Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/507

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ANCIENT AND MODERN IDEAS OF HELL.

As for the two other religions of China, Confucianism tells nothing whatever about punishment after this life, while Taouism has a theory of retribution much like that of Brahmanism.

The Jews in Old Testament times had no idea of a hell. There is no mention of punishment after death in the teachings of Moses, nor is this doctrine taught by the prophets. The word sheol, which is translated by hell in the King James version of the Bible, meant simply the abode of the dead, and corresponded to the Greek hades, used in the New Testament and other Greek writings. Gloomy and repulsive ideas were associated with sheol, similar to those we connect with death and the grave, but it was the destination of good and bad alike, and not a place of punishment.[1] The troubles which the wicked and the enemies of the Jews were threatened with by the prophets pertained to this world. They were pain, disease, loss of possessions and kindred, hostility of neighbors, death, and indignities to the dead body. The idea of sheol first became modified after the Persian captivity. The place was divided into two parts, which were separated only by the width of a thread. One of these divisions was for the good, awaiting resurrection, and was called Paradise; the other, set apart for the wicked, was called Gehenna. This latter designation means "the valley of the son of Hinnom," and was originally the name of a gorge outside of Jerusalem in which the Jews had practiced the fiery worship of Moloch, and where afterward offal from the city and the bodies of criminals were thrown, to be consumed by the fires always kept burning there. The idea of Gehenna as a place of future punishment had appeared in rabbinical theology and become quite detailed a century or more before Christ. Hell was represented as having special apartments for different kinds of torment. One place, from its darkness, was called "Night of Horrors." The fire of Gehenna was said to have been kindled on the evening of the first Sabbath, and would never be extinguished.[2] A Talmudic writer, quoted by Alger,[3] says: "There are in hell seven abodes, in each abode seven thousand caverns, in each cavern seven thousand clefts, in each cleft seven thousand scorpions; each scorpion has seven limbs, and on each limb are seven thousand barrels of gall. There are also in hell seven rivers of rankest poison, so deadly that if one touches it he bursts."

At the coming of Christ, there were three chief sects among the Jews. The Pharisees, who were by far the most numerous, believed that sinners were kept forever in a prison in the underworld; the Essenes believed that the vicious suffered eternal pun-


  1. Schaff-Herzog, Encyclopædia of Religious Knowledge, article Hell.
  2. Future Life, p. 509.
  3. Basnage, History of the Jews, lib. iv, cap. 30.