Gnostic Doctrine

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Christian Gnostic Views on Hell

Christian Gnostic Views on Hell

What do the Gnostic Gospels say about Hell?

Before we can answer this question it is best to find out what does the bible really say about Hell

Hell is not a word used in the original manuscript it is an old English word which has lost its original meaning over time

Webster's Third New International Dictionary, unabridged, under "Hell" says: "from 'helan' to conceal." The word "hell" thus originally conveyed no thought of heat or torment but simply of a 'covered over or concealed place.' In the old English dialect the expression "helling potatoes" meant, not to roast them, but simply to place the potatoes in the ground or in a cellar. In old English literature, we read "the helling of a house" – covering/thatching a house. Putting a thatch roof on a house was called “helling” the house, but it didn’t mean to set the house on fire.

Hell, to conceal, to hide, to cover. 

There are four words translated hell in the bible in this study we will look at Hades and Sheol 

Hades (Greek.)--not to be looked upon; outer darkness.

Sheol (Hebrew)--hollow; cavernous; empty; outer darkness; place of unquenchable, consuming desires.

Sheol meaning “ask; request.” The common grave of mankind, gravedom; not an individual burial place or grave (Heb., qever, Jg 16:31; qevurah´, Ge 35:20), nor an individual tomb (Heb., gadhish´, Job 21:32). Sheol the grave, which is as it were always asking or craving more. This would indicate that Sheol is both a place and condition that asks for or demands all without distinction, as it receives the dead of mankind within it. —Ge 37:35, ftn; Pr 30:15, 16 (Insight into the Scriptures)

In the Authorized Version, in many places in the Old Testament sheol is interpreted grave or pit. For examples see Genesis 37:35; 42:38; I Samuel 2:6; I Kings 2:6; Job 14:13; 17:13, 16, and there are others. In the American Standard Version the word sheol is used in these texts. Please compare the two, and then look up the places where the translation hell is given.  
(Charles Fillmore)

“Hades,” perhaps meaning “the unseen place,” appears 11 times in the Textus Receptus on which the King James Version is based , namely, in Mt 11:23; 16:18; Lu 10:15; 16:23; Ac 2:27, 31; 1Cor 15:55 Rev 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14.

In Acts 2:27, Peter’s quotation of Ps 16:10 shows Hades is the equivalent of Sheol and is applied to the common grave of mankind (in contrast with the Greek word ta´phos, an individual grave). The Latin word corresponding to Hades is in·fer´nus (sometimes in´fe·rus). It means “that which lies beneath; the lower region,” and well applies to the grave. It is thus a fitting approximation of the Greek and Hebrew terms. (Insight into the Scriptures)

The Bible record shows that Sheol refers to mankind’s common grave as a place where there is no consciousness. (Ec 9:4-6, 10) Those in Sheol neither praise God nor mention him. (Ps 6:4, 5; Isa 38:17-19) 
(Insight into the Scriptures)

Rev 20:14  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (AVKJ)

Notice also that hell is not the same as the lake of fire but will be cast into the lake of fire.

Strange! Is hell itself to be tormented? And how can death, a condition, be thrown into a literal fire? 

Hell (Hades, Sheol) Is Not a literal place of fiery torment suffering Job prayed to go there. Job 14:12-14

it is a place of inactivity. Ps 6:5; Ec 9:10; Isa 38:18, 19
Jesus was raised from grave, hell. Ac 2:27, 31, 32; Ps 16:10
Hell will deliver up other dead, to be destroyed. Rev 20:13, 14
Fire is a symbol of annihilation Cutting off in death is symbolized by fire. Mt 25:41, 46; 13:30
Unrepentant wicked destroyed forever as by fire. Heb 10:26, 27
The Soul
In the Old Testament Hebrew, the original word for soul is nephesh. In the New Testament Greek it is psuche. Both mean the same thing and are used Interchangeably. One is used to translate the other.

The Hebrew word ‘Nephesh’ of the Old Testament has the same meaning as the Greek word ‘Psuche’ of the New Testament.  They mean “a living animal being” and are applied to both man and beast as shown from biblical quotations and notes given below.  The men who translated the original manuscripts into the English Bible believed in the immortality of man’s souls, and so translated these words to conform to their own belief wherever possible.  They translated ‘Nephesh’ 428 times “soul”; 119 times “life”; 15 times “body.” They translated ‘Psuche’ 58 times “soul”; 40 times “life”; 3 times “mind.”

Ezekiel 18:4 & 20:
"Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die."

"The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself."

Matthew 10:29:
"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

Heracleon a member of the Valentinian Christian Gnostic School did not believe in the teaching of the immortality of the soul

Fragment 40, on John 4:46-53 By the words “it was at the point of death,” the teaching of those who claim that the soul is immortal is refuted. In agreement with this is the statement that “the body and soul are destoyed in Hell.” (Matthew 10:28) The soul is not immortal, but is possessed only of a disposition towards salvation, for it is the perishable which puts on imperishability and the mortal which puts on immortality when “its death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54) (Heracleon: Fragments from his Commentary on the Gospel of John)

The soul is temporary.

The Odes of Solomon not part of the nag hammadi library however it is an important document since it is a early christian hymn book from the second century CE

Ode 6:14) They have refreshed the parched lips, and have aroused the paralysed will. 
15) Even souls who were about to expire, they have seized from death. 

And when we heard these things, we became elated, for we had been depressed on account of what we had said earlier. Now when he saw our rejoicing, he said: "Woe to you who are in want of an advocate! Woe to you who are in need of grace! Blessed are those who have spoken freely and have produced grace for themselves. Make yourselves like strangers; of what sort are they in the estimation of your city? Why are you troubled when you oust yourselves of your own accord and depart from your city? Why do you abandon your dwelling place of your own accord, readying it for those who desire to dwell in it? O you exiles and fugitives! Woe to you, because you will be caught! Or perhaps you imagine that the Father is a lover of humanity? Or that he is persuaded by prayers? Or that he is gracious to one on behalf of another? Or that he bears with one who seeks? For he knows the desire and also that which the flesh needs. Because it is not the flesh which yearns for the soul. For without the soul the body does not sin, just as the soul is not saved without the Spirit. But if the soul is saved when it is without evil, and if the spirit also is saved, then the body becomes sinless. For it is the spirit which animates the soul, but it is the body which kills it - that is, it is the soul which kills itself. (The Apocryphon of James)

The Treatise of the Resurrection:

"From the savior we radiate beams, and we are held in his arms until our own sunset, our death in this life. We are drawn to heaven by him, like beams, by the sun, and nothing holds us down. This is the resurrection of the spirit, which swallows up the soul and the flesh."

Tripartite Tractate:

"They became flesh and soul, that is, eternally which (things) hold them and with corruptible things they die. "

The Gospel of Philip:

"Adam’s soul came from a breath. The soul’s companion is spirit, and the spirit given to him is his mother. His soul was [taken] from him and replaced with [spirit]. "

Apocalypse of Peter:

"For evil cannot produce good fruit. For the place from which each of them is produces that which is like itself; for not every soul is of the truth, nor of immortality"
Hell is this World
Origen and theologian Gregory of Nyssa thought of hell as a place of separation from God—of spiritual suffering

The Authors of the Nag Hammadi library have the same understanding that the world itself is Hell.

And he put to shame the ruler of Hades; he raised the dead, and he destroyed his dominion.
Then a great disturbance took place. The archons raised up their wrath against him. They wanted to hand him over to the ruler of Hades. Then they recognized one of his followers. A fire took hold of his soul. He (Judas?) handed him over, since no one knew him (Jesus?). They acted and seized him. They brought judgment upon themselves. And they delivered him up to the ruler of Hades.
And they handed him over to Sasabek for nine bronze coins. He prepared himself to go down and put them to shame. Then the ruler of Hades took him. And he found that the nature of his flesh could not be seized, in order to show it to the archons. But he was saying: "Who is this? What is it?
His word has abolished the law of the aeon. He is from the Logos of the power of life." And he was victorious over the command of the archons, and they were not able by their work to rule over him.

For the Son of Man clothed himself with their first-fruits; he went down to Hades and performed many mighty works. He raised the dead therein; and the world-rulers of darkness became envious of him, for they did not find sin in him. But he also destroyed their works from among men, so that the lame, the blind, the paralytic, the dumb, (and) the demon-possessed were granted healing.And he walked upon the waters of the sea. For this reason he destroyed his flesh from [...] which he [...]. And he became [...] salvation [...] his death ... ... (4 lines unrecoverable) [The Testimony of Truth]

In the book called Thomas the Contender fire is a symbol of the fiery lustful and sexual passions of the natural body that makes the mind drunk the the soul deranged. the main theme of the text is ascetic (the passions of the body versus the tranquility of wisdom and self control):

Then the savior continued and said, "O unsearchable love of the light! O bitterness of the fire that blazes in the bodies of men and in their marrow, kindling in them night and day, and burning the limbs of men and [making] their minds become drunk and their souls become deranged.

"Woe to you who hope in the flesh and in the prison that will perish! How long will you be oblivious? And how long will you suppose that the imperishables will perish too? Your hope is set upon the world, and your god is this life! You are corrupting your souls!
Do not fear the flesh nor love it.
If you fear the flesh it will gain mastery over you.
If you love the flesh it will paralyze and engulf you. (Gospel of Philip)

Hell is being trapped and controlled by your emotions

And so he dwells either in this world or in the resurrection or in the middle place. God forbid that I be found in there! In this world, there is good and evil. Its good things are not good, and its evil things not evil. But there is evil after this world which is truly evil – what is called “the middle”. It is death. While we are in this world, it is fitting for us to acquire the resurrection, so that when we strip off the flesh, we may be found in rest and not walk in the middle. (The Gospel of Philip)

Hell, to the Cathars, was not a remote place under the Earth. For them Hell was here and now. The world itself, the creation of the Bad God, was the only Hell they knew. Torture, pain and misery of this life was all the Hell they needed to contemplate.

Hell is a Condition of the Mind

As a condition Hell would symbolize consuming desires

One does not have to die in order to go to hell, any more than one has to die to go to heaven. Both are states of mind, and conditions, which people experience as a direct outworking of their thoughts, beliefs, words, and acts. If one's mental processes are out of harmony with the law of God, they result in trouble and sorrow; mental as well as bodily anguish overtakes one, and this is hell.
(Charles Fillmore)

'Hell' is our separation from God's love, which leads us to reason judgmentally, and, in turn, live barren lives. 

"Hell is the fire that burns in our conscience, the fire of despair because of our separation from God." (Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought, (Harper & Row, 1967), p. XXVII, p. 64.) 

"Fire symbolizes consuming desires and ignorance of God." (Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Paul, p. 61) In effect, for Paul, hell is living in the thinking of the flesh our judgmental reasoning separates us from God and the understanding that we have fellowship with our heavenly father.

Hades refers to the outer darkness, the consciousness of the carnal mind, in contrast to the inner or spiritual consciousness of light. To live in the outer darkness is to live according to the flesh 

Hades denotes the burying out of sight, out of thought and mind, of that above which the overcomer has risen, of that which has become inactive in his consciousness. (Charles Fillmore)

What the Hell is Gehenna?


  1. There is no consciousness in hell. Hell is where the dead are. To say that the dead are conscious is to make the consequences of sin to not be death. That is turning God's word into a lie. They that do that are Romans 1:25, KJV. They are, Romans 1: 29 - 32 people who are not friendly, making Romans 1:29 - 32 people who are not friendly.

    2 Peter 3:19 - 20, KJV. There is Satan's prison. That is not hell. It is a holding pen for final judgment. Lost soul's cannot exist in God's light.
    Rev 20:14; Saved will not see God as the fires of hell. Death will be no more. Wicked are the lake of fire. Satan is death. There is nothing good in Satan.

    Fallen beings see God in his glory as a consuming fire.

    This world is not hell.

    1. Clearly you have misread the text or not even read it because I'm not saying the dead have consciousness in hell

    2. Hell or Sheol doesn't always refer to the grave but sometimes to a State of Mind. Like he is in his only personal hell or hell is this world hell on earth.