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Hell and Its RivalsDeath and Retribution among Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Early Middle Ages$
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Alan E. Bernstein

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781501707803

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501707803.001.0001

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(p.355) Conclusion
Hell and Its Rivals

Alan E. Bernstein

Cornell University Press

This concluding chapter argues that all three Abrahamic religions professed a belief in hell, whether they called it Gehinnom, Gehenna, or Jahannam, and all three successfully resisted similar objections to it within their own communities. To counter these challenges, religious specialists posited purgatorial fringes that offered lesser sinners temporary discipline outside the core of hell, thus sparing them damnation. Despite these threats to hell’s essence, authoritative pronouncements succeeded in reasserting eternal punishment as the consensus or orthodox position in the three religions. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam therefore agree on the existence of an eternal hell for incorrigible sinners. Still, it became necessary to reconcile such a dramatic and apparently cruel fate with the mercy of God. Around the core idea of hell, specialists and visionaries perceived alternatives to hell in the form of escape, periodic relief, and purification.

Keywords:   Abrahamic religions, hell, purgatory, damnation, eternal punishment, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, mercy

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