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LETTER NO. IV.
BALTIMORE, Nov. 11, 1834.
To Rev. Otis A. Skinner:
Dear Sir-In consequence of a call to perform some ministerial duties at some distance from this city, I was deprived of a sight of the second and third numbers of the "Pioneer" till a late hour last night. I have just glanced over them, by which I perceive that you were too soon elated with the idea that I had given up some texts because I had not noticed your questions in my third letter. But I intend that your glorying in this respect shall not continue long. The fact is my third letter was written before I saw the first number of your paper; and this remarks. is the reason I have not reviewed your These shall be duly attended to, if spared, in my next communication. For the present, I would say, that I shall not attempt to answer all the trifling and unnecessary questions that you may ask, which can only darken and conceal the subject at issue from the public mind. I want truth brought out in as short and clear a manner as possible. I am ready to answer any interrogation that may be appropriate, or may cast light on the present controversy.This is precisely the course I wish you to pursue with me. I might ask you 500 questions concerning a subject, which, probably, could not be answered by any man living; but, would this be a proper reason why I should require you to relinquish the subject altogether? Cer
tainly not. In this paper, I shall attend to a question you ask me, in your first letter, respecting the use I have made of the word Gehenna. One would be ready to conclude, from reading your remarks, that I introduced this word into the present discussion; but, those who may read all the letters on both sides will see that you first used the word; however, as this is a matter of little, or no consequence, I shall say no more about it, but proceed to a consideration of the term, Gehenna.
The word Gehenna is taken from the two Hebrew words, Ghi, a valley, and Hinnom, the name of a person who once possessed it. This valley of Hinnom lay near Jerusalem, and had formerly been the place of those_abominable sacrifices, wherein, the idolatrous Jews burned their children alive to Molech, Baal, or the Sun. See the accounts of those infernal impieties recorded in 2 Kings xxiii. 10; 2 Chron. xxviii. 3; Jer. vii. 31, 32; xix. 5, 6; xxxii. 35. A certain place in the valley was called Tophet from the Hebrew word tophet, a fire-stove, in which as some think, the Jews burned their children to Molech. Sometimes the valley itself is called the valley of Tophet. Cruden
observes that it is thought "the name of Tophet is given to the valley of Hinnom, because of the sacrifices that were offered there to the god Molech, by beat of drum, which in Hebrew is called Toph. It was in this manner that these sacrifices were offered: The statue of Molech was of brass, hollow within, with its arms extended, and stooping a little forward. They lighted a great fire within the statue, and another before it. They put upon its arms the
child they intended to sacrifice, which soon fell into the fire at the foot of the statue, putting forth cries, as may easily be imagined. To stifle the noise of these cries and howlings, they made a great rattling of drums, and other instruments, that the spectators might not be moved with compassion at the clamours of these miserable victims. And this as they say, was the manner of sacrificing in Tophet."
valley was defiled by king Josiah, 2 King, xxiii. 10, and made a receptacle of the filth and the dead carcases of the city. Worms bred in the carcases, in great abundance, and fires were kept up continually to consume them. All these circumstances made it a place of the utmost horror and detestation to the imagination, so that it became a very appropriate emblem of hell. And the name of this place was afterwards frequently applied to the place of endless punishment, both by the Jews and our blessed Saviour. The term Gehenna occurs in the New Testament only twelve times, and is always rendered hell; however, for the convenience of the reader I shall cite all the words both in the Greek and the English. They are as follow :-Matt. v. 22. eis ten gehennan tou puros, of hell-fire. Matt. v. 29. eis gehennan, into hell. Matt. v. 30. eis gehennan, into hell. Matt x. 28. en gehenne, in hell. Matt. xviii. 9. eis ten gehennan tou puros, into hell fire. Matt. xxiii. 15. gehennes, hell. Matt. xxiii. 33 tes gehennes, hell. Mark ix. 43. eis ten gehennan, into hell. Mark ix. 45. eis ten gehennan, into hell. Mark ix. 47. eis ten gehennan, into hell. Luke xii. 5. eis ten gehennan, into hell. Jam. iii. 5. tes gehennes, of hell.
Now sir, I assert once for all, and that without fear of successful contradiction, that the word Gehenna is used in every instance, in the New Testament to signify the place of endless punishment. My reasons for making this declaration are the following;
1. The Jews, to whom were committed the oracles of God, understood it in this sense. See Chald. on Is. xxxiv. 14. where mokedey olam is rendered" the Gehenna of everlasting fire." The most learned Jews in our Saviour's time employed the word to signify hell, the place of the damned. This application of it may be seen in the Chaldee Targums on Ruth ii. 12; Ps. cxl. 12; Is. xxvi. 15; xxxiii. 14. And also in the Jerusalem Targum, and that of Jonathan Ber ziel, on Gen. iii. 24. and xv. 17.
2. Josephus, w o was one of the most learned Jews, and a contemporary of our Saviour, understood the word as signifying endless punishment in a future state. When speaking of the transactions of the day of judgment, and particularly of the justice of Christ on that occasion, he observes that, this principle will be manifest in "allotting to the lovers of wicked works eternal punishment. To these belong the unquenchable fire, and that without end, and a certain fiery worm never dying, and not destroying the body, but continuing its eruption out of the body with never ceasing grief." Discourse
on Hades, Whiston's Translation. I do not consider Josephus as an inspired writer; but, I regard him as a proper evidence to prove what were the views of the Jews in his day, regarding the application of fire and worms to the fu
ture punishment of the wicked. Our Saviour being a Jew, must have used the words as they were then commonly understood, otherwise, his language would tend rather to deceive than in
3. Mr. Parkhurst, one of the most learned men that ever wrote on the original scriptures, in his Lexicon, says that, "Gehenna tou puros, A Gehenna of fire, Matt. v. 22., does, in its outward and primary sense, relate to that dreadful doom of being burned alive in the valley of Hinnom. Though this, as well as the other degrees of punishment mentioned in the context, must, as Doddridge has remarked, be ultimately referred to the invisible world, and to the future vengeance of an offended God." He affirms that the word commonly denotes immediately hell, the place, or state of the damned.
4. The sense of all the passages where this word occurs in the New Testament requires the signification which I have affixed to it; to say the least, the word may be fairly understood, in every place, to relate to future punishment. In Matt. v. 22. the word may literally refer to the condemnation of the Sanhedrim and the fire in the valley at Jerusalem, but it must in a secondary sense relate to endless punishment in a future state. The foot, hand, eye, &c. mentioned in Matt. v. 29, 30; xviii. 9; Mark ix. 43, 45, 47., are metaphorical expressions employed to denote such sinful propensities and practices as we love equally dear with those various members of the body. All such sins must be given up to ensure eternal life; if this is not done, the sinner with all his malevolent propensities and vile dispositions shall be cast into the