Page images



Ir 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, 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.



Let such as value their authority 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, 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 folFlowing 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 be easily 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 Apocrypha use the word Hades or Gebenna in the original? From reading the passages in the English version, we began to suspect, from the phraseology connected with the word hell, that Hades and not Gehenna was the word used in the original. We have been at some pains to examine this, and shall give the result of our inquiries about it. We have found, then, in the original Greck of the Apocrypha that it is the term Hades, not Gehenna, that is used, with the exception of the passages mentioned in the

second book of Esdras, which book we have not been able to find. But from the phraseology which is connected with the word hell, in the English version, we are persuaded that the three places in Esdras, when examined, will form no exception to the use of the word Hades in all the other places. If Gray, in his key to the Old Testament, is to be believed, this book is not to be found in the original. He says, p. 531. "The second book of Esdras is not to be found in any Hebrew or Greek manuscripts. It is supposed to have been originally written in the Greek language; but is extant only in a few Latin copies, and in an Arabic version." He adds, p. 534. The book was never admitted into the Hebrew canon; and there is no sufficient authority to prove that it was ever extant in the Hebrew language. Its pretended prophecies are not produced in evidence by Christian writers, striking as such testimony must have been, if genuine; and the book was never publicly or generally acknowledged either in the Greek or Latin church; nor was it ever inserted in the sacred catalogue, by either councils or fathers; but is expressly represented as apocryphal by St. Jerom, who describes it as rejected by the church."

Leaving, then, the three places where the term hell is used in the second book of Esdras, out of the present question, let us see what all the others amount to, in proving that hell means a place of endless misery for the wicked.

1st, In all the other places, where the word hell is used, the original word is Hades. Are we then to receive it as a truth, on the authority of these uninspir ed writers, that Hades is a place of endless punishment for the wicked? We think it has been shown that this is not the sense in which the New Testament writers use this word. Nor is Sheol, its corresponding word in the Old, used in this sense. See chap. 1.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

We demand then, how these apocryphal writers came to give to Hades such a different meaning from that of the sacred writers, both in the Old and New Testament. From what divine source of information did they learn that Hades was the place of future eternal punishment? If it is not found in this sense in the inspired writings, ought it to be found in theirs? And are we obliged to receive it in this sense implicitly on their authority? Besides; why have the above authors in proving that Gehenna is used to signify a place of endless misery quoted the Apocrypha, when this word is not once used there? They declare that Hades is not a place of endless punishment, and yet quote texts where this word occurs in the Apocrypha to prove that it is. The fact is, they took it for granted that where hell is used by the Apocryphal writers, that the original word was Gehenna. This was a very great oversight. If they knew to the contrary, it was certainly very wrong to confound two places, which are so plainly distinguished in Scripture, and which they themselves have so expressly distinguished.

2d, It has been shown in Chap. i. sect. 3. that the Jews learned the notion of eternal punishment in Hades from the heathen. Is it any wonder then, that in the books of the Apocrypha, we should find this word used in this sense; books known to contain so much fiction, and fancy, and so many other heathen notions? It would rather be surprising, if we did not. If any one will affirm that these writers did not learn their notion of a punishment in Hades from the heathen, it is his duty to show from what other source their information was derived. It was not from the Old Testament, for it contains no such information. If the Apocryphal books were all written before the New Testament, it is plain the writers did not derive their information about Hades as a place of punish

ment from it. Supposing some of them, yea, admit all of them to have been written after the New Testament, this information was not derived from it, for it contained no such information. If their notions then concerning Hades be not of heathen origin, let it be shown that they are divine.

3d, But it should be remembered that the original word which is used by these writers, is not Gehenna, but Hades. Now it hath been shown beyond a doubt, that Hades is not the place of eternal punishment for the wicked, but is in fact to be destroyed, or be no more. All, then, which the most zealous contenders for future punishment could make out from the usage of the word hell, in the Apocrypha, would be, that it is an intermediate place of punishment between death and the resurrection. It proves nothing on the subject of endless misery in Gehenna or hell, the word which is supposed by Dr. Campbell and others, properly to express this place of punishment. But there is one thing which ought not to be overlooked. Dr. Campbell, we have seen, says that Gehenna is not used in the Old Testament to express a place of endless misery for the wicked, but that in process of time, it came gradually to assume this sense, and at last came to be confined to it. The gradual change must have taken place between the completion of the Old Testament Scriptures and the commencement of the gospel dispensation; for he says that in this sense it is always used in the New Testament. It is believed that some, if not all, the Apocryphal books, were written during this period. We were not a little surprised, then, in finding that not one of the Apocryphal writers ever used the term Gehenna in this sense, or in any other, throughout their writings. It is then put beyond all possibility of controversy, that this gradual change of the meaning of Gehenna was not brought about about by these writers. Whoever did


« PreviousContinue »