Page images
PDF
EPUB

the punishment of the wicked in a future state, the name Tophet came gradually to be used in this sense, and at length to be confined to it. This is the sense, if I mistake not, in which gehenna, a synonymous term, is always to be understood in the New Testament, where it occurs just twelve times. In ten of these there can be no doubt : in the other two the expression is figurative; but it scarcely will admit a question, that the figure is taken from that state of misery which awaits the impenitent. Thus the Pharisees are said to make the proselyte, whom they compass sea and land to gain, twofold more a child of hell, vios Yeevvns, than themselves “; an expression both similar in form, and equivalent in signification, to ilos daßokov, son of the devil, and vios Tns anwelas, son of perdition. In the other passage an unruly tongue is said to be set on fire of hell 18, φλογιζομενη υπο της γεέννης. These two cannot be considered as exceptions, it being the manifest intention of the writers in both to draw an illustration of the subject from that state of perfect ' wretchedness.

$ 2. As to the word ádns, which occurs in eleven places of the New Testament, and is rendered hell in all, except one, where it is translated grave, it is quite common in classical authors, and frequently used by the Seventy, in the translation of the Old Testament. In my judgment, it ought never in Scripture to be rendered hell, at least in the sense wherein that word is now universally understood by Christians. In the Old Testament the corresponding word is 5980 sheol, which signifies the state of the dead in general, without regard to the goodness or badness of the persons, their happiness or misery. In translating that word, the Seventy have almost invariably used adns. This word is also used sometimes in rendering the nearly synonymous words or phrases 772 bor, and 7 'yx abne bor, the pit, and stones of the pit, nya 58 tsal moth, the shades of death, 2017 dumeh, silence. The state is always represented under those figures which suggest something dreadful, dark, and silent, about which the most prying eye, and listening ear, can acquire no information. The term ádns, hades, is well adapted to express this idea. It was written anciently, as we learn from the poets (for what is called the poetic, is nothing but the ancient dialect), ádns, ab a privativa et Eidw video, and signifies obscure, hidden, invisible. To this the word hell in its primitive signification perfectly corresponded. For, at first, it denoted only. what was secret or concealed. This word is found with little variation of form, and precisely in the same meaning, in all the Teutonic dialects 43

41 Matt. xxiii, 15.

42 James, iii, 6.

But though our word hell, in its original signification, was more adapted to express the sense of adns

1

13 See Junius' Gothic Glossary, subjoined to the Codex Argenteus, on the word hulyan.

than of yeevva, it is not so now. When we speak as Christians, we always express by it, the place of the punishment of the wicked after the general judgment, as opposed to heaven, the place of the reward of the righteous. It is true that, in translating heathen poets, we retain the old sense of the word hell, which answers to the Latin orcus, or rather infernus, as when we speak of the descent of Æneas, or of Orpheus, into hell. Now the word infernus, in Latin, comprehends the receptacle of all the dead, and contains both elysium the place of the blessed, and tartarus the abode of the miserable. The term inferi, comprehends all the inhabitants good and bad, happy and wretched.

The Latin words infernus and inferi bear evident traces of the notion that the repository of the souls of the departed is under ground. This appears also to have been the opinion of both Greeks and Hebrews, and indeed of all antiquity. How far the ancient practice of burying the body may have contributed to produce this idea concerning the mansion of the ghosts of the deceased, I shall not take it upon me to say ; but it is very plain, that neither in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, nor in the New, does the word 'adns convey the meaning which the present English word hell, in the Christian usage, always conveys to our minds.

$ 3. It were endless to illustrate this remark by an enumeration and examination of all the passages in both Testaments wherein the word is found. The attempt would be unnecessary, as it is hardly now pretended by any critic, that this is the acceptation of the term in the Old Testament. Who, for example, would render the words of the venerable patriarch Jacob 44, when he was deceived by his sons into the opinion that his favourite child Joseph had been devoured by a wild beast, I will go down to hell to my son mourning? or the words which he used “5, when they expostulated with him, about sending his youngest son Benjamin into Egypt along with them; Ye will bring down my grey heirs with sorrow to hell? Yet in both places the word, in the original, is sheol, and in the version of the Seventy, hades. I shall only add, that in the famous passage from the Psalms “S, quoted in the Acts of the Apostles 4?, of which I shall have occasion to take notice afterwards ; though the word is the same both in Hebrew and in Greek, as in the two former quotations, and though it is, in both places, rendered hell in the common version, it would be absurd to understand it as denoting the place of the damned, whether the expression be interpreted literally of David the type, or of Jesus Christ the antitype, agreeably to its principal and ultimate object.

\ 4. But it appears at present to be the prevailing opinion among critics, that the term, at least in the Old Testament, means no more than hap keber,

14 Gen. xxxvii. 35.

46 Psal. xvi, 10.

45 xlii. 38. 47 Acts, ii, 27.

grave or sepulchre. Of 'the truth of this opinion, after the most attentive, and I think impartial, examination, I am far from being convinced. At the same time I am not insensible of the weight which is given to that interpretation, by some great names in the learned world, particularly that of Father Simon, a man deeply versed in oriental literature, who has expressly said “, that sheol signifies in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, sepulchre, and who has strenuously and repeatedly defended this sentiment, against Le Clerc and others who had attacked it ". And since he seems even to challenge his opponents to produce examples, from the Old Testament, wherein the word sheol has the signification which they ascribe to it; I shall here briefly, with all the deference due to names so respectable as those which appear on the opposite side, lay before the reader the result of my inquiries upon the question.

Ø 5. I FREELY acknowledge that, by translating sheol the

grave, the purport of the sentence is often expressed with sufficient clearness. The example last quoted from Genesis is an evidence. Ye will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave, undoubtedly gives the meaning of the sentence in the original, notwithstanding that the English word

48 Hist. Crit. du N. T. ch. 12.

49 Reponse a la Defense des Sentimens de quelques Theolo. giens de llollande, ch. xvi. VOL. 1.

43

« PreviousContinue »