The Problem With Hell is Where It Comes From

What satan chooses to do with you is up to satan, not God. God doesn’t burn you with cigarettes and punish you for eternity, satan does. We make our choice to be with Him or satan.” (MBP)

This is also called ‘dualism’ – it puts God and satan on a sort of even playing field as ‘dual gods’. Which convinces me even more hell and such ideas are derived directly from Greek mythologies.

Let me explain what I mean by that – so you can see the similarities.

Greek: Zeus (rules heaven) and Hades (rules underworld/hell) (brothers)

Christianity: God (rules heaven) and satan (rules the underwolrd/hell)

Problem is, with hell, is the wording used is actually ‘hades’. This is not a Jewish terminology and not handed down from them to Christianity (Judaism has never used this term). So where does hades come from?

It was a Greek mythology idea about a god person that ruled the underworld, and you guessed it, it was ‘fire’. It’s not a far stretch to see how satan took on such hades like qualities and was added into the mix by Gentiles who felt their had to be ying-yang type quality for a heaven – there must also be a ‘hades/hell’.

In fact, the more I study and see all these subtle nuances in Christianity – the more I am noticing the pagan influence from the Greco-Roman world and it’s impact on Christianity (which was supposed to be a pseudo Jewish form of religion). I could easily mention the virgin birth as one of those symbols. The Trinity is another. Hell is obvious (because of the wording used). Even the way we view God – reminds me of how Zeus was viewed in the Greek mythologies.

Thus if hell is real, so is Zeus.

*Continuation of a comment put on my other post ‘Tangible Salvation Theology’

14 thoughts on “The Problem With Hell is Where It Comes From

  1. But Judaism does have a concept of heaven and hell, even if hell is not a permanent location.

    Just because the words used are similar to other groups doesn’t mean the concept is the same or was derived from the other.

    As for Christianity’s view on hell, personally I don’t think Satan has authority over anything.

  2. But Judaism does have a concept of heaven and hell, even if hell is not a permanent location. (Xander)

    Let me guess, this you know for the Dr. Michael Brown told you so?

    There is a place called Gehinna, not hell.

    If you lived in my area you could come a series of classes we’re having this year on Afterlife in Judaism; you might especially be interested in one that is being held on ‘the absence of hell’.

  3. “But Judaism does have a concept of heaven and hell, even if hell is not a permanent location” (Xander)

    Judaism doesn’t have a concept of hell, at least I haven’t seen it yet. If you have some text on that I wouldn’t mind reading it and taking a look at it.

    Judaism does have ‘sheol’ – which would be the ‘grave’ maybe even an ‘underworld’ concept. However, you will not find the term Hades or hell in the Tanakh – it didn’t exist; nor an everlasting judgement as far as I can tell.

    “Just because the words used are similar to other groups doesn’t mean the concept is the same or was derived from the other” (Xander)

    Actually, it does and that’s the problem.

    In Linguistics (study of languages) they look through things like morphology, syntax, phonetics, and basic language structure. It can be traced where words actually came from and how they got there.

    It wouldn’t be too hard to reason that a word like ‘hades’ (which is greek) could of entered the NT from a Gentile source for a variety of reasons:

    (a) Gentiles with Greek backgrounds would have been part of the early church from Paul’s campaign to add Gentiles to the early church. They even could of helped to define the theology of the time (and likely did).

    (b) The NT is written in greek – which must have been the language of the day wherever it was written. This also shows the prevelance of the language in that time frame and how it’s words/ideas probably had many years of adoption in that region. Likely some 300 years – since I think it was 330 CE that Alexander took over the Middle East regions.

    (c) The gospels were written in the 70’s to 100’s CE. This gives ample time for the Gentile community to introduce comments and ideas in communities that had no access to Torah (law) and were not well versed in scriptural ideas and motifs. What they would have been well versed in is Greco-Roman culture – which included a pantheon of gods and various ideas about how these gods functioned. Judaism was foreign to them, intriguing, but foreign.

    Any modern linguistics study will likely arrive at the conclusion a word like ‘hades’ (which was an underworld god in Greek mythology) had to be borrowed from Gentile sources versed in Greek language, culture, and thought. Because Judaism was not using the idea and even if early Christians were, how likely is it they put another god in their scriptures? (Which is oddly enough what satan became – a regular Christian hades).

    So I reason that the early church, Gentile in nature by this point, had to have added the words and concepts (including the virgin birth) since these ideas were not being used by the mother of the Christian faith, Judaism.

  4. Hey Yael. How is it going?

    No, I got my information from Jewish (non-messianic) sources. I am trying to meet you half way and understand things more from a Jewish perspective. The class sounds interesting though. What area are you in?

    Anyways, not hell per the common Christian view, but a concept of hell.

    Gehinnom: A Jewish Hell
    Only truly righteous souls ascend directly to Gan Eden, say the sages. The average person descends to a place of punishment and/or purification, generally referred to as Gehinnom.
    The name is taken from a valley (Gei Hinnom) just south of Jerusalem, once used for child sacrifice by the pagan nations of Canaan (II Kings 23:10). Some view Gehinnom as a place of torture and punishment, fire and brimstone. Others imagine it less harshly, as a place where one reviews the actions of his/her life and repents for past misdeeds.
    The soul’s sentence in Gehinnom is usually limited to a twelve-month period of purgation before it takes its place in Olam Ha-Ba (Mishnah Eduyot 2:9, Shabbat 33a). This twelve-month limit is reflected in the yearlong mourning cycle and the recitation of the Kaddish (the memorial prayer for the dead).
    Only the utterly wicked do not ascend to Gan Eden at the end of this year. Sources differ on what happens to these souls at the end of their initial time of purgation. Some say that the wicked are utterly destroyed and cease to exist, while others believe in eternal damnation (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Law of Repentance, 3:5-6).

    Both Shammai and Hillel taught on this to varying degrees, so I don’t think it is wrong to say that this was an accepted Jewish concept at the time in question. I do think that teachings in Christianity pulled in images from other cultures that we are fighting today because the people at the time didn’t full understand first century Judaism.

  5. Hi Xander,
    Halfway is good. Glad you’re looking at non-messianic sources for learning about Judaism as well. I always figured you were capable of thinking things through for yourself without the aid of a ‘filter’ such as Brown.

    Haven’t started the classes yet, since we been finishing up all the holidays. They’ll be available online in audio form so if you’re interested in hearing them, you can listen here.

    I don’t know any Jews who believe in eternal damnation but since we don’t get too bothered about beliefs I suppose anything is possible, especially back in the time of the Rambam.

    The term ‘hell’ has it’s own connotation. MJL may call Gehinna/Gehinnom a Jewish hell, but I definitely would not. It’s a pretty good site for info, however.

  6. Just to add to my previous post…

    Judaism is an ancient tradition containing an almost endless amount of written texts. Part of our tradition is to record both majority and minority opinions; part of our tradition is to record opposing opinions – these and those are the words of the Living God (Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 13b), so it is said about Shammai and Hillel who taught much in opposition to each other. Our writings also contain a wide range of materials, from halakhah – legal writings, to aggadah – stories.

    If a person desires, they can dig in and usually find someone, somewhere, who wrote something they can use to back up whatever point it is they want to make. This is what rabbis will do when making rulings, debating, interpreting, deciding the validity of an argument, just as is done in the U.S. legal system. And missionaries who target Jews like to present obscure and even nonexistent texts to back up their claims since they know most people aren’t capable of verifying these references. I am capable, however, and I do verify, no matter if it’s someone writing on a blog or one of my rabbis teaching at shul. I ask for chapters, pages, verses numbers for that purpose.

    I try not to make claims that Judaism doesn’t have a teaching on this or that, because there is just way too much material out there for me to read through in my lifetime even though I study and hour or two each day. I do, however, make claims on what Torah teaches since it is not a lengthy text and I know it quite well; I will make some claims about what is normative within Judaism and what is not, about what is normative within the various denominations of Judaism and what is not. Our denominations are not as varied as is found within Christianity so that makes this a bit easier, although we have what I would categorize as fringe groups on both sides as well whose views can be quite different.

    And as far as Xander studying Judaism? Cool. People are free to study what they want, but I have to wonder, is this really being done to meet other people halfway, is this really being done for the purpose of gaining a respectful understanding of my religion, or is it being done in order to learn the jargon with the goal always in mind of trying to evangelize us Jews through our own texts, in order to try to hold his own with Jason? Does someone who tells Jason he, Jason, does us Jews no favors by telling us we don’t need Jesus (too many negatives in there but you get the message) change so quickly as to be willing to meet me halfway? Doubtful. But, whatever. If the target is me and mine, there is nothing new under the sun.

    • I am not going to lie to you and say I have changed my beliefs, but I am not trying to shove them down your throat either. You know know I feel on it and I know your position, but it shouldn’t mean that we can not dialogue and discuss various topics. I am not trying to or wanting to attack you or force you to convert to my way of thought.

      I want to understand what was being said and how it would have been viewed when Torah was being written. Anyone can read a passage and tell someone else what it means to them. I want to understand what it meant to the original recipient so that I am not reading more into it than what was being communicated.

      I have been trying to study Jewish texts for awhile now as well as other Near Eastern beliefs. If what we believe truly has an eternal consequence, I would be foolish just to take what someone tells me at face value and hope that it is correct. I would rather study and learn for myself, so that I could be assured of what I know. That is why you will see various stances change over time as my understanding is refined. Isn’t that why you continue to study Judaism?

  7. I don’t think you have ever tried to shove your beliefs down my throat, and I appreciate that, but you can’t blame me for watching for an end around after I visited your blog and saw a link to Michael Brown. I spent quite a bit of time with the anti-missionaries some years ago; his name and his claims are quite familiar to me. At my work I often chat with ‘regular’ Christians, but they could tell you, the chill can be felt a mile away when I am approached by ‘Jews for Jesus’ or ‘Hebrew roots’ types.

    Why do I continue to study Judaism? I’m not much for beliefs and I’m not all that interested in what happens to me when I die so these are not reasons why I study. I guess I study because I enjoy studying and searching for wisdom, understanding. To me, Torah is endlessly fascinating. I have studied theology, Israel and history from the time I was a little kid; my father read me theology books from the time I could hear! Throughout my life there has always been at least a thread of connection to what I would call God…I fit well within Judaism. I’m not one to search for truth, as I have stated many times, when Solomon was given the chance to ask for anything in the whole world, he asked for wisdom, not for truth. I, too, desire wisdom. Anyway, it’s quite a Jewish thing to study.

    Have you ever read Karen Armstrong’s “The Great Transformation”? She presents some interesting ideas about ancient Near Eastern religions at the time of the 2nd Temple. I’ve heard James Parkes “The Conflict of the church and synagogue” is pretty good for early Christian/Jewish interactions, but I haven’t read much of it. My favorite on early Judaism is “The Pharisees”, a 2 volume set by Louis Finkelstein. That’s a non-Jew, non-Christian, a Christian and a Jew. I’ve read pretty much across the spectrum and across the centuries although ancient is what interests me most.

  8. “Originally the name Gehenna referred to a valley to the south-west of Jerusalem. During the period of the monarchy it was the site of a cult that invoved the burning of children (2 Kgs. 23:10; Jer. 7:31; 32:35). In rabbinic literature the name is used to refer to the place of torment for the wicked after death.” (A Concise Encyclopedia of Judaism).

    I guess Xander does have a point, this terminology for hell (Gehenna) is within the Jewish framwork for ‘hell’. I will note this is not an accepted theological concept in all of Judaism, the Reform movement has rejected it as a later ‘add on’ and unneeded.

    Truth is ‘Gehenna’ is not from the Mosaic period – or the Torah – which does, in some way mean, it is an ‘added in’ piece of theology (speculative theology at that).

    But I agree, this is where Jesus could have been pulling his theology from as well meaning it does have some Jewish sourcing to it. However, this is not an eternal punishment, it may be a type of ‘purgatory’ (the theology on that is pretty open).

    However the word ‘hades’ is not the same as Gehenna, that is a purely Greek word for an underworld – which was ruled by Hades. This greek god theology seems to have also slipped into the early Christian mindset, namely when it comes to the subject of the devil (and explaining who and what this being is).

    Now hades is not a place in any Jewish writing or reading…it’s not even referred to anywhere in scriptural writing anywhere. But if we look this word up we can find it’s origins within Greek mythology. This word is used within the gospels to explain ‘hell’. It is not the same as Gehenna and could easily have taken reign in a Gentile Christianity.

  9. I just went through the gospels and gehenna is used more often that hades. Twice in Luke and once in Matthew. Twice in Acts, which was written by Luke.

  10. my belief only has God in it. no satan. no angelic or demonic powers. yet i still believe in hell (self-exile from God) and possession (i’m currently possessed with this sermon and my fantasy football team, while others have addiction, self-esteem, or various political causes they’re possessed with). strange, maybe. but that’s what i think the narratives were pointing to, not factual, literal possessions.

  11. “my belief only has God in it. no satan. no angelic or demonic powers” (Z1g)

    I agree, same with my theology. However, I tend to think ‘hell’ is not a needed theology as well.

    “I just went through the gospels and gehenna is used more often that hades. Twice in Luke and once in Matthew. Twice in Acts, which was written by Luke” (Xander)

    This is true, I checked it out once some time back and saw the same thing – gehenna is the big word used in the greek.

    However, does it mean a hell as in a fiery torment? Is it eternal? Is it figure of speech about how one’s life can turn into ‘garbage’? Is God that cruel that He could punish someone 4-ever?

  12. “I agree, same with my theology. However, I tend to think ‘hell’ is not a needed theology as well.”

    well dawg, i’ve been there. i know people who are living in hell right now. the hell of poverty, addiction, racism, homophobia, and extreme low self-esteem. while it may not be needed as a theology, it is a practical reality.

  13. “i know people who are living in hell right now” (Z1G)

    Now that type of ‘hell’ I agree does exist – if we are using a temporal version of hell as a definition (ie: in the present). As for a future hell, I don’t see the need I guess…maybe for refining?

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