Part 2: Gehenna in the Synoptics -- By: Hans Scharen

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 149:596 (Oct 1992)
Article: Part 2: Gehenna in the Synoptics
Author: Hans Scharen


Part 2:
Gehenna in the Synoptics

Hans Scharen

Associate Pastor, Midlothian Bible Church
Midlothian, Texas

The first article in this series discussed the development of the concept of Gehenna in the Old Testament and the intertestamental period.1 It was observed that this concept is rooted in the literature of intertestamental Judaism, specifically within the more narrowly defined subject of apocalyptic eschatology, and that several ideas were associated with the concept. In contrast to this variety, the New Testament presents Gehenna as the final eschatological punishment for the wicked. The aim of this study is to confirm and amplify this latter idea based on New Testament texts and vocabulary.

Warnings about Personal Destiny

Matthew 5:22

2 Matthew 5:21–22 contains the thesis and antithesis of a saying

of Jesus that discusses the relationship between brothers (ἀδελφοὶ) within the kingdom of heaven. It follows the exhortation of Jesus in verse 20, that entrance into (=belonging to) this kingdom requires a better righteousness than that taught and displayed by the religious leaders (scribes and Pharisees) of the day. The thesis in verse 21 is introduced by the words, “You have heard…” and the antithesis is introduced in verse 22 by the words “but I say unto you….”3 The thesis contains the Mosaic injunction against murder and the consequent liability to court proceedings of anyone committing this crime. In the antithesis (v. 22) Jesus refuted a superficial interpretation of the sixth commandment (Exod 20:13; Deut 5:17), such as could be practiced by mere perfunctory adherence to a legal ordinance designed to regulate human relationships. The “I say unto you” nullifies any claim of righteousness attained in that perfunctory way. The true intent of the command against murder is more radical in its demand. It is concerned with the disposition of the heart, not mere externals.4

The difficulty of interpreting the triadic structure of the antithesis has created much scholarly discussion.5 The main point relevant to determin...

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