The Evangelical Universalist Forum



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?


@davo once challenged me to come up with literature from before the time of Christ in which Gehenna was used to describe something postmortem. I wasn’t able to come up with anything.


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]


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.


Chad, when Jesus threatened people with hell, what do you think he was referring to?


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.


Paidion, are you a registered organ donor?