« AnteriorContinuar »
the Gentiles should not imbibe the Jewish notions of a punishment in Gehenna, as well as the Jews the heathen notion of a punishment in Hades, seeing their intercourse with each other was mutual; at any rate, if the Jews first imbibed the notion of eternal punishment from the heathen and afterwards applied the name Gehenna to it, the same intercourse of these people must have made the Gentiles familiar with the Jewish name for it. In short, whatever way we turn this subject round to look at it, we shall find it impossible to account for the apostles' silence on the subject of Gehenna or hell's being a place of endless torment, but on the ground that they did not believe this doctrine. After viewing it on all sides, with all the care and attention we can, we have found it impossible to draw any other rational conclusion. If it can be accounted for otherwise, consistently with their belief in the doctrine, we shall be happy to see this done.
Another cirnumstance 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, it must, I think, be allowed that our Lord's conduct is strange and unaccountable. But on my views of the damnation or punishment of hell our Lord's conduct excites no surprise; all is rational and what the circumstances of the case warrants 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
2nd, 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 against my view of Gehenna,— why did not the apostles continue to speak to the unbe
lieving 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, nor ever should 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 Thess. v. 1-10. 1 Peter iv. 17—19.
THE ARGUMENT, ARISING FROM THE APOCRYPHA AND TARGUMS, IN FAVOR OF ENDLESS MISERY IN GEHENNA OR HELL CON
IF Gehenna or hell in the New Testament, means, as is generally believed, a place of endless misery, the evidence of this, we might expect, to be plain, and conclusive. But we have examined it, and have not only found it defective, but have, in fact, found the evidence strongest on the opposite side of the question. We have considered all the texts in which this word occurs, and have found, that instead of a place of endless misery being taught in them, the temporal punishment of the Jews, is referred to by the damnation of hell. Besides: we have stated a number of facts, which we think never can be
reconciled with the current opinion on this subject. I might, therefore, here stop, until it is known, how such facts are disposed of, and it is shown, that I have misinterpreted the passages in which the word Gehenna occurs. But as the Targums and the Apocrypha are appealed to in proof of this doctrine, it might be deemed wrong in me altogether to overlook the argument, which such persons attempt to draw from them. They may think, that I ought to account for it, why these writers came to use the term Gehenna as meaning a place of endless misery, if my views of Gehenna be correct.
We think this ought to be accounted for; but I deny, that I am under any obligations to account for it. It is the work of those, who value their authority in proving the doctrine of endless misery, to show how those uninspired writ ers came to give such a different sense to Gehenna, from all the sacred writers, both in the Old and New Testaments. Let them account for it, how Gehenna, as Dr. Campbell affirms, came gradually to be used to express a place of future punishment for the wicked, and at length came to be confined to it. Must I do their work and my own too? It is their business to show, that the gradual change in the meaning of the term Gehenna did not originate from the gradual invention of men, but from the authority of God. We think, if Gehenna could be proved satisfactorily, to mean a place of endless misery from the Bible, there was no occasion to call in the authority of the Targums and Apocrypha to prove this doctrine. Only give us God's authority for it, and we ask no other.
But, however unreasonable, the demand is on me, to account for it, why the writers of the Targums and the Apocrypha, used Gehenna to express a place of endless misery, I shall now pay some attention to this.
Let us begin with the Apocrypha. These writings all have access to, and can read them at their leisure. I shall simply give all the places in which the term hell is used in the Apocrypha. It occurs in the following places, 2 Esdras ii. 29.; iv. 8.; viii. 53. Tobit xiii. 2. Wisd. xvii. 14. Eccles. xxi. 10.; li. 5, 6. Song of the three children, verse 66. It would serve no valuable purpose for me to transcribe these passages, as they can easily be referred to and read. On the whole of them I shall submit the following remarks.
Though the word hell is used in all these places, yet a very important inquiry is,―did the writers of the Apoc