Have You Noticed What the Hell Is Missing From Genesis 1?

The doctrine of Hell appears nowhere in Genesis 1.  Yet verse 31 assures us that God saw “everything” that He had made — “and behold it was very good.”   Yet no text exists in this chapter regarding “heaven, hell, angels, or demons.”  In fact, demons do not show up anywhere in the entire book of Genesis.

Hell only shows up in a conceptually mature form — that is, with fire, worms and the whole array of bad — at the very end of the OT period, namely, the final chapter of Isaiah (66) and the final chapter of Daniel.  Both of these chapters can be shown apocryphal.  Note that only the last 4 chapters of Daniel  (9 – 12) have angels as literary actors.  The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, offers a commentary on the book of Daniel in his Antiquities of the Jews (AD 90).  Mysteriously, it ends abruptly at the end of chapter 8.  Chester Beatty Papyrus 10 offers the earliest Septuagint Daniel MS in existence from the 3rd century.  It bears only chapters 3 -8, and out of chronological order; yet it nevertheless agrees with Josephus that early Daniel ended at chapter 8 — this would eliminate angels from its narrative, and the doctrine of hell.

Interestingly, the wisdom literature of Solomon seems to confirm such absences. Despite the fact that Solomon is reputed to have built the Temple with two angels (cherubim) in the most holy place, not one mention of angels dots the landscape of the Proverbs. I would argue that the only two references to hell or else “Sheol” were also added later — as were its first 9 chapters (notably these are NOT Proverbs) and its last two chapters, which are called “oracles” (prophecy), which are not wisdom literature (wrong literary type or “genre.”).

The proverbs form a kind of observationally-based set of maxims, drawn out as the “inductions of life,” to be taken from the wisdom of God invested into the created order from the beginning.  Also quite interesting is the omission of any mention of priests.  The king of Israel had to read out of the “Torah” (first 5 books of the OT) each day.  Yet its categories remain mostly absent from the Proverbs. These never mention heaven either, nevermind hell (in the original).

I have offered a plausible trajectory for the development of Israel’s “angelology” after the time of Solomon, as well just how the doctrine of hell developed out of the notion of the Levitical “burnt offering.” As the various Levitical offerings came to be seen as foreshadowing of the coming of the Messiah, the burnt offering was notoriously out of place, since the Messiah would hardly undergo severe punishment.  This had to picture the wicked instead, who rejected the Messiah.  Of course, this implies a mismatch, since the Messiah, the object of the other sacrifices would still have to undergo some kind of punishment, and the wicked are many, while the Messiah is one Person only.

First then animal for the burnt offering is killed (death), then it is burned (hell).  This became the fate of the wicked, with the innovation of the doctrine of hell around the time of the Babylonian exile (586 BC).  Jerusalem had been burned, and the Goyim would have to repay the debt. Babylon, correspondingly, must be burned with fire (see the Revelation 17 – 20).

When the scribal priests feel strongly that this or that saying unit must be preserved, but they cannot figure out where it best fits in the narrative structure, they traditionally simply paste it in at the end of the book.  This is where apocryphal accretions typically debut in the history of redemption — at the book’s end.  When room runs out there, the next apocryphal accretions move to the front of the book. Such is the case with the Gospel accounts of the NT, regarding Matthew and Luke.

Let the reader recall my earlier tirade which officially damned all “anathemas” of the churches as altogether unlawful, and condemned by Jesus in the sermon on the mount — “do not condemn or you too will be condemned…”    Well, here is another excellent reason to support that challenge:  According to Genesis, there is no hell to send anyone to for the official Texas barbecue.

When hell does in fact appear at the end of the literature of the OT period, it appears in a straightly complete form with no actual genesis or history. It never in fact begins anywhere.  It just “shows up.”  This is typical of apocryphal accretions.  Constructing their histories can be tricky.

The wisdom literature shows a far less elaborate cosmic scheme, with the Lord and men (humans), but no angels, no devils, no heaven or hell. Earth formed the center stage of the drama.  It was a simpler, kinder place, not so metaphysically busy — with all those demons running about, and excessive numbers of holidays on which to shop.

Finally, here is a subjective point of exit on the topic of hell which I regard as telling nevertheless.  Ask any Evangelical Christian, “If you were God, and you had your own universe, would YOU create a hell?”  Every single one will acknowledge the point in the negative (some would say “Hell No”). And each knows that God is far more merciful than we are.

What the Hell?   Why haven’t we Christians noticed what is NOT THERE in Genesis 1, and that it is just what we ourselves would have made “not there” if we were in charge of the cosmos?


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