The Synonymous Words
for "Hell", etc.
This Is Appendix 131 From The Companion Bible.
"Hell" is the English rendering of two different Greek words in the New Testament
The English word is from the Anglo-Saxon hel, Genitive case helle = a hidden place, from the Anglo-Saxon helan = to hide.
It is in the New Testament used as the translation of two Greek words :-
- Gehenna. Greek geenna. This is the transliteration of the Hebrew Gai' Hinnom, that is to say the Valley of Hinnom or "the Valley" of [the sons of] Hinnom, where were the fires through which children were passed in the worship of Moloch.
In the Old Testament Tophet was the Hebrew word used, because it was a place in this valley.
In our Lord's day the idolatry had ceased, but the fires were still continually burning there for the destruction of the refuse of Jerusalem. Hence, geenna was used for the fires of destruction associated with the judgment of God. Sometimes, "geenna of fire". See 2Kings 23:10. Isaiah 30:33. Jeremiah 7:31, 32;
Geenna occurs 12 times, and is always rendered "hell", videlicet Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33. Mark 9:43, 45, 47. Luke 12:5. James
- Hades. Greek hades, from a (privative) and idein, to see (Appendix 133. I. i); used by the Greeks for the unseen world.
The meaning which the Greeks put upon it does not concern us; nor have we anything to do with the imaginations of the heathen, or the traditions of Jews or Romanists, or the teachings of demons or evil spirits, or of any who still cling to them.
The Holy Spirit has used it as one of the "words pertaining to the earth", and in so doing has "purified" it, "as silver tried in a furnace" (see notes on Psalms 12:6). From this we learn that His own words "are pure", but words belonging to this earth have to be "purified".
The Old Testament is the fountain head of the Hebrew language. It has no literature behind it. But the case is entirely different with the Greek language. The Hebrew Sheol is a word Divine in its origin and usage. The Greek Hades is human in its origin and comes down to us laden with centuries of development, in which it has acquired new senses, meanings, and usages.
Seeing that the Holy Spirit has used it in Acts 2:27, 31 as His own equivalent of Sheol in Psalm 16:10, He has settled, once for all, the sense in which we are to understand it. The meaning He has given to Sheol in Psalms 16:10
is the one meaning we are to give it wherever it occurs in the New Testament, whether we transliterate it or translate it. We have no liberty to do otherwise, and must discard everything outside the Word of God.
The word occurs eleven times (Matthew 11:23; 16:18. Luke 10:15; 16:23. Acts 2:27, 31. 1Corinthians
15:55. Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14); and is rendered "hell" in every passage except one, where it is rendered "grave" (1Corinthians 15:55, margin "hell").
In the Revised Version the word is always transliterated "Hades", except in 1Corinthians 15:55 (where "death" is substituted because of the reading, in all the texts, of thanate for hade), and in the American Revised Version also.
As Hades is the Divine Scriptural equivalent of Sheol, further light may be gained from Appendix 35, and a reference to the 65 passages there given. It may be well to note that while "Hades" is rendered "hell" in the New Testament (except once, where the rendering "the grave" could not be avoided), Sheol, its Hebrew equivalent, occurs 65 times, and is rendered "the grave" 31 times (or 54%); "hell" 31 times (4 times with margin "the grave", reducing it to 41.5%); and "pit" only 3 times (or 4.5 %).
"The grave", therefore, is obviously the best rendering, meaning the state of death (German sterbend, for which we have no English equivalent); not the act of dying, as an examination of all the occurrences of both words will show.
- The rendering "pit" so evidently means "the grave" that it may at once be substituted for it (Numbers 16:30, 33. Job 17:16).
- The rendering "the grave" (not "a grave", which is Hebrew keber or bor) exactly expresses the meaning of both Sheol and Hades. For, as to direction, it is always down: as to place, it is in the earth: as to relation, it is always in contrast with the state of the living (Deuteronomy 32:22-25 and 1Samuel
2:6-8); as to association, it is connected with mourning (Genesis 37:34, 35), sorrow (Genesis 42:38. 2Samuel 22:6. Psalms 18:5;
116:3), fright and terror (Numbers 16:27, 34), mourning (Isaiah 38:3, 10, 17, 18), silence (Psalms 6:5; 31:17. Ecclesiastes 9:10), no knowledge (Ecclesiastes
9:5, 6, 10), punishment (Numbers 16:29, 34. 1Kings 2:6, 9. Job 24:19. Psalms 9:17 (Revised Version = re-turned)), corruption (Psalms
16:10. Acts 2:27, 31); as to duration, resurrection is the only exit from it (Psalms 16:11. Acts 2:27, 31; 13:33-37. 1Corinthians
15:55. Revelation 1:18; 20:5, 13, 14).
- Tartaroo (occurs only in 2Peter 2:4) = to thrust down to Tartarus, Tartarus being a Greek word, not used elsewhere, or at all in the Septuagint. Homer describes it as subterranean (compare Deuteronomy 32:22, which may refer to this). The Homeric Tartarus is the prison of the Titans, or giants (compare Hebrew Rephaim, Appendix 25), who rebelled against Zeus.