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The teaching about HELL as a place of

UNDENDING BODILY TORMENT does NOT


come from THE BIBLE
..from the free commentary which you can download at
http://sites.google.com/site/freecommentary

Summary:
The word 'hell' does occur in the English Bible, but it carries a different idea
from that of a fiery place of unending torment. The word itself is a mis-
translation of the Greek 'Gehenna' which was an above ground location.
'Gehenna' is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew 'Valley of Ben Hinnom', a
place to which several end-times prophecies of slaughter are attached.

('Hell' as a place of fiery torment intended for the unending torture of people
can be found in other writings, e.g. the Aeneid, Enoch, the Koran, Dante, and
especially is found in our own imaginations. But this concept is not to be found
in the Bible. See for yourself if you can find it there.)

WHAT WOULD 'GEHENNA' HAVE MEANT TO A FIRST-


CENTURY JEW?
(..adapted from the Topic Notes about Hell in the free commentary)

(1) An ever-burning rubbish dump. The gate on the south wall of Jerusalem
was described in 'rubbish' terms:

Neh 2:13 And I went out by night by the valley gate, even toward the
jackal's well, and to the dung gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem,
which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.

It was also called the 'Potsherd Gate', because the potter worked there and he
had plenty of broken pottery to contribute.

It is possible that Jesus, when asked 'Where, Lord?' about the coming of the
Lord while sitting on the Mount of Olives facing Jerusalem, simply raised his
left hand, pointing to vultures over the nearby rubbish dump, and answered...

Luk 17:37 And they answering say unto him, Where, Lord? And he said
unto them, Where the body is, thither will the eagles also be gathered
together.

This would line up with Old Testament predictions of the Valley of Ben-Hinnom,
Gehenna, as being the place of dead bodies, the Valley of Slaughter – see next
point.

(2) The Valley of Ben-Hinnom. 'Ge-henna' is its Greek equivalent – so a first


century Jew would think of Jeremiah's Ben-Hinnom prophecies.
This valley was where Israel sacrificed humans in their idolatrous and
unacceptable worship of Baal. And so appropriately, in return, there are
prophecies of slaughter for those who slaughtered humans there. Though the
prophecies originally applied to the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in
586BC, they still have relevance for the end-times -- prophecies have a
recurring nature. The message is: 'The end-times will be a repeat of the 586BC
disaster'. The prophecies now relate to the end-times battle of Armageddon. In
that battle an enormous number of dead are to be eaten by birds and beasts,
Rev 19:17-18... so that the valley is renamed 'the Valley of Slaughter'.

Jer 7:30 For the children of Judah have done that which is evil in my sight,
saith Jehovah: they have set their abominations in the house which is
called by my name, to defile it. 31 And they have built the high places of
Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and
their daughters in the fire; which I commanded not, neither came it into
my mind. 32 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that it shall
no more be called Topheth, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The
valley of Slaughter: for they shall bury in Topheth, till there be no place to
bury. 33 And the dead bodies of this people shall be food for the birds of
the heavens, and for the beasts of the earth; and none shall frighten them
away.

Jer 19:2 and go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the
entry of the gate Harsith [Potsherd Gate], and proclaim there the words
that I shall tell thee; 3 and say, Hear ye the word of Jehovah, O kings of
Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem: thus saith Jehovah of hosts, the God
of Israel, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, which whosoever
heareth, his ears shall tingle. 4 Because they have forsaken me, and have
estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, that
they knew not, they and their fathers and the kings of Judah; and have
filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high
places of Baal, to burn their sons in the fire for burnt-offerings unto Baal;
which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind: 6
therefore, behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that this place shall no
more be called Topheth, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The
valley of Slaughter. 7 And I will make void the counsel of Judah and
Jerusalem in this place; and I will cause them to fall by the sword before
their enemies, and by the hand of them that seek their life: and their dead
bodies will I give to be food for the birds of the heavens, and for the beasts
of the earth.

(3) Topheth... You can see from the above that 'Ben-Hinnom' is the equivalent
of 'Topheth' where idolaters burned their sons and daughters. As a
proportionate punishment, as outlined in Jeremiah 19, they (idolaters) will be
left for dead in the same place.
In another prophecy, Isaiah 30 describes Topheth as the place 'of fire and
brimstone' where the King of Assyria is punished:

Isa 30:31 For through the voice of Jehovah shall the Assyrian be
dismayed; with his rod will he smite him... 33 For a Topheth is prepared of
old; yea, for the king it is made ready; he hath made it deep and large; the
pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of Jehovah, like a stream of
brimstone, doth kindle it.

Notice how the prophecy uses figurative terms, like 'rod' 'pile' 'wood' 'breath
like brimstone'. There is more to the words than face value.
Though this prophecy appears to be talking of the Assyrian king Sennacherib,
it should be noted that Sennacherib did not die like this -- he was murdered by
his sons.

(4) The 'Potters'Field ' (just past the Potsherd Gate, in the Valley of Ben-
Hinnom) – where Judas committed suicide. This was also where Judas was
buried. It then became known as 'Akeldama' or 'Field of Blood' and was
designated as 'a burial ground for strangers':

Mat 27:3 Then Judas, who betrayed him, when he saw that he was
condemned, repented himself, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver
to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, I have sinned in that I betrayed
innocent blood. But they said, What is that to us? see thou to it. 5 And he
cast down the pieces of silver into the sanctuary, and departed; and he
went away and hanged himself. 6 And the chief priests took the pieces of
silver, and said, It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is the
price of blood. 7 And they took counsel, and bought with them the
potter's field, to bury strangers in. 8 Wherefore that field was called, the
field of blood, unto this day. 9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken
through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of
silver, the price of him that was priced, whom certain of the children of
Israel did price; 10 and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord
appointed me.

Zec 11:12-13 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my hire;
and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my hire thirty pieces of silver. 13
And Jehovah said unto me, Cast it unto the potter, the goodly price that I
was prized at by them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them
unto the potter, in the house of Jehovah.

(5) A place of unquenchable fire, just outside the city in the new heavens and
new earth... described in Isaiah 66, which Mark identifies as 'Gehenna':

Isa 66:22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make,
shall remain before me, saith Jehovah, so shall your seed and your name
remain... 24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the dead bodies of the
men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die,
neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all
flesh.

Notice that worms can live there. Either the worms or the fire, or both, are
metaphorical (for death and destruction). (The next point shows how this
valley will be holy, in the next age.)
Mar 9:47 And if thine eye cause thee to stumble, cast it out: it is good for
thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two
eyes to be cast into hell [Gehenna]; 48 where their worm dieth not, and
the fire is not quenched. 49 For every one shall be salted with fire.

This 'salt' may be the result of the fire and brimstone -- sulphur salts falling on
Israel and surrounding countries in the end-times.

It should be noted at this point that the idea of 'unquenchable fire' or


'continual burning' is most often to be found in talking of constantly burning
sacrificial fires. And Topheth was a place of sacrifices. I.e. The idea of burning
continually in 'hell-Topheth', is more likely one of tit-for-tat justice: You who
burned human sacrifices in Topheth will likewise be continually burned as
human sacrifices in Topheth. See the article 'Sacrificial Imagery in Revelation'
at Rev 14:11 for other examples of 'continual burning' relating to sacrifical
imagery.

Possibly this is the same as the Lake of Fire outside the city, reserved for
Babylon and the Beast's army (not for everyone, see notes at Rev 21:8), in the
new heavens and new earth described in:

Rev 21:8 But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and
murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their
part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the
second death.

Rev 22:15 Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators,
and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one that loveth and
maketh a lie.

(6) The unnamed place just outside the walls of Jerusalem, described in
Jeremiah 31, prophesied to be restored:

Jer 31:38 Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that the city shall be built
to Jehovah from the tower of Hananel unto the gate of the corner.
39 And the measuring line shall go out further straight onward unto the
hill Gareb, and shall turn about unto Goah. 40 And the whole valley of the
dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook Kidron, unto
the corner of the horse gate toward the east, shall be holy unto Jehovah; it
shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.

Note that Jerusalem's traditional place for burying bodies was, and still is, the
Kidron Valley (which adjoins the Valley of Ben-Hinnom):

2Ki 23:6 And he brought out the Asherah from the house of Jehovah,
without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook
Kidron, and beat it to dust, and cast the dust thereof upon the graves of
the common people.

(7) A place where the soul, as well as the body, can be destroyed:
Mat 10:28 And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to
kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body
in hell.

The Luke passage about this warns the disciples about the Pharisees (it is
talking of religious sinners, not the rank and file of the population):

Luk 12:1 In the mean time, when the many thousands of the multitude
were gathered together, insomuch that they trod one upon another, he
began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the
Pharisees, which is hypocrisy... 4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not
afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can
do. 5 But I will warn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, who after he hath
killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
'Gehenna'/ 'Hell' is here contrasted with mere biological destruction. It is called
'fearful', but not described as 'eternal torture'.

There are several ways in which 'unending fire' does not really mean
'unending'. Firstly it can mean sacrificial fire. Secondly it can be limited to one
age. Thirdly it can mean 'destroyed'. Fourthly it can mean 'for a lifetime'. It is
simply a bad translation, to jump to supplying 'eternal; forever and ever;
unending' when there is so much doubt as to whether our translators are
giving us the best interpretation or not.

THE CONCLUSION
The end-times picture of Gehenna has more to do with prophecies of the battle
of Armageddon, between the Christ and the antiChrist, which takes place
around Jerusalem, Rev 20:9, than with a place of everlasting hell-fire or
eternal sadistic torments for Unbelievers. The climax of Armageddon is the fire
and brimstone which Yahweh pours on the Devil and his followers, Rev 20:10,
just like occurred at Sodom -- a temporary and earthly event. Thus the valley
just outside the city will, in the end-times, becomes filled with bodies; and 'the
Potters Field', the 'burial ground for strangers' as named in Judas' time, is an
additional prediction, in addition to Jeremiah's prediction, of Gehenna in the
End-Times.

To find out what the Bible does teach about who goes to Hell, and what it
consists of, download the complete free commentary.