Page images
[ocr errors]

the method was established of dividing the law into 54 sections, and of reading one of them every week in their synagogues, the same course of reading to the people the Hebrew text first, and then interpreting it to them in Chaldee, was still continued. For, when the reader had read one verse in Hebrew, an interpreter standing by did render it into Chaldee; and then the next verse being read in Hebrew, it was in like manner interpreted in the same language as before; and so on from verse to verse was every verse alternately read first in the Hebrew, and then interpreted in Chaldee to the end of the section; and this first gave occasion for the making of Chaldee versions for the help of these interpreters. And they thenceforth became necessary not only for their help in the public synagogues, but also for the help of the people at home in their families, that they might there have the Scriptures for their private reading in a language which they understood.

"This work having been attempted by divers persons at different times, and by some of them with different views (for some of them were written as versions for the public use of the synagogues, and others as paraphrases and commentaries for the private instruction of the people,) hence it hath come to pass, that there were anciently many of these Targums, and of different sorts, in the same manner as there anciently were many different versions of the same Holy Scriptures into the Greek language, made with like different views; of which we have sufficient proof in the Octalpa of Origen. No doubt, anciently there were many more of these Targums than we now know of, which have been lost in the length of time. Whether there were any of them of the same composure on the whole Scriptures is not any where said. Those that are now remaining were composed by different persons, and on different parts of Scripture,

some on one part, and others on other parts; and are, in all, of these eight sorts following. 1. That of Onkelos on the five books of Moses; 2. That of Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the prophets, that is, on Joshua, Judges, the two books of Samuel, the two books of Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets; 3. That on the law, which is ascribed to Jonathan Ben Uzziel; 4. The Jerusalem Targum on the law; 5. The Targum on the five lesser books, called the Megilloth, i. e. Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, and the Lamentations of Jeremiah; 6. The second Targum on Esther; 7. The Targum of Joseph, the one-eyed, on the book of Job, the Psalms, and the Proverbs; and, 8. The Targum on the first and second book of Chronicles. On Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel, there is no Targum at all. The reason given by some for this is, because a great part of those books is written in the Chaldee language, and therefore there is no need of a Chaldee paraphrase upon them. This indeed is true for Daniel and Ezra, but not for Nehemiah; for that book is all originally written in the Hebrew language. No doubt, anciently there were Chaldee paraphrases on all the Hebrew parts of those books, though now lost. It was long supposed that there were no Targums on the two books of Chronicles, because none such were known, till they were lately published by Beckius, at Augsburg in Germany, that on the first book A. D.. 1680, and that on the second in 1683."

Having given this abridged account of the Tar-. gums, let us attend to what men quote from them, in proof that Gehenna, in the New Testament, is used to express a place of endless misery for all the wicked. It is very natural for one to conclude, that the quotations made would be given us at length, and. that they would be full and explicit in establishing. this doctrine. We have been at some pains to col-

lect from men who have had access to such scarce books, to see and judge for ourselves concerning what they produced from them in proof. The following, is all we have seen quoted from them, to prove that Gehenna or hell signifies a place of endless misery. Mr. Parkhurst on the word Gehenna, thus writes, "From this valley's having been the scene of those infernal sacrifices, and probably too from its contin-uing after the time of Josiah's reformation, 2 Kings xxiii. 10. a place of abominable filthiness and pollu-· tion; the Jews in our Saviour's time used the compound word ge enm, for hell, the place of the damned. This appears from that word's being thus applied by the Chaldee Targums on Ruth ii. 12. Psalm cxl. 12. Isai. xxvi. 1—5. and xxxiii. 14. and by the Jerusalem Targums, and that of Jonathan Ben Uzziel. Gen. iii. 24. and xv. 17. Compare 2 Esdras ii. 29." It ought to be noticed here, that Parkhurst does not quote one word from these Targums to let us see what they have said, but merely says, that the word Gehenna is used for the place of the damned in certain places in the Targums, on some texts in the Old Testament to which he refers. Let any one turn to those texts and he will see, that Gehenna does not occur in one of them. Yea, it is difficult to perceive how any man could introduce the doctrine of hell torments in speaking of them. The only exception to this is Isai. xxxiii. 14. a text we have considered in chap. ii. sect. 3. In whatever way the Targumists speak of Gehenna in those texts, it is certain that nothing said in the texts themselves afforded them the least occasion to say that Gehenna was the place of the damned. At any rate we ought to have seen what they have said, that we might judge of the evidence they have adduced, for ourselves. On a subject like the one before us, it affords no satisfaction to give us a volume of such kind of proof. I shall

also quote the following from Whitby on Mark ix. 43, 44.-"That Gehenna was by the Jews still looked on and represented as the place in which the wicked were to be tormented by fire: so the Jerusalem Targum represents Gehenna which is prepared for the wicked in the world to come, as a furnace sparkling and flaming with fire, into which the wicked fall. And the Targum upon Ecclesiastes speaks of the fire of hell, Eccles. ix. 15. of the sparks of the fire of hell, chap. x. 11. And of the wicked, who shall go to be burned in hell, chap. viii. 10. Accordingly our Lord speaks, verse xlvii. and Matth. v. 22. of the wicked being cast into the fire of hell, and of their being cast into a furnace of fire, Matth. xiii. 42." He adds,-"The ancient Jews held that the punishment of the wicked in hell should be perpetual or without end. So Judith saith that they shall weep under the sense of their pains forever, chap. xvi. 17. Josephus informs us that the Pharisees held that the souls of the wicked were to be punished with perpetual punishment, and that there was appointed for them a perpetual prison. Philo saith the punishment of the wicked person is to live forever dying; and to be forever in pains and griefs, and calamities that never cease." The same remarks which have just been made on the quotation from Parkhurst nearly apply with the same force to the one just quoted from Whitby. We are not furnished with the passages at length, but mere scraps of expressions are afforded Yea, in the first of his statement he quotes or rather refers to the Jerusalem Targum, but does not say what place in it we are to find any thing about this. Such a mode of quotation from the Targums or any other books might just as well be spared, if they are made for the purpose of proving any thing with a view to convince the reader.


This is all I have been able to find quoted from the Targums to prove that Gehenna is a place of endless punishment for the wicked. I have no doubt if any thing better could have been found, those two learned men would have produced it. I must be permitted to say, that these quotations, do the doctrine no credit, and reflect no honor on the men who adduced them. But seeing nothing better is afforded us, let us suppose that the writers of the Targums did use Gehenna to mean a place of endless misery for the wicked. Let us grant for argument's sake, that these quotations, if quotations they may be called, from the Targums, show sufficiently that the writers used Gehenna in this way. What does this prove? It simply proves that those Targumists, who are reckoned by Prideaux the worst or the least esteemed, used Gehenna in this sense. The Targums referred to by Parkhurst and Whitby are those into which the writers introduced their own glosses and silly stories, fables, prolix explications, and other additions. Are we then to believe such a doctrine on such kind of authority? He that is able to receive it, let him receive it; I beg to be excused. On these quotations I shall now submit a few remarks for candid consideration.

1st, If the Targums are good authority, that Gehenna is a place of endless punishment, their authority is equally good in determining who are to suffer it. Permit me then to adduce the same authority, as quoted by Whitby on Rom. ii. to show, that no Jew would go to hell to be punished forever, but that all the Gentiles are fit fuel for hell fire. He says, "The Jewish religion was very much corrupted at our Saviour's coming, so that they thought it sufficient to obtain God's favour, and to secure them from his judgments,-1st, That they were of the seed of Abraham; and hence the Baptist speaks thus to them,

« PreviousContinue »