Canaanite idol / god Molech, or Moloch; 18th-century German illustration [public domain / Wikipedia]
I just recently learned that “Gehenna”: Jesus’ standard metaphor for hell (Mt 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mk 9:43, 45, 47; Lk 12:5), was not a place of constantly burning garbage, as is often thought (and what I formerly understood it as being). Rather, it was a place where children were sacrificed to false gods. That is why Jesus used it to describe hell. Some strains of rabbinical Judaism also did so.
Gehenna is a reference to the Valley of Hinnom, which is directly south of Mt. Zion, near the Old City of Jerusalem. When I was in Israel in October 2014, I walked down a good portion of the Kidron Valley (after walking around the entire Old City), next to the Temple Mount and ancient City of David, down to the Pool of Siloam. This is perpendicular to the Valley of Hinnom. But I didn’t go further into that area, due to the significant unrest in the Arab portions of Jerusalem when we were there. We even got tear gas in our eyes when visiting Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. It would have been strange indeed to walk the valley that in Jesus’ mind was akin to hell itself, due to the ritual childkilling that so often took place there.
Read the rest at patheos.com