A lot of Christians like to threaten us with eternal pain and punishment in the fiery pit of Hell, but do they know anything about the origins of the concept? Do you? Here's a bit to add to your arsenal of information if you don't already know...

First of all, Hell is a real place. It's true! Rob Bell, the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church (author of Velvet Elvis), says this:

"The word hell is found fourteen times in the Bible [the NT, really], twelve of those occurrences being found in the teachings of Jesus. The word hell in English is the word gehenna in Greek. Gehenna is a reference to the Valley of Hinnom, a ravine on the south side of the city of Jerusalem. This valley was the site over the years of many violent and horrible deaths, and it came to be viewed as cursed. By Jesus' day it had become the town dump. Garbage, trash, wild animals fighting over scraps of food, a fire burning-a place of waste and destruction. Some referred to it as the place with the gnashing of teeth where the fire never dies. So when Jesus uses gehenna, it is loaded with meaning and visual power-everybody knew what he was talking about. The translator is faced with a decision about how to translate the word. If he or she uses the word hell, later readers might miss the fact that Jesus is talking about a present reality. If the word gehenna is used, readers might understand the present, geographical meaning of the word but miss the bigger implications."

Now, the author of the above passage is a pretty controversial figure in Christendom, and one of the reasons I wandered off "the path" to begin with. He's got a pretty liberal view of Jesus and Christianity, but not without data to back up his claims.

The online Jewish Encyclopedia has something interesting things to say as well, such as: there's continually rising smoke in this area, and the smell of sulfur hangs in the air... kinda like what mineral springs smell like... hmmm... Lake of Fire, mineral springs... ? Do we see a correlation? Nahhh.

Here's the Wikipedia link, too.

I'm sure there are already tons of Christians out there trying to discredit the idea that Hell is a physical place that you can just walk to the mouth of and take a big whiff of. They really just don't like being wrong; old habits (or ideas) die hard. Back in the day, believing Hell was a place you could really visit (or fall into) seemed plausible; there were a lot of inexplicable natural formations that were daunting and life-threatening. Anything surrounded in mystery was connected to the supernatural due to lack of explanation. Today, we're past believing that, if we dance enough, rain will fall. We no longer think that walking through a triangle (formed by a ladder leaning on a wall or a fallen tree leaning on another) will lead us into another dimension. So, believing that Hell is a real place actually makes it less ominous. As long as it lingers in the unknown realm of the gods, demons and angels, people will believe it; place it in our world, where we can touch and test it, it becomes demystified and, therefore... bunk.

We can falsify Hell by finding its real location. Ironic? I think so.

Views: 15

Tags: gehenna, hell, valley-of-hinnom

Comment by Daley on November 2, 2009 at 1:17am
Great stuff. This really sparks an interest with me.
Comment by Dave G on November 2, 2009 at 2:10am
Clearly, a field trip is in order to bring back photos. And Satan's autograph.
Comment by Shine on November 2, 2009 at 7:22am
A field trip is definitely needed.
Comment by Skycomet the Fallen Angel on November 2, 2009 at 11:07am
Definitely ironic, but not surprising really. Afterall, it is a well known fact that people are generally more afraid of the unknown than anything else, and when you leave Hell in the "Unknown" it remains a place for people to fear and let their morbid imaginations run wild on what types of torture might exist there. I have noticed that things that you're afraid of [Like that first rollar coaster you went on... remember that?] tend to be more frightening when you don't know what it is, what it's like, or what is going to happen. [Once you get off that rollar coaster for the first time, you're thinking, "I was afraid of that?! Jeez!!" - Or at least I was.] If you take "Hell" out of the realm of the unknown for people, they won't fear it anymore... and then maybe they can move on with their lives.
Comment by Skycomet the Fallen Angel on November 2, 2009 at 11:17am
Matthew: If there is no matter, how can there be fire? Good point! I don't think a lot of "Hell believing" Christians would have an answer for you on this one. I certainly don't. The only thing I can think of where there could POSSIBLY be fire without matter is in either of 2 THEORETICAL places. 1. At the center [the singularity] of a BLACK HOLE. [At the center of a black hole the laws of physics BREAK DOWN - the only place in our universe where this is ever possible.] So I guess if people in hell got stuck at the center of a black hole... there could be fire without matter. Of course, I doubt that any of them would feel ANY PAIN in such a place. [You would die before you ever even got close to a black hole because of the extreme gravity]. When a person's body [or I guess any thing made of matter] passes the event horizon [the literal point of no return], that body is "spaghettified." Which is a VERY SILLY scientific term for having your body turn into [basically] a long string 1 atom thick!

2. The only other place I can think of where hell could "burn" without matter is in a parallel "mirror" universe. As many cosmologists know, when the "Big Bang" happened there were two forms of "stuff" that were created, matter and anti-matter. However, one thing no one has ever been able to explain is the fact that soon after the big bang most of the anti-matter in the universe MYSTERIOUSLY DISAPPEARED! Some have theorized that it could have gone into a parallel "anti-matter" universe in which everything is "backwards" from the normal matter universe.

Both of these ideas are unprovable and rather far-fetched, but other than these, I can think of no other plausible explanation.
Comment by Dave G on November 2, 2009 at 12:21pm
Actually Matthew, fire is a plasma, the fourth state of matter, but your point still stands. :)

@Sky: There's also the possibility that there was slightly more matter than anti-matter to start with, and all of the matter currently existing is the little bit left over after all of the anti-matter was canceled out by matter, converting into energy.
Comment by Stefftastic on November 2, 2009 at 9:10pm
Yay, Satan!! I would totally build a hotel and resort there with a "fire 'n' brimstone" theme before the tourism explodes. Welcome to Hell: beware of mothers-in-law and supernatural exaggerations.
Comment by Joann Brady on November 7, 2009 at 7:17am
silly people! it is MAGIC fire in hell!! the laws of physics do not apply to god and satan! Geesh......
Comment by Linda Ducharme on November 15, 2009 at 7:46pm
That's right. Anybody that actually believes in Noah's ark, talking snakes, etc, is certainly not going to have any trouble visualizing an eternal incinerator.
Comment by Dan on November 18, 2009 at 8:05pm
So can we make "hell" an atheist state?

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