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Hell

Hell

Most ancient societies and religions had an idea of an afterlife judgment, especially understood as a "weighing of souls," where the gods would reward the faithful worshipers, or honor the great and mighty of society. In later times this notion of afterlife was refined more and more into a concept of the public recognition of the worth of a person's life, its moral valency. The three biblical religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islamall apply the notion of the afterlife judgment (and the ideas of heaven and hell which derive from this concept) as essentially a divine adjudication that assesses and pronounces on the worth of a human life. Such beliefs were to become among the most potent mechanisms of social control ever devised.

The classical Greek conception viewed Hades, the land of the dead, as a place of insubstantial shadows. The story of the "House of the Dead" in Homer's Odyssey gives a harrowing version of how even heroes are rendered into pathetic wraiths, desperately thirsting after life, waiting for the grave offerings (libations of wine or blood or the smoke of sacrifices) that their relatives would offer at their tombs. Such an afterlife was as insubstantial as smoke, a poetic evocation of the grief of loss more than anything else. There was no life or love or hope beyond the grave. By contrast the gods were immortals who feasted in an Elysian paradise, a marked contrast to the wretched fallibility of mortals whose deaths would reduce them one day, inevitably, to dust and oblivion. This resigned existentialism permeates much of classical Greek and Roman writing. It was not particularly related to the more philosophical notions, as witnessed in Plato, for example, of the soul as an immortal and godlike entity that would one day be freed when released from its bodily entrapment. However, both notions were destined to be riveted together, in one form or another, when the Christians merged the Hellenistic concepts of their cultural matrix with biblical ideas of judgment, as they elaborated the New Testament doctrine of hell.

The classical descriptions of Hades were borrowed and reused by Christians as one of the first popular images for hell. The earliest iconic images of the Resurrection, in Byzantine art, depict Christ descending into Hades, breaking down the doors and liberating the souls of all those who had been consigned to imprisonment in the House of Death before his incarnation. Having broken into the realm of darkness and powerlessness, the Risen Christ is shown stretching out a hand to Adam and Eve, to lift them from their tombs, while the other righteous men and women of the days before his coming all wait in line to be taken with Christ to the glory of heaven. In the Christian era, with common allegiance being given to the idea of the immortality of the soul, Hades was now no longer a place of fading away to nonexistence, but rather a place of permanent imprisonment and sorrow. So it was that Hades made its transition toward becoming hell.

Scriptural Images of Hell As Devastation

The concept of Hades, reappropriated in this way and set to the service of the proclamation of the Resurrection victory, however, was only one form of the Christian doctrine of afterlife. Both the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Buddhist mythology of the afterlife speak clearly enough of the afterlife as a state of judgment and the punishment of the wicked. This aspect of doctrine eventually came to be part of late Judaism, influencing both rabbinic teachings and the doctrine of Jesus, and thus coming to be a part of late classical Judaism and Christianity (not to mention Islam) to the present day. To chart the development of this stream of thought one needs to look at the prophetic view of God's justice in the world and how it came to be reassessed by the apocalyptic school.

The prophet Isaiah used the image of the fire that falls upon the wicked and established it for later use. The concept of enemy raids that inflicted destructive fires and terrible sufferings on ancient Israel was real enough to need little explanation. The invasion of enemies, however, was a major problem in the Hebrew theology of providence that was often explained by the prophets on the grounds that God only allowed infidel invaders to devastate his holy land because his covenant people had themselves been unfaithful. The image of punishing fire thus became associated in the prophetic literature with unfaithfulness as it was being corrected by God, whose anger was temporary, and who, after the devastation, would restore his people to peace and favor.

The association of ideas is seen clearly in Isaiah 66:24, which becomes a locus classicus for Jesus himself, and by this means entered into the Christian tradition as an authoritative logion, or dominical saying. In this passage the prophet speaks of a restored Jerusalem under the Messiah, when the true Israelites who have been restored by God will, in turn, go out to look upon the devastation that they have survived, and will see "those who rebelled against me, for their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abomination to all flesh." This is an image of the aftermath of devastation used as an apocalyptic sign, a theological statement about the ultimate vindication of God and his chosen people, functioning as if it were a rallying cry for the elect to retain trust in God even in times of difficulty, when the covenant hope might seem slight or politically ill-founded. From this stream of prophetic teaching the image of fires of judgment began to coalesce into a concept of hell.

Apocalyptic Ideas on God's Judgment

In the two centuries preceding the Christian era the prophetic theology of providence faltered. It was overtaken by a new mode of thought called apocalyptic, taken from the style of books that often featured a chosen prophet figure who received special revelations (apocalypses) in the heavenly court, and who then returned to announce the word of divine judgment to his contemporaries. The Book of Daniel is the one great instance of such an apocalyptic book that entered the canon of the Hebrew scriptures, although there were many other instances of such literature that were highly influential in the period between the two testaments, and which colored the Judaism of the time, as well as primitive Christianity.

The image of God's anger against the evil ways of the earth is a common feature of this genre of scripture. The divine judgment is often depicted in terms of God deciding on a definitive end to the cycle of disasters that have befallen his elect people in the course of world history. The literature depicts the forces of evil as beasts, servants of the great beast, often seen as the dark angel who rebelled against God in primeval times. The earthly beasts are, typically, the great empires that throughout history have crushed the Kingdom of God on the earth (predominantly understood as Israel). In apocalyptic imagery the great battle for good and evil is won definitively by God and his angels who then imprison the rebel forces in unbreakable bonds. An inescapable "Lake of Fire" is a common image, insofar as fire was a common biblical idiom for the devastation that accompanied divine judgment. In apocalyptic thought the definitive casting down of the evil powers into the fire of judgment is coterminous with the establishment of the glorious Kingdom of God and his saints. In this sense both heaven and hell are the biblical code for the ultimate victory of God. So it was that in apocalyptic literature the final elements of the Judeo-Christian vocabulary of hell were brought together.

The Teachings of Jesus on Gehenna

Historically understood, the teachings of Jesus belong to the genre of apocalyptic in a particular way, though are not entirely subsumed by it despite many presuppositions to the contrary in the scholarship of the twentieth century. Jesus taught the imminent approach of a definitive time of judgment by God, a time when God would purify Israel and create a new gathering of the covenant people. It was this teaching that was the original kernel of the Christian church, which saw itself as the new elect gathered around the suffering and vindicated Messiah. Jesus's own execution by the Romans (who were less than impressed by the apocalyptic vividness of his imagery of the Kingdom restored), became inextricably linked in his follower's minds with the "time of great suffering" that was customarily understood to usher in the period of God's Day of Judgment and his final vindication of the chosen people (necessarily involving the crushing of the wicked persecutors).

In his prophetic preaching, Jesus explicitly quoted Isaiah's image of the fire burning day and night, and the worm (maggot) incessantly feeding on the bloated corpses of the fallen and, to the same end as Isaiah, that when God came to vindicate Israel he would make a radical separation of the good and the wicked. The image of the judgment and separation of the good and the evil is a dominant aspect of Jesus's moral teaching and can be found in many of his parables, such as the king who judges and rewards according to the deeds of individuals in Matthew 23, or the man who harvests a field full of wheat and weeds, separating them out only at the harvest time in Matthew 13.

Jesus also used the biblical idea of Gehenna as the synopsis of what his vision of hell was like. Gehenna was the valley of Hinnom, one of the narrow defiles marking out the plateau on which Jerusalem was built. It was a biblical symbol of everything opposed to God, and as such destined to being purified when God roused himself in his judgment of the evils of the earth. It had been the place in ancient times where some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem had offered their own children in sacrifice to the god Moloch. The reforming King Josiah, as a result of "the abomination of desolation," made the valley into the place of refuseburning for the city, a place where bodies of criminals were also thrown. In Jesus' teaching (as is the case for later rabbinic literature) it thus became a symbol for the desolate state of all who fall under the judgment of God. The burning of endless fires in a stinking wasteland that symbolized human folly and destructive wickedness is, therefore, Jesus' image for the alternative to his invitation for his hearers to enter, with him, into the service of God, and into the obedience of the Kingdom of God.

Christian disciples later developed the idea of Gehenna into the more elaborated concept of hell, just as they rendered the dynamic concept of the Kingdom of God (obedience to the divine covenant) into the notion of heaven as a place for the righteous. The original point of the teachings was more dynamic, to the effect that humans have a choice to listen and respond to the prophetic call, or to ignore and oppose it. In either case they respond not merely to the prophet, but to God who sent the prophet. In the case of Jesus, those who listen and obey his teachings are described as the guests who are invited to the wedding feast; those who refuse it are compared to those who haunt the wilderness of Gehenna and have chosen the stink of death to the joy of life with God. It is a graphic image indeed, arguably having even more of an impact than the later Christian extrapolation of the eternal hellfire that developed from it.

Christian Theologians on Hell

Not all Christian theologians acceded to the gradual elision of the Hellenistic notions of Hades, and the apocalyptic imagery of the burning fires of Gehenna or the sea of flames, but certain books were quite decisive, not least the one great apocalyptic book that made its way into the canon of the New Testament, the Revelation of John, whose image of the Lake of Fire, where the dark angels were destined to be punished by God, exercised a profound hold over the imagination of the Western churches. The Byzantine and Eastern churches never afforded Revelation as much attention as did the West, and so the graphic doomsdays of the medieval period never quite entered the Eastern Orthodox consciousness to the same extent.

Some influential Greek theologians argued explicitly against the concept of an eternal hell fire that condemned reprobate sinners to an infinity of pain, on the grounds that all God's punishments are corrective, meant for the restoration of errants, and because an eternal punishment allows no possibility of repentance or correction, it would merely be vengeful, and as such unworthy of the God of infinite love. Important theologians such as Origen (On First Principles 2.10) and his followers (Gregory Nyssa and Gregory Nazianzen, among and others) who argued this case fell under disapproval mainly because the Gospel words of Jesus described the fire of Gehenna as "eternal" even though it was a word (aionios ) that in context did not simply mean "endless" but more to the point of "belonging to the next age."

But even with the unhappiness of the Christians with Origen's idea that hell was a doctrine intended only "for the simple who needed threats to bring them to order" (Contra Celsum 5.15), the logic of his argument about God's majesty transcending mere vengeance, and the constant stress in the teachings of Jesus on the mercifulness of God, led to a shying away from the implications of the doctrine of an eternal hell, throughout the wider Christian tradition, even when this doctrine was generally affirmed.

Major authorities such as Augustine and John Chrysostom explained the pains of fire as symbols of the grief and loss of intimacy with God that the souls of the damned experienced. Dante developed this in the Divine Comedy with his famous conception of hell as a cold, dark place, sterile in its sense of loss. Augustine aided the development of the idea of purgatory (itself a major revision of the concept of eternal punishment). Other thinkers argued that while hell did exist (not merely as a symbol but as a real possibility of alienation from life and goodness), it was impossible to conclude that God's judgments were irreversible, for that would be to stand in judgment over God, and describe eternity simply in time-bound terms; one position being blasphemous, the other illogical.

Because of the implications, not least because of the need to affirm the ultimate mercy and goodness of God, even when acting as judge and vindicator, modern Christian theology has remained somewhat muted on the doctrine of hell, returning to it more in line with the original inspiration of the message as a graphic call to moral action. It has probably been less successful in representing the other major function of the doctrine of hell; that is, the manner in which it enshrines a major insight of Jesus and the biblical tradition, that God will defend the right of the oppressed vigorously even when the powerful of the world think that to all appearances the poor can be safely tyrannized. Originally the Christian doctrine of hell functioned as a major protecting hedge for the doctrine of God's justice and his unfailing correction of the principles of perversion in the world.

In previous generations, when hell and final judgment were the subjects of regular preaching in places of worship, the fear of hell was more regularly seen as an aspect of the approach to death by the terminally ill. In the twenty-first century, while most world religions still advocate a role for the varieties of hell in their theological systems, the fear has substantively diminished even though popular opinion in modern America still expresses its widespread belief in the existence of hell. The change of attitude can be seen in media treatments of death and afterlife that commonly use images of the death experience as either a slipping into nonexistence, or as some form of returning to the welcoming light. Even modern American evangelicalism, strongly rooted in biblical sources, has shown a distinct move away from the doctrine of hell to a conception of final punishment as an "annihilation" of the souls of the unrighteous, a concept that is found in a few biblical sources as an alternative to the image of apocalyptic judgment.

Because of its vivid nature, and the increasingly static graphic imagination of later Christian centuries, hell came to be associated too much with an image of God as tormentor of the souls in some eternal horror. Such a God did not correspond to the gracious "Father" described by Jesus, but like all images packaged for the religiously illiterate, the dramatic cartoon often replaces the truer conception that can be gained from the Gospels and writings of Christian saints through the centuries: that hell is a radical call to wake up and make a stand for justice and mercy, as well as a profound statement that God's holiness is perennially opposed to evil and injustice.

See also: Catholicism; Charon and the River Styx; Christian Death Rites, History of; Gods and Goddesses of Life and Death; Heaven; Jesus; Purgatory

Bibliography

Bernstein, Alan E. The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.

Bromiley, Geoffrey W. "History of the Doctrine of Hell." In The Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982.

Davidson, Clifford, and Thomas Seiler, eds. The Iconography of Hell. Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University Press, 1992.

Filoramo, Giovanni. "Hell-Hades." In Angelo Di Berardino ed., Encyclopedia of the Early Church, Vol. 1. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Fudge, Edward. The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of Final Punishment. Fallbrook, CA: Verdict Publications, 1982.

Gardner, Eileen. Medieval Visions of Heaven and Hell: A Sourcebook. New York: Garland, 1993.

Moore, David George. The Battle for Hell: A Survey and Evaluation of Evangelicals' Growing Attraction to the Doctrine of Annihilationism. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1995.

Turner, Alice K. The History of Hell. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1993.

Van Scott, Miriam. The Encyclopedia of Hell. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.

J. A. McGUCKIN

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"Hell." Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Hell." Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hell

"Hell." Macmillan Encyclopedia of Death and Dying. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hell

Hell

Hell

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The English word hell comes from hel, the abode of the dead and the underworld of Norse mythology. In the Bible, the Hebrew word Sheol and the Greek word Hádēs refer to the netherworld, a shadowy realm of the dead more than a place of torment (though some New Testament texts use Hádēs to refer to punishment or the dominion of death; see Luke 16:23, Matt. 16:18, and Rev. 6:8).

The biblical word for the state of postmortem punishment is Gehenna, from the Hebrew ge-hinnōm, an abbreviation for the valley of the son of Hinnom, a place south of Jerusalem known for idolatry and human sacrifice (see 2 Kings 23:10 and Jer. 7:3132). In Jewish apocalyptic and rabbinic literature, Gehenna often refers to a place of darkness, fire, and punishment for the wicked a punishment variously conceived as everlasting, temporary, or ending in annihilation. In modern times, many Jews have rejected the concept of eternal damnation.

In the New Testament, Gehenna is used for the state of everlasting punishment and fire (see Matt. 5:22, Mark 9:43, and James 3:6), though the Greek word Tartarus does appear (see 2 Pet. 2:4). The concept of eternal punishment is expressed through images of everlasting fire (Matt. 18:8 and 25:41), weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 8:12), fire and brimstone (Rev. 14:10), and a pool of fire (Rev. 19:20). People confined to the everlasting fire include those who despise the needy (Matt. 25:4146), as well as cowards, the faithless, the polluted, murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters and liars (Rev. 21:8). In addition to damned humans, Satan and the fallen angels also receive everlasting punishment (see Jude 6, Matt. 25:41, and Rev. 20:10).

Christian theology developed an understanding of hell as everlasting punishment and exclusion from heaven. In the Middle Ages, temporary purifications after death (purgatory) were distinguished from the everlasting torments of hell, as was the state of limbo, in which the souls of unbaptized babies and virtuous non-Christians were deprived of the beatific vision but did not suffer the torments of hell. Dante Alighieri (12651321) gave poetic expression to limbo and the levels of hell in his Inferno, the first part of his Divine Comedy, which continues with Purgatory and Paradise.

Traditional Christians (whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant) affirm hell as a true possibility, either for those who culpably reject the Christian Gospel or who die in a state of mortal sin. The everlasting nature of hell, even after the resurrection of the body, was affirmed at various Church councils (e.g., the local synod of Constantinople of 543 and the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215). Some Christians hope for universal salvation, but most Christian denominations still affirm the possibility of eternal damnation. Many Christians today believe that sincere non-Christians, who are outside of the Church through no fault of their own, might still achieve salvation (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 847).

The ancient Greeks and Romans had multiple concepts of the underworld and the fate of the dead. In the mystery religions and fertility cults, Hádēs or the underworld played a prominent role in themes of death and rebirth. By the fifth century BCE (perhaps due to Egyptian and Persian influences), the Greeks had developed concepts of rewards and punishments after death, with Tarturus, the lower realm of Hádēs, as the place of punishment for the wicked. Platonism and Neoplatonism incorporated beliefs in reincarnation and the transmigration of souls, which made purification from wrongdoing achievable over multiple lifetimes.

In the ancient world, the Egyptians and the Zoroastrians from Persia were most pronounced in their affirmations of rewards and punishments after death. Around 1750 BCE, the Egyptian Book of Going Forth by Day (or Book of the Dead ) described how the soul or heart of the deceased person is weighed on a scale balanced by the feather of truth. Rewards or punishments then follow (with complete destruction being one possibility).

The Persian religion of Zoroastrianism (from the prophet Zoroaster/Zarathustra, circa ninth or tenth century BCE) describes judgment after death as the crossing of the Chinvat Bridge toward Paradise. The souls of the wicked are tossed off the bridge into hell, whereas the righteous souls enter Paradise and other souls go to a state of limbo. At the end of time, the souls of the deceased are reunited with their bodies and experience a final judgment. The souls in limbo (and perhaps those in hell) then enter Paradise after a final purification. The evil spirit Angra Mainyu and other demons are, however, consigned to hell forever.

Islam, like Christianity and Zoroastrianism, affirms judgment after death and a future resurrection of the body, as well as rewards in heaven (paradise) and punishments in hell. Muslims believe that God (Allah) assigns certain angels to keep a record of human deeds, and this record will determine ones fate after death. After death, those who are wicked begin to experience the hellfire even in the grave prior to the Day of Judgment and the resurrection of the body. The righteous souls, in turn, begin to experience the rewards of Paradise, which continue forever after the reunion with their bodies. Some Muslims, following 2:262 and 5:69 of the Qurʾan, believe that followers of other religions can escape hell and enter Paradise. Others, following 4:56, believe severe punishments await those who deny the Qurʾan as Gods revelation.

Classical Chinese culture recognized some type of life after death, but a clear and consistent concept of hell never developed. Confucius (c. 551479 BCE) was reluctant to talk about the afterlife, and Taoism tended toward a naturalism that denied personal survival after death.

Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhismthe main religions originating in Indiaall affirm reincarnation and the transmigration of souls; moreover, Hindus and Buddhists recognize thousands of hells. Because of reincarnation, however, the possibility of eventual purification and deliverance is maintained, even if this liberation may require countless lifetimes.

The fear of hell remains a living reality among many people today, especially in Christian and Muslim circles. In modern secular societies, however, the word hell has assumed a largely metaphorical meaning. Situations of poverty, violence, and devastation are described frequently as living hells. Many psychologists and sociologists understand hell as an archetype of the deepest fears of the human imagination, expressing the thoughts of torture, rejection, and abandonment that circulate within the human psyche.

SEE ALSO Anxiety; Christianity; Heaven; Psychology; Religion

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Badham, Paul, and Linda Badham, eds. 1987. Death and Immortality in the Religions of the World. New York: Paragon House Publishers.

Freedman, David Noel, ed. 2000. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing.

Johnston, Sarah Iles. 2005. Afterlife: Greek and Roman Concepts. In Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd ed., Vol. 1, ed. Lindsay Jones, 163166. Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale.

McKenzie, John L., S.J. 1965. Dictionary of the Bible. Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing.

Smart, Ninian. 1989. The Worlds Religions. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Turner, Alice K. 1993. The History of Hell. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace.

Robert Fastiggi

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"Hell." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Hell

Hell

This word is believed to be from the Teutonic root helan (to cover), designating a subterranean or hidden place. It is sometimes used in the form of Hel to mean simply a place of the dead, with no mention of punishment. "Hel" or "Hela" is also the name of the mythical Teutonic goddess who was guardian of the dead.

This concept has a somewhat clear train of evolution. The Christian idea of a place of punishment was directly colored by the Jewish concept of "Sheol," which in turn took shape from Babylonian sources. When exactly hell began to be perceived as a place of punishment is not clear, as among the ancient Semites, Egyptians, and Greeks the underworld was regarded only as a place of the dead.

In Egypt "Amenti" is distinctly a place of the dead, one in which the tasks of life are for the most part duplicated. This was also the case among primitive people, who merely regarded the land of the dead as an extension of human existence in which people led a more or less shadowy life. The primitives did not generally believe in punishment after death and conceived that any breach of moral rule was summarily dealt with in this life. It was usually when a higher moral code emerged from totemic or similar beliefs that the idea of a place of punishment was invented by a priesthood.

However, this was not always the case. In Greece, Rome, and Scandinavia, Hades was merely looked upon as a place of the dead, where shadowy ghosts flitted to and fro, gibbering and squeaking as phantoms were believed to do. According to the Greeks, Hades was only some twelve feet under the surface of the ground, so Orpheus would not have had a long journey from the subterranean sphere to reach Earth once more. Hell was generally regarded as a sovereignty, a place ruled in an ordinary manner by a monarch set there for that purpose by the celestial powers.

Thus the Greek Hades ruled the Sad Sphere of the Dead, Osiris was lord and governor of the Egyptian Amenti, while in Central America there were twin rulers in the Kiche Hades, Xibalba, whose names were given as Hun-came and Vukub-came. The latter were malignant, unlike the Mictlán of Mexico, whose empire was for the generality of the people. These could only exist for four years, after which they became extinct.

The Mexicans represented Mictlán as a huge monster with open mouth ready to devour his victims; this was paralleled in the Babylonian Tiawith. It seems that at a certain stage in all mythologies the concept of a place of the dead was confounded with the idea of a place of punishment.

The Greeks generally bewailed the tragedy of humanity, being condemned to dwell forever in semidarkness after death. The possibility of the existence of a place of reward seems never to have appealed to them. To the Greek mind, life was everything; it was left to the Semitic conscience to evolve in the near East the concept of a place of punishment. Thus Sheol, a place of the dead, became a fiery abyss into which the wicked and unjust were thrust for their sins.

This was foreshadowed by Babylonian and Egyptian ideas, for Egyptians believed that those unable to pass a test of justification were simply refused admittance to Amenti. From the idea of rejection sprang the idea of active punishment. The Semitic concept of hell was probably reinforced with the introduction of Christianity into Europe, and colored by concepts of the underworld belonging to European mythologies.

"Hela" (Death) in Teutonic mythology was cast into the underground realm of Niflheim and given power over nine regions into which she distributed all who died through sickness or old age.

The ideas concerning the Celtic otherworld probably played only a small part in forming the British concept of hell. The Brythonic "Annwyl" was certainly subterranean, but it was by no means a place of punishment; rather, it was merely a microcosm of the world above, where folk hunted, ate, and drank, as in early Britain. The Irish otherworld was much the same.

In southern Europe the idea of hell appears to have been strongly influenced by both classical and Jewish concepts. The best picture of the medieval idea of the place of punishment is undoubtedly found in Dante's Inferno. Basing his description on the teachings of contemporary schoolmen, Dante also acknowledged Virgil as his master and followed him in many descriptions of Tartarus. The Semitic idea crops up here and there, however, such as in the beginning of one of the cantos, where what looks suspiciously like a Hebrew incantation is recorded.

In later medieval times the ingenuity of the monkish mind introduced many apparently original concepts. For instance, hell obtained an annex: purgatory. Its inhabitants took on a form that may be alluded to as European, in contrast to the more satyrlike shape of the earlier hierarchy of Hades. It featured grizzly forms of birdlike shape, with exaggerated beaks and claws, and the animal forms and faces of later medieval gargoyles could well be what the denizens of Hades seemed like in the eyes of the superstitious of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

A modified version of these ideas was passed to later generations, and one may suspect that such superstitions were not altogether disbelieved by our forefathers.

Most Eastern mythological systems possess a hell that does not differ in any fundamental respect from that of most barbarian races, except that it is perhaps more specialized and involved. Many later writers, such as Emanuel Swedenborg, Jakob Boehme, William Blake, and others (including John Milton), have given us vivid pictures of the hierarchy and general condition of hell. For the most part these are based on patristic writings. In the Middle Ages endless controversy took place as to the nature and offices of the various inhabitants of the place of punishment (see Demonology ), and the descriptions of later visionaries are practically mere repetitions of the conclusions arrived at then.

The locality of hell has also been a question of endless speculation. Some believed it to be in the sun, because the Greek name for the luminary is "Helios," but such etymologies have been in disfavor with most writers on the subject, and the popular idea that hell is subterranean has had no real rival.

Sources:

Bernstein, Alan E. The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993.

Fox, Samuel J. Hell in Jewish Literature. Wheeling, Ill.: Whitehall, 1969.

Kohler, Kaufmann. Heaven and Hell in Comparative Literature. Folcroft, Pa., 1923.

Kvanvig, Jonathan L. The Problem of Hell. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Lehner, Ernest, and J. Lehner. Picture Book of Devils, Demons, and Witchcraft. New York: Dover Publications, 1972.

MacCullough, John A. The Harrowing of Hell: A Comparative Study of an Early Christian Doctrine. London: T. & T. Clark, 1930. Reprint, New York: AMS Press, 1981.

Mew, James. Traditional Aspects of Hell. London: Swan, Sonnenschein, 1903. Reprint, Detroit: Gale Research, 1971.

Swedenborg, Emanuel. Heaven and Hell. 1758. Reprint, New York: E. P. Dutton, 1931.

Walker, Daniel P. Decline of Hell: Seventeenth Century Discussions of Eternal Torment. London: Routledge, 1964.

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"Hell." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Hell." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hell

hell

hell / hel/ • n. a place regarded in various religions as a spiritual realm of evil and suffering, often traditionally depicted as a place of perpetual fire beneath the earth where the wicked are punished after death. ∎  a state or place of great suffering; an unbearable experience: I've been through hell he made her life hell. • interj. used to express annoyance or surprise or for emphasis: oh, hell—where will this all end? hell, no, we were all married. ∎  (the hell) inf. expressing anger, contempt, or disbelief: who the hell are you? the hell you are! PHRASES: all hell broke loose inf. suddenly there was pandemonium. (as) —— as hell inf. used for emphasis: he's as guilty as hell. be hell on inf. be very unpleasant or harmful to: a sensitive liberal mentality can be hell on a marriage. catch (or get) hell inf. be severely reprimanded: Paul kept his mouth shut and looked apologetic—we got hell. come hell or high water whatever difficulties may occur. for the hell of it inf. just for fun: she walked on window ledges for the hell of it. —— from hell inf. an extremely unpleasant or troublesome instance or example of something: I've got a hangover from hell. get the hell out (of) inf. escape quickly from (a place or situation): let's all get the hell out of here. give someone hell inf. severely reprimand or make things very unpleasant for someone. go to hell inf. used to express angry rejection of someone or something. go to (or through) hell and back endure an extremely unpleasant or difficult experience. go to hell in a handbasket inf. undergo a rapid process of deterioration. hell for leather as fast as possible. hell's bells inf. an exclamation of annoyance or anger. a (or one) hell of a —— inf. used to emphasize something very bad or great: it cost us a hell of a lot of money. hell's half acre a great distance. hell on wheels a disastrous situation. like hell inf. 1. very fast, much, hard, etc. (used for emphasis): it hurts like hell. 2. used in ironic expressions of scorn or disagreement: like hell, he thought. not a hope in hell inf. no chance at all. play hell inf. make a fuss; create havoc. ∎  cause damage: the rough road played hell with the tires. there will be hell to pay inf. serious trouble will occur as a result of a previous action. to hell used for emphasis: damn it to hell. to hell with inf. expressing one's scorn or lack of concern for (someone or something): to hell with the consequences. until (or till) hell freezes over for an extremely long time or forever. what the hell inf. it doesn't matter.DERIVATIVES: hell·ward / -wərd/ adv. & adj. ORIGIN: Old English hel, hell, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch hel and German Hölle, from an Indo-European root meaning ‘to cover or hide.’

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"hell." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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hell

hell a place regarded in various religions as a spiritual realm of evil and suffering, often traditionally depicted as a place of perpetual fire beneath the earth where the wicked are punished after death.
all hell is let loose suddenly there is pandemonium.
come hell or high water whatever difficulties may occur.
go to hell in a handbasket in North American usage, deteriorate rapidly.
Hell-fire Clubs associations of reckless and profligate young ruffians who were a nuisance to London chiefly in the early 18th century. There was a later and more famous Hell-fire Club, founded about 1745, at Medmenham Abbey.
hell hath no fury like a woman scorned proverbial saying, late 17th century, meaning that a woman whose love has turned to hate is the most savage of creatures; a fury here may be either one of the avenging deities of classical mythology, or more generally someone in a state of frenzied rage. The form of the saying probably derives from Congreve's The Mourning Bride (1697), ‘Heaven has no rage, like love to hatred turned, Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorned.’ The idea is found in the early 17th century, in Beaumont and Fletcher's The Knight of Malta ‘The wages of scorned love is baneful hate,’ and can ultimately be traced back to classical Greece, in Euripides' Medea, ‘in other circumstances a woman is full of fear and shuns to confront force and iron; but when she has been wronged in a matter of sex, there is no heart more bloodthirsty.’
Hell's Angel a member of any of a number of gangs (‘chapters’) of male motorcycle enthusiasts, first formed in California in the 1950s and originally notorious for lawless behaviour.
the road to hell is paved with good intentions proverbial saying, late 16th century; earlier forms of the proverb omit the first three words, as in a letter from St Francis de Sales in which he attributed to St Bernard the saying, ‘Hell is full of good intentions or desires.’

See also like a bat out of hell, Hell or Connaught at Connacht, hell for leather.

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"hell." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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hell

hell, in Western monotheistic religions, eternal abode of souls damned by the judgment of God. The souls in hell are deprived forever of the sight of God. The punishment of hell is generally analogized to earthly fire. A constant feature is Satan or Lucifer (also known as Iblīs in Islam), considered the ruler of hell. Among ancient Jews, Sheol or Tophet was conceived as a gloomy place of departed souls where they are not tormented but wander about unhappily. The ethical aspect apparently developed gradually, and Sheol became like the hell of Christianity. Gehenna, in the New Testament, which drew its name from the Vale of Hinnom, was certainly a place of punishment. Many Christian churches now regard hell more as a state of being than a place. In Zoroastrianism, the souls of the dead must cross the Bridge of the Requiter, which narrows for the wicked so that they fall into the abyss of horror and suffer ceaseless torment. In ancient Greek religion the great underworld is Hades, ruled by the god of that name (also known as Pluto). The Romans called this underworld also Orcus, Dis, and, poetically, Avernus. In Buddhism, hell is the lowest of six levels of existence into which a being may be reborn depending on that being's karmic accumulations. Hell is often treated with detailed imagination in legend and literature. See heaven; sin.

See M. Himmelfarb, Tours of Hell (1981); P. Toon, Heaven and Hell (1986).

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"hell." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Hell

Hell

Christianity

The word ‘hell’ in English Bibles translates both Heb. sheol and Gk. gehenna. Traditional theology holds that unrepentant sinners go to hell after this life, while the redeemed go either to purgatory or directly to heaven. According to scholastic theology, souls experience in hell both the loss of contact with God (poena damni) and poena sensus, usually taken to be an agent tormenting them. But many theologians, if not critical of the whole notion of everlasting punishment (see UNIVERSALISM), are reticent about the doctrine of hell. See also JUDGEMENT; DESCENT OF CHRIST INTO HELL.

Islam

Jahannam (cf. Heb., gēhinnōm, Gk., gehenna) is mentioned frequently in the Qur'ān. It has seven gates (39. 71; 15. 43), and different levels, the lowest being the tree Zaqqūm and a cauldron of boiling pitch and fire. Punishments are in accord with the gravity of sins—a theme much elaborated by later commentators. The Qur'ān does not make it clear whether punishments of Muslim sinners are for ever. In contrast, a kāfir is generally held to be punished eternally.

Other Religions

For Buddhist and Hindu hells see NARAKA (Pālī, niraya).

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Hell

Hell

Hell is a place of punishment after death or, in more abstract terms, a state of spiritual damnation. In religions and mythologies that separate the dead according to their conduct in life or the purity of their souls, the evil go to hell while the good go to heaven.

Hell is related to the concept of the underworld. In the myths of many ancient cultures, the underworld was the mysterious and often gloomy realm of the dead. Although usually imagined as a dark underground kingdom associated with caves and holes in the earth, hell was not always a place of punishment and suffering. Later belief systems introduced the idea of an afterlife in which the wicked received punishment, and hell was where that punishment occurred.

Although the word hell comes from Hel, the Norse* goddess of death, hells appear in the beliefs and mythologies of many cultures. Common features of hells include burning heat or freezing cold, darkness (symbolizing the soul's separation from light, goodness, and truth), physical agony that represents spiritual suffering, and devils or demons who torment the damned.


Hindu Version. Hinduism is based on the belief that each soul lives many, many lives. A soul may spend time in any of 21 hells to pay for wrong actions during a lifetime, but eventually that soul will be reborn in the world. In the Jain religion, which is related to Hinduism, sinners go to a hell called bhumis, where demons torment them until they have paid for whatever evil they committed in life.


Buddhist Version. There are numerous versions of Buddhism with various ideas of hell. The strictest form of Buddhism does not include a hell, but some Buddhists still follow the traditional belief of up to 136 hells. The hell to which a dead soul goes for punishment depends on the person's actions in the most recent life. Some Buddhist doctrines speak of the karmavacara, the realm of physical and sensory perceptions, as a series of hells. The Chinese belief that souls are punished after death to pay for sins or errors committed during life combines some Buddhist ideas with elements of traditional Taoist Chinese mythology.


Pre-Christian European Version. Before Christianity gave its own meanings to the concepts of heaven and hell, the pagan peoples of Europe imagined the dark side of the afterlife. The Norse pictured Hel, the corpselike goddess of death, as queen of a grim underground realm populated by those who had died of sickness and old age. This view of hell involves a dread of death and a horror of the cold, dark, decaying grave, but it does not suggest a place of punishment.

The Greek underworld was divided into three regions: Hades, Tartarus, and Elysium. Most of the dead went to the kingdom of the god Hades. In the deepest part of the underworld, a terrible dark place known as Tartarus, the very wicked suffered eternal punishment at the hands of the Furies. The third region, Elysium or the Elysian Fields, was where exceptionally good and righteous people went after death.


Persian Version. The image of hell as a place of torment for sinners emerged fully in the Persian mythology based on the faith founded in the 500s b.c. by Zoroaster. According to Zoroastrian belief, souls are judged after death at a bridge where their lives are weighed. If the outcome is good, the bridge widens and carries them to heaven. If they are judged to have been evil, the bridge narrows and pitches them down into a dreadful hell. Those whose lives were an equal mix of good and evil go to a realm called hamestagan, in which they experience both heat and cold.


Jewish Version. The early Hebrews called their afterworld Sheol and pictured it as a quiet, sad place where all the dead went. By around 200 b.c., under the influence of Zoroastrianism and other belief systems, the Jews had adopted the idea of judgment for the dead. The afterworld became a heaven for the good and a hell for the wicked.

A river of fire known as Gehenna ran through hell, and sometimes the whole region was called Gehenna. Scores of demons dwelled there and so did the gods and goddesses of the Greeks,

To Hell and Back

Images of hell in Chinese myth are a blend of Buddhist scriptures and Taoist beliefs. Such images enlivened books about fictional journeys to hell, such as Travels in the West, which gave readers an unsettling glimpse of possible future torments. Sinners descend to the base of the sacred mountain, Meru, to undergo a set period of punishment in one hell or in a series of hells. When they have paid for their sins and are ready for rebirth, they drink a brew that makes them forget their past lives. In some accounts, a wheel of rebirth lifts them to their next life, while in others they are thrown from a bridge of pain into a river that carries them onward.

pagan term used by early Christians to describe non-Christians and non-Christian beliefs

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

Romans, Celts*, and other peoples who had also been turned into demons. Some interpretations described hell as a series of ever-smaller levels or rings, like a downward-pointing, seven-tiered mountain. Half the year the sinners being punished in hell endured the torments of fire. For the rest of the time they suffered the even worse misery of bitter cold.


Christian Version. Christian belief built upon the Jewish notion of hell as a place of punishment for the wicked and the home of Satan, the chief devil, and all of his evil demons, or fallen angels. Most often hell was pictured as an inferno, a place of flames and cruel heat. Many early Christian writings emphasized the agonies that sinners suffered in hell when demons boiled them in kettles or stabbed them with pitchforks. In such interpretations of hell the punishments were often tailored to fit specific sins.

During the Middle Ages, Christians sometimes pictured hell as a fiery dragon's mouth swallowing up sinners. In The Divine Comedy, an allegory of the soul's journey written in the early 1300s, Italian poet Dante Alighieri drew upon many mythological traditions. He portrayed hell as an inferno of punishment, descending through many levels where sinners of different categories received punishment. Dante also described the realm that Christians had come to call purgatory, a state between hell and heaven. Christian belief included the possibility that a soul could, after punishment in purgatory and true repentance, work its way toward heaven and salvation.


Islamic Version. The Muslims inherited their vision of hell, like many other elements of their faith, from the Jews and the Christians. The Islamic hell is called Jahannam (or sometimes Gehenna). Jahannam can be portrayed as a devouring, fire-breathing monster or a multilayered, pitlike realm below the earth whose chief characteristic is fire. As in Persian mythology, the souls of the dead are required to cross a bridge of judgment, "sharper than a sword and finer than a hair," that stretches over Jahannam to paradise. Sinners and unbelievers slip and fall into hell. The kind of punishment that each sinner receives matches his or her sins.


allegory literary and artistic device in which characters represent an idea or a religious or moral principle

Central American Version. According to the Maya, the souls of most of the dead went to an underworld known as Xibalba. Only individuals who died in violent circumstances went directly to one of the heavens. In the Mayan legend of the Hero Twins, told in the Popol Vuh, Xibalba is divided into houses filled with terrifying objects such as knives, jaguars, and bats. The twins undergo a series of trials in these houses and eventually defeat the lords of Xibalba. The Aztecs believed that the souls of ordinary people went to an underworld called Mictlan. Each soul wandered through the layers of Mictlan until it reached the deepest level.

See also Afterlife; Devils and Demons; Furies; Hades; Heaven; Hel; Satan; Sheol; Underworld; Xibalba.

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"Hell." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Hell

323. Hell (See also Underworld.)

  1. Abaddon place of destruction. [N.T.: Revelation 9:11; Br. Lit.: Paradise Lost ]
  2. Gehenna place of eternal suffering. [O.T.: II Kings 23:10]
  3. Hades the great underworld. [Gk. Myth.: NCE, 1219]
  4. Hinnom valley of ill repute that came to mean hell. [Judaism: NCE, 1244]
  5. Naraka realm of torment for deceased wicked people. [Buddhism, Hindu Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 745]
  6. Pandemonium chief city of Hell. [Br. Lit.: Paradise Lost ]
  7. Sheol (or Tophet ) gloomy place of departed, unhappy souls. [Judaism: NCE, 1219]

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hell

hell Abode of evil spirits, and the place or state of eternal punishment after death for the wicked. In modern Christian theology, hell is conceived as eternal separation from God. Hell is parallelled in other religions and mythologies, for example, the Hebrew sheol or the Greek Hades. See also heaven; limbo; purgatory

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hell

hell OE. hel(l) = OS. hellia (Du. hel), OHG. hella (G. hölle), ON. hel, Goth. halja :- Gmc. *χaljō, f. *χal- *χel- *χul- cover, conceal (OE. helian, helan, OS., OHG. helan, etc.; OE. hyllan, Goth. huljan, etc.).

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Hell

203. Hell

See also 114. DEMONS ; 117. DEVIL .

hadephobia
an abnormal fear of heil. Also called stygiophobia .
stygiophobia
hadephobia.

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hell

he'll / hēl/ • contr. of he shall; he will.

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hell

hellAdele, Aix-la-Chapelle, aquarelle, artel, au naturel, bagatelle, béchamel, befell, bell, belle, boatel, Brunel, Cadell, carousel, cartel, cell, Chanel, chanterelle, clientele, Clonmel, compel, Cornell, crime passionnel, dell, demoiselle, dispel, dwell, el, ell, Estelle, excel, expel, farewell, fell, Fidel, fontanelle, foretell, Gabrielle, gazelle, gel, Giselle, hell, hotel, impel, knell, lapel, mademoiselle, maître d'hôtel, Manuel, marcel, matériel, mesdemoiselles, Michel, Michelle, Miguel, misspell, morel, moschatel, Moselle, motel, muscatel, nacelle, Nell, Nobel, Noel, organelle, outsell, Parnell, pell-mell, personnel, propel, quell, quenelle, rappel, Raquel, Ravel, rebel, repel, Rochelle, Sahel, sardelle, sell, shell, show-and-tell, smell, Snell, spell, spinel, swell, tell, undersell, vielle, villanelle, well, yell •Buñuel • Pachelbel • handbell •barbell • harebell • decibel • doorbell •cowbell • bluebell • Annabel •mirabelle • Christabel • Jezebel •Isabel, Isobel •nutshell • infidel • asphodel •zinfandel • Grenfell • Hillel • parallel •Cozumel • caramel • Fresnel •pimpernel • pipistrelle • Tricel •filoselle

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