Synopsis on Terms for Hell in NT

Just because it seems like it contradicts Christ’s nature doesn’t seem like all that solid of a reason to throw hell out” (Doug)

I think ‘hell’ is a condition we can get into – just not a place where we burn eternally. Jesus’ teachings are basically the frame to view these through – to make a better understanding of what the term is meaning (depending on the passage being cited).

For example, hades or sheol (same translation) are used quite a few times – and they basically mean ‘the place/abode of the dead’.

In all appearances but one, “δης”/hades has little if any relation to afterlife rewards or punishments” (Wikipedia – Hades in the Bible)

That alone should speak volumnes – 1 of 11 instances of hades has an afterlife – and the one occurence is a ‘parable’ (story).

Gehenna is another term used but here is it’s original meaning “”Gehenna” is the Christian rendering of “Ge Hinnom,” literally “Valley of Hinnom,” known in the Old Testament as Gai Ben-Hinnom, literally the “Valley of the son of Hinnom”, and in the Talmud as Gehinnam (גהנם) or Gehinnom.

In the Hebrew Bible, Gai Ben-Hinnom does not refer to hell but rather to a real 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). Garbage from the walled city was burned there.” (Wikipedia – Gehenna)

Does this mean people are going to Gehenna – where the garbage was consumed and burned (and basically waste was incinerated)…no – because that is a real place – and no one was seen in there that died and went on (if we want to be literalists). But it seems like a comparison to me being used by Jesus – like your life could become that (waste).

Tartarus is used once (in Peter apparently) in the Bible – and it is comparable to the term ‘abyss’ (according to Wikipedia). However, it’s based on a Roman/Greek god also – a mythical legend about this god helped define that word (is it really that trustworthy?).

Greek version: “As for the place, the Greek poet Hesiod asserts that a bronze anvil falling from heaven would fall 9 days before it reached the Earth. The anvil would take nine more days to fall from Earth to Tartarus. In The Iliad (c. 700), Zeus asserts that Tartarus is “as far beneath Hades as heaven is high above the earth.” As a place so far from the sun and so deep in the earth, Tartarus is hemmed in by three layers of night. It is a dank and wretched pit engulfed in murky gloom. It is one of the primordial objects that sprung from Chaos (along with Gaia (Earth) and Eros (Love)).” (Wikipedia – Tartarus)

Roman version: “In Roman mythology, Tartarus is the place where sinners are sent. Virgil describes it in the Aeneid as a gigantic place, surrounded by the flaming river Phlegethon and triple walls to prevent sinners from escaping from it. It is guarded by a hydra with fifty black gaping jaws, which sits at a screeching gate protected by columns of solid adamantine, a substance akin to diamond – so hard that nothing will cut through it. Inside, there is a castle with wide walls, and a tall iron turret. Tisiphone, one of the Erinyes who represents revenge, stands guard sleepless at the top of this turret lashing a whip. There is a pit inside which is said to extend down into the earth twice as far as the distance from the lands of the living to Olympus. At the bottom of this pit lie the Titans, the twin sons of Aloeus and many other sinners” (Wiki – Tartarus)

It does help one realize that this term (and maybe many more about hell) found it’s actual meaning in Greek and Roman mythology and those views about an ‘underworld’ (even lower than the world of hades or place of the dead). The Tanakh never uses this term nor Gehenna as reference to a place called hell – infact – even hell is not in the Tanakh – only sheol is (place of the dead).

Also, what term is correct – there are so damn many if we take them all literally…hades/sheol, gehenna, tartarus, abyss, lake of fire, etc. The meaning changes and changes and they do not add up all consistently as we are made to believe. For example – tartarus (an underworld) is a level below hades (abode for the dead). The lake of fire (sulfur) swallows up gehenna apparently (or hades).

The one parable that used hades (the rich man and lazarus) is actually based on the ideas of sheol/hades (place of the dead – waiting to be judged) and the underworld (tartarus or maybe even gehenna) – revealing a complete picture of how some people viewed the afterlife for the ‘righteous’ and the ‘wicked’. None of these sources are found in the Tanakh but can be found in 2nd century Jewish pseduapigrapha books – which means they were ‘outsider’ views.

In the end, what the hell is hell? Should we believe Greek/Roman mythology on the subject – which is how hell is defined as we know it. Should we believe it is just an abode of the dead – where they wait to be judged? Is it a word being used to describe one’s outcome in life?

For me, it’s just to weird to believe a literal hell exists – now God has it – but Zeus had it just prior. It makes sense to say ’sheol’ may exist – a place we go until we ‘resurrect’ and be judged – maybe? But I also lean towards the idea one can make choices that inflict hell on others and upon themselves – their lives become waste like gehenna.

11 thoughts on “Synopsis on Terms for Hell in NT

  1. Hey Societyvs
    Do you believe in a literal heaven? Do you believe in an afterlife?
    I am interested in your opinion.

  2. the case could be made about heaven as well. there are many views of the afterlife in the bible… but mostly the collection is concerned with the here and now, not the here-after, as so many wish to believe.

    and i’m with Julia. i’m interested in your metaphysical construct.

  3. Hey Luke, you’re not getting away with that! I wish to ask the same question of you. Look forward to both your replies.

  4. HI Julia, I believe in an afterlife – a heaven – a place where we will live eternally…because I believe we are created to live (we only die once). It’s more about the resurrection than anything else to me – if it happened – then there is coming back from ‘death’ apparently.

    As for hell – well even when Paul mentions Jesus went to sheol/hades – it’s just the abode of the dead – visited and then resurrected. Sounds funny he visited the ‘dead’ – apparently even they are alive?

  5. I think there is a lot of truth in what you say. We do make this place a sort of hell, by our refusal to live as God would have us.

    Also, I do think the whole idea of God is kind of wierd and it’s hard for me to get my head around the idea, as it is the idea of hell.

  6. Julia,

    i will post my thoughts on my blog next tuesday.


    you have a whole lot of evidence against hell, what makes you believe in heaven?

  7. Another interesting thought I’ve realized in terms of hell and heaven. Both areas have the person existing forever. One existence is torturous, and the other is blissful. But it’s still “life,” and it’s a life without end.

    Yet the Gospel of John has Jesus offering eternal life. The opposite of life is death, so if someone doesn’t accept the eternal life, what do they have? If we say they go to hell, then the person is still living eternally, in some form. Unless we re-define the very idea of what life is.

  8. “you have a whole lot of evidence against hell, what makes you believe in heaven?” (Luke)

    Where does there need to be an opposite to heaven exactly? Dualism at hard work when you think about it – since heaven exists an underworld must also. I ma not sure that is neccesarily true.

    My proof for heaven is flimsy at best – but 3 things I sort of mention here and there:

    (a) Jesus resurrected proving there is something ‘after this life’ – more life perhaps?

    (b) We are created to ‘live’ – with the ‘breathe of life’ (not the breathe of death). I think God creates us to live and to live for a long time…maybe even unto an eternal living? Why would God snuff out all life created?

    (c) Heaven just sounds ‘nice’ and ‘hopeful’. No one tells someone on their death-bed or at a funeral ‘they went to hell’. This is not a normal human inclination – it’s actually against our very nature to ‘think’ such things about the dying or the dead…well…why? Sensitivity doesn’t account for everything.

  9. Ah but does heaven exist in the sense that is commonly understood? Where does this idea come from? Actually it’s a Greek idea originally, that you have an immortal soul that leaves you when you die and goes to another place where it stays forever. Look into this people. This is very important to understanding the real character of our Heavenly Father. Hell, likewise, is derived from paganism, a control measure instituted by the paganized “church” to threaten all those who oppose that harlot and mother of harlots! At the second resurrection, there will be judgment. The righteous in Messiah will live in bodies that are incorruptible on the earth, which God has given to the sons of men, as it is written, and the wicked, having been raised and judged, will be destroyed forever. It is written. The Tanakh says they will be stubble under the feet of the righteous! Destroyed. Period. No eternal torture for billions of billions of billions of years. What defamation of our Father in Heaven by the enemy… There is plenty of evidence in the Tanakh (Older Testament) that this is true. The Tanakh speaks of Sheol and Abbaddon (not entirely sure of the common English transliteration…); that is, death, and destruction. When Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus) spoke of death, he referred to it as SLEEP. Indeed this is consistent with Scripture (which, frankly, is the Tanakh according to the Apostolic Writings) and the Apostolic Writings (“New Testament”) when they communicate the idea that “the dead in Messiah will rise first”. As Stephen was stoned, he said what devout Jewish people say before they go to sleep: “Into thine hand I commit my spirit,” which continues, “…and I shall awaken!” Stephen went to sleep fully convinced that he would be resurrected after sleeping for a time, not that he was going to some other plain of bliss!

    All the best.

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