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Hell's Changing Address

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Reformer99, Oct 18, 2019.

  1. Reformer99

    Reformer99 New Member

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    On Hell’s Changing Address


    Many current theological depictions of hell focus on it being the sinner’s eternal separation from God or a place somewhere “out there” in unknown regions of space or time. Some “conservative” thinkers have even represented the biblical hell as being beyond time and space.[1] Hell is also depicted as an individual’s psychological state.

    These theological maneuvers take us away from both biblical and extra-biblical depictions of hell in terms of actual locations on earth. If one parses out the many biblical words for hell (sheol, hades, gehenna and tartarus) in their earlier historical and cultural contexts, it becomes evident that ancient people generally depicted hell as a real place located somewhere on this planet, not “out there” or deep in some inter-dimensional realm.

    The Hebrew sheol was entered via the grave once any person died. It was a shadowy place, deep, beneath the earth from which there was little, if any, hope for resurrection. As noted by John Collins, sheol was “the land of no return” that everybody entered upon death, a place of “darkness, dust, and silence” where inhabitants cannot offer praise to God.[2] Passages such as Genesis 37:35, Numbers 16:30 and Psalm 141:7 depict sheol as the literal grave, even though its personification as a devouring monster and expansion as an underworld realm is reflected in other biblical and extra-biblical passages.[3]

    Likewise, hades in Greek and early Christian thinking was depicted as a place beneath the ground reached through alternate underground passages that led to five flowing rivers, conducting the dead to a land of shades. Even today, tourists visit alleged entrances to hades. As noted on one travel site, “the geographer Pausanias claimed that Cape Tainaron was the place where Hercules brought up Cerberus from Hades”.[4] Robert Garland points out that in ancient Greek thinking hades could actually be reached by sailing westward on the sea or entering caves via land.[5] The ancient Jewish historian Josephus noted, “Hades is a place in the world not regularly finished; a subterraneous region, wherein the light of this world does not shine; from which circumstance, that in this region the light does not shine, it cannot be but there must be in it perpetual darkness.”[6]

    The dim realm of hades competed with another place in Rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity, the place known as gehenna. As noted by Collins, the word pointed to an actual valley outside of Jerusalem, a place where ancient Hebrew tradition claimed children were sacrificed to the pagan deity Moloch, according to 2 Kings 23:10, Jeremiah 7:31 and 32:35. Later writings composed after the Old Testament, such as 1 Enoch 27:2 and 54:1-2 and Matthew 5:22 connected this terrible place with stories about the punishment of the evil dead.[7]

    Finally, although it is only mentioned once in the New Testament, the other word translated hell in many bible versions is tartarus from 2 Peter 3:4. Spence and Joseph explain, “The Greek word, which is found nowhere else in the Greek Scriptures is ταρταρωσας, ‘having cast into Tartarus.’ This use of a word belonging to heathen mythology is very remarkable, and without parallel in the New Testament.”[8] Centuries before the composition of the New Testament, Plato described tartarus in his dialogue Phaedo:

    “One of the cavities in the earth is not only larger than the rest, but pierces right through from one side to the other. It is of this that Homer speaks when he says, ‘Far, far away, where lies earth’s deepest chasm,’ while elsewhere both he and many other poets refer to it as Tartarus.”[9]

    In Hesiod, “darkness and gloom” characterized this deep place in the earth, located beneath hades.[10]

    In conclusion, hell has morphed over time from places identified on the planet earth to hidden realms lost in space or an eternal condition of individuals separated from God (i.e. personal, subjective “hells”). As astronomy continues to reach out into deeper realms of our unexplored cosmos and neuroscience reveals more about the human mind, one has to wonder if hell will keep changing its address to occupy the remaining vacancies in our knowledge about ourselves, others and the deepest reaches of space. Continually changing hell’s address while claiming fidelity to a Bible that views hell as an actual location seems to be a disingenuous tactic designed to save a doctrine that often supports vested interests and questionable careers in evangelical “theology” and neo-conservative politics.

    [1] For example, see D’Souza, Dinesh, Life After Death (Washington, DC: Regency, 2009), 74-75.

    [2] Collins, John J. “Israel” in Johnston, Sarah Iles, ed., Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), 480.

    [3] See Stewart, Don, “What is Sheol?” in Blue Letter Bible at What Is Sheol?

    [4] See “4 Gates of Hades Locations Not To Miss in Greece” at A Greek Adventure World Travel Blog at 4 Gates of Hades Locations Not To Miss in Greece – AGreekAdventure World Travel Blog

    [5] Garland, Robert, Daily Life of the Ancient Greeks, 2nd ed. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2009), 186-187.

    [6] See “An Extract out of Josephus’s Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades” in Whitson, William, trans. Josephus: The Complete Works (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 974.

    [7] Collins, J. J., trans. “The Sibylline Oracles” in Charlesworth, James H. ed. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments (NY: Doubleday, 1983), 352 n. x2.

    [8] See Spence, H. D. M. and Exell, Joseph S., eds. The Pulpit Commentary: II Peter, Caffin, B. C., exposition and homiletics (NY: Funk and Wagnells, n.d.), 44.

    [9] Tredennick, Hugh, trans. Phaedo 112a in Hamilton, Edith and Hutington Cairns, eds. The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Bollingen Series LXXI (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 1973), 92.

    [10] Collins, “Sibylline Oracles,” 352 n. x2.
     
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  2. JJ50

    JJ50 Well-Known Member

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    More likely hell and heaven don't exist.
     
  3. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    Respectfully, all of the cited sources in the OP are publications sold almost exclusively to protestant ministers and their congregants. They are I think also incorrect on many points, not authoritative on Jewish concepts, or do not know what they are commenting on.

    It is true that ancient peoples had myths about an afterlife place of punishment, starting with the Egyptians. The Greeks had some similar myths. Jewish texts are notorious for taking ancient myths and turning them upside down. Some examples are Noah's flood and the story of the Exodus and in particular the plagues and the way Moses is called a God and Aaron his prophet. Genesis in general reads like a counterpoint to Egyptian myth, Babylonian myth both of which which preexist Genesis and have been preserved and discovered through careful archeological digs. So it is not surprising the Jewish usages of sheol, hades and gehenna do not reflect Egyptian, Greek or Babylonian meanings.

    None of this ever gets mentioned by protestant ministers, and it rarely is acknowledged by their congregants. The sources cited are incomplete. Sorry, and I don't mean to be impolite; but it ought to be pointed out. These materials are out of date.
     
  4. sun rise

    sun rise "This is the Hour of God"
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    To me, it's useful to look at where other religions depict "hell". For example Buddhism where people descend into hell as a result of their bad karma and stay there until the karma is fully explored. The Hindu conception of hell varies depending on the text Naraka (Hinduism) - Wikipedia And in both cases, the symbolic placement of hell is inside the Earth.

    And the location of hell and heaven is not always the focus of believers. For example C. S. Lewis referred to hell as a "state" since it defines hell in psychological terms. This puts its location as within us rather than in a particular place:

    We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.
     
  5. Base12

    Base12 In time, you will see it.

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    Hey OP...

    I just doxxed Hell.

    I'm posting the real address once and for all...

    [​IMG]

    Hell is the place babies (i.e. you, I and everyone else) come from.
     
  6. Base12

    Base12 In time, you will see it.

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    Whoever can guess how we got there in the first place wins a prize.

    :cool:
     
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