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In Mat. 5: 22, Jesus, in allusion to the punishment of crimes in the valley of Hinnom, speaks of the fire of Gehenna, which is very unwarrantably translated, hell fire. In this passage, three offences are noticed, and three degrees of punishment proportionate to the crimes. 1. Anger and its consequences, for which an appeal might be made to the judgment, or less Sanhedrin, consisting of twenty-three Magistrates, whose power extended to many capital offences, and the infliction of punishment even by strangling or beheading. 2. Contempt, expressed by the opprobrious title of Raka, or Shallow brains; for which the offender might be arraigned before the Council or Grand Sanhedrin, which consisted of seventy-two Elders, whose business was to take cognizance of capital offences only, and especially those committed against religion; and to receive appeals from the lower council, for the Grand Sanhedrin alone had power to inflict the punishment of stoning or burning alive. 3. The third offence consisted in mortal hatred or enmity, expressed by the term, Moreh, or apostate. The crime of apostacy was generally punished by roasting or burning alive in Gehenna; and the force of our Lord's words will appear, more strikingly, when we reflect that every person, who accused another of apostacy, if he failed to prove the charge, suffered the punishment due by the law to the guilty, and was consequently burned instead of the accused. No wonder then, that our master should say, whosoever shall call his brother moreh or apostate, shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna. We also hence see the propriety of the admonition in the 29th verse and collateral passages, to abandon every thing, though dear as a right hand or eye, rather, than by apostacy expose the life to destruction, in the fire of Gehenna. The common translation of Mat. 5: 22, and the doctrine generally deduced from it, are alike contemptible and ridicu
lous! What! our Lord sentence another to hell-fire, for an offence of which he himself was frequently guilty, see Mat. 23: 17, 19. Luke 11: 40, and 24: 25. The word hell occurs twelve times in the New Testament, as the translation of Gehenna: but surely no honest man would have used the former word to express the idea of the latter. Hell means a concealed place; but Gehenna was the valley of Hinnom, in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, well known to all the inhabitants of that city. There is, therefore, no affinity in the terms, nor in the ideas suggested by them; and accordingly the best versions retain the word Gehenna, wherever it occurs in the Greek.
Notwithstanding, as Gehenna is called the place where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, Mark 9: 43-49, some farther explanation may be necessary. From this passage it has been argued, that our Lord calls the fire, into which the wicked shall be cast, unquenchable; and speaks of Hell as a place where the worm dieth not; and that to show the perpetuity of the punishment of the wicked, he adds, every one shall be salted with fire.” But "this argument, says Newcome, is founded upon a false interpretation of the metaphors, which are here employed; and is altogether fallacious. Jesus only speaks of the wicked being cast into the valley of Hinnom, into the unquenchable fire, where the worm dieth not. Yet in the valley of Hinnom, the worm died when its food failed, and the pile on which human sacrifices were burnt to Moloch, was often extinguished. Salt being a preservative of food, was among the Jews an emblem of virtue and knowledge, by which the mind is purified, Col. 4: 6." God says of the fire on the Levitical altar, it shall never go out. Lev. 6: 13. That he would kindle a fire in the gates of Jerusalem that shall never be quenched. Jer. 17: 27. Ez. 20: 47, 48. The smoke of Idumea was to go up for ever, and
its fire not to be quenched. Is. 34: 10. Yet these fires have all ceased to burn many hundreds of years ago.
There were many circumstances which caused the valley of Hinnom to obtain the title of a place "where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” In Gehenna, 185,000 of the army of Sennecharib fell by a fiery pestilential disease, and thereby the prophecy, Is. 30: 33, was almost literally fulfilled. For this king of Assyria, Tophet was ordained, and the breath of the Lord like a stream of brimstone enkindled the fire for the destruction of his army. At the time Jerusalem was taken by the Babylonians, thousands of slaughtered Jews were thrown in heaps in this valley, according to Jer. 7: 33, and 19: 7. It was the place of public execution for criminals, and a common depot for not only all bodies refused the rites of burial, but also for all manner of pollution. To prevent noxious vapours from proving injurious to the health of the city, a fire was kept continually burning to consume the bones, decayed bodies of the slain, hanged, gibbited, and the common filth of the city, which being largely supplied, caused the fire to obtain the epithet, unquenchable. Dead bodies exposed to the influence of the atmospheric air, soon became putrid and clothen with worms; hence the valley received the name of the place where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched, Is. 64: 24, Mark 9: 44. But how wild is it to suppose the existence of a place like Gehenna, in another world? Can fire and worms subsist together? Can worms eat spirits, and fire burn incorruptible bodies? No! Let man be immortal, and all the fires of a thousand Hells shall be unable to injure him!
Though some might consider an explanation of this term essential in a discourse of this nature, yet we
deem it almost entirely unnecessary, because the word never occurs in any part of scripture universally acknowledged by christians. The second Epistle of Peter, especially the second chapter, has been disputed in all ages; and the probability is, that if genuine, the apostle, without approving the fanciful notions of the Heathen, might cite a commonly received opinion, and argue from acknowledged principles. When we treated of Hades, we there observed that Tartarus was supposed to be the lowest and darkest department of that subterranean region. From what is said 2 Peter 2: 4, 17, and Jude 13, Dr. Campbell, Ewing, and others, suppose Tartarus to be the dungeon or prisonhouse of Hades, where the ghosts are reserved in chains, or solitary confinement, might we not ask these sages how spirits disembodied can be chained, or what doors or walls can confine immaterial beings? But poor orthodoxy must avoid interrogation as well as definition. It seems then that while Hades was esteemed a kind of Debtors' prison, Tartarus was regarded as the solitary cells of criminals. But though superstition's fancy paint her gloomy scenes in different shades, still Hades and Tartarus were considered as one and the same, and never were, nor are they yet, believed, by the learned, to be the abode of final wretchedness. To this opinion Dr. Campbell fully agrees, and the best Lexicographers define the words accordingly. Tartarus, says Phavorinus, "aer hupogaios kai anelios," "subterranean air, where the sun shines not ;" and Stephanus defines Hades "hupo gaias topos skoieinos-a dark place under the earth.'
We have now finished our investigation concerning the import of the Hebrew and Greek terms translated Hell, in the common English version, and venture to conclude, that not a word in all the Greek and Hebrew scriptures, signifies a place of punishment for the wicked after death. On fable, on pagan fable alone,
have orthodox divines built the antichristian dogma of Hell-torments.
Lecture on 1 Cor. 15: 55. O Hell, where is thy Victory. By Rev. J. S. Thompson.
Brethren in the Gospel of Christ, and Fellow heirs of the heavenly inheritance-You have heard of the grace of God which bringeth salvation to all men, and have been induced to admit that such a dispensation merited the title of Evangelical, good news. But when this grace of God displays its glories by triumphing over sin, death, and hell-you are constrained to exclaim with Paul, it is the glorious gospel of the blessed God. Herein you behold it unbosom the eternal and unchangeable love of God towards mankind, by forming them in goodness, directing them in wisdom, glorifying them in power, and performing all things, for the exaltation of his own glory, and the eternal beatification of all his intelligent offspring. I know not with what feelings you have assembled this evening-whether you are disposed to hear what God the Lord will say, or determined to hold the vulgar opinions for the sake of popularity: O my God, save me from being a dissembler, a sycophant and bigot. Let me die an independent man, that my death may be glorious; but may I never live an hour in sinful conformity, alike detested by God and honest men. The reading which I have adopted is supported by the Greek text, the best translators and commentators of ancient and modern times, and is the reading found in the margin of many of our Bibles. The word Hades, which occurs eleven times in the New Testament, is rendered hell in all excepting my text, where it is