"Hell" Helvetia by FeelingLow
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in theology, any place or state of punishment and privation for human souls after death. More strictly, the term is applied to the place or state of eternal punishment of the damned, whether angels or human beings. The doctrine of the existence of hell is derived from the principle of the necessity for vindication of divine justice, combined with the human experience that evildoers do not always appear to be punished adequately in their lifetime. Belief in a hell was widespread in antiquity and is found in most religions of the world today.
Among the early Teutons the term hell signified a place under the earth to which the souls of all mortals, good or bad, were consigned after death; it thus denoted a conception similar to that of the Hebrew Sheol. Among the early Jews, as in other Semitic nations, existence in Sheol was regarded as a shadowy continuation of earthly life where all of the problems of earthly life came to an end. Later the dictum of the prophet Isaiah that the king of Babylon shall be "brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit" (14:15) gave rise to the concept of various depths of Sheol, with corresponding degrees of reward and punishment.
Early Christian writers used the term hell to designate (1) the limbo of infants, where the unbaptized enjoy a natural bliss but are denied the supernatural bliss of the vision of God; (2) the limbo of the fathers, in which the souls of the just who died before the advent of Christ await their redemption, and which is mentioned in the Apostles' Creed, "He [Christ] descended into hell"; (3) a place of purgation from minor offenses leading inevitably to heaven (see Purgatory) and (4) the place of punishment of Satan and the other fallen angels and of all mortals who die unrepentant of serious sin. The last of these interpretations has the greatest acceptance today.
The duration of the punishments of hell has been a subject of controversy since early Christian times. The 3rd century Christian writer and theologian Origen and his school taught that the purpose of these punishments was purgatorial, and that they were proportionate to the guilt of the individual. Origen held that, in time, the purifying effect would be accomplished in all, even devils; that punishment would ultimately cease; and that everyone in hell eventually would be restored to happiness. This doctrine was condemned by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, and a belief in the eternity of the punishments in hell became characteristic of both the Orthodox church and the Roman Catholic church. It also passed into the creeds of the churches of the Reformation but the doctrine of hell was rejected by many of the more radical thinkers of the Renaissance.
In modern times the belief in physical punishment after death and the endless duration of this punishment has been rejected by many. The question about the nature of the punishment of hell is equally controversial. Opinions range from holding the pains of hell to be no more than the remorse of conscience to the traditional belief that the "pain of loss" (the consciousness of having forfeited the vision of God and the happiness of heaven) is combined with the "pain of sense" (actual physical torment).
"Hell," Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 98 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. </I><small>
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