« ÎnapoiContinuă »
ance with their professions, the influence might have been powerful for good, and the heathen forced to acknowledge the justice of their claims. But such not being the case, they were despised and hated, especially since those old pagans were accustomed to measure the power and greatness of the gods by the general condition and position of the people by whom they were served. The Jews however were, politically, a servile nation. Their government, and very existence even, were merged in the Roman empire, and had been merged before in other governments. Under such circumstances they lost nearly all influence, and were looked upon as deserted by their God, or as having a God that was powerless or careless. The Jews were especially hated by the neighboring nations, particularly the Egyptians; and in the eyes of the proud Roman, they were objects only of contempt. This hatred and contempt occasioned singular and even cruel stories of the origin and history of the Jews, as also very absurd and exaggerated ideas touching their religion and worship; and these, in their turn, contributed to increase the contempt of which the Jews were the unfortunate subjects. In the eyes of the polished and learned Greeks, they also suffered. Not because there was no learning among them, for there was much, such as it was, but because of their often uncouth manners and customs, and the lack of cultivation, on their part, of the arts so dear to the Grecian mind. On all sides, therefore, the Jews were the objects of contempt and hatred, and often of the most terrible persecutions. And they, in their turn, hated all the heathen, deeming them accursed of God, idolatrous, and blindly superstitious, whose end was, at last, to be destroyed and consumed from the face of the world.
Such was the general condition of the world, Jew and Gentile, at the dawn of Christianity. True religion, or whatever of truth in the shape of religion had come down through the ages, had been almost utterly crushed out, and was then dying or dead. The popular religions of the heathen had become superannuated, and had given place to general unbelief, or the most degrading superstition. The consequences were, the lowest depths of crime and the most appalling sensuality. Judaism had lost its spirituality, was sinking into a system of merely external forms, and the
Jewish people were giving free reins to all kinds of iniquity. It must have been, therefore, and the almost universal testimony of history is, that there was a longing on the part of all for something purer and better, in the form of a higher religion, to break upon the world. This was "the desire of nations." The heathen desired an end to their agitations. and dreads, and longed for inward peace, and for something to satisfy their moral natures. The Jews felt the emptiness of their mere ceremonies, and looked for something nobler. Still all were sinking lower and lower; for none knew what to look for, nor where; and despair seemed to be sitting upon every heart.
It cannot be said, that if it had been known what should break upon the world, in the person of Christ, the world would have received it. It did not, except here and there, and in special instances. And the reasons are obvious. None looked for it in the form in which it came. All were longing for it, however unconsciously, but in different ways. Among the Jews, the preventing causes were, national pride, earthly hopes of a Messiah, and habituation to an external system alone. Among the heathen, the obstacles were, unbelief in all supernaturalism, while yet they rested in abominable superstitions; the stain upon Judaism and the Jews, as it seemed to the heathen, which forbade their accepting aught coming from the Jews; political grounds, which, it was universally supposed, rendered it absolutely necessary to abide by the national religions; and the general learning among the philosophers, which was not willing to admit aught that could not be, or was not, developed out of philosophy, or the arts, or the general culture of the mind.
Nevertheless, the relation of the times to the coming Christianity was most favorable. Every possible system had been tried, weighed in the balance, and found wanting. Philosophy had been unable to lift up the soul, or reveal the mysteries of life and being. Culture had been found insufficient to satisfy the moral cravings of the heart. The arts and sciences had not been able to open the fearful mysteries of the hereafter-state. Amid all, and with all, were darkness, religious ignorance, vice, sensuality, sin and misery of every kind.
The universal desire for something higher and better than
the old systems, and the general favor with which aught coming from the East, in the name of religion, was met by the heathen, facilitated at least the introduction of Christianity among them; and the general expectation of a Messiah certainly prepared the way for attracting the attention of the Jews to Christ and his claims. Then, there was at that time an almost universal peace among the nations, which enabled the Saviour and his disciples to work, comparatively unmolested, in propagating the doctrines and ethics of the new and better faith.
The world was in darkness. By wisdom it knew not God. Naught heretofore had revealed God fully. Whatever pure knowledge the world had ever had of God, was lost, or covered up in Jewish formalism or Pagan rites and practices. Morally and religiously the whole world was in gloom. The waves of unbelief and guilt were rolling over it, and it was sinking into a night, apparently long, if not endless a night of moral degradation if not extinction. But God had not forgotten the world, nor did he fail in his mercy in this dark hour. He looked down from heaven, and found none that did good, or that sought after Him. He saw there was no eye to pity, and no arm to bring salvation. Then His own eye pitied, and His right arm brought deliverance. He sent his son Jesus Christ; and he came,"A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of the people Israel!"
A. ST. J. C.
Destruction of Soul and Body in Gehenna.
"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."-Matt. x. 28.
"Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell."-Luke xii. 4, 5.
THESE two passages are generally regarded by biblical writers, as the record which the two evangelists have given
of the same language of the Saviour. There is considerable difference in the phraseology of the two records; and in Matthew the passage appears to be a part of the Saviour's instructions to the twelve disciples, when he sent them forth to preach; while in Luke, it has no connection whatever with that occasion. From these two facts, it has been urged by some writers that these texts ought not to be treated as parallel passages, but as records of the language used by Jesus on different occasions. To this suggestion it is perhaps sufficient to reply: 1st. That parallel passages are seldom identical in language: and, 2d. That the different evangelists, when giving the same language of Jesus, do not always give the occasion upon which it was used. At first we might regard the difference between these passages as somewhat extraordinary, if they were intended only as a report of the same words; but a moment's reflection shows that the verbal difference involves no essential difference in the meaning. There are no other passages in the Bible at all resembling these; yet these are so very similar that no one obtains really different ideas from the two passages; and the language immediately succeeding these texts is as similar as the texts themselves. Doubtless, the Saviour may have used these forms of speech on different occasions, just as they are given by the evangelists; but we have no evidence that he did. It appears much more probable that the two passages are records of the same conversation, differing somewhat in phraseology, while preserving with sufficient fidelity the essential thought; given by Matthew in connection with the circumstances that attended their utterance, and by Luke without special regard to the occasion. So they are generally treated by the most judicious critics, and we see no good reason to dissent from them on this point.
If we decide that the passages are parallel, it follows of course that any correct exposition of one passage, is at the same time a correct exposition of the other. For if they are only slightly differing records of the same words of Jesus, we must not attempt to base any important doctrine upon the mere verbal difference of the record. So long as the pervading thought of both passages is unquestionably the same, there is no room to doubt that both writers have reported the Saviour's teachings with all desirable fidelity;
but whether either of them, and if either, which of them has given his precise language, we cannot tell. To make the verbal differences, therefore, the foundation of any important doctrine, would be to magnify those differences to a degree which the writers themselves never anticipated. Hence it follows that any interpretation, based upon the peculiar phraseology of one passage, rather than upon the pervading sentiment common to both, should be rejected as unsound. A true exposition, avoiding every thing that rests for support on the mere verbal difference of the texts, will contain only what is essential to both passages. Such an interpretation we hope to present in this article.
When, upon important subjects, we find ourselves compelled to differ widely from conclusions drawn by men of rich and varied attainments, sound judgment, and unbounded integrity, modesty would seem to require that we should state the grounds for our dissent, no less than the argument by which we justify our different conclusions; for when we prove the fallacy of other arguments, it by no means follows that ours are sound. A clown may detect a fault in a picture which only an artist can paint; and many a logician finds it much easier to discover flaws in the arguments of others, than to construct arguments without flaws.
We object, then, to the common interpretation of these passages, because, without the least attempt at proof, it assumes in the outset those very points upon which its most important conclusions rest-points that should be admitted only when proved beyond reasonable doubt. 1. It assumes that Gehenna-the word translated hell in both the passages under examination-means a place of endless suffering for those who pass away from this life in a state of unreconciliation to God; and 2. It assumes that, "to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna," as it is expressed by Matthew, or "to cast into Gehenna," as given by Luke, means to afflict the being, or person, thus dealt by, with sufferings that shall endure to all eternity. Thus, it will be seen, those who accept the common interpretation, do not attempt to prove the doctrine of endless suffering from these texts. They assume the truth of that doctrine to begin with; and then, upon the rack of exegesis, a confession is extorted from these passages in favor of the assumption. Instead of building up the doctrine by the rule of the text, they determine