Gehenna Located In This World

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"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." 2 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." 2 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; 2 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."

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