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GEHENNA, UNIFORMLY TRANSLATED HELL, IN THE
NEW TESTAMENT, CONSIDERED AS A PLACE OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT.
WE have now arrived at a part of this Inquiry, which requires the utmost attention. The New Testament is considered as clearly and decidedly teaching the doctrine of endless misery to all the wicked, and Gehenna is the place in which they are said to suffer it. The truth, or falsehood of this doctrine, is then at issue upon the decision of the question,—What is the scripture meaning and usage of the word Gchenna ?
REMARKS ON DR. CAMPBELL'S VIEWS OF GEHENNA.
WE have seen from a consideration of all the texts, in which Sheol, Hades, and Tartarus, occur, that these words never ought to have been translated hell, at least in the sense in which it is used by most Christians. This is confirmed by Dr. Campbell and other writers, who were all firm believers in the doctrine of eternal misery. Indeed, it is not now pretended by critics, that these words were ever intended to convey such an idea, by any of the sacred writers.
The word, and I believe the only word, which is supposed to express the place of eternal misery in the Bible, is the term Gehenna. As Dr. Campbell conclusively proves, that Sheol, Hades and Tartarus do not mean this place, he as positively asserts, that this is always the sense of Gehenna in the New Testament. He thus writes concerning it in his sixth preliminary Dissertation, part ii. sec. 1 :—“ That geevva is employed in the New Testament to denote the place of future punishment, prepared for the devil and his angels, is indisputable. In the Old Testament we do not find this place in the same manner mentioned. Accordingly the word geeva does not occur in the Septuagint. It is not a Greek word, and consequently not to be found in the Grecian classics. It is originally a compound of the two Hebrew words in 'ge hin
nom, the valley of Hinnom, a place near Jerusalem, of which we hear first in the book of Joshua, xv. 8. It was there that the cruel sacrifices of children were made by. fire to Moloch, the Ammonitish idol, 2 Chron. xxxiii. 6. The place was also called tophet, 2 Kings xxiii. 10. and that, as is supposed, from the noise of drums, toph signifying a drum, a noise raised on purpose to drown the cries of the helpless infants. As this place was, in process of time, considered as an emblem of hell, or the place of torment reserved for 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."
Such is the statement given by Dr. Campbell. It will be easily perceived, that the whole of it is bare, unsupported assertion. He does not do here, as we have seen him do with Sheol, and Hades, prove what he says by an appeal to the passages. No; he leaves us to make out the proof the best way we can.
At first I was inclined to think, that the proof was so plain, and full, that he deemed it superfluous to adduce it. Resolved not to take this very important article on bare assertion, even from him, I have considered it as carefully as I could, and shall submit the result of my investigations for candid consideration.
It is with diffidence and reluctance I dissent from such a learned and sensible writer as Dr. Campbell. But even he has taught me to call no man master.
courages free inquiry, and inculcates on his readers, that no doctrine ought to be believed because it is asserted by the learned, and professed by the multitude ; but on the argument and evidence whereby it is supported. As the foregoing quotation contains, for substance, the views of all who believe Gehenna to signify the place of eternal punishment, it is necessary to make some remarks on it in the outset. With all due respect for the memory of Dr. Campbell, I solicit attention to the following remarks on the above quotation.
1st, Let it be then observed how very differently he speaks in the first and last part of it. In the first he says,-“that Gehenna is employed in the New Testament to denote the place of future punishment, prepared for the devil and his angels, is indisputable. But in the last, instead of speaking with such confidence, he only says, 5 this is the sense, if I mistake not, in which Gehenna, a synonymous term, is always to be understood in the New Testament." Whether what he had written between the first and last of these sentences, led him to hesitate about the meaning of Gehenna, I cannot say; but sure I am, that he was too shrewd a man not to perceive, and too candid not to own, the insufficiency of the evidence adduced to convince his readers. It is not his usual mode merely to assert things. He generally states evidence, and seldom fails to convince us. But here he af. fords us none. It was in attempting to make out the proof of what he asserts, for my own satisfaction, that I have been led to alter my opinion about the meaning of Gehenna.
2d, Though Dr. Campbell asserts in the above quotation that this is always the sense of Gehenna in the New Testament, yet he denies that it has any support from the Old. He says,—“ in the Old Testament we do not
find this place in the same manner mentioned. Accordingly the word Gehenna does not occur in the Septuagint. It is not a Greek word, and consequently not to be found in the Grecian classics.” Here it is positively declared, that Gehenna is not to be found in the Old Testament, as meaning a place of endless punishment. To me this is very strange; that the word Gehenna in the New Testament should indisputably mean such a place of misery; that it should even be taken from the Old, and yet this never be its meaning there. Are we then to believe without evidence, that this word is taken from the Old Testament, and this new sense affixed to it by the New Testament writers, yet no intimation given of such a change, or in what way we are to understand it under the gospel dispensation? This we think ought to be indisputably proved, before it be believed by any man. We think it will be granted, that it is not the usual practice of the New Testament writers, to borrow words from the Old, and put such new senses upon them, without any intimation or explanation. But we may ask, if they have indeed done this, how could their hearers understand them? They were Jews, and to Jews they addressed themselves concerning Gehenna. Both they and their hearers understood Gehenna as it was used in the Old Testament. Unless they explained the word in this new sense, it was impossible, in the very nature of the case, that their hearers could understand them. At any rate, it becomes those who say that they did use it in this new sense, to prove it, and show how they could be understood without any explanation. It is true, that the authors of the Targums and the Apocrypha use the term Gehenna to express a place of endless misery; but it remains to be proved, that the New Testament writers used it in this sense, and not in the sense it has in the Old