When We Don’t Want Hell To Be Real

I was taking to a friend the other day and he made a comment and had a brief discussion on Facebook with Matthew Paul Turner.  For those of you who do not know, Matthew Paul Turner is a fairly famous Christian blogger who has writes and speaks on what I consider the friendly church movement.  I have only read his book Churched, which was a good read, but it was not something that I connected with.  I suppose not being part of the “fundie” church crowd has kept me from connecting with some of his messages.  Regardless, I agree with a lot of what he writes about.

Turner, I will refer to him as this as typing Matthew Paul Turner over and over again makes the fingers cramp up, shared a post on his Facebook page about “What Jesus Talked About When He Talked About Hell“.  The post deals with what Jesus says about “hell” and what he might have meant by it.

The author of the article, Benjamin Corey, stated that the word “hell” did not exist in first century Israel.  According to Corey, the word did not appear until AD 725, when it was introduced.

According to the The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, the word “hell” was adopted into our vocabulary as a way to introduce the pagan concept of hell into Christian theology– which it did quite successfully.

Corey then proceeds to give examples as how the word Jesus uses for hell in Greek is “Gehenna”.  I agree with the statement that Jesus used the word Gehenna in a parable that he told (Matthew 23:33).  I disagree with the notion that concept of hell as Jesus spoke about it, the pain and suffering aspects, was not known to first century Jews.

Looking for some background on the word Gehenna, I came across this noted in the NET version:

The word translated hell is “Gehenna” (γέεννα, geenna), a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew words ge hinnom (“Valley of Hinnom”). This was the valley along the south side of Jerusalem. In OT times it was used for human sacrifices to the pagan god Molech (cf. Jer_7:31; Jer_19:5-6; Jer_32:35), and it came to be used as a place where human excrement and rubbish were disposed of and burned. In the intertestamental period, it came to be used symbolically as the place of divine punishment (cf. 1 En. 27:2, 90:26; 4 Ezra 7:36).

While the word “hell” was not known to first century Jews, the concept of Gehenna as a place of divine punishment instead of just a historical location was known to them.  Now I disagree with Corey that the listeners of Jesus would taken this strictly in the historical context, but neither of us were there so we will never fully know.  This disagreement aside, I really enjoyed the post from Corey.

I do not agree with the way hell has been portrayed to people, as it was used as a threat and manipulation tool against far too many people.  The negative usage of hell aside, there is and i believe was an understanding as to the negative connotation of hell that cannot be discounted.  It needs to stop being used as a weapon, but we cannot just cast the idea of an eternal punishment spot aside because people either do not like it or have been hurt by it before.

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Yeshua and the Angel of the Lord

One to the blogs I follow is a Jewish blog called 1000 Verses.  The blog is written by an Orthodox Rabbi who is working to combat Christianity’s attempts on Judaism.  I started following the blog when I read his posts that were debating Dr. Michael Brown, who is a Jewish follower of Yeshua (Jesus).  I enjoyed reading what Dr. Brown wrote about the Jewish messianic beliefs and was curious to read the beliefs of an Orthodox Rabbi to see where Christians made assumptions that were not true and Judaism.

I have a lot of respect for what Rabbi Blumenthal writes on his blog.  While I do not agree with all of what he writes, I desire respectful conversations with him and his followers about what I believe versus what they perceive Christians as believing.  We don’t all think the same.

Rabbi Blumenthal put out a new post titled “The Angel of the Lord” where he compares Christian thoughts on the Angel of the Lord who had an encounter with Abraham versus what Jewish perspectives on the encounter.  To cut to the chase, Jewish people do not think that the Angel of the Lord was Yeshua (Jesus).

In his post, Rabbi B notes that Rashbam and Ibn Ezra consider this person to be an “angel who is called by God’s name”.  The commentators mention this as this character is referred to as ‘adonay or Master in the Masoretic Texts and this term is reserved for God alone.

This is why Christians will seize on this event and claim that the third person was a preincarnate Christ.  Rabbi B does point out that nowhere in this passage did Abraham worship this character in order to show that he was not God.

Now Rabbi B will continue to make his argument that this is not Yeshua as other passages detail how God used angels as his messengers at other times, such as Numbers 22 where the angel of the Lord appeared and spoke for God but was entirely separate from God.  I agree with him.  Nowhere does this angel claim to be God or referred to with the term ‘adonay, thus he was not God.  That does not prove that the entity that had the encounter with Abraham was or was not God.

Now I want to point out that I do not see where Yeshua was worshipped either prior to His assent to the throne.  Does that mean He was not God?

One of the big debates about the divinity of Christ has to do with His role as the everlasting offering before God.  My stance is that no created being could ever be holy enough to be an everlasting offering.  Unblemished animals were only good for a year and human sacrifices where prohibited, so if Yeshua was the Christ and His death was the final atoning work, what else could He be but God in the flesh?

Now I have no proof to this, but that is why people keep arguing about religion and what things mean.  Give Rabbi B a read sometime, but be respectful and do not just throw out Christian’s views as responses to his writings.

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