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cases, and though the objector feels baffled, the real difficulty still remains the terms, the tenor of the representations, the figures, in a word, all the language, is such, he knows, as is now appropriated to the idea of eternal punishment after death; and as this doctrine was as familiar with the original hearers as with us, what else could be intended, or thought of? He suspects some break in the context, soine change of the subject, between the contrary intimations that may be pointed out, and the significant passages themselves. Such is the state of mind in which he is left. Now, the direct and proper answer to this particular appeal, (for what relates to the context, belongs to another branch of the illustration,) is, that the natural import of those expressions, if taken thus alone, depends on certain circumstances which he has not yet considered on the peculiar form in which the Jews held their doctrine of eternal retribution, and on the distinguishing phraseology which they actually appropriated to it, rather than on the very indefinite fact of their having held something of the kind. Was their doctrine such, in its details, as to coincide apparently with the representations in the texts alleged? so that the resemblance would instantly strik the hearers of those days? If not, the seeming allusion disappears. And, did they commonly employ the same, or similar, terms to express their idea of endless woe? Did they call it everlasting fire, everlasting punishment, the damnation of hell, &c.? In other words, was it their peculiar phraseology on this topic, that our Saviour adopted? If not, why should we suppose that he must have been understood to speak of that subject, when he used neither the representations, nor the language, which was then associated with it? At present indeed, or till of late, our popular doctrine of endless punishment corresponded well enough, in appearance, with those figures and expressions; and for this good reason that it had been subsequently shaped with studied reference to them, and that its leading terms had been taken from the very texts in question. But how was it with the Jews of Christ's day?
To afford the means of determining this question and others. of the same bearing, is the object of the present article. We should confine the limits of our survey to the time of the New Testament, were it not for the following consideration: the testimonies in point, which have descended to us from that particular period, are too scanty to present so clear a view as
may be desired. They disclose the main points in the case, but do not remove all the obscurity. We therefore need the additional light that is derived from a more extended survey; and having traced the progress of opinion from the first, marked its successive changes, and followed it down to the Christian era, we shall be the better prepared to judge of the stage to which it had arrived at the period in question. With the whole horizon in view, we contemplate any particular scene, its bearings and proportions, more fully, than if it burst upon our sight through a narrow vista, opened for the moment amid surrounding darkness.
It may be observed, too, that a complete history of the opinions and language of the ancient Jews concerning the future state, embraces, in its earlier as well as in its later periods, many facts that are highly interesting to the Biblical student. At almost every stage, it throws light on some part of the sacred volume. For all these reasons, we feel that it becomes us to spare no pains in the execution of our task, but to perform it throughout as faithfully as the means will permit, that our labor may subserve important purposes besides those we have more directly in view. We shall, first, present the subject as we find it in the time of Moses; secondly, trace it onward to the Babylonish captivity; thirdly, thence, to the Christian era; fourthly, from the birth of Christ, to the destruction of Jerusalem; and finally, we shall cast a glance on the two centuries following.
I. In the time of Moses: From 1604, B. C., to 1563, B. C.*
Here, our only authority is the Pentateuch. To this, indeed, we might add the inspired books of later date, did they, in any way, advert to the state of the subject at the time now under review. No profane writings whatsoever, (perhaps we must except some of the Egyptian hieroglyphics,) at any rate, no other possible sources of information, are found within many centuries of this remote antiquity.
That neither Moses nor the Jews of his time had any idea of such a future state as is taught in the gospel, is evident: it
As it seems desirable to adopt here some approved system of Chronology, I follow Jahn, as respectable authority, without knowing, however, whether it is considered the best. Biblical Archæology, Tables at the end of Sect. 221.
was not then revealed; it was reserved for Jesus Christ to bring to light, in after ages. We need not rest, however, on this consideration; for of their ignorance, the Pentateuch itself is sufficient proof, though of the negative kind. It developes, in minute detail, the entire system of their religion, and presents all the objects of their faith; yet makes no mention, gives not an intimation, either of a positively miserable, or of a positively happy existence beyond the grave. This, of course, could have had no part in their religious faith. We say, it gives no intimation of such an existence; for even the solitary text which our Saviour quotes in confutation of the Sadducees, and which we shall have occasion to consider, can hardly be deemed sufficient of itself to have suggested that idea to the people of Moses' day. There is something remarkable in the silence that is uniformly maintained on this point throughout the Pentateuch, when we consider the subjects on which it treats. It declares to the Israelites the character of God, so far as it was then made known, carefully defines their relation to him, unfolds the principles of his government, vindicates his ways, announces his promises and his threatenings, looks forward into coming ages, lays before the people their prospects for the future, directs them to the sources of their consolation, holds up the objects of their fear; but on no occasion recog nizes an active state of being after death. In a word, it dwells on almost every topic that is naturally associated with that of immortality; and the perpetual, not merely casual, omission of this paramount truth, under such circumstances, is proof that it was unknown, and therefore unthought of. It gives a long detailed narrative of the fortune and conduct of the Israelites for forty years of the most trying reverses that can agitate the human spirit; but amid all their murmuring, rejoicing, hope, despair, famine and death, they cast no look towards a better world. Canaan is before them, Egypt behind, the wilderness around, and God with his angels alone in the heavens above. It also recounts the former history of their people, and the biography of their patriarchs and most distinguished individuals. These it often presents in circumstances that must have drawn from them, religious as they were, some allusion to the life everlasting,' had it occupied a place in their views. They hold communion with God, receive from him promises of temporal good, rejoice in his gifts, address to him their sorrows in adversity, but never lift their eye to a state of glory or of
blessedness hereafter. They bury their dearest relatives, but follow them, in thought, no farther than to the place of the dead. They see their own death approaching, call together their family and friends, invoke upon them the blessing of heaven, predict the fortune of their posterity, take their leave, and give up the ghost, without a word respecting the higher concerns of eternity. Jacob, in his last moments, was so careful with regard even to the place of his burial, that he took an oath of Joseph to lay him, not in Egypt, where he was about to die, but in the tomb of his fathers in the land of Canaan.1 How remarkable his silence here, respecting the future state! Joseph, likewise, in view of the eventual return of the children of Israel, exacted of thein an oath to carry his bones with them, when God should lead them into the promised land. Both Jacob and Moses close their lives with affecting addresses, and with the most sublime predictions of after ages.3 The latter especially appears to urge on the people every consideration that he can draw from the past and the future, to attach them to God; but these considerations are drawn exclusively from the present life. Singing the praises of Jehovah, he finally ascends Mount Nebo to die; and there the scene closes.
So evident is it, that neither he nor the people had any idea of what we now call the future state. Still, it seems that they recognized a sort of existence after death, or rather an existence under the dominion of death; though it was one of so imperfect and inert a character, that it engaged little attention, and excited no peculiar interest. Perhaps no Perhaps no people in the world have been without some, at least indistinct, views on the subject; often, indeed, so different from ours, or so vague and shadowy, that it becomes difficult for us to form a clear idea of them. In the Pentateuch we find traces, though partially obliterated through the oversight of our translators, of a 'place of the dead,' deep under the earth, where they still had a being, separate from their bodies, which were deposited in sepulchres, near the surface. This place they called Sheol; a word which, in our common version is improperly rendered sometimes grave, sometimes pit, and sometimes hell; but
Gen. xlvii. 29-31. 1. 5-13. 3 Gen. xlviii. xlix. Deut. xxxii. xxxiii.
2 Gen. 1. 24, 25. Exod. xiii. 19.
which evidently denoted the region of death, though we have no term in our language which perfectly corresponds. At a later period, as we shall clearly discover, the Jews supposed it to be situated in the depths of the earth; and that this was their opinion also in Moses' time, appears from a casual allusion: He introduces the Almighty as saying, ' A fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, [Sheol,] and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.' The very tenor of this figurative representation implies that Sheol was supposed to be at a great depth; it is introduced, moreover, in connexion with the roots or foundations of the mountains. With this idea, agrees the description which Moses gives of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram sinking alive into Sheol, through the opening earth: Having arraigned them, for punishment, before the congregation, he says, 'If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men, then the Lord hath not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick [that is alive] into the pit, [Sheol;] then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord. And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them; and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They and all that appertained to them went down alive into the pit, [Sheol,] and the earth closed upon them.'5
Into this subterranean world, mankind were supposed to descend immediately at death, leaving their bodies behind to be buried or otherwise disposed of. Thus, Jacob on being told that Joseph was devoured by wild beasts, exclaimed in the vehemence of his grief, I will go down into the grave [Sheol,] unto my son, mourning.' There he expected to meet Joseph; not in the grave; for he thought his body had been devoured, instead of being buried. There, too, it was imagined, were the former generations, all the multitudes of the deceased. Accordingly, when one died, he was said to be 'gathered unto his people,' whether he was buried with
4 Deut. xxxii. 22.
"Numb. xvi. 29 — 33.
Gen. xxxvii. 35.