« PreviousContinue »
then a very proper question to be asked, who changed. the words Gehenna and hell from their original signification, to mean a place of endless misery? We shall see in the next section that the writers of the Targums and the Apocrypha, are appealed to for this change, that this change was gradually produced, and finally Gehenna was used exclusively to mean such a place of misery. Who gave this new sense to the word hell, or whether its change of sense was gradual or sudden, I can afford no information. It is enough for us to know, that this was not its original signification; and this fact is attested by Dr. Campbell, Parkhurst and others, all firm believers in the doctrine of bell torments.
After these statements from such eminent critics relative to Gehenna and our English word hell, not originally signifying a place of endless misery it is very natural to put something like the following questions. 1st, Were these words changed from their original signification by divine authority or was it on the authority of men? None of the above authors assert or even insinuate that such a change in the meaning of these words was made by any of the inspired writers, or by God's authority. It has never been noticed in the course of our reading that any one ventured to prove this or even asserted it. As to the word Gehenna, we have seen that Dr. Campbell says it came gradually to be used in this sense and at length came to be confined to it. 2d, By whom, and at what period of time, did this change in the sense of these two words take place? Here we are left to conjecture; for neither Dr. Campbell, nor any other writer, of which we have any knowledge, gives us any information about this. That a change in the sense of these two words has taken place, is certain, but when, or where, or by whom it was done, no information is afforded us. 3d, By what name was this
place of endless misery called, before the Jews called it by the name Gehenna? And what was its name in the English, or rather Saxon language, before the word hell was changed from its original signification and applied to it? Or was it without a name before these words were altered in sense to suit it? 4th, If it had a name before Gehenna and hell were changed in sense, and applied to it, why was it laid aside? And what were the reasons which induced men to make such an alteration on their own authority? Why were they not content, to speak of this place as the Scriptures teach, if indeed they do reveal such a place of endless misery? 5th, If Gehenna and hell have undergone such a change of sense, on mere human authority, may we not, and ought we not, to change them back again to their original signification, on the same authority?-Such are a few of the questions which may be put, relative to the change in the sense of these two words. We leave our readers to determine how they are to be answered. The last is easily answered, but all the others, we think must remain unanswered.
6th, Another fact, deserving our consideration, is, that Christians, when they speak of hell, adopt the phraseology used about Sheol and Hades, rather than Gehenna, though it is contended that Gehenna is the word which signifies hell, or the place of endless misery. I shall explain what I mean. For example, it is evident from an inspection of the passages, in which Sheol, Hades and Gehenna occur, that Gehenna, for depth, is never contrasted with heaven for height, like Sheol and Hades. Nor, do we read of persons going down to Gehenna, of the depths of Gehenna, or of the lowest Gehenna. Neither do we read of the gates of Gehenna, nor of the pains of Gehenna. All these things are said of Sheol and Hades, as we have seen in a former part of this Inquiry. Besides, no representations are
given of Gehenna, as of Sheol and Hades, as if all the dead, or, even the wicked were there. No persons are ever represented as alive in Gehenna, as speaking out of Gehenna, or as tormented in its flames. It is never, like Sheol and Hades, represented as a dark, concealed place, under the earth. No: it is represented as on a level, or nearly so, with the persons addressed concerning it. All these, and other modes of speaking, are used about Sheol and Hades, but never in speaking of Gehenna; and show a remarkable difference in the Scripture representations of those two places. Such a marked, uniform difference must strike every man's mind with great force, who takes the trouble to examine this subject. In all the twelve places, in which Gehenna occurs in the New Testament, we have seen that what I have stated is strictly correct. In them we read of the damnation of Gehenna or hell: persons are there said to be in danger of it; they are threatened with going into it, or being cast into it; but do we ever read of any person's being in it, and lifting up his eyes in the torments of this place? Now, comparing all these different forms of speech, about Sheol and Hades, with those of Gehenna, the difference is not only manifest, but very great.
Let us now compare these statements with the way in which Christians speak about hell, or the place of future punishment. It is evident, that they seldom, if ever, use the language employed in the Bible, about Gehenna, but generally that used in speaking of Sheol and Hades. Thus, for example, when a preacher describes hell to his hearers, and threatens the wicked with the punishment of it, he speaks of it as a deep place, as the lowest hell, and as a place to which they are going down; and speaks of some already there, lifting up their eyes in its torments. All this we have seen, is said of Sheol and Hades, but never
of hell, or Gehenna, the place of eternal punishment. Permit me then to ask, why this is done? For what reason is the Scripture language about Gehenna laid aside, and that of Sheol and Hades substituted in its place; when it is allowed on all sides, that neither Sheol nor Hades means a place of endless misery It must be confessed, that this is, at least, handling the word of God ignorantly, if not deceitfully; and under the mask of Scripture phraseology, imposing on the ignorance and credulity of mankind. If such persons will have Gehenna to be the place of endless misery, let them use the language of Scripture about it, and not use the language, allowed to have no reference to such a subject. We cannot help thinking that the reason of this change of phraseology is from necessity. It would be contrary to fact, and even common belief, to speak to people of hell, in the language used about Gehenna. To tell them that their whole body should be cast into hell would not do. A case of this kind was never known. It is believed only, that the souls of the wicked go to hell at death, and the body returns to the dust, and not until the resurrection, do the soul and body go there together. This change of the language from Gehenna to that of Sheol and Hades, is therefore necessary, to be in unison with the common belief on this subject. If men were obliged to confine themselves to the language used in Scripture about Gehenna, when they speak of hell, it would, probably, lead them to see, that all was not correctly understood respecting it. I may even add here, that this change of language is not altogether in agreement with the popular ideas entertained of hell. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus, is not in unison with common belief. No man believes that the body is tormented, at least, till after the resurrection of the dead; but how often do preachers represent the body after death as in hell, lifting up its
eyes there, and as tormented in its flames? But fondness for a popular sentiment, often blinds our eyes to the contradictions and absurdity of our language in speaking about it.
7th, Another fact, deserving some notice is, that the punishment of hell or Gehenna, is never once spoken of as a punishment of the spirit, separate from the body in an intermediate state, nor as a punishment for both body and spirit, after the resurrection of the dead. As to the first part of this statement, let the texts in which Gehenna occurs, be ever so rigidly examined, they do not af ford a particle of evidence, that Gehenna is an intermediate place of punishment for the spirit after the death of the body. The text, and we believe the only text, quoted to prove this intermediate place of punishment, is, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. But supposing this account to be literally understood, it should be remembered, that the rich man was not in Gehenna, or hell, but in Hades. Now it is a point, settled beyond all dispute, that Hades is not Gehenna or hell. Admitting then, that Hades is an intermediate place of punishment for the separate spirit, Gehenna or hell must be given up as such a place. But every one knows that it is the common belief, that hell or Gehenna, is the place of suffering in the intermediate state, Ask any common Christian, who believes in the doctrine of eternal misery, if he thinks this punishment before and after the resurrection, are in two different places; he would stare at you as an heretic. He has always believed as he has been taught by his parents, his catechism, and his sect, that there is only one hell for all the wicked. It is high time that common Christians, in distinction from learned Christians, should be told that this is very far from being the true state of the case; as they would soon see, if the learned only spoke their minds freely on this subject. Dr. Campbell has dared to speak of