Fundamentalist Baptist Pastor Bill strongly disagrees that the first 2/3 of the Old Testament doesn’t mention Hell


Pastor Bill, a fundamentalist Baptist pastor and childhood family friend, is corresponding with me regarding my loss of faith.  He has kindly agreed to allow me to post his correspondence here on my blog.  I ask my readers to be polite to Pastor Bill.  Even though he has disagreed with my decision to become a Lutheran, and most recently, an agnostic, he has always been kind and polite.  You are welcome to post (polite) comments below the post(s).  Whether Pastor Bill chooses to respond to readers’ comments is his choice as I know he is a very busy man.

I will intersperse my comments in red.

11 June 15
 
Pastor Bill:  From Gary’s answer to my statement that Once you’re a Christian you’re always a Christian…Jesus said a person must be “born again” but no where does the Bible teach that a child of God can be unborn.
 
 Quote from Gary…
 
“The evidence clearly demonstrates that a concept of Hell was introduced into Judaism during the Greek occupation of Palestine, which was then adopted into early Christianity.  As proof, one cannot find any mention of a place of fiery eternal damnation and torment anywhere in the first 2/3 of the Hebrew Bible!….
 
Gary, Gary, Gary, what are we going to do with you? I have no idea what Bible you have been reading, or what Bible you reference as a Hebrew Bible, but, my English translation of the Hebrew Bible mentions HELL several times prior to the Bible being 2/3’s finished. In other words times in the first two thirds of the Bible HELL is mentioned. Could it be that you’re as wrong about anything else as you are about that?

Dear Pastor Bill, I was very careful in choosing my words in my statement above.  The Hebrew Bible is not the same as the King James Version of the Christian Bible.  I know that you believe that the KJV is the only true Bible, but I cannot fathom where you obtain the evidence for this belief.  I believe that you base this belief on very, very weak assumptions.

Anyway, let’s compare the passages you have listed below with the same passage in the Hebrew Bible and see if they say the same thing.  If they do not, which Bible should we choose?  If you say the KJV, then I must ask:  How is it possible that English Bible translators in the early seventeenth century understood the Hebrew language better than the Jewish people themselves??

I will include, at times, some of the surrounding passages from the Hebrew Bible for the context of the passage in question.
 
 
Deuteronomy 32:22

 KJV:
 
22 For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest HELL, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.

Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB):

20 And He said, I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; for they are a very perverse generation, banim in whom is no faithfulness.
21 They have moved Me to jealousy with that which is lo El (not G-d), they have provoked Me to anger with their vanities; and I will move them to jealousy with those which are lo Am (a nonpeople); I will provoke them to anger with a goy naval (foolish, senseless nation) [Ro 10:19].
22 For an eish is kindled in Mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest Sheol, and shall devour Eretz and her increase, and set on fire the foundations of harim.

The word “Hell” does not appear in this passage.

It is a fundamentalist Christian assumption to believe that “Sheol” and “Hell” are the same place.  My statement above specifically says that there is no mention of “Hell” in the first 2/3 of the Hebrew Bible.  Why did the translators of the KJV substitute the word “Hell” for the Hebrew word “Sheol”???

In Genesis Jacob says that he will go down to Sheol to be with his dead son, Joseph.  Are we to believe that the Patriarch Jacob was headed to an eternity burning in Hellfire, joining his son Joseph in that horrific pit of divine torture??  No.  “Sheol” means “grave” or “depth of the earth”.
 

2 Samuel 22:6

 (KJV):
 

6 The sorrows of HELL compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me;  

Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB):

And Dovid (David) spoke unto Hashem (God) the devarim of this shirah (song) in the day that Hashem had delivered him out of the palm of all his oyevim (enemies) and out of the palm of Sha’ul:
And he said, Hashem (God) is my rock, and my matzadah, and my deliverer;
The Elohei (G-d of) my Tzur; in Him will I trust; He is my mogen, and the keren of my Salvation, my stronghold, and my refuge, my Moshia; Thou savest me from chamas.
I will call on Hashem, Who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my oyevim.
When the waves of mavet (death) compassed me, the floods of scoundrels overwhelm me;
The chevlei Sheol (cords of Sheol) encompassed me; the snares of mavet confronted me;
In my distress I called upon Hashem, and cried to Elohai; and He did hear my voice out of His Heikhal, and my cry did enter into His oznayim.
 
Are we to believe that David was burning in Hell in this passage??  Again, no mention of “Hell”.

Job 11:8

 (KJV):
 
8 It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than HELL; what canst thou know?  

 Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB):

Canst thou search out the cheker Eloah (depths of G-d)? Canst thou probe to the tachlis Shaddai (the end, completeness of Almighty)?
It is like the heights of Shomayim; what canst thou do? Deeper than Sheol; of what canst thou have da’as?
The measure thereof is longer than ha’aretz, and broader than the yam (sea).
10 When Eloah passes by and arrests and convenes for judgment, who then can constrain Him?
 
Once again, no mention of “Hell”.
 
 
Job 26:6

 (KJV):
 
6 HELL is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.  

Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB):

Sheol is naked before Him, and Avaddon hath no cover.
 
The word “Hell” not found in this passage.

 
Psalm 9:17

 (KJV):
 
17 The wicked shall be turned into HELL, and all the nations that forget God.  

Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB):

17 (18) The resha’im shall be turned into Sheol, and all the Goyim that forget Elohim.

Sheol, not “Hell”.
 

 
Psalm 16:10

 (KJV):
 
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in HELL; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.  

Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB):

 For Thou wilt not abandon my nefesh in Sheol; neither wilt Thou allow Thine Chasid to see shachat (corruption, the pit, the grave, the abyss of corruption;

We are seeing a pattern, aren’t we readers?  The Hebrew Bible uses the word “Sheol” and the translators of the English King James Bible use the word “Hell”.  What’s up?  Why are the KJV translators changing the Word of God Almighty??

I could copy and paste all the rest of the passages below but I will let the reader do this himself or herself.  Go to Biblegateway.com and look up these passages in the Orthodox Jewish Bible.  I will bet you that you will not see the word “Hell” in any of these passages.  Not only will you not find the word “Hell” you will not find the concept of someone being burned alive, in a pit of torture, in the afterlife, as a punishment from God in any of these Bible passages.  I (and many Bible scholars) believe that the concept of Hell was brought into Second Temple Judaism from pagan sources:  the Egyptians and the Greeks during the Greek occupation of Palestine in 300-200 BC.
 

 
Psalm 18:5 (KJV)
5 The sorrows of HELL compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.  
 
Psalm 55:15 (KJV)
15 Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into HELL: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.  
 
Psalm 86:13 (KJV)

13 For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest HELL.  

Psalm 116:3 (KJV)

3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of HELL gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.  

There’s 10 references to “HELL” in less than the first ½ of the Bible…

Wrong, Pastor Bill.  That is 10 references to “Sheol” in less than the first 1/2 of the Bible…

 
I believe the middle verses speak well for us..(me anyway)

I believe the ½ way mark is;

Psalm 118:8 (KJV)

8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. 9 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. 

I believe the ½ mark in the complete Word of God is in Pas 118 so I stopped there. I can show you several more if you’d like. 

Now if you are referring only to the Old Testament then I would divide it a little differently agreeing that the middle of it would be somewhere close to between 2 Chronicles and Ezra… But even this way it is easy to see that HELL was mentioned prior to the 2/3’s mark of this Book also.

I believe the Greek occupation of Palestine was about 539 BC…. The writing of Deuteronomy was approximately 1406 BC and the book of Job about 2150 BC….  No one but fundamentalists believe these dates are accurate.  Many scholars believe that the Pentateuch was written in the sixth or seventh centuries by priests in Jerusalem during the reign of King Josiah.

Authorship of the Penteteuch (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy):  Today most academic scholars accept that the Torah has multiple authors, and that its composition took place over centuries.[13] According to John Riches, Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow: “The consensus of scholarship is that the stories are taken from four different written sources and that these were brought together over the course of time to form the first five books of the Bible as a composite work. The sources are known as J, the Jahwist source (from the German transliteration of the Hebrew YHWH), E, the Elohist source, P, the priestly source, and D, the Deuteronomist source. … Thus the Pentateuch (or Torah, as it is known by Jews) comprises material taken from six centuries of human history, which has been put together to give a comprehensive picture of the creation of the world and of God’s dealings with his peoples, specifically with the people of Israel.”  —Wikipedia

Authorship of the Book of Job:  ascribed by Jewish tradition to Moses, it is generally agreed by scholars that the book comes from the period between the 7th and 4th centuries BCE, with the 6th century as the most likely date for a variety of reasons.  —Wikipedia

In the 330s BCE, Alexander the Great conquered the area now called Palestine, and the region changed hands numerous times during the wars of the Diadochi, ultimately joining the Seleucid Empire between 219 and 200 BCE. In 116 BCE, a Seleucid civil war resulted in the independence of certain regions including the minor Hasmonean principality in the Judean Mountains. —Wikipedia

So maybe the subject of “HELL” has been around, in print, a little longer than you had thought….that’s of course using sources other than the Bible so I’ll admit they could be off a little bit… I can’t figure out if that answer is scientific or historical or mathematical.   I suggest that you do some study of this subject, Pastor Bill. 

More important than when the word “Hell” first showed up in recorded history is the thought of how long it will last. According to the only source I truly trust, the Bible, hell with death will one day be delivered up and will be cast into the lake of fire…..note;

Revelation 20:13‑14 (KJV)

13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.  

14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  

 You have given no good evidence for why we should believe the Bible is true other than your own sincere, devout opinion.

I know, Gary, I can’t prove this is true by putting it in a test tube or under a microscope but try this for a change….why don’t you prove that the “HELL” you thought was first mentioned in about 539 BC (approximately 1500 years late) is not going to be cast into the lake of fire…..Maybe the evidence is not as clear as you had thought…. Just thinking how glad I am that I am;

Again, I suggest you research this subject, Pastor.  Google the term “The Documentary Hypothesis”.

In Christ and Happy

Pastor Bill..Col 2:6
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2 thoughts on “Fundamentalist Baptist Pastor Bill strongly disagrees that the first 2/3 of the Old Testament doesn’t mention Hell

  1. Hi Bill,

    Gary is absolutely right about this. When I was a Christian, this caught me by surprise as well, but going back through the Old Testament very carefully showed me where I'd been wrong. I had long known that the OT used the word sheol, which the KJV authors had translated as hell. I still assumed sheol to mean something very similar to hell, so the word choice didn't bother me too much. But closer inspection showed that the meanings were actually quite different.

    Genesis 37:35 has Jacob saying that he'll go down to Joseph in Sheol. Would it make sense for either of them to expect to be in Hell, after death?

    In Job 12:13, Job longs to hide from God's wrath in Sheol. If he was picturing a place like Hell, how would that make sense?

    Even the passages that give a negative connotation to Sheol, while it would be tempting to assume they reference Hell, make just as much sense when seeing them as a reference to death.

    This also explains why groups like the Sadducees didn't believe in the same kind of afterlife as the Pharisees, and why Jews today don't typically believe in a Heaven or Hell in the way that many Christians do.

    Gary's also right that the Persians and Greeks had concepts like Heaven and Hell long before the Jews did.

    This is a good place to start if you'd like to learn more:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Hell#Abrahamic

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  2. Early Judaism had no concept of Hell, though the concept of an afterlife was introduced during the Hellenic period, apparently from neighboring Hellenistic religions. It occurs for example in Book of Daniel. Daniel 12:2 proclaims “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Judaism does not have a specific doctrine about the afterlife, but it does have a mystical/Orthodox tradition of describing Gehenna. Gehenna is not Hell, but originally a grave and in later times a sort of Purgatory where one is judged based on one's life's deeds, or rather, where one becomes fully aware of one's own shortcomings and negative actions during one's life. The Kabbalah explains it as a “waiting room” (commonly translated as an “entry way”) for all souls (not just the wicked). The overwhelming majority of rabbinic thought maintains that people are not in Gehenna forever; the longest that one can be there is said to be 12 months, however there has been the occasional noted exception. Some consider it a spiritual forge where the soul is purified for its eventual ascent to Olam Habah (heb. עולם הבא; lit. “The world to come”, often viewed as analogous to Heaven). This is also mentioned in the Kabbalah, where the soul is described as breaking, like the flame of a candle lighting another: the part of the soul that ascends being pure and the “unfinished” piece being reborn.

    According to Jewish teachings, hell is not entirely physical; rather, it can be compared to a very intense feeling of shame. People are ashamed of their misdeeds and this constitutes suffering which makes up for the bad deeds. When one has so deviated from the will of God, one is said to be in gehinom. This is not meant to refer to some point in the future, but to the very present moment. The gates of teshuva (return) are said to be always open, and so one can align his will with that of God at any moment. Being out of alignment with God's will is itself a punishment according to the Torah.

    —Wikipedia

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