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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Hell.

Views: 1,187
Comments: 38
Think about Hell for a moment, what is the scene that you imagine?
Most people would imagine a very hot place, lots of fire, demons walking around with pitchforks torturing the damned, although I've never fully understood why demons would have pitch forks because pitch forks were used during harvest time to move bundles of hay onto the backs of carts, which I just can't see happening in Hell.

So where did this image of a flaming Hell where souls suffer eternal damnation come from? Well it comes from the Christian version of Hell, and it has inspired the standard depiction of Hell in books and films which in turn inspires our own standard image of Hell, but the Christian version of Hell, like Christianity itself, developed from earlier religious ideas, the first clue to the origins of our concept of Hell is that it is almost always considered to be underground.
Before people started believing in good souls going to the heavens, they believed that that the heavens were only for cirtain deities and that everyone who died, whether they were being punished or rewarded, went to the underworld.

The Judaism that Christianity developed from didn't, (and still doesn't) have a notion of Hell in the Christian sense. They believe in an underworld called Sheol that has a place called 'Gehinom' (also called 'Gehenna' in the Christian rendering of the name. It also lends its name to Islam's Hell, 'Jahannam'.) within it. The name 'Gehenna' is, derived from a geographical site in Jerusalem known as the 'Valley of Hinnom', ('Ge Hinnom' literally means Valley of Hinnom) one of the two principal valleys surrounding the Old City. Garbage from the walled city was burned there, but in ancient times, it is believed that children were sacrificed to the pagan god Molech in Gehenna, a practice that was outlawed by King Josiah (2 Kings, 23:10)
Apparently, priests would bang on drums so fathers would not hear the groans of children being sacrificed, fires were kept burning and the valley became the garbage dump of the city. The dead bodies of criminals, and the carcasses of animals were also thrown there, so you can imagine the scene and how it inspired Christianity's version of Hell.

 But Gehenna is not actualy Hell in the Christian sense, but rather a sort of 'Purgatory' where people are judged based on their life's deeds, or rather, where one becomes fully aware of one's own shortcomings and negative actions during one's life. It's basicaly a waiting room and apparently the longest one can dwell in Gehinom is 11 months, during which time the soul is purified for its eventual ascent to 'Olam Habah' ("The world to come")
So, according to the religion that Christianity developed from, we're all going to Heaven, eventualy, once our souls have been purified, so if the doom laden Christian version obviously didn't come from that source, where did Christians get the idea of a Hell full of fire and brimstone?

It was the Egyptians who first developed a version of Hell with a lake of fire within the underword with demons who punish the guilty souls for all of eternity, it originates with the VERY ancient (predating Judaism by at least a thousand years) Egyptian funerary text 'The Book of the Dead'. (basicaly a 'guide' or book of instruction to the afterlife)
According to the Coffin Texts, (a collection of ancient Egyptian funerary spells written on coffins beginning around 2000 BC) the underworld contained fiery rivers and lakes as well as fire demons (identified by fire signs on their heads) which threatened the wicked. Representations of the fiery lakes of the fifth "hour" of the Amduat (another Egyptian funerary text) depict them in the form of the standard pool or lake hieroglyph, but with flame-red "water" lines, and surrounded on all four sides by fire signs which not only identify the blazing nature of the lakes, but also feed them through the graphic "dripping" of their flames.
This is obviously what inspired whoever wrote the Book of Revelation, this image of Hell was also used by Hippolytus of Rome in about the year 200 AD and has continued to be used by Christians ever since.
This is also quite interesting because the whole Christian notion of ascending to Heaven originates with Egyptian beliefs too. Like the rest of the world, the Egyptians believed in the underworld, but they believed that their pharoahs were deities in mortal form who, after the death of their bodies would ascend into the Heavens to join the other deities. The notion of monotheism originaly came from Egypt too in the form of Atenism 

Although it probably wasn't directly adopted from the Egyptians but rather via Hellenistic beliefs. 'Hellenistic' refers to the Greek and Roman mythology that was somewhat inspired by cirtain Egyptian beliefs. The Greeks believed in an underworld called 'The Realm of Hades' (Hades was the Greek god of the underworld) and below Hades was a place of punishment called 'Tartarus'
Interestingly, the Greek version of Tartarus is pretty much void of any flames and is basicaly just a dank and wretched pit engulfed in murky gloom, it's the place where Sisyphus is said to continuously roll a large boulder up a mountainside, which repeatedly rolls back down again. But in the Roman version however it is surrounded by the flaming river 'Phlegethon.'
When the Hellenistic Jews translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, (known as the 'Septuagint') they used 'Hades' in place of 'Sheol' and because under Christianity, the good all go to Heaven, then it would logicaly follow that the whole of the underworld was actualy Hell, so 'Hades', according to Christianity, became Hell.

So how did Christianity come to adopt it's version of Hell? Probably via Paul the Apostle, who greatly altered early Christianity by turning it from a purely Jewish Messianic cult into something that gentiles (non Jews) could become involved in, it is often reckoned that Paul influenced Christianity as much as Jesus himself but Paul was also a Hellenised Jew.


2:32 pm - 38 comments - 16 Kudos - Report!
Comments
Crazymike100 wrote on Jun 7th, 2009 1:52pm

MMmkay. Damn Wall of Text. I read the whole thing, expecting a joke at the end or something. :(

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EL2T wrote on Jun 7th, 2009 3:32pm

^^ Lol... you haven't read the rest of these have you?

Another interesting read, thanks Slacker!

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Jun 7th, 2009 8:59pm

Crazymike100 wrote on Jun 7th, 2009 at 12:52pm :


MMmkay. Damn Wall of Text. I read the whole thing, expecting a joke at the end or something.

Did you hear about the dyslexic devil worshipper?
He sold his soul to Santa. ;)

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SOADrox429 wrote on Jun 8th, 2009 4:23am

I've not read this, yet, but I know I'm about to hate you because I just wrote a blog on the same thing, and I know you kicked my ass at it.

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SOADrox429 wrote on Jun 8th, 2009 5:02am

From what I know, there is also influence from Norse beliefs, if only nominally. I think that it's worth mentioning.

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Jun 8th, 2009 8:24am

SOADrox429 wrote on Jun 8th, 2009 at 3:23am :


I've not read this, yet, but I know I'm about to hate you because I just wrote a blog on the same thing, and I know you kicked my ass at it.

Sorry. ;)
SOADrox429 wrote on Jun 8th, 2009 at 4:02am :

From what I know, there is also influence from Norse beliefs, if only nominally. I think that it's worth mentioning.
Well the Christian 'Hell' is named after the Norse realm of 'Hel' which in turn takes it's name from the Norse goddess of the dead, daughter of Loki, 'Hel' who was so ugly that Odin banished her to the realm that was named after her. She was said to have the head and body of a hag and the thighs and legs of a decomposing corpse.

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Jun 8th, 2009 8:24am

continued...
Her realm was pretty much like any other European version of the underworld, a dark, cold, dismal land. It was basicaly where you went if you didn't die bravely in battle and an alternative to Valhalla so it was full of ill old men and executed criminals who suffered a dismal existence, rotting away until the battle of Ragnarok when all would be destroyed and a new world would emerge.

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mamosa wrote on Jun 10th, 2009 3:03am

As it is not referred to in the Torah, there is lots of speculation and mahloket about Judaic hell and what it is like. Some say it is purgatory, pretty much a washing machine, while others say it is a place like purgatory, but you're there forever.

Now the 11 months comes from the length of time a principal mourner for one of the close 7 should recite the kaddish. It is 11 months. Therefore some interpret that to mean that the dead stay in the neutral zone for 11 months and require those prayers to help them to their final judgement, while others believe that those 11 months are the hell.

I do not agree with the latter. After all, if hell was only for 11 months, what would be the point of the prayer to help the final judgement? It would be extraneous. And I don't know if you are aware of this, but extraneous brachot are not allowed in Judaism. So I doubt three of them a fay for 11 months would be allowed if they are extraneous.

(cont)

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mamosa wrote on Jun 10th, 2009 3:03am

(cont)
No, I believe that according to Judaism there is a hell. But not a place with fire and brimstone, etc. In Judaism the highest level of punishment god will deliver is called kareit. There are multiple interpretations of this. Literally, it means cut. So one interpretation is an early death, another is family's early death (I don't agree because in Judaism there is a concept about the children not suffering for the sins of the father), and another one (which is the most agreed upon) is being cut off from god. This can result in death too. But this is (to me) what Judaic hell is: being cut off from god forever in a world where your faith is no longer lacking.

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Vitooch wrote on Jun 12th, 2009 8:05am

AMEN :)

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Jun 13th, 2009 4:01pm

mamosa wrote on Jun 10th, 2009 at 2:03am :
Therefore some interpret that to mean that the dead stay in the neutral zone for 11 months and require those prayers to help them to their final judgement, while others believe that those 11 months are the hell.

I do not agree with the latter. After all, if hell was only for 11 months, what would be the point of the prayer to help the final judgement? It would be extraneous. And I don't know if you are aware of this, but extraneous brachot are not allowed in Judaism. So I doubt three of them a fay for 11 months would be allowed if they are extraneous.

Yeah, I thought it was a strange concept myself when I first heard about it, still... it's nice to have it confirmed that at least some people have the concept that Hell lasts for 11 months maximum.

:cheers:

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salmon philippe wrote on Jun 28th, 2009 8:10am

A very interresting story of an imaginary concept of what could (have) be(en) the afterdeath ... don't you think that many men have enough of a hell existence on earth already ?

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LilM-experiment wrote on Jun 28th, 2009 10:24pm

When I picture hell, I imagine an elevator that never stops going down with George Bush, Eminem, other rappers, and the Pope XD That's worse than a fiery place where your soul burns forever (in my opinion)

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Jun 29th, 2009 12:26pm

salmon philippe wrote on Jun 28th, 2009 at 7:10am :
A very interresting story of an imaginary concept of what could (have) be(en) the afterdeath ... don't you think that many men have enough of a hell existence on earth already ?

This is true, but it's also true that many men are living a heavenly existence on earth too, and this is what the original concept of the underworld would seem to be, a continuation of our lives on earth with some people suffering and some people experiencing pleasure.

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jthm_guitarist wrote on Jul 2nd, 2009 8:04am

Super interesting read, thanks for posting!

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Trivium_Child wrote on Jul 2nd, 2009 8:28pm

Hell is coleslaw. And gnomes. And Steve. It`s all true. Michael Jackson, the Byzantine Empire, Coleslaw and garden gnomes are in league. They all want to kill us but we have a weapon that they don`t have . . . . . . . celery. Think about it, who`s weakness isn`t celery! Not mine! I can fly no planes and shaymashayion! Ariagosomasta!

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Quantonyne wrote on Jul 2nd, 2009 9:07pm

good post, i think the Norse had the best afterlife.. Die in battle go to valhalla...die of old age go to hel.

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damnphrophet wrote on Jul 3rd, 2009 5:44pm

Meh... All this shit of hell (without offense, good text :) ) doesn't mean anything to me.

If I have some sort of idea of "hell" in my mind, is like some kind of cold and lonely place, without anybody there, just you and your guilts and things like that.

But, anyways, excelent post.

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farhannvd wrote on Jul 8th, 2009 5:24pm

good post, I think. but in my religion, Islam, hell is a very very wide place with wall cover it. There are many large doors that has a lot of cruel angels who oversee the damned from all directions. And the damned are punished depends on their sins. the damned is given a drink from very hot pus that boils their brain and shatter their intestine. so many interpretations shows the description of hell in Al-Qur'an, I can explain them all:)

otherwise, very interesting explanations ^_^

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farhannvd wrote on Jul 8th, 2009 5:26pm

sorry, I mean ''I can't''

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SmellKellHell wrote on Jul 8th, 2009 6:39pm

Norse Hell is actually frozen. No fire to keep warm there.

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RED FAN #1 wrote on Oct 19th, 2009 3:15pm

what about in Revalation where it says they e=were thrown DOWN(hence the under-world)into the lake of fire(hence the heat).just read revalation...its all there...

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Oct 21st, 2009 2:13pm

RED FAN #1 wrote on Oct 19th, 2009 at 2:15pm :
what about in Revalation where it says they e=were thrown DOWN(hence the under-world)into the lake of fire(hence the heat).just read revalation...its all there...

Well that just goes to show that the location of the Christian concept of Hell is based upon the more ancient concept of the underworld and because it contains a lake of fire rather than just a deep pit, as in most mythological underworld places of punishment, then that part was probably inspired by Egyptian mythology.

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Holy Katana wrote on Nov 6th, 2009 10:19am

Slacker, could you do something on Zoroastrianism and how it relates to Judaism? I've heard that it possibly had a big influence on the concept of Satan, who was originally just an agent of God used to test people's faith.

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kenan6346 wrote on Dec 7th, 2009 10:30am

Question: did the Islamic view of Hell (which is arguably more explicit than the Christian view) come from Catholicism, or did the Catholics borrow from the Muslims? I'm guessing it's the former, just because of the blatant similarities and the fact that Catholicism is older, but I figured that you'd know ;)

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Dec 10th, 2009 5:03pm

kenan6346 wrote on Dec 7th, 2009 at 10:30am :
Question: did the Islamic view of Hell (which is arguably more explicit than the Christian view) come from Catholicism, or did the Catholics borrow from the Muslims? I'm guessing it's the former, just because of the blatant similarities and the fact that Catholicism is older, but I figured that you'd know

The Islamic Hell is actualy more similar to the Judaistic version, but with touches of Hellenistic and Christian mythology. To start with it is called 'Jahannam' which is related to the Hebrew word 'Gehinnom'. In the Qur'an there are literal descriptions of the condemned in a fiery Hell, like in Christianity, but like Hellenistic mythology there are many different levels and like the Judaistic version, contains a very deep pit known in Islam as Hawiyah.
This is all to be expected as Islam came later than any of these other versions, so would naturaly adopt little bits from the other earlier versions.

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trueamerican wrote on Feb 28th, 2011 11:31am

I haven't read this whole thing because it's 6:30am and I haven't slept yet, but I was scrolling through the comments.

1. There is no Satan in Judaism. There is no power that can rival god's.
2. There is a being with a similar name. It means "to hinder." This being isn't a devil, it's an angel who tests humans.
3. However, in Yoav, there is an angel who has a wager with god over human nature, which leads to the ridiculously cruel and over-the-top results which I'm sure Slacker is aware of.

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Mar 7th, 2011 10:15am

trueamerican wrote on Feb 28th, 2011 at 11:31am :
I haven't read this whole thing because it's 6:30am and I haven't slept yet, but I was scrolling through the comments.

1. There is no Satan in Judaism. There is no power that can rival god's.
2. There is a being with a similar name. It means "to hinder." This being isn't a devil, it's an angel who tests humans.
3. However, in Yoav, there is an angel who has a wager with god over human nature, which leads to the ridiculously cruel and over-the-top results which I'm sure Slacker is aware of.

Are you talking about the Book of Job? (if memory serves correctly, wasn't Yoav, or Joab, the nephew of King David and a captain in David's army who killed his brother for killing his other brother?) If you are, then the angel you mention is called 'Ha-Satan' which is translated as “the accuser,” or “the adversary.”

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E_Paradox wrote on May 28th, 2011 1:21am

tl:dr

BUT i noticed you called the firey pit thingo of Christian origin. Isnt that Hades, of greek origin? The New Testament makes reference to this...

And sheol means 'grave'.

So either people beleive.. 'hell' is underground in reference to a grave...

Or because people seem to like directions (Ie Heaven is up, so hell must be in the opposite direction... down).

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E_Paradox wrote on May 28th, 2011 1:22am

And I can honestly say I have not read revelation. I know its not entriely literal though. If that makes a difference.

but for me as a christian, hell (which i hate to talk about but ) is a place without God. Seeing as God created all the good stuff, hell would be a place without -
Some people (in hope) beleive that therefore hell is just oblivion. Eternity of nothingness. Cease to exist.

Some people take that to mean all the bad stuff that has ever happened, as a state of mind amplified because there is not contrasting good stuff.

Personally I dont know and dont really care. It is made clear that Hell is bad and Heaven is good, quite frankly.

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stealstrings wrote on Nov 18th, 2011 8:06am

Nice read. :)

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Controlpanel wrote on Dec 11th, 2011 10:56am

I read what you said on dec. 11th in regards to the JTR thread..

just wanted to point out a few things...

Judaism =/= Christianity...the same God created both religeons, but for Judaism to rather point toward christianity as an answer to the problems posed by the law (Given to moses by God himself)
I would venture to guess that Christianity got its picture of hell from the apostle Johns' book of revalation, where it seems hell and sheol, or the "pit", as it is often referred to, are two seperate places. According to Christianity, christians do not ever go to hell or sheol, but rather are exempt from judgement and go directly to heaven, a privelidge afforded them by their belief in christs blood.
So, very insightful ponderings into the origin of the worlds definition of hell, but with your basic facts about Judaism and Christianity just a hair twisted..

Very nice read, as stealstring said. Always a pleasure!

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Killer Bob 912 wrote on Dec 15th, 2011 3:46pm

Good stuff man, keep it up :)

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Harvey Swick wrote on Jan 26th, 2012 9:59am

a good read Slacker but, i remain convinced in an all powerful god. i am glad that there is someone here who can challenge that belief. my version of hell is cold and dark, far from the light of god.

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Jan 27th, 2012 7:16am

Harvey Swick wrote on Jan 26th, 2012 at 9:59am :
a good read Slacker but, i remain convinced in an all powerful god. i am glad that there is someone here who can challenge that belief. my version of hell is cold and dark, far from the light of god.

Pretty much like the Greek 'Tartarus' in Hades then. If Heaven is the abode of God and is situated above us, and if Hell or Hades is below us, then the deepest pit in Hell is the furthest away that one can physically get from God, and 'Tartarus' is the deepest, darkest, pit in all of Hades.

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justdoit007 wrote on Jan 24th, 2014 6:02pm

All the reverences you have given to the ancient beliefs are very interesting. With regards to the bible though and Christianity, personally, this is the only one I am qualified to comment on. And with that said, although there are very many theories as to the meaning of hell and all those flames, the answer to what hell is is very simple. If you think back, like every human being that has ever lived, bar those few who for whatever reason believe they have had a pre-existance in another life, the rest of us are aware that before our parents pro-created us and we became conscience, we didn't exist. Now if you simply reverse the situation back to what it was originally before having this experience called life, you will have death. Simply put, death is the opposite of life. Ecclesiastes 9:5,6 If you can talk, walk, sing, play, think, laugh, cry, think, plan, scheme, paint, eat, drink or whatever... your alive, because in Sheol, there is no activity, except bodily decomposition. (....continued below)

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justdoit007 wrote on Jan 24th, 2014 6:04pm

There are no demons in hell, only humans can go there for hell hades or sheol is simply the common grave of mankind. Genesis chpt 6:1-4 ; Jude6 ; 1Peter 3:19 ; Luke 8:31,32 and other scriptures all show us that the demons, formerly 'sons of God', rather than inhabiting a place called hell or hades, have access to this world and remain here at there leisure away from their 'proper dwelling place' which is in Heaven. If you will permit, the Book of Revelation chpt 12 goes on to reveal for us that in a time to come these demons will no longer be permitted into the Heavenly realm, and will be confined to this earth before ending up in the Abyss which 3 of the above scriptures confirm. (...continued below)

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justdoit007 wrote on Jan 24th, 2014 6:05pm

Finally, the True God takes no pleasure in the idea that the wicked should be burning forever in a pit of burning fire. The reverences to Gehenna in the Bible for Christian Jews of the time would have been very easily understood, that is because as you have already explained, the actual place was in existence at that time. Anything that got hurled into that dump outside the city walls was consumed by the fires that were kept burning there. Gehenna and the reverences to everlasting fire in the Bible simply mean 'total destruction' or death without the hope of a resurrection, which is the only hope of a dead person seeing life again. Now this may not seem so elaborate or mysterious as all the interpretations attributed to this topic in the Bible or outside it, but it is the truth of the matter as presented by God's word, which for many is far too simple for them to accept.

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