n HTS : Theological Studies - Hell revisited : a socio-critical enquiry into the roots and relevance of hell for the church today




Hell is being written out of theology and banned from serious conversation; for most scholars and modern-minded people it has more or less become a theoretical issue. Yet it remains alive and burning in the Western mind - there has been a surge in the amount of popular literature written on the subject from the 1990's onwards. Why the sudden interest? Is there a pattern or social trend that could begin to explain the phenomenon? Part of the responsible way of dealing with the history of a concept such as hell is to point towards the social and political reasons for the emergence and need for certain concepts in particular contexts and circumstances, as they are all utilitarian concepts which are employed and abandoned as needs change and sentiments shift. This article will investigate the rise of the concept of hell by investigating the ancient sources in which it first appeared, in order to establish what factors made the concept popular then and now. In doing so, a continuum will be identified between the first origin of these ideas and their present popularity.


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