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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 Ben Uziel, on Gen. iii. 24. and xv. 17.
2. Josephus, who 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
fire of an interminable hell, where their worm dieth not and their fire is not quenched! In Matt. x. 28. the destruction mentioned is not inflicted by men, but by God only; therefore, gehenna must, in this place, necessarily signify the punishment of the wicked in a future state. In Luke xii. 5. the casting into Gehenna, is after the death of the body, and the act cannot be performed by any but God, for which reason he is a pecular object of fear; hence, it is not the burning of a dead carcase that is intended here, but the destruction of the soul in endless misery. The phrases, "child of hell," Matt. xxiii. 15. "damnation of hell," Matt. v. 33. "set on fire of hell," Jam. iii. 6. must, undoubtedly be understood as relative to the world of endless wo. Any literal interpretation would do violence to the passages that would be highly reprehensible.
I shall close these remarks for the present by making an observation in relation to Paul not using the word Gehenna. First. The Jews wore well acquainted with the word Gehenna and its signifieation. Second. The Gentiles were unacquainted both with the word and is signification. Third. Paul was the Apostle of the Gentiles, not of the Jews, and on this ground I account for his not using the word Gehenna. Fourth. James in his epistle which was written "to the twelve tribes" of Jews that were scattered abroad, uses the word Gehenna, because they were familiarly acquainted both with the word and its signification.
A few strictures on your letters may be expected before long. Yours, sincerely, &c. JOSEPH MCKEE.
LETTER NO. IV.
BALTIMORE, Nov. 22, 1834.
To Rev. Joseph McKee:
I am unable to express my surprise, that you should charge me with glorying that you had given up some texts, and with asking trifling and unnecessary questions. I know that when faithfully wielded, the sword of truth, can demolish the strong holds of error and disperse its advocates; but I was not prepared to hear from you charges of this nature. Fear for the safety of a long cherished system, renders uncertain the powers of vision and reason; and in this instance it seems to have multiplied 2 Thes. i. 9. into several texts, and changed a refusal to consider it, until my four propositions were answered, into shouts of victory. As it respects my questions, you can answer them or not-they will have their weight with the reader, however often you may denounce them as trifling and unnecessary.
Believing your derivation of Gehenna correct, I will proceed to consider your proofs for saying, it invaribly signifies endless punish
1. The Targums: "Targum is a name given to the Chaldee paraphrases of the books of the Old Testament They are called paraphrases or expositions, because they are rather comments and explications than literal translations of the text. They were written in Chaldee because this was better known to the Jews than Hebrew after the time of their captivity
in Babylon." The most ancient of these are the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan. See Prideaux, Buck and Watson. Jahn says, the Targum of Onkelos was written in the third or second century of the christian era. That of Jonathan Ben Uzziel was written, he says, towards the close of the third century; and the Jerusalem Targum is still more modern. This opinion of Jahn has the sanction of the most eminent writers.
The Targums therefore, furnish no proof whatever, that Gehenna was used to signify endless wo, in the days of Christ. Your asser tion then, that the most learned Jews used Gehenna in this sense, is entirely unfounded.
2. Your quotation from Josephus is now universally considered the work of some christian writer of, perhaps, the second or third century. Josephus never uses Gehenna in those passages which speak of the state of the wicked after death. Add to this the fact, that the Jewish sects, in the days of Josephus, did not represent future punishment by the emblem of fire, which is the sense in which Gehenna is used in the Targums, and by the christian writers of the third and fourth centuries, and you will see that he is against you.
3. It is news to me, "that Parkhurst is one of the most learned men who ever wrote;" and as his opinion, was formed from a mistaken idea respecting the dates of the Targums, it an have but little weight with the unprejudiced and enlightened. At most, it is but the opinion of a man; and if you have no better proof than this, we had better relinquish our discussion. As then, there is no proof that Gehenna in