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AN INQUIRY INTO THE WORD GEHENNA.
then a curious fact, that Gehenna of the New Testament, should be taken from the Old, where this is allowed never to be ils meaning, and for this change of meaning we should be referred to the authors of the Targums and the 4pocrypha ? This fact ought to lead us to examine carefully if this indeed be the sense in which Gehenna is used in the New Testament. We ought not to take it for granted; but be sure that we correctly understand the passages which speak of Gehenna. This fact leads 10 a suspicion, that we may have mistaken their meaning. But has it not been common to believe Gehenna a place of endless misery, and that without any examination ?
2d, The word Gehenna occurs just twelve times in the New Testament, and is always translated Hell in our English tersion. The following are all the places where this word is found. Matth. v. 22, 29, 30. and xviii. 9. Mark ix. 43–47. Luke xii. 5. Matth. X. 28. and xxiii. 15, 33. James iii. 6. I only refer to these texts now, because they shall all be particularly considered afterwards. The fact, that this word is only found twelve times in the New Testament, I notice for the following reasons.-It is contended by Dr. Campbell, and I believe is universally admitted, that Gchenna is the only word which signifies the place of endless punishment for the wicked. But do most Christians know, that the word hell, so much talked of, and preached about, is only found twelve times in the Scriptures ! But a little reflection may convince any one, that, properly speaking, it was not used originally so often as tweive times. It occurs eleven times in the gospels written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and by comparing the places, it is easily seen, that these historians only relate some of the same discourses, in which our Lord used this word. Though it occurs then eleven times, it is plain it was not so often used by him when he uttered his discourses. Viewing the matter
in this light, and surely it is the true one, few words of such importance occur so seldom in the New Testament, as the word Gehenna. I do not view this fact of any great importance, further than to show the difference between the inspired writers and modern preachers, as to their frequent use of this word ; and to confine them, if possible, in preaching about hell, to those texts, and ihose only, in which Gehenna occurs. Whether they ought to quote the texts where Gehenna is used, or not, is the subject of our present investigation.— Admitting that it occurs twelve times, and in all these it is certainly used to express a place of eternal misery, it deserves notice, that this is not so often in the whole Bible, as it is used by many preachers in the course of a single sermon.—But I have noticed this fact, with a view also to unueceive the minds of some, who; seeing the word hell so often in their Bibles, conclude that the Holy Spirit has said a great deal on this subject. The fact is indisputable, that it is only used twelve times in the New Testament, and every other text in which the word heli occurs, quoted to prove the doctrine of eternal misery, is worse than no proof; it is misquoting the Scriptures. I frankly admit, that, if in the texts in which Gebenna occurs, it can be fairly made to appear that the sacred writers use this word as expressive of a place of eternal punishment, it is a truth we ought to receive without gainsaying. Common Scripture usage of any word is an allowed just rule of interpretation. But it ought also to be admitted, that if this word is used in the above texts to express temporal punishment, or in a similar way as by the prophet Jeremiah, Gehenna must be given up, as meaning a place of endless punishment for the wicked.
3d, Another fact is, that the word Gehenna or hell, is used by our Lord, and by James, but by no other person in the New Testament. This fact, every person who can
Fead English, may satisfy himself about, by reading all the texts referred to above, where the word Gehenna is found. Is it not, then, somewhat surprising, that it should only be used twelve times in the New Testament, and still more surprising, that our Lord and James should be the only persons who say any thing about it? It is surely a very natural expectation, warranted by the frequency of similar important subjects, that hell should be often spoken of, and that all the New Testament writers should say less or more about it. The conduct of preachers in our day, would lead us certainly to conclude, that the inspired writers would all reiterate this subject in the ears of their hearers. But no such thing is to be found. Most of them do not appear to have used the word Gehenna or hell in all their lifetime. John, though he wrote the history of our Lord, as well as Matthew, Mark and Luke, does not once name Gehenna, either in his gospel, or any of bis epistles. What is still more remarkable, Luke, though he mentions Gehenna in his yospel, names it not in his history of the acts of the apostles. Paul, Peter and Jude, are as silent about Gehenna, as if such a place had no existence. No person in the New Testament, our Lord excepted, ever threatened men with the punishment of Gehen. na, or hell, which is very strange, if by it eternal mis
be intended. To say they ever did this, yet not be able to produce a single text in proof, is only begging the question, and will never satisfy the mind of à candid inquirer after truth. Now, let it be remembered, that the writings of those persons who have never mentioned Gehenna or hell, form two thirds of the New Testament. We think we may appeal to every candid man, if this fact ought not to strengthen the suspicion, that we may have misunderstood the passages in the New Testament which spcak about Gehenna.
I am fully aware that it may be objected to all this, though these writers do not mention Gehenna, yet they have spoken of the same punishment in another way. If they have, we are willing to consider what they have said, and, we think, have considered it. All we wish observed here, is, that they have surely not spoken of it by the name Gehenna or hell. This cannot be disputed. Since this is a fact, an argument of some weight arises from it, that Gehenna was not used to express a place of endless misery. It is this. If our Lord taught this doctrine at all, it will be allowed that he taught it in those passages, in which he speaks of Gehenna or hell fire. Well, if the disciples did understand our Lord as teaching this doctrine in such passages, how came it to pass, that they never once afterwards spoke of it by this name as their master had taught them? Is it likely that they would lay aside his mode of speaking about it, and adopt a mode of their own?
4th, Another fuct deserving our attention, is, that all that is said about Gehenna, was spoken to Jews. Jews, and they only, were the persons addressed, when speaking of Gehenna. It is not once named to the Gentiles in all the New Testament, nor are any of them ever threatened with such a punishment. This fact is indisputable. The evidence of its truth does not depend on a tedious, intricate process of reasoning, which few persons could go through and decide about. All that any one has to do, is to read all the texts referred to, in which Gehenna occurs, in connexion with their contexts, and he must be satisfied of the correctness of my statement. It is not of the least consequence to decide to. whom the gospels were originally written. In all the eleven places in which Gehenna is used by our Lord, it is easily perceived that he was addressing Jews. In the only other passage in which it occurs, it is evident that James was addressing the twelve tribes
which were scattered abroad. See chap. i. and compare it with chap. iii. 6. Should it be objected to this, "that our Lord's ministry was among the Jews, and that he did not minister among the Gentiles, and therefore could not speak to them of the damnation of hell;" to this I answer, that the objection would have force, if his apostles, in their ministrations to the Gentiles, had spoken of the damnation of hell. But this they never did, and their silence not only renders the objection of no weight, but shows that ihe damnation of hell peculiarly concerned the Jews, and that the apostles considered the Gentiles not concerned in this punishment. This fact, which I deem of great importance in this inquiry, is put beyond all fair debate. No man can doubt the fact, who takes the trouble to read the above passages. Its truth will appear when we come to consider them. Let us then attach what meaning we please to the word Gehenna; it is certain that the Jews are the only persons addressed about it.
It has been thought by some, that Matthew, Mark and Luke, wrote their gospels for the use of the Jews. In whatever way this may be decided, it seems certain that John wrote his gospel for the use of the Gentiles. Of this the book contains sufficient internal evidence. John explains Jewish places, names and customs, which was altogether unnecessary, had he been writing to Jews. Is it not then very worthy of our notice, that in his gospel he never mentions Gehenna? If the punishment of Gehenna or hell, was for Gentiles as well as Jews, how came it to pass, that he said nothing to them about it? Not only does he never name Gehenna, but he omits all the discourses in which our Lord used this word. If the damnation of hell only concerned Jews, we see a very good reason for this omission; but if it equally concerned Gentiles, how is it to be accounted for upon rational principles? If both were alike concern