The Traditional Concept of HELL ...is a Myth
Anthony V. Gaudiano
The traditional concept of 'Hell' has sinners tortured with fire for eternity. They are assumed to feel searing pain, yet their flesh is not consumed.
Few question why sinners are not burnt to ashes in a fiery Hell, or why eternal life, which is promised only to the faithful, is seemingly given to sinners ... just to be tortured? A study of the scriptures can resolve these and other contradictions.
Surprisingly, fire is NOT mentioned in 78% of the verses where the word Hell appears in the King James Version (KJV) bible. In the few remaining verses where fire and sinners are associated, it is clearly NOT torture, but ANNIHILATION, which results.
The traditional concept of Hell does NOT come from the inspired Hebrew or Greek manuscripts. It is a pagan myth adopted as Christian doctrine in the third century by church fathers. Yet, then as now, innocent people are taught the traditional concept of Hell by trusted authority figures. That trust deters questions, so for hundreds of years the myth has perpetuated. The KJV and other translations have also perpetuated the myth by less than the most accurate translation of the word Hell. But this is changing as seen in Table A.
This article is a compilation of out-of-print publications from Ambassador College and other sources which are identified herein. Bold fonts, all capital letters, etc., are author's emphasis.
Anomalies in the words translated as Hell
The word Hell occurs in a total of fifty-three verses in the KJV; Thirty-one times in the Old Testament, and twenty-two times in the New. This article will show that:
FOUR separate words from Hebrew and Greek were translated into the ONE English word Hell. In English Hell refers to a conceal place, a hole in the ground as for storing potatoes, etc., covered with soil during winter.
TWO words, one Hebrew and one Greek, mean the SAME THING. Fire is NOT associated with FORTY-TWO occurrences of these words.
One Greek word for Hell occurs just once. Fire is NOT associated with the occurrence, neither are HUMANS.
One Greek word is used ELEVEN times; FIRE is associated with EVERY occurrence.
Anyone can find the definition of the four Hebrew and Greek words translated, and the context in which they are used. Only two common study aids are required. Most people already have them. Other publications referenced herein can be easily obtained through a public library.
The study aids to verify that the traditional concept of Hell is a myth are the KJV, and a KJV based Concordance. Examples are: Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible - with Brief Dictionaries of the Hebrew and Greek Words of the Original with References to the English Words, or Young's Concordance. Strong's Concordance is used here.
Strong's Concordance was published near the mid-1900s after 35 years of effort. It is a compilation of all non-common words in passages of the KJV. The words are listed in biblical order by book, chapter, and verse. A short passage from the verse containing the word being studied, is shown.
Appended to the end of each passage may be one or more symbols, but always an Arabic number.
Strong's Concordance contains a paragraph titled: Directions and Explanations, which should be read. The following synopsis relates to those instructions:
Where the asterisk (*) symbol is appended to a verse, it indicates a change in the leading word of the passage from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) translation of the bible. Similarly, the symbol obelisk (+) is a leading word change by the British revisers only, and a double obelisk is a word change by American revisers.
An appended number of UPRIGHT Arabic numbers indicates a Hebrew or Chaldean word in the original scriptures, commonly of the Old Testament. The meaning of the word can be found by sequentially looking up the appended number in the Hebrew Dictionary which follows the concordance section.
An appended number of SLOPING Italic Arabic numbers indicates a Greek word in the original scriptures, commonly of the New Testament. The meaning of the word can be found by sequentially looking up the appended number in the Greek Dictionary.
If a passage contains a word which is italicized, it means that it did not appear in the original scriptures, but is an insertion by a translator.
Insertions are usually a translator's attempt to make text read smoother or be more understandable. However, occasionallyerror is introduced. An example of an error critical to correctly understanding a verse about the traditional concept of Hell, is identified in this article.
Three Greek words are translated Hell in the New Testament. Examine the meaning of each word by looking up the appended number in the Greek Dictionary.
Ten passages have number 86 appended. Looking up number 86 shows it to be Hades. The word essentially means 'an concealed place for dead people,' (i.e., a grave). A grave is the clear common sense understanding of every instance of Hades. The word is synonymous with Sheol, both mean GRAVE.
As with Sheol, fire is NOT mentioned in the ten verses where Hades is translated Hell. Again, there is no connotation of the traditional concept of sinners in a 'fiery hell.'
Word number 5020 'Tartaroo'(Tartarus) is mentioned one time. It essentially means 'a deep dark abyss, a place of restraint, or incarceration.' It refers to the place where Satan and spirit beings will be confined for a thousand years near the end of the age:
"Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and he cast him into the bottomless pit [Tartaroo], and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while"... (Revelation 20:1)
Notice that fire is NOT mentioned in the only passage where Tartaroo is translated Hell.
Other scripture mentions the incarceration of spirits also, however the place is not Tartaroo, nor is fire mentioned. For example:
"for Yahshua died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to Yahweh. He was put to death in the body but made alive in SPIRIT through which ALSO he went and preached to the spirits in 'prison' [Word number 5438 means (im-)prison(-ment)] who disobeyed LONG AGO"...(1 Peter 3:18-20) The Scriptures Bible.
The pre-Genesis earth is described as 'dark and void' when the Archangel Michael cast the defeated Lucifer and his fallen angels down to EARTH (Isa.14:12-14). Earth is their 'prison.' Logically, when Yahshua preached to these fallen spirits, he was then ALSO a spirit, as after his resurrection.
Yahshua became mortal, died, and was placed in a sepulture carved in rock. He prophesied he would be "in the heart of the earth three days and three nights." He did not lie! NOWHERE in Yahweh's scripture does it say that while there, Yahshua 'descended' into the traditional concept of 'Hell.' Only the manmade APOSTLES CREED, written in the third century, mentions such nonsense. It is in the same category and by the same people as the manmade 'Limbo' and 'Purgatory.'
The spirits in 1 Peter 3:18-20 above, and their fate are described in Jude 1:6:
"and the angels [spirits] who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home - these he [Yahshua] has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgement on the great day." (The Scriptures Bible).
THE MEANING OF THE FOUR WORDS
The four words which have been translated Hell in the KJV, and the meaning(s) of those words, are obtained by first alphabetically looking up the word Hell in the Concordance, then looking up the number appended to each verse in the Hebrew or Greek Dictionary, as applicable. Start with the Old Testament at the top of the list.
Notice in the Old Testament that for all thirty-one passages where the word Hell appears, the appended number is 7585.
Look up number 7585 in the Hebrew Dictionary. It is the Hebrew word Sheol. The meaning of Sheol is essentially 'a pit in the earth where dead people are placed' (i.e., a GRAVE).
The meaning may not be clear in Deuteronomy 32:22, however. Reading verse 31:19 to 32:24 reveals that it is the range of anger - from the depths (bottom of a grave) to the whole surface of the earth, which is being described (i.e., NOT physical fire).
Read all remaining passages in the Old Testament listed, but mentally substitute the word GRAVE for Hell. Grave is the clear common sense understanding. Notice that fire is NOT mentioned in the thirty-one passages where the word Hell occurs. The traditional concept of sinners tortured in a 'fiery hell' is NOT connoted in the ENTIRE Old Testament.
Word number 1067 'Gehenna' appears eleven times. It refers to the Valley of Hinnon (i.e., Ge-Hinnon = Gehenna). It means a 'steep sided gorge or valley.' It is mentioned in Nehemiah 11:30, II Kings 23:10, etc.
Some hold that Kings Ahaz and Manasseh made their children "pass through the fire" to the pagan god Molech in this valley. The rites were celebrated in a place called Torphet (II Kings 23:10) the "place of abhorrence," one of the chief groves there. King Josiah put an end to these abominations as described in II Kings 23:10.
And further, that Aceldama, the "field of blood," purchased with the money Judas received for the betrayal of Yahshua Messiah (Matt. 27:8), is also a part of the valley of Hinnon. The valley of Hinnon is still shown on maps South of Jerusalem.
Notice that in EVERY passage with 'Gehenna,' fire IS mentioned.
In latter biblical times 'Gehenna' was a trash dump where refuse, dead animals, executed criminals, etc., were thrown and burned (Jeremiah 19:6).
Fire requires fuel, oxygen, and a kindling temperature. All three are commonly present in most trash dumps. Objects exposed to the fire in 'Gehenna' were burnt to ashes. As with present day trash dumps, Gehenna undoubtedly smoldered and burned continuously. At night the glow from the fires in Gehenna would have appeared as 'a lake of fire' at Jerusalem.
When word #1067 was mentioned in parables by Yahshua, the listener would have had a vivid picture of what would happen to a living creature thrown into 'Gehenna.' Obviously, that the creature would be burnt to ashes (i.e., annihilated).
The fire referred to by Yahshua, however is that described in the book of Revelation. That lake of fire and brimstone (burning sulphur) will exist at the end of the age and will be infinitely hotter than any trash dump.
In Mark 9:24 it says that the people are going to "look upon the carcasses of men that have transgressed against me." "They will be BURNED UP like fat on a stove" (Psalm 37:20).
There is a passage in Mark 9:44-48 in which Yahshua Messiah spoke of worms that "dieth not" (KJV). Some have thought that this was a reference to Satan as a serpent living in flames. Others thought it referred to wicked people. But it is THEIR (i.e., the victim's) worms that were being referred to.
Look up word Number 4663 in the Greek Dictionary. It describes the kind of worm. In Isaiah 66:24 as in Mark 9:48, it is a maggot, the larvae of the common fly.
A fly lays 200 to 400 eggs at a time. A few days afterward the eggs grow into maggots and cover their food. Shortly afterward they pupate into flies. The cycle is repeated frequently because decaying material and flies are common in trash dumps.
Dead bodies thrown into Gehenna would initially have a high content of water. Accordingly, the flesh would not burn immediately. It would decay and eventually be consumed either by maggots, or fire when the tissue dried. To the casual observer the ever present maggots would appear to be immortal, apparently living in fire without evidence of dying.
WILL THE BEAST AND FALSE PROPHET BE TORMENTED FOREVER?
The passage in Revelation 20:10 of the KJV says:
"and the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."
Note that the word 'are' is in ITALICS. As noted above, this word was NOT in the original Greek. It was inserted by a translator.
The inference is that the beast and false prophet will be cast into the lake of fire at the beginning of the millennium (Rev. 19:20) and tortured eternally in accordance with the traditional concept of 'Hell.'
Clearly, if the beast and the false prophet are living creatures, they will 'cease to exist.' Similarly, death and the grave will 'cease to exist' because the faithful will have been given eternal life.
The common sense understanding of Revelation 20:10 requires that the verse to be translated as:
"where the beast and false prophet were [now annihilated]"
LAZARUS AND THE RICH MAN - WAS THE LATTER IN FIRE?
Luke 16 is commonly used by those who advocate the traditional concept that sinners will suffer eternal torture by 'hell fire.' But this was a PARABLE, spoken by Yahshua to teach MERCY.
In the parable the rich man died and was buried. All the events which follow are from his being in 'Hell'(i.e., Hades,) his grave.
The word translated as Hell in the parable is the same word used by Peter in Acts 2:31:
"He [David] seeing this before, spoke of the resurrection of Yahshua, that his [Yahshua's] soul was not left in Hell [hades = grave], neither his flesh did see corruption."
The word translated as 'soul' throughout the KJV is word number 5315. In the Hebrew Dictionary it is 'Nephesh' which means 'a living a breathing creature, animal or human, i.e., a being, a life.' The meaning of Nephesh must not to be confused with the meaning of the word 'spirit.' The book of Ezekiel 18:4 states Yahweh's word:
"Behold, all souls [human beings = living breathing creature(s)] are mine, as the soul [being] of the father, so also the soul [being] of the son is mine: The soul [being] that sinneth, it shall die." KJV
Where in the bible does it say that spirits die?
In the PARABLE of Lazarus and the Rich man, the rich man opens his eyes and sees the flames of the lake of fire which are about to annihilate him. He is horrified and his tongue goes dry from grief. He asks for a few drops of water for his tongue, obviously an insufficient amount to cool his entire body if he were then immersed in searing flames.
He is tormented by the thought of the flames. Word #3600 translated 'tormented,' is the Greek word Odoonaho. The meaning of the word is: 'to grieve - sorrow, [mental] torment, by extension from word number 3601: grief as dejection.'
The inference in the PARABLE is that the rich man has knowledge of Ezekiel 18:4 (i.e., " the soul that sinneth, it shall die"). He knows he is guilty and about to face terrible retribution. His punishment is death by fire, annihilation for eternity (i.e., eternal punishMENT).
If humans sin willfully after receiving the Good News, their fate is described in Hebrews 10:26-27.
"there remains no more sacrifice for sins but a fearful looking for of judgement and fiery indignation, which will devour [annihilate] the adversaries."
THE FATE OF THOSE WHO WORSHIP THE BEAST AND HIS IMAGE
The passage in Revelation 14:11 refers to any man who worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark. That man shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the Lamb [Yahshua Messiah]. Perhaps the fire and brimstone will be the same as RAINED down on Sodom and Gomorrah, which may have been divinely directed meteorites of burning sulphur ignited by friction with the atmosphere.
The inference is that those who are a part of the 'government system of Babylon' and who receive the mark of the beast, will have no rest day or night as long as they remain in the land falling under Yahweh's wrath. They will either have to flee to receive mercy, or be tormented by sulphurous fumes until they die.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER DEATH?
What happens after we die? Most of us are placed in a grave and we decompose into a small amount of elements and compounds. We cannot reckon time when asleep, unconscious, or dead. At the second coming of Yahshua, the faithful who have died will be resurrected as spirit beings and will meet Yahshua in the air. Accordingly, none will know if they were dead one day or for Centuries.
The faithful which are alive at Yahshua's coming will also be changed into spirit beings and also meet him in the air. These are the 'First Fruits' of the harvest, Yahshua being the First of the First Fruits. The faithful will likely be assigned ministerial duties as part of Yahshua's sovereign government.
After the millennium, all others who have died will be resurrected as human beings, not spirit beings. The inference is that this will occur even though their bodily remains have dispersed. Those who remain will have the Good News preached to them by the Two Witnesses (Archangels Michael and Gabriel, now mortal) for three and one-half years. During this same period Satan will be loosed from Tartaroo. There will be some who will accept the Good News then, and some who will not.
Then comes the great 'White Throne' judgement when Yahshua opens "the Book of Life" as described in Revelation 20:12.
Those whose name is "not written in the Book of Life " will receive eternal punishment. They will be thrown into the lake of fire "which is the SECOND DEATH from which there is NO RESURRECTION (Revelation 21:8). Malachi 4:3 says " the ASHES of the WICKED will FINALLY be under the feet of the righteous."
Plainly, those who are thrown into the 'lake of fire' will be ANNIHILATED. Their second death prevents them from being in the presence of Yahweh, and his son Yahshua, for eternity.
DOES ANYONE IMMEDIATELY GO TO HEAVEN OR HELL AT THEIR DEATH?
Peter gives the answer to this question when he talks about David in Acts 2:29 and 2:34.
"He is both dead and buried and his sepulcher is with us unto this day."
Even David, whose entire life (with one exception) was pleasing to Yahweh:
"is NOT ascended to the heavens."
Neither do the scriptures identify any sinful person who died and descended to the traditional concept of a fiery Hell.
Most people believe that when a person dies, they immediately go either to 'Heaven' or 'Hell.' Plain common sense begs the question: If this were true, none of the faithful would be on earth to be 'raised from the dead' at the second coming of Yahshua Messiah.
WHO WILL BE TORMENTED ETERNALLY IN FIRE?
The answer to this question is in Matthew 25:41 "Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angles." What could be more clear?
The scriptures say that at the end of the age Satan and his fallen angles will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where THEY will be tormented for eternity. The inference is that even though spirit beings, they will experience eternal punishING, NOT a one time punishMENT (annihilation).
Satan and his demons already know their fate. The scriptures gives an example of this when a demon addresses Yahshua saying:
"art thou come hither to TORMENT us before our APPOINTED time?" (Matthew 8:29) KJV
It is not generally understood that Satan and his legions are NOT trying to win people over to 'their side.' They care nothing about people. They are only interested in luring as many people as possible away from obtaining the reward of eternal life, worshiping Yahweh and his son Yahshua.
WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD THE GOOD NEWS?
In Revelation 20:1 "But after these things he [Satan] must be released for a little while. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished"...
Those who have never heard the Good News will have it preached to them. The inference is that this will be done by the aforementioned Two Witnesses. Even so, some will accept the Good News and some will not.
WHERE DID THE TRADITIONAL CONCEPT OF HELL ORIGINATE?
As has been established, nowhere in the fifty-three passages of the Old and New Testament where Hell is used in the KJV, is there support for the idea of TORTURE (punishING) of PEOPLE by a merciful creator. Instead, the scriptures repeatedly support a reward of eternal life, OR death, a one time event for eternity (punishMENT). As the scriptures say "the wages of sin is death," not torture.
Where did the concept of eternal torture (punishING) come from? It is apparent they come to us from early teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. From the Encyclopedia Americana:
"The main features of hell as conceived by Hindu, Persian, Egyptian, Grecian, and Christian theologians are essentially the same. The Western religious from Roman times through the Middle Ages borrowed the doctrine of eternal torture from the Pagan Philosophers. Certain writers of the Middle Ages had such tremendous influence on the Christian-professing world, that their writings and teachings came to be generally accepted and believed, until it became the doctrine of the Christian-professing world. Among these influential writers were Augustine and Dante Alighieri"
The Italian renaissance poet Dante Alighieri (1265 to 1321) wrote the then popular fictional narrative THE (DIVINE) COMEDY - Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Thomas Nelson Page describes in his 1923 book "Dante and His Influence" that Dante was not the first to conceive of a journey into the Infernal regions:
"Homer and Virgil had both pictured in immortal verse such an experience and other poets had done the same"..."But he [Dante] was the first to make such a journey the central thread on which to hang in epic form the whole of Human Life together with the conditions that brought it into being,"...
"All the preaching of the time was of a material or physical Inferno and Purgatory. None doubted the existence, or even within limits the location of such places of punishment. Many Ages have passed since then without substantial change of this fundamental idea, and up to a generation or two ago, it may be said to have been generally accepted, and even now is distinctly taught by a great portion of the body of the Church"
Dante's 'Inferno' was based on Virgil and Plato who were PAGANS. Dante is said to have thought their ideas and philosophies were inspired.
Again from the encyclopedia Americana:
"Virgil, pagan Roman poet, 70-19 B.C. belonged to the national school of pagan Roman thought, influenced by the Greek writers. Christians of the Middle Ages, including Dante, believed he had received some measure of divine inspiration"
Plato was a pagan Greek philosopher, born in Athens, 427 B.C., a student of Socrates also a pagan. He wrote the famous book Phaedo, on the 'Immortality of the soul', and this book is the real origin of the modern religious belief in the immortality of the soul. The traditional concept of sinners tormented for all eternity in a fiery hell is clearly from the imaginations of PAGANS!
Regardless, over the centuries the myth of sinners being tortured in a fiery hell has been perpetuated by sincere well meaning people of various religions backgrounds, and less than the most accurate translation of Hell in the KJV.
The KJV was used to illustrate the necessity of studying more than one translation to accurately understand scripture. The same is true of Concordances, Interlinears, and Lexicons.
We should know what we believe in... and why we believe it. Will you continue to believe the traditional pagan myth of Hell, or the scriptural truth?
TABLE - A
The Traditional Concept of HELL... is a Myth
Trend in the occurrence of the word Hell in bible translations -
As can be seen in the table below, 'modern' bible translations tend not to perpetuate the word Hell as compared to the KJV.