J. J. Jackson, (Zimbabwe)
A BIBLE STUDY (NOT AN ARTICLE) JUNE 2006
I have now for the first time decided to make a study of this subject, having in the past been more occupied with the positive aspects of the Kingdom of God.
The word "Hell", I read, is derived from the Anglo-Saxon "Helle" meaning hidden. It is translated from the Hebrew "Sheol" in the Old Testament, and from the Greek "Hades", "Gehenna" and "Tartarus" in the New Testament. The occurrences of these words are as follows:
Where "Sheol" was translated "Hell" in the English KJV Bible:
Deuteronomy 32:22, 2 Samuel 22:6, Job 11:8, 26:6, Psalm 9:17,16:10,18:5, 55:15, 86:13,116:3,139:8, Proverbs 5:5, 7:27, 9:18, 15:11,24, 23:14, 27:20, Isaiah
9:10, 14:9,15, 28:15,18, 57:9, Ezekiel 31:16,17, 32:21,27, Amos 9:2, Jonah 2:2, Habakkuk 2:5.
Tota1 31 times.
Where "Sheol" was translated "The grave" in the English KJV Bible:
Genesis 37:35, 42:38, 44:29,31,1 Samuel 2:6, 1 Kings 2:6,9, Job 7:9, 14:3,17:13,21:13, 24:19, Psalm 6:5, 30:3, 31 :17, 49:14,14,15, 88:3, 89:48,141:7, Proverbs 1:12, 30:16, Ecclesiastes 9:10, Song of Solomon 8:6, Isaiah 14:11, 38:10,18, Ezekiel 31:15, Hosea 13:14.
Total 31 times.
Where "Sheol" was translated "The pit" in the English KJV Bible:
Numbers 16:30,33, Job 17:16.
Total 3 times.
The word "Sheol" therefore appears a total of 65 times in the Old Testament. It is strange that such a specific Hebrew word, in such a precise language should have three different English translations. In the 1933 Afrikaans Bible the word "Sheol" is consistently translated "Doderyk" which means "Domain of the dead", and so is an exact rendering. I have checked all the listed references, and could not find any confirmation of the traditional picture of that place being a furnace of fire, though darkness, silence, and remorse seem to be its main features.
Where "Hades" was translated "Hell" in the English KJV Bible:
Matthew 11:23, 16:18, Luke 10:15, 16:23, Acts 2:27,31, 1 Corinthians 15:55, Revelation 1:18, 6:8, 20:13,14.
Total 11 times
So Hades was consistently translated "Hell" in the New Testament. On the other hand it was consistently translated "Doderyk" in the Afrikaans Bible.
Where "Gehenna" was translated "Hell" in the English KJV Bible:
Matthew 5:22,29,30, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15,33, Mark 9:43,45,47, Luke 12:5, James 3:6.
Total 12 times.
So "Gehenna" was also consistently translated "Hell" in the KJV Bible. In the Afrikaans Bible it was consistently translated "Hel" (Afrikaans for Hell).
Where "Tartarus" was translated "Hell" in the English KJV Bible:
2 Peter 2:4. This is the only occurrence of the word "Tartarus" .
Total 1 time.
It is translated "Hel" in the Afrikaans Bible.
In contrast to the Old Testament where one Hebrew word was given three different English translations, we find, in the New Testament, that three different Greek words are given one only English translation. In both cases this is not consistent with the accepted idea that Hebrew and Greek are very precise languages.
The three different Greek words used in the New Testament may be the key to a better understanding of the meaning of Hell. Let us look at each separately, starting with "Tartarus", which appears only once. Some Bibles don't translate it "Hell", but stick to the Greek name.
2 Peter 2:4 reads:
"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;... ... ..."
This, being the only mention of such punishment to sinful angels, and the only occurrence of the word tartarus, we should think again about the validity of the use of the word hell. I suppose those fallen angels are the demons currently tormenting humanity. The chains are then the limitations God has placed upon them. Many cases are mentioned in the Gospels, where Jesus encountered evil spirits, and the restrictions they suffered are evident. A good example is to be found in Matthew 8:28-32 where the demons cried out to Jesus:
"What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?".
Then they begged Him to let them go into the herd of swine. Such was their tartarus, and they were obviously expecting their day of judgment, though not yet.
That New Testament "Hades" is synonymous with Old Testament "Sheol", is very evident from Peter's preaching in Acts 2:27,31 where he quoted Psalm 16:10:
"Because Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption."
In the Scripture quoted from Psalm 16 it is the word "Sheol" which is translated "Hell", while in Acts 2 it is the word "Hades" which is twice translated "Hell". The Afrikaans Bible was therefore correct in consistently translating "Hades" as "Doderyk"
I have read all eleven Scriptures where the word hades is used, and, with one exception, I find no hint of a picture of a fiery furnace. That exception is the story Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus. It is to be found in Luke chapter 16. There, for the first time, we see that hades had a separate section called Abraham's bosom, where all the souls of the righteous went. We know that since then, those souls have been led, by Christ to heaven (Ephesians 4:8-10, Psalm 68: 18).
The concern of our study is the main body of hades. In verse 23 we see that the rich man found himself in "torments", and in verse 28 he called this place, a place of "torment". The Greek word is "basaros", and its only other occurrence, according to Bullinger, is Matthew 4:24. There "torments" is listed among the ailments suffered by the many people who came to Jesus, and received healing. The words that concern us most are those of the rich man, where he said in verse 24:
"send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame."
The word "tormented" is so translated from the Greek "odunaomai". According to Bullinger it has only two other occurrences, both of which are translated "sorrowing". The one is when Joseph and Mary were searching for their twelve year old son, Jesus, when He remained behind in the temple (Luke 2:48), and the other was when the Ephesians were saying farewell to the Apostle Paul (Acts 20:38). So the rich man's torment was the "sorrowing" of his soul, and not physical pain from a literal flame. That flame, and tongue, must have been figurative speech. Turning to the tongue, James 3:6 tells us:
"the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: .And setteth on fire the course of nature."
I think the greatest remorse sinners will have is over the things they said, because that is where all iniquity begins.
So we have looked at hades, and still not found the raging furnace of fire traditionally seen as hell. Let us now look at our final option.
I have examined all twelve references to Gehenna in the Bible, and this is where the raging fire is to be found. Gehenna is not Sheol, neither is it Hades, nor Tartarus. That is why, in the original text, these places were given different names. The name Gehenna is derived from Gei-Hinnom, meaning the valley of Hinnom, also called the valley of the sons of Hinnom. In Hebrew it was called "Tophet", which means "place of buming." In Jesus day there was a perpetual fire burning in this valley, just outside Jerusalem. The city's refuse was always thrown on that fire. Centuries earlier human sacrifices were burned there, to the horrid monster Moloch. Jesus used the name of this place to describe the future raging furnace of fire, where, after judgment, the wicked will be cast.
Examining all the twelve references to Gehenna (hell), I see that eight of them pertain to the body being cast there, and seven mention the fire. In sharp contrast the total of seventy six references to Sheol and Hades don't mention the body being cast into it, and don't mention fire. It is the souls that go to that place, and wait. But Gehenna is for the resurrected, judged and condemned. They will be cast into it in their physical bodies, to be burned in a literal fire.
The proper hell (Gehenna) is only mentioned twelve times, by name, in the whole Bible. Eleven of those times were by the mouth of Jesus. You don't find it mentioned in the Old Testament, or in the Gospel of John, or in Acts, or in any of the epistles of Paul, or Peter, or John. In sharp contrast Jesus mentioned the Kingdom of God more than one hundred times, and Israel is mentioned in the Bible more than seven hundred times. It is better to give people the real, positive vision. But those who reject God, and His sure mercies, will then finally face hell.
Back To Archive Contents