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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Gehenna (2)

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GEHENNA.—The Heb. name Hinnom is generally preceded in the OT by the word Gç-, ‘valley’ (Joshua 15:8 ff.), thus Gç-hinnôm, or ‘Valley of Hinnom,’ whence the NT word γέεννα, which is translated in both the Authorized Version and Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘hell’ (Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:29-30; Matthew 10:28; Matthew 18:9; Matthew 23:15; Matthew 23:33, Mark 9:43; Mark 9:45; Mark 9:47, Luke 12:5, James 3:6); from which also we obtain the English word Gehenna. Historically, this valley is the traditional site of the worship paid to Molech, first by Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:3), and later by Manasseh (33:6), who made their children pass through the fire; but which was later defiled by Josiah (2 Kings 23:10), and thereafter seems to have been made the receptacle of the city’s offal; and in later Jewish thought became a symbol of the supposed place of future punishments (cf. Enoch xxvii. i). The NT use of γέεννα is exclusively in this figurative sense. Milton also employs it thus in his familiar lines:

‘The pleasant vale of Hinnom, Tophet thence,

And black Gehenna called, the type of hell’ (Par. Lost, i. 404).

Opinions differ as to the identification of the valley; but most authorities, including Robinson, Stanley, Buhl, and many others, as well as modern Arab tradition, identify it with the valley on the W. and S. side of the Holy City, the upper portion of which is called in Arabic Wâdy er-Rabâbi; the lower, Wâdy Gehennam, or ‘Valley of Hell.’ It is a ‘deep and yawning gorge’ (Wilson), and ‘never contains water’ (Socin), its descent from its original source to Bir Eyyub being approximately 670 ft. At the lower extremity are found numerous rock-tombs, for here seems to have been the potter’s field for the burial of pilgrims, which was purchased with the ‘30 pieces of silver,’ and known as Akeldama, or field of blood (Matthew 27:3-8, Acts 1:18-19). On the other hand, the Arab writer Edrisi of the 12th cent. a.d., followed by Sir C. Warren in an extended and somewhat convincing article on ‘Hinnom (Valley of)’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, identifies it with the Kidron on the E. of Jerusalem, including also its continuation below the junction of the Eastern and Western valleys at Bir Eyyub; the whole of the valley in its descent toward the Dead Sea being known to the Arabs as Wâdy en-Nâr, ‘Valley of Fire.’ Still another identification is that advocated by Sayce, R. Smith, Birch, and others, who locate it between the Temple area and the City of David, identifying it with the valley known since Josephus’ day as the Tyropœon; but the first identification is, on the whole, the most probable.

Literature.—Robinson, BRP [Note: RP Biblical Researches in Palestine.] i. 353, 402 ff.; Stanley, SP [Note: P Sinai and Palestine.] 239, 571; Barclay, City of the Great King, 89, 90; Wilson, Recovery of Jerusalem, 6, 19, 307, Lands of the Bible, i. 403 ff.; Tristram, Bible Places, 152, 162; Couder, Handbook to the Bible, 329 f.; Baedeker-Socin, Pal. [Note: Palestine, Palestinian.] 99; Barrows, Sacred Geog. and Antiquity, 94–96; Ritter, Geog. of Pal. [Note: Palestine, Palestinian.] iv. 164 ff.; artt. ‘Gehenna’ and ‘Hinnom (Valley of) in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible; ‘Hinnom (Valley of)’ in Encyc. Bibl.; Swete, Com. on St. Mark, ad 9:45; Riehm, HWB [Note: WB Handwörterbunch.] ; Rosenmüller, Biblisch. Geog. ii. 156, 164; Smith’s DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] , art ‘Hinnom (Valley of).’

George L. Robinson.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Gehenna (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/g/gehenna-2.html. 1906-1918.


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Friday, October 19th, 2018
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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