I will give three more posts on what I take to be Jesus’ understanding of the afterlife. The first two have to do with his understanding of Gehenna. What I have to say about it is too much for a single post. So here’s the first of the two.
Again, feedback is welcome.
Often Jesus expresses the image of “destruction” in highly repugnant terms, indicating that sinners who are excluded from God’s kingdom will not only killed but will be refused decent burial – which, as you will recall, is the worst fate one could have in the ancient world. Even worse than that, Jesus indicates that sinners will be cast, unburied, into the most unholy, repulsive, God-forsaken place that anyone in Israel could imagine, the valley of known as “Gehenna.” Thus, for example, Jesus says that anyone who calls someone “a fool” will be liable to be cast into Gehenna (Matthew 5:22); later he says that it is better to gouge out your eye that sins or amputate your hand and thereby enter the kingdom than to be tossed into Gehenna with eye and hand intact (Matthew 5:29, 30); elsewhere he says that it would be better to have a millstone hung around your neck and be drowned than to make a “little one” stumble and, for your foul deed, be cast into Gehenna. There, we are told “their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:42, 47-48).
Gehenna is obviously serious business. But what is it?
It is highly unfortunate that …
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