In this volume, I shall offer a historical trace of all four terms: ‘heaven’, ‘hell’, ‘satan’, and ‘devil’.
Traditional Christianity evolved over the past 2000 years and drew from the religious vocabularies of each succeeding geohistory. From its early beginnings as a sect of Roman Palestinian Jewish religions, Jesus-Followers and other God-fearers of the second century Roman world began to depart from post exilic rabbinic Judaisms and by the 4th century, established itself as a people of a new Book. Under the protection of Emperor Constantine, the Christian scriptures comprise a selection of the Hebrew scriptures and collections of Greek writings later known as the New Testament. Although our modern Protestant Bible of 66 books took many hundreds of years to take root as the official canon, fresh ways of describing theological truths were adopted to adapt to changing linguistic norms and a prescientific understanding of the world.
1. The term ‘heaven/s’ is attested to the earliest mss of the Hebrew Bible. It was used in several ways, sometimes as a singular and sometimes in the rural form. It is sometimes used as a noun and sometimes an adjective, sometimes as a euphemism and sometimes to describe a geohistorical reality.
2. Hell was introduced as a variation of Sheol (a Hebrew concept) and the later Hades (a Greek concept). It took on evil manifestations during the medieval period and by the 16th century, was seen as a geographical location, probably inside volcanic magma chambers and became the abode of the Devil/Satan.
3. Satan was derived from a pre-Hebraic word that meant ‘enemy.’ Indeed, the book of Job described Satan as a member of God’s Heavenly Council and was indeed, a Son of God. By the time of the New Testament, he had taken on a more sinister configuration in the imagination of the NT writers and then became associated with the political powers of Rome.
4. ‘Devil’ is a Greek word that derived from earlier manifestations of spiritual beings that roamed the Greek mythological imagination as daemons. The NT writers, mostly Jews writing in the rough hewn Koine Greek, adopted the Greek vocabulary of spiritual beings and adapted it to convey wickedness personified. By the Middle Ages, the Hebraic Old Testament Satan was conflated with the Greek New Testament Devil. In this confusion, they were seen as one and the same.
What are the heavens and is heaven where God lives?
Where or what is biblical hell and how can we avoid it?
Who was/is Satan and should we be afraid of it?
Should Christians live in anxiety and fear that the Devil will hurt us biochemically, cause us harm physically or confused us cognitively?