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any other ancient author mentions any such fact. Nor does it appear that Christ or any of his followers were ever threatened with any such punishment by the Jews or Ro
In my next I'shall probably bestow-some attention to the scriptural import of the word gehenna. Yours as ever.
My Dear Sir:
Agreeably to promise I now come to examine the import of those words which are rendered hell in our Bible. You are already informed, that let the import of the word hell be what ii may, even if it denotes the heavenly and not the infernal world, still the doctrine of future retribution is a sentiment clearly expressed and necessarily implied, as I have proved in a multitude of passages; but as many hope they shall go to heaven because there is no future hell, it - may not be unprofitable to bestow a little attention to this matter as we pass. You are probably aware that there are three words rendered hell in the New Testament; viz: gehenna, hades, and tartarus. Learned men of every age of the Church, and of every denomination, your own only excepted, have agreed that gehenna and tartarus are employed by the sacred writers to denote a place or state of punishment for the wicked in the future world.
The greek word gehenna, you know, is a word of Hebrew origin. It is derived, as the learned inform us, from two other words which signify, the valley of Hinnon. This valley was once a pleasant and delightful place near the entrance of the east gate of Jerusalem. At an early period in the history of idolatry among the Jews, in imitation of the pagan nations around them, they set up in this valley, a brazen image of their god Moloch. To this deity they of: fered human sacrifices, and at times, immolated their own children, "causing them to pass through the fire into Mo
loch.” The name tophet was afterwards given to this val
ley, a Hebrew word, which means drum, because drums · were there employed to drown the cries of the burning in
fants. These horrid rites were totally abolished by Josiah before the Babylonish captivity. After this for a while, the filth of the city was deposited there, and a fire was kept perpetually burning, and worms were generated there in the Offal; and hence arose the phrase, “Where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” Now, learned theologians of all denominations agree that the name of this loathsome, fiery and wormy valley was used by the Jews in the days of Christ and the Apostles, as an emblem of the future condition and sufferings of the wicked. It is very natural that it should have been so. Words are constantly changing in their meaning. The word paradise primarily denoted nothing but a garden of pleasure; but it afterwards came to be employed to denote the felicity of the righteous in the future world. The word HEAVEN primarily denotes the atmosphere or open space around the earth; but afterwards it acquired a very different meaning. The word villain once denoted a servant, and the Apostles are called "villains of our Lord Jesus Christ," in the first English translation of the Bible; but now the word signifies something very different, and the Holy Apostles are no longer called the villains but the servants of our Lord and Redeemer.
But, notwithstanding the united testimony of all learned men, you contend that the import of gehenna had passed through no change in the days of Christ; that this word was used by Christ in its primary sense, to denote the valley of Hinnon, where criminals were executed by burning. To this I reply,
1. This sense which you attach to the word gehenna as used in the New Testament, is without any foundation in history. There is no evidence, to my knowledge, that crimi, nals were executed in the valley of Hinnon in the days of Christ or his Apostles. Josephus gives no such intimation nor do the New Testament writers. Nor is there the least shadow of evidence that fire for any purpose, was then kept burning, in this once dreadful valley. For all that appears to the contrary, the Valley of Hinnon was as pleasant and agreeable a spot, in itself considered, in the days of our Savior's ministry, as it was in the days of Abraham. The notion that a fire was kept burning here in the days of Christ, for the execution of criminals or for burning offal, has become somewhat prevalent, but it rests for proof wholly upon the assertion of a Jewish Rabbi by the name of Kimchi, who flourished in the fourteenth century. We are not satisfied with this assertion.. "
2. The sense which you would have us attach to the word gehenna,' makes Christ utter nonsense, and falsehood, when he uses the word. Let us see. Our Savior says, “Whosoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of (gehenna) hell fire. Matt. 5:22. Now, put your construction upon the word gehenna and how will it read? Whosoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of being burnt alive as a criminal in the valley of Hinnon !! Now is it so ? Are those who berate and slander their neighbors, in danger of being transported to Jerusalem, and then burnt as criminals ? But perhaps you will say, this was designed to apply to the Jews only. But I ask what evidence have you that the Jews had any law against the sin of calling a person a fool ? Can you, can all the Universalists in the world, produce one word from Jewish history, going to show that according to your construction of the word gehenna,' Christ spoke the truth when he said-Whosoever shall say thou fool, shall be in danger of (gehenna,) hell fire ?"
Take another passage: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee, for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into (gehenna) hell; and if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee, for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body be cast into (ge. henna) hell. Matt. 5:29,30. Mark 9:43,45.
How can you harmonize this passage with your sense of
the word gehenna ? Can you understand how a person was liable to be burnt in the valley of Hinnon, for hav. ing an offending eye or hand? Christ is here inveighing against the lascivious look; sin in the heart. The Jews had no civil laws against such sins.
Look at another passage: 'Woe un'o you Scribes,Pharigees, and 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 (gehenna) hell than yourselves.' Matt. 23:15.
The Jewish proselytes were pagans, -mostly resident in heathen lands-converted to Judaism. When one was made, according to your definition, he was two-fold more a child of the fire kept burning in the valley of Hinnou for the execution of criminals, than the Pharisees; that is, their proselytes deserved to be burnt alive twice! What an exposition. Besides, according to your definition of the word, ihe Scribes and Pharisees. were not children of this fire at all. They were the dominant party among the Jews, and hence the administration of public justice,--s0 far as the Romans left them any civil power-was in their own hands. Would they burn themselves ?. .
Take another passage : • Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of (gehenna) hell. Matt. 23:33.
How will your definition of the word bear here ? According to Universalism, Christ asks the Scribes and Pharisees, the ruling party among the Jews, how they can escape being punished by themselves—burnt as criminals in the valley of Hinnon!! A grave question truly!
But some of your authors tell us that Christ sometimes used the word gehenna,' figuratively, to denote the misery which was coming upon the unbelieving Jews, at the destruction of the holy city and national polity. · To this I object,
(1) It implicates the honesty of Christ as a religious teacher. Public speakers who mean to deal hɔnesty with their hearers and wish to be understood, use words in their common acceptation. Well now, there is no evidence, as you well know, that either before, at the time, or since the days of Christ, the Jews used the word gehenna to denote the destruction of Jerusalem. If Christ used it in this new and unheard-of sense, he deceived his hearers ; yea, moreover, he must have intentionally deceived them; for he gave them no notice that he was about to employ this word in a new and extraordinary sense. Are you willing to prefer this charge against the blessed Savior ?
(2) The most of those whom he warned of the danger of suffering in gehenna, were dead, and according to Universalism, were in heaven long, long before the destruction of Jerusalem. They escaped the damnation of gehenna."
(3) There is not a particle of evidence that any Jew was burnt in the valley of Hinnon at the destruction of Jerusalem..
(4) Tunderstand Christ to employ the word gehenna to represent the sufferings of the wicked in the future world, because this was the sense in which the word was used by the Jews of that day and of subsequent ages. Cbrist did not coin the word. He found it in use with a particular sense attached to it. As an honest speaker, he used it in its common acceptation. But you will ask, how we know that the Jews used this word to denote future punishment? I answer. Their ancient writings have come down to us. There are ancient works, written by learned Jewish Rabbins, containing paraphrases, translations and commentaries of the Jewish Scriptures. These works are called Targums and Tulmuds. I appeal to these works for the sense which the Jews attached to the word gehenna. There are copies of these works in the great library at Cambridge University. Andrew P. Peabody, now pastor of a church in Portsmouth, N. H. was a few years since a tutor in Hebrew, in this institution. He spent a considerable time in examining these Jewish writings, in order to ascertain the sense in which the Jews used the word gehenna. I will now call your attention to a few examples as they have