Skip to main content
Select Source:

Gehenna

Gehenna

One of the words in the Christian New Testament for hell, the place of destruction. The word is derived from the Hebrew ge and hinnom, the Valley of Hinnomoriginally a valley in Palestine where the Hebrews passed their children through the fire to Moloch, the god of the Ammonites (1 Kings 11; 2 Kings 23:10).

Gehenna was popularly regarded as a place of destruction to which the wicked were consigned when they died (Matt. 18:7-8). Gehenna is usually translated as "hell fire" in the New Testament (Mark 9:43; Luke 12:5). Over the centuries it was merged with other terms for the abode of the dead, and through the writings of novelists such as Dante and John Milton the Christian world was given a description of hell as a place of unutterable anguish, horror, and despair.

The locality of hell and the duration of its torments have for centuries been the subject of much speculation. Some imagined there was a purgatorial regiona kind of upper Gehenna "in which the souls of just men are cleansed by a temporary punishment" before being admitted to heaven. It was believed that during this period the soul could revisit the places and persons it had loved. The Persians understood Gehenna as the place inhabited by the divs (rebellious angels), to which the rebels were confined when they refused to bow down before the first man.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gehenna." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gehenna." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gehenna

"Gehenna." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gehenna

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Gehenna

Gehenna in Judaism and the New Testament, hell. The name comes via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek geenna, from Hebrew gē' hinnōm ‘hell’, literally ‘valley of Hinnom’, a place near Jerusalem where children were sacrificed to Baal, as in Jeremiah 19:6.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gehenna." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gehenna." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/gehenna

"Gehenna." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/gehenna

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Gehenna

Gehenna, Gehinnom (Heb., Valley of Hinnom). A valley south of Jerusalem, used as a waste tip. It became a place where the wicked are abandoned with none to remember them, and where they are tormented after death. Gehenna is the Gk. form of the name.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gehenna." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gehenna." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/gehenna

"Gehenna." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/gehenna

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Gehenna

Gehenna (gĬhĕn´ə): see hell.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gehenna." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gehenna." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gehenna

"Gehenna." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gehenna

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Gehenna

GEHENNA

A valley in Jerusalem where refuse was burned, later becoming a symbol for the place of punishment in the nether world. The NT term γέεννα is a Greek-influenced form of Aramaic gêhinnām, corresponding to Hebrew gêhinnōm (the Valley of Hinnom: Neh 11.30, a shortened form of gê ' b enê-hinnōm, the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom: Jos 15.8; 18.16; etc.); the ravine (modern Wâdī er-Rabâbeh) is situated at the southern end of Jerusalem. During the monarchy the place called Thopheth in this valley was the scene of an idolatrous cult involving the burning of children as sacrificial victims to Moloch (Jer7.31; 2 Kgs 16.3; 21.6). Later, perhaps because of its reputation as a place of idolatrous worship, it became the dumping ground where the refuse of the city was burned. In Jeremiah's time it was known simply as "the valley" (Jer 2.23).

By the time of Christ, however, the word Gehenna had evolved from a topographical designation to an eschatological one; it became the place of chastisement for the wicked immediately after death or in the eternity that was to follow the resurrection and the Judgment. The eschatological imagery of Gehenna came from Jer7.308.3; 19.213; and Is 66.24. Jeremiah foretold that this place would one day be called the Valley of Slaughter, for in the destruction of Jerusalem so many of its inhabitants would be killed that their corpses would be cast, unburied, into the valley to rot or be burned. In short, Gehenna would be a symbol of divine chastisement, although this would not be definitive, for Jeremiah predicted also that the valley of dead bodies and ashes would eventually be holy to Yahweh (Jer 31.40).

In Is 66.24, the last verse of an eschatological oracle coming from the period of reconstruction after the Exile, yahweh proclaimed that He would vindicate Himself by restoring zion and by having all the nations come there to pay Him honor. Outside its gates the nations would see the cadavers of all who had rebelled against Him. Although Gehenna was not mentioned in the oracle, there was an obvious allusion to Jer 7.308.3, but now the chastisement is described as definitive ("Their worm shall not die, nor their fire be extinguished"). As a rubbish dump, Gehenna was a place where fire burned constantly and where worms feasted on the garbage, and these images were transferred to the never-ending punishment of the rebellious. The references to fire in Is 31.9 and Is 33.14 envisioned Yahweh's power as bringing vengeance on Israel's oppressors (Is 33.1012) rather than a fire punishing the damned.

The apocryphal literature used the image of Gehenna as a symbol of everlasting punishment but not in a uniform way. The Book of Enoch (ch. 636, c. 150 b.c.) still envisaged a terrestial eschatology: the resurrected just would rejoice on the earth (ch. 25) and evildoers would rise and be thrown into the fire of Gehenna (ch. 22). In ch. 83 to 90 of Enoch, Gehenna was not named, but it was alluded to in an apparently transcendental eschatology. The fallen angels after the Judgment would be cast into a fiery abyss (90.2427). This concept was not so developed an eschatology as that of Matthew in which Gehenna was conceived in cosmic terms as belonging exclusively to the world beyond and as having always been in existence (Mt 25.41).

In ch. 37 to 71 of Enoch (beginning of the Christian Era) sheol and Gehenna were used interchangeably (54.12). The darkness of Sheol was thus added to the fire of Gehenna, which was thought of as a fire that burns without giving light. Such confusion between Sheol and Gehenna is found also in the NT, e.g., "the darkness outside" (Mt 8.12; 22.13; 25.30). Gehenna had thus become disengaged from its ancient topography and transferred to the NT eschatology of the world beyond. In Enoch 90.2627; 54.12; and 56.34 Gehenna was destined only for apostate Jews; elsewhere it was the destiny for all the wicked, including pagans. Later Judaism, however, regarded Gehenna as a sort of purgatory for faithless Jews and a place of eternal perdition for the Gentiles.

Other NT texts that mentioned Gehenna are Mt 5.22, 29; 10.28; 18.9; 23.15, 33; Mk 9.4347; Lk 12.5; and Jas3.6. Synonyms such as "furnace of fire" (Mt 13.42, 50), "everlasting fire" (Mt 18.8; Jude 7), and "pool of fire" (Rv 19.20; 20.9, 1415; 21.8) were employed as well to signify eternal punishment.

See Also: hades; hell (in the bible); hellfire; judgment, divine (in the bible).

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible (New York 1963) 847850. j. jeremiah, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament, ed. g. kittel (Stuttgart 1935) 1:655656. a. wikenhauser, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 4:598. t. h. gaster, The Interpreters' Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville, Tenn. 1962) 2:361362. j. bonsirven, Palestinian Judaism in the Time of Jesus Christ, tr. w. wolf (New York 1964) 226251.

[i. h. gorski]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gehenna." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gehenna." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gehenna

"Gehenna." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gehenna

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.