50% Off Audio & Video Lectures on Nephilim, Enoch, the Bible, Storytelling & More

From now until December 4, you get 50% off your purchase of all Godawa’s teachings on the Nephilim, Enoch, Horror, Storytelling, Hollywood and the Bible on MP3 audio and Quicktime video.

Just use this code on checkout: 32057P49

This discount only applies to digital download MP3s and Quicktime videos sold directly through the Godawa.com store. It does not apply to any of Brian Godawa’s books, lectures or movies that are purchased or rented at Amazon.com on Instant Video, Kindle, paperback or audiobook.


50% OFF All Godawa Digital Teachings. Black November Sale!

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 2.39.05 PM

From now until December 4, you get 50% off your purchase of all Godawa’s teachings on the Nephilim, Enoch, Horror, Storytelling, Hollywood and the Bible on MP3 audio and Quicktime video.

Just use this code on checkout: 32057P49

This discount only applies to digital download MP3s and Quicktime videos sold directly through the Godawa.com store. It does not apply to any of Brian Godawa’s books, lectures or movies that are purchased or rented at Amazon.com on Instant Video, Kindle, paperback or audiobook.


Saints and Strangers: Fantastic Mini-Series on the Pilgrims. No P.C. B.S.

Saints and Strangers

The story of the Mayflower’s arrival in America in 1620 and the civilization that began from it.

I saw an advance screening of the dramatic narrative mini-series called Saints and Strangers. If you want to bring a fresh and inspirational understanding to your Thanksgiving holiday, then you must catch this two part series starting November 22 on the National Geographic Channel. It was informative, riveting, and truthful. I teared up with encouragement at some of the moments of faith and righteousness depicted in this film.

Leave it to South Africa and unknown writers and directors to create a faithful, fair and nuanced portrayal of the origins of American civilization, because Hollywood probably couldn’t do it without a hate spin against Judeo-Christianity and western civilization.

As it is, this story is rich and layered with flawed humanity and high aspirations of transcendence and righteousness. About 130 souls arrive on the shores of the New World in the Mayflower. Not all were religious separatists seeking asylum from religious oppression in England. There were others more secular, yet governed by Judeo-Christian notions of civilization. So the story is rife with dramatic tension between the believers and unbelievers who debate quite openly about their understanding of God and divine providence. Not the religious fanatics you were taught in school and college.

For those not familiar with the history, Saints and Strangers charts their journey from the ocean trip to their landing, settling, meeting the indigenous tribes, facing near obliteration by starvation, rescue by Squanto, as well as the fears, conflicts, and reconciliation with the Native American tribes.

First off, the portrayal of faith in this story is fair and truthful, but also honest and nuanced. The saints certainly start out sounding like strangers to our modern ears with their dedication to Christian values. And they are not perfect nor sinless. But the depiction of their fears, failures and moral struggles maintains the dignity of their faith thoughout the entire story.

They steal corn from one of the native tribes’ storage areas, which brings about hostility. But they did so understandably from starvation and the need to survive. The Pilgrims later apologize to the tribe and even offer restoration for their behavior. This isn’t modern Leftist reparations of theft and forced redistribution of distant ancestors’ wealth. This is Biblical restoration of taking responsibility for one’s own actions and repaying those directly affected by an offense.

William Bradford, the longtime governor of the colony, was amazingly portrayed with integrity as a godly man of faith who sought God’s righteousness as well as peace with the native tribes. But he is not condescending of the unbelievers in their group or the locals, nor is he self-righteous. He struggles over the need to defend themselves against savage attacks, and the need to apply corporal punishment to maintain authority and civilization. And all in submission to God’s ways. He chooses the right path most of the time, but not without its price on such a righteous soul. I have not seen such a truthful portrayal of a good and godly yet imperfect man in a long time. Because of Bradford’s Christian charity in tending to the native wounded after a battle (against the wishes of the secularists), that tribe finally decides to accept peace. Bradford is no pacifist, but he is no warmonger. He is a godly man who struggles to do what is right. But what is right is not always amenable to secular or pagan understanding.

This story is not a “whitewashing” nor is it a hit piece. And that’s what makes the faith in the story so powerful. Because it faces reality, admits weakness, but ultimately elevates the value of faith in God and the need for transcendence.

The portrayal of this single Christian character, Bradford, as flawed but ultimately heroic and just is a truly righteous feat of originality in an American story world that seems dominated by corrupt anti-heroes, nihilist darkness and Christophobia. Since Christians aren’t allowed representation as a Hollywood victim group, we’ll just have to make our voice known by supporting shows like this.

Probably the most powerful moment for me captured the essence of these pilgrims. At a particular time when the settlers are starving (eventually, they will humbly receive help from Squanto about agriculture), one of the men says to a woman, that with the death of one of the best men, Winslow, his purpose has died with him. The woman schools the faithless man, (and I quote) “Not so. It is the service of the divine that gives us both purpose and salvation. I am alone, but I have the Lord, and so I have purpose. Everyone else can vanish in an instant, but He is constant.”


I have chills writing that. And I cried when I watched it. Especially in its brutal context that we have been experiencing with these courageous souls.

But there were many perspectives in this fledgling community, and all views were given voice in this story in a fair way, as they all struggled to survive, Christian and secularist alike. But also the native tribes…

Anyone acquainted with real history and the truth of human nature will know that the Native American tribes were just as human all too human as everyone else. And the honest portrayal of the tribes in this story is no less honest than the portrayal of the Christians and Europeans. In a way, Saints and Strangers is a brilliant title because everyone in the story considers themselves the saints and the others to be strangers, including the pagans and secularists.

The tribes understandably react with hostility when the westerners steal their corn, but they too have their own failures of bigotry and self-righteousness in the process. Their ethic is power and while they school the Pilgrims in survival, the Pilgrims school them in grace. We are given an inside view of the politics of the tribes who are jockeying for status, manipulative, power hungry and even just as “self-superior” as every other human tribe on earth. There are good tribesmen and bad tribesmen, just as there are good westerners and bad westerners. Heck, some of natives are actually complex real humans who don’t fall into simple categories. But this isn’t moral equivalency either. Some tribes were more peaceful and others really were savages. All this is depicted fairly and accurately in Saints and Strangers.

This is not the Left Wing bigotry and anti-colonialist neo-Marxist agenda that divides the New World into the black and white categories of Native/pagan: Good, European/Judeo-Christian: Bad.

There is a moment when one of the Indians mentions that this is “their land,” as if they own it because they were there first. But this view isn’t validated in the story. It’s fair to depict that view because some no doubt believed it (even though the Native Americans lacked a substantial view of land ownership), but it certainly has no support from an evolutionary worldview of the Great Chain of Being and survival of the fittest. And without the Christian God, “first come = ownership” remains an unsupportable arbitrary claim of power. Without a true transcendent standard, there is no such thing as “ownership,” there is only the Will to Power.

But I digress philosophically.

Squanto, because of his peculiar journey of being kidnapped, enslaved, but then redeemed by the “white man,” is a prime influence on communication between the strangers. Of all men, he would have been most likely to hate the European crackers, but he does not. He brings them together. Yet, even he is depicted as having questionable motives at times, a complex character, more like real history than legend. It is here that multiculturalists will find their hero, as if Squanto represents the reconciliation through non-judgmental unity with other cultures. But I see him more as a Christian convert who has encountered a superior God and civilization and seeks to keep his people from being destroyed by their own backwardness and ignorance.

If typical “Hollywood” types would have made this picture, the Pilgrims would have been Westboro Baptist colonialist imperialists, Indian killers who came to achieve genocide with disease, and take the land away from the Native Americans who were peace-loving environmentalists at one with nature and superior to the barbarism of western Judeo-Christian culture. This historical moment would be a microcosm of the source of our own modern day polarity of separation and hatred and violence, with our only hope being a return to the pagan earth god.

Thank God for the South Africans.

One thing not made clear in the story is that the “Separatists” were not people who withdrew from society because of religious fear of the “other.” They were called Separatists because they believed in their right to worship separately from the Church of England. That is a subtle but very important difference that modern day anti-religious bigots do not grasp. Their “separatism” was for religious freedom, not moral self-righteousness.

Despite all my praise for the depiction of Christianity in this story, there is a voice for the secular multiculturalist as well. The character who changes the most in the story is the secular Stephen Hopkins, who starts out a selfish greedy exploiter, but ends up apologizing to the natives, and regretting “taking their land, stepping on their gods, and glorifying ours.” He even gives the standard moral equivalency line, “Whose to say who the savages are. I used to see black and white, now everything is gray.” But that’s okay. I only ask for a fair portrayal of Christianity within that complex world of views. Life isn’t always black and white, and there is some truth in the claim that we all share the same fallen nature within the right context. I think this story provides that proper context because in the end, it is the Christian values of humility, respect for law and authority, grace, and redemption that bring about the salvation and reconciliation within and between the communities.

Of Myth and the Bible – Part 9: Flying Fiery Serpents


In my novel Joshua Valiant I tell the infamous story of Nehushtan, the bronze serpent, from Numbers 21. As Moses leads the people of Israel through the Negeb desert on their way to enter the Transjordan, the Israelites grumble and complain yet again about their lack of food and water. Yahweh responds by sending serpents to punish them.

Numbers 21:6–9
Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

brazen-serpentAThe Hebrew word for “fiery serpents” used in this text is seraph, which is the same word used for the winged serpentine guardians of Yahweh’s throne in passages like Isaiah 6:2.[1] There are several different Hebrew words that can be used for serpents, so the choice of this word here should clue us into the deliberations of the writer. While the notion of “fiery” can refer to the venomous sting of a desert snake such as a viper or cobra, there may be more going on here than a mere poetic description of snake bites.

The picture of seraph snakes having wings shows up in two other passages from Isaiah.

Isaiah 14:29
29 Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you, that the rod that struck you is broken, for from the serpent’s root will come forth an adder, and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent.


Isaiah 30:6–7
6 An oracle on the beasts of the Negeb. Through a land of trouble and anguish, from where come the lioness and the lion, the adder and the flying fiery serpent, they carry their riches on the backs of donkeys, and their treasures on the humps of camels, to a people that cannot profit them. 7 Egypt’s help is worthless and empty; therefore I have called her “Rahab who sits still.”

Both of these prophecies against Philistia and Egypt respectively use the idea of a “flying fiery serpent” as a poetic description of the evil or dangerous nature of those nations. Though they are not required to be literal existing creatures for the prophecy to be legitimate, they nevertheless use the same Hebrew reference to fiery serpents that was used in the more historical passage of Numbers describing the “fiery serpents.”

Additionally, the Isaiah 30 passage describes these flying fiery serpents as the beasts of the Negeb, the same location for the fiery serpents of Numbers 21.

Jacob Milgrom argues that the bronze or copper snake that Moses put on the pole was a winged serpent. He concludes this from the link of the Hebrew seraph to the Egyptian uraeus serpent.

UreusEgypt is the home for images of winged serpents. For example, the arms on the throne of Tutankhamen consist of two wings of a four-winged snake (uraeus), which rise vertically from the back of the seat. Indeed, the erect cobra, or uraeus, standing on its coil is the symbol of royalty for the pharaoh and the gods throughout Egyptian history. Winged uraei dating from the Canaanite period have been found, proving that the image of the winged serpent was well known in ancient Israel.[2]

Scholar Karen Randolph Joines adds more to the Egyptian origin of this motif, by explaining that the usage of serpent images to defend against snakes was also an exclusively Egyptian notion without evidence in Canaan or Mesopotamia.[3]
But the important element of these snakes being flying serpents or even dragons with mythical background is reaffirmed in highly respected lexicons such as the Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew Lexicon.[4]

The final clause in Isaiah 30:7 likening Egypt’s punishment to the sea dragon Rahab lying dead in the desert is a further mythical serpentine connection, as the sea dragon represented chaos in the ancient Middle East.[5]

But the Bible and Egypt are not the only places where we read of flying serpents in the desert. Hans Wildeberger points out historical Assyrian king Esarhaddon’s description of flying serpents in his tenth campaign to Egypt in the seventh century B.C.

“A distance of 4 double-hours I marched over a territory covered with alum and mûṣu[-stone]. A distance of 4 double-hours in a journey of 2 days (there were) two-headed serpents [whose attack] (spelled) death—but I trampled (upon them) and marched on. A distance of 4 double-hours in a journey of 2 days (there were) green [animals] [Tr.: Borger: “serpents”] whose wings were batting. A distance of 4 double-hours in a journey of 2 days…”[6]

fiery serpent

The Greek historian Herodotus wrote of “sacred” winged serpents and their connection to Egypt in his Histories:

There is a place in Arabia not far from the town of Buto where I went to learn about the winged serpents. When I arrived there, I saw innumerable bones and backbones of serpents… This place, where the backbones lay scattered, is where a narrow mountain pass opens into a great plain, which adjoins the plain of EgyptWinged serpents are said to fly from Arabia at the beginning of spring, making for Egypt… The serpents are like water-snakes. Their wings are not feathered but very like the wings of a bat. I have now said enough concerning creatures that are sacred.[7]

The notion of flying serpents in the Bible as mythical versus historical is certainly debated among scholars, but this debate gives certain warrant to the imaginative usage of winged flying serpents appearing in Chronicles of the Nephilim.[8]



[1] Timothy R. Ashley, The Book of Numbers, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993), 404–405.
[2] Jacob Milgrom, Numbers, The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1990), 459.
[3] Karen Randolph Joines, “The Bronze Serpent in the Israelite Cult,” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 87, No. 3 (Sep., 1968), 251.
[4] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000), 977. Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures(Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 795. See also, James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
[5] “This final clause uses the name Rahab (51:9; Job 9:13; 26:12; Ps 87:4; 89:11), the great sea monster from ancient Near Eastern legends, as a symbol for Egypt. The final cryptic clause, “Rahab the Do-Nothing” (NIV), interprets “Do-Nothing” as a sarcastic name for this supposedly powerful monster. Beuken prefers to interpret this as Rahab “who sits still,” meaning that Egypt will not come to assist Judah in her conflict with Assyria.133 Another possible translation is Rahab the dead one. All these warnings argue for a policy that does not depend on Egypt. It makes no sense to trust in a political policy that is sure to fail. It is futile to follow a plan that God opposes.” Gary V. Smith, Isaiah 1–39, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2007), 513.
[6] Hans Wildberger, A Continental Commentary: Isaiah 28-39(Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2002), 136. Quoting from James Bennett Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East an Anthology of Texts and Pictures, 3rd ed. with Supplement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 292.
[7] Herodotus, Herodotus, With an English Translation by A. D. Godley, ed. A. D. Godley (Medford, MA: Harvard University Press, 1920) Histories 2:75.1-76.3. Thanks to my editor, Don Enevoldsen, for this reference.
[8] Scholars who acknowledge the evidence for mythical flying serpents, but argue against it: Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 796; R. Laird Harris, “2292 שָׂרַף,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 884.

The Geography of Hades

In the last two posts (here and here), we looked at the ancient Greek picture of Hades, the abode of the dead, and what hell really was in Hebrew thinking. It wasn’t the immediate pit of flames upon death. We compared it with the Biblical picture which was both similar and very different. The Old Testament used the word Sheol for the abode of the dead, the New Testament used Hades, and Tartarus. Gehenna was a special valley in Jerusalem that was a metaphor for future judgement.

Hades in the Book of Enoch

Apart from Jesus’ parable of Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:19-31), there are no descriptions of the actual geography of the underworld in the New Testament. Rather than drawing from pagan Greek myths to depict Hades in Jesus Triumphant, I decided to draw from a respected Jewish source that did provide a “cosmic geography” or conceptual map of the universe that included the underworld. This geography of Hades can be found in the visions of  the ancient book of 1Enoch.[1]

Though 1Enoch is not Scripture, I have argued elsewhere for the high regard that the New Testament gives the ancient text as a source for some of its own theological concepts and language.[2] The book consists of several “books,” that recount an expanded version of the Genesis 6 story of the Watchers and Nephilim giants, as well as visions that the prophet Enoch allegedly experienced of angels taking him around the earth, up into the heights of heaven, and down into the depths of Hades (which are actually arrived at by going to the “ends of the earth” rather than descending down into the earth).

Unfortunately, these visions are obscure, overlapping, and at times contradictory, so scholars have disagreed over their interpretation as well as their actual cosmic geography. I have attempted to use my own reading of the text and integrate it with several of these scholarly viewpoints that can be found analyzed in the book, A Study of the Geography of 1 Enoch 17-19, by Kelley Coblentz Bautch.[3] Imagination is required!

Since Enoch’s “map” is cosmic, it includes Sheol/Hades as well as the heavens and the earth. But some scholars have argued that Enoch’s entire journey is to the realm of the dead.[4] So I decided to use the ancient Near Eastern (and Jewish) notion of  “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10) or “as above, so below,” to apply to the underworld as well.

In this way, the geography of Hades that Jesus follows on his underworld journey, is a reflection of the sacred geography of the earth above (“Sacred geography” means that it does not so much follow physical geography as it does theological meaning).

Since the underworld was believed by the Jews to be under the earth,[5] and accessed by the waters of the Abyss,[6] that was the source of the waters above,[7] I have those waters work as a kind of sky in the dome of the underworld (though not in all places).

The mountains below rise up from Hades to the earth above. So when Jesus is at Mount Zion in Hades, it rises up and penetrates the ceiling of Hades and becomes Mount Zion on earth above them. This fulfills the ancient Near Eastern notion of the cosmic mountains being an axis mundi, a connection between the heavens, the earth, and the underworld.[8]

The circle of Hades matches the circle of the earth above it and likewise has an ocean/river (the Great Sea or Abyss) at its outer reaches that extends beyond the “Four Winds” or “Four Corners” of the earth where the pillars of the earth support the heavens and the earth (1En. 17:5; Prov. 8:27, 29; 1Sam. 2:8; Mark 13:27).[9]

Ad300x250-BookofEnochIn this conceptual map, Jerusalem, or Mount Zion is at the center of the earth, and has “the accursed valley” (Gehenna) right next to it (Ezek. 5:5, 38:12; 1En. 26:1-2; 27:2).

North from that center resides Mount Hermon, the “rock” (mountain) that Jesus said God would build his new kingdom church upon.[10] This mountain is described as “reaching to the heavens” and as being the celestial storehouse of the luminaries and storms (1En. 17:3). Many rivers flow from it, including a river of fire and a river of “living waters” (17:4-8), and it is guarded by fiery beings who take human shape (17:1). This “source of the waters” is a reflection of the cosmic Mountain of Eden and it’s source of living waters (Ezek. 28:13-14).[11]

In the south are seven mountains of precious stones arranged in a perpendicular layout. The central mountain burns with fire day and night, and is called the “throne of God,” where God will come down at the final judgment.  These elements suggest it is Mount Sinai (1En. 24-25).

In the west are “wintery winds” and the “great darkness,” where another mountain hosts “hollow places” for the souls of all the dead. The righteous are separated from the sinners, much like the chasm separates the righteous in Abraham’s Bosom from the sinners in the parable of Lazarus. (Luke 16:19-26; 1En. 17:6; 22:1-14).

In the east are “great beasts and birds” at the ends of the earth (1En. 33:1). Tartarus is further “beyond the edge of the earth,” where the earth meets to uphold the vault of heaven (1En. 18:10).[12] This is where the angels who sinned in Genesis 6 are kept imprisoned in gloomy darkness (2Pet. 2:4; 1Pet. 3:18-20). They are in deep pits or chasms that are like fiery pillars. (1En. 18:10-16).

There is much more detail that can be quite confusing to follow, so I have included an illustrated map with some of the major elements adapted from Bautch and my own reading of 1Enoch.

Can We Trust This Ancient Cosmology?

Continue reading

Where in Hell is Hell?

Last post, we looked at the ancient Greek picture of Hades, the abode of the dead. We compared it with the Biblical picture which was both similar and very different.

The Old Testament used the word Sheol for the abode of the dead, and it was a place where the dead “shades” went to wait for judgment. But it wasn’t a place of fire and torture like many people think of today.

Now, let’s look at what the New Testament adds to the picture.

Because the New Testament is in Greek, it does not use the word Sheol, but the Greek word, Hades. Jesus himself used the term Hades as the location of condemned spirits in contrast with heaven as the location of redeemed spirits (Matt. 11:23). Jesus referred to the “Gates of Hades” (Matt. 16:18), a well-known underworld concept in ancient Near Eastern and Western Greco-Roman mythology.

This was more than a metaphorical reference to the “power of death,” because the sacred grotto in Caesarea Philippi, where he spoke those words, was considered a gateway to Hades.[1] The location had a cave with a deep chasm believed to lead to the Abyss and Hades.[2] In the book of Revelation, Jesus claims to capture the “keys of Death and Hades,” which is a doublet separating the two words rather than identifying them (Rev. 1:18).

Hades was the location of departed spirits in Christ’s parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Hades (Luke 16:19-31). It was from this parable that the term “Abraham’s Bosom” came, that indicated the separated location of righteous souls in Hades from the eternally thirsty wicked by a large chasm. This parable has been convincingly proven by some scholars to be a subversive polemic against the common motif of Hellenistic pagan journeys to the underworld and communication from the dead, not a literal geography of Hades.[3] But if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Jesus Triumphant in its imaginative depiction of Hades.

In Greek mythology, Tartarus was another term for a location beneath the “roots of the earth” and beneath the waters where the warring giants called “Titans” were bound in chains because of their rebellion against the gods. Peter uses a derivative of that very Greek word Tartarus to describe a similar location and scenario of angels being bound during the time of Noah and the warring Titans called “Nephilim.”[4]

2Pet. 2:4-5
God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell [Tartarus] and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.








From Sheol to Gehenna

Despite this claim of a realm for the dead in both the Old and New Testaments, there is very little specificity of description of its attributes beyond “darkness” (Job 17:13; Lam. 3:6) and “silence” (Psa. 31:17–18; 94:17; 115:17). The one clear certainty about Sheol/Hades is that “he who goes down to Sheol does not come up” (Job 7:9; 10:21; 2Sam. 12:23). As Papaioannou describes:

“First, Sheol/Hades is where everyone goes at death. There is no distinction between the righteous and the wicked… Second, Sheol/Hades is not a place of eschatological punishment, but rather the destiny of all human beings… Third, there is no life or consciousness in Sheol/Hades. In contrast to some cultures that envisioned meaningful existence in the afterlife, the Hebrew Bible portrays Sheol as a place of silence and lifelessness where human existence has come to an end… There is no memory in Hades (Isa 26:14); neither is there any longer a communion with God (Isa 38:18). It is a place of silence, darkness, and oblivion (Job 17:13). Thus, a person who dies in effect ceases to exist (Eccl. 9:6)… With a belief in a bodily resurrection, Sheol/Hades is only a temporary abode—the dead remain there until they are raised.”[5]

Richard Bauckham explains the change in understanding that occurred between the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures regarding the abode of the dead. He points out that the older view did not involve active punishment of souls in Sheol, but merely involved holding the wicked in detention until the last judgment. The newer view, driven by apocalyptic literature included descents to the underworld, where increasingly only the wicked were located:

“The older view allowed for visits to the place of detention in Sheol (1En. 22), visits to the hell which is already prepared for but not yet inhabited by the wicked (lEn. 26:3-27:4; 2En. 10; 40:12; 2Bar. 59:10),  and prophetic visions of the casting of the wicked into Gehenna at the last judgment (1En. 41:2; Bar 59: 11). But only the later view enabled a seer to see and to describe in detail the punishments actually being inflicted on the wicked in hell. The later view therefore spawned a long tradition of ‘tours of hell,’ in which a variety of different punishments appropriate to different categories of sinners is described.”[6]

By the time of the New Testament, some Second Temple Jewish literature began to increasingly evidence the notion of punishment for the wicked and reward for the righteous in Hades before the final judgment.

Bauckham suggests this new notion of immediate recompense upon death in both Jewish and Christian writings may have been the result of Greek influence,”[7] but the fact remains that after the advent of Christ and his spiritual mission, the change took place with the growth of Christianity.

In this sense, Christ’s descent into Hades, and his victorious triumph over spiritual principalities and the powers of Death and Hades marked the inauguration of God’s kingdom that may have included the beginning of rewards and punishment in Sheol/Hades.

The Greek word for “hell” used in New Testament translation is Gehenna. Some have believed that this was the name of a garbage dump outside Jerusalem that burned with perpetual flames, and Jesus used it as a metaphor for the fires of judgment. But recent scholarship tends to disregard this thesis as lacking both exegetical weight and hard archeological evidence.[8]

In fact, Gehenna is Greek for “Valley of Hinnom,” the valley that bordered the south and western sides of Jerusalem.[9] This valley had a dark history in Israel’s past as the location of tophets, or burning places for sacrifice to Molech, the underworld god. Israelites would “pass their children through the fire” as human sacrifice. God became so angry with this abomination that the prophet Jeremiah pronounced a fiery curse on the area destroyed by King Josiah around 632 B.C. (Jer. 7:29–34; 19:1–15). It would become known as the “Valley of Slaughter,” and a synonym for future judgment/destruction of people and nations in this life as well as the next.

Both Second Temple literature and Jesus’ teachings used Gehenna as a reference to the future final judgment (Matt. 13:42, 30; 25:41).[10] So, yes it was a metaphor for fiery punishment, but a far richer meaning than a burning garbage dump. It provided incarnate location for the belief in the eschatological judgment of God upon evil.

For additional Biblical and historical research related to this novel, go to www.ChroniclesoftheNephilim.com under the menu listing, “Links” > Jesus Triumphant.

[1] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm (Bellingham: WA, Lexham, 2005), 267-271; Jimmy R. Watson, The Religious History of Banias and Its Contribution to an Understanding of the Petrine Confession (Hardin-Simmons University, Master’s Thesis, 1989). 87; George W. E. Nicklesburg, “Enoch, Levi, and Peter: Recipients of Revelation in Upper Galilee,” Journal of Biblical Literature 100 (December 1981): 598.
[2] Wars of the Jews 1:405, Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987).
[3] Kim Papaioannou, The Geography of Hell in the Teaching of Jesus: Gehenna, Hades, the Abyss, the Outer Darkness Where There Is Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2013), 112. Richard Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead: Studies on the Jewish and Christian Apocalypses, (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1998), 101.
[4] 1.25 ταρταρόω [tartaroo] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains. electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. New York: United Bible societies, 1996. Bauckham, Richard J. Vol. 50, Word Biblical Commentary : 2 Peter, Jude. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002, p 248-249.
[5] Papaioannou, The Geography of Hell, 87-88.
[6] Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead, 34.
[7] Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead, 36.
[8] Papaioannou, The Geography of Hell, 80.
[9] Duane F. Watson, “Gehenna (Place),” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 926.
[10] See 1 En. 10:13; 48:8–10; 100:7–9; 108:4–7; Jdt 16:17; 2 Bar. 85:13.

Monster: Very Cool Music Video about Bullying


This is a music video that I support because it uses the metaphor of monsters in our head like zombies that haunt us to do wrong. Very cool song. I wrote about this band in an earlier post here.

The band’s name is Gavlak.

They only have 3 days left to raise the money for this PSA-style video that will encourage young people not to bully, not to listen to the negative voices in their soul.

Check out the Kickstarter video here.

What in Hell is Hades?

Last post on this topic, we looked at 1 Peter 3:18-22 only to discover it is all about Jesus Christ going down into Hades to proclaim his victory of triumph over the spirits of the Watchers imprisoned in Tartarus of Hades.

But isn’t Hades just a synonym for being dead? Oh, it’s Biblically so much more than that. Let’s take a few posts to explore this Abode of the Dead from a Scriptural perspective.

When reading the word, Hades or Underworld, most educated readers immediately conjure images of Greco-Roman myth taught in school: A misty and gloomy abode of the dead below the earth where all souls of mortals, both good and evil, went after death. It is ruled over by the god of the same name, Hades, and contains perilous landscapes and dangerous bizarre creatures. Though there is not perfect consistency of geography among the various Greek and Roman authors, some elements repeat.[1]

There are five rivers in the classical Hades. Styx is the most prominent one that circles the underworld. The second one, Acheron, is the one crossed by souls on a boat ferried by the ghostly boatman Charon to bring them to the gates of Hades. Each of the rivers represent what happens to the departed souls.

1) Styx: River of hatred.
2) Acheron: River of pain.
3) Lethe: River of forgetfulness.
4) Phlegethon: River of fire.
5) Cocytus: River of wailing.

The entrance to the underworld is guarded by the three-headed dog Cerberus and other chimeric creatures like centaurs. The rivers then divide the geography into multiple regions with different purposes.

1) Fields of Punishment: Where souls who committed sins against the gods are punished.
2) Fields of Asphodel: Where souls go who were insignificant, neither great nor wicked.
3) Vale of Mourning: Where souls go who were unloved.
4) Elysium: Where the spirits of heroes and the virtuous ended up.
5) Isles of the Blessed: For the most distinguished of souls for eternity.
6) Tartarus: The deepest pit of Hades where the rebel Titans were bound.

Most modern western pictures of the afterlife, or realm of the dead, come from the medieval punishments of Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost. Levels of torture for sinners meted out by angels or demons, with Lucifer reigning over hell as a more interesting character than God. Sadly, these unbiblical notions have influenced Christian theology in some ways more than the Scriptural text itself. They make for colorful stories, but are not true to Biblical theology.

What does the Bible itself say about the underworld? The Old Testament Hebrew equivalent to the Greek Hades was Sheol.[2] Sheol could be a metaphorical personification of death (Hos 13:14; Isa. 28:15; 38:18, Ps. 49:15) or the grave (Psa. 88:11; Isa. 14:9-11), but it could also refer to an actual conceived location beneath the earth that was the abode of the dead (Isa 14:9-15). The spirit of Samuel was called up from Sheol (1Sam. 28:13), and the sons of Korah went down alive into this underworld (Num. 16:33). People would not “fall alive” into death or the grave and then perish if Sheol was not a location to the ancient Hebrew mind.

When the prophet writes about Sheol in Isaiah 14, he combines the notion of the physical location of the dead body in the earth (v.11) with the location beneath the earth of the spirits of the dead (v.9). It’s really a both/and synthesis. The term includes several concepts of imagination.

Here are some verses that speak of Sheol geographically as a spiritual underworld below the earth in contrast with heaven as a spiritual overworld above the earth:

Amos 9:2
“If they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; if they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down.
Job 11:8
It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?
Psa. 139:8
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there![3]
These are not mere references to the body in the grave, but to locations of the soul as well. Sheol is a multi-layered term that describes both the grave for the body and the underworld location of the departed souls of the dead.[4]

In Old Testament times, Sheol did not include any kind of punishment beyond its power to hold souls captive to death (Psa. 18:4-5), separated in some sense from God’s presence (Psa. 115:17; 6:5), and one’s misery of lost power and glory (Psa. 7:5; Isa. 14:9-16). But fire and bodily torture are absent from this Old Testament worldview.


One biblical term used for departed souls in Sheol is rephaim. It is sometimes translated as “shades,” in English. As the ISBE puts it, “In Job 26:5 “the shades below” are the dead (cf. Ps. 88:10; Isa. 26:14). They dwell in “the depths of Sheol” (Prov. 9:18), where they live together in “the assembly of the dead” (Prov. 21:16).”[5]

Ad300x250-Gen2RevThat assembly is described in 1Enoch as “four hollows” or pits under the mountain of the dead, where they await their judgment in the last days. Though 1Enoch is not Scripture, it is a book highly regarded in the New Testament (read this article for the details), so it gives one picture of how the ancient Jews saw Sheol/Hades. One hollow is for the righteous; another hollow is for Abel and those unjustly murdered; a third is for the wicked unpunished in life; and a fourth for the wicked who were punished in life. The souls of the unrighteous dead thirst and are frightful of their future judgment (1En. 22:9), but they are not tortured by angels or demons. Righteous souls receive refreshment from a fountain of waters “with light upon them” (1En. 22:9; Luke 16:24).

Another Jewish text of the first century, 4Ezra, describes the departed soul’s entrance into Sheol as consisting of seven days to see the future results of their ways before being led to their habitation to wait for judgment. During this time period, the unrighteous…

4Ezra 7:80, 87, 101
…shall immediately wander about in torments, ever grieving and sad…they shall utterly waste away in confusion and be consumed with shame, and shall wither with fear at seeing the glory of the Most High before whom they sinned while they were alive, and before whom they are to be judged in the last times… and afterward they shall be gathered in their habitations.

Another ancient Christian text, The Apocalypse of Zephaniah, describes the angels who draw the shades to their destiny as beings whose “faces were like a leopard, their tusks being outside their mouth like the wild boars. Their eyes were mixed with blood. Their hair was loose like the hair of women, and fiery scourges were in their hands.”[6]

This ancient legendary depiction is behind the confused, wandering zombie-like shades in Jesus Triumphant who are animated by maggots and worms (Isa. 14:11; 66:24) while wailing and gnashing their teeth (Matt. 25:30), before being brought to the Mountain of the Dead by the long-haired gatherers. It’s all there in Jesus Triumphant.

In Isaiah 14, a prophetic rant against the arrogant king of Babylon, the “shades” take on an additional meaning…

Isaiah 14:9-11
Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come;
it rouses the shades (rephaim) to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations. All of them will answer and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!’ Your pomp is brought down to Sheol.
The Hebrew word for “shades” here is rephaim, a word with ties to the Canaanite giants of Joshua’s and David’s time (Josh. 13:12; 2Sam. 22:15-22), and mighty warrior kings of Canaanite literature also called rephaim.[7] Isaiah’s intent is to mock the pomp and vainglory of man, who will end up as humiliated as every other mighty being imprisoned in Sheol.[8] Thus, the appearance of the Rephaim guardians in Jesus Triumphant.

In the next post we’ll address the New Testament notion of the underworld along with Gehenna and Hell.

You can buy Jesus Triumphant in Kindle, Paperback or audiobook here at Amazon.

For additional Biblical and historical research related to this novel, go to www.ChroniclesoftheNephilim.com under the menu listing, “Links” > Jesus Triumphant.

[1] For a brief introduction to Hades, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_underworld
[2] “Sheol,” DDD, p 768.
[3] See also Isa. 7:11; Matt. 11:23; Phil 2:10; Rev. 5:3, 13; 1Pet 2:4-5.
[4] “The ideas of the grave and of Sheol cannot be separated…The dead are at the same time in the grave and in Sheol…Where there is grave, there is Sheol, and where there is Sheol, there is grave.” Theodore J. Lewis, “Dead, Abode of the,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 103.
[5] P. K. McCarter Jr., “Shades,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 440.
[6] James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1 (New York;  London: Yale University Press, 1983), 511.
[7] Mark S. Smith, “Rephaim,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 674-75.
[8] Philip S. Johnston, Shades of Sheol: Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament, (Downers Grove: IL, InterVarsity, 2002), 128-130.

The Young Messiah: Must See Bible Movie About Jesus. No Hollywood Bizarro World This Time.


Biopic of Jesus as a child becoming aware of his identity as the Son of God.

I saw an early screening of The Young Messiah that is set to release in March.
Written by Betsy and Cyrus Nowrasteh, and directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh.

I’m the guy who wrote the critique of the Noah script by Aronofsky that went viral and exposed its anti-Biblical agenda. I’m not a fundamentalist, but I represent and understand a significant huge proportion of the contemporary Christian viewing public who are totally okay with creative license when it comes to Bible movies, AS LONG AS YOU DON’T SUBVERT THE ORIGINAL MESSAGE. That’s what Noah did, and that’s what Exodus did. They subverted the Biblical narrative with their own paganism and atheism. And that is why they failed in terms of audience potential (along with just being plainly bad movies). Biblical fidelity is not about petty details, but about the meaning.

Biblically Faithful

I am here to say that the new film coming out in March, The Young Messiah, is NOT one of those films. The Young Messiah is a great movie, well told, and very faithful to the spirit of the Gospel of what it may have been like for the young seven-year old Jesus to come of age as the Son of God. I highly recommend it for all Christians. It’s warm, touching and a beautiful portrayal of the chosen family struggling through extraordinary times and extraordinary difficulties with an extraordinary child. There is humor with a lovable yet rascally uncle Cleopas, and brilliant villainy with a skanky Herod Antipas, as well as a blond beautiful Robert Downey Jr.-like Satan.

It’s always tough to depict Satan. Gibson’s androgynous female with mutant baby was brilliant, but this one is great for a different reason. The New Testament describes Satan as a deceptive angel of light, so making him beautiful creates an eerie irony as he seeks to figure out what the plan of the young Messiah is, since the New Testament says the principalities and powers didn’t really know what the plan was, otherwise they wouldn’t have crucified him (1Corinthians 2:8).

And the story adds a dramatic stakes of life and death with a Roman centurion played by Sean Bean hunting down the elusive child on orders from Herod Antipas to kill him (because of the failure of his father to do so at the Slaughter of Innocents in Bethlehem years earlier). This was a brilliant addition to the story that was not in the novel, but makes the story more exciting as a movie. (Of course, it’s hard to make the danger seem real cause we know that he won’t ultimately kill Jesus, but the drama and suspense are still entertaining, as is the centurion’s own spiritual journey, since he had participated in the original Slaughter of Innocents)

Not Sectarian

It is adapted from Anne Rice’s Catholic novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, but it does not take a Catholic or Protestant view. It seeks to depict that story within its original ancient Near Eastern Jewish context rather than from a sectarian perspective. Even the title change represents that focus with its more Jewish title of “Messiah” over the Greek “Christ.” Both Catholics and Protestants will love the beautiful and strong, yet devout and submissive Mary in this movie as “blessed among women,” who “rejoices in God, her Savior.” And while there are obviously some fictional miracle scenes, they are entirely within the parameters of possibility and don’t contradict Scripture. This is doctrinally safe imagination.

Son of God, Son of Man

Admittedly, it is a controversial and difficult story to tell because of the delicate theological issue of balancing Christ’s divinity with his humanity. After all, the Gospels do reveal that Jesus was NOT omniscient. That he had to grow in knowledge and wisdom (Luke 2:52), and that means he had to learn. Heck, it even says he also “increased in favor with God.”

Now the problem is that Christians have so emphasized Christ’s divinity, that we have sometimes neglected to balance that truth with his equally fully human identity. We therefore start to think of Jesus as some kind of Greek god waiting to grow up so he can reveal what he’s known all along. But that simply isn’t the truth. The only story of young Jesus in the Gospels is the one where he is left behind at the Temple at age twelve and when his parents go back to get him, he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). So, he understood his relationship to God the Father with some degree at age twelve. But beyond that, we simply don’t know. And if he wasn’t omniscient, as the Scriptures say he wasn’t, then there had to be a kind of realization that took place in his life in earlier years.

So what would it have looked like for Jesus’ identity to dawn upon him? What would life with the Son of God as a child look like? Again, an admittedly controversial topic to take up, but I think the movie does a great job of maintaining Christ’s divine identity while exploring the dilemma of his humanity in relation to that hypostatic union.

Here is a great article by N.T. Wright about Jesus’ Self Understanding that gives orthodox scholarly weight to that consideration.

This is not the sinful humanity of The Last Temptation of Christ, or the gnostic otherworldliness of Jesus of Nazareth. This is a young child becoming aware that his miraculous power comes from his identity as the god-man. One of my favorite moments is a beautiful monologue of the boy Jesus explaining his new understanding of himself as Messiah in the flesh. He needs to experience all the joys, the pains, the happiness and sadness, of being human from birth to death. Why? So that we would have a redeemer who would know what it was like to be one of us. The Incarnation (Hebrews 4:15).

The Young Messiah navigates this delicate theological issue with a faithful and reverent dexterity.

No Hollywood Insanity

I think partly the reason for this Biblical fidelity is because it is independently produced outside the studio system. A major distributor, Focus Features, was wise enough to pick it up for distribution, but studio producer Chris Columbus had to get independent funding to make it. The reality is that Cyrus and Betsy are independent filmmakers who also made the brilliant and courageous, Stoning of Soroya M. (about the evils of sharia law). It takes the ability of free thinking independents to bravely portray faithful Judeo-Christianity.

I happen to know the Nowrastehs, but I told Cyrus I would not be a shill for them in my blog post, especially when it comes to my Lord Jesus Christ. I will speak honestly and freely. And so I have. Unlike certain other Christians paid in silver by the studios to trick the Body of Christ to support the abominations of Noah and Exodus. And also, unlike Noah, the original script for The Young Messiah changed quite a bit from script to screen…

The Power of the Gospel Story

Here is the most amazing part of the story to me. The director explained in a Q and A that though his wife and co-writer was already a Christian believer when they began the project, he was not. And making the movie The Young Messiah, was the culmination of a long spiritual journey that resulted in him becoming a Christian and being baptized. Even more fascinating, he had been raised in a Muslim household, but spent most of his adult life with a more secular worldview. That shows how exploring the story of the genuine Biblical Jesus transforms a person’s life.

Go see this movie on its opening weekend and let it transform yours. Remember, you must go on the opening weekend to help the movie stay in the theaters and have real impact. And of course, social media rules, so share, share, share!


One side note of amusement. Because the writer/director is Persian, Hollywood Christophobes and Left Wing Identity Police are going to have a difficult time accusing him of racism for not casting every single actor from the Middle East like they accused Ridley Scott on Exodus. Gotcha, haters!

Dead Reckoning TV Interviews Godawa on Jesus Triumphant and Demons

I have great respect for these guys. They are funny, smart and creative.

They do some comedy skits about current issues with sharp wit.
And I LOVE Jay’s News Bulletin in Haiku. Brilliant and Funny.

And one of the best interviews on my series Chronicles of the Nephilim and the new novel, Jesus Triumphant. We talk about the Cosmic War of the Seed, the Watchers, and how the gods of the nations are real beings who battle the messianic bloodline ending in Jesus, who then disinherits those gods and takes back the earth. Jesus demon exorcism was not a mere display of power over spirits, it was a very specific action that is related to the Nephilim of Genesis 6. Listen and you’ll see why. We talked a little about self publishing novels as well.

Watch them online here.