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THE MEANING OF GEHENNA.
This like all other words, applied to the scenes of the future world, was originally applied to what existed in this world. In its primary sense, it was a name for a valley adjacent to Jerusalem. It is a compound word, signifying the valley of Hinnom. It was anciently a delightful valley, shaded with a delightful grove, and here the idolatrous Israelites established the worship of Moloch, and sacrificed their own children to the idol by burning them. The valley is also called Tophet from the Hebrew word Toph, signifying a' drum, because drums were beaten to drown the cries of the victims. After the captivity, this spot was regarded with abhorrence on account of these abominations. And following the example of Josiah, the Jews threw into it every species of filth, the carcases of animals, and the dead bodies of malefactors. And to prevent a pestilence arising from such a mass of putrifaction, constant fires were maintained in the valley, in order to consunie the whole. By an easy metaphor, the Jews who could imagine no severer torment than that of fire, transferred that name to the place of the infernal fire-to that part of hades which they supposed to be inhabited by demons and the souls of wicked men suffering punishment. So much I suppose is admitted by all. That the word is not used in the Old Testament in the sense of hell, I freely concede. That it is rarely if ever used in the literal sense of the valley of Hinnom in the New Testament, is granted by my opponents. That it is used in the New Testament in a transferred sense, Mr. B. fully concedes. What this transferred sense is, is the question now before us.
This we will attempt to settle by an examination of the particular passages where it occurs.
Matt. 5: 22. But whosoever shall say thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Here I agree with Mr. B. that the word is in no case to be understood of such a punishment as burning alive in the valley of Hinnom. This passage has its difficulties of interpretation, but to my mind none of the difficulty lies in determining that the destruction of Jerusalem is not the punishment here intended by hell fire. Something more than Schleusner's authority unsupported by the reasons on which it rests is needful to convince me that among the Jews “ any severe punishment especially a shameful kind of death was denominated Gehenna.” Mr. Balfour finds but one meaning to the word, making it in all cases a name for the destruction of Jerusalem whenever it is used in the gospels. Where then is his evidence that it is used in that indeterminate sense ? And then there is no evidence external or internal, that Christ used the word or that his hearers would understand him of the des. truction of Jerusalem. There is no allusion in the context, and nothing which would guide the mind of Christ's hearers to such a meaning, unless that meaning by use had become distinctly, and familiarly appropriated to the word. And that was impossible, for Jerusalern's destruction was not generally suspected, when the sermon on the mount was delivered, and of course such a meaning of the word could not come into general use.
But Mr. B. says, no one supposes the two first, i.e. the judgand the council to refer to a future state, and asks, why should the third ? To this, it is enough to reply, that no one supposes that the two first refer to national calamities, and why should the third ? Suppose a public speaker, were to say of a certain course of wickedness, that it leads to the prison, to the gallows, and to hell. You might say with as much reason, the two first do not refer to a future state, why then should the third ?
Mr. B. asks.-“Is the crime of calling a brother a fool so much worse than the other two ?" I answer, the climax in the text is something of this nature—The first punishment called judgment, was a punishment by death, adjudged by the
lower court, the second was death, pronounced by the highest authority, and inflicted in the most appalling forms, and the third must be a punishment adjudged by the highest of all courts, the court of heaven. We are not to understand this passage as a statement of the comparative guilt of the three sins, but as a powerful representation of the fact, that sins of mere intention and words, are in the sight of God as offensive as more overt actions. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment, (death adjudged by the lower court.) But I say unto you, whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, is guilty of that which in God's esteem is the same as murder. And so of the rest—To say to his brother, Raca, that is to give expression to that causeless anger, is with more propriety counted as murder. And to call a brother a fool (a miscreant) in anger, is in God's esteem, a sin for which there is no adequate punishment this side of hell fire. In this understanding of the passage, it is not difficult to see why calling a brother a fool should be represented as such a crime. The design seems to be not so much to make a comparison between the three sirs, as to represent all the three, as guilty far beyond the common apprehensions of men. Having answered Mr. B.'s question, we might now retort it upon him. Why should calling a brother a fool expose one to shame in Jerusalem's destruction, rather than the other two? He shows wherein it was a great crime to call a brother a fool, but not what particular relation that crime had to the national judgments then impending, rather than the other two. That gehenna in this passage incurs anything else than hell, remains yet to be proved.
Matt. 10: 28. Fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul. But rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. I have already considered Mr. B.'s views of this passage, p. 23. The question whether gehenna here means hell, turns on the question whether a man has a soul to be destroyed in hell. I think I have shown the absurdity of the position, that though a man has no soul, he has
a life in danger of being killed after the body is dead. But if it be granted that a man has a soul, capable of being destroyed after the body is dead, it will follow that gehenna is the place, where destruction is inflicted on the soul after the death of the body.
• Matt. 18: 9. If thine eye offend thee pluck it out, and cast it from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Mr. B.'s first reason why gehenna here may no tmean hell, is, that Christ was speaking to his own disciples. Well, what if he was? Did not they need to be urged to self-denials, by a consideration of the danger of hell ? And did not the urging after all prove of none effect upon one of their number? He next asserts that in no instance where Christ speaks of gehenna was the future statė a subject of discourse. But this is asserting the very point in dispute. But he spends his chief labor in an attempt to explain away the fact, that everlasting fire, and the fire of gehenna, are here used as meaning the same thing. Having considered at sufficient length the use of the word everlasting, when applied to punishment, I have no occasion to follow him through his attempt to prove that everlasting fire does not mean hell. I take it as proved, in a previous chapter, that everlasting fire is no other than the fire of hell, and I discover nothing here to invalidate that proof. In one verse, Christ says, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire, and in the other, rather than having two hands, to be cast into everlasting fire. Mr. B. here admits that if the fire of gehenna means the national judgments, so does everlasting fire; and he finds a use for the term everlasting in the protracted calamities which have fallen upon the Jews. But how could that kind of everlasting fire, affect individuals then living ? What if these calamities have been continued through so many generations, they are therefore no more severe on that account, to the individuals who fell with Jerusalem. Their hands and their eyes have suffered no more from the fire being in in that sense everlasting. But this point comes up again under another text.
The contrast between entering into life, and going into ge
henna, proves that gehenna is that which stands as the opposite of heaven-It is better to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell. Do you say, entering into life, means only coming in possession of that spiritual life which believers have in this world? The answer is, the disciples were supposed already to have entered into that life ; and they could not be properly exhorted to the means of entering into it. Then there was no entering into life reserved for them, but entering into heaven. And then it is not only called everlasting fire, and put in contrast with entering into heaven; but as if to cut off all possibility of understanding it of anything short of hell, the expression is added, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched; which is equivalent to saying that the soul will always live, to endure the punishment, and the fire will not be quenched, during the life of the soul. · To the phrase unquenchable fire used in another place, the Universalists object that it means only that which burns as long as the fuel lasts. But to cut off that pretence, here is an assurance that it will last forever,
Matt. 23: 15, Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites;
for ye compass sea and land to make one prosely te and when he is made, ye make him two fold more the child of hell than yourselves. Mr. B. says nothing on this passage but what is absolutely too frivolous to notice. On the supposition that gehenna means hell, the phrase, child of gehenna, is clear and natural. As with the Hebrews, child of death, signified one worthy of death, or children of wrath signified those exposed to wrath, so child of hell, signified one exposed to hell, or deserving of it. But the child of Jerusalem's destruction seems to be rather an awkward and unnatural product. And by what rule of language would he be understood by his hearers so to mean, they having no anticipations of such a destruction ? If that destruction were universally expected, and in
one's mouth, under the name of gehenna, the case would be different. But the event could not pass by that name, nor any other name specially appropriated to it, because none had been expecting it. The Old Testament prophets' predictions of it seem not to