This study shows that Hell is not endless punishment. The doctrine of endless punishment was not Jewish, but rather a pagan Egyptian doctrine that Jews and Christians adopted.
This is part 2
by Mitch Kuhn
Audio Player:Play Hell is not endless punishment part 2 Bible Study
Jewish Teachings on the Afterlife
The Jewish teachings of afterlife were actually quite vague. There are a number of references to a future resurrection, but no detailed teachings on the subject. Here are some of those verses:
Psa 16:10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (Sheol); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Psa 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.
Hos 13:14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will
redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.
Isa 25:8 He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.
Eze 37:1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
Eze 37:2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
Eze 37:3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
Eze 37:4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
Eze 37:5 Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
Eze 37:6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
Heathen Doctrine of Eternal Punishment
After Israel was set free from slavery in Egypt, they were exposed to different variations of the doctrine of eternal torment through many different cultures. Here is a quote from Mr. Thayer.
Among the ancient pagans, the belief in a hell of some sort was very general, if not universal. It was known by various names, as Orcus, Erebus, Tartarus, and Infernus or Inferna, whence our expression “infernal regions,” &c. The views current respecting it were different at different periods, and among different nations, according to the degree of civilization, and the genius of the people. .
Virgil wrote the Aeneid between 29 and 19 BC. This his book he quite vividly describes Hell.
“At Hell’s dread mouth a thousand monsters wait; – Grief weeps, and Vengeance bellows in the gate; Base Want, low Fear, and Famine’s lawless rage. And pale Disease, and slow, repining Age: Fierce, formidable Fiends the portals keep, With Pain, Toil, Death, and Death’s half-brother Sleep.
There Joys, embittered by Remorse, appear, Daughters of Guilt; here storms destructive War. Mad Discord there her snaky tresses tore; Here stretched on iron beds the Furies roar; And close by Lerna’s hissing monster stands Briareus dreadful with a hundred hands; There stern Geryon raged; and all around Fierce Harpies screamed, and direful Gorgons frowned.”
Here are two quotes from Mr. Thayer that describe the prevalence of these doctrines among pagan cultures and their use to control the common people, most of which originated in Egypt.
Any one at all familiar with the writings of the ancient Greeks or Romans, cannot fail to note how often it is admitted by them that the national religions were the inventions of the legislator and the priest, for the purpose of governing and restraining the common people. Hence, all the early lawgivers claim to have had communications with the gods, who aided them in the preparation of their codes.
Zoroaster claimed to have received his laws from a divine source; Lycurgus obtained his from Apollo, Minos of Crete from Jupiter, Numa of Rome from Egeria, Zaleucus from Minerva, &c. The object of this sacred fraud was to impress the minds of the multitude with religious awe, and command a more ready obedience on their part. Hence Augustine says, in his “City of God,” “This seems to have been done on no other account, but as it was the business of princes, out of their wisdom and civil prudence, to deceive the people in their religion; princes, under the name of religion, persuaded the people to believe those things true, which they themselves knew to be idle fables; by this means, for their own ease in government, tying them the more closely to civil society.” B. iV 32 .
Egypt has been called the “Mother of Superstitions,” and her whole religious history shows the propriety of the appellation. Greeks and Romans, Lawgivers and Philosophers, acknowledge their indebtedness to her in this respect, and freely credit her with the original invention of the fables and terrors of the invisible world; though it must be allowed that they have improved somewhat upon the hints given, and shown a wonderful inventive faculty of their own .
Israel was surrounded by pagan nations after being set free from Egypt and had a habit of following after their gods. Thus, the need for these kinds of warnings, are in Deuteronomy.
Deu 6:13 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.
Deu 6:14 Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;
Deu 6:15 (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.
Deu 6:16 Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.
Deu 6:17 Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee.
Northern Israel was taken captive by the Assyrians in 722 BC, while the southern kingdom was captured by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Israel was no longer a sovereign nation and was just passed from one empire to the next. Alexander the Great and the Greek empire came into power in 333 BC, and then Judea was made a Roman province in 6 AD. During all of Christ’s life Israel was under Roman rule.
The Jews struggled to obey God’s commands and not follow after other gods when they were an independent people, and this undoubtedly got worse when they were taken into captivity. The last book of the Old Testament was written around 445 BC, after the temple in Jerusalem had been rebuilt. From 445 BC until John the Baptist coming on the scene to prepare the way for Christ, there were no prophets in Israel.
The prophets played a very important role in rebuking the people for their disobedience and leading them back to the Lord. Without their presence it was far easier for Israel to follow after other gods and absorb pagan doctrine.
Malachi was the last book of the Old Testament written around 445 B.C. and even at that time that there was already tremendous corruption and disobedience in Israel including the priests. If the priests were corrupt then what does that say about the condition of the people they were supposed to be teaching.
Mal 2:7 For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
Mal 2:8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.
Mal 2:9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.
Here is a quote from Thayer regarding the great corruption of the Jews during the silence of the prophets.
It is allowed on all hands that the Jews in our Savior’s time believed the doctrine of future endless punishment; that it was a part of the common faith. Of course, as the doctrine is nowhere to be found in their Scriptures, the question arises, where did they find it? At the close of the Old Testament Scriptures they did not believe it; at the beginning of the New they did.
Between these two points of time there was an interval of some four hundred years, during which there was no prophet in Israel. Malachi was the last of the Hebrew prophets, and from him to Christ there stretches this waste period of four centuries, when the Jews were without any divine teacher or revelation from heaven. And all this while they were in constant and close intercourse with the heathen, especially the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans, who held the doctrine in review as part of the national faith. From these, therefore, they must have borrowed it, for it is certain that they could not have obtained it from any inspired source, since none was open to them during this period.
Beside, they were, all this time, as one might infer from their previous history, departing further and further from the law, and growing more and more corrupt; till at last they had, as the Savior charges upon them, utterly made void the law of God by their traditions. Mark viiI 9, 13 .
Mar 7:5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
Mar 7:6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
Mar 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Mar 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
Mar 7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
Mar 7:13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
Here are a few more quotes about the corruption of the Jews from Mr. Thayer and sources that he quotes in his paper.
“This corruption, which began in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus (B.C. 283), soon spread into Palestine, and everywhere disseminated among the Jews a taste for metaphysical subtleties and mysteries.” Again, he says: “Under the Ptolemies the Jews began to learn the Egyptian and Oriental theology, and to incorporate those foreign dogmas with their ancient creed.” And once more he says: “Some among them were so unfaithful to their country and their God, as to court the favor of the conqueror (Antiochus Epiphanes), by mixing Pagan tenets and superstitions with their own sacred doctrines and ceremonies.”
“Josephus, who wrote about one hundred and fifty years later, says of the Pharisees: “They believe that souls have an immortal vigor in them, and that under the earth (in Sheol or Hades) there will be rewards and punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life. The latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison; but the former shall have power to revive and live again.” This, it will be seen, is a great advance on the Old Testament Sheol or under-world. We find nothing of this sort among the patriarchs or prophets.”
“From the time of the captivity, more especially from the time of the subjection of the Jews, first to the Macedonian empire, and afterwards to the Roman, as they had a closer intercourse with Pagans, they insensibly imbibed many of their sentiments, particularly on those points where their law was silent, 10 and wherein by consequence they considered themselves as at greater freedom. On the subject of a future state, we find a considerable difference in the popular opinions of the Jews, in our Savior’s time, from those which prevailed in the days of the ancient prophets. As both Greeks and Romans had adopted the notion that the ghosts of the departed were susceptible both of enjoyment and of suffering, they were led to suppose a sort of retribution in that state, for their merit or demerit in the present. The Jews did not adopt the pagan fables on this subject, nor did they express themselves, entirely, in the same manner; but the general train of thinking in both came pretty much to coincide.”
Here is a further description of the Pharisees and Saducees. There is also some information on the Essenes, also called the Dead Sea Sect.
The most important of the three were the Pharisees because they are the spiritual fathers of modern Judaism. Their main distinguishing characteristic was a belief in an Oral Law that God gave to Moses at Sinai along with the Torah. The Torah or Written Law was akin to the U.S. Constitution in the sense that it set down a series of laws that were open to interpretation. The Pharisees believed that God also gave Moses the knowledge of what these laws meant and how they should be applied. This oral tradition was codified and written down roughly three centuries later in what is known as the Talmud.
The Pharisees also maintained that an afterlife existed and that God punished the wicked and rewarded the righteous in the world to come. They also believed in a messiah who would herald an era of world peace.
Pharisees were in a sense blue-collar Jews who adhered to the tenets developed after the destruction of the Temple; that is, such things as individual prayer and assembly in synagogues.
The Sadducees were elitists who wanted to maintain the priestly caste, but they were also liberal in their willingness to incorporate Hellenism into their lives, something the Pharisees opposed. The Sadducees rejected the idea of the Oral Law and insisted on a literal interpretation of the Written Law; consequently, they did not believe in an afterlife, since it is not mentioned in the Torah. The main focus of Sadducee life was rituals associated with the Temple.
The (sect of the) Sadducees disappeared around 70 A.D., after the destruction of the Second Temple (see below). None of the writings of the Sadducees survived, so the little we know about them comes from their Pharisaic opponents.
These two “parties” served in the Great Sanhedrin, a kind of Jewish Supreme Court made up of 71 members whose responsibility was to interpret civil and religious laws.
The Dead Sea Sect
A third faction, the Essenes, emerged out of disgust with the other two. This sect believed the others had corrupted the city and the Temple. They moved out of Jerusalem and lived a monastic life in the desert, adopting strict dietary laws and a commitment to celibacy.
The Essenes are particularly interesting to scholars because they are believed to be an offshoot of the group that lived in Qumran, near the Dead Sea. In 1947, a Bedouin shepherd stumbled into a cave containing various ancient artifacts and jars containing manuscripts describing the beliefs of the sect and events of the time.
The most important documents, often only parchment fragments that had to be meticulously restored, were the earliest known copies of the Old Testament. The similarity of the substance of the material found in the scrolls to that in the modern scriptures has confirmed the authenticity of the Bible used today.
For these very reasons Christ spoke this warning to his disciples.
Mat 16:6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Mat 16:7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.
Mat 16:8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?
Mat 16:9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
Mat 16:10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
Mat 16:11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
Mat 16:12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
I hope that I have demonstrated clearly to you that eternal torment was a pagan doctrine that the Jews adopted from the pagan cultures around them. When Jesus Christ begins his ministry, the religious teachers of Israel, the Pharisees and Sadducees, were deeply corrupted and teaching the traditions of men and not the commands given to their ancestors by God.