Is The Creator of the universe a Mean Evil Bully?

Are we all doomed, doomed, DOOMED to perpetual despicable agony and unthinkable pain, pleading for mercy, with only the echo of our own voice to taunt and mock us? No hope, no end to our torture? No one to give ear to our pleadings, our screams of excruciating pain, and though the infinite ages roll on—age upon age finding no relief, nothing but an eternity of the most horrible pain, suffering, torture and torment beyond mans imagination?

Is our Creator a fiendish deity who created humans so he could derive great eternal pleasure in the most horribly inconceivable torture of them?  According to Jonathan Edwards in his infamous sermon Sinners in the hands of an angry God” this is true.  But is that what Scripture has to say?. 

Untold thousands have been driven into doubt and despair through the preaching of this hell—a place of eternal torture and torment. The Creator’s name - our kind, compassionate, and loving heavenly Father - has been dragged in the dust, and the gospel of His Son  has been made a cruel mockery by those who believe and teach that this lie of Satan is taught in the Bible.

Furthermore any person who says they love their Maker in an attempt to escape eternal torture is only fooling themselves.  His desire is that we love and trust him out of our own free will because he deserves our love and trust, not because he has threatened us with torture.


Where in HELL did that word HELL come from and what the HELL does it mean? 

Hell is not a Hebrew word, Hell is not a Greek word, Hell is not a Latin word.  Hell is an English word from the Saxon’s (Germanic Peoples) that literally means to cover, or hide: paralleling the word grave.

[Hell] A word used in the King James Version (as well as in the Catholic Douay Version and most older translations) to translate the Hebrew she´ohl´ and the Greek hai´des. In the King James Version the word “hell” is rendered from she´ohl´ 31 times and from hai´des 10 times. This version is not consistent, however, since she´ohl´ is also translated 31 times “grave” and 3 times “pit.” In the Douay Version (Catholic Version) she´ohl´ is rendered “hell” 64 times, “pit” once, and “death” once.

In 1885, with the publication of the complete English Revised Version, the original word she´ohl´ was in many places transliterated into the English text of the Hebrew Scriptures, though, in most occurrences, “grave” and “pit” were used, and “hell” is found some 14 times. This was a point on which the American committee disagreed with the British revisers, and so, when producing the American Standard Version (1901) they transliterated she´ohl´ in all 65 of its appearances. Both versions transliterated hai´des in the Christian Greek Scriptures in all ten of its occurrences, though the Greek word Ge´en·na (English, “Gehenna”) is rendered “hell” throughout, as is true of many other modern translations.  

Concerning this use of “hell” to translate these original words from the Hebrew and Greek, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (1981, Vol. 2, p. 187) says: “HADES . . . It corresponds to ‘Sheol’ in the O.T. [Old Testament]. In the A.V. of the O.T. [Old Testament] and N.T. [New Testament], it has been unhappily rendered ‘Hell.’”  

Collier’s Encyclopedia (1986, Vol. 12, p. 28) says concerning “Hell”: “First it stands for the Hebrew Sheol of the Old Testament and the Greek Hades of the Septuagint and New Testament. Since Sheol in Old Testament times referred simply to the abode of the dead and suggested no moral distinctions, the word ‘hell,’ as understood today, is not a happy translation.”  

It is, in fact, because of the way that the word “hell” is understood today that it is such an unsatisfactory translation of these original Bible words. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, unabridged, under “Hell” says: “from . . . helan to conceal.” The word “hell” thus originally conveyed no thought of heat or torment but simply of a ‘covered over or concealed place.’ In the old English dialect the expression “helling potatoes” meant, not to roast them, but simply to place the potatoes in the ground or in a cellar.  

The meaning given today to the word “hell” is that portrayed in Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost, which meaning is completely foreign to the original definition of the word. The idea of a “hell” of fiery torment, however, dates back long before Dante or Milton. The Grolier Universal Encyclopedia (1971, Vol. 9, p. 205) under “Hell” says: “Hindus and Buddhists regard hell as a place of spiritual cleansing and final restoration. Islamic tradition considers it as a place of everlasting punishment.” The idea of suffering after death is found among the pagan religious teachings of ancient peoples in Babylon and Egypt. Babylonian and Assyrian beliefs depicted the “nether world . . . as a place full of horrors, . . . presided over by gods and demons of great strength and fierceness.” Although ancient Egyptian religious texts do not teach that the burning of any individual victim would go on forever, they do portray the “Other World” as featuring “pits of fire” for “the damned.”—The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, by Morris Jastrow, Jr., 1898, p. 581; The Book of the Dead, with introduction by E. Wallis Budge, 1960, pp. 135, 144, 149, 151, 153, 161, 200.

“Hellfire” has been a basic teaching in Christendom for many centuries. It is understandable why The Encyclopedia Americana (1956, Vol. XIV, p. 81) said: “Much confusion and misunderstanding has been caused through the early translators of the Bible persistently rendering the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades and Gehenna by the word hell. The simple transliteration of these words by the translators of the revised editions of the Bible has not sufficed to appreciably clear up this confusion and misconception.” Nevertheless, such transliteration and consistent rendering does enable the Bible student to make an accurate comparison of the texts in which these original words appear and, with open mind, thereby to arrive at a correct understanding of their true significance - November 10, 2005  


Tooke, John Horne, 1736—1812, English philologist

Philology etymologically, is the study of ancient texts and languages. The term originally meant a love (Greek philo-) of learning and literature (Greek -logia).

In the academic traditions of several nations, a wide sense of the term "philology" describes the study of a language together with its literature and the historical and cultural contexts that are indispensable for an understanding of the literary works and other culturally significant texts. Philology thus comprises the study of the grammar, rhetoric, history, interpretation of authors, and critical traditions associated with a given language.

John Horne, Tooke” would be a considered a foremost authority on words and their meaning.

The English word Hell grew into its present meaning.  Horne Tooke says that hell, heel, hill, hole, whole, hall, hull, halt and hold are all from the same root. "Hell, any place, or some place covered over. Heel, that part of the foot which is covered by the leg. Hill, any heap of earth, or stone, etc., by which the plain or level surface of the earth is covered. Hale, i.e., healed or whole. Whole, the same as hale, i.e., covered. It was formerly written whole, without the w, as a wound or sore is healed, or whole, that is, covered over by the skin, which manner of expression will not seem extraordinary if we consider our use of the word recover. Hall, a covered building, where persons assemble, or where goods are protected from the weather. Hull, of a nut, etc. That by which a nut is covered. Hole, some place covered over. 'You shall seek for holes to hide your heads in.' Holt, holed, hol'd holt. A rising ground or knoll covered with trees. Hold, as the hold of a ship, in which things are covered, or the covered part of a ship."

The word was first applied to the grave by our German and English ancestors, and as superstition came to regard the grave as an entrance to a world of torment, Hell at length became the word used to denote an imaginary realm of fiery woe.

King James footnote on Psalms 16:10

hell (KJV): The word hell, from the Saxon {hillan} or {helan,} to hide, or from {holl,}, a cavern, though now used only for the place of torment, anciently denoted the concealed or unseen place of the dead in general; corresponding to the Greek [adev,] i.e., [o aidev topos,] the invisible place and the Hebrew {sheol,} from {shaal,} to ask, seek, the place and state of those who are out of the way, and to be sought for.

Hades (Easton Bible Dictionary) 

That which is out of sight, a Greek word used to denote the state or place of the dead. All the dead alike go into this place. To be buried, to go down to the grave, to descend into Hades, are equivalent expressions. In the LXX. (SEPTUAGINT) this word is the usual rendering of the Hebrew sheol, the common receptacle of the departed (Gen 42:38; Psa 139:8; Hos 13:14; Isa 14:9). This term is of comparatively rare occurrence in the Greek New Testament. Our Lord speaks of Capernaum as being “brought down to hell” (Hades), i.e., simply to the lowest debasement, (Mat 11:23). It is contemplated as a kind of kingdom which could never overturn the foundation of Christ's kingdom (Mat 16:18), i.e., Christ's church can never die.

In Act 2:27-31 Peter quotes the LXX. version of Psa 16:8-11, plainly for the purpose of proving our Lord's resurrection from the dead. David was left in the place of the dead, and his body saw corruption. Not so with Christ. According to ancient prophecy (Psa 30:3) he was recalled to life.

The word "Hades" of the New Testament is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word "Sheol" of the Old Testament (Acts. 2,27, Psalm 16:10). What happens in Hades, or rather Sheol, Ecclesiastes tells us: "for in the Sheol, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom." (Ecclesiastes 9:10) and "For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. " (Ecclesiastes 9:5; see also Psalm 89:49; 139:8; Numbers 16:30). "The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the Sheol and raises up. " (1. Samuel 2:6).  Everybody goes to Hell/Hades, whether they are good or bad or whether they believe or not (John 5:28-29; Job 3:11-19, 14:13; Ez 32:18-32; Ps. 31:17; Dan. 12:2).

Hell (Smith's Bible Dictionary)

In the Old Testament this is the word generally and unfortunately used by our translators to render the Hebrew Sheol . It really means the place of the dead, the unseen world, without deciding whether it be the place of misery or of happiness. It is clear that in many passages of the Old Testament Sheol can only mean "the grave," and is rendered in the Authorized Version; see, for example, (Genesis 37:35; 42:38; 1 Samuel 2:6; Job 14:13) In other passages, however, it seems to Involve a notion of punishment, and is therefore rendered in the Authorized Version by the word "hell." But in many cases this translation misleads the reader. In the New Testament "hell" is the translation of two words, Hades and Gehenna . The word Hades, like Sheol sometimes means merely "the grave," (Acts 2:31; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 20:13) or in general "the unseen world." It is in this sense that the creeds say of our Lord, "He went down into hell," meaning the state of the dead in general, without any restriction of happiness or misery. Elsewhere in the New Testament Hades is used of a place of torment, (Matthew 11:23; Luke 16:23; 2 Peter 2:4) etc.; consequently it has been the prevalent, almost the universal, notion that Hades is an intermediate state between death and resurrection, divided into two parts one the abode of the blest and the other of the lost. It is used eleven times in the New Testament, and only once translated "grave." (1 Corinthians 15:55) The word most frequently used (occurring twelve times) in the New Testament for the place of future punishment is Gehenna or Gehenna of fire . This was originally the valley of Hinnom (Pictures), south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their destruction. See: See Hinnom

Dr. Adam Clarke

Dr. Adam Clarke says: "The word Hell, used in the common translation, conveys now an improper meaning of the original word; because Hell is only used to signify the place of the damned. But as the word Hell comes from the Anglo-Saxon helan, to cover, or hide, henee the tiling or slating of a house is called, in some parts of England (particularly Cornwall), heling, to this day, and the corers of books (in Lancashire), by the same name, so the literal import of the original word Hades was formerly well expressed by it."---Com. in loc.  Footnote Psa 115:18

The American Heritage Dictionary

The American Heritage Dictionary says:


Hell comes to us directly from Old English hel. Because the Roman Church prevailed in England from an early date, the Roman—that is, Mediterranean—belief that hell was hot prevailed there too; in Old English hel is a black and fiery place of eternal torment for the damned. But because the Vikings were converted to Christianity centuries after the Anglo-Saxons, the Old Norse hel, from the same source as Old English hel, retained its earlier pagan senses as both a place and a person. As a place, hel is the abode of oathbreakers, other evil persons, and those unlucky enough not to have died in battle. It contrasts sharply with Valhalla, the hall of slain heroes. Unlike the Mediterranean hell, the Old Norse hel is very cold. Hel is also the name of the goddess or giantess who presides in hel, the half blue-black, half white daughter of Loki and the giantess Angrbotha. The Indo-European root behind these Germanic words is *kel–, “to cover, conceal” (so hell is the “concealed place”); it also gives us hall, hole, hollow, and helmet.

  kel-1. To cover, conceal, save. I. O-grade form *kol-. 1.a. HELL, from Old English hell, hell; b. HEL, from Old Norse Hel, the underworld, goddess of death. Both a and b from Germanic *halj½, the underworld (< “concealed place”). 2.a. HALL, from Old English heall, hall; b. VALHALLA, from Old Norse höll, hall. Both a and b from Germanic *hall½, covered place, hall. 3. Suffixed form *kol-eyo-. COLEUS; COLEOPTERAN, COLEOPTILE, COLEORHIZA, from Greek koleon, koleos, sheath. II. Zero-grade form *k§-. 1.a. HOLD2, HULL, from Old English hulu, husk, pod (< “that which covers”); b. HOLE, from Old English hol, a hollow; c. HOLLOW, from Old English holh, hole, hollow; d. HAUGH, from Old English healh, secret place, small hollow. a, b, c, and d all from Germanic *hul-. 2.a. HOLSTER, from Old High German hulft, covering; b. HOUSING2, from Medieval Latin hultia, protective covering. Both a and b from suffixed Germanic form *hulftº-. 3. Suffixed form *k§-to-. (see III. 2. below) Latin occultus. 4. Extended form *kl³ (< *k§…-). CLANDESTINE, from Latin clam, in secret. 5. Suffixed variant form *kal-up-yo-. CALYPSO1, CALYPTRA; APOCALYPSE, EUCALYPTUS, from Greek kaluptein, to cover, conceal. III. Full-grade form *kel-. 1.a. HELM2, from Old English helm, protection, covering; b. HELMET, from Middle English helmet, helmet, from a source akin to Frankish *helm, helmet. Both a and b from Germanic *helmaz, “protective covering.” 2. OCCULT, from Latin occulere < *ob-kel- (past participle occultus < ob-k§-to-; see II. 3. above), to cover over (ob-, over; see epi). 3. Suffixed form *kel-os-. COLOR, from Latin color, color, hue (< “that which covers”). 4. Suffixed form *kel-n³-. CELL, CELLA, CELLAR, CELLARER; (RATHSKELLER), from Latin cella, storeroom, chamber. 5. Suffixed form *kel-yo-. CILIUM, SEEL; SUPERCILIOUS, (SUPERCILIUM), from Latin cilium, lower eyelid. IV. Lengthened-grade form *kl-³-. CONCEAL, from Latin cl³re, to hide. [Pokorny 4. çel- 553.]

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary says, Main Entry: hell
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old English helan
to conceal, Old High German helan, Latin celare, Greek kalyptein
1 a (1) : a nether world in which the dead continue to exist :
HADES (2) : the nether realm of the devil and the demons in which the damned suffer everlasting punishment -- often used in curses <go to hell> or as a generalized term of abuse <the hell with it> b Christian Science : ERROR 2b, SIN

Encyclopedia Britannica

Hell the abode or state of being of evil spirits or souls that are damned to postmortem punishment. Derived from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “to conceal,” or “to cover,” the term hell originally designated the torrid regions of the underworld, though in some religions the underworld is cold and dark.


The English word 'hell' comes from the Teutonic 'Hel', which originally meant "to cover" and later referred to the goddess of the Norse underworld, Helgardh. Compare Anglo-Saxon helan and Latin celare = "to hide".  

The old Old Norse word Hel derives from Proto-Germanic *khalija, which means "one who covers up or hides something", which itself derives from Proto-Indo-European *kel-, meaning "conceal". The term may have later influenced the English word Hell which is from the Old English forms hel and helle [1]. Related terms are Old Frisian, helle, German Hölle and Gothic halja. Other words more distantly related include hole, hollow, hall, helmet[2] and cell, all from the aforementioned Indo-European root *kel- [3].

In Norse mythology Hel, the underworld was a cold, monotonous place, which was commanded by the goddess Hel.

Strong’s Concordance: 7585. she'owl, sheh-ole'; or  she'ol, sheh-ole'; from H7592; hades or the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat), includ. its accessories and inmates:--grave, hell, pit.

The modern English word Hell is derived from Old English hel, helle (about 725 AD to refer to a nether world of the dead) reaching into the Anglo-Saxon pagan period, and ultimately from Proto-Germanic *halja, meaning "one who covers up or hides something".[1] The word has cognates in related Germanic languages such as Old Frisian helle, hille, Old Saxon hellja, Middle Dutch helle (modern Dutch hel), Old High German helle (Modern German Hölle), Danish, Norwegian and Swedish "helvede"/helvete (hel + Old Norse vitti, "punishment" whence the Icelandic víti "hell"), and Gothic halja.[1] Subsequently, the word was used to transfer a pagan concept to Christian theology and its vocabulary[1] (however, for the Judeo-Christian origin of the concept see Gehenna).

The English word hell has been theorized as being derived from Old Norse hel[1] but the cognate does appear in all the other languages and has a Proto-Germanic origin.[2] Among other sources, the Poetic Edda, compiled from earlier traditional sources in the 13th century, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, provide information regarding the beliefs of the Norse pagans, including a being named Hel, who is described as ruling over an underworld location of the same name. This is envisioned as a "misty" place (rather than the fire envisioned by Christianity and Islam) where go all women and in addition, some men. Punishment for wrong deeds is not mentioned.


The Account of Jonah

When Jonah was swallowed by a giant fish it is self evident that he was not being tortured in some unending fire but inside the belly of the giant fish.  Yet it was translated  in the AV that he cried out of the belly of hell.  Christ himself referred to this incident when telling the group what was to happen between crucifixion and resurrection.  "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth".  Are we to assume Hell is unending torture inside the belly of a Huge Fish?

Jonah 2:2-6   

(Jonah 2:2-6 KJV)  And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell (she'owl) cried I, and thou heardest my voice. {3} For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. {4} Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. {5} The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. {6} I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God. 

Jonah 2:2-6  

(Jonah 2:2-6 He said: "In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave (she'owl) I called for help, and you listened to my cry.. {3} You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. {4} I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.' {5} The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. {6} To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. 

Four different words  


Gehenna,  Ge-Hinnom, Valley of Hinnon, Valley of Ben Hinnom, Gehenna of fire, Topheth.  The word Geenna appears 12 times in the New Testament, 7 times in Mathew, 3 in Mark, 1 in Luke and 1 in James.  In most instances it is used with the term "cast into" or "thrown into" as those terms are used with the lake of fire in the book of Revelation.  Never in scripture are those terms used with the Hebrew Sheole or the Greek Hades.  Outside of the use of Geenna by Christ in the Gospels there is only one writer who used the term and only once.  No other New Testament writer used the term Geenna. 

Revelation 20:13-155: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell hades] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell [hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

All who enter this lake suffer permanent death. They suffer complete destruction—a final punishment that is everlastingeternalpermanent!
It is not the punishing but it is the punishment that is everlasting.

Vincent's Word Studies

As fire was the characteristic of the place, it was called the Gehenna of fire. It should be carefully distinguished from Hades (]äçò), which is never used for the place of punishment, but for the place of departed spirits, without reference to their moral condition. This distinction, ignored by the A. V., is made in the Rev.  

Holman Bible Dictionary

TOPHET (Toh' feht) Name for a place in the Hinnom Valley outside Jerusalem derived from Aramaic or Hebrew meaning, "fireplace," but altered by Hebrew scribes to mean "shameful thing" because of the illicit worship carried on there (Jer. 7:31-32; KJV, "Tophet"). Child sacrifice was practiced at Tophet, leading the prophet to declare a slaughter of people there when God would come in vengeance (Jer. 19:6-11). See Hinnom, Valley of.


The Greek word tartaroo "cast into tartaroo” appears in the New Testament only once (2 Pet. 2:4).  Tartaroo is defined by both Peter and Jude (Jude 1:6) as a prison for rebellious angels waiting judgment day, not a place of torture.

 Tartarus appears in Greek Mythology referring to the Underworld zone for the worst of offenders whom were deemed to be those who had sinned against the gods themselves. The greatest crime of all was to abuse the gods' hospitality. All the more so since to be on familiar terms with the great deities was a particular favor, reserved for the elect.

2 Peter 2:4
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell (tartaroo),[a] putting them into gloomy dungeons[b] to be held for judgment;

Jude 1:6
And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

Geenna and tartaroo 

Geenna (or Gehenna) is the name of a real place. It comes from Hebrew and means "Valley of Hinnom (Ge-Hinnom)". This valley can still be visited today near Jerusalem. In the time of the Old Testament it was a place where children were sacrificed to the Ammonite god Molech (2 Kings 23:10). That cultic practice was, according to the Old Testament, imitated by King Solomon in the 10th Century B.C.E. and under the leadership of king Manasseh in the 7th Century B.C.E. and in times of crisis until the time of exile of the Jews in Babylon (6th Century B.C.E.). The prophet Jeremiah, who condemned that cult strictly, called the valley the "Valley of Slaughter" (Jeremiah 7:31-32; 19:5-9). Gehenna became later a central garbage dump, to stop the practice of child sacrifice. At the turn of the 1st Century C.E. the gorge was used also to burn the dead bodies of criminals after their execution. The imagination of burning dead bodies probably inspired Jewish, and later Christian theologians to translate that place into the erroneous word "hell".

Geenna and tartaroo should have never been translated hell as both words have a entirely different meaning from Sheole, Hades and each other.  The politically correct or should we say Theologically correct form of hell is both completely incorrect and unscriptural.  

( Deu 32:36-39 NIV)  The LORD will judge his people and have compassion on his servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free.. {37} He will say: "Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in, {38} the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up to help you! Let them give you shelter! {39} "See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.

No where in scripture does it say He tortures humanity with never ending torture.

Where did this lie originate? 

In the Garden of Eden of course, Genesis 3:4

Where did this Theologically Correct version of HELL come from? 

It is a cozen by the Catholic Church to control the people.  What better way to control the people than to tell them if they don’t toe the line, they will be tortured forever?  What better way to fleece the flock than to tell them they can buy their way out of eternal torture?  The Catholic Church does not deny that they borrowed the lie from Mythology and Paganism, but they are happy to explain that fact.  They believe they have the right to alter God’s word in any way that benefits their cause.  For approximately 1700 years we have had this lie pounded into our heads by the Catholic Church.  Read on.


Catholic Encyclopedia on CD-ROM
Contains 11,632 articles. Browse off-line, ad-free, printer-friendly.
Get it here for only $29.95



The term hell helan or behelian, "to hide". This verb has the same primitive as the Latin occulere and celare and the Greek kalyptein. Thus by derivation hell denotes a dark and hidden place.

The derivation of sheol is from the Hebrew root meaning, "to be sunk in, to be hollow"; accordingly it denotes a cave or a place under the earth. In the Old Testament sheol is used quite in general to designate the place of the dead, of the good (Genesis 37:35) as well as of the bad (Numbers 16:30)

In ancient Norse mythology Hel is the ill-favoured goddess of the underworld. Only those who fall in battle can enter Valhalla; the rest go down to Hel in the underworld, not all, however, to the place of punishment of criminals.

Hell (infernus) in theological usage is a place of punishment after death. Theologians distinguish four meanings of the term hell:

  • hell in the strict sense, or the place of punishment for the damned, be they demons or men;
  • the limbolimbus parvulorum), where those who die in original sinn alone, and without personal mortal sin, are confined and undergo some kind of punishment;
  • the limbo of the Fathers (limbus patrum), in which the souls of the just who died before Christ awaited their admission to heaven; for in the meantime heaven was closed against them in punishment for the sin of Adam;
  • purgatory, where the just, who die in venial sin or who still owe a debt of temporal punishment for sin, are cleansed by suffering before their admission to heaven.

The present article treats only of hell in the strict sense of the term. (Catholic Church Interpretation)

The Latin infernus (inferum, inferi), the Greek Hades, and the Hebrew sheol correspond to the word hell. Infernus is derived from the root in; hence it designates hell as a place within and below the earth. Haides, formed from the root fid, to see, and a privative, denotes an invisible, hidden, and dark place; thus it is similar to the term hell. The derivation of sheol is doubtful. It is generally supposed to come from the Hebrew root meaning, "to be sunk in, to be hollow"; accordingly it denotes a cave or a place under the earth. In the Old Testament (Sept. hades; Vulg. infernus) sheol is used quite in general to designate the kingdom of the dead, of the good (Genesis 37:35) as well as of the bad (Numbers 16:30); it means hell in the strict sense of the term, as well as the limbo of the Fathers. But, as the limbo of the Fathers ended at the time of Christ's Ascension, hades (Vulg. infernus) in the New Testament always designates the hell of the damned. Since Christ's Ascension the just no longer go down to the lower world, but they dwell in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1). However, in the New Testament the term Gehenna is used more frequently in preference to hades, as a name for the place of punishment of the damned. Gehenna is the Hebrew gê-hinnom (Nehemiah 11:30), or the longer form gê-ben-hinnom (Joshua 15:8), and gê-benê-hinnom (2 Kings 23:10) "valley of the sons of Hinnom". Hinnom seems to be the name of a person not otherwise known. The Valley of Hinnom is south of Jerusalem and is now called Wadi er-rababi. It was notorious as the scene, in earlier days, of the horrible worship of Moloch. For this reason it was defiled by Josias (2 Kings 23:10), cursed by Jeremias (Jeremiah 7:31-33), and held in abomination by the Jews, who, accordingly, used the name of this valley to designate the abode of the damned (Targ. Jon., Gen., iii, 24; Henoch, c. xxvi). And Christ adopted this usage of the term. Besides Hades and Gehenna, we find in the New Testament many other names for the abode of the damned. It is called "lower hell" (Vulg. tartarus) (2 Peter 2:4), "abyss" (Luke 8:31) and elsewhere), "place of torments" (Luke 16:28), "pool of fire" (Revelation 19:20 and elsewhere), "furnace of fire" (Matthew 13:42, 50), "unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:12, and elsewhere), "everlasting fire" (Matthew 18:8; 25:41; Jude 7), "exterior darkness" (Matthew 7:12; 22:13; 25:30), "mist" or "storm of darkness" (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13). The state of the damned is called "destruction" (apoleia, Phil., iii, 19, and elsewhere), "perdition" (olethros, 1 Timothy 6:9), "eternal destruction" (olethros aionios, 2 Thessalonians 1:9), "corruption" (phthora, Galatians 6:8), "death" (Romans 6:21), "second death" (Revelation 2:11 and elsewhere).

Where is hell? Some were of opinion that hell is everywhere, that the damned are at liberty to roam about in the entire universe, but that they carry their punishment with them. The adherents of this doctrine were called Ubiquists, or Ubiquitarians; among them were, e.g., Johann Brenz, a Swabian, a Protestant theologian of the sixteenth century. However, that opinion is universally and deservedly rejected; for it is more in keeping with their state of punishment that the damned be limited in their movements and confined to a definite place. Moreover, if hell is a real fire, it cannot be everywhere, especially after the consummation of the world, when heaven and earth shall have been made anew. As to its locality all kinds of conjectures have been made; it has been suggested that hell is situated on some far island of the sea, or at the two poles of the earth; Swinden, an Englishman of the eighteenth century, fancied it was in the sun; some assigned it to the moon, others to Mars; others placed it beyond the confines of the universe [Wiest, "Instit. theol.", VI (1789), 869]. The Bible seems to indicate that hell is within the earth, for it describes hell as an abyss to which the wicked descend. We even read of the earth opening and of the wicked sinking down into hell (Numbers 16:31 sqq.; Psalm 54:16; Isaiah 5:14; Ezekiel 26:20; Philippians 2:10, etc.). Is this merely a metaphor to illustrate the state of separation from God? Although God is omnipresent, He is said to dwell in heaven, because the light and grandeur of the stars and the firmament are the brightest manifestations of His infinite splendour. But the damned are utterly estranged from God; hence their abode is said to be as remote as possible from his dwelling, far from heaven above and its light, and consequently hidden away in the dark abysses of the earth. However, no cogent reason has been advanced for accepting a metaphorical interpretation in preference to the most natural meaning of the words of Scripture. Hence theologians generally accept the opinion that hell is really within the earth. The Church has decided nothing on this subject; hence we may say hell is a definite place; but where it is, we do not know. St. Chrysostom reminds us: "We must not ask where hell is, but how we are to escape it" (In Rom., hom. xxxi, n. 5, in P.G., LX, 674). St. Augustine says: "It is my opinion that the nature of hell-fire and the location of hell are known to no man unless the Holy Ghost made it known to him by a special revelation", (De Civ. Dei, XX, xvi, in P.L., XLI, 682). Elsewhere he expresses the opinion that hell is under the earth (Retract., II, xxiv, n. 2 in P.L., XXXII, 640). St. Gregory the Great wrote: "I do not dare to decide this question. Some thought hell is somewhere on earth; others believe it is under the earth" (Dial., IV, xlii, in P.L., LXXVII, 400; cf. Patuzzi, "De sede inferni", 1763; Gretser, "De subterraneis animarum receptaculis", 1595).


There is a hell, i.e. all those who die in personal mortal sin, as enemies of God, and unworthy of eternal life, will be severely punished by God after death. On the nature of mortal sin, see SIN; on the immediate beginning of punishment after death, see PARTICULAR JUDGMENT. As to the fate of those who die free from personal mortal sin, but in original sin, see LIMBO (limbus parvulorum).

The existence of hell is, of course, denied by all those who deny the existence of God or the immortality of the soul. Thus among the Jew the Sadducees, among the Gnostics, the Seleucians, and in our own time Materialists, Pantheists, etc., deny the existence of hell. But apart from these, if we abstract from the eternity of the pains of hell, the doctrine has never met any opposition worthy of mention.

The existence of hell is proved first of all from the Bible. Wherever Christ and the Apostles speak of hell they presuppose the knowledge of its existence (Matthew 5:29; 8:12; 10:28; 13:42; 25:41, 46; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Revelation 21:8, etc.). A very complete development of the Scriptural argument, especially in regard to the Old Testament, may be found in Atzberger's "Die christliche Eschatologie in den Stadien ihrer Offenbarung im Alten und Neuen Testament", Freiburg, 1890. Also the Fathers, from the very earliest times, are unanimous in teaching that the wicked will be punished after death. And in proof of their doctrine they appeal both to Scripture and to reason (cf. Ignatius, "Ad Eph.", v, 16; "Martyrium s. Polycarpi", ii, n, 3; xi, n.2; Justin, "Apol.", II, n. 8 in P.G., VI, 458; Athenagoras, "De resurr. mort.", c. xix, in P.G., VI, 1011; Irenaeus, "Adv. haer.", V, xxvii, n. 2 in P.G. VII, 1196; Tertullian, "Adv. Marc.", I, c. xxvi, in P.L., IV, 277). For citations from this patristic teaching see Atzberger, "Gesh. der christl. Eschatologie innerhalb der vornicanischen Zeit" (Freiburg, 1896); Petavius, "De Angelis", III, iv sqq.

The Church professes her faith in the Athanasian Creed: "They that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire" (Denzinger, "Enchiridion", 10th ed., 1908, n.40). The Church has repeatedly defined this truth, e.g. in the profession of faith made in the Second Council of Lyons (Denx., n. 464) and in the Decree of Union in the Council of Florence (Denz., N. 693): "the souls of those who depart in mortal sin, or only in original sin, go down immediately into hell, to be visited, however, with unequal punishments" (poenis disparibus).

If we abstract from the eternity of its punishment, the existence of hell can be demonstrated even by the light of mere reason. In His sanctity and justice as well as in His wisdom, God must avenge the violation of the moral order in such wise as to preserve, at least in general, some proportion between the gravity of sin and the severity of punishment. But it is evident from experience that God does not always do this on earth; therefore He will inflict punishment after death. Moreover, if all men were fully convinced that the sinner need fear no kind of punishment after death, moral and social order would be seriously menaced. This, however, Divine wisdom cannot permit. Again, if there were no retribution beyond that which takes place before our eyes here on earth, we should have to consider God extremely indifferent to good and evil, and we could in no way account for His justice and holiness. Nor can it be said: the wicked will be punished, but not by any positive infliction: for either death will be the end of their existence, or, forfeiting the rich reward of the good, they will enjoy some lesser degree of happiness. These are arbitrary and vain subterfuges, unsupported by any sound reason; positive punishment is the natural recompense of evil. Besides, due proportion between demerit and punishment would be rendered impossible by an indiscriminate annihilation of all the wicked. And finally, if men knew that their sins would not be followed by sufferings, the mere threat of annihilation at the moment of death, and still less the prospect of a somewhat lower degree of beatitude, would not suffice to deter them from sin.

Furthermore, reason easily understands that in the next life the just will be made happy as a reward of their virtue (see HEAVEN). But the punishment of evil is the natural counterpart of the reward of virtue. Hence, there will also be punishment for sin in the next life. Accordingly, we find among all nations the belief that evil-doers will be punished after death. This universal conviction of mankind is an additional proof for the existence of hell. For it is impossible that, in regard to the fundamental questions of their being and their destiny, all men should fall into the same error; else the power of human reason would be essentially deficient, and the order of this world would be unduly wrapt in mystery; this however, is repugnant both to nature and to the wisdom of the Creator. On the belief of all nations in the existence of hell cf. Lüken, "Die Traditionen des Menschengeschlechts" (2nd ed., Münster, 1869); Knabenbauer, "Das Zeugnis des Menschengeschlechts fur die Unsterblichkeit der Seele" (1878). The few men who, despite the morally universal conviction of the human race, deny the existence of hell, are mostly atheists and Epicureans. But if the view of such men in the fundamental question of our being could be the true one, apostasy would be the way to light, truth, and wisdom.


Many admit the existence of hell, but deny the eternity of its punishment. Conditionalists hold only a hypothetical immortality of the soul, and assert that after undergoing a certain amount of punishment, the souls of the wicked will be annihilated. Among the Gnostics the Valentinians held this doctrine, and later on also Arnobius, the Socinians, many Protestants both in the past and in our own times, especially of late (Edw. White, "Life in Christ", New York, 1877). The Universalists teach that in the end all the damned, at least all human souls, will attain beatitude (apokatastasis ton panton, restitutio omnium, according to Origen).

Or·i·gen (ôr“¹-jµn, -jn, ¼r-). A.D. 185?-254?. Greek Christian philosopher known for his interpretations of the Old Testament, contained in Hexapla.

 This was a tenet of the Origenists and the Misericordes of whom St. Augustine speaks (De Civ. Dei, XXI, xviii, n. 1, in P.L., XLI, 732). There were individual adherents of this opinion in every century, e.g. Scotus Eriugena; in particular, many rationalistic Protestants of the last centuries defended this belief, e.g. in England, Farrar, "Eternal Hope" (five sermons preached in Westminster Abbey, London and New York, 1878). Among Catholics, Hirscher and Schell have recently expressed the opinion that those who do not die in the state of grace can still be converted after death if they are not too wicked and impenitent.

The Holy Bible is quite explicit in teaching the eternity of the pains of hell. The torments of the damned shall last forever and ever (Revelation 14:11; 19:3; 20:10). They are everlasting just as are the joys of heaven (Matthew 25:46). Of Judas Christ says: "it were better for him, if that man had not been born" (Matthew 26:24). But this would not have been true if Judas was ever to be released from hell and admitted to eternal happiness. Again, God says of the damned: "Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched" (Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:43, 45, 47). The fire of hell is repeatedly called eternal and unquenchable. The wrath of God abideth on the damned (John 3:36); they are vessels of Divine wrath (Romans 9:22); they shall not possess the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21), etc. The objections adduced from Scripture against this doctrine are so meaningless that they are not worth while discussing in detail. The teaching of the fathers is not less clear and decisive (cf. Patavius, "De Angelis", III, viii). We merely call to mind the testimony of the martyrs who often declared that they were glad to suffer pain of brief duration in order to escape eternal torments; e.g. "Martyrium Polycarpi", c. ii (cf. Atzberger, "Geschichte", II, 612 sqq.). It is true that Origen fell into error on this point; but precisely for this error he was condemned by the Church (Canones adv. Origenem ex Justiniani libro adv. Origen., can. ix; Hardouin, III, 279 E; Denz., n. 211). In vain attempts were made to undermine the authority of these canons (cf. Dickamp, "Die origenistischen Streitigkeiten", Münster, 1899, 137). Besides even in Origen we find the orthodox teaching on the eternity of the pains of hell; for in his words the faithful Christian was again and again victorious over the doubting philosopher. Gregory of Nyssa seems to have favoured the errors of Origen; many, however, believe that his statements can be shown to be in harmony with Catholic doctrine. But the suspicions that have been cast on some passages of Gregory of Nazianzus and Jerome are decidedly without justification (cf. Pesch, "Theologische Zeitfragen", 2nd series, 190 sqq.). The Church professes her faith in the eternity of the pains of hell in clear terms in the Athanasian Creed (Denz., nn. 40), in authentic doctrinal decisions (Denz, nn. 211, 410, 429, 807, 835, 915), and in countless passages of her liturgy; she never prays for the damned. Hence, beyond the possibility of doubt, the Church expressly teaches the eternity of the pains of hell as a truth of faith which no one can deny or call in question without manifest heresy.

But what is the attitude of mere reason towards this doctrine? Just as God must appoint some fixed term for the time of trial, after which the just will enter into the secure possession of a happiness that can never again be lost in all eternity, so it is likewise appropriate that after the expiration of that term the wicked will be cut off from all hope of conversion and happiness. For the malice of men cannot compel God to prolong the appointed time of probation and to grant them again and again, without end, the power of deciding their lot for eternity. Any obligation to act in this manner would be unworthy of God, because it would make Him dependent on the caprice of human malice, would rob His threats in great part of their efficacy, and would offer the amplest scope and the strongest incentive to human presumption. God has actually appointed the end of this present life, or the moment of death, as the term of man's probation. For in that moment there takes place in our life an essential and momentous change; from the state of union with the body the soul passes into a life apart. No other sharply defined instant of our life is of like importance. Hence we must conclude that death is the end of our probation; for it is meet that our trial should terminate at a moment of our existence so prominent and significant as to be easily perceived by every man. Accordingly, it is the belief of all people that eternal retribution is dealt out immediately after death. This conviction of mankind is an additional proof of our thesis.

Finally, the preservation of moral and social order would not be sufficiently provided for, if men knew that the time of trial were to be continued after death.

Many believe that reason cannot give any conclusive proof for the eternity of the pains of hell, but that it can merely show that this doctrine does not involve any contradiction. Since the Church has made no decision on this point, each one is entirely free to embrace this opinion. As is apparent, the author of this article does not hold it. We admit that God might have extended the time of trial beyond death; however, had He done so, He would have permitted man to know about it, and would have made corresponding provision for the maintenance of moral order in this life. We may further admit that it is not intrinsically impossible for God to annihilate the sinner after some definite amount of punishment; but this would be less in conformity with the nature of man's immortal soul; and, secondly, we know of no fact that might give us any right to suppose God will act in such a manner.

The objection is made that there is no proportion between the brief moment of sin and an eternal punishment. But why not? We certainly admit a proportion between a momentary good deed and its eternal reward, not, it is true, a proportion of duration, but a proportion between the law and its appropriate sanction. Again, sin is an offence against the infinite authority of God, and the sinner is in some way aware of this, though but imperfectly. Accordingly there is in sin an approximation to infinite malice which deserves an eternal punishment. Finally, it must be remembered that, although the act of sinning is brief, the guilt of sin remains forever; for in the next life the sinner never turns away from his sin by a sincere conversion. It is further objected that the sole object of punishment must be to reform the evil-doer. This is not true. Besides punishments inflicted for correction, there are also punishments for the satisfaction of justice. But justice demands that whoever departs from the right way in his search for happiness shall not find his happiness, but lose it. The eternity of the pains of hell responds to this demand for justice. And, besides, the fear of hell does really deter many from sin; and thus, in as far as it is threatened by God, eternal punishment also serves for the reform of morals. But if God threatens man with the pains of hell, He must also carry out His threat if man does not heed it by avoiding sin.

For solving other objections it should be noted:

  • God is not only infinitely good, He is infinitely wise, just, and holy.
  • No one is cast into hell unless he has fully and entirely deserved it.
  • The sinner perseveres forever in his evil disposition.
  • We must not consider the eternal punishment of hell as a series of separate of distinct terms of punishment, as if God were forever again and again pronouncing a new sentence and inflicting new penalties, and as if He could never satisfy His desire of vengeance. Hell is, especially in the eyes of God, one and indivisible in its entirety; it is but one sentence and one penalty. We may represent to ourselves a punishment of indescribable intensity as in a certain sense the equivalent of an eternal punishment; this may help us to see better how God permits the sinner to fall into hell -- how a man who sets at naught all Divine warnings, who fails to profit by all the patient forbearance God has shown him, and who in wanton disobedience is absolutely bent on rushing into eternal punishment, can be finally permitted by God's just indignation to fall into hell.

In itself, it is no rejection of Catholic dogma to suppose that God might at times, by way of exception, liberate a soul from hell. Thus some argued from a false interpretation of I Peter 3:19 sq., that Christ freed several damned souls on the occasion of His descent into hell. Others were misled by untrustworthy stories into the belief that the prayers of Gregory the Great rescued the Emperor Trajan from hell. But now theologians are unanimous in teaching that such exceptions never take place and never have taken place, a teaching which should be accepted. If this be true, how can the Church pray in the Offertory of the Mass for the dead: "Libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu" etc.? Many think the Church uses these words to designate purgatory. They can be explained more readily, however, if we take into consideration the peculiar spirit of the Church's liturgy; sometimes she refers her prayers not to the time at which they are said, but to the time for which they are said. Thus the offertory in question is referred to the moment when the soul is about to leave the body, although it is actually said some time after that moment; and as if he were actually at the death-beds of the faithful, the priest implores God to preserve their souls from hell. But whichever explanation be preferred, this much remains certain, that in saying that offertory the Church intends to implore only those graces which the soul is still capable of receiving, namely, the grace of a happy death or the release from purgatory.


The damned are confirmed in evil; every act of their will is evil and inspired by hatred of God. This is the common teaching of theology; St. Thomas sets it forth in many passages. Nevertheless, some have held the opinion that, although the damned cannot perform any supernatural action, they are still able to perform, now and then, some naturally good deed; thus far the Church has not condemned this opinion. The author of this article maintains that the common teaching is the true one; for in hell the separation from the sanctifying power of Divine love is complete. Many assert that this inability to do good works is physical, and assign the withholding of all grace as its proximate cause; in doing so, they take the term grace in its widest meaning, i.e. every Divine co-operation both in natural and in supernatural good actions. The damned, then, can never choose between acting out of love of God and virtue, and acting out of hatred of God. Hatred is the only motive in their power; and they have no other choice than that of showing their hatred of God by one evil action in preference to another. The last and the real cause of their impenitence is the state of sin which they freely chose as their portion on earth and in which they passed, unconverted, into the next life and into that state of permanence (status termini) by nature due to rational creatures, and to an unchangeable attitude of mind. Quite in consonance with their final state, God grants them only such cooperation as corresponds to the attitude which they freely chose as their own in this life. Hence the damned can but hate God and work evil, whilst the just in heaven or in purgatory, being inspired solely by love of God, can but do good. Therefore, too, the works of the reprobate, in as far as they are inspired by hatred of God, are not formal, but only material sins, because they are performed without the liberty requisite for moral imputability. Formal sin the reprobate commits then only, when, from among several actions in his power, he deliberately chooses that which contains the greater malice. By such formal sins the damned do not incur any essential increase of punishment, because in that final state the very possibility and Divine permission of sin are in themselves a punishment; and, moreover, a sanction of the moral law would be quite meaningless.

From what has been said it follows that the hatred which the lost soul bears to God is voluntary in its cause only; and the cause is the deliberate sin which it committed on earth and by which it merited reprobation. It is also obvious that God is not responsible for the reprobate's material sins of hate, because by granting His co-operation in their sinful acts as well as by refusing them every incitement to good, He acts quite in accordance with the nature of their state. Therefore their sins are no more imputable to God than are the blasphemies of a man in the state of total intoxication, although they are not uttered without Divine assistance. The reprobate carries in himself the primary cause of impenitence; it is the guilt of sin which he committed on earth and with which he passed into eternity. The proximate cause of impenitence in hell is God's refusal of every grace and every impulse for good. It would not be intrinsically impossible for God to move the damned to repentance; yet such a course would be out of keeping with the state of final reprobation. The opinion that the Divine refusal of all grace and of every incitement to good is the proximate cause of impenitence, is upheld by many theologians, and in particular by Molina. Suarez considers it probable. Scotus and Vasquez hold similar views. Even the Fathers and St. Thomas may be understood in this sense. Thus St. Thomas teaches (De verit., Q. xxiv, a.10) that the chief cause of impenitence is Divine justice which refuses the damned every grace. Nevertheless many theologians, e.g. Suarez, defend the opinion that the damned are only morally incapable of good; they have the physical power, but the difficulties in their way are so great that they can never be surmounted. The damned can never divert their attention from their frightful torments, and at the same time they know that all hope is lost to them. Hence despair and hatred of God, their just Judge, is almost inevitable, and even the slightest good impulse becomes morally impossible. The Church has not decided this question. The present author prefers Molina's opinion.

But if the damned are impenitent, how can Scripture (Wisdom 5) say they repent of their sin? They deplore with the utmost intensity the punishment, but not the malice of sin; to this they cling more tenaciously than ever. Had they an opportunity, they would commit the sin again, not indeed for the sake of its gratification, which they found illusive, but out of sheer hatred of God. They are ashamed of their folly which led them to seek happiness in sin, but not of the malice of sin itself (St. Thomas, Theol. comp., c. cxxv).


The poena damni, or pain of loss, consists in the loss of the beatific vision and in so complete a separation of all the powers of the soul from God that it cannot find in Him even the least peace and rest. It is accompanied by the loss of all supernatural gifts, e.g. the loss of faith. The characters impressed by the sacraments alone remain to the greater confusion of the bearer. The pain of loss is not the mere absence of superior bliss, but it is also a most intense positive pain. The utter void of the soul made for the enjoyment of infinite truth and infinite goodness causes the reprobate immeasurable anguish. Their consciousness that God, on Whom they entirely depend, is their enemy forever is overwhelming. Their consciousness of having by their own deliberate folly forfeited the highest blessings for transitory and delusive pleasures humiliates and depresses them beyond measure. The desire for happiness inherent in their very nature, wholly unsatisfied and no longer able to find any compensation for the loss of God in delusive pleasure, renders them utterly miserable. Moreover, they are well aware that God is infinitely happy, and hence their hatred and their impotent desire to injure Him fills them with extreme bitterness. And the same is true with regard to their hatred of all the friends of God who enjoy the bliss of heaven. The pain of loss is the very core of eternal punishment. If the damned beheld God face to face, hell itself, notwithstanding its fire, would be a kind of heaven. Had they but some union with God even if not precisely the union of the beatific vision, hell would no longer be hell, but a kind of purgatory. And yet the pain of loss is but the natural consequence of that aversion from God which lies in the nature of every mortal sin.


The poena sensus, or pain of sense, consists in the torment of fire so frequently mentioned in the Holy Bible. According to the greater number of theologians the term fire denotes a material fire, and so a real fire. We hold to this teaching as absolutely true and correct. However, we must not forget two things: from Catharinus (d. 1553) to our times there have never been wanting theologians who interpret the Scriptural term fire metaphorically, as denoting an incorporeal fire; and secondly, thus far the Church has not censured their opinion. Some few of the Fathers also thought of a metaphorical explanation. Nevertheless, Scripture and tradition speak again and again of the fire of hell, and there is no sufficient reason for taking the term as a mere metaphor. It is urged: How can a material fire torment demons, or human souls before the resurrection of the body? But, if our soul is so joined to the body as to be keenly sensitive to the pain of fire, why should the omnipotent God be unable to bind even pure spirits to some material substance in such a manner that they suffer a torment more or less similar to the pain of fire which the soul can feel on earth? The reply indicates, as far as possible, how we may form an idea of the pain of fire which the demons suffer. Theologians have elaborated various theories on this subject, which, however, we do not wish to detail here (cf. the very minute study by Franz Schmid, "Quaestiones selectae ex theol. dogm.", Paderborn, 1891, q. iii; also Guthberlet, "Die poena sensus" in "Katholik", II, 1901, 305 sqq., 385 sqq.).

It is quite superfluous to add that the nature of hell-fire is different from that of our ordinary fire; for instance, it continues to burn without the need of a continually renewed supply of fuel. How are we to form a conception of that fire in detail remains quite undetermined; we merely know that it is corporeal. The demons suffer the torment of fire, even when, by Divine permission, they leave the confines of hell and roam about on earth. In what manner this happens is uncertain. We may assume that they remain fettered inseparably to a portion of that fire.

The pain of sense is the natural consequence of that inordinate turning to creatures which is involved in every mortal sin. It is meet that whoever seeks forbidden pleasure should find pain in return. (Cf. Heuse, "Das Feuer der Hölle" in "Katholik", II, 1878, 225 sqq., 337 sqq., 486 sqq., 581 sqq.; "Etudes religieuses", L, 1890, II, 309, report of an answer of the Poenitentiaria, 30 April, 1890; Knabenbauer, "In Matth., xxv, 41".)


According to theologians the pain of loss and the pain of sense constitute the very essence of hell, the former being by far the most dreadful part of eternal punishment. But the damned also suffer various "accidental" punishments.

  • Just as the blessed in heaven are free from all pain, so, on the other hand, the damned never experience even the least real pleasure. In hell separation from the blissful influence of Divine love has reached its consummation.
  • The reprobate must live in the midst of the damned; and their outbursts of hatred or of reproach as they gloat over his sufferings, and their hideous presence, are an ever fresh source of torment.
  • The reunion of soul and body after the Resurrection will be a special punishment for the reprobate, although there will be no essential change in the pain of sense which they are already suffering.

As to the punishments visited upon the damned for their venial sins, cf. Suarez, "De peccatis", disp. vii, s. 4.


(1) The pains of hell differ in degree according to demerit. This holds true not only of the pain of sense, but also of the pain of loss. A more intense hatred of God, a more vivid consciousness of utter abandonment by Divine goodness, a more restless craving to satisfy the natural desire for beatitude with things external to God, a more acute sense of shame and confusion at the folly of having sought happiness in earthly enjoyment -- all this implies as its correlation a more complete and more painful separation from God.

(2) The pains of hell are essentially immutable; there are no temporary intermissions or passing alleviations. A few Fathers and theologians, in particular the poet Prudentius, expressed the opinion that on stated days God grants the damned a certain respite, and that besides this the prayers of the faithful obtain for them other occasional intervals of rest. The Church has never condemned this opinion in express terms. But now theologians are justly unanimous in rejecting it. St. Thomas condemns it severely (In IV Sent., dist. xlv, Q. xxix, cl.1). [Cf. Merkle, "Die Sabbatruhe in der Hölle" in "Romische Quartalschrift" (1895), 489 sqq.; see also Prudentius.]

However, accidental changes in the pains of hell are not excluded. Thus it may be that the reprobate is sometimes more and sometimes less tormented by his surroundings. Especially after the last judgment there will be an accidental increase in punishment; for then the demons will never again be permitted to leave the confines of hell, but will be finally imprisoned for all eternity; and the reprobate souls of men will be tormented by union with their hideous bodies.

(3) Hell is a state of the greatest and most complete misfortune, as is evident from all that has been said. The damned have no joy whatever, and it were better for them if they had not been born (Matthew 26:24). Not long ago Mivart (The Nineteenth Century, Dec., 1892, Febr. and Apr., 1893) advocated the opinion that the pains of the damned would decrease with time and that in the end their lot would not be so extremely sad; that they would finally reach a certain kind of happiness and would prefer existence to annihilation; and although they would still continue to suffer a punishment symbolically described as a fire by the Bible, yet they would hate God no longer, and the most unfortunate among them be happier than many a pauper in this life. It is quite obvious that all this is opposed to Scripture and the teaching of the Church. The articles cited were condemned by the Congregation of the Index and the Holy Office on 14 and 19 July, 1893 (cf. "Civiltà Cattolia", I, 1893, 672).





(Gen 42:38 NIV) But Jacob said, "My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave (Sheol) in sorrow."

(Num 16:30-35 NIV)  But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave (Sheol, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt." {31} As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart {32} and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions. {33} They went down alive into the grave (Sheol, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. {34} At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, "The earth is going to swallow us too!" {35} And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

(Psa 139:8 KJV)  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

(Hosea 13:14 NIV)  "I will ransom them from the power of the grave (Sheol ; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave (Sheol, is your destruction? "I will have no compassion,

(Isa 14:9 NIV)  The grave (Sheol below is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you-- all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones-- all those who were kings over the nations.

(Mat 11:23-24 NIV)  And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. {24} But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."

(Mat 16:18 NIV)  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades (Grave) will not overcome it.

(Acts 2:27-35 NIV)  because you will not abandon me to the grave (Hades), nor will you let your Holy One see decay. {28} You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.' {29} "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. {30} But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. {31} Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave (Sheol, nor did his body see decay. {32} God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. {33} Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. {34} For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, "'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand {35} until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."'

(Psa 16:8-11 NIV)  I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. {9} Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, {10} because you will not abandon me to the grave (Sheol, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. {11} You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

(Psa 30:3-5 NIV)  O LORD, you brought me up from the grave (Sheol; you spared me from going down into the pit. {4} Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. {5} For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

 (2 Cor 5:1 NIV)  Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

(Gen 37:34-35 NIV)  Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. {35} All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "No," he said, "in mourning will I go down to the grave (Sheol) (Hell) to my son." So his father wept for him.

(Neh 11:30 NIV)  Zanoah, Adullam and their villages, in Lachish and its fields, and in Azekah and its settlements. So they were living all the way from Beersheba to the Valley of Hinnom.

(Psa 54 NIV)  For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David. When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, "Is not David hiding among us?" Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might. {2} Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth. {3} Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life-- men without regard for God. Selah {4} Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. {5} Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them. {6} I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, O LORD, for it is good. {7} For he has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.

Psalm 54:16 (Psalm 54 originally contained only 7 verses, 8 thru 24 were added by the Catholic Church)

54:8. Lo, I have gone far off flying away; and I abode in the wilderness.
54:9. I waited for him that hath saved me from pusillanimity of spirit, and a storm.
54:10. Cast down, O
Lord, and divide their tongues; for I have seen iniquity and contradiction in the city.
54:11. Day and night shall
iniquity surround it upon its walls: and in the midst thereof are labour,
54:12. And
injustice. And usury and deceit have not departed from its streets.
I54:13. For if my enemy had
reviled me, I would verily have borne with it. And if he that hated me had spoken great things against me, I would perhaps have hidden my self from him.
54:14. But thou a
man of one mind, my guide, and my familiar,
54:15. Who didst take sweetmeats together with me: in the
house of God we walked with consent.
54:16. Let death come upon them, and let them go down alive into hell. For there is
wickedness in their dwellings: in the midst of them.
Let death, etc... This, and such like imprecations which occur in the psalms, are delivered prophetically; that is, by way of foretelling the punishments which shall fall upon the wicked from divine justice, and approving the righteous ways of God: but not by way of ill will, or uncharitable curses, which the law of God disallows.

54:17. But I have cried to God: and the Lord will save me.
54:18. Evening and morning, and at noon I will speak and declare: and he shall hear my voice.
54:19. He shall
redeem my soul in peace from them that draw near to me: for among many they were with me.
Among many, etc... That is, they that drew near to attack me were many in company all combined to fight against me.

54:20. God shall hear, and the Eternal shall humble them. For there is no change with them, and they have not feared God:
54:21. He hath stretched forth his hand to repay. They have defiled his covenant,
54:22. They are divided by the
wrath of his countenance, and his heart hath drawn near. His words are smoother than oil, and the same are darts.
They are divided, etc... Dispersed, scattered, and brought to nothing, by the wrath of God; who looks with indignation on their wicked and deceitful ways.

54:23. Cast thy care upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall not suffer the just to waver for ever.
54:24. But thou, O
God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction. Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee, O Lord.

(Isa 5:14 NIV)  Therefore the grave (Sheol enlarges its appetite and opens its mouth without limit; into it will descend their nobles and masses with all their brawlers and revelers.

(Ezek 26:20-21 NIV)  then I will bring you down with those who go down to the pit, to the people of long ago. I will make you dwell in the earth below, as in ancient ruins, with those who go down to the pit, and you will not return or take your place in the land of the living. {21} I will bring you to a horrible end and you will be no more. You will be sought, but you will never again be found, declares the Sovereign LORD."

(Phil 2:9-11 NIV)  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, {10} that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, {11} and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(Mat 5:29-30 NIV)  If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell (geenna, gheh'-en-nah). {30} And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell (geenna, gheh'-en-nah). 

(Mat 8:12 NIV)  But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

(Mat 10:28 NIV)  Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (geenna, gheh'-en-nah).

(Mat 13:40-42 NIV)  "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. {41} The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. {42} They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

(Mat 25:41-46 NIV)  "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. {42} For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, {43} I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' {44} "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' {45} "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' {46} "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

(2 Th 1:8-11 NIV)  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. {9} They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power {10} on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. {11} With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.

(Rev 21:8 NIV)  But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

(Rev 14:11-13 NIV)  And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name." {12} This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. {13} Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them."

(Rev 19:1-3 NIV)  After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, {2} for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants." {3} And again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever."

(Rev 20:10-15 NIV)  And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. {11} Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. {12} And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. {13} The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. {14} Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. {15} If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

(Rev 21:1 NIV)  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

(Mat 25:45-46 NIV)  "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' {46} "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

(Mat 26:24 NIV)  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."

(Isa 66:24 NIV)  "And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."

(Mark 9:43 KJV And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell (geenna, gheh'-en-nah)., into the fire that never shall be quenched:

(Mark 9:43-48 KJV And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell (geenna, gheh'-en-nah), into the fire that never shall be quenched: {44} Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. {45} And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell (geenna, gheh'-en-nah), into the fire that never shall be quenched: {46} Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. {47} And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire (geenna, gheh'-en-nah): {48} Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

(John 3:36 NIV)  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

(Rom 9:22-24 NIV)  What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared for destruction? {23} What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory-- {24} even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

(1 Cor 6:9-10 NIV)  Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders {10} nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

(Gal 5:19-21 NIV)  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; {20} idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions {21} and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.