"Our Daily Blog" #16
Updated: Jun 5, 2020
"The 'Hell' You Preach" Part Two, By Dr. Josef Ben Levi
(To read part one click here)
The first five books of the old testament- The Torah (תורה )- i.e., the written Torah, do not mention a life beyond death. The “oral Torah” of the Mishnah was developed in the 3rd century CE (Christian era) by the Jewish Rabbinate in Babylon and tells different stories of the afterlife, judgement, and bodily resurrection when the Messiah comes. Keep in mind that there is no mention of the “Rabbinate” in the Hebrew scriptures. Dante did not know this and, for millennia, life- after- death seemed completely unnecessary. In the Hebrew scriptures, the dead go to the “underworld” a place under the soil of Sheol (שׁאול).
Since Christians have always had a hard time waiting, in their eagerness to rename Hebrew ideas toward Christian purposes, Sheol erroneously became "Hell" in the earliest Christian Bibles- just as Satan was identified with the Garden serpent , and Christ was “discovered” in the book of Psalms. In fact, by the time of the 1611 Authorized Version of the Bible, 31 of the 65 uses of the word Sheol had been rendered as "Hell". The others became the “pit” or
the “grave”. Greek Septuagint LXX called “Sheol” by the Greek name “Hades” which is similarly misleading. There is no belief in a future state or eternity with Sheol.
What, if any, is the meaning of “The Valley of the Dry Bones” and its connection to “Hell”? The Book of Ezekiel 37:1-14, famously mentions “The Valley of the Dry Bones”. The Christian interpretation of this passage usually says that it is all about Heaven i.e., about the resurrection of the body. Although just as metaphorical as the Christian one, the Hebrew view is quite different.
The Hebrew view is that those bones coming out of their graves are referring to a resurrection that is altogether much easier to comprehend i.e., a coming to life of the people of Israel in the land of Israel, after the Babylonian captivity when the life and spirit of God’s people will be most evident once again. It is the Hebrew analysis that is the more metaphorical and correct one.
Finally, from the youngest book in the Hebrew scriptures, Daniel, Chapter 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” This is a reference to Sheol. But then suddenly, we discover that they will “awake, some to everlasting life”! and “some to shame and everlasting contempt”! There is a lot in Daniel that is odd and does not fit, and frankly, this passage is a shining example of that. This one single passage from the Hebrew scriptures is the exception to the rule yet, there it is. However, this version of Daniel reflects Greek thinking much more than it does Hebrew. Daniel marks an interesting point along the way from Sheol’s being eventually turned into "Hell", by Greek philosophy and Christian theology.
Some of these statements are adapted from the book:"Inventing hell: Dante, the bible, and eternal torment." By J.M. Sweeney (Jericho Books. 2014).
Below, please enjoy "Revealing Revelations" on the "Omni-U Presents: The H3O/ Art of Life" television show, featuring Omni-U Faculty member and today's blog writer, Dr. Josef Ben Levi.