1 The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church 2754-2754
2 Study of the Medieval Visions of Heaven and Hell 2755-2763
3 Visions of Heaven and Hell Before Dante 2764-2765
4 Medieval Visions of Heaven and Hell 2766-2767
5 The Birth of Purgatory 2768-2768
6 Dante's Divine Comedy 2769-2773
7 The Christian Hell 2774-2775
8 Hell A Christian Doctrine 2776-2794


9 Passages About Hell 2795-2795
10 Understanding Hell 2796-2796
11 The Lake of Fire 2797-2799
12 Slavery 2799-2799


from: The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F.L. Cross, Third Edition edited by E.A. Livingstone, Oxford University Press, 1997.

[The contemporary Christian apologetics ("spin")].

"HELL. The word 'hell' is used in English translations of the Bible to represent both the Hebrew '*Sheol' (q.v.), meaning the place of the departed, and the Greek '*Gehenna' (q.v.), which came to denote the divinely ordained place of punishment for the wicked after death. In Christian theology it normally signifies the place or state to which unrepentant sinners are held to pass after this life, whereas the redeemed go either to *Purgatory (q.v.) or direct to *Heaven (q.v.). Its character is inferred from biblical teaching, esp. Christ's words in the Gospels about the fate of those who refuse the opportunity of entering the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matt. 13: 42; 25: 30 and 41). In Rev. the 'second death' (2: 11; 20: 14, etc.) is depicted symbolically as the fate of being cast into a 'lake which burneth with fire and brimstone' (21: 8; cf. 19: 20 and 20: 10). From such texts as this [Revelation], OFTEN UNDERSTOOD OVER-LITERALLY [this is amusing! Now!—The sadists (bastards!) tell us!: "Don't be so literal!—we Christians were just scaring children and adults."], the popular idea of hell was derived.

          It is clear that in the NT hell in this sense is an ultimate state or destiny into which souls pass only by God's final and irrevocable judgement, whether that is conceived as the *Particular Judgement at death or the *General Judgement on the last day. Acc. to the traditional Scholastic theology, souls experience in hell both the poena damni ["pain of loss"], i.e. the exclusion from God's presence and loss of all contact with Him, and a certain poena sensus ["pain of sense" ("consists in the torment of fire" (Internet (Catholic Encyclopedia)))], denoted in the Bible by fire, which is usually interpreted as an external agent tormenting them. Modern theology tends rather to stress the fact that hell is but the logical consequence of ultimate adherence to the soul's own will and rejection of the will of God,which (since God cannot take away free will) necessarily separates the soul from God, and hence from all possibility of happiness. This exclusion from heaven (in which the unrepentant person would from his very character be both unable and unwilling to share) is held to be contrary neither to God's justice nor to His love, since He will not force response to the good from any creature against his will. [this paragraph—ugh!].

          See also DESCENT OF CHRIST INTO HELL [748-749]."

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from: A Contribution to the Comparative Study of the Medieval Visions of Heaven and Hell, with Special Reference to the Middle-English Versions. A Dissertation Presented to the Board of University Studies of The Johns Hopkins University for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, by Ernest J. [Julius] Becker. Baltimore: John Murphy Company, 1899.

"This is an authorized facsimile of the original book,

and was produced in 1978 by microfilm-xerography

by University Microfilms International

Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.

London, England"



  1. Oriental Analogues, 9
  2. Influence of Classical Antiquity, 20
  3. The Old Testament, 21
  4. The Book of Enoch, 22
  5. The New Testament 25
  6. The Gospel of Nicodemus, 25
  7. The Vision of Thespesius, 27
  8. The Apocalypse of Peter, 29
  1. Visions Recounted by Bede, 49
  2. The Anglo-Saxon Hell, 54
    (a) The Poets, 54
    (b) The Homilists, 64
  3. The Anglo-Saxon Purgatory, 69
  1. The Vision of St. Paul, 74
  2. The Vision of Tundale, 81
  3. St Patrick's Purgatory, 87
  4. The Vision of the Monk of Eynsham, 93
  5. The vision of Thureill, 96


[Note: 101 pages, "98%" on Hell. Heaven seldom gets much consideration (see 2766-2767). "Heaven is always rich in what is longed for, and Hell has an infinite abundance of what is already too abundant" (Mencken, Appendix X, 826).

          My Father (Charles S.) said to me: "Life is Hell!" (as a teenager, I was disturbed with this seemingly unduly harsh statement. Now (laughing), I feel my Father understated the event)].



          The present study represents the result of an attempt to compare more closely than has hitherto been done the English medieval Visions of Heaven and Hell. The original plan was to specialize on one particular work (the Vision of St. Paul), and using it as a point of departure, to bring the other similar works into organic connection with it and with one another. Almost inevitably, however, the field for investigation grew broader and broader as the work went on; new and important points of contact constantly presented themselves, and it very soon became evident that the study, in order to attain even a partial degree of completeness, could not be confined within the boundaries of England...." [1].

          'Aside from England, two stages in the general development of visions have been taken up in some detail in the following pages: Oriental influence, and the Apocalypse of Peter. Such a procedure hardly requires an apology. Many of the analogies between the visions and the oriental conceptions of the otherworld have been previously pointed out. But the data are widely scattered, and it seemed well to gather them, together with a few hitherto unnoticed points of similarity, into a connected account. Whereas the Apocalypse of Peter, being the earliest Christian vision—in our sense of the word—which we possess, seemed the best possible point from which to indicate the organic manner in which all the visions are connected.

          The intermediate stages between these two cardinal points in vision-development are, 1. Classical antiquity; 2. The Old Testament; 3. Old Testament Apocrypha, especially the Book of Enoch; 4. The Canonical New Testament; 5. New Testament Apocrypha, especially the Gospel of Nicodemus. For the sake of completeness, these points will be briefly treated in the following pages.

          Within Christian times, the works of the church fathers were of course chiefly instrumental in diffusing the visions. Homilies, commentaries, theological essays, and ecclesiastical histories were alive with accounts, in vision form, of the terrors of hell and of purgatory. These accounts were spread among the people by popular preachers and homilists, and in this way the visions no doubt became largely responsible for the epidemics of terror which pervaded the Middle Ages.

          Thus we have the skeleton of vision-development established. Deriving the general form and many of the details from the East, the earliest Christian vision-writers grafted them upon such slight material as they found in the Old and New Testaments and their apocrypha, and attaching the names of Christian saints and martyrs to the results, launched them as inspired revelations. Barren in detail and crude in execution at first, they lived on in the minds of the people for several centuries without material alteration or embellishment. The church fathers made use of them to support their doctrines, and were chiefly instrumental in giving them the great vogue which they afterwards attained. Gregory the Great [(Gregory I) Gregory the Great c. 540 - 604 (St)] adduced them in support of his doctrine of purgatory, just as they are still adduced for the support of the same doctrine at the present day.1 Through Gregory especially they passed into the work of local historians, such as Bede [The Venerable Bede (St) c. 673 - 735] in England; and were taken up and diffused among the people by homilists, such as Aelfric [c. 955 - c. 1020]. And all


the while the clergy was becoming ever more and more powerful, and the people ever more and more panic-stricken at the thought of what even the least sinful of them would have to undergo before obtaining everlasting bliss. And the more panic-stricken the people became, the greater swelled the power of the clergy, till at last the terror of the one became a nervous disease afflicting nations at a time, and the power of the other greater than the world had ever known.

          It was in such an unhealthy atmosphere that visions flourished in all their power. They are the outgrowth of a fundamentally morbid psychological condition. The clergy who wrote began to pour them out in countless numbers, and preachers thundered them down upon the heads of their terrified congregations with all the additional emphasis of voice and gesture; and, finally, even laymen took them up and put them into verse, adding new horrors from their own fertile imaginations, and producing such catalogues of elaborated torment as, for example, the Vision of Tundale.

          It would therefore not be inappropriate to speak of an "EPIDEMIC OF VISIONS," and to include the phenomenon under the category of the many nervous diseases which afflicted the Middle Ages: the judgment-day panic, the children's crusades, and that most peculiar psychological phenomenon, especially prevalent in Italy, the epidemic of dancing.1

          In the face of these evidences of the morbid mental and physical conditions of the Middle Ages, there can be no doubt that trances and syncopes, hallucinations, catalepsies, and the whole long catalogue of similar abnormalities, were widely operative among the people. We have the evidence of the visions themselves for it, and the circumstances which attended at least the later visions are of just this character. A man to all outward appearances dies, and, after remaining in a condition of total unconsciousness for a stated time, suddenly comes to life again, and relates what he has seen during his trance. What is more natural than to suppose that the soul had, by a special dispensation of providence, been separated from the body during that time?

          From a pathological point of view, the circumstances are not at all surprising. It is quite natural that a person who has reduced his vitality to its lowest ebb by continual privation and exposure, and whose religious fanaticism borders upon lunacy, should be subject to periods of ecstasy; and that he should, upon returning to a comparatively normal state, imagine that he had actually seen things which for years he had constantly been picturing to himself in imagination. Nor would he experience the slightest difficulty in convincing his hearers of the truth of his statements, and thus the marvelous story would spread.

          The extent of the influence of the visions upon the mental life of the times must not be underrated. They were undoubtedly a powerful factor in establishing for religion the undisputed supremacy which it possessed over the minds of men in the Middle Ages. They formed, as could nothing else, a link between this world and the next, and seemed to solve in a way which left no room for doubt the greatest questions which theology or philosophy could propound.

          The story of the torments of hell and of purgatory, and of the joys of heaven, found its highest and practically its final literary expression in the Divina Commedia of Dante [Dante Alighieri 1265 - 1321]....' [2-5].





          It is not within the scope of the present study to review, even briefly, the various doctrines concerning a future life which are advanced in the different Oriental theogonies. But no survey of the history of visions would be complete without an Indication, at least, of the most striking parallels between the pagan and Christian accounts. In almost every case the former can claim chronological priority, and may therefore be considered the first step in the chain of vision-development.

          Upham, in his History of Buddhism,1 was at some pains to point out the resemblance between many of the torments of the Buddhist hells and of the Divina Commedia. And it is in these accounts that we find the most striking analogues to the incidents of the Christian visions. The chief lines of similarity may be briefly indicted.

          The number of hells varies in Buddhistic accounts, but the favorite figure is 136: 8 principal and 128 subordinate hells.2 The torments are, of course, not the same in all accounts; but the following abstract (in which only the eight principal hells are considered) will serve the present purpose.3

          The first hell is the place of the damned where they are cut in pieces by several sorts of weapons, and brought to life again. Here they will be torn to pieces by glowing hot irons, and then exposed to intense cold. After a time their limbs will again unite, and again be torn asunder and exposed to the cold; and this alternation of misery will endure for 500 infernal years.

          The second hell is the place where the damned are hewn with red-hot axes. On a bed of fire they will be extended, and, like so many trunks of trees, with burning iron saws and hooks they will be cut into eight or ten pieces, for 1,000 infernal years.

          The third hell is the place where the dead are squeezed with red-hot iron rocks, which roll from the four sides of hell. They will be ground between four burning mountains for 2,000 infernal years.

          The fourth hell is the place where the damned are tormented by the flame having entered into them by the nine openings of their body. They will have their hearts consumed by fire entering their mouths, etc., for 4,000 infernal years.

          The fifth hell is the place where the damned undergo great misery; tears red as blood and hot as fire proceed from their eyes for 8,000 infernal years.

          The sixth hell is the place where the damned are tormented by being fixed on red-hot iron pins, which are fastened to the burning floor. They will be tumbled down headlong from a lofty burning mountain; then, being transfixed on an iron spit, they will be cut and torn by demons with swords and spears for 16,000 infernal years.

          The seventh hell is the place where the damned are placed on red-hot iron rocks, and being unable to stand on them, fall down headlong on the hot iron floor,

from which protrude red-hot iron spikes as large as palmeira logs. They will be first fixed with their heads downwards, and then transfixed with red-hot spits as large as palm trees.

          The eighth hell is the place of the damned, who are burned constantly by the fire which proceeds in an immense quantity from every side of that hell, by which fire the extent of 100 yodoons[?] of the hell is filled up. They will be punished for a


whole world in the most terrible of all hells, the pavement of which, nine yojanas [yojana = 7, 8, or 9, miles] in thickness, is of red-hot iron, and emits the most horrible smoke and the most piercing flame.

          In the first hell we are confronted with two of the most characteristic features of a large number of Christian visions. The fact that the souls, after being torn and mangled beyond possibility of recognition, again take on their original shape, in order to undergo renewed torment, is constantly emphasized in the Christian accounts....

          The sixth hell seems again to be in organic connection with the Christian accounts. In the Apocalypse of Peter we find the following paragraph (15): "And in a certain other place were pebbles sharper than swords or than any spit, red-hot, and women and men, clad in filthy rags, were rolling upon them in torment..." The hot iron floor is one of the most elaborate features of the Vision of Tundale.1

          The lofty mountains are a not uncommon feature of Christian accounts. They occur in one or another form in the visions of the Monk of Wenlok, Wettin, Drihthelm, Monk of Eynsham, and others. Souls are hurled from cliffs in the Apocalypse of Peter (17): "And there were other men and women being hurled down from a great cliff, and they reached the bottom and again were driven by those that were set upon them to climb up upon the cliff, and thence they were hurled down again, and they had no rest from this torment."

          In the Vision of Alberic the mountains are of ice.

          Impaling is a feature which we should naturally expect to find in any catalogue of physical torments, and its frequent recurrence in the visions is not surprising. In the Divina Commedia, Caiaphas is fixed to a cross on the ground.2

          Placing sinners upon their heads (seventh hell) recalls the pits into which Dante plunges some of his damned headforemost. Dante's immediate source for this feature was probably the Vision of Alberic, but the similarity is none the less remarkable, especially as Dante places his pits in the "livid stone," which would seem to be the red-hot rocks of the Buddhistic accounts.3 See also St. Patrick's Purgatory (sect. 4).4

          The eighth hell offers no new features. In the Vision of Tundale, the iron floor is also assigned a specified thickness.

          The foregoing very brief review shows sufficiently clearly that an organic connection exists between the Buddhistic conceptions of hell-torment and the Christian.' [9-11, 12-13].

          "....This account further resembles especially Tundale and St. Patrick's Purgatory, in that the narrator himself undergoes many of the torments described. We find here also the teaching which plays an important part in the Buddhistic system, as it does especially in the Avesta, and, in a less marked degree, in the Old Testament, namely, the division of earthly actions into thought, word, and deed, all of which will be revealed to the great Judge.1" [15].

          "Turning now to other oriental religions, we find only isolated incidents which have been carried over into the Christian accounts.


          The fate of the Egyptian soul after death is briefly as follows:1 ....

          At least two of the features of this account have crept into the Christian visions—the wide-throated monster and the scales of justice. It is most probable, however, that they came through the medium of the Greek." [16].

          'Turning to the Persian theogony,1 we find the one feature which links Orient and Occident most unmistakably together—the feature which is still a doctrine in the Mohammedan system—the bridge of judgment. This, more than any other single incident, seems to have struck the popular fancy, and we find it recurring constantly throughout early and medieval Christian literature, not only in the visions, where we should naturally expect to find it, but in the romances as well.3 ....

          In the visions, the bridge is sometimes one of the torments of hell, at others, "the bridge of purgatory." The first Christian vision in which we find it is that of St. Paul....

          Representative visions in which the bridge figures are: St. Paul, fourth century; Monk of Wenlok, eighth century; Tundale, Alberic, twelfth century; St. Patrick's Purgatory (where the bridge broadens just as in the Mohammedan account), Thureill, thirteenth century.

          In the eighteenth century Persian Dabistan,2 or School of Manners, the soul, when upon the bridge of judgment, is enveloped in a fetid mist, from which issues a terrible figure. "Who art thou?" asks the spirit. "I am the personification of thy acts and deeds," answers the apparition. The bridge is sharper than a razor, and the wicked soul, having gone a little way with great difficulty, at last falls into the infernal gulf below....' [17, 18].


          It will be impossible to give in this place a catalogue of the elements which found their way into the visions from the rich mythologies of classical times. For parallels of a general character I refer to the early pages of M. Labitte's essay.4 It has already been said (p. 16, above), that the Greek was in all probability the medium through which several details of the Egyptian conception of an after-life crept into Christianity; such as, for example, the Cerberus myth, and the scales of justice. The rivers of hell reflect Acheron and Styx; the thread which Ariadue gave to Theseus to guide him through the labyrinth of the Minotaur springs up again in the ninth century Vision of Charles the Fat, where, to be sure, it has assumed many distinctly medieval attributes. The "lux atra" of Virgil may be the "black fire" of the Anglo-Saxon hell. Many visions, such as that of Tundale, introduce Greek and Latin proper names. In St. Patrick's Purgatory, too, we find classical references.

          The more specific points of affinity will be indicated in the course of the study.

          Some influence of a very general character may have been exerted upon later descriptions of heaven by Cicero's Somnium Scipionis. The visions, however, owe very little to it.


          The Vision of Thespesius, written at a time when the glory of Rome had already begun to fade, will be discussed in detail in a subsequent section.' [20].


          Old Testament scriptures furnish no description of a place of punishment sufficiently detailed to warrant bringing it into immediate relation with vision-literature. There can, however, be little doubt that the custom of prophesying and admonishing from a vision basis originated here, and was the direct stimulus for the similar procedure in the Christian accounts. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Obadiah, and the minor Old Testament visionaries, all contributed something to the result, though probably less than the apocryphal Book of Enoch.

          The doctrine of a hell fire is clearly expressed in the Old Testament, Deut., XXXII, 22: "For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell." The "pains of hell" are referred to in Ps. CXVI, 3: "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold upon me." See also Ps. XVI, 10; LV, 15; CXXXIX, 8.

          Hell is a pit beneath the earth: Is., XIV, 15: "Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit." Ezek., XXXI, 16: "...when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit." 17: "They also went down into hell..." XXXII, 27: "Which are gone down to hell with their weapons of war." Contrasted positions of heaven and hell clearly expressed in Amos, IX, 2: "Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down." Hell is deep: Prov., IX, 18: "But he knoweth not that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the depths of hell." Job, XXIV, 19: "Drought and heat consume the snow waters; so doth the grave those which have sinned," has been adduced as evidence of the double torments of heat and cold in purgatory.

          The closest analogues to the general form of the Christian visions are Ezek., I–X; Daniel, VII, VIII, X. Specific passages will be indicated in the course of the study.

          For an exposition of the theory which would derive the Christian hell immediately from the Hellenic one, I refer to Prof. Percy Gardner's essay in the Contemporary Review, March, 1895, and to Nutt, loc. cit., where further references will be found.' [21].


          Christian writers would naturally make the Gospels the basis for their descriptions of hell as of everything else; and it is only to be expected that we should find the sporadic intimations, which we find there, incorporated in almost all subsequent accounts. But the New Testament, though somewhat more explicit in this particular than the Old, offers but few details of the torments of hell.

          FIRE IS, OF COURSE, THE PRINCIPAL TORMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN HELL, as contrasted with the cold and gloom of Germanic mythology.2 Compare Matt., V, 22: "But whoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." Mark, IX, 43f: "Into the fire that never shall be quenched." Matt., XIII, 42, 50: "And shall cast


them into a furnace of fire." Matt., XVIII, 8: "To be cast into everlasting fire." Matt., XVIII, 9: "To be cast into hell fire." Matt., XXV, 41: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire," etc. REVELATION IS THE MAIN SCRIPTURAL SOURCE FROM WHICH VISION-WRITERS DREW, BEING ITSELF A VISION, AND REFLECTING OLD TESTAMENT VISIONS, ESPECIALLY THOSE OF MOSES, EZEKIEL AND DANIEL. Hell is a "bottomless pit," IX, 1; a "prison for the damned," II, 10; the chief torment is fire: "He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone," XIV, 10. The "lake of fire," so common a feature in the visions,1 is three times mentioned: "Cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone," XIX, 20; "and death and hell were cast into a lake of fire," XX, 14; "and whatsoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire," XX, 15. The conception of the devil, and later of hell itself as a dragon or serpent, probably has its first definite expression in XX, 2: "The dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan."

          The doctrine of the purging quality of the judgment-day fire is clearly brought out in I Cor., III, 12–15. 15: "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." This is the closest approach to a doctrine of purgatory. The same thing holds for Anglo-Saxon. (Compare the discussion below.)' [25-26].



          The authority which Bede [The Venerable Bede (St) c. 673 - 735] enjoyed in England throughout the Middle Ages, and the unquestioning and reverent credulity which was accorded all his utterances, make his work a most important factor in a study like the present. It was through the medium of Bede's writings that some of the most important patristic doctrines found their way into England. In particular, Bede was the first to promulgate a definite doctrine on purgatory on English soil. In short, he was for England much what Gregory the Great had been for continental Europe. We know how widely-spread the visions which Gregory tells of became on the continent, and it will be seen that those which Bede recounts had an even greater influence upon subsequent vision-literature in England. Whence Bede himself derived the material for his accounts is another, and a quite unanswerable question...." [49-50].



Bibliographical Summary.

          The original work was written in Greek, in at least two versions belonging to the fourth century, A.D. Only one has come down to us. The other is mentioned by Epiphanius [c. 315 - 403 (St)...." [74].



          The large majority of the Latin MSS. of our vision [of St. Paul] belong to the thirteenth century—no earlier; whereas all but one of the English versions are of the fourteenth century. Nevertheless, though the MSS. of all the other works which are yet to be treated bear dates as early, or earlier, we must in every case give Paul priority. The thirteenth century was the flourishing period of vision-literature, and was fertile in remodellings of old material as well as i the invention of new. Paul differs from the other visions in question from the fact that it represents a development, or, rather, a growth. The late medieval vision of the thirteenth century bears little resemblance to the crude work of the fourth, and yet it is always the same work, enriched in the former instance by many new features which were attached to it by successive generations of narrators, and finally crystallized with, no doubt, still other additions by the writers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The other visions, on the contrary, though they embodied much old material, molded it into a new form, gave it a new name and a new locality, and thus lent it the semblance, at least, of originality and newness.

          It would prove a thankless task to attempt to determine exactly what new elements were added to the Pauline vision by its thirteenth century resuscitators. It is a simple matter enough, of course, to compare the original Greek version with the late rehandlings, but we gain but little by doing so, since it in nowise assists us in discovering what features were picked up during the intervening centuries, and what were added from the scribes' own memories.

          The earliest Greek version of the vision [of St. Paul] is usually assigned to the fourth century, A.D. That it is no later we know from the historical notices of the work. It may be earlier; it undoubtedly was modelled upon the Apocalypse of Peter. That it [Vision of St. Paul] was a well-known book, even accepted by some as a genuine work of the apostle [Paul], is amply testified to by frequent references to it, and arguments concerning it, as late as the eleventh century. It is reasonable to suppose that it was, during this time, constantly receiving new features from other works; for visions kept springing up sporadically all through the centuries which preceded their flourishing period. Thus, though we possess but few literary evidences of the fact, the spark which burst into flame in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries had never really been extinct, but had simply been biding the time when the condition of men's minds should enable it to shine with the greatest lustre. And there can, I think, be but little[?] doubt that the Vision of St. Paul existed by virtue of oral tradition, in much the same form in which we have it in the late manuscripts, many years before it was committed to writing; and therefore it must be given priority to St. Patrick's Purgatory, for example, which resembles it so very closely in point of detail...." [78-79].

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from: Visions of Heaven and Hell Before Dante, edited by Eileen Gardiner, Illustrations by Alexandra Eldridge, Italica Press, New York, 1989.


Visions of heaven and hell are narratives that attempt to describe the afterlife in terms of an otherworld, a world beyond this life. The subject of this collection, medieval Christian visions of heaven and hell, reflect the belief that at death the soul is separated from the body. It is then judged according to the life it has lived on earth and assigned a place in the otherworld until the Last Judgment, when it will be assigned its final place for all eternity.

          The otherworld was certainly not an idea unique to Christianity. Otherworlds were constructed at earlier times and in other cultures, such as the Buddhist, Brahman, Persian, Egyptian, Jewish and Western Classical cultures. These cultures influenced Christianity's understanding2 of exactly what the otherworld was—whether a place for only the gods, whether a place to which people travelled after death, a place where they might be punished and rewarded, or just a place of continued existence. Christianity also drew from these cultures a vocabulary for describing the physical appearance and geography of the otherworld—whether it would contain rivers and bridges, pits and fires, flowers and fields, music, dancing and food. Such descriptions drew on a large body of sources, such as the Buddhist descriptions of hell, the Persian bridge of judgment, the visits to the underworld in Virgil and Homer, and the apocryphal Book of Enoch.

          These visions also seem to have been influenced by the penitential literature that was of great importance especially in the early Irish tradition, with which many of these visions are associated.3 These penitentials were actual handbooks for confessors who regulated the repentance process in their communities. They were used from about the fifth century to the eleventh century, when they were incorporated into the emerging canon-law collections sanctioned by the church.

          Until the mid-twelfth century there was no distinct place known as purgatory.4 The Christian otherworld included only heaven and hell. Purgation was, however, a part of the afterlife, and the place of purgation occupied the outer reaches of either hell or heaven, depending on whether the soul was "good but not totally good" or "bad but not totally bad." The former might spend some time waiting outside the walls of heaven in wind and rain, while the latter might spend some time wading through fire and ice above the pit of hell.


but the visions included here, those written after the Book of Revelation of John and before The Divine Comedy of Dante, concern themselves with only heaven and hell.


          These visions were extremely popular literary works. They were often initially written as records of the vision itself. Later they might be modified or expanded. Because these visions were believed to be factual and not fictional, they were often also incorporated into chronicles of the period.5 They were obviously used as didactic pieces in the church and were therefore actively preserved and disseminated. Generally a vision would be translated into many different languages and spread in manuscript throughout Europe.

          A good example of this process is evident in the literary life of Tundale's Vision. The vision itself dates from 1149 and is said to have occurred in Ireland. During the following year an Irish monk who was travelling through Europe stopped at Regensburg in Bavaria and wrote down this vision in Latin at the request of the Abbess G. of a convent there. It was translated into German shortly thereafter. By the end of the fourteenth century it had been translated into at least thirteen languages, including Serbo-Croatian. Many of the manuscripts of Tundale's Vision also include pious tracts, such as works on the nature of the Holy Eucharist. As late as 1400 there was a verse translation into Middle English. It preserves and elaborates the most fantastic details of this vision but minimizes the more theological issues. The vision had made its way back to the British Isles after a long and impressive career, but was now included in manuscripts with romances and other fictional works.6 Today there is hardly a medieval manuscript collection of any importance in Europe that does not contain at least one copy of this vision.

          The incredible vitality of this genre is evident in the many different ways that monks and nuns, poets and popes, mystics and theologians were able to use the material of these visions to create unique works. In general, however, these visions share a great deal of common material and ideas. In order to provide a guide to the reader for travelling through this body of literature, we can point out these similarities. The collection of texts that follows will allow the reader to observe the changing nature of these works.' [xii-xiv].

_____ _____ _____


from: Medieval Visions of Heaven and Hell, A Sourcebook, Eileen Gardiner, Garland, 1993.


Once we recognize what these documents called "visions" of heaven and hell are, we can recognize that they reveal not the vision itself but the popular medieval Christian view of heaven and hell expressed in an ambitiously graphic style.

          Heaven and hell, as expressed in these visions, is not actually a description of what the visionary saw, but a literary interpretation of what the visionary said that he or she saw. And here the function of fantasy is operating at full force, especially when challenged to describe evil. There is almost no limit to confabulating more and more diverse tortures to warn about the place to which the evil life leads. Unfortunately this power of imagination to evil probably is fueled by and fuels reality, and the accounts of the martyrdoms of the early Christian saints vie with the imaginations of authors for gruesome detail and unthinkable torment.

          Punishment in hell almost universally involves fire. Often cold is added, and souls are tossed back and forth from one to the other. Pitchforks and other sharp implements are popular among the demons for moving the crowds of souls through the infernal regions. Awful smells and horrendous noise are associated with hell, along with other assaults on the tactile and visual senses. Hell is clearly imagined and described over and over. Often the details are the same—fire, bridges, burning lakes, horrid little creatures pulling out sinners' entrails. They are physical, colorful, vivid images. They are very often related to the masculine images of work provided by the nascent industrial economy. Forges, furnaces, hammers, smoke, and burning metals combine to present a picture that would certainly be hellish to a rural, aristocratic, or agrarian audience. An excellent example occurs in the "Volcanic Island" episode of the Voyage of St. Brendan. The demons usually inflict torments from the outside, but there are also vipers in many of the visions that infest the "bodies" of the souls and torture them by consuming their bones and flesh. Many of these punishments are also found in purgatory, once it becomes part of the otherworld, or in the purgative regions found in many visions before purgatory became a doctrine of the church.

          By contrast, heaven is a pale place, basically without any reality. Any student of literature has been confronted by the difficulty of the heroic Satan of Milton's Paradise Lost and the weakness of God and heaven when described in opposition to hell. Is this a problem that is innate to the heavenly? Did heaven have a reality for the visionary? Was it ineffable, unable to be described, and thus beyond the imagination of the writer to express? There is the lure of the devil as other. But, God, as the hidden (within) that we prefer not to explore or that perhaps can be found when we search for the other, and the heaven God inhabits, seem beyond the limits of the imagination.

          Heaven is always glowing and white, bright—often so bright that one cannot see for the brightness. There are many people [see Addition 45, 2508]; and there is a


focal point of brightness. There are often beautiful clothes and gems, perhaps high walls and flowery fields. Heaven has a fragrant smell, more light, less noise, and perhaps even sweet music.

          Descriptions of heaven often include both ideal urban and natural elements. The later are derived from descriptions of places like the Elysian Fields and are characterized by an abundance of trees, flowers, and fruit. Often these scenes included the brightly colored pavilions. The urban details are tied to both the developing urban sensibility in medieval Europe and an understanding of the Heavenly Jerusalem from the Apocalypse. Yet the urban descriptions, though a highly developed medieval genre, are somewhat limited in these visions, as if their authors were not sure about what constituted an ideal city, and perhaps their audiences were really more likely to associate a real city with hell. These urban descriptions, however, always include beautiful walls, constructed of bright and precious materials. They might seem like gold and, like the Heavenly Jerusalem, are often full of gems and precious stones. There are buildings, often described as halls without walls, so that one can enter from all sides. The idea of entry seems important in these fanciful urban descriptions, because just as the halls or houses have no doors, which might be closed, the walls often have no gates, and the visionary is miraculously transported to the other side of every wall.

          Perhaps these descriptions reflect the ideal of the noble life more accurately than of urban fabric. But finally it seems that heaven is not "other." The descriptions of it reflected the reality of the noble life, which, if not seen, was described in the romances and chronicles. If we attempt to articulate a modern understanding of the nature of the heavenly, it would probably be best described as unity—psychic, physical, spiritual. But a description of heaven or unity is again limited by language. The very nature of words is much better suited to hellheaven is best revealed or described not in words but perhaps in a mandala—some visual unity. This is extremely difficult to elaborate verbally. The feeling of unity and wholeness is much more profoundly difficult to describe than diversity since language is fundamentally rich in that it is diverse, and unity is ineffable.

          Peter Dronke explains that " the mystical Platonic tradition that Dionysius has transmitted to the medieval West, the unfitting and the monstrous is, by its sheer bafflement of human attempts to imagine the divine, most apt to convey truly how far the divine is beyond all imaginings."13 In other words, with the premise that the bonum perfectum ["perfect good"] is the unknowable and therefore indescribable, attention turns to the malum perfectum [perfect evil (?)] for its reflective values in understanding the ineffable.

          Another reason heaven is difficult to write about is that it is essentially egalitarian—that is, ideally all people in heaven are together unless a structure is imposed, as in the Divine Comedy where Dante used Plato's Timeas [Timaeus] as a model. In pleasure or joy, there is not division but wholeness—integrity.' [xxviii-xxxi].

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from: The Birth of Purgatory, translated by Arthur Goldhammer, Jacques Le Goff, The University of Chicago Press ● Chicago, 1984 (1981 French).

"Purgatory—what a grand thing!

Saint Catherine of Genoa [1447 - 1510]

Purgatory surpasses heaven and hell in poetry, because it

represents a future and the others do not [Brilliant!].

Chateaubriand [1768 - 1848]" ["v"].


In the bitter disputes that pitted Protestants against Catholics in the sixteenth century, the former severely reproached the latter for their belief in PURGATORY, to which Luther referred as "THE THIRD PLACE."1 THIS "INVENTED" WORLD—THE "OTHER WORLD"—IS NOT MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE.

          The aim of this book is to trace the formation of the idea of this third place through time, from its roots in Judeo-Christian antiquity to its final emergence with the flowering of medieval civilization in the second half of the twelfth century, when the idea of Purgatory finally took hold in the West, and beyond, into the next century. I shall try to explain why the idea of Purgatory is intimately bound up with this important moment in the history of Christendom and to show, further, the crucial role that Purgatory played in persuading people to accept (or, in the case of the heretics, to reject) the new society that was the result of two and one-half centuries of prodigious growth following the year 1000....' [1].

'Throughout the history we have been studying, was it not the principal concern of the Church to preserve the belief in Hell everlasting? Wasn't the point of introducing a temporary Purgatory mainly to throw the inextinguishable fires of Hell into sharp relief? Wasn't the second kingdom merely a protective buffer for the infernal realms? Wasn't Purgatory the price that the Church had to pay to hold onto the ultimate weapon, damnation? This is the view taken by Jean Delumeau, whose work has shed sulphurous light on


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"Dante's Divine Comedy --

The Apotheosis of a Literary Genre


Daniel Harvey Pedrick, B.A.


Italian 570

Dr. Lloyd Howard, Prof. [University of Victoria, Canada]


1. Introduction

The journey to Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven in Dante's Divine Comedy represents a period pièce-de-resistance of a LITERARY GENRE OF OTHERWORLD JOURNEY/VISION LITERATURE that has fascinated humankind throughout the ages. The idea of travel and communication between the world of the living and the world of the dead appears in the Old Testament as well as the New. The theme also afforded subjects for such creative geniuses of classical antiquity as Homer, Plato, Virgil, and a number of anonymous writers of lesser talent perhaps but whose stories have also survived.

OTHERWORLD JOURNEY/VISION LITERATURE appealed strongly to early Christian writers, keen as they were to establish a new vision of the universe in the minds of converts. This genre also enjoyed a great popularity in medieval Europe where a considerable number of accounts and narratives were published.

In general the medieval examples of vision literature share a great deal of common material and ideas, inspired as they are by Christian cosmology and theology. Most of these are narratives that describe individual journeys to or visions of the world beyond mortal existence. They stress the Christian belief that the soul is separated from the body at death, judged according to its moral behavior on earth, and allocated a place appropriate to await the Last Judgement at which time it will be assigned its final place for eternity...." [2 of 24].


It is interesting to note that among the otherworld journey narratives the destination of hell seems to have held the greater interest for readers as Dante himself discovered


with the early publishing success of Inferno. In this first book of the trilogy that comprises his Divine Comedy, Dante arguably develops and elucidates the notion of hell more thoroughly than any writer before or since. Setting the fact of Dante's singular literary skill aside for the moment, one is obliged to wonder if this macabre fascination with hell exists because the human mind has a natural tendency to focus its interest on the diabolical. Or, could it be simply that the infernal is easier to try to describe than the celestial? Eileen Gardner [Gardiner] opines in her Medieval Visions of Heaven and Hell [see 2766]:

Hell is clearly imagined and described over and over. Often the details are the same--fire, bridges, burning lakes, horrid little creatures pulling out sinners' entrails. They are physical, colorful, vivid images... By contrast, heaven is a pale place, basically without any reality... If we attempt to articulate a modern understanding of the nature of the heavenly, it would probably best be described as unity--psychic, physical, spiritual. But a description of heaven or unity is again limited by language. The very nature of words is much better suited to hell--heaven is best revealed or described not in words but perhaps in a mandala--some visual unity. This is extremely difficult to elaborate verbally. The feelings of unity and wholeness is much more profoundly difficult to describe than diversity since language is fundamentally rich in that it is diverse, and unity is ineffable.(4)' [page 3 of 24 pages].

'The cosmological vision of the ancient Semitic peoples (which provided the basis for that of Judaism later) consisted of three levels: earth, heaven and the netherworld. The upper realm was populated by the gods, who granted the lower world, earth, to humans. An even lower world was populated by a god known as Mot who ruled over the dead and other infernal deities in a huge subterranean cave called Sheol. Once in Sheol, the dead could have no contact with the celestial gods although they still might communicate with the living through necromancers.(12)

An example of this kind of communication is recounted in the first book of Samuel. King Saul is desperately trying to divine the outcome of an imminent battle with the Philistines but his traditional methods for doing so--prayer, prophets, and dreams--come up with nothing. The King had previously pursued a policy of suppressing wizards and necromancers and driving them underground but now, in desperation, he ironically calls on one of them for help. A frightened woman with the requisite skill obediently summons up the prophet Daniel from the underworld at the behest of her desperate monarch. The soul of Daniel, after complaining bitterly about being disturbed, informs that King that he will die in battle on the morrow--and of course he does. (I Samuel 28)

Under the heel of successive dominant foreign governments, the people of the Israelite states had developed the concept of one god exclusively dedicated to their protection, perhaps in the desperate hope of finding a saviour to satisfy their often frustrated national ambitions. As Jewish theology evolved, Sheol became the abode of only the wicked while the blessed and the righteous could look forward to being "received" in a more pleasant atmosphere by their one god, Yahweh. This concept is expressed in Psalms 49: ....' [4-5 of 24].


'Virgil's [70 - 19 B.C.E.] Aeneid--Book VI is an early example of the otherworld as a place that is actually visited by someone who returns to tell the tale. Urged on and guided by Sibyl (who, like Dante's [Dante Alighieri 1265 - 1321] guide in Inferno, has been there on a previous errand) Aeneas draws his sword and marches into Hades. There he has a guided tour and an interview with the shade of his dead father who foretells his son's destiny and the lineage that will spring from him. Virgil's Aeneid--especially Book VI--was a major source of inspiration for Dante both in concept and in form. Dante, of course, deliberately and without apology borrowed much of the landscape and even the dramatis personae from this epic tale for his Inferno as it would be seem he wanted his Comedy to become part of the literary continuum of epic poetry begun by Homer [8th century B.C.E.].

The Christian hell, with its heavy emphasis on punishment, pain, and guilt, owes much to the authors of the New Testament, principally St. Paul, and to other early Christian writers like Justin Martyr [c. 100 - c. 165 C.E.] and John Chrysostom [c. 347 - 407 C.E.].(16) The written account of Paul's own purported journey to the otherworld, which first appeared in 388 C.E., also took some inspiration from classical mythology,(17) and in turn, Dante took some from it. Dante indicates early in Inferno that he was familiar with the popular vision/journey of St. Paul:

Later the Chosen Vessel travelled there,

to bring us back assurance of that faith

with which the way to our salvation starts. (Inf. II, 28–30)

Here Dante acknowledges a previous explorer--if not truly of hell, then certainly of the equally uncharted territory of publishing otherworld journey/vision literature, for the spurious Pauline narrative was a long-lived popular success. Both works may be seen as benchmarks of the evolution of the concept of hell in the Christian mind, indicating how over time the infernal realm had become more a place to be navigated with care since the relatively mild days of Sheol and Hades. Nevertheless, hell retained an irresistible fascination for the medieval mind, a fact of which I suggest Dante was well aware and took full advantage.(18) [see footnote, 2773]' [6 of 24].


Purgatory is a specific realm in Dante's Divine Comedy which was in keeping with the doctrine of the Catholic Church at the time.(27) [see footnote, 2773] There, souls deemed worthy of entering paradise must first purge themselves of their sins by suffering a variety of torments according to the nature of their transgressions: ...." [11 of 24].



The journey to the realm beyond mortal life in Dante's Divine Comedy exemplifies a popular theme that has inspired writers from a variety of cultures across the ages. These writers have ranged from a few extremely gifted and well-known individuals to numerous anonymous ghostwriters whose real identity has been lost but whose works, such as they are, have survived as popular folklore if not as literature.

Possible reasons for the durability of many works dealing with this theme include: 1) the didactic value they possess to the aims of the Christian Church; 2) the apparent psychological appeal that stories of the realm beyond the plane of mortal existence hold for readers--especially stories that elucidate the concept of hell and punishments of the damned; 3) the outstanding literary quality of a certain few of these works, such as Virgil's Aeneid, Homer's Oddysey [Odyssey] and Illiad, and Dante's Divine Comedy.

Dante doubtless found inspiration for his mighty epic in many quarters, not least in the deep well of his own creative soul. It is perhaps unfair to compare his lavish Divine Comedy with such a poor thing that is (in literary terms at least) the anonymous, abbreviated, and catechistical work known as The Vision of Saint Paul--but sometimes great inspiration comes in plain packages. As the Aeneid, the purportedly autobiographical story of Paul's vision/journey very likely provided Dante with some ideas of structure and scenery but without earning the overt praise and homage that he heaped upon the well-deserving epic poem [Aeneid] of his literary idol of Rome's Golden Age, Virgil.

Another possible reason Dante might have had for not wanting to draw too much attention to the Pauline work is its vision of imminent apocalypse. This was perhaps a source of uneasiness to some Christian thinkers as the expected event had become rather painfully overdue by the time of Dante. In any case, Dante achieved great success in grafting his own cosmological and theological vision of the otherworld onto the tradition commenced by Homer and continued by Virgil, in literary terms, and also in the obvious and enduring influence his Divine Comedy had on the popular mythos of contemporary medieval as well as later Christian society...." [21 of 24].


"BIBLIOGRAPHY" [21 of 24].

'18. [see 2771] In the process of being re-vamped to Christian requirements hell eventually become entirely too harsh a place according to some, like Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner [1858 - 1934]. A disgruntled hell-basher of the Victorian Age, Bonner gives Dante scholarship short shrift in her angry work of occasionally hysterical tone, The Christian Hell [see 2774] (London: Watts & Co.), 1913, 32, and goes on to accuse Christianity of "surpassing horror" in its construction of an infernal realm that reaches "...a pinnacle of ferocity and moral insensibility never attained before or since in any religion known to mankind." I suggest that Bonner represents a noteworthy point in the scale of popular reaction to the concept of hell as represented by the Church, Dante, and other writers throughout the Christian era--perhaps one of the first modern writers to utterly reject the orthodox view on humanistic and rational grounds.' [23 of 24].

"20. [not referenced above] The tone of this work differs significantly from that of II Corinthians where Paul discusses rather obliquely what he might have experienced in such a vision (a fact only to be expected from the ghostwritten forgery that is The Vision of St. Paul). The cursory treatment of PAUL'S VISION/JOURNEY IN II CORINTHIANS ["ghostwritten" Fiction!], however, was doubtless the inspiration for the later detailed version that enjoyed such great popularity." [23 of 24].

"27. [see 2771] Eileen Gardner [Gardiner], Medieval Visions of Heaven and Hell--A Sourcebook [see 2766] (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.), 1993, xvii. The existence of Purgatory is still a feature of Roman Catholic theology. For a detailed discussion of the subject of purgatory see also Jacques Legoff [Le Goff], The Birth of Purgatory [see 2768] (Chicago: Chicago University Press, trans. Arthur Goldhammer), 1984." [24 of 24].

"34. [not referenced above] The Pauline narrative gives us no information of Paul's life after his visit to heaven and hell, but from his [Paul's] New Testament writings (which authorship is in less dispute [amusing! see Article #4, 105-151]) we are given the impression that a visionary experience marked the beginning of his Christian life. The Vision of St. Paul narrative thus poses a problem in that it does not explain why a recent convert is accorded such deference and at the same time seems to be so well connected in heaven." [24 of 24].

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from: The Christian Hell, From the First to the Twentieth Century, by Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner [1858 - 1934], [issued for the Rationalist Press Association, Limited], With Twenty-Eight Illustrations, London: Watts & Co., 17 Johnson's Court, Fleet Street, E.C., 1913. [A classic!]. [See: 2773].





Not Original—Eastern Origin—Northern Ideas—Locality of Hell: the Sun, the Moon, the Interior of the Earth—The Worst Punishments for Unbelievers—Doctrines Peculiar to Christianity: (1) The Absolute Eternity of Punishment; (2) The "Winsome Joy" Felt by the Saints in Watching the Tortures of the Damned; (3) The Damnation of Infants.

Although a hell of punishment for sinners has been regarded as so essential a part of Christianity that


and Chrysostom [347 - 407] said that it is because God is good that he has prepared a hell,2 nevertheless the Christian hell is in no sense an original conception. It is merely an intensification of the later classic hell, which was itself a graft of Eastern origin.


We find the earliest traces of the idea in the account of the descent of Ishtar, the Babylonian Venus, into the land of No-return, in search of her lover Tammuz; and more vividly in the nightly descent of the Egyptian Sun God and the journey of the souls with him through the underworld, the terrors overcome, the weighing of souls before Osiris, the judgment, and the punishment of the wicked. We may trace it in the awful torments of the souls of the Hindu dead, the ghastly horrors of the later (corrupt) Buddhist hells, and the Zoroastrian punishment of the accursed. The earliest hells, however, were not places of punishment; they were, like Sheol, abodes of the more or less silent dead, "where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest."

                     [footnotes, referenced above]


1 Second Apology for the Christians, §9.

                     2 Epistle to Philemon, Hom. 3.


          Virgil's hell lasted a thousand years; the Christian hell endures for ever and ever. Pluto became transformed into Satan, the Furies became demons, Hades was replaced by the bottomless pit, and the fiery river Phlegethon turned into the lake of brimstone and fire.


The early Fathers were quite aware of the existence of other hells. Tertullian [c. 160 - c. 220], in his Apology Against the Heathen (c. 198), says: "We are laughed at when we preach that God shall judge the world, for so do all the poets also, and the philosophers feign a judgment-seat in the shades below; and if we threaten men with hell, which is a storehouse of hidden fire beneath the earth, for the punishing of men, we are forthwith borne down by jeers, for so also is there a river called Pyriphlegethon." Tertullian's explanation is that the poets and philosophers derived their doctrines from "our mysteries"—i.e., the earlier derived from the later [the traditional Christian "Spin"!].

          To the Eastern conception of heat was added cold [see Appendix X, 826 (Mencken)]—the great dread of the Northern nations. This is especially marked in the early English descriptions, and is consequently of peculiar interest to English-speaking peoples....' [31-32].

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[9/12/2004] from: HELL A CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE, by Woolsey Teller, Marshall J. Gauvin, Herbert Cutner, Associate Editors of The Truth Seeker, with a forward by Jon G. Murray, American Atheist Press, Reprinted 1982. [Note: no author is listed for some sections]. [Note: Hell!, like the horrors of Hollywood,—not Heaven!, "grabs" Homo sapiens].

'Forward [Jon G. Murray]

          The word "hell" actually comes from the Old English hel, a Teutonic word from a root meaning "to cover," [German: holle). The word, as it is used in English, designates "the place of departed spirits" or the "place of torment of the wicked after death." It is used in the old testament to translate the Hewbrew [extremely rare spelling. Hebrew] sheol and in the new testament the Greek hades, which is equivalent to the Hebrew gehenna.

          The very early ideas of the cold darkness of the grave were turned in judaism and christianity into a hell of eternal, stinking, fiery torment for the wicked—the definition of "wicked" being those who did not accept the judeo-christian religion....

          Of the early nations which believed in a judgment after death, with rewards or punishments, we find that the Egyptians concentrated on the rewards and not the punishments. Those who were found wanting after death were simply eternally annihilated.

          The Mesopotamian literature sent the dead, good, bad or indifferent to the "land of no return," a gigantic communal grave. Homer's [8th century B.C.E.] underworld is much the same—a place of dreary drakness [darkness]. The Greeks, in fact, feared death so intensely that they did not name it, saying—as do some of the current believers—that someone who has died has "departed." In Plato's time (4th century B.C.) there were some stories about punishment after death and this is reflected in his Republic. For every wrong one had done on earth, one would suffer tenfold under the earth and after a millenium [now, millennium] one would be purged.

          There were many ancient folk tales of descents of heros into hell, including Odysseus, Hercules, the Sumerian inanna [Inanna] who brought back her lover tammus, the Hindu krishna, the Buddhist bodhisattva, the Chinese goddess kwan yin, Aeneas and the Finnish hero of Kalevala.


          The sado-masochists of christianity were those who polished the story to a high degree of perfection with their imaginative visions of the horrors of hell. The poet, Dante [Dante Alighieri 1265 - 1321], won centuries of fame with his poem about hell, the Inferno. This pictured hell with such vividness that people thought that he had actually been there.


          In the United States that "great" family which was so long praised by Harvard University as a part of its history, the Mathers—Cotton [Cotton Mather 1663 - 1728] and Increase [Increase Mather 1639 - 1723], made life into "a living hell" with their thunderous preaching of eternal punishment in an afterlife hell, causing irreparable psychological damage to all within the reach of their influence. This basically christian doctrine [Hell] has caused more individual distress to humankind than any other of its [Christian] warped ideas. History alone indicts this religion as a mental illness forced upon unwilling communicants by its policy of coercion through psychological and physical torture and even ultimate death. The human race needs to be free of this disease.

Jon Murray August, 1982'





Matt. v. 22: ..."shall be in danger of hell fire."

Matt. v, 30: ..."and thy whole body be cast into hell."


Matt. xiii, 42: "Shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be gnashing of teeth". 49: "So shall it be to the end of the world: The angles...shall sever the wicked from among the just and cast them into the furnace of fire".

Matt. xviii, 9: ..."rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire".


Matt. xxiii, 15: ..."you make him two-fold more the child of hell". 23 [33]: "How can you escape the damnation of hell?"

Matt. xxv, 41: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire".

Matt. ix, 45: "To be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched."

Mark xvi, 16: "He that believeth not shall be damned".

Luke xii, 5: "...hath power to cast into hell".

Luke xvi, 25 [24]: "I am tormented in this flame".


Rev. xiv, 10: "And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, and the smoke of their torment ascendeth forever and ever".

Rev. xix, 20: "Then both were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone".


Rev. xx, 15: "Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire".


Rev. xxi, 8: "The unbelieving...shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone".

He also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day and night.—Revelation xiv, 10, 11.


But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.—Revelation, xxi, 8.

Rich Man, in Hell, Pleads for Drink of Water

And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.—Luke xvi, 23, 24.

Jesus Taught Torture by Hell Fire

The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that came stumbling, and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.—Matt., 13, 41, 42.

Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers, how shall ye escape the judgment of hell?Matt., 23:33.

Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels.—Matt., 25:41



The doctrine of Christ Jesus' descent into hell is emphatically part of the Christian belief, although not alluded to by Christian divines excepting when unavoidable.

          In the first place, it is taught in the Creed of the Christians, wherein it says:

          "He descended into hell, and on the third day he rose again from the dead."

          The doctrine was also taught by the Fathers of the Church. St Chrysostom (born 347 A.D.) asks:

          "Who but an infidel would deny that Christ was in hell?"

          And St. Clement of Alexandria, who flourished at the beginning of the third century, is equally clear and emphatic as to Jesus' descent into hell. He says:

          "The Lord [Jesus] preached the gospel to those in Hades, as well as to all in earth, in order that all might believe and be saved, wherever they were. If, then, the Lord descended to Hades for no other end but to preach the gospel, as He did descend, it was either to preach the gospel to all, or to the Hebrews only. If according to all, then all who believe shall be saved, although they be of the Gentiles, on making their profession there."

          Origen, who flourished during the latter part of the second, and beginning of the third centuries, also emphatically declares that Christ Jesus descended into hell.

          Ancient Christian works of art represent his descent into hell.

          T.W. Doane [1852 - 1885], Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 211.




I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, Our Lord.

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.

He [Jesus] descended into Hell ["descensus ad inferos"];

The third day he rose from the dead;

He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.


THE FAITH OF ST. JEROME [c. 342 - 420]

[Jesus] Who for our salvation descended from heaven, was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered by suffering under Pontius Pilate, under Herod the King, crucified, buried, descended into hell, trod down the sting of death, rose again the third day, appeared to the apostles. (See Encyclopedia Britannica, eleventh edition, article "Creeds".)



....The descent of Jesus to the underworld before his resurrection is clearly taught in the New Testament....The belief was current in the second century that Christ emptied Hades of all good souls. Tertullian [c. 160 - c. 220] was hostile to his view, which he deemed heretical. Hades is the adobe of everybody, except the martyrs, until the Day of Judgment. Hippolytus (3rd century) says that Christ preached to the saints in the underworld, and conquered "death" with death....Origen [c. 185 - c. 254], who was a free lance in so many theological fields, nevertheless had no doubts concerning the traditional idea of Christ's descent into hell (Hades). Celsus [2nd century] had sneered at the Christians for accepting a myth in keeping with those told of Orpheus, Hercules, Theseus, and other Pagan heroes. What these men are said to have done is quite mythical, says Origen; but Christ's descent into Hades and his resurrection are facts. Augustine [354 - 430] says that only an infidel would deny that Christ went "ad inferos" [into Hell].—A.D. Howell Smith, Thou Art Peter, pp. 178-179.' ["1"-4].



Woolsey Teller [1890 - 1954]


The Church professes her faith in the eternity of the pains of hell in clear terms....She never prays for the damned. Hence, beyond the possibility of doubt, the Church expressly teaches the eternity of the pains of hell as a truth of faith which no one can deny or call in question without manifest heresy....

According to the greater number of theologians, the term fire denotes a material fire, and so a real fire. It is quite superfluous to add that the nature of hell-fire is different from that of our ordinary fire; for instance, it continues to burn without the need of a continually renewed supply of fuel.

          The above quotations from the article "Hell" in the Catholic Encyclopedia, a standard work of reference on matters of Catholic belief, express authoritative opinion on the subject of God's punishment of sinners. The worst atrocities which Herr Hitler and his gestapo gangs are said to have committed in the last World War, from crimes in the concentration camps to the imposing of living deaths on countless non-combatants, are as nothing compared to the Hell fire tortures which God, in his infinite benevolence, inflicts on his helpless victims, some of whom may have done nothing more than question the virginity of Mary or doubted the ascension of Jesus.

          Cruel and inhuman punishment is regarded by civilized nations as a survival of savagery and medieval barbarism; the Catholic Church through its black-garbed minions of superstition, smirks at "eternal torture" with the gleeful attitude of either depraved imbecility or the moral degeneracy of vindictive scoundrelism. Catholics are asked [told] to worship a Heavenly Thug, whose vanity and brutality and sadistic impulses can be satiated only by his watching the writhing of his victims in eternal fire-pits or hearing their screams of anguish and cries for mercy rising from seas of unquenchable flames. A tribe of Comanche Indians dancing around a captive being burned at the stake are paragons of virtue compared to the Infinite Fiend; their victim will not be tortured forever. It is left to the Grand Inquisitor of Heaven to keep his victims burning eternally in roaring fires. Yet it is the teacher of this doctrine, the Roman Catholic Church, whose slinking is as the jackal's and whose venom is like the cobra's, which poses as a symbol of sweetness and benevolence.



          In its doctrinal teachings, the Catholic Church maintains a nightmare theology. Hell, as the abode of the damned, is a place of ghastly suffering, of excruciating pain. Here, forever and ever, those who disobey the laws of the Church by committing mortal sin are destined to suffer torments. There is no respite, no relief from its prolonged agonies. St. George Mivart [1827 - 1900], for offering the suggestion that sinners might become used to their suffering and that time might lessen its horrors, was excommunicated from the Church. The second billion years are as bad as the first.

          Hell fire, we are told by Catholic theologians, is in no sense a "symbolic" fire. It is a real fire, a thousand times hotter, and infinitely more painful, than the fire we know. And since it burns incessantly and without consuming, the victim of God's wrath endures an endless torture. His shrieks and groans delight the Almighty, who, as the embodiment of all holiness, is a better torturer than any of the priests who lit the fagots of the Spanish Inquisition. Burning heretics at the stakes is but a temporary and trifling torment compared to everlastingly roasting them in hell-fire. At the stake, their suffering is soon over; in Hell, the torture goes on and on. God's chambers of punishment exceed in brutality those of the saintly Torquemada [1420 - 1498]. In the dungeons of Hell, one finds the fire art of inflicting pain raised to the highest level of divine ingenuity. Excruciating as these pains are, they never lessen in intensity—there is no escape from the burning that goes on, age after age, forever and ever....' [4-6].



Marshall J. Gauvin [1881 - 1978]



          The Christian doctrine of hell has been preached for some two [c. 1,800 years] thousand years, and no human being can conceive of the appalling measure of suffering it has caused. And while fashionable clergymen have now outgrown it and refuse to preach it, it is still the stock in trade of preachers and evangelists whose success depends upon stimulating fear—sometimes terror—in the minds of their hearers.

          The doctrine of hell is part of a pattern of thought—a primitive religious mentality. Satisfied that the doctrines of religion are true, the naive religious mind spurns the conclusions of science, rejects the findings of reason, and refuses to find in the nature of things the understanding that points the way to truth. Only when men shall have learned that religion has been created by priests; that an understanding of the world destroys the terrors of hell; that the same fate beyond the tomb awaits all human beings—only when men shall have learned these things will they seek in nature the solution of their problems, and strive with knowledge gained to build the fraternal life approved of sanity and wisdom.

          The Christian finds in the Bible his warrant for believing in hell. According to numerous passages, not only is there an everlasting hell, but there is exactly the same authority for the torments of the damned as for the happiness of the redeemed.

          A very illuminating work on hell is "Future Punishment, or Does Death End Probation?", written and compiled by the Rev. William Cochrane of Brantford, Ontario, and published in 1885. This work sets forth the views on hell of a large number of clergymen in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, at the time when Ingersoll [Robert G. Ingersoll 1833 - 1899] was denouncing the doctrine in rhythmical and vitriolic eloquence to applauding audiences.

          One essay in this volume is by the Rev. William J. Shaw, of the Methodist Theological College, Montreal, who writes of Christ's teaching on Hell: "What voice ever told so much of hell? He (Christ) reiterates illustration after illustration. He heaps image upon image, he adds warning to warning...." This professor of theology continues: "The entire Bible harmonizes with such teachings: 'The smoke of the torment of the wicked ascendeth up forever'...'The wicked shall dwell with everlasting burnings,' 'The beast and false prophet shall be cast into a lake of fire, and shall be tormented forever and ever,'...' the wicked is reserved...suffering the vengeance of eternal fire'."


          Dr. Samuel Davidson [1806 - 1898], the great English biblical scholar, wrote: "If a specific sense be attached to words, never-ending misery is enunciated in the Bible. On the presumption that one doctrine is taught, it is the eternity of hell torments. Bad exegesis may attempt to banish it from the New Testament Scriptures, but it is still there".

          It is important to observe that the champions of hell in all ages, from the most ignorant priests and preachers to the most erudite of theologians proudly laurelled as doctors of divinity, have sought to prove the reality of hell by appeals to the Bible; but IT HAS NEVER OCCURRED TO ANY OF THESE WOULD-BE TEACHERS OF MANKIND TO VERIFY THEIR DOCTRINE OF HELL BY FIRST PROVING THAT THE BIBLE IS TRUE. For if the writers of the Bible knew nothing of an after life, all that they have said about hell, was merely a venting of their ignorance and malice. But the clergy who confidently sent mankind to endless torment thought it quite unnecessary to inquire as to whether the documents on which they reared their terrible denunciations were worthy of credence. A cowardly refusal to investigate, to demand to know whether what was reputed to be divine inspiration was not, perhaps, merely priestcraft, was responsible for filling the world with terror. Today as in the past, priests and preachers, ignorant evangelists supported by combinations of churches, gaily threaten men and women with everlasting torture on the supposed authority of a collection of pamphlets called the Bible—pamphlets written by unknown men, at unknown times, in unknown places. Behold a vast structure of monstrous pretention resting on an ignorant assumption that a body of ancient anonymous writings are in fact divinely inspired.

          To prove that there is a hell, it would be necessary to prove two things. (1) That there is a God. Now that a God exists, we have and can have no real evidence. Nowhere in nature is any function of a God observable. And the Christian's chief reason for believing in God—that he cares for human beings—is disproved by every day's occurrences. And as to what a God could be in himself, the human mind is utterly without understanding or conception. (2) The God demanded by hell must be a God who has such a strange conception of justice and ordinary decency that, before the world was, he designed a scheme whereby he would build dungeons of torture destined to be the eternal home of myriads of his children; a scheme also calling for his own death as a means of saving a few from this awful fate otherwise intended for all.

          That such a God exists, the sane human mind owes it to itself to deny. The God of hell being a myth—as much a myth as the god of wood or stone of any savage superstition—it follows of necessity that all that the Bible says about hell is but the raving of priests who, with threats of endless torment, imposed upon the ignorance and the fears of their followers. The Egyptians, the Chaldeans, the Persians and the Greeks believed in future punishments of limited duration—the idea of hell, like everything else in Christianity, was borrowed from other religions—but the writers of the New Testament boldly improved upon [older] pagan imagination and invented a hell that would endure everlastingly.

          Upon this foundation of manufactured history, of blank ignorance, the Church, both Catholic and Protestant, reared an appalling structure of blind, barbaric teaching that for many centuries filled the world with fear and hate and strife, with persecution and war and chaos—a measureless curse from which only now are mankind beginning definitely to be relieved.


          Let us march through the Christian ages listening the while to some of the pronouncements of doom, first by Catholic and then by Protestant leaders. An Epistle attributed to Clement, of the second century, says: "Nothing shall deliver us from eternal punishment if we should disobey His commands". St. Theophilus, in the same century, preached that there shall be wrath and tribulation in this world and in the other everlasting fire for "the unbelievers and despisers". A little later, Tertullian [c. 160 - c. 220], the eloquent fire eater, rhapsodizing on what he called "Christian Joys and Spectacles", tells how he will laugh and rejoice at the sights he will behold at the Day of Judgment—kings and persecutors, philosophers and their disciples, poets, actors and wrestlers, all burning and "melting amid insulting fires". From the contemplation of the grand prospect, he says, the Christian can experience greater joys than are afforded by the circus or the theatre. St. Chrysostom [347 - 407], called the "golden mouthed", told the Christians of the fourth century that hell was "...a sea of fire...having waves of fire...a great abyss of most intolerable flame".

          In the following century, St. Augustine [354 - 430], who has been called the greatest of Christians, wrote: "That hell, that lake of fire and brimstone shall be real, and the fire corporeal, burning both men and devils, the one in flesh, the other in air...Christ has spoken it".

          Children were supposed to be damned as well as adults. St. Fulgentius [468 - 533], in the sixth century, taught that "...little children who have begun to live in their mothers' womb and have there died, or who, having just been born, have passed away from the world without the sacrament of holy baptism...must be punished by the eternal torture of undying fire"; this because these children, though they have not themselves sinned, have "drawn with them the condemnation of original sin by their carnal conception and nativity".

          Lecky [W. E. H. Lecky 1838 - 1903], the historian, writes that frantic women had their pregnant bodies baptized in the hope that the foetus, should it die, might escape the torments of hell.

          Basic among the things to be believed in the Roman Catholic Church is the Athanasian Creed, which dates from about the end of the fifth century. The opening sentence of this creed reads: "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith; which faith except every one do keep entire and inviolate, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly".

          The sixth American edition of the German "Complete Catechism of the Catholic Religion" by the Jesuit, Joseph Deharbe, (1908), says: "Every one is obliged, under pain of eternal damnation, to become a member of the Catholic Church, to believe her doctrine, to use her means of grace, and to submit to her authority" (page 148). And in the elaborate "Catholic Catechism" drawn up by Cardinal Casparri [Pietro Gasparri 1852 - 1934], translated by the Dominican Fathers and published by Longmans in 1932, we read: "God willed that the bodies of the dead should rise again in order that the whole man might according to his merits obtain an everlasting reward in heaven or an everlasting punishment in hell"; and this: hell is "...a real fire torturing yet never consuming" (pp. 114, 217). This brings Catholic teaching on hell sufficiently up to date.



          From John Calvin [1509 - 1564], founder of the Presbyterian Church and burner of Servetus [Michael Servetus c. 1511 - 1553]:

"Forever harassed with a dreadful tempest, they shall feel themselves torn asunder by an angry God and transfixed and penetrated by mortal stings, terrified by the thunderbolts of God and broken by the weight of his hand, so that to sink into any gulf would be more tolerable than to stand for a moment in these terrors. Even infants bring their damnation with them".

          In the following century (the seventeenth) Bishop Jeremy Taylor, one of the ornaments of the Church of England, famous for his "divine eloquence", though he was thought to be liberal and enlightened, assured his hearers that—"Husbands shall see their wives, parents their children, tormented before their eyes; the bodies of the damned shall be crowded together in hell, like grapes inn a wine press, which press one another till they burst; every distinct sense and organ shall be assailed with its appropriate and most exquisite sufferings". It probably never occurred to the good bishop to inquire whether the threats of damnation attributed to Christ were uttered by a wise and good man, or were fabricated by some crack-brained, fanatical priest.

          The Rev. Samuel Cawson, of Clarksburg, Virginia, could be as vigorous in his enunciation of the great doctrine of damnation as any of his more renowned brethren—"Thank God the day is not far distant when you will be chained down to hell's brazen floor, and the devil, with his three-pronged harpoon, will pierce your reeking heart and pile the red hot cinders of black damnation upon you as high as the pyramids of Egypt, and fry out the pride of your heart to grease the gudgeons [possibly intended to refer to pivots in "the gates of hell"] of hell".

          Charles Haddon Spurgeon [1834 - 1892], who was regarded as a religious genius, delighted in regaling his vast audiences at City Temple, London, with lurid imagery of hell's torments—"At the Judgment Day, thy body will join thy soul and thou wilt have twin hells, thy soul sweating drops of blood and thy body suffused with agony. The body will lie asbestos-like, forever unconsumed; all thy veins roads for the feet of pains to travel on; every nerve a string on which the devil shall forever play his diabolical tune of hell's unutterable lament".

          Most effective of all American preachers in driving this measureless infamy from the minds of intelligent Americans, leaving it to be taught by Catholic confessors and ignorant Protestants, was the great Ingersoll [Robert G. Ingersoll 1833 - 1899], one of the supreme intellectual and moral glories of our race.

          Ingersoll denounced the doctrine of HELL as the "fanged and frightful dogma that souls were made to feed the eternal hunger of a God's revenge". "This dogma", he said, "is the disgrace and degradation of the Christian world....It has furrowed the cheeks of the good and tender with tears. It is the most ignorant, the most infamous, the most absurd idea that ever found lodging in the brain of man....All the meanness, all the revenge, all the selfishness, all the cruelty, all the hatred, all the infamy of which the heart of man is capable, grew, blossomed and bore fruit in this one word—Hell....That world brutalizes the New Testament, changes the Sermon on the Mount to hypocrisy and cant, and pollutes and hardens the very heart of Christ. Take out this fearful, fiendish, heartless lie [Hell]—compared with which all other lies are true—and the great arch of orthodox religion crumbling falls."


          Under the blows of Ingersoll's withering scorn the dogma of hell slunk to its proper home in the brain of ignorance, stupidity, and hypocrisy where it remains progressively to die.














Herbert Cutner [1881 - 1969]

One of my most glorious memories is of when as a small boy in a congregation of eight I heard a Calvinist minister consigning us to Hell—and what a Hell! There was nothing of the pale pink region pictured by the intellectuals of the Church of England inn his lurid description of the place in which we were going to frizzle for eternity, for it was most unlikely that God Almighty, in the goodness of his ever-loving heart, had written us down in his Great Book of Fate as one of the Elect. I fancy the only Christians these days who make no bones about a real, old-fashioned Christian Hell are the remnants of the Calvinists who speak about John Calvin [1509 - 1564] in exactly the same reverent way as the followers of Islam speak of Mohammed.

          It is true that Roman Catholics have not given up Hell. If pressed very hard, they will agree with their bitterest enemies, the Calvinists. No one can read Father Furniss' delightful little book on Hell without noticing that the Rev. gentleman never went further than Calvin. He gloated over little, unbaptised children frying for ever and ever in ovens made red-hot by the unquenchable fires of Hell. What a wonderful descriptive reporter Fr. Furnniss would have made, especially when writing up anything in the incendiary line. Any competent psychoanalyst would diagnose his case as one of repression—he must have been forbidden to set houses on fire at the age of eight; hence all this preoccupation with frizzling and frying, boiling and scalding, grilling and burning; that is, if one believes in psychoanalysis. I do not.

          The Middle Ages, intensely preoccupied with religion, found Hell and Hell fire a perfect Godsend. Of course, the illiterate populations were unable to read the learned disquisitions in which the terrific struggle of the Church of Christ was realistically depicted continually engaged in grinding the Church of the Devil into powder, which, alas, with each generation, resurrected itself into its original form. Christ had and has always to fight the cunning Devil. Unable to read, the religious masses could at least understand pictures; and so the greatest living artists were engaged in painting pictures of Hell and its victims or making and printing wood blocks, or engraving and etching wonderful plates about it. No one could disbelieve in Hell or its infernal inhabitants when such accurate representations of the Evil One were so vividly portrayed.

          Thus the Devil was even more "alive" than God Almighty; and after the Reformation he was pressed into service by nearly all the Protestant denominations as a veritable likeness of the Roman Church. It was Anti-Christ, it was the Devil, it was Hell, the real Hell, eternal flames and all.


In God's revealed Word we have the colorful story of Jesus expelling a lot of devils from two men. These devils "besought" Jesus for permission "to go away into the herd of swine" nearby; and, the Lord consenting, "the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea and were drowned". Though the pigs perished, what happened to the devils? I refuse to believe that devils can be killed.


A good Calvinist would tell you that they are all alive and kicking—or should I say tempting? You have that other beautiful story of Jesus being tempted by the Devil. This happened when he had fasted forty days and nights, after which we are assured that he was hungry. This was a magnificent opportunity for the "tempter" (as the Devil is often politely called), who wanted Jesus to turn a few stones into bread, a feat which ought to have been child's play for an Almighty. Unfortunately, this he was unable to do, because, said Jesus, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God". Both these reasons have always appeared to me to be very inadequate for a hungry God.

          The Devil, however, was quite undaunted. He picked up Jesus, took him "into the holy city" and put him "on a pinnacle of the Temple". I have often wondered what the Jews must have thought as they watched the Devil flying overhead with Jesus clasped in his arms or clinging to his tail. This we shall never know.

          There is also the advice Jesus gave his followers [more, from the famous "philosopher"—"Jesus"!]: "If thy hand offend thee cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched...". You will find it all beautifully translated in Mark 9, 43-48, but I must say in all sorrow that this particular text and others like it advising mutilation are no longer in favor with true Christians. Even reverent Rationalists, who can indulge in devotional raptures about "Jesus of Nazareth [see Article #9, 223; Article #20, 405]" quite as religiously as the most pious Christian does about "Christ Jesus", shy at these texts on what happens to you in Hell if you do not do as you are told to in Holy Writ.

          Modern Bible believers try their best to soften down the Bible's inspiration teachings on such a question as Damnation. Our old translations were only too ready to damn you for unbelief, and by damnations they meant the eternal fires of Hell where "there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth". We are told by GENTLE JESUS that "HE THAT BELIEVETH NOT SHALL BE DAMNED"; but now "damned" is changed into "condemned". Calvinist ministers are enraged at such a gross perversion of the Precious Word. And not only Calvinists, but Jesuits, too. We have, for instance, that holy man, Fr. F. Pinamonti [Giovanni Pietro Pinamonti 1632 - 1703], S.J., giving us a pious little work on "Hell Opened to Christians", in which the author tells his fellow Christians quite plainly what they are destined to endure if they do not do as they are told. In this book there are minute descriptions of what Hell is like as a Prison, the Quality of its Fire, the Company of its Damned, the Pain of Loss, The Sting of Conscience, Despair and the Pains of Hell, and, finally, the Eternity of Pain. This work is ornamented with visual examples of the damned shrieking, as they ought to shriek. It would be intolerable if unbelievers brought up in the true Faith were allowed to get away with their unbelief. All good Christians, like the immortal St. Thomas Aquinas [1225 - 1274], should take joy in contemplating the tortures of the damned.



Everybody knows how Jesus "descended into Hell', though nobody seems certain as to why he went. In any event, many of his fellow gods did exactly the same. Holy records tell us that Krishna, Zoroaster, Osiris, Horus, Adonis, Bacchus, Hercules, Mercury, Baldur, and Quetzalcoatle all[?] descended into Hell, and remained there for three days and nights. As they were gods, they had no difficulty in avoiding being turned into cinders by the flames.

          With such teachings before them, the churches had no trouble in emulating Hell fire here on earth. They called the ceremony an "auto da fe", and, with great glee, sent witches, sorcerers, and infidels to be burnt alive just as they would be in Hell—only quicker. For this, they had the authority of God's Holy Word.

          In these more sensitive times, there are people who think the spectacle of poor old women being burnt alive for witchcraft is horrible and cruel. But not the churches. As far as I know, they have never said they were wrong—how could they admit error with the Bible as a guide? It is we, of course, who are in the wrong; and, after all, there were only about a million victims put to death as witches in three or four centuries—a mere drop in the ocean, praise the Lord!






Even kings and emperors trembled when the Pope thundered his displeasure.

          And now? Hell is being laughed at. The Devil and his imps are just jokes. Priests like Furniss and Pinamonti are hastily disowned by the hierarchy or their writings made difficult to get. And when the Roman Church is asked about Hell by its all-believing followers, it can only reply lamely, "Hell is indeed a great mystery, and like every other mystery of Christianity, is infinitely beyond the scope of any finite mind". (The "Question Box", p. 385). Without a Hell, "virtue and vice would be on a par. The moral law would then be without sanction". (p. 387). Only when driven into a corner will the Roman Church use again

THAT GRAND THREAT, "THE FEAR OF HELL".' [19-24] [End of entry].




"Duration of Purgatory

Holy Church tells us nothing concerning the duration of purgatory, except that it is not a place of eternal pain, but will end at the last judgment. Neither are we informed of the length of time required for the purification of a soul....According to Venerable Marina of Escobar [1554 - 1633], some souls are sentenced to punishment for twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, or sixty years, and even longer....The Venerable Anna Catherine Emmerich [1774 - 1824] had a vision of a soul that had been in purgatory for centuries. The learned St. Robert [Francis Romulus Cardinal] Bellarmine [S.J. (Society of Jesus)] [1542 - 1621] ['"To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin."—Cardinal Bellarmine, during the trial of Galileo, 1615"' (Secular Nation, Fourth Quarter, 2004, page 5, Richard S. Russell)] and others held the opinion that there are some souls who will have to suffer in purgatory until the end of time....To the suffering souls, hours seem as years, and years as centuries....Purgatory punishes, by tortures unknown to earth, the slightest stains of sin remaining upon the soul after death.—Assist the Souls in Purgatory (published by the Benedictine Convent of Perpetual Adoration [reminiscent of: "The Church of What's Happening Now"], Clyde, Miss.)." [28].

'Hell's Neighbors, Purgatory and Limbo

What is purgatory? The word refers to a place and a state. Catholics believe that purgatory exists to purge those souls not pure enough for heaven, yet not in a state of serious (mortal) sin. Though they have escaped eternal hell, they must undergo the purifying pain of intense longing for God until they have paid their debt of temporal punishment....

Do Catholics believe that unbaptized babies cannot go to heaven because of 'original sin'? Yes. It is Catholic belief that no one by nature has a 'right' to heaven. Man does not have a claim on the supernatural happiness which he enjoys in seeing God 'face to face' (1 Cor. xiii, 12). It is a free gift of God. The loss of supernatural life—generally called the fall from grace—was incurred by Adam. Because Adam was head of the human race, all mankind was involved in the historic sin of disobedience.

          Since the redemption of Christ, it has been possible to regain the life of grace. Baptism restores supernatural life. Without that life, man simply does not have the capacity to enjoy heaven. Unbaptized babies (in limbo) do not suffer in any way, even from a sense of loss. Their happiness is greater than any known by man on earth, however limited in comparison with that of the saints in heaven.—John Cogley, executive editor, The Commonweal, Catholic weekly, "What Is a Catholic?" Reader's Digest, January, 1953.' [29].

"Ah! the broad magnificence of the scene! How shall I laugh and be glad and exult when I see these wise philosophers, who teach that the gods are indifferent and men soulless, roasting and browning before their own disciples in hell.—Tertullian [c. 160 - c. 220], De Spectaculis." [30].


"The holy fathers have spoken of hell at great length. About its existence, its varied pains, its victims, its everlasting duration, its names, and its place, there is much and diverse patristic opinion. Nothing, if we may rely upon common consent, ancient origin, and religious authority, is more certain than the existence of hell. It is proved alike by holy scripture, the holy fathers, and pagan testimony. It was framed before sin was hatched. Its pains are divided into general and special. A winepress will, according to Jerome [c. 342 - 420], be a general torture of the damned....If a man, says St. Stephanus Grandimontensis [probably: St. Stephen (of Muret) Grandmont (Grammont) 1045 - 1124], were to see the infernal miseries, he would not be able to stir a limb, and would die incontinently of sheer fright. The special pains of hell are weeping and gnashing of teeth, darkness, confusion, despair, war, horror, fear, weakness, the worm, the society of devils, and many more—every one of these supported by numerous authorities. Sinners will be punished after the degree of their sins. There is one fire only, but it will not hurt all alike....There are, according to some, many mansions in hell. Others deny this, and declare it to be one deep ample ditch....The damned will be bound together like faggots. The punishment of usurers, according to Adam Scotus [c. 1130 - 1212], is a too intimate acquaintance with boiling gold. The eternity of hell is demonstrated by Holy Scripture, that is, by the holy fathers....It has been proved over and over again, by others besides Jerome and Tertullian [c. 160 - c. 220], that the fire of hell is as real as it is eternal.—James Mew, Traditional Aspects of Hell, pp. 216-218." [30-31].


"Reprobate infants are vipers of vengeance, which Jehovah will hold over hell in the tongs of his wrath until they turn and spit venom in his face....God holds sinners in his hands over the mouth of hell as so many spiders over the fire, and he is dreadfully provoked; and he not only hates them, but holds them in utmost contempt, and will trample them beneath his feet with inexpressible fierceness; he will crush their blood out, and will make it fly so that it will sprinkle his garments and stain all his raiment.—Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), American theologian, sermon, The Eternity of Hell's Torments." [36].

'The Bible speaks of the wrath of God oftener than of his love, and yet ninety-nine out of a hundred sermons are on the love of God. If two are preached on his wrath, the preacher is called "sulphuric". American preaching needs reconstructing. It has not honest backbone enough to show forth the whole Bible. GOD PLAINLY SAYS FIFTY-SIX TIMES THAT THERE IS A HELL BURNING. It has now been burning a long time and has grown hotter and hotter with its victims. You may shuffle off the whole subject from your attention, but your impenitent course is leading you to hell as surely as Fulton Street leads to Fulton Ferry.—Thomas De Witt Talmadge (1932-1902), American Presbyterian preacher.

          ("For years," says the Encyclopedia Britannica," his sermons were published regularly in more than 3,000 journals, reaching, it is said, 25,000,000 readers".)' [38].


"I ask you: Are you prepared to die? Are you sure, if this were your last moment, that you are prepared to die? I thank God that I know that I am ready to die. Prepared, not because of what I have done—I deserve to die and I deserve hell—but because of what the Lord Jesus Christ did for me on the cross of Calvary, and because I accepted Him by faith and put my trust in Him.—Billy Graham [born 1918] [see Additions Bibliography, "Spittler"], revivalist, Are You Bored with Life? (American Tract Society)." [38].


Infinite punishment is infinite cruelty, endless injustice, immortal meanness. To worship an eternal goaler hardens, debases, and pollutes even the vilest soul. While there is one sad and breaking heart in the universe, no good being can be perfectly happy.

          Against THE HEARTLESSNESS OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION every grand and tender soul should enter solemn protest. The God of Hell should be held in loathing, contempt, and scorn. A God who threatens eternal pain should be hated, not loved—cursed, not worshipped. A heaven presided over by such a God must be below the lowest hell. I want no part in any heaven in which the saved, the ransomed and redeemed will drown with shouts of joy the cries and sobs of hell—in which happiness will forget misery, where the tears of the lost only increase laughter and double bliss.

          The idea of hell was born of ignorance, brutality, fear, cowardice, and revenge. The idea testifies that our remote ancestors were the lowest beasts. Only from dens, lairs, and caves, only from mouths filled with cruel fangs, only from hearts of fear and hatred, only from the conscience of hunger and lust, only from the lowest and most debased could come this most cruel, heartless, and bestial of all dogmas.—Robert G. Ingersoll [1833 - 1899], The Origin of God and Heaven, of the Devil and Hell, New Dresden Edition, vol. III, pp. 310–311." [41].

"I am told that I am in danger of hell; that for me to express my honest convictions is to excite the wrath of God. They inform me that unless I believe in a certain way, meaning their way, I am in danger of everlasting fire.

          There was a time when these threats whitened the faces of men with fear. That time has substantially passed away. For a hundred years hell has been gradually growing cool, the flames have been slowly dying out, the brimstone is nearly exhausted, the fires have been burning lower and lower, and the climate gradually changing. To such an extent has the change already been effected that if I were going there tonight I would take an overcoat and a box of matches.—Robert G. Ingersoll, My Reviewers Reviewed, New Dresden Edition, vol. VII, p. 8." [42].

"ACCORDING TO THE FICTIONS OF THEOLOGY, the regions of the other life are happy and unhappy. Nothing more difficult than to render one worthy of the abode of felicity; nothing easier than to obtain a place in the abode of torments that Divinity prepares for the unfortunate victims of His eternal fury. Those who find the idea of


another life so flattering and so sweet, have they then forgotten that this other life, according to them, is to be accompanied by torments for the majority of mortals? Is not the idea of total annihilation infinitely preferable to the idea of an eternal existence accompanied with suffering and gnashing of teeth? The fear of ceasing to exist, is it more afflicting than the thought of having not always been?




If that dogma had not an intimate organic connection with the creed, if it had been a mere unimportant accident, it could not have been so vigorous and persistent wherever Christianity was strongest. The attempt to eliminate it or soften it down is a sign of decline.—J.B. Bury [1861 - 1927], A History of Freedom of Thought [see Addition 15, 953-955], p. 218." [44-45].

'"They [the Scotch clergy] delighted in telling their hearers that they would be roasted in great fires, and hung up by their tongues. They were to be lashed with scorpions, and see their companions writhing and howling around them. They were to be thrown into boiling oil and scalding lead. A river of fire and brimstone, broader than the earth, was prepared for them: in that, they were to be immersed; their bones, their lungs, and their liver, were to boil, but never be consumed. At the same time, worms were to prey upon them; and while these were gnawing at their bodies, they were to be surrounded by devils, mocking and making pastime of their pains."—Henry Thomas Buckle [1821 - 1862], History of Civilization in England, vol. II, part II, p. 293.' [45].

"Until the middle of the nineteenth century very few professing Christians doubted the reality of eternal punishment. The fear of hell was—and to a lesser extent still is—a source of the deepest anxiety, which much diminished the comfort to be derived from belief in survival. The motive of saving others from hell was urged as a justification of persecution; for if a heretic, by misleading others, could cause them to suffer damnation, no degree of earthly torture could be considered excessive if employed to prevent so terrible a result. For, whatever may now be thought, it was formerly believed, except by a small minority, that heresy was incompatible with salvation.—Bertrand Russell [1872 - 1970], Religion and Science, p. 135." [46-47].

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"According to Terry Watkins at Dial-the-Truth Ministries:


         There are over 162 references in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) which warn of Hell.






However the frequency with which Hell appears in individual gospels may reflect the beliefs of their authors more than that of Jesus [more, apologetics!].

The word Hell in the Christian Scriptures appears mainly in:


         Mark (3 occurrences)

         Matthew (12)

         Luke (3)

         Acts (2)

         Revelation (4)"

_____ _____ _____




Have you ever wondered about Hell? Can you find the word "Hell" in the scriptures? What about other words for Hell? Are dead unbelievers living in Hell, now?

This research paper will answer all of those questions and more. It explains the different words, in the Bible, that are used for Hell and "Hell-like" places. Despite the overuse of the term "Hell," there are two places for fallen angels, a place for unbelievers (now) and one for all sinners (later).

There are four terms that describe the location of the afterlife for sinners. They are "Gehenna (the lake of fire), Hades (Sheol), the Abyss (literally, "the shaft of the abyss" and also called, "the bottomless pit") and Tartarus."


"Gehenna" is mentioned 12 times in the New Testament. Did you know that 11 OUT OF 12 TIMES IT WAS MENTIONED BY JESUS CHRIST? The Greek word "Gehenna" refers to the "Valley of Hinnom." This valley lies just outside Jerusalem's walls and in Bible times, it was used as a refuse dump. Trash, garbage and even unwanted and unknown bodies were thrown there. Fire constantly burned these things and the worms never went hungry. It is no surprise that Jesus compared this hideous valley to the destiny of those that reject God.

Here are some facts about the place called "Gehenna."


2) Gehenna is the place of conscious torment for the body and soul. - Matthew 10:28

3) GEHENNA IS A PLACE OF ETERNAL/NEVER-ENDING TORMENT. - Matthew 25:46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Revelation 14:11

4) Gehenna is a place of unquenchable fire (Mark 9:45), a place of never-dying worms (Mark 9:46), a lake of burning sulfur (Revelation 20:14), the gloom of darkness forever (Jude 1:13), a place of separation from God (2 Thessalonians 1.9), a place of outer darkness (Matthew 8:12), a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).'

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from: [sic]   [WARNING:



Permission to reproduce is granted.

Read about Heaven

How can you get to Heaven when you die?


If you are not Biblically saved AT THIS MOMENT, you are a heartbeat away from Hell. You are in the GREATEST DANGER that exists in the universe!



   The place after death where MOST will end up (Mt. 7:13, 14). [Dear reader, if you are like most, YOU will also end up in this horrible place!] [brackets and contents, by author]

   A place of outer darkness where there will be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 24:51; 25:30).

   A place to be avoided even if it means losing the physical members of your body (Mt. 18:8,9).

   Prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt. 25:41 cf. Rev. 20:10).

   A place where the fire is not quenched (Mk. 9:43-48).

   A place of regret, torment in fire and no water (Lk. 16:19-31).

The LAKE OF FIRE (second death) is:


   A fiery lake of burning sulfur (Rev. 21:8).

   Where death and Hades will be thrown (Rev. 20:14).

   Where the smoke of those tormented there goes up forever and they find no rest (Rev. 14:11).

Hell is NOT:

This present life, a myth, real only if you believe it exists, a figment of one's imagination, a place where you will party with your friends, the grave, or just for people like Charles Manson, Adolf Hitler, bank robbers or murderers.


Who will be thrown into this ETERNAL FIRE?


   Those who do not have their names listed in the book of life (Rev. 20:15).

   The cowardly, unbelieving, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, idolaters, liars, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexual offenders, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers (Rev. 21:8; 1 Cor. 6:9,10). See also Gal. 5:19-21.

   Those who are not Biblically born again (Jn. 3:3-7).

   Those who didn't forgive others who sinned against them (Mt. 6:14,15; 18:22-35).

   Those who begin with Jesus, but don't remain in Him because they afterwards believed and accepted a wrong plan of salvation (1 Jn. 2:24,25; 2 Jn. 9; Gal. 5:2,4; 1 Cor. 15:1,2).

   Those who don't produce fruit (Mt. 25:14-46; Jn. 15:5,6), endure to the end (Mt. 10:22 cf. Jn. 6:66) or don't continue to believe, but "fall away" in time of TESTING (Lk. 8:13 cf. Mt. 13:21). [Persecution, in one form or another, is a TEST that comes to ALL godly people (2 Tim. 3:12; Lk. 6:22; Jn. 15:20).]

   All who receive the mark of the beast and worship his image during the time of the Antichrist, which includes former Christians who do NOT patiently endure and remain faithful to Jesus (Rev. 14:9-12; 13:8-10).

   Everything that causes sin and ALL who do evil (Mt. 13:41,42).

   All who are self-seeking, reject the truth and follow evil (Rom. 2:8).

To Get Forgiven and Escape ETERNAL TORMENT:

Turn from your sins and place ALL 100% of your TRUST in Jesus Christ for your soul's salvation (Lk. 13:3,5; Acts 20:21; 26-20). Strive always to keep a clear conscience (Acts 24:16). Follow Him unashamedly in this wicked age (Mk. 8:38). "We have come to share in Christ IF we hold firmly TILL THE END the confidence we had at first" (Heb. 3:14). Shut the TV off, read and reread the New Testament adjusting your behavior and values accordingly. Believe the Bible over anything you have been taught! The Bible is FINAL AUTHORITY and COMPLETELY SUFFICIENT for all that God wants you to know, including salvation (2 Tim. 3:15-17). Your ETERNAL DESTINY in heaven or hell hinges on what you do with the message of the Bible. People in Hell right now would give anything for the chance that you have at this moment to get saved. Don't let this chance slip by! Prepare for your death TODAY. Tomorrow may be too late. Ask Jesus now for forgiveness and wholeheartedly follow Him until your death.

Jesus Christ is the ONLY Savior, Mediator, Hope and Way to the Father. If you reject Him or turn away from Him to follow Him no more, you surely won't escape Hell. If you were once saved but turned your back on God, repent and reverse your "lost" condition (Lk. 15:24,32). You CANNOT be saved from eternal fire by church membership, Lodge membership, being a "good person," water baptism, Saturday Sabbath keeping, the Ten Commandments, Mary, etc. The BIBLE ALONE is God's Word -- not Sacred Tradition, the Book of Mormon, Koran, Bhagavad-Gita, Avesta, Angas, etc. There is NO reincarnation, Purgatory, second chance, annihilation of the wicked or soul sleep.


Please also listen to the audio message,

Cries of the Damned: Part 1 and Part 2

This Place Called Hell

Get free Real Audio here

And read over our article, Biblical repentance.

Forsake Your Sins -- TRUST CHRIST ["GENTLE" JESUS] Today!'

[Comment: Whew! "Loving (masochistic-sadistic) Christians"—still!, are attempting to horrify—to reproduce Hell—Here!].

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from: 'NPR [National Public Radio]...

Interview: David Reynolds discusses abolitionist John Brown

May 7, 2005

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host: "John Brown, Abolitionist." It's a new biography of the man who is 1859 attacked the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in what was the then Virginia. The subtitle of the book, which was written by David Reynolds, says of John Brown, "The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights." David Reynolds is distinguished professor of American studies at the City University of New York, and he joins us from our studio in New York....

Prof. REYNOLDS: Lincoln...said, 'Well, I think it'll take a hundred years for slavery to disappear. It'll take about a century.' John Brown was more realistic than this. He realized that in the South slavery was becoming increasingly entrenched. It was not only economically, but ideologically, because it was seen as a very Christian, good holy thing and one, you know--really a wonderful thing. And in the North the aboli...

WERTHEIMER: Because the slaveholders were in some way setting these black savages on some kind of Christian path.

Prof. REYNOLDS: Not only that, some of them believed that we should take over Africa and enslave the millions of people in Africa to expose them to the so-called blessings of Christian civilization. So it was more than just, 'Oh, this is a bad thing that we have to keep going'--'this is an actually--a very, very noble institution.' And in the North, meanwhile, it was becoming increasingly anti-slavery, but people in the North didn't know exactly how to dislodge slavery. John Brown wanted to dislodge slavery by creating a terror campaign throughout the South, spreading what he--today would be called terrorist raid the plantations and free the slaves and create an atmosphere of fear that then would force the South to compromise eventually. But what happened, of course, is that he was--he stalled too long at Harpers Ferry, he was trapped, and he was hanged for treason....' [1,2].