The Origins of Christian Hell

in Numen
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The paper re-examines the evidence concerning the early Christian conceptions of punishment of sinners in the afterlife. It commences with the New Testament and the ideas attributed to Jesus and moves on to the apocryphal

Apocalypse of Peter

, composed about a generation later, which enjoyed great popularity among several early Christian circles and was seriously considered for inclusion in the New Testament canon. It is claimed that as it now reads,

Apoc. Pet.

advances ideas about hell that sharply contrast those presented in the New Testament. To solve this riddle, it is proposed that the

Apoc. Pet.

, as it has been preserved, was reorganized at a much later stage to meet the needs of the developing Church. Its original meaning was consequently twisted almost beyond recognition. In its earliest layers, the apocryphal document appears to have been mostly concerned, just like the New Testament, with salvation rather than everlasting chastisement.


International Review for the History of Religions


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