19 Dec 2006


Submitted by theshovel
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"How many people understand what HADES is? EVERYBODY KNOWS WHAT HELL IS! Do you know what HADES is?" Quote from "Hell Happened"

That's right, let's not confuse people with a fact that might upset a universally accepted concept.

You know what? I find this argument an extremely compelling reason to challenge the hell that everybody supposedly knows. Do we think people incapable of learning a new (that is, an unfamiliar) word or is the Biblical doctrine of hell somehow dependent upon assumptions connected to the commonly understood meaning of Hell? After all, is the word Hades really unfamiliar to a culture so intrigued by Greek and Roman mythology or does allowing for the fact that hell might not be as consistent as once thought detract from the hell that everybody knows? Either way, exploring the usage of Hades in the NT will not detract from the truth of God, even if it messes up our nicely organized boxes.

Okay then, here's the technical stuff. There are three different Greek words that have been translated equally as "hell" in the KJV. The English equivalents are Hades (11), Geenna, or Gehenna (12) and Tartaroo, or Tartarus (1), making a total of 24 times you'll find hell in the KJV New Testament. Now, the translators let one instance of Hades escape the fire by translating it "grave" (1 Corinthians 15:55, and interestingly, the Greek word Hades is not even found in the manuscript used by the NASB in this verse). The NASB translators chose to transliterate the Greek word Hades directly into English, but decided that Hell was best fitting for both Gehenna and Tartarus. The NIV differs from the NASB in only four places, the 2 references to Capernaum in Matthew and Luke are translated "the depths" and the 2 verses in Acts as "the grave".

I'll be examining the eleven Hades verses (which I have included in both the KJV and NASB at the bottom of this page). Considering that neither the translators of the NASB nor the NIV chose to render this Greek word as hell I understand why many hellfire and damnation preachers treat them with such contempt. Now, if Hades, rather than Hell, is a better English word choice in these particular verses we might want to look under the hood. The common definitions given for Hades are as follows:

1. name Hades or Pluto,
the god of the lower regions
2. Orcus,
the nether world, the realm of the dead
3. later use of this word:
the grave, death, hell

While these might be the meanings of Hades today, they were not always so. At one time, Hades, Pluto and Orcus were totally distinct from one another. Hades originated in the minds of the Greeks as the god of the underworld, it later came to also represent his house, or the underworld itself. Pluto was another Greek god of the underworld but was used more often in Roman mythology, later associated with Hades. Orcus was the Roman god of the underworld and, as with the other terms, came to be used as the land of the dead. The blending of these originally distinct gods and their abodes followed the history of the Greek and Roman empires, and while Rome conquered Greece the Greek language became more dominant than Latin. Perhaps that's partly why Hades now represents all. I can only imagine that its dominance over the others triggered animosity for many years. After all, gods aren't easily dismissed by their followers.

Added to this, we have another huge factor behind that later use of Hades to consider, and it, too, involves differences in languages. Between the 3rd and 1st century BC the Old Testament scriptures were translated into the common Greek language (Koine), producing what is known as the Septuagint. Tradition has it that 72 Jewish scholars (Septuagint = 70) translated the first 5 books of Moses (the Pentateuch) for the Alexandrian library in Egypt. However, from a few critiques I've read it seems more probable that it came about because the heavily Jewish population of Egypt (especially Alexandria) had almost ceased using its own Hebrew language. Anyhow, when it came to that Hebrew word Sheol guess which Greek word they chose? That's right, they chose the name of the Greek place of the dead, Hades, to best represent the Hebrew concept of the inevitable end of all mankind. While Hebraic Jews may have disputed its use I doubt the Hellenistic (Greek) Jews had questioned it.

As Jerusalem became more heavily populated with Greek-speaking Jews the Septuagint also became widely accepted. When Jesus referred to Hades are we to suppose he was validating the ignorance of Graeco-Roman mythology, or was he merely using the word they had come to accept as a replacement for Sheol? And though recognized by them as a replacement, wouldn't they have been aware that it still meant something else to the world around them? As I consider the history of Israel I suspect many of the Jews had adopted some of the pagan beliefs of the afterlife, knowing to do so was in violation to the Law. I think Jesus may have taken advantage of that. Anyhow, let's move on to the verses in question. Keep in mind that every instance of Hell in these verses was translated from the Greek word Hades.

And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.Matthew 11:23 (KJV)

And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.
Luke 10:15 (KJV)

Let's assume for a moment that Jesus was saying that the city of Capernaum (or its inhabitants) was going to be plunged into the burning fires of hell. Doesn't this also demand that Capernaum was in heaven at that time? If we insist on a literal meaning based upon Biblical accuracy we can't play favorites, can we?

Consider the similarity between Capernaum and the Tower of Babel:

They said, 'Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.' And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, 'Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.'
Genesis 11:4-6

What heaven were they imagining? Well, that's the heaven God stopped them from reaching. Simply stated, man's perception of heaven lined up in direct proportion to his perception of hell. One was the total achievement or fulfillment of man, the other was the destruction or end of it. And try as he may, death has always put a lid on his efforts.

I doubt that anyone reading this has not made comparative judgments upon past historical situations or persons by imagining her/himself having succeeded where the other failed. That's what we're doing when we speculate, "If I was God I would have ..." or "If I was Adam/Eve I wouldn't have eaten that fruit." Yeah, right. The citizens of Capernaum were just like us in that regard. I'm sure that when they heard the story of Sodom and Gomorrah they judged those godless people as getting what they deserved, all the while imagining themselves to have taken God's warning to heart. Oh, most of us have considered ourselves in the same way. WE would have listened, WE would have believed! But here, Jesus told the people of Capernaum that despite their enlightenment they were rejecting the one Sodom would have embraced.

Capernaum would come to destruction, just as did that great city of Sodom. Two wicked cities, but the more wicked of the two was the "righteous" one, for it had a long Scriptural heritage that gave lip service to the one and only true God. The only literal burning that would have come to mind would have been in the likeness of the burning of Sodom, a destruction that would serve to remind all who came after that the inhabitants did not recognize the one who walked among them.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18 (KJV)

To the Greeks, the Gates of Hades was the entrance to the underworld, the divide between the living and the dead. When translating the Hebrew phrase for "the gates of death" the Septuagint chose the Greek wording "the gates of Hades" (Job 38:17; Psalm 9:13). To this day, this same perception of death's power still haunts mankind. But the end of flesh has no power over what Christ has brought about. If the religious Church hadn't been so caught up with its own imaginations of Jesus' words it may have recognized the miraculous new creation in the passage from which this verse comes.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples:

Who do PEOPLE say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do YOU say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, BECAUSE FLESH AND BLOOD DID NOT REVEAL THIS TO YOU, BUT MY FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.
Matthew 16:13-20

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. This was not Peter's logical conclusion to some heavy consideration on the matter, the insight came from God. That which was born of flesh and blood recognized this man according to outward appearance and likened him to its perception of other Biblical characters. Now, while it may seem that Jesus' disciples were "growing in the knowledge", the truth is that they had only been given glimpses of something they didn't yet understand. Oh, they would come to see it, Jesus told them so; and they would remember these words when it came time. How did Peter come to understand this whole thing? Read what he wrote in his letter:

Coming to Him, a living stonerejected by men but chosen and valuable to Godyou yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.1 Peter 2:4-5 CSB

While some go out of their way to make sure it's understood that Peter is not the rock it seems that Peter had no problem recognizing the union between Christ and those being built into the spiritual house, this new creation in Christ. What Jesus told Peter cannot be understood by the mind of man, and the closest this world offers in its place is an earthly institution. The gates of death surely overpowers those, for man's perception of the church continues to divide and subdivide into oblivion. That which has been built by Christ cannot be touched by earthly powers.

For we must all appear in our true characters before the tribunal of the Christ, each to be repaid with good or evil for the life he has lived in the body. It is with this knowledge of what the fear of the Lord means that I appeal to men. My true character is perfectly plain to God, and I hope to your consciences too. I am not trying to recommend myself to you again. I am giving you cause to be proud of me, to use in answering men who pride themselves on external advantages and not on sincerity of heart. For if I was out of my senses, as they say, it was between God and me; and if I am in my right mind, it is for your good. It is Christ's love that controls me, for I have become convinced that as one has died for all, all have died, and he died for all that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again. So from that time on, I have estimated nobody at what he seemed to be outwardly; even though I once estimated Christ in that way, I no longer do so. So if anyone is in union with Christ, he is a new being; the old state of things has passed away; there is a new state of things.2 Corinthians 5:11-17 (Goodspeed's, An American Translation)

Why won't the gates of death prevail against the "church" built by Christ? Because it is the new creation and is not of this world. What is death to that which is not bound to the fate of the earth?

To be continued.
Next, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

The 11 New Testament verses where Hades is translated as Hell in the KJV as compared to the NASB (by the way, the use of all-caps in the NASB refers to the quoting of an OT scripture)

Matthew 11:23 (KJV)
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
Matthew 11:23 (NASB)
"And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.

Matthew 16:18 (KJV)
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18 (NASB)
"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

Luke 10:15 (KJV)
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.
Luke 10:15 (NASB)
"And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!

Luke 16:23 (KJV)
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Luke 16:23 (NASB)
"In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.

Acts 2:27 (KJV)
Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Acts 2:27 (NASB)

Acts 2:31 (KJV)
He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
Acts 2:31 (NASB)
he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY.

1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
1 Corinthians 15:55 (NASB)
"O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY ? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING ?" (note: the Greek text used by the NASB does not contain the word HADES at all)

Revelation 1:18 (KJV)
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Revelation 1:18 (NASB)
and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

Revelation 6:8 (KJV)
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Revelation 6:8 (NASB)
I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Revelation 20:13 (KJV)
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
Revelation 20:13 (NASB)
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.

Revelation 20:14 (KJV)
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Revelation 20:14 (NASB)
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

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These comments were all transferred over from the original website

Posted: Dec-21-06 at 4:25pm by Bruce
In a message dated 12/19/2006 8:00:16 PM Eastern Standard Time, [email protected] writes:

To be continued.
Next, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

You are falling deeper and deeper into heresy. You mean to tell me that NOW you think that the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus was a PARABLE???



Good stuff again Jim...

How can the gates of hell or anything which is "temporal"...prevail against that which is ETERNAL???

Keep up the ENLIGHTENING!!!!! Isn't it amazing how many sacred cows have to be slaughtered to get the TRUTH! Just like OT vs. NT. Look how much blood of bulls and goats had to be slaughtered until the TRUTH CAME to walk in their midst...



Posted: Dec-21-06 at 4:27pm by Tim
I'd like to read what you have learned in your study, but it is a lot to read at one shot and email things, like other mail can tend to get buried if not attended to right away. I may only be speaking for myself, so take my advice with with a grain of salt, but I'd like to encourage you to send your thoughts in more bite-sized pieces and then get to your teaching point a bit quicker. Then, whet the appetite of your readers for more within a shorter amount of time between sendings.
Perhaps the grain of salt is worth more than my advice.
Again, I'd like to hear what you have learned and what it is you want us to learn from what you have learned.


Posted: Dec-21-06 at 4:28pm by Marcus

That some good stuff you're writing on "hell", good work. I look forward to reading more. Hope you and your family have a Blessed Christmas!


Posted: Dec-21-06 at 4:33pm by Neil
When you wrote "As I consider the history of Israel, I suspect many of
the Jews had adopted some of the pagan beliefs of the afterlife, knowing
to do so was in violation of the Law" I was reminded of something I read
about eight or so years ago. In an issue of Biblical Archaeology magazine
there was an article about a long-buried Christian-era synagogue that had
recently been excavated in a small Israeli town. When the diggers reached
the mosaic floor they were astounded at what they saw: a huge,
beautifully detailed and brightly colored Zodiac! About 12 feet across,
if I recall correctly, the Zodiac had all of the expected symbols, as
well as many of the symbols of the Jewish faith incorporated within it.
This Zodiac was at the very front of the main room of the synagogue and
would have been before the speaker as he read from the Torah and visible
to all who were in the room. The article said that those who did the
excavation were completely puzzled by this because they were also
scholars of Jewish history, laws and traditions and knew the consequences
of seeking after astrology, not to mention the incorporation of it in a
synagogue! The only conclusion the archaelogists could come to was that
by the first century Judiasm had incorporated more of the pagan Greek
religion than anyone had previously known or suspected. So when you said
what you did about your suspicions, you were right in line with those
archaelogists...and I'll bet that none of us know the HALF of it! I
believe that the Judaism of that day had become more like the Judaism of
today than anyone has known, totally unbelieving that God actually has
any real play in the affairs of men even to the point as to not even
believe that He is or ever was real. Judaism had become a religion of
laws that had no relationship to an actual spiritual authority and still
largely is. It is more a religion of doing good and being good because
that's what is the right thing to do according to some universal whatever
somewhere. Anyway, it sure does give a lot more credence to what Jesus
said about the Jewish leaders of his day, doesn't it?


Posted: Dec-22-06 at 1:51pm by Bea
Thank you for this =---- what word is good enough?-------- Revelation from the Holy Spirit is beyond words!!!!!I I loved the term--"estimated a person from outward appearances"""---- all I can think of to say is : Praise God for His revealing in and to you!!! to paraphrase Habakkuk: "--- For I will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord", thank you for this wonderful provision of that knowledge!!! In His Grace,Bea

Posted: Dec-22-06 at 6:30pm by Fred
Hi Jim:

Just to let you know that I'm finding the hell series quite helpful. I've long suspected the traditional view of being contrived but haven't gone farther than that. I eagerly await each installment.

Thank you,


Posted: Jan-02-07 at 12:41pm by kunadawa
regarding neil's post, maybe that's the reason why some people give credence to the whole christ myth/pagan parallel accusations... after i got saved, my rabbi even told me "the new testament is a greco-roman construct" [of course tektonics.org's extensive research in this field proves him & others wrong]

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