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Testament, is used, not for a place of endless misery, but as an emblem of temporal punishment to the Jewish nation. It is hoped the reader will keep these things constantly in his mind, in reading the next section, where all the passages which speak of Gehenna are considered.
6th, But another fact, which deserves some notice, is, that in all the places where Gehenna or hell is mentioned, the persons addressed, are supposed to be acquainted with its meaning. No explanation is asked, and none is given, nor is it thought, either by speaker or hearers to be necessary. The Jews, who are always the persons addressed, appear to have understood what our Lord meant by the punishment or damnation of Gehenna, as well as what was meant by stoning to death. The very first time it is mentioned, Matth. v. 22. the disciples had no more occasion to ask our Lord what he meant by Gehenna, than what he meant by the judgment and council. If this be true, and we think it will not be disputed, a very important question arises,-how came they to understand that Gehenna meant a place of eternal punishment for all the wicked? From what source did they derive their information concerning this? I cannot conceive of any sources from whence they could possibly derive this information, unless from one or other of the following:
1st, From immediate inspiration. No evidence that this was the case can be produced, nor is it likely to be asserted by any person who has considered the subject.
2d, The preaching of John the Baptist. But as John never said a word about Gehenna to his hearers, this cannot be contended for by any one.
3d, Did they then derive their information from the instructions and explanations of the Saviour? Neither can this be contended for by any one who has read the four
gospels. Our Lord on no one occasion ever gave any such explanation of Gehenna. No man will say he ever did.
4th, Did they derive their information from the Old Testament scriptures which they had in their hands? This they could not do, for we have seen above, that it did not contain such information. They could not learn a doctrine from it, which Dr. Campbell and others declare it did not teach. We have seen what the Old Testament teaches about Gehenna, but not a word does it say that it means a place of future eternal misery for the wicked.
5th, The only other source from whence they could learn, that Gehenna meant a place of endless punishment for the wicked, was, the writings of fallible, uninspired men. Accordingly, no other alternative was left Dr. Campbell but to say, that "Gehenna, in process of time, came to be used in this sense, and at length came to be confined to it." Here, then, is the way in which it is said Gehenna came to have the sense which is now commonly given it in the New Testament. No man, we presume, can devise a better.
We have seen, in a quotation from Dr. Campbell, chap. i. sect. 3. that the Jews learned from the heathen. the notion of punishment in a future state. We shall show, sect. v. how they came to apply the name of Gehenna to this place of punishment. We shall also see that the Jews did not believe that any of their nation, however wicked, would suffer the punishment of hell. How is it possible, then, from the nature of the case, that the Jews, by the damnation of hell, could understand our Lord to mean a place of eternal punishment? Had they understood him so, would they not have shown their displeasure against him? Can any man suppose that they heard such a threatening and were silent? Had he so
threatened the Gentiles they would have been pleased, for the Jews considered them fit fuel for hell fire.
That a punishment was threatened the Jews under the emblem of Gehenna, in their own scriptures, we have seen from the last section. Of this they could not be ignorant. In the next section we shall show that to this punishment our Lord referred by the damnation of hell, and we think in this sense the Jews understood him. There is no evidence that the unbelieving Jews understood our Lord by Gehenna, to mean one thing, and the disciples another. No: our Lord seems to use Gehenna, in speaking to both, in the same sense, and both appear to have understood his meaning. Neither of them ever asked him what he meant by the damnation of hell. There appears to have been no need for this, for both derived their information from the Old Testaments criptures. If this was the common source of their information concerning the punishment of Gehenna, they never could understand our Lord by it to mean a place of eternal misery, for it contained no such information. Those who assert that they did understand our Lord so, are bound to inform us where they got this knowledge, seeing it was not derived from this source. They must also rationally, and scripturally account for the above facts, before such a view of the punishment of hell can be established. We have no hope of ever seeing this accomplished.
We have a number of additional facts, to prove that Gehenna is not used to express a place of endless punishment. But these will be more appropriately introduced, after we have considered all the passages of the New Testament where this word occurs. These we shall now attempt candidly to consider.
ALL THE PASSAGES IN WHICH GEHENNA OCCURS, CONSIDERED.
NOTWITHSTANDING the facts which have been stated, and the observations made, in proof that Gehenna in the New Testament does not signify a place of endless misery, yet this must be determined by a consideration of all the places where it occurs. The texts, with their respective contexts, must decide in what sense the writers used the term Gehenna.
It is not material in what order we bring forward the passages. But as all the things said about it, were either addressed to the unbelieving Jews, or to the disciples, I shall begin with the texts in which the former were addressed.
The first then is Matth. xxiii. 15.-"Wo unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him two-fold more the child of hell (Gehenna) than yourselves." This is one of the places in which Dr. Campbell thinks that the term Gehenna is used figuratively. It is observed by Parkhurst, on the word TIO2, that, "son of Gehenna or hell, is one deserving of, or liable to, hell." He considers the expression an Hebraism. It is evident from the context, that the words were spoken to the unbelieving Jews. They plainly imply, that our Lord considered them children of hell. This, according to Parkhurst, means, "deserving of, or liable to, "hell."
Their making their proselyte two-fold more the child of hell than themselves, must therefore mean, that they made him two-fold more deserving of, or liable to, hell, than themselves. It is easily seen here, that the whole depends upon what sense we affix to the word hell, or Gehenna. If we say that it means a place of future eternal misery, the sense evidently is, that the Pharisees made their proselyte two-fold more deserving of, or liable to, eternal misery, than themselves. But how is this sense of the word Gehenna to be proved? This ought not to be taken for granted as its sense. This would be assuming as true the very question under discussion. As there is nothing in the verse itself which decides this, we must have recourse to other places, in which the sense of Gehenna is decided from the text and context, considered in connexion with the other circumstances mentioned. This we shall find in the next passage, which occurs in the same chapter.
In verse 33. it is said, addressing the same persons as in the preceding text, "ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" As much dependance is placed on this passage to prove eternal punishment in hell, I shall give it a particular consideration. Indeed, if this passage does not teach this doctrine, how can it be proved from any other; for this is the only passage of the New Testament, in which wicked men are threatened with the damnation of hell. If this text fails to support the doctrine, it must be proved from some other texts than those in which Gehenna or hell is used.
Let it be then remarked, that the word damnation, which occurs in this passage, simply means judgment, or punishment. Dr. Campbell and others translate the word punishment. See his note on Matth. xii. 40. If it were