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February 11, 2013
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Our current perceptions of Hell derive primarily from two sources: John Milton's Paradise Lost and Dante's Inferno.  However, hundreds of years prior to these great works, there was Gehenna, a truly loathsome place of never-ending fire and noxious fumes that became a living metaphor for Hell on Earth.

The name Gehenna is a derivation of the Valley of Hinnom, a ravine outside of old Jerusalem.  Starting somewhere around 800 BC, some of the inhabitants of Judah used the valley as a place to worship Moloch, an ancient Ammonite deity. The details of the worship are pretty gruesome, so if you are squeamish, stop reading.











Followers of Moloch erected a bronze statue, depicting the god as having a bull's head and outstretched arms.  The statue was hollow or had some sort of fire pit in it. Worshippers would place children to be sacrificed in Moloch's arms, where the flames would gradually consume them until they fell into the pit.  There are descriptions of the participants banging drums during the ceremony to drown out the child's screams, but these may be an attempt by subsequent conquerors to make Moloch's followers seem more barbaric than they actually were. But, even so, it's all pretty despicable.

Josiah, who became king of Judah in 641 BC, thought so too. He destroyed the statue of Moloch, and "defiled" (the word used in the Bible) the Valley of Hinnom. The popular notion is that he turned it into a huge garbage dump that burned day and night, for the symbolic purpose of cleansing the valley of its sins, but also for the practical purpose of getting rid of Jerusalem's trash. That trash included the bodies of criminals and other low-lifes who didn't warrant a proper burial. Thus the Valley of Hinnom first became a site of pagan worship and child sacrifice, and then became Gehenna, a place of eternal flame and stench where sinners went after they died...Hell on Earth.

Is This for Real?


There are many references to Gehenna as Hell in the Christian Bible, but also in the Hebrew Bible and the Koran. It was a popular metaphor. But maybe people were just referring to the Tophet ("roasting place") where the actual sacrifices took place, and not to the burning trash heap. No one really knows. The story of Moloch-worshippers and child sacrifice is pretty well-established, as is Josiah's ending the practice.  Josiah purging the valley by dumping garbage in it and setting it on fire makes some sense, but there is no real archaeological evidence to support or refute it.

The vivid imagery of the story has survived. A quick dA search for "Gehenna" turns up some characters of that name, some half-naked women (what a surprise!), and a song by slipknot. My favorite however, is this quote from EA Poe's story Morella:

"And thus, joy suddenly faded into horror, and the most beautiful became the most hideous, as Hinnom became Gehenna."

So there you have it.  If you, like me, have seen references to Gehenna and wondered what it was, now you know.

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:iconthesis-d:
Thesis-D Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Any place can be A hell, but not Hell itself. Hell is not a geographical location on Earth; it is purely spiritual

Truly, though, we can liken many things to Hell. The Holocaust was A hell to the Jews. I'm also well aware of Moloch and the biblical references to it. It makes for a good analogy to what you are saying.

I have to admit, though, I was hoping you'd finish the quote.

"Not with 10,000 men could you do this. It is folly." LOL
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:iconoutsidelogic:
outsidelogic Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Why did those Boromir quotes becomes such memes? What's so special about "One does not simply walk..." and "Gondor has no king; Gondor needs no king?" I have no idea. But anyway I didn't think the end of the quote fit in with the article quite as well.

But, speaking of Hell...something that's always bugged me is how villians and evil beings in stories often live in such evil places. I guess they're channelling Satan, but c'mon, it's not like Satan wanted to live in Hell. He was condemned to live there. He would have lived in Heaven if he was allowed to. Which only makes sense...I mean, if I'm a powerful evil being, why would I want a dark stone throne, and to be surrounded by grotesque creatures? I'd go for a comfy chair and some attractive servants.
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:iconthesis-d:
Thesis-D Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
In order to understand why some memes get started, you would have to know more about where they are started and by whom, and this would require me to talk to you about 4chan and places like it, which I don't want to do, because 4chan is another 'hell' but for different reasons though.

When the fallen angels lost sight of the Beatific Vision, their direct connection and holiness in God was severed forever and that decision to turn away from all that is good is mirrored in Hell. They now exist in extreme opposites to God and Heaven and that is part of their sentence, the sentence they chose for themselves, knowing that to not choose God would be to choose everything God is not. God isn't torturing them, they are torturing themselves because for them, as pure spirits, there is no middle ground like how a human can live mortally for a time and try and "have their cake and eat it too" as it were. They either choose to live in God or not, because He is the source of their existence. There is not some other power or middle ground for them to appeal to, or find repose or rest in; they threw these things away.

"Hell" to them, is the absence of God they are forced to acknowledge forever. Just as they would have been in the Beatific Vision forever, their choice is mirrored in the opposite.

Now, to be charitable and thoughtful of you Glenn (because I certainly do not want to offend, if indeed I have) I'll leave it at that. I did need to explain at least that much though, even though I realize that perhaps, from your point of view, it was not a serious question and might well have been rhetorical. :)
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:iconoutsidelogic:
outsidelogic Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
1. My question was really about how villians are depicted in stories, not about Satan himself. While it wasn't rhetorical, it wasn't entirely serious, either.
2. Your understanding of scripture is obviously far greater than mine (which is just about nil). My statements about Satan are really coming from Paradise Lost (which my oldest daughter and I are reading together), not the Bible. Milton's story reads more like an adventure. Bad angels are cast out of Heaven by the mighty sword of the archangel Michael, and condemned to Hell. Satan, Moloch, Beezlebub, and others get together to plot revenge. They realize they can't make a frontal assault on Heaven (they talk about it like it's a huge fortress), but they think they can get to God by corrupting man. They figure living on Earth is not as good as Heaven, but it's sure better than Hell. Satan asks for a volunteer to break out of Hell, but ends up going himself. What he meets at Hell's gates...well, some truly disturbing creatures. That's as far as we've gotten. It's actually a fun read, if you can master the language.
3. It's hard to offend me in matters of religion, because I'm an atheist. But I'm an open-minded one :). In fact, I just ordered a history book that covers the time leading up to Christ, because I want to know more about it. Far more likely that I would offend you...if I do, tell me. I'm genuinely curious, but very ignorant, when it comes to matters of religion.
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:iconthesis-d:
Thesis-D Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
1. About the villains. They usually are depicted as evil or satanic in some way because its the closest thing people can think of to pure evil. This is especially true where imagery is concerned. Some of the greatest villains, you'll notice, are also wizards, sorcerers, warlocks, etc. Lord of the Rings actually does a good job with the imagery in regards to how we're talking about it. Sauron is a prime example of this. Saruman is an example of the deceitfulness or the hypocrisy of that evil. Sauron is pure evil and likened to Satan. Saruman is a false prophet or anti-christ individual.

As I'm sure you're already aware, Tolkien was a devote Roman Catholic, so this symbolism in the series works in ways I'm able to interpret without having read the novels.

2. I've heard alot about that book but never did read it. From what I understand about it, it does pose a good hypothetical scenario where IF Satan had the power to directly challenge God, how could this be done. There are other stories like this too, and movies also. Movies such as the Prophecy (the ones with Christopher Walken in them)and others. These books and films and literature are appealing because they put a human face and sentience upon beings which, otherwise would have none and we see it from the view of a physical war or struggle, with armies and such, and this gives us something to relate the spiritual warfare with.

3. To be honest, I've felt you were an atheist for a long time now, but didn't want to assume such. Your Obama thread sort of gave it away; it wasn't when you mentioned to me that you were not a Christian. There are just as many types of atheists and their reasons for being atheist as there are Christians, so it is never as black and white as both sides can make of it in debate. There are also those that say they are atheists but are more properly understood to be agnostics, with the obvious distinction that the supernatural cannot be known or discerned as opposed to a staunch absolute that it is not possible under any circumstance.

You do seem pretty open-minded, and have a thirst for knowledge. Are you sure you're not agnostic?

In any event, you've not offended me at all either, so we have a mutuality there. :)
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:iconoutsidelogic:
outsidelogic Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I think we have the start of a book here...Dialogs on Faith and Reason, or something like that :)

"Are you sure you're not agnostic?" Yeah, I'm sure. But theism is a matter of faith, not science, so I can't be sure I won't be proven wrong someday. After all, I used to be sure there was a monster living in our basement.

Here's an odd thing: despite my atheism (which has been a conviction of mine for as long as I can remember), I seem to gravitate towards people who are very devout believers or at least extremely spiritual. I mean, my family mocks me about it. A few years back, we were buying some ice cream, and I got in this long discussion with a total stranger about how the human race evolved from some ancient civilization now buried off the Hawaiian coast. My family was like, "there goes Daddy again". When I lived in Germany for a few months, my 2 best friends were a Lutheran minister and a VERY devout Baptist. One of my best friends at my last job was a guy who was always talking about reincarnation. Either I'm drawn to these people, or they sense I'm a good listener...or I'm just comfortable, even eager, to talk to people about their spiritual beliefs, mainstream or not.

But anyway, I was brought up a Protestant, and went to Sunday school and the like, but it never made any sense to me. When I was 14, it was time for me to be confirmed, but I argued the point with my parents, saying it was just hypocritical of me to go through with this. But they forced me to, and I, being an obedient kid (in deed, if not in thought), went along with it.

I've never heard anything that makes me think any sort of a God exists. But I do think that human consciousness has a life outside of the body that science hasn't figured out yet (nor have I). If there is a supernatural force in the world, I think it was in a sense created by humans.

So...welcome to my circle of spiritual friends!
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:iconthesis-d:
Thesis-D Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I don't think its odd at all that you are drawn to theists. Its understandable and explainable, but that's a discussion for another time.:XD:

Although I was not expecting or looking for it, thank you for sharing your history with me, Glenn. Your candor is appreciated. :)
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