Page images
PDF
EPUB

der the government of Christ; he was in the reign of Christ; he was in the kingdom of Christ. And as all the real disciples of the Redeemer were saved from those tribulations which fell on the unbe- 1 lievers of that age, Jesus warned his followers that no consideration whatever should induce them to decline entering into the kingdom of God. These views will be more fully confirmed as we proceed.

3. Let us seek for the true sense of the word “hell," and of the phrase "hell fire.” The Greek word bere rendered “hell," is Gehenna.1 This word, as every person of common biblical science knows, signified the valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem. It is a conipound of two Hebrew words, ge, the land or the valley, and Hinnom, the name of the owner. It was there the cruel sacrifices of animals, and sometimes children, were made to Moloch, the Ammonitish idol. This place is sometimes called Tophet, as some think from Toph, a word which signifies a drum, because drums were beat to drown the cries of the suffering children; or according to others, from a particular fire stove in the place. In the reign of the good king Josiah, the idolatrous worship into which the Jews had been led, was broken up, and Gehenna was defiled, and made the receptacle of the filth of Jerusalem. A continual fire was kept burning, to destroy car

1 There are four words rendered hell in the Bible, viz. Sheol. Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna. Sheol is a Hebrew word, and op course is always found in the Old Testament. It occurs in sixty four instances, in thirty-two of which it is rendered hell, and in the other thirty-two, pit and grave. Hades is a Greek translation of Sheol, and always has the same meaning. It occurs eleven times, ten of which it is rendered hell, and once (1 Cor. xv. 55,) grave. Tartarus does not really occur at all, but a denominative verb derived from it, which is rendered “cast down to hell.It is found once only, in 2 Peter, ii. 4. Gehenna occurs twelve times, and is uniformly rendered hell. In the common English version, the word hell occurs, in both Old and New Testaments, fifty-five times.

casses thrown in ; and, in a word, Gehenna became as abominable under the reign of Josiah, as it had been sacred during the idolatrous worship of the Jews. In process of time, as all writers agree, Gehenna came to be a place of punishment where criminals were caused to suffer death by burning; and in this sense the Saviour uses the word when he says, “but whosoever shall say thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire,” i. e. the fire of Gehenna." With such abhorrence and dread, under all these circumstances, did the Jews regard this place, that they used it as a figure of dreadful woes and judgments; and so we find it used both in the Old and New Testament. Thus in Jer. xix. the destruction of Israel is foretold ; and in summing up what he had said the prophet adds, ver. 12, thus will I do unto this place saith the Lord, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet.Here Gehenna is certainly used as a figure to represent Jerusalem under its tribulations. We recommend the reader to peruse the whole of Jer. xix. See also Jer. vii. 31-34. Jesus used the word in the same sense. Of this we think there cannot be the shadow of a doubt. He said to the Pharisees, “ye serpents, ye gene

ration of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation e of Gehenna?Matt.- xxiii. 33. He immediately

adds, “Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation." Ver. 36. Whatever Je. sus here meant by the “damnation of Gehenna, certainly confined to that generation; and can there be a question in the mind of any judicious person, that he referred to the judginent impending over Jerusalem ? He refers to these judgments again in Matt. xxiv. 21.

1 On this passage, the learned Parkhurst, a strict believer in ench less misery observés, “ Gehenna of fire does, I apprehend, in its outward and primary sense, relate to that dreadful doom of being burnt alive in the valley of Hinnom.'

1 he 1 On the word Gehenna are staked the last hopes of those who defend the doctrine of punishment in the future state. Their zeal in contending that this word was used by Christ to favor that doctrine, is certainly proportioned to the desperateness of their cause. But can there possibly be any dispute, that Jesus meant by the “damnation of Gehenna,” in Matt. xxiii. 33, the judgment with which God was then about to visit the Jews ? “ Verily I say unto you,” said he, "all these things (this “ damnation of Gehenna" heing the most important he had mentioned) shall come upon this generation." Ver. 36. And to what did Jesus refer, Matt. v. 22, by the “fire of Gehenna,” except to the fire of the valley of Hinnom, in the literal sense? The learned Parkhurst, an eminent orthodox critic, as we have already quoted, takes this view of the subject. Lex. sub. voc. Gehen. Adam Clarke, another believer in endless misery, took the same view. Com. on New Test. in loco. We cannot perceive why the “ judgment” and the "council,” mentioned in this passage, may not be applied to the future state with as much propriety as the " Gehenna of fire.”

" For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” But here he is particular to say, “This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.” Ver. 34. From these quotations from the Scriptures the subject inust, we think, be regarded as settled, that Gehenna was used by the prophets, and by Jesus Christ, as an emblem of the calamities which befel the Jews in the destruction of the city, and overthrow of the nation. Under this view of the subject, the “hell fire" spoken of in the parable, forms a perfect contrast to the Kingdom of God”the one was the happy portion of the believer in Jesus; the other was the sad lot of those who were regardless of his teachings and admonitions. different signification in the New Testament from what it bore in the Old. To us it seems highly probable, that when Jesus threatened the Jews with the “ damnation of Gehenna,” he had in his mind the declaration of Jeremiah that God would make Jerusalem like Tophet.

Now in reference to the ten other passages in which Gehenna occars, they should be explained by the help of these. In the Old Testament the valley of Hinnom is made a figure of the temporal punishment of the Jews. This is unquestionable. When Jesus spoke of Gehenna to his disciples, would they not understand him as using it in the same sense? When he threatened the unbelieving Jews with the “ damnation of Gehenna,” would not they understand him to use the word in the sense in which their own prophets had used it? Jesus never intimated, nor is there a single intimation thrown out by any New Testament writer, that this word is to have a widely

To this it may be replied, that notwithstanding Gehenna never bears the sense of future punishment in the Old Testament, yet in the time of Christ it did have that signification, as used in common language among the Jews, and by their theological writers; and therefore, it is asked, would not the Jews have so understood Christ in his use of the word ? We answer no, even if this had been the case ; for did he not say concerning the “ damnation of Gehenna,' “all these things shall come on this generation ?”? Whatever, therefore, their views of Gehenna were, they could not have misunderstood him in his view of it. But it is far from being a settled ques-, tion, that the Jews in the time of Christ did understand by Gehenna a place of punishment in the invisible world. That the Pharisees believed in punishments after death we do not deny ; but Jesus explica itly admonished his disciples to “ take heed and beware of the leaven (i. e. doctrine) of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Compare Matt. xvi, 6 with 12. If Jesus regarded the doctrine of future punishment, in which the Pharisees believed, as of any importance, why did he not make an exception of that sentiment when he gave the above admonition? But that the Jews in the time of Christ used the word Gehenna to apply to future punishment, has never been proved. That word, as Mr. Balfour has shown, (Inquiry, 2nd Ed. pp. 239, 240) does not occur in the Apocrypha. The Targums have not been sufficiently examined by any author who doubted the common opinion. “ Before we ought to be satisfied with regard to their bearing on this subject,” says a careful writer, “it appears to me that the following points should be clearly ascertained : ist. Whether the oldest of them, those of Jonathan Ben Uzziel and Onkelos, do in fact use the word Gehenna to denote a place of future torment; for all the others are of too laté a date to be used as evidence. 2. Whether it is probable that 'even those Targums are as old as our

Saviour's time ; for I understand that this is a disputed question y among critics, and that the celebrated Bauer and Jahn bring them down to the second or third century.”

On the whole, there is no evidence yet ascertained that the Jews ever used Gehenna in reference to future punishment, as early as the time of Christ.

2

4. Consider the words," where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,” vers. 44, 46, 48. There would be no necessity of giving these words a separate consideration, they are so evidently to be explained in a figurative sense, as we explain Gehenna itself, were it not that much use has been made of them by many people in proving the doctrine of endless misery, because it is said the worm shall not die, and the fire shall not be quenched. Let it be remarked then, that these are the same expressions which the prophets had applied to the temporal calamities of the Jews. Thus Isaiah says, " And it shall come to pass, that from one new-moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have trangressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neith

hall their fire be quenched ; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” lxvi. 23, 24. It will not be pretended that this passage refers to any troubles which are to befal the Jews in another state of existence, since it was to happen where time was measured by new-moons and sabbaths. The prophet Ezekiel describes the destruction of Israel in similar language. “Moreover, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field; And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree; the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. And all flesh shall see that I the LORD have kindled

« PreviousContinue »