How come the old testament doesn't mention much of hell?


For the most part is mentions sheol or gehenna I believe but those aren’t the eternal hell we’ve come to know. And the punishments brought upon the people are in this life not the next. Why is it that only the new testament speaks of it being eternal? I’d think that God would have let people know about eternal damnation in the old testament since it is people’s souls.


Hebrew Sheol is the same as the Greek Hades – a gloomy, dull underground place where all the souls of the dead are gathered together. There is no segregation between those who have done good in their earthly lives and those who have done evil. In the Witch of Endor episode, for example, Samuel’s soul is summoned up from Hades (1 Sam 28).

It was only toward the end of the OT period that Judaism developed the idea of a separate Heaven and Hell. Hell, in this sense, is Gehenna in Hebrew, I believe, though that word is found only in the NT, not in the OT, except as a geographical name. It was originally the name of a valley just outside the Jerusalem city walls.


To be fair, even once they were taught it, many still didn’t believe. The Sadducees – in the time of Jesus – did not believe in a Resurrection. So, it was still an open question at the time.


"And immediately as he had made an end of speaking, the earth broke asunder under their feet: And opening her mouth, devoured them with their tents and all their substance. And they went down alive into hell the ground closing upon them, and they perished from among the people.’ Numbers 16:31-33


Old Testament prophets did talk about the afterlife although not in much detail because it seemed visions of it were limited. The closer in time they came to Christ, the more they knew. The first five books of the Bible (up to Moses) contain almost nothing about life after death, but you definitely see it in Isaiah or Daniel.

There were Jews who didn’t believe in a Resurrection and some still don’t.


What Jesus taught about fiery Gehenna was nothing new. His Gehenna sermon simply echoes Isaiah 66.


Still is. There is no comprehensive Jewish view of an afterlife. Some believe in Heaven, some believe in Heaven and Hell, some believe in neither.

There was, and maybe still is, a poster here who once wrote that “Christianity is not Judaism with Jesus, and Judaism is not Christianity without Jesus.” That is very wise. They are two religions that have similarities, but are rather different in key ways. In my experience, and I am not saying this applies to you, far too many people view different religions through their own eyes, not the eyes of adherents to those religions.


Additionally to the other replies, which are correct, one could interpret the question more theologically and say that in the OT they didn’t talk much about Hell because it is a mysterious, supernatural concept.

The most supernatural concepts to humans are covered in the NT by Christ, who is God himself.


Job 21

31 Because the wicked man is reserved to the day of destruction, and he shall be brought to the day of wrath.
32 He shall be brought to the graves, and shall watch in the heap of the dead.

Psalm 9

16 The Lord shall be known when he executeth judgments: the sinner hath been caught in the works of his own hands.
17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, all the nations that forget God.

Proverbs 24

20 For evil men have no hope of things to come, and the lamp of the wicked shall be put out.

Isaiah 66

22 For as the new heavens, and the new earth, which I will make to stand before me, saith the Lord: so shall your seed stand, and your name.
23 And there shall be month after month, and sabbath after sabbath: and all flesh shall come to adore before my face, saith the Lord.
24 And they shall go out, and see the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: their worm shah not die, and their fire shall not be quenched: and they shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh.

Daniel 12

1 But at that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people: and a time shall come such as never was from the time that nations began even until that time. And at that time shall thy people be saved, every one that shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake: some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, to see it always.


If the beatific vision-- Heaven-- was closed off to mankind due to sin during this period, how do you effectively contrast “the beatific vision” with “the absence of the beatific vision”?

It starts off as “worship God because he’s your God, and it’s right and just to do so” without necessarily having any expectations of reward or punishment in the afterlife. But honestly, they had so much trouble with “ignore all those other gods around you— no, don’t sacrifice your children to Baal-- um, is that a golden calf? --no, not Ishtar either, that counts–” that it’s not surprising that there wasn’t an effort to spell things out, “Okay, so I want you to choose to do good and reject evil for the hope that after death, and, um, after the Messiah comes, the Messiah’s going to open up heaven, and then after he does, you can go live in the presence of God for eternity, except nothing unclean can enter heaven, so even if you do a little bit of evil, you’ll get purified, but it can’t be, like, really bad evil, because that will separate you permanently from God…”

Sort of like how with kids, we say, “Don’t steal. Stealing is bad, and I said so,” and later on, you can get into the nuances of things like usury; or yes, the office supply cupboard counts; or how not paying your rent in full/on time counts, too.


Not sure which translation of the Bible you’re using, but its usage of “hell” is an inaccurate translation of Sheol.


The Douay Rheims version.

“And he gave him power in his commandments, in the covenants of his judgments, that he should teach Jacob his testimonies, and give light to Israel in his law. And strangers stood up against him, and through envy the men that were with Dathan and Abiron, compassed him about in the wilderness, and the congregation of Core in their wrath. The Lord God saw and it pleased him not, and they were consumed in his wrathful indignation. He wrought wonders upon them, and consumed them with a flame of fire. And he added glory to Aaron, and gave him an inheritance, and divided unto him the firstfruits of the increase of the earth.” Ecclesiasticus 45:22-24

Another quote referring to the same event, and fire.

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