The Evangelical Universalist Forum


You think the people simply misunderstood Jesus? But why would His enemies (i.e. the pharisees) adopt His terminology or haven’t they? I’m not sure if there is any genuine Jewish writing that has the term Gehenna in the sense of hell, 4th Esra is a Christian writing?

I could not find the Greek word “γεεννα” in either the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament nor in the Septuagint translation of the apocrypha. So I don’t know what the Pharisees would have made of the word as used by Jesus.

See my thread on the case for Jesus’ universalism and the relevance of His views on Gehenna or Hell. Jesus basically accepts the contemporary rabbinic perspective. In rabbinic Judaism, “Gehenna” (or “Gehinnom”) is the Jewish equivalent of Purgatory. Most of the unrighteous spend only a few months and no more than a year there. Therefore, Jesus’ references to “Gehenna” are relevant to the universalist question. For a good summary with documentation of the ancient rabbinic view of Gehenna, see:

Bull Crap. Gehenna is not the hell that Christians have come to understand AND FEAR. You of all persons being one who understands Greek, should be able to see the conundrum of the situation, but you, unfortunately are caught in a crossfire between hell and afterlife correction idea. You want a ‘hell,’ a place where individuals are brought before a place and made to repent, made to ‘bow the knee’ in fear and trembling, brought to God in a position of fear as opposed to a position of love.

Why can’t we be who we are and realize God loves us?

Chad it just dawned on me that you are Trolling. Yes my friend, you trolled. I don’t know why, but you did, it’s the only explanation for you missing the boat, the train, and the automobile.
Plus why is it always the Bull? Are you a Bullist? Female cows do much the same thing; I know that even though I was not brought up on a farm.

You can cuss my words all you like! I have presented scriptures that indicate hell is an unpleasant place to be. Go ahead and ignore it—you who professes to believe the Bible to be “the word of God.”

Either you’ll be corrected now by submitting to the authority of God and living righteously by the grace of God, or you’ll be corrected later after your death. “Everyone will be salted with fire.” (Mark 9:49)

Here is what Jesus said to the Pharisees:

I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:4,5)

Go ahead! Call the words of Jesus “Bull Crap” and see where it gets you!

First of all I had to look the word ‘trolling’ up. You have some nerve telling me that my post is in some way meant to cause a response. When I post I post. Period.

We’ll deal with this later.

I do have nerve. So do you. That’s why we tangle.
You did NOT write to cause a response? Oh come on, that’s why we all write, for cryin’ out loud.
No need to get knickers in a twist. :grin:

When my grandson opens the bible I have laying on the counter and scrolls to luke and says “granpa, what does this mean?”

4“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5“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!

I can say to him, "son, this means you have to do everything that God wants you to do or blah blah blah, " everyone here knows the rest of that story.

Or I can say that “son, that was Jesus telling his people they needed to listen to him. And if they didn’t, God was going to deal with them in a most unsavory manner, which He did.”

I’ll take #2 thanks.

And in response to Dave, I

guess I have nothing to say. Call me a name and then tell me

You are a hoot.

This seems to be a later development, I also have read that for some period Sheol/Hades became the name of hell and then was later replaced by Gehenna, this might make sense since in the Book of Enoch there is spoken of torments in Sheol, neither Josephus nor Philo use the term Gehenna, Josephus wrote, that the Pharisees believed in endless punishments for some in Hades.

I doubt that the purgatorial believe was mainstream in Judaism at the time of Christ, and some passages in the Talmud indicate a belief in everlasting punishment, I think modern day Jews want to whitewash their religion in some sense and the Talmud, who contains a lot bad passages.

@ Paidion, the term γαιεννα is found in Joshua 18:16 as a geographical name, it’s important I think that the term existed as actual geographical name.

I think this book is one of the first that contains the name Gehenna in the sense of hell, yet it is preserved only in Latin, maybe the original Greek or Hebrew version had Hades/Sheol instead of Gehenna.

Is it possible that Gehenna became the name of hell in Judaism in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem?

No, Sven, the rabbinic view of Gehenna as a Purgatory or temporary abode is not a later development. Indeed, it fits neatly with the way Jesus combines His Gehenna teaching with His view of Hell as a debtor’s prison (Mathew 18:34; cp. 5:25-26 par.). Yes, a few rabbis believe in eternal damnation for certain types of wickedness, but the dominant perspective is a 3 month tio 1 year sojourn in a purgative Gehenna.

I was not yet able to find any evidence that the term Gehenna was in use at the time of Christ, be it in the sence of hell, purgatory or anything other than an actual place. None of the relevant apocrypha have the term, neither have Josephus or Philo and I honestly doubt that the Rabbis from the time of Christ were as lenient as to limit punishment to a few months. To me it appears the most common view was the ressurection of the righteous and a more or less miserable existence of the wicked in Hades (not Gehenna).

I have the feeling that we are going in circles but this is my fault since I picked up the topic.

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MM - if in fact you were not posting statements that almost everyone here disagrees with, in order to stimulate a reaction, I am most abysmally sorry. That’s all ‘troll’ means to me; and that puts a lot of us into that category.
I would have thought that the ‘bullist’ comment would have been a tip-off that humor was involved, but I will try to be more obvious in the future.

It’s funny about the extended version of that same warning in Matthew:

Matthew 10:26-31 (NIV)

26 “ So do not be afraid of them [MEN], for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those [MEN] who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One [SATAN] who can destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna]. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care . 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Both soul and body.” Sounds like hell/Gehenna/Hades was more than merely a garbage dump outside the city wall for trash and dead bodies. Rather, it is a place with long-term implications as a postmortem POW camp, followed by both it (hell/Gehenna/Hades) and death being thrown together into the healing lake of fire (Rev. 20:14), some day in the future.

Furthermore, there are many shades of “fear.” We are to reverence God, yes. But be terrified of Him? No.

The devil is the one with the power of death, not God. (Hebrews 2:14, “him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil”). So Jesus is not warning readers about His Father, but about the devil.

Please prayerfully consider the powerful argument for this interpretation in:

"Is God the one who “destroys both body and soul in hell?

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That is much closer to the mark… but I would go as far to say… NOT the aftermath BUT THE actual aftermath itself. As a pantelist I contend that ‘gehenna’ and ‘the lake of fire’ are one and the same… even Paidion agrees with me on that score, although I go on to take those both be euphemisms of the AD70 destruction of Jerusalem.

What interests me greatly is that many prominent universalist of the 1800’s are way closer to my pantelist position on this matter than they are to the likes of purgatorial universalism (PU). Check out these few examples…

Fire, Lake of. – An emblem of severe calamity, judgment, discipline (Rev. 21:8), sometimes destruction (Rev. 20:13-14). This is the first instance of its use in the New Testament. It originated in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24). The destruction of Jerusalem (see Isa. 34:10) is referred to by the “lake of fire.” [Hanson’s “Bible Threatenings Explained;” “Universalist Book of Reference.”]

Death, Second. – Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8. The primary meaning of second death in the Scriptures is the second destruction of the Jewish nation. The first death was the captivity. But “by accommodation” we may say that those who awaken out of sin, after having died in trespasses and sins, and then relapse, have died a second death. The language, however, literally refers to the second devastation of the Jews, after their first national death which was in the Babylonish captivity, and the second when Jerusalem was destroyed. But it was also applied to those who had once been aroused from moral death, and again died in trespasses and sins. There is no propriety in applying it to endless torment. [“Universalist Book of Reference;” Thayer’s “Theology.”]

Gehenna. – (See “Hell”) This is a well know locality on the south of Jerusalem, where the Jews once worshipped the idol Moloch. Children were roasted there as sacrifices (Josh. 15:8, 18:16; 2 Kings 23:10). So say Campbell, Schleusner, Stuart, Parkhurst, etc. The word should not be translated hell, but should stand as Gehenna. It should no more be rendered hell than should Babylon. In process of time this valley became the receptacle of the filth and sewage of Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:10; Jer. 7:31-32, 19:2, 6). Into this place bodies of criminals were thrown without burial; and it became a place of horror to the Jews, who have great regard for their places of sepulchure. At length it became an emblem of sorrow, sin, calamity; and in the twelve times the word is found in the New Testament, it denotes either first, the literal place; or, secondly, those calamities of which it is a fit emblem, – but always of temporal duration. It is found only twelve times, used on eight occasions, and always to Jews. Only Jesus and James employ it. Paul, who :shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God," never warned the Gentiles against it, in the thirty years of his ministry. Jesus never addressed it to unbelievers but once, and then explained it as about to come in this life (Matt. 23:33). It is used to signify: –

  1. Shameful death, severe punishment in this life (Schleusner, Farrar, etc.).
  2. Literal fire in this world (Mark 9:43, 48).
  3. The literal destruction of the bodies of men (Matt. 5:22, 28:9).
  4. Clement, one of the earliest of the Christian fathers, uses it to describe his ideas of punishment, and yet he was a Universalist; which demonstrates that, in the early days of the church, the word did not signify a place of endless torment.

It means either a literal place of destruction, or it is an emblem of moral, civil, or spiritual calamities; but always in this life. It stands as Gehenna in the French Bible, Wakefield’s translation, Improved Version, etc.

Farrar says (Preface “Eternal Hope”): “In the Old Testament it is merely the pleasant valley of Hinnom (Ge Hinnom), subsequently desecrated and defiled by Josiah; on this account used, according to the Jewish tradition, as the common sewerage of the city. The corpses of the worst criminals were flung into it unburied, and fires were lit to purify the contaminated air. It then became a word which secondarily implied (1) the severest judgment which a judge could pass upon a criminal, the casting forth of his unburied corpse amid the fires and worms of this polluted valley; and (2) a punishment, which to the Jews as a body never meant an endless punishment beyond the grave. Hell must be a complete mistranslation, since it attributes to the term used by Christ a sense entirely different from the sense in which it was used by our Lord’s hearers, and, therefore, entirely different from the sense in which he could have used it.”

Origen says (c. Celsus, 6:25) that Gehenna denotes (1) the Vale of Hinnom and (2) a purificatory fire (eis ten meta basanon katharsin)

The Jewish authorities say (Mishna), “the judgment of Gehenna is for twelve months.” (Asarath Maamaroth) “There will hereafter be no Gehenna.” (Emech Hammelech) “The wicked stay in Gehenna till the resurrection, and then the Messiah, passing through it, redeems them.”

Whatever Gehenna means or does not mean, endless punishment is a doctrine that derives no support from the use of Gehenna in the Bible. [Hanson’s “Bible Hell;” “Universalist Book of Reference.”]

Hell Fire. – This phrase denotes the fire of Gehenna, the literal flame of the valley near Jerusalem, in which constant fires were kept burning to consume the offal and refuse of the city, into which criminals were cast, and which received the bodies of those who were slain when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman armies, as prophesied by our Lord, in Matt. 24, 25. It has no reference to punishment after death; or, indeed punishment anywhere else than in and near Jerusalem in the first century of the Christian era. The Revised Version places “Gehenna of fire” in the margin, to indicate the real meaning of “hell fire.” [Hanson’s Bible Hell]

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Some thoughts to the topic:

This what happened at the the siege of Jerusalem:

The death rate among the besieged increased. Soon, the Kidron valley and the Valley of Hinnom were filled with corpses. One defector told Titus that their number was estimated at 115,880. Desperate people tried to leave Jerusalem. When they had succeeded in passing their own lines and had not been killed by Roman patrols, they reached the palisade. Here they surrendered: as prisoners, they were at last entitled to some bread. Some of them ate so much, that they could not stomach it and died. In that case, their oedemaous bodies were cut open by the Syrian and Arab warders, who knew that some of these people had swallowed coins before they started their ill fated expedition. Titus refrained from punishing these violators when he discovered that there were too many. One of the defectors was the famous teacher Yohanan ben Zakkai, who escaped in a coffin and saved his life by predicting Titus that he, too, would be an emperor.

That Gehenna was used as a garbage dump lacks historical evidence and relies on the explanation of a 13th century Jew. That Gehenna became the name of hell in the aftermath of this desctruction would not explain its prior use, especially that of James:

James 3:6:

and the tongue [is] fire, the world of unrighteousness; the tongue is set in our members, the defiler of the whole body, and which sets fire to the course of nature, and is set on fire of hell [Gehenna].

Does this imply that Gehenna was actually a fiery place at the time of Christ? I suppose the child sacrifices where too long ago to be present in the mind of the people from Jerusalem, so what was James referring to if Gehenna was not used as a garbage dump? Or was James simply referring to what Jesus had taught, how likely is it that actually Jesus was the first to employ Gehenna as the name of future punishment?

Concerning Jewish thought at the time of Christ, I have not yet read any extra biblical Jewish text that features remedial punishment in the afterlife, is there any source other than the Talmud? However Plato wrote that some are banished to Tartarus for a year and then might escape if their wickedness is not incurable, maybe the Jews got the idea from him.

I’m not too sure I’d go with the child sacrifices being too long ago to be remembered etc… knowing their back-story was something Hebrews did really well and this was a particularly bad part of it, which would have given currency IMO to ‘gehenna’. Not only that… the tongue talking filth i.e., garbage, would be a natural link, I’d think. Just a thought.

Gehenna is a small valley in Jerusalem. In the Hebrew Bible, Gehenna was initially where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire.[1] Thereafter, it was deemed to be cursed (Jer. 7:31, 19:2-6).[2]

In rabbinic literature and Christian and Islamic scripture, Gehenna is a destination of the wicked.[3] This is different from the more neutral Sheol/Hades, the abode of the dead, although the King James Version of the Bible usually translates both with the Anglo-Saxon word Hell.

In the King James Version of the Bible, the term appears 13 times in 11 different verses as Valley of Hinnom, Valley of the son of Hinnom or Valley of the children of Hinnom.

The Valley of Hinnom is the modern name for the valley surrounding Jerusalem’s Old City, including Mount Zion, from the west and south. It meets and merges with the Kidron Valley, the other principal valley around the Old City, near the southeastern corner of the city.

Yeh. I don’t care what happens to my body after death, whether it naturally decays, or is thrown to the lions,
or is cast into the valley of Hinnom.