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.