Go to Hell?
The Valley of Gehenna as it looks today.
Valley of Gehenna (One Hell?)
Going to hell has been quite a fear for thousands of years and it has been a major reason that people have unflinchingly followed their religions teachings.
What is hell and where does the word come from. According to many academic sources, there are several words that were in original Biblical texts written separately, but were all translated in the King James version as hell. The words are hades, tartaros and gehenna and all of them have different meanings.
To complicate maters more, there is also the Hebrew word sheol which like hades, means grave or pit, which can also be mixed up in this debate, because it is used in the Old Testament in place of the word hades.
First of all "hell" is an old English word that originally meant a hole in the ground. At the time the King James version of the Bible was translated, people in England reportedly spoke of putting their potatoes in hell for the winter to keep them from rotting, it meant a hole in the ground and also may have meant a grave.
Starting with the word hades, which is used 11 times in the New Testament, we see a pattern of possible mis-translation. Hades, is a Greek word which like sheol is more accurately translated as a pit or hole in the ground where the dead are placed. Neither the word hades or the word sheol refers to a place of fire or of eternal punishment, but both are translated as hell in the King James version, which to Bible readers means the place of eternal damnation.
The word "tartaros" is translated as the word "hell" in II Peter 2:4. "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartaroo in the original texts), and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgement..." The Greeks used this word to describe the place where Zeus confined the rebellious Titans and the Bible refers to it in II Peter 2:4 as where the angels that followed Satan were cast, but it does not refer to it as a place where humans are cast. In SRSR's opinion, tartaroos (translated as hell in King James Verson) is probably meant as the place where Satan and his legions are said to be cast, not humans who have missed the mark.
A third word that has been translated as hell is "gehenna", coming from the Hebrew words Gai Hinnom, meaning "valley of Hinnom." This valley of Hinnom is a real place located south by southwest of Jerusalem. Today Gai Hinnom is reported to be a fairly nice place, with at least some grass and flowers growing there. In Biblical times however it was a place where pagan rites, possibly even infant sacrifices may have occured.
It was thus considered an unclean place by the Israelites and was used as a dump for the bodies of criminals, animals, garbage and sewage. Fires are said to have burned there continuously because of the supply of "fuel" and to reduce the foul odor. It is natural that became known as a place of evil and ruination.
SRSR believes that serious study shows that when the Bible talks about destruction in hell (gehenna) it means complete and final destruction, but not necessarily eternal or constant torture. The Bible, SRSR believes, does speak of eternal life, but not eternal punishment, instead it speaks of final and permanent destruction of the souls and bodies of the "wicked."
In Matthew 10:28 Jesus says, "fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Originally the word gehenna was used here and the word hell was used starting with the King James version. Similarly gehenna is translated as hell in Mathew 23:33, "Ye serpents...how can ye escape the damnation of hell?", here he is talking about the Pharasees.
In Malachi 4:1-3, this prophet speaking of the Day of the Lord, says,"For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up saith the Lord of hosts, that it will leave them neither root nor branch..." SRSR see's this as more evidence that the Bible may originally have meant that the "damned" will be permanently terminated, not eternally tortured and this is perhaps more in tune with a loving and just God.
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This site was last updated 07/28/03