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that day was servant. Can
tell me when it was changed to denote a vile scoundrel? Such objections then are utterly futile. It is enough that we have the evidence that a change had taken place in the meaning of the word gehenna in the time of our Savior.
11. Perhaps you will affirm, that if the jewish meaning be given to gehenna, it will prove a material hell. Not at all. This is one mode of infidel attack
upon our religion. They say the jewish writers describe God as possessed of human limbs, senses and passions, and therefore the God of the bible is a material Being. In the same way they attack the descriptions of heaven recorded in the scriptures, and contend that christians expect to enter a pleasant garden, or a splendid city, or the bosom of Abram, or the region among the stars. All this results from their ignorance or depravity. We must have sensible things to make ideas plain to uneducated minds. And consequently objects of this nature are employed when speaking of future punishment as well as when heaven and the Deity are mentioned. So that this objection amounts to nothing, and would apply with as much force against the belief of a spiritual Father.
12. Perhaps you will affirm, that if I give to gehenna the meaning of future torment, I prefer the Targums to the books of the Old Testament. By no means. Your objection has no application to the case in question. I do not go to the jewish writers and commentators for any religious doctrines or precepts; or for their opinion on any article of christian faith and practice. But to ascertain the meaning of a word is a purely philological question. And the only way in which this can be done in the present instance is by referenee to the Targums and Talmuds. This every critic will tell you. This every man of candor must admit. For we
have few if any jewish writings of the period wanted except those I have consulted. I wish for example to ascertain the exact meaning of the term gehenna in the time of our Savior. The Old Testament cannot give me satisfaction on this question. Why so? Because the most modern writings in this book were composed about four hundred years before Christ. After this period the hebrew language underwent many and great transformations. Now the Targums and Talmuds come very near the days of our Savior. And even the comparatively later jewish writers, who use the word to denote future punishment, as they do in hundreds of instances, are good authority. For you cannot suspect them of borrowing the signification of hebrew words from christian writers. They evidently ground their doctrines on the Targums, the early Rabbins, and the Talmuds; for to all these they constantly refer. The Old Testament in the Septuagint version furnishes no authority one way or the other, for the valley of Hinnom is always rendered in some other form of words. Perhaps you will ask why great use is not made of these jewish writings in illustration of the scriptures? They have indeed been used to great advantage. Look at Lightfoot, Wetstein, Schoettgen and others; the greatest names in biblical criticism, and you will never ask such a question a second time. I have answered every objection which I think can have any influence with reasonable men.
I will therefore conclude my present communication with one or two observations.
If you or any of your denomination are not satisfied with my conclusion, I ask you to appoint some well qualified person to make a thorough investigation of the whole subject. All the necessary books are to be found in the Library of Harvard University, which is open to
all settled ministers within ten miles of Cambridge. I have no fear of the result. I feel morally certain that conviction must be produced upon any unprejudiced mind by the evidence there to be found, that our Savior used gehenna to mean future punishment. I had no idea of the mass of arguments for this definition until I gave my attention to the inquiry. I then found that I had neither time nor qualifications to make that thorough research which my work demanded. I accordingly obtained the assistance of two friends, the Rev. George Nichols, and the Rev. Andrew P. Peabody, tutor in Hebrew and Mathematics in the University, who are amply and admirably qualified for the undertaking. They have spent hours and days in poring over the Targums, and Talmuds, and other authorities in various ancient and modern languages. They have furnished me with numerous quotations, translated from the original chaldaic, some of which you have in the present communication. They have provided materials enough for a volume, a small part of which are here presented; but as the case appears to me so perfectly clear, I have thought one letter sufficient for this topic. I am therefore prepared to defend the position I have taken; and, not only so, I can command the services of those who have already laid me under such lasting obligations, as well as of others whose acquirements and candor will render their statements worthy of the highest confidence. Many questions must be settled by a preponderance of evidence on one side. In this instance almost every argument of consequence favors my definition. You can say something against it, and so you can against the existence of matter. But the inquiries of biblical critics on this subject have uniformly led to the same results; and all I ask is that you should induce
some disinterested witness to go to the College Library and make a thorough investigation of this question. Until then I shall consider that I have fairly proved the doctrine of future punishment from that class of passages in which the word gehenna occurs.