Cleaver gives one 'hell' of a lesson

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) offered up a history lesson on Wednesday at a Financial Services Committee hearing, reaching way back to the bible's Old Testament to explain hell, and later, how hell is similar to trying to reach your mortgage company on the phone.

"Do you know where the word hell comes from?" Cleaver asked a witness. "It actually originated on the west side of Jerusalem, where the landfill -- where they burned the trash, called Sheol, and the -- the interpretation comes down as hell. That's the first view of what humans thought hell would be, you know ... constant burning of the trash."

Cleaver gets kudos for imagery, but according to the Columbia Encyclopedia, the word he was looking for is Gehenna, the trash heap outside Jerusalem.

Cleaver then pressed the witness as to why mortgage company phone lines are so frequently unavailable.

At the end of his allotted time, committee chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) gave Cleaver an additional minute "for biblical exegesis."

"Thank you, Rabbi," said Cleaver.

"I stuck with the right testament," quipped Frank.