« PreviousContinue »
tongue, and then say whether James was correct, while picturing the effect of this member, by the pollutions and miseries of Gehenna, so well known to the Jews. The apostle was a Jew, and wrote to the Jews, as is evident by a look at his introduction. That he should draw an illustration of his subject from those cir. cumstances with which those to whom he wrote were acquainted, is certainly very probable. The epistle was most certainly intended for the Jews, and for them alone ; and not only for Jews, but for believing Jews. We have not a particle of evidence, that the Jews, in the time of the apostles, conceived any different idea from the use of the term Gehenna, than did their fathers : Nor have we the least intimation, that the writer intended his epistle for the use of the Gentiles. So far from this, that an examination will show that the peculiar situation of his countrymen at that time elicited the epistle. No evidence has yet been produced, that Gehenna was ever deemed, by the Israelites, the name of a place of punishment, excepting as understood by the valley of Hinnom.
In closing this examination, we have only to say, that as far as the arguments have gone, we have no fear of refutation. We believe that the facts produced, are indisputable, and that the inferences are perfectly conclusive. That we differ from highly respected names, is no just reason why the most obvious truth, and the most legitimate criticism, should be considered with an evil eye. Claiming no better rule than that laid down by Dr. Campbell, and others, we are willing that our production should be submitted to the strictest scrutiny. Dr. C. says “ecclesiastical use is no security that the word, though it be understood, conveys to us the same idea, which the original term did to those to whom the gospels were first promulgated. In a former dissertation, the fullest evidence has been given, that in regard to several words,
the meaning which has long been established by ecclesiastical use, is very different from that which they have in the writings of the New Testament.”. Again he says—" the opinion of, Grotius and some learned Rabbis, unsupported by either argument or example, nay, in manifest contradiction to both, is here of no weight. Scriptural usage alone must decide the question. These commentators (with all deference to their erudition and abilities be it spoken) being comparatively modern, cannot be considered as ultimate judges in a question depending entirely on an ancient use, whereof all the evidences that were remaining in their time, remain still, and are as open to our examination, as they were to theirs. In other points where there may happen to be in Scripture an allusion to customs or ceremonies retained by the Jews, but unknown to us, the case is different. But nothing of this kind is pretended here."
We now conclude this section, by two quotations from Mr. Stuart's Letters to Mr. Channing, which are worthy of perpetual remembrance. The claims of the Bible to be authoritative being once admitted, the simple question in respect to it, is, what does it teach in regard to any particular passage ; what idea did the original writer mean to convey? When this is ascertained by the legitimate rules of interpretation, it is authoritative. This is orthodoxy in the highest and best sense of the word ; and every thing which is opposed to it, which modifies it, which fritters its meaning away, is heterodoxy, is heresy; to whatever name or party it is attached. " After all, it is a principle, by which, if I have any knowledge of my own heart, I desire forever to be guided, to call no man master on earth. I would place the decision of Scripture, fairly made out, immeasurably above all human opinions. I regard the one as the decision of an unerring God; the other as the opinions of fallible
We here take the liberty of inserting two extracte from Rev. J. S. Thompson's Christian Guide, being a new translation, and a select commentary.
" Whosoever shall be unjustly angry with his brother, shall be accountable to the Judges; and whosoever shall call his brother vile man, shall be exposed to the sentence of the Sanhedrim; but whosoever shall say apostate wretch, shall be held a bond slave in the fiery Gehen
Appended to the above, is the following note for its illustration. “For the illustration of this obscure passage, which has long puzzled the Commentators, and spread terror in the ranks of the superstitious, there appears nothing more needed, than to simply state the facts to which our Lord alludes. Here are three degrees of crime mentioned, and three degrees of punishment respectively annexed to each, proportionate to the powers invested in the three courts of Judicature, held among the Jews. The crimes are ; 1, causeless anger; 2, anger accompanied with expressions of insult and contempt; 3, hatred and detestation accompanied with execration. The two first are threatened with temporal punishment, or the animadversions of the Jewish tribunals; and it is highly analagous to our Master's reasoning, that the punishment annexed to the last, should be also temporal, seeing the crime was the same in nature, as the second, though somewhat aggravated. On the contrary, to suppose with many commentators, that for the little difference of saying fool instead of simpleton, our Lord should pass from such a sentence as a Jewish court could pronounce, to the awful doom of eternal punishmeut in hell-fire, is what cannot be reconciled to any rational rule of faith, or known
measure of justice. This opinion will be found untenable from attention to the construction of the Greek. In the former instances, the construction is ενοχος της κριζει-τω συνεδριω, but in the third, it is εις geevva, implying that the person should be held a bond slate, in Gehenna. Now as Gehenna or Gehinnom, was a valley in the vicinity of Jerusalem, appointed by Josiah to be the desecrated spot for the deposit and combustion of the dead carcasses, and offal of animals, and other filth of the city, we must necessarily infer, that a great number of persons must be continually employed in carrying all kinds of filth of the city, and offal of the sacrifices into this valley, and in supplying fuel and attending to the fires. "This employment must have been the most degrading, in the estimation of a Jew, to which any human being could be devoted ; and if we admit, that in the days of Christ, the power of life and death was taken from the Jews by the Romans, as appears from their acknowledgment to Pilate: It is not lawful for us to put any man lo death, John 18: 31, it will follow that sentence to the slavery of Gehenna was the deepest degradation to which they could consign their convicts. As it was not therefore in the power of the Jewish court, to hang, stone, or burn, the punishments were whipping, the stocks, and slavery, and these and similar punishments were all that Christ either meant or implied in this passage.
The following is the other extract, with its illustration, which are both submitted to the careful examination of the public, with our earnest desire that they may serve to free the mind from the difficulties which are often associated with this passage :
" Ye have heard that it was said : Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, Whosoever looks on a married woman to cherish impure desire, has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Therefore, if even your right eye lead you to sin, put it out and cast it from you ; for it is more profitable for you to lose one member than that your whole body be cast into Gehenna. And if the right hand ensnare you, cut it off and cast it away; it is better to lose one member, than that the whole body be cast into Gehenna."
" The meaning is, that it is better for a man to restrain and mortify the strongest and most impetuous passion of his nature, than endanger life and character by its indulgence. The sin of adultery was uniformly punished with death among the Jews, Levit. 20 : 10; Deut. 22 ; 22. In many cases, the sentence was executed by stoning to death in Gehenna. done in the following order. The first or chief witness, led the guilty bound to an eminence, and cast him down on a great stone at the bottom. The second witness stood prepared with another great stone to cast down on his breast. If he still lived, the spec. tators rushed towards him and stoned him till he died. Thus his body was cast into Gehenna. But in
many instances adultery, as well as incest, sodomy, and bestiality, were punished by burning to death in Gehenna. Hence our Lord wisely and justly observed, that it was better to lose even a right eye, or hand, meaning merely the mortification of the most ardent desire, than to suffer the destruction of the whole body in Gehenna. Moreover, lest any should think his religion would afford a greater liberty for licentiousness, than the law of Moses, he cautiously warned them, that even the fostering of impure desire, in the manner described in the text, should be accounted equal, in turpitude, to the sin forbidden by the letter of the law."
We have now examined the original words rendered hell, in the authorised version, and find that they afford no ground for believing that the use of either