Heaven & Earth (& Hell) 7 – Gehenna

Posted: June 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Hell | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The third and last word translated “hell” in the NT is Gehenna. It’s also the trickiest one to interpret. We see it used most often in prophetic (and often apocalyptic) pronouncements by Jesus. (I think we can also assume the “lake of fire” in St. John’s Apocalypse is intended to be understood in similar ways.) I personally find Jewish Apocalyptic a very dense and difficult form to wrap my head around. So I don’t promise any significant insight in this post. But I do want to outline the few things I believe I do understand about it.

First, I think it’s important to note that Gehenna describes an actual place – the place outside Jerusalem that was used essentially as the dump. Imagine a constantly smoldering and burning place where refuse is flung. Obviously, when Jesus uses Gehenna in his prophetic imagery, he’s not talking about that actual place, but drawing on its awfulness.

When you study the way Jesus uses Gehenna in his prophetic statements, it seems clear that at least in some sense many of them were fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. However, Jewish prophecies in our Holy Scriptures often have meanings and applications that go well beyond their immediate fulfillment. We see a lot of that in the way Old Testament prophecies were interpreted in the Apostolic teaching as speaking about Jesus. So this fact does nothing to eliminate the eschatological sense of Gehenna.

Both of those images, though, reinforce the idea of Gehenna as deeply unpleasant. When we speak of a future hell, then, we’re speaking of Gehenna, not Hades. We’re talking about something other than death.


One Comment on “Heaven & Earth (& Hell) 7 – Gehenna”

  1. 1 Scott Morizot said at 10:32 am on June 30th, 2010:

    New at Faith & Food: Heaven & Earth (& Hell) 7 – Gehenna https://faithandfood.morizot.net/2010/06/30/heaven-earth-hell-7-%e2%80%93-gehenna/