Last week, I was commenting to my elementary Greek class on the need to be aware of some simple linguistic data when dealing the topic of ‘hell’ and the NT.
Older translations of the NT (like the KJV) typically translated the Greek word hades (ᾅδης) as ‘hell.’ In the LXX, ᾅδης translates Hebrew sheol, which is generally just the grave or the place of the dead, without any necessary connotations of a conscious afterlife.
Problems arise when another Greek word (of Hebrew extraction), γέεννα, also gets translated as ‘hell.’ It’s important to distinguish the two, since Gehenna (or Revelation’s “lake of fire”) is pictured as a place of eschatological judgment, while Hades/Hell is not. Indeed, Revelation clearly distinguishes the two, as Hades itself is actually cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:14).
The importance of these distinctions was driven home to me this week as I was reading 2 Maccabees, which narrates several brave noble Jewish deaths under Antiochean persecution. In ch. 6 faithful Eleazar is martyred after refusing to abandon the covenant. He urges his torturers to kill him and “to send him to Hades” (προπέμπειν εἰς τὸν ᾅδην, v23)! As you can see, then, the answer to this post’s title question is not as clear as you might have thought! 🙂
ὁ Ἱησοῦς (Λουκᾶς 16,3) εἶπε περὶ Λαζάρου “…ἐν τῷ Ἅδῃ…ὑπάρχων ἐν βασάνοις…εἶπεν…ὀδυνῶμαι ἐν τῇ φλογὶ ταύτῃ.”
ἔγωγε οὖν οὐ θέλω ἔρχεσθαι εἰς Ἅδην.
σαφως Ελεαζαρος ουκ ανεγνω το κατα Λουκαν! Ταχα Λουκας νομιζει Αδην εχειν δυο μερη, εν της βασανου και εν της μακαριοτης.
Another great post! Thank you : )
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The confusion of these terms is part of the reason people misunderstand the Bible’s teaching on what happens to us when we die. The truth is that that the New Testament (more specifically, the new covenant) teaches that everyone is going to heaven just as the Old Testament (more specifically, the old covenant) taught that everyone went to Sheol (Hades). Gehenna is about judgment that occurs on this earth in this life. The English word “hell” conflates and confuses these truths.
Thanks for the post. It’s not a trivial issue.
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