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 2, "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 Universal-ists 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.
THE GREEK WORD
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