Mercy And Judgment by Canon F.W. Farrar
Put into electronic form by Tentmaker Ministries and Publications, Inc. Copyright 200 May not be reproduced without permission.
MERCY AND JUDGMENT
JEWISH ESCHATOLOGY AT THE DAWN OF THE CHRISTIAN ERA.
"In diesem Punkt erklaren sich die Talmudlehrer entschieden gegen die Annahme der Ewigkeit der Hollenstrafen." — HAMBURDER, Talmudisches Worterbuch, s. v. "Holle."
I have now shown that, so far, there is in reality no controversy between myself and Dr. Pusey. It seems to me, and it has seemed to many others, that our views are essentially agreed; and that the apparent rift of difference between them is simply due to that mirage which is caused by the differing uses of words. This agreement is to me a very deep source of comfort and thankfulness; and I venture once more to offer to Dr. Pusey the expression of my gratitude both for the service which he has rendered to the Church by his book, and also for that Christian courtesy of tone which has enabled me to reply to him in friendly controversy, when it would have been impossible for me to answer others without stooping to a vain wrangling which I regard as unworthy and profitless.
At this point, then, it might well seem that all the most important part of my task is ended; but there still remain to be considered some collateral questions of history and exegesis, which do not indeed affect matters of faith, but which yet have an important bearing on the problems of the future life, and respecting which Dr. Pusey thinks that I am mistaken.
One of the most important of these is what I called my "palmary argument," — that our word "hell" is used in the Gospel as the rendering for Gehenna; that "hell" cannot necessarily mean, and ought not to be made to mean, more than Gehenna meant; that in the days of our Lord Gehenna did not normally imply an endless doom; and that therefore "hell" ought not — so far at any rate as the New Testament is concerned — to be understood of necessity to convey that meaning.
I cannot express this position more briefly than by saying that to a Jewish ear "Gehenna" did not mean "a place of necessarily endless torment," and therefore that "hell", when used as the equivalent of Gehenna, ought not to be so defined. The word "hell", in its popular usage, does but blur and misrepresent the conception of the word Gehenna, because it stands for a complex mass of inferences which out not to be introduced into that compressed Jewish metaphor for future retribution.
To this argument I still adhere, nor has Dr. Pusey in the slightest particular overthrown it, though — conscious of its importance — he has devoted no less than fifty-six pages to its demolition. Dr. Pusey says that I am "mistaken both in the principle I lay down, and as to the facts bearing upon it."
I. As to the principle, he says that our Lord need not have used religious terms in the same sense as that which the Jews attached to them, and that "He had, when need was, to stamp their language anew". Certainly our Lord might have done this when need was; but when He did so He did so avowedly, so that there should be no mistake. If, indeed, it had been "clear from the context of our Lord's words", that He used Gehenna in a different sense from that in which the Jews used it, then, indeed, my argument would fall to the ground. But to assert that this is clear is merely to beg the question. The principle, therefore, stands intact. When our Lord uses any technical Hebrew term — and He used many such terms, such as Pharisee, Sadducee, Corban, Sanhedrin, Paradise , Abraham's bosom, &c. — He used them in the very same sense in which the Jews used them. To have done otherwise would have been to render His words purposely unintelligible.
II. But as to the facts, Dr. Pusey says that "the Jews believed in eternal [i.e. in Dr. Pusey's usage of the word "endless"] punishment before, or at the time of the coming of the Lord, and called the place of punishment Gehenna". And this Dr. Pusey endeavours to prove: -
1. From the Apocryphal Books;
2. From Josephus;
3. From the Targums;
and he proceeds to argue that the doctrine of the non-endlessness of torment in Gehenna was,
i. An invention of Rabbi Akiba; and that
ii. In this he was followed by the Talmudists in general, and by modern Jews.
Now I think that on the threshold, before I enter into details, one little word will give a different aspect to this controversy. In my sermon I said "that the Jews never did, either then or at any period, normally attach to the word Gehenna that meaning of endless torment which we attach to hell".*(1) Again, in the Contemporary Review I said that "Gehenna did not mean endless torment". I said that it did not mean it — but I carefully abstained from saying that it never in any passage had such a meaning attached to it; and by the word "normally" I expressly implied that the sense of "endless torment" may possibly in some instances have been attached to it, but that it was not its equivalent, or its ordinary meaning. And so far was I from the assertion that no one had ever used the word Gehenna in the sense of "endless torment", that if the reader will only turn to page 211 of my Eternal Hope, he will there find it specified that Rabbi Saadjah, in his Sepher Ha-emunah, and that some others also of the post Mishnic Rabbis, though few in number — had used the word in this sense.
*(1) Eternal Hope, p.8
But let me beg the reader to observe that my contention was not, as Dr. Pusey seems to suppose, that no one could possibly use "Gehenna" to imply "endless torment", but that no one had ever used it to mean endless torment for all who incurred it: in other words, it never meant on the lips of the Jew a doom necessarily irreversible. Now that is a face which cannot for a moment be gainsaid; and it is a fact which proves my contention in its very fullest extent. For that contention never was that there was no such thing as an endless retribution, but that the belief in retribution did not necessarily involve a belief that it would be endless to all who might incur it. And this I proved by showing that no Jew has ever understood by Gehenna a punishment from which none who incurred it would escape; and therefore that our Lord — unless He expressly explained that He was using the word Gehenna in a new sense — could not possibly have attached to it the attribute of necessary endlessness. My urgent plea for the use of "Gehenna" instead of "hell" in our English version was exactly this: - By hell is meant, in popular language, and in the usage even of such theologians as Dr. Pusey, a punishment from which none escape who ever enter it; whereas, by Gehenna, a Jew meant a punishment which (as far, at any rate, as Jews were concerned) the vast majority escaped after a brief period. The uses of the two words "hell" and "Gehenna" are therefore deeply opposed.
Gehenna means a punishment which, for Jews, was normally, and all but invariably, terminable; indeed, by annihilation, if not by deliverance, for all but a very few of the very worst apostates, and possibly even for them. Hell is taken to mean a punishment never terminable for any who incur it! How utterly unfit, then, is the word "hell" to serve as a rendering for the word "Gehenna"!
It is a translation which has become positively misleading, because it connotes a totally different order of conceptions in its most important particular, namely, the particular of its duration.
And what makes the rendering more painfully unfortunate — I had almost said inexcusable — is, that our Lord and the Apostles have themselves set us an unmistakable example as to how the word should have been dealt with.
For Gehenna was a technical Hebrew religious term. It was a Hebrew term, and not a Greek term. And yet exactly because it was technical, and because no Greek term could serve as its precise equivalent, our Lord and the Apostles would not translate it into Greek, but they preserved it, as it was, in its precise technical meaning, and only transliterated it from Hebrew letters into Greek letters; - as though He and they meant, in the most express manner, to prevent it from being mingled up with misleading conceptions which were alien from it.
We have suffered grievously, and I fear shall continue to suffer, by not following His divine example. It seems to me a positive duty to transliterate from Hebrew into English the word which our Lord would not alter, and which He therefore transliterated from Hebrew into Greek.
By neglecting that example we use a word which always means endless, final, irremediable — and to most minds material — punishment, as our substitute for a word which, to a Jew, nearly always meant an intermediate, a remedial, a metaphorical punishment, and above all a punishment which was regarded as normally terminable.
That was my argument, and it remains wholly unshaken.
Even if Dr. Pusey had been able to bring forward a number of passages in which Gehenna meant "endless torment", he would have failed to prove his point, unless he could overthrow the proofs which I gave, that for centuries — from the days of the Mishna, which preserves the views of many Rabbis who were previous to, or contemporary with, our Lord, down to our own day — "Gehenna" was used by the Jews for a punishment which a soul might incur and yet escape. Dr. Pusey has not even attempted to do this. Has he even succeeded in showing that the Jews before, or during our Lord's day, used Gehenna for a punishment which would for any, and in any instance, be absolutely endless? The reader shall judge for himself.
I. He tries to prove this first of all from the Apocryphal books.
Hastily as my book was written, I had alluded to these books, and had given, in a single sentence, my reasons for interpreting their evidence differently from Dr. Pusey. Those reasons were that their evidence is disputable, and their date, in their present form, uncertain, and that the Jews have never acknowledged their dogmatic authority. "We attach but scant value to such compositions as the Book of Judith, 4 Esdras, Baruch, Enoch, 4 Maccabees, and the Psalms of Solomon," says Rabbi H. Adler, in a letter to me on this subject. "We do not regard these books as containing authoritative expositions of Jewish dogmas. They are not once quoted in the Talmud." Another learned Jew whom I consulted says: "The Jews do not consider the Apocryphal books as doctrinal, nor do they read them at public worship. They were never regarded as sacred."
"The only non-Biblical book of which any notice was taken in the days of Hillel and Shammai, and by their schools, was the Megillah Taanith, or Book of Fasts. The only book which is much noticed in the Talmud is Ecclesiasticus. Indeed, by the latter half of the third century, they were actually classed with the Sepharim Chitzonim, or Books of Outsiders; and it was forbidden to a Jew to have them in his house. Nay, Rabbis Joshua ben Levi, Chia bar Abba, and Seira treat them as 'books of magic'"*(1) When I questioned the learned Rabbi Dr. Schiller Szinessy on this subject, he replied, "The Apocrypha has not the least authority among us Jews, and last of all is the Book of Enoch."
*(1) Hamburger, s. v. Apokryphen. Origen (in Num. Hom. xxviii. 2) says that the Jews attached no authority to the Book of Enoch.
A. Dr. Pusey begins with the Book of Enoch.
I will not pause to ask whether the Book of Enoch can be at all relied on to give us a decisive opinions as to Jewish belief on the subject. I will not raise the question as to its date. Dr. Pusey says that its priority to the Christian era has only been questioned by Volkmar, and probably because of dogmatic and critical bias. But this is not quite the case Hofmann, and Weisse, and Moses Stuart, as well as Volkmar, place the composition of the whole work after the Christian era. Gfrorer, Lucke, and Hilgenfeld suppose that it has been interpolated. The latter — no mean authority — argues that large interpolations were made in it as late as the second century after Christ; and what is very important, the Jewish historian Jost *(1) does not suppose that it is entirely Jewish. Bottcher also *(2) and other eminent scholars think that this book in its present form belongs, like the Sibylline oracles, to the first and second centuries after Christ.
*(1) Gesch. Jud. ii. 218.
*(2) De Inferis, i. P. 261. He says, "In confusissimis illis iisdemque lectu dignissimis Pseud-Henochaeis, quibus etiam Noachea quaedam immixta sunt, quae mendosa…quae vetustiora, quae recentia," &c. He thinks that some of the images of future retribution are coloured by the rumours of the overthrow of Pompeii.
Waiving all this, and accepting the book as purely representative of Jewish thought, three facts have to be considered in the interpretation of its language:  that it is highly poetic and metaphorical;  that much of it is written in a spirit of fierce anathematizing anger against the wicked and persecutors;  that, interpreted by itself, the book explains its own threats to mean annihilation, which is the very antithesis of endless torment.*(1)
*(1) See Enoch xc. 13; xcii. 16 (Archbishop Lawrence). Abarbanel and Maimonides distinctly point out that this is in accordance with Jewish idiom — "annihilation" is described as "being destroyed, condemned, slain for ever." — ABARB. De Capit. Fidei, 24; MAIMONIDES, Hilchoth Teshuba, viii. 2; ALLEN, Modern Judaism, ix.
And such being the case, it would be against all rules of criticism to press the meaning of particular expressions. But not one of Dr. Pusey's quotations from the book even approximately proves the only point in question; not one of them shows that "Gehenna" was used of endless torments, still else that it was not also, and normally, used of terminable retribution.
a. The only relevant words in the first quotation from the preface are, "Great will be the everlasting damnation, and ye will find no pardon". But "everlasting" is a disputable rendering, and "damnation" is judgment; and the word Gehenna does not occur.
b. In the second quotation (x.5, 6) *(1) devils only and giants are spoken of; Gehenna is not mentioned and they are to be shut up, le-olam, which is rendered "for all eternity", but (as has been proved again and again, and will be proved again farther on) is a vague phrase used far more often of terminable than of interminable periods.
*(1) The references are to the chapters in Dillmann's edition.
g. In the third (xxi. I-6) transgressing "stars" are burned "until 10,000 worlds, the number of their guilt, are accomplished"; - a terminable punishment *(1), and therefore one which tells directly against Dr. Pusey's view; and fallen angels are imprisoned "to all eternity", i.e., ei s aiwna s , le-olam, as before. Nor is there any mention of the word Gehenna.
*(1) So the frequent ledori doroth of the Rabbis ("to generations of generations"), the equivalent of ei s tou s aiwna s twn aiwnwn of the New Testament, meant a finite period. — WINDET, De Vita functora statu, p. 170.
d. In the fourth (xxvii. 15) a burning valley is described where those "who speak unseemly words against God" are to be judged "to eternity for evermore." It is possible (though far from indisputable) *(1) that Gehenna may here be meant; but apart from the absolute indecisiveness of the phrase "to aeons" ( ei s aiwna s), these are the very offenders to whom would apply the words of our Lord in Matt. xii. 31, 32, and whose sin was analogous to that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost which should not be forgiven. But even this passage must be interpreted on the analogy of Old Testament prophecy. It must be compared with passages like Is. v. 14, and cannot be proved to mean more than overwhelming destruction such as it threatened to Sodom and to Edom.
*(1) See Bottcher, De Inferis, p. 262.
e. In the fifth quotation (xl. 24-26) the stars, the "seventy shepherds", and the "blinded sheep" are cast into a fiery deep and burned. Gehenna is not mentioned, and the retribution answers apparently to that "annihilation" which was the conception of Gehenna to the Jewish mind, not for all (which is my sole point), but for the worst only of those who incurred it.*(1)
*(1) This is the inference of Bretschneider, in his Dogmatik und Moral d. apokr. Schriften, pp. 299-325 (1805)
It is needless to go through the other quotations in which, similarly, Gentile kings and devils "perish" or "are destroyed", and are threatened with aeonian judgment. The threats are limited to the grossest offenders; there is nothing to show that they do not mean "annihilation" or overwhelming acts of judgment of which the results continue visible; there is nothing to show that the words "eternal" and other rehetorical expressions mean "endless", any more than they do in so many other passages; and lastly they are nihil ad rem, because they do not so much as mention Gehenna, nor even if they did, do they in the very slightest degree affect my allegation that Gehenna always and normally meant a retribution terminable for some, and for the vast majority of Jews. For the rest Enoch says, "An everlasting judgment shall be executed, and blasphemers shall be annihilated everywhere." *(1)
*(1) Enoch, xcii. 16 (Archbishop Lawrence).
One such phrase as that in the Book of Enoch, ew s suntelesqh to krima tou aiwno s twn aiwnwn - "till the judgment of the Age of Ages be accomplished", proves what I asserted directly and unmistakably. And I will quote on that phrase the remark of Windet, one of the most learned writers who has ever touched on the subject. "However you understand the phrase", he says, "it could not be used unless it signified something less than endlessness; for 'completion' does not accord with true endlessness. For most Jews lay down that Gehenna, as the Greeks do that Tartarus, is appointed not so much for the torment as for the purification of the most wicked."*(1)
*(1) De Vita functorum statu, 1633. (The book is preserved in the Fasciculus opusculorum, vol. iv. I-216.)
B. I pass to the Fourth Book of Esdras. Here again we are dealing with a book of uncertain date and origin. Gfrorer, Wieseler, and Bauer assign it to the reign of Domitian; Lucke to the reign of Trajan; Weisse even doubts whether it is Jewish at all, and it is generally admitted that it contains interpolations by Christian hands. It is a gloomy book full of thoughts of ruin and revenge. Dr. Pusey's quotation is from the missing fragment of the book translated by Mr. Bensley; it is full of severity, and makes a vague allusion to "the oven of Gehenna"; but this "oven" seems to be distinguished from the "lake of torment," and even respecting the "lake of torment" it is neither stated that its torment will be absolutely "endless", nor that it is interminable for all.
Further than this Dr. Pusey's quotations are shown to be irrelevant — shown to be mere rhetorical expressions to which the writer himself did not attach their strict meaning — because "endless torments" are wholly incompatible with the idea of "annihilation", and that is a doctrine which in various passages this writer seems unequivocally to teach. Thus in viii. I, 48, he says, "The Most High hath made this world for many, but the world to come for few….Like as the husbandman's seed perisheth if it come not up….even so perisheth man also (if unsaved)….Things present are for the present, and things to come for such as be to come." And in ix. 22, "Let the multitude perish, then, which was born in vain." The great Bentley said quite correctly that "some of the learnedest doctors among the Jews have esteemed it [extinction of being] the most dreadful of all punishments, and have assigned it for the portion of the blackest criminals of the damned — so interpreting Tophet, Abaddon, the Valley of Slaughter, and the like, for final extinction and deprivation of being."*(1)
*(1) Boyle Lectures, serm. i.
C. The quotations from the Apocalypse of Baruch are equally beside the mark. They speak generally of "perdition", and "torment", and "fire", but if the writer intended to be clear or consistent, the last passage seems most distinctly to describe the end of torment by annihilation. It therefore points to a terminable, not to an interminable, retribution. In the sole passage which mentions Gehenna it is only named by way of passing allusion, without any definition or description; and when the author says of Manasses that "in this world he was called ungodly, and at the end his dwelling was in the fire", the passage strongly favours what I have maintained for it was a persistent view of the Jews that Manasses — apostate, murderer, and blasphemer though he was — was not finally lost. Thus we find in Sanhedrin f. 103, i. that in 2 Chron. xxxiii. 13, the words "He was entreated of him" were sometimes read "He digged unto him", and that this "teaches that the Holy One, Blessed be He! Made for Manasseh as it were a secret opening in heaven, in order to receive him as a penitent."
D. The quotations from the Psalms of Solomon are similarly beside the mark. They neither mention Gehenna, nor say that future retribution is endless (since "for ever" has no such meaning), and rather imply than exclude the common Jewish notion of annihilation; they are, in fact, nothing but general menaces to the wicked founded on the language and imagery of the Prophets and the Psalms.
E. Lastly, the quotations from the Fourth Book of the Maccabees are equally ineffectual to throw any light whatever on the meaning of the word Gehenna — for this reason, among others, that they never mention it. The book was probably written in the days of Vespasian, and is deeply coloured by Alexandrian influences.*(1) The threats of aeonian torment are addressed, not to any Jew, or to sinners in general, but to Antiochus, the very type of Antichrist. The very utmost they could prove, even if "aeonian" meant endless, would be a point which I have not disputed, though I think it disputable, namely, that Jews of that day may have held the possibility of endless torments for some; not that they held that Gehenna was endless for all, or indeed normally for any. And if we turn from the dubious Fourth Book of Maccabees to the far more important and valuable Second Book, in which we do, beyond all question, find unadulterated Jewish opinion, a remarkable light is thrown upon the views of the Jews as to future punishment. For there, too, the same story is told of the seven brother-martyrs, and if there be any passage in all Jewish literature in which we should expect to find a distinct recognition of endless torments, and a denunciation of them upon the tyrant, it is this. Yet in this older and more genuine and less purely rhetorical version of that glorious martyrdom we do not find a single allusion to Gehenna or its supposed endlessness. Thus, in chapter vii. 14, we read the strongest of all the expressions used to their persecutor by these young heroes in their agonies: it is, "As for thee, thou shalt have no resurrection to life," which, at the worst, points to annihilation. Still more remarkable is verse 36, where all that the youngest sufferer says to Antiochus, after witnessing the horrible deaths of his brethren, is, "For our brethren, who have now suffered a short pain, are dead under God's covenant of eternal life; but thou, through the judgment of God, shalt receive just punishment for thy pride." "Just punishment," but not a syllable about endless torments: a fact which seems alone sufficient to prove that they formed no distinct part of the Jewish belief in the days of the Maccabees, though by that time the word Gehenna and its metaphorical usage were already known to them.
*(1) Gfrorer, Philo. ii. 173.
2. Dr. Pusey proceeds to the testimony of Josephus I had alluded to it, but set it aside as valueless. I did not enter into my grounds for doing so, because I was not pretending to write an elaborate and exhaustive treatise, but only at brief notice, to throw together a sort of outline defence of the half-obliterated truths — for nine-tenths of what I urged is now acknowledged to be truth even by those who write against me — for which I had pleaded. I did, however, give the references to the very passages which Dr. Pusey has quoted, and briefly stated my reasons for paying no further attention to them.
a. In the first of those passages *(1), speaking of the Pharisees, Josephus says that "it is their conviction that souls have an immortal force, and that under the earth there are judgments and punishments to those who, in their life, have practiced virtue or vice, and that to the one is adjudged a perpetual imprisonment, and to the others, a facility to live again."
*(1) Jos. Antiq. xviii. I, 3.
b. In the second passage *(1), which throws light on the last words of the former, he says that the Pharisees think "that every soul is indestructible, but that the soul of the good alone passes into a different body, and that the soul of the bad is punished with endless punishment." And in section xi. Of the same passage he says that the Essenes set apart for the souls of the bad "a gloomy and wintry den, teeming with incessant punishments."
*(1) Jos. B. F. ii. 8, 14.
Now in alluding to this evidence I set it aside because I regard Josephus as an untrustworthy witness. Dr. Pusey calls this an instance of "my wonted impetuosity." It may be so, but I had reasons for what I said, and I will now give them. My "wonted impetuosity" has never led me to make a single statement for which I could not produce evidence which seemed to me to be ample, nor have my many critics been able to convict me of one demonstrable error.
a. Josephus is an untrustworthy witness, because again and again he falsifies Jewish history, and colours Jewish opinions, in order to please his Pagan readers. He smooths away whatever he though that they would be inclined to ridicule, and deliberately gives to his narrative the tone which seemed likely to make it suit their views. In other words, he Graecises, and he Romanises, and he philosophises, and he Caesarises. How are we to estimate the opinion of a Jew who could speak of the Messianic prophecies as an "ambiguous oracle," and sink so low, in a peculiarly shameless moment, as to imply that a bourgeois adventurer like Vespasian was the promised Messiah of his race?*(1)
*(1) Jos. B. F. vi. 5, 4.
b. I regard Josephus as an untrustworthy witness concerning the religious opinions of the Jews, because they themselves, who are surely the best judges as to their own beliefs, think very slightingly of his assertions. "Josephus", says ARARBANEL, "wrote while he was in the hands of his masters, under their eyes, and trembling under their law."
"The representations of Josephus (Ant. xii. And B. F. viii), are of small value", writes the Jewish historian, DR. JOST.*(1)
*(1) Gesch. D. Fudenthums, i. 224.
"We attach but slight weight to Josephus", says RABBI H. ADLER, "on matters of religious dogma. The first clause of the passage in which he speaks of the belief of the Pharisees betrays the untrustworthiness of the second. There is not the slightest evidence to support the view that the souls of the good only passed into another body. Such a doctrine is not even alluded to in the Talmud."
"Josephus", says Hamburder, "was a weak character. The splendour of Rome utterly blinded him. He did not possess the strength of mind to rise above it." After his visit to Rom "he returned back to Judaea a different man. The object of his Antiquities was to set forth Judaism in a favourable light in the eyes of the educated Gentile world, and it requires a critical eye to distinguish, in his writings, between the false and the true."
And Christian writers have no less emphatically rejected his testimony. "If we have not cited Josephus", says DR. POCOCK, "it is no wonder, since in giving the views of the sects he names respecting the other world, he seems to have used words better suited to the fashions and ears of the Greeks and Romans, than such as a scholar of the Jewish law would understand, or deem expressive of his meaning."*(1)
*(1) Notae in Portam Mosis, c. 6
"It is not to be disguised", says ARCHBISHOP USHER, "that having promised to derive his materials from the sacred records of the Hebrews, without diminution or addition, he has done this with little fidelity."
Alluding to his total suppression of the most memorable sin of the desert wanderings, namely, the worship of the golden calf, BISHOP WARBURTON says that "this shows his artful address throughout his whole work"; and in a note to the treatise against Apion he says, "This was carrying his complaisance to the Gentiles extremely far, and he misses no opportunity of conciliating their good will."
"Josephus" says MOSHEIM, "as is well known, attempted to show that there was less difference between the religion of the Jews and those of other nations than people generally supposed; in which he very frequently exceeds all abounds."
His Antiquities, says M. CHASLES in Etudes sur le premier temps du christianisme, "is a masterpiece of finesse. Never was the truth falsified with a skill more resolute, more subtle, and more deceptive."
"At the present moment," says his translator DR. TRAILL, "no well-informed writer taking the religious side of the argument, would think of defending the Jewish historian, or of vouching for his affirmations."
c. I called him an untrustworthy witness because his Eschatology, as well as his Messianism, is expressly repudiated as of no value *(1). In the remarks which I have quoted from him he refers to the Greeks, and compares the views of the Essenes with theirs. It is to please and conciliate the Greeks that he omits the distinctly Pharisaic belief in the Resurrection (Acts xxiii. 6, 8; xxiv. 15; 2 Macc. 7), because the idea of the Resurrection of the body was made a jest among the Greeks *(2) (Acts xvii. 18, 32). He deliberately compares the Pharisees to the Stoics, just as he compares the Essene Eschatology with the fables of the Greek Tartarus.
*(1) Hamburger, Talm. Worterb. ii. 508. Professor Marks and others speak to the same effect.
*(2) Bottcher, De Inferis, 238, 519. He says that Josephus only used the word "Anastasis" once, and then in the sense of "overthrow." — B. F. vi. 6, 2. Any one who will carefully read the story of the Witch of Endor in the Antiquities (v. xiii.) will see that the selection of words is dictated by a desire to conform to Greek notions. Ewald (History of the People of Israel, v. 366) speaks of his account of the sects as specially arbitary and devoid of thorough knowledge.
But, waiving these objections altogether, the testimony of Josephus bears but very slightly on my argument. His words, "endless durance," eirgmo s aidio s are unscriptural *(1). The latter word is used by Greeks, but never in the New Testament for the future punishment of men; the same remark applies still more strongly to his evidently Greek-coloured account of the fancies of the Essenes, for neither "incessant" nor "vengeance", nor "den" nor "gloomy" nor "wintry" are words that find, in this connexion, any Scriptural authorization *(2). If we accept on such authority, the conclusion that the conception of "endless torment" was not unknown to the Graecising Jews of that day, this proves absolutely nothing against my assertion that Gehenna (which Josephus does not mention) had no such meaning normally; and that it is entirely indefensible to make it mean endless torment for all who incur it. Our Lord could only have used the word in its Jewish sense; and for the sake of all who love truth better than human tradition, I must again and again insist that its Jewish sense was not that which is now popularly attached to the word "hell".
*(1) In Jude 6 it is used poetically of the chains in which devils are reserved for future judgment; in Rom. i. 20 of the power of God.
*(2) zofwdh kai ceimerion..mucon, gemonta timwriwn adialeiptwn. - B. F. ii. 8, 11. The three first words do not occur at all in the New Testament. adialeipto s in Rom. ix. 2, and 2 Tim. i. 3 (both times within the limits of early life); timwria only in the singular, and only once, Heb. x. 29.
3. The appeal to the Targums equally fails to shake my position. As regards their date, if, as very able critics suppose, the Targum of Onkelos belongs to the end of the third or even to the end of the second century, that is a date after Rabbi Akiba had (according to Dr. Pusey) altered the opinion of the Jews from an endless to a temporal Gehenna. This would alone prove that the mere phrases of the Targum have not the meaning which Dr. Pusey assigns to them *(1). But what bearing have such phrases as "the second death" in Onkelos (Deut. xxxiii. 6), and in Jonathar. (Is. xxii. 14, lxv. 5, 6), on my position? Dr. Deutsch and others who knew the Targums best, wholly failed to see in them the meaning which Dr. Pusey attaches to them. To me it is perfectly obvious that by "second death" they meant annihilation, which, by their day, at any rate, if not long before, had become a common belief among the Jews. The phrase meant what in another place Jonathan defines it to mean — that "the wicked shall not live in the world to come."
*(1) According to one account Onkelos was a pupil of Akiba.
It is surprising to me that Dr. Pusey should have collected these passages from Targums. Out of some fourteen references every one, with a single exception, is absolutely nihil ad rem. They merely mention Gehenna as a place of future punishment; no one ever dreamt of denying that the word might be used in that sense. The point denied is that it meant endless punishment for all who incur it. But not one of these passages — except the one of which we shall speak directly — says a word directly or indirectly to imply that the punishment was endless for any. I had already said al that was necessary about them when I referred to the Targumim (Eternal Hope, pp. 82, 214) and said that in these passages "fire" and "for ever" meant just what they mean in Scripture, which is not necessarily either material fire or endless duration. Where any further idea is implied it is quite distinctly that of annihilation, not endless torment. Thus in Ps. xxxvii. 20, Jonathan compares the punishment of the wicked to the slaying and burning of lambs, - "so the wicked shall fall and be consumed in the smoke of Gehenna"; and in the Targum on Ps. cxl. 12, the "being cast down into Gehenna" is contrasted with "rising to life eternal"; and in that on Eccl. viii. 10, the wicked "go to be burned in Gehenna." Now "annihilation" — and to see anything but "annihilation" in these passages is to interpret them by Christian not by Jewish notions — is the very opposite to "endless torments." From Mal. iv. 3 — "And ye shall tead down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I shall prepare, saith the Lord" — the Talmudists drew the well-known notions, found in the Rosh Hoshanah *(1), that, after a terminable Gehenna, the souls of the wicked should be consumed by fire, whose cinders wind will scatter under the soles of the feet of the righteous.
*(1) V. infra, p. 201.
The one passage which might be regarded as an exception is the Targum on Is. xxxiii. 14, where Gehenna is the name given to "aeonian burnings". The best proof that there is no dream of endlessness here is the fact that Isaiah is speaking of the Assyrian invasion; and the "aeonian burnings" are temporal conflagrations. Besides this the Tophet in Gehenna, of which the prophet speaks in xxx. 33, is the literal topographical Gehenna, and therefore the word in the Targumist must in this place have the same literal meaning *(1).
*(1) "I full agree with you," writes Rabbi M. Adler, "that the expressions in the Targumim which speak of a 'second death' teach not 'endless suffering,' but 'annihilation.' The Targum on Is. lxvi. 24, distinctly points to the terminability of Gehenna. The [ please insert the Hebrew text from the book here ] of Is. xxxiii. 14, is a literal reproduction of the text, and may with propriety be rendered 'enduring burnings.'"
So that I see no reason to alter one word of my remark *(1), "that the Rabbinic opinion was that of Abarbanel, that the soul would only be punished in Gehenna for a time proportionate to the extent of its faults, and it is in accordance with that belief, and that of 'annihilation' as being 'the second death'; that we must interpret the passages which are sometimes adduced from the Targums of Jonathan and Onkelos and from various parts of the Book of Enoch." *(2) But since Dr. Pusey has adduced all those entirely irrelevant passages from the Targums, I will adduce two passages which he has not mentioned, and which are not only entirely relevant, but absolutely prove my whole position.
*(1) Eternal Hope, p. 213.
*(2) Gfrorer (Fahrb. Des Heils, ii. 289, 311) fails to see the right view.
One is from the Targum of Jonathan on Is. lxvi. 24, where the Targumist, after a common Rabbinic method, taking the word diraon [ please insert the Hebrew text from the book here ] ("contempt") as though it were [ please insert the Hebrew text from the book here ] has this remarkable passage, "And the wicked shall be judged in Gehenna until the righteous say concerning them, 'We have seen enough' [ please insert the Hebrew text from the book here ]." *(1)
*(1) See White, Life in Christ, p. 172; Weill, iv. 292; xii. Ch. iii. i.
The other passage is from the Targum on Is. xxii. 14, where (as in the Book Zohar) the "second death" is explained to mean neither hell nor annihilation, but — so shifting were Jewish notions on this subject — "that which happens, when a soul, that has animated a body a second time, separates from it." *(1)
*(1) See Basnage, Hist. Des Fuifs, iv. 30 ad fin.
And thus when Dr. Pusey says, that "Belief in the eternity of future punishment is contained in the Fourth Book of Maccabees, in the so-called Psalms of Solomon: the second death is mentioned in the Targums of Jonathan and Onkelos; Josephus attests the belief of the Pharisees and Essenes in the eternity of punishment" — I reply that slight as is the authority of 4 Maccabees, the utmost that it indicates is what I never denied, viz. that punishment rhetorically called everlasting, might be the doom of some; that the passages quoted from the Psalms of Solomon are wholly indecisive even as to endlessness, and that neither they nor the others in 4 Maccabees touch the force of my remark about Gehenna; that the "second death" in the Targums means sometimes annihilation, sometimes metempsychosis — both of which are incompatible with endless torments; that, other passages in the Targums [as well as in 4 Esdras *(1), &c.] speak distinctly of terminable punishment; lastly, that the evidence of Josephus is, both by Jewish and Christian testimony, perfectly worthless, because Josephus was not an honest man.
*(1) See 4 Esdr. xiii. Where the fire burn till "nothing is left but the dust of their ashes and the smoke of their burning."
I appeal to any candid reader, I appeal to Dr. Pusey himself, to say whether the two passages which I have adduced from the Targums, and especially the former, do not go farther to establish the view which I maintained, that Gehenna never normally meant "endless torments for all who incurred it," than all his passages put together prove on the other side? "It was the opinion of the Jews," says Archbishop Wake, a learned and perfectly impartial witness, that "in the 'future life', a remission might be had for some sins that were not otherwise to be forgiven"*(1); and the "future life" is used, as every one knows, both for the Messianic kingdom and for the condition after death.
*(1) Archbishop Wake, Discourse of Purgatory, p. 18.
III. I now turn to Dr. Pusey's second position, that it was Rabbi Akiba who first taught the Jews that Gehenna was terminable by deliverance or annihilation.
But before I examine that strange allegation, let me recapitulate and strengthen still further the strong and decisive evidence as to the Jewish opinion on the subject, which I adduced in Eternal Hope. If all the following passages do not prove that Gehenna might be terminable, there is simply no such thing as proof at all.
First come the two loci classici of the Talmud. The first of these, from its importance, shall be given at length.
a. Rosh Hoshanah, f. 16 and f. 17. "There will be three divisions on the Day of Judgment [observe, not at death, but as Rashi adds, when the dead will revive], the perfectly righteous [i.e., those whose merits predominate, Rashi]; the perfectly wicked [whose demerits predominate, Rashi]; and the intermediate class [whose merits and demerits are evenly balanced, Rashi]. The first will be at once inscribed and sealed to life eternal; the second at once to Gehenna (Dan. xii. 2); the intermediate will descend into Gehenna and keep rising and sinking (Zech. xii. 9)."
This opinion was endorsed by both the great schools of Jewish opinion, the Shammaites and the Hillelites, except that the latter — inclining always to leniency — said that in the case of the intermediate class mercy would incline the balance towards acquittal, so that they would no more sink into Gehenna.
b. The comments of Tosafoth (additions to the Gemar by individual Rabbis) run as follows — that the souls of the intermediate class will between death and judgment have satisfied their sentence in Gehenna, and therefore may be acquitted. The Talmud continues, "Israelites and idolaters who have sinned with their bodies will (after the Day of Judgment) descend into Gehenna, where they will be punished for a period of twelve months. At the end of that period their bodies will be annihilated and their souls consumed by fire, whose cinders a wind will scatter under the soles of the feet of the righteous (Mal. iv. 37). But the minim (heretics), informers, Eipcureans, &c., descend into Gehenna and are punished generation on generation (Is. lxvi. 24). Gehenna shall cease, but they shall not cease (Ps. xlix. 14), as it is said, 'their substance shall wear out hell.'"
This passage is analogous to many which Dr. Pusey has quoted; but the fact that Rabbi H. Adler says, "it does not, I think, imply endless punishment," accords with that of the majority of Jewish authorities, and therefore shows that they interpreted these Scriptural and Talmudic expressions to imply not infinite but indefinite duration. Such is the unquestionable meaning of "generation on generation" (Le-dor va-dor): and it is superfluous to add that if the Talmud taught the doctrine of endless torments, no Rabbi would venture — as they all but unanimously do — to repudiate the doctrine. Maimonides embodies the passage verbatim in his Yad Hachezakah Hilchoth Teshubah: yet Maimonides held the doctrine of annihilation, not of endless torments. And are not the Jews the best judges as to the meaning of their own language, and the tenets of their own theology? They would as soon think of denying a dictum of the Mishna as a Roman Catholic Ultramontane would dispute the decree of an Oecumenical Council.
g. Baba Metzia, f. 58, 2. "All who go down into Gehenna rise up again, with the exception of those who do not rise, the adulterer, &c." It was a common opinion of the Jews that these were annihilated, as Maimonides thought, who explains "excision" (Kareth) in this sense. Hence in both respects the meaning conveyed to the ear of a Jew by the word Gehenna was not only different from, but antithetic to the popular meaning of the word by which our translators have rendered it. For as regards Jews, Gehenna meant terminable retribution for the majority, or in the worst cases annihilation: whereas hell means for torments endless and irrevocable for every single soul that incurs them.
I will now add some thirty other Talmudic and Jewish authorities:
Chagigah, f. 27, I. R. Shimon ben Lakish said the fire of Gehenna has no power over transgressors of Israel.
Eruvin, f. 19, I. Those who have incurred a temporary Gehenna are rescued by Abraham.
Nedarim, f. 8, 2. There is no Gehenna in the world to come according to Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish.
Nishmath Chajim, f. 82, 2. The righteous, who have committed some sins, quickly pass through hell.
Avoda Zara, I. Gehenna is nothing but a day in which the impious will be burned.
Gibborim, f. 70, I, Nishmath Chajim, p. 83, I, Jalkuth Shimeoni, f. 83, 3, &c., all say that twelve months is the period of punishment in Gehenna.
Emek Hammelech, f. 138, 4: "The wicked stay in Gehenna till the Resurrection, and then the Messiah, passing through it, redeems them." The same treatise (f. 16, 2), says even of the worst sinners, like those of Sodom, and spies who betray Jews, that they are punished "till the time decreed is expired," and then allowed to transmigrate.
Midrash Rabba, I, 30. Avoda Zara, 3. "After the last judgment Gehenna exists no longer."
Zijoni, f. 69, 3: "There is only a thread's thickness between Paradise and Gehenna."
Asarah Maamaroth, f. 85, I: "There will hereafter be no Gehenna."
Jalkuth Shimeoni, f. 46, I: Gabriel and Michael will open the 8,000 gates of Gehenna and let out Israelites and righteous Gentiles.
Jalkuth Chadash, f. 57, I: "The righteous bring out of Gehenna imperfect souls."
Jalkuth Koheleth: "God created Paradise and Gehenna, that those in the one should deliver those in the other."
Jalkuth Tehillin: "The praises of God that ascend from Gehenna are more than those that ascend from Paradise, for each one that is a step higher praises God."
Rabbi Bar Nachman: "The future world (the Olam habba) will have its Gehenna, but the last times will have it no more."
Joreh Deah ad fin.: "As is commonly said, 'The punishment of wicked Israelites in Gehenna is twelve months.'"*(1)
*(1) Other passages may be found quoted in Windet's learned book, De Vita functorum statu, pp. 154-157 (1663).
Rabbi Akiba, "the second Moses, the second Ezra." "The duration of the punishment of the wicked in Gehenna is twelve months." Edyoth, ii. 10.
In the Othjoth, which is attributed to him, the dead say the Amen to the Kaddish (prayer for the dead) of Zerubbabel; and Gabriel and Michael set them free through the 40,000 gates of Gehenna.
Zohar: "Noah stayed twelve months in the Ark because the judgment of sinners lasts so long."
So too Rabbi Jose, Rabbi Jehudah, Rabbi Eliezer, Buxtorf, s.v. [ please insert Hebrew text from the book here ] R. Kimchi on Ps. I: "Their soul shall perish with their body in the day of death."
Bartolocci (Bibl. Rabbinica, ii. 128-162), after elaborate examination, concludes that the Jews did not believe in a material fire, and thought that such a fire as they did believe in would one day be put out.
R. Jacob Chayif in En Jacob: "Some, after they have been punished in Gehenna, will perhaps be deemed worthy of the life to come."
R. Menahem on Sam. xxv. 29: "The wicked are in chains till the time when they go out hence."
Maimonides, "the eagle of the doctors," makes Gehenna in its worst form equivalent to Kareth, "excision," and explains it not of endless torments but of annihilation. The "future age" (Olam Habba) is absolute universal bliss and holiness (Preface to the Thirteen Articles of Faith).
R. Moses Almosny, in Tephillah Mosheh, says even of the extremely wicked — "If any one have sinned much he shall be punished much; afterwards however he shall gain his rest."
Rabbi Albo gives three grades to Gehenna: I. Gehenna for a year, and then blessedness. 2. Gehenna for a year, and then annihilation. 3. Aeonian (which does not necessarily mean "endless") chastisement for none but the worst renegades. — Ikkarim, iv. 30, 40. [See p. 208, n. 2.)
Midrash on Koheleth: "What is the distance between Paradise and Gehenna? According to Johanan a wall; according to Acha a palm-breadth; according to other Rabbis only a finger-breadth."
Rabbi Abarbanel in Miphaloth Elohim, viii. 6: "The soul will only be punished in Gehenna for a time proportionate to the extent of its faults; and then annihilated."
Many Rabbinic legends point in the same direction. Thus, when the wicked Rabbi Acheer — surnamed Ben Zoma — died, and the smoke which issued from his grave was taken as a proof that he was in Gehenna, Rabbi Johanan vowed that at his death, he would take Acheer by the hand and lead him to Paradise, in sign of which the smoke should cease to issue, from the grave. It did so, and one of the mourners exclaimed, "Even the doorkeeper of Gehenna could not stand before thee, our Rabbi!"
In Sotah, f. 10, I: "We are told that at the death of Absalom, Gehenna burst upwards at the feet of David, who eight times exclaimed, 'My Son,' and rescued him from the seven regions of Gehenna and raised him to the world to come."*(1)
*(1) Stories of deliverance from Gehenna may be found in Mr. Hershon's Talmudic Miscellany, pp. 305-312.
Rabbi Marks: "The upshot is, that the Jewish doctrine laboured rather to adorn the future of the good than to describe the destiny of the wicked. Stronger than their fear of justice is their belief in the divine mercy, 'He will not contend for ever, neither will He retain His anger to eternity' (Ps. ciii. 9), which is a powerful argument against the modern Christian doctrine of everlasting woe."
Editor of the Jewish Chronicle: "Endless torment has never been taught by the Rabbis as a doctrine of the Jewish Church."
Hamburger, author of the Talmudisches Worterbuch: "As to this point, the Talmudic teachers declare themselves distinctly against the supposition of the endlessness of the torments of hell." — Talm. Worterb. S. v. "Holle."
I will close the series with a passage from a tract especially devoted to Gehenna — namely the Masseketh Gehinnom — which has been several times published, and lately by Dr. Jellinek in his Beth Hammedrash. "After all this, the Holy One, blessed be He, hath pity upon His creatures, even as it is written, 'For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth.' And these words are applied to the case of the heathen Gentiles."
Basnage, Hist. Des Juifs, iv. 32, f. 7: "This punishment is not generally acknowledged to be everlasting."
Philippson, Israel. Religionslehre, ii. 255: "The Rabbis teach no eternity of hell torments; even the greatest sinners were punished for generations. This they express allegorically by saying that between hell and paradise there is only a breadth of two fingers, so that it will be very easy for the purified sinner to reach from the last unto the first."
Dr. Deutsch: "Of this you may be quite sure, that there is no a word in the Talmud that lends any support to the damnable dogma of endless torment." — Letter to Rev. S. Cox.
"There is no everlasting damnation according to the Talmud. The sinner has but to repent sincerely and the gates of everlasting bliss will spring open." — Remains, p. 53.
Chief Rabbi B. Mosse, of Avignon, has written against the doctrine of endless torments in his journal, La Famille de Jacob.
Chief Rabbi Michel A. Weill, after explaining Gehenna figuratively, says, "Would there not be a flagrant contradiction between endless torments and the goodness of God, so magnificently celebrated in Biblical annals? Nothing therefore seems more incompatible with the true Biblical tradition than an eternity of suffering and chastisement." — Le Judaisme, iv. 590.
Rabbi H. Adler: "With respect to the Rabbis of the present day, I think it would be safe to say that they do not teach endless retributive suffering. They hold that it is not conceivable that a God of Mercy and Justice would ordain infinite punishment for finite wrong-doing." — Letter to Dr. Farrar.
Rabbi Loewe says: "Olam simply signifies for a long time. The Hebrew Scriptures do not contain any doctrine referring to everlasting punishment."
Now, to sum up these numerous testimonies as to what the common Jewish opinion now is, and has been, in all centuries since Christ, they prove,
1. That, according to the opinion of the Mishna and the Gemara, and all the most eminent Rabbis, Gehenna meant for the majority of Jews, if not for all Jews, brief temporary punishment, followed by forgiveness.*(1)
*(1) See Weill, Le Judaisme, iv. 540 624.
2. For worse offenders, long but still terminable punishment.
3. For the worst offenders of all — especially Gentile offenders — punishment followed by annihilation.
Therefore the normal meaning of Gehenna was diametrically opposed to what is now the normal popular meaning of hell, which is defined "as endless torments for all who incur it." It corresponds far more to the notion of purgatory than to that of hell.*(1)
*(1) Basnage, Hist. Des Fuifs, iv. 32, 9. His remark on the wavering and self-contradictory views of some of the Rabbis will apply also to some of the Fathers. He says, "Though it is a common maxim of the Rabbis that 'there is no repentance after death,' yet they bring forth the souls out of the dark dungeon of hell. How can these things that seem so contradictory be reconciled? They do it by saying that the God of mercy is always most inclined to compassion. They maintain that very few Jews remain in hell."
Two conspicuous Rabbis, as I pointed out, seem to teach endless punishment, Rabbi Albo and Rabbi Saadjah — I might have added Leo of Modena and Rabbi Menasseh — but this endless punishment, even with them, is not for all who enter Gehenna, only for the worst. I have already given Rabbi Albo's opinions, and even if he meant endless torments for some, it neither helps Dr. Pusey's position, nor injures mine, for mine is not "that no Rabbis ever thought that Gehenna would be endless," but that "all Rabbis alike taught that for some, if not for the majority, Gehenna would either be terminable, or would end in annihilation*(1); and that if our Lord had meant by Gehenna 'endless torments to all who pass into future retribution, it is impossible to suppose that He would have used a word which normally excluded such a meaning."
*(1) Several Rabbis held that Gehinnom was the same as Kareth ("excision"), and that of this there were three grades. 1. A punishment for twelve months, and then deliverance. 2. The same punishment, ended by annihilation. 3. For the worst criminals and greatest renegades "endless owes," with a prospect and possibility, however, of God's mitigatory mercy, for which Albo referred to Ps. lxii. 12, xcix. 8 ("Thou wast a God who forgavest them, though Thou tookest vengeance of their inventions"), Mic. vii. 18-20, &c.
For it must be observed that even such Rabbis as Albo and Saadjah held no such doctrine as that which is popularly held about hell. On the contrary, one if not both of them taught that even without repentance, all but capital offenders — and therefore the majority of mankind — are admitted to grace.*(1) They held, as Dr. Pusey does, that any repentance, even the slightest velleity of repentance — even at the moment of death — is an impenetrable shield against retribution, and that —
"Who with repentance is not satisfied — Is not of heaven or earth."
*(1) See Weill, Le Judaisme, iv. 160. No Rabbi could quite throw overboard the Talmudic aphorism (Avoda Zara, 3), that "there is no Gehenna in the future age." Even if with Rabbi Bar Nachman they thought Gehenna would continue, in the Olam Habba they held that it would disappear in the "last times" (Leadith habo). Weill, iv. 616.
They interpret Job xxxiii. 23 to mean that 999 hostile testimonies before God are outweighed by one favourable testimony *(1); and thus they reduce almost to zero the number of those whose doom is to be annihilation or perdurable torment — who are only those who have not done one meritorious act, or had one desire to repent. "So that," says Chief Rabbi Weill, "even taken literally, endless torment loses its terror, since it does not involve conceptions which militate against a merciful God, whose lovingkindness is over all His works."
*(1) "A man's advocates [( please insert Hebrew text from book here) "paracletes"] are repentance and good works. And if 999 plead against him, and only one for him, he is spared, as it is said (Job xxxiii. 23), 'If there be an interceding angel, one among a thousand, to declare for man his uprightness, then He is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit.'" — Shabbath, f. 32, I. See Walch. Rel. Streit. V. 709.
And to put the last touch of certainty to all these cumulative proofs, I refer to the authorized creed of the Jews — the fundamentals of their faith as drawn up by Maimondes and by them universally accepted. It is as silent about endless torments as are the creeds of Christendom. In the eleventh article of this Creed it is said — and it would have been well, perhaps, if no confession of faith had dogmatized further —
"I believe with a perfect faith that the Creator will reward those who keep His commandments, and punish those who transgress them."
Surely any one who pretends that this overwhelming mass of evidence does not prove that "Gehenna" bore to Jewish ears a meaning totally unlike that which "Hell" means to most Christian ears, must be stereotyped in hopeless prejudice, and must be incapable of any discrimination between truth and falsehood. And seeing that we naturally turn to Jews and to Jewish writings of acknowledged authority to explain their own technical terms; and seeing that no writings are more authoritative with the Jews than the Mishna and Gemara, and no Rabbis are so highly esteemed as Rabbis Akiba, and Maimonides, and Abarbanel; and seeing that all the ancient authorities are at one with the highest living authorities among the Rabbis in saying that, in the view of their Church, Gehenna does not now mean, and has never meant, a doom to necessarily endless torment*(1); and seeing that our Blessed Lord always used technical Jewish words in their technical Jewish sense — unless He avowedly gave them a different meaning — I should have thought that my point was amply proved.
What vitiates the whole of Dr. Pusey's argument, even if it were tenable in its details, is that it is intended to prove a point which, so far from denying, I expressly admitted, namely, that some Rabbis understood Gehenna to mean endless torments for some; but, so far from shaking, he is obliged incidentally to confirm, the point which I did assert, viz. that Jewish opinion, as represented especially by the Talmud and the voice of the Rabbis for many centuries, admitted the terminability of Gehenna for many, and its terminability by annihilation for yet more.
My language, so far from being "impetuous," was perfectly measured and scrupulously accurate on this point. It was this —
"It is demonstrable that Jews did not hold, and as a Church they have never held, the two doctrines which I am here declaring to be unproven, viz. —
"I. The finality of the doom passed at death (by which I mean the finality of the condition into which the soul may pass at death).
"2. The doctrine of torment, endless if once incurred."*(1)
*(1) Eternal Hope, p. 81.
I have proved these points from the most recognized and least disputable sources of Jewish opinion, by showing that as a Church they repudiate the doctrine; and that they teach again and again that many who enter Gehenna pass out of it. When Dr. Pusey says that this remark did not apply to mankind in general but only to the Jews, he is not strictly accurate, for certainly many of the Rabbis (much more distinctly than many of the Fathers) taught the deliverance from Gehenna of all the pious of the Gentiles, and the annihilation of the rest. Even if it were not so it would not affect my point. Our Lord was speaking to Jews; and if "Gehenna" meant a punishment terminable for nearly all Jews and many Gentiles, it had a meaning wholly unlike that which is popularly given to "Hell".
But Dr. Pusey ingeniously argues that this opinion was the invention of Rabbi Akiba!
To the attempted proof of this view he assigns no less than twenty-seven pages (pp. 75-102); but in all those pages I can find no approach to even the most distant kind of proof of so strange a notion. He may be correct in saying that Rabbi Akiba was the first to define the punishment of Gehenna as only lasting a twelvemonth, but, so far as I can see, he does not offer the smallest proof that Rabbi Akiba was the first to hold that Gehenna was a punishment not necessarily endless.
He gives us indeed some interesting particulars, mainly aquoted from Gratz, about Rabbi Akiba and his innovations. That those particulars were not new to me — that I had long ago quoted them and many other peculiarities of Akiba's system — any one may see who will read my articles in the Expositor on Rabbinic Exegesis and Rabbinic Eschatology.*(1) But the innovations of Rabbi Akiba were only innovations as to the minutiae of the Halacha. There is no evidence to show that he altered one fundamental doctrine of Jewish theology. No Jewish writer has so much as dropped a hint that he modified the main conceptions of Jewish Eschatology. By his time authority and precedent reigned absolutely supreme in Jewish schools. The Rabbis ascribe this notion of the twelve months' Gehenna, not to Akiba, but to the school of Hillel *(2), and therefore to a period long before Akiba. The school of Shammai also inferred from Zech. xiii. 9 ("And I will bring the third part through the fire") and I Sam. ii. 6 ("The Lord bringeth down to Sheol, and bringeth up"), that all the intermediate class of men who are neither saintly nor depraved would keep rising and sinking in Gehenna. To have run counter to an established authority on matters of dogma would have cost the teacher death or excommunication. Knowing that Jewish belief on the subject of Gehenna was fluctuating and undefined — knowing that in the Jewish as in the Christian Church much respecting this subject was left to opinion — knowing that it was not normally understood of an endless retribution for all who incurred it — there would indeed have been nothing to prevent Rabbi Akiba from fixing twelve months as the limit, and assigning for that limitation a fantastic piece of Rabbinic exegesis. But if Dr. Pusey says that Akiba was the first to speak of Gehenna as a terminable punishment for any, he broaches a theory in favour of which he has adduced absolutely nothing beyond his own opinion, which is rejected by every learned Jew whom I have consulted on the subject.
*(1) See the Expositor, vol. v. pp. 362-378; vii. 295-317.
*(2) Windet, p. 154.
Since writing the above I have received a letter from Rabbi H. Adler, in which he says — "It may, I think, be safely assumed that Rabbi Akiba would teach no novel doctrine respecting future punishment, but that he would only elaborate and but slightly modify the teachings of his predecessors." Dr. Schiller Szinessy, so well known for his Rabbinic learning, writes even more decisively and emphatically, and says — "Rabbi Aquiba could not formulate an article of faith any more than I could."
I have consulted many Jewish books about Jewish opinions, written both by Jews and by Christians. In not one of those books of any age can I find so much as a hint of this opinion. It is not in the Mishna, or the Gemara, or in Maimonides, or in Zunz, or in Bartolocci, or in Basnage, or in Buxtorf, or in Stehelin, or in Gratz, or in Jost, or in Chiarini, or in Hamburger, or in Deutsch, or in Munk, or in Derenbourg, or in Allen, or in Weill, or in Hershon; nor is there a trace of it in the works of Lightfoot, Meuschen, Schottgen, Eisenmenger, Wagenseil; nor again can I find it in recent Talmudic translations, like those of Wunsche and Schwab. The reader who is content ot suppose that the now prevalent belief of the Jews as to the terminability of Gehenna is due of Rabbi Akiba, must do so on the isolated ipse dixit of Dr. Pusey. So far as I am concerned, all the pages about Rabbi Akiba are an ignoratio elenchi — they have no bearing on the controversy. Rabbis might do as they liked about Akiba's Gehenna of twelve months *(1), but it is a violation of all probability — it is a contradiction of all that we know respecting the development of Jewish theology — to assert that it is from him that they borrowed such a notion as that of Rabbi Chanina in the Rosh Hasanah, who said, "All who go down to Gehenna arise, save three (classes of persons) who go down and do not arise."
*(1) They said "twelve months," and not "a year," because some years have an intercalary month — Ve-adar.
Jewish opinion on the subject has always varied. That it has done so was part of my "palmary argument". It varied because Scripture had laid down nothing definite respecting it, and because the Jews were not so utterly ignorant of their own language and literature as to attribute to the metaphorical contemporary allusion "eternal burnings", in Is. xxxiii. 14, the dogmatic meaning of "endless tortures in hell fire". Jewish opinion then was at liberty, if it chose, to hold the doctrine of annihilation, or even of endless torments; but Jewish opinion never varied at all on the only point respecting which I maintained it to be invariable; it never held that an entrance into Gehenna was necessarily identical with an endless doom.
That was my sole argument; and I am much mistaken if, in spite of all these pages, written in supposed refutation of my view, Dr. Pusey will not now admit that it is unanswerably true.
And what can it avail to go to the Koran? NO one surely would accept that strange amalgam of visions, theories, and traditions, Jewish, Christian, and original, as being of the smallest authority on Jewish opinions. Yet, so far as it is so, Dr. Pusey concedes all I want when he says — "But Mohammed has also the Jewish belief that all go to Gehenna for a time, and will be led round it, but that wrong-doers will be left in it." In those words, "go to Gehenna for a time" (not to dwell on the point that the majority of those left in it are described by most Jews as annihilated), lies my proof that "hell" is not now, and never was, in its popular expectation, an equivalent for "Gehenna". Moreover, the Koran too has an intermediate place between Paradise and Gehenna. *(1)
*(1) Koran, Sur. Vii. See Windet, De Vita functorum statu, p. 164.
If Gehenna was used to mean for some souls a short purgatory; for some a long purgatory; for some annihilation; and for the fewest of all (which if its meaning at all was its rarest and most disputable meaning) endless torments; how can it be exclusively interpreted in that meaning which most Jews expressly repudiate? How can it be rightly interpreted to mean "endless torments" and nothing else? How can it be just, or reverent, or otherwise but conducive to dangerous error, to render a word thus proved to imply, in its most normal sense, a terminable punishment, by a word which, in popular usage, exclusively means a final, endless, and irrevocable punishment? To do so — and to continue the word in our English version after these facts have been pointed out — is to introduce into Jewish notions the same utter confusion as would be introduced into all Roman Catholic theology, if wherever the word purgatory is used, we were to strike out purgatory and replace the word by "hell". I fear that it will be said hereafter that to do so with our present knowledge is a course which we should hardly have expected from scholars so eminent as those who compose the Revision Committee *(1).
*(1) Dr. Pusey says that "Chief Rabbi Weill himself expressly acknowledges the traditional belief" (p. 91). Yet in the very passage which Dr. Pusey quotes, Dr. Weill says that it is only "certain categories of sinners' who are marked out for endless punishments, and that others are "devoted to annihilation"; and how does he continue the passage after the point at which Dr. Pusey stops short? He proceeds to ask whether the "endless suffering" does not mean the annihilation of which the Talmud sometimes speaks, or, at any rate, whether it does not mean "infinite woes crowned by annihilation"; and whether it is necessary to take literally this "unpitying draconian code of the future world." Leaving these questions, he proceeds to quote Akiba's words, "The duration of the punishment of sinners in Gehenna is for twelve months" (Edyoth x. 2), as being of high authority, and says that even for great criminals there are limitations of the doctrine of future retribution. The least velleity of repentance at the last moment is enough to obviate the peril; a single prescription of the law faithfully obeyed once in the life is sufficient to avert it (Sanhedr. iii.; Ikkarim iii. 20). Thus the number of sinners who are thus to be doomed, "se reduit a peu pres a zero." "Hence," he says, "that even if we interpret 'endless torments' literally, there is little in the doctrine either to terrify or to weaken our sense of the universal love of God." Speaking of Gehenna he says, "Qui ne reconnait dans ces termes l'hyperboke prophetique et poetique, qui est comme le genie de la literature sacree?" (p. 590); and "Rien ne semble plus incompatible avec la vraie tradition biblique qu'une eternite de souffrance et de chatiment" (p. 590).
There is no further argument which Dr. Pusey brings into prominence in his second edition*(1), on which, with deep reverence, I desire to add a few words. It is brief this — that the majority of Christians have believed that our Lord intended to teach the future punishment of sinners to be everlasting, and that therefore to doubt its endlessness is to suppose that He used words which He knew would be misunderstood.
*(1) What is of Faith, second edition, pp. 46-48.
For myself it would be sufficient to reply that I have never dared to teach that all will be saved; or that no punishment will be endless. I should apply the term "the lost" to those only — if such there can be — whose will hardens itself into utter and final resistance against the grace of God; although I believe that even for these "the pain of loss", not the "pain of sense", may constitute the Gehenna of their "aeonian fire", and that for these too there may be that merciful mitigation, those blessed "refrigeria," which even St. Augustine and St. Jerome did not deny.
But though the objection does not touch my own opinions, I do not think the argument tenable. For
1. There have been very large exceptions to "the mass of Christians" who have thus understood the words of our Lord. In the days of St. Augustine there were not only "some" — as he tells us — but even a very large number (quam plurimi) who "with human feelings compassionated the eternal punishment of the damned and so believed that it would not take place.*(1)" St. Jerome tells us also that he knew of "very man" (plerique) who held that even the devil would be ultimately forgiven*(2). Those who, in this respect, embraced the milder views of Origen, were perhaps a majority of the then living Christians. These Fathers argue against the full extent of such compassionate inferences, but they no more categorically condemn them than Athanasius condemned Origen; and against the orthodoxy of the "party of pit" in other respects they do not even breathe a suspicion. And I suppose that there are millions of living Universalists and believers in conditional immorality in England and America — Universalists like Bishop Ewing of Argyll and Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, believers in conditional immortality like the Rev. S. Minton and the Rev. E. White — to whom it would be a most insolent slander to deny the name of Christians, though they do not understand the words of our Saviour to necessitate a belief in endless torments. Nay more, there are multitudes — and this is my own view — who, though they are not Universalists, yet do not pretend to believe that our Lord's words absolutely and demonstrably exclude an interpretation which has been adopted by hundreds of competent, learned, and saintly thinkers from the days of Origen to our own. It is one thing to fear that the evidence preponderates on the whole against the theory of Universalists, and quite another thing to refuse to admit what is just or possible in much of their exegesis.
*(1) Enchirid. 112. "Nonnulli, immo quam plurimi."
*(2) Jer. in Jon. iii. 6, 7.
2. And Universalists, or those who believe in conditional immortality, interpreting our Lord's words in the sense which they consider to be the only admissible one, might, if this argument were of any value, retort it with great force. They might say, "We believe, and give you our reasons for believing, that our Lord's words do not bear the sense which you attach to them. If therefore He had deemed it essential that this sense should be deduced from them, He would have spoken (as He might have done in scores of different phrases) in such a manner as could not have been misunderstood. The fact that millions of true Christians have, honestly and after the utmost prayer and thought and labour, been totally unable to accept your interpretation of them, proves, on your own premises, that it was no part of His will to teach your doctrine as a matter of faith."
3. Practically the argument amounts to this: "The interpretation of Christ's words which most Christians have accepted must be true." Is not such an hypothesis refuted by the whole history of the Christian Church? Has the acceptance of any particular interpretation by the majority of any age ever been a test of its truth?
4. And as a matter of fact does not this whole argument, which is summarized by Dr. Pusey in the words, "Jesus, being God, knew how His words would be understood," and therefore He must have meant His words to be understood as by the majority they have been understood — is it not a purely a priori hypothesis which crumbles to pieces at the touch of facts? Was not our Lord constantly, seriously, finally misunderstood, alike by His enemies and by His disciples, even in His own lifetime? Were not His literal statements evaded as being metaphors? Were not His metaphors misinterpreted to be rigid facts?
After His very first recorded words we are told that even His mother and Joseph "understood not the saying which He spake unto them" (Luke ii. 50).
After one of His very simplest metaphors He had to ask almost with indignation, "How is it that ye do not understand?"
After one of His plainest prophecies we are told, "But they understood not that saying" (Mark ix. 32); "and it was hid from them that they perceived it not" (Luke ix. 45).
After another prophecy, if possible still plainer, "They understood none of these things" (Luke xviii. 34).
After the teaching about what doth and doth not defile a man, He complained to His apostles, " Do not ye yet understand?" (Matt. xv. 17).
After the parable of the sheepfold and the shepherd, "They understood not what they were which He spake unto them" (John x. 6).
After His obvious fulfillment of a plain ancient prophecy, "These things understood not His disciples at the first" (John xii. 16).
To the Jews He said, "Why do ye not understand my speech?" (John viii. 43.)
His whole life, His whole words, were long misunderstood even by those who loved Him best.
But if it be said that this misunderstanding ceased with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, I answer that undoubtedly, since then, His Church has fully known Who He was, and why He was incarnate, and that He died for us, and all of His work which is necessary for the salvation of our own souls and of the world; but to assert that the popular sense in which special sayings of His or of His apostles have been understood must be their sole true sense, is to ignore all the lessons of Christian history.
Has not the sense of hundreds of passages of Scripture been sought by earnest investigation, as to the results of which there has been a difference among Christians in all ages? And when there has been this difference among able and honest inquirers, within the limits of the Christian faith, and in questions which have always been left open by Creeds and Churches, is it not mere idle and irritating dogmatism to claim unconditional and infallible finality for our own particular conclusion?
Are we to accept the whole doctrine of transubstantiation because of the words, "This is My body"?
Are we to accept the supremacy of the Pope because of the words, "Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build My Church"?
Are we to revive the ruthless trials for witchcraft, which were the shame and terror of the Middle Ages, because Moses said, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"?
Are we to repeat the horrible crimes of religious persecutions because of the words, "Compel them to come in"?
Are we to burn men alive for the differences of opinion because the Inquisition attached this sense to the words "is cast forth as a branch and is burned"?
Are we, because Christ said that He came "to give His life a ransom for many," to believe, as the majority of Christians seem to have believed for nearly a thousand years, that this ransom was paid to the devil?
Are we to argue that slavery is an institution of divine authority because its existence is recognized by the apostles, and because St. Paul sent back Onesimus to Philemon?
Are we to accept in all its horror the entire Calvinistic system of reprobation because St. Paul quoted the verse, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated"?*(1)
*(1) Rom ix. 13; Mal. I. 2, 3.
Yet all these words have thus by "millions upon millions" been misinterpreted and misunderstood; and I suppose that many of these millions in thus misunderstanding them supposed themselves to be acting "dutifully", and taking them "in their obvious meaning".
But here let me say that those who have been led, as they humbly believe, by the Holy Spirit of God, to embrace mankind a wider hope than can be embraced by their fellows, and who thus interpret the words of Scripture, have a right to resent the insinuation that they must necessarily be "unorthodox" on other points. They have a right to despise as a slander the hint that they deny the Incarnation, or that our Lord was Very God. Most of all have they a right to despise such calumnies when the work which they have done, or humbly tried to do, for the cause of God and of His Christ, and of their brother Christians, and of the truth of Christianity as it is in Jesus, ought to have rendered it impossible for any true Christian to use so base a weapon against them.
*** END OF CHAPTER VIII ***