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We have examined the Scripture usage of the words Sheol, Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna, and if ecclesiastical usage considers any
of these words to mean a place of endless misery, we must say that it is not supported by the Bible. But of this our readers must judge. If it can be proved, that we have erred in the sense we have given to Gehenna or those other words, we shall be glad to see the error exposed.
2d, Another objection closely connected with the former, is, that my views of Gehenna are contrary to the opinions of almost all the learned in the present day ; in ages past of the Christian Church ; and to its sense in the Apocrypha and Jewish Targums. This may be true, yet my view of Gehenna be the correct and Scriptural one notwithstanding. Dr. Campbell, says, p. 91. of his dissertations,—"the opinion of Grotius and some learned Rabbis, unsupported by either argument or example, nay, in manifest contradiction to both, is here of no weight. Scriptural usage alone must decide the question. These commentators (with all deference to their erudition and abilities be it spoken) being comparatively modern, cannot be considered as ultimate judges in a question depending entirely on an ancient use, whereof all the evidences that were remaining in their time, remain still, and are as open to our examination, as they were to theirs. In other points where there may happen to be in Scripture an allusion to customs or ceremonies retained by the Jews, but unknown to us, the case is different. But nothing of this kind is pretended here.” We have attempted to decide the question, what is the meaning of the term Gehenna, by an appeal to the Scripture usage of this word, and we must say it is our present opinion, that it is not once used either in the Old or New Testament, to express a place of endless misery for the wicked.
We conclude this section with two brief quotations from Mr. Stuart, in his letters to Mr. (now Dr.) Chạn
ning, which we wish were engraven on every
man's heart, never to be effaced. In page 14. he says," the claims of the Bible to be authoritative being once admitted, the simple question in respect to it, is, what does it teach in regard to any particular passage ; what idea did the original writer mean to convey? When this is ascertained by the legitimate rules of interpretation, it is authoritative. This is orthodoxy in the highest and best sense of the word; and every thing which is opposed to it, which modifies it, which fritters its meaning away, is heterodoxy, is heresy; to whatever name or party it is attached.” He adds, p. 109___" after all, it is a principle, by which, if I have any knowledge of my own heart, I desire forever to be guided, to call no man master, on earth. I would place the decision of Scripture, fairly made out, IMMEASURABLY ABOVE all human opinions. I regard the one as the decision of ' an unerring God; the other as the opinions of fallible
ADDITIONAL FACTS STATED, PROVING, THAT GEHENNA
WAS NOT USED BY THE SACRED WRITERS TO EX-
The facts which have been stated in section 2d, are certainly very singular, if it be true, that Gehenna in the New Testament signifies a place of endless misery for the wicked. Those I am now to adduce, are to me also strange, upon such a view of this subject. · Some of them have been slightly hinted at in the course of our remarks, but deserve a more distinct statement.
1st, If Gehenna means a place of endless misery for
did they say
the wicked, it is a fact that the apostles never preached it, either to Jews or Gentiles. The history of the Acts of the Apostles, contains an account of their preaching for thirty years, bat not once, is the subject of Gehenna torments, mentioned by them. They were commanded to preach the Gospel to every creature, and they did so, but to no creature under heaven, did they ever preach this doctrine. No living being did they ever threaten with such a punishment. They addressed the worst of characters, but to none of them
“how can ye escape the damnation of Gehenna, hell ?” They did threaten men sometimes with punishment, but never with eternal punishment in hell. Saul said to Elymas, the sorcerer “O! full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thoử not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord ?” But does he threaten this man with the damnation of hell? No; he says, “and now behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season.
Acts xiii. 10, 11. In the same chapter, verses 40, 41. he says, “ beware, therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the prophets. Behold ye despisers, and wonder and perish." In this last text the word perish occurs, and perhaps some may think that eternal punishment is included in it. But it should be observed, that Paul was here addressing himself to Jews, and concerning them our Lord had said—"except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” referring to the temporal destruction which was coming on the Jewish nation. I then ask, how this fact is to be rationally accounted for, if the apostles believed hell to be a place of endless misery? Can any man suppose they believed this, yet in the course of thirty years' preaching, never mentioned it to their hearers? What would we say of a man in these days, who should preach thirty years, yet never
say a word about hell to those whom he addressed ? Would we not say he was a Universalist ? He would be an outlaw from orthodoxy. If my veracity in this statement is doubted by any persons, let them read the book of the Acts of the apostles. In the whole of it, whether they preached to Jews or Gentiles, you will find they are all alike silent on the subject of hell torments. If they believed such a doctrine, let others account for it, why they never preached it. If preachers now took the apostles as their models, we should hear no more about hell from them. We would then, respectfully ask, from what source did preachers learn that they should preach Gehenna or hell torments to us Gentiles ? To what chapter or verse, in any
in any book of the New Testament, can they refer us, where an inspired apostle ever did so ? Let every one who preaches this doctrine, consider, if he did not learn it from his catechism, when a child; from books he has read; and from the preaching he has heard since he became a man, and not from his Bible ? Let him also consider before he condemns my view, whether he has ever given this subject a thorough and impartial examination. We are all too prone to receive things in religion on such kind of authority, and too ready to condemn opinions contrary to our own, before we have duly considered the evidence brought in support of them.
To the above it may be objected—“Gehenna was a Jewish figurative mode of speaking of future eternal punishment, and had it been used by the apostles in preaching to the Gentiles, they could not have been understood ; for the Gentiles knew nothing about Gehenna, as a place of future punishment. To this I reply.
1st, This objection would have some force, if it was found, that the apostles ever said to the wicked Gentiles, “ how can ye escape the damnation of Hades, or Tartarus.” Had they spoke thus, we might suppose, that
this was the reason they avoided the use of the term Gehenna. But do we find this to be the true state of the case? We certainly do not. No such conclusion then can be drawn, that the apostles said nothing to the Gentiles concerning Gehenna, because it was a Jewish figure which they could not understand. But,
2d, Admitting the term Gehenna, was a mode of speaking of eternal misery the Gentiles did not understand, they could have explained it to them, as they have done other things of seemingly less importance. Let any one read John's gospel, and he will see that he explains Jewish names, and customs; some examples of which we have given in another place. But,
3d, The above objection takes it for granted, that the Gentiles were unacquainted with the term Gehenna. But is there not as good reason to think, that the heathen in their intercourse with the Jews, should imbibe their notions of Gehenna, as that the Jews should imbide the heathen notions concerning Hades or Tartarus. Their mutual intercourse would produce a mutual interchange of opinions. This being the case, if the spirit of God recognized either the Jewish notions of Gehenna, or the Pagan notions of Hades, as truth, we might expect that the apostles would have preached the doctrine to both Jews and Gentiles. Had both been recognized, we might expect Hades and Gehenna to be used indiscriminately by the apostles, in speaking of future eternal misery. But this was not done, if we may judge of their preaching from what is contained in the New Testament. If they believed both to be true they would have spoken at least of Gehenna to Jews, and of Hades to Gentiles, as a place of eternal punishment in a future state.
4th, But this objection takes it for granted, the Jews in our Lord's day, did use the term Gehenna to signify a place of endless misery, and that this was its exclusive sense.
That this could not be its exclusive sense