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bring such an accusation against him, or any of the first preachers, for none of them ever used the word Gehenna or hell, in preaching either to Jews or Gentiles.
All who had ever heard them preach, could have been called as witnesses to prove, that it was a false accusation. Such a false charge, would have been in face of public opinion to the contrary.
But let us see what were the accusations which the Gentiles brought against the followers of Christ. They accused them of turning the world upside down ; of turning away much people, saying that they were no gods which were made with hands.” In consequence of this they were accounted Atheists, enemies to the gods, and deserving to be abhorred of men. Now, give me leave to ask, was the charge ever brought against them in any shape, by any person, that they threatened men with endless punishment in hell or Gehenna? No: all the jesuitical ingenuity in the world, cannot find a word said, which has such an appearance.
Had the apostles then ever threatened the Gentiles with endless punishment in hell, would they have failed to bring this as an accusation against them? Should it be objected here, “have you not shown above, that the heathen nations all believed in the doctrine of future punishment, and that the Jews learned this doctrine from their intercourse with them; how then could the heathen be offended with the apostles for teaching one of the tenets of their religion ?" To this I answer, that the heathen believed in a future punishment in Hades, but observe that the apostles neither taught such a punishment in Hades, nor in Gehenna. This is a fact we think beyond all fair discussion. Not a word was said by the apostles to the heathen, about punishment in either of these places. If they had preached future punishment in Gehenna to them, they might have said, we have heard of future punishment in Hades, but why preach this new doctrine, a
punishment in Gehenna? Their not preaching a punishment in Hades, shows that they did not believe this heathen notion ; and the Gentiles never accusing the apostles of threatening them with endless punishment in Gehenna, is a confirmation that no such doctrine was taught to the heathen world.
Another circumstance, corroborative of the views I have advanced concerning Gehenna, is the following. On my views of Gehenna, the conduct of our Lord and his apostles, is just what might be expected, but if by Gehenna is understood a place of endless misery, it is strange and unaccountable. What I refer to will be best seen by,
1st, Considering our Lord's conduct. We have seen from a consideration of all the passages in which he speaks of Gehenna, that nine times out of twelve, all he says concerning it, was addressed to his disciples. In only one instance did he ever say to the unbelieving Jews" how can ye escape the damnation of hell ?" Matth. xxiii. 33. Now, notice, that at verses 38, 39, he adds, “ behold your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth till ye shall say,
blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” After this, he never said a word to them about the damnation of hell. Now, let it be supposed, that by this expression our Lord meant endless misery in a future state.--I ask, is it possible our Lord should only mention this once? I ask again, can it be believed, that he who said on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” should have ceased, but with his dying breath, to warn these men, that such a place of endless misery awaited them? I ask once more ; is it possible, that he, who, when he beheld the city, “ wept over it, on account of temporal calamities in which it was soon to be involved, should shed no tears, in anticipating the endless misery of its wicked inhabitants ? On the supposition, that Gehenna
is such a place, our Lord's conduct is strange and unaccountable. But on my views of the damnation of hell, our Lord's conduct excites no surprise: all is rational, and what the circumstances of the case warrant us to expect. They had rejected their promised Messiah, the measure of their iniquity they were soon to fill up, and they could not escape the damnation of hell. But let it be satisfactorily accounted for, why our Lord never afterwards said any thing to them of the damnation of hell, if thereby he meant, endless misery in the world to
2d, The conduct of his apostles. It is easily seen, that their conduct is in perfect agreement with that of their master before them. He never said a word about hell or Gehenna to the Gentiles. Neither do they. He never said a word more concerning Gehenna to the unbelieving Jews, after saying—"how can ye escape the damnation of hell ?" Neither do they. If it should be objected here," why did not the apostles continue to speak to the unbelieving Jews about the damnation of hell, allowing it to mean the temporal miseries coming on that generation? why should they not have continued to warn them of this, as their Lord had done before them?”—The answer to this is easy. In Luke xix. 42, our Lord told the Jews, that the things which belonged to their peace, were now hid from their eyes. Their doom was fixed, their punishment was unavoidable. Accordingly our Lord said,—“ how can ye escape the damnation of hell ?” Soon, the wrath of God was to come on them to the uttermost. This it did in the destruction of their city and temple, when such calamities came upon them, as never had been before, or ever shall be again, and unless the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh could have been saved.
In many places of the epistles, written to believers, allusions are made to the judgments of God coming on the Jewish nation, though not mentioned under the
name Gehenna. The event is not only alluded to, but spoken of as near; and Christians are exhorted to patience, and holiness, in view of it. But these very parts of the epistles, are by many, like the texts which speak of Gehenna, all applied to punishment in a future state of existence. See for example, 1 Peter iv. 17 -19, and other texts, considered in my second Inquiry.
THE ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF ENDLESS MISERY CON
SIDERED, DRAWN FROM THE USAGE OF GEHENNA IN THE TARGUMS, AND OTHER JEWISH WRITINGS.
If Gehenna, in the New Testament, means, as is generally believed, a place of endless misery, we might expect the evidence of this to be plain and conclusive. But, on examination, we have found, strong evidence on the opposite side of this question. We have considered all the texts in which this word occurs, and have seen, that by Gehenna our Lord referred to God's punishment of the Jewish nation. Besides, a great number of facts have been produced, in confirmation of this view of the subject, and which never can be reconciled with the common views entertained of Gehenna
But Dr. Campbell avers, Gehenna—" was in process of time considered as an emblemi of hell, or the place of torment reserved for the punishment of the wicked in a future state. The name Tophet, came gradually to be used in this sense, and at length to be confined to it.” It is alleged, this was its sense in the days of our Lord, and in no other sense, is it used in the New Testament. Mr. Stuart, in his Exeget. Essays, p. 141 says
“it is admitted, that the Jews of later date, used the word Gehenna to denote Tartarus, i..e. the place of infernal punishment.” But no proof of this is offered by him from their writings. Nor does he produce any proof of the following. He says p. 146_“That the word Gehenna was common among the Jews, is evinced by its frequency in the oldest Rabbinical writings. It was employed by them as all confess, in order to designate hell
, the infernal region, the world of woe. In no other sense, can it in any way be made out, that it is employed in the New Testament.” The authority, to which Mr. Stuart refers for this sense of Gehenna, is not the old Testament writers, but “the oldest Rabbinical writings,” and “ the Jews of later date.” He adds, p. 27. “The later Hebrew, the Talmudic and Rabbinic, was not so late, but that it preceded the time when the New Testament was written.' But whether all this is truth requires examination.
From such statements as these, an argument has been urged like the following: “ In the days of our Lord, Gehenna was commonly used among the Jews, to designate hell, a place of endless misery to the wicked. Our Lord and his apostles must have used it in this sense, if they meant to be understood by their hearers, unless they apprised them to the contrary. But this they did not; hence it is concluded, that Gehenna is used to designate the place of future punishment to all the wicked, and in no other sense is it used in the New Testament." In reply to this argument, we observe 1st, Admitting that Gehenna in our Lord's day, had obtained this sense among the Jews, the conclusion drawn from it does not follow, and for the following among other reasons. This, in no instance, was the sense of Gehenna in the Old Testament; and the writers of the New, used words and phrases in the sense they have there. They spoke_ not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost