A VISIT TO HELL
"In our English translation the word 'hell' seems to speak what is neither warrantable by Scripture or reason."
"'Olam' (the Hebrew for aion) simply
signifies for a long time. The Hebrew Scriptures do no contain any doctrine to
Jesus never used the English word "hell" and He never used any Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic word meaning what most people believe "hell" means. For years I have asked preachers, "How many times is the word "hell" in the Bible, and how many Hebrew and Greek words are translated "hell" in your King James Bible?" None of them answered the question. Therefore, I will now present for the reader a summary of the original Hebrew and Greek words which the King James' translators rendered into the English word "hell."
The transliterated spelling of these words comes from Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible.
The only Hebrew word translated "hell" in what is commonly called the Old Testament, is the word "Sheol." "Sheol" occurs 65 times. It is translated "hell" 31 times, "grave" 31 times, and "pit" 3 times in the King James Bible. It is obvious that if "Sheol" means "hell," it should not be translated "grave." "Sheol" means the same as the Greek noun "Hades."
"Hades" is derived from the Greek verb "horao." "Horao" means "I am seeing." The Greeks then prefixed the word with "a" (alpha) which negates "to see" thus coining the noun "Hades" meaning "unseen." Therefore, "Sheol" and "Hades" mean "unseen." These two words do not describe what the English theological word "hell" means to convey.
That the King James translators did not understand what "Sheol" and "Hades" meant is proved by the following:
"Out of the belly of hell (Sheol) cried I." (Jonah 2:2) Verse 1:17 tells us he was "in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights." Where was Jonah-in Hell or in a fish? If "Sheol" is translated "unseen" we have no problem. Jonah was in the "belly of the fish" and was "unseen." We know that Jonah was "in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights." (Jonah 1:17) This agrees with the words of Jesus, for He said, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish." (Matt. 12:40) In the Greek Septuagint, (the Hebrew Old Testament translated into Greek around 200 B.C.) we find the Greek adjective aionios translated "forever" in Jonah 2:6 in the King James Bible. It is obvious that aionios "forever" cannot mean more than three days and three nights. There is a problem here.
In 1 Cor. 15:55, the King James' Greek text contains the Greek word "Hades." They translated the Greek word "Hades" into the English word "grave," but they gave an alternative translation "Hell" in the margin. In Rev. 20:13,14, The Greek Text contains the word "Hades" which they translated into the English word "Hell." In the margin they put the alternative translation of "grave." It should begin to appear to the objective reader of the King James Bible that the translators were uncertain as to the meaning of the words "Hades" and "Sheol." The modern reader of a King James Bible printed in this century will not know this because many of the modern editions of the KJV have removed the marginal readings the original King James contained. Does something smell a little foul here?
"Hades" occurs 11 times in the King's Greek Text (often misnamed "Textus Receptus"). When we study "Hades," let us remember that according to the KJV, Jesus was in "Hell." (see Acts 2:27, 31) Obviously Jesus' soul was not in "hell-fire."
Another Greek word "Gehenna" occurs 12
times in the New Testament; 11 times in the Gospels and one time in the Epistle
of James. Jesus used "Gehenna" about 7 times. Some of the occurrences
of "Gehenna" are in parallel passages, that is, they refer to the same
event. "Gehenna" is the Greek form of the Hebrew "ge-hinnom."
It literally means "valley of Hinnom" Sometimes it is referred to as
the "valley of the sons of Hinnom." In the Old Testament "Tophet(h)"
also refers to this place. (See Young's Concordance under Hinnom) "Gehenna"
is a valley that lays on the west and southwest of Jerusalem. In the valley,
Israel offered up its children as a burnt offering to a god who came to be known
as Moloch. (The spelling varies)
In Jeremiah, we hear Yahweh speaking to Jeremiah regarding this sacrifice, "And they have turned to Me the back, and not the face; though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not listened to receive instruction. but they set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to defile it. And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin." (Jer. 32:33-35) Jeremiah says this valley would one day be called the "Valley of slaughter." (Jer. 7:30-33) This Scripture had its literal fulfillment in 70 A.D. at the destruction of Jerusalem.
King Josiah, in his days, desecrated this place by tearing down all the idols, crushing or burning them, and burning human bones on them (probably those of the priests who presided over these rituals). A Jew was not allowed to touch anything that touched a dead human being. Please note, it was God's own people who were doing the burning, not God, and He said such a thing never entered His mind. Also note, not one single time in the entire Old Testament was this word "Ge-hinnom" translated "hell."
In Jesus' day, this valley was a city dump very much like modern dumps-always being filled, and therefore always having something for the fire to consume and worms to eat. ("where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.) It was a place fit only for waste. Should a Jew, God's "chosen" people ever be given a burial in "Gehenna," it would be the most humiliating thing that could ever happen to him. It would be like saying that one's life here on earth was completely worthless, fit only for the dump. For Jesus to tell a religious Jew, such as a Pharisee, that his life, his religious works, his devotion to God were fit only for the city dump, was to insult him in the worst possible way. Jews went to great efforts to make their funerals great events. Some even hired professional "mourners" to cry at their funeral. Herod was going to have the leaders of Israel killed on his day of death so that Israel would mourn on his death. This is the kind of mentality Jews had regarding their life and they way they should leave this world. Even today, one will hear Jews say that the most important thing a person owns is his name. They will go to great lengths to keep their name alive. They will name buildings, start foundations, etc., to keep their name alive. Many, who no longer believe in a resurrection feel this is the only way they can stay alive beyond the grave-to have their name remain in the minds of future generations.
Returning to "Gehenna," one can walk through this valley even today and return unscathed by its fires and untouched by the worms which actually consumed a good part of the religious Priestly community of Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Their bodies were piled up and their blood ran down into this very valley which Jesus prophesied would be the disgraceful burial place for hundreds of thousands of Jews of that very generation Jesus was speaking to. Please remember, it was not the heathen, not the street sinner, not the Roman who found themselves in this "hell" as the KJV wants to render it-it was God's own people-even more-it was those who thought they were closer to God than anyone else on the earth. Beware, Christian, that you do not find yourself committing the same mistake!
Whatever this valley represented in the Old Testament must be carried over to the New Testament. Nowhere in the Old Testament is this place translated "Hell" and nowhere in the Old Testament is there a hint that this place referred to a place of eternal punishment after death. The word which Jesus referred to most often which the King James Bible unfortunately chose to render "hell," in the New Testament, but did not do so in the Old Testament, is this word "Hinnom" or Ge-hinnom (valley of Hinnom) or "Ge-ben-hinnom" (valley of the sons of Hinnom) which was transliterated into the Greek as "gehenna." A thorough study of this place in the Old Testament will dispel much myth regarding its significance. The Scriptural references for such a study are: Josh. 15:8; 18:16; 2 Kings 9:7; 15:3,4; 23:10, 36, 39; Ez. 23:37,39; 2 Chr. 28:3; Lev. 18:21; 20:2; Jer. 7:30-32; 19:2-6; 32:35. Remember, this place is never referred to as "Hell" in the Old Testament. References to this very same place in the New Testament are: Matt. 5:22; 5:29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 23:33; Mark 9:43; 9:45; 9:47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6. It should be mentioned that most of these references come from Jesus' mouth and every reference to this word "gehenna" was addressed to God's own people, not to the nations around Israel.
The Greek word "tartarus" occurs one single time in the entire Bible and it is found in 2 Peter 2:4. It is the place where sinning messengers (angels) are reserved unto judgment.
The English word "Hell" occurs 54 times in the King James Bible, and is a translation of 4 Hebrew and Greek words. Not one of the words has a meaning even closely related to the meaning theologians have given the English word "Hell." Many Bibles translated in the last one hundred years do not contain the English word "Hell." Almost all of them have found no justification for translating "Sheol" into "Hell." Therefore, almost all English Bibles do not contain any references to our modern concept of "Hell" in the Old Testament. From Genesis to Malachi, "Hell" has disappeared as a result of better translating. Many Bibles have eliminated the word entirely and the day will come when all Bibles will no longer teach this pagan concept which should never have been in our translations in the first place.
The King James translators were honest enough to admit in their "To the Reader" found in the original printings of the King James Bible that they built upon other men's work and that others would build up theirs. They did not claim inerrancy nor infallibility. Their many marginal readings proves that. Unfortunately, most modern King James Bible printings have removed that letter as well as the marginal readings. Why? Well, modern Fundamentalists and many Evangelicals have created a doctrine entitled "The Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy." Since the letter reveals that the translators did not believe they were writing an "inerrant" translation and the alternative readings in the margins would substantiate that, these connivers have removed the letter "To the readers" and the marginal readings to hide this fact. An example of the kind of marginal readings these "inerrancy" advocates have removed: the marginal reading of Luke 17:36 read, "This 36th verse is wanting in most of the Greek copies." They weren't sure of the original Greek for this verse and let the reader know. This kind of honestly is impermissible in the "Inerracy" camp.
The "Doctrine of Inerrancy" is a myth of the most diabolical kind perpetrated by religious leaders seeking to keep God's people in darkness. The King James Bible today will differ from the one printed in the year 1611 in thousands of places. From one publisher to another there will be differences in the KJV.
Returning back to the subject of "Hell," we have found that the Hebrew word "Sheol" should never have been translated "Hell." The Jews today, whose Bible consists of the Old Testament do not translate it "Hell" because in no way does "Sheol" correspond with the images and doctrines the church associates with the word "Hell." The Greek word "Hades" is the equivalent of "Sheol" and has the same meaning.
The Greek mythological place the Greeks called
"Tartarus" occurs one time in the Biblical text to denote a holding
place for messengers (angels) "til" judgment which indicates an
eventual release from this place. The case against "Gehenna" being
translated into "Hell" is very aptly summarized by Dr. J.W. Hanson in
his The Bible Hell when he listed the following regarding "Gehenna"
"Jesus says that the fire of Gehenna is "unquenchable" and one in which God can 'destroy the body and the soul.' That does not sound like a fire of a 'city dump.'"
As we go through some of these passages, I cannot over stress that fact that Jesus did not utter these words at the local bar, or house of prostitution. He did not go to Rome, Babylon, or Athens and utter these strong warnings. He boldly declared these warnings to God's own people soon to be called for a season "not God's people." (see Hosea 1:9; 2:23; Rom. 9:25)
The physical fires of "Gehenna" have long since gone out. Therefore theologians conclude that these fires must refer to spiritual things. This is called "adding to the word." In one sense, they are correct, that is, the stigma associated with the horrible way the nation of Israel was destroyed, the humiliation of being called "Christ-killers" would stay with the name "Jew" throughout the centuries, even to this day. While the physical fires and worms have passed, the humiliation, the hatred, the torment and abuse which comes with the name "Jew" has remained to this day. Remember the Holocaust, only one generation ago? But this stigma will not last into eternity. The label of "not my people" will not be carried into kingdom of God. So while there is a higher meaning and significance to "Gehenna" than the physical destruction of Jerusalem, it is not a symbol of "eternal torment." The shame and persecution will one day be removed.
The Greek word behind the English word "unquenchable" is the word "asbestos." This word has been brought over into the English language describing a substance. Examples of how the word was used in Greek should prove that this word did not define a "fire that would never go out."
"Strabo calls the lamp in the Parthenon, and Plutarch call the sacred fire of a temple "unquenchable," though they were extinguished ages ago. Josephus says the fire on the altar of the temple at Jerusalem was "always unquenchable" (asbestos aei), though the fire had gone out and the temple was destroyed at the time of his writing. Eusebius says that certain martyrs of Alexandria 'were burned in unquenchable fire,' though it was extinguished in the course of an hour."
The above examples should prove the word in the original Greek did not mean a fire that would burn forever. It meant a fire that could not be put out until it consumed that which it was burning. The purpose of the fire on the alter in Jerusalem ended in 70 A.D. when the types and shadows of the rituals in the Law of Moses were replaced by the true light-Jesus Christ, the Light from above and His body of believers who Jesus called the "light of the world."