This is the second of my two posts on Gehenna. My ultimate point in this discussion is that when Jesus talked about people ending up there, he did not mean they would roast forever in the first of hell, but that they would end up very badly indeed because (a) they would not receive burial and (b) even worse, their corpses would be thrown into the most hideous literally-god-forsaken place a Jew could imagine.
The earliest evidence from outside the Hebrew Bible for Gehenna as a place of divine punishment comes in 1 Enoch 27, written, as we have seen, at least two centuries before the days of Jesus. In one of his encounters with the angel Uriel, Enoch asks why such an “accursed valley” lies in the midst of Israel’s “blessed land.” The angel tell him:
The accursed valley is for those accursed forever; here will gather together all those accursed ones, those who speak with their mouth unbecoming words against the Lord…. Here shall they be gathered together, and here shall be their judgment in the last days. There will be upon them the spectacle of the righteous judgment, in the presence of the righteous forever.
And so, well prior to Jesus, Gehenna was seen as …
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