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Home Food for Thought Spiritual Heaven and Hell

Heaven and Hell

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Heaven (Anglo-Saxon heofon, O.S. hevan and himil, originally himin) corresponds to the Gothic himin-s. Both heaven and himil are formed from himin by a regular change of consonants: heaven, by changing m before n into v; and himil, by changing n of the unaccented ending into l. Some derive heaven from the root ham, "to cover" (cf. the Gothic ham-ôn and the German Hem-d). According to this derivation heaven would be conceived as the roof of the world. Others trace a connection between himin (heaven) and home; according to this view, which seems to be the more probable, heaven would be the abode of the Godhead. The Latin coelum (koilon, a vault) is derived by many from the root of celare "to cover, to conceal" (coelum, "ceiling" "roof of the world"). Others, however think it is connected with the Germanic himin. The Greek ouranos is probably derived from the root var, which also connotes the idea of covering. The Hebrew name for heaven is thought to be derived from a word meaning "on high"; accordingly, heaven would designate the upper region of the world.

In the Holy Bible the term heaven denotes, in the first place, the blue firmament, or the region of the clouds that pass along the sky. Genesis 1:20, speaks of the birds "under the firmament of heaven". In other passages it denotes the region of the stars that shine in the sky. Furthermore heaven is spoken of as the dwelling of God; for, although God is omnipresent, He manifests Himself in a special manner in the light and grandeur of the firmament. Heaven also is the abode of the angels; for they are constantly with God and see His face. With God in heaven are likewise the souls of the just (2 Corinthians 5:1; Matthew 5:3, 12). In Ephesians 4:8 sq., we are told that Christ conducted to heaven the patriarchs who had been in limbo (limbus patrum). Thus the term heaven has come to designate both the happiness and the abode of just in the next life. The present article treats as heaven in this sense only

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Hell

The term hell is cognate to "hole" (cavern) and "hollow". It is a substantive formed from the Anglo-Saxon helan or behelian, "to hide". This verb has the same primitive as the Latin occulere and celare and the Greek kalyptein. Thus by derivation hell denotes a dark and hidden place. In ancient Norse mythology Hel is the ill-favoured goddess of the underworld. Only those who fall in battle can enter Valhalla; the rest go down to Hel in the underworld, not all, however, to the place of punishment of criminals.

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