Mercy And Judgment by Canon F.W. Farrar
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MERCY AND JUDGMENT
PRINCIPLES OF SCRIPTURE EXEGESIS.
"I will trust in the mercy of God for ever, and beyond" (le-olam vaed). — Ps. lii. 8.
"What is man, and whereto serveth he? What is his good, and what is his evil? The number of man's days at the most are a hundred years. As a drop of water unto the sea, and a gravel stone in comparison of the sand; so are a thousand years to the days of eternity. Therefore is God patient with them, and poureth forth His mercy upon them. He saw and perceived their end to be evil, therefore He multiplied His compassion." — ECCLUS. xviii. 8-12.
"Christo dedit Pater omne judicium. Poterit ergo te ille damnare quem redemit a morte, pro quo se obtulit, cujus istam suae mortis mercem esse cognoscit? Nonne dicet quae utilitas in sanguine meo, si damno quem ipse salvavi? Deinde consideras Judicem, non consideras Advocatum? Potest ille severiorem ferre sententiam qui interpellare non desinit, ut paternae reconciliationis in nos conferatur gratis." — ST. AMBROS. De Jacob. Et Vit. Beat. I.
"We all are aware that by means of the acumen of later times many things both from the Gospels and the other Scriptures are now more clearly developed and more exactly understood than they once were; whether it was that the ice was not yet broken by the ancient, and their times were unequal to the task of accurately sounding the open sea of Scripture, or that it will ever be possible in so extensive a field, let the reapers be ever so skilful, to glean somewhere after them. For there are even now a great number of obscure passages in the Gospel, which I doubt not posterity will understand much better." — CARDINAL FISHER, Bishop of Rochester , Assert. Luther. Confut. 18.
"Our whole nature leads us to ascribe all moral perfection to God, and to deny all imperfection in Him. And this will be for ever a practical proof of His moral character to such as will consider what practical proof is, because it is the voice of God speaking to us." — BISHOP BUTLER.
"Reason is the only faculty by which we have to judge of anything, even of revelation itself." — BISHOP BUTLER.
"Many have imbibed the unhappy prejudice that our public version is so accurate and unexceptionable, and so faithful a transcript, as to suspend all labour employed this way." — BENNET, Olam Haneshamoth, p. 15.
"The Bible has fallen much into the hands of those who imagine that a few favourite 'texts' will suffice to prove that Omnipotence is on the wide of the most extravagant theologies. The world has already suffered too much from systems founded on a few wrested quotations to allow of much reticence in repudiating these hermeneutical methods." — REV. E. WHITE, Life of Christ, p. 348.
"1. God's Word must be interpreted as consistent with itself.
"2. It must be interpreted as consistent with His own character.
"3. It must be interpreted as consistent with reason and moral institution." — G. HILL.
"The evidence accompanying the popular interpretation [of the doctrine of eternal suffering] is by no means to be compared to that which establishes our common Christianity, and therefore the fate of the Christian religion is not to be considered as implicated in the belief or disbelief of the popular doctrine." — ROBERT HALL, Works, v. 529.
"The laws of men are but the injunctions of mortality; but what the heart prompts is the voice from Heaven within us." — SIR WALTER SCOTT, Fortunes of Nigel.
"La Charite, qui sait tout oblier des homes, et tout esperer de Dieu." — OZANAM, Poetes Francisc. p. 427.
"I scarcely ever met with a person who did not give me the impression that he held his creed under the law; referring to particular texts, but not to a spirit, apparently not even seeing the desirableness of it." — Letters of Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, p. 25.
Before I once again examine what Scripture has to reveal to us respecting the doctrine of future retribution, it will be necessary to make a few preliminary remarks.
The first and most general applies to that whole system which sways my view of the faith of Christ. If, as has been said, there are two systems of religious doctrine, in one of which "sin" is the central thought; "terror" the motive power; "personal salvation," the object: - and in the other, "God as revealed in Christ," the center; "the goodness of God" the motive power; "the restoration of His scattered children to Him" the object, - then I think that the former may be taken to represent much of the popular theology and the latter the Gospel of Christ. The result of the former is too apt to be a hard and loveless religionism: the latter may, by God's grace, develop the spiritual mind.
There are many who make the text, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Cor. V.II), the keynote of their religion and their preaching. That "text" like most of the others adduced for a similar purpose, is mistranslated and most e greg iously misapplied. It does not so much as touch on the outermost sphere of the subject which we have been examining. The context almost demonstrates its meaning to be simply this — "knowing that the fear of God is the principle of my own life, I try to persuade you that it is so, and that I am no hypocrite; my sincerity is known to God, and I strive to make known to you."
The outline of the revelation of God which polarizes my own thoughts is very different from that which uses terror as an object of persuasion. It is that God is love; that the object of true religion is to be like Him; that destruction is the falling from that foundation and failure of that end; that salvation is the deliverance from that error and from that sin; and that God the Saviour is manifested in the name of Jesus because He saves His people from their sins.*(1)
*(1) See On Truth and Error, by J. Hamilton of St. Ernan's, p. 22.
These are the impressions which I have learnt from the teaching of God in Scripture and in life, and there is nothing in the Bible which militates against them if it be interpreted in accordance with the following axioms.
1. The authority of Scripture must not be confounded with the wholly unauthoritative and sometimes strangely mistaken inferences which even for centuries together have been deduced from it by fallible men.
2. No Scripture is of "private interpretation". It can only be interpreted by the known rules of human language, and by the acknowledged laws of philological and historic criticism.
3. The true meaning of the words of Scripture has been, to an almost incredible extent, confused by the meaning which those words have gradually acquired. They have been taken to imply not what they really mean, but what, to the minds of modern readers, they erroneously connote. It is assumed that "they cover the whole extent of the meaning which to the reader himself they have come to imply." They are quoted as decisive about controversies with which in their exact and original meaning they have not so much as the most distant connexion. If I say of a man that he was "another Cromwell," I may mean either that he was a great and glorious ruler, or that he was an ambitious and fanatical hypocrite, according as I adopt one or other view of Cromwell's character. It would be preposterous for a reader to say that I must necessarily mean that the man whom I thus compare with Cromwell was a fanatical hypocrite, simply because he takes that view of Cromwell's character. My meaning could only be discovered either from the context or from some other statement of mine respecting Cromwell's character. Yet in Scriptural arguments words and phrases are quoted as decisive, of which the asserted meaning is resolutely disputed and even disproved.
4. The meaning of Scripture must be determined by its whole drift and tenour, and not by picking out of it a few isolated passages to be tessellated into systems to which they were long anterior. "A text," says a writer in the Church Quarterly (July, 1871), "may be made to mean anything or nothing according to the prepossessions with which the interpreter approaches it. But problems like this must be measured by wider considerations — theological considerations based on the great facts of nature and revelation." It is the neglect of this principle which has given rise to the bitter but not undeserved epigram —
"Hic liber est in quo quaerit sua dogmata quisque,
Invenit et pariter dogmata quisque sua."
I will make a few remarks on these axioms.
1. We must discriminate between the teaching of Scripture and the fallible inferences which have been drawn from Scripture. Can there be any more conspicuous proof of the unauthoritative character of such inferences than the immense diversity of the theological systems deduced from Scripture exclusively by men of the most entire honesty and learning?
Let me, by way of illustration, show the danger which must arise from pressing into the service of theology the details of parables. This has been done to a very large extent in treating of eschatology. Unlimited inferences have, for instance, been drawn from the Parable of Dives and Lazarus, regardless of the fact that  that it is not only a parable, but also full of metaphoric language;  that the tremendous inferences built upon its symbols must at least be modified by other inferences equally valid; and  above all that Dives is in the Intermediate, not in the Final State.
Or, if we need any proof that "parabolic theology is not demonstrative,"*(1) let us take the parable of the Unjust Steward. One plain and inestimable lesson of that parable, the need of an active energy and a heavenly wisdom in using the things of earth so as thereby to be helped, not hindered, in winning the things eternal — lies plainly upon its surface. But when commentators come to explain the details of the parable scarcely any two of them agree. Thus the Unjust Steward has been taken by different commentators to mean the Pharisees, the Publicans, Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Satan, the Apostle Paul*(2), and even the blessed Lord Himself!*(3)
*(1) "Omnes sensus Scripturae fundantur super unum sensum litteralem, ex quo solo potest trahi argumentum, non autem ex iis quae secundum allegoriam dicuntur." — THOS. AQUIN. Summa, i. Qu. i. Art. x.
*(2) Theophilus of Antioch (? Jer. ad Algas. Ep. 121).
Again, if we look at single passages, the instance furnished by Gal. iii. 19, 20, will show us how little we can rely on inferential exegesis. There is in that passage no insuperable difficulty, yet there have been "upwards of three hundred" different interpretations of it!
Sometimes a single word has been most objectionably pressed by inference into the complete system. Such is the word "ransom." Our deliverance from sin and death by the death of Christ is called in Scripture "a ransom," because we were thereby set free from bondage. But when men began to speculate on the word and to draw all sorts of inferences from it, there rose the whole forensic scheme of redemption, and for nearly a thousand years, - roughly speaking from Origen to Anselm, - the notion prevailed that the ransom was paid by Christ to Satan — a notion thoroughly Manichaean and absolutely unscriptural, involving, as Anselm pointed out, a recognition by the All Good and the All Merciful that evil and injustice had established a right to exist in the universe which He had made.*(1)
*(1) See Oxenham, Catholic Eschatology, p. 167.
2. It should be self-evident that since "the law speaks in the tongue of the sons of men" Scripture can only be interpreted in accordance with the significance of language ascertained by human thought and study. The inner depths of the truths which its words convey can indeed only be brought home to the soul by the work of the Holy Spirit; but the Holy Spirit does not inspire a supernatural knowledge of the laws of grammar, nor of the historic circumstances and national idioms which determine the meaning of the sacred writers. The intuition of a saint may enable him to see more deeply into the spiritual force of a passage than the erudition of a scholar, but the commentaries of many saints show that no amount of spiritual insight could save them from complete misapprehension as to the significance of thousands of words and of hundreds of texts. Spiritual knowledge is one thing; biblical criticism is another. About the great main truths of Christianity all Christians agreed. They are plain and indisputable. The wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein. He who runs may read them. But spiritual attainments, as has been proved by innumerable instances, do not protect a man from the adoption, and even the intolerant maintenance, of pernicious error in disputable matters. Cartwright, the leader of the Presbyterians in the days of Queen Elizabeth, was a good man, yet he said that heretics ought to be burned even after repentance, and that "if this was extreme and bloody, he was content to be so counted with the Holy Ghost." Cardinal Borromeo, who in the plague at Milan tended the sick with the assiduity of a saint, afterwards persecuted heretics with the fury of an inquisitor. Calvin's holiness did not save him form polluting the pure stream of Gospel truth by the influxes of a remorseless logic which led him to conclusions utterly revolting to the moral sense. John Wesley was a man worthy of the utmost admiration, yet he said that to cease to believe in witches was to give up the authority of the Bible.*(1)
*(1) See this subject, on which I can here only touch, a little more fully illustrated in two papers of mine on "Wresting the Scriptures," in the Expositor for 1880.
3. Scripture must be interpreted in accordance with the original meaning of the terms which it employs. The tyranny of words exists as much in the language of theology as in every other branch of human study. It would be easy to mention words which have exercised a deadly influence in obstructing progress and knowledge, because they carry with them a train of associations which they have gradually acquired, but which do not properly belong to them*(1). It is hardly possible to exaggerate the consequences which are traceable throughout history as having resulted from single expressions. Consider the effects produced on the Saxons by the word niedrig; on the French by the word gloire; on many nations by the simple onomatopoeia barbarian; on philosophy by the use of the word "attraction"; on our Indian government by the misapplication of the word "landed proprietor." All these, besides multitudes of theological terms, are instances of those "rabble-charming words" which, as South says, "have so much wild-fire wrapped up in them." Consider again the marvelous correlation of language and national morality. There is "a besetting intoxication which this verbal magic, if I may so call it, brings upon the mind of men…Words are able to persuade men out of what they find and feel, to reverse the very impressions of sense, and to amuse them with fancies and paradoxes even in spite of nature and experience. He who shall duly consider these matters shall find that there is a certain bewitching or fascination in words which makes them operate with a force beyond what we can naturally give account of."*(2)
*(1) "Illam dumtaxat Scripturarum interpretationem pro orthodoxa et genuine agnoscimus quae ex ipsis petita Scripturis (ex ingenio utique ejus linguae in qua sunt scripta, secundum circumstantias item expensa, et pro ratione locorum vel similium vel dissimilium plurimorum quoque et clariorum exposita) cum regula fidei et charitatis congruent, et ad gloriam Dei, hominumque salutem eximie faciunt." — BULLINGER, Conf. Helvet. ii. 2.
*(2) South's Sermons. See my Language and Languages, p. 244.
4. The fourth axiom, - that Scripture must be understood and interpreted as a whole, and not by its isolated and uncertain expressions, - is too self-evident to need further remark.
The application of these axioms bears directly on the subject before us.
 It is a matter of simple demonstration that the words which are prevalent in Christian eschatology have exercised for centuries an influence which does not belong to them. They have acquired meanings which were not their original meanings, and which now convey impressions entirely alien from their true significance.
Such, for instance, is the word "damnation".
The words "damn" and its derivatives do not once occur in the Old Testament. In the New Testament they are the exceptional and arbitrary translation of two Greek verbs or their derivatives, which occur 308 times.*(1) These words are apollumi and krino. Apoleia, "destruction," or "waste," is once rendered "damnation" (2 Pet. Ii. 3), and once "damnable" (2 Pet. Ii. I); krino, "judge," occurs 114 times, and is only once rendered "damned" (2 Thess. Ii. 12). Krima, "judgment," or "sentence," occurs 24 times, and is 7 times rendered "damnation." Krisis, "judging," occurs 49 times, and is 3 times rendered "damnation." Katakrino, "I condemn," occurs 24 times, and is twice only rendered "be damned."
*(1) See Eternity in Concordance of Texts, p. 75 (Bagster's).
Now turn to a modern dictionary, and you will see "damnation" defined as "exclusion from divine mercy; condemnation to eternal punishment.' In common usage the word has no other sense.
But to say that such is the necessary meaning of the words which are rendered by "damn" and "damnation," is to say what is absurdly and even wickedly false. It is to say that a young widow who marries again must be damned to endless torments (I Tim. v. 12, "having damnation," krima), although St. Paul expressly recommends young widows to do so two verses later on. It is to say that every one who ever eats the Lord's Supper unworthily, eats and drinks "eternal punishment" to himself, though St. Paul adds, almost in the next verse, that the judgment (krima) is disciplinary or educational ( paideuomeqa) to save us from condemnation ( ina mh katakriqwmen , I Cor. xi. 29-12). It is to say that "the Day of Judgment" ought to be called "the Day of Damnation" (John v. 29). It is curious that our translators have chosen this most unfortunate variation of "damn" and its cognates only fifteen times out of upwards of two hundred times that krino and its cognates occur; and that they have used it for krisis and krima, not for the stronger compounds katakrima, &c. The translators, however, may not be to blame. It is probable that "damn" was once a milder word than condemn, and had a far milder meaning than that which modern eschatology has furnished to modern blasphemy. We find from an Act passed when a John Russell was Chancellor (in the reign of Richard III. or Henry VII.), that the sanction of an Act against extorted benevolences is called "a damnation" — that is, "the infliction of a loss."*(1) This is the true etymological meaning of the word, as derived from damnum, "a loss"; and this original meaning is still found in such words as "damnify," "indemnify," and "indemnity." In the margin of I Cor. xi. 29, we find "judgment" for "damnation"; whereas in verse 32 the "judgment" of the Lord is milder than His "condemnation." Dr. Hey, in his lecture on the Ninth Article, thinks that the phrase, "it deserveth God's wrath and damnation," is used in the milder sense of the word which was originally prevalent. However this may be, the word has, as the Bishop of Chester says, undergone a modification of meaning from the lapse of time, and it is an unmixed gain that both it and its congeners will wholly disappear from the revised version of the English Bible. "Judgment" and "condemnation" are the true representatives of Krisis and Katakrisis, and they are not steeped, like the word "damnation," in a mass of associated conceptions which do not naturally or properly belong to them.
*(1) See Campbell's Lives of the Lord Chancellors, l.c.
 Equally unfortunate is the word "hell".
It is unfortunate because, though its original meaning was harmless, it has now acquired the deadliest conceivable significance. Archbishop Usher, in his Answer to a Jesuit, tells us that (since helan meant "to cover,") to "hell the head" used to mean "to put on a hat," and a "hellier" meant a "slater." It was the name given to the place under the Exchequer Chambers where the king's debtors were confined. It was used also for the place where a tailor flung his shreds.
It is unfortunate because it has acquired a sense of endlessness which is not once predicated either of Sheol, or Hades, or (as we have already partly seen, and shall further see), of Gehenna. It is a fact, which any reader can at any time verify for himself, that duration of time is never so much as mentioned in the Bible in connection with Sheol or Hades; and if he be a candid seeker after truth, he can soon learn by study that it is neither predicated of Gehenna, nor formed any part of the normal Jewish conception of that metaphorical word.
It is unfortunate because it is used to render the three wholly different words — Sheol or Hades, Gehenna, and (in one place) Tartarus (2 Pet. ii. 4).
a. It is used for Sheol in such passages as "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," Ps. xvi. 10 (i.e. Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Sheol, the dim underworld or abode of the dead — Acts ii. 27-31). In such a passage as this there is no more reason to render Sheol by hell than there would be in Gen. xxxvii. 35, to read "I will go down into hell, unto my son, mourning." The mistranslation, preserved in the article of the Creed, "He descended into hell," probably fixes in many minds the grievous error that our Blessed Lord endured (as some have actually asserted) the sufferings of the lost.
Sheol occurs in the Old Testament sixty-five times; is rendered "hell" thirty-one times; "grave" thirty-one times; and "pit" three times. It seems to be akin to [please insert the Hebrew text here from book], "hollow of the hand," the outside of the world being regarded as a somewhat bent hand, the covered inside of the hand being Sheol. Yet can any words be more widely separated in their associations than the words "grave" and "hell" — the former word calling up images of rest and peace, the latter of endless and intolerable anguish?
It is profoundly unsatisfactory that ordinary readers should be at the mercy of a caprice which can thus use a word of such tremendous associations, or can substitute for it a word so mild and colourless as "the grave," and that without so much as assigning a reason. "Sheol," says the learned author of Olam Haneschamoth, "is a term as opposite to hell as light is to darkness." It ought to be rendered always either Sheol or "the under-world."
b. It is used for Hades.*(1) That word occurs in the New Testament eleven times, and in ten of them is rendered "hell." In no one of the eleven does it mean "hell."*(2) In Luke xvi. 23, the rendering "in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments," has led to multitudes of false inferences, which are at once dissipated when we render the verse "in Hades."
*(1) Hades, "the grave," the region of the dead, though it is the exact equivalent of Sheol, is only once rendered by "grave," I Cor. xv. 55. It is certainly not derived from a and Gid, "the unseen," as the aspirate shows. Whether it is (by antiphrasis) connected with andanw eadon may be doubted. Perhaps it may have some connection with the Hebrew [insert the Hebrew text from the book here], ad. The Assyrian Bit-edi=House of Eternity (?).
*(2) See Matt. xi. 23; xvi. 18; Luke x. 15; xvi. 23; Acts, ii. 27, 31; Rev. i. 18; vi. 8; xx. 13, 14.
There are many other passages where the use of "hell" for "Hades" leads to dangerously false conclusions. Our translators might have been aware that it would do so. In I Cor. xv. 55 they would not venture to render the clause by "O hell, where is thy victory?" (though in every other instance they render "Hades" by "hell") because, by their day the word had begun to acquire its darkest shades of meaning, and they knew too well that if the word "hell" be used in its popular conception, its victory over the human race has been final and terrible indeed.
In estimating the sense which the word "Hades" conveyed to the Jewish mind, it must not be forgotten that Philo defined the retributive Hades to mean simply the life of the wicked.*(1)
*(1) O pro s alhqeian Adh s (which he contrasts with o unqeuomeno s) o tou mocqhrou bio s estin. - PHILO.
g. "Hell is used in rendering the verb "to plunge in Tartarus" in 2 Pet. ii. 4, where it is no less unsuitable, because St. Peter is expressly referring to a temporary, not an endless state, in which "the angels who sinned" are "reserved for judgment." Seeing the licence of theological inference, and the way in which whole systems are built like inverted pyramids on isolated expressions, it is astonishing that some have not argued from St. Peter's mention of Tartarus that the stories of Ixion, Tantalus, and Sisyphus must be true. The inference would be quite as secure and quite as logical as many of those which have contributed to the mediaeval conception.
d. "Hell" is used for Gehenna twelve times. Now, in endeavouring to discover the meaning of this word, I will simply ask the reader to observe these plain facts: -
- The word means Valley of Hinnom, or, as it is sometimes called, of the son or sons of Himmon.
- The Valley of Hinnom is mentioned thirteen times in the Old Testament.
- In no one of those thirteen passages does it mean "hell."
Five times it is used of a valley outside of Jerusalem which in ancient days had been, and in subsequent ages again became, "the pleasant valley of Hinnom" (Josh. xv. 8, bis; xviii. 16, bis; Nehem. xi. 30).
Three times it is mentioned as having been defiled by the burning of human beings alive in the Moloch worship of Ahaz and Manasseh (2 Chron. xxviii. 3; xxxiii. 6; 2 Kings, xxiii. 10).
Five times in connection with God's wrath against the abomination of cruelly burning human beings and especially infants, with fire; of which He expresses His abhorrence as a thing "which never came into His mind" (Jer. vii. 31, 32; xix. 1-15; xxxii. 35). In two of these passages it is spoken of as a place of carcases.*(1)
*(1) It may be alluded to in Is. xxx. 33, as a place where the bodies of the Assyrians were to be burnt; but "Topheth" may there mean merely "a burning-place," or place for funeral pyres. The word Gehenna does not occur in the Apocrypha.
d. In the New Testament Gehenna is alluded to by our Lord seven times in St. Matthew (v. 22, 29, 30; x. 28; xviii. 9; xxiii. 15, 33); three times in St. Mark; once in St. Luke (xii. 5); once in St. James (iii. 6). In not one of these passages is it called "endless." The only possible inducement to attach such a notion to it is the addition in Mark ix. 43 of "the quenchless fire and deathless worm," expressions purely metaphorical and directly borrowed from a metaphor of Isaiah respecting earthly consequences. Seven of the ten allusions to Gehenna come out of one single passage of one single discourse (Matt. v. repeated partly in Matt. xviii., Mark ix.), and it is extremely questionable whether in all seven the primary allusion is not to an earthly Jewish punishment.*(1)
*(1) Thus Schleusner, s. v. Geenna (thought he holds the old views), says that it also meant "quaevis gravissimae poenae et maxime contumeliosa mortis genera." He renders "a son of Gehenna" (Matt. xxiii. 15), by "worthy of the severest punishments"; and "shall be liable to the Gehenna of fire" (Matt. v. 22), by "worthy of a disgraceful death." The ordinary account of Gehenna as a place defiled by Moloch worship, then made the common cesspool of the city, and purified by huge fires, appears to rest solely on the authority of Rabbi David Kimchi on 2 Kings xxiii. 10 and Ps. xxvii. 13, and Rabbi Elias in Thishbi, f. 14, 2 (Stehelin, ii. 31). It is at least open to question whether the metaphorical meaning of the name may not have been derived from some gaseous exhalation which led many to imagine that in that valley lay one of the "mouths of hell." The current belief that Gehenna, in common Jewish opinion, ended in annihilation for the worst offenders, was pointed out long ago by Bentley, in the first sermon of his Boyle Lectures. He says that the learnedest doctors among the Jews "have esteemed it (extinction) the most dreadful of all punishments, and have assigned it for the portion of the blackest criminals of the damned, so interpreting Tophet, Abaddon, &c., for final extinction and deprivation of living." For a full account of all that can be learnt about the origen of the name Gehenna, &c., see Bottcher, De Inferis, pp. 81-85; Carpzov, Apparat. Crit. P. 484, sq.; Glass, Philolog. Sacr. p. 806, sq. It is at least a possible conjecture that the name means "the valley of wailing." Its seven names (Jon. ii. 2; Ps. lxxxviii. II; xvi. 2; xl. 2; cvii. 14, &c.) are mentioned in Eruvin, f. 19, I. The notion of refrigeria (see supra, p. 282) and progressive mitigation is clearly expressed in the Talmud, Jalkuth Tehillin, 84 (Hershon's Talmudic Miscellany, p. 313). "Rabbi Jochanan said the praises of God which ascend from Gehenna are more than those which ascend from Paradise."
The other references are of the most general description. The word does not occur once in all the thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, and Hades only once, though he had declared to his converts "the whole counsel of God." Nor does it occur once in the pages of him who leaned on the Lord's bosom; nor in the Epistle to the Hebrews; nor in the Epistles of the Chief of the Apostles.
Origen, one of the few Fathers who studied Hebrew for the express purpose of interpreting Scripture, tells us that he had found by inquiry what the Jews really meant by Gehenna; and that Celsus and others (like most men now) talked of it with no knowledge of its real significance. Besides its primary meaning of the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem, it had come, he said, to acquire the secondary meaning of a purificatory punishment. There he stops short with a mysterious remark that "he does not think it wise to dwell any further on his discoveries." It is impossible to doubt that he had discovered that normally the Jews did not apply the word to an endless but to a terminable punishment — terminable partly by deliverance from it, partly by extinction of sentient life. It was in accordance with Origen's avowed use of "oeconomy" in treating of the subject, that in a popular book he should have kept his discovery in the background. Then, as now, there were men who regarded popular misconceptions as too useful to correct.*(1)
*(1) Orig. c. Cels. vi. 25.
Here then are three words of which the first and commonest (Sheol, Hades) does not necessarily imply a place of punishment at all; and of which all three are demonstrably used to describe an intermediate and normally terminable condition. And yet they are indiscriminately rendered by one word which is normally taken to mean endless torture in material flames!
Well may the Bishop of Chester *(1) remark that "the confusion of Hades with Gehenna," as well as the change of meaning in the word "damnation," "must be allowed to go some way towards justifying a desire for further revision."
*(1) Charge, p. 30.
"Still greater misunderstanding arises," says the Bishop of Durham, "from translating Hades, the place of departed spirits, and Gehenna, the place of fire and torment, by the same word hell, and thus confusing two ideas wholly distinct. In such passages as Acts ii. 27, 31, the misconception thus created is very serious."*(1)
*(1) On Revision, p. 79.
"We find the Roman Catholic hell," says Dr. Ernest Petavel, "still filled with the tortures belonging to a barbarous age, - red-hot gridirons, boiling cauldrons of lead and brimstone, a pestilential atmosphere, and a multitude of horned and cloven-footed demons, who…pursue the damned, inflicting upon them untold torments…We have rejected these monstrous fables, but have unfortunately preserved a word which recalls them and which confuses the popular imagination by its constant misuse. It is the word hell, which the sacred writers never use in the sense which is generally given to it."*(1)
*(1) The Struggle for Eternal Life, p. 20
That a word so misleading should still be retained in the Revised Version is an error which I cannot but fear that another generation will severely censure. Quite apart from controversy, it seems to me perfectly indefensible to render a word, of which it is to the last degree important that we should form a right conception, by another word of which the equivalence is even disputable. I say this not as a matter of doctrine, but as a matter of criticism. Even for us who believe that souls may pass into endless loss, the word hell is irrevocably mingled with masses of false, superstitious, and unscriptural fancies. Our revisers, by seeming to sanction the error that the words Gehenna and Hell are accurate equivalents perpetuate misconceptions which are more dangers than any others to the general acceptance of the Gospel of Christ. If they had rendered "Gehenna" by "Gehenna" they would have been responsible for nothing. They would have followed a divine and unerring example. It cannot be otherwise than dangerous to diverge from the example which made the Apostles and our blessed Lord Himself keep a Hebrew technical term in its Hebrew technical form.*(1)
*(1) See supra, pp. 184, 215.
 Still more unfortunate and misleading is the variant rendering of aionios, now by "eternal," now by "everlasting."
It must be indeed a hopeless prejudice — a blindness which can be regarded as little short of penal — which refuses to see that aionios does not necessarily mean endless.
Aion, Hebrew olam, means properly "an age," an indefinite period, long or short. The phrases which are asserted to imply endlessness are again and again used of things which have long since ceased to be.*(1) If aion meant "eternity," how came it to have a plural ( aiwne s , olamim)?*(2) and how came the Jews to talk of "for ever and beyond"? The latter expression alone was decisive to the clear mind of Origen. He says that the authority of Holy Scripture taught him that the word rendered "eternity" meant "limited duration."*(3)
*(1) The Passover sprinkling, Ex. xii. 24; the Aaronic priesthood, &c., Ex. xxix. 9; xxxii. 13; xl. 15; Lev. iii. 17; Num. xviii. 19; the inheritance of Caleb, Josh. xiv. 9; Solomon's temple, I Kings viii. 12, 13; the smoke of Edom, Is. xxxiv. 9, 10. (Comp. Gen. xvii. 8; xlix. 26; 2 Sam. vii. 16; Deut. xiii. 16; xv. 17; 2 Kings v. 27; xxi. 7; I Chr. xxviii. 4.) To take but one or two books, combinations of Olam (which is rendered by aiwn 439 times in the LXX.) occur in Exodus at least twelve times out of fourteen of things which have passed away; in Leviticus twenty-four times, always of things which have come to an end; in Numbers ten times; in Deuteronomy about ten times out of twelve; and so on throughout the Old Testament. If the word were used but once in a finite sense it would be enough, but the fact is that it is so used repeatedly, and more often than not.
*(2) This plural occurs thirteen times.
*(3) Orig. De Princip. ii. 3, 5.
Since aion meant "an age," aionios means properly "belonging to an age," or "age long"; and any one who asserts that it must always mean "endless" defends a position which even Augustine practically abandoned twelve centuries ago.*(1) Even if aion always meant "eternity" — which is not the case either in classic or Hellenistic Greek — aionios could still only mean "belonging to eternity," not "lasting through it." Aionios does not even mean "endless within the sphere of its own existence." For in Deut. xxiii. 3 "for ever" is distinctly made an equivalent to "even to their tenth generation." So again in Is. lx. 15, "I will make thee an aeonian excellency," is explained in the next clause by "a joy of many generations"; and in Lam. V. 19 "for ever and ever" is the equivalent of "from generation to generation." And though any further instances are superfluous, in Is. xxxii. 14 we read, "The forts and towers shall be dens for ever, until the Spirit be poured upon us…Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness." Are we to believe that the Kings of Babylon "shall sleep an endless sleep, and shall not awake"? (Jer. li. 39-57).
*(1) Gen. ix. 12; xvii. 8; xlviii. 4; xlix. 26; Num. xxv. 13; Lev. iii. 17; xvi. 34; Hab. iii. 6, &c.
The word by itself — whether adjective or substantive — never means endless. If such were its meaning, or that of its Hebrew equivalent, the Jews would have been perfectly justified in rejecting the Christian religion which proclaimed the annulment of ordinances which in their law they had again and again been told were to be "eternal" and "for ever." If they could have established that meaning of the word they would have had an unanswerable argument against Christianity. Aionios may in some instances connote endlessness, because it catches something of its colour from the words to which it is joined; just as the word "indefinite" might catch the sense of "infinite" if, in speaking of things which for other reasons I knew to be infinite in duration, I spoke of them as being "of indefinite duration." It is a word which, like many other adjectives, shines simply "by reflected light."
Josephus shows that aionios did not necessarily mean endless. He applies the epithet to the period between the giving of the law and his own writing; and to the imprisonment of the tyrant John by the Romans; and to Herod's Temple, which was already destroyed when he wrote. And when he wants to assimilate Jewish theology to Greek teaching, he is so well aware that aionios will not convey his meaning, that he purposely uses instead the word aidios, and employs no less than four expressions, of which every one is alike unknown to the Old Testament and the New — namely, "endless prison," "endless vengeance," "incessant vengeance," and "immortal vengeance."*(1) As for the usage of Philo, there could not be a better authority than his editor, Dr. Mangey, who says that he never used aionios for endless duration.
*(1) eirgmo s aidio s , aidio s , adialeipto s , aqanato s timwria.
The Greek Fathers were well aware of these facts: -
a. Thus St. Gregory of Nyssa speaks of aionion diastema: "an aeonian interval."*(1) Here the meaning "endless" introduces positive absurdity.*(2)
*(1) Opp. ii. 650.
*(2) See Bennet, Olam Haneshamoth, pp. 381-419, "On the opinion of the Greek and Latin Fathers with respect to the Intermediate State," &c. (1800).
b. Leontius of Byzantium, even in arguing against Universalists, admits that aion is used of a definite period. He says that Origenists argued from the finite use of aion, that "aeonian correction" must be terminable.*(1)
*(1) dtito tou aiwno s onoma peri wrismenou cronou legetai. - LEONT. BYZ. I have quoted the rest of the passage, infra, p. 400.
c. St. Chrysostom, in his Homily on Eph. ii. 1-3, says that "Satan's kingdom is aeonian — that is, will cease with this present world." Here in the Oxford Library of the Fathers the word aionios is rendered "secular." If, in his homily on 2 Thess. i. 9, 10, he uses the word to show that the "destruction" is not temporal, this is a part of the inconsistency which seems to attach to all the utterances of the Fathers on this subject, but which does not at all shake the force of his previous admission.
d. Justinian, in his virulent letter to the Patriarch Mennas, evidently avoids the exclusive use of the word, because he felt that it was so indecisive, and uses instead the unscriptural ateleutetos aionios for "life," and ateleutetos for "punishment."
e. And — in spite of Dr. Pusey's assertion that "there must be some mistake here" — I repeat that the author of the spurious dialogues which pass under the name of Caesarius, the brother of St. Gregory of Nyssa, points out that the Universalists derived one of the very arguments as to the terminability of future punishment from its being only called aionion.*(1) The reader can judge for himself. Dr. Pusey says, "No Greek could have so argued." That they did so argue is abundantly clear from the fact, which I have now proved, that so many eminent Greek Fathers leaned to Universalism, although they freely used the word aionios of future punishment. Sometimes they do not even shrink from the stronger word aidios, because they know that such words are often used in a vague rhetorical way, just as the Hebrew "for ever" is used without the writer even dreaming of the abstract conception of absolute endlessness. It has been repeatedly argued that aionios must mean "endless," because it is applied to God. The futility of the argument may be exposed by one of hundreds of instances. In Is. lxii. 12, Olam ( ei s ton aiwna ) is applied to God's everlasting name; yet in Deut. xv. 17 the very same expressions are applied to the lifetime of a slave.
*(1) Huet, Origeniana, Opp. Orig. iv. 231, 233 (ed. Paris).
*(2) (this notation "2" was listed on this page in the book, but was not assigned to any particular sentence in the above paragraph…the notation reads as follows)…The Pseudo-Caesarius says that they argued ek tou aiwnion monon fhsai Kurion to kolasthrion pur kai ouk aiwnion
aiwnwn. The impossible Greed of the two last words obviously arises from some mere homeoteleuton or other clerical error; for I have shown above in the extracts from Origen and Leontius that the Origenists did use an argument of this kind.
Further, the Greek Fathers could not have failed to attach deep significance to a fact which, owing to the unfortunate inaccuracy of rendering aionios by "everlasting," escapes the notice of English readers altogether. That fact is that in no single instance is unmistakable and indisputable endlessness predicated in Scripture of future punishment. A remarkable illustration of this fact may be found in the autiobiography of an American divine — the Rev. Dr. Theodore Clapp.*(1) He had just been preaching at New Orleans a zealous sermon on endless torments, when a judge in the con greg ation, who was an eminent scholar, and who had abandoned an original destination for the ministry from his inability to find this doctrine clearly revealed in Scripture, asked the preacher to furnish him with a list of texts in Hebrew and Greek to prove the doctrine which he had been preaching. Dr. Clapp proceeds to give a detailed account of his studies. Carefully reading through the whole of the Old Testament in Hebrew, he was unable to find the doctrine which he sought, or even to find in Hebrew a word at all corresponding to "hell" as a place of future punishment; and he found (he says) that orthodox critics of the greatest celebrity were perfectly familiar with these facts. Confessing to the judge that he could not find in the Hebrew Old Testament the text he sought, he still turned with perfect confidence to the New; but after a study of eight years was compelled by his conscience to admit that he could not find a single text in the Greek Testament which, when fairly interpreted, affirms the endless misery of any human souls. He ends his account by the remark that he was led to repudiate the dogma by the Bible only, in spite of all the concurrent prejudices of his early life, parental teaching, and the influence of school, college, theological seminary, and professional caste. Others, following the same course, might arrive at a different conclusion; but such a story from the life of an honest man is one more indication of the fact which is supported by a mass of evidence in all ages, that the popular views are by no means revealed with that indisputable distinctness and definiteness which has been asserted for them by the self-confidence of a purely assertive dogmatism.
*(1) See The Theology of the Bible, by Chancellor Halsted, p. 626. Similarly it was by an exclusive study of the Bible that Mr. Jukes was led to his view of Restitution.
Now there are many adjectives, and many phrases, any one of which might have been used by any one of the Apostles and Evangelists, or by our Lord Himself, which would have rendered any question on the subject impossible to those who accept the arbitrament of Scripture. Those adjectives and expressions are used again and again by the later writers who do mean to call future punishment "endless" for all. The idea could be expressed with the utmost ease and simplicity either in Hebrew or in Greek in a hundred different and indisputable ways. Yet not one of those decisive adjectives, not one of those indisputable phrases, is once applied to Hades or Gehenna. Those who make much of the silence of Scripture as being often highly significant are bound in common honesty to consider this fact.
The assertion that "if the expressions used in the Bible for future retribution do not express endlessness, no possible expression could have been found which would have been adequate to do so," is an assertion which can only be due to the blindest prejudice. It is at any rate most astonishingly false.
A scholar like Mr. Oxenham should not have asked 'whether, if Christ had intended to teach the doctrine of eternal [he means "endless"] punishment, He could possibly have taught it in plainer terms?"*(1) The answer is that He could have taught it in scores of terms not only more plain, but absolutely indisputable. The absence of such terms, when compared with their existence elsewhere, is very striking.
It is somewhat sad to find Dr. Angus putting forth such a statement as that "Every form of words employed in Scripture to describe everlastingness, our Lord and His Apostles employ to describe the state of those who die in sin and disbelief."
*(1) Review of Mr. Jukes in the Christian Apologist, ii. 103.
If controversialists are content to rely on such assertions as this their views are doomed to the speedy extinction which awaits error. Has not Dr. Angus so much as read in the Septuagint many expressions applied to God far stronger than, throughout the whole Bible, are ever applied to punishment or to evil?*(1)
*(1) For instance, ei s ton aiwna kai epekeina, Mic. iv. 5; ap aiwno s kai ew s aiwno s, I Chr. xxix. 10; ei s ton aiwna kai eti, Dan. xii. 3; ton aiwna kai ep aiwna kai eti , Ex. xv. 18; eis ton aiwna kai ei s ton aiwna tou aiwno s, Ps. ix. 40, &c. &c.
For one of the strongest arguments against that final doom, the possibility of which for absolutely hardened sinners I do not deny, is derived from the very fact that the doctrine is not taught with the clearness which we should have expected if a view so terrible were a matter of essential faith. It is too often supported, as Athanase Coquerel says, by "trifles of criticism and variations of rendering." It is still more often supported in what I consider the worst way of all, namely, by the bald assertion that all who deny it teach contrary to our Lord's express words. This style of assertion shows an utter indifference to argument. Thousands of learned and holy men before Origen, and since, would have accepted the doctrine without reserve, if they had not been convinced that our Lord's words were not decisive, and that they have been misunderstood. The words of our Lord do on the whole render it impossible for me to be an Universalist, but common honesty and reverence for truth prevent me from asserting the infallibility of my own interpretation of them.
For, if we had so much as once been told in the Bible that Gehenna, or that punishment, is ateleutetos, or eperantos, or aidios, or adialeiptos, or that the life in such punishment should be aphthartos, there would have been no dispute as to the literal meaning of such words. Josephus and some Christian writers, when they want to speak of endless retribution, do use such words.
Our Lord and the Apostlesmight again have spoken of men as bound in chains which can never be loosed (akatalutos). Or they might have said of evil, as they have said of good, - that it would last "through all the aeons," or through "all the generations of aeons," and even to "the ends of the aeons."*(1) Any one out of many Greek phrases would have sufficed them to express the meaning which they have never once expressed so unambiguously as to make even Universalism an impossible hope in the minds of Christians. Such phrases have been used by multitudes of Christian writers in later ages; but they are not found in Holy Writ.
*(1) I Cor. x. II, Eph. iii. 26; comp. Ps. cxlv. 13, Is. li. 6-8. "An aeon may come to an end; aeons of aeons may come to an end. Only that which lasts through all the aeons is without an end. And Scripture affirms this only of the Kingdom of God. The absolute eternity of evil is nowhere affirmed." — DR. CLEMANCE Future Punishment, p. 86.
And while Scripture nowhere says that evil will last through all the ages, it uses some expressions which seem distinctly to imply the reverse. While therefore we may be unable to affirm that all evil will have an end, we think it unwise to assert, as a distinct article of faith, that it will not.
The pages of theologians in all ages show a startling prevalence of such terms as "everlasting death," "everlasting damnation," "endless torments," "everlasting vengeance," "everlasting fire." One might have supposed that the Bible was full of these expressions. But what are the facts?
In my view of the meaning of aionios not one of these expressions has any Scriptural authority. But further, -
I. "Everlasting death," though used in our Liturgy, is a phrase quite unknown to the Scriptures. They never speak even of aeonian death, often as they speak of aeonian life.
II. "Everlasting damnation" is a mistranslation of "aeonian judgment." It occurs but once in Heb. vi. 2. In Mark iii. 29, it is in all probability a misreading for "aeonian sin."
III. "Everlasting fire" is "aeonian fire." It occurs once in Jude (verse 7) of the earthly and temporary fire which destroyed the Cities of the Plain; and twice in St. Matthew, once in a parable, and both times as an equivalent for the vague Hebrew le-olam. In the Gospels it is the "fire not of earth," the "spiritual" fire of God's wrath against obstinate wickedness.
IV. "Everlasting punishment" is "aeonian correction" — "correction in the world to come."
V. "Everlasting vengeance," so far from being an inspired expression, has no Scriptural parallel whatever. It comes first from the athanatos timoria in the Graecised misrepresentation of Jewish eschatology by Josephus; and, afterwards, in some of the Fathers.
VI. "Endless torments" is an expression for which there is not one iota of direct Scriptural authority.
Is a doctrine of such stupendous horror to be made to rest on this extremely rare occurrence*(1) of an adjective which scores of times has not the meaning thus attributed to it? And is this meaning to be given to it in spite of the fact that the doctrine, if it had been intended, could have been expressed, without a shadow of ambiguity, by at least ten or twelve other expressions known to and used by the sacred writers, but never once applied by them to the duration of evil or of future retribution?
*(1) aiwnion puo , Matt. xviii. 8; xxv. 41; Jude 7.
aiwnio s kolasi s, Matt. xxv. 46.
aiwnion amarthma , Mark iii. 29. aiwnion krima, Heb. vi. 2.
No such combination occurs even once in the Gospel or Epistles of St. John; or in the Gospel or Acts of St. Luke; or in all the thirteen Epistles of St. Paul (see infra, p. 465); or in either of the Epistles of St. Peter; or in St. James; or even in the Revelation. In our Lord's ministry, the phrase occurred but incidentally in two discourses, that recorded in Matt. xviii. 8, Mark ix. 43, and that in Matt. xxv.
"Endless," says the laborious author of Eternity, a Concordance of Texts,*(1) "a word so often employed by men with reference to things eternal, doe not occur in the Old Testament, and twice only in the New Testament, where it is the representative (not of aionios, but) of two very different Greek words, neither of which are used elsewhere in the New Testament." These two words are akatalutos*(2) ("endless genealogies," I Tim. i. 4) and aperantos ("the power of an endless life," Heb. vii. 16).
*(1) Published by Messrs. Bagster, 1879.
*(2) Even this word is purely metaphorical. Though the word means "endless," it is used in a loose, popular sense for "long and tedious."
The simple and unmistakable words "immortal" (athanatos, aphthartos)*(1) and "immortality" (athanasia, aphtharsia) are never predicated of sinners.*(2)
*(1) afqarto s only in Rom. i. 23; I Cor. ix. 25; xv. 52; I Tim. i. 17; I Pet. i. 4, 23; iii. 4, always of God or of heavenly things.
*(2) aqanasia only in I Cor. xv. 53, 54; I Tim. vi. 16; afqarsia only in Rom. ii. 7; I Cor. xv. 42, 50, 53, 54; 2 Tim. i. 10 (in Eph. vi. 24 and Tit. ii. 7 it is "sincerity").
There are other words to imply "endlessness" which occur in the Septuagint, and not in the New Testament, such as aenaos. But so little had the ancients faced the abstract idea of "endlessness" that even this word is applied equally to God (Deut xxxiii. 27) and to the hills (Gen. xlix. 26).
The expression Leolam vaed ("for ever and beyond") occurs fifteen times in the Old Testament. Even this phrase is used in a perfectly general sense; - but why is it not once predicated of future punishment?
There are two very simple adverbs in the New Testament, either of which would have been regarded as decisive. One is aei, "always." It occurs eight times in the New Testament, but not once of future punishment. The other is pantote, which also occurs eight times, but not once of future punishment.
The strong phrase "to the uttermost" (eis to panteles, Heb. vii. 25) occurs once. It is applied to salvation, not to condemnation.
Again, the strong phrase "for perpetuity" (eis to dienekes) occurs twice in the New Testament (Heb. x. 12, 14) of God, and of final sanctification. It is never used of future punishment.
Once more we are told that the glory of Christ shall last "to all the ages" ( ei s panta s tou s aiwna s , Jude 25). Had such an expression been applied even so much as once, to the dominion of evil, it would have been regarded as decisive. But it is not so applied, - not even by St. Jude.
A large number of other Greek phrases*(1) would have served equally well to express "endlessness," if such had been the meaning which the word aionios was intended to convey. How is it that they are not used? How is it that the adjective employed is one which is far more frequently used of things not endless, but terminable? Why are the other and far stronger and clearer adjectives only employed in other combinations?*(2) If the dreadful tenet were as indisputable and as essential as its supporters assert, why did not any of the Prophets, or our Blessed Lord, or any one of His Apostles and Evangelists preclude all controversy on the subject by any single statement such as would have been conveyed in the very simple every day words that future punishment would last es aei or aneu telous?
*(1) Such, for instance, as various combinations of oude, Matt. xxiv. 21.
*(2) Aidios of God in Rom. i. 20; but even this word of a temporary fire in Jude 6.
Let none imagine that such facts will be set aside at their bidding and on their assertion. They may be — and will be — distorted, and ignored, and sophisticated, and explained away; but they will remain unshaken, because they are indisputable.
The Jews had never faced the abstract conception of "endlessness." It is a conception beyond our finite grasp. It may involve a sort of absurdity. For, as Professor Challis says, "The difficulty concerning the duration of future punishment appears to be attributable to a preconception tacitly, perhaps unconsciously, entertained by most persons that time and space have an independent existence, although the teaching of Scripture is directly opposed to this view…May we not conclude that eternal life and eternal punishment terminate alike with the end of time, and that in the consummation of all things both are merged in indissoluble life [ zwh akataluto s, Heb. vii. 16], that God may be all in all?"*(1)
*(1) Scriptural Doctrine of Immortality, pp. 127-132.
The Greek Fathers were so well aware of these facts that they attached no importance to the stock sophism which has been repeated so often since the days of St. Augustine — that because aionios zoe means "endless life" (which is not true), therefore aionios kolasis must mean "endless punishment" (which does not follow).*(1) Such an argument would have seemed altogether idle to an Origen, a Gregory of Nyssa, or a Theodore. They believed and said that punishment was "aeonian"; they did not believe it to be "endless." Even the Latin Fathers who had risen to a competent knowledge of Greek and had not become quite stereotyped in prejudice were aware that there was no real force in such a position. They were also aware that aeternus was used in just the same loose way — for "an indefinite period" — in Latin writers, as aionios was in Greek.*(2)
*(1) De Civ. Dei, xxi. 23. The argument is worthy of its companion argument, that our only security of bliss rests on the punishment of the wicked being "endless," because otherwise our bliss might not be "endless." If the saints had not traditionally repeated such an argument, I should have thought that no Christian — who realized what he was saying — could, without a blush, have used a plea so ignobly selfish.
*(2) e.g. "Aeterna civica bella." — OVID, Pont. ii. 126. So we say, It will be an endless business; "This led to endless trouble," &c.
This was the cause of Jerome's inconsistencies; and even Augustine was so well aware (when the spirit of system allowed him to think that matter) that aionios is not a word of precision — that though he defines "the paying of the last farthing" to be "eternal punishment," he says that he does not thereby mean "to prevent a more careful inquiry about the punishments of sinners, in what sense they are in Scripture called eternal; - although in any case they should be avoided rather than known."*(1) The Augustinian argument, in which he practically contradicts his own admissions, would have been dead and buried long ago were it not that "words often repeated react on the mind of the speaker, and at last ossify the very organs of intelligence."
*(1) "Neque hoc dixerim ut diligentiorem tractationem videar ademisse de poenis peccatorum, quomodo in Scripturis dicuntur aeternae, quam-quam quolibet modo vitandae sunt potius quam sciendae." — AUG. in Matt. xxv. 26.
If even a single passage could be adduced in which aionios does not mean endless we should be justified in rejecting that meaning in any connexion which bound us to conceptions such as those popularly current concerning the torments of "Hell." But the New Testament writers borrow the word aionios from the Septuagint, and no amount of argument can alter the fact that "of the ninety widely different subjects to which the Scriptures apply terms which occasionally take the sense of endlessness, in seventy instances they are confessedly of a limited and temporary nature."*(1)
*(1) White. Life of Christ, p. 397.
It is no answer whatever to say with Dr. Pusey that of the seventy-one times in which the word is used in the New Testament, it is always applied to things which are endless. For,
 In the first place this is simply to beg the question — it is to assert what is denied. Though aionios is often applied as an epithet to endless things, that conjunction no more makes the word mean endless than the fact that it is applied to spiritual things makes the word necessarily mean spiritual.
And  our contention is (a) that in not one of the seventy-on passages does the word mean "endless," and (b) that in some of them no ingenuity can succeed in attaching such a meaning to it, since it is applied to ages which have already come to an end. In Rom. xvi. 25 the "aeonian times" are now ended by the proclamation of the mystery. In 2 Tim. i. 10, the aeonian times cannot begin to be "endless," any more than they can in Ti. i. 2. In Philem. 15, the "aeonian" relation between Philemon and his slave either means (Jas in Deut. xv. 17) a relation for their common lifetime, or that the old temporal relation was replaced by a spiritual bond. In Luke i. 70, and Acts iii. 21, prophets have not been prophesying "for ever." In Jude 7, the "aeonian fire" is the sulphurous storm, which in a single day destroyed the Cities of the Plain. In Mark iii. 29, "aeonian sin" does not mean "endless sin," but sin of which the effects shall continue in the world to come.
 And in the third place it would be perfectly admissible to say that even if aionios implied "endlessness" when attached to words which express things in accordance with the nature of God, it by no means follows that it would have the same meaning when attached to things which are alien from, and antagonistic to, His nature. If "life" or "future bliss" came to an end, that would come to an end which Christ died to secure for all mankind; if evil came to an end that would come to an end which Christ died expressly to destroy.*(1)
*(1) See Dr. Clemance, p. 65.
 Moreover here are two distinct passages in which aionios occurs in two consecutive clauses, and in one of those clauses connotes endlessness, and yet in the other is used of things which have already come to an end, or soon shall come to an end.
a. One is Habakkuk iii. 6.
"The everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow; His ways are everlasting." Here God's ways are, in the strictest meaning of the word, "everlasting and endless"; but to say that the hills are "everlasting and endless," is to contradict the plain words of Scripture. Even in English it is as gratuitous to explain the vague word "everlasting" of literal "endlessness," as to insist that the "pit" is literally "bottomless," because it is so called nine times in the Book of Revelation. The one word is simply expressive of indefinite time, the other of indefinite space.
Here, then, is one instance from the Old Testament which would alone be sufficient to overthrow what I called the battered and aged argument of St. Augustine, about the supposed "absurdity" of making aionios zoe mean "endless life," and yet not making aionios kolasis mean necessarily "endless punishment."*(1)
*(1) Bishop Wordsworth, echoing this exploded "argument," says: "Hence it may be inferred that the misery of the one and the joy of the other will be co-extensive in duration. Now this appears to be taught by other places or Holy Scripture." — Duration, &c., of Future Punishment, p. 15. The only answer is that a Christian is not bound to accept so precarious an inference as adequate foundation for an immense and startling dogma; and that to many "it does not appear to be taught" by other passages of Scripture, but to be contradicted by them. He adds: "And when the contrary opinion was broached by Origen, the universal Church of Christ condemned it as heretical." I have shown that it was broached long before Origen, and that the universal Church of Christ never has condemned this opinion as heretical at all, but on the contrary has (among others) canonized "the Theologian," and "the Father of Fathers," both of whom held it. And so far from condemning the opinion "when it was broached by Origen," it held four general oecumenical councils, and any number of synods, after Origen's death, without condemning him or his theory of Restitution (which was far wider than Universalism); and if it ever condemned that opinion at all — which I have shown to be in the very highest degree doubtful — did not do so till three centuries after Origen's death.
b. And here is a second instance, from the New Testament. — Rom. xvi. 25.
"According to the revelation of the mystery which was kept hushed from the 'eternal' times ( cronoi s aiwnioi s), but now is made manifest…according to the commandment of the eternal God ( tou aiwniou Qeou )."
Now here, according to the triumphant argument of St. Augustine and the host of followers who cite his false logic, it would be multum absurdum to make aionios mean "endless" in one clause and yet not make it mean "endless" in the other. Yet in the other, so far from meaning "endless," it is expressly applied to times which have now come to an end; and "in aeonian times" simply means, as Theodoret says, "long ago."
 I will give one more instance which ought sufficiently to prove that "eternal fire" does not necessarily mean "endless fire." In Jude 7 we are told that Sodom "is set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." The "eternal fire" is the fire of God's wrath which destroyed Sodom; and yet if we make it mean "endless torments," this ignorant method of wresting general expressions is at once confuted by Ezek. xvi. 53-55, where we are expressly told that God would bring back the captivity of Sodom, and that Sodom, as well as one who had sinned more grievously than Sodom, would return to her former state.
The force of such arguments is unmistakable. When Dr. Pusey says of Rom. xvi. 25, that St. Paul here "places us altogether (so to speak) in the Being of God," and "speaks of the eternal purpose of God," he says what is quite true; but he is then practically taking refuge in vague phrases, and absolutely giving up all his previous arguments that aionios must mean endless.
 But even if we could produce no such demonstrative instances, it would have been enough to say, and we have already said, that good and evil are not in pari material. "I profoundly believe," says De Quincey, "that the Scriptures ascribe absolute and metaphysical eternity to one sole being, viz. God….Having anchorage in God, innumerable entities may possibly be admitted to a participation in the Divine aion. But what interest in the favour of God can belong to falsehood, to malignity, to impurity? To invest them with aionian privileges is in effect and by its results to distrust and insult the Deity. Evil would not be evil if it had that power of self-subsistence which is imparted to it in supposing its aionian life to be co-eternal with that which crowns and glorifies the good."
 In point of fact the word "spiritual" conveys a much nearer approximation to the New Testament usage of aionios (at any rate as St. John and St. Paul use it) than either "everlasting" or "endless. And for this reason. The Jews divided all time into the olam hazzeh, or present age, aeon, or dispensation. Their applications of the latter phrase differ, and we have similar differences in the Greek equivalents of these phrases. But aionios is predominantly used in the New Testament of that which belongs to the future aeon — the unseen — "the eternal" — without any prominence being given, or even any reference made, to the notion of endlessness. To render "the aeonian God" by the "endless God" would rightly sound shocking to us. It means the God whom no man hath seen or can see*(1); the God into whose presence we shall pass in the future life. The word is a favourite one with St. John, who uses it twenty-three times of "life," as St. Paul also uses it twenty-one times. Now it might have been assumed that neither St. John nor St. Paul meant by this merely "endless life," seeing that it is assumed that we shall all live endlessly. The meaning of the word in both these great Apostles is purely qualitative, the blessed life of the world to come. This is the phrase used by the Peshito version to render kolasis aionios — the "punishment of the world to come." The epithet expresses the character of the life, not its duration, if indeed duration can at all rightly be predicated of "the eternal now."
*(1) "I believe, as you do, that eternity has nothing to do with duration….So eternal life is God's own life; it is essential life; and eternal punishment is the misery belonging to the nature of sin, and not coming from outward causes." — Letters of Thomas Erskine, p. 235.
To give the meaning of "endless" to this word is in many passages, simply impossible; in others it is only possible at the expense of altogether lowering the conception. "The eternal," says Canon Westcott, "is revealed as the present, and life is laid open in all its possible nobility. The separation which men are inclined to make arbitrarily between the 'here' and the 'there' in spiritual things is done away."*(1)
*(1) St. John, p. xxxix.
It is satisfactory to find that this is the view taken by Bennet in his grave learned treatise Olam Haneshamoth.*(1) In an elaborate examination of the word olam he concludes that it means "the hidden period." Thus when applied to God he makes it mean "the God of hidden duration," or "of the invisible world." He says that by being rendered "for ever everlasting," &c., the true meaning is completely veiled because in many places the word does not signify duration at all. Thus in Heb. viii. 5, "to the copy of heavenly things," corresponds to le-hukath olam. On the phrase "everlasting consolation" (paraklesis aionios), in 2 Thess. ii. 16, he argues that consolation is in its very nature an intermediate thing, and cannot apply to an endless state, but to the period between death and resurrection. He says that the term "eternal (aeonian) king" was understood by the Seventy and the Rabbis to indicate God's care over souls during the interval between death and the resurrection, which he calls the "shadow of the hand of God" (Is. li. 16).
*(1) Olam, pp. 50-70.
Professor Maurice has often spoken to the same effect. In a sermon on 2 Cor. iv. 18, he said, "We often speak of time as a river, and of eternity as the ocean into which it flows….as though we were floating down the stream of time, and death first brought us into contact with eternity. The words of this text suggest a very different notion. St. Paul says that the things seen are temporal ( proskaira ); the things unseen, eternal. He does not describe the one as present, the other as future. He does not tell us that here he is only among passing things, that hereafter he shall be among permanent things. He feels that he is in the midst of both here on this earth."
Let the reader consider the following passages: -
"He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life." John iii. 36.
"We are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ; this is the true God and eternal life." I John v. 20.
"Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life." John v. 39.
"Thou hast the words of eternal life." vi. 68.
"His commandment is eternal life." xii. 50.
"Ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." I John iii. 15.
If any one thinks that the substitution of "endless" for "eternal" or "aeonian" in these and other passages will express the meaning of St. John, I can only say that he is easily satisfied. But the latest and by far the profoundest commentator on St. John's Epistles — Eric Haupt — agrees in this matter with the latest are profoundest commentator on the Gospel — Canon Westcott. Dr. Haupt says, "At the outset it must be noted that 'eternal life' is not to St. John a mere term for unbroken continuance in being, as though it were simply equivalent to the indissoluble life (zoe akatalutos) of Heb. v. 6; that it does not define the form of this life so much as the nature and meaning of it; zoe anionis is, in other words, a description of divine life, of the life which is in God, and which by God is communicated".*(1) And again, speaking on the verse, "Ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him," he says, "Here it is primarily obvious that aeonian life has in it no thought of time, but is altogether an ethical idea or characteristic; for if we would take it in the sense of 'endless life' (Heb. v. 6), it is clear that there would be a contradition in terms."*(2)
*(1) Haupt on I John i. 2.
*(2) Id. on I John iii. 15.
Nor do these eminent writers stand alone. "Zoe aionios," says Meyer, "signifies the eternal Messianic life, which the believer already possesses….It is that moral and blessed life which is independent of death." "It is," says Lucke, "a present reality — a resurrection process prior to bodily death — the sum of Messianic blessedness — an existing life, not a life after death." Eternity consists, not in endlessness, but in knowing, seeing, and loving God. "Eternal life," says Erskine of Linlathen, "is living in the love of God; eternal death is living in self; so that a man may be in eternal life or in eternal death for ten minutes as he changes from one state to the other."
 But in point of fact all these authorities are needless, for St. Paul and St. John both define the sense in which they use the word "eternal." In both of them, so far from meaning "endless," the word is almost the antithesis of "endless." "The things that are unseen," says St. Paul, "are eternal," not the things that are future. "Things eternal" are not things of "endless time," but things with which time has no connexion; not things which shall exist endlessly hereafter, but things which do exist now, only that they lie outside the world of sense. St. John gives a definition or indication of his usage exactly analogous to this. "This," he says, "is life eternal." What? To live endlessly? No! But "to know Thee the only God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent."*(1)
*(1) See accordant uses of the word in I Tim. i. 16; vi. 12; 2 Thess. ii. 16; Gal. vi. 8. (The spiritual life springs up as a harvest from sowing to the spirit.)
 "Aeon" is used in a similar spiritual and metaphysical sense. "Aeon," says Philo, "is the life of God, and is not time, but the archetype of time, and in it there is neither past, nor present, nor future."*(1) "What to us is time," says St. Gregory of Nazianzus, "is to the immortals the aeon." (Orat. 38.) Indeed to degrade the word eternity to mean "endlessness," is not only to mistake, but to reverse its true character. Eternity is the timeless state; to make it a synonom of time endlessly prolonged is a conception as mean in philosophy as it is false theologically. "Eternity," says Tertullian, "has no time; it is itself all time."*(2) "Eternity," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "has no succession, but exists altogether."*(3) "The duration of eternity," says Bishop Pearson, "is completely indivisible and all at once."*(4) "God," says Bishop Beveridge, "is Himself eternity….Eternity without time."*(5) "By eternity," says Spinoza, "I understand abstract existence." "I think," said Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, "eternal means essential in opposition to phenomenal."
*(1) Philo, Opp. i. 277, 619 (ed. Mangey).
*(2) Tert. C. Marc, i. 8.
*(3) St. Thom, Aquin. Summa, pt. i. qu. x. i.
*(4) Pearson, Minor Theolog. Works.
*(5) Beveridge, On the Articles, p. 16.
The word "eternal," if it could but be dissociated from the vulgar confusion which takes it to mean "endless," would be a very fitting translation for aionios. "Everlasting" is a translation which ought never to have been imposed upon us, and which now, it is hoped, will disappear. If taken literally it fixes a meaning upon a word in some places which the word cannot have in other places. It tends to render permanent an unwarrantable decision of a question which has again and again been successfully disputed. And it is after all a decision perfectly valueless, since no man is bound by the unscriptural word "everlasting," but only by the Scriptural word "eternal," or "aeonian." Let is be solemnly and reverently remembered that He who spake of "aeonian fire" used the same adjective, within a few hours, in senses which have no connection with time whatever.*(1) In many instances the best rendering of zoe aionios would be the expression of our Nicene Creed: "The life of the world to come." Aionios then, so far as it has any reference to duration at all, means, as Schleusner accurately says, "duration determined by the subject to which it is applied." But very often there is no direct reference whatever to duration. When the Fathers talked of the "Eternal Generation" of the Son, did they mean the "Endless Generation"?
*(1) John xvii. 3.
Although it is hardly worthwhile to append authorities in proof of so obvious a fact as that aionios does not necessarily mean endless, I will add a few more. Some of them, be it observed, say that it also, in some places, means endless. But, in saying this, they are merely drawing inferences, and inferences which, so far as the word is concerned, they cannot prove. We have nothing to do with the indescribable confusion which they have caused by reading their own theology into words which do not contain it. If the word does not necessarily mean endless, any one has a perfect right to reject that meaning, and then so far as the argument from this word is concerned, the whole fabric of this terrible doctrine collapses and falls to the ground.*(1) Aion ought always to be rendered by aeon or "age," and aionios by aeonian or "eternal," if only it be borne in mind that eternal and "endless" are two entirely different words.
*(1) Rev. H. C. Calverley, Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Four Sermons, p. 25. The weight of the authorities quoted is all the stronger because most of them are entangled in the common error. One or two of the following definitions are borrowed from the exhaustive little book, Aion Aionios, by the Rev. Dr. Hanson (Chicago, 1875).
ORIGEN. — "Quoties 'in saeculum' dicitur longitudo quidem temporis, sed esse finis aliquis indicatur, et quoties 'saeculum saeculorum' nominatur fortasse licet ignotus nobis tamen a Deo statutes finis indicatur." — Hom. vi. in Exod.
LEONTIUS OF BYZANTIUM. — The word aeon is in reality often used of a definite period, both by heathen and sacred writers ( kai para toi s exw kai para th grafh) .
ST. JEROME. — "Et ultra non eris in sempiternum; sive, ut in Hebraeis olam et in Graeco aion scribitur, unum saeculum significant." — In Ezek. xxvi. Ad fin.
IBN EZRA. — "Leolam, 'for ever,' merely means a long time, i.e. till the year of jubilee." — On Ex. xxi. 6.
OLYMPIODRUS. — "When aionios is used for a period which by assumption is infinite and unbounded, it means eternal; but when used in reference to time or things limited the sense is limited to this."
BISHOP HUET. — "Non simplici notione gaudet, nam modo finitum tempus, modo indefinitum, modo infinitum sonat." — Origeniana, p. 231.
JEREMY TAYLOR. — "Everlasting signifies only to the end of its own proper period." — Works iv. 43. ed. Eden.
GROTIUS. — He explains "aeonian consolation" as "solatia piis medio tempore concessa, quae Hebraei vocant Nuach-Eden."
DR. ISSAC WATTS. — "Nor do I think that we ought, when we speak concerning the creatures, to affirm positively that their existence shall be equal to that of the Blessed God, especially with regard to the duration of their punishments." — World to Come.
MACKNIGHT. — "I must be so candid as to acknowledge that the use of these terms 'for ever,' 'eternal,' 'everlasting,' shows that they who understood these words in a limited sense when applied to punishment put no forced interpretation upon them."
REV. G. BENNET. — "The primary nature of olam is 'hidden,' and both as to past and future denotes a duration that is unknown." — Olam Haneshamoth, p. 44.
DR. TAYLOR (who thrice wrote out the whole Hebrew Bible). — "Olam (aion) signifies eternity, not from the proper force of the word, but when the sense of the place or the nature of the subject requires it, as God and His attributes."
PARKHURST. — "Olam (aeon) seems to be used much more for an indefinite than for an infinite time." — Lexicon.
WHISTON. — "The word used about the duration of torments in the New Testament and all over the Septuagint, whence the language of the New Testament was taken, nowhere means a proper eternity." — Memoirs, p. 144.
SCHLEUSNER. — "Aionios is so used of any space of time that its length must be inferred from the context, the mind of the writer, and the things and persons about which he is speaking." — Lexic. On Nov. Testament.
PROF. KNAPP of Halle. — "The Hebrew was destitute of any single word to express endless duration…...The pure idea of eternity is too abstract to have been conceived in the early ages of the world, and accordingly is not found expressed by any word in the ancient languages."
PROF. MOSES STUART. — "The different shades by which the word is rendered depend on the object with which aionios is associated."
ALEX. CAMPBELL. — "Its radical idea is indefinite duration."
DE LAMMENAIS. — "In Hebrew and Greek the words rendered everlasting have not this sense. They signify 'a long duration of time,' 'a period'; whence the phrase 'during these eternities and beyond.'"
SCARLETT. — "That aionios does not mean endless or eternal may appear from considering that no adjective can have a greater force than the noun from which it is derived. If aion means 'age' (which none either will or can deny), then aionios must mean 'age-lasting,' or duration through the ages to which the thing spoken of relates."
CRUDEN. — "The words eternal, everlasting, for ever, are sometimes taken for a long time, and are not always to be understood strictly." — Concordance, s. v. Eternal.
DE QUINCEY. — "Meanwhile all this speculation first and last is pure nonsense. Aionios does not mean eternal [i.e. endless]. Neither does it mean of a limited duration."
CANON KINGSLEY. — "The word aion is never used in Scripture or anywhere else in the sense of endlessness (vulgarly called eternity). It always meant, both in Scripture and out, a period of time."
REV. ARCHER GURNEY. — "The words eternal and everlasting are constantly used in a relative sense in the Old Testament Scriptures with reference to Jewish ordinances, designed to pass away, and they signify indefinite and continuous, until superseded by a higher law, or principle, never tending to come to an end of themselves."
REV. T. E. FOWLE. — "Aionios is a particularly colourless and almost mystical adjective, found in combination with very dissimilar nouns, and qualifying incompatible objects and so lending itself to varying shades of meaning." — Essay on aiwn , p. 23.
REV. J. S. BLUNT. — "The conception of eternity in the Semitic languages is that of a long duration and series of ages." — Dict. of Theology, s. v. Eternity.
PROFESSOR TAYLOR LEWIS, in an elaborate disquisition on the word in the translation of Lange's Ecclesiastes, written against Universalism, gives up the tenability of the argument that aion, aionios, necessarily carry the meaning of endless duration; and says of Matt. xxv. 46, "All we can etymologically or exegetically make of the word in this passage is 'These shall go away into the restraint, imprisonment of the world to come.'"
OLSHAUSEN. — "The Bible is deficient in an expression for timelessness…All the Biblical expressions imply or denote long periods."
In looking at the lexicographers, ancient and modern, we are met by this remarkable fact. The later lexicographers — after the fifth century — give to the words aion and aionios the occasional meaning of "endless," though of course they are all compelled to admit that they also imply limited durations. After that time the words were often used with the connotation of "endlessness," because by that time theology had read that sense into them. But the oldest lexicographers are entirely silent as to such a meaning.
Thus HESYCHIUS, who is the oldest of them, defines aion as "the life of man, the time of life, and sometimes it is used for a long time."*(1)
*(1) Aiwn o Bio s tou anqrwpou...pote de epi makrou cronou noeitai. Aristotle's definition is given in De Caelo, i. 9. "Thus limit which includes the time of the life of each is called the aion of each."
The SCHOLIAST on Homer (Il. v. 685) says that aion is "the life of man."
APOLLONIUS. — "The aeon is the measure of the human life."
THEODORET (Migne, iv. 401) says "Aion is not any existing thing, but an interval denoting time sometimes infinite when spoken of God, sometimes proportioned to the duration of the creation, and sometimes to the life of man."
JOHN OF DAMASCUS defines aion as (1) the life of each man; (2) the life of this world; (3) the life to come."
It is not till we come to PHAVORINUS, in the sixteenth century, that we find "Aion, time, life….Aion is also the eternal and the endless, as it seems to the theologian!" That last clause is very suggestive!
I cannot imagine how Mr. Riddell, as quoted by Dr. Pusey, could say that in classical writers the word was strictly used of eternity (i.e. endlessness, in Dr. Pusey's sense). The word aionios occurs I believe first in Plato, and since no Greek writer before Plato had ever used aion of endlessness it would be very strange if aionios in Plato meant "endless." Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Sophocles, Aristotle, all use aion of "human life," or a "period." When Aristotle wants to express endless he says not aionios, but aiwn sunech s kai aidio s (Metaph. xiv. 7). Plato, inventing the word, uses it five times. In one place he speaks of the "aeonian intoxication" of certain souls in Hades (Rep. ii. 363), which is not "endless," for he held that souls returned from Hades. Aidios, not aionios, is his word for endless in the Timaeus.
The Roman games which were called secular were held (nominally) once in a century. The word "secular" was rendered aionios by Greek writers. Did they mean the "endless games"?
Let me conclude in the weighty words of Bishop Rust, the successor of Bishop Jeremy Taylor in the See of Dromore. "Some there are," he says, "who think that those phrases ["aeonian fire" and "correction"] and the like cannot be reconciled with Origen's opinion. But these objections seem to take the meaning of the word aionios from scholastic definitions rather than from the true and lawful masters of language or the authentic rule of its popular use. For 'tis notoriously known that the Jews, whether writing in Hebrew or Greek, do by olam and aion mean any remarkable period and duration, whether it be of life, of dispensation, or polity. And even by such phrases as 'to eternity and beyond,' they do not mean a scholastic eternity, unless the nature of the things they express require such an interminable duration. Every lexicographer and expositor will furnish you with authorities enough to confirm what I have said."
There are three other words on which we may make a few remarks before proceeding to the exegesis of the most important texts. These words are apoleia, "destruction," asbestos, "unquenched," and kolasis, "punishment."
I. Many regard as decisive for the final ruin of the majority of mankind the words of our Lord that "broad is the path that leadeth to destruction (apoleian), and many there be which go in thereat." Yet the most cursory examination of the word ought to show them that the passage has nothing to do with endless torments. No Christian doubts that sin is destruction as long as it is persisted in. The road leads to destruction, and that is the goal to which it leads all who do not turn from it by repentance. But there is nothing in the text to show that men may not be turned from that path hereafter as they are turned here. The same word apoleia is used of the "waste" of the spikenard of Mary of Bethany. Let us take another passage where the far stronger word olethros occurs. St. Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians says that he had handed over to Satan the incestuous offender "for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." Yet in the short interval which elapsed between the First and Second Epistles the offender had repented, and was restored to the communion of the Church. Is it not, then, clear that the word "destruction" has a limited and temporary sense? and that the effects of it can be removed by repentance?
2. Probably the popular notions of Gehenna are due in no small degree to the entirely unwarrantable translation of the word asbestos by the words "that never shall be quenched." The word means "unquenched" or "unquenchable," and to build dogmatic systems on the current usage of a general epithet is to the last degree uncritical and superstitious.
It occurs but three times in the New Testament. In Matt. iii. 12, and Luke iii. 17, "unquenchable fire' is here the metaphor used John the Baptist for the fire used to burn up the chaff. In Matt. ix. 43 it is also used of the fire of Gehenna.
Nothing but a literalism which defies all the ordinary laws of human language and literature, and which approaches to fetish worship in its slavishness and ignorance, could possibly build on such a word as this the popular doctrine of "endless torments." The word is poetic and metaphoric. In Homer, where it first occurs, it is applied to the fire which for a few hours rages in the Grecian fleet*(1); to the gleam of Hector's helmet; to glory; to laughter; and — most frequently — to shouting.*(2) As a prose word asbestos means "unslaked lime," as in Gen. xi. 3, the only passage of the Septuagint in which the word occurs. What makes it more inexcusable to force and exaggerate the meaning of the word is that the equivalent Old Testament phrases refer to the brief flame which burns up the gates of Jerusalem, and the dry trees of the forest of the South. The phrase, "wrath that shall not be quenched,"*(3) is used only of national and temporary calamities, and is the same wrath which we are told elsewhere*(4) "endureth but the twinkling of an eye," the wrath "of Him who doth not keep His anger for ever."*(5)
*(1) Il. xvi. 123, i. 599, xi. 50, xvi. 267, &c.
*(2) See Wetstein, Nov. Test. i. 267.
*(3) Jer. xvii. 27; Is. i. 28-31; Ezek. xx. 47-48
*(4) 2 Kings xxii. 17; Jer. vii. 20; xxi. 12; Amos v. 6, &c.
*(5) Is. xxx. 5, 6; ciii. 9; Mic. vii. 18.
The word is used in the same popular way in plain prose passages of the Fathers. Thus Eusebius says that the two martyrs, "Cronion and Julian, were first scourged, and then consumed with unquenchable fire"; and again, that two others, Epimachus and Alexander, were "destroyed by unquenchable fire." Would a man be thought to be in his sound senses who attempted to argue that Eusebius could only mean that the fire was a miraculous fire, and still continued to burn? And this mere epitheton solemne is to be made a stumbling-block to the faith of mankind, by first forcing it into literalness, and then assuming that, since the metaphoric fire of retribution is once called unquenchable, every soul consigned to it must also remain in it for ever, and be incapable of destruction!
3. The word kolasis (incorrectly rendered "torment" in I John iv. 18) means "punishment," and although the accurate distinction between it and timoria may have been partly obliterated in Hellenistic Greek, it is still confessedly the milder word. It is only used in I John iv. 18, and in Matt. xxv. 46. Now timoria is "vindictive" or retributive punishment, and is used once only (Heb. x. 29) of the most violent apostates, the most deadly conceivable offenders; and in the same Epistle (xii. 10) we are expressly told that God does not punish us for His pleasure, but for our profit. Everywhere else kolasis is used, and accurately kolasis means, as Grotius says, "that kind of punishment which tends to the improvement of the criminal."*(1) Hence the kolasis aionios of Matt. xxv. 46, is "the correction in the future state of being." "Do we want to know," says Professor Max Muller, "what was uppermost in the minds of those who formed the word for punishment, the Latin poena or punio, the root pu in Sanskrit, which means to cleanse, or purify, tells us that the Latin derivative was originally formed, not to express mere striking or torture, but cleansing, correcting, delivering from the stain of sin."
*(1) Its first meaning is "clipping," "pruning." On the healing intention of true punishment, see Arist. Eth. Ii. 3, Rhet. i. 10, and Plato, Protag. 38. "No one punishes the wicked looking at the past only, simply for the wrong he has done — that is, no one does this who does not act like a wild beast, desiring only revenge without thought — hence he who seeks to punish with reason…punishes for the purpose of deterring form wickedness."
To this corrective aim of all true punishment — a conception to which in modern times the Spirit of God has more and more been leading the nations of Christendom — Origen attached the extremest importance. The Jewish victims, he argued, were killed in order that by them the sins of those who offered them might be cleansed. And could not the same truth apply to the greatest of all victims, who made His life an offering for sin? "Were it not useful to the conversion of sinners to inflict torments upon them, never would a merciful and compassionate God inflict wickedness with punishments."*(1)
*(1) Orig. Hom. in Ezek. i. 355; in Levit. iii. 196; xi. 248; xiv. 266; in Num. x. 302 (Redepenning, ii. 447).
Nor let those who are so anxious to explain that God's "correction" (kolasis) is "vengeance" (timoria), forget that in the sole epistle where this latter word occurs we are expressly told that God's punishment is fatherly chastening (paideusis), and is intended for our interest and advantage ( epi to sumferon ), "that we may be partakers of His holiness."*(1)
*(1) Heb. xii. 10.
And, indeed, has any other notion of punishment but the corrective one ever been held to correspond to the truest and noblest conception of what punishment should be? Over the door of the prison of St. Michael at Rome, Pope Clement XI., in 1703, ordered to be carved the wise inscription — "Parum est improbos coercere poena, nisi probos efficias disciplina." "It is not enough to restrain offenders by punishment unless you render them honest by discipline." Was it not from Scripture itself that the Pope learnt this lesson? Again and again do the sacred writers impress upon us the educational function of the divine punishments. "Whom the Lord loveth He correcteth."*(1) "Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord."*(2) "I have been afflicted that I might learn Thy statutes."*(3) "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten."*(4) "Behold, I have refined thee. I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction."*(5) "And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He shall purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver."*(6)
*(1) Prov. iii. 12.
*(2) Ps. xciv. 12; Job. v. 17; Heb. xii. 6, 30.
*(3) Ps. cix. 17.
*(4) Rev. iii. 19.
*(5) Is. xlviii. 10.
*(6) Mal. iii. 3.
Thus does Scripture confirm the natural insight of the great heathen moralist who said "chastisement (kolasis) aims at correction."*(1)
*(1) Arist. Rhet. i. 10.
*** END OF CHAPTER XIII ***