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God came on the Jewish people to the uttermost, and they experi enced "tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world, even to that same time, no, nor ever shall be." See Matt. 24: 21. Now, the fact which we have just stated, — that Gehenna is used in the Old Testament to represent punishment in this world, and nowhere else, being a fact which is indisputable, we demand, in the language of Mr. Balfour, "What meaning would the Jews, who were familiar with this word, and knew it to signify the valley of Hinnom, be likely to attach to it when they heard it used by our Lord ? Would they, contrary to all former usage, transfer its meaning from a place with whose locality and history they had been familiar from their infancy, to a place of misery in another world? This conclusion is certainly inadmissible. By what rule of interpretation, then, can we arrive at the conclusion that this word means a place of misery after death?"
10. If Gehenna signifies a place of endless misery in another world, and if, in those passages where it occurs, it is set in contrast with heaven (as is supposed by those who attach this meaning to the word), it is certain that those who go there are to go bodily. See Matt. 5: 29. And it is equally certain that those who go to heaven are to go there bodily; and not only so, but are to go there halt," and " maimed;" some with only one eye, some with only one hand, and some with only one foot. See Mark 9: 43, 45, 47. But can any man believe all this?
11. Gehenna, in the New Testament, is set in contrast with the kingdom of God. Mark 9: 47, "It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell (Gehenna) fire." Now, if the reader will examine Chapter XV. of this book, on the phrases kingdom of God, kingdom of heaven, he will see that the phrase kingdom of God signifies the gospel dispensation; and that this kingdom was to be established here on earth, at the time of Christ's coming to destroy Jerusalem, and scatte the power of the holy people. Hence the fact that Gehenna is contrasted with this phrase, proves that Christ used this word to signify the punishment which came on the Jews, and in which the disciples of Christ might be involved if they suffered anything whatever to draw them from their attachment to their Master.
12. If Gehenna signifies a place of punishment in another world,
and if God inflicts Gehenna punishment on any of his creatures in that world, it is certain this punishment will consist in entire destruction, and absolute annihilation, and not in endless misery. See Matt. 10 28,"Fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna)." Now, to "destroy the soul, intimates as certainly the death of the soul, as to destroy the body intimates the extinction of the life of the body. If, then, by the word soul we understand the spirit, or immortal part, of man, and if God will do what he is here said to be able to do, that is, destroy both soul and body, the doctrine of annihilation is clearly established." And the doctrine of endless misery is overthrown by the very passage which is frequently introduced to prove it. But if we understand Gehenna here to signify the valley of Hinnom, and the word soul to signify the animal life of man (as is its meaning generally in the Bible), then all is plain. God might destroy the lives and bodies of the disciples in that awful calamity which came on the Jewish nation, and which is represented under the figure of Gehenna, or he might cast them into Gehenna by numbering them with the six hundred thousand unbelieving Jews, whose dead bodies were carried into the valley of Hinnom, and left there unburied.
13. Whenever our Lord said anything about Gehenna, the persons whom he addressed are evidently supposed by him to be acquainted with the meaning of the word. Hence no explanation whatever is given of it. But, in what other sense, pray, could they understand it, except in the sense in which it was employed in the Old Testament?
14. If Gehenna means future punishment in the New Testament, it is certain the apostles never preached it to Jews or Gentiles. They did not mention the word in a single instance in all their preaching, of which we have any account. How can this be accounted for, if they understood by it a place of endless misery?
15. If Gehenna means a place of misery, in a future world called hell, it is certain this hell is a material hell; and that punishment in hell consists of torment in literal fire. We know that a material hell has been contended for; but, in these days of refinement, improvement, and light, and knowledge, this idea is pretty generally abandoned. But if any class of people must have a hell, we insist upon it that they abide by the conclusions which are to be legitimately drawn from their premises. If they will have it that
Gehenna means a place of punishment in a future world, then let them be contented with the hell of the Bible, and not undertake to manufacture a new one, nor to improve on the old one. Let them, then, cease to preach about a "spiritual hell," and a "hell of conscience; and let them go to preaching up the good old Orthodox hell of our fathers. If they will do this, we will at least give them the credit of consistency.
To the views which we have advanced on the meaning of Gehenna, we know of but one plausible objection. That objection we will now state, and reply to.
It is objected, that, "although Gehenna originally denoted the valley of Hinnom, yet it had lost that signification in our Saviour's time, and was used to signify a place of torment in another world." To this objection we reply as follows:
1. This is a barefaced assertion, unsupported by any positive or direct proof whatever.
2. The translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was commenced about two hundred and seventy or two hundred and eighty years before Christ, when the five books of Moses were translated. The translation of the rest of the books was not undertaken until within one hundred and seventy years of Christ's birth, and was not finished till some time after it was commenced, say twenty years. See Prideaux's Connections, vol. 3, pp. 356, 357; Horne's Introduction, vol. 2, pp. 168, 169. Now, as when this translation was made, no such change as is alleged had taken place in the meaning of Gehenna; hence, one hundred and fifty years before the date of the New Testament this word retained its original meaning. The only Jewish books which were written between the completion of the Septuagint Version and the public ministry of Christ, which have come down to us, are some of the later books of the Apocrypha, and the writings of Philo. Two of the Apocryphal books allude to punishment after death, but do not speak of it as punishment in Gehenna. Indeed, the word does not occur in any of the Apocryphal books, nor in any of the writings of Philo. How, then, can it be proved that any such change as is supposed had taken place in the meaning of Gehenna ?
3. Josephus wrote his works shortly after the New Testament was written. He was a believer in punishment after death, and frequently alludes to it in his writings; yet he never calls it pun
ishment in Gehenna, nor does the word Gehenna occur in his wit ings. No Jewish writings composed within one hundred years after the time of Josephus have descended to us; so that it cannot be proved that any change in the meaning of Gehenna had taken place within one hundred years after the time of Christ.
4. The first time that Gehenna was used to signify a place of misery after death, of which we have any account, was by Justin Martyr, about the year of our Lord 150.
5. The first time this word is used to signify a place of misery in another world, by any Jewish writer of whom we have any account, was by Jonathan Ben Uzziel, in a Targum written by him, the date of which is uncertain. Prideaux, together with several of the old critics, and even Gesenius, place it not far from the Christian era, on the authority, chiefly, of Jewish traditions. Prideaux, however, has well observed, that, in historical matters, it is not to be regarded what the Jews write, or what they omit.' Most of the eminent critics now agree that it could not have been completed till some time between two hundred and four hundred years after Christ. Dr. Jahn thinks it a collection of the interpretations of several learned men, made towards the end of the third century, and containing some of a much older date.' Eichhorn says that Jonathan certainly lived later than the birth of Christ;' and, judging from his style, his fables, his perversions of the prophecies concerning the Messiah, and from the profound silence of the early Jews and Christian Fathers, he concludes that his compilation cannot have been made before the fourth century. The same circumstances that Eichhorn adduces, are thought by Bertholdt to indicate the second or third century; and he is confident that the collection 'cannot have attained its complete form before the end of the second century.' With these general conclusions it is said that Bauer likewise agrees; and some critics have referred the work to as late a period as the seventh and eighth centuries." See Universalist Expositor, vol. 2, p. 368. There is no proof, then, that the meaning of the word Gehenna was changed until one hundred and fifty years after Christ. If, therefore, we believe this word signifies a place of misery after death, we must believe it on the authority of uninspired men, on the authority of Jewish Targums and Talmuds, and not on the authority of the Bible. If the reader is disposed to bow to such authority, he can do so; but we beg to be excused.
The following facts bear equally against understanding either Sheol, Hades, Tartaros, or Gehenna, to signify a place of endless misery.
1. The words eternal, everlasting, forever, &c., are not connected with either Sheol, Hades, Tartaros, or Gehenna, in a single instance in the whole Bible.
2. Paul says he "shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God;" and yet he has not, in all his writings, mentioned either Tartaros or Gehenna. He mentioned hades but once, and then used it to signify the grave. Now, if Paul believed these words signified a place of endless misery, how is this fact to be accounted for?
3. Among all the charges brought against Jesus and his apostles by the unbelieving Jews, they never charged them with threatening them with endless misery in Sheol, Hades, Tartaros, Gehenna, or anywhere else. Now, the Jews believed themselves to be the peculiar people of God; and if Jesus or his apostles had threatened them with endless misery, it would have excited their indignation to the highest pitch; and we should have heard them accusing Christ of being audacious and presumptuous. But no; no such charge is brought against him.
4. No person mentioned in the New Testament ever expressed any fears of going to a place of endless misery after death, or ever prayed to God to be saved from such a place. Nor is it said of any person who had died, that he had gone to a place of endless misery, either in Sheol, Hades, Tartaros, Gehenna, or anywhere else.
5. The salvation of the gospel is never spoken of as a salvation from a place of endless misery, either in Sheol, Hades, Tartaros, or Gehenna. It is spoken of as a salvation from sin, from the darkness of this world, from wrath, from unbelief, and from the power of darkness; but no intimation is given that Jesus came into this world to save mankind from endless misery in another.
Thus, we have finished our examination of these words. The reader can judge for himself whether either of them, as used in the Scriptures car possibly signify a place of endless misery.
RECAPITULATION. The English word hell occurs in the Bible fifty-four times; thirty-one times in the Old Testament, and twenty-three times in the New. In the Old Testament it occurs