An Introduction to Mythology

Page: 90

"Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.

"All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?

"Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee."[3]

[Pg 204]

After the captivity, and consequently under Babylonian influences, Sheol became a region principally devoted to punishment, with Gehenna as the place of especial torment and abasement. The Talmud describes this place of woe as follows: "Ordinary transgressors of Israel, whose merits preponderate, though they descend into Hell, do not feel the effects of the flames, and rise at once. Some who sin with their bodies, such as those who put their neighbours to shame publicly and who neglect the phylacteries, etc., are annihilated after twelve months' endurance of hell-fire. Adulterers, though they sin with their bodies, ascend to happiness at the end of the same period. Christians, informers, and those who systematically despise the words of the Rabbis are consigned to eternal punishment. Of course, all may escape punishment altogether by repentance in this life."

No departmental god rules in this dreary realm, Sheol being directly under the eye of Yahweh; for, according to Job xxvi, 6, Sheol and destruction are naked before Him, and being omnipresent He is also in Sheol. Sheol was silent as the grave, its inhabitants raising not a murmur; neither in their grief could they work to praise God. It had gates and bars, alluded to in the Song of Solomon as "jealous" and "cruel as the grave."

The Talmud obviously borrows from Persian doctrine; or it might be more correct to say that both conceptions spring from a common source. In Psalms xxxvi, 8, and xlvi, 4, a river of life is alluded to which makes glad the abode of the Elohim or gods. Says the anonymous author of Bible Folklore: In the discourse of Josephus to the Greeks on Hades we find the opinions of the more liberal Pharisees clearly set forth about the Christian era. He believes in a Hades of temporary punishment, and an Elysium of light called Abraham's bosom. The Messiah Logos (as at Alexandria) is, according to the Jewish historian, to be the judge who will condemn the wicked to a lake of fire already prepared, but as yet not used for torture, and will reward the righteous in the heavenly kingdom. The wicked are to resume their old bodies unchanged, but the righteous will obtain pure and immortal forms fashioned from[Pg 205] their old bodies which have been sowed in the ground. The simile of the corn sown as seed, and springing up with a glorified body, is used by Josephus as by St Paul, and it was evidently a widely known parable, which occurs also in the Talmud, for Rabbi Meir is said to have told Cleopatra that as a grain of wheat buried naked springs forth with many clothes so will the righteous also....

"In the future happy age, says Josephus, after the judgment of the wicked, there will be inhabitants of Heaven and of earth, but no more birth, no wild animals, no storms, no darkness or change. Man will be able to walk across the sea, and to ascend into Heaven; he will never grow old or die, but continue to enjoy a material or semi-material existence in his spiritual body....

"In the Mishnah the world to come is mentioned as the heritage of 'all Israel,' but the wicked, the Sadducee, the Epicurean, readers of foreign books, and sorcerers, together with certain historic personages, are excluded. Some of these are to be slain by plague in the world to come, and some are to be scattered. Thus the doctrine of immortality in the Mishnah is confined to the future resurrection of pious Israelites. In Daniel also a partial resurrection only is foretold to follow a judgment day. The Sibyl believes that the righteous will live again on earth, but the wicked will remain in Gehenna. The Book of Enoch is full of the same doctrine. A sealed volume is to be opened in the last day, and the good will be selected and become angels, but Azazel and his hosts will be judged, and cast into a lake of fire. A great fire is also to burn up the present Heaven and earth according to the Sibyl, and a new creation will emerge from the ashes.