What Would We Do Without Hell?

Awhile back I read a news report about a young lady who had been brutally raped and murdered. At the sentencing trial, the distraught father shouted at the guilty party … I hope you Rot in Hell!”

Other times, I’ve heard enraged individuals condemn their adversary by shouting … I hope you Burn in Hell!”

And on more than one occasion, I’ve heard someone say to another (usually in a fit of anger) … “Go to Hell!”

It’s apparent that “Hell” is widely accepted as a less-than-desirable place to be.

But what is “Hell?” Is it truly that hotter-than-hot place mentioned in the Bible? And where is it located?

More to the question, how did the story of “Hell” get started in the first place?

It seems the ancient Egyptians were the first to teach afterlife judgment. They believed the deceased would be judged by Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld. If he deemed a soul as evil, it would be doomed to experience either terrifying darkness or a river of fire.

Then the Zoroastrians came along (a Persian religion), who agreed with the Egyptians abousoulsinhell.jpgt an afterlife judgment. The difference being they believed the dead would be resurrected (rather than sent to the underworld) – either to a good life or to a place of unspeakable torment.

The early Greeks also taught that the soul lived on after death and Hades was their realm for the dead (good or bad). However, in later years, the philosophy of afterlife judgment (and either reward or curse) permeated their beliefs. Can you guess where the bad guys went? Of course! To a place (below Hades) where they suffered eternal torment.

And then along comes Paul (our favorite Christian) who declares the “evil” will receive wrath and furyanguish and distress … at life’s end.

One source that also talks about this undesirable place – and that few know about — is the Book of Enoch, which was written during the post-exilic period of Jewish history. This book provides several detailed accounts about some underworld journeys that Enoch took. I was struck by the number of times he used the word “fire” to describe what he saw. He talks about fiery bows and arrows, fiery swords, rivers of fire, tongues of fire, portals of fire, streams of fire, mountains of fire, and of course, the abyss of fire that holds the naughty angels (that supposedly bred with human women).

What stood out to me is that Enoch never uses the word “Hell,” yet it is apparent to those who condemn others to this awful place that this is exactly what they have in mind.

One more interesting fact about Hell. Tertullian, a noted second century theologian, has been credited in numerous places with the following statement:

At that greatest of all spectacles, that last and eternal judgment how shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates liquefying in … flames … philosophers blushing in red-hot fires …

(It seems the “Hell” curse is nothing new.)

One last tidbit to consider about “Hell” – do you know where the actual word came from? It’s derived from the Old English word hel, helle and came into being around 725 CE as a reference to the netherworld of the dead. Its core meaning is “to hide, conceal.” Obviously, its meaning has evolved over the years. Where it was once used to describe the dark and dismal abode of departed spirits, in today’s idiom it has come to mean the place of eternal punishment for the wicked.

So … if we take it all away, where are we going to send those “sorry bastards who never should have been born”?

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12 thoughts on “What Would We Do Without Hell?

    • Hi Ratamacue0! Haven’t seen you around much lately.

      Most of the info in this posting came from the research I did for my book. 🙂

      (BTW, I looked into an audio version and it’s rather complicated so I doubt I’ll go forward with it. Sorry.)

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      • (BTW, I looked into an audio version and it’s rather complicated so I doubt I’ll go forward with it. Sorry.)

        So are you discriminating against the blind, or expecting Jesus to heal them?

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      • “Haven’t seen [me] around…”

        Oh? Where’ve you been? =p

        I’ve been around. Haven’t had as much to say on the blogs I know we have in common lately. Partly perhaps from lack of their posting, partly from my journey progressing (?). Been reading and commenting on Cassidy’s and Neil’s blogs a fair amount lately. (Roll to Disbelieve; Godless in Dixie.)

        Can you cite some of your sources here? And/or are they in the book?

        I’m still interested to read it sometime. Bummer about the audio. I’m curious what makes it complicated, if you can explain.

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  1. Hi Nan

    What puzzles me is how Christians such as Tertullian could exalt at the idea of their adversaries suffering eternal torment. I would have felt being immensely sad about such a prospect would be a more appropriate emotion.

    I have been intrigued by the Book of Enoch reading Zach’s post on it.
    https://thefreethinkinghuman.wordpress.com/2015/01/18/how-1-enoch-destroyed-my-view-of-biblical-infallibility/

    I thought it appropriate to repeat here a comment I made in regard to that post, given its relevance to Jesus’ teaching on the matter of eternal judgement.

    ‘I happened to come across a copy of the Book of Enoch in my local library. I was particularly interested to read the 27 page introduction by W. O. E. Oesterley. It was noted that the Book of Enoch appears to have had a very profound impact on the theology of the New Testament, especially that contained in the three synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke. R.H. Charles, who provided the definitive translation of the Book of Enoch especially focuses on the relationship to Matthew 25:31-16 (the sheep and the goats) he believes that “the Similitudes of Enoch are presupposed in the scene from Matthew”.’

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  2. Peter — sorry for my delay in responding.

    On one hand, it does seem strange that Tertullian would say what he did. On the other hand, I truly believe there are “Christians” today that are gleeful at the thought that someone who has “wronged” them is a candidate for “hell.” In fact, I would go so far as to say they would even “rejoice,” as Tertullian did.

    Such a statement does not speak well of our humanity, but nonetheless, I do feel it has merit.

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