Page images

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. xii. 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 us. 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 in proof of it. 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. All may see that 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 favor, and to secure them from his judgments,—1st, That they were of the seed of Abraham ; and hence the Baptist speaks thus to them, bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and (think it not sufficient to) say within yourselves, we have Abraham for our futher, Matth. iii. 8, 9. The Chaldee paraphrasts do often mention their expectation of being preserved for the merits or good works of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and their writers add, that heil fire hath no power over the sinners of Israel, because Abraham and Isaac descend thither to fetch them thence. 2d, They held that circumcision was of sufficient virtue to render them accepted of God, and to preserve them from eternal ruin; for they teach that no circumcised person goes to hell; God having promised to deliver them from it for the merit of circumcision ; and having told Abraham, that when his children fell into transgression, and did wicked works, he would remember the odour of their foreskins, and would be satisfied with their piety. And, 3d, They taught that all Israelites had a portion in the world to come; and that not. withstanding their sins, yea, though they were condemn. ed here for their wickedness: whereas, of all the Gentiles, without exception, they pronounce that they are fuel for hell fire." Let persons then, who quote the Targums in proof that Gehenna or hell is a place of endless mis. ery, take their choice. They must either reject their authority altogether, or be willing to go to hell on the same or similar authority; as Gentiles we must all be content to be fuel for hell fire. Let us then make up our minds, whether we shall, for the sake of maintaining the author ity and honor of the Targums in the one case, be willing to submit to the punishment they assign us in the other. We must either accept of both or reject both.

We might here take our leave of the Targums : for what has now been stated, is sufficient to convince any man, that their authority is not for a moment to be regarded. But we shall proceed.

2d, Parkhurst says in the above quotation, that, “the Jews in our Saviour's time used the compound word, gee

nm, for hell, the place of the damned.” And he adds, that this appears from that word's being thus applied by the Chaldee Targums and by the Jerusalem Targums and that of Ben Uzziel.” And why does it not also appear that all the stories, and glosses, and fables, which they introduced into their Targums, are also true? We have the same authority for the one as for the other. If it should be said, that the Targums are only appealed to for the manner in which the Jews used this word ? we reply that this is not the whole truth, for it is in the way the Jews did use this word in the Targums, that the doctrine is attempted to be proved. The sense in which our Lord used the word Gehenna is assumed, and the Targums are appealed to not only for the sense of this word but for the truth of the doctrine. Let it be shown from the context of the passages in which it is used, that this is its sense, and there is no necessity to appeal to the Targums. But if this be true which is stated in the above quotations why does it not also appear, that the Gentiles were fuel for hell fire? By this way of making things appear to be true, it will be no difficult thing to show, that all the silly, sick brained stories of the Apocrypha, Targums, and Talmuds, are true. Besides, by the same rule, we ought to believe, that the fire of hell is literal, material fire, for the Targumists appear to have believed this, as is pļain from the above quotation.

But notice, that Whitby says, that “the Jewish religion was very much corrupted at our Saviour's coming." By what evidence does it appear, that the Gentiles were fuel for hell fire, and that this is a corruption of their religion, but that hell fire itself was not also a part of this corruption? Neither of these is taught in the Old Testament. From what source, then, do we learn, that both are not a corruption of their religion? How could they be any thing but a corruption of their religion, when pot found in their scriptures? If this is denied, let proof be produced to the contrary. After reading the above quotation from Whitby, no one can doubt that the Jewish religion was very much corrupted. It was a corruption, how- . ever, as any one may see, which flattered themselves, and sufficiently expressed their enmity against the Gentiles. After seeing this quotation, and considering the strange and even ridiculous opinions held by the Jews, what credit can any man give to any thing such persons could say about Gehenna's being a place of endless misery? One would certainly be disposed to think, that, so far from the doctrine's being true, it was invented for the purpose of showing the deep-rooted aversion which they had to Gentiles. If Gehenna or hell, held by them to be a place of endless misery, though not even for all the Gentiles, be a truth, yet all the other things stated in the above quotation are considered corruptions of their religion, we honestly own that we have seldom seen a truth held with so many absurd notions. It is truly like a grain of wheat in a bushel of chaff, and we must seek it in the Targums, perhaps more than a whole day before we find it. However, if it can be proved that this part is a truth, and all the others are errors which they blended with it, we shall be happy to give the evidence produced a candid examination. To say the least of it, the testimony of such witnesses, is, in our opinion, very suspicious.

3d, But we should like to know how the writers of the Targums, Josephus, and Philo, quoted above, came by the information, which they detail to us concerning hell or Gehenna. By what means did they come to know, that it was a place of punishment for the wicked, that the punishment was to be literal fire, and endless in its duration ? Nothing of this could be learned from the Old

« EelmineJätka »