Bible Student’s Assistant



The word hell in the New Testament is translated from three words, all of them having a different meaning. These words are hades, gehenna, and tartarus. “Hades” means the grave, or state of the dead, “gehenna,” the place of future punishment, or lake of fire, and “tartarus” the abode or condition of the fallen angels. As these three words which have different meanings, are all translated by the word hell, which now has only one meaning, and so gives the common reader a wrong idea, we will give the remarks of some good critics, and every instance in which they occur And, BSA 46.6

1. “Hades” never means the place of punishment. Its primary meaning is, “an unseen place, the grave, pit, region of the dead.” etc. See Grove’s Gr. & Eng. Dic. Dr. Clarke says of hades, “The word hell, used in the common translation, conveys now an improper meaning of the original word; because hell is only used to signify the place of the damned. But the word hell comes from the Anglo Saxon helan. To cover.” And Dr. Campbell also says, hell “at first denoted only what was secret or concealed.” BSA 46.7

We will now give each instance in which hades occurs, its translation being in italics. Let the reader bear in mind that in each case it means the grave, pit, or state of the dead. Matthew 11:23. shall be brought down to hell; 16:18. the gates of hell shall not prevail Luke 10:15. shalt be thrust down to hell. 16:23. in hell he lifted up his eyes, Acts 2:27. wilt not leave my soul in hell, 31. his soul was not left in hell, 1 Corinthians 15:55. O Grave, where is thy victory? Revelation 1:18. Have the keys of hell and of death. 6:9. was Death and Hell followed 20:13. death and hell delivered up the dead 14. death and hell were cast into BSA 47.1

This is a complete list of the use of hades, and the reader may decide whether it means a place of “torment,” or as the word signifies, the pit, the sepulchre, and state of the dead in general. 2. “Gehenna.” Greenfield in “The Polymicrian Greek Lexicon to the New Testament,” defines this as follows: “Properly the valley of Hinnom [2 Kings 23:10] south of Jerusalem, once celebrated for the horrid worship of Moloch, and afterwards polluted with every species of filth, as well as the carcasses of animals, and dead bodies of malefactors; to consume which, in order to avert the pestilence which such a mass of corruption would occasion, constant fires were kept burning.” The Saviour has used this word to denote future punishment. It is found only in the following texts, and is usually addressed to the Jews. Matthew 5:22. shall be in danger of hell fire. 29. whole body should be cast into hell 30. ” ” ” ” ” ” ” 10:28. to destroy both soul and body in hell. 18:9. two eyes to be cast into hell fire. 25:15. more the child of hell than yourselves. 33. can ye escape the damnation of hell? BSA 47.2

Mark 9:43. having two hands to go into hell. 45. having two feet to be cast into hell. 47. having two eyes to be cast into hell; Luke 12:5. hath power to cast into hell; James 3:6. it is set on fire of hell. BSA 48.1

We will now quote a criticism on this word and give its use in the Old Testament. Mr. Ellis (a Hebrew and Greek scholar) says, “Gehenna is not a Greek word, it does not occur in any classical author; it is merely the Grecian mode of spelling the Hebrew words which are translated, “The Valley of Hinadon.” It is found in the following places: Joshua 15:8; 18:16; 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 28:8; 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31, 32; 19:2, 6; 32:35. From history and prophecy we perceive that Gehenna is not a place where the wicked are being punished, nor will it ever be a place where they will be kept alive in perpetual torments. God surnamed the place [Jeremiah 7:32] The valley of Slaughter, and to affirm that the wicked will be kept alive there forever is to charge God with naming it inappropriately. BSA 48.2

3. “Tartaro.” This word occurs only in 2 Peter 2:4. “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment.” Grove’s Gr. & Eng. Dic. defines tartarus to be “the infernal regions, hell of the poets, dark place, prison, dungeon, jail;” but, Dr. Scott says its meaning “must not be sought from the fables of heathen poets but from the general temper of the Scriptures.” Dr. Bloomfield says it is “an intensive reduplication of the very old word for which in the earliest dialects seemed to have signified Dark.” It may mean a condition rather than a locality.” The parallel text in Jude says, “The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains, under Darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Jude 6. BSA 48.3