You are hereOtherworld Journey: The Origins of Hell in Christian Thought

Otherworld Journey: The Origins of Hell in Christian Thought

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By Jer - Posted on 16 June 2008

by Jeremy Lile
In the film Jurassic Park, scientists attempted to reconstruct the DNA of dinosaurs. When they couldn't come up with a complete model using the available material, they filled in the blanks with what they knew—the DNA from a frog. The results weren't pretty. We do something similar when we approach ancient texts that originated in another time and part of the world. Since we are not immersed in the culture of the original audience, we tend to fill in the blanks with our own cultural knowledge. As a result, the people we read about operate in hybrid world, a model comprised of both ancient and contemporary features.In the film Jurassic Park, scientists attempted to reconstruct the DNA of dinosaurs. When they couldn't come up with a complete model using the available material, they filled in the blanks with what they knew—the DNA from a frog. The results weren't pretty. We do something similar when we approach ancient texts that originated in another time and part of the world. Since we are not immersed in the culture of the original audience, we tend to fill in the blanks with our own cultural knowledge. As a result, the people we read about operate in hybrid world, a model comprised of both ancient and contemporary features.For example, the material culture of ancient Palestine was vastly different than ours. We know that Paul didn't preach in the shadow of high-rise office buildings with a sandwich board reading: “The end is near!” He didn't text Timothy with his cellphone. Paul never had a blog. These are anachronisms. However, when we read about husbands and wives in the Bible—social roles and their related concepts—we tend to view them like we view ourselves. These disparities are less apparent to many of us and, as a result, the cause of much misunderstanding. We rarely consider the significance of patrilocal living, endogamic marriage strategies, arranged marriage, or that the heads of households negotiated the marriage contract withan eye to political and economic gains. The failure to consider these culture-specific nuances and assuming our own values in their place is called ethnocentrism:

[E]thnocentrism is the belief that one's own culture is superior to others, which is often accompanied by a tendency to make invidious comparisons. In a weaker form, ethnocentrism is the tendency to look at other cultures through the filter of one's own cultural presuppositions. This can lead to a failure to appreciate the different frames of reference within which members of other cultures operate. . . i

It is the so-called “weaker form” that usually affects us. We make assumptions about other people and their concepts that they may not recognize as their own. But this is not a new phenomenon. People of the first century were just as likely to filter other cultures through their own presuppositions. Paul himself experienced this problem with Jew and Gentile converts; each group approached the Gospel from different cultural backgrounds (e.g., regard or lack thereof for various food laws, days, new moons, circumcision, etc).

From a social science perspective, the Gospel among the Greeks is itself an example of cultural diffusion. This is the process by which a trait, material object, idea (Gospel), or behavior pattern is spread from one society to another. In addition to missionaries like Paul, diffusion can occur when people from different cultures live in close proximity. They intermarry, exchange goods, technology, or even religion.

In this paper, we are going to examine how early post-biblical (note the prefix) Christians filtered New Testament eschatology through their own cultural presuppositions—those values and beliefs they had prior to contact with the Good News. Said another way, we are going to consider how the “weaker” form of ethnocentrism affected Christian thought, specifically the concept we now call hell. To establish a historical context, we will survey otherworld traditions from various times and places noting the diffusion of certain commonalities. We will find that there is a direct line from current notions of hell back to its origins in the mythological underworld. Based on the literary evidence, it is clear that post-biblical Christian writers in the Greco-Roman world combined elements of biblical eschatology with what we now call Classical Mythology. Although its sources have been sanitized by time and tradition, this is the hell that many of us read back into scripture. In other words, the ethnocentrism of early Greek Christians has become our own. But scripture paints a very different picture once our cultural presuppositions are exposed. We need to do a better job of filling in the blanks.

The Otherworld Journey

In many ancient cultures, the boundary between the world of the living and that of the dead was permeable. Otherworld journeys appear in many forms: Buddhist, Persian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Greco-Roman. For the Greeks, Hades was not a “spiritual” realm; it was believed to be accessible through various openings in the earth. In mythology, heroes would venture to the other side for a number of reasons. Orpheus went to Hades to retrieve his wife, Eurydice, who had died of a snake bite. One of Heracles' labors involved capturing Cerberus, the three-headed hound that guarded the entrance (and exit) of the underworld. Theseus and Perithous tried to kidnap Persephone, the wife of Hades, to make her Perithous' wife.

In Homer and Vergil, heroes visit the underworld as part of a larger quest. In the earliest Christian tradition, the otherworld is the main theme rather than a subsection of the story. These visions are eschatological—apocalyptic; they assume futurism. Medieval visions drew from the earlier pool of Christian and pagan otherworld journeys. They recount tales of torment in hell which were used for the edification of the church.

In many cases, especially in Christian writings, the soul of the visionary is separated from the body. The seer is usually accompanied by a guide who both informs and protects. Aeneas has the Sybil, Dante has Vergil. In Judeo-Christian otherworld journeys, the guide is typically an angel. In the literature that we will touch on, the otherworld geography (divisions of the righteous and sinners) is typically the same since they share common sources. Likewise, the vocabulary is common among them. Fire and torture are standard fare as is the recounting of sins committed. We'll encounter a few of the more famous sinners in a number different works dating from Homer up to and including pseudo-Pauline literature.

Concepts of the Otherworld in Early Hebrew Literature

The afterlife in the ancient world is a complex subject. There is no single view. Instead, various traditions mingle together throughout the centuries. Since the Hebrews were in direct contact with other cultures, they did have ample opportunity to incorporate foreign otherworld traditions into their concept of Sheol—whether Egyptian or Babylonian—but they resisted.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead was a handbook for the recently deceased. It served as a guide to the otherworld explaining the perils that one would encounter on the trek to judgment and beyond. At death, one's soul, depicted as a bird with a human head, and life force would be ferried across the sky toward the West by Agen and Mahaf in the boat of Ra. There were seven gates that one must pass, each with its own gatekeeper, watcher and herald. In order to pass the dead must consult his guidebook to evoke the names of each. After transversing the portals of the house of Osiris, Anubis, the Egyptian psychopomp (soul-conductor), would guide the deceased to the Hall of Justice. At this point, one can plead his case for continued existence before the judge Osiris. However, Thoh, the god of wisdom, acts as prosecutor, so dolts don't have much of a chance. At the close of the trial, Anubis will take the heart of the defendant and place it in the Scales of Justice. It is then weighed against a feather from the headdress of the goddess of truth, Maat. Should the scale fail to tip in the defendant's favor, Ammit, who crouched beneath the scale, would devour the heart. Such an outcome results in the end of one's existence. Other perils awaited those who passed, but we do not need to belabor the point: the Egyptian otherworld is not even close to Hebrew Sheol.

Gordon and Rendsburg note:

This fully developed [Egyptian] concept of a personal judgment, whereby each man enters paradise if his character and life on earth warrant it, appears quite remarkable when we consider that centuries later there was still no such idea in Mesopotamia and Israel. The Babylonians and Assyrians never developed it. And in Israel, throughout nearly all of the Bible, the afterworld was considered a dreary underground place called Sheol, where good and bad alike led an eventless existence. Indeed the later Jewish, Christian and Islamic concept of the afterlife, as one in which the individual is rewarded or punished depending on his early record, is more akin to Egyptian views than to those of the Hebrew Bible. ii

These so-called Egyptian elements are more recognizable to us in Grecian garb. As we shall see, both intertestamental Jewish and post-biblical Christian writings borrowed quite liberally from Greek mythology, which itself drew from Near Eastern sources.

Equally divergent from biblical Sheol is the epic of the mythical king of Uruk, Gilgamesh. The version presented here, compiled around one-thousand B.C., was discovered in the library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh; although fragments dating back to the second millennium B.C. are extant.

This tale gives a detailed account of the world beyond. Gilgamesh's companion Enkidu relates his vision of the underworld and its inhabitants, a premonition of his own death:

There is a house whose peoples sit in darkness; dust is their food and clay their meat. They are clothed like birds with wings for covering, they see no light, they sit in darkness. I entered the house of dust and I saw the kings of the earth, their crowns put away for ever; rulers and princes, all those who once wore kingly crowns and ruled the world in days of old. They who had stood in the place of the gods like Anu and Enlil, stood now like servants to fetch baked meats in the house of dust, to carry cooked meat and cold water from the water-skin. iii

Enkidu eventually met this fate. But Gilgamesh refused to bury his companion and instead lamented over his body for seven days and seven nights hoping that Enkidu would rise again. “Finally, after watching his body with pious devotion, he notices a worm on the corpse and realizes that death takes its victims beyond recall. The awful reality of death fills Gilgamesh with fear for, since he is not completely divine, he too must die. Hence he becomes obsessed with the drive to obtain immortality.” iv

The Hebrews rejected such otherworld notions—or at least did not record them as their own. In light of that statement, there is one biblical text that should be mentioned at this point.

Isaiah 14 contains the most explicit details of Sheol in the Old Testament—but is it really Sheol? Yahweh's prophet Isaiah was told to “taunt the king of Babylon” (Is 14.4), and, it would seem, he did so using Babylonian otherworld concepts.

Sheol below is stirred up about you, ready to meet you when you arrive. It rouses the spirits of the dead for you, all the former leaders of the earth; it makes all the former kings of the nations rise from their thrones. All of them respond to you, saying: 'You too have become weak like us! You have become just like us! Your splendor has been brought down to Sheol, as well as the sound of your stringed instruments. You lie on a bed of maggots, with a blanket of worms over you. (Net, Is. 14.9-11)

As in Gilgamesh, the kings of the earth have been made low; it is a reversal of fortunes. The Babylonian king was no more immortal than Gilgamesh, and he too would be food for worms. It would be a mistake to read the above as Isaiah's view of underworld. Isaiah's taunt no more reflects his infernology than the subsequent section reflects his ouranology. Read the former in light of the latter; these verses are contrasting Babylonian otherworld motifs:

Look how you have fallen from the sky, O shining one, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the ground, O conqueror of the nations! You said to yourself, “I will climb up to the sky. Above the stars of El I will set up my throne. I will rule on the mountain of assembly on the remote slopes of Zaphon. I will climb up to the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High!” But you were brought down to Sheol, to the remote slopes of the pit. (NET, Is. 14.12-15)

A little mythology is helpful here. In Ugaritic texts, Mount Zaphon is the equivalent of the Greek Mount Olympus; it was home of the gods. What is Isaiah saying? The would be god-king of Babylon desired to set himself on the sacred mountain, above the astral deities—on par with the “Most High,” which in this context refers to the god El.v Yet Isaiah insists that the arrogant king would be brought low, like his predecessors of old. Even Turner, whose work betrays an affinity for parallelomania, makes an insightful observation with reference to Isaiah 14: “Its message is exactly the same as the one Enkidu reported to Gilgamesh, that great kings are brought low in Ereshkigal's [underworld] domain. Indeed, in sending the Babylonian king to a Babylonian Hell, the prophet appears to be making a grim joke.” vi We are inclined to agree. After all, the prophet was instructed to “taunt the king of Babylon.” “This song uses the metric pattern of a dirge but parodies the genre by mocking rather than eulogizing the dead.” vii It is unwise to build an “underworld” doctrine around parody. Isaiah, like Elijah among the prophets of Baal, was being cheeky.

In contrast to the above, the Hebrew concept of Sheol is unique—and relatively nondescript by Ancient Near Eastern standards. Walton comments: “[Sheol] has no known antecedent in other cultures or religions of the ancient world. . .” viii He summarizes the Hebrew netherworld:

  1. Those in Sheol were viewed as separated from God (Pss. 6:6; 88:3, 10-12; Isa. 38:18), though as previously mentioned, God has access to Sheol.

  2. Sheol is never referred to as the abode of the wicked alone.

  3. While Sheol is never identified as the place where all go, the burden of proof rests on those who suggest that there was an alternative.

  4. Sheol is a place of negation: no possessions, memory, knowledge, joy

  5. It is not viewed as a place where judgment or punishment takes place, though it is considered an act of God's judgment to be sent there rather than remaining alive. Thus, it is inaccurate to translate sheol as “hell,” as the latter is by definition a place of punishment.

  6. There is no reference suggesting varying compartments in Sheol. “Deepest” Sheol (e.g., Deut. 32:22) refers to its location (“beneath”) rather than a lower compartment. ix

This summary is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of Sheol. We mention these features (or lack of features) because there is a stark contrast between Old Testament Sheol and the explicit details we will encounter in the texts to follow—not to mention what we have encountered already. In other words, in this presentation we are more concerned with what Sheol was not rather than what it was. There are no hints of division based moral code, or soul guides (psychopomps), or underworld travelers, or rewards and punishments. At this point, we may note that the Hebrew view of the otherworld was neutral.

Concepts of the Otherworld in Greek Literature

Homer's underworld is also what we might call neutral. The fate of all was the same. Or as Lucian through Menippus phrased it: “Hades is a democracy; one man is as good as another here.” x When people died: “Their souls passed beneath the earth and went down into the house of Hades; but their bones, when the skin is rotted about them, crumble away on the dark earth under parching Sirius.” xi Hermes, as the conductor of souls, or psychopomp, would ensure that the recently deceased found their way to the underworld.

In Book XI of the Odyssey, the hero Odysseus gains access to the world of the dead by means of animal sacrifice. The souls of men and women emerge and make their way to the sacrificial trench to drink the blood of the animal, thereby gaining the strength to speak. Many of Odysseus' companions who had fallen in the Trojan War appear—still wearing their armor, still bloody. Their existence is cheerless, but not torturous.

Certain mortals could escape this fate, if they happened to be related to Zeus—either by birth or by marriage. For example, Menelaus would not taste death as he was the husband of Helen, Zeus' daughter. The gods would instead transport him to the Elysium, also called the Isles of the Blessed, which were believed to be far in the West at this time. There Menelaus would enjoy immortality without snow, or hail, or rain, or hard labor—just a pleasant wind “that sings softly from the sea, and gives fresh life to all men.” Sounds a lot like Hawaii. (Odyssey 4.563)

Meanwhile, back at the sacrificial trench, Odysseus does see certain beings who are undergoing punishment. Even if this portion is not a later interpolation, those who are being punished are of divine decent: Tantalus and the “tantalizing” feast and drink that are eternally just out of reach, Sisyphus who roles a great stone up a hill only to have it roll down again, and the Titan Tityus stretched out over several acres of ground while vultures dig at his liver. Yet for the vast majority of mortals, from the hoi polloi to heroes, the afterlife was neutral.

However, the underworld began to take on a more sinister character. Ironically, Homer and Hesiod are victims of this branch of otherworld tradition. They do not experience the neutral existence that they espoused. Recounting an otherworld journey, Diogenes Laertius reports that “when [Pythagoras] descended to the shades below, he saw the soul of Hesiod bound to a brazen pillar and gibbering; and that of Homer suspended from a tree, and snakes around it, as a punishment for the things that they had said of the gods.” xii Here we see the influence of the Eleusinian Mysteries and 'Orphism.' The afterlife is no longer neutral as one now had the opportunity to secure a better existence—and avoid punishment—either by devoting oneself to a god (or goddesses), initiation, or, in Plato's view, through the pursuit of wisdom.


Many details of mystery cult rituals are lost to us. Martin notes, “The most eloquent proof of the sanctity attached to the Mysteries of Demeter and Kore is that throughout the thousand years during which the rites were celebrated, we know of no one who ever revealed the secret.” xiii

Demeter was a fertility goddess. In Latin, she was known as Ceres, from which we get the word cereal. Her daughter Persephone (Kore, or maiden) was abducted by Hades, god of the underworld, and taken below to be his bride. Demeter searched and searched for Persephone but could not find her. During her quest the earth went barren. Eventually, Zeus intervened, even though he was an accomplice to the kidnapping. But Hades was sneaky. He gave Persephone a pomegranate to eat which, for whatever reason, meant should could not leave the underworld forever. As a result, Demeter and Hades shared “joint custody” of Persephone. Part of the year, the earth produced its crops—when Persephone was with Demeter. The other part of the year, the land would be barren—when Persephone was with Hades in the underworld. xiv

This etiologcial myth was also the basis for the celebrations in Eleusis. Despite the secretiveness of the rites, their influence was widespread: “So important were the Eleusinian Mysteries that the states of Greece honored an international agreement setting a period of fifty-five days for guaranteed safe transit through their territories for travelers to and from the festival.” xv

We know that the aim of such festivities, at least in part, was to secure a better existence in the afterlife. Burkert wrote:

The Hipponion gold leaf. . .depicts [initiates] and [worshipers of Dionysus] in the netherworld proceeding on the sacred way toward eternal bliss, just as the Eleusinian [initiates] are still celebrating their joyous festival in Hades, according to Aristophanes' Frogs. . .

Initiation was the way to go if one wished to secure a better death after life:

“Happy they all on account of the [initiation ceremony] that free from suffering,” Pindar says in one of his Dirges. xvi

But those who failed to be initiated in life were doomed to such vain labors as carrying water in a sieve.


In the Republic, Plato recounts how at the doors of the rich

wandering priests and seers present a hubbub of books Musaios and Orpheus, offspring of the Moon and the Muses, as they say, by which they conduct sacrifice [bloodless, no doubt], persuading not just individuals but also cities that there are forms of release and purifications from wrongdoing through sacrifices and play, effective both during life and also after death; they call initiations—they free us from evil there [in the underworld], but if we do not sacrifice a terrible fate awaits us. xvii

Sophocles paints a similar picture:

Thrice blessed are those mortals who witness these rites before passing to Hades. To them alone is life granted there; for the rest there is nothing but evil. xviii

Plato's take is somewhat different in that philosophy rather than initiation is the means to a rewarding afterlife. Plato's view assumes the immortality of the soul and its cyclical rebirth. The Vision of Er illuminates the process of the soul's search for truth. Er died in battle, but he woke up twelve days later on his funeral pyre. He then reported all that his soul had seen and heard in his otherworld journey. To briefly summarize: When a person dies, his soul is chastised for wrongful deeds with an aim toward purification. “. . .for every wrong which they had done to any one they suffered tenfold.” xix But their punishment is corrective, and temporary. xx Those who are curable receive their due penalty and, when the cycle is complete, attempt to choose a better existence in the next reincarnation. After a drink from the river Lethe (Forgetfulness), the soul is off to a new body.

The lover of wisdom can escape this cycle and, ultimately, the prison of the body. However, the incurably wicked are taken out of the cycle and cast into in Tartarus. Eternal torment, which was reserved for Titans and descendants of the gods in the poets, has been opened up for mortals—those “private individuals who had become great criminals.” xxi Punishments include being bound, flayed, dragged along the roadside, and carded on horns like wool. Here, unlike Homer, we have a distinction based on a moral code as well as reward and punishment.

Concepts of the Otherworld in Latin Literature

The Aeneid of Vergil, from the first century B.C., incorporates several of the elements discussed thus far. Like Odysseus, Aeneas performs an animal sacrifice to gain access to the underworld. Guided by the Cumaean Sibyl, Aeneas is witness to three divisions of the hereafter. In one location, we find the souls of infants, those who were condemned to die under false accusations, and other innocents who are neither blessed nor cursed. This is the neutral existence in the spirit of Homer. Aeneas also finds those who are undergoing punishment in Tartarus, both Titans and mortals. Being a decent fellow, Aeneas was forbidden to step foot into the pit of despair, but he was allowed to look through the open gate. He saw the usual suspects like Sisyphus and Tantalus, both of whom we will encounter yet again—in Christian works. The Sybil explains: “Even if I had a hundred tongues, a hundred mouths and a voice of iron, I yet could not include every shape of crime or list every punishment's name.” xxii Vergil's separation of the righteous and the wicked recalls the moral element that was present in both Plato and the mysteries. In fact, the crimes listed by both Plato and Vergil are essentially the same: dishonoring one's parents or lineage, betrayal, murder, etc.

The virtuous escape this unpleasantness and enjoy blessedness in the Elysian Fields. Anchises, Aeneas' father, resides here even though he was a mortal and not related to Zeus. The standards for admission have become more relaxed at this later date. Anchises tells his son that before a soul can be admitted to Elysium, it must be cleansed through punishment by means of wind, water or fire. When a thousand years of bliss has passed, the soul is made to drink from the river Lethe (Forgetfulness), so that it begins to long for a body again. Obviously, Vergil owes much to Plato's Myth of Er.

Summary of Hades

Greek and Latin views of the afterlife were varied and complex. We find everything from nothingness, which we did not discuss, to reincarnation with rewards and punishments sprinkled in between. This is only a sampling of the available literature, but these works are well-known and their influence will be seen as we progress. At the moment, we can summarize some of the key features:

The Underworld in Greek Literature

The Underworld in the Hebrew Bible

Hades is the abode of the dead

Sheol is the abode of the dead

Psychopomp leads the dead to Hades

There is a great gulf, Tartarus

Divisions for the virtuous and sinners

Rewards and punishment

Underworld is visited in otherworld journeys

Concepts of the Otherworld in Later Jewish Literature

The notion of the otherworld in Greek and Latin literature is certainly more explicit in its details than the Hebrew Bible. A comparative study of Hades in Jewish sources after Alexander's conquest betrays the fact that the later Hebrew underworld had more in common with Greek Hades than Hebrew Sheol. For the Hebrews, cultural diffusion had more of an impact than ethnocentrism. That is, rather than overlaying biblical Sheol on Hades, Hades supplanted the biblical view of Sheol. As a result, the vagueness of Sheol in the Hebrew Bible is embellished during this period. Hebrew writers borrow terms, stories, and various themes from Greek writers to fill in the blanks left by their own countrymen. The otherworld journey is one of the duplicated themes.

I Enoch (Second Century BC – First Century AD) contains many traces of Greek myth. In this tale Enoch takes an otherworld journey guided by angelic beings—an event, of course, which is completely unaccounted for in the Hebrew scriptures. The story certainly contains Jewish features, but the contact with other sources is plain.

Charles notes:

[Chapters 17-19] . . . are full of Greek elements, e.g. Pyriphlegethon, Styx, Acheron and Cocytus (xvii. 5, 6); the Ocean Stream (xvii. 5, 7, 8; xviii. 10); Hades in the West (xvii. 6). xxiii

These rivers, of course, are in the Greek underworld, not Sheol.

The author of Enoch spends several chapters retelling of the Genesis 6 material—the sons of God mating with the daughters of men and their offspring. This obscure section of Genesis is rewritten in great detail. Actually, “rewritten” may not be the correct word—perhaps “merged” is better.

One of the more obvious additions is the role of Azazel, a great angel, who is called on the carpet for his part in corrupting mankind at this early stage. Azazel is said to have “taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them...” (8:1) God was not pleased that the great angel had given mankind this knowledge. Enoch proclaimed this against Azazel: “...a severe sentence has gone forth [from God] to put you in bonds.” (13:1) His liver wasn't pecked out, but the similarities between Azazel and Prometheus are evident. Prometheus stole more than fire. In addition to the gifts attributed to Azazel by author(s) of Enoch, the Titan also gave mankind medicine, interpretation of dreams, and enlightenment. Prometheus extols his deeds in Aeschylus' play Prometheus Bound:

Beneath the earth, man's hidden blessing, copper, iron, silver, and gold – will anyone claim to have discovered them before I did? No one, I am very sure, who wants to speak truly and to the purpose. One brief word will tell the whole story: all arts that mortals have come from Prometheus. xxiv

Prometheus angered Zeus with his gifts to mankind. Prometheus, like Azazel, was bound as a result. However, Azazel was not bound to a rock but in a great abyss, as were the Titans.

On that same note, in Chapter 20 of I Enoch we find mention of that titanic prison, Tartarus. We can add to this growing list of filched features the three divisions of the dead, as in Vergil, accompanied by the torment of the wicked:

Here their spirits shall be set apart in this great pain, till the great day of judgement, scourgings, and torments of the accursed for ever, so that (there may be) retribution for their spirits. (32.11)

The virtuous live uptown—with bright lights and a stream of water. Collins tells us that the spring of water and light are Orphic motifs.xxv Concerning the virtuous in the underworld, Aristophanes wrote:

We alone have sunshine (in the underworld) and bright light, we who have been initiated and who behaved with piety toward guests and ordinary people. (Aristophanes Frogs 454-9) xxvi

Charles also recognizes other foreign influences in I Enoch:

[Chapter 22] contains a very detailed account of Sheol or Hades. The writer places it in the far west, as the Babylonians, Greeks, and Egyptians did, and not in the underworld, as the Hebrews. In all other sections of Enoch the Hebrew view prevails. This is the earliest statement of the Pharisaic or Chasid doctrine of Sheol, but here it is already fullgrown. The departed have conscious existence, and moral, not social distinctions are observed in Sheol. xxvii

In other words, this version of Sheol is not the biblical version of Sheol. This is clear evidence that the author's of I Enoch borrowed quite liberally—and unabashedly—from various traditions, especially the Greeks. In other words, Hades and Tartarus are not just a loanwords. In this work, they retain many of their original features.

I Enoch is not the only Jewish otherworldly tale. The Apocalypse Of Zephaniah (First Century BC – First Century AD) also contains a Jewish nekyia. Punishment is a major theme in this tale, too. Angels take on the role of psychopomp, guiding souls to their final destination. Much like Hades himself, there is a great angel, Eremiel, who “rules over the abyss and Hades.” (6:15) While making preparations for a river journey in the underworld, the seer's guide exclaims, “Triumph, prevail because you have prevailed and have triumphed over the accuser, and you have come up from Hades and the abyss. You will now cross over the crossing place.” (7:9) On the other side of the crossing place, on the good side, stands Abraham along with other heroes from Israel's past.(9:4-5) It is a Hebrew work, but it incorporates all of the Hadean features we have discussed. In other words, this is not Old Testament Sheol either.

The Underworld in Late Jewish Literature

The Underworld in Greek Literature

Hades is the abode of the dead

Hades is the abode of the dead

Psychopomp leads the dead to Hades

Psychopomp leads the dead to Hades

There is a great gulf, Tartarus

There is a great gulf, Tartarus

Divisions for the virtuous and sinners

Divisions for the virtuous and sinners

Rewards and eternal conscious torment

Rewards and eternal conscious torment

Underworld is visited in otherworld journeys

Underworld is visited in otherworld journeys

Concepts of the Otherworld in Luke 16

At this point, we should mention the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, which begins in Luke 16:19. Give it read. There are some obvious parallels between its features and the those we've just outlined including: Hades, psychopomps, a great gulf, divisions, and reward and punishment. Why is this parable in a different category than the otherworld visions we have considered up to this point?

Let me begin with an anecdote: in the animated film A Bug's Life, the character Dot, who happens to be an ant, is upset because she is young, small and unable to do some things bigger bugs can do. Flik, a wiser and older ant, attempts to teach her a lesson by way of allegory. Picking up a rock, he says:

Flik: Here, pretend this is a seed.

Dot: But it's a rock.

Flik: I know, I know, but let's for a minute pretend it's a seed, lets use our imaginations. You see our tree? Everything that is in that giant tree is contained inside this tiny seed. All it needs is some time, a little sunshine and rain, and voilá!

Dot: This rock will be a tree?

Flik: Seed to tree, you have to stay with me. Now, it may seem that you can't do anything, but that's just because you're not a tree yet. You just have to give yourself more time. You're still a seed.

Dot: But it's a rock.

Flik: [shouting] I know it's a rock! Don't you think I know a rock when I see a rock? I've spent a lot of time around rocks!

Dot: You're weird, but I like you.

Dot just couldn't get past the surface imagery to see the true message that Flik was trying to get across. Sometimes a rock isn't a rock.

Some of us do the same thing with Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Yet the surface imagery in a parable signifies something other than itself. As Jesus said, “To what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use to present it?” (Mark 4:30) For example, in Matthew 13 the “tares” stand for the “sons of the evil one.” The “wheat” stands for “sons of the kingdom.” According to Jesus' interpretation, the parable of the tares among the wheat is not about agriculture. Likewise, the parable of the landowner in Matthew 21 is not about tenant farming or how to handle delinquent accounts. (Give it a read, too.)

So why is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus different? Why do people take this as Jesus' “doctrine” of the underworld? Jesus' use of mythology in this parable is not tacit consent to the existence of such a place. (Remember Isaiah 14?) If it is, then we should apply the same standard to other parables. Where can we find the landowner's parabolic vineyard—the one with the fence, winepress, and watchtower from Matthew 21:33f?

Of course, the “meaning” of a parable is not on the surface. Jesus' disciples asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (Matthew 13.10) How did he reply? “You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but they have not.” (Matthew 13.11) If the meaning is on the surface, it isn't much of a secret. Peter, Paul and Mary said something similar: “but if I really say it/the radio won't play it/unless I lay it between the lines.” So while some in Jesus' audience got hung up on the finer points of agriculture, tenant farming, or mythology, those with insight could pick up on what he was putting down: “But your eyes are blessed because they see, and your ears because they hear.” (Matthew 13:16, NET) Thus, parables may be confusing—even misleading—to some, but instructive to others.

In Luke 16:31, Jesus makes his point explicitly: “If they do not respond to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a lesson about Israel, not the geography of Hades or elucidation of the so-called intermediate state. If one is looking at the surface of Jesus' parables, then one has missed the point—much like Dot and the rock-seed debacle. Doctrine should be culled from the epistles and not the imagery of parables—especially when Jesus does not interpret the figures. (Augustine did not follow this advice, see note xlvii.) As we'll see shortly, the epistles flatly contradict some of the “doctrine” that has been read into this parable.

Some may object to the suggestion that Jesus used myth to illustrate his point. However, Jesus was not alone in this. Paul likewise borrowed from myth to suite his purposes. In Acts 17:26-29, Paul, using the alter 'To an unknown god' as a segue, stood before the Athenians in the Areopagus and said:

From one man ['the unknown God'] made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move about and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we too are his offspring.' So since we are God's offspring, we should not think the deity is like gold or silver or stone, an image made by human skill and imagination.

The first portion of verse 28, in italics, is a quote from Epimenides; a Cretan philosopher, poet and prophet. The second portion of verse 28, also in italics, is from the Phaenomena of Aratus. In their original contexts, both of these lines refer Zeus. Paul hijacked the poets praise of Zeus and applied those lines to the God of Israel, the “unknown God.” Of course, Paul was not confirming the existence of Zeus by quoting poets who lauded the Olympian's virtues. No one ever accuses him of such. Why is Jesus different? Surely, Jesus was not substantiating Grecian notions of the underworld (which had been diffused into Judaism) by using such themes in a parable about Israel. Both Jesus and Paul used myth to suite to their purposes—yet neither apply the stamp of truth to myth. They used myth to illustrate the truth.

In the next section, we will discover that post-biblical Christian writers incorporated many of the Grecian underworld features found in Luke 16.19-31. There is one significant difference between Jesus' story and otherworld journeys of subsequent Christian literature: Since the tale of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable, xxviii the details are not presented as “fact” as is the case with otherworld journeys in, for example, pseudo-apocalypses or Medieval visions.

Two final points: Even if one chooses to disregard what has been said up to this point regarding the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, there is nothing in the text to suggest that their respective states were to be eternal. There is nothing in the text about their fate post-70 AD. Simply put: this text in no way teaches eternal conscious torment.

Concepts of the Otherworld in Early Christian Literature

We have already seen how effectively the writers of I Enoch and the The Apocalypse of Zephaniah had assimilated material from the mythology of the Greeks. The acceptance of Grecian underworld tradition to such an extent is really quite remarkable as cultural diffusion must first overcome one's resistance to change. On the other hand, ethnocentrism in its so-called “weaker form” is passive. Consequently, ethnocentrism is both easier to apply and harder for the individual to recognize as it happens. So then, it is no surprise that post-biblical Christian writers failed to completely jettison some notions they had prior to conversion. Christian eschatology was often filtered through both philosophy and mythology. In fact, the otherworld journey made a seamless transition into Christian writings. We will consider three very influential examples of the otherworld journey in Christian literature; The Apocalypse of Peter (c.130), The Apocalypse of Paul (c. 380), The Gospel of Nicodemus (late 3rd century).

Regarding Nicodemus, James comments:

The central idea, the delivery of the righteous Fathers from Hades, is exceedingly ancient. Second-century writers are full of it. The embellishments, the dialogues of Satan with Hades, which are so dramatic, come in later, perhaps with the development of pulpit oratory among Christians. We find them in fourth-century homilies attributed to Eusebius of Emesa. xxix

Acts 2.27, 31 Note on 1 Peter 3.19 xxx must have paved the way for the “Descent into Hell” contained in Nicodemus. Peter quotes David saying, “. . .because you will not leave my soul in Hades, nor permit your Holy One to experience decay.” Of course, since Peter is quoting the Old Testament, 'Hades' here stands for 'Sheol' and not the Greek underworld. But that didn't stop the author(s) of Nicodemus from turning Jesus into an otherworld traveler, a role similar to those of Heracles and Orpheus before him. In this tale, Jesus goes down to the Greek version of Hades to rescue the saints of old. After learning of Jesus' death and his true identity, Hades (the god, Zeus' brother) says to Satan, “I adjure thee by the powers which belong to thee and me, that thou bring him not to me.” (Hone, 15.16) Apparently, Satan has assumed Hermes' role as psychopomp. But it was too late. For while Satan and Hades were stilling talking, Jesus arrived at the gate and said, “Lift up your gates, O ye princes; and be ye lift up, O everlasting gates, and the King of Glory shall come in.” (Hone, 16.1) Hades orders the brass gate to be reinforced, but it's no use. Jesus appears in their midst and breaks the chains of Death (a minor god) that had held the patriarchs captive. Jesus then ushers them to paradise, the garden of Eden.

This tale has had considerable influence over the centuries:

Art and literature all through Europe had from early times embodied in many forms the Descent into Hell, and specimens plays upon this theme in various European literatures still exist, but it is in Middle English dramatic literature that we find the fullest and most dramatic development of the subject. The earliest specimen extant of the English religious drama is upon the Harrowing of Hell, and the four great cycles of English mystery plays each devote to it a separate scene. It is found also in the ancient Cornish plays. These medieval versions of the story, while ultimately based upon the New Testament and the Fathers, have yet, in their details, been found to proceed from the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, the literary form of a part of which is said to date back to the second of third century. In its Latin form this "gospel" was known in England from a very early time; Bede and other Old English writers are said to show intimate acquaintance with it. English translations were made of it in the Middle Ages, and in the long Middle English poem known as "Cursor Mundi" a paraphrase of it is found. xxxi

While the Gospel of Nicodemus attempts to focus on the positive side of Jesus' work, the apocalypses have a much different tone. These versions of the otherworld journey have a tendency to be much more graphic—not to mention cruel and unusual—than their predecessors.

The Apocalypse of Peter is a vision that allegedly occurred at the time of the Transfiguration. Jesus plays the role of guide in this tale. Bernstein summarizes:

The Apocalypse of Peter emphasizes the consequences of sin far more than those of faith. Further, torments that are summed up in one word in the New Testament are elaborated here in dramatic detail. The fire of Gehenna mentioned by Jesus in Mark 9:48 is expanded far beyond Revelation's lake of fire, into burning coals, fire poured down throats, chains of fire, and rays of fire that go forth from aborted fetuses to smite their mother's eyes. The worm from the same passage in Mark is here applied to entrails and female breasts. Also varying the biblical idea of fiery punishment with a new specificity come the molten idols, the heated pebbles, the glowing rods and pokers. The Apocalypse of Peter interprets the generic fire of the Bible and applies it to individual uses, making it more concrete. xxxii

Additional features of this apocalypse include people hanged by their tongues over pits of fire. Men who committed fornication are hanged by their... not their tongues. The victims of murder watch angels torment their slayers. People are boiled in mire. The women who are being tormented by their aborted children sit in a pool of excrement. Hot irons are poked in peoples' eyes. Others are roasted. Lips are cut off. There are those who are bound and chastised “with a multitude of wounds which flesh-devouring birds shall inflict upon them,” similar to both Tityus and Prometheus. The author also borrows from Sisyphus' tale, whom we met in Homer and Vergil. xxxiii Other Greek elements include a river of fire, psychopomps, and the Elysian Fields. xxxiv Hopefully, the author's sources are readily apparent. These are not tenuous parallels.

The Apocalypse of Peter was a source for the Apocalypse of Paul, an extended account of what the apostle allegedly saw when he was caught up to the third heaven. The relevant features of this apocalypse include the usual suspects: a river of fire, Tartarus, and psychopomps. Also, angels execute a number of ghastly punishments such as piercing the bowels of old men with a trident, pelting men with stones, cutting off lips and tongues with a fiery razor. And the obligatory undying worms (which ate corpses in Isaiah) eat people from the inside out.

This is not a place described by the Bible. It is the stuff of myth. We mentioned that the punishment of Sisyphus was recast in the Apocalypse of Peter. Tantalus makes an uncredited appearance in theApocalypse of Paul.

And I observed and saw others hanging over a channel of water, and their tongues were very dry, and many fruits were placed in their sight, and they were not permitted to take of them. . . xxxv

This will sound familiar to readers of the Odyssey:

And I saw Tantalus too, bearing endless torture.
He stood erect in a pool as the water lapped his chin--
parched, he tried to drink, but he could not reach the surface,

no, time and again the old man stooped, craving a sip,

time and again the water vanished, swallowed down,

laying bare the caked black earth at his feet--

some spirit drank it dry. And over his head

leafy trees dangled their fruit from high aloft,

pomegranates and pears, and apples glowing red,

succulent figs and olives swelling sleek and dark,

but as soon as the old man would strain to clutch them fast

a gust would toss them up to the lowering dark clouds.

The similarities between the earliest and most detailed treatment of hell in Christian literature betrays its sources at nearly every opportunity. These are not spurious parallels:

The Underworld in Post-Biblical Christian Literature

The Underworld in Greek Literature

Hades is the abode of the dead

Hades is the abode of the dead

Psychopomp leads the dead to Hades

Psychopomp leads the dead to Hades

There is a great gulf, Tartarus

There is a great gulf, Tartarus

Divisions for the virtuous and sinners, Tartarus and Elysian Fields

Divisions for the virtuous and sinners, Tartarus and Elysian Fields

Rewards and eternal conscious torment

Rewards and eternal conscious torment

Sisyphean and Tantalizing punishments take place

Sisyphus and Tantalus are punished

Underworld is visited in otherworld journeys

Underworld is visited in otherworld journeys

So what? Who care about these bogus apocalypses? Listen to the influence these tales had:

[The Apocalypse of Peter] was well-known in early Christianity; some counted it among the New Testament Scriptures.[xxxvii] Eventually, though, it came to be excluded from the canon, in part because Christians realized that it was pseudonymous. Even then, however, the book continued to exercise significant influence on Christian thought. This is the first Christian writing to describe a journey through hell and heaven, an account that inspired a large number of successors, including, ultimately, Dante's Divine Comedy. xxxviii

This vision of hell was considered scripture for a time. The mythic underworld of the Greeks—with its Sisyphean tasks, Clive Barker-style torments, psychopomps, Elysian Fields—was counted as sacred truth. James notes, “. . . [The Apocalypse of Peter ranked next in popularity and probably also in date to the Canonical Apocalypse of St. John.” xxxix Though the Apocalypse of Peter did fall out of favor as an inspired work, its innovating doctrine of hell and eternal torment (torture) did not.

The influence of the Apocalypse of Paul has also had a significant impact on our thinking.

[The Apocalypse of Paul] became quite popular in Western Christianity, and was responsible for propagating many of the wide-spread notions of heaven and hell that have come down even till today. xl

The apocalypses of Peter and Paul, which ultimately derive their material from myth, were the inspiration for numerous otherworld visions in the middle ages which highlighted the torments of hell. xli

Gardiner comments:

These [Medieval otherworld] 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. They were obviously used as didactic pieces in the church and were therefore actively preserved and disseminated. xlii

This is really quite startling: these otherworld journeys depicting the punishments of hell and conscious torment—imitating the pseudo-apocalypses and, ultimately, myth—were used as teaching material in the church. They were presented as fact! Their purpose is explained in a vision of Gregory the Great:

We can learn from this that when the torments of hell are shown to men and women, sometimes it is for their own benefit and sometimes as a witness for others. They first may see those miseries in order to avoid them; and the others may see them to be punished even more because they would not learn from the torments that they both knew and saw with their own eyes. xliii

“Terrify to edify” was the rule of the day.

Though many Christians have never heard of the Gospel of Nicodemus or the Apocalypse of Peter or the Apocalypse of Paul, they have accepted their mythic themes that have been assimilated by “orthodox” Christianity. Recall the ghastly tortures of burning coals, boiling mire, roastings, men hanged by their loins, and torment at the hands of evil angels contained in these works. Even Charles H. Spurgeon was touched by the influence of myth and pseudo-apocalypse. He warned a London audience of the torments to come:

Thine heart beating high with fever, thy pulse rattling at an enormous rate in agony, thy limbs crackling like the martyrs in the fire and yet unburnt, thyself put in a vessel of hot oil, pained yet coming out undestroyed, all thy veins becoming a road for the hot feet of pain to travel on, every nerve a string on which the devil shall ever play his diabolical tune. xliv

This is eloquently worded and frightening, but we can find nothing of this sort in scripture. These heinous torments are pure fiction, but they have nevertheless been perpetuated for centuries: from Plato to Vergil to Augustine to Gregory the Great to the Reformers to Spurgeon on down to various denominations.

We mentioned previously the stark contrast between the OT view of the otherworld and what we have encountered in Greek, Latin and later Jewish writings. There is also a stark contrast between the NT and what we have read in the pseudo-apocalypses, Medieval writings, and even Spurgeon. What does scripture actually say? Even if one should choose to adopt a futurist eschatology and apply the following passages to a yet-to-be postmortem judgment, the “end” is a far cry from what Spurgeon and others have envisioned—and quite bland by some standards:

They will undergo the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength (2TH 1:19)

. . .and by not being intimidated in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of their destruction, but of your salvation– a sign which is from God. (Phi 1:28)

Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, they exult in their shame, and they think about earthly things. (Phi 3:19)

But we are not among those who shrink back and thus perish, but are among those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Heb 10:39)

But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. . . they will bring swift destruction on themselves. (2Pe 2:1)

Of course, the inherent immortality of the soul was a necessity in Plato's model of punishment—which was smuggled into Christianity by men like Origenxlv and Augustinexlvi. However, Paul challenges Plato on two fronts: the fate of the wicked, already mentioned, and immortality. Man is not inherently immortal:

[God] alone possesses immortality and lives in unapproachable light, whom no human has ever seen or is able to see. To him be honor and eternal power! Amen. (1Ti 6:16)

Immortality, which God alone possesses, is a gift according to Paul:

God will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness. (Romans 2:6-8)

Man is not immortal, neither is God the Cosmic Sadist. Immortality does not accompany “wrath and anger” in verse 8 of Romans 2. But for many of us, the imagery of Luke 16:19f trumps Paul.xlvii

So where did the notion of eternal conscious torment come from? Myth. And it is high-time that we “demythologize” our traditions. Hospitality and Judgment in the Gospel of Matthew will attempt to do just that.


We have surveyed a number of otherworld journeys from various times and cultures noting commonalities: psychopomps, Tartarus, Elysian Fields, reward and punishment in the form of conscious torment, and famous sinners. These details supplanted the vagueness of OT Sheol during the intertestamental period through the process of cultural diffusion. It was even easier for Greco-Roman authors to view the Christian scriptures through their own frame of reference—that is, ethnocentrism is easier to apply than cultural diffusion is to accept. Accordingly, Homer, Plato and Vergil were combined with futurist Christian eschatology to create the otherworld journeys of pseudo-apocalypses. Although these writings eventually fell out of favor, the pseudo-apocalypses have had significant influence on the church's doctrine of hell. The Medieval church, drawing from a long history of predecessors, presented their own otherworld journeys to be “fact,” unlike the parabolic underworld of Luke 16.19f. These horrific Medieval tales of torture were used for didactic purposes to “edify” congregants. Over time, myth has become sanitized by tradition and accepted as truth. And now we read our tradition, that is, myth, back into scripture without giving it a second thought—repeating the same mistake post-biblical writers made. However, if one cares to investigate, the origins of hell and its mythic roots in the otherworld journey are easy enough to find. Of course, that search begins outside of our sacred texts.

The origins of hell in pagan literature and its reliance on futurist eschatology should cause us to reexamine our own notions of resurrection and judgment in a preterist framework. Let us not be among those who display a “failure to appreciate the different frames of reference within which members of other cultures operate.” In other words, don't filter scripture through Classical Mythology. Reframing our understanding of such “end time” themes in light of preterist eschatology is not only legitimate but necessary. In the next session, we will attempt to demonstrate how this might be done. In Hospitality and Judgment in the Gospel of Matthew, we will first establish the cultural and historical context for one famous judgment scene and then offer an interpretation that counters both futurist eschatology and myth.


i Rhum, Michael. “ethnocentrism.” The Dictionary of Anthropology. Ed. Thomas Barfield. Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 1997.

ii Gordon, Cyrus H. and Rendsburg, Gary A. The Bible and the Ancient Near East. 4th Ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997. 60.

iii Sandars, N.K. (Translator). The Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: Penguin Group, 1972. 92.

iv Gordon, Cyrus H. and Rendsburg, Gary A. The Bible and the Ancient Near East. 4th Ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997. 46-47.

v See the note in The IVP Background Commentary: Old Testament, 604 for similar details. Some commentators object to this approach noting that there is no single extant myth that corresponds to Isaiah's tale in all points.

vi Turner, Alice. The History of Hell. Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1995. 41.

vii Walton, John H., Victor H. Matthew, and Mark W. Chavalas. The IVP Background Commentary: Old Testament. Downers Groove: IVP Academic, 2000. 602

viii Walton, John H. Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006. 320.

ix Ibid. 321.

x Lucian. Dialogues of the Dead. 30

xi Hesiod. The Shield of Heracles. 139-153

xii Diogenes Laertius. Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. 8.21

xiii Martin, Thomas R. Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996. 129.

xiv We find similar themes in the Descent of Ishtar from Sumer.

xv Ibid.

xvi Burkert, Walter. Ancient Mystery Cults. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005. 22

xvii Quoted in Parker, Robert. “Early Orphism.” The Greek World. Ed. Anton Powell. New York: Routledge, 1995. 483.

xviii Ibid. 503.

xix Plato. Rebublic. 10.615

xx Augustine adopted a similar view: But temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But of those who suffer temporary punishments after death, all are not doomed to those everlasting pains which are to follow that judgment; for to some, as we have already said, what is not remitted in this world is remitted in the next, that is, they are not punished with the eternal punishment of the world to come. City of God, 21.13

xxi Plato. Rebublic. 10.615

xxii Knight, W.F. Jackson (Translator). The Aeneid. Penguin Classics, 1956. 166.

xxiii Charles, R.H. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Volume Two: Pseudepigrapha. Berkeley: Apocryphile Press, 2004. 199.

xxiv Aeschylus. “Prometheus Bound” Aeschylus I. Ed. David Greene and Richard Lattimore. New York: Modern Library, 1943. 220-221.

xxv Collins, John J. The Apocalyptic Imagination. 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. and Livonia: Dove Book Sellers, 1998. 57.

xxvi Quoted in Parker, Robert. “Early Orphism.” The Greek World. Ed. Anton Powell. New York: Routledge, 1995. 503.

xxvii Charles, R.H. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Volume Two: Pseudepigrapha. Berkeley: Apocryphile Press, 2004. 202.

xxviii The fact that Luke 16.19-31 is a parable is clear from the formulaic opening line: “There was a certain rich man. . .” The fact the Lazarus is named provides us with additional insights. Even though the rich man knew Lazarus' name, the poor fellow still sat at the rich man's gate uncared for. The rich man failed to live up to his obligations under the Law: “If your brother becomes impoverished and is indebted to you, you must support him; he must live with you like a foreign resident. Do not take interest or profit from him, but you must fear your God and your brother must live with you.” Lev 25.35-36.

xxix James, M.R. The Apocryphal New Testament. Berkley: Apocryphile Press, 2004. 95.

xxx Some argue that 1 Peter 3.19 teaches Christ's descent into Hell. However, the NET translators note: “And preached to the spirits in prison. The meaning of this preaching and the spirits to whom he preached are much debated. It is commonly understood to be: (1) Christ's announcement of his victory over evil to the fallen angels who await judgment for their role in leading the Noahic generation into sin; this proclamation occurred sometime between Christ's death and ascension; or (2) Christ's preaching of repentance through Noah to the unrighteous humans, now dead and confined in hell, who lived in the days of Noah. The latter is preferred because of the temporal indications in v. 20a and the wider argument of the book.”

xxxi Warren, Kate Mary. "Harrowing of Hell." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 13 Jun. 2008 <>;.

xxxii Bernstein, Alan E. The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds. Ithaca: Cornell Paperback, 1996. 288.

xxxiii See chapters 10 and 11.

xxxiv See chapter 14.

xxxv Chapter 39

xxxvi Homer. Odyssey. 11.669-680. Fagles translation

xxxvii The Muratorian Canon (c. 170) is the oldest surviving canonical list.

xxxviii Erhman, Bart D. Lost Scriptures: Book That Did Not Make It Into The New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. 280.

xxxix James, M.R. The Apocryphal New Testament. Berkley: Apocryphile Press, 2004. 505.

xl Ibid. 288.

xli For example the Vision of Alberic, Vision of Barontus, Vision of Bernoldus, Vision of Boso of Durham, Vision of Drythem, Voyage of Saint Brendan, and Vision of Tundale

xlii Gardiner, Eileen. Visions of Heaven and Hell Before Dante. New York: Italica Press, 1989. XIII.

xliii Ibid. 50.

xliv Spurgeon, C.H., quoted in Fudge, William; Peterson, Robert. Two Views of Hell: A Biblical and Theological Dialogue. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity, 2000. 20.

xlv Bernstein notes, “Origen's view of punishment after death may be summed up by the Greek word apokatastasis, which means 'restoration.' He believed that all would eventually be restored to God. He used the axiom of Neoplatonic philosophy that the end should resemble the beginning and the Christian principle that God's action is always good and always effective to argue that punishment must correct and that once sinners are corrected, there is no further need to punish them. Consequently, all who are punished are cured and restored to divine favor. On this basis he denied eternal punishment.

This process, he thought, takes ages and involves transmigrations to rise to angelic status or fall to human or demonic status according as individual souls, exercising free will, seek or neglect God. . .By the end of the last cycle, however, Origen expected a complete restoration of all souls to their original image-likeness to God, a time when God would be all in all. (Bernstein, 307)

xlvi For Augustine, see note xx.

xlvii For Augustine, it would appear that both Plato and Homer trump Paul. We have already noted his notion of corrective punishment borrowed from Plato. Consider his treatment of Luke 16 in light of the text from Homer which follows.

Augustine writes: I would indeed say that these spirits will burn without any body of their own, as that rich man was burning in hell when he exclaimed, "I am tormented in this flame," Luke 16:24 were I not aware that it is aptly said in reply, that that flame was of the same nature as the eyes he raised and fixed on Lazarus, as the tongue on which he entreated that a little cooling water might be dropped, or as the finger of Lazarus, with which he asked that this might be done,—all of which took place where souls exist without bodies. Thus, therefore, both that flame in which he burned and that drop he begged were immaterial, and resembled the visions of sleepers or persons in an ecstasy, to whom immaterial objects appear in a bodily form. For the man himself who is in such a state, though it be in spirit only, not in body, yet sees himself so like to his own body that he cannot discern any difference whatever. But that hell, which also is called a lake of fire and brimstone, Revelation 20:10 will be material fire, and will torment the bodies of the damned, whether men or devils,—the solid bodies of the one, aerial bodies of the others; or if only men have bodies as well as souls, yet the evil spirits, though without bodies, shall be so connected with the bodily fires as to receive pain without imparting life. One fire certainly shall be the lot of both, for thus the truth has declared. (City of God Book XXI Ch 10)

So Augustine created doctrine from parable. However, the italicized portion above sounds remarkably like Odysseus' experience with his mother from book 11 of the Odyssey:

"Then I tried to find some way of embracing my poor mother's ghost. Thrice I sprang towards her and tried to clasp her in my arms, but each time she flitted from my embrace as it were a dream or phantom, and being touched to the quick I said to her, 'Mother, why do you not stay still when I would embrace you? If we could throw our arms around one another we might find sad comfort in the sharing of our sorrows even in the house of Hades; does Proserpine want to lay a still further load of grief upon me by mocking me with a phantom only?'

"'My son,' she answered, 'most ill-fated of all mankind, it is not Proserpine that is beguiling you, but all people are like this when they are dead. The sinews no longer hold the flesh and bones together; these perish in the fierceness of consuming fire as soon as life has left the body, and the soul flits away as though it were a dream. Now, however, go back to the light of day as soon as you can, and note all these things that you may tell them to your wife hereafter.'

Starlight's picture


Good article and definitely helpful in helping one separate fact from myth. I do have a question or two.

Concerning the account of the transfiguration, should we assume that Moses and Elijah were retrieved back from the abode of Sheol and given temporary viewable bodies? Would that make them immortal beings since they were long physically dead?

Also I’m a little confused by your statements here in this section.

Begin quote:
“Immortality, which God alone possesses, is a gift according to Paul:
God will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness. (Romans 2:6-8)
Man is not immortal, neither is God the Cosmic Sadist. Immortality does not accompany “wrath and anger” in verse 8 of Romans 2. But for many of us, the imagery of Luke 16:19f trumps Paul.”
End quote:

I realize that you are arguing against ECT but your statement seems all inclusive and appears to infer that those who believe would not receive immortality.

That seems to contradict (1 Cor 15:42 NRSV) So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is PERISHABLE, what is raised is IMPERISHABLE.

We have here that those believers under the body of sin and death of Adam are raised to an immortal characteristic.

(1 Cor 15:53 NRSV) For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on IMMORTALITY.

(2 Tim 1:10 NRSV) but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and IMMORTALITY to light through the gospel.

The word for imperishable and immortality is the same Greek word (aphtharsia) found in Rom 2:7 which you quoted.

Since it appears that Moses and Elijah were spiritually viable at the Transfiguration and that Jesus likewise was born of the flesh but through His life of perfection under the Law entitled Him and His fellow believing brothers to come into the presence of God eternally. Especially since Jesus returned to the Father leaving the flesh behind, would we (believers) not expect to join Christ in that eternal immortal realm?

(Mark 12:25 NRSV) For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, BUT ARE LIKE ANGELS in heaven.
And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is God NOT OF THE DEAD, BUT OF THE LIVING; you are quite wrong."

Just some thoughts and questions that your article raised for me while reading it.


PS. Also concerning the Gentile dead residing in the “sea” according to Rev 20:13, do we have any discussion in scripture detailing why the Gentiles didn’t enter Hades like the Israelites but had their own separate abode?

OSTRALOA's picture


By the way I failed to mention, since your interest in Enoch. The Greek version of this work does not use the word "tarturus" or it's root to describe the place of ETC. If Enoch borrowed from so called "Greek mythology" as Jeremy theorizes we would see the reverse being there. There is no Dante's Inferno mentioned either I might add.

Man suffers from imposing what one assumes what is mentioned with Scripture with a radical counter against traditions of man which clouded the reality behind the myth.

More on all this after the Kr/Byzantine NT text is out. Blessings.

For Christ & Kingdom,

Paul Anderson

Starlight's picture


I’m definitely one who holds Enoch up as an important piece of Hebrew literature. Its section which outlines the weeks until Christ is most likely what got it kicked out of post AD Jewish cannons as you well know it was one of the most popular pieces of literature found with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Unfortunately the early church fathers followed the mindset of the post AD70 Jews instead of paying closer attention to the theology of Enoch. It’s the same with the Epistle of Barnabas which is most likely the fullest Preterist confirming piece of literature one can find and it was written around AD70 according to Sam Frost. It (Enoch) is a very Preterist writing in that regard also. Also the section of chapters portraying the animals as peoples and nations is derived from Hebrew metaphorical theology and not Greek.

I really don’t get too concerned about some of the appropriation of Greek mythology into Enoch although I believe one needs to be very cautious. I find it very similar to Moses appropriating Babylonian, Canaanite, and Egyptian myths into his writings in Genesis. These authors seem to have appropriated the contemporary literature for their own theological purposes. When you read the works for the theological intent it’s easy to recognize that they all point to Christ. The theological intent of Hebrew numerology, the appropriation of animals and plants, the use of Celestial and astronomical figures for ages and populations are all metaphorical theological purposes. If one is not cognizant of these metaphors then they will miss much of the Old and New Testament background meanings. It’s the same with Enoch; it has to be read in a theological intent to filter it properly.


Jer's picture

Tartarus in 1 Enoch...

Οὐριήλ, ὁ εἷς τῶν ἁγίων ἀγγέλων ἀγγέλων ὁ ἐπὶ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τοῦ ταρτάρου. (1 Enoch 20.2)

Starlight's picture


When I look at the theological intent of these following sections of Enoch, I simply see many of the same understandings about the coming judgment and wrath upon apostate Jews. I also see discussion concerning the coming fruitful trees and rivers of the New Heavens and Earth that authors like Isaiah and Ezekiel also used in describing these spiritual attributes. I don’t think we Preterist who are trained to read symbolic and metaphoric biblical literature think too much about it when Isaiah and Ezekiel use similar style apocalyptic prophetic language.

This language of Enoch seems to fall into the same styles and patterns as this other Hebrew literature does. We should not read literally when Isaiah says that the sheep and the Lion will lay down together or Ezekiel talks about Trees with birds and animals living underneath them in their shade, rivers of fresh and salt water with trees for healing on their banks and many other metaphoric symbols as we Preterist understand that language. So it is with Enoch, one should read it as Hebrew literature with the same theological intent pointing to the same events that Moses pointed out in his song of warning to God’s people. We should read it just as you pointed out concerning Jesus use of the story of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus and look for the author’s theological intent and not the Aesop fable literal meaning.

Jesus says that those who understand have eyes to see and ears to hear and he doesn’t mean literally. We need to make sure we are reading Enoch in the context that the author intended for his readers.

The use of Greek mythological Tartarus if it is the actual original word should be interpreted in the overall context of the theological intent that surrounds it. There is a strong likelihood that if it is the original word then the author’s intent was to describe the fiery wrath of destruction that other prophetic authors described in similar tones concerning those who rebelled and were destined for wrath at the consummation. In fact this whole section is dealing with that very future proposition so the language possibly fits well just as it does in Revelation 20.


Jer's picture

Hi Norm,

I recognize the significance of I Enoch. However, it betrays foreign influence, so I do not hold it to be "inspired."

Now, the problem I have with this entire discussion is that someone is trying to use Enoch and Luke 16 to "prove" a "Hollow" or caverness Earth", there is an inhabited paradise below, "Eternal concious (sic) punishment remains in tarturus (sic) or the lake of fire inside the earth," UFOs, etc. And all this can be seen--today--by entering a hole at 84N 140E. Paul has asked you to locate "A Journey to the Earth's Interior" by Rev. Marshall Gardner. In Paul's own words, [My sources] came from a non-New Ager reformed Christian minister of 100 years back. . . If you want to know what Paul is getting at, read the book here. I'll provide a few snippets.

"We claim that the earth is a hollow body with an immense opening at each polar axis--an opening about fourteen hundred miles in diameter and that there is in the interior of the earth a sun which warms it and gives it light." pg. 25

Gardner theorizes that the Chinese originate under the earth. Gardner asks, "From where comes the up and outward position of the eye that we associate with the Chinese? May it not be a modification of the ordinary eye position induced by the fact that in the interior the sun is always in the zenith?" pg. 333

"And we shall show that these animals which are apparently survivals from the glacial period are really inhabitants of the interior of the earth which, owing to its climatic conditions, is now the home of animals and vegetable species which flourished on the outer surface of the earth in the carboniferous era of giant ferns, mammoths, and other species characteristic of that period of damp, steamy, warm climate." pg. 226

"Not only shall we show later that there has actually been communication between the Eskimos of the north and the Antarctic region--we shall show that that uninhabited part of the world has been visited by Eskimos or similar people coming through the interior of the earth--but many things in Eskimo history and tradition point to their coming from the interior." pg 296

"Of course there is some evidence--see our chapter on finding men in the Antarctic and also our chapter on the Eskimo traditions of ancestors in the far away north--that there are men in the interior. And it may be that owing to the equable and warm climate and the abundance of food, that they are a superior race." pg. 417

Hopefully, after reading such things you can understand why my interest in this discussion continues to wane.


OSTRALOA's picture


I second the motion. As for Gardner's book there sure is nothing to hide about it. Even Edmund Halley believed as Gardner described. But now Jeremy, post-modern man knows best right? Someone that espouses Jesus or Peter borrowed Greek untrue mythology to illustrate their points? Come on Jeremy. You may be a Christian brother, but if my notions on Enoch are off base to you where are your own?

As Virgil said on Sam's podcast, let's respect differences. How about staying with God's Holy Word without mythologizing Scripture?


For Christ & Kingdom,


Ed's picture

What Jeremy is talking about is keeping things in their historic perspective - i.e., what influences were present on those Israelites who were writing, hearing, and trying to understand scripture. It is YOUR modernistic presuppositions that you foist upon scripture that denies the significance of God's holy word being written in time and space.



Papa is especially fond of us

OSTRALOA's picture


Thought I'd hear from you Ed. I might have agreed in general concerning politics with you but on Scripture we are far apart unfortunately, as I don't see influences on God's Word such as Greek myth i.e. God is the source not man. I'll leave it at that. Blessings.

For Christ & Kingdom,


Starlight's picture


I believe many of us are fully aware of Paul’s bizarre hollow earth beliefs and as you may have noted from our previous postings last year we have duly repudiated that misguided position.

That being the case I’m not going to disrespect Paul even though I am thousands of miles from his center of gravity.

Paul’s personal extravagance has nothing to do with an intellectual examination of Enoch and its historical past usefulness to the Jews and early Christians. As far as it’s being reconsidered for inclusion in canonization its most likely a moot point. My interest in it is many faceted not the least being why it was dropped from the cannon in the first place. These kinds of investigations typically reveal the early onset of futurism as the reason.

Jer you said… “I recognize the significance of I Enoch. However, it betrays foreign influence, so I do not hold it to be "inspired."

Jer, I hope you realize the negation to your posted articles views the above statement infers. You have just written an article detailing how NT apostles and even Jesus incorporated Hellenized myths for their own purpose. I have just posted myself many instances of how OT authors performed the same incorporation from more ancient ANE mythology especially Genesis. That is not a valid reason for rejecting a work as being inspired. Enoch may very well not be inspired but it is a theological investigation which should determine that issue and not whether it incorporates foreign influence. Otherwise we would not have much scripture left, especially the first eleven chapters of Genesis.

Early Christians came under the influence of post AD70 Jewish theology and this is when Enoch and Barnabas started falling out of favor. Second century Jewish writings helped fuel futurism among Christians and set us back for the next 1500 years until recent times. These two pieces of literature present strong full Preterist understandings.

Many are sensitive to accepting a review of some of these books because of our being conditioned that the early Catholic Church fathers may have been working under inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Although most of us Preterist can’t accept inspiration past AD70, as it’s akin emotionally to our rejecting futurism to also reject the canonization of the Bible by the Catholics.

Jer, there is too much accurate theology in Enoch to ignore it, (especially detailed discussions of the coming New Heavens and earth) plus according to some researchers there may have been dozens of related references to it by the NT writers.

There are major studies being established concerning Enoch, especially related to its influence to Jews and early Christians.

My purpose is to continue to expose it to the broader audience for consideration as an important Jewish and Christian piece of literature that had tremendous direct influence on first century Christians. That recognition alone makes it worthy of diligent investigations. It is also a very important piece of Jewish literature demonstrating dramatically how the Jews incorporated biblical symbolism. If you can learn to read coherently Enoch in its theological intent then you should be well prepared to read Revelation, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Genesis just to mention a few.



Jer's picture

Hi Norm:

You wrote:

Jer you said… “I recognize the significance of I Enoch. However, it betrays foreign influence, so I do not hold it to be "inspired."

Jer, I hope you realize the negation to your posted articles views the above statement infers. You have just written an article detailing how NT apostles and even Jesus incorporated Hellenized myths for their own purpose.

I disagree. In the article, I wrote, "There is one significant difference between Jesus' story and otherworld journeys of subsequent Christian literature: Since the tale of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable, the details are not presented as “fact” as is the case with otherworld journeys in, for example, pseudo-apocalypses or Medieval visions."

There is stark contrast between how Jesus and Paul used myth to illustrate truth and how the authors of I Enoch present myth as truth. So, I have problems with the theology of I Enoch.

Gotta help the wife unload the groceries :)


Starlight's picture

Jer said … “There is stark contrast between how Jesus and Paul used myth to illustrate truth and how the authors of I Enoch present myth as truth. So, I have problems with the theology of I Enoch.”

Jer, IMHO you are perhaps overstating that I Enoch presents myth as truth. Look at the opening statement of Enoch.

Enoch 1: 1. The words of the blessing of Enoch, wherewith he blessed the elect and righteous, WHO WILL BE LIVING IN THE DAY OF TRIBULATION, when all the wicked and godless are to be removed. 2. And HE TOOK UP HIS PARABLE and said--Enoch a righteous man, whose eyes were opened by God, saw the vision of the Holy One in the heavens, which the angels showed me, and from them I heard everything, and from them I understood as I saw, but not for this generation, BUT FOR A REMOTE ONE WHICH IS FOR TO COME concerning the elect I said, and took up my parable concerning them:

Right from the start the author details who this “PARABLE” will be concerned with. The self description as a “Parable” sets the stage for the apocalyptic language context in which these writings should be judged. Also the entire book is about the end times of the coming of Christ and the accompanying tribulation that will be accompanying those last days. This book does not attribute ECT to periods after the consummation anymore than the Old and New Testament scriptures do. It is focused entirely upon the end times (judgment) just as the OT is. The language of fire and torment are no different from Biblical scripture and in fact it is likely John borrowed from Enoch for some of his language in Revelation just as Jude, Peter, James and Jesus did. In my opinion Jesus was very likely pulling from Enoch to derive his story of Lazarus and the Rich man as it fits perfectly with much of that books theme.

Notice the similarity of Enoch to the rest of scripture in the following sections.

(Rev 14:11 NRSV) And the smoke of their torment goes up FOREVER AND EVER. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image and for anyone who receives the mark of its name."

(Mat 23:33 NRSV) You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? (GHEHENNAH)

En 27: 1. Then said I: 'For what object is this blessed land, which is entirely filled with trees, and this accursed valley between?' 2. Then Uriel, one of the holy angels who was with me, answered and said: 'This ACCURSED VALLEY is for those who are accursed for ever: Here shall all the accursed be gathered together who utter with their lips against the Lord unseemly words and of His glory speak hard things. Here shall they be gathered together, and HERE SHALL BE THEIR PLACE OF JUDGEMENT. 3. In the last days there shall be upon them the spectacle of righteous judgement in the presence of the righteous for ever

(Jer 23:39 NRSV) therefore, I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city that I gave to you and your ancestors. And I will bring upon you EVERLASTING DISGRACE AND PERPETUAL SHAME, which shall not be forgotten.

Isa 33: 14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: "Who among us can live with the DEVOURING FIRE? Who among us can live with EVERLASTING FLAMES?"

Here is another example where one may think Enoch is appropriating Greek myth but in actuality it is teaching noting different than the fiery condemnation and end of those who rebelled against God and Christ. The language when examined in context is basically the same with the same end results that the OT, Jesus and Revelation declare.

Enoch 54: 1 And I looked and turned to another part of the earth, and saw there a DEEP VALLEY WITH BURNING FIRE. 2. And they brought the kings and the mighty, and began to CAST THEM INTO THIS DEEP VALLEY. 3. And there mine eyes saw how they made these their instruments, iron chains of immeasurable weight. 4. And I asked the angel of peace who went with me, saying: 'For whom are these chains being prepared?' And he said unto me: 'These are being prepared for the hosts of Azâzêl, so that they may take them and CAST THEM INTO THE ABYSS OF COMPLETE CONDEMNATION, and they shall cover their jaws with rough stones as the Lord of Spirits commanded. 6. And Michael, and Gabriel, and Raphael, and Phanuel shall take hold of them on that great day, and CAST THEM ON THAT DAY INTO THE BURNING FURNACE, that the Lord of Spirits may take vengeance on them for their unrighteousness in becoming subject to Satan and leading astray those who dwell on the earth.'

We are well aware that the hyperbolic language of “everlasting and forever” as used in scripture is not to be taken literally in many cases and Enoch is the same. The use of this language is the same hyperbolic and apocalyptic language found elsewhere in scriptures. It is pointing to the consummated end time’s judgment just as other scripture does. That is why Enoch should be taken seriously by scholars and students of the Bible as it is rich in Hebrew theological metaphors and symbolism and helps shed light on the mindset and development of Hebrew literature.

Enoch is powerful full Preterist Hebrew confirming literature, but one needs to get over many prejudices in learning to appreciate its usefulness to the first century Christians who very likely were familiar and well read concerning it. You can tell that the Christians were very familiar with Enoch because of the manner that Jude and Peter utilize it.


Enoch 91: 8. In those days violence shall be cut off from its roots,
And the roots of unrighteousness together with deceit,
And they shall be destroyed from under heaven.
9. And all the idols of the heathen shall be abandoned,
And the temples burned with fire,
And they shall remove them from the whole earth,
And wisdom shall arise and be given unto them.

(Dan 12:2 NRSV) Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Enoch 91: 14a. And after that, in the ninth week, the righteous judgement shall be revealed to the whole world,
b. And all the works of the godless shall vanish from all the earth,
c. And the world shall be written down for destruction.
15. And after this, in the tenth week in the seventh part,
There shall be the great eternal judgement,
In which He will execute vengeance amongst the angels.
And all the powers of the heavens shall give sevenfold light.
17. And after that there will be many weeks without number for ever,
And all shall be in goodness and righteousness,
And sin shall no more be mentioned for ever.



Jer's picture

Hi Norm:

You wrote: "Jer, IMHO you are perhaps overstating that I Enoch presents myth as truth. Look at the opening statement of Enoch."

I have provided examples of what I believe to be myth. So far, they haven't been addressed.

You wrote: "Right from the start the author details who this “PARABLE” will be concerned with. The self description as a “Parable” sets the stage for the apocalyptic language context in which these writings should be judged. Also the entire book is about the end times of the coming of Christ and the accompanying tribulation that will be accompanying those last days." (my emphasis)

Are you suggesting a single author?

From what has been already said it is clear that no unity of time, authorship, or teaching is to be looked for. Indeed, certain considerable portions of the book belonged originally not to the Enoch literature at all, but to an earlier work, i.e. the Book of Noah, which probably exhibited in some degree the syncretism of the work into which it was subsequently incorporated. This Book of Noah clearly embraced chapters vi-xi, liv. 7-lv. 2, lx, lxv-lxix. 25, cvi-cvii.

As regards the Enoch elements, the oldest portions of it are likewise pre-Maccabean, i.e. xii-xxxvi, and probably xc. 1-10, xci. 12-17, i.e. the Apocalypse of Weeks. The Dream Visions, i.e. lxxxiii-xc, were in all probability written when Judas the Maccabee was still warring, 165-161 B.C., lxxii-lxxxii before 110 B.C., the Parables, xxxvii-lxxi and xci-civ, 105-64 B.C.

The authors of all the sections belong to the Chasids or their successors the Pharisees.

Also, "the entire book" is not about "the coming of Christ" etc, as if the theology were uniform.

Conflicting views are advanced on the Messiah, the Messianic kingdom, the origin of sin, Sheol, the final judgement, the resurrection, and the nature of the future life. There is an elaborate angelology and demonology, and much space is devoted to the calendar, and the heavenly bodies and their movements. Babylonian influences are here manifest and in a slight degree Greek. (Charles, 163-64)

You mentioned chapter 54 and the "DEEP VALLEY WITH BURNING FIRE. . ." As an example of divergent doctrines, consider the following:

XXII. This chapter contains a very detailed account of Sheol or Hades. The writer places it in the far west, as the Babylonians, Greeks, and Egyptians did, and not in the underworld, as the Hebrews. In all other sections of Enoch the Hebrew view prevails. This is the earliest statement of the Pharisaic or Chasid doctrine of Sheol, but here it is already fullgrown. The departed have conscious existence, and moral, not social distinctions are observed in Sheol. (Charles, 202)

Chapter 54 also mentions Azazel. Do you find his similarity to Prometheus odd?


Starlight's picture


I freely admit Enoch is a multifaceted piece of work and its period of compilation definitely raises some very good questions concerning it. The bottom line for me is to examine it from a full Preterist perspective and early Christian perspective to determine how it helped facilitate early Christian understandings concerning Christ and the impending judgment. My belief is that much of Enoch had profound impact theologically upon the Apostles and the early believers. We simply cannot ignore this literature in a take it or leave it attitude as it appears to have had great influence in helping shape the teachings of the time. It is much too important a piece of literature to simply brush it off as corrupted by Greek mythology and therefore of little value. If it was of important value to the early Christians then I likewise will consider it significant mythology and all.

If we took your same approach to Genesis 1-11 we could simply ditch Genesis as it uses ANE mythology heavily for the establishment of the long life’s, the flood story, and the garden story. The use of celestial and astronomical cycles for varying purposes originates in Genesis as well and the Chasidic “Book of the Heavenly Luminaries” probably has its origins from Moses time originally. The reason is that Genesis sets the path for the Sun, Moon and Stars to be attributed as signs for seasons, days and years which became very important in Hebrew life. The sun, moon and stars also played a significant part of theology which the “Book of Heavenly Luminaries” discusses. This little section sheds some light on the particulars of celestial symbolic theology. Just look at the following sections and then read that section of Enoch again and notice the correlation of theological intent.

(Gen 1:14 NRSV) And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and LET THEM BE FOR SIGNS AND FOR SEASONS AND FOR DAYS AND YEARS,

(Gen 37:9 NRSV) He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, "Look, I have had another dream: the SUN, THE MOON, AND ELEVEN STARS were bowing down to me."

(Mat 24:29 NRSV) "Immediately after the suffering of those DAYS THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT; THE STARS WILL FALL FROM HEAVEN, and the powers of heaven will be shaken.

(1 Cor 15:41 NRSV) There is one glory OF THE SUN, and another glory of THE MOON, and another glory of THE STARS; indeed, star differs from star in glory.

(Rev 12:1 NRSV) A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with THE SUN, WITH THE MOON under her feet, and on her head a crown of TWELVE STARS.

(Rev 21:23 NRSV) And the city has no need of SUN OR MOON to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

(Rev 12:4 NRSV) His tail swept down a third of the STARS OF HEAVEN and threw them to the earth.

Jer, the discussion of the “Heavenly Luminaries” is quite interesting when you recognize that its origins are seated in early Hebrew theology and didn’t just pop up during the period of the Chasidics.

Really the whole issue for me is whether Enoch was a major player during the time of Christ and up to AD70. If it was my point is made, if it wasn’t then we are wasting times discussing it.

This whole discussion could become very tedious and intricate and I simply don’t have the time to work through the book in such a detailed manner but I simply wanted to illustrate that I Enoch may be more important historically than you are positing. I’m not refuting the premise of your article concerning ECT and your overall premise of the influence of Greek Mythology but simply pointing out that the influence of mythology has permeated scripture from the beginning of the Hebrews and it needs to be understood in that perspective. Learning to read and understand the symbolic nature of Hebrew literature and recognizing its use of mythology should not be construed necessarily as a threat to the bibles credibility but it simply needs to be understood in its ongoing context of influence by diverse cultures the Hebrews found themselves in.

Concerning my not answering you examples of mythology, my point is that those instances of Mythology you mentioned need to be judged in the overall context of the theology to determine whether they really corrupt the Hebrew theological intent. IF they don’t then they may simply be benign instances. There is the possibility also that our idea of inerrant scripture may be constricting us more than it did the Hebrews. Theology seems to drive Hebrew biblical literature and not necessarily the modern evangelical creed of inerrancy.

Jer you quoted Charles, in regard to non uniformity of Enoch. I might say that a full Preterist trained in biblical symbolism might see a more consistent view than Charles does. It would be very interesting to see someone like James Jordan examine Enoch without prejudice. That might be hard as he is already in trouble with the orthodox groups in the reformed circles for being too Preterist leaning. Most biblical scholars simply are not competent in analyzing Biblical symbolism effectively. If they were we would have more full Preterist.

Jer, I’m getting tired and need to go to bed as I’ve got a busy week ahead of me. We can continue this discussion but I can’t expend the time to every detail as we would have to quit our day jobs on this one subject. I believe I’ve presented my case well enough that those who may be following it could remain open minded concerning I Enoch’s importance.



Jer's picture

Hi Norm:

You wrote, "It is much too important a piece of literature to simply brush it off as corrupted by Greek mythology and therefore of little value."

I don't recall making that argument :)

You wrote, "This whole discussion could become very tedious and intricate and I simply don’t have the time to work through the book in such a detailed manner but I simply wanted to illustrate that I Enoch may be more important historically than you are positing."

I don't recall discussing its historical importance or lack thereof. But addressing it in my paper should indicate that I consider it to have some historical importance.

You wrote, "Concerning my not answering you examples of mythology, my point is that those instances of Mythology you mentioned need to be judged in the overall context of the theology to determine whether they really corrupt the Hebrew theological intent."

I believe I did that. Eternal conscious torment "corrupt[s] the Hebrew theological intent" as it is presented in the OT.

Norm, I think we're talking with one another but having two different conversations :)


Starlight's picture


You are correct, I may be addressing issues that you have not fully expounded upon but part of what I’m responding to is an inferred idea that one could come away with concerning the usefulness of I Enoch. Jude says that Enoch prophesied “14 It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied,”.

Jude obviously believes this section of Enoch is God inspired prophesy. That puts a little more weight to Enoch than one might come away with while following our discussion and so I am attempting to position Enoch in a more balanced and historical framework.

Before I leave though I want to illustrate for others who may be following this discussion how other scholars have looked at mythological implications found in Genesis especially concerning astronomy. Jer part of my response is to help educate folks on biblical symbolism so that is why it may come across that we are talking past each other as I indeed post with the dual intention of educating others while responding to you. I simply have a twin purpose recognizing our at large audience who may be possibly interested.

I have mentioned that Babylonian influence significantly affected the theology of Genesis. Below is part of a discussion by James Jordan examining the use of astronomical numbers to describe the “seed” lineage of Adam. This understanding sheds light again on the section described as the “Heavenly Luminaries” in Enoch. But first I want to quote a section from the “Heavenly Luminaries” of Enoch as reference for Jordan’s discussion.

Enoch 80: 1. And in those days the angel Uriel answered and said to me: 'Behold, I have shown thee everything, Enoch, and I have revealed everything to thee that thou shouldst see THIS SUN AND THIS MOON, AND THE LEADERS OF THE STARS OF THE HEAVEN and all those who turn them, their tasks and times and departures.
2. And in the days of the sinners the years shall be shortened,
And their seed shall be tardy on their lands and fields,
And all things on the earth shall alter,
4. And the moon shall alter her order,
And not appear at her time.
5. [And in those days the sun shall be seen and he shall journey in the evening †on the extremity of the great chariot† in the west]
And shall shine more brightly than accords with the order of light.
6. And many chiefs of the stars shall transgress the order (prescribed).
And these shall alter their orbits and tasks,
And not appear at the seasons prescribed to them.

I think that it is obvious that again the book of the “Heavenly Luminaries” is simply a symbolic theological device which portrays the same intent that biblical scriptures point towards which is an impending judgment concerning the sun, moon and stars who are God’s elect peoples.

Begin quote of Jordan:

"Barnouin (Revue Biblique 77 [1970] 347-65) has made the bravest attempt to confront this issue. He believes that the ages of the antediluvians can be related to various astronomical periods such as the number of days or weeks in the year or the synodic periods of the planets (i.e., the time it takes for a planet to return to the same point in the sky). THESE ASTRONOMICAL PERIODS WERE KNOWN TO THE BABYLONIANS, and a sexagesimal arithmetic, he maintains, would have made the calculations quite easy.

"Barnouin notes the obvious point that Enoch lived 365 years, which he supposes represents the perfect span on life.

"Furthermore, if the [ages of the patriarchs when their son was born, Adam to Lamech] and the [remaining years of the patriarchs, Adam to Lamech] are each divided by 60, and the remainders added together, the sum of the remainders is 365! As for the patriarchs’ ages at death, these can be related to synodic periods: e.g., Lamech’s 777 = synodic period of Jupiter + synodic period of Saturn; Jared’s 962 = synodic period of Venus + synodic period of Saturn. He shows how other patriarchal ages can be generated similarly."

…Enoch’s 365 years corresponds to a solar year. I’m not sure Barnouin is right that this is the ideal lifespan. I think that Genesis 5 implies that the ideal lifespan is a millennium, which none of these attained.

Jared’s 962 years corresponds to the synodic period of Venus (584 days) plus the synodic period of Saturn (378 days).

Methuselah’s 969 years are added to Kenan’s 910 years to come up with a total of 1879. This number is the total of four synodic periods:

Mercury 116 days
Venus 584 days
Mars 780 days
Jupiter 399 days

Finally, Lamech’s 777 years, in addition to being a triple repetition of the number seven, corresponds to Jupiter (399) plus Saturn (378).


The firmament is the chamber between earth and heaven. It is the original Holy Place between the Altar Mountain on earth and the Holy of Holies of Heaven. It is, thus, the place were man, as priest/ruler of creation under God, is positioned. THUS, GOD’S PEOPLE ARE RESTORED "TO THE HEAVENLIES," AND ARE PICTURED AS MOVING ABOUT IN THE FIRMAMENT.

… I only wish to call attention to the census figures in Numbers, and how closely they match up. The total of the first census was 603,550 (Num. 1:46), while the total of the second census was 601,730 (Num. 26:51). In both cases, the root number is 600,000, with a significant additional number added …. At any rate, we can see that just as there is a correspondence between the census figures and the lifespans in years of the ante-diluvian patriarchs, so there is also a rough correspondence between the total census figures and the total period of the first patriarchal age measured in days.

End quote with caps emphasis mine.

Here is the link to full article.

The point of all of this is to demonstrate that we readily accept the Bibles usage of Babylonian methods of astronomy which affected the Hebrews writings and thus became an important part of biblical theology.


OSTRALOA's picture


Excellent point. However, in Enoch the place of enduring punishment is not in contrast to Rev. a "literal lake of fire & brimstone" but is described as an abyss deep and dark with only pillars of fire descending and ascending in it. Also, In Enoch notice there is not a limited duration of ECT and states explicitly the opposite and is describes in detail outside of Tarturus or clamor-terror section in I Enoch 20.1. Remember the compartments in Sheol/hades described in Enoch clearly matching the Lk. 17 account.

Secondly, the so called parable of the rich man & Lazarus is not by definition a parable at all, yet as Tarturus described by Peter reflected reality behind it's imagery. This as prophecies in Isaiah, Ezekiel & other prophets foretold by imagery the reality of A.D. 70. being itself a literal event. Blessings.

For Christ & Kingdom,


Starlight's picture


Although you and I both see Enoch as an important Hebrew historical writing which was heavily relied upon by the earliest believers I will have to respectively disagree with your conclusion concerning some of your literal take away.

As I mentioned previously it is important to recognize classical Hebrew appropriations of the surrounding contemporary people’s mythologies. The original Garden story has its roots in the Assyrian, Canaanite and Babylonian culture and has simply been incorporated by Moses or those writing under his tutelage for their express theological purpose. This allows Moses to build upon culturally aware concepts and ideas but at the same time move the people toward the one God concept that is being revealed to him through the Spirit of Christ thus confronting those pagan nations’ concepts of deity.

The use of the talking serpent and the great sea monsters that are found in Gen 1-2 are simply metaphors that actually change shape throughout the scriptures morphing into various descriptions. The sea monster is found in Job, Ezekiel, Isaiah and Jonah and usually describes great apostate or wicked nations that inhibit God’s people in some manner. Jonah spending 3 days in the belly of the Great Sea monster is related to his going to the Gentile Assyrian nation and converting them. Jesus ties into these 3 days as the sign of Jonah when he enters the belly of the Beast (death) himself. The serpent was actually described as one of those “wild animals” in Gen 3:1 and Isaiah ties this all together in his work.

Isa 27: 1 IN THAT DAY, the LORD will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding SERPENT, Leviathan the coiling SERPENT; he will slay the MONSTER OF THE SEA.

One has to be very careful in reading this literature as overly literal as that is what brings us the distorted futurism and the dispensationalism of modern Christianity. It takes some skill and along with it a cautionary mindset paying great head to the overall theological intent.

The theological intent that permeates all of scripture is simply the removal of mans own self will in striving for glorification with God (or becoming as God’s) and instead resting in God’s grace through Christ perfection. That brings us “life” in our mortal time and provides us with an immortal relationship with God as the ultimate gift. As far as those outside the providence of "life" and the “gift of immortality” I leave that up to God the great Potter. All the while attempting to share this message of the "gifts" with others so that they may partake of this life giving water and quench their thirst also by having their tongues soothed ;-)



OSTRALOA's picture


Point taken. I do not see any mythological illusions in II Peter's take on tarturus. In addition notice the detailed description in Enoch of Sheol/hades is not in the parable sections of the book.

I am not saying everything is literal, but one has to be cautious too on supposing an event or thing described has no parallel reality behind it's description or even myth. Blessings.

For Christ, & Kingdom,


OSTRALOA's picture


You just happened to have dug out one of those few textual variants between Ge'ez & Greek in I Enoch. Good job. The translation however for the Ge'ez is as follows:

"Uriel, one of the holy angels, who presides over clamor and terror." or "Uriel one of the holy angels, the angel over thunder and trembling". 1 Enoch 20.2 Still no tartarus for certain here. Allowing that the Greek in this case represents the original reading here, it does not prove your supposition that it was borrowed Greek myth i.e. a non-reality in your terminology and not reality behind the Greek myth. A cultural linguistic adaption does not make an object of that language a myth i.e. non-reality. Blessings.

For Christ & Kingdom,

Paul Anderson

OSTRALOA's picture


Good points. You might also be interested that Codex W (Washingtonensis) is now being examined for formal dating due to signatures and dating on it indicating Barnabas actually penned 3/4 of it himself between A.D. 37 & 73 thus making it the only 1st century MS extant. Ending up in Egypt through John Mark's own ministry. I am working with scholars for petitioning the Freer Gallery for formal dating.

Yes, Enoch was compiled from different sections, but that does not mitigate against it from being original source material either from the Ge'ez or the Greek. They match very closely with few textual differences. This also includes variants from the Dead Sea collection. Dr. George Nickelsburg has verified this. His translation not being tinged by futurism as it is a pure linguistic translation from the Greek, Aramaic & Ge'ez with all variants listed.

The sections of Christ in Enoch regarding the Son of Man are simply astounding. Many of this I will go over in my own future work. For now, I will continue to research for the upcoming NT Byzantine text of Dr. Pickering's first. Blessings

In Christ & Kingdom,

Paul Anderson

OSTRALOA's picture


Good to see your post. Some good points. My own work on Enoch being delayed due to some work on textual criticism with the Byzantine Majority text work I am doing on the Kr/Byzantine text type in association with Dr. Wilbur Pickering who is working on a new NT Greek text.

Regarding the arguments against ECT, it leads itself into linguistic fallacies it falls into as exemplified in Edward Fudge's arguments which fail to counter Morey's & Peterson's linguistic basis for ECT. Scripture is final authority on the subject. Ones opinion and probabilities fail as I said above if not congruent with Scripture. Blessings.

In Christ & Kingdom,

Paul Anderson

Jer's picture

Hi Norm:

You wrote, "Concerning the account of the transfiguration, should we assume that Moses and Elijah were retrieved back from the abode of Sheol and given temporary viewable bodies? Would that make them immortal beings since they were long physically dead?"

Regarding the first question, there really aren't enough details in the account for me to come to that conclusion. The second question is more or less addressed below.

You wrote, "Also I’m a little confused by your statements here in this section.

Begin quote:
'Immortality, which God alone possesses, is a gift according to Paul:
God will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness. (Romans 2:6-8)
Man is not immortal, neither is God the Cosmic Sadist. Immortality does not accompany “wrath and anger” in verse 8 of Romans 2. But for many of us, the imagery of Luke 16:19f trumps Paul.'
End quote:

I realize that you are arguing against ECT but your statement seems all inclusive and appears to infer that those who believe would not receive immortality."

I think you misunderstood--or I wasn't clear. I wrote that immortality is a gift from God; it is not something inherent in man. Paul says that God would reward those who seek "glory and honor and immortality" with eternal life. While others would receive "wrath" and "anger" but not immortality. The bit after I quoted Romans was in reference to this latter group.

You wrote, "Also concerning the Gentile dead residing in the “sea” according to Rev 20:13, do we have any discussion in scripture detailing why the Gentiles didn’t enter Hades like the Israelites but had their own separate abode?"

I try not to press the language of Revelation too far, but I'm not aware of any mention of separate abodes for Jew and Gentile.

Hope that helps.


Starlight's picture


Thanks, I thought that was what you might be saying but apparently I just did not pay close enough attention.

I take it then that “immortality” being a gift is not a given for those outside the “body of Christ” which brings up the question concerning their (those outside the body) disposition at physical death. This seems to be especially apparent in Paul’s discussion in 1 Cor 15 where the transformation of the Body of Death arose only from those in “Adam’s body” into the “body of Glory”. I believe we would need to consider those being transformed from the old body as those who like Adam and Seth begin to call on the name of the Lord and is expanded through Abraham to those believers from Isaac (Israel) and Ishmael (Gentiles).

Gen 4: 25 Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, … AT THAT TIME MEN BEGAN TO CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD.

Rom 9: 8 In other words, IT IS NOT THE NATURAL CHILDREN WHO ARE GOD'S CHILDREN, but it is the CHILDREN OF THE PROMISE who are regarded as Abraham's offspring.


Regarding the language of Revelation it almost seems like Greek Mythological language but it seems to be more characteristic of Ezekiel and Daniels language which predated the Hellenization of later literature like Enoch. The discussion of Souls under the Altar seems to be in its own Hebrew class and the “dead” residing in the “sea” may infer believing God Fearing Gentiles outside the “seed” lineage such as those from Ishmaels promised nations.


Virgil's picture

This was excellent; you played off some of the TruthVoice stuff you presented last year, but nonetheless, this is priceless material. Anyone interested in the study of Hell and afterlife needs to read's critical!

Jer's picture

You caught me. I did borrow some of last year's stuff :)

OSTRALOA's picture


I heard your talk on Sam's site. Good job. I just do not agree with Jeremy's proofs in his text revolving around such phrases as "my opinion" or "probably" on crucial passages in Scriptures. Scripture defines itself not man.

God is sovereign, his Word infallible. Hope to meet in person some time. The move from Brazil being long and hard. Just getting accustomed again here. Blessings.

In Christ,

Paul Anderson

Virgil's picture

Paul, everything one says about scripture is opinion.

OSTRALOA's picture


That depends if what we say as a so called opinion matches scripture truth or not. You know the old grammatico-historico hermeneutic rule:) In other words, opening ones mouth does not make any Scripture opinion. It's only when man's words contradict Scripture it becomes opinion or they aren't sure enough themselves it matches the Scripture they are supposed to be teaching on i.e. Jeremy's article with his probably or in my opinions added.

If opinion is the best we can do with Scripture there is no absolute. You know that's wrong. Is the timing of Christ's A.D 70 Parousia a scriptural fact or opinion? If one says opinion it would be a linguistic and historic fallacy not to mention an outright biblical error. Seems to be your disagreement with Sam too. Is truth an absolute or an opinion.

Anyway, look forward to end this stuff with you and Jeremy and meet face to face. Lord willing could maybe be in Ohio next year for Truth Voice. Blessings.

In Christ & Kingdom,

Paul Anderson

Virgil's picture

Paul, it doesn't matter. A man's "opinion" is still his/her opinion...that's my point. How can an opinion "match scripture" unless it's a word-by-word replication of scripture? Unless one speaks in the very words of the Bible manuscripts, his words are not the words of God and remain opinion. That opinion being Godly or not is another story, but let's not confuse opinion with Scripture here. No man today "speaks scripture" and that's my opinion. :)

davo's picture

OSTRALOA: In other words, opening ones mouth does not make any Scripture opinion.

It's a wonder then that Paul didn't simply go to someone else and get his "thorn" removed, because God certainly wasn't helping him.


OSTRALOA's picture


"It's a wonder then that Paul didn't simply go to someone else and get his "thorn" removed, because God certainly wasn't helping him."

God abandons his people? Wrong! Not in the end. It's all for His glory not ours. "Not as I will, but as You will". Mat. 26.39

"So the Lord said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute?, the deaf, the seeing or the blind, Have not I the Lord?" Exo. 4.11

Paul died daily to sin as he said, this would include complaining of his thorn right Davo? If he still complained he knew God was in control anyway. Our sins make man concentrate on us rather than on Him and ultimate purpose. Blessings.

In Christ & Kingdom,

Paul Anderson

yngwie7's picture

Very well written paper.

Im curious though: why didn't the author mention the reference to tartarus in the NT?

2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into tartarus and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment..."

Jer's picture

Hi Yngwie: (Malmsteen fan)?

I have mentioned this passage briefly in another article, but let me make a few more observations about 2 Peter 2.4.

1) This verse is part of a long first class condition. The protasis is assumed to be true for the sake of argument. (Although the similar reference in Jude is not a conditional.)

2) 'Tartarus' is not actually in the text. It is a participial form of ταρταρω, which itself is a hapax legomenon in the NT/LXX. This verb, and the related verb καταταρταρω, are usually found in reference to the Titans of theogonic myth. (See Bauckham, 249)

3) 'Tartarus' appears in the LXX (See Prov. 30:16; Job 40:20; 41:24), but it does not carry the same meaning as in, say, Hesiod or later Jewish writings. "Depths" or "the deep" is how the LXX might be rendered in English.

4) Even if Peter is using "Tartarus" in the Greek or Enochian sense, that does not necessarily imply his consent to the "reality" of such a place. The material served his purpose much like Jesus' use of myth in the Rich Man and Lazarus or Paul's references to Greek poets.

Commenting on the "angelic" story in Jude, Peter H. Davids notes, "This, of course, is parallel to the apostasy of the interlopers in the congregation, who abandonded their place in the community by their own immorality." (The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, 50) Similarly, Douglas Moo comments, "Peter probably does not want us to think of the angels as literally confined in dark caves and dungeons. The language is metaphorical, he is using a popular conception of the afterlife to denote God's judgment." (The NIV Application Commentary 2Peter, Jude, 102) Davids and Moo together elucidate well the point of the analogy, in my opinion. It was not to substantiate such notions of the underworld.

5) Whatever Peter had in mind by this reference, whether "literal" or simply didactic, there is no need to equate this text with Plato's Tartarus. However, post-biblical Christian authors did follow Plato, as is clear from pseudonymous writings like the Apocalypses of Peter and Paul (even Augustine). Simply put: 2 Peter 2.4 says nothing regarding the inherent immortality of man or the eternal conscious torment of human beings. (See Peters, 157)

Hope that helps.


tom-g's picture

Hey Jer,

For what it is worth, my study of 2 Peter 2:4 went no deeper than what you allude to in your first point.

Since I believe that the scripture is true then I affirm the compound conditional antecedents of 4-8 are true and therefore the consequent of 2:9ff is true also, both as the word of God and logically.

The benefit to my study is the information given under inspiration by Peter, that explains how the events that are the subject of those conditional antecedents are to be truly understood.

Particularly helpful is Peter's definition of the word "world" in 2:5 to establish his meaning when he then uses it again in 3:6. This also then establishes that the phrase "heaven and earth" is being supposed by Peter metaphorically and not materially.

Just my thoughts.

OSTRALOA's picture


Good comprehensive research but a lot of inaccuracies. Lord willing, maybe a debate could bring this to a head. I am in the US now.

I still have not had a response for proof texts from the Greek NT which prove the annihilationist position of destruction or even burning meaning to pass out of existence or proof of comprehensive grace including the reprobate post-A.D. 70. Blessings.

In Christ & Kingdom,

Paul Anderson

Virgil's picture

Good comprehensive research but a lot of inaccuracies.

And they are...? When someone makes statements like this one, usually they follow with the list of inaccuracies, otherwise the statements is empty of substance.

Jer's picture

I suppose it has something to do with UFOs, a hollow earth, and the lost tribes of Israel living in the earth's interior. Unless I assent to such things, my view will always be full of "a lot of inaccuracies" according to Paul.


OSTRALOA's picture

Greetings Jeremy & Virgil,

Sorry to disappoint. But as I stated, you will not give me a reply on the Greek NT questions I keep asking you two for so in turn my responses will be at a minimum until a formal debate can be arranged.

Those sources you checked on, all that weird stuff Jeremy. You are sure apparently finding sources I didn't run across. You aren't any New Age are you? I am sure not:) Mine came from a non-New Ager reformed Christian minister of 100 years back so he was not Catholic either Jeremy so no Dante's inferno.

Anyway, let's stick to replies in a Christian spirit if we are replying to each other. I would appreciate that. I have not seen Christian salutations from either one of you. Sorry, I don't mean to step on toes only to stay in Scripture in a Christ like spirit. After all, are we preterists or Christians? Blessings.

In Christ & Kingdom,

Paul Anderson

mazuur's picture

WOW. You've been doing some studying. I look forward to reading your work.



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