Did the Jews of Jesus day hold this belief? Were the audiences of Jesus thinking this when He talked about Gehenna (that is often translated as Hell for us)?
Wikipedia on Rabbinical Judaism's view of Gehenna:
The picture of Gehenna as the place of punishment or destruction of the wicked occurs frequently in the Mishnah in Kiddushin 4.14, Avot 1.5; 5.19, 20, Tosefta t.Bereshith 6.15, and Babylonian Talmud b.Rosh Hashanah 16b:7a; b.Bereshith 28b. Gehenna is considered a Purgatory-like place where the wicked go to suffer until they have atoned for their sins. It is stated that the maximum amount of time a sinner can spend in Gehenna is one year, with the exception of five people who are there for all of eternity.
There is much rabbinic material on what happens to the soul of the deceased after death, what it experiences, and where it goes. At various points in the afterlife journey, the soul may encounter: Hibbut ha-kever, the pains of the grave; Dumah, the angel of silence; Satan as the angel of death; the Kaf ha-Kela, the catapult of the soul; Gehinom (purgatory); and Gan Eden (heaven or paradise). All classic rabbinic scholars agree that these concepts are beyond typical human understanding. Therefore, these ideas are expressed throughout rabbinic literature through many varied parables and analogies.
Gehinom is fairly well defined in rabbinic literature. It is sometimes translated as "hell", but is much closer to the Catholic view of purgatory than to the Christian view of hell, which differs greatly from the classical Jewish view. In Judaism, gehinom — while certainly a terribly unpleasant place or state — is not hell. The overwhelming majority of rabbinic thought maintains that souls are not tortured in gehinom forever; the longest that one can be there is said to be twelve months, with extremely rare exception. This is the reason that even when in mourning for near relatives, Jews will not recite mourner's kaddish for longer than an eleven month period. Gehinom is considered a spiritual forge where the soul is purified for its eventual ascent to Gan Eden ("Garden of Eden").
So we didn't inherit our beliefs about Hell from the Jews.
Jesus didn't spell it out clearly as I've pointed out here in my longest post ever.
Where did we come up with the idea that God's plans to torture billions of people for eternity?
- Does Scripture Say Hell is Eternal Punishment - a look at lots of Scripture
- NT Wright video on Hell
- Do you support torture
- Literal or figurative death
- Does God hate sinners?
- Why the threat? Does God need to threaten us with eternal punishment to win our love and devotion?