Possible Origins of Bible Hell aka Gehenna
: Greek transliteration of Hebrew words "ge hinnom" (Valley of Hinnom). Located along the southern part of Jerusalem, by historical accounts it used to be a giant pit or valley that served as the city dump. Garbage, waste, bodies of animals, corpses of executed criminals were all taken to this hell hole and set on fire, thus the visual images of "the firey pit" with its "everlasting fires" were born. If by terrible bad luck a poor sap fell into this pit, he was as good as gone. Any attempt to pull him out was practically hopeless. The long-term garbage-burning must have eventually worked as a great compost because in modern times, this area is a lovely garden although it is also a bit hot and muggy.
You can make a pilgrimmage to hell, take tourist photos, and post them on the internet. Others have, and there photos can be seen here: http://what-the-hell-is-hell.com/
According to some historical accounts, it is rumored to have been (during Old Testament times) an area where human sacrifices to a horned god, Molech, were made. I have found countless web sites by fundamentalists claiming horrific stories of the ritual of fire. By their accounts, a giant statue of Molech (a horned god with the body of a man and head of a bull) had a firey furnace inside of him. People would bring their children, oftentimes an infant or toddler, and place the poor tyke into the hands of this statue. The hands could be lifted and the child would roll into the mouth of this thing as though being consumed by Molech. Others claim the poor thing was simply roasted alive in the hands of this statue as the heat traveled through the hot metal into the statue's hands.
Earlier English translations of the Bible, however, do not specify a sacrifice of this sort. In the King James version, for instance, it simply says things like "do not let thy seed pass through the fire to Molech." Too many modern versions are mistranslating this as "sacrifice" although rarely, if ever, did this happen according to archaeological finds and testimonials by people who claim to do this ritual in modern times. Some resources claim that people merely, as earlier translations say, walk through the fire. It was either a path with fire on each side, or people hopped across some hot coals.
This would make more sense to me, merely walking through the path, as Hebrews were getting in trouble for participating in such a rite. Common sense tells me that if the Hebrews seriously had to burn one of their children alive to such a deity when they already had a "jealous" deity who actually forbad it, the temptation to participate in such a thing involved other factors instead. Apparently, by other accounts, it did. The whole shebang was an attempt at bringing prosperity and fertility. I have to research further but from what I have read so far, sometimes sex in the temple was involved again in a serious attempt to bring prosperity and fertility.
There are conflicts as to the name of this deity himself. Some resources say "Molech" is in reference to the ritual itself, in dedication to Ba'al who is a horned god (body of man, head of bull).
In any case, I am thinking this is how the images of eternal fire, burning people, and the horned god in the fiery pit had its beginnings an ancient garbage dump in the southern part of Jerusalem.
Here's a list of just a few of the tons of sites I was going through while researching this. Stuff about how the Canaanites (namely Ammonites) deserved to be all slaughtered (even the infants and livestock) due to the evil practice of sacrificing babies are a dime a dozen on the internet. Bible literalists are obviously scrambling desparately to rationalize the brutality of old warrior god and the genocide he ordered according to their literal interpretations of ancient mythologies...
http://alencon13.blogspot.com/2006/06/h ... anaan.html
(Enjoyed reading Tony Malone's posts in response to this blog entry, especially his mention of Egyptian secret societies still performing the passage by fire ritual)