Saturday, March 12, 2011

Blogging heaven and hell: 2

I can tell already that this could be my longest blog series ever, and one I may never get to the bottom of. I invite other bloggers to enter into the spirit of this series. I want to supplement the theological discussion of heaven and hell with some old fashioned references to the text, word studies, one might say, but organized loosely around the theme of death in the Hebrew Bible.

I hope that anyone who is interested would join in. This is not a doctrinal study and if we don't come up with a payoff or a doctrinal product at the end of this, I can live with that. But I have noticed that Peter and Kurk are back blogging, so I hope they will join in, and put their formidable language skills to work on this.

I have become convinced reading through the Psalms and other passages in the last few days, that the afterlife was far from fiery for the ancient Hebrews, but was rather dark and watery. While "springs" of water are life-giving, the "depths" are death and destruction.


Deliver me out of the mire,
and let me not sink;
let me be delivered from them that hate me,
and out of the deep waters.

Let not the waterflood overwhelm me,
neither let the deep swallow me up;
and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.
Psalm 69:15-16

For Thou didst cast me into the depth,
in the heart of the seas,
and the flood was round about me;
all Thy waves and Thy billows passed over me.
Jonah 2:3


Thou hast laid me in the nethermost pit,
in dark places, in the deeps
Psalm 88:6

He will again have compassion upon us;
He will subdue our iniquities;
and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
Micah 7:19


Bob MacDonald said...

Hi Suzanne - there is a ring of fire around the psalter. It is part of the Davidic outer ring e.g. Psalm 11. But I think the hell images in popular Christian doctrine are completely wrongheaded when it comes to life,time,and eternity. I did a little with Psalm 21 here but I have to admit I am doing the psalms with discipline. I think my attitude to linearity as a measure of hell is somewhat clear from the post. I may be ready to write theology and metaphysics some day... Some comments on fire and brimstone are in my notes on psalm 12. Much more should be said about presence rather than fire. Judgement to be sure, but something more as well. On time, the Gospel of John is clearest, e.g. John 5:24 etc.

Bob MacDonald said...

ach! when I said with discipline, I mean I am trying not to get distracted by 'blogging' - but to focus on my method for mechanics and writing - slow and steady

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks for inviting the conversation. I'm interested also in Gei Ben-Hinnom or Gei-Hinnom, which was transliterated into Greek as Gehenna, eventually a metonymic allusion to "Hell," and eventually a Christian one.

For a (Jewish) translator of the Greek New Testament such as Willis Barnstone, the changes in meaning are significant. Barnstone, for example, translates Matthew 16:18 as follows:

And I tell you that you are Kefa the rock
And upon this rock I will build my church,*
And the gates of Gei Hinnom will not overpower it.

*Here's Barnstone's footnote:

The Greek words ἐκκλησία (ekklesia) and συναγωγή (synagogue) mean an “assembly,” “gathering,” or “congregation,” and both words can refer to “synagogue.” However, ekklesia (except in the Septuagint Greek version of the Hebrew Bible) is normally translated church, while synagogue is the common word for “synagogue.” Here, in Yeshua’s prophecy, the intentional futurity of “I will build my church” is contrasted with the old Jewish tradition represented by Gei Hinnom, [in this context] the Hebrew word for “hell.” Yeshua’s dramatic message is that he will build on a rock the new church that will overcome the old synagogue, and that Christian heaven will overcome Jewish hell. In his lifetime there was no Christian church, and Yeshua preached in the synagogues. For the observant Jew to say that he would “build a church” is an anachronism, revealing not his voice but that of churchmen many decades later when a Christian church as a building and institution did exist. The superimposition of later terminology, theology, and history on the figures of Yeshua and his followers remains the essential dilemma of the New Testament.

Peter Kirk said...

I would love to get involved here. I just need to find some time - probably not today.

EricW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EricW said...

You might want to check out this book:

The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds, by Alan E. Bernstein

Interesting overview/history of how and where beliefs about hell came about and grew/changed.