Devils running hell

John K, a comment like that isn’t very helpful, is it? I suggest you cite chapter and verse if you want to better make your point.

Yes, well, a remark that Hell was “invented to coerce folks into believing in Christianity” isn’t very helpful, either. I mean, when you actually think about it, it makes no sense at all, does it?

So it’s not the sort of thing I feel like getting up and researching while the clock is ticking away the pennies on my phone bill.

But one might point out the “eternal” or “everlasting” of Matthew, 26:42, 46, or Mark 9:42-48.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

Let’s remember–you go to heaven or hell AFTER Judgement Day. Until then, nobody goes anywhere; we all just lay around in our graves, rotting. The idea of going straight to hell probably comes not only from the Greeks, but also the Romans. The sewers under Rome were populated by outcasts, pickpockets, and the like. Romans buried their dead in nearby catacombs. Put two and two together.

For a book that supposedly answers every question, the Bible leaves a lot to be desired. Who runs Hell? What happened to the Ark of the Covenant? Where did Cain find a wife? Was Jesus ever married? I know some authors hate to do rewrites, but jeez, a little proofreading doesn’t seem like that much to ask

DrTom writes:

Ack! A heretic! He denies that the blessed departed enter immediately into the Beatific Vision.
Where are the matches? :slight_smile:

“Gold cannot always get you good soldiers, but good soldiers can always get you gold”

Not the typical western view, but Eastern Orthodoxy has always gone with the “soul sleep”. The Bible, frankly, allows of more than one interpretation on the point.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

The earliest Biblical books not only “allow more than one interpretation,” as John K says, in fact they don’t mention life-after-death at all. The first ten or eleven books of the Bible (through Deuteronomist history – that is, through II Kings; and we could add, many later books as well) clearly take the attitude that justice is to be found in THIS world. There is no mention of resurrection, messiah, heaven (as abode of the dead), hell, nothin’ like that. The closest we get is in Kings, when Elijah (and later Elisha) revive people from death (or possibly administer CPR.) But those are clearly just “healings”, reversing two tragic, premature deaths.

Over time, the notion that justice happens in this world was clearly at odds with reality. The later prophets (especially Isaiah) started muttering about a messianic era to come, when the good are rewarded and the wicked are punished. However, the future messianic age was clearly phrased in terms of this world, not a non-corporeal realm.

It’s not until way late, long after the death of Jesus, that we get biblical writers talking about “Paradise” as a place after death. Some of the gospel writers attempt to pre-date this notion, by twisting earlier prophecies of a messianic era; and such efforts were very effective propoganda for early Christianity. Then much later came visions of halos and harps, devils with pitchforks, etc.

So, as you say, John K, the Bible is subject to lots of interpretation, just pick the verses that best suit your needs.


I will agree with you on New Testament and Patristic authors selecting and defining “messianic” texts in light of their own views. I think that you miss an aspect of Jewish thought when you place all the talk of Paradise “long after the death of Jesus.” (Halos, harps, and pitchforks are, indeed, much later.)

There was a considerable body of Jewish literature extant at the time of the first century that did, indeed, discuss aspects of eternal salvation and eternal punishment. The books of the Maccabees (used by early Christians and included in the Catholic canon although rejected by the Jewish community at the council of Jamnia as having not stood the test of time) refer to the Resurrection and to prayers for the dead. Hell, (often Gehenna), is described as a place of eternal punishment in the various books of the Jewish apocrypha that also remained outside the Christian canon, including: The Assumption of Moses, The Apocalypse of Baruch, 1 Enoch, and Esdras. Similarly, Paradise (the third level of Heaven) is mentioned in Esdras, 2 Baruch and others. The imagery used for heaven and hell within the New Testament often follows these texts fairly closely.

My point is that Christianity did not invent these images from whole cloth outside Judaism. These beliefs were being considered within Judaism at the time that Christianity appeared. Christianity took these ideas and expanded upon them while mainstream Judaism considered them, then set them aside.


Fair enough, Tom. The problem with trying to write concisely about any of this stuff is that it’s almost impossible, and one gets lengthier and lengthier comments. I was trying to generalize the mainstream trends, and probably over-generalized. Certainly each development sprung from (and overlapped) the thoughts of the prior eras, and certainly there were non-mainsteam sects proposing ideas that later were adopted (or rejected) by mainstream.