Gehenna also appears in the New Testament and in early Christian writing to represent the place where evil will be destroyed. It lends its name to Islam's hell, Jahannam. In both Rabbinical Jewish and Christian writing, Gehenna as a destination of the wicked is different from Sheol, the abode of all the dead.
"Gehenna" is derived from "Ge Hinnom," meaning "Valley of Hinnom." "Ge Hinnom" is also called "Gai ben-Hinnom," meaning "valley of Hinnom's son."
The valley is outside the south wall of ancient Jerusalem, and stretches from the foot of Mount Zion eastward to Kidron Valley. It is mentioned 13 times in 11 different verses in the Bible (King James Version) as "valley of Hinnom," "valley of the son of Hinnom" or "valley of the children of Hinnom."
It is not described as a spiritual hell but a literal valley in Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8, Joshua 18:16, 2nd Kings 23:10, 2 Chronicles 28:3, 2nd Chronicles 33:6,Nehemiah 11:30, Jeremiah 7:31~32, Jeremiah 19:2, Jeremiah 19:6, Jeremiah 32:35) After 638 B.C. , the valley of Hinnom and the valley of the son of Hinnom became the place for burning rubbish from Jerusalem.
The southwestern gate of Jerusalem, overlooking the valley, came to be known as "The Gate of the Valley" (שער הגיא). Jeremiah 7:31; 19:2-6; 32:35; the Book of Jeremiah (2:23) speaks of residents worshipping Moloch and committing abominations, foreshadowing the destruction of Jerusalem.
In ancient times, children were sacrificed to the pagan god Molech in Gehenna, a practice that was outlawed by King Josiah (2 Kings, 23:10). Biblical commentator Rashi explains that priests would bang on drums (Hebrew: tof, tupim) (תופים) so fathers would not hear the groans of children being sacrificed. Hence the name Topheth.
In the Gospel of Matthew 23:33, Jesus observes, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of gehenna?”. The word gehenna is also found in the epistle of James, where it is said to set the tongue on fire. Many Christians understand gehenna to be a place of eternal punishment called hell . On the other hand, annihilationists, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, understand gehenna to be a place where sinners are utterly destroyed (like garbage in a burning dump), not tormented forever. Christian Universalists, who believe that God will eventually save all souls, interpret the New Testament references to Gehenna in the context of the Old Testament, and conclude that it always refers to the imminent divine judgment of Israel and not to eternal torment for the unsaved.
The New Testament refers to hades as a destination of the dead. Hades is portrayed as a different place from gehenna. Yet, even so, the Book of Revelation describes the final destination of hades as the Lake of Fire which many Christians today interpret as meaning the same thing as gehenna.