QUESTION 97: OF THE PUNISHMENT OF THE DAMNED
In due sequence we must consider those things that concern the damned
after the judgment: (1) The punishment of the damned, and the fire by
which their bodies will be tormented; (2) matters relating to their will
and intellect; (3) God's justice and mercy in regard to the damned.
Under the first head there are seven points of inquiry:
(1) Whether in hell the damned are tormented with the sole punishment of
(2) Whether the worm by which they are tormented is corporeal?
(3) Whether their weeping is corporeal?
(4) Whether their darkness is material?
(5) Whether the fire whereby they are tormented is corporeal?
(6) Whether it is of the same species as our fire?
(7) Whether this fire is beneath the earth?
Article 1: Whether in hell the damned are tormented by the sole punishment of fire?
Objection 1: It would seem that in hell the damned are tormented by the sole
punishment of fire; because Mt. 25:41, where their condemnation is
declared, mention is made of fire only, in the words: "Depart from Me,
you cursed, into everlasting fire."
Objection 2: Further, even as the punishment of purgatory is due to venial
sin, so is the punishment of hell due to mortal sin. Now no other
punishment but that of fire is stated to be in purgatory, as appears from
the words of 1 Cor. 3:13: "The fire shall try every man's work, of what
sort it is." Therefore neither in hell will there be a punishment other
than of fire.
Objection 3: Further, variety of punishment affords a respite, as when one
passes from heat to cold. But we can admit no respite in the damned.
Therefore there will not be various punishments, but that of fire alone.
On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 10:7): "Fire and brimstone and
storms of winds shall be the portion of their cup."
Further, it is written (Job 24:19): "Let him pass from the snow waters
to excessive heat."
I answer that, According to Basil (Homilia vi in Hexaemeron and Hom. i
in Ps. 38), at the final cleansing of the world, there will be a
separation of the elements, whatever is pure and noble remaining above
for the glory of the blessed, and whatever is ignoble and sordid being
cast down for the punishment of the damned: so that just as every
creature will be to the blessed a matter of joy, so will all the elements
conduce to the torture of the damned, according to Wis. 5:21, "the whole
world will fight with Him against the unwise." This is also becoming to
Divine justice, that whereas they departed from one by sin, and placed
their end in material things which are many and various, so should they
be tormented in many ways and from many sources.
Reply to Objection 2: It is because fire is most painful, through its abundance
of active force, that the name of fire is given to any torment if it be
Reply to Objection 2: The punishment of purgatory is not intended chiefly to
torment but to cleanse: wherefore it should be inflicted by fire alone
which is above all possessed of cleansing power. But the punishment of
the damned is not directed to their cleansing. Consequently the
Reply to Objection 3: The damned will pass from the most intense heat to the most
intense cold without this giving them any respite: because they will
suffer from external agencies, not by the transmutation of their body
from its original natural disposition, and the contrary passion affording
a respite by restoring an equable or moderate temperature, as happens
now, but by a spiritual action, in the same way as sensible objects act
on the senses being perceived by impressing the organ with their forms
according to their spiritual and not their material being.
Article 2: Whether the worm of the damned is corporeal?
Objection 1: It would seem that the worm by which the damned are tormented is
corporeal. Because flesh cannot be tormented by a spiritual worm. Now the
flesh of the damned will be tormented by a worm: "He will give fire and
worms into their flesh" (Judith 16:21), and: "The vengeance on the flesh
of the ungodly is fire and worms" (Ecclus. 7:19). Therefore that worm
will be corporeal.
Objection 2: Further, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xxi, 9): . . . "Both, namely
fire and worm, will be the punishment of the body." Therefore, etc.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xx, 22): "The unquenchable
fire and the restless worm in the punishment of the damned are explained
in various ways by different persons. Some refer both to the body, some,
both to the soul: others refer the fire, in the literal sense, to the
body, the worm to the soul metaphorically: and this seems the more
I answer that, After the day of judgment, no animal or mixed body will
remain in the renewed world except only the body of man, because the
former are not directed to incorruption [*Cf. Question , Article ], nor after
that time will there be generation or corruption. Consequently the worm
ascribed to the damned must be understood to be not of a corporeal but of
a spiritual nature: and this is the remorse of conscience, which is
called a worm because it originates from the corruption of sin, and
torments the soul, as a corporeal worm born of corruption torments by
Reply to Objection 1: The very souls of the damned are called their flesh for as
much as they were subject to the flesh. Or we may reply that the flesh
will be tormented by the spiritual worm, according as the afflictions of
the soul overflow into the body, both here and hereafter.
Reply to Objection 2: Augustine speaks by way of comparison. For he does not wish
to assert absolutely that this worm is material, but that it is better to
say that both are to be understood materially, than that both should be
understood only in a spiritual sense: for then the damned would suffer no
bodily pain. This is clear to anyone that examines the context of his
words in this passage.
Article 3: Whether the weeping of the damned will be corporeal?
Objection 1: It would seem that the weeping of the damned will be corporeal.
For a gloss on Lk. 13:28, "There will be weeping," says that "the weeping
with which our Lord threatens the wicked is a proof of the resurrection
of the body." But this would not be the case if that weeping were merely
spiritual. Therefore, etc.
Objection 2: Further, the pain of the punishment corresponds to the pleasure
of the sin, according to Apoc. 18:7: "As much as she hath glorified
herself and lived in delicacies, so much torment and sorrow give ye to
her." Now sinners had internal and external pleasure in their sin.
Therefore they will also have external weeping.
On the contrary, Corporeal weeping results from dissolving into tears.
Now there cannot be a continual dissolution from the bodies of the
damned, since nothing is restored to them by food; for everything finite
is consumed if something be continually taken from it. Therefore the
weeping of the damned will not be corporeal.
I answer that, Two things are to be observed in corporeal weeping. One
is the resolution of tears: and as to this corporeal weeping cannot be in
the damned, since after the day of judgment, the movement of the first
movable being being at an end, there will be neither generation, nor
corruption, nor bodily alteration: and in the resolution of tears that
humor needs to be generated which is shed forth in the shape of tears.
Wherefore in this respect it will be impossible for corporeal weeping to
be in the damned. The other thing to be observed in corporeal weeping is
a certain commotion and disturbance of the head and eyes, and in this
respect weeping will be possible in the damned after the resurrection:
for the bodies of the damned will be tormented not only from without, but
also from within, according as the body is affected at the instance of
the soul's passion towards good or evil. In this sense weeping is a proof
of the body's resurrection, and corresponds to the pleasure of sin,
experienced by both soul and body.
This suffices for the Replies to the Objections.
Article 4: Whether the damned are in material darkness?
Objection 1: It would seem that the damned are not in material darkness. For
commenting on Job 10:22, "But everlasting horror dwelleth," Gregory says
(Moral. ix): "Although that fire will give no light for comfort, yet,
that it may torment the more it does give light for a purpose, for by the
light of its flame the wicked will see their followers whom they have
drawn thither from the world." Therefore the darkness there is not
Objection 2: Further, the damned see their own punishment, for this increases
their punishment. But nothing is seen without light. Therefore there is
no material darkness there.
Objection 3: Further, there the damned will have the power of sight after
being reunited to their bodies. But this power would be useless to them
unless they see something. Therefore, since nothing is seen unless it be
in the light, it would seem that they are not in absolute darkness.
On the contrary, It is written (Mt. 22:13): "Bind his hands and his
feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness." Commenting on these words
Gregory says (Moral. ix): If this fire gave any light, "he would by no
means be described as cast into exterior darkness."
Further, Basil says (Hom. i in Ps. 28:7, "The voice of the Lord divideth
the flame of fire") that "by God's might the brightness of the fire will
be separated from its power of burning, so that its brightness will
conduce to the joy of the blessed, and the heat of the flame to the
torment of the damned." Therefore the damned will be in material darkness.
Other points relating to the punishment of the damned have been decided
above (Question ).
I answer that, The disposition of hell will be such as to be adapted to
the utmost unhappiness of the damned. Wherefore accordingly both light
and darkness are there, in so far as they are most conducive to the
unhappiness of the damned. Now seeing is in itself pleasant for, as
stated in Metaph. i, "the sense of sight is most esteemed, because
thereby many things are known."
Yet it happens accidentally that seeing is painful, when we see things
that are hurtful to us, or displeasing to our will. Consequently in hell
the place must be so disposed for seeing as regards light and darkness,
that nothing be seen clearly, and that only such things be dimly seen as
are able to bring anguish to the heart. Wherefore, simply speaking, the
place is dark. Yet by Divine disposition, there is a certain amount of
light, as much as suffices for seeing those things which are capable of
tormenting the soul. The natural situation of the place is enough for
this, since in the centre of the earth, where hell is said to be, fire
cannot be otherwise than thick and cloudy, and reeky as it were.
Some hold that this darkness is caused by the massing together of the
bodies of the damned, which will so fill the place of hell with their
numbers, that no air will remain, so that there will be no translucid
body that can be the subject of light and darkness, except the eyes of
the damned, which will be darkened utterly.
This suffices for the Replies to the Objections.
Article 5: Whether the fire of hell will be corporeal?
Objection 1: It would seem that the fire of hell whereby the bodies of the
damned will be tormented will not be corporeal. For Damascene says (De
Fide Orth. iv): The devil, and "demons, and his men" [*Cf. 2 Thess. 2:3:
"And the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."], namely
Antichrist, "together with the ungodly and sinners will be cast into
everlasting fire, not material fire, such as that which we have, but such
as God knoweth." Now everything corporeal is material. Therefore the fire
of hell will not be corporeal.
Objection 2: Further, the souls of the damned when severed from their bodies
are cast into hell fire. But Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. xii, 32): "In
my opinion the place to which the soul is committed after death is
spiritual and not corporeal." Therefore, etc.
Objection 3: Further, corporeal fire in the mode of its action does not follow
the mode of guilt in the person who is burned at the stake, rather does
it follow the mode of humid and dry: for in the same corporeal fire we
see both good and wicked suffer. But the fire of hell, in its mode of
torture or action, follows the mode of guilt in the person punished;
wherefore Gregory says (Dial. iv, 63): "There is indeed but one hell
fire, but it does not torture all sinners equally. For each one will
suffer as much pain according as his guilt deserves." Therefore this fire
will not be corporeal.
On the contrary, He says (Dial. iv, 29): "I doubt not that the fire of
hell is corporeal, since it is certain that bodies are tortured there."
Further, it is written (Wis. 5:21): "The . . . world shall fight . . .
against the unwise." But the whole world would not fight against the
unwise if they were punished with a spiritual and not a corporeal
punishment. Therefore they will be punished with a corporeal fire.
I answer that, There have been many opinions about the fire of hell. For
some philosophers, as Avicenna, disbelieving in the resurrection, thought
that the soul alone would be punished after death. And as they considered
it impossible for the soul, being incorporeal, to be punished with a
corporeal fire, they denied that the fire whereby the wicked are punished
is corporeal, and pretended that all statements as to souls being
punished in future after death by any corporeal means are to be taken
metaphorically. For just as the joy and happiness of good souls will not
be about any corporeal object, but about something spiritual, namely the
attainment of their end, so will the torment of the wicked be merely
spiritual, in that they will be grieved at being separated from their
end, the desire whereof is in them by nature. Wherefore, just as all
descriptions of the soul's delight after death that seem to denote bodily
pleasure---for instance, that they are refreshed, that they smile, and so
forth---must be taken metaphorically, so also are all such descriptions
of the soul's suffering as seem to imply bodily punishment---for
instance, that they burn in fire, or suffer from the stench, and so
forth. For as spiritual pleasure and pain are unknown to the majority,
these things need to be declared under the figure of corporeal pleasures
and pains, in order that men may be moved the more to the desire or fear
thereof. Since, however, in the punishment of the damned there will be
not only pain of loss corresponding to the aversion that was in their
sin, but also pain of sense corresponding to the conversion, it follows
that it is not enough to hold the above manner of punishment. For this
reason Avicenna himself (Met. ix) added another explanation, by saying
that the souls of the wicked are punished after death, not by bodies but
by images of bodies; just as in a dream it seems to a man that he is
suffering various pains on account of such like images being in his
imagination. Even Augustine seems to hold this kind of punishment (Gen.
ad lit. xii, 32), as is clear from the text. But this would seem an
unreasonable statement. For the imagination is a power that makes use of
a bodily organ: so that it is impossible for such visions of the
imagination to occur in the soul separated from the body, as in the soul
of the dreamer. Wherefore Avicenna also that he might avoid this
difficulty, said that the soul separated from the body uses as an organ
some part of the heavenly body, to which the human body needs to be
conformed, in order to be perfected by the rational soul, which is like
the movers of the heavenly body---thus following somewhat the opinion of
certain philosophers of old, who maintained that souls return to the
stars that are their compeers. But this is absolutely absurd according to
the Philosopher's teaching, since the soul uses a definite bodily organ,
even as art uses definite instruments, so that it cannot pass from one
body to another, as Pythagoras is stated (De Anima i, text. 53) to have
maintained. As to the statement of Augustine we shall say below how it is
to be answered (ad 2). However, whatever we may say of the fire that
torments the separated souls, we must admit that the fire which will
torment the bodies of the damned after the resurrection is corporeal,
since one cannot fittingly apply a punishment to a body unless that
punishment itself be bodily. Wherefore Gregory (Dial. iv) proves the fire
of hell to be corporeal from the very fact that the wicked will be cast
thither after the resurrection. Again Augustine, as quoted in the text of
Sentent. iv, D, 44, clearly admits (De Civ. Dei xxi, 10) that the fire by
which the bodies are tormented is corporeal. And this is the point at
issue for the present. We have said elsewhere (Question , Article ) how the souls
of the damned are punished by this corporeal fire.
Reply to Objection 1: Damascene does not absolutely deny that this fire is
material, but that it is material as our fire, since it differs from ours
in some of its properties. We may also reply that since that fire does
not alter bodies as to their matter, but acts on them for their
punishment by a kind of spiritual action, it is for this reason that it
is stated not to be material, not as regards its substance, but as to its
punitive effect on bodies and, still more, on souls.
Reply to Objection 2: The assertion of Augustine may be taken in this way, that
the place whither souls are conveyed after death be described as
incorporeal, in so far as the soul is there, not corporeally, i.e. as
bodies are in a place, but in some other spiritual way, as angels are in
a place. Or we may reply that Augustine is expressing an opinion without
deciding the point, as he often does in those books.
Reply to Objection 3: That fire will be the instrument of Divine justice
inflicting punishment. Now an instrument acts not only by its own power
and in its own way, but also by the power of the principal agent, and as
directed thereby. Wherefore although fire is not able, of its own power,
to torture certain persons more or less, according to the measure of sin,
it is able to do so nevertheless in so far as its action is regulated by
the ordering of Divine justice: even so the fire of the furnace is
regulated by the forethought of the smith, according as the effect of his
Article 6: Whether the fire of hell is of the same species as ours?
Objection 1: It would seem that this fire is not of the same species as the
corporeal fire which we see. For Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xx, 16): "In
my opinion no man knows of what kind is the everlasting fire, unless the
Spirit of God has revealed it to anyone." But all or nearly all know the
nature of this fire of ours. Therefore that fire is not of the same
species as this.
Objection 2: Further, Gregory commenting on Job 10:26, "A fire that is not
kindled shall devour him," says (Moral. xv): "Bodily fire needs bodily
fuel in order to become fire; neither can it be except by being kindled,
nor live unless it be renewed. On the other hand the fire of hell, since
it is a bodily fire, and burns in a bodily way the wicked cast therein,
is neither kindled by human endeavor, nor kept alive with fuel, but once
created endures unquenchably; at one and the same time it needs no
kindling, and lacks not heat." Therefore it is not of the same nature as
the fire that we see.
Objection 3: Further, the everlasting and the corruptible differ essentially, since they agree not even in genus, according to the Philosopher (Metaph. x). But this fire of ours is corruptible, whereas the other is everlasting: "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire" (Mt. 25:41). Therefore they are not of the same nature.
Objection 4: Further, it belongs to the nature of this fire of ours to give
light. But the fire of hell gives no light, hence the saying of Job 18:5:
"Shall not the light of the wicked be extinguished?" Therefore . . . as
On the contrary, According to the Philosopher (Topic. i, 6), "every
water is of the same species as every other water." Therefore in like
manner every fire is of the same species as every other fire.
Further, it is written (Wis. 11:17): "By what things a man sinneth by
the same also he is tormented." Now men sin by the sensible things of
this world. Therefore it is just that they should be punished by those
I answer that, As stated in Meteor. iv, 1 fire has other bodies for its
matter, for the reason that of all the elements it has the greatest power
of action. Hence fire is found under two conditions: in its own matter,
as existing in its own sphere, and in a strange matter, whether of earth,
as in burning coal, or of air as in the flame. Under whatever conditions
however fire be found, it is always of the same species, so far as the
nature of fire is concerned, but there may be a difference of species as
to the bodies which are the matter of fire. Wherefore flame and burning
coal differ specifically, and likewise burning wood and red-hot iron; nor
does it signify, as to this particular point, whether they be kindled by
force, as in the case of iron, or by a natural intrinsic principle, as
happens with sulphur. Accordingly it is clear that the fire of hell is of
the same species as the fire we have, so far as the nature of fire is
concerned. But whether that fire subsists in its proper matter, or if it
subsists in a strange matter, what that matter may be, we know not. And
in this way it may differ specifically from the fire we have, considered
materially. It has, however, certain properties differing from our fire,
for instance that it needs no kindling, nor is kept alive by fuel. But
the differences do not argue a difference of species as regards the
nature of the fire.
Reply to Objection 1: Augustine is speaking of that fire with regard to its
matter, and not with regard to its nature.
Reply to Objection 2: This fire of ours is kept alive with fuel, and is kindled
by man, because it is introduced into a foreign matter by art and force.
But that other fire needs no fuel to keep it alive, because either it
subsists in its own matter, or is in a foreign matter, not by force but
by nature from an intrinsic principle. Wherefore it is kindled not by man
but by God, Who fashioned its nature. This is the meaning of the words of
Isaias (30:33): "The breath of the Lord is as a torrent of brimstone
Reply to Objection 3: Even as the bodies of the damned will be of the same
species as now, although now they are corruptible, whereas then they will
be incorruptible, both by the ordering of Divine justice, and on account
of the cessation of the heavenly movement, so is it with the fire of hell
whereby those bodies will be punished.
Reply to Objection 4: To give light does not belong to fire according to any mode
of existence, since in its own matter it gives no light; wherefore it
does not shine in its own sphere according to the philosophers: and in
like manner in certain foreign matters it does not shine, as when it is
in an opaque earthly substance such as sulphur. The same happens also
when its brightness is obscured by thick smoke. Wherefore that the fire
of hell gives no light is not sufficient proof of its being of a
Article 7: Whether the fire of hell is beneath the earth?
Objection 1: It would seem that this fire is not beneath the earth. For it is
said of the damned (Job 18:18), "And God shall remove him out of the
globe [Douay: 'world']." Therefore the fire whereby the damned will be
punished is not beneath the earth but outside the globe.
Objection 2: Further, nothing violent or accidental can be everlasting. But
this fire will be in hell for ever. Therefore it will be there, not by
force but naturally. Now fire cannot be under the earth save by violence.
Therefore the fire of hell is not beneath the earth.
Objection 3: Further, after the day of judgment the bodies of all the damned
will be tormented in hell. Now those bodies will fill a place.
Consequently, since the multitude of the damned will be exceeding great,
for "the number of fools is infinite" (Eccles. 1:15), the space
containing that fire must also be exceeding great. But it would seem
unreasonable to say that there is so great a hollow within the earth,
since all the parts of the earth naturally tend to the center. Therefore
that fire will not be beneath the earth.
Objection 4: Further, "By what things a man sinneth, by the same also he is
tormented" (Wis. 11:17). But the wicked have sinned on the earth.
Therefore the fire that punishes them should not be under the earth.
On the contrary, It is written (Is. 14:9): "Hell below was in an uproar
to meet Thee at Thy coming." Therefore the fire of hell is beneath us.
Further, Gregory says (Dial. iv): "I see not what hinders us from
believing that hell is beneath the earth."
Further, a gloss on Jonas 2:4, "Thou hast cast me forth . . . into the
heart of the sea," says, "i.e. into hell," and in the Gospel (Mt. 12:40)
the words "in the heart of the earth" have the same sense, for as the
heart is in the middle of an animal, so is hell supposed to be in the
middle of the earth.
I answer that, As Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xv, 16), "I am of opinion that no one knows in what part of the world hell is situated, unless the Spirit of God has revealed this to some one." Wherefore Gregory (Dial. iv) having been questioned on this point answers: "About this matter I dare not give a rash decision. For some have deemed hell to be in some part of the earth's surface; others think it to be beneath the earth." He shows the latter opinion to be the more probable for two reasons. First from the very meaning of the word. These are his words: "If we call it the nether regions (infernus [*The Latin for 'hell']), for the reason that it is beneath us [inferius], what earth is in relation to heaven, such should be hell in relation to earth." Secondly, from the words of Apoc. 5:3: "No man was able, neither in heaven, nor on earth, nor under the earth, to open the book": where the words "in heaven" refer to the angels, "on earth" to men living in the body, and "under the earth" to souls in hell. Augustine too (Gen. ad lit. xii, 34) seems to indicate two reasons for the congruity of hell being under the earth. One is that "whereas the souls of the departed sinned through love of the flesh, they should be treated as the dead flesh is wont to be treated, by being buried beneath the earth." The other is that heaviness is to the body what sorrow is to the spirit, and joy (of spirit) is as lightness (of body). Wherefore "just as in reference to the body, all the heavier things are beneath the others, if they be placed in order of gravity, so in reference to the spirit, the lower place is occupied by whatever is more sorrowful"; and thus even as the empyrean is a fitting place for the joy of the elect, so the lowest part of the earth is a fitting place for the sorrow of the damned. Nor does it signify that Augustine (De Civ. Dei xv, 16) says that "hell is stated or believed to be under the earth," because he withdraws this (Retract. ii, 29) where he says: "Methinks I should have said that hell is beneath the earth, rather than have given the reason why it is stated or believed to be under the earth." However, some philosophers have maintained that hell is situated beneath the terrestrial orb, but above the surface of the earth, on that part which is opposite to us. This seems to have been the meaning of Isidore when he asserted that "the sun and the moon will stop in the place wherein they were created, lest the wicked should enjoy this light in the midst of their torments." But this is no argument, if we assert that hell is under the earth. We have already stated how these words may be explained (Question , Article ).
Pythagoras held the place of punishment to be in a fiery sphere
situated, according to him, in the middle of the whole world: and he
called it the prison-house of Jupiter as Aristotle relates (De Coelo et
Mundo ii). It is, however, more in keeping with Scripture to say that it
is beneath the earth.
Reply to Objection 1: The words of Job, "God shall remove him out of the globe,"
refer to the surface of the earth [*"De orbe terrarum," which might be
rendered "from the land of the living."], i.e. from this world. This is
how Gregory expounds it (Moral. xiv) where he says: "He is removed from
the globe when, at the coming of the heavenly judge, he is taken away
from this world wherein he now prides himself in his wickedness." Nor
does globe here signify the universe, as though the place of punishment
were outside the whole universe.
Reply to Objection 2: Fire continues in that place for all eternity by the
ordering of Divine justice although according to its nature an element
cannot last for ever outside its own place, especially if things were to
remain in this state of generation and corruption. The fire there will be
of the very greatest heat, because its heat will be all gathered together
from all parts, through being surrounded on all sides by the cold of the
Reply to Objection 3: Hell will never lack sufficient room to admit the bodies of
the damned: since hell is accounted one of the three things that "never
are satisfied" (Prov. 30:15,16). Nor is it unreasonable that God's power
should maintain within the bowels of the earth a hollow great enough to
contain all the bodies of the damned.
Reply to Objection 4: It does not follow of necessity that "by what things a man
sinneth, by the same also he is tormented," except as regards the
principal instruments of sin: for as much as man having sinned in soul
and body will be punished in both. But it does not follow that a man will
be punished in the very place where he sinned, because the place due to
the damned is other from that due to wayfarers. We may also reply that
these words refer to the punishments inflicted on man on the way:
according as each sin has its corresponding punishment, since "inordinate
love is its own punishment," as Augustine states (Confess. i, 12).