This question came to me after reading the following excerpt from Wikipedia's entry on Hell:

"Early Judaism had no concept of Hell, although the concept of an afterlife was introduced during the Hellenistic period, apparently from neighboring Hellenistic religions. It occurs for example in Book of Daniel."

Most evidence of Hell is from the NT and not the OT. Could this be because it was a doctrine influenced by adjacent religions like Greek mythology?

  • 1
    It depends on what counts as hell for you. The OT has Sheol, the dwelling place of Rephaim (the ghosts of dead kings). Isaiah 14:9 is probably the most colorful description of it, but Sheol is mentioned numerous times elsewhere.
    – b a
    Jun 11, 2018 at 16:30

2 Answers 2


The New Testament has Gospels, history (Acts), epistles, and Revelation. It is easy to answer why the New Testament other than the Gospels has this focus: because Jesus in the Gospels often spoke of Heaven, Hell and resurrection. Paul, John, Peter, James, Jude and the author of Hebrews took their lead from their savior, expanding on the topics he covered, as well as additional commentary on the Old Testament.

I once read through all the parables of Jesus and counted how often Jesus spoke of Heaven and how often he spoke of Hell. Slightly over half the parables addressed Hell and eternal judgment, slightly over half addressed Heaven and eternal reward, and many parables mentioned both.

The principal revelation Jesus was working towards, first in riddles and then plainly (in the speeches at the Last Supper in John 13-17), was his coming crucifixion and resurrection. He framed this as a shattering, divisive, determinative event in history. The world was about to be divided in two, and all people needed to make a decision about which side they would be on. This decision would then be ratified by the angels, who wold implement it in some fashion.

The rest of the New Testament showed the beginning of this outworking, as a realignment, as some Jews joined the Church and others did not, as some Greeks joined the church, and others did not, as some Romand joined, and others did not. This ends with Revelation, which describes the final separation of people into two camps.


In my opinion, God is teaching us, humanity as a whole, new lessons only if we start to understand the old ones. For example: first He looks like powerful, fair judge that sees and knows everything. He knows when you're doing wrong, so it's not worth to try to deceive Him.

Even though we're not that good, He is willing to lay his fair judgement (and punishment) aside if we will admit our mistakes and will go towards Him (e.g. see Exodus and the part where Jews were bitten by the snakes or when king David murdered one of his closest friends). Naturally our view towards Him is evolving further, but this is an off-topic. I just want to point the trend (which in my opinion is general).

So going back to the question about hell. It's true that OT says mostly about Sheol. Resurrection (or more defined after-life) is being defined later (Hellenistic period or even Babylonian [see Book of Daniel, 12]). Our, christian, believes also were influenced by Greek philosophy, so why not jewish?

But all of this doctrine makes so much sense, it has to be divine - not human made :)

  • Hi and welcome to the site. Please take the time to review our help centre and the FAQs on our Meta site when you can. Jun 12, 2018 at 15:29
  • @bruisedreed, It'd be helpful if you could point exactly what I did wrong. Downvoting and redirecting to general FAQ is not helping me writing a better answer. In my opinion I did answer the question " Could this be because it was a doctrine influenced by adjacent religions like Greek mythology?" - "Yes, it was, but some idea was presented earlier, but evolved over time".
    – Sielu
    Jun 13, 2018 at 7:25
  • That message was just directed towards a new user there is no implicit criticism in it. But now that you mention it, the way you start with your answer could put people off, as personal opinion answers are not what we are looking for here. See in particular What makes a good supported answer?. Jun 13, 2018 at 12:49
  • @bruisedreed Thank you for your comment. I will try to bear it in mind.
    – Sielu
    Jun 14, 2018 at 13:32

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