I'm new on this site of Stack Exhcange. As a non-native speaker, I've been asking questions on ELL and ELU. However, I thought this might be related with religion (in this case, of course, Christianity) rather than language.

The following passage is an excerpt from god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens:

Pre-Christian hells were highly unpleasant too, and called upon the same sadistic ingenuity for their invention. However, some of the early ones we know of —most notably the Hindu— were limited in time. A sinner, for example, might be sentenced to a given number of years in hell, where every day counted as 6,400 human years. If he slew a priest, the sentence thus adjusted would be 149,504,000,000 years. At this point, he was allowed nirvana, which seems to mean annihilation. It was left to Christians to find a hell from which there was no possible appeal. (And the idea is easily plagiarized: I once heard Louis Farrakhan, leader of the heretical black-only “Nation of Islam,” as he drew a hideous roar from a mob in Madison Square Garden. Hurling spittle at the Jews, he yelled, “And don’t you forget — when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s FOREVER!”).

I can't understand what he means by "appeal from hell" at all. I would be more than happy if anyone could explain me the meaning here.

Thank you very much.

  • Welcome to Christianity.SE! I had to think about whether this was on-topic for a little bit, but ultimately, I think it is because this concept is a little bit different in the context of Christianity than it is in plain English. I would expect a little bit of theology in the answers you get; i.e., answers shouldn't just give the plain English meaning of the word, but also explain why (at least a little bit) the Christian conception of Hell is like this. Jul 25, 2015 at 11:16
  • @El'endiaStarman - Thanks for the welcome and the explanation. Actually, I, too, thought about asking the question in ELL or ELU. But I couldn't decide fully if it was more of a lingustic question or a Christianity-related one. Then I realized it talked about the concept of Hell in Christianity and asked it here. Yet, if it is not suitable for this site, I can delete and ask it on ELL or ELU without any problem. Please tell me what you think and I'll act accordingly.
    – A.K.
    Jul 25, 2015 at 12:14

1 Answer 1


As a matter of English usage, to "appeal from" something is to request that it be set aside or modified in your favor. As a non-Christian, Hitchens paints the picture of someone asking God to be released from Hell. As far as I know, any Christian who believes Hell might be for a limited period of time (a minority of Christians but still a lot of people) would see release as totally God's choice.

Christians differ about how literally to take the descriptions of Hell. Describing a place as both "fire" and "outer darkness" suggests these might be metaphors. The Greek words usually translated as "forever" could also mean a long time, literally "ages and ages".

  • Special thanks for the answer. Now I both get the meaning of to appeal from Hell and the concept of Hell in Christianity.
    – A.K.
    Jul 25, 2015 at 16:41

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