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Is Flat Earth Biblical Cosmology merely an Infidel's Delusion?

Pictured below are rough outlines of how ancient people viewed the cosmos, as based on their own ancient writings and any images they left behind that scholars could examine. The general uniformity of such ancient views has been pointed out by scholars for some time, most recently by Paul Seely here, here, and here.

In 2009 I composed a paper on the topic of “The Cosmology of the Bible” for publication in the book The Christian Delusion. Subsequently, a group of Christians at the blog Triablogue responded to that book and my chapter by composing an ebook that they titled, The Infidel Delusion. And since then another work has appeared on the web, this time by Ben at War on Error in which he defends the consensus view that biblical authors assumed a flat earth.

Ancient Cosmos

Benʼs response covers 100 or so questions raised in The Infidel Delusion and on Triablogue by Steve Hays, Paul Manata, and Jason Engwer.

I suggest reading the chapter with which the discussion began, “The Cosmology of the Bible” in The Christian Delusion, before one reads The Infidel Delusion, or Benʼs response to the Infidel Delusion.

My chapter compares ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Hebrew descriptions of the cosmos, which in all cases was flat with God living overhead (not light-years away). I point to the words and works of leading scholars of ancient Near Eastern cosmologies, and also feature the views of Evangelical Christian scholars who accept the truth of such a consensus such as John Walton who teaches O.T. at Wheaton College and is author of The Lost World of Genesis 1: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, and a forthcoming tome from Eisenbraunʼs in which he examines biblical cosmology more fully than he has in previous works.

Even Dr. Beale, a defender of biblical inerrancy and professor of N.T. at Westminster Theological Seminary, made the following admission concerning biblical cosmology in his book, The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority (Crossway Books, 2008):

“Do certain descriptions of the cosmos reflect only language expressing the ancient mythological worldview, which was built into the substructure of the biblical writers’ thinking through acculturation… ? Perhaps. I have discussed this with some ancient Near East scholars, and the best assessment they give me is that sometimes the cosmological language is purely phenomenological… sometimes it expresses the cosmic temple notion, and sometimes it reflects the socially constructed mythological geographical assumptions and understanding of the parts of the cosmos.” p. 195-196

So, Beale admit that “perhaps” the scholars who study ANE cosmologies are right. He also admits:

“Ancient Near Eastern concepts may have contributed to the theology of sacred space in the building of Israel’s tabernacle and temple. Examples include the eastward orientation, the placement of important cultic objects, the designation of areas of increasing holiness, and the rules for access to the Holy Place and Holy of Holies… circumcision and sacrificial offerings.

“Another option is that biblical writers unconsciously absorbed mythical worldviews about the cosmos, reproduced them in their writings, and believed them to be reliable descriptions of the real world and events occurring in the past real world—creation account, flood narrative, etc.—because they were part of their socially constructed mythological reality. If this is the case, which [I think] is unlikely, it would be impossible not to see ancient Near Eastern myths about the cosmos as inextricably intertwined with Israel’s theology, which would be a very difficult predicament for those [like me] who believe in the inspiration of Scripture.” p.216-217

My chapter focuses on the “very difficult predicament” that Beale is referring to.

If the cosmological assumptions of the authors of the Bible were incorrect, then one may wonder what other assumptions held by biblical authors might also be incorrect.

Is Genesis 1-11 with its tales of creation-flood-tower of Babel, history or myth? What about the last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation? Is it history or myth? Does the Bible begin and end with mythology rather than history?

And what do Christians mean when they say the Bible is “inspired?” Inspired in what way? Are there clear traits or agreed upon boundaries as to how one can determine exactly which writings, past, present and future, are “inspired” or not? And in what ways?

Christians, Jews, Muslims (as well as, conservative, moderate or liberal factions within each religious tradition) interpret verses, chapters, books, letters, even the canon differently. Which way is the “most inspired?”

Or is the “inspiration” of a written document something that can only be seen and acknowledged through the eyes of each discrete theological system of interpretation, which of course disagrees with the next theological system of interpretation?


Addenda

Ben, who composed the Response to Triablogue had this to add after I asked him what he thought each of the Triabloggerʼs believed concerning the question of biblical cosmology:

“It is difficult to tell what Steve Hays really believes about many topics since he is typically too busy incoherently attacking the arguments of his opponent (and attacking his opponent directly) at the expense of being educational about things he knows or things he personally believes. I think weʼd have to be innocent Christian inquirers in order to get that kind of thing out of him. He seems to actually believe that there is a high probability that most ancient people had relatively accurate views about cosmology and that it would be almost impossible for most of them to take seriously any of their primitive imagery used. Jason Engwer seems open to the probability that the consistent use of primitive imagery does indicate that at least some of the Bible authors probably believed in what their imagery implies, but for the sake of the inerrant Bible didnʼt mean it somehow. Thatʼs probably the closest an inerrantist is going to get. Paul Manata doesnʼt comment enough for us to know what he believes. Others from Triablogue did not contribute to TID or post on the topic as far as I know.”

Ben added:

“This is the closest Hays comes to conceding some ground.”

“This is where Engwer gets closest.“


Christian Scholars Who Are Also Theologians And Biologists That Support Evolution Are Gathering Momentum On The Web…

Evolution and Christianity around the Blogosphere. Christians who are also pro-evolution are speaking up on the web more often than ever before.

See also…

5,000 Years of Cosmology in Pictures which draws on the book The Earliest Cosmologies by William F. Warren, which is available on Google Books.


John Waltonʼs Latest Book Is Helping Educate The Next Generation Of Evangelicals

I have already mentioned the Evangelical and O.T. scholar John Walton, who has studied ancient Near Eastern cosmological views, and who teaches at an Evangelical Christian college. But I think it apropos here to add a few paragraphs from Waltonʼs latest work published in 2010 (not the scholarly tome that Eisenbraunʼs is publishing in the near future, but something simpler that Walton wrote in order to help Christian educators teach their pupils about the Bible):

To quote Walton in the above work:

“The Bible tells about creation in relationship to how people thought about their world in ancient times. The ‘waters above’ are not the clouds, mist, and fog, and the ‘firmament’ is not invisible. In the ancient world they believed that the rain was held back by a solid sky.… In the ancient world everyone believed that since water came down (in the various forms of precipitation) there must be water up above the sky. If the water is there and doesnʼt come down all the time, something must hold it up. As a result, everyone in the ancient world believed that the sky was solid and held back heavenly waters.” -- John H. Walton & Kim E. Walton, The Bible Story Handbook: A Resource for Teaching 175 Stories from the Bible (Crossway Books, 2010)

One may also note that the publisher is the same (Crossway Books) in the case of Bealeʼs book, The Erosion of Inerrancy, and in the case of Waltonʼs book published two years later, The Bible Story Handbook.

Evangelical Christian educators have praised The Bible Story Handbook:

An excellent resource-Craig Williford, President, Trinity International University

Not only teachers of children but anyone who uses Bible stories to teach others should examine his or her use of narrative passages by the guidelines in this book.-Starr Meade, Author of Keeping Holiday and Training Hearts, Teaching Minds

Wow! What a resource!… a timeless gift for the teaching ministries of the Church of Jesus Christ.-Scottie May, Associate Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry, Wheaton College; co-author, Children Matter

It is a description of a method, with abundant examples, that may assist congregations to become ‘hermeneutical communities’ exercising responsible use of Scripture.—Linda Cannell, Academic Dean, North Park Theological Seminary

A monumental work, well worth the attention of every educator—including parents—who wants to teach the Bible to children.… Every church—and every teacher of children—should have a copy and make reading it a top priority.—Don Ratcliff, Professor of Christian Education, Wheaton College; author, ChildFaith: Experiencing God and Spiritual Growth with Your Children

I highly recommend this excellent book for those who want to teach the Bible insightfully to children and to adults. They help us all to take the text seriously, letting it speak as God intended.—Perry G. Downs, Professor of Educational Ministries, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

I recommend this book to everyone who understands the importance of clearly and accurately communicating God’s Word, especially to the youngest of God’s family—Diane Jordan, Director of Childrenʼs Ministry, College Church, Wheaton, IL


So I guess ancient Near Eastern scholarship continues to influence Evangelical scholars and is now trickling down to the next generation of younger Evangelicals who are reading the educational materials produced by those scholars.

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What Did The Designer God Do? — My response to rjs's review of Denis O. Lamoureux’s book, Evolutionary Creation (rjs's rev. appeared at Jesus Creed)

Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution

Dear rjs, you concluded in your review of Denis L.ʼs book on Evolutionary Creation that you wished he still left room for God to intervene in the evolutionary process via miracles of some sort. But such a view of God as a micro-manager raises other kinds of questions. Below are my questions:

You want to keep god in the evolutionary loop and say that god did something, possibly intervening in evolution. Fine, but what did god do? Nudge a cosmic ray to mutate a specific DNA linage in a specific gene? God would also have to nudge some cosmic rays away from mutating a gene that God wanted to preserve. So God is nudging cosmic rays to hit certain things, and also nudging some rays away from certain parts of the genome he wants to maintain and protect. Is that what you believe? Because based on what we know god would indeed have to be doing both. Or,… God allows evolution to occur as Denis suggests.

Cosmic rays of course are for point mutations. Thereʼs also molecules inside the cell like free radicals that cause mutations when they hit upon a certain part of an exposed DNA chain. And thereʼs mutations that occur naturally when DNA breaks unevenly during cell division for reproductive cell formation (meiosis). But the same question applies as in the case of cosmic rays. Is God directing where some free radicals float in the cell, and directing breakages in specific places, and also moving some free radicals away from certain points, and preventing some uneven breakages? It doesnʼt seem like god is doing any of this genetic engineering and preserving because then why is god allowing children to be born with horrendous defects, and others born with oncogenes that raise the risks of specific diseases including cancers, autoimmune and muscular diseases later in life? If god is directing mutations why do 50% of fertilized eggs simply die?

A similar question involves bodies flying about randomly in space like asteroids that sometimes strike Jupiter, or our moon and earth, and subsequent mass extinctions on earth. The same God who carefully directed the mutations of untold species of dinosaurs to produce just the right Triceratops and T. Rex, then simply shakes up His Designerʼs Etch-I-Sketch and kills them all enmasse with a big meteor? Thatʼs a lot of directed mutations to produce just a huge bunch of “designed” creatures to kill them all.


See also this quotation:

“The evolutionary process is not at all a perfect one and many traits created by it are not even adaptive. It is precisely because of this that we suffer from such unadaptive traits as back pain, fallen arches, impacted wisdom teeth, varicose veins, appendicitis, cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, Huntingtonʼs disease, schizophrenia, manic-depression, alcoholism, painful childbirth, and a host of other maladies which genetic evolution has created, but which natural selection has done nothing to eliminate.

“Moreover, each evolutionary change tends to bring with it new forms of pain and suffering that had not existed before…

“For example, sexuality is not absolutely superior to asexuality, and the evolution of the former has brought with it many forms of conflict and suffering that do not exist in organisms that reproduce without sex…

“Sociality is not absolutely superior to solitary life, and its evolution has created new forms of competition and conflict that are less frequent, or even unknown among asocial animals…

“Bipedalism [walking on two legs] is by no means absolutely superior to quadrupedalism [walking on four], and the evolution of a two-legged gait in Homo sapiens has brought with it countless adverse side effects…

“Intelligence and behavioral flexibility are by no means absolutely superior to instinctive behavior, and their evolution had brought with it many forms of [intellectual angst and] emotional pain that are virtually unknown in the nonhuman world…

“No animal has undergone more major changes during the course of its evolution than Homo Sapiens, and no animal has inherited a greater capacity for pain and suffering. With every evolutionary change we have sustained, we have discovered new ways to protect our genes and new ways to suffer for their benefit. With every passing generation, the aggregate price paid for their preservation has become dearer and dearer. And our genes - unlike us - remain blissfully ignorant of the staggering mass of suffering that has been endured for the sake of their perpetuation.”

Timothy Anders in “The roots of evil,” a sub-section in the evolution of evil: an inquiry into the ultimate origins of human suffering

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Jesus & Buddha. Jesus & Mo. Roomies!

Jesus & Buddha

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Inerrancy no longer questionable after translators who are inerrantists get to translate the Bible. Case in point the new NIV 2011 translation.

Inerrancy

From this Monthʼs Biblical Studies Carnival

Charles Halton (Awilum), Claude Mariottini and Daniel O. McClellan examine a number of examples where NIV 2011 makes forced and spurious translations which appear to be favored for no other good reason than the fact that these “translations” harmonize various errors and contradictions in the Bible.

Such features continue to ensure that the NIV remains a devotional translation for Christian users and seminaries, not a translation for use in academic biblical studies. As Douglas Mangum (Biblia Hebraica et Graeca) summarizes: “It is clear that the translators are less interested in revealing the linguistic and literary complexity of the biblical world than with maintaining an ignorant publicʼs faith in the accuracy of the putative original language and text.”

John Hobbins (Ancient Hebrew Poetry) examines the new NIVʼs translation of Ecclesiastes 11.1-2, and finds that it is “not so much a translation as an interpretation,” because of its overwillingness to paraphrase the unclear or ambiguous Hebrew text.

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The Context Group : Amusing and Interesting Info from the Society of Biblical Literature Meeting Nov. 2010 in Atlanta

Context Group

From Loren Rossen:

Context Group member Douglas Oakman pointed out that the Context Group originated in no small part in order to make sense of the real-life experiences of its members who spent time living in honor-shame-based cultures rather than guilt-based ones. Dick Rohrbaugh lived on the West Bank for many years, and other members have evidently lived abroad too. To people who have lived and breathed shame-based cultures over an extended period of time, experience is all the evidence you can ask for.

And is there really a mystery here? Is there any doubt as to what formal studies of Mediterranean peoples would demonstrate? There have been studies of honor-shame subcultures of the United States. (The American south is an honor-shame subculture, meaning, more shame-based relative to the north, but compared to places like the Mediterranean region, it starts to look as guilt-based as any part of the U.S.) For instance, a 1996 study conducted at the University of Michigan found remarkable differences between northern and southern Americans, in how they react to people who bump into and swear at them. 65% of the northerners were amused by the bump and insult, and 35% got angry; but only 15% of the southerners were amused — the other 85% got furious. On top of this, the studies showed that the southerners had strong physiological reactions to being bumped/insulted, with increases in cortisol (a hormone associated with high levels of stress and anxiety) and testosterone levels. Now, if differences like these between people in the United States can be verified and documented, there shouldnʼt be much doubt that studies of Mediterranean peoples would confirm what Context Group members have been telling us for years, based significantly on direct experience.

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Serpent in Genesis = Satan?

Christian theologian Peter Enns recently wrote an interesting article on Genesis, Creation, and Ancient Interpreters: A Crafty Serpent

Itʼs a fascinating read, along with the comments section, to which Iʼd like to add: Serpent in Eden

  1. Genesis says God created the serpent (“the wisest beast of the field that the Lord God had made”) and cursed the serpent (not Satan) “to go on its belly and eat dust all the days of its life.” SO, NO “SATAN” IN GENESIS.

  2. The serpent was first identified with SATAN in the INTERTESTAMENTAL writings that Enns mentioned in his article. But such writings never became part of the canon of recognized inspired literature in either the OT nor the NT.

  3. Serpents have no vocal apparatus to “speak” with. No voice box, no muscular tongue, cheeks and larynx.

  4. The “curse” to “eat dust” is not a “curse” scientifically speaking. The serpent uses its damp tongue to capture air borne molecules and drag them back to the roof of its mouth where its smelling aparatus is located, pressing its tongue with those molecules against the roof of its mouth so it can “smell.” And its sense of smell is essential when it comes to tracking prey, finding mates, learning about its environment, etc., which are all blessings, not curses.

  5. The idea that humankind once lived in paradise is as untrue as stories invented to explain how we “left” that “paradise.” The past contains evidence of mass extinctions, including the suffering & extinctions of our upright primate ancestors and ancient human species, none of whose lives were “paradisical.”

  6. The Bible begins and ends with myths. (What about the middle?)

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A Review of Nick Petersʼ (ApologiaNickʼs) Tekton Tickler Book Review (or Book Snap) of John Walton's “Lost World of Genesis 1”

John Walton╩╝s book, The Lost World of Genesis One

This week a new conservative Christian blog, titled Tekton Tickler, features a post by Nick Peters in which he reviews John Waltonʼs book, The Lost World of Genesis One. Nick appreciates the new vistas that Waltonʼs research has opened up, as if Walton has flung open the door to a new united creationist front, a “mere creationism” in which both young-earth creationists and old-earth creationists can finally live together in Edenic peace. Of course Walton is also popular with theistic evolutionists, as can be seen from the fact that Waltonʼs most recent videos on the meaning of Genesis 1 appear on the Biologos website.

Aside from showing enthusiasm for Waltonʼs work, Nickʼs only nagging criticism appears to be that “I [Nick] was left wondering how exactly I was to see the days of Genesis 1 in his [Waltonʼs] view… I found his position on that to be unclear.”

My criticism of Nickʼs review is whether Walton has indeed opened the door to peace between creationists, or has Waltonʼs research into the ancient Near Eastern milieu of the Bible opened a whole new Pandoraʼs box of questions (at least for conservative Christians)?

Take for instance the lack of clarity that Nick finds in Waltonʼs view of the meaning of the “days” in Genesis 1. Itʼs not confusing once you take into account ancient Near Eastern ceremonies of earthly temple inauguration and the connection that was believed to lie between them and the creation of the cosmos. The inauguration of earthly temples took place over a certain number of days, whatever the culture deemed an adequate holy number. A connection was believed to exist between the inauguration of an earthly temple (in a certain number of days) and the creation of the cosmos (in a certain number of days). In the former case the days are indeed literal, but the “days” used to depict Godʼs creation of the cosmos [cosmic temple], need not be, at least not to modern minds, though the ancients may have imagined a closer mythical identification of “literal days involved in temple inauguration” with “literal days of creation” than we are wont to today.

At least thatʼs what some ancient Near Eastern temple dedication ceremonies, accompanied by a recitation of a creation story, seem to imply.

One might even say that the idea of a connection between the construction of an earthly temple and a cosmic temple (the cosmos) is a mythical motif shared by some ancient Near Eastern cultures.


An Additional Case of a Shared Mythical Motif Related to the Building of Temples

Speaking of shared mythical motifs, the notion of a god designing their own earthly temple is not unique to the Bible. Take the OT tale about King David having received special instructions directly from Yahweh on how to build His temple. It is not the earliest known example of such a tale. King Thutmose of Egypt lived before the day of King David, and an ancient inscription says that Thutmose received instructions directly from his god, an Egyptian deity, about how His temple should be built. It would appear that both are culture-centric stories that arose to add “divine” justification for the temples each of those kings built.


Opening Up Pandoraʼs Box Further…

What Else Does Walton Say About Ancient Hebrew Views of the World?

“The Israelites [like the nations around them] did not know that stars were suns; they did not know that the earth was spherical and moving through space; they did not know that the sun was much further away than the moon, or even further than the clouds or high-flying birds. They believed that the sky was material (not vaporous), solid enough to support the residence of the deity as well as hold back waters.” (John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), p. 16.)

Waltonʼs interpretation of Genesis 1 does not deny that ancient Hebrews assumed the earth was flat. Read Waltonʼs view of Passages Evidencing ‘Old World’ Science in the Bible.

Walton also wrote:

“P. Seely has amply demonstrated that the raqia [often translated as ‘firmament’], structurally speaking, was perceived by the Israelites as a solid dome.” (John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary on Genesis, p. 110)

Having admitted that that was how the ancient Hebrew viewed the cosmos, Walton also adds that he finds it to be of little theological importance even if they did view the cosmos in such a pre-scientific manner. See Waltonʼs lecture, Genesis and Cosmology in which he explains in detail why none of what the Bible says about such matters is important. (If your computer has difficulty loading the lecture click briefly on a different lecture on that same page, and then click back on Waltonʼs.)

I disagree with Walton. I think it is important, because if the ancient Hebrews entertained grossly false prescientific assumptions in one area, then there is at least a chance they may have held incorrect assumptions in other areas as well. For instance, the Israelites shared with their neighbors not only the assumption that the world was flat, but a belief that internal organs (other than the brain) directed them (as Walton admits in his lecture above). They also shared with their neighbors the eastward orientation of their tabernacle and temple, the placement of important cultic objects within their temples, the designation of areas of increasing holiness, rules for access to the Holy Place and Holy of Holies, as well as practices like circumcision and sacrificial offerings. But how do we know that animal sacrifices and temple building are any truer representations of the spiritual cosmos than the flat earth view is of the physical one?

Like other nations, the Hebrews also feared the anger of their god and subsequent punishment if attention was denied him. The duty of kings and priests was to ensure such attention was maintained, for the safety and security of the nation.

In other words is it possible to prove that ancient theological assumptions were any more true than ancient cosmological assumptions?

See also these recent articles on ancient Near Eastern and Hebrew worldviews.

Also note that Prof. Walton sometimes says Mesopotamian ritual is based on “common sense and experimentation” (p. 136) while biblical ritual is based on revelation (“ritual procedures [in the ancient Near East] were not the result of revelation in anything like the sense that is found in the Pentateuch [instructions from Sinai”], p. 137). However, Waltonʼs sharp distinction is questionable because cuneiform texts and incantations frequently talk about the fact that they were revealed by the gods. For further evidence see Alan Lenziʼs monograph on “secrecy” that shows how similar the Mesopotamian and Biblical mythologies of revelation actually were.

By the way, as Alan Lenzi asks, “Is there some rule that says a guy will get fired at Wheaton if he calls the Priestly account of creation a myth? The Babylonian story of creation (= Enuma Elish) is a myth. Why withhold the label from Genesis 1?”

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The Rise of Monotheism and Israel's Theological Worldview [Key Articles That Sum Up What Scholars Are Discussing]

Rise of Monotheism

Israelʼs Theological Worldview

Religio-Historical Approaches: Monotheism, Method, And Mortality

The Rise Of Monotheism In Ancient Israel - Biblical & Epigraphic Evidence

Polytheism And Human Sacrifice In Early Israelite Religion [Thom Stark sums up the above scholarly discussions in his new book, The Human Faces of God, and even more concisely in this recent interview]

Deus intra machinam [Christian blogger discusses Thom Starkʼs chapter on the rise of monotheism in Starkʼs book, The Human Faces of God]

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Where is Hell? (And Why Isn't That a Hot Topic Anymore?)

Where is Hell Located?

Previously in this series:

Discussion of the location of hell is not a hot topic these days. Most educated Christians have abandoned offering even the slightest defense of hellʼs classic locale (beneath the earth) even though the truth of such a belief appears to have been assumed by most people in the past, from Old Testament times (Sheol) to Inter-Testamental times, to New Testament times (Hades, Tartarus).

So it appears that after more than two thousand years, a majority of religious believers have chosen to reinterpret the Bible, in effect, to correct its authors, as well as theologians and evangelists of the past, without of course rewriting the Bible, except in their own minds.

Some argue there is no evidence that ancient Hebrews and Greeks assumed that spirits lived beneath the earth, or, they claim the Bible is totally vague concerning such matters. Others admit that the ancients did hold such an assumption and incorporated that general assumption into the Bibleʼs stories, but, they add, “The Bible is not about where hell is located, itʼs about how to get to heaven.”

But if biblical authors did take for granted spirits beneath the earth (as well as a flat earth with Godʼs heavenly abode lying directly above the earth), that leaves open the question of what other ideas the writers of the Bible took for granted concerning kingship, laws, gods, religious beliefs and sacrificial rites. How can one know such ideas are true or whether they need to be reinterpreted or at least questioned based on later knowledge? That also raises the question of whether the Scriptures can indeed “interpret themselves?” Can they?

The Well to Hell

The assumption that spirits exist beneath the earth has been around for ages. But before diving headfirst into ancient Mesopotamian writings or hardcore fundamentalist defenses of the location of hell, letʼs wade into the shallow end of the pool, and look at the story of “a well drilled into hell.” In 1989 a Christian television station mentioned that geologists in Russia had drilled the worldʼs deepest hole, then they lowered a microphone into it to “detect tectonic movements,” but instead heard “people scream.” The story spread round the world. Among those who questioned the tall tale (or deep tale), not all have abandoned hope of its redemption. Hoax or not, some still share alleged recordings of “screams from deep beneath the earth” on the internet because it plays a role in leading people to Christ, and it “might possibly be the sound of real demons.” (Of course youʼll have to judge that for yourself after listening to the recording on some of the youtube sites below.) (see NOTE #1 to read some material that debunks the Well to Hell story).

Other modern day defenders of hell boast of the “scientific accuracy” of the Bibleʼs descriptions of the nether regions. For instance they cite verses in Deuteronomy and Job that mention the earth shall be as “iron” and “fire” and claim such verses agree with modern science since the earthʼs core is mostly iron and hotter than the surface of the sun (see the first video below). They also cite Isaiahʼs words (repeated by Jesus) about a place “where the worm dieth not, and where the fire is never quenched,” and claim that science lends support to such inspired words because large worms (up to eight feet long) have been discovered in the deepest regions of the sea near thermal vents that spew forth hot sulfur [which such folks equate with “brimstone” in the Bible], and the worms have bacteria inside them that live off the toxic minerals in the water and produce food for the worms, a symbiotic relationship.(see NOTE #2).

Modern Day Videos Telling Us Where Hell Is

Next, as I said, before diving into the Mesopotamian data, or the hard line defense of hellʼs location by an inerrantist, letʼs peek at the history of the idea of hellʼs location among both Protestants and Catholics.

Protestants For Whom Hellʼs Location Was Not In Serious Doubt

Beginning with some “King James Only” inerrantists, but reaching backwards in time to famed Commentators on the Bible, including Wesley and Calvin

  • Dr. Peter S. Ruckman 1921-
    Some scoff and say, “Where is hell?” Well, thatʼs easy. It is under your feet. “They … are gone down into hell,” Ezekiel 32:27. Hell is down under your feet, Isaiah 14:9… There is no doubt where hell is … it was in the heart of the earth where Christ went after He died. In Acts 2:31 and Acts 2:27 you are told that although Christ went through hell, He was not “left in hell.” [Theological Studies: Book Number 23, Bible Baptist Bookstore, Pensacola, 1987 p. 33. Rev. Ruckman is also founder of the Pensacola Bible Institute]

  • Dr. Henry Morris 1918–2006
    Hell is somewhere in the heart of the earth itself. [The writers of Scripture] certainly themselves believed hell to be real and geographically beneath the earthʼs surface… So far as we can tell from Scripture, the present hell, Hades, is somewhere in the heart of the earth itself. It is also called “the pit” (Isa. 14:9, 15: Ezek. 32:18-21) and “the abyss” (Rev. 9:2)… the Biblical descriptions are quite matter of fact. The writers certainly themselves believed hell to be real and geographically beneath the earthʼs surface. [The Bible Has the Answer, p. 220. Morris founded The Institute for Creation Research, and his writings converted Ken Ham to young-earth creationism. Ham is President and CEO, Answers in Genesis–USA & the Creation Museum]

  • Dr. Jack Hyles 1926 - 2001
    I personally believe that Hell is in the heart of the earth, [“…the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” Mat 12:40] … Scientists say that beneath the earth there is a boiling volcanic disturbance constantly going on in the heart of the earth. And so I personally believe Hell will be in the heart of the earth. [Sermon, “To Hell and Back.” Hyles was Pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana; and founder of Hyles-Anderson College]

  • Oliver B. Greene 1915-1976
    There is no doubt in my mind that hell is in the center of this earth… Amos describes hell in these words: “Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to Heaven, thence will I bring them down” (Amos 9:2). Certainly when we think of digging, we think of going down in the earth - we do not dig UP, we dig DOWN: we do not dig in the air, we dig in the dirt. Amos tells us as the Holy Spirit leads him to write - “Though they dig into hell, thence shall my hand take them.” Amos believed that hell is in the center of the earth… Without a shadow of a doubt, hell is in the center of this earth.” [“Where the Worm Dieth Not.” Greene was radio host of The Gospel Hour.]

  • M.R. De Haan 1891–1965
    The Bible locates Sheol [Hell] in the heart of the earth… Jesus then descended first into the lower parts of the earth (Ephesians 4:9). But we know that Jesus upon His death went into Hades [Hell]… And Hades [Hell] was in the lower parts of the earth. [“Jonah and Christ,” The Radio Bible Class (heard around the world), 1942 pp 21-22.]

  • Clarence Larkin 1850 – 1924
    And Jesus after His return from “The Underworld,” said “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the ‘KEYS’ (of the Gates) of hell and of death.” Rev. 1:18. To get these “Keys” Jesus had to descend into the “lower parts of the earth.” Eph. 4:9 … Therefore Hades or “The Underworld,” must be in the “heart of the earth.” [The Spirit World, 1921, pp. 47-48.]

  • Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown
    Though they dig into hell--though they hide ever so deeply in the earth. Christ, as Lord of all, took possession first of the earth the unseen world beneath it (some conjecture that the region of the lost is in the central parts of our globe), then of heaven. [Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871), Amos 9:2 & Ephesians 4:9]

  • John Wesley 1703 – 1791
    Hell — The center of the earth. [John Wesleyʼs Explanatory Notes, Amos 9:2. Wesley founded the Methodist Church]

  • John Gill 1697 – 1771
    Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them, …the utmost recesses of the earth, the very centre of it. [John Gillʼs Exposition of the Entire Bible, Amos 9:2]

  • Isaac Watts 1674–1748
    Hopeless immortals! how they scream and shiver,
    While devils push them to the pit wide-yawning
    Hideous and gloomy, to receive them headlong
    Down to the centre!
    [“Day of Judgment,” hymn]

  • Matthew Henry 1662–1714
    Though they dig into hell, into the centre of the earth. [Commentary on the Whole Bible (1706), Amos 9:2]

  • John Boys, Dean of Canterbury 1571-1625
    So Job calleth hell the land of darknesse, and the reason thereof is plaine, because the nethermost hell is a bottomlesse pit in the heart of the earth. [The Workes of John Boys]

  • John Calvin 1509–1564
    Hence he says, If they dig for themselves passages to hell, that is, to the center of the earth. [Commentary on the Prophet Amos, Amos 9:2]

Catholics For Whom Hellʼs Location Was Not In Serious Doubt

Jeffrey Burton Russell 1934-
Both Hades and Gehenna were believed to be underground, and both were places of suffering. [Satan, The Early Christian Tradition, London: Cornell University Press, 1981, p. 120]

Hippolytus, circa 170-236
Hades [Hell] is a place in the created system, rude, a locality beneath the earth, in which the light of the world does not shine; and as the sun does not shine in this locality, there must necessarily be perpetual darkness there… And in this locality there is a certain place set apart by itself, a lake of unquenchable fire. [Against Plato, on the Cause of the Universe Ante-Nicene 5.222]

Tertullian, 160–230
By ourselves the lower regions (of Hades) are not supposed to be a bare cavity, nor some subterranean sewer of the world, but a vast deep space in the interior of the earth, and a concealed recess in its very bowels; inasmuch as we read that Christ in His death spent three days in the heart of the earth, that is, in the secret inner recess which is hidden in the earth, and enclosed by the earth, and superimposed on the abysmal depths which lie still lower down. [A Treatise on the Soul, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol 3 p 231]

The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) On The Location Of Hell

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 splendor. 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 (see NOTE #3).

Thomas Aquinas 122?-1274

On “Whether The Fire Of Hell Is Beneath The Earth?”

“It is written (Is. 14:9): Hell below was in an uproar to meet Thee at Thy coming. Therefore the fire of hell is beneath us.

“Further, a gloss on Jonah 2:4, Thou hast cast me forth … into the heart of the sea, says, i.e. into hell, and in the Gospel (Mat. 12:40) the words in the heart of the earth have the same sense, for as the heart is in the middle of an animal, so is hell supposed to be in the middle of the earth…

In the same piece, Aquinas discusses the views of Augustine and Gregory:

“As Augustine says, ‘I am of opinion that no one knows in what part of the world hell is situated, unless the Spirit of God has revealed this to some one.’ Wherefore Gregory having been questioned on this point answers: ‘About this matter I dare not give a rash decision. For some have deemed hell to be in some part of the earthʼs surface; others think it to be beneath the earth.’ Gregory shows the latter opinion to be the more probable… Augustine too seems to indicate reasons for the congruity of hell being under the earth… Augustine [even] withdrew his [earlier] statement (Retract. ii, 29) saying: ‘Methinks I should have [simply] said that hell is beneath the earth, rather than have given the reason why it is stated or believed to be under the earth.’”

The Mesopotamian Underworld

Writings from civilizations in Mesopotamia predate the founding of the nation of Israel by thousands of years. So what did the neighbors of the ancient Hebrews have to say about the underworld? According to Wayne Horowitz, author of Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography:

The underworld is the lowest region of the universe, the home of underworld deities such as Nergal and Ereskigal, and the final resting place of deceased humans… Many texts demonstrate that the underworld was lower than the earthʼs surface… No one is ever said to ascend to the underworld, and there is no evidence for any cosmic feature below the underworld….

[The underworld is also connected, as it is in the Old Testament with waters. In Mesopotamian those waters were the] Apsu which included the waters of the water table just beneath the earthʼs surface, waters in marshes and swamps, waters in rivers, waters in the sea, and distant cosmic waters… Three passages confirm that the Apsu included a deep region of waters far below the water table…. Although no text explicitly places dead human beings in the Apsu, there is evidence that the Apsu and underworld were either confused with one another or that the Apsu itself was thought to be a netherworld inhabited by malevolent spirits.

The Anunnaki reside in the Apsu instead of the underworld in The Erra Epic: ‘I will go up to heaven and give instructions to the Igigi. I will descend to the Apsu, direct the Anunnaki. I will send the wild demons to the Earth of No Return.’ [cf. The Hebrew Book of Job].

The apparent confusion or overlap between the Apsu and the underworld is probably based on empirical observation. It is logical to place both the Apsu and the underworld directly beneath the earthʼs surface. When one digs a well, one reaches the waters of Apsu without passing through the underworld, but graves of the dead are located above the groundwaters. (The Apsu is mention in the context of excavating a grave in Adapa and Enmerkar.) Underworld rivers, such as Mesopotamian Hubur or Greek Styx, which souls must cross on their way to the underworld, probably represent the waters of the water table between graves and the realm of the dead further below. Nonetheless it is clear that there were many different conflicting views of the Apsu in antiquity, and a few authors apparently ignore the existence of the Apsu altogether. For instance Inanna and Istar reach the underworld without ever crossing the Apsu, and the lands float on a raft above the waters of the ‘sea,’ instead of the Apsu in The Bilingual Creation of the World by Marduk. [pp. 342, 343, 344, 335, 341, 348, 349]

Selections From The Place Of Hell by Terry Watkins, Th.D. Watkins only follows the King James Bible but seems adept at deflating the views of rival inerrantists, just as geocentrists are adept at pointing out to their young-earth brothers the verses that most embarrass their heliocentric view. And just as young-earth creationists are adept at pointing out to their old-earth brothers the verses that most embarrass their views. And so it goes among inerrantists. But what impressed me most about Mr. Watkins was his passion for interesting details as to how texts demonstrate that they are speaking about the location of hell, something I havenʼt seen since the early Church Fathers, that combine to make the location of hell practically undeniable to anyone who wishes to discover what the only inspired book in the cosmos has to say. Of course Mr. Watsonʼs opinion differs from mine on the Bibleʼs inspiration and he would likely write an even lengthier and more passionate article than his article on hell if he was asked to comment on what some Evangelical scholars are currently saying about the flat earth cosmology of the Bible. Be that as it may, you can read Terry Watkinsʼ entire article (from which I obtained a great number of the quotations from famous Christians with which this post begins) by clicking here. Or read my edited version below. This is all Watkins, Iʼve merely shortened it, and added two non-KJV verses, but with links to the KJV version.

The Location Of Hell

(Note: Our study on the location of hell deals with the present location of hell. The Lake of Fire described in Revelation 20:14 will replace the current place of hell.) The following verses designate the physical location of hell. The direction of hell always references down or beneath. The Bible never refers to hell in any other direction.

  • … let them go down quick into hell.

    Psalm 55:15

  • Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.

    Proverbs 5:5

  • Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.

    Proverbs 7:27

  • Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

    Isaiah 14:15

  • I will bring you down with those who go down to the pit to the people of old, and I will make you dwell in the lower parts of the earth, like the ancient waste places, with those who go down to the pit.

    Ezekiel 26:20

  • … when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit.

    Ezekiel 31:16

  • They also went down into hell…

    Ezekiel 31:17

  • The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword.

    Ezekiel 32:21

  • … which are gone down to hell.

    Ezekiel 32:27

  • And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell.

    Matthew 11:23

  • And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.

    Luke 10:15

  • For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.

    2 Peter 2:4

  • IVP New Testament Commentaries on the star in Revelation 9:2:

    This star, like Wormwood, is a messenger from God, but the judgment it brings is even more terrible. It does not strike the earth or poison the waters, but with the key to the shaft of the Abyss (v. 1) opens a pit [the bottomless pit] into the very heart of the earth. From the pit, or Abyss, comes smoke like the smoke from a gigantic furnace, darkening the sun and sky.

  • The Bible states that after his death, Jesus descended into Hell. But his soul did not remain there, nor did his body decay. The implication is that Hell is located underground.

    For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whaleʼs belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

    Matthew 12:40

  • … let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried … Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

    Acts 2:29-31

  • Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

    Romans 10:6-7

  • But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?)

    Ephesians 4:7-9

  • … Jesus Christ … died, and was buried, He descended into Hell. The third day, he rose again from the dead.

    The Apostlesʼ Creed

The Bible presents many verses that emphatically locate hell in the center of the earth. And not vague verses that are open to self-interpretations, but clear and precise references. For a Christian to reject or disregard this extremely important Bible fact is inexcusable. Until the last fifty years, most Christians knew hell was a real place of fire in the center of the earth.

In the popular book, Whatever Happened to Hell?, author John Blanchard, incredibly writes:

“The Bible gives many different descriptions of hell and consistently refers to it as a specific place … As to its location, we are given no details—though perhaps there is at least one important clue… This word “outside” is the one that Jesus used frequently when speaking about hell and almost certainly lays to rest the notion that hell is located somewhere in the center of the earth. As far as its location is concerned, we have almost nothing to go on. Not even statements which say that heaven is ‘above’ and hell is ‘beneath’ tell us very much. The clearest clue we have is that hell is ‘outside’.” (Blanchard, John. What Happened to Hell?, Crossway Books Wheaton, Illinois 1995 pp. 131-132)

How can anyone who has read the Bible truthfully say, “As to its location, we are given no details…”? The answer is simple. The human psyche of mankind, even among Christians, refuses to accept the reality of hell. If they ignore the evidence long enough and loud enough, maybe it is not really there. But it is there…

As far as Blanchardʼs assertion that “the clearest clue we have is that hell is ‘outside’”—completely ignores scores and scores of clear scriptures, in favor of three “outer” references (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30). How can Blanchard write, “… Not even statements which say that heaven is ‘above’ and hell is ‘beneath’ tell us very much?” Why donʼt they? Why did God write them? Over a hundred verses describe hell as “down”; “in the heart of the earth”; “beneath”; or “lower parts of the earth” and yet that doesnʼt “tell us very much!” How can a man stand in such judgment of the Word of God by telling us Godʼs Word does “not tell us very much”? No wonder they ripped the Bible from our schools — preachers have been ripping it apart for years.

The three verses in the Bible that mention “outer darkness” plainly refer to earthly judgments during the millennium. Not hell…

Another sad case of Bible rejection occurs in Sidlow Baxterʼs The Other Side of Death. Baxter conveniently dismisses the reality that God placed hell inside the earth with feeble human logic:

“I cannot see how somewhere deep inside the physical earth could confine nonphysical, disembodied human spirits. If this revolving physical orb could imprison purely spiritual beings, then contradictorily enough it would burn them to nothingness by the intense internal fire which becomes increasingly hotter toward its center.” (Baxter, Sidlow L. The Other Side of Death, Tyndale House Wheaton, 1987 p. 187)

How can a Christian reject the scriptures with the mindless reasoning of, “I cannot see…”? Beloved, there are many amazing things the Lord says and does that humanly speaking “I cannot see.” I cannot see the innumerable stars the Lord created. I cannot see the infinite wisdom of creation. I cannot see why He loved me so much to die for my sins. But what I cannot see with these frail physical eyes, the boundless spiritual eyes of faith can clearly see in the Word of God. Does not our Lord admonish us in 2 Corinthians 5:7 to “walk by faith, not by sight”?

Mr. Baxter also writes the reckless humanistic statement that the “intense internal fire” inside this earth would “burn them to nothingness.” First of all, if hell is a literal fire (which it is) it does not matter where it is located, as pertaining to “burn them to nothingness.” To follow Baxterʼs explanation leads to the total elimination of the fire of hell.

I wonder has Mr. Baxter ever heard about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego of Daniel, chapter 3? These three Jewish boys were thrown alive into a furnace of literal fire that was heated seven times hotter than normal. Yet their hair was not even singed! The Bible says in Daniel 3:27, “…the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.” The power of Almighty God is not limited, nor confined by the power of fire. To reject the scriptures on pathetic human rationale is disgraceful.

In Numbers 16:30-34, the Lord silences all skeptics to the location of hell. In that chapter the Bible records the rebellion and destruction of Korah. As a consequence of their rebellion, the Lord opens the earth and they go down alive into the pit of hell. This is not the grave — verse 30 says, “… the LORD make a new thing…” Thereʼs nothing “new” about “opening the earth” and going into the grave. Verse 33 also states, they “… went down alive into the pit…” Obviously, the “went down” does not refer to the shallow grave.

What could the Lord possibly write in the scriptures that He could make the location of hell any clearer? For you to reject the fact that God prepared hell inside this earth, you must intentionally ignore many plain and detailed scriptures. The evidence of the scriptures is convincing. It is conclusive. And it is real.

Endnotes

Note #1

There are a couple of postscripts to The Well to Hell story. One is that the respected magazine, Biblical Archaeology Review, published a version of it thinking it was so outrageous that readers would get a kick out of it. Some took the article seriously, and started passing it around as substantiation, or wrote to the magazine to complain that they even mentioned it.

“Second, in August of 1990, I was contacted by the pastor of a small church in Flagstaff, Arizona, who informed me that he had proof that this story was true. Apparently, a man from his church, who was believed to be a PhD in Physics from MIT, came forward in private to claim that he was a scientist who had been on a secret mission in Russia for the past year and had met with Mikhail Gorbachev several times. He verified that the Drilling to Hell story was indeed true.

“He claimed: ‘A hole was drilled deep into the crust of the earth in Siberia and a large cavity was found. Unfortunately, news of this was leaked to the press and was distorted. It is true that a recording was made of the sounds from deep in the hole, but the intense heat destroyed the microphone in spite of special cooling material around it, so that only seventeen seconds of sounds could be captured. At the present time, scientists are drilling a second hole to confirm what was found the first time. And a better system is being developed for cooling the microphone.’

“The man went on to claim that he was helping to design this microphone and was returning to Siberia shortly to further document the phenomenon. He planned to return in about a year with more confirming information on this amazing phenomenon.

“Six months later, I got a letter from another member of the church saying that this man had turned out to be neither a graduate of MIT nor a scientist. In fact, he had skipped town with over $20,000 collected from church members who wanted to help finance his expedition.

“How did this story originate? Again, we will never really know. It is possible that somewhere in the world there has been a spooky experience during deep drilling operations. I donʼt know. According to an August 1989 article in Science magazine, there is a Russian deep hole drilling project in Kola, near Murmansk, about 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Another German deep drilling experiment in north-east Bavaria has discovered warmer temperatures than were expected at certain drilling levels, although nothing even close to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Characteristic of many urban legends, this story was alleged to have occurred in an obscure part of the world where it would be virtually impossible to track down the facts. And once the story got started, people began quoting one anotherʼs newsletters to validate their own. This is the stuff of which tabloid newspapers are made.” For further information visit Snopes.com.

Note #2

Of course you donʼt have to enter the Deep nor Sheol to find worms; and Isaiah was cursing people with a punishment akin to that of a perpetually burning dump site that existed in his day. Whatʼs interesting about those who offer such “evidence” is that everything they learn gets sorted such that they recall and focus upon only what appears to “support the Bible.” Indeed, the whole cosmos revolves around whatever the Bible says, especially if one is a geocentrist. Or the whole cosmos revolves around a list of the ages of a few patriarchs if you are a young-earth creationist. And there is no scientific experiment nor observation that either a geocentrist or a young-earth creationist cannot reconstruct to suit the truth of the plain words of Scripture. The geocentrist, Dr. Gerardus Bouw, can tell you about his physics by which the cosmos circles the earth at super-luminal speeds every 24 hours. While the young-earther, Dr. Jason Lisle, has “answered” the “distant starlight question” by assuming that light travels infinitely in one direction but not in the other, and assures us that “God created galaxies in mid-collision.” So maybe we shouldnʼt be too hard on the defenders of hellʼs true location via their “sea worm” interpretation of Isaiah.

Maybe, in fact, none of us should be too hard on each other, not viciously hard. Because all of our brains function in a similar way to differing degrees, selectively noting what agrees with what we believe, disregarding other information. Also, life is short and each personʼs time for study, as well as their individual experiences, remain limited.

Ah, but we also love to exercise our brains via mental wrestling matches against those with different ideas. But one must keep in mind that each personʼs three-dimensional arrangement of a lifetime of knowledge inside them cannot possibly be conveyed to another person easily, not via the one-dimensional portals of tongue or keyboard. So the equation for a relatively interesting debate-discussion remains patience, coolness, plus time. Reading some of the same articles and books, and discussing them together also helps. But if things heat up too fast in a debate the souffle of thought will fall to its lowest level.

Note #3

But … the author of the Catholic Encyclopedia article cautions, regardless of the arguments of Catholic theologians through the ages The Church hasnʼt “officially declared” where hell is located. Even a 21st century Popeʼs recent declaration that hell is probably in some other dimension does not count as an “official” declaration. Thatʼs just the Popeʼs “Table Talk.” I think itʼs interesting how the Catholic Church functions, being the supreme interpreter of itself it makes up its own laws of interpretation as well, ignoring past statements by theologians and popes and councils, or reinterpreting them at will and focusing on other statements. And it has a LOT of statements from which to choose! More statements than are in the Bible thatʼs for sure! And think of the many ways people interpret the statements in the Bible!

To cite one example of a modern day reinterpretation, Catholic theologians in the 20th century began to argue that maybe not all unbaptized infants who died went to “Limbo,” maybe there was hope they went to heaven instead? The Pope signed an unofficial declaration of “hope” to that effect in 2007, but also noted that Limbo had not been abolished either. Now Catholic parents who suffer a miscarriage or whose infants die before being baptized can “hope” to see their children in heaven, but The Church reiterates, “we donʼt know, God hasnʼt revealed what happens to children who die unbaptized.” So all The Church has done is admit it knows a little less than it previously claimed it did about the fates of unbaptized infants. Speaking as an agnostic one can only hope The Church continues to move in the direction of admitting publicly that it knows a “little less than it thought it did” about other things as well, not just concerning the hope of a mother that she will see her formerly “Limboed” infant, but, an official admission that thereʼs “hope” for non-Catholics as well. At least some Catholic theologians in the past and present have admitted there is.

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