The Truth About Hell


Before I drop yet another “sensitive” article into the world, I’d like to add that I’m not writing these to be destructive or to garner controversy. I write on these subjects because they matter a great deal and because no one else seems to. Other people have to have seen the same things I have, but somehow they don’t show up in print.

“Hell,” to be sure, is a touchy subject. Millions of people think their eternal destination rests upon an acknowledgement that hell and its eternal torture are real. Some of them will almost say, “If there is no hell, there is no God.” Furthermore, they believe that without the fear of hell, we would all degenerate into monsters.

Nonetheless, the truth about hell is that it began as Egyptian propaganda. I’m sure some people will be shocked by that statement, but it’s true, it’s clear, and we should have been told this a long time ago. (This is covered in depth in issue # 64 of the subscription letter.)

From Egypt, “hell” made its way to Greece, where it was embellished. Finally – and later than people think – it made its way into Christianity, where it has remained till the present.

When Hell Began

The earliest Near Eastern religions had no concept of hell. Instead, they had a dreary underworld, almost like a purgatory where people lived as ghosts. That’s an awfully rough description, but it’s the best I can do in a few words.

“Hell” was an innovation of Egypt’s Middle Kingdom, after the Old Kingdom (the bosses who built the pyramids) broke down in 2181 BC. The priests needed a better set of mythologies to keep people paying their taxes and obeying the pharaoh, and this story worked. A group of texts from this period (the Coffin Texts) describe an underworld as containing fiery rivers and lakes, as well as fire demons who threatened the wicked.

The Greeks added a place called “Tartarus,” a pit of punishment that existed inside the larger underworld, which was called “hades.”

Neither the Sumerian religion nor the ancient Hebrew religion had any concept of hell, and later-day Judaism seldom ventures farther than an underworld. (Jesus is said to have used a version of this underworld in one of his stories.)

The modern version of hell doesn’t appear in Christianity until long after Jesus’s death. The earliest explicit mention I can point to is from Hippolytus (Against Plato), in about 230 AD, eight or 10 generations after Jesus.

Jesus Taught Hell!”

No, he didn’t. Again, this is carefully explained in issue # 64 of the subscription letter. Suffice it to say that half of the mentions of “hell” in the King James Bible shouldn’t even be there. They wrongly translated the name Hades – the Greek god of the underworld – as “hell.” Newer versions use “the grave.”

The word from the scary hell passages – gehenna – was simply the name of a garbage dump: The Valley of Hinnom, where the people of Jerusalem discarded and burned their refuse. Furthermore, the word for “destroy,” apollymi, means “to eliminate entirely.”

And so, doctrines of hell are contradicted by literal translations. Here’s a scary passage from King James:

… but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

Literally translated it says:

… but rather fear him which is able to annihilate you, body and soul, as refuse.

Now, the scariest one:

… to be cast into Gehenna, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

“Worm,” here, is actually “maggot,” creatures that abound in refuse piles. And so, the verse could be translated as:

… to be cast as refuse into a pit… where maggots and fire consume all.

I invite anyone committed to the scary interpretations to get an interlinear New Testament and a lexicon and to look up the words.

The Implications

It would be hard to find a worse contradiction than a God who loves everyone but who will torture most people for billions of years simply because they didn’t express the right flavor of religious devotion… something they had no way to be certain about.

This belief portrays a “loving God” who is worse than serial killers. The killers, at least, have some point where they weary of inflicting torment. What kind of being is this God who will torture fathers, mothers, and children forever?

And make no mistake; people who advocate for hell are calling torture “righteous.”

The Fruits

Hell, the ultimate terror, is the enemy of what’s best within us, not its aid.

And it’s true that “hell” began as Egyptian propaganda. It was a useful myth to keep the taxes flowing.

One last thought:

We can choose to see or we can choose to be blind. Choose wisely.

* * * * *

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* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

18 thoughts on “The Truth About Hell”

  1. Maybe next time you can demonstrate how the Roman bread and circuses are alive and well in America:-)
    The best explanation I have found for what really exists is found in Beyond Biocentrism.

  2. Good to see biblical references dispel pagan myths. Other myths include satan, the personification of the Hebrew word adversary, and devil or false accuser. Another interesting study is the ‘professional priesthood’ which originated in Babylon (maybe back to the Amorites with the moon and Astarte/Venus, Islamic symbols) and spread to the world when Cyrus expelled the Magi when they tried to run his empire. Magi fled to Pergumum and morphed into priests of Greek mythology and later moved to Rome and became priests of the star gods, Jupiter, Mars, Venus etc. Finally we see the priesthood influence Constantine to accept Trinitarian doctrines and impose laws forcing all to accept this or face death.

  3. Rot. What about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus? It has HELL in it. You do not even read the NT!

    1. Please try to think rather than react.
      “Hell,” in that passage, is “hades,” the proper name of the Greek god of the underworld. And I noted that issue in the article.
      Please decide which is more important, the truth or your doctrine.

    2. I want to implore the thinking folks in this discussion concerning both the value of the Bible and demonic concept of the existence of a place of abandonment by God to an infinity of suffering, commonly (and mistakenly) called “hell.” First, as to the matter of the value of the Bible, please do not equate the King James Version-translation with infallible inerrancy. Honest non-agenda driven students of the original languages (Hebrew and Greek, with smatterings of Aramaic, have discovered at least 20,000 errors of translation. I hope that the participants in this/these discussions realize that what is called the Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language, and the New Testament in Greek by far mostly, with some, as I’ve noted, Aramaic inclusion.
      Why would we, for instance, judge some fine “secular” document according to a bad translation of its text? Not only does the KJV contain many errors of translation, but also many others, that I’ll refer to as conventional translations, in that the translators compromise their scholarship for the sake of being accepted and published within the pseud-orthodox community. There are courageous exceptions to the above, so that rising up from both the grass roots and academic heights of the believing community who are working diligently to uncover what the Bible really does “say.”. This is not to say that conventional translations have no value, but one must, so to speak, while walking among and enjoying their flowers, be aware that the same is a minefield, to be traversed most carefully.
      As to the subjective experience that comes from carefully, and skeptically reading the text, let the wisdom of Karl Barth (generally believed to be the greatest theologian of the 20th. century, a man of towering intellect) offer an important insight: to quote: “The Bible is not the Word of God until God speaks it to your heart.”
      As for towering intellects who came to believe that scripture does contain a special, normative inspiration, there can be no greater example than C. S. Lewis. The notion that only ignorant folks believe in biblical inspiration, is itself, incredibly ignorant.
      I’ll close by dismissing the idea that Jesus’ parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus has anything to do with, or teaches at all, a destiny of eternal torment in a fiery pit by in-this-lifetime unbelievers. According to the literary mode of teaching used by our Lord, it was actually a slap in the face to the Pharisees of His day. For a brilliant essay on the real teaching of that parable, just google “The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus by J. Preston Eby. It’s the best treatment I’ve found, bar none.

  4. History of the “hell” concept can be tracked with open mind and scientific skills by researchers. But a common man sure ponders how come the Loving God can eternally torture soles of humans, who committed some crimes against His will? The same God has advised humans to forgive but does not do so Himself ? Where is the limit of love of God?? Why humans should forgive but the God not?

  5. While deeply appreciating the blow you’ve dealt to the horrific (actually) non-Christian doctrine, commonly known as “eternal torment,” may I offer an adjustment re: the literal meaning of the Koine Greek (the Greek of the New Testament) word “apollymi.” To eliminate entirely in the sense of annihilation is not the literal root sense of the word, but rather destruction in the sense of “rendering useless or ineffective,” as one would destroy a tank with an anti-tank mortar shell.
    The mass of steel would still be there, but it would—in terms of the intended use of its construction—-would be rendered useless and/or ineffective as an instrument of warfare. Annihilation is a philosophical concept has no support in either the material or non-material realms. Nothing can be made to absolutely not exist any longer in any form, though they can be manipulated to take on a different form.
    What is taught in the New Testament is act actually “apocatastasis” (restoration), certainly not endless torment in “hell,” nor annihilation. In the earliest centuries after Christ’s death and resurrection, the majority view among (particularly) the Greek fathers who knew Koine Greek well, was what has come to be known as “Christian Universalism,” or “Final Restoration,” or “Ultimate reconciliation,” or “The Greater Hope,” among other descriptions.
    It is not necessary to trace this truth through the whole of the New Testament record, one need only to read the 5th chapter of Romans carefully to be faced with Paul’s conviction that all that was lost in Adam would be regained, restored, reconstituted, reconciled, saved, made whole, and healed by Christ.
    God will finally render useless and ineffective the false persona of alienation from, and enmity toward God since “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not reckoning sin against them.” Second Corinthians chapter five. God, being God, will lose nothing but will return to Himself (the doctrine of redemption) all that has suffered estrangement from the love that He is.
    John Gavazzoni, Servant of the victorious Savior of mankind.

  6. Huh?
    Mat 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his
    brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and
    whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the
    council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
    5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from
    thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should
    perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
    Mat 5:30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it
    from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should
    perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
    Mat 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to
    kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul
    and body in hell.
    Mat 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
    Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
    Mat 18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from
    thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than
    having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
    Mat 23:15
    Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and
    land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold
    more the child of hell than yourselves.
    Mat 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
    Mark 9:43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for
    thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
    Mark 9:45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for
    thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
    Mark 9:47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for
    thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes
    to be cast into hell fire:
    Luke 10:15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.
    Luke 12:5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
    Luke 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
    So, by my count, there are 15 places in the Bible where Jesus is recorded as using the word “hell” while He was on Earth.
    if you include John’s vision in Revelation 1:18— “I am he that
    liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and
    have the keys of hell and of death”—then, that would put the sum total at 16.

    1. Actually, the total is higher than 16. But how many of your 16 are “hades”? How many “gehenna”? Did you check? Did you care?
      Don’t play knee-jerk doctrine, READ the article. Consider before you fire your missiles. Engage your reason.

  7. I simply do not believe in hell. Why would God create us and knowing all things as He does send us to such a place. The Bible as we know it was created by some 40 scholars according to Joseph Campbell but is only recognized by most christian faiths as four??

    1. Just so you know, the Bible was *translated* by groups of scholars at various points, but it was *written* by a variety of individuals over many centuries.

      1. And don’t forget all of the “political” hands it has passed through, especially the Catholic Church, the Holy Roman Empire, and let’s face it, even the Old Testament was “controlled” by political leadership among the Jewish peoples too. Denying that “vested interests” played a role in what was written, what was copied (and how), and what was translated (and how) is to deny history and the truth about both the Old and New Testaments. The same likely applies for every major religion. GOD didn’t write any religious texts except as through the hands/minds of human beings.

  8. If hell could be summed up as a state that is not in constant recognition and oneness with the divine, then clearly this is hell. If you are still in doubt, turn on “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”

  9. Not having time to properly reference my bible/concordance, I’ll just drop this brief thought on my understanding as a “contemporarily trained” Protestant Christian of 28+ years in an effort to rebuff your claim:
    Hell, throughout the NT, seems simply a temporal place of judgement. Where those who, when weighed in the “scales of judgement” at their death, were found wanting. Consequently they couldn’t with any sense of justice be allowed to wait out the time until their resurrection (upon Christ’s return or 1000 years thereafter) in a comparatively paradisaical place called, appropriately enough, Paradise.
    However this temporary place of discomfort isn’t the eternal torment which you allude to in your article. Revelations 20 tells us that hell delivered up the dead that were in it, and was itself cast into the lake of fire. Where, incidentally, there were only two things present at the time of hell’s emptying: the beast and the false prophet. And if you’re wondering if either of those were worthy of the eternal torment that is ascribed to those placed in the lake of fire, please refer to the chapters leading up to chapter 20 to see their role in the subjugation and persecution of all of mankind under Satan’s leadership.
    In conclusion: Hell is temporal.
    The lake of fire, which we are told was actually only prepared for Satan and his angels, is the place you seem to be concerned with. And before passing judgement on the God who created it, realize that the only beings that are going to be placed there are those who absolutely and unequivocally reject with their entire being the idea of having anything to do with a holy God and his righteousness. Satan himself is given 1000 years to “repent” before being sentenced to eternal torment, day and night after proving that there is, pardon the pun, no chance in hell he will EVER align himself with the Creator’s will for righteousness, holiness, or good.

    1. Paul, as a quick aside, are you saying that Satan is NOT deserving of eternal torment? We’re talking about the ultimate recidivist here.

  10. Hell is created for the Devil and his angels. It is a place, locked from the inside by the inhabitants where God is not. God, the Source of life and every good and perfect thing, is not there. That’s why it is Hell.

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