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Every reader would then have been obliged to consult the context, wherever these words were used, to attain the sense of the writer. Obliged to do this, he would soon have become familiar with these words in the Bible, and must have seen, from the way in which they were used, that the idea of a place of endless misery was never intended to be conveyed by them. But here are four words all rendered by the word hell, and this word is even allowed not to mean originally a place of misery, but the concealed place. Let any one go over all the texts where these words are found, and put this remark to a fair trial. It is true, that our translators, in rendering the word Gehenna, have also used the word hell. But here again, what could they do, for this word had acquired a new sense from its original signification. This new sense they supposed answered to the word Gehenna, considered as the place of endless misery. Here they were under the necessity of either again coining a new word, leaving Gehenna untranslated, or expressing themselves by a circumlocution. We doubt if the translators were at liberty to do any of these, without shocking public prejudice, and exciting the displeasure of those in high authority, under whose patronage they made their translation. They were not left at liberty to give us the best translation, which their own jugdments, and the progress of Biblical criticism, even at that day, could have afforded. In proof of this, see the king's instructions to the translators.
5th, Several very serious evils arise from understanding Sheol or Hades to mean a place of endless misery. In the first place, it is a perversion of those texts in which these words occur. This perversion of them leads to a misunderstanding of many others. By this means the knowledge such texts convey, is not only in some degree
lost, but our knowledge of the word of God is greatly retarded, and our minds are perplexed and embarrassed on other connected subjects. Every text of scripture misunderstood, lays a foundation for a misunderstanding of others; and thus error is not only rendered perpetual, but progressive.
But this is not all. Understanding Sheol and Hades to mean a place of endless misery, is perverting God's word to caricature himself. It is putting our own sense on his words, to make him say things against ourselves which he never intended. It is giving a false color to the language of the Bible, that we may support the false views we entertain of his character, and his dealings with the children of men.
6th, I may just add about Hades, what was noticed about Sheol, that we never find the words eternal, ever. lasting, or forever, used in connexion with it, or concerning it. We never read of an everlasting or eternal Hades or hell, or that men are to be punished in it forever. Nothing like this is to be found in scripture. Such epithets added to the word hell, found in books and sermons, are among the improvements in divinity which man's wisdom teacheth. The word hell is first perverted from its original signification, and then the word eternal is added to it, to make the punishment of endless duration.
2 PETER II. 4. CONSIDERED.
THE third word which is translated hell in the common version, is Tartarus. It occurs only once, and is found, 2 Peter ii. 4. For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” The quotation from Dr. Campbell, to which I alluded in my remarks on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, I shall now introduce. It is a quotation which ought to arrest notice, because it not only gives us information about the origin of Hades as a place of punishment, but assists us in explaining both that parable and the passage before us. He thus writes:dissert. vi. part 2. sect. 19.—“ But is there not one passage,
may be said, in which the word adus must be understood as synonymous with gervice, and consequently must denote the place of final punishment prepared for the wicked, or hell in the Christian acceptation of the term? Ye have it in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke xvi. 23. "In hell, ev tu didn, he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. This is the only passage in Holy Writ which seems to give countenance to the opinion that adus sometimes means the same thing as gevVQ. Here it is represented as a place of punishment. The rich man is said to be tormented there in the midst of flames. These things will deserve to be examined narrowly. It is plain, that in the Old Testament, the most profound silence is observed in regard to the state of the deceased, their joys or sorrows, happiness or misery. It is represented to us rather by negative qualities than by positive, by its silence, its darkness, its being inaccessible, unless by preternatural means, to the living, and their ignorance about it. Thus much in general seems always to have been presumed concerning it, that it is not a state of activity adapted for exertion, or indeed for the accomplishment of any important purpose, good or bad. In most respects, however, there was a resemblance in their notions on this subject, to those of the most ancient heathen.
“But the opinions neither of Hebrews nor of heathen, remained invariably the same. And from the time of the captivity, more especially from the time of the subjection of the Jews, first to the Macedonian empire, and afterwards to the Roman; as they had a closer intercourse with pagans, they insensibly imbibed many of their sentiments, particularly on those subjects whereon their law was silent, and wherein, by consequence, they considered themselves as at greater freedom. On this subject of a future state, we find a considerable difference in the popular opinions of the Jews in our Saviour's time, from those which prevailed in the days of the ancient prophets. As both Greeks and Romans had adopted the notion, that the ghosts of the departed were susceptible both of enjoyment and of suffering, they were led to suppose a sort of retribution in that state, for their merit or demerit in the present. The Jews did not indeed adopt the pagan fables on this subject, nor did they express themselves entirely in the same manner ; but the general train of thinking in both came pretty much to coincide. The Greek Hades they found well adapted to express the Hebrew Sheol. This they came to conceive as including different sorts of habitations for ghosts of different characters. And though they did not receive the terms Elysium or Elysian fields, as suitable appellations for the regions peopled by good spirits, they took instead of them, as better adapted to their own theology, the garden of Eden, or Paradise, a name originally Persian, by which the word answering to garden, especially when applied to Eden, had commonly been rendered by the Seventy. To denote the same state, they sometimes used the phrase Abraham's bosom, a metaphor borrowed from the manner in which they reclined at meals. But, on the other hand, to express the unhappy situation of the wicked in that intermediate state, they do not seem to have declined the use of the word Tariarus. The apostle Peter, 2 Ep. ii. 4. says of evil angels, that “God cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” So it stands in the common version, though neither gekrva nor aans are in the original, where the expression is σειραις ζόφου ταρταρωσας παρεδωκεν εις κρισιν τετηρημένους. The word is not γέεννα και for that comes after judgment; but tagtagos, which is, as it were, the prison of Hades, wherein criminals are kept till the general judgment. And as, in the ordinary use of the Greek word, it was comprehended under Hades, as a part, it ought, unless we had some positive reason to the contrary, by the ordinary rules of interpretation, to be understood so here. There is then no inconsistency in maintaining that the rich man, though in torments, was not in Gehenna, but in that part of Hades called Tartarus, where we have seen already that spirits reserved for judgment are detained in darkness.