The Antiquity of Hell

Popular conceptions of heaven and hell in the modern world have been deeply shaped by Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Specifically, the conception of hell has been deeply shaped by the Inferno. which has enjoyed a far wider readership and fascination than the corresponding sections on purgatory and paradise.  In fact, Dante’s particular vision of hell has had so profound an impact that debates over universalism in the present time tend to take for granted that anyone who accepts historic Christian teaching on eternal condemnation believes in some variation of Dante’s hell.  Perhaps no other work of literature has so transformed Western Christianity’s popular understanding than Dante’s, with the possible exception of Milton’s.  Both of these authors, however, were composing works of…