Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hell was a local garbage dump

The word that we know as "Hell" was first used in Joshua 15:8 in the Hebrew Scriptures... "Then the border went up the valley of Ben-hinnom to the slope of the Jebusite on the south (that is, Jerusalem); and the border went up to the top of the mountain which is before the valley of Hinnom to the west, which is at the end of the valley of Rephaim toward the north."

The Greek word Gehenna (or Gehenom or Gehinom) refers to a fiery place where the wicked are punished after they die or on Judgment Day. It traces its origin to the Hebrew Gêhinnôm (also Guy ben-Hinnom) meaning the "Valley of Hinnom's son".

According to the Wikipedia, "The valley forms the southern border of ancient Jerusalem and stretches from the foot of Mt. Zion, eastward, to the Kidron Valley. Originally it referred to a garbage dump in a deep narrow valley right outside the walls of Jerusalem where fires were kept burning to consume the refuse and keep down the stench. It is also the location where bodies of executed criminals, or individuals denied a proper burial, would be dumped. In addition, this valley was frequently not controlled by the Jewish authority within the city walls; it is traditionally held that this valley was used as a place of religious child-sacrifice to Moloch by the Canaanites outside the city."

So is the garbage dump in the valley of Hinnom's son what Jesus was talking about when he reffered to, “Hell, the unquenchable fire”. In Mark 9:43, where Jesus is supposed to have said, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out", was he simply using the commonly known local dump as a metaphor for just one heckuva bad state of being? If so, then why do so many Christians think of hell as an actual physical place people go to after they die?

In one of his sermons at the Washington National Cathedral, Rev. Eugene Sutton, notes, "It never ceases to amaze me that that particular exaggeration of Jesus becomes a literal fact of the afterlife in the consciousness of so many people. I’m afraid it says more about the fear and insecurity of the hearers who are taught to think of God as a vengeful and frightful being, than it does about the Compassionate One who sometimes used 'holy hyperbole' in order to get people to rethink their priorities and get their spiritual houses in order before it’s too late."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Inspiration from God

The belief that only writers of "scripture" (as selected by a series of Church leaders and councils) who lived 2,000 years ago have exclusive right to inspiration from God and thus to God's truth is amazing. God-inspired writers, theologians and scholars have continued throughout history and fill the world today. If one chooses to accept that the Bible is the inerrant and complete Word of God based on faith and that there is thus no need to read anything else, then be aware that that "faith" is still based on what certain groups of humans claim to be the Word of God. And that you are choosing not to use the one thing you can be certain is a gift from God... Your Mind. Revelations from the Creator of the universe are not limited to a few people during a narrow period of history. They occur every day, and so does scripture.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ehyeh asher ehyeh

When Moses heard the voice coming from the burning bush and asked for identification, the answer came back, "I Am Who I Am" or Ehyeh asher ehyeh, which according to Karen Armstong is a "Hebrew idiom to express a deliberate vagueness. In her book, A History of God, Armstrong says that when the Bible uses a phrase like "they went where they went," it means: "I haven't the faintest idea where they went." Armstrong notes that when Moses asked who he was, God's reply was in effect saying, "Never you mind who I am!" or "Mind your own business!"

A great book

The Christian Bible was written by a bunch of guys (maybe an occasional gal taking on a guy's name or be willing to let a guy take credit for her writing). So what's the big deal? Why is this book worshipped as the Word of God? Why is it considered to be more sacred than any other well written book?

No doubt there is a tremendous tradition behind the Bible. The book (in one form or another) has been around for nearly 2,000 years. Clearly, it's a great book. Lots of stories and poetry. Lots of worthwhile advice. The book has staying power. It's been translated and re-translated thousands of times. It's been edited and re-edited over and over again. It's been published and re-published endlessly.

It's a great book. But where did all this Word of God stuff originate? A Jewish guy writes a few letters (containing words of wisdom) to some home church communities that he helped found, and all of a sudden they're being called "epistles" and being quoted as the Word of God.