenna, nor no other term, is used in the Old Testament, to express a place of endless punishment. Indeed, it was impossible to use Gehenna in such a sense, if no such place was known, for a place must first be known, before we can give it a name of any kind. Here is another point fixed on the question before us. Again, it is stated by Dr. Campbell, and others, that during, and after the Babylonian captivity, the Jews came to learn from the heathen, the notion of endless punishment in a future state. This we have seen above. The introduction of this, and other heathen opinions among the Jews, was gradual, but in the days of our Lord had become general, with perhaps the exception of the sect of the Sadducees. But though they learned from the heathen, this notion of a place of endless punishment, they could not learn from them, to call it by the name Gehenna, for this was a Hebrew term. Another point which seems to be certain is—the Jews from a variety of causes, had imbibed a deep rooted hatred of the Gentile nations. They counted them dogs, and excluded them from all participation in the blessings of their Messiah's reign. It is also universally admitted, that no place known to a Jew, was more abominable than Gehenna, the valley of Hinnom. Jahn in his Archeology, p. 527, says in the later periods of the Jewish kingdom, this idol was erected in the valley
south of Jerusalem, viz. in the valley of Hinnom, and in the part of said valley called Tophet, so named from the drums which were beaten to prevent
and cries of children sacrificed, from being heard, Jer. vii. 31, 32. xix. 6–14. Isai. xxx. 33. 2 Kings xxiii. 10. The place was so abhorrent to the minds of the more recent Jews, that they applied the name Ge Hinnom or Gehenna to the place of torments in a future life. The word Gehenna is used in this way, (viz. for the place of punishment beyond the grave,) very frequently in oriental writers, as far as India. Compare Wetsten's New Testament, at Math. v. 5."
Such are the points which seem to be fixed relative to this subject. From these facts, we may form a rational conjecture, how the Jews came to use the term Gehenna to express a place of endless punishment in a future state. They did not so apply this term, to express a place of endless punishment to themselves. No: let it be noticed, it was so used to express a place of endless punishment to the Gentile nations. No Jew could suffer the torments of hell. But all the Gentiles were fit fuel for hell fire. The Jews had even no dealings with the Samaritans; and they counted it proper to hate their enemies. Math. v. 43. See how strong this prejudice was, even in the minds of Christ's own followers, Acts chapters x, and xi. The whole New Testament, shows to what extent self-righteousness, self love, national pride, and vanity had taken possession of the minds of the Jews. The quotation made from Whitby, on Rom. ii. above, shows the malignant hatred which the Jews had to the Gentiles. To express this hatred of them, they consigned them to hell fire; and it is a probable conjecture, that as no place was more abominable to Jews than Gehenna, they used the term Gehenna to express the place of endless punishment to the Gentile nations. This conjecture, the reader must easily perceive, seems to be countenanced from the quo
tation from Whitby, and also from the accounts given from the Targums respecting Gehenna. But at this distance of time, we have no hope of being ever able to determine, when, or by whom, this new sense was first given 'to Gehenna. That it was not from divine authority, seems certain, and in the nineteenth century, it is high time for Christians to discard all human authority in the things of religion.
We have now finished our examination of the term Gehenna. The result to which we have come, and the evidence by which we have arrived at it, are before the reader, let him judge for himself. In conclusion we would observe.
1st, If any person believes my views are unscriptural, the first step to be taken,' to convince me of my error, is, to account rationally for the facts I have stated. Until these are fairly removed out of the way, it is impossible for me to believe, Gehenna in the New Testament, designates hell, a world of woe. Let any candid man examine these facts, and then say, if it is possible with such facts in view, any rational man can believe this doctrine. They form a phalanx of difficulties, which is impenetrable, against its reception. Upon no part of this whole Inquiry, has more labor of thinking been bestowed, than in attempting to reconcile the facts with the common opinion, that Gehenna designates a place of endless punishment to the wicked. We have turned this subject round, and viewed it on all sides, with all the attention we could command. I can sincerely say, I have sought, but sought in vain, to find something which could fairly account for the facts, and reconcile them with this doctrine. The more I have labored in this way, the facts have increased against it. And I am persuaded, if the labor was continued they would still increase, for I am not convinced that the subject is exhausted.
2d, The next step to be taken, to convince me of my
error, if it be one, is, to examine all the texts which speaks of Gehenna, and show that I have misinterpreted them. When this is done, there will be no need to refer me to the Jewish Targums for proof, that Gehenna in the New Testament means hell, a world of woe, for I will believe the doctrine, without any appeal to their authority. The only question to settle with me is—has God revealed this doctrine in the Bible? If he has, this is enough for me. But if he has not, popular belief, the Jewish Targums, all human authority I reject without hesitation.
3d, That Gehenna in the New Testament means hell, the world of woe, is assumed. The most plausible argument in favor of this sense, is, its usage in the Targums. But, if this argument ever had any force, it is now seen, it was derived from a mistaken opinion, that the Targums existed prior to the days of our Lord. This has always been taken for granted, as if it ought not, yea could not be questioned. How this case stands, let the reader now judge; from the evidence laid before him. Should it still be said, Gehenna is to be found in this sense, in Jewish writings prior to the days of our Lord, I demand that the names and dates of these writings be given, and let them be quoted, that all may see what they say on this subject. Assertions prove nothing; and if evidence can be produced, why withhold it, for who can believe without it?
4th, If the true sense of Gehenna in the New Tes-, tament, is to be learned from its usage in the Targums, but very few persons can understand the scriptures on this subject. Not one in ten thousand ever heard of such writings, and not one in a million of our race ever saw them, or have had an opportunity to consult them. Can any man believe, God has left his rational offspring at the mercy of such interpreters of the true sense of Gehenna? It is allowed, the bible is the religion of protestants ; and no maxim is more true than this
“ the bible is the best interpreter of itself.” Why then go to the writers of the Targums, enemies of Christ and of Christianity, to learn, that Gehenna means hell, world of woe? How could they tell, that in this sense he used Gehenna, if they wrote several hundred years after our Lord was on the earth ? They did not hear him deliver his discourses, in which he speaks of Gehenna, and if they had, there was some temptation on their part to pervert his meaning. He announced punishment to their nation under the emblem of Gehenna —“ how can ye escape the damnation of hell.”
5th, To quote as authority the Targums, or even the christian fathers, that Gehenna means hell, world of woe, in the New Testament, is a plain concession, that such a sense is not to be found in the bible. If universalists, depended on such authority for the truth of universal salvation, their cause would be deemed indefensible. They would be looked on as weak, silly, credulous people; obstinately attached to a false system, which cannot be supported by scripture authority. But do they support their views of Gehenna, or any other part of their system, by such kind of authority as this ? No. We have appealed to evidence and argument drawn from scripture, for the views we have advanced about Gehenna, and invite a refutation, by an appeal to the same authority. All we have had to do with the Targums, and other Jewish writings, has been, in exposing the rotten foundation on which the common doctrine rests about Gehenna punishment.