The Four Sections of Hell (St Thomas Aquinas)

According to Saint Thomas Aquinas (STh Supp q. 69, aa. 1-7), Hell (Latin: Infernus) is divided into four sections or abodes:
  1. Gehenna. This is hell in the strict sense, or the place of punishment for the damned, both demons or humans.
  2. Limbo of the Children. (Latin: limbus parvulorum) Where those who die in original sin alone, and without personal mortal sin, enjoy natural beatitude without the sensation of pain.
  3. Limbo of the Fathers. (Latin: limbus patrum) Where the souls of the Old Testament saints who died before Christ awaited their admission to heaven. Also called “Abraham’s bosom.” Also a natural beatitude without the sensation of pain. Limbo of the Fathers is now vacant.
  4. Purgatory. Where the righteous who die in venial sin or who still owe a debt of temporal punishment for sin, are cleansed by suffering before their admission to Heaven.
This pattern corresponds to Jewish belief at the time of Christ. In 1 Enoch we see a similar fourfold arrangement of “Sheol” – the Hebrew term for the underworld.

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