2 Dec 2006

Retrofitting the Old Testament

Submitted by theshovel
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionSend to friendSend to friendPDF versionPDF version

Though I've wavered on how to continue I find it necessary to jump right into the Biblical verses that refer to hell, especially considering the words used, lest some run wild with their own assumptions and/or imaginations. I already received such a rebuke after the latest Shoveletter

There are real consequences for leaving God's revealed Word and teaching one's own thoughts as fact; all the twistings we do to try to fit the Word to fit our human thinking and preferences do not change that.

While I know that many do reject the teachings of the Bible in order to teach their own thoughts as fact I also know that many who subscribe to God's revealed Word still end up teaching their own thoughts as fact. One of my objectives in this expose is to bring attention to the similarities regarding the basic concept of hell shared by those who hold to the Biblical text and by those who don't. I want to challenge the package that has forced so many to assume so much about something that may not stand up to simple examination, all to an end of making Christ known without the religious condemnation that so often hangs on to our perceptions of him. So, starting with the Old Testament writings, let's consider the Biblical text.

Retrofit (from Miriam-Webster's online dictionary):
1 : to furnish with new or modified parts or equipment not available or considered necessary at the time of manufacture
2 : to install (new or modified parts or equipment) in something previously manufactured or constructed
3 : to adapt to a new purpose or need : MODIFY

My first recollection of the term "retrofit" is connected to the introduction of the catalytic converter, an emission control first installed on 1975 model year cars. I can't remember the legal stipulations, but some earlier model vehicles had to be updated with this new equipment to comply to the new emission control laws. It didn't apply to my '63 Oldsmobile (dubbed the "old Smobile"), but I heard others griping about the mandate. Now, in having been retrofit, these older vehicles became endowed with a feature foreign to their original design. Most folks today probably wouldn't know the difference and might assume it was built that way. Hypothetically, future historians (not privy to knowledge easily accessible today and finding one of these units on earlier model cars) might conclude that the catalytic converter was manufactured years before it actually came into existence. Like I say, just hypothetical. However, down through the ages historians have created wildly inaccurate accounts of the past because the person, place, event or thing had become modified over a long period of time.

The same applies to hell, as somewhere along the line someone (or groups of someones) began introducing this English word, along with its accompanying concepts, as best representing the Hebrew "Sheol". Of course, they had to choose some word, but did they choose an accurate word? And if it had been a good choice at one time could its meaning have slowly shifted into something else over hundreds of years? If the development of the English language interests you, I've included some information at the bottom. It's definitely worth a read.

As suggested by the title, I believe religion has retrofit hell for a new audience, and we are part of that audience. Because the Protestant King James Version (1611) and the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible (1609 & 1610) had been used almost exclusively in English-speaking countries for centuries, hell has become embedded in the religious conscience. The idea that the word "hell" didn't actually belong in the Old Testament writings seems heretical to many. In view of their lack of the word "hell" in the OT (among other things) modern versions have been repeatedly denounced as "per-versions". The real question is: Did these versions remove hell from the old testament scriptures or did they finally correct a long-standing, widely-accepted mistranslation?

What are the facts? The word behind our English translation of hell is "Sheol", which is found 65 times in the OT. Now, this doesn't prove anything one way or the other, but it should make us curious as to what Sheol is, as well as if and how it relates to or differs from hell. Depending on the translation, there are extreme differences in the number of times the English word (hell) is found in the OT. If you assume that the King James Version tops the list, it does not, for the Douay-Rheims Bible blows the KJV's measly 31 OT mentions by almost double, weighing in with 66 occurrences. I think it's worth considering how earlier English translations treated Sheol, as they no doubt must have been influential to the later versions.

  • The Wycliffe Bible (1395), 63 times "helle" or "hellis"
  • Miles Coverdale Bible (1535), 43 times
  • the Bishops' Bible (1568), 29 times
  • while the Geneva Bible (1587) only contains 21 mentions
    Contemporary versions translate as follows:

  • The New King James version, 19
  • God's Word translation, 12
  • The Bible in Basic English, 2
  • while the numerous other translations I checked contained absolutely no instance of the English word "hell" in their Old Testament translations (notably, the New International Version and the New American Standard Version).

Pause here a moment with me and consider another question. Why do you suppose the KJV translators did not convert every instance of the OT word "Sheol" into "hell"? Why did they choose to do so only 31 times, leaving 34 instances to be translated otherwise? As to the majority of times the word Sheol appeared they opted to use the word "grave" for an equal 31 times, and "pit" for the remaining 3.

If Sheol is hell why didn't the KJV translators consistently translate it as did their contemporaries, the Douay-Rheims translators, who worded almost every occurrence of Sheol as hell? Was it because they were trying to remove hell from the Bible, or possibly that in those thirty-four cases their current meaning of hell seemed out of place? I suggest that if you read all the verses in question (provided below) you might just agree with their lack of translating Sheol as hell in those particular verses. You may also wonder why they didn't translate most of the others the same way.

No doubt there are a few verses that lend themselves to the fiery concept of hell, but those make up the exception rather than the rule. I want you to ask yourself something, if you decide to read all the verses below: "If I had never been taught the modern version of 'hell' what are the most obvious conclusions I would make regarding the word as used in these verses?"

Anyhow, other than the extras included below, I'm going to stop here lest this become so ridiculously long that most don't read it. Of course, doing so also aids my usual habit of leaving you hanging until the next in the series, but I'll give you a hint. I'm going to follow up on numerous of the verses below and share (or provoke you with) some of my observations.

Below, I've listed every verse in the Old Testament, in both the KJV and the NASB with the Hebrew Sheol. You'll notice that the New American Standard Bible transliterates all 65 instances of the the Hebrew word Sheol into its English equivalent. While you might consider Sheol to be difficult to understand you would have to agree that at least it's consistent. I actually like the idea of a consistent and unfamiliar word in these verses because it encourages the reader (me, in this case) to allow the context to define it.

Appendix 1: A comparison between the KJV and NASB of every verse translated from the Hebrew word "Sheol"

Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, "Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son" So his father wept for him. Gen. 37:35 (NASB)
And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. Gen. 37:35 (KJV)

But Jacob said, "My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow." Gen. 42:38 (NASB)

And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. Gen. 42:38 (KJV)

'If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.' Gen. 44:29 (NASB)

And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. Gen. 44:29 (KJV)

when he sees that the lad is not {with us,} he will die. Thus your servants will bring the gray hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow.
Gen. 44:31 (NASB)

It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave. Gen. 44:31 (KJV)

"But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD." Num. 16:30 (NASB)

But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD. Num. 16:30 (KJV)

So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.
Num. 16:33 (NASB)

They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. Num. 16:33 (KJV)

For a fire is kindled in My anger, And burns to the lowest part of Sheol, And consumes the earth with its yield, And sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. Deut. 32:22 (NASB)

For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. Deut. 32:22 (KJV)

The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
1Sam. 2:6 (NASB)

The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. 1Sam. 2:6 (KJV)

The cords of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. 2Sam. 22:6 (NASB)

The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me; 2Sam. 22:6 (KJV)

So act according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to Sheol in peace. 1Kings 2:6 (NASB)

Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace. 1Kings 2:6 (KJV)

Now therefore, do not let him go unpunished, for you are a wise man; and you will know what you ought to do to him, and you will bring his gray hair down to Sheol with blood." 1Kings 2:9 (NASB)

Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood. 1Kings 2:9 (KJV)

When a cloud vanishes, it is gone, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up. Job 7:9 (NASB)

As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more. Job 7:9 (KJV)

{They are} high as the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know? Job 11:8 (NASB)

It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? Job 11:8 (KJV)

Oh that You would hide me in Sheol, That You would conceal me until Your wrath returns {to You,} That You would set a limit for me and remember me! Job 14:13 (NASB)

O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! Job 14:13 (KJV)

If I look for Sheol as my home, I make my bed in the darkness;
Job 17:13 (NASB)

If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. Job 17:13 (KJV)

Will it go down with me to Sheol? Shall we together go down into the dust?" Job 17:16 (NASB)

They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust. Job 17:16 (KJV)

They spend their days in prosperity, And suddenly they go down to Sheol. Job 21:13 (NASB)

They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Job 21:13 (KJV)

Drought and heat consume the snow waters, {so does} Sheol {those who} have sinned.
Job 24:19 (NASB)

Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned. Job 24:19 (KJV)

Naked is Sheol before Him, And Abaddon has no covering. Job 26:6 (NASB)

Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering. Job 26:6 (KJV)

He keeps back his soul from the pit, And his life from passing over into Sheol. Job 33:18 (NASB)

He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword. Job 33:18 (KJV)

For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks? Psalm 6:5 (NASB)

For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? Psalm 6:5 (KJV)

The wicked will return to Sheol, {Even} all the nations who forget God. Psalm 9:17 (NASB)

The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. Psalm 9:17 (KJV)

For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. Psalm 16:10 (NASB)

For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Psalm 16:10 (KJV)

The cords of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. Psalm 18:5 (NASB)

The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. Psalm 18:5 (KJV)

O LORD, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit. Psalm 30:3 (NASB)

O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Psalm 30:3 (KJV)

Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I call upon You; Let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol. Psalm 31:17 (NASB)

Let me not be ashamed, O LORD; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave. Psalm 31:17 (KJV)

As sheep they are appointed for Sheol; Death shall be their shepherd; And the upright shall rule over them in the morning, And their form shall be for Sheol to consume so that they have no habitation.
Psalm 49:14 (NASB)

Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling. Psalm 49:14 (KJV)

But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, For He will receive me. Selah. Psalm 49:15 (NASB)

But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah. Psalm 49:15 (KJV)

Let death come deceitfully upon them; Let them go down alive to Sheol, For evil is in their dwelling, in their midst. Psalm 55:15 (NASB)

Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them. Psalm 55:15 (KJV)

For Your lovingkindness toward me is great, And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. Psalm 86:13 (NASB)

For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. Psalm 86:13 (KJV)

For my soul has had enough troubles, And my life has drawn near to Sheol. Psalm 88:3 (NASB)

For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. Psalm 88:3 (KJV)

What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah. Psalm 89:48 (NASB)

What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah. Psalm 89:48 (KJV)

The cords of death encompassed me And the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow.
Psalm 116:3 (NASB)

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Psalm 116:3 (KJV)

If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. Psalm 139:8 (NASB)

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. Psalm 139:8 (KJV)

As when one plows and breaks open the earth, Our bones have been scattered at the mouth of Sheol. Psalm 141:7 (NASB)

Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth. Psalm 141:7 (KJV)

Let us swallow them alive like Sheol, Even whole, as those who go down to the pit; Prov. 1:12 (NASB)

Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: Prov. 1:12 (KJV)

Her feet go down to death, Her steps take hold of Sheol. Prov. 5:5 (NASB)

Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell. Prov. 5:5 (KJV)

Her house is the way to Sheol, Descending to the chambers of death. Prov. 7:27 (NASB)

Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death. Prov. 7:27 (KJV)

But he does not know that the dead are there, {That} her guests are in the depths of Sheol. Prov. 9:18 (NASB)

But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell. Prov. 9:18 (KJV)

Sheol and Abaddon {lie open} before the LORD, How much more the hearts of men! Prov. 15:11 (NASB)

Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men? Prov. 15:11 (KJV)

The path of life {leads} upward for the wise That he may keep away from Sheol below. Prov. 15:24 (NASB)

The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath. Prov. 15:24 (KJV)

You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol. Prov. 23:14 (NASB)

Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. Prov. 23:14 (KJV)

Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, Nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied. Prov. 27:20 (NASB)

Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied. Prov. 27:20 (KJV)

Sheol, and the barren womb, Earth that is never satisfied with water, And fire that never says, "Enough." Prov. 30:16 (NASB)

The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough. Prov. 30:16 (KJV)

Whatever your hand finds to do, do {it} with {all} your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.
Eccl. 9:10 (NASB)

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. Eccl. 9:10 (KJV)

Put me like a seal over your heart, Like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, Jealousy is as severe as Sheol; Its flashes are flashes of fire, The {very} flame of the LORD. Song. 8:6 (NASB)

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Song. 8:6 (KJV)

Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure; And Jerusalem's splendor, her multitude, her din {of revelry} and the jubilant within her, descend {into it.} Isa. 5:14 (NASB)

Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it. Isa. 5:14 (KJV)

Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; make {it} deep as Sheol or high as heaven.
Isa. 7:11 (NASB)

Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. Isa. 7:11 (KJV)

Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come; It arouses for you the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth; It raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones. Isa. 14:9 (NASB)

Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. Isa. 14:9 (KJV)

Your pomp {and} the music of your harps Have been brought down to Sheol; Maggots are spread out {as your bed} beneath you And worms are your covering. Isa. 14:11 (NASB)

Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. Isa. 14:11 (KJV)

Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, To the recesses of the pit. Isa. 14:15 (NASB)

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. Isa. 14:15 (KJV)

Because you have said, "We have made a covenant with death, And with Sheol we have made a pact. The overwhelming scourge will not reach us when it passes by, For we have made falsehood our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception." Isa. 28:15 (NASB)

Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: Isa. 28:15 (KJV)

Your covenant with death will be canceled, And your pact with Sheol will not stand; When the overwhelming scourge passes through, Then you become its trampling {place.} Isa. 28:18 (NASB)

And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. Isa. 28:18 (KJV)

I said, " In the middle of my life I am to enter the gates of Sheol; I am to be deprived of the rest of my years." Isa. 38:10 (NASB)

I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years. Isa. 38:10 (KJV)

For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness. Isa. 38:18 (NASB)

For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. Isa. 38:18 (KJV)

You have journeyed to the king with oil And increased your perfumes; You have sent your envoys a great distance And made {them} go down to Sheol. Isa. 57:9 (NASB)

And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell. Isa. 57:9 (KJV)

Thus says the Lord GOD, "On the day when it went down to Sheol I caused lamentations; I closed the deep over it and held back its rivers. And {its} many waters were stopped up, and I made Lebanon mourn for it, and all the trees of the field wilted away on account of it. Eze. 31:15 (NASB)

Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day when he went down to the grave I caused a mourning: I covered the deep for him, and I restrained the floods thereof, and the great waters were stayed: and I caused Lebanon to mourn for him, and all the trees of the field fainted for him. Eze. 31:15 (KJV)

I made the nations quake at the sound of its fall when I made it go down to Sheol with those who go down to the pit; and all the well-watered trees of Eden, the choicest and best of Lebanon, were comforted in the earth beneath. Eze. 31:16 (NASB)

I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit: and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth. Eze. 31:16 (KJV)

They also went down with it to Sheol to those who were slain by the sword; and those who were its strength lived under its shade among the nations. Eze. 31:17 (NASB)

They also went down into hell with him unto them that be slain with the sword; and they that were his arm, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the heathen. Eze. 31:17 (KJV)

The strong among the mighty ones shall speak of him {and} his helpers from the midst of Sheol, 'They have gone down, they lie still, the uncircumcised, slain by the sword.'
Eze. 32:21 (NASB)

The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword. Eze. 32:21 (KJV)

Nor do they lie beside the fallen heroes of the uncircumcised, who went down to Sheol with their weapons of war and whose swords were laid under their heads; but the punishment for their iniquity rested on their bones, though the terror of {these} heroes {was once} in the land of the living. Eze. 32:27 (NASB)

And they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell with their weapons of war: and they have laid their swords under their heads, but their iniquities shall be upon their bones, though they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living. Eze. 32:27 (KJV)

Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight. Hosea 13:14 (NASB)

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. Hosea 13:14 (KJV)

Though they dig into Sheol, From there will My hand take them; And though they ascend to heaven, From there will I bring them down. Amos 9:2 (NASB)

Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down: Amos 9:2 (KJV)

and he said, "I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice. Jonah 2:2 (NASB)

And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. Jonah 2:2 (KJV)

Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, so that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, And he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations And collects to himself all peoples. Hab. 2:5 (NASB)

Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people: Hab. 2:5 (KJV)

Appendix 2: Some history regarding the evolution of the English word "Hell"

Take a look at how our evolving English language presented Matthew 6:9-13 over the course of 600 years.

Wessex Gospels, Old English (approx. 990)
Fder ure u e eart on heofonum, si in nama gehalgod. To becume in rice, gewure in willa, on eoran swa swa on heofonum. Urne gedghwamlican hlaf syle us todg, and forgyf us ure gyltas, swa swa we forgyfa urum gyltendum. And ne geld u us on costnunge, ac alys us of yfele. Solice.

Wycliffe (1395)
And thus ye schulen preye, Oure fadir that art in heuenes, halewid be thi name; thi kyngdoom come to; be thi wille don `in erthe as in heuene; yyue to vs this dai oure `breed ouer othir substaunce; and foryyue to vs oure dettis, as we foryyuen to oure dettouris; and lede vs not in to temptacioun, but delyuere vs fro yuel. Amen.

The Bishops' Bible (1568)
After this maner therfore pray ye. O our father, which art in heauen, halowed be thy name. Let thy kyngdome come. Thy wyll be done, as well in earth, as it is in heauen. Geue vs this day our dayly breade. And forgeue vs our dettes, as we forgeue our detters. And leade vs not into temptation, but delyuer vs from euyll. For thyne is the kyngdome, and the power, and the glory, for euer. Amen.

Kings James (1611)
After this maner therefore pray yee: Our father which art in heauen, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdome come. Thy will be done, in earth, as it is in heauen. Giue vs this day our daily bread. And forgiue vs our debts, as we forgiue our debters. And lead vs not into temptation, but deliuer vs from euill: For thine is the kingdome, and the power, and the glory, for euer, Amen.[/whitequote]

Consider the history of the word "hell" as described in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition, 2000). Now, while I realize this explanation may have its own bias it still provides information well worth considering.

Hell comes to us directly from Old English hel. Because the Roman Church prevailed in England from an early date, the Roman, that is, Mediterranean belief that hell was hot prevailed there too; in Old English hel is a black and fiery place of eternal torment for the damned. But because the Vikings were converted to Christianity centuries after the Anglo-Saxons, the Old Norse hel, from the same source as Old English hel, retained its earlier pagan senses as both a place and a person. As a place, hel is the abode of oathbreakers, other evil persons, and those unlucky enough not to have died in battle. It contrasts sharply with Valhalla, the hall of slain heroes. Unlike the Mediterranean hell, the Old Norse hel is very cold. Hel is also the name of the goddess or giantess who presides in hel, the half blue-black, half white daughter of Loki and the giantess Angrbotha. The Indo-European root behind these Germanic words is *kel, 'to cover, conceal' (so hell is the 'concealed place'); it also gives us hall, hole, hollow, and helmet.

It seems the Norse realm of the dead developed from the meaning "hall", for Valhalla (or Val-hall) was Odin's hall, the home for Norse heroes who were gloriously slain in battle (not to die in battle relegated a warrior to a lower level). As quoted from Wikipedia: "Hel is said to be a hall with a roof woven from the spines of serpents which drip poison down onto those who wade in the rivers of blood below."

Regarding the Norse Hel (the goddess), there seems to be disagreement as to whether she only resided over the lower part of the realm of the dead (Niflheim) or if that idea came along much later. "It has been suggested that this description of Hel is of later date, and that she originally was a much more neutral goddess over the realm of shadows, where all, both good and evil, courageous and cowardly, gather after death." (Wikipedia)

It shouldn't be too difficult to imagine how a word previously meaning "to cover, conceal" and which spawned the words "hall", "hole" and "hollow" came to describe the unknown places of the dead in early Anglo-Saxon and Norse perception. Just as all such perceptions and/or myths evolve over time I would suspect that "hel" developed slowly until it became the more clearly refined story of gods, goddesses, and the after-life. To this day, the realm of the dead still leaves most wondering and guessing as to what lies beyond. To the natural mind it is still a "concealed place", a realm of shadows where millions hope the rumors of everlasting punishment is not true.

Related Content: 


theshovel's picture

These comments were all transferred over from the original website

Posted: Dec-02-06 at 8:39pm by Mary
Interesting! Very interesting! I'm look forward to the next one!

Posted: Dec-03-06 at 7:55am by Doug Nova Scotia
hi Jim,thanks for writeing on the hell subject,as you know i've been confused for years,Get saved hope you do enough,altho,your made to feel you don't or Grace plus nothing,but the old hauntings are still there from religion.not to mention there aren't many churches that support the Grace plus nuttin theory.Oh! it says quick reply.smiles. keep up the good work. thanks,Doug

Posted: Dec-04-06 at 2:00pm by Sylvia
Jim " just a note to let you know that we are so glad to be receiving your shoveletters again! Your words always hit a note of truth in us and we look forward to each entry. Our study group is still meeting every Sunday morning and we're using your study on hell as a springboard to do some of our own studying one the subject. Can't wait till your next entry!

Posted: Dec-04-06 at 2:06pm by John
Very . . . "Scholarly!" Do you think it will make a difference to those who have taken upon themselves the responsibility of finding and rebuking us heretics? Never mind that--my perceptions on the "Hell issue" have changed dramatically and I have questioned that which I never thought I would question all because of your insights and challenges to dig deeper. I thank you for that my Brother and I look forward with great anticipation to this new series of shoveletters!

One Life,


Posted: Dec-04-06 at 2:12pm by Tim
"However, down through the ages historians have created wildly inaccurate accounts of the past because the person, place, event or thing had become modified over a long period of time."

This is good, Jim. So true, as I have led people in a study of Genesis.


Posted: Dec-04-06 at 2:14pm by Judy

It seems we have been duped for many years by those who sought ot control and rule. I know this is a troubling thought for many in churches throughout the world, but mainly here in the US. Such a large concern have been hurt by the small men who in the guise of clergy, sought ot build their own realm, with it's own rules. And they fed on the versions of the Bible that agreed with their sway.

Finding a new way, with a genuine truth, has been uplifting, faith-building, eye-opening. Jesus dies that we all ARE converted to God's people irrevocably and without making decisions, or following trumped up rules of denomination.All we need do is live God's love for us each moment.

Thanks for your article...Judy

Posted: Dec-04-06 at 3:10pm by Joanne
Dear Jim,
PTL and...it is most interesting, and revealing, when such a word as "hell" is examined without trying to prove a point, one way or another.
For me, the Lord settled it some 30+ years ago, when He opened my eyes to what is His final, glorious plan for all of His creation...and gave some insight to this word (usually combined with "fire" and "eternal torment"), used with such relish (how can that be?) by those who want the sinner to pay for his sin...which, of course, he cannot do. Jesus has all ready taken care of it!
One thing of interest - instead of writing "Gehenna", which was the word Jesus used (He didn't speak English), and was a literal place that all Jews in Jerusalem could actually see, "hell" was used instead. Also, as you point out, the original meaning to the English of that day, hell (hel) meant unseen; i.e., farmers "helled" the potatoes when they planted them. Even more interesting is the fact that every other "place name" (Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethany, etc.) was translated (transliterated). Why not Gehenna?
Translation from one language is really challenging (ask any Spanish 1 student), and so often (especially to the religious mind) subject to the theology of that individual translator. Which is why, as a dear friend opines, the Lord arranged for so many translations, forcing the diligent pursuer of truth - Truth - to listen acutely to His Holy Spirit. Amen.
Thank you for what you share. When I sent along to a friend what you had written about renewing the mind (from a year or so ago, but so very good!!), her response was, "Ah, shovel. That is what someone uses to dig deeply." Yes, 'tis so.
God bless and love,
Joanne A.

The human mind treats a new idea the same way the body treats a strange protein; it rejects it. -Peter. B. Medawar, scientist, Nobel laureate (1915-1987)

I love how simple life in Jesus really is. We don't miss it because it is too complicated for us to figure out. We miss it because we see it more complicated than it really is, and those who control our religious structures want it that way. That's why God made it so simple. No one can own it, use it to control others, or even set themselves up as the expert in it. This is for everyone"from the least to the greatest. All get to know him first-hand and live in the glory of his unfolding grace! Amen.
And one of your quotes:
"I have merely come to realize that we have everything we need for life and godliness because we are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, and not because we have a copy of the Bible."

Posted: Dec-04-06 at 3:12pm by Bruce
To this day, the realm of the dead still leaves most wondering and guessing as to what lies beyond. To the natural mind it is still a "concealed place", a realm of shadows where millions hope the rumors of everlasting punishment is not true

Shame on you Jim for leading people astray! Shame Shame Shame!


Just from experience...It's a PLACE you COME OUT OF!

It's a pity that most of those who believe in it so much are residents there and don't know it.
All the while they spend most their time warning others that it is "going to be" their home if they don't "shape up" and be like them!

Oh what a pity. But when we realize that we are poor, pitiful, blind and naked, then we can cry out to be "clothed upon" with our "house from heaven" and come to realize that "ARISE SHINE, FOR THY LIGHT HAS COME...AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD IS RISEN UPON THEE"!

Keep SHINING! It might be blinding and heretical to most...but for the poor, hungry naked nad blind...it is a healing balm. Don't worry about the 99...that are content in their religion...keep going after the 1 that is truly searching to find his way back. What the 99 don't know is that they will eventually have to "leave the fold" and be led by the Spirit out into the wilderness and to go "outside the camp" to bear His reproach. But when they come out of the wilderness they will come out "leaning on their Beloved"...mature sons, able to reproduce after His kind...the Christ kind.


Posted: Dec-05-06 at 3:01pm by Ray
Hi Jim, Its Ray. Really enjoyed this! Hope you have a lovely Christmas!

Posted: Dec-09-06 at 8:36am by Jim-the shovel
Hi all,

I made a correction in a few places above regarding the number of times Sheol and corresponding words are found. The word Sheol is actually found 67 times in 65 verses in the Old Testament writings. In the KJV, those two additional instances are translated as "the sword" and "depth".


Add new comment

Random Shovelquote: No-man's Land (view all shovelquotes)

...to believe in Christ is not equal to an acceptance of the religion of Christianity, nor is it an avoidance of fact. I know, I stand on what appears to be no-man's land. Thank God for that! :) source