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39, is meant by God's destroying the life (soul) in verse 28. Hence, apokteino could not have been used, to signify death. My criticism therefore is just-Fear not those who will torture or scourge you; but fear God who will destroy you with the Jews.
6. What you have written respecting the power of the Jews to take life, does not meet the question. You say they had power to take it for certain offences. But of this you have given no proof. You refer me to Clarke, but he says it is only probable, that they had this power. You say, Stephen was stoned by a regular procedure; Clarke says, it was done tumultuously. By turning to Acts VII. you will see, that he was killed in a riotous manner. I must therefore, still believe, what the Jews said to Pilate, "that it was not lawful for them to take the life of any man.”
Had I not already extended this letter to a sufficient length, I would present some additional proofs in favor of the position taken respecting the power of the Jews. I will however observe, 1. That though it is said (Luke XI. 49) they would slay prophets and apostles, kill and crucify them (Matth. xx. 34) it does not follow that they had power to do this; for in all countries when death is inflicted, it is ascribed to the prosecutor and judge. Thus the Jews are said to have crucified Christ, though it was done by the Romans. In like manner it is said, the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son, and children shall cause their parents to be put to death. But it was never legal according to any constitution in the world, for children to
put their parents to death. This language then signifies, that they would procure the death of their parents. 2. The Roman Lawyers, as quoted by Lardner, state, that the power of life and death was not in the hands of the Jews.
7. The last paragraph but one in your letter, contains a strange medley, which I confess my inability to understand. You have jumbled together, the law of retaliation, the colour of European and Ethiopian devils, and an assertion that the Jews derived the doctrine of endless misery from the Old Testament. All this is a reply to that troublesome fact, which you have so often attempted to answer, viz. that none but Jews and those connected with their nation, were ever threatened with Gehenna.
8. In your last paragraph I am accused of a palpable contradiction. Not quite so fast. My position is, that Gehenna was a figure of the punishment, which God would inflict upon the Jews. Your contradiction therefore is only imaginary.
Thus, sir, do we see, that the word on which such unshaken reliance has been placed, is no proof of endless woe. In rescuing this from your hand, I take away the main pillar of endless misery; for when partialists have been driven from all their other grounds, they turn to Gehenna as their last resort.
I am, &c.
OTIS A. SKINNER.
LETTER No. IX.
BELL AIR, Jan. 23, 1835.
To Rev. Otis A. Skinner:
Dear Sir-I find some remarks your fifth letter which make it expedient for me to consider the noun aion a little more maturely.
You charge me with perverting the views of my authorities, and say by my rule you could prove aion never means endless; for all say it signifies age. Please show one instance of perversion. I have given the time and place where all my authorities were printed, that the reader may be able to find them and examine for himself. All the authorities I have consulted say aion signifies eternity, among other significations, and in general give eternity as the first or primary signification of the word; and Clarke, no mean authority, says, no word can more forcibly point out eternity. That the word is sometimes used in a restricted sense, I have shown in more than thirty instances. But, to settle the point, I will say that for one lexicographer you can find, who says the word does not mean eternity, I will produce one dozen who say it does mean eternity, or give up the point. In citing authorities I wish you would give both the date and place where the book was printed, as I strongly suspect some of your quotations to be mere forgeries. I shall not regard any
quotation, in future, as any authority, unless it has these concomitants. A large portion of your letter contains nothing but personal abuse. To this you may resort when argument fails; but, I now say, once for all, that I will make no reply to anything of this kind in future; so you shall have it all to yourself. I write for the benefit of the sincere inquirer after truth, and the better part of the community, therefore I cannot descend to anything of a base character.
You say that aion in one of my thirty-three cases of limited signification, means the eternal world, in Luke xx. 35. On a mature examination of the text, I was led to believe you were right, and accordingly, I shall place it with those signifying endless duration. Since writing the last letter, a copy of the Cottage Bible fell into my hands. This work has large explanatory notes attached to it, by Thomas Williams. In the note on Matt. xxv. 46, the editor says, "aion occurs 104 times in the New Testament; 32 times in a limited sense, and 72 times in an endless sense. This account agrees precisely with the result of my own investigation, with the exception of the one instance which you mentioned, and serves very much to confirm me in the belief that I am right concerning the meaning of aion in the New Testament.
I would further remark that Dr. M'Ilvaine, the celebrated translator of Mosheim's Church History says, among other things, in a note appended to that work, (vol. 1, page 34, Harrod's edition, Balt. 1832,) that, "these (the eastern) philosophers used the word Chronas as the measure of corporeal and changeable objects; and aion as the measure of such as were immutable
and eternal, and, as God is the chief of those immutable beings which are spiritual, and consequently not to be perceived by our outward senses, his infinite and eternal duration was expressed by the term aion; and that is the sense in which the word is now commonly understood. It was however, afterwards attributed to other spiritual and invisible beings; and the oriental philosophers, who lived about the time of Christ's appearance upon earth, and made use of the Greek language, understood by it the duration of immutable and eternal things, or the period of time in which they exist. Nor did the variations, through which this word passed, end here. From expressing only the duration of beings, it was by a metonymy, employed to signify the beings themselves. Thus God was called aeon, and the angels were distinguished also by the title of aeons. This extract from the Doctor's note will cast some considerable light on the meaning of the word as used by the New Testament writers.
I shall now consider it more particularly as employed by the evangelists and the apostles. The noun aion occurs in the New Testament 104 times, reckoning each reduplication as a single instance, 63 times in the singular number, eighteen times in the plural, and 23 times in a reduplicate form. It is thirtytwo times used in a mataphorical sense, and signifies limited duration; twenty-six times in the singular, and six times in the plural. The word is seventy-two times used to signify unlimited or endless duration; thirty-seven times in the singular, twelve times in the plural,