Botticelli: Virgil and Dante in
(1265-1321), usually referred to simply as "Dante," was a
Medieval Roman Catholic Italian author who wrote a three-part
extensive poem describing his alleged "trip" (during a three-day
vision in 1300) to Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven (or Paradise).
The English translation of the title of this famous work is the
Divine Comedy, and the sections are titled, in Italian,
(Hell), Purgatorio, and Paradiso.
"Comedy" for the work did not indicate "humor" as it would in
“comedy” refers to one of the two classical styles, the
other being tragedy. Tragedy was the high style, the style
of epics, with plots that flowed from a promising beginning
to a destructive end. Comedy was the low style, the style of
grotesque caricatures, with plots that flowed from an
unhappy beginning to a happy end.
The most famous
section of this work is the one on Dante's visit to Hell, and it
has often been printed as a separate book, usually titled in
In spite of the
fact that the material is obviously an elaborate work of poetic
fiction, includes many elements borrowed directly from pagan
Greek and Roman mythology and Jewish superstitions, draws on
much of the politics of Dante's time, and has almost no
references to actual biblical passages about Hell, it has had an
incredible influence, from Dante's time to the present, on the
"popular" conception of what Hell is like. This is certainly
testimony to Dante's ability to create vivid, memorable scenes
with his poetry. But it is surely unfortunate that most of those
people who have been affected by Dante's vivid imagination and
writing skills have no idea just how little of what he
wrote has anything to do with the actual content of the Bible on
the topic of Hell! Literary scholars, even those in religious
circles, have no doubt long considered the work one of allegory,
not a documentary account of a true supernatural "vision."
cosmology, angelology and theology of the work are based
firmly on the system of St. Thomas Aquinas, but Dante
considered the Church of his time a 'harlot' no longer
serving God--he meets seven popes in the Inferno, for
instance--and was therefore frequently considered a heretic.
The characters whom Dante meets on his journey are drawn
largely from ancient Roman history and from recent and
contemporary Italian history, including Dante's personal
friends and enemies; their vivid portraiture and the
constant allusions to human affairs make the work, although
in structure a description of the Beyond, actually a
realistic picture and intensely involved analysis of every
aspect of earthly human life. (Benét's
(3rd edition), quoted from
understanding has not been passed along to perhaps hundreds of
millions who have read it, heard of it, or seen illustrations
from it with the concept that it was to be taken just as
literally as the book of Exodus or the Gospel of Matthew.
Much of the
influence of The Inferno has not come from people
actually reading the Divine Comedy, even in an English
translation, for themselves, but from artists and other writers
through the centuries since Dante's time adapting his concepts
to their own popular works. There is a complete article on
Wikipedia.com on just the topic of
Dante and His Divine Comedy in Popular Culture. It
includes a long list of references to Dante's work in paintings,
books, movies, music, and more. Some of the references it
describes are to be expected, such as artwork depicting specific
scenes from the poem. But a number are quite unexpected, such
Frank Baum utilized its structure as an inspiration for
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908).
Ford's Healing and Hope, which uses Dante's structure
as an analogy for the stages of alcoholism.
uses a paraphrase of Purgatory 5:13 as a motto for Das
Kapital: Segui il tuo corso, e lascia dir le genti
("follow your own road, and let the people talk").
fictional life of Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of
Unfortunate Events, appears to draw heavily from Dante's
of Hell sculptural group by Auguste Rodin. Dante is the
figure sitting at the top of the gate contemplating the
horrors of hell. This figure was later isolated and became
Many of the
entries in the list linked above were not using the poem in the
context of theology. But if it has had that much effect on people
who have used it in "secular" ways, think of how powerful its
influence has been within religious circles!
This shows up
particularly in art works directly made as illustrations to
accompany editions of the book. Below is one of Italian artist
Botticelli's many illustrations from the late 1400s. Just as in
the painting at the beginning of this webpage, the figure
dressed in red represents Dante himself, the figure in blue is
the ancient poet Virgil who is Dante's guide through his journey
in Hell. The multiple repetitions of the two characters is much
like an ancient version of a modern comic book, representing
movement of the characters along a path. Below them as they pass
by are the scenes of torture and torment of the "lost souls" who
inhabit the Hell that Dante described.
another book illustration, by French artist Gustave
from the late 1800s, showing the scene from the Inferno
where Dante and Virgil arrive at the deepest reaches of Hell
and see the Devil frozen in ice. (Dante and Virgil are the
tiny figures on the ledge above the huge black right wing.)
purpose of this article is to give a brief overview
of the contents of Dante's Inferno, clarify
the sources of much of the imagery in it, emphasize
how far it strays from any biblical foundation, and
evaluate some of its influence on the popular
conception of Hell for the past 600+ years right up
to the present.
the Divine Comedy over a period of several years, from
about 1312 up almost to the time of his death in 1321. The book
portrays the events described as occurring in the year 1300,
during the three day period from the evening of the Roman
Catholic memorial of the Last Supper on "Maundy Thursday"
through the end of the day of Easter.
beginning of the story, Dante is in a state of depression. He is
lost in a dark forest, and meets the "ghost" of the first
century BC Roman poet Virgil. Virgil explains that he has been
sent to guide Dante through Hell and Purgatory. It is quite
likely that Dante chose Virgil as the character for this role in
his book because he admired Virgil as a great poet, and Virgil
had portrayed a similar visit to Hell in one of his own works.
At the end of
Dante's visit to Purgatory, Beatrice, a young woman whom Dante
had adored from afar before her death, would meet him and guide
him through his visit to Heaven.
over the centuries have depicted separate scenes described in
Dante's work. But his elaborate description of his travels with
Virgil were so vivid and detailed that numerous artists have
also turned them into maps, charts, diagrams, and
three-dimensional representations of the landscape.
Bartolomeo, c. 1420
As seen in the
simplified Botticelli diagram above, Dante described traveling
through Hell as descending down a spiraling path which passed
through numerous separate circular layers, each the permanent
place of torture for a certain type of sinner. There were nine
of these circles. The very brief summary of the residents of
these circles below is adapted from the
Wikipedia.com article on Dante's Inferno. Any
indented paragraphs, and sentences or sentence fragments within
quotation marks, not otherwise credited, are from that article.
the Gate of Hell, upon which were written the Italian version of
the ominous words "Abandon all hope, you who enter here," there
was an area called the Vestibule. Here were a group called "The
Opportunists" or "The Uncommitted":
people who in life did nothing, neither for good nor evil
(among these Dante recognizes either Pope Celestine V, or
Pontius Pilate; the text is ambiguous). Mixed with them are
the outcasts, who took no side in the Rebellion of Angels.
These souls are neither in Hell nor out of it, but reside on
the shores of the [River] Acheron, their punishment to
eternally pursue a banner, and be pursued by wasps and
hornets that continually sting them while maggots and other
such insects drink their blood and tears.
Virgil and Dante travel across the Acheron on a ferry boat
piloted by a being named Charon. If it wasn't clear earlier,
readers familiar with ancient literature should certainly
realize at this point that Dante was not basing his description
on anything in the Bible, but on characters and details straight
out of Greek mythology. In that mythology, Charon was the
ferryman who took the souls of newly dead people on their trip
to the underworld of Hades, across the river Acheron.
the river, they arrive at the first of the circles of Hell,
the unbaptized and the virtuous pagans, who, though not
sinful, did not accept Christ. Here also reside those who,
if they lived before the coming of Christ, did not pay
fitting homage to their respective deity. They are not
punished in an active sense, but rather grieve only their
separation from God, without hope of reconciliation.
Minos from The Inferno
encounter a being named Minos, another mythological Greek
character. Dante has added his own peculiar touches, though. The
original Minos was supposed to have been an ancient king of
Crete, to whom, after his death, was given the role by the Greek
gods of being the chief judge in Hades, deciding the fate of
those who arrived there after death. Dante's Minos has the same
But he is
described as a human-animal monster hybrid, with a gigantic tail
that he wraps around himself a certain number of times,
indicating the number of the circle of Hell to which the
newly-arrived dead will be assigned.
Minos, they enter the second circle of Hell. Here the souls of
those who had uncontrolled lust in their life "are blown about
to and fro by a violent storm, without hope of rest."
William Blake, early 1800s
scene of the lustful fromThe Inferno
In the third
circle, gluttons are "forced to lie in the mud under continual
cold rain and hail whilst being forced to consume their own
excrement." They are guarded by another mythical Greek creature,
the three-headed monstrous dog Cerberus (Greek: Kerberos).
William Blake, 1827
Cerberus from Dante's Inferno
In the fourth circle are both those
who in life were greedy for possessions and those who wasted
them. They are guarded by Pluto, a version of the Greek god of
wealth and money, and "each
group pushes a great weight against the heavy weight of the
other group. After the weights crash together the process starts
Scene with Pluto, from L'Inferno by Dante',
Italian silent film 1911
The River Styx from The
In the fifth circle Virgil and Dante come to the river Styx,
another geographical feature of the Hades of mythology. And
another character familiar to students of Greek mythology,
Phlegyas, transports them across the river, just as he did
individuals in the Greek myths. As for those suffering in this
circle: "In the swamp-like water of the river Styx, the wrathful
fight each other on the surface, and the sullen or slothful lie
gurgling beneath the water."
On the other side of the Styx is the
city of Dis, another feature of Virgil's own writings.
The lower parts
of hell are contained within the walls of the city of Dis,
which is itself surrounded by the Stygian marsh. Punished
within Dis are active (rather than passive) sins. The walls
of Dis are guarded by fallen angels. Virgil is unable to
convince them to let Dante and him enter, and the Furies
Here again is
another mythological element, the Furies, female
personifications of vengeance in Greek mythology.
Inside the walls of
Virgil and Dante enter the sixth circle, where heretics are
trapped within flaming tombs.
Heretic in flaming tomb
from The Inferno
The seventh circle,
where the "violent" are held, is divided into three separate
rings, guarded at the entrance by the Minotaur of Greek myth
(a monster with head and tail of a bull, body of a man). The
outer ring is for those who had committed violent crimes
against people and property. They are immersed in a river of
Forest of the Suicides from The Inferno
In the middle
ring are those who had committed suicide. They have been
transformed into "gnarled thorny bushes and trees" and are "torn
at by the Harpies of Greek myth," winged female figures who were
"agents of punishment who abducted people and tortured them on
their way to Tartarus. They were vicious, cruel and violent."
Also in the center ring were "the profligates, who destroyed
their lives by destroying the means by which life is sustained
(i.e. money and property). They are perpetually chased by
ferocious dogs through the thorny undergrowth."
And last was the
inner ring, where blasphemers, sodomites, and userers "all reside in a desert of flaming sand with fiery
flakes raining from the sky. The blasphemers lie on the sand,
the usurers sit, and the sodomites wander about in groups."
The final two
circles of Hell are sub-divided in a much more elaborate scheme.
The eighth circle is
for the "fraudulent--those guilty of deliberate, knowing evil."
This circle is divided into ten ditches, with bridges reaching
across them all:
1. Panderers and
seducers walk in separate lines in opposite directions,
whipped by demons.
are steeped in human excrement.
The Simoniacs from The Inferno
3. Those who
committed simony [sellers of religious favors] are placed head-first in holes in the rock,
with flames burning on the soles of their feet.
4. Sorcerers and
false prophets have their heads twisted around on their
bodies backward, so they can only see what is behind them.
politicians ... are immersed in a lake of boiling pitch,
guarded by devils ...
[are] listlessly walking along wearing gold-gilded lead
7. Thieves ...
are pursued and bitten by snakes. The snake bites make them
undergo various transformations, with some resurrected after
being turned to ashes, some mutating into new creatures, and
still others exchanging natures with the snakes becoming
snakes themselves that chase the other thieves in turn.
advisors are encased individual flames.
9. A sword
wielding devil hacks at the sowers of discord. As they make
their rounds the wounds heal, only to have the devil tear
apart their bodies again. [Muhammed is found here.]
10. Groups of
various sorts of falsifiers (alchemists, counterfeiters,
perjurers, and impersonators) are afflicted with different
types of diseases.
The final, deepest
circle of Hell is reserved for traitors whose evil acts involved
betraying someone with whom they had a special relationship.
They all "are frozen in a lake of ice known as Cocytus [another
name from Greek mythology]. Each group of traitors is encased in
ice to a different depth, ranging from only the waist down to
complete immersion." The circle is divided into four zones each
(named after the Cain of Genesis): for those who had been
traitors to their family.
Zone 2: For traitors
to "political" entities such as a city, state, or country
Zone 3: For traitors
to their own guests
Zone 4: For traitors
to their "lords and benefactors." All of the sinners punished
within are completely encapsulated in ice, distorted to all
At the center is
Satan, who has three faces, one red, one black, and one a
pale yellow, each having a mouth that chews on a prominent
traitor. Satan himself is represented as a giant, terrifying
beast, weeping tears from his six eyes, which mix with the
traitors' blood sickeningly. He is waist deep in ice, and
beats his six wings as if trying to escape, but the icy wind
that emanates only further ensures his imprisonment (as well
as that of the others in the ring). The sinners in the
mouths of Satan are Brutus and Cassius in the left and right
mouths, respectively, who were involved in the assassination
of Julius Caesar (an act which, to Dante, represented the
destruction of a unified Italy), and Judas Iscariot (the
namesake of this zone) in the central, most vicious mouth,
who betrayed Jesus. Judas is being administered the most
horrifying torture of the three traitors, his head in the
mouth of Lucifer, and his back being forever skinned by the
claws of Lucifer. [Illustration above from a 14th century
illustration for a manuscript of The Inferno.]
At this point in
Dante's journey, he and Virgil move on from Hell to Purgatory.
It is not the intent of this article to include that material,
so we here leave them to their travels.
Dante Through the
Many of the scenes
and details from Dante's Inferno have been portrayed or
adapted over and over by artists, writers, poets, musicians,
and movie makers for the past 700 years. In many
cases they have not at all been portrayed as the obvious
allegory and metaphor that they are, the product of an extremely
fertile--and in many cases grotesquely sadistic--imagination.
They have been offered to the popular masses as being "the way
it IS" in Hell. To millions over the centuries, Dante
wasn't first and foremost a poet--he was, essentially, the
medieval version of an investigative reporter. In fact, to many
in the world of popular religious thought, that is still his
role. The Internet has numerous sites which describe Hell in
much the same way as Dante did in his poem. They seem to portray
his writings not as "great poetry," but as the allegedly factual
foundation of their own ominous theology.
And yet, anyone who
has ever read through the Bible will immediately realize that
virtually none of the scenes described above are even hinted at
anywhere in the Old or New Testament. So where did the
"inspiration" for Dante's vivid cast of characters and these
vivid scenes come from?
As noted in the
descriptions above, many details were borrowed directly from
pagan Greek and Roman mythology. These included many names of
characters, and many of the "geographical features" of the
"underworld." In addition, one of the features of the
deepest section of the Greek version of the underworld,
Tartarus, was the familiar "punishment fits the crime" theme
found in Dante.
Wikipedia.com Tartarus article
Tartarus was used only to confine dangers to the gods of
Olympus. In later mythologies, Tartarus became the place
where the punishment fits the crime. For example
Sisyphus, who was both a thief and murderer, was
condemned for eternity to push a boulder up a hill only
to have it roll down at the top. Also found there was
Ixion, the first human to spill the blood of a relative.
He caused his father in-law to fall into a pit of
burning coals to avoid paying the bride-price. The
fitting punishment was to spend eternity on a flaming
wheel. Tantalus, who enjoyed the confidence of the gods
by conversing and dining with them, shared the food and
the secrets of the gods with his friends. The fitting
punishment was to be immersed up to his neck in cool
water, which disappeared whenever he attempted to quench
his thirst, and luscious grapes above him that leapt up
when he tried to take a hold.
For a brief overview
of some of the elements of pagan mythology that have found their
way into Christian mythology about the Afterlife, including
Dante's writings, see Pagan Hell.
addition to the pagan mythology connection, much of what Dante
wrote was merely embellishments of current Roman Catholic
thinking on the topic, which itself had been influenced by
certain extra-biblical literature from the earliest centuries
AD. (For an overview of this type of literature, see the article
Where Angels Fear to
Tread on the companion website to this one, Answers About
Angels.) Here is one example, an excerpt from a
second-century document commonly called the Apocalypse of
Peter, implying that it was written by the Apostle Peter.
Although almost no modern scholars would accept that this was a
legitimate claim, it was accepted by many in earlier centuries.
Apocalypse of Peter
20. And over against that
place I saw another, squalid, and it was the place of
punishment; and those who were punished there and the
angels had their raiment dark
like the air of the place.
21. And there were
certain there hanging by the tongue: and these were the
blasphemers of the way of righteousness; and under them
lay fire, burning
and punishing them.
22. And there was a great
lake, full of
flaming mire, in which were certain men that
angels afflicted them.
23. And there were also
others, women, hanged by their hair over that mire that
bubbled up: and these were they who adorned themselves
adultery; and the men who mingled with them in the
adultery, were hanging by the feet and their heads
in that mire. And I said: I did not
believe that I should come into this place.
24. And I saw the
murderers and those who conspired with them, cast into a
certain strait place, full of
evil snakes, and smitten by those beasts, and thus
turning to and fro in that punishment; and worms,
as it were clouds of darkness, afflicted them. And the
souls of the murdered stood and looked upon the
punishment of those murderers and said: O
your judgment is just.
25. And near that place I
saw another strait place into which the gore and the
filth of those who were being punished ran down and
became there as it were a lake: and there sat women
having the gore up to their necks, and over against them
sat many children who were born to them out of due time,
crying; and there came forth from them sparks of fire
and smote the women in the eyes: and these were the
accursed who conceived and caused
26. And other men and
women were burning up to the middle and were cast into a
dark place and were beaten by
evil spirits, and their inwards were eaten by
restless worms: and
these were they who
persecuted the righteous and delivered them up.
27. And near those there
were again women and men gnawing their own lips, and
being punished and receiving a red-hot iron in their
eyes: and these were they who
blasphemed and slandered
the way of righteousness.
28. And over against
these again other men and women gnawing their tongues
and having flaming fire in their mouths: and these were
the false witnesses.
29. And in a certain
other place there were pebbles sharper than swords or
any spit, red-hot, and women and men in tattered and
filthy raiment rolled about on them in punishment: and
these were the rich who trusted in their riches and had
no pity for
orphans and widows, and despised the commandment
30. And in another great
lake, full of pitch and blood and mire bubbling up,
there stood men and women up to their knees: and these
usurers and those who take interest on interest.
31. And other men and
women were being hurled down from a great cliff and
reached the bottom, and again were driven by those who
were set over them to climb up upon the cliff, and
thence were hurled down again, and had no rest from this
punishment: and these were they who defiled
their bodies acting as women; and the women who were
with them were those who lay with one another as a man
with a woman.
32. And alongside of that
cliff there was a place full of much fire, and there
stood men who with their own hands had made for
themselves carven images instead of
And alongside of these were other men and women, having
rods and striking each other and never ceasing from such
33. And others again near
them, women and men, burning and turning themselves and
roasting: and these were they that leaving the way of
For a more
extensive excerpt of this document, from a different English
translation, see the article
Another source of
common conceptions of Hell at the time Dante wrote were what was
referred to as "Vision Literature." These were traditional
stories handed down by word of mouth and then committed to
writing, from throughout Europe. They described visions of
people who allegedly had literally been taken to Hell, just as
Dante claimed for his own work. It is highly likely that Dante
was influenced in his own writing by some of these traditional
Below are brief
excerpts from a description of perhaps the most widely-known
example of this type of literature, the "Vision of Tundale."
Tundale (an English version of his name) was said to have been
an Irish knight who had been in a coma for three days,
experienced this vision, and then returned to warn all who would
listen that they should repent of their evil ways so that they
could escape the fate that awaited them in Hell. The tale was
written down in about 1149 (over 150 years before Dante wrote
The Inferno) in Latin by an Irish Benedictine monk. It
was extremely popular, with a reported 172 manuscripts still
extant from medieval times. Note that the details given in this
story also have absolutely no connection to anything written in
the Bible. And although the details of the tortures of Hell vary
from Dante's later scenarios, the concept of specific tortures
for specific sins is already firmly established, and there are
side references to pagan elements such as the name Acheron. It
is not clear from history whether Dante himself ever read a
version of this exact story, but there were so many similar
stories circulating throughout Europe in the centuries before
The Inferno was written that it is highly likely that he had
been exposed to a number of them.
guardian angel emerges from a star and accuses Tundale of
ignoring him during life. Tundale readily and fearfully
admits his guilt and the journey begins. In the Advocates'
Manuscript version, printed here, Tundale's experiences are
divided into ten Passus (literally "paces," but a common
division of parts in medieval narrative); seven Gaudia,
"joys"; and a Reversio Anime, a section in which Tundale's
soul returns to his body, he reports his experiences, and
promises to reform. ...
The Passus, however, are a rather neatly arranged catalogue
I: In this prologue Tundale is threatened and abused by
fiends and comforted by the angel.
II: The murderers are melted and re-formed in the fires of a
stinking pit. As the poem proceeds, The Vision of Tundale is
distinctive in the way it associates specific places with
III: The thieves and deceivers are swept back and forth
between fire and ice.
IV: The proud are in a pit of fire and brimstone over which
is suspended a narrow bridge that can be traversed only by
someone as humble as the pilgrim priest who makes his way
across. So far, the angel has been explicit about the sin,
but the punishments have not been noticeably suitable to one
sin rather than another. Here the punishment fits the crime.
V: The covetous must enter the gaping maw of Acheron to be
tormented with fire and ice. There is some appropriateness
in the greedy mouth of Acheron, but this section is more
striking in that it is the first place where Tundale must
actually undergo punishment rather than simply be a
terrified observer. Perhaps appropriately to the sin, he is
bitten by lions, adders, and snakes within the belly of
VI: Robbers, and more particularly the sacrilegious, who
have defiled holy ground are in a fiery lake full of beasts.
The punishment is not especially appropriate, but the angel
makes clear that there are gradations of suffering, a point
not always noted in visions. Across the lake is a bridge -
long, narrow, and sharp - which Tundale, again suffering in
his own person, must cross. That he must lead a wild cow
across the bridge is a part of his particular transgression:
he had stolen his neighbor's cow and, though he had returned
it, his intention had been sinful. It is hard to avoid the
comedy in this scene, perhaps a remnant of Irish legend,
even within the gruesome circumstances.
VII: Those guilty of sexual sins are tormented within an
oven-like house. The souls, again not without some grim
comedy, are hacked into bits by fiends, with devices ranging
from weapons to farm implements, and then re-formed and
hacked up again. Once more Tundale must suffer the
punishment, but, as after each such torment, he is restored
by his guardian angel. Here we see specific attention to
genitals, appropriate to the sin; among the sinners are men
of religion and, for the first time in the poem, Tundale
recognizes some of the sufferers.
VIII: Lustful clergy and religious who have broken their
vows are swallowed by a great bird and infested with vermin
that creep in and out of their bodies. The torment seems to
fit the carnality and again Tundale must suffer.
IX: In this Passus, what has earned the sinners their places
in Vulcan's forges does not appear to be any particular type
of sin, but rather the sheer number of sins they have
committed. In the smithy of Vulcan they are tossed back and
forth between infernal blacksmiths, who beat them with
hammers on fiery forges. Again Tundale must suffer, because
he has been a perpetrator of many and various sins.
X: The last Passus is devoted to Hell itself and Satan.
Although it has been suggested in IX that the tormented so
far are in a purgatorial rather than infernal state, it
becomes clear that in II through IX the sinners have not yet
been judged and have no idea whether or when they might
finish purgation; both Heaven and Hell are still
possibilities, and they have no knowledge of the duration of
their fate. In Passus X we have those who have already been
judged and are certainly and eternally lost. ...
account of Hell, along with Dante's, and knowing that they
represent a very common perspective of Hell of their time ... it
is not difficult to understand the development of the human,
earthly, physical, very real Inquisition and its human, earthly,
physical, and very real tortures! For if one accepts the
proposition that anyone dying without the assurance of salvation
is headed straight for such a horrendous, never-ending fate, it
makes sense that any method necessary to force "repentance" on
such a person is doing them a favor.
The reality is,
this perspective of Hell did not die out in medieval times, but
is alive and well in many Christian circles today. It shows
up in various "visions" of Hell still reported by people in
books. The following is a short excerpt of a summary of a 1993
book by author Mary Kay Baxter titled A Divine Revelation of
Hell. Baxter claimed that Jesus Himself appeared to her in
1976 and took her with Him on 30 visits to Hell.
Near the end of the tunnel,
sharp screams can be heard. Jesus prepared Mary to what was
to come by saying “We will soon enter the left leg of hell.
Ahead you will see great sorrow, pathetic sadness and
indescribable horror. Stay close to Me, and I will give you
strength and protection as we go through hell. The things
you are about to see are a warning. The book you write will
save many souls from hell.”
Jesus later told Mary that
hell has a body, just like a human form, lying on her back
at the center of the earth. It is shaped like the body of a
human, with many chambers of torment.
...Many pits can
be seen in the left leg of hell as well as evil spirits and
demons. The pits were filled with fire and they were
everywhere, as far as one can see. On closer inspection, the
pits were shaped like a bowl, three feet deep and four feet
across. There were red hot coals of fire on the side of each
pit and in the center of the pit was a soul that has gone
into hell. Fire would start at the bottom of the pit and
rise up, engulfing the lost soul, leaving the soul caged in
a burnt skeleton. These souls could feel the flames, as
wails of regret and excruciating pain came from them. The
fire would then die down, and then would rise up again,
sweeping the tormented soul. This happed day and night.
A soul cried out to the Lord,
“Jesus, have mercy !”. It was a voice of a woman in skeleton
form, with a dirty gray mist inside, which was her soul.
Flesh hung by her bones and she was hairless and eyeless.
The woman cried out again and said “Lord, Lord, I want out
of here !” Jesus’ face showed great sorrow and He said to
Mary that she is here to let the world know that sin results
in death and that hell is real. Mary looked at the woman
again and saw worms crawling out of the bones; the worms
were not harmed by the fire. Jesus said that the woman knows
and feels those worms.
For a further
description of Baxter's alleged visions, see
Few in modern times,
including Baxter, would likely be willing to go so far as to
advocate physical torture in this life to assure someone escapes
from eternal torture in the next. But the logic is
inescapable--was it really so wrong for the Inquisitors to want to save people from this fate?
If you honestly
that someone you loved was going to be tortured for all eternity
beginning at the moment of their death, wouldn't you be willing
to do almost anything to rescue them from such a fate?
But what if these
descriptions of the nature of Hell are false?
It is this
possibility that is explored in the collection of articles on
This site contains a collection
of articles, on the topic of Hell and the Afterlife, that may
each be used independently for research purposes. But it also is
designed as a systematic, sequential overview of the whole
topic, which can be read like a book.
For those who would like to take
advantage of this perspective of the content, the articles are
arranged in the
Reading Guide as they would appear as chapters in a book, along
with a few reference chapters at the end such as would appear in
a book Appendix.
links below to go to the next article, previous article, or
in the Reading Guide sequence.
Back to Beginning
No single short article can comprehensively cover
any aspect of the topic of Hell. If you have
questions or concerns regarding the material in this
article, be sure to first read through the site
FAQ before writing to the
author. It may already specifically address the very
points you are wondering about.
noted, all biblical references in this and other articles on the
Is It True What They Say About Hell? website are from the
New International Version (NIV).
All of the articles on this
Is it true what they say about Hell? website were written by Pam Dewey, with
the support and sponsorship of Common Ground Christian
Ministries. For more of Pam's inspirational and educational
writings, visit her Oasis
All website content
© 2007, Pam
Dewey and Common Ground Christian Ministries
All rights reserved. Material may
be copied for personal use of the site visitor. For permission
to copy for any other purposes, please contact the author at