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This subject is treated under eight headings: (I) Name and Place of Hell; (II) Existence of Hell; (III) Eternity of Hell; (IV) Impenitence of the Damned; (V) Poena Damni; (VI) Poena Sensus; (VII) Accidental Pains of the Damned; (VIII) Characteristics of the Pains of Hell.The term hell is cognate to "hole" (cavern) and "hollow".It was notorious as the scene, in earlier days, of the horrible worship of Moloch. It is called "lower hell" ( Vulgate tartarus ) ( 2 Peter 2:4 ), "abyss" ( Luke and elsewhere), "place of torments" ( Luke ), "pool of fire" ( Revelation and elsewhere), "furnace of fire" ( Matthew , 50 ), "unquenchable fire" ( Matthew , and elsewhere), "everlasting fire" ( Matthew 18:8 ; ; Jude 7 ), "exterior darkness" ( Matthew ; ; ), "mist" or "storm of darkness" ( 2 Peter ; Jude 13 ).For this reason it was defiled by Josias ( 2 Kings ), cursed by Jeremias ( Jeremiah -33 ), and held in abomination by the Jews, who, accordingly, used the name of this valley to designate the abode of the damned (Targ. The state of the damned is called "destruction" ( apoleia , Phil., iii, 19, and elsewhere), "perdition" ( olethros , 1 Timothy 6:9 ), "eternal destruction" ( olethros aionios , 2 Thessalonians 1:9 ), "corruption" ( phthora , Galatians 6:8 ), "death" ( Romans ), "second death" ( Revelation and elsewhere). Some were of opinion that hell is everywhere, that the damned are at liberty to roam about in the entire universe, but that they carry their punishment with them.And in proof of their doctrine they appeal both to Scripture and to reason (cf. Polycarpi", ii, n, 3; xi, n.2; Justin, "Apol.", II, n. And finally, if men knew that their sins would not be followed by sufferings, the mere threat of annihilation at the moment of death, and still less the prospect of a somewhat lower degree of beatitude, would not suffice to deter them from sin.
Wherever Christ and the Apostles speak of hell they presuppose the knowledge of its existence ( Matthew ; ; ; ; , 46 ; 2 Thessalonians 1:8 ; Revelation 21:8 , etc.). Nor can it be said: the wicked will be punished, but not by any positive infliction: for either death will be the end of their existence, or, forfeiting the rich reward of the good, they will enjoy some lesser degree of happiness.Hence theologians generally accept the opinion that hell is really within the earth. Thus among the Jew the Sadducees, among the Gnostics, the Seleucians, and in our own time Materialists, Pantheists, etc., deny the existence of hell. In His sanctity and justice as well as in His wisdom, God must avenge the violation of the moral order in such wise as to preserve, at least in general, some proportion between the gravity of sin and the severity of punishment.