THE BIBLE HELL
by, J.W. Hanson, D.D.
Gehenna, originally a Hebrew word, which signifies the valley of Hinnom, is composed of the common noun, Gee, valley, and the proper name Hinnom, the owner of this valley. The valley of the sons of Hinnom was a delightful vale, planted with trees, watered by fountains, and lying near Jerusalem, on the south-east, by the brook Kedron. – Opinions of Scholars
The words rendered hell in the bible,
sheol, hadees, tartarus, and gehenna,
shown to denote a state of temporal duration.
Universalist Publishing House
The Bible Hell
The English Word Hell
Sheol and Hadees
Testimony of Scholars
Heathen Ideas of Hell
The Christian Idea of Hell
Opinions of Scholars
Jewish and Pagan Opinins
Hades Is On Earth
Hadees is Temporary
The brief excursus on the word “Hell” contained in this volume, aims to treat the subject in a popular style, and at the same time to present all the important facts, so fully and comprehensively that any reader can obtain in a few pages a birds-eye-view of “The Bible Hell.”
The author ventures to hope that any one who will read candidly, not permitting the bias of an erroneous education to warp his judgment, will not fail to agree with the conclusions of this book,—-that the doctrine of unending sin and woe finds no support in the Bible teachings concerning Hell.
Does the Bible teach the idea commonly held among Christians concerning Hell? Does the Hell of the Bible denote a place of torment, or a condition of suffering without end, to begin at death? What is the Hell of the Bible? Manifestly the only way to arrive at the correct answer is to trace the words translated Hell from the beginning to the end of the Bible, and by their connections ascertain exactly what the divine Word teaches on this important subject. It seems incredible that a wise and benevolent God should have created or permitted any kind of an endless hell in his universe. Has he done so? Do the Scripture teachings concerning Hell stain the character of God and clothe human destiny with an impenetrable pall of darkness, by revealing a state or place of endless torment? Or do they explain its existence, and relieve God’s character, and dispel all the darkness of misbelief, by teaching that it exists as a means to a good end? It is our belief that the Bible Hell is not the heathen, nor the “orthodox” hell, but is one that is doomed to pass away when its purpose shall have been accomplished, in the reformation of those for whose welfare a good God ordained it.
The English word Hell grew into its present meaning. Horne Tooke says that hell, heel, hill, hole, whole, hall, hull, halt and hold are all from the same root. “Hell, any place, or some place covered over. Heel, that part of the foot which is covered by the leg. Hill, any heap of earth, or stone, etc., by which the plain or level surface of the earth is covered. Hale, i.e., healed or whole. Whole, the same as hale, i.e., covered. It was formerly written whole, without the w, as a wound or sore is healed, or whole, that is, covered over by the skin, which manner of expression will not seem extraordinary if we consider our use of the word recover. Hall, a covered building, where persons assemble, or where goods are protected from the weather. Hull, of a nut, etc. That by which a nut is covered. Hole, some place covered over. ‘You shall seek for holes to hide your heads in.’ Holt, holed, hol’d holt. A rising ground or knoll covered with trees. Hold, as the hold of a ship, in which things are covered, or the covered part of a ship.”
The word was first applied to the grave by our German and English ancestors, and as superstition came to regard the grave as an entrance to a world of torment, Hell at length became the word used to denote an imaginary realm of fiery woe.
Dr. Adam Clarke says: “The word Hell, used in the common translation, conveys now an improper meaning of the original word; because Hell is only used to signify the place of the damned. But as the word Hell comes from the Anglo-Saxon helan, to cover, or hide, henee the tiling or slating of a house is called, in some parts of England (particularly Cornwall), heling, to this day, and the corers of books (in Lancashire), by the same name, so the literal import of the original word hades was formerly well expressed by it.”—Com. in loc.
In the Bible four words are translated Hell: the Hebrew word Sheol, in the original Old testament; its equivalent, the Greek word Hadees, in the Septuagint; and in the New Testament, Hadees, Gehenna and Tartarus.
The Hebrew Old Testament, some three hundred years before the Christian era, was translated into Greek, but of the sixty-four instances where Sheol occurs in the Hebrew, it is rendered Hadees in the Greek sixty times, so that either word is the equivalent of the other. But neither of these words is ever used in the Bible to signify punishment after death, nor should the word Hell ever be used as the rendering of Sheol or Hadees for neither word denotes post-mortem torment. According to the Old Testament the words Sheol, Hadees primarily signify only the place, or state of the dead. The character of those who departed thither did not affect their situation in Sheol, for all went into the same state. The word cannot be translated by the term Hell, for that would make Jacob expect to go to a place of torment, and prove that the Savior of the world, David, Jonah, etc., were once sufferers in the prison-house of the damned. In every instance in the Old Testament, the word grave might be substituted for the term hell, either in a literal or figurative sense. The word being a proper name should always have been left untranslated. Had it been carried into the Greek Septuagint, and thence into the English, untranslated, Sheol, a world of misconception would have been avoided, for when it is rendered Hadees, all the materialism of the heathen mythology is suggested to the mind, and when rendered Hell, the medieval monstrosities of a Christianity corrupted by heathen adulterations is suggested. Had the word been permitted to travel untranslated, no one would give to it the meaning now so often applied to it. Sheol, primarily, literally, the grave, or death, secondarily and figuratively the political, social, moral or spiritual consequences of wickedness in the present world, is the precise force of the term, wherever found.
Sheol occurs exactly sixty-four times and is translated hell thirty-two times, pit three times, and grave twenty-nine times. Dr. George Campbell, a celebrated critic, says that “Sheol signifies the state of the dead in general, without regard to the goodness or badness of the persons, their happiness or misery.”
Professor Stuart (orthodox Congregational) only dares claim five out of the sixty-four passages as affording any proof that the word means a place of punishment after death. “These,” he says, “may designate the future world of woe.” “They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to Sheol.” “The wicked shall be turned into Sheol, and all the nations that forget God.” “Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold of Sheol.” “But he knoweth that the ghosts are there, and that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.” “Thou shalt beat him with a rod, and shall deliver his soul from Sheol. He observes: “The meaning will be a good one, if we suppose Sheol to designate future punishment.” “I concede, to interpret all the texts which exhibit Sheol as having reference merely to the grave, is possible; and therefore it is possible to interpret” them “as designating a death violent and premature, inflicted by the hand of Heaven.”
An examination shows that these five passages agree with the rest in their meaning:
Ps. 9:17: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” The wicked here are “the heathen,” “mine enemies,” i.e.; they are not individuals, but “the nations that forget God,” that is, neighboring nations, the heathen. They will be turned into Sheol, death, die as nations, for their wickedness. Individual sinners are not meant.
Professor Alexander, of the Theological Seminary, Princeton, thus presents the correct translation of Ps. 9:17, the only passage containing the word usually quoted from the Old Testament to convey the idea of post-mortem punishment. “The wicked shall turn back, even to hell, to death or to the grave, all nations forgetful of God. The enemies of God and of his people shall not only be thwarted and repulsed, but driven to destruction, and that not merely individuals, but nations.” Dr. Allen, of Bowdoin College says of this text: “The punishment expressed in this passage is cutting off from life, destroying from the earth by some special judgment, and removing to the invisible state of the dead. The Hebrew term translated hell in the text does not seem to mean, with any certainty, anything more than the state of the dead in their deep abode.” Professor Stuart: “It means a violent and premature death inflicted by the hand of heaven.” Job 21:13: “They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.”
It would seem that no one could claim this text as a threat of after-death punishment. It is a mere declaration of sudden death. This is evident when we remember that it was uttered to a people who, according to all authorities, believed in no punishment after death.
Proverbs 5: 5: “her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.” This language, making death and Sheol parallel, announces that the strange woman walks in paths of swift and inevitable sorrow and death. And so does Prov. 9:18: “But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.” Sheol is here used as a figure of emblem of the horrible condition and fate of those who follow the ways of sin. They are dead while they live. They are already in Sheol or the kingdom of death.
Proverbs 23: 13-14: “Withhold not correction from the child; for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” Sheol is here used as the grave, to denote the death that rebellious children experience early, or it may mean that moral condition of the soul which Sheol, the realm of death signifies. But in no case is it supposable that it means a place or condition of after-death punishment in which, as all scholars agree, Solomon was not a believer.
The real meaning of the word Stuart concedes to be the under-world, the religion of the dead, the grave, the sepulcher, the region of ghosts or departed spirits. (Ex. Ess.): “It was considered as a vast and wide dominion or region, of which the grave seems to have been as it were only a part or a kind of entrance-way. It appears to have been regarded as extending deep down into the earth, even to its lowest abysses. . . . . In this boundless region lived and moved at times, the names of departed friends.”
But these five passages teach no such doctrine as he thinks they may teach. The unrighteous possessor of wealth goes down to death; the nations that forget God are destroyed as nations; lewd women’s steps lead downward to death; their guests are on the downward road; the rod that wisely corrects the unruly child, saves him from the destruction of sin. There is no hint of an endless hell, nor of a post-mortem hell in these passages, and if not in these five then it is conceded it is in no passage containing the word.
That the Hebrew Sheol never designates a place of punishment in a future state of existence, we have the testimony of the most learned of scholars, even among the so-called orthodox. We quote the testimony of a few:
Rev. Dr. Whitby: “Sheol throughout the Old Testament, signifies not a place of punishment for the souls of bad men only, but the grave, or place of death.” Dr Chapman: “Sheol, in itself considered has no connection with future punishment.” Dr. Allen: “The term Sheol itself, does not seem to mean anything more than the state of the dead in their dark abode.” Dr. Firbairn, of the College of Glasgow: “Beyond doubt, Sheol, like Hades, was regarded as the abode after death, alike of the good and the bad.” Edward Leigh, who says Horne’s, “Introduction,” was “one of the most learned understanding of the original languages of the Scriptures,” observes that “all learned Hebrew scholars know the Hebrews have no proper word for hell, as we take hell.”
Prof. Stuart: “There can be no reasonable doubt that Sheol does most generally mean the underworld, the grave or sepulchre, the world of the dead. It is very clear that there are many passages where no other meaning can reasonably be assigned to it. Accordingly, our English translators have rendered the word Sheol grave in thirty instances out of the whole sixty-four instances in which it occurs.”
Dr. Thayer in his Theology of Universalism quotes as follows: Dr. Whitby says that Hell “throughout the Old Testament signifies the grave only or the place of death.” Archbishop Whately: “As for a future state of retribution in another world, Moses said nothing to the Israelites about that.” Milman says that Moses “maintains a profound silence on the rewards and punishments of another life.” Bishop Warburton testifies that, “In the Jewish Republic, both the rewards and punishments promised by Heaven were temporal only-such as health, long life, peace, plenty and dominion, etc., diseases, premature death, war, famine, want, subjections, captivity, etc. And in no one place of the Mosaic Institutes is there the least mention, or any intelligible hint, of the rewards and punishments of another life.” Paley declares that the Mosaic dispensation “dealt in temporal rewards and punishments. The blessings consisted altogether of worldly benefits, and the curses of worldly punishments. Prof. Mayer says, that “the rewards promised the righteous, and the punishments threatened the wicked, are such only as are awarded in the present state of being.” Jahn, whose work is the textbook of the Andover Theological Seminary, says, “We have no authority, therefore, decidedly to say, that any other motives were held out to the ancient Hebrews to pursue good and avoid evil, than those which were derived from the rewards and punishments of this life.” To the same important fact testify Prof. Wines, Bush, Arnauld, and other distinguished theologians and scholars. “All learned Hebrew scholars know that the Hebrews have no word proper for hell, as we take hell.”
[Footnote: Encyc. Britan., vol. 1. Dis. 3 Whateley’s “Peculiarities of the Christian Religion,” p.44, 2d edition, and his “Scripture Revelations of a Future State,” pp. 18, 19, American edition. MILMAN’S “Hist. of Jews,” vol. 1, 117. “Divine Legation,” vol. 3, pp. 1, 2 & c. 10th London edition. PALEY’S works, vol. 5. p. 110, Sermon 13. Jahn’s “Archaeology,” 324. Lee, in his “Eschatology,” says: “It should be remembered that the rewards and punishments of the Mosaic Institutes were exclusively temporal. Not an allusion is found, in the case of either individuals or communities, in which reference is made to the good or evil of a future state as motive to obedience.”]
Dr. Muenscher, author of a Dogmatic History in German, says: “The souls or shades of the dead wander in Sheol, the realm or kingdom of death, an abode deep under the earth. Thither go all men, without distinction, and hope for no return. There ceases all pain and anguish; there reigns an unbroken silence; there all is powerless and still; and even the praise of God is heard no more.” Von Coelln: “Sheol itself is described as the house appointed for all living, which receives into its bosom all mankind, without distinction of rank, wealth or moral character. It is only in the mode of death, and not in the condition after death, that the good are distinguished above the evil. The just, for instance, die in peace, and are gently borne away before the evil comes; while a bitter death breaks the wicked like as a tree.”
Consult the passages in which the word is rendered grave, and substitute the original word Sheol, and it will be seen that the meaning is far better preserved: Gen. 37: 34-35: “And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sack-cloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.” It was not into the literal grave, but into the realm of the dead, where Jacob supposed his son to have gone, into which he wished to go, namely, to Sheol.
Gen. 42:38 and 44: 31, are to the same purport: “And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.” “It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.” The literal grave may be meant here, but had Sheol remained untranslated, any reader would have understood the sense intended.
I Samuel 2: 6: “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.” I Kings 2: 6-9: “Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace. Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood.” Job 7: 9: “As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.” Job 14: 13: “Oh that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me.”
Of Korah and his company, it is said, “They and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the congregation.”-Num. 16: 33. Job 17: 13-14: “If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister.” Job 21: 13: “They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.” Job 33: 21-22: “His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen: and his bones that were not seen stick out. Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his lie to the destroyers.” Ps. 6: 5: “In the grave who shall give thee thanks?” Ps. 30: 3: “O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.” Ps. 88: 3: “For my soul is full of troubles, and my soul draweth nigh to the grave.” Prov. 1: 12: “Let us swallow them up alive as the grave.” Ps. 20: 3: “In the grave who shall give thee thanks?” Ps. 141: 7: “Our bones are scattered at the grave’s mouth.” Song Sol. 8: 6: “Jealousy is cruel as the grave.” Ecc. 9: 10: “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Isa. 38: 18: “For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.” Hos. 14: 14: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave-O grave, I will be thy destruction.” Job 33: 22: “His soul (man’s) draweth near unto the grave.” I Kings 2: 9: “But his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood.” Job 24: 19: “Drought and heat consume the snow-waters; so doth the grave those which have sinned.” Psalm 6: 5: “For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks.” Psalm 31: 17: “Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.” Psalm 89: 48: “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Prov. 30:16: “The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not. It is enough.” Isa. 14: 11: “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols; the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.” On Isa. 38: 18: “For the Grave (Sheol, Hadees) cannot praise thee; death cannot celebrate thee; they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.” Prof. Stuart says: “I regard the simple meaning of this controverted place (and of others like it, e.g., Ps. 6: 5; 30: 9; 88: 11; 115: 7; Comp. 118: 17) as being this namely, “The dead can no more give thanks to God nor celebrate his praise among the living on earth, etc.” And he properly observes (pp. 113-14): “It is to be regretted that our English translation has given occasion to the remark that those who made it have intended to impose on their readers in any case a sense different from that of the original Hebrew. The inconstancy with which they have rendered the word Sheol even in cases of the same nature, must obviously afford some apparent ground for this objection against their version of it.”
Why the word should have been rendered grave and pit in the foregoing passages, and hell in the rest, cannot be explained. Why it is not grave or hell, or better still Sheol or Hadees in all cases, no one can explain, for there is no valid reason.
The first time the word is found translated Hell in the Bible is in Deut. 32: 22-26: “For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest Hell, Sheol-Hadees, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap mishiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword without and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs. I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men.”
Thus the lowest Hell is on earth, and its torments consist in such pains as are only possible in this life: “hunger,” “the teeth of beasts,” “the poison of serpents,” “the sword,” etc.; and not only are real offenders to suffer them, but even “sucklings” are to be involved in the calamity. If endless torment is denoted by the word, infant damnation follows, for into this hell “the suckling and the man of gray hairs go,” side by side. The scattering and destruction of the Israelites, in this world, is the meaning of fire in the lowest hell, as any reader can see by carefully consulting the chapter containing this first instance of the use of the word.
Similar to this are the teachings wherever the word occurs in the Old Testament: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell nor suffer thine holy one to see corruption.” Ps. 16:10. Here “corruption” is placed parallel with Sheol, or death.
“Though they dig into Hell, thence shall my hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down.” Amos 9:2. “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in Hell, behold, thou art there.” Ps. 139: 8. “It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than Hell; what canst thou know.” Job 11:8 The sky and the depths of the earth are here placed in opposition, to represent height and depth. A place of torment after death was never thought of by any of those who use the word in the Old Testament.
If the word means a place of endless punishment, then David was a monster. Ps. 55:15: “Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into Sheol-Hadees!”
Job desired to go there. 14:13: “Oh, that thou wouldst hide me in Sheol-Hadees.
Hezekiah expected to go there.-Isa 38:10: “I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of Sheol-Hadees.
Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16: 30-33) not only went there “but their houses, and goods, and all that they owned,” “and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into Sheol-Hadees, and the earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the congregation.” It is in the dust-Job 17: 16: “They shall go down to the bars of Sheol-Hadees, when our rest together is in the dust.”
It has a mouth, is in fact the grave, see Ps. 141: 7: “Our bones are scattered at Sheol’s-Hadees’ mouth , as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth.”
It has gray hairs, Gen. 42: 38: “And he said, my son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol-Hadees.”
The overthrow of the King of Babylon is called Hell.-Isa. 14: 9-15, 22-23: “Hell, Sheol-Hadees, from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming; it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols; the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. For I will rise up against them saith the Lord of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the Lord. I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water; and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts.” All this imagery demonstrates temporal calamity, a national overthrow as the signification of the word Hell.
The captivity of the Jews is called Hell.-Isa. 5: 13-14: “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Therefore Sheol- Hadees, hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure; and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
Temporal overthrow is called Hell.-Ps. 49: 14: “Likesheep they are laid in the grave, death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in Sheol-Hadees, from their dwelling.” Ezek. 32: 26-27: “And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to Sheol-Hadees with their weapons of war, and they have laid their swords under their heads.” Men are in hell with their swords under their heads. This cannot mean a state of conscious suffering.
Hell is to be destroyed. Hos. 13: 14: “Oh grave I will be thy destruction.” I Cor. 15: 55: “Oh grave I will be thy destruction.” Rev. 20: 13,14: “And death and Hell delivered up the dead which were in them, and death and Hell were cast into the lake of fire.”
Sheol is precisely the same word as Saul. If it meant Hell, would any Hebrew parent have called his child Sheol? Think of calling a boy Sheol (Hell)!
Nowhere in the Old Testament does the word Sheol, or its Greek equivalent, Hadees, ever denote a place or condition of suffering after death; it either means literal death or temporal calamity. This is clear as we consult the usage.
Hence David, after having been in Hell was delivered from it: Ps. 18: 5; 30: 3: “O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave; thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. When the waves of death compassed me the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.” “The sorrows of Hell, Sheol-Hadees compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me,” so that there is escape from Hell.”
Jonah was in a fish only seventy hours, and declared he was in hell forever. He escaped from Hell. Jon. 2: 2, 6: “Out of the belly of Hell (Sheol-Hadees) cried I, and thou heardest my voice, earth with her bars was about me forever.” Even an eternal Hell lasted but three days.
It is a place where God is and therefore must be an instrumentality of mercy. Ps. 139: 8: “If I make my bed In Hell (Sheol-Hadees), behold thou art there.”
Men having gone into it are redeemed from it. I Sam. 2: 6: “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave (Sheol-Hadees) and bringeth up.”
Jacob wished to go there.-Gen. 37: 35: “I will go down into the grave Hades unto my son mourning.”
Besides the passages already given, we now record all the other places in which the word Sheol-Hadees, occurs. It is translated Hell in the following passages: Ps. 86: 13: “Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest Hell.” Ps. 156: 3: “The pains of Hell got hold on me: I found trouble and sorrow.” Prov. 15: 11, 24: “Hell and destruction are before the Lord. The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from Hell beneath.” Prov. 23: 14: “Thou shalt beat him, and deliver his soul from Hell.” Prov. 27: 20: “Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.” Isa. 28: 15, 18: “Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with Hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with Hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.” Isaiah 57: 9: “Thou didst debase thyself even unto hell.” Ezek. 31: 16-17: “I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to Hell with them that descend into the pit: and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth. They also went down into Hell with him, unto them that be slain with the sword; and they that were his arm, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the heathen.” Jonah says, “Out of the belly of Hell cried I, and thou heardest me.”-Jon. 2: 2. Hab. 2: 5: “Yea, also because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as Hell and is as death, and cannot be satisfied.”
We believe we have recorded every passage in which the word Sheol-Hadees occurs. Suppose the original word stood, and we read Sheol or Hadees in all the passages instead of Hell, would any unbiassed reader regard the word as conveying the idea of a place or state of endless torment after death, such as the English word Hell is so generally supposed to denote? Such a doctrine was never held by the ancient Jews, until after the Babylonish captivity, during which they acquired it of the heathen. All scholars agree that Moses never taught it, and that it is not contained in the Old Testament.
Thus not one of the sixty-four passages containing the only word rendered Hell in the entire Old Testament, teaches any such thought as is commonly supposed to be contained in the English word Hell. It should have stood the proper name of the realm of death, Sheol.
- Men in the Bible are said to be in hell, Sheol-Hadees, and in “The lowest hell,” while on earth. Deut. 32: 22; Jon. 2: 2; Rev. 6: 8.
- Men have been in Hell, Sheol-Hadees, and yet have escaped from it. Ps. 18: 5, 6; II Sam. ; Jon 2: 2; Ps. 116: 3; 86: 12-13. Ps. 30: 3; Rev. 20: 13.
- God delivers men from Hell, Sheol-Hadees. I Sam. 2: 6.
- All men are to go there. No one can escape the Bible Hell, Sheol-Hadees. Ps. 89: 48.
- There can be no evil there for there is no kind of work there. Eccl. 9: 10.
- Christ’s soul was said to be in Hell, Sheol-Hadees. Acts 2: 27-28.
- No one in the Bible ever speaks of Hell, Sheol-Hadees as a place of punishment after death.
- It is a way of escape from punishment. Amos 9: 2.
- The inhabitants of Hell, Sheol-Hadees are eaten of worms, vanish and are consumed away. Job 7: 9, 21; Ps. 49: 14.
- Hell, Sheol-Hadees is a place of rest. Job 17: 16.
- It is a realm of unconsciousness. Ps. 6: 5; Is. 38: 18; Eccl. 9: 10.
- All men will be delivered from this Hell. Hos. 13: 14.
- Hell, Sheol-Hadees, will be destroyed. Hos. 13: 14; I Cor. 15: 55; Rev. 20: 14.
At the time these declarations were made, and universally accepted by the Hebrews, the surrounding nations all held entirely different doctrines. Egypt, Greece, Rome, taught that after death there is a fate in store for the wicked that exactly resembles that taught by so-called orthodox Christians. But the entire Old testament is utterly silent on the subject, teaching nothing of the sort as the sixty-four passages we have quoted show and as the critics of all churches admit. And yet “Moses was learned in all the wisdom in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7: 22) who believed in a world of torment after death. If Moses knew all about this Egyptian doctrine, and did not teach it to his followers, what is the unavoidable inference?
Dr. Strong says, that not only Moses, but “every Israelite who came out of Egypt, must have been fully acquainted with the universally recognized doctrine of future rewards and punishments.” And yet Moses is utterly silent on the subject.
Dr. Thayer remarks: “Is it possible to imagine a more conclusive proof against the divine origin of the doctrine? If he had believed it to be of God, if he had believed in endless torments as the doom of the wicked after death, and had received this as a revelation from heaven, could he have passed it over in silence? Would he have dared to conceal it, or treat so terrible a subject with such marked contempt? And what motive could he have had for doing this? I cannot conceive of a more striking evidence of the fact that the doctrine is not of God. He knew whence the monstrous dogma came, and he had seen enough of Egypt already, and would have no more of her cruel superstitions; and so he casts this out, with her abominable idolatries, as false and unclean things.”
So that while the Old Testament talks of ten thousand things of small importance, it has not a syllable nor a whisper of what ought to have been told first of all and most of all and continually. No one is said to have gone to such a place as is now denoted by the word Hell, or to be going to it, or saved from it, or exposed to it. To say that the Hell taught by partialist Christians existed before Christ, is to accuse God of having permitted his children for four thousand years to tumble into it by millions, without a word of warning from him. Earth was a flowery path, concealing pitfalls into infinite burnings, and God never told one of his children a word about it. For four thousand years then the race got on with no knowledge of a place of torment after death. When was the fact first made known? And if it was not necessary to the wickedest people the world ever knew, when did it become necessary?
The future world as revealed in the Old Testament is a conscious existence never described as a place or state of punishment. Prof. Stuart well calls it “the region of umbra or ghosts. It was considered as a vast and wide domain or region of which the grave was only a part or a kind of entrance-way. It appears to have been regarded as extending deep down into the earth, even to the lowest abysses. In this boundless region lived and moved at times the manes (or ghosts) of departed friends.”
Bishop Lowth: “In the under-world of the Hebrews there is something peculiarly grand and awful. It was an immense region, a vast subterranean kingdom, involved in thick darkness filled with deep valleys, and shut up with strong gates; and from it there was no possibility of escape. Thither whole hosts of men went down at once; heroes and armies with their trophies of victory; kings and their people were found there where they had a shadowy sort of existence as manes or ghosts neither entirely spiritual nor entirely material, engaged in the employments of their earthly life though destitute of strength and physical substance.” All was shadowy and unreal beyond death until Christ came and brought immortality to light through his Gospel.
Whitby on Acts 2: 27: “That Sheol throughout the Old Testament, and Hadees in the Septuagint, answering to it, signify not the place of punishment, or of the souls of bad men only, but the grave only, or the place of death appears, first, from the root of it, Sheol, which signifies to ask, to crave and require. Second, because it is the place to which the good as well as the bad go, etc.”
During all the time that generations following generations of Jews were entertaining the ideas taught in these sixty-four passages, the surrounding heathen believed in future, endless torment. The literature is full of it. Says Good in his “Book of Nature”: “It was believed in most countries ‘that this Hell, Hadees, or invisible world, is divided into two very distinct and opposite regions, by a broad and impassable gulf; that the one is a seat of happiness, a paradise or elysium, and the other a seat of misery, a Gehenna or Tartarus; and that there is a supreme magistrate and an impartial tribunal belonging to the infernal shades, before which the ghosts must appear, and by which they are sentenced to the one or the other, according to the deeds done in the body. Egypt is said to have been the inventress of this important and valuable part of the tradition; and undoubtedly it is to be found in the earliest records of Egyptian history.’ [It should be observed that Gehenna was not used before Christ, or until 150 A. D. to denote a place of future punishment.”]
“Here in a lonely land, and gloomy cells, The dusky nation of Cimmeria dwells; The sun ne’er views the uncomfortable seats, When radiant he advances or retreats. Unhappy race! whom endless night invades, Clouds the dull air, and wraps them round in shades.”
“The gates of Hell are open night and day; Smooth the descent, and easy is the way.” Just in the gate, and in the jaws of Hell, Revengeful Cares and sullen Sorrows dwell, And pale Diseases, and repining Age, Want, Fear, and Famine’s unresisted rage; Here Toils, and Death, and Death’s half-brother Sleep Forms terrible to view, their sentry keep; With anxious pleasures of a guilty mind, Deep Frauds before, and open Force behind; The Furies’ iron beds; and Strife, that shakes Her hissing tresses, and unfolds her snakes. Full in the midst of this infernal road, An elm displays her dusky arms abroad;– The god of sleep there bides his heavy head; And empty dreams on ev’ry leaf are spread. Of various forms unnumbered spectres more, Centaurs, and double shapes, besiege the door. Before the passage horrid Hydra stands, And Briarius with his hundred hands; Gorgons, Geryon with his tripe frame; And vain Chimera vomits empty flame.”
Dr. Anthon says, “As regards the analogy between the term Hadees and our English word Hell, it may be remarked that the latter, in its primitive signification, perfectly corre-sponded to the former. For, at first, it denoted only what was secret or concealed; and it is found, moreover, with little variation of form and precisely with the same meaning in all the Teutonic dialects. The dead without distinction of good or evil, age or rank, wander there conversing about their former state on earth; they are unhappy and they feel their wretched state acutely. They have no strength or power of body or mind. . . Nothing can be more gloomy and comfortless than the whole aspect of the realm of Hadees, as pictured by Homer.”
The heathen sages admit that they invented the doctrine. Says Polybius: “Since the multitude is ever fickle, full of lawless desires, irrational passions and violence, there is no other way to keep them in order but by the fear and terror of the invisible world; on which account our ancestors seem to me to have acted judiciously, when they contrived to bring into the popular belief these notions of the gods, and of the infernal regions.” B. vi. 56.
Strabo says: “The multitude are restrained from vice by the punishments the gods are said to inflict upon offenders, and by those terrors and threatenings which certain dreadful words and monstrous forms imprint upon their minds. . . . For it is impossible to govern the crowd of women, and all the common rabble, by philosophical reasoning, and lead them to piety, holiness and virtue-but this must be done by superstition, or the fear of the gods, by means of fables and wonders; for the thunder, the aegis, the trident, the torches (Of the Furies), the dragons, etc., are all fables, as is also all the ancient theology.” Geo. B. I. Seneca says: “Those things which make the infernal regions terrible, the darkness, the prison, the river of flaming fire, the judgment-seat, etc., are all a fable, with which the poets amuse themselves, and by them agitate us with vain terrors.” How near these superstitious horrors–these heathen inventions–
has sometimes been, may be seen by quoting the following testimonies. Do they resemble anything in the Old Testament? Do they not exactly copy the heathen descriptions? Whence came these idea? They are not found in the Old Testament? And yet the world was full of them when Christ came. Read the verse of Pollok as lurid and blasphemous as it is vigorous:
Wide was the place,
And deep as wide, and ruinous as deep.
Beneath I saw a lake of burning fire,
With tempest tost perpetually, and still
The waves of fiery darkness, gainst the rocks
Of dark damnation broke, and music made
Of melancholy sort; and over head,
And all around, wind warred with wind, storm howled
To storm, and lightning forked lightning, crossed,
And thunder answered thunder, muttering sound
Of sullen wrath; and far as sight could pierce,
Or down descend in caves of hopeless depth,
Thro’ all that dungeon of unfading fire,
I saw most miserable beings walk,
Burning continually, yet unconsumed;
Forever wasting, yet enduring still;
Dying perpetually, yet never dead.
Some wandered lonely in the desert flames,
And some in fell encounter fiercely met,
With curses loud, and blasphemies, that made
The cheek of darkness pale; and as they fought,
And cursed, and gnashed their teeth, and wished to die
Their hollow eyes did utter streams of wo.
And there were groans that ended not, and sighs
That always sighed, and tears that ever wept,
And ever fell, but not in Mercy’s sight
And Sorrow, and Repentance, and Despair,
Among them walked, and to their thirsty lips
Presented frequent cups of burning gall.
And as I listened, I heard these being curse
Almighty God, and curse the Lamb, and curse
The Earth, the Resurrection morn, and seek,
And ever vainly seek for utter death.
And to their everlasting anguish still,
The thunders from above responding spoke
These words, which thro’ the caverns of perdition
Forlornly echoing, fell on every ear-
“Ye knew your duty but ye did it not” * * *
The place thou saw’st was Hell; the groans thou heard’st
The wailings of the damned-of those who would
Not be redeemed-and at the judgment day,
Long past for unrepented sins were damned.
The seven loud thunders which thou heard’st, declare
The eternal wrath of the Almighty God.
* * There in utter darkness, far
Remote, I beings saw forlorn in wo.
Burning, continually yet unconsumed.
And there were groans that ended not, and sighs
That always sighed, and tears that ever wept
And ever fell, but not in Mercy’s sight;
And still I heard these wretched beings curse
Almighty God, and curse the Lamb, and curse
The Earth, the Resurrection morn, and seek,
And ever vainly seek for utter death;
And from above the thunders answered still,
“Ye know your duty, but ye did it not.”
Such descriptions are not confined to poetry. Plain prose has sought to set forth the doctrine in words equally repulsive and graphic. Rutherford, in his “Religious Letters,” declares that hereafter “Tongue, lungs and liver, bones and all shall boil and fry in a torturing fire,–a river of fire and brimstone, broader than the earth!”
Boston, in his ‘Fourfold State,’ says: “There will be universal torments, every part of the creature being tormented in that flame. When one is cast into a fiery furnace, the fire makes its way into the very bowels, and leaves no member untouched; what part then can have ease when the damned sinner is in a lake of fire, burning with brimstone?”
Buckle, in his “Civilization in England,” thus sums up the popular doctrine: “In the pictures which they drew, they reproduced and heightened the barbarous imagery of a barbarous age. They delighted in telling their hearers that they would be roasted in great fires and hung up by their tongues. They were to be lashed with scorpions, and see their companions writhing and howling around them. They were to be thrown into boiling oil and scalding lead. A river of brim-stone broader than the earth was prepared for them; in that they were to be immersed. . . Such were the first stages of suffering, and they were only the first. For the torture besides being unceasing, was to become gradually worse. So refined was the cruelty, that one Hell was succeeded by another; and, lest the sufferer should grow callous, he was, after a time, moved on, that he might undergo fresh agonies in fresh places, provision being made that the torment should not pall on the sense, but should be varied in its character as well as eternal in its duration.
“All this was the work of the God of the Scotch clergy. It was not only his work, it was his joy and his pride. For, according to them, Hell was created before man came into the word; the Almighty, they did not scruple to say, having spent his previous leisure in preparing and completing this place of torture, so that when the human race appeared, it might be ready for their reception. Ample, however, as the arrangements were, they were insufficient; and Hell not being big enough to contain the countless victims incessantly poured into it, had, in these latter days, been enlarged. But in that vast expanse there was no void, for the whole of it reverberated with the shrieks and yells of undying agony. Both children and fathers made Hell echo with their piercing screams, writhing in convulsive agony at the torments which they suffered, and knowing that other torments more grievous still were reserved for them.” And it was not an infinite Devil, but a just and merciful God who was accused of having committed all this infernal cruelty.
Michael Angelo’s Last Judgment is an attempt to de-scribe in paint, what was believed then and has been for centuries since. Henry Ward Beecher thus refers to that great painting. (Plymouth Pulpit, Oct. 29, 1870): “Let any one look at that; let any one see the enormous gigantic coils of fiends and men; let any one look at the defiant Christ that stands like a superb athlete at the front, hurling his enemies from him and calling his friends toward him as Hercules might have done; let any one look upon that hideous wriggling mass that goes plunging down through the air-serpents and men and beasts of every nauseous kind, mixed together; let him look at the lower parts of the picture, where with the pitchforks men are by devils being cast into caldrons and into burning fires, where hateful fiends are gnawing the skulls of suffering sinners, and where there is hellish cannibalism going on-let a man look at that picture and the scenes which it depicts, and he sees what were the ideas which men once had of Hell and of divine justice. It was a night-mare as hideous as was ever begotten by the hellish brood it-self; and it was an atrocious slander on God. . . . I do not wonder that men have reacted from these horrors-I honor them for it.”
Tertullian says: “How shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates liquifying in fiercer flames than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sage philosophers blushing in red-hot fires with their deluded pupils; so many tragedians more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers tripping more nimbly from anguish then ever before from applause.”
Jeremy Taylor, of the English Church, says: “The bodies of the damned shall be crowded together in hell, like grapes in a wine-press, which press one another till they burst; every distinct sense and organ shall be assailed with its own appropriate and most exquisite sufferings.”
Calvin describes it: “Forever harassed with a dreadful tempest, they shall feel themselves torn asunder by an angry God, and transfixed and penetrated by mortal stings, terrified by the thunderbolts of God, and broken by the weight of this hand, so that to sink into any gulf would be more tolerable than to stand for a moment in these terrors.”
Jonathan Edwards said: “The world will probably be converted into a great lake or liquid globe of fire, in which the wicked shall be overwhelmed, which will always be in tempest, in which they shall be tossed to and fro, having no rest day or night, vast waves and billows of fire continually rolling over their heads, of which they shall forever be full of a quick sense within and without; their heads, their eyes, their tongues, their hands, their feet, their loins and their vitals, shall forever be full of a flowing, melting fire, fierce enough to melt the very rocks and elements; and, also, they shall eternally be full of the most quick and lively sense to feel the torments; not for one minute, not for one day, not for one age, not for two ages, not for a hundred ages, nor for ten thousand millions of ages, one after another, but forever and ever, without any end at all, and never to be delivered.”
And Spurgeon uses this language even in our own days: “When thou diest, they soul will be tormented alone: that will be a hell for it, but at the day of judgment thy body will join thy soul, and then thou wilt have twin hells, thy soul sweating drops of blood, and thy body suffused with agony. In fire exactly like that which we have on earth thy body will lie, asbestos-like, forever unconsumed, all thy veins roads for the feet of pain to travel on, every nerve a string on which the devil shall forever play his diabolical tun of Hell’s Unutterable Lament.”
“A Catholic Book for Children” says: “The fifth dungeon is a red-hot oven in which is a little child. Hear how it screams to come out! see how it turns and twists itself about in the fire! It beats its head against the roof of the oven. It stamps its little feet on the floor of the oven. To this child God was very good. Very likely God saw that this child would get worse and worse, and would never repent, and so it would have to be punished much worse in Hell. So God, in his mercy, called it out of the world in its early childhood.”
Now the horrible ideas we have just quoted were not obtained from the Old Testament, and yet they were fully believed by the Jew and Pagan when Christ came. Whence came these views? If the New Testament teaches them, then Christ must have borrowed them from uninspired heathen. What does the New Testament teach concerning Hell?
Within a few years Christians have quite generally abandoned their faith in material torments, and have substituted mental anguish, spiritual torture. But the torment, the anguish, the woe and agony are only faintly hinted by any possible effect of literal fire. The modification of opinion from literal fire to spiritual anguish, gives no relief to the character of God, and renders the “orthodox” hell no less revolting to every just and merciful feeling in the human heart, no less dishonorable to God. It is woe unspeakable to millions, without alleviation and without end, inflicted by a being called God, ordained by him from the foundation of the world for those he foresaw, before their birth, would inevitably suffer that woe, if he consented to their birth, compelling his wretched children to cry for endless eons in the language of Young (Night Thoughts): “Father of Mercies! why from silent earth Didst thou awake and curse me into birth, Tear me from quiet, banish me from night, And make a thankless present of Thy light, Push into being a reverse of Thee And animate a clod with misery? This question never can be answered. Good men groping in the eclipse of faith created by the false doctrine of an endless Hell, have tried in vain to see or explain the reason of it. Albert Barnes, (Presbyterian,) voices the real thought of millions, when he says: “That any should suffer forever, lingering on in hopeless despair, and rolling amidst infinite torments without the possibility of alleviation and without end; that since God can save men and will save a part, he has not proposed to save all-these are real, not imaginary, difficulties. . . . My whole soul pants for light and relief on these questions. But I get neither; and in the distress and anguish of my own spirit, I confess that I see no light whatever. I see not one ray to disclose to me why sin came into the world; why the earth is strewn with the dying and the dead; and why man must suffer to all eternity. I have never seen a particle of light thrown on these subjects, that has given a moment’s ease to my tortured min. . . . I confess, when I look on a world of sinners and sufferers-upon death-beds and grave-yards-upon the world of woe filled with hosts to suffer for ever: when I see my friends, my family, my people, my fellow citizens when I look upon a whole race, all involved in this sin and danger-and when I see the great mass of them wholly unconcerned, and when I feel that God only can save them, and yet he does not do so, I am stuck dumb. It is all dark, dark, dark to my soul, and I cannot disguise it.”
The word Hadees occurs but eleven times in the New Testament, and is translated Hell ten times, and grave once. The word is from a, not, and eulo, to see, and means concealed, invisible. It has exactly the same meaning as Sheol, literally the grave, or death, and figuratively destruction, downfall, calamity, or punishment in this world, with no intimation whatever of torment or punishment beyond the grave. Such is the meaning in every passage in the Old Testament containing the word Sheol or Hadees, whether translated Hell, grave or pit. Such is the invariable meaning of Hadees in the New Testament. Says the “Emphatic Diaglott:” “To translate Hadees by the word Hell as it is done ten times out of eleven in the New Testament, is very improper, unless it has the Saxon meaning of helan, to cover, attached to it. The primitive signification of Hell, only denoting what was secret or concealed, perfectly corresponds with the Greek term Hadees and its equivalent Sheol, but the theological definition given to it at the present day by no means expresses it.”
The Greek Septuagint, which our Lord used when he read or quoted from the Old Testament, gives Hadees as the exact equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol, and when the Savior, or his apostles, use the word, they must mean the same as it meant in the Old Testament. When Hadees is used in the New Testament, we must understand it just as we do (Sheol or Hadees) in the Old Testament.
OPINIONS OF SCHOLARS
Dr. Campbell well says: * * “In my judgment, it ought never in Scripture to be rendered Hell, at least, in the sense wherein that word is now universally understood by Christians.
In the Old Testament, the corresponding word is Sheol, which signifies the state of the dead in general without regard to the goodness or badness of the persons, their happiness or misery. In translating that word, the seventy have almost invariably used Hadees. * * It is very plain, that neither in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, nor in the New, does the word Hadees convey the meaning which the present English word Hell, in the Christian usage, always conveys to our minds.”-Diss. Vi., pp. 180-1.
Donnegan defines it thus: “Invisible, not manifest, concealed, dark, uncertain.”-Lex. p. 19.
Le Clere affirms that “neither Hadees nor Sheol ever signifies in the Sacred Scripture the abode of evil spirits, but only the sepulchre, or the state of the dead.”
It must not be forgotten that contact with the heathen had corrupted the opinions of the Jews, at the time of our Savior, from the simplicity of Moses, and that by receiving the traditions and fables of paganism, they had made void the word of God. They had accepted Hadees as the best Greek word to convey their idea of Sheol, but without investing it at first with the heathen notions of the classic Hadees, as they afterwards did. What these ideas were, the classic authors inform us. “The Jews had acquired at Babylon a great number of Oriental notions, and their theological opinions had undergone great changes by this intercourse. We find in Ecclesiastes and the Wisdom of Solomon, and the later prophets, notions unknown to the Jews before the Babylonian captivity, which are manifestly derived from the Orientals. Thus, God represented under the image of light, and the principle of evil under that of darkness; the history of good and bad angels; paradise and Hell, etc., are doctrines of which the origin, or at least the positive determination, can only be referred to the Oriental philosophy.” (Milman’s Gibbon ch. 21. of it, or the heathen and “evangelical” descriptions of Hell are wholly false.)
Dr. Thayer in his “Origin and History,” says: “The process is easily understood. About three hundred and thirty years before Christ, Alexander the Great had subjected to his rule the whole of Western Asia, including Judea, and also the kingdom of Egypt. Soon after he founded Alexandria, which speedily became a great commercial metropolis, and drew into itself a large multitude of Jews, who were always eager to improve the opportunities of traffic and trade. A few years later, Ptolemy Soter took Jerusalem, and carried off one hundred thousand of them into Egypt. Here, of course, they were in daily contact with Egyptians and Greeks, and gradually began to adopt their philosophical and religious opinions, or to modify their own in harmony with them.”
“To what side soever they turned,” says the Universalist Expositor, “the Jews came in contact with Greeks and with Greek philosophy, under one modification or another. It was round them and among them; for small bodies of that people were scattered through their own territories, as well as through the surrounding provinces. It insinuated itself very slowly at first; but stealing upon them from every quarter, and operating from age to age, it mingled at length in all their views, and by the year 150 before Christ, had wrought a visible change in their notions and habits of thought.”
We must either reject these imported ideas, as heathen inventions, or we must admit that the heathen, centuries before Christ, discovered that of which Moses had no idea. In other words either uninspired men announced the future fate of sinners centuries before inspired men knew anything
At the time of Christ’s advent Jew and Pagan held Hadees to be a place of torment after death, to endure forever.
“The prevalent and distinguishing opinion was, that the soul survived the body, that vicious souls would suffer an everlasting imprisonment in Hadees, and that the souls of the virtuous would both be happy there and in process of time obtain the privilege of transmigrating into other bodies.” * * * (Campbell’s Four Gospels, Diss. 6, Pt. 2, & 19.) Of the Pharisees, Josephus says: “They also believe that souls have an immortal vigor in them, and that, under the earth, there will be rewards and punishments, according as they lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again.” (Antiquites, B. 18, Ch. 1, 3. Whiston’s Tr.”)
These doctrines are not found in the Old Testament. They are of heathen origin. Did Jesus endorse them? Let us consult all the texts in which he employed the heathen word Hadees.
Matt. 11: 23 and Luke 10: 15: “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to Hell.” “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to Hell.” Of course, a city never went to a place of torment after death. The word is used here just as it is in Isa. 14, where Babylon is said to be brought down to Sheol or Hadees, to denote debasement, overthrow, a prediction fulfilled to the letter. Dr. Clarke’s interpretation is correct: “The word here means a state of the utmost woe, and ruin, and desolation, to which these impenitent cities should be reduced. This prediction of our Lord was literally fulfilled; for, in the wars between the Romans and Jews, these cities were totally destroyed; so that no traces are now found of Bethsaida, Chorazin or Capernaum.”
JESUS WENT TO HADEES
That Hadees is the kingdom of death, and not a place of torment, after death, is evident from the language of Acts 2: 27: “Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell: neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption.” Verse 31: “His soul was not left in Hell, neither his flesh did see corruption,” that is his spirit did not remain in the state of the dead, until his body decayed. No one supposes that Jesus went to a realm of torment when he died. Jacob wished to go down to Hadees to his son mourning, so Jesus went to Hadees, the under-world, the grave. The Apostle’s Creed conveys the same idea, when it speaks of Jesus as descending into Hell. He died, but his soul was not left in the realms of death, is the meaning.
THE GATES OF HADEES
Matt. 14: 18 “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” The word is here used as an emblem of destruction. “The gates of Hadees” means the powers of destruction. It is the Savior’s manner of saying that his church cannot be destroyed.
Rev. 6: 8: “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” All the details of this description demonstrates that the Hell is on earth, and not in the future world.
The word also occurs in Rev 1: 18: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of Hell and of death.” To understand this passage literally, with the popular view of Hell added, would be to represent Jesus as the Devil’s gate keeper. If Hell is a realm of torment, and the devil is its king, and Jesus keeps the keys, what is he but the devil’s janitor, or turnkey? The idea is that Jesus defies death and the grave, evil, destruction, and all that is denoted either literally or figuratively by Hadees, the under-world. Its gates open to him.
Cannon Farrar in Excursus II, “Eternal Hope,” observes: “Hell has entirely changed its old harmless sense of ‘the dim under-world,’ and that, meaning as it how does, to myriads of readers, ‘a place of endless torment by material fire into which all impenitent souls pass forever after death,’-it conveys meanings which are not to be found in any word of the Old or New Testament for which it is presented as an equivalent. In our Lord’s language Capernaum was to be thrust down, not ‘to Hell,’ but to the silence and desolation of the grave (Hadees); the promise that ‘the gates of Hadees’ should not prevail against the church is perhaps a distinct implication of her triumph even beyond death in the souls of men for whom he died; Dives uplifts his eyes not ‘in Hell,’ but in the intermediate Hadees where he rests till the resurrection to a judgment, in which signs are not wanting that his soul may have been meanwhile ennobled and purified.”
I Cor. 15: 55: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” This is parallel to Hos. 14: 14, where the destruction of Hadees is prophesied. Whatever Hadees means, it is not to endure forever. It is destined to be destroyed. It cannot be endless torment. That its inhabitants are to be delivered from its dominion, is seen from Rev. 20: 13: “And Death and Hell delivered up the dead that were in them.” This harmonizes with the declaration of David, that he had been delivered from it already. (Ps. 30: 3; II Sam. 22: 5,6). It does not retain its victims always, and hence, whatever it may mean, it does not denote endless imprisonment. Hence the next verse reads, “And death and Hell were cast into the lake of fire.” Can a more striking description of utter destruction be given than this? Of course the language is all figurative, and not literal. Hell here denotes evil and its consequences. It is in this world, it opposes truth and human happiness, but it is to meet with a destruction so complete that only a se of fire can indicate the character of its destruction.
Says Prof. Stuart: “The king of Hadees, and Hadees itself, i.e., the region or domains of death, are represented as cast into the burning lake. The general judgment being now come, mortality having now been brought to a close, the tyrant death, and his domains along with him, are represented as cast into the burning lake, as objects of abhorrence and of indignation. They are no more to exercise any power over the human race.” Ex. Es. p. 133. ‘And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom; the rich man also died, and was buried; and in Hell (Hadees) he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” Luke 16: 22, 23. If this is a literal history, as is sometimes claimed, of the after-death experiences of two persons, then the good are carried about in Abraham’s bosom; and the wicked are actually roasted in fire, and cry for water to cool their parched tongues. If these are figurative, then Abraham, Lazarus, Dives and the gulf and every part of the account are features of a picture, an allegory, as much as the fire and Abraham’s bosom. If it be history, then the good are obliged to hear the appeals of the damned for that help which they cannot bestow! They are so near together as to be able to converse across the gulf, not wide but deep. It was this opinion that caused Jonathan Edwards to teach that the sight of the agonies of the damned enhances the joys of the blest!
1. The story is not fact but fiction: in other words, a parable. This is denied by some Christians who ask, Does not our Savior say: “There was a certain rich man?” etc. True, but all his parables begin in the same way, “A certain rich man had two sons,: and the like.
In Judges 9, we read, “The trees went forth, on a time, to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, reign thou over us.” This language is positive, and yet it describes something that never could have occurred. All fables, parables, and other fictitious accounts which are related to illustrate important truths, have this positive form, to give force, point, life-likeness to the lessons that they inculcate.
Dr. Whitby says: “That this is only a parable and not a real history of what was actually done, is evident from the circumstances of it, namely, the rich man lifting up his eyes in Hell and seeing Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, his discourse with Abraham, his complaint of being tormented in flames, and his desire that Lazarus might be sent to cool his tongue, and if all this be confessedly parable, why should the rest be accounted history?” Lightfoot and Hammond make the same general comments, and Wakefield remarks, “To them who regard the narrative a reality it must stand as an unanswerable argument for the purgatory of the papists.”
It occurs at the end of a chain of parables. The Savior had been illustrating several principles by familiar allegories, or parables. He had exhibited the unjustifiable murmurings of the Pharisees, in the stories of the Lost Sheep and of the Lost Piece of Silver, and the parable commencing the sixteenth chapter was directed to the Scribes and Pharisees, that class of Jews being represented by the Unjust Steward. They had been unfaithful and their Lord would shortly dismiss them. The account says: “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things, and they derided him,” showing, unequivocally, that the force and power of his references were felt.
He continued to illustrate his doctrines and gave to them a marked cogency by his striking and beautiful stories. He then struck into this parable designing not to relate an actual incident but to exhibit certain truths by means of a story. It is clearly absurd to say that he launched immediately from the figurative mode of instruction in which he had all along been indulging, into a literal exhibition of the eternal world, and without any notice of his changed mode of expression, actually raised the vail that separates this life from the future! He was not accustomed to teach in that way.
And this brings us to another proof that this is a parable. The Jews have a book, written during the Babylonish Captivity, entitled Gemara Babylonicum, containing doctrines entertained by Pagans concerning the future state not recognized by the followers of Moses. This story is founded on heathen views. They were not obtained from the Bible, for the Old Testament contains nothing resembling them. They were among those traditions which our Savior condemned when he told the Scribes and Pharisees, “Ye make the word of God of none effect through your traditions,” and when he said to his disciples, “Beware of the leaven, or doctrine of the Pharisees.”
Our Savior seized the imagery of this story, not to endorse its truth, but just as we now relate any other fable. He related it as found in the Gemara, not for the story’s sake, but to convey a moral to his hearers; and the Scribes and Pharisees to whom he addressed this and the five preceding stories, felt- as we shall see-the force of its application to them.
Says Dr. Geo. Campbell: “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 Hadees 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.” Now as nothing resembling this parable is found in the Old Testament where did the Jews obtain it, if not from the heathen?
The commentator, Macknight, Scotch Presbyterian, says truly: “It must be acknowledged that our Lord’s descriptions are not drawn from the writings of the Old Testament, but have a remarkable affinity to the descriptions which the Grecian poets have given. They represent the abodes of the blest as lying contiguous to the region of the damned, and separated only by a great impassable gulf in such sort that the ghosts could talk to one another from its opposite banks. If from these resemblances it is thought the parable is formed on the Grecian mythology, it will not at all follow that our Lord approved of what the common people thought or spoke concerning these matters, agreeably to the notions of Greeks. In parables, provided the doctrines inculcated are strictly true, the terms in which they are inculcated may be such as are most familiar to the people, and the images made use of are such as they are best acquainted with.”
But if it were a literal history, nothing could be gained for the terrible doctrine of endless torment. It would oblige us to believe in literal fire after death but there is not a word to show that such fire would never go out. We have heard it claimed that the punishment of the rich man must be endless, because there was gulf (chasm, chasma) fixed so that those who desired to could not cross it. But were this a literal account, it would not follow that the gulf would last always.
For are we not assured that the time is coming when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hiss shall be made low?” Isa. 30: 4. When every valley is exalted what becomes of the great gulf? And then there is exalted, what said of the duration of the sufferings of the rich man. If the account be a history it must not militate against the promise of “The restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all God’s holy prophets since the world began.” There is not a word intimating that the rich man’s torment was never to cease. So the doctrine of endless misery is after all, not in the least taught here. The most that can be claimed is that the consequences of sin extend into the future life, and that is a doctrine that we believe just as strongly as can any one, though we do not believe they will be endless, nor do we believe the doctrine taught in this parable, nor in the Bible use of the word Hell.
But allowing for a moment that this is intended to represent a scene in the spirit world, what a representation we have! Dives is dwelling in a world of fire in the company of lost spirits, hardened by the depravity that must possess the residents of that world, and yet yearning in compassion for those on earth. Not totally depraved, not harboring evil thoughts but benevolent, humane. Instead of being loyal to the wicked world in which he dwells as anyone bad enough to go there should be, he actually tries to prevent migration Thither from earth, while Lazarus is entirely indifferent to everybody but himself. Dives seems to have more mercy and compassion than does Lazarus.
But what does the parable teach? That the Jewish nation, and especially the Scribes and Pharisees were about to die as a power, as a church, as a controlling influence in the world; while the common people among them and the Gentiles outside of them were to be exalted in the new order of things. The details of the parable show this: “There was a certain rich man clothed in purple and fine linen.” In these first words, by describing their very costume, the Savior fixed the attention of his hearers on the Jewish priesthood. They were emphatically the rich men of that nation. His description of the beggar was equally graphic. He lay at the gate of the rich, only asking to be fed by the crumbs that fell from the table. Thus dependent were the common people, and the Gentiles on the Scribes and Pharisees. We remember how Christ once rebuked them for shutting up the kingdom of heaven against these. They lay at the gate of the Jewish hierarchy. For the Gentiles were literally restricted to the outer court of the temple. Hence in Rev. 11: 12 we read: “But the court, which is without the temple, leave out, and measure it not, for it is given unto the Gentiles.” They could only walk the outer court, or lie at the gate. We remember the anger of the Jews at Paul, for allowing Greeks to enter the temple. This is the significance of the language of the Canaanitish woman, Matt. 15: 27, who desired the Savior to heal her daughter. The Savior, to try her faith, said: It is not meet to cast the children’s bread to the dogs.” She replied, “Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their Mater’s table.” The prophet (Isa. 1: 6) represents the common people of Israel as “full of wounds, bruises, and putrifying sores.” The brief, graphic descriptions given by the Savior, at once showed his hearers that he was describing those two classes, the Jewish priesthood and nation on the one hand and the common people, Jews and Gentiles, on the other.
The rich man died and was buried. This class died officially, nationally and its power departed. The kingdom of God was taken from them and conferred on others. The beggar died. The Gentiles, publicans and sinners were translated into the kingdom of God’s dear son where is neither Jew nor Greek, but where all are one in Christ Jesus. This is the meaning of the expression “Abraham’s bosom.” They accepted the true faith and so became one with faithful Abraham. Abraham is called the father of the faithful, and the beggar is represented to have gone to Abraham’s bosom, to denote the fact which is now history, that the common people and Gentiles would accept Christianity and become Christian nations, enjoying the blessing of the Christian faith.
What is meant by the torment of the rich man? The misery of those proud men, when soon after their land was captured and their city and temple possessed by barbarians, and they scattered like chaff before the wind-a condition in which they have continued from that day to this. All efforts to bless them with Christianity have proved unavailing. At this very moment there is a great gulf fixed so that there is no passing to and fro. And observe, the Jews do not desire the gospel. Nor did the rich man ask to enter Abraham’s bosom with Lazarus. He only wished Lazarus to alleviate his sufferings by dipping his finger in water and cooling his tongue. It is so with the Jews today. They do not desire the gospel; they only ask those among whom they sojourn to tolerate them and soften the hardships that accompany their wanderings. The Jewish church and nation is now dead. Once they were exalted to heaven, but now they are thrust down to Hadees, the kingdom of death, and the gulf that yawns between them and the Gentiles shall not be abolished till the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in, and “then Israel shall be saved.”
Lightfoot says: “The main scope and design of it seems this: to hint the destruction of the unbelieving Jews, who, though they had Moses and the prophets, did not believe them, nay would not believe though one (even Jesus) arose from the dead.”
Our quotations are not from Universalists, but from those who accepted the doctrine of eternal punishment, but who were forced to confess that this parable has no reference to that subject. The rich man or the Jews were and are in the same Hell in which David was when he said: “The pains of Hell (Hadees) got hold on me, I found trouble and sorrow,” and “thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest Hell.” Not in endless wo in the future world, but in misery and suffering in this.
But is this a final condition? No, wherever we locate it, it must end. Paul asks the Romans, “Have they (the Jews) stumbled that they should fall? God forbid! but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles.” “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness is in part happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved. As it is written, There shall come out of Zion the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is my covenant with them when I shall take away their sins.” 11: 22, 25, 27.
In brief terms, then we may say that this is a fictitious story or parable describing the fate in this world of the Jewish and Gentile people of our Savior’s times, and has not the slightest reference to the world after death, nor to the fate of mankind in that world.
Let the reader observe that the rich man, being in Hadees, was in a place of temporary detention only. Whether this be a literal story or a parable, his confinement is not to be an endless one. This is demonstrated in a two-fold manner:
1. Death and Hadees will deliver up their occupants. Rev. 20: 13.
2. Hadees is to be destroyed. I Cor. 15: 55; Rev. 20: 14.
Therefore Hadees is of temporary duration. The Rich Man was not in a place of endless torment. As Prof. Stuart remarks: “Whatever the state of either the righteous or the wicked may be, whilst in Hadees, that state will certainly cease, and be exchanged for another at the general resurrection.” Thus the New Testament usage agrees exactly with the Old Testament. Primarily, literally, Hadees is death, the grave, and figuratively, it is destruction. It is in this world, and is to end. The last time it is referred to (Rev. 20: 14) as well as in other instances (Hosea 13: 14; I Cor. 15: 55), its destruction is positively announced.
So that the instances (sixty-four) in the Old Testament and (eleven) in the New, in all seventy-five in the Bible, all perfectly agree in representing the word Hell, derived from the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hadees, as being in this world and of temporary duration.
We now consider the word Tartarus: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Hell (Tartarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” II Peter 2: 4. The word in the Greek is Tartarus, or rather it is a very from that noun. “Cast down to hell” should be tartarused, (tartarosas). The Greeks held Tartarus, says Anthon, in his Classical Dictionary to be “the fabled place of punishment in the lower world.” “According to the ideas of the Homeric and Hesiodic ages, it would seem that the world or universe was a hollow globe, divided into two equal portions by the flat disk of the earth. The external shell of this globe is called by the poets brazen and iron, probably only to express its solidity. The superior hemisphere was called Heaven, and the inferior one Tartarus. The length of the diameter of the hollow sphere is given thus by Hesiod. It would take, he says, nine days for an anvil to fall from Heaven to Earth; and an equal space of time would be occupied by its fall from Earth to the bottom of Tartarus. The luminaries which give light to gods and men, shed their radiance through all the interior of the upper hemisphere, while that of the inferior one was filled with eternal darkness, and its still air was unmoved by any wind. Tartarus was regarded at this period as the prison of the gods and not as the place of torment for wicked men; being to the gods, what Erebus was to men, the abode of those who were driven from the supernal world. The Titans, when conquered were shut up in it and Jupiter menaces the gods with banishment to its murky regions. The Oceanus of Homer encompassed the whole earth, and beyond it was a region unvisited by the sun, and therefore shrouded in perpetual darkness, the abode of a people whom he names Cimmerians. Here the poet of the Odyssey also places Erebus, the realm of Pluto and Proserpina, the final dwelling place of all the race of men, a place which the pet of the Iliad describes as lying within the bosom of the earth. At a later period the change of religions gradually affected Erebus, the place of the reward of the good; and Tartarus was raised up to form the prison in which the wicked suffered the punishment due to their crimes.” Virgil illustrates this view, (Dryden’s Virgil, Encid, 6): *’Tis here, in different paths, the way divides:– The right to Pluto’s golden palace guides, The left to that unhappy region tends. Which to the depths of Tartarus descends- The scat of night profound and punished fiends.
The gaping gulf low to the centre lies, And twice as deep as earth is from the skies.
The rivals of the gods, the Titan race,
Here, singed with lightning, roll within th’unfathomed space.”
Now it is not to be supposed that Peter endorses and teaches this monstrous nonsense of paganism. If he did, then we must accept all the absurdities that went with it, in the pagan mythology. And if this is an item of Christian faith, why is it never referred to, in the Old or New Testament? Why have we no descriptions of it such as abound in classic literature?
Peter alludes to the subject just as though it were well-known and understood by his correspondents. “If the angels that sinned.”-what angels? “were cast down to Tartarus,” where is the story related? Not in the Bible, but in a book well-known at the time, called the Book of Enoch. It was written some time before the Christian Era, and is often quoted by the Christian fathers. It embodies a tradition, to which Josephus alludes, (Ant. 1: 3) of certain angels who had fallen. (Dr. T. J. Sawyer, in Univ. Quart.) From this apocryphal book, Peter quoted the verse referring to Tartarus Dr. Sawyer says: “Not only the moderns are forced to this opinion, but it seems to have been universally adopted by the ancients. ‘Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Hilary,’ say Professor Stuart, ‘all of whom refer to the book before us, and quote from it, say nothing which goes to establish the idea that any Christians of their day denied or doubted that a quotation was made by the apostle Jude from the Book of Enoch. Several and in fact most of these writers do indeed call in question the canonical rank or authority of the Book of Enoch; but the apologies which they make for the quotation of it in Jude, show that the quotation itself was, as a matter of fact, generally conceded among them.’ There are it is true some individuals who still doubt whether Jude quoted the Book of Enoch; but while as Professor Stuart suggests, this doubt is incapable of being confirmed by any satisfactory proof, it avails nothing to deny the quotation; for it is evident if Jude did not quote the Book of Enoch, he did quote a tradition of no better authority.” This Book of Enoch is full of absurd legends, which no sensible man can accept.
WHAT DID PETER MEAN?
Why did Peter quote from it? Just as men now quote from the classics not sanctioning the truth of the quotation but to illustrate and enforce a proposition. Nothing is more common than for writers to quote fables: “As the tortoise said to the hare,” in Aesop. “As the sun said to the wind,” etc. We have the same practice illustrated in the Bible. Joshua, after a poetical quotation adorning his narrative, says: “Is not this written in the Book of Jasher? Josh. 10: 13 and Jeremiah 48: 45 says: “A fire shall come forth out of Heshbon,” quoting from an ancient poet, says Dr. Adam Clarke. Peter alludes to this ancient legend to illustrate the certainty of retribution without any intention of teaching the silly notions of angels falling from heaven and certainly not meaning to sanction the then prevalent notions concerning the heathen Tartarus. There is this alternative only: either the pagan doctrine is true and the heathen got ahead of inspiration by ascertaining the facts before the authors of the Bible learned it-for it was currently accepted centuries before Christ and is certainly not taught in the Old Testament- or Peter quotes it as Jesus refers to Mammon rhetorically to illustrate the great fact of retribution he was inculcating. If true, how can anyone account for the fact that it is never referred to in the Bible, before or after this once? Besides, these angels are not to be detained always in Tartarus, they are to be released. The language is, “delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” When their judgment comes, they emerge from duress. They only remain in Tartarus “unto judgment.” Their imprisonment is not endless so that the language gives no proof of endless punishment even if it be a literal description.
But no one can fail to see that the apostle employs the legend from the Book of Enoch to illustrate and enforce his doctrine of retribution. As though he had said: “If, as is believed by some, God spared not the angels that sinned, do not let us who sin, mortal men, expect to escape.” If this view is denied, there is no escape from the gross doctrine of Tartarus as taught by the pagans and that, too, on the testimony of a solitary sentence of Scripture! But whatever may be the intent of the words, they do not teach endless torment, for the chains referred to only last unto the judgment.
While nearly all “orthodox” authorities of eminence concede that Sheol and Hadees do not denote a place of torment in the future world, most of those who accept the doctrine of endless torment claim that Gehenna does convey that meaning.
Campbell, in his “Four Gospels,” 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. This is the sense, if I mistake not, in which Gehenna is always to be understood in the New Testament, where it occurs just twelve times. It is a word peculiar to the Jews, and was employed by them some time before the coming of Christ, to denote that part of Sheol which was the habitation of the wicked after death. This is proved by the fact of its familiar use in the New Testament, and by the fact of its being found in the Apocrypha books and Jewish Targunis, some of which were written before the time of our Savior.”
But no such force resides in the word, nor is there a scintilla of evidence that it ever conveyed such an idea until many years after Christ. It is not found in the Apocrypha, Campbell mistakes.
Stuart says (Exeg. Ess.); “It is admitted that the Jews of a later date used the word Gehenna to denote Tartarus, that is, the place of infernal punishment.”
In the second century Clemens Alexandrinus says: “Does not Plato acknowledge both the rivers of fire, and that profound depth of the earth which the barbarians call Gehenna? Does he not mention prophetically, Tartarus, Cocytus, Acheron, the Phlegethon of fire, and certain other places of punishment, which lead to correction and discipline?” Univ. Ex.
But an examination of the Bible use of the term will show us that the popular view is obtained by injecting the word with pagan superstition. Its origin and the first references to it in the Old Testament, are well stated by eminent critics and exegetes.
Says Campbell: “The word Gehenna is derived, as all agree, from the Hebrew words ge hinnom; which, in process of time, passing into other languages, assumed diverse forms; e.g., Chaldee Gehennom, Arabic Gahannam, Greek Gehenna.
The valley of Hinnom is part of the pleasant wadi or valley, which bounds Jerusalem on the south. Josh. 15: 8; 18: 6. Here, in ancient times and under some of the idolatrous kings, the worship of Moloch, the horrid idol-god of the Ammonites, was practiced. To this idol, children were offered in sacrifice. II Kings 23: 10; Ezek. 23: 37, 39; II Chron. 28: 3; Lev. 28: 21; 20: 2. If we may credit the Rabbins, the head of the idol was like that of an ox; while the rest of the body resembled that of a man. It was hollow within; and being heated by fire, children were laid in its arms and were literally roasted alive. We cannot wonder, then at the severe terms in which the worship of Moloch is everywhere denounced in the Scriptures. Nor can we wonder that the place itself should have been called Tophet, i.e., abomination, detestation, (from toph, to vomit with loathing).” Jer. 8: 32; 19: 6; II Kings 23: 10; Ezek. 23: 36, 39.
“After these sacrifices had ceased, the place was desecrated, and made one of loathing and horror. The pious king Josiah caused it to be polluted, i.e., he caused to be carried there the filth of the city of Jerusalem. It would seem that the custom of desecrating this place thus happily begun, was continued in after ages down to the period when our Savior was on earth. Perpetual fires were kept up in order to consume the offal which was deposited there. And as the same offal would breed worms, (for so all putrefying meat does of course), hence came the expression, ‘Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.’ ” Stuart’s Exegetical Ess., pp. 140-141.
“Gehenna, originally a Hebrew word, which signifies the valley of Hinnom, is composed of the common noun, Gee, valley, and the proper name Hinnom, the owner of this valley. The valley of the sons of Hinnom was a delightful vale, planted with trees, watered by fountains, and lying near Jerusalem, on the south-east, by the brook Kedron. Here the Jews placed that brazen image of Moloch, which had the face of a calf, and extended its hands as those of a man. It is said, on the authority of the ancient Rabbins, that, to this image, the idolatrous Jews were wont not only to sacrifice doves, pigeons, lambs, rams, calves and bulls, but even to offer their children. I Kings 9: 7; II Kings 15: 3, 4. In the prophecy of Jeremiah, (Ch. 7: 31), this valley is called Tophet, from Toph, a drum; because the administrators in these horrid rites, beat drums, lest the cries and shrieks of the infants who were burned, should be heard by the assembly. At length, these nefarious practices were abolished by Josiah, and the Jews brought back to the pure worship of God.
II Kings 23: 10. After this, they held the place in such abomination, it is said, that they cast into it all kinds of filth, together with the carcasses of beasts, and the unburied bodies of criminals who had been executed. Continual fires were necessary, in order to consume these, lest the putrefaction should infect the air; and there were always worms feeding on the remaining relics. Hence it came, that any severe punishment, especially a shameful kind of death, was denominated Gehenna.” Schleusner.
As we trace the history of the locality as it occurs in the Old Testament we learn that it should never have been translated by the word Hell. It is a proper name of a well-known locality, and ought to have stood Gehenna, as it does in the French Bible, in Newcome’s and Wakefield’s translations. In the Improved Version, Emphatic Diaglott, etc. Babylon might have been translated Hell with as much propriety as Gehenna. It is fully described in numerous passages in the Old Testament, and is exactly located.
“And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom unto the south side of the Jebusite; the same is Jerusalem, and the border went up to the top of the mountain that lieth before the valley of Hinnom westward.” Joshua 15: 8. “And he (Josiah) defiled Tophet, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or daughter to pass through the fire to Moloch.” II Kings 23: 10. “Moreover, he (Ahaz) burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen.” II Chron. 28: 3. “And they (the children of Judah) have built the high places of Tophet which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter; for they shall bury in Tophet till there be no place.” Jer. 7: 31, 32. “And go forth into the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter.” Jer 19: 2, 6.
These and other passages show that Gehenna was a well-known valley, near Jerusalem, in which the Jews in their idolatrous days had sacrificed their children to the idol Moloch, in consequence of which it was condemned to receive the offal and refuse and sewage of the city, and into which the bodies of malefactors were cast and where to destroy the odor and pestilential influences, continual fires were kept burning. Here fire, smoke, worms bred by the corruption, and other repulsive features, rendered the place a horrible one, in the eyes of the Jews. It was locality with which they were as well acquainted as they were with any place in or around the city. The valley was sometimes called Tophet, according to Schleusner, from Toph, a drum, because drums were beat during the idolatrous rites, but Adam Clarke says in consequence of the fact that Moloch was hollow, and heated, and children were placed in its arms, and burn to death; the word Tophet he says, meaning fire stove; but Prof. Stuart thinks the name derived from “Toph, to vomit the loathing.” After these horrible practices, King Josiah polluted the place and rendered it repulsive.
“Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter; for they shall bury in Tophet till there be no place. And the carcasses of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall fray them away. Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride: for the land shall be desolate.” Jer. 7: 32-34. “At that time, saith the Lord, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of the princes, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of the graves: and they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped; they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth. And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of them that remain of this evil family, which remain in all the places whither I have driven them, saith the Lord of hosts. And I will make this city desolate, and a hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished and hiss, because of all the plagues thereof. And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them. And they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury. Thus will I do unto this place, saith the Lord, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make the city as Tophet: and the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods. Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the Lord had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the Lord’s house, and said to all the people: Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.” Jer. 19: 8-15.
These passages show that Gehenna or Tophet was a horrible locality near Jerusalem, and that to be cast there literally, was the doom threatened and executed originally. Every reference is to this world, and to a literal casting into that place.
In Dr. Bailey’s English Dictionary, Gehenna is defined to be “a place in the valley of the tribe of Benjamin, terrible for two sorts of fire in it, that wherein the Israelites sacrificed their children to the idol Moloch, and also another kept continually burning to consume the dead carcasses and filth of Jerusalem.”
But in process of time Gehenna came to be an emblem of the consequences of sin, and to be employed figuratively by the Jews, to denote those consequences. But always in this world. The Jews never used it to mean torment after death, until long after Christ. That the word had not the meaning of post-mortem torment when our Savior used it, is demonstrable:
Josephus was a Pharisee, and wrote at about the time of Christ, and expressly says that the Jews at the time (corrupted from the teaching of Moses) believed in punishment after death, but he never employs Gehenna to denote the place of punishment. He uses the word Hadees, which the Jews had then obtained from the heathen, but he never uses Gehenna, as he would have done, had it possessed that meaning then. This demonstrates that the word had no such meaning then. In addition to this neither the Apocrypha, which was written from 280 to 150 years. B. C., nor Philo, ever uses the word. It was first used in the modern sense of Hell by Justin Martyr, one hundred and fifty years after Christ.
Dr. Thayer concludes a most thorough excursus on the word (“Theology, etc.,”) thus: “Our inquiry shows that it is employed in the Old Testament in its literal or geographical sense only, as the name of the valley lying on the south of Jerusalem-that the Septuagint proves it retained this meaning at late as B. C. 150–that it is not found at all in the Apocrypha; neither of Philo, nor in Josephus, whose writings cover the very times of the Savior and the New Testament, thus leaving us without a single example of contemporary usage to determine its meaning at this period-that from A. D. 150-195, we find in two Greek authors, Justin and Clement of Alexandria, the first resident in Italy and the last in Egypt that Gehenna began to be used to designate a place of punishment after death, but not endless punishment since Clement was a believer in universal restoration-that the first time we find Gehenna used in this sense in any Jewish writing is near the beginning of the third century, in the Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, two hundred years too late to be of any service in the argument-and lastly, that the New Testament usage shows that while it had not wholly lost its literal sense, it was also employed in the time of Christ as a symbol of moral corruption and wickedness; but more especially as a figure of the terrible judgments of God on the rebellious and sinful nation of the Jews.”
The Jewish talmuds and targums use the word in the sense that the Christian Church has so long used it, though without attributing endlessness to it, but none of them are probably older than A. D. 200. The oldest is the targum (translation) of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, which was written according to the best authorities between A. D. 200 and A. D. 400.
“Most of the eminent critics now agree, that it could not have been completed till some time between two and four hundred years after Christ.” Univ. Expos. Vol 2, p. 368. “Neither the language nor the method of interpretation is the same in all the books. In the historical works, the text is translated with greater accuracy than elsewhere; in some of the Prophets, as in Zechariah, the interpretation has more of the Rabbinical and Talmudical character. From this variety we may properly infer, that the work is a collection of interpretations of several learned men made toward the close of the third century, and containing some of a much older date; for that some parts of it existed as early as in the second century, appears from the additions which have been transferred from some Chaldee paraphrase into the Hebrew text, and were already in the text in the second century.” Jahn Int. p. 66. Horne’s Intro. Vol. 2. p. 160.
Dr. T. B. Thayer in his “Theology,” says: “Dr. Jahn assigns it to the end of the third century after Christ; Eichhorn decides for the fourth century; Bertholdt inclines to the second or third century, and is confident that it ‘cannot have attained its present complete form, before the end of the second century.’ Bauer coincides generally in these views.
Some critics put the date even as low down as the seventh or eighth century. See a full discussion of the question in the Universalist Expositor, Vol. 2, p. 35l-368. See, also, Horne’s Introduction, Vol. 2, 157-163. Justin Martyr. A. D. 150, and Clement of Alexandria, A. D. 195, both employ Gehenna to designate the place of future punishment; but the first utters an opinion only of its meaning in a certain text, and the last was a Universalist and did not, of course, believe that Gehenna was the place of endless punishment. Augustine, A. D. 400, says Gehenna ‘stagnum ignis el sulphuris corporeus ignis erit.’ De Civitate Dei, L. 21. C. 10.”
At the time of Christ the Old Testament existed in Hebrew. The Septuagint translation of it was made between two hundred and four hundred years before his birth. In both Gehenna is never used as the name of a place of future punishment. A writer in the Universalist Expositor remarks, (Vol. 2): “Both the Apocrypha, and the works of Philo, when compared together, afford circumstantial evidence that the word cannot have been currently employed, during their age, to denote a place of future torment. . . . From the few traces which remain to us of this age, it seems that the idea of future punishment, such as it was among the Jews, was associated with that of darkeness, and not of fire; and that among those of Palestine, the misery of the wicked was supposed to consist rather in privation, than in positive infliction. . . . But we cannot discover, in Josephus, that either of these sects, the Pharisees or the Essenes, both of which believed the doctrine of endless misery, supposed it to be a state of fire, or that the Jews ever alluded to it by that emblem.”
Thus the Apocrypha, B. C. 150-500, Philo Judaeus A. D. 40, and Josephus, A. D. 70-100, all refer to future punishment, but none of them use Gehenna to describe it, which they would have done, being Jews, had the word been then in use with that meaning. Were it the name of a place of future torment, then, can any one doubt that it would be found repeatedly in their writings? And does not the fact that it is never found in their writings demonstrate that it had no such use then, and if so, does it not follow that Christ used it in no such sense?
Canon Farrar says of Gehenna (Preface to “Eternal Hope): “In the Old Testament it is merely the pleasant valley of Hinnom (Ge Hinnom), subsequently desecrated by idolatry, and especially by Moloch worship, and defiled by Josiah on this account. (See I Kings 11: 7; II Kings 23: 10.)(Jer. 7: 31; 19: 10-14; Isa. 30: 33; Tophet). Used according to Jewish tradition, as the common sewage of the city, the corpses of the worst criminals were flung into it unburied, and fires were lit to purify the contaminated air. It then became a word which secondarily implied (1) the severest judgment which a Jewish court could pass upon a criminal-the casting forth of his unburied corpse amid the fires and worms of this polluted valley; and (2) a punishment-which to the Jews a body never meant an endless punishment beyond the grave. Whatever may be the meaning of the entire passages in which the word occurs, ‘Hell’ must be a complete mistranslation, since it attributes to the term used by Christ a sense entirely different from that in which it was understood by our Lord’s hearers, and therefore entirely different from the sense in which he could have used it. Origen says (c. Celsus 6: 25) that Gehenna denotes (1) the vale of Hinnon; and (2) a purificatory fire (eis ten meta basanon katharsin). He declares that Celsus was totally ignorant of the meaning of Gehenna.”
Gehenna is the name given by Jews to Hell. Rev. H. N. Adler, a Jewish Rabbi, says: “They do not teach endless retributive suffering. They hold that it is not conceivable that a God of mercy and justice would ordain infinite punishment for finite wrong-doing.” Dr. Dentsch declares: “There is not a word in the Talmud that lends any support to that damnable dogma of endless torment.” Dr. Dewes in his “Plea for Rational Translation,” says that Gehenna is alluded to four or five times in the Mishna, thus: “The judgment of Gehenna is for twelve months;” “Gehenna is a day in which the impious shall be burnt.” Bartolocci declares that “the Jews did not believe in a material fire, and thought that such fire as they did believe in would one day be put out.” Rabbi Akiba, “the second Moses,” said: “The duration of the punishment of the wicked in Gehenna is twelve months.” Adyoth 3: 10. some rabbis said Gehenna only lasted from Passover to Pentecost. This was the prevalent conception. (Abridged from Excursus 5, in Canon Farrar’s “Eternal Hope.” He gives in a note these testimonies to prove that the Jews to whom Jesus spoke, did not regard Gehenna as of endless duration). Asarath Maamaroth, f. 35, 1: “There will hereafter be no Gehenna.” Jalkuth Shimoni, f. 46, 1: “Gabriel and Michael will open the eight thousand gates of Gehenna, and let out Israelites and righteous Gentiles.” A passage in Othoth, (attributed to R. Akiba) declares that Gabriel and Michael will open the forty thousand gates of Gehenna, and set free the damned, and in Emek Hammelech, f. 138, 4, we read: “The wicked stay in Gehenna till the resurrection, and then the Messiah, passing through it redeems them.” See Stephelius’ Rabbinical Literature.
Rev. Dr. Wise, a learned Jewish Rabbi, says: “That the ancient Hebrews had no knowledge of Hell is evident from the fact that their language has no term for it. When they in after times began to believe in a similar place they were obliged to borrow the word ‘Gehinnom,’ the valley of Hinnom,’ a place outside of Jerusalem, which was the receptacle for the refuse of the city-a locality which by its offensive smell and sickening miasma was shunned, until vulgar superstition surrounded it with hob-goblins. Haunted places of that kind are not rare in the vicinity of populous cities. In the Mishna of the latest origin the word Gehinnom is used as a locality of punishment for evil-doers, and hence had been so used at no time before the third century, A. D.”
From the time of Josephus onwards, there is an interval of about a century, from which no Jewish writings have descended to us. It was a period of dreadful change with that ruined and distracted people. The body politic was dissolved, the whole system of their ceremonial religion had been crushed in the fall of their city and temple; and they themselves scattered abroad were accursed on all the face of the earth. Their sentiments underwent a rapid transformation, and when next we see their writings, we find them filled with every extravagant conceit that mad and visionary brains ever cherished. Expos. Vol. 2. Art, Gehenna, II Ballou, 2d.
Before considering the passages of Scripture containing the word, the reader should carefully read and remember the following:
- Gehenna was a well-known locality near Jerusalem, and ought no more to be translated Hell, than should Sodom or Gomorrah. See Josh. 15: 8; II Kings 17: 10; II Chron. 28: 3; Jer. 7: 31, 32; 19: 2.
- Gehenna is never employed in the Old Testament to mean anything else than the place with which every Jew was familiar.
- The word should have been left untranslated as it is in some versions, and it would not be misunderstood. It was not misunderstood by the Jews to whom Jesus addressed it. Walter Balfour well says: “What meaning would the Jews who were familiar with this word, and knew it to signify the valley of Hinnom, be likely to attach to it when they heard it used by our Lord? Would they, contrary to all former usage, transfer its meaning from a place with whose locality and history they had been familiar from their infancy, to a place of misery in another world? This conclusion is certainly inadmissible. By what rule of interpretation, then, can we arrive at the conclusion that this word means a place of misery and death?”
- The French Bible, the Emphatic Diaglott, Improved Version, Wakefield’s Translation and Newcomb’s retain the proper noun, Gehenna, the name of a place as well-known as Babylon.
- Gehenna is never mentioned in the Apocrypha as a place of future punishment as it would have been had such been its meaning before and at the time of Christ.
- No Jewish writer, such as Josephus or Philo, ever uses it as the name of a place of future punishment, as they would have done had such then been its meaning.
- No classic Greek author ever alludes to it and therefore it was a Jewish locality, purely.
- The first Jewish writer who ever names it as a place of future punishment is Jonathan Ben Uzziel who wrote, according to various authorities, from the second to the eighth century, A. D.
- The first Christian writer who calls Hell Gehenna is Justin Martyr who wrote about A. D. 150.
- Neither Christ nor his apostles ever named it to Gentiles, but only to Jews which proves it a locality only known to Jews, whereas, if it were a place of punishment after death for sinners, it would have been preached to Gentiles as well as Jews.
- It was only referred to twelve times on eight occasions in all the ministry of Christ and the apostles, and in the Gospels and Epistles. Were they faithful to their mission to say no more than this on so vital a theme as an endless Hell, if they intended to teach it?
- Only Jesus and James ever named it. Neither Paul, John, Peter nor Jude ever employ it. Would they not have warned sinners concerning it, if there were a Gehenna of torment after death?
- Paul says he “shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God,” and yet though he was the great preacher of the Gospel to the Gentiles he never told them that Gehenna is a place of after-death punishment. Would he not have repeatedly warned sinners against it were there such a place?
Dr. Thayer significantly remarks: “The Savior and James are the only persons in all the New Testament who use the word. John Baptist, who preached to the most wicked of men did not use it once. Paul wrote fourteen epistles and yet never once mentions it. Peter does not name it, nor Jude; and John, who wrote the gospel, three epistles, and the Book of Revelations, never employs it in a single instance. Now if Gehenna or Hell really reveals the terrible fact of endless woe, how can we account for this strange silence? How is it possible, if they knew its meaning and believed it a part of Christ’s teaching that they should not have used it a hundred or a thousand times, instead of never using it at all; especially when we consider the infinite interests involved? The Book of Acts contains the record of the apostolic preaching,and the history of the first planting of the church among the Jews and Gentiles, and embraces a period of thirty years from the ascension of Christ. In all this history, in all this preaching of the disciples and apostles of Jesus there is no mention of Gehenna. In thirty years of missionary effort these men of God, addressing people of all characters and nations never under any circumstances threaten them with the torments of Gehenna or allude to it in the most distant manner! In the face of such a fact as this can any man believe that Gehenna signifies endless punishment and that this is part of divine revelation, a part of the Gospel message to the world? These considerations show how impossible it is to establish the doctrine in review on the word Gehenna. All the facts are against the supposition that the term was used by Christ or his disciples in the sense of endless punishment. There is not the least hint of any such meaning attached to it, nor the slightest preparatory notice that any such new revelation was to be looked for in this old familiar word.”
- Jesus never uttered it to unbelieving Jews, nor to anybody but his disciples, but twice (Matt. 23: 15-33) during his entire ministry, nor but four times in all. If it were the final abode of unhappy millions, would not his warnings abound with exhortations to avoid it?
- Jesus never warned unbelievers against it but once in all his ministry (Matt. 23: 33) and he immediately explained it as about to come in this life.
- If Gehenna is the name of Hell then men’s bodies are burned there as well as their souls. Matt. 5: 29; 18: 9.
- If it be the name of endless torment, then literal fire is the sinner’s punishment. Mark 9: 43-48.
- Salvation is never said to be from Gehenna.
- Gehenna is never said to be of endless duration nor spoken of as destined to last forever, so that even admitting the popular ideas of its existence after death it gives no support to the idea of endless torment.
- Clement, a Universalist, used Gehenna to describe his ideas of punishment. He was one of the earliest of the Christian Fathers. The word did not then denote endless punishment.
- A shameful death or severe punishment in this life was at the time of Christ denominated Gehenna (Schleusner, Canon Farrar and others), and there is no evidence that Gehenna meant anything else at the time of Christ.
With these preliminaries let us consider the twelve passages in which the word occurs.
“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raea, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of Hell-fire.” Matt. 5: 22. The purpose of Jesus here was to show how exacting is Christianity. It judges the motives. This he affirms in the last sentence of the verse, after referring to the legal penalties of Judaism in the first two. The “judgment” here is the lower ecclesiastical court of twenty-three judges: the “council” is the higher court, which could condemn to death. But Christianity is so exacting, that if one is contemptuous towards another, he will be adjudged by Christian principles guilty of the worst crimes, as “he who hates his brother has already committed murder in his heart.” We can give the true meaning of this passage in the words of “orthodox” commentators.
Wynne correctly says: “This alludes to the three degrees of punishment among the Jews, viz., civil punishment inflicted by the judges or elders at the gates; excommunication pronounced by the great Ecclesiastical Council or Sanhedrim; and burning to death, like those who were sacrificed to devils in the valley of Hinnom or Tophet, where the idolatrous Israelites used to offer their children to Moloch.” Note in loc. Dr. Adam Clarke says: “It is very probable that our Lord means no more here than this: ‘If a man charge another with apostasy from the Jewish religion, or rebellion against God, and cannot prove his charge, then he is exposed to that punishment (burning alive) which the other must have suffered, if the charges had been substantiated. There are three offenses here which exceed each other in their degrees of guilt. 1. Anger against a man, accompanied with some injurious act. 2. Contempt, expressed by the opprobrious epithet raea, or shallow brains. 3. Hatred and mortal enmity, expressed by the term morch, or apostate, where such apostasy could not be proved. Now proportioned to these three offenses were three different degrees of punishment, each exceeding the other in severity, as the offenses exceeded each other in their different degrees of guilt. 1. The judgment, the council of twenty-three, which could inflict the punishment of strangling. 2. The Sanhedrim, or great council, which could inflict the punishment of stoning. 3. The being burnt in the valley of the son of Hinnom. This appears to be the meaning of our Lord. Our Lord here alludes to the valley of the son of Hinnom. This place was near Jerusalem; and had been formerly used for these abominable sacrifices in which the idolatrous Jews had caused their children to pass through the fire to Moloch.” Com. in loc.
We do not understand that a literal casting into Gehenna is here inculcated-as Clarke and Wynne teach-but that the severest of all punishments are due those who are contemptuous to others. Gehenna fire is here figuratively and not literally used, but its torment is in this life.
Barnes: “In this verse it denotes a degree of suffering higher than the punishment inflicted by the court of seventy, the Sanhedrim. And the whole verse may therefore mean, He that hates his brother without a cause, is guilty of a violation of the sixth commandment, and shall be punished with a severity similar to that inflicted by the court of judgment. He that shall suffer his passions to transport him to still greater extravagances, and shall make him an object of derision and contempt, shall be exposed to still severer punishment, corresponding to that which the Sanhedrim, or council, inflicts. But he who shall load his brother with odious appellations and abusive language, shall incur the severest degree of punishment, represented by being burnt alive in the horrid and awful valley of Hinnom.” (Com.)–A. A. Livermore, D. D., says: “Three degrees of anger are specified, and three corresponding gradations of punishment, proportioned to the different degrees of guilt. Where these punishments will be inflicted, he does not say, he need not say. The man, who indulges any wicked feelings against his brother man, is in this world punished; his anger is the torture of his soul and unless he repents of it and forsakes it, it must prove his woe in all future states of his being.”
Whether Jesus here means the literal Gehenna, or makes these three degrees of punishment emblems of the severe spiritual penalties inflicted by Christianity, there is no reference to the future world in the language. “Unlike the teachings of Judaism, Jesus taught that it was not absolutely necessary to commit the overt act, to be guilty before God, but if a man wickedly gave way to temptation, and harbored vile passions and purposes, he was guilty before God and amenable to the divine law. He who hated his brother was a murderer. Jesus also taught that punishment under his rule was proportioned to criminality, as under the legal dispensation. He refers to three distinct modes of punishment recognized by Jewish regulations. Each one of these exceeded the other in severity. They were, first, strangling or beheading; second, stoning; and third, burning alive. The lower tribunal or court, referred to in the passage before us, by the term ‘judgment,’ was composed of twenty-three judges, or as some learned men think, of seven judges and two scribes. The higher tribunal, or ‘council’ was doubtless the Sanhedrim, the highest ecclesiastical and civil tribunal of the Jews, composed of seventy judges, whose prerogative it was to judge the greatest offenders of the law, and could even condemn the guilty to death. They were often condemned to Gehenna-fire or as it is translated Hell-fire. Jesus did not intend to say, that under the Christian dispensation, men should be brought before the different tribunals referred to in the text to be adjudicated but he designed to show that under the new economy of grace and truth man was still a subject of retributive justice, but was judged according to the motives of the heart. ‘But I say unto you, whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.’ According to the Christian principle, man is guilty if he designs to do wrong.” Livermore’s “Proof Texts.”
“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into Hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into Hell. Matt. 5: 28, 29. “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into Hell-fire. Matt 18: 9: “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into Hell-fire.” Mark 9: 43, 49.
These passages mean that it is better to accept Christianity, and forego some worldly privilege, than to possess all worldly advantages, and be overwhelmed in the destruction then about to come upon the Jews, when multitudes were literally cast into Gehenna. Or it may be figuratively used, as Jesus probably used it, thus: it is better to enter the Christian life destitute of some great worldly advantage, comparable to a right hand, than to live in sin, with all worldly privileges, and experience that moral death which is a Gehenna of the soul. In this sense it may be used of men now as then. But there is no reference to an after-death suffering, in any proper use of the terms. The true idea of the language is this: Embrace the Christian life, whatever sacrifice it calls for. The latter clause carries out the idea, in speaking of
“Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Undoubtedly Jesus had reference to the language of the prophet. “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched: and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” Isa. 66: 23, 24.
The prophet and the Savior both referred to the overthrow of Jerusalem, though by accommodation we may apply the language generally, understanding by Hell, or Gehenna, that condition brought upon the soul in this world by sin. But the application by the prophet and the Savior was to the day then soon to come. The undying worm was in this world.
Strabo calls the lamp in the Parthenon, and Plutarch calls the sacred fire of a temple “unquenchable,” though they were extinguished ages ago. Josephus says that the fire on the altar of the temple at Jerusalem was “always unquenchable,” asbeston aei, though the fire had gone out and the temple was destroyed at the time of his writing. Eusebius says that certain martyrs of Alexandria “were burned in unquenchable fire,” though it was extinguished in the course of an hour, the very epithet in English, which Homer has in Greek, asbestos gelos, (Iliad, 1: 599), unquenchable laughter.
Bloomfield says in his Notes: “Deny thyself what is even the most desirable and alluring, and seems the most necessary, when the sacrifice is demanded by the good of thy soul. Some think that there is an allusion to the amputation of diseased members of the body, to prevent the spread of any disorder.” Dr. A. A. Livermore adds: “The main idea here conveyed, is that of punishment, extreme suffering, and no intimation is given as to its place, or its duration, whatever may be said in other texts in relation to these points. Wickedness is its own Hell. A wronged conscience, awakened to remorse, is more terrible than fire or worm. In this life and in the next, sin and woe are forever coupled together, God has joined them, and man cannot put them asunder.”
Says the Universalist Assistant: “Will any one maintain that our Lord meant to contrast the life his gospel is calculated to impart, and the kingdom he came to establish, with the literal horrors of the valley of Hinnom? I think not. Every one it appears to me must see the horrors of this place are used only as figures; and the question at once arises-Figures of what? I answer-Figures of the consequences of sin, of neglect of duty, of violation of God’s law.
And these figures are not used so much to represent the duration of punishment, as to indicate its intensity, and its uninterrupted, unmitigated continuous character so long as it lasts, which must be as long as its cause continues, i.e., sin in the soul.”
Dr. Ballou says in Vol. 1, Universalist Quarterly: “This passage is metaphorical. Jesus uses this well-known example of a most painful sacrifice for the preservation of corporeal life, only that he may the more strongly enforce a corresponding solicitude to preserve the moral life of the soul.And if so, it naturally follows that those prominent particulars in the passages which literally relate to the body, are to be understood as figures, and interpreted accordingly. If one’s eye or hand become to him an offense, or cause of danger, it is better to part with it than to let it corrupt the body fit to be thrown into the valley of Hinnom. . . . It is better to deny ourselves everything however innocent and even valuable in itself, if it become an occasion of sin, lest it should be the means of bringing upon us the most dreadful consequences-consequences that are aptly represented in the figure by having one’s dishonored and putrid corpse thrown into the accursed valley of Hinnom.”
“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell. Matt. 10: 28. “But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: Fear him which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into Hell: yea, I say unto you, fear him.” Luke 12: 5. The reader of these verses and the accompanying language, will observe that Jesus is exhorting his disciples to have entire faith in God. The most that men can do is to destroy the body, but God “is able,” “hath power” to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. It is not said that God has any disposition or purpose of doing so. He is able to do it, as it is said (Matt. 3: 9) he is “able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” He never did and never will raise up children to Abraham of the stones of the street, but he is able to, just as he is able to destroy soul and body in Gehenna, while men could only destroy the body there. Fear the might power of God who could if he chose, annihilate man while the worst that men could do would be to destroy the mere animal life. It is a forcible exhortation to trust in God, and has no reference to torment after death. Fear not those who can only torture you-man-but fear God who can annihilate (apokteino.)
1. This language was addressed by Christ to his disciples, and not to sinners.
2. It proves God’s ability to annihilate (destroy) and not his purpose to torment. Donnegan defines apollumi, “to destroy utterly.”
Says a writer in the Universalist Expositor, (Vol. 4): “That it was the design of Christ, to lead his disciples to reverence the surpassing power of God, which he thus illustrated, and not to make them fear an actual destruction of their souls and bodies in Gehenna, seems evident from the words that immediately follow. For he proceeds to show words that immediately follow. For he proceeds to show them that that power was constantly exerted in their behalf- not against them. See the following verses.”
The word rendered soul is psuche, life, same as in verse 39, “He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Also, John 13: 37, “I will lay down my life for thy sake.” The word psuche is translated “mind,” “soul,” “life,” “hear,” “minds,” and “souls.” “And made their minds (psuche)evil affected against the brethren.” Acts 14: 2: “Doing the will of God from the heart,” (psuche). Eph. 6: 6: “Learn of me. . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (psuche). Matt. 11: 29: “Let every soul (psuche) be subject unto the higher powers.” Rom. 13: 1. The immortal soul is not meant, but the life. As though Jesus had said: “Fear Not those who can only kill the body, but rather him, who if he chose could annihilate the whole being.” Fear not man but God. “So much may suffice to show the admitted fact, that the destruction of soul and body was a proverbial phrase, indicating utter extinction or complete destruction.” Paige.
Dr. W. E. Manley observes that the condition threatened “Is one wherein the body can be killed. And no one has imagined any such place, outside the present state of being. Nor can there be the least doubt about the nature of this killing of the body; for the passage is so constructed as to settle this question beyond all controversy. It is taking away the natural life as was done by the persecutors of the apostles. The Jews were in a condition of depravity properly represented by Gehenna. The apostles had been in that condition, but had been delivered from it. They were in danger, however, of apostasy which would bring them again into the same condition in which they would lose their natural lives and suffer moral death besides. By supposing the term Hell to denote a condition now in the present life, there is no absurdity involved. Sinful men may here suffer both natural death and moral death; but in the future life natural death cannot be suffered; whatever may be said of moral death. Add to this that the Jews used Gehenna as an emblem of a temporal condition, at the time of Christ; but there is no evidence that they used it to represent future punishment.
That they did has many times been asserted but never proved. In conclusion, the meaning of this passage may be stated in few words. Fear not men, your persecutors, who can inflict on you only bodily suffering. But rather fear him who is able to inflict both bodily suffering, and what is worse, mental and moral suffering, in that condition of depravity represented by the foulest and most revolting locality known to the Jewish people.”
Dr. Parkhurst observes Hell-fire, literally Gehenna of fire, does “in its outward and primary sense, relate to that dreadful doom of being burnt alive in the valley of Hinnom.” Schleusner: “Any severe punishment, especially a shameful kind of death was denominated Gehenna.”
“Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of Hell than yourselves.” Matt. 23: 15. Looking upon the smoking valley and thinking of its corruptions and abominations to call a man a “child of “Gehenna” was to say that his heart was corrupt and his character vile, but it no more indicated a place of woe after death than a resident of New York would imply such a place by calling a bad man a child of Five Points.
“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers! how can ye escape the damnation of Hell?” Matt. 23: 33. This verse undoubtedly refers to the literal destruction that soon after befell the Jewish nation, when six hundred thousand experienced literally the condemnation of Gehenna, by perishing miserably by fire and sword. The next words explain this damnation: “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them ye shall scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation.”
This was long before prophesied by Jeremiah, (chapter 19): “Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the Lord had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the Lord’s house, and said to all the people, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will bring upon this city, and upon all her towns, all the evil that I have pronounced against it; because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.” Isaiah has reference to the same in chapter 66: 24: “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” This explains the “unquenchable fire” and the “undying worm.” They are in this world.
“And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of Hell.” James 3: 6. A tongue set on fire of Gehenna when James wrote was understood just as in London a tongue inspired by Billingsgate, or in New York by Five Points, or in Boston by Ann street, or in Chicago by Fifth Avenue would be understood, namely, a profane and vulgar tongue. No reference whatever was had to any after-death place of torment but the allusion was solely to a locality well-known to all Jews, as a place of corruption and it was figuratively and properly applied to a vile tongue.
We have thus briefly explained all the passages in which Gehenna occurs. Is there any intimation that it denotes a place of punishment after death? Not any. If it mean such a place no one can escape believing that it is a place of literal fire, and all the modern talk of a Hell of conscience is most erroneous. But that it has no such meaning is corroborated by the testimony of Paul who says he “shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God,” and yet he never in all his writings employs the word once, nor does he use the word Hadees but once and then he signifies its destruction, “oh Hadees, where is thy victory?” If Paul believed in a place of endless torment, would he have been utterly silent in reference to it, in his entire ministry? His reticence is a demonstration that he had no faith in it though the Jews and heathen all around him preached it and believed it implicitly.
A careful reading of the Old Testament shows that the vale of Hinnom was a well-known and repulsive valley near Jerusalem, and an equally careful reading of the New Testament teaches that Gehenna, or Hinnom’s vale was explained as always in this world, (Jer. 12: 29-34; 19: 4-15; Matt. 10: 28), and was to befall the sinners of that generation, (Matt. 24) in this life, (Matt. 10: 39), before the disciples had gone over the cities of Israel, (Matt. 10: 23), and that their bodies and souls were exposed to its calamities. It was only used in the New Testament on five occasions, either too few, or else modern ministers use it altogether too much. John who wrote for Gentiles and Paul who was the great apostle to the Gentiles never used it once nor did Peter. If it had a local application and meaning we can understand this, but if it were the name of the receptacle of damned souls to all eternity, it would be impossible to explain such inconsistency. The primary meaning then of Gehenna is the well-known locality near Jerusalem; but it was sometimes used to denote the consequences of sin in this life. It is to be understood in these two senses only in all the twelve passages in the New Testament. In the second century after Christ it came to denote a place of torment after death, but it is never employed in that sense in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Apocrypha nor was it used by any contemporary of Christ with that meaning, nor was it ever thus employed by any Christian until Justin and Clement thus used it (A. D. 150) (and the latter was a Universalist), nor by any Jew until in the targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel about a century later. And even then it only denoted future but did not denote endless punishment, until a still later period.
The English author, Charles Kingsley writes (Letters) to a friend: “The doctrine occurs nowhere in the Old Testament, nor any hint of it. The expression in the end of Isaiah about the fire not quenched and the worm not dying is plainly of the dead corpses of men upon the physical earth in the valley of Hinnom or Gehenna, where the offal of Jerusalem was burned perpetually. “The doctrine of endless torment was as a historical fact, brought back from Babylon by the Rabbis. It may be a very ancient primary doctrine of the Magi, an appendage of their fire-kingdom of Ahriman and may be found in the old Zends, long prior to Christianity. “St. Paul accepts nothing of it as far as we can tell never making the least allusion to the doctrine. “The apocalypse simply repeats the imagery of Isaiah, and of our Lord; but asserts distinctly the non-endlessness of torture, declaring that in the consummation, not only death but Hell shall be cast into the lake of fire.
“The Christian Church has never held it exclusively till now. It remained quite an open question till the age of Justinian, 530, and significantly enough, as soon as 200 years before that, endless torment for the heathen became a popular theory, purgatory sprang up synchronously by the side of it, as a relief for the conscience and reason of the church.”
Canon Farrar truthfully says, in his “Eternal Hope”: “And, finally, the word rendered Hell is in one place the Greek word ‘Tartarus,’ borrowed as a word for the prison of evil spirits not after but before the resurrection. It is in ten places ‘Hadees,’ which simply means the world beyond the grave, and it is twelve places ‘Gehenna,’ which means primarily, the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem in which after it had been polluted by Moloch worship, corpses were flung and fires were lit; and, secondly, it is a metaphor not of final and hopeless but of that purifying and corrective punishment which as we all believe does await impenitent sin both here and beyond the grave. But be it solemnly observed, the Jews to whom and in whose metaphorical sense the word was used by our blessed Lord, never did, either then or at any other period attach to that word ‘Gehenna,’ which he used, that meaning of endless torment which we have been taught to apply to Hell. To them and therefore on the lips of our blessed Savior who addressed it to them, it means not a material and everlasting fire, but an intermediate, a metaphorical and a terminal retribution.”
In Excursus II, “Eternal Hope,” he says the “damnation of Hell is the very different “judgment of Gehenna;” and Hell-fire is the “Gehenna of fire,” “an expression which on Jewish lips was never applied in our Lord’s days to endless torment. Origen tells us (c. Celsus 6: 25) that finding the word Gehenna in the Gospels for the place of punishment, he made a special search into its meaning and history; and after mentioning (1) the Valley of Hinnom, and (2) a purificatory fire (eis teen meta basanon katharsin,) he mysteriously adds that he thinks it unwise to speak without reserve about his discoveries. No one reading the passage can doubt that he means to imply the use of the word ‘Gehenna’ among the Jews to indicate a terminable, and not an endless punishment.”
The English word Hell occurs in the Bible fifty-five times, thirty-two in the Old Testament and twenty-three in the New Testament. The original terms translated Hell, Sheol-Hadees occur in the Old Testament sixty-four times and in the New Testament twenty-four times; Hadees eleven times, Gehenna twelve times and Tartarus once. In every instance the meaning is death, the grave or the consequences of sin in this life.
Thus the word Hell in the Bible, whether translated from Sheol, Hadees, Gehenna, or Tartarus, yields no countenance to the doctrine of even future, much less endless punishment. It should not be concluded, however, from our expositions of the usage of the word Hell, in the Bible, that Universalists deny that the consequences of sin extend to the life beyond the grave. We deny that inspiration has named Hell as a place or condition of punishment in the spirit world. It seems a philosophical conclusion and there are Scriptures that appear to many Universalists to teach that the future life is affected to a greater or less extent, by human conduct here; but that Hell is a place or condition of suffering after death is not believed by any and as we trust we have shown, the Scriptures never so designate it. Sheol, Hadees and Tartarus denoted literal death or the consequences of sin here, and Gehenna was the name of a locality well-known to all Jews into which sometimes men were cast and was made an emblem of great calamities or sufferings resulting from sin. Hell in the Bible in all the fifty-five instances in which the word occurs always refers to the present and never to the immortal world.
All the texts containing the word examined and explained
in harmony with the doctrine of universal salvation.
Although this book might fall inline with the doctrine called “Universal Salvation,” which is “Universalism”, it by no means proclaims that the study upon “the words rendered hell in the bible, sheol, hadees, tartarus, and gehenna,” said to of “…shown to denote a state of temporal duration.” claims that studying such a teaching is “Universal Salvation.” Many fields of theology could study this book and still not hold to “Universalism” by simply chewing on the meat, the things that line up with Scripture, and spitting out the bones such as the things that goes against Scripture.