The Hebrew Old Testament, some three
hundred years before the Christian era, was translated into Greek, but of the
sixty-four instances where Sheol occurs in the Hebrew, it is rendered Hadees
in the Greek sixty times, so that either word is the equivalent of the other.
But neither of these words is ever used in the Bible to signify punishment
after death, nor should the word Hell ever be used as the rendering of Sheol
or Hades for neither word denotes post-mortem torment. According to the Old
Testament the words Sheol, Hadees primarily signify only the place, or state
of the dead. The character of those who departed there did not affect their
situation in Sheol, for all went into the same state. The word cannot be
translated by the term Hell, for that would make Jacob expect to go to a place
of torment, and prove that the Savior of the world, David, Jonah, etc., were
once sufferers in the prison-house of the damned. In every instance in the Old
Testament, the word grave might be substituted for the term hell, either in a
literal or figurative sense. The word being a proper name should always have
been left untranslated. Had it been carried into the Greek Septuagint, and
then into the English, untranslated, Sheol, a world of misconception would
have been avoided, for when it is rendered Hades, all the materialism of the
heathen mythology is suggested to the mind, and when rendered Hell, the
medieval monstrosities of a Christianity corrupted by heathen adulterations is
suggested. Had the word been permitted to travel untranslated, no one would
give to it the meaning now so often applied to it. Sheol, primarily,
literally, the grave, or death, secondarily and figuratively the political,
social, moral or spiritual consequences of wickedness in the present world, is
the precise force of the term, wherever found.
Sheol occurs exactly sixty-four
times and is translated hell thirty-two times, pit three times, and grave
twenty-nine times. Dr. George Campbell, a celebrated critic, says that "Sheol
signifies the state of the dead in general, without regard to the goodness or
badness of the persons, their happiness or misery."
FIVE OLD TESTAMENT
Professor Stuart (orthodox
Congregational) only dares claim five out of the sixty-four passages as
affording any proof that the word means a place of punishment after death.
"These," he says, "may designate the future world of woe."
"They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to Sheol."
"The wicked shall be turned into Sheol, and all the nations that forget
God." "Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold of Sheol."
"But he knoweth that the ghosts are there, and that her guests are in the
depths of Sheol." "You shall beat him with a rod, and shall deliver
his soul from Sheol. He observes: "The meaning will be a good one, if we
suppose Sheol to designate future punishment." "I concede, to
interpret all the texts which exhibit Sheol as having reference merely to the
grave, is possible; and therefore it is possible to interpret" them
"as designating a death violent and premature, inflicted by the hand of
An examination shows that these five
passages agree with the rest in their meaning:
Ps. 9:17: "The wicked shall be
turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." The wicked here
are "the heathen," "mine enemies," i.e.; they are not
individuals, but "the nations that forget God," that is, neighboring
nations, the heathen. They will be turned into Sheol, death, die as nations,
for their wickedness. Individual sinners are not meant.
Professor Alexander, of the
Theological Seminary, Princeton, thus presents the correct translation of Ps.
9:17, the only passage containing the word usually quoted from the Old
Testament to convey the idea of post-mortem punishment. "The wicked shall
turn back, even to hell, to death or to the grave, all nations forgetful of
God. The enemies of God and of his people shall not only be thwarted and
repulsed, but driven to destruction, and that not merely individuals, but
nations." Dr. Allen, of Bowdoin College says of this text: "The
punishment expressed in this passage is cutting off from life, destroying from
the earth by some special judgment, and removing to the invisible state of the
dead. The Hebrew term translated hell in the text does not seem to mean, with
any certainty, anything more than the state of the dead in their deep
abode." Professor Stuart: "It means a violent and premature death
inflicted by the hand of heaven." Job 21:13: "They spend their days
in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave."
It would seem that no one could
claim this text as a threat of after-death punishment. It is a mere
declaration of sudden death. This is evident when we remember that it was
uttered to a people who, according to all authorities, believed in no
punishment after death.
Proverbs 5:5, "her feet go down
to death; her steps take hold on hell." This language, making death and
Sheol parallel, announces that the strange woman walks in paths of swift and
inevitable sorrow and death. And so does Prov. 9:18: "But he knoweth not
that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell."
Sheol is here used as a figure of emblem of the horrible condition and fate of
those who follow the ways of sin. They are dead while they live. They are
already in Sheol or the kingdom of death.
Proverbs 23:13-14, "Withhold
not correction from the child; for if you beat him with the rod, he shall not
die. You shall beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from
hell." Sheol is here used as the grave, to denote the death that
rebellious children experience early, or it may mean that moral condition of
the soul which Sheol, the realm of death signifies. But in no case is it
supposable that it means a place or condition of after-death punishment in
which, as all scholars agree, Solomon was not a believer.
MEANING OF THE WORD
The real meaning of the word
Stuart concedes to be the under-world, the religion of the dead, the grave,
the sepulcher, the region of ghosts or departed spirits. (Ex. Ess.): "It
was considered as a vast and wide dominion or region, of which the grave seems
to have been as it were only a part or a kind of entrance-way. It appears to
have been regarded as extending deep down into the earth, even to its lowest
abysses. . . . . In this boundless region lived and moved at times, the names
of departed friends."
But these five passages teach no
such doctrine as he thinks they may teach. The unrighteous possessor of wealth
goes down to death; the nations that forget God are destroyed as nations; lewd
women's steps lead downward to death; their guests are on the downward road;
the rod that wisely corrects the unruly child, saves him from the destruction
of sin. There is no hint of an endless hell, nor of a post-mortem hell in
these passages, and if not in these five then it is conceded it is in no
passage containing the word.
That the Hebrew Sheol never
designates a place of punishment in a future state of existence, we have the
testimony of the most learned of scholars, even among the so-called orthodox.
We quote the testimony of a few:
Rev. Dr. Whitby: "Sheol
throughout the Old Testament, signifies not a place of punishment for the
souls of bad men only, but the grave, or place of death."
Dr Chapman: "Sheol, in itself
considered has no connection with future punishment."
Dr. Allen: "The term Sheol
itself, does not seem to mean anything more than the state of the dead in
their dark abode."
Dr. Firbairn, of the College of
Glasgow: "Beyond doubt, Sheol, like Hades, was regarded as the abode
after death, alike of the good and the bad."
Edward Leigh, who says Horne's,
"Introduction," was "one of the most learned understanding of
the original languages of the Scriptures," observes that "all
learned Hebrew scholars know the Hebrews have no proper word for hell, as we
Prof. Stuart: "There can be no
reasonable doubt that Sheol does most generally mean the underworld, the grave
or sepulchre, the world of the dead. It is very clear that there are many
passages where no other meaning can reasonably be assigned to it. Accordingly,
our English translators have rendered the word Sheol grave in thirty instances
out of the whole sixty-four instances in which it occurs."
Dr. Thayer in his Theology of
Universalism quotes as follows: Dr. Whitby says that Hell "throughout the
Old Testament signifies the grave only or the place of death."
Archbishop Whately: "As for a
future state of retribution in another world, Moses said nothing to the
Israelites about that."
Milman says that Moses
"maintains a profound silence on the rewards and punishments of another
Bishop Warburton testifies that,
"In the Jewish Republic, both the rewards and punishments promised by
Heaven were temporal only-such as health, long life, peace, plenty and
dominion, etc., diseases, premature death, war, famine, want, subjections,
captivity, etc. And in no one place of the Mosaic Institutes is there the
least mention, or any intelligible hint, of the rewards and punishments of
Paley declares that the Mosaic
dispensation "dealt in temporal rewards and punishments. The blessings
consisted altogether of worldly benefits, and the curses of worldly
Prof. Mayer says, that "the
rewards promised the righteous, and the punishments threatened the wicked, are
such only as are awarded in the present state of being."
Jahn, whose work is the textbook of
the Andover Theological Seminary, says, "We have no authority, therefore,
decidedly to say, that any other motives were held out to the ancient Hebrews
to pursue good and avoid evil, than those which were derived from the rewards
and punishments of this life."
To the same important fact testify
Prof. Wines, Bush, Arnauld, and other distinguished theologians and scholars.
"All learned Hebrew scholars know that the Hebrews have no word proper
for hell, as we take hell."
[Footnote: Encyc. Britan., vol. 1. Dis. 3
Whateley's "Peculiarities of the Christian Religion," p.44, 2d
edition, and his "Scripture Revelations of a Future State," pp. 18,
19, American edition. MILMAN'S "Hist. of Jews," vol. 1, 117.
"Divine Legation," vol. 3, pp. 1, 2 & c. 10th London edition.
PALEY'S works, vol. 5. p. 110, Sermon 13. Jahn's "Archaeology," 324.
Lee, in his "Eschatology," says: "It should be remembered that
the rewards and punishments of the Mosaic Institutes were exclusively
temporal. Not an allusion is found, in the case of either individuals or
communities, in which reference is made to the good or evil of a future state
as motive to obedience."]
Dr. Muenscher, author of a Dogmatic
History in German, says: "The souls or shades of the dead wander in Sheol,
the realm or kingdom of death, an abode deep under the earth. There go all
men, without distinction, and hope for no return. There ceases all pain and
anguish; there reigns an unbroken silence; there all is powerless and still;
and even the praise of God is heard no more."
Von Coelln: "Sheol itself is
described as the house appointed for all living, which receives into its bosom
all mankind, without distinction of rank, wealth or moral character. It is
only in the mode of death, and not in the condition after death, that the good
are distinguished above the evil. The just, for instance, die in peace, and
are gently borne away before the evil comes; while a bitter death breaks the
wicked like as a tree."
Consult the passages in which
the word is rendered grave, and substitute the original word Sheol, and it
will be seen that the meaning is far better preserved: Gen. 37: 34-35:
"And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sack-cloth upon his loins, and
mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up
to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go
down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him."
It was not into the literal grave, but into the realm of the dead, where Jacob
supposed his son to have gone, into which he wished to go, namely, to Sheol.
Gen. 42:38 and 44: 31, are to the
same purport: "And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his
brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in
the which ye go, then shall you bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the
grave." "It shall come to pass, when he sees that the lad is not
with us, that he will die: and your servants shall bring down the gray hairs
of your servant our father with sorrow to the grave." The literal grave
may be meant here, but had Sheol remained untranslated, any reader would have
understood the sense intended.
I Samuel 2: 6: "The Lord kills,
and makes alive: he brings down to the grave, and brings up."
I Kings 2: 6-9: "Do therefore
according to your wisdom, and let not his old age (gray hair) go down to the
grave in peace. Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for you are a wise man,
and know what you ought to do unto him; but his old age bring down to the
grave with blood."
Job 7: 9: "As the cloud is
consumed and vanishes away: so he that goes down to the grave shall come up no
Job 14:13, "Oh that You would hide
me in the grave, that You would keep me secret, until Your wrath be past, that
You would appoint me a set time, and remember me."
Of Korah and his company, it is
said, "They and all that belonged to them, went down alive into the pit,
and the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the
congregation." - Num. 16:33.
Job 17:13-14, "If I wait, the
grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to
corruption, You are my father: to the worm, You are my mother, and my
Job 21:13, "They spend their days
in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave."
Job 33:21-22, "His flesh is
consumed away, that it cannot be seen: and his bones that were not seen stick
out. Then his soul draws near unto the grave, and his lie to the
Ps. 6:5, "In the grave who shall
give You thanks?"
Ps. 30:3, "O Lord, You have
brought up my soul from the grave: You have kept me alive, that I should not
go down to the pit."
Ps. 88:3, "For my soul is full of
troubles, and my soul draws near to the grave."
Prov. 1:12, "Let us swallow them
up alive as the grave.
"Ps. 20:3, "In the grave who shall
give thee thanks?"
Ps. 141:7, "Our bones are
scattered at the grave's mouth
."Song Sol. 8:6, "Jealousy is cruel
as the grave."
Ecc. 9:10, "There is no work, nor
device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you are going."
Isa. 38:18, "For the grave cannot
praise You, death cannot celebrate You, they that go down into the pit cannot
hope for Your truth."
Hos. 14:14, "I will ransom them
from the power of the grave-O grave, I will be your destruction."
Job 33:22, "His soul (man's) draws
near unto the grave."
I Kings 2:9, "But his old age you
bring down to the grave with blood."
Job 24: 19: "Drought and heat
consume the snow-waters; so does the grave those which have sinned."
Psalm 6:5, "For in death there is
no remembering You, in the grave who shall give You thanks."
Psalm 31:17, "Let the wicked be
ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave."
Psalm 89:48, "What man is he that
lives, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the
Prov. 30:16, "The grave; and the
barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that says
not, It is enough."
Isa. 14:11, "Your pomp is brought
down to the grave, and the noise of your violins; the worm is spread under
you, and the worms cover you."
In Isa. 38: 18: "For the Grave (Sheol,
Hades) cannot praise You; death cannot celebrate You; they that go down into
the pit cannot hope for Your truth."
Prof. Stuart says: "I regard
the simple meaning of this controversial place (and of others like it, e.g.,
Ps. 6:5; 30:9; 88:11; 115:7; Comp. 118: 17) as being this namely, "The
dead can no more give thanks to God nor celebrate his praise among the living
on earth, etc." And he properly observes (pp. 113-14): "It is to be
regretted that our English translation has given occasion to the remark that
those who made it have intended to impose on their readers in any case a sense
different from that of the original Hebrew. The inconsistency and irregularity
with which they have rendered the word Sheol even in cases of the same nature,
must obviously afford some apparent ground for this objection against their
version of it."
Why the word should have been
rendered grave and pit in the foregoing passages, and hell in the rest, cannot
be explained. Why it is not grave or hell, or better still Sheol or Hades in
all cases, no one can explain, for there is no valid reason.
The first time the word is
found translated Hell in the Bible is in Deut. 32:22-26, "For a fire is
kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest Hell, Sheol-Hades, and
shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of
the mountains. I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon
them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and
with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with
the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword without and terror within, shall
destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of
gray hairs. I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the
remembrance of them to cease from among men."
Thus the lowest Hell is on earth,
and its torments consist in such pains as are only possible in this life:
"hunger," "the teeth of beasts," "the poison of
serpents," "the sword," etc.; and not only are real offenders
to suffer them, but even "sucklings" are to be involved in the
calamity. If endless torment is denoted by the word, infant damnation follows,
for into this hell "the suckling and the man of gray hairs go," side
by side. The scattering and destruction of the Israelites, in this world, is
the meaning of fire in the lowest hell, as any reader can see by carefully
consulting the chapter containing this first instance of the use of the word.
Similar to this are the teachings
wherever the word occurs in the Old Testament:
"For You will not leave my
soul in Hell nor suffer Your holy one to see corruption." Ps. 16:10. Here
"corruption" is placed parallel with Sheol, or death.
"Though they dig into Hell,
then shall my hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, then will I
bring them down." Amos 9:2.
"If I ascend up into heaven, You
are there; if I make my bed in Hell, behold, You are there." Ps. 139:8.
"It is as high as heaven; what can
You do? deeper than Hell; what can You know." Job 11:8.
The sky and the depths of the earth are
here placed in opposition, to represent height and depth. A place of torment
after death was never thought of by any of those who use the word in the Old
If the word means a place of endless
punishment, then David was a monster. Ps. 55:15: "Let death seize upon
them, and let them go down quick into Sheol-Hades!"
Job desired to go there. 14:13:
"Oh, that You would hide me in Sheol-Hades.
Hezekiah expected to go there. - Isa
"I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of
Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers
16:30-33) not only went there "but their houses, and goods, and all that
they owned," "and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up,
and their houses, and all the men that belonged to Korah, and all their goods.
They, and all that belonged to them, went down alive into Sheol-Hadees, and
the earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the
It is in the dust - Job 17:16,
"They shall go down to the bars of Sheol-Hades, when our rest together
is in the dust."
It has a mouth, is in fact the
grave, see Ps. 141:7, "Our bones are scattered at Sheol's-Hades' mouth,
as when one cuts and cleaves wood upon the earth."
It has gray hairs, Gen. 42:38,
"And he said, my son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead,
and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in which ye go, then
shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol-Hades."
The overthrow of the King of Babylon
is called Hell.
Isa. 14:9-15, 22-23, "Hell, Sheol-Hades, from beneath is moved for you to meet you at your coming; it
stirs up the dead for you, even all the chief ones of the earth; it has raised
up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and
say unto you, are you also become weak as we? Are you become like unto us?
Your pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of your harps; the worm
is spread under you, and the worms cover you. For I will rise up against them
says the Lord of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and
son, and nephew, says the Lord. I will also make it a possession for the
wading bird, and pools of water; and I will sweep it with the broom of
destruction, says the Lord of hosts." All this imagery demonstrates
temporal calamity, a national overthrow as the signification of the word Hell.
The captivity of the Jews is called
Isa. 5:13-14, "Therefore my people
are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; and their honorable
men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Therefore Sheol-Hades, has enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure; and
their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoices, shall
descend into it.
Temporal overthrow is called Hell.
Ps. 49:14, "Like sheep they are
laid in the grave, death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have
dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in Sheol-Hades, from their dwelling."
Ezek. 32:26-27, "And they shall
not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone
down to Sheol-Hades with their weapons of war, and they have laid their
swords under their heads." Men are in hell with their swords under their
heads. This cannot mean a state of conscious suffering.
Hell is to be destroyed.
Hos. 13:14, "Oh grave I will be
I Cor. 15: 55: "Oh grave (Hades)
I will be your destruction."
Rev. 20:13,14, "And death
and Hell delivered up the dead which were in them, and death and Hell were
cast into the lake of fire."
Sheol is precisely the same word as
Saul. If it meant Hell, would any Hebrew parent have called his child Sheol?
Think of calling a boy
Nowhere in the Old Testament does
the word Sheol, or its Greek equivalent, Hades, ever denote a place or
condition of suffering after death; it either means literal death or temporal
calamity. This is clear as we consult the usage.
Hence David, after having been in
Hell was delivered from it:
Ps. 18:5; 30:3, "O Lord, You have
brought up my soul from the grave; You have kept me alive, that I should not
go down to the pit. When the waves of death compassed me the floods of ungodly
men made me afraid." "The sorrows of Hell, Sheol-Hades compassed me
about; the snares of death prevented me," so that there is escape from
Jonah was in a fish only seventy
hours, and declared he was in hell forever. He escaped from Hell.
Jon. 2:2, 6, "Out of the belly of
Hell (Sheol-Hades) I cried, and You heard my voice, earth with her bars was
about me forever."
Even an eternal Hell lasted but three
It is a place where God is and
therefore must be an instrumentality of mercy.
Ps. 139:8, "If I make my bed In
Hell (Sheol-Hadees), behold You are there."
Men having gone into it are redeemed
I Sam. 2:6, "The Lord kills and
makes alive, He brings down to the grave (Sheol-Hadees) and brings up."
Jacob wished to go there.
Gen. 37:35, "I will go down into
Sheol (the grave, Hades) unto my son mourning."
Besides the passages already
given, we now record all the other places in which the word Sheol-Hadees,
occurs. It is translated Hell in the following passages:
Ps. 86:13, "You have delivered my
soul from the lowest Hell."
Ps. 156:3, "The pains of Hell got
hold on me: I found trouble and sorrow."
Prov. 15:11, 24, "Hell and
destruction are before the Lord. The way of life is above to the wise, that he
may depart from Hell beneath."
Prov. 23:14, "You shall beat him,
and deliver his soul from Hell."
Prov. 27:20, "Hell and destruction
are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied."
Isa. 28:15, 18, "Because you have
said, We have made a covenant with death, and with Hell are we at agreement;
when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us:
for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves.
And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with
Hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then
you shall be trodden down by it."
Isaiah 57:9, "You did debase
yourself even unto hell."
Ezek. 31:16-17, "I made the
nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to Hell with
them that descend into the pit: and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best
of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of
the earth. They also went down into Hell with him, unto them that be slain
with the sword; and they that were his arm, that dwelled under his shadow in
the midst of the heathen."
Jonah 2:2 says, "Out of the belly
of Hell cried I, and You heard me."
Hab. 2:5, "Also because he is
transgressed by wine, he is a proud man who neither stays at home, who
enlarges his desire as Hell and is as death, and cannot be satisfied."
We believe we have recorded every
passage in which the word Sheol-Hades occurs. Suppose the original word
stood, and we read Sheol or Hades in all the passages instead of Hell, would
any unbiased reader regard the word as conveying the idea of a place or state
of endless torment after death, such as the English word Hell is so generally
supposed to denote? Such a doctrine was never held by the ancient Jews, until
after the Babylonish captivity, during which they acquired it of the heathen.
All scholars agree that Moses never taught it, and that it is not contained in
the Old Testament.
Thus not one of the sixty-four
passages containing the only word rendered Hell in the entire Old Testament,
teaches any such thought as is commonly supposed to be contained in the
English word Hell. It should have stood the proper name of the realm of death,
Men in the Bible are said to be in hell,
in "The lowest hell," while on earth. Deut. 32:22; Jon. 2:2; Rev. 6: 8.
Men have been in Hell, Sheol-Hades, and yet have escaped
from it. Ps. 18:5, 6; II Sam.; Jon 2:2; Ps. 116:3; 86:12-13. Ps. 30:3; Rev.
God delivers men from Hell, Sheol-Hades. I Sam. 2:6.
All men are to go there. No one can escape the Bible
Hell, Sheol-Hades. Ps. 89:48.
There can be no evil there for there is no kind of work
there. Eccl. 9:10.
Christ's soul was said to be in Hell,
No one in the Bible ever speaks of Hell,
a place of punishment after death.
It is a way of escape from punishment. Amos 9:2.
The inhabitants of Hell, Sheol-Hades are eaten of worms,
vanish and are consumed away. Job 7:9, 21; Ps.
Hell, Sheol-Hades is a place of rest. Job 17:16.
It is a realm of unconsciousness. Ps. 6:5;
All men will be delivered from this Hell.
Hell, Sheol-Hades, will be destroyed.
I Cor. 15:55; Rev. 20:14.
At the time these declarations were
made, and universally accepted by the Hebrews, the surrounding nations all
held entirely different doctrines. Egypt, Greece, Rome, taught that after
death there is a fate in store for the wicked that exactly resembles that
taught by so-called orthodox Christians. But the entire Old testament is
utterly silent on the subject, teaching nothing of the sort as the sixty-four
passages we have quoted show and as the critics of all churches admit. And yet
"Moses was learned in all the wisdom in all the wisdom of the
(Acts 7: 22) who believed in a world of
torment after death. If Moses knew all about this Egyptian doctrine, and did
not teach it to his followers, what is the unavoidable inference?
Dr. Strong says, that not only
Moses, but "every Israelite who came out of Egypt, must have been fully
acquainted with the universally recognized doctrine of future rewards and
punishments." And yet Moses is utterly silent on the subject.
Dr. Thayer remarks: "Is it
possible to imagine a more conclusive proof against the divine origin of the
doctrine? If he had believed it to be of God, if he had believed in endless
torments as the doom of the wicked after death, and had received this as a
revelation from heaven, could he have passed it over in silence? Would he have
dared to conceal it, or treat so terrible a subject with such marked contempt?
And what motive could he have had for doing this? I cannot conceive of a more
striking evidence of the fact that the doctrine is not of God. He knew whence
the monstrous dogma came, and he had seen enough of Egypt already, and would
have no more of her cruel superstitions; and so he casts this out, with her
abominable idolatries, as false and unclean things."
So that while the Old Testament
talks of ten thousand things of small importance, it has not a syllable nor a
whisper of what ought to have been told first of all and most of all and
continually. No one is said to have gone to such a place as is now denoted by
the word Hell, or to be going to it, or saved from it, or exposed to it. To
say that the Hell taught by partialist Christians existed before Christ, is to
accuse God of having permitted his children for four thousand years to tumble
into it by millions, without a word of warning from him. Earth was a flowery
path, concealing pitfalls into infinite burnings, and God never told one of
his children a word about it. For four thousand years then the race got on
with no knowledge of a place of torment after death. When was the fact first
made known? And if it was not necessary to the wickedest people the world ever
knew, when did it become necessary?
The future world as revealed in the
Old Testament is a conscious existence never described as a place or state of
punishment. Prof. Stuart well calls it "the region of darkness or ghosts.
It was considered as a vast and wide domain or region of which the grave was
only a part or a kind of entrance-way. It appears to have been regarded as
extending deep down into the earth, even to the lowest abysses. In this
boundless region lived and moved at times the manes (or ghosts) of departed
Bishop Lowth: "In the
under-world of the Hebrews there is something peculiarly grand and awful. It
was an immense region, a vast subterranean kingdom, involved in thick darkness
filled with deep valleys, and shut up with strong gates; and from it there was
no possibility of escape. There whole hosts of men went down at once; heroes
and armies with their trophies of victory; kings and their people were found
there where they had a shadowy sort of existence as manes or ghosts neither
entirely spiritual nor entirely material, engaged in the employments of their
earthly life though destitute of strength and physical substance." All
was shadowy and unreal beyond death until Christ came and brought immortality
to light through his Gospel.
Whitby on Acts 2:27, "That
Sheol throughout the Old Testament, and Hades in the Septuagint, answering to
it, signify not the place of punishment, or of the souls of bad men only, but
the grave only, or the place of death appears, first, from the root of it,
Sheol, which signifies to ask, to crave and require. Second, because it is the
place to which the good as well as the bad go, etc."
IDEAS OF HELL
During all the time that
generations following generations of Jews were entertaining the ideas taught
in these sixty-four passages, the surrounding heathen believed in future,
endless torment. The literature is full of it. Says Good in his "Book of
Nature": "It was believed in most countries 'that this Hell, Hades,
or invisible world, is divided into two very distinct and opposite regions, by
a broad and impassable gulf; that the one is a seat of happiness, a paradise
or elysium, and the other a seat of misery, a Gehenna or Tartarus; and that
there is a supreme magistrate and an impartial tribunal belonging to the
infernal shades, before which the ghosts must appear, and by which they are
sentenced to the one or the other, according to the deeds done in the body.
Egypt is said to have been the inventors of this important and valuable part
of the tradition; and undoubtedly it is to be found in the earliest records of
Egyptian history.' [It should be observed that Gehenna was not used
before Christ, or until 150 A. D. to denote a place of future
"Here in a lonely land, and
gloomy cells, The dusky nation of Cimmeria dwells; The sun ne'er views the
uncomfortable seats, When radiant he advances or retreats. Unhappy race!
whom endless night invades, Clouds the dull air, and wraps them round in
"The gates of Hell are open
night and day; Smooth the descent, and easy is the way." Just in the
gate, and in the jaws of Hell, Revengeful Cares and sullen Sorrows dwell,
And pale Diseases, and repining Age, Want, Fear, and Famine's unresisted
rage; Here Toils, and Death, and Death's half-brother Sleep Forms terrible
to view, their sentry keep; With anxious pleasures of a guilty mind, Deep
Frauds before, and open Force behind; The Furies' iron beds; and Strife,
that shakes Her hissing tresses, and unfolds her snakes. Full in the midst
of this infernal road, An elm displays her dusky arms abroad; -- The god of
sleep there bides his heavy head; And empty dreams on every leaf are spread.
Of various forms unnumbered spectres more, Centaurs, and double shapes,
besiege the door. Before the passage horrid Hydra stands, And Briarius with
his hundred hands; Gorgons, Geryon with his tripe frame; And vain Chimera
vomits empty flame."
Dr. Anthon says, "As regards the
analogy between the term Hades and our English word Hell, it may be remarked
that the latter, in its primitive signification, perfectly corresponded to the
former. For, at first, it denoted only what was secret or concealed; and it is
found, moreover, with little variation of form and precisely with the same
meaning in all the Teutonic dialects. The dead without distinction of good or
evil, age or rank, wander there conversing about their former state on earth;
they are unhappy and they feel their wretched state acutely. They have no
strength or power of body or mind. . . Nothing can be more gloomy and
comfortless than the whole aspect of the realm of Hadees, as pictured by
The heathen sages admit that they
invented the doctrine.
Says Polybius: "Since the
multitude is ever fickle, full of lawless desires, irrational passions and
violence, there is no other way to keep them in order but by the fear and
terror of the invisible world; on which account our ancestors seem to me to
have acted judiciously, when they contrived to bring into the popular belief
these notions of the gods, and of the infernal regions." B. vi. 56.
Strabo says: "The multitude are
restrained from vice by the punishments the gods are said to inflict upon
offenders, and by those terrors and threatenings which certain dreadful words
and monstrous forms imprint upon their minds. . . . For it is impossible to
govern the crowd of women, and all the common rabble, by philosophical
reasoning, and lead them to piety, holiness and virtue-but this must be done
by superstition, or the fear of the gods, by means of fables and wonders; for
the thunder, the aegis, the trident, the torches (Of the Furies), the dragons,
etc., are all fables, as is also all the ancient theology." Geo. B. I.
Seneca says: "Those things which make the infernal regions terrible, the
darkness, the prison, the river of flaming fire, the judgment-seat, etc., are
all a fable, with which the poets amuse themselves, and by them agitate us
with vain terrors." How near these superstitious horrors--these heathen