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“Hell” – A Linguistic Problem of Theological Agenda

THE DOCTRINE OF HELL is formed from a variety of very obscure verses that appear to be connected. The amount of conjecture that went into the present day understanding of “hell” is astonishing, when you see it for what it really is.

The word HELL itself originated as an Anglo-saxon word of the 8th century West. Not the apostles or Jesus. In the 8th century it did not mean what it does today. Much like Ishtar morphed over time into present day Easter. As Easter is not Ishtar, neither is Modern Hell the same as Anglo Hell.

Throughout the age of the Catholic empire the doctrine served the church very well in manipulating masses into her throes. Because of the extreme nature of the concept, Catholicism introduced Purgatory as an intermediary, temporal punishment to soothe the fears. This was the tar holding together the tower of white-washed bricks. The Church relied on it to hold itself together. But tar itself melts under heat and thus will not hold when everything is tested by fire, even as it is now.

Does Hell exist?

Yes, very much yes. Ask anyone who’s survived shell shock trench warfare. Or D-DAy. Or Vietnam. Or terrorist attacks. Or cancer. Or a rotten marriage or divorce. Or rape. Or abuse. Or bad a relationship. Or a losing everything you worked for. Or a life of abject poverty. Or persecution. Or injustice and oppression on account of your sex, skin color, or falsely ascribed heritage and gene pool. Hell is everywhere.

  • outer darkness
  • Hades (Sheol)
  • Gehenna (Valley of Hinnom)
  • Abyss (the Deep)
  • Tartarus
  • Lake of Fire
  • Death (Thanatos)

Ask any Christian out there what any of these mean and you will get a round-about answer if any at all. Most might defer to Dante’s Inferno “hell”. How do so many Greek concepts come to mean the same thing? How do so many Christians know nothing about these?


The word Death is from thanatos which has a long history in Greek mythology. In the NT it is given a definite article which means it is a formal or official name of something. Even though the word is found a staggering 120 times in the NT, the writers don’t seem to attempt to correct mythological notions of its formal Greek nature, nor do they give any overt explanation. Do you know what that something is? Clue: It belongs to the Elect (1 Cor. 3:22). Here is another clue—every word in the following verse matters and must be carefully studied:

the people that is sitting in darkness saw a great light, and to those sitting in a region and shadow of Thantos— light arose to them. Matt. 4:16 YLT

As the Christ and the Apostles taught that one can (and should) abode in Life, there is also the counterpart Death that one can equally abode in (1 Cor. 3:22). A different word is used for perish in the NT and is sometimes put for being destroyed as in Luke 13:3, “No I say to you, but, if you all might repent not, you all indeed will be destroyed [apollumi]” or in John 3:16.

When Jesus “dies”, as recorded in Matt 27:50, the Greek says “And Jesus again having cried in a loud voice, sent out [aphiémi] the spirit.” Behold, though we read that Jesus was raised from the dead [nekros], we do not find any verse anywhere telling us that Jesus died. We find:

“When Herod died [teleutaó]…” Matt. 2:19

“my daughter has died [teleutaó]…” Matt. 9:18

“David died [teleutaó] and was buried …” Acts 2:29

“By faith Joseph, dying [teleutaó]…” Heb. 11:22 (the writer puts this word in the present participle active)

That word teleutaó only appears 13 times in the NT. So what about other verses that say Jesus died such as in 1 Thes. 4:14? The word used is apothnéskó which means literally to wither away, decay, die off. Already there are quite a few words surrounding the concept of death or dying:

  • Thanatos (Death)
  • teleutaó (died)
  • aphiémi (sent out)
  • apollumi (destroyed)
  • apothnéskó (wither away, die out)
  • nekros (dead)

Nekros, meaning dead, is a word signifying another enigma. In Matt. 8:22 Jesus said “Follow me, and suffer the dead [nekros] to bury their own dead [nekros].” Nekros is used by the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, for the Hebrew mut to die,

“…a uniter of associations, and a consulter of a mumbler, and a knowing one, and one who seeks toward the dead [nekros].” Deut 18:11 literal

Nekros does not mean to die, died, or death but rather a state of being dead. Dead state, or dead sleep?


This word is found in the Hebrew Scriptures 66 times. It is often translated as hell. The Septuagint Greek (LXX) translates it as Hades.

From the hand of Sheol I am redeeming them, from Death [mavet] I am redeeming[as a kinsman] them. Where is your plague, Death? Where is your destruction, Sheol? Sorrow is concealed from my eyes.

Hosea 13:14 literal

The noun sheol is never found with a definite article. It is often found as sheolah with the suffix –ah. The suffix -ah is called the “directional hay” or “terminative case” and is not pronounced. This means that sheol is not so much a place as it is a direction. It is an abode, movement, or condition, a limitation. There is no concrete definition just as with the four winds—north, south, east, west. “The west” as translated from dusk (#4628) is not any one place, but a limitation of direction just as “east” is translated from sunrise or front (#4217 and #6921) is also not a definitive place. Also note that sheol is not something found in the Deep (Abyss) but in the Earth, as a “pit”, or “grave”:

“and they descend themselves, and the whole of whom they possess, living Sheol-ward, and the Earth closes upon them…” Num. 16:33 literal

“The cords of Sheol encompassed me; The traps of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon Yahweh, Yes, I cried to my God…” David’s Song, 2 Sam. 22:6

In Jeremiah 29:15 Babylon is also written with a terminative, directional case, babel-ah. “You have caused to stand up for ourselves prophets Babylon­-ward.”