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With increasingly hyperbolic language, Jesus addressed the issue of unchecked anger and its potentially disastrous results as part of his Sermon on the Mount. He even went so far as to declare that angrily insulting another by calling that person a fool (raca) could lead to the punishment of Hell.

The reference for Hell that Jesus used here (a derivation of gehenna) was a literal place that his hearers would have known well. It referred to the Valley of Hinnom, “a deep ravine outside of Jerusalem.” In ancient days of Judah, evil kings Ahaz and Manasseh had used this valley as a place for despicable religious brutality, offering human sacrifices to the fake god, Molech. In the ages after, the Valley of Hinnom became home to the literal refuse of humanity, a constantly burning-and-smoking garbage dump. Corpses of executed criminals were tossed into this place as a final insult, where they burned and decomposed to ashes.

In Jesus’ time, this gehenna was so awful, it was commonly used as a metaphor for final, devastating judgment. As such, Jesus’ mentioning of this place during his sermon on anger would have evoked immediate understanding—and revulsion—in his hearers.

 

Works Cited:

[QST, 1339]

 

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