Huck Finn Explains Hell to Colonel Grangerford
Huck: Well, it’s a fine thing for us to come together on
the Good Book this way. I reckon I’m ready, if you are. Colonel, how
does your happy countenance come to hang so low?
Colonel: Huck, have you ever looked at them verses from Mark, chapter nine
and Matthew, chapter five on how Jesus said that it’s better to cut off your
hand and lose an eye than get tossed into hell, where the fire don’t get
quenched and the worm don’t die? Me and Joe Shepherdson, we discussed it out
at his place, but we can’t make it rhyme with what you’ve been sayin’
about Jesus bein’ greater’n Adam.
Huck: All I know, Colonel, is you got to have a concordance. That’s a big,
thick book that tells how many times a word shows up in the Bible and how the
transmutators come about transmutatin’ it
how they did. We all know the Bible warn’t done up in English. Now, there’s
a lot of trouble, turning one tongue into another. If the lighting ain’t
right, or your eyes are twitchin’ and you ain’t had your coffee, or the King
says he’ll whip your hide and kick your dog if you don’t tell it like he
says, you can get twisted around on it.
Colonel: You ain’t saying God’s Word ain’t inspired, are you, Huck?
Huck: Of course it’s inspired. When God wrote it, He knowed what
He’s talking about. But them transmutators don’t always know, and you have
to check up on them to see how they brung it up. It’s like at the bank. You
and Joe ain’t gonna let old Gertie count your money without counting it
yourself, are you?
Colonel: Aw, come on, Huck. You know we ain’t.
Huck: That’s just what I’m saying, Colonel! It’s the same ball of
wax with them transmutators. You have to check up on ‘em. They
don’t always get it right. They’re just ordinary folk, I don’t care how
shiny their pantaloons is. A concordance tells how they done it—or maybe
how they ain’t
Colonel: Well, Joe’s real good with the Bible, and he has one o’
them concordances, and Bertha—that’s Joe’s wife—she helped us look the
word up. It said in the concordance (Strong’s, page 478.
Young’s, pages 474-75) that the word Jesus used there was Gehenna.
Huck: Now we’re looking under the possum’s tail! Jesus never did say
hell, and I’ll sell the farm on it, because He didn’t know a lick o’
English. Well, I s’pose He knowed it alright, but He daren’t let
on because nobody else knowed it, mainly because it warn’t
invented yet. If you and Joe would ‘a’ gone up to Jesus and said, "Now,
Jesus, who’s going to hell and whatnot, it’s for a friend that we’re
asking," He’d ‘a’ looked at you like you was Beelzebub. He never
upset nobody with "hell" in all His born days.
Colonel: He may not have upset them with hell, Huck. But He sure
rocked ‘em with this Gehenna. Them people shook in their sandals
just to hear that word.
Huck: Who’s "them people?"
Colonel: Why, the Jews.
Huck: Listen to y’self! I was just about to trouble them waters. Jesus
was talking to them Israel-types, not to the whole blame world. That’s
where folks get it all bungled up. They think Jesus was busy laying out the
whole ball of wax to all mankind, even those from the nations, on how to get
saved forever and go to heaven and strum a harp for eternity and a day. Why, He
warn’t doing anything of the kind! He ain’t even died on the cross yet when
He’s busy preaching on Gehenna. So tellme—how is it folks is s’posed
to be decidin’ their eternity on Jesus’s cross when the thing ain’t even
happened yet? I give up. It’s a mess. Even Tom Sawyer knows that Jesus
come preaching a kingdom on earth that was set up to last a thousand years. Now,
the way I reckon it, a thousand years is a sight short of eternity. Besides,
there ain’t no lions and lambs floating around in space, nuther. They’re
lyin’ down together on the earth. That’s where the kingdom is. And
who cared a whit for it? Why, the Israel-types is the only ones what even knowed
about it. A stranger ain’t going to sell no farm on it and Jesus knowed
that. That’s why He daren’t even talk to a common-type unless he had
Jacob-blood in his veins. Tell us more about that, Colonel. I ain’t got my
Colonel: Well, it says in Romans somewhere that Jesus fixed up with them
circumcised people only, and that He come to confirm the promises God made to
Huck: Ain’t it just like I said?
Joe Shepherdson: I remember a place where He said that He dasn’t come
except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mt. 15:24).
Huck: Ain’t it just like I said?
Colonel: Here’s a good’n, Huck. When Jesus sent out His disciples to
preach the kingdom, He told ‘em t’not even travel on a road of the
nations, and to not even go to the Samaritans, but to preach only to the lost
sheep of the house o’ Israel (Mt. 10:6)
Huck: Ain’t it just like I said? I ain’t no Solomon, but if Jesus is
preaching eternity to all mankind, and this is their one and only chance to get
it or else spend eternity on a barb’cue spit, He’s got a curious way o’
letting people know about it. Why, He made sure they didn’t know about it! Can
you make that rhyme with what all the preachers is saying about Jesus preachin’
to all mankind about their one and only ticket out of eternal torments?
Colonel: Then, confound it, Huck, who done that universal kind o’
Huck: Confound it, Colonel, ain’t you ever been to Sunday school? Well,
I reckon maybe that’s where you got it all bungled up. Jesus give that job to
Paul! Jesus waited till He done all the work of getting crucified, then He left
it to Paul to explain all the confusin’ details. Now, you ever hear Paul drag
Colonel: Well, no, I never heard where he done it.
Huck: That’s because he never done it! And that’s because Gehenna ain’t
got nothin’ at all to do with eternity or with grace or with the doings of all
mankind in all the nations. Gehenna only has to do with them thousand years of
the kingdom and them Israel-types on the earth. And them Israel-types knowed
exactly what Jesus was talkin’ about, ain’t I telling it straight? And it
ain’t got nothin’ in God’s heaven to do with eternal hell or what them
preachers today is brewing up to scare folks into their churches. And I know I
got that straight.
Colonel: Me and Joe and Bertha, we looked up Gehenna in the Bible
dictionary, and this is what we come up with: "Gehenna: a valley on the
West and Southwest of Jerusalem, which formed part of the border between Judah
Huck: Well, now we’re looking the possum in the snout. That don’t
sound like no Sunday school hell to me. According to the preachers, a
billion of mankind’s going to be screamin’ for eternity in a valley up next
to J’rusalem? Now, I reckon that’ll put the hurts to the tourist trade.
Colonel: Me and Joe and Bertha got some more on this, Huck. It seems
Isaiah the prophet got worked up about Gehenna in the sixty-sixth
chapter. And this might be the key to it, if you ask me. Want me to read it?
Huck: If it ain’t the key, I’ll walk to Cairo barefoot. I just
wonder what took you so long to dig it up.
Colonel: Here it is, in verses twenty-three and four: "‘All flesh
shall come to worship before Me in Jerusalem,’ says Yahweh. ‘And they fare
forth and see the corpses of the mortals, the transgressors against Me, for
their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched, and they become
a repulsion to all flesh."
Huck: Well, it looks like I won’t be walkin’ to no Cairo barefoot.
There’s the whole ball of wax in a nut. If that ain’t the Gehenna Jesus
is talking about, what with that fire and them worms, I’ll kiss the widow
Douglas on the lips. Now tell me, who’s gettin’ the hurts in Gehenna?
Colonel: Why, there ain’t nobody getting’ the hurts. They’s
all corpses. I ain’t seen a corpse yet what was hurtin’.
Huck: That’s the whole point of it! Any fool can see that what
we got here is a handful o’ modern corpses, not a billion and six
fireproof mummies from the year one. And how’s this for runnin’
a kingdom? They don’t waste no kingdom money fixin’ up jails and such,
because they don’t need ‘em. See? There ain’t no criminals! Well, there’s
criminals alright, but only for a fearful short spell. Before they know
it, they’re done up in Gehenna and fried up like a side o’ bacon in a
smoke house and turned into a corpse, dead as can be. Now, if you and Joe
is wanderin’ around J’rusalem in the kingdom and come up on Gehenna, you
going to go out and get yourselves crossed up with the law?
Colonel: Not us! Why, nobody in his right mind is goin’ to cross the
law after seein’ them corpses down in Gehenna.
Huck: I hope! And how’s an Israel-type going to like it? He don’t
want tied up in it. He wants to wear a fancy robe in the kingdom with
Jesus. That’s why Jesus said he’d be better off with one hand and one eye.
But at least he’d have a robe—even if a sleeve needs alteratin’ and he
gots to wear glasses. That’s why them Israel-types shook in their sandals at
it. But did it ever vex a man of the nations? I’ll say not! What’s his
business about ruling in the kingdom? Why, he’s got no business there no
way. That’s why Jesus never bothered telling him about it, and told
His disciples not to, either. Now, here’s where them preachers get it all in a
tangle. Isaiah says Gehenna’s put up for them modern transgressors in
the thousand-year kingdom. Preachers change it to say that all do-badders
that’s ever lived from the year one is going to be there, and they’re
all a-gonna be be squirmin’ and cryin’ and never graduate to
Colonel: That don’t make sense, does it Huck?
Huck: I’ll say it don’t. Besides, the whole gaggle o’ do-badders
ain’t even alive then. Why, they never even see the thousand-year
Colonel: How you talk!
Huck: Bless me, it’s right in the Bible, Colonel, if you’d just read
it! I don’t know where exactly it is, but it says somewhere that the
rest of the dead don’t even live at all till the thousand years is finished
Colonel: I’ll be blamed.
Huck: It ain’t your fault, Colonel, so don’t go hard on y’self.
Them billions of folks that the preachers is hoping for Jesus to burn in Gehenna
ain’t even wakin’ up till after Gehenna’s in the hist’ry books. Why,
I knowed from day one that the whole earth is going to burn up before them dead
sinners even know what hit 'em (Rev. 20:11). Next thing they know,
they're grindin’ up their dentures at the great white throne. I reckon a
dentist'll do brisk business. Anyhow, them people never even see Jesus's
kingdom, so how they going to hope to be a transgressor in it? Besides, if the
whole earth gets burned up, what's left of Gehenna?
Colonel: Why, I reckon it gets burned up, too.
Huck: Now there's a piece o' science.
Colonel: But them worms is still buggin’ me, Huck. Jesus says they
ain't a-never goin’ to die. And that fire. Jesus said it warn't ever
Huck: You worry too much. Blame it, Jesus never said them worms'd never
die! There ain't no eternal worms! That's just plain nonsense. He said they wouldn't
die. And they won't, so long as they got plenty o’ food. What do you think
them worms is for? All they do is eat up them corpses. What the fire
don't get, the worms eat up. It's just like what they done to your t’maters
Colonel: Aw, come on, Huck. You know I'm still sore about that.
Huck: But it lines up with what I'm saying, Colonel! When your
tomaters was all gone, was there any more worms in 'em? I'm talkin’ nonsense.
There won't be no lack of worms or fire as long as there's a
transgressor. Think! If that fire and them worms ain't there, how's them
fancied-up Israel-types gonna make room for more transgressors? As long as
there's a transgressor, nobody's gonna be getting’ rid of the worms or
dousin’ the fire, you can bet. Back in Moses's day, God said nearly the
same thing about the fire on the altar. He said it wouldn't go out no how
(Lv. 6:12-13). But what went on? I knowed from the day I was born that the
temple got crumpled up, along with the altar, and now Jesus lives in people's
hearts. But as long as that temple was standin’, there warn't no chance in
Tarshish anybody's going to wet that blaze. And as long as a
transgressor's transgressin' in the thousand-year kingdom, there ain't no man
alive, I don't care how fancy his robe, what's going to take one of them
worms on a fishing trip. Now—you still worried about them worms?
Colonel: No. No I ain't. You made it make sense to me, Huck. Thank
you. But how are you going to explain them other brands o’ hell, and them
sheeps and goats, and the Rich Man and Lazy Russ, and that eternal fire
in Matthew, chapter twenty-five?
Huck: Wouldn't I like to lay it out! But use your eyes,
Colonel. You can see that we're up against people’s patience, and this thing's
got to end sometime so's people can rest and take their medicine. We'll
do it next time around—or soon after.
Colonel: Suits me. Joe?
Joe Shepherdson: Yep. That'll be good.