HELL as generally understood is the abode of evil spirits; the infernal regions, where the devil rules supreme, and whither lost or con demned souls go after death to suffer in describable torments and eternal punishment either for wickedness inherited from the sin of Adam or for more or less serious infractions of the divine law. This region was usually thought of as being beneath the earth, in the darkness of vast underground caverns, or in the region of fire supposed— as seemed to be proved by volcanoes — to underlie the whole earth. The word is often used figuratively to describe any place or state of extreme wicked ness, suffering or misery; as for instance, °The hells of vice,* The (during illness) suffers the torments of hell,"poverty is hell.° This ar ticle is concerned only with hell as a purely theological institution.
Hell, in the theological sense, has no place in most primitive religions, nor has heaven. The existence beyond death is almost univer sally thought of as °something between being and not being.° The Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades are good illustrations of this. There was no thought of dividing the future state into separate and distinct conditions of existence. Even so late a writer as the author of Ecclesiastes declares that "all (men and beasts) go unto one place° (Eccl. iii, 20) and °there is one event to the righteous and wicked° (Eccl. ix, 2). Much confusion and misunderstanding has been caused through the early translators of the Bible persistently ren dering the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades and Gehenna by the word hell. The simple transliteration of these words by the transla tors of the revised editions of the Bible has not sufficed to appreciably clear up this con fusion and misconception. The popular idea of hell as a place of punishment —either re demptive or rigidly retributive in character did not come suddenly and full-formed into ex istence. It is the product of centuries of think ing on the great problem of reward and pun ishment which, instinctively almost, man associates with human deeds. In the early stages the idea seems to have been that the souls of the dead appeared before the divine tribunal. The souls that could present a sat isfactory record during their earth life were admitted to the presence and abode of the gods, and the souls that could not present such a satisfactory account were cast out not into a place of torment but into an existence more or less deplorable and wretched.
It is not necessary here to discuss the mat ter as it appears in the different religions of the world; for while there are many and sig nificant variations of detail the main features of hell as conceived by Hindu, Persian, Egyp tian, Grecian, Hebrew and Christian theologians are essentially the same. Several ideas enter
into the creation of this place which has al ways loomed large in the Christian as well as other religions. One of the ideas or motives which led to the division of the future state into heaven and hell, a place of reward and a place of punishment, is hinted at in a few Old Testament passages. All the dead, without dis tinction, so it was believed, went down into Sheol. But according to Isaiah xiv the king of Babylon who had exiled and oppressed Israel, and is therefore accounted an enemy of Jehovah and his people shall The brought down . : . to the uttermost parts of Sheol." He was to be thrust into the deeper depths where pre sumably there was greater discomfort. Jehovah would send his enemies into a place much worse than those who served him. This idea wrought mightily in the lives of these people as it did in the lives of many later generations. These exiled and persecuted worshippers of Jehovah gathered consolation and a new endurance as they saw in the after life their enemies cast down into the bottom-most parts of Sheol while they would be in the upper and brighter and happier part. Other ideas and impulses en tered into this. Instinctively almost a person feels that the ordering of life is such that a man shall reap what he sows — if he sows wickedness he shall reap all that is bad and hurtful. If he reaps not the nainful conse quences before he dies he will and must in the hereafter. And so there is a diversity of thought as to the purpose of hell in the "divine economy." Some have thought of it as the place created by the Deity where He punishes with inconceivable severity, and through all eternity the souls of those who through un belief or by the worship of false or different gods had angered Him. It is the place of divine revenge, untempered, never ending. This has been the idea most generally held among Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike. It is the idea embodied in the Mohammedan's con ception. Slightly different from this is the conception of hell as the place where God pun ishes the soul of man not for unbelief, or failure to believe, or for believing in a wrong or. different religion, but for some breach of the moral law. It was only natural that the religious leaders should seek to turn the un believer and the misbeliever from the error of MS way and the evil-doer from his evil-doing by graphically picturing to them the terrible doom awaiting all who persist in following along wrong paths. The preaching of future punishment has given to the world a remark able and extensive literature and has exerted a tremendous influence upon the life and thought of the people for many centuries.