Saturday, May 30, 2015

On the origins of Hell

First, let me say I believe in nothing supernatural, no gods, no afterlife, no ghosts, no magic, nothing. And while I would never believe Hell existed in my worldview anyway, there is actual evidence that proves Hell is man-made and not an actual thing. In a recent discussion with a theist, he claimed to ACTUALLY know about Hell, so I called him on it. Of course he just told me to read the bible and backpedaled on giving me real evidence. When I told him real research reveals how Hell came to be known as a place of eternal damnation without actually existing, he asked me for proof, so here it is:

It's not surprising that "hell" in the New Testament is used as a vehicle for control and fear, and it's no less surprising that it is the product of mistranslation and misunderstanding. To get to the root of its origin we MUST begin with the OT. The Jews wrote the Old Testament, thus starting the Abrahamic religion, and they use the term Sheol, described as a morally neutral place people allegedly go after they die. It literally means "world of the dead; a subterranean retreat, a grave or pit." In fact, in the KJV, the Old Testament term Sheol is translated as "Hell" 31 times and "grave" 31 times (translated as "pit" three times).

What's that you say, there is no Hell in the OT and the Jews don't believe in Hell? No lake of fire, no eternal damnation? Well isn't that very telling? The Greeks originally translated Sheol as Hades, their underworld, which already is skewing the original meaning. The KJV translates Hades as Hell 10 times, and as grave once. Nonetheless, Hell's origin can still be traced to the OT, but let's take a quick detour to the NT for a second.

Obviously the Jesus character was a Jew, as were his followers/apostles, and in the Greek translations of the NT, Jesus uses the term Gehenna for Hell. Some say Gehenna is not Hell, but originally was a grave and in later times a sort of Purgatory where one is judged based on one's life's deeds, or rather, where one becomes fully aware of one's own shortcomings and negative actions during one's life. But if you follow the steps of translation back to the original Hebrew, you'll learn Gehenna (English) comes from the Greek's Ge'enna (γέεννα), which is a phonetic transcription of the Aramaic Gēhannā, which of course comes from the Hebrew Ge Hinnom, which literally means Valley of Hinnom.

This Valley, aka Valley of the Sons of Hinnom, was used during Roman times (and before then) for burning bodies and trash. A little more research uncovers this Valley was used for child sacrifices by Jews and Canaanites, and these sacrifices were to Molech, Baal and even Yahweh. The Valley of Hinnom is below the southern wall of ancient Jerusalem, which is telling in and of itself, that the location is below Jerusalem. Many biblical scholars will say Gehenna is a metaphor for Hell, but of course we have the actual history of the location and no real evidence of a hell itself.

But the imagery is easily transferable even if mistakingly done so: an underworld, below Jerusalem, where the unwanted things (people and garbage) go to burn. One part of the Valley was known as Tophet, the "fire-stove" or furnace, where the children were burned alive. Excavations from 1975-80 found remains of nine burial caves, and in earlier excavations of the dump, the fire was still smoldering after centuries.

So, we have Hades and Gehenna, and when the bible was translated into English in Medieval Times, both terms became Hell, which in fact doesn't exist. It literally started as just an OT description of where bodies were buried, mistranslated to mean underworld, then it was an actual place where bodies were sacrificed and burned, located below Jerusalem. And it was during the Medieval Times the Christian church manipulated Hell as a weapon for controlling its followers with fear of eternal damnation.

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