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The term hell is cognate to \"hole\" (cavern) and \"hollow\". It is a substantive formed from the Anglo-Saxon 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. 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.
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 (Septuagint hades; Vulgate 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 (Vulgate 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\" (Vulgate 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, Philippians 3:19 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\", (City of God XX.16). 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, Against Heresies V.27.2; 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 (Denz., 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. 153554b96e