The KJV translates “Sheol” as “Hell”’ but that is misleading, for Sheol was a neutral space for departed souls; both righteous and wicked. It was dark and gloomy, but it was not a place of anguish and torment. In the NT, though, we find the neutral Sheol split into two, Heaven for the righteous and Hell for the wicked.
In the sense of the abode of the souls of the departed, the name Gehenna appears only in the NT, not the OT, where (in the form Gei-Hinnom) it is used only as the name of the valley outside Jerusalem where the Canaanites who lived there before the Israelite conquest had an altar that they used for child sacrifices.
On the other hand, the name Sheol occurs only in the OT, never in the NT. This clearly points to a move away from the idea of a single gloomy abode where the souls of all the departed were gathered indiscriminately, righteous and wicked alike, replacing it with the novel idea of a segregated afterlife in which the righteous were rewarded and the wicked punished.
My question is this: Was Jesus the first to proclaim the new doctrine of a segregated Heaven and Hell, or had the idea already appeared in Judaism at an earlier date?
There is a hint of this in Daniel 12:3. “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake. some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” But there is a problem with this verse. It is part of Daniel’s prophecy of the end times: “At that time the great prince (or archangel) Michael, who guards your people, will appear …” This raises a further question: Pending the awaited appearance of the archangel Michael, where are all those souls now – those who will eventually awake to everlasting life and those who will eventually awake to shame and everlasting contempt? Are we to understand that it was Daniel’s belief that, for the time being, those souls are all together in Sheol, the righteous and the wicked alike?
My reason for asking this question is that, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, Jesus seems to be saying that, as soon as they both died, the rich man’s soul went to Hades and Lazarus’s soul to the abode of Abraham. He doesn’t seem to be allowing for an interim period in which they were both together in Sheol.
Jesus also doesn’t seem to feel the need to provide a detailed explanation of their separate destinies. Neither does Luke add a footnote of any kind. And yet, if Jesus had been preaching an entirely new doctrine here, surely we would expect to find the parable prefaced with a word of explanation such as we find repeatedly in Matt. 5: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time …, but I say unto you …” (vv. 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43). That’s why it sounds to me as though Jesus was not presenting a new doctrine on Heaven and Hell, but simply framing his parable in terms that his audience would have been fully familiar with.