Essay on The Ideas of Hell and Purgatory

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The Ideas of Hell and Purgatory

"Hell has probably caused more personal anxiety and distress than any other Christian belief. Hell has also motivated many Christians to follow the Great Commission and attempt to convert the world to Christianity" ("Various Views of Hell: As seen by Conservative Christians").

The word "hell" derives from the Pagan Norse Queen of the Underworld, Hel. When Christianity first evolved, the church taught that nearly everyone descended to this similar place to earth after dying. Included in this belief were the Pagan Gods and Goddesses from the Middle East, Rome, Greece, and the Germanic and Celtic tribes. Nevertheless, hell was commonly envisioned based on an
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In the third century, when hell was considered an eternal punishment, Tertullian thought of a new place that he called the bosom of Abraham. "The bosom of Abraham, though not in heaven, and yet above hell, offers the souls of the righteous an interim refreshment until the end of all things brings about the general resurrection and the final reward" (Chidester 149). The idea of this mid-place caught the attention of many theologians of the time. In the fourth century, hell was seen as a place of spiritual suffering by Gregory of Nyssa. At the same time, the Latin theologian Jerome theorized hell as a place of pure physical torture. Augustine of Hippo proposed that "correctional fire" was used to free souls from sin (Chidester 152) in the fifth century. He introduced the thought that suffering in hell was both spiritual and sensory, and that a purifying fire would cleanse the soul while being agonizingly painful.

During the next century, Origen argued against the mainstream belief that hell was forever. He suggested that sinners in hell could be rehabilitated and work toward heaven. Church leaders quickly rejected this view at the Council of Constantinople in 543. Instead, Augustine's cleansing fire idea reigned most believable until the fourteenth century. "Out of this imagery of refining fire, the geography of the Christian afterlife was expanded to include a
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