My faith is in a renovation period (which my Amazon purchase history will attest to.) Yup, that’s an ancient Universalism manuscript, a Tanakh and a Qur’an. Major faith study is upon us.
I’m doing a bit of spiritual house cleaning; tossing the clutter and organizing the valuables — and metaphor or not, it’s always because of the kid! Seriously, Daniela has sparked a lot of questions that I wouldn’t have been brave enough to face without her prodding. Stuff like where I stand on hell and the rapture. Not easy breazy. Stuff I learned about growing up but haven’t actually decided what I believe. I was taught that hell is a place of punishment for those who do not accept Christ. Hell, aka an eternal lake of fire and brimstone is eternal. ETERNAL. When I compare that concept with the Christ I met in the New Testament, it just doesn’t add up. I can’t reconcile a loving, merciful, patient father-like God with this being that says “I give you one human lifetime to figure it out or I’ll throw you in the fire Forever” (Cue evil villain laugh). I mean seriously, what is that all about? I tried to wrap my head around it and failed. time and again. I either believed it or I didn’t. And if I believed it, well, that was going to make it tough to answer Daniela’s questions about members of our family that hold different beliefs. No sir buddy that’s not a conversation I want to have, thankyouvermuch. The other option was I don’t believe it and, well, that’s a really huge step to take. That feels like complete and utter rejection of my upbringing (which is probably a slight over reaction.) But a scary step to say the least.
I lobbed these options around in my head for some time before finally emailing the most Bible knowledgeable man I know. We’ll call him KBM. (Knowledgeable Bible Man, duh.) He agreed to meet with me and though I wanted to chicken out because I didn’t even know how to form my questions into words, I went. And I am so glad I did. (Thank you KBM!) Here’s the thing, and I’m going to get this all shades of screwed up because KBM explains it so much better than I ever could, but there were two words for hell when the Scriptures were translated into what we accept today as the English King James Version of the Bible. One word was “collasus” or something similar to that, and the other was a word that started with a T. No idea how not to butcher that one. Well, the C word translated closely to our word “grave”. The T word, however, translated into a type of punishment just for the sake of punishment. Vindictive. A punishment to make the punisher feel superior. The King James Version of the Bible gets the word hell from the C word, meaning grave. Innnnnteresting. KBM also mentioned, and I wish I would have written this down while I was with him, but something to the effect of for the first 5 centuries, hell was not believed to be a place of eternal fire. The church recognized hell as a place of correction, ultimately bringing the offender around to place of personal relationship with Christ. To me, hell doesn’t equal fire. Hell equals an absence of God. Complete and total absence of God. Even trying to picture that makes me feel dark and lonely. Hell is going to be bad, without a doubt, but I don’t think it’s going to be physical torment the likes of which our human minds can conjure up. As a friend of mine pointed out the other day, after death we don’t have our physical bodies anyway, so physical torment is kind of off the table. Good point.
This new information, while it’s exciting, is also a little scary. It’s as if I’ve been anchored to something heavy and now I’m floating. But floating is good. Floating is where I learn to depend on God.
I did some further research last night and came across some interesting things. First was from this website called tentmaker.org — I can only imagine that it comes from the tent makers who were noted in the new testament for helping Paul. I can’t vouch for their accurateness, so don’t hold me to them if you find something wacky, but just a little light reading brought me to some interesting ideas:
Popular myth : Hell is an established Biblical doctrine that is in the Bible from start to finish. This is not true! Two thirds of the Bible (the Old Testament) does not mention Hell at all. (“Sheol,” the Old Testament word that is sometimes translated as Hell, only means “grave” by definition, and it is where everyone in the Old Testament went when they died–good or evil, Jew or Gentile). Thus the Old Testament does not contain the concept of Hell!
Huh. fascinating. It goes on.
FACT: The King James Bible erroneously translates the word “Sheol” as Hell a total of 31 times in the Old Testament, thus setting a foundation for that doctrine in the New Testament as well as the majority of Bible translations to follow the KJV. Even so, most new translations have completely eliminated Hell from the Old Testament, as honest and better scholarship has demanded. The Jewish version of the Old Testament (the Tanakh) has no concept of Hell in it. The importance of this fact cannot be over-emphasized. If a doctrine does not appear as seed form in the books of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, it cannot fairly be taught as a major biblical doctrine, if indeed it can be taught as biblical at all!
MINDBLOWN!!! I don’t know about you, but I want to get my hands on that Tanakh and see how that lays it all out. (*update! It came in the mail today!) The website goes on to say a lot more, but those were the two that jumped out at me the most.
KBM, big thank you for talking my questions out with me. One thing I tell Daniela all the time is that questions are good. They prompt learning and regardless of what’s right and what’s wrong, I am 100% comfortable asking questions about the Bible and my faith. Because you see, God is not scared of my questions. Even if what I decide to believe is different than what someone else believes, I’m confident in my findings because #1, I’ve entered this season of learning with much prayer and #2, I’m trusting God to bring me to the truth. KBM also mentioned that it’s more important to be a seeker of the truth than it is to be dogmatic about one theory. John 8:32 says “Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you”. That’s really where I’m at. I’m experiencing truth, and I’m finding freedom. Floating.
I’d love to hear what you believe, let’s chat.