Letter: Hell in the ancient world

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The Independent Online
Sir: Whether the concept of Hell belonged to 'mainstream' or 'sidestream' Judaism in the Hellenistic period, Bishop Hugh Montefiore's question: 'Where else could it have come from?' (letter, 28 December) is very easily answered.

The notion that the sinner is severely punished in the afterlife receives a mention in the Iliad and an explicit allusion in Aeschylus. It was a widespread belief in the Greek world by Plato's time, as the conversation at the beginning of the Republic shows. Religious beliefs in the ancient eastern Mediterranean did not develop separately in sealed compartments, and people are naturally attracted to the idea that those who have wronged us and got away with it in life will not get away with it for ever.

Yours faithfully,

KENNETH DOVER

St Andrews

28 December

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