The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Hades, Gehenna, Tartarus, & the Abyss: Distinct but Related Compartments

Thanks Paidion. Respectfully, we’ll have to agree to disagree on the aspect of Sheol / Hades simply being the grave and here’s why:

· I think the OT’s Hebrew “queber” (spelling varies) and it’s NT Greek equivalent “mnemeion” account for physical graves including sepulchres and other burial structures of that sort in the Ancient Near East – both communal and individual. Now the liberty that some take to interpret or translate Sheol / Hades as “the grave” whether literally or poetically is at their discretion and is certainly understandable but as some of us assess, “the grave” may not be the most accurate term to render them or convey their truest, nuanced meaning. Truly, I’d agree with you more if you said Sheol / Hades is “the unseen” which even then to me denotes an unseen realm of existence to the physical eye, least God enable it otherwise.

· The idea of an intermediate state, although disputuable, is a concept that has some merit in the Scripture. No, I don’t endorse the idea of an “eternal” soul (I think “extra-temporal” may be better suited to aptly describe the longevity of man’s “inner parts”) but I think there’s evidence, Biblical and otherwise, that man has a part of him – what we refer to as the “soul” and/or “spirit,” used interchangeably at times – which survives physical death. I have a portion of an article from The Berean Bible Society website that gives more insight on this perspective if you’d like to view and dissect that.

To your first point, I’d like to say that we agree for the most part. My hope gleaned from study of the Writ is indeed that the fires of Gehenna and/or the Lake of Fire are not only destructive or retributive (I’m not sure that you’ll agree that God enacts vengeance there or on Earth); and yet that it posesses a stark element of purgation necessary for correction and godly fear – “the terror of Yahweh”, so to speak – which leads to eventual repentance.

To clarify for others (pardon me the length of this comment), I have argued elsewhere that “Gehenna is Hades,” and that one day in the future, after the Final Judgment, Gehenna/Hades and its occupants will be cast into the remedial, temporary, lake of fire—which is the second death, that is, the death of death.

To the best of my current understanding, I believe God created these prisons:

-hell/Sheol/Hades/Gehenna for unrepentant humans,
-the Abyss/Tartarus for certain fallen angels,
-and the lake of fire for after Judgment, for all fallen angels, together with all unrepentant humans.

As to who makes the rules for them, I am sure God has faithful angels keeping certain notorious demonic beings prisoner inside the Abyss/Tartarus under lock and key, because of his mercy on us.

But I believe those humans now residing in hell/Sheol/Hades/Gehenna are POW’s under the dominion of Satan in death, even as they were in life; however, I believe there are restrictions on the devil by our merciful God as to what he can do to them in death. But those people are suffering terribly there, and better to lose an eye or a hand than go there!

But note: the correction, repentance, and deliverance of all rebels will come later, in the divine lake of fire, after Judgment.

We know the devil is a captor:

2 Timothy 2:25-26 (NIV)
25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

2 Corinthians 4:4
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

(Similarly, his servant the Antichrist will also be an imprisoner: Habakkuk 1:15-17.)

Regarding scriptural support for the idea of the legalistic devil exercising some measure of control over Gehenna-Hades at present, I said in “Gehenna is Hades”:

Also, in the following comment to Paidion in another thread, I clarified that prior to the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, Sheol/hell/Gehenna/Hades originally had two chambers—one for the righteous dead, and one for sinners—but that now it houses only one chamber for those who die as unrepentant sinners:

marcthedawn also said,

But…I disagree that Gehenna was created for the devil and his angels. I believe the lake of fire was created for them. The lake of fire comes after Judgment; and the beast, the false prophet, the devil and his angels, all the damned, and Hades itself will be cast into it (Rev. 20:10-15). Hence, I believe the following verse refers to the lake of fire, not Gehenna/Hades:

Matthew 25:41
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal [YLT “age-during”] fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

The devil will not be calling any more shots in the lake of fire.

Again, I believe God the Teacher is the maker of the prisons of Sheol and Tartarus and the Abyss (even for the safety of the living). Apparently Sheol (a.k.a. Hades, hell, Gehenna) is for humans, the righteous of whom had to remain “prisoners of hope” in the Paradise compartment below UNTIL the shedding of Christ’s blood—

Zechariah 9:8-12 (NIV)
8 But I will encamp at my temple to guard it against marauding forces. Never again will an oppressor overrun my people, for now I am keeping watch.

The Coming of Zion’s King

9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.
11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

—whereas the Abyss (including deepest Tartarus) is for those “special case” fallen angels who “abandoned” their first and proper estate as per this absolutely astonishing story:

Genesis 6:1-4 (NIV)

Wickedness in the World

1 When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them,
2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.
3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal [or corrupt]; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

Jude 6-7 (NIV)
6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.
7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion [KJV “and going after strange flesh,” καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσ σαρκὸς ἑτέρας]. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal [YLT age-during] fire.

2 Peter 2:4 (YLT)
For if God messengers [angels] who sinned did not spare, but with chains of thick gloom, having cast them down to Tartarus, did deliver them to judgment, having been reserved [guarded],

—and very unfortunately, it would appear that some (all?!) of the special case fallen angels now in the Abyss will be freed from their prison in the future, when wickedness comes to its final fullness; for example:

Revelation 9:1-3 (NIV)
9 The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star [Lucifer] that had [already] fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss.
2 When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss.
3 And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth.

And even other fallen angels who have been kept bound, will be unleashed by mankind’s crescendo of rebellion and the consequences of rejecting God and choosing to worship the dragon instead:

Revelation 9:14-15 (NIV)

14 It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”
15 And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind.

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My friend I must say, that all of your points are thorough and rich and while I’m at odds with your conclusion, as it stands you’ve made a solid case for why you believe what you do and I applaud you for doing that ever so gracefully. I’ll read your links when I get a chance to further expand my understanding of your interpretation.

The prophecy you listed in Zechariah 9:8-12 just goes to show how dual fulfillment / correlative layers of interpretation are plausible and in many cases inevitable. Of course when you consider that all of the OT was to be a predicated on Christ’s future birth, life, death, and resurrection, then I suppose you’ve cracked a few codes by acknowledging that alone. An Abraham’s Bosom reference in the OT?! I’m pleasantly surprised and am glad to have been enlightened on that since I’ve never seen it before! Extremely cool! :innocent:

So we agree that at least then that there is an intermediate state (sorry @Paidion lol :wink:) and God created all 4 Hells including the Lake of Fire. So my question then is this: If God created Hades / Gehenna… and if according to your view, He’s not a God who uses any kind of retributive judgement… how and why did He create interdimensional holding cells for any beings, let alone man? If G&H, as you state, is a spiritual facility where Satan and some of his crew has been given even limited authority to torment man, how is God not ultimately complicit for making Hell in the first place (then giving his enemies the A-OK to do a Job number on them on top of the fire He’s already provided to be there… His purpose for it all is unclear if He has no hand in their torment)? To be clear, I don’t have an issue with God tormenting or allowing torment via Satanic agents per se but only how it’s consistent with your worldview.

Why did not also Peter in 1 Pet. 4:4-7 take the time to enlighten his Hebrew audience (familiar with the Flood narrative in the Tanakh) and Gentile audience (who I’m sure had their own version of the Flood story) that this apparently wasn’t a work of God but of Satan? And if you believe like I do that the Flood was enacted primarily to clear the gene pool from the Nephilim who later became demon spirits then what was Satan’s purpose in killing his kinsmens’ children rather than letting them continue wreaking havoc on the Earth?

I’m willing to concede that maybe Christ could have been talking about Satan in Matt. 10:26-31 but even then God was still the One who made Gehenna and without His sovereign approval, the Devil shouldn’t even be able to tip-toe around it (or even burn any garbage in the actual Valley of Hinnom for that matter lol). Plus, I think the thematic context of the chapter indicates God, the Father is the One who can destroy the body and soul in Gehenna (to me it echoes the polar duality of God’s attributes which are nonetheless harmonious in the grand scheme of His sovereign plan and will – i.e. Job 1:21 × Deut. 32:39). God gives and takes away; He kills and makes alive because He has the authority AND power over life – being Life Himself and death because all are depedent upon Him for life anyway so without Him actively sustaining us all, we’d die by default > > not to mention our births and deaths are all foreknown to Him. God-in-Christ has conquered Death and the Hades, unlike man or angelic powers. Christ came giving life and will bring much death at his 2nd return via Revelation : Good thing it doesn’t stop there :slight_smile: You’ve still got a slew of texts that indicate vengeance, vindication in some form of another enacted by the Father – plenty in the OT, wholly endorsed by the Son who Himself will be slaying many via future judgments, and the Holy Spirit who has had a field day or two (we see what happened Ananias & Sapphira).

I understand the Apostles weren’t perfect but if they’ve got more revelation then the OT saints, you’d think they of all people (at least later in their ministry) wouldn’t be going around preaching, casting out devils, performing miracles, speaking in foreign tongues, teaching, writing letters to the assemblies they set up, etc. all under the unction of the Holy Spirit if God somehow failed to clarify Himself to them (for their sake, the ekklesia’s sake, and future believers’ sake). According to your view, it seems mighty risky for God to have continued to allow that kind of error with the official representatives of He and His Son’s campaign that late in the game, don’tcha think? I’m not sure you can wiggle your way outta that one by chalking it up to “seeing in a glass darkly.” Paul had more revelation than them and he clearly had some things to say about the vengeance of God and Christ (as well!).

I’ll give the benefit of the doubt that since Satan is the “god of this age / world” that in a [Christus Victor-esque] sense, he could temporarily be given restricted access to those in H&G. What’re your thoughts on the Book of Job and the insight it gives on God’s interaction with both the divine council (including fallen principalities)?

Veering off for a bit, I’d have to say that in ironic retrospection, that Matt. 10:28 is probably one of the best prooftexts for conditionalism / annihilationism in general (and especially conditionalists of the dualistic variety due to the body-soul distinction listed here). That bring said, due to Gehenna being the term used instead of Hades, and due to both body and soul being destroyed, I’m curious how this doesn’t by chance refer to the Lake of Fire :confused:. Of course traditionalists and other fellow purgatorial universalists may have a harder time making sense of why this isn’t referring to the intermediate state.

Still, I suppose if your Biblical anthropology is either bipartite or tripartite then we may get away with saying it’s some other figure of speech (And based on E.W. Bullinger’s “Figures of speech used in the Bible” there are A TON!) to somehow literally describe what happens to a perishing soul/spirit-body after death, albeit temporarily. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus may be used to express some implication that the soul/spirit apart from the Earthly body, has its own “nervous system” so to speak lol – to say that it contains both a mirror of our former sensory experiences and a preview of what awaits when the body and soul/spirit reunify in the Resurrections. This takes into account the presumption that the intensity of our Earthly senses is heightened in the intermediate state and will be much more vivid after the Resurrections, by the time of the Last Judgment, for better or worse. Whaddaya say?

@JasonPratt - sir, how I’ve missed your integral presence on here and oft-ignored insights! I understand you’re busy with life and its lingering lessons but for what it’s worth, I hope all is well, Doc. I’m still reading old posts of yours to catch the depth of your treatises and listening to the old TEUS webshow lectures and patiently await the days you may be able to do some individual video lectures, formal, informal, doesn’t even matter! Lol I’d like to say thank you for all your contributions. Whenever you’re available, I must ask: what say ye?

I think the more eminent Universalists from times past reflect a far more balanced understanding of Gehenna that seems lost in more contemporary times. Check out these quotes reflecting a far more fulfilled prophetic perception. Consider the words of John Wesley Hanson in his Bible Threatenings Explained


And… deferring to the work of prominent universalist Thomas Baldwin Thayer in his Theology of Universalism, this…

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 vastation 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.

John Wesley Hanson: A Pocket Cyclopaedia: Brief Explanations of Religious Terms as Understood by Universalists

And there is sooo much more in a similar vein from these 18th—19th century Universalists that is IMO worth more consideration.

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Hmmm. Interesting position Davo and thanks for your comments. Those are some very considerable points about 70 A.D. and I think I can concisely address all of your reference points by saying that while I believe that some of the prophecies Christ made [using Gehenna as a symbol] were certainly, literally, about the Destruction of Jerusalem, that they weren’t all regarding that.

Noteworthy it is that many 18th-19th century Christian universalists held to the view you espouse and I give much an ode of homage, for example, to the contributions of E.W. Bullinger and A.E. Knoch although I don’t agree with everything they’ve put forth. As I’m sure you’re aware, there were a handful of 18th-19th century CU’s who did interpret some of the texts about Gehenna as referring to either post-mortem and/or Last Judgement imagery.

If I had to pick a label, I’d say partial-preterism is the best eschatological view that can account for dual and multiple fulfillments of prophecy which can and has happened in Scripture. If you’d like we can get into the specifics. Cheers.

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The problem with partial-prêterism as I came to see it (I was one for 10yrs), was this view of prophecy in terms of “multiply fulfillmentsbeyond the biblical narrative where it only became natural to ask… “how many times does prophecy get fulfilled before it is actually fulfilled and thus realised?” — such simply becomes an endless loop according to the next theory or timetable espoused.

This is what western Christendom has done… it has led us think metaphorically about simple time statements while at the same time then think very literally about symbolic metaphors; it’s totally backward.

I empathize with that concern. If I may split hairs a bit, I must say that both preterists and futurists argue for multiple fulfillments of prophecy or layers of interpretation. As I understand it, where many futurists parts ways with preterism altogether is by mostly or completely denying or minimizing the impact 70 A.D. had as a qualifying event. They don’t see much of 70 A.D. as correlating with themes present in Christ’s (or OT prophets’) warnings versus the grander scale of supposed current and future apocalyptic events more clearly fitting the bill.

That being said, preterism to futurism is all a spectrum so no two horses will gallop alike on everything but under close evaluation, it’s apparently attested to that Hebrew mindset was ripe and familiar with the suspenseful uncertainty that came with viewing time as cyclical. While time had a somewhat linear aspect in their view, it was mostly circular per “olam” in the OT (corresponding with “aion” or “age” in the NT) which denoted things being “over the horizon” rather than “eternal” as it is often translated in English.

We know on a basic level, that multiple fulfillment / hidden meanings are there as evidenced by the NT’s quoting of OT prophecies in relation to events surrounding Christ (even ones that’d been fulfilled before or within in the lifespan of the original authors). Matt. 2:13-23 is a good example of this. Where your and many others’ dilemma comes in is what registers as the redundant – and by extension, exploitable – nature of those events. Harold Camping may ring a bell for some of us. I’d say that this can be seen as a con for partial-preterism and futurism. This does cross the bridge of conversation about inerrancy, infallibilty, and inexhaustibility of Scripture, with emphasis on whether or not we understand God’s words to be “alive” (Heb. 4:12).

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Nowhere does the Bible identify Gehenna with the Lake of fire. Hades is also different than the Lake of fire. People have identified the Lake of fire with the Dead Sea. This is the analogy. Sulfur was used to purify and ward of disease. We are baptized in the lake of fire. This isn’t Hades or Gehenna. They are connected but different:

@hollytree Now to be clear I don’t take a side in the debate of whether Hades / Gehenna / LoF are interchangeable and in fact I’d tend to agree with you that they are separate, related but distinct. For sake of discussion with @Hermano I’ve suspended disbelief to somewhat entertain the idea that they could be referring to the same concepts in the NT, based upon context. There apparently is record of Hellenistic Jews at the time such as the Pharisees using Hades and Gehenna interchangeably / interconnectedly. I want to say that Josephus states this.

I’m of the vein that thinks Ernest L. Martin and others have merit connecting the Dead Sea (geographically proximal to Sodom & Gomorrha who “suffered the vengeance of age-during fire”) to the LoF based on historical context. As I understand, Dr. Martin was a monist, not believing man possessed either a soul or spirit so his position on Hades was by default that it simply means “the grave,” dismissing the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus or any references to people going there as simply allegoric illustration. I don’t agree with that part.

I at the very least believe Gehenna and the LoF are connected based on Last Judgement imagery but I’m wondering what your view is concerning Gehenna more so than any of the other “Hell” words.

When Jesus used the word “Gehenna” He was referring to the valley outside Jerusalem. During the “Days of Vengeance” in 70 AD is what is referred to. Jerusalem and the Gehenna are still there today. The New Jerusalem is in a figurative or spiritual context. The Lake of fire is outside the new Jerusalem and this gives it a Spiritual or figurative context. The “Days of Vengeance” ended in 70 AD. The lake of fire and sulfur is a place of baptism. The words for fire and sulfur mean to purify. Divine Incense. We die to self and are resurrected to new life. Ego Death.

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I might also add that the Aramaic Targums predating Christ speak of Isaiah 66 for example (one of the more notable OT chapters slated containing prophecies about Gehenna) in a post-mortem / post-resurrection judgement context.

With that out the bag, including the facts you’ve presented, that’s a valid way to read the text especially considering the history surrounding Gehenna but I don’t think it’s the only way considering… well other history surrounding Gehenna lol. Is what I’m saying reasonable?

Unless you can give me a scripture that says the Lake of Fire is Gehenna then the only option is to take the Lake of fire as a spiritual/figurative reality. The earthly Jerusalem has an earthly Gehenna. It’s still there today. Jewish commentaries say this was a place of penal judgment along with purification. The New Jerusalem and Lake of Fire is a completely different context than the earthly Jerusalem and earthly Gehenna of Jesus time. It wasn’t until years after 70 AD that scholars started saying Gehenna was a figure for Judgment in the afterlife.

They spoke of a punishment but Gehenna wasn’t connected to the afterlife until after the destruction of 70 AD. Scholars like Josephus talked of the afterlife but Gehenna wasn’t a term that was used.

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To be fair it’s a bit disingenuous to request a scripture stating exactly that. That’d be like me asking you to “quote a scripture that says the Lake of Fire is purifying.” There are a lot scriptures where the concepts aren’t stated explicitly stated but rather implied, especially in the original languages and I think you know this. I was talking to Hermano about the creation of the Abyss and / or Tartarus which don’t state directly that God created them but since He cast demons and fallen angels there, it ought to be presumed He made it just for them.

Quote the Targum. Jews disagreed with each other. The word for sulfur means divine incense because it was used in purification.

This verse speaks of the Christians who are chosen by grace in this lifetime called the first fruits. They are saved by the Spirit and through faith in the truth. What Paul is saying here is that Christians (first fruits) are saved by belief in this lifetime. I say this lifetime because if Christians are the first fruits then this implies that there are second fruits. The fact that Paul refers to Christians as first fruits and not the “only” fruits shows this. Although Paul tells us that the first fruits are saved by the Spirit and faith he doesn’t tell us how the second fruits will be saved. We do get a clue however in Luke 3:15-17:

According to this passage it’s the unquenchable fire that Jesus baptizes in. This is the Lake Of Fire And Sulfur. In the Bible God can and does use fire not only to punish and correct but to purify. The word usage and meanings in “The Lake Of Fire” make that likely. The Bible elsewhere states that God is the savior of all people. Especially of them that believe. So, some are saved by grace through faith in this lifetime others by fire in the next. We see this in passages that speak of the restoration of creation through fire as the fire purges and creates a new heavens and earth. This is how all will be reconciled to God. Again, some are saved by grace through faith others through the fire. Faith is for this age not the next. The goats undergo the corrective purification of Christ in the lake of fire in the next. When we all embrace Christ in the next life the faith of the elect will pass away.

The objects of faith and hope will be fulfilled and perfectly realized in heaven, but love will last forever. In heaven there will be nothing but perfect expression of love towards God and each other. As the Catholic Study Bible states in it’s commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:13-

Some are disturbed that God has a chosen elect that He saves in this lifetime. Even though I believe God will one day reconcile all to Himself it is the Biblical teaching and reality that forces me to believe that God’s special love extends only to a select few in this life. Consider the passages:

The word used for hate here means loved less. One reason we know this because in Genesis 29:30-31 the phrase ‘loved Rachel more than Leah’ is used as the equivalent of ‘Leah was hated’:

The other reason is in Matthew Jesus tells us that in order to be His disciple we must hate our family. He’s not referring to an attitude of hostility but telling us to have a love for Him that is greater than our love for our family. God has a chosen people in this lifetime saved by grace through faith but this doesn’t mean all will not make it. For the first will be last and the last will be first. But we will all make it. Indeed, God is the Savior of all people. Especially of them that believe.

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Found this on the Targums:


The ancient Aramaic paraphrase-translations of the Hebrew Bible known as Targums supply the term “Gehinnom” frequently to verses touching upon resurrection, judgment, and the fate of the wicked. This may also include addition of the phrase “second death”, as in the final chapter of the Book of Isaiah, where the Hebrew version does not mention either Gehinnom or the Second Death, whereas the Targums add both. In this the Targums are parallel to the Gospel of Mark addition of “Gehenna” to the quotation of the Isaiah verses describing the corpses “where their worm does not die

But this isn’t the afterlife. They spoke of a punishment but Gehenna wasn’t connected to the afterlife until after the destruction of 70 AD. Scholars like Josephus talked of the afterlife but Gehenna wasn’t a term that was used.

Okay, I see the reference to the second death in the Targums. This is the Lake of fire. It punishes and purifies then. I guess I have no problem calling it Gehenna

Some are often criticised for linking Christ’s metaphorical use of Gehenna fire with Gods future refinement Process. Now I may stand corrected, but I am yet to be shown were Christ directly links Gehenna fire with the destruction of AD 70, Without a certain amount of assumption being involved.

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On Second thought I just found this:

Many Bible scholars assume that when Jesus mentioned “Gehenna," he referred to the common idea of “hell," a place of unending infernal misery for the wicked. To support the traditional belief, these Bible scholars have investigated the meaning of“Gehenna," hoping to show how the word was interpreted by Jews in the time of Jesus. They claim that the use of the word by the Jews, reveals the use that Jesus made of it. The truth is, in the time of Jesus, the Jews were divided in their opinions about a resurrection, and an afterlife.

Since the Jews disagreed we can’t turn to the Targums to decide. We must turn to the word of God.