Origin of the Christian doctrine of eternal torment

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bixntram
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Origin of the Christian doctrine of eternal torment

Post by bixntram » Tue May 26, 2015 6:27 am

Hello, I'm reading up on the Christian doctrine of eternal torment in hell, which is completely absent from the Old Testament of the Bible but ubiquitous in the New (Sheol and Gehenna of the Old Testament are are not the "hell" of Christianity which became dogma centuries after Christ's appearance on earth). One explanation I've come across is that, in the 400 year "inter-testamental: period, Judaism became heavily influenced by Greek and other pagan philosophies, one of these being the existence of of eternal torment in hell for evil-doers after death. This notion of the afterlife was obviously extant at the time of Christ's birth. I'm hoping someone up on the history of Jewish theology of this time period could respond. Many thanks.

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Re: Origin of the Christian doctrine of eternal torment

Post by Peter Kirby » Tue May 26, 2015 10:48 am

Thanks for the question! Welcome.
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ficino
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Re: Origin of the Christian doctrine of eternal torment

Post by ficino » Tue May 26, 2015 6:00 pm

When I went to an exhibit of 18th and 19th century Japanese prints last week, I discovered that in their branch of Buddhism, there is an eternal hell, replete with various macabre torments. Japan had been closed to the West for some 200 years by that point. Assuming that the Buddhist hell goes back at least to the arrival of that religion in Japan in the 6th century, and is not an importation from Catholic missionaries, it's an interesting parallel.

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DCHindley
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Re: Origin of the Christian doctrine of eternal torment

Post by DCHindley » Tue May 26, 2015 6:32 pm

bixntram wrote:Hello, I'm reading up on the Christian doctrine of eternal torment in hell, which is completely absent from the Old Testament of the Bible but ubiquitous in the New (Sheol and Gehenna of the Old Testament are are not the "hell" of Christianity which became dogma centuries after Christ's appearance on earth). One explanation I've come across is that, in the 400 year "inter-testamental: period, Judaism became heavily influenced by Greek and other pagan philosophies, one of these being the existence of of eternal torment in hell for evil-doers after death. This notion of the afterlife was obviously extant at the time of Christ's birth. I'm hoping someone up on the history of Jewish theology of this time period could respond. Many thanks.
Not exactly sure of the origin, or origins, of the underworld of torment. It shows up in the Apocalypse of Peter and Vision of Paul, probably ca 300 CE, and the latter is said to contain many Greek concepts of the netherworld. Unfortunately, every site I could find on the Apocalypse of Peter is apologetic in origin, and thus useless.

I seem to vaguely recall that the Ap. of Peter was drawn from Zoroastrian lore about the Chinvat bridge you pass over at death. Your good and bad deeds are weighed, and if bad outweighs good, one may be forced to experience the "hell" of rebirth. The ideas of the chinvat bridge are present in the Zoroastrian scriptures known as the Gathas: http://tenets.zoroastrianism.com/Zoroas ... nation.pdf

Zarathustra, the putative founder of the religion, is estimated to have lived at least 6th century BCE, so the concept was long known in Persian, and later Parthian, held regions such as Babylonia, where countless Judeans lived. The Parthians and Romans made repeated forays against one another for control of regions such as Mesopotamia, Edessa, Adiabene and Armenia, right around the 3rd century CE., so a Judean origin is not required to explain it becoming known in a weird form in the Christian apocrypha.

Christians (Origen excepted) did not believe in reincarnation, so in their version "hell" is not reincarnation on earth but eternal torment. This part probably was influenced by sayings put into the mouth of Jesus about Hades (this would correspond to Hebrew Sheol, the grave or death) "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched". There is lots of debate about the meaning of sayings like that, but it seems to be an allusion to ignoble death without proper burial.

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Re: Origin of the Christian doctrine of eternal torment

Post by andrewcriddle » Wed May 27, 2015 10:04 am

DCHindley wrote: Not exactly sure of the origin, or origins, of the underworld of torment. It shows up in the Apocalypse of Peter and Vision of Paul, probably ca 300 CE, and the latter is said to contain many Greek concepts of the netherworld. Unfortunately, every site I could find on the Apocalypse of Peter is apologetic in origin, and thus useless.
The Apocalypse of Peter must be earlier than 300 CE e.g. it was well known to Clement of Alexandria.
It probably dates from the time of the Bar Kokhba war 130-135 CE.

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DCHindley
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Re: Origin of the Christian doctrine of eternal torment

Post by DCHindley » Wed May 27, 2015 4:09 pm

andrewcriddle wrote:
DCHindley wrote:Not exactly sure of the origin, or origins, of the underworld of torment. It shows up in the Apocalypse of Peter and Vision of Paul, probably ca 300 CE
The Apocalypse of Peter must be earlier than 300 CE e.g. it was well known to Clement of Alexandria.
It probably dates from the time of the Bar Kokhba war 130-135 CE.
I should have said "3rd century CE" which would cover 201 to 300 CE. Clement, though, only speaks of the care that the souls of aborted babies receive from the angels of God at the judgment, and how their mothers on the other hand were zapped by bolts of lightening coming from the babies' eyes (in the story reconstructed in modern times from the surviving mss, which are rather diverse from one to another). We are a long way from the wide range of punishments the surviving mss of the AoP describe.

That being said, what I was trying to convey is that IF the AoP (as it survived in mss) reflected Zoroastrian influence, it likely came from roughly this period, when the Roman legions (and the attendant camp followers and merchants) came into repeated contact with the Parthian army and regions in the course of fighting border disputes.

Even so, that is not the only option. The books of Enoch has a lot to say about God avenging the righteous when the day of judgment comes, and the righteous glorying over the destruction of the sinners and the high and mighty. In fact, the whole AoP thing might be an extension of passages from the books of Enoch. I'll see what I can generate, but it might take a day or so.

DCH

Edit: removed reference to a "Ch 8" as it occurred to me that no two sources seem to number the sections the same, so ...

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Re: Origin of the Christian doctrine of eternal torment

Post by iskander » Tue Oct 13, 2015 1:39 pm

bixntram wrote:Hello, I'm reading up on the Christian doctrine of eternal torment in hell, which is completely absent from the Old Testament of the Bible but ubiquitous in the New (Sheol and Gehenna of the Old Testament are are not the "hell" of Christianity which became dogma centuries after Christ's appearance on earth). One explanation I've come across is that, in the 400 year "inter-testamental: period, Judaism became heavily influenced by Greek and other pagan philosophies, one of these being the existence of of eternal torment in hell for evil-doers after death. This notion of the afterlife was obviously extant at the time of Christ's birth. I'm hoping someone up on the history of Jewish theology of this time period could respond. Many thanks.

The fire of Gehenna was created on the second day of creation. It was easy for believers to imagine Gehenna as a place of torment for those who had sinned against Hashem.
Yet was the fire of the Gehenna created on the eve of the Sabbath? Surely it was taught: Seven things were created before the world was created, and these are they: The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah...

Yet was its fire created on the eve of the Sabbath? Surely it was taught, R. Jose said: The fire which the Holy One, blessed be He, created on the second day of the week shall never be extinguished,32 as it is said, And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have rebelled against me,’ for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched? 33
Pesachim 54a

Robert Baird
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Re: Origin of the Christian doctrine of eternal torment

Post by Robert Baird » Tue Oct 27, 2015 3:05 am

My two cents - I say Zoroastrianism and Zarathustra hearken back to far earlier disciplines and systems of thought.

Gurdjieff said he was a 'speaker' for these ancient systems and his disciple Idres Shah and others can take us back to a time when the white man did not yet exist.

The Kabbalistic Tree of Life has a mirror system in northern climates as well as North America. It is The Tree of Yggdrasil.

Qabala is the Verbal Tradition and Cabals or Kabbala are 'twisted' or coded according to Dion Fortune's book on these things.

Which came first? In glacial times before we had a Black Sea or Mediterranean, we have evidence of advanced spiritual thinking which may extend past any manipulation of religious energy we currently employ. I think anyone saying anything is fact for certain will have great difficulty proving a complete dogma or system existed for any duration.

Hel in the old system is nothing like the Christian Hell and Hades is not quite there either. The Underworld is a mirror of the Heaven and upon each the other depends for understanding - within and without.

Eternal torment is probably a social engineering means to gain further mastery over people in the Roman Empire which was morphing into a more complex and devious control which fewer people shared in the spoils of since the end of SPQR.

I think the good Pope named John Paul II spoke wisely when (in 1999) he said they created Heaven and Hell in "two millennia of heinous acts". In order to see how this behemoth continues it's pursuit of power as it again morphed from sharing power and selling monopolies to Nobles and Kings it helps to first read The Treaty of Westphalia and then Rerum Novarum.

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