Posts Tagged ‘Gehenna’

Exploring Hell – Part 4

Friday, August 13th, 2010 by Jason Wermuth

In the previous three posts we have been discussing hell from the Old Testament, the Second Temple Period and from the Gospels. In this final post I want to conclude with some thoughts on what the rest of the New Testament has to say about hell. As we saw in post 3, Jesus certainly taught that there will be a place of judgment for those who are sinners. That place is primarily referred to as Gehenna by Jesus, which was a valley known for death and agony. In the rest of the New Testament there is hardly any mention of hell. In the Pauline Epistles, hell is almost completely absent aside from a few allusions.

In James we have one mention of hell with reference to what will happen to those whose tongues run unbridled.

And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell (James 3:6).

As with Jesus’ use of the phrase in the gospels, James here uses the word Gehenna. It is not clear what he is envisioning when he says this, but it appears that James is using this term in a manner similar to the way Jesus used it. Namely as a phrase to denote a real punishment that will take place, in this case for those who use their tongues violently.

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Exploring Hell – Part 3

Friday, July 30th, 2010 by Jason Wermuth

In our last discussion, I wrote about hell in the Second Temple Period and how certain texts such as 1 Enoch and Jubilees portray eternal judgement. What we saw was that the place of judgment in Second Temple Jewish literature was primarily the place of judgment for the fallen angels and their offspring. Now we must enter the New Testament to find out what Jesus thought about eternal judgment. This week we will focus on Jesus’ use of the term Gehenna in the gospels:

A sampling of passages translated “hell” that use the term Gehenna:

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. (Matt 5:22)

If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matt 5:29)

If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matt 5:30)

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt 10:28)

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matt 23:15)

If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell. (Mk 9:45)

But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! (Lk 12:5)

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Exploring Hell – Part 2

Saturday, July 17th, 2010 by Jason Wermuth

A couple of weeks ago I began a series about hell. In part 1 of the discussion I gave a brief overview of the topic of hell in the Old Testament. I concluded that there is no explicit mention of hell in the OT and that any attempt to identify Sheol with hell would be futile. Today I want to take a brief look at the topic of hell in the Second Temple Period. Again, I am not a biblical scholar, so if you find some gaps in my scholarship, please contribute to the discussion below and let us know your thoughts.

As I have already mentioned, in the Hebrew Bible (OT), hell, in the way that many modern western Christians conceive of it, is simply unknown. We do not find a fiery place of torment where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. What we do find in the Old Testament is the grave. God is the one who lives in heaven and human beings live on earth. When a human being dies, in the OT, they go into the depths of the earth. It does appear that the person continues to exist in some way, but they do not go to heaven or hell, at least not in the minds of early Jewish writers. Things begin to shift, however, when we arrive at the Second Temple Period (roughly 200 b.c. – 200 a.d.). In and around this era, the Jewish people have been exasperated by empires and persecuting rulers. Having recently been freed from exile, the Jewish people found themselves under the attack of Alexander the Great then Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and finally the Roman Empire. In the Second Temple Period (hereafter 2TP), the Jewish writers are often seen trying to make sense of the world around them. In 1 Enoch we read of fallen angels from Genesis 6, who slept with human women and bore hybrid offspring who would continue to torment the earth while their parents (the angels) were subjected to punishment. In a book called Jubilees we find a similar story of angelic beings disobeying God and bearing hybrid offspring who tempted the faithful under the rule of a leader named Mastema (or Satan). In both of these stories, the offspring of these fallen angels appear to be the cause of evil in the world and the reason that the Jewish people are continually tormented. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Hell – Part 1

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010 by Jason Wermuth

Over the past few weeks I have received many comments from people chiding me to provide a bit more depth in my treatment of the question of hell. I must confess, however, that writing anything about a subject so terrifying and controversial is daunting, but I feel compelled to lay some of my views out there and then engage in the dialogue. Before I enter into this in a bit more depth, I want to say that by no means am I an expert on the subject, but as all Christians must, I have been wrestling with the concept of hell for quite some time  and I am still working out my views on the matter. Thus, while I am presenting a very concise description of my views of hell in what will follow, I am open and flexible to changing that opinion as I dialogue with others. This post will be a series of posts over the next few weeks, as it will take quite a bit of extra space to present my ideas in a clear and hopefully cogent way.

In my previous post on hell I laid out a few of the more prevalent views and asked posters to comment on where they fell in this theological discussion. The views listed were as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

What’s the Hell?

Saturday, June 5th, 2010 by Jason Wermuth


Many people talk about it, but there are so many visions of hell today that it is hard for the average Christian to know what to believe.

Is there a hell?

Well scripture certainly seems to give the impression that there is some sort of eternal punishment for those who reject Christ. But what is hell?

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