Hell? What Hell?

Image: Sara Musico
Image: Sara Musico

Transcript of a classic "fire and brimstone" sermon, designed to induce fear and conformity.

The most graphic image used to frighten millions of Christians into obedience through the ages - eternal torment in the flaming pits of Hell - is nothing more than the slip of a clerical pen, according to modern day scholars. There is no Hell. It was all a mistake.

We send particular condolences to the families who stoned to death some of their own in strict obedience to ancoent laws, in order to protect their immortal sould from the fiery torments they expected if they suffered a witch or an adulteress to live. Oops. Sorry. Better luck next time.

But how did such a cataclysmic mistake happen in the first place?

Well, there are a number of contributing factors.

There was desire of the Roman Catholic Church for social control - and there's nothing like the fear of eternal damnation to keep a crowd of underfed peasants in line.

The practice of keeping the Bible in Latin and the priests the sole holders of the education about how to read it.

That's pretty darn good, because then you can tell the uneducated masses whatever you like, and even the smart ones can't get their hands on the original sources to question your authority.

And when the big push began to translate the Bible into "folk" languages like English, in the Middle Ages, we had scantily educated translators working from Greek and Aramaic that they didn't fully understand, but guided by their memory of what had been preached from the pulpit last week.

Here are just a few of the contributing mistranslations in the debacle which we lovingly know as The King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Let's start with the word "hell" itself.

A modest, unassuming Middle English word, "hell" grew out of the Old English word meaning "to cover". A "hell" was a sort of earthen cellar where the root vegetables were stored during the winter. "Helling" the vegetables meant storing them underground.

It was kind of out of date, even in the Middle Ages, and little-used, which made it ripe for corrupting.

Whether by accident or by design, the translators ended up translating several very different words into the one English word, "hell".

And so "hell" became Hell.


The Old Testament word translated as "Hell" actually meant "the place of the dead", or, more precisely "the grave". You can see the connection between covering the dead bodies with dirt, and putting away the potatoes in the cellar, can't you?

It makes sense, and it has not the least hint of flames and screaming.

So the confounding factors come from the pesky New Testament, written in all those newfangled languages like Aramaic and Greek.


The Greek word also translated as "Hell" was hades. Again, the connotation of hades was simply the place of departed souls, the grave.

A few minutes with a Greek concordance and a Bible will demonstrate that the word Hades is never associated with fire in the New Testament, either.


This Greek word refers to the very bottom of the place of the dead, the furthest away part, where the fallen angels are imprisoned. Not burning, just imprisoned.


This is where the flames come in. Every instance of associating flames or hellfire with the afterlife occurs where the original word in the text was Gehenna.

Gehenna was the hebrew name for the Valley of Hinnon, where the rubbish was thrown and burned.

Very poor people, criminals, and others deemed unfit to be properly buried were thrown into Gehenna (or at least their bodies were). Hence the line in 1 Corinthians 13 If I give away all I have; and I deliver my body to be burned; but I have not love, I gain nothing.

Being cast into Gehenna after death was the ultimate humiliation. It was a fate for criminals and the unworthy. Oh, and outsiders.

But still, for we who practice cremation, this seems like a mere bagatelle. A bit of burning of one's body. Well, it's better than cluttering up the landscape with graveyards, right?

But not for the Jews of the time. Burial in consecrated ground was the ONLY right way to deal with the deceased.

Burning one's body after death was just unthinkable. Barbarian. Shameful. Awful. Horrible.

And THAT was what Jesus was saying would happen to those who did the wrong thing.

Not their SOUL roasting on an eternal spit, but their BODY being dumped with the garbage, instead of being laid out, grieved over, eulogised, and placed lovingly in consecrated ground.

Now, the Bible also says that Hell itself (the grave version - Sheol/Hades) will be thrown into the Hell (the Lake of Fire version - Gehenna) on Judgement Day.

That is, Death (and graves) will be thrown out with the garbage.

NOT all the dead people who haven't made it to Heaven will be eternally seared by flames of wrath.

But hey, it's an easy mistake to make, right?

There won't be any more Death ... everyone who ever live will be consumed in agonising flames ... yeah, they are pretty much alike, aren't they? Not.


Oh, how abused and misused has this poor word been!

Originally meaning "loss, harm", the word "damn" arrived in English via the old French "damner", based on the Latin "damnare" or in noun form, "damnum".

This meaning of the word survived in legal usage until the 16th century, and is still the root of the existing legal terms "indemify" and "indemnity", which refer to protecting someone against possible loss or harm.

In this context, "damn" was a fine word to use as a transation for the Greek "apollumi," "krino," and "apolleia".

But if you go to a modern dictionary, you will find "damnation" defined as "exclusion from divine mercy; condemnation to eternal punishment".

From the morally neutral "loss" to a condemnatory and judgemental pronouncing of a sentence or punishment - what a distortion of God's word!

So, there you have it. No eternal damnation, no flames, no Hell, no infinite agony if you break the rules. Pity they didn't work this out a thousand years ago.

The world might have become a very different place ...

More by this Author

What would life be like if they hadn't invented Hell? 66 comments

Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand

I just found this from on foxnews.com:

Fully 92 percent of Americans say they believe in God, 85 percent in heaven and 82 percent in miracles, according to the latest FOX News poll. Though belief in God has remained at about the same level, belief in the devil has increased slightly over the last few years — from 63 percent in 1997 to 71 percent today.

Unfortunately it doesnt mention hell but I guess you could assume that he 71% who believe in the Devil would believe in his home place too!

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Scary, huh?

Especially since only about 23% of Americans believe in evolution.

That's what you get for letting Joe Public hire the teachers and set the curricula.

kerryg profile image

kerryg 8 years ago from USA

Fascinating hub!

Mark Knowles profile image

Mark Knowles 8 years ago

I don't see how you can believe in God, yet not believe in the devil. So if you believe in God ergo - you believe in the devil and hell? Although, I am quite prepared to believe it was a "slip of the pen" LOL

And I don't expect the Spanish inquisition over this.... cue

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Well, "God" is very vague term for some kind of "bigger than us" phenomenon. I am agnostic about the nature of the phenomenon, other than that I don't think it's supernatural in any way.

The devil is a peculiar creation of one Middle Eastern tribe, whose oral history formed the basis of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

There are billions of people who don't subscribe to a religion in that family, and therefore don't believe in "the devil".

And everyone I have encountered who developed their own spiritual philosophy based on their own personal, subjective spiritual experiences has included a "Higher Power" of some form, or formlessness, but not one has come up with an "embodiment of evil" character.

I think God and the devil are only linked for people raised in a Jewish, Christian, or Islamic culture. If you take the descriptions of God at face value, the devil is actually illogical, so in order to believe in "the devil" you would have had to have the concept shoved at you before you reached the age of reason. (Or when you were in an emotionally vulnerable state later in life, I guess.)

Misha profile image

Misha 8 years ago from DC Area

I'm afraid the concept of the devil could be a bit deeper, and will bring us to the original sin - duality. For a men within Samsara - if there is good, there should be evil, if there is God - there should be devil... Along those lines

And looks like if one dares to try to look from outside Samsara - God is not a part of duality...

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Yes, yin-yang as parts of a whole is a much better way to conceive of duality, rather than the existence of separate beings with opposite intentions.

If God is all-powerful, then the devil presents no real threat - the whole idea of a powerful evil force which can thwart an all-powerful God's loving intentions is just not logical.

Hope Alexander profile image

Hope Alexander 8 years ago

I would point out that that was a FOX news poll. If they could get away with it, they would report that Jesus was coming back just as soon as everyone promised to vote Republican for ever.

I heard stats that placed religious belief in the UK as low as 40%, and according to many sources (which I am too damned lazy to find, but I bet Inspirepub knows, because she's the sort of lady who has sources) belief in religion as a whole is on the decline throughout the world. I think Richard Dawkins might have said that, I'm not sure. He's a great guy though.

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

2001 Census Results - England And Wales

Christian: 72.0%

No religion: 14.8%

Chose not to respond: 7.7%

Muslim: 3.1%

Hindu: 1.1%

Jedi: 0.7%

But who knows how many of those 72% ever go to church ...

Australia reported 67.4% Christian, but I know that only 25% of Australians go to church, ever.

Hope Alexander profile image

Hope Alexander 8 years ago

That was 2001, the Times Online. co.uk recently ran an article that begun thus:

"Freedom from religion in Britain is becoming as important as freedom of religion, according to a United Nations investigation into religion in the UK.

In a 23-page report published this evening, a UN rapporteur claims the 2001 Census findings that nearly 72 per cent of the population is Christian can no longer be regarded as accurate. The report claims that two-thirds of British people now do not admit to any religious adherence."

Rest of article can be found here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/art...

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

The UN report can be found here.


Religious demographics start on page 9.

According to this report, a 2007 study showed that 15.5% of Britons attend a Christian religious service at least once a month, 28% are former churchgoers, and 32% claim a Christian affiliation but have never attended church and have no plans ever to do so.

Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand

Ireally dont understand people who say they are Christian but never go to church - thats like saying our are working but never going or studying and never showing up for class

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Well, New Zealanders claim about 52% Christian on the census - do you really think every second person there is fronting up to church at least once a month?

Hope Alexander profile image

Hope Alexander 8 years ago

They may not be showing up in person, but there's usually a few ewes in the pews as sheep representatives, which is why Christians are often refer to Jesus as 'the lamb of God', and why there is such a preoccupation with seperating the sheep from the goats. The goats are always trying to eat the kneelers, damn them.

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Eat? I didn't think that was what goats traditionally did with kneeling altar boys ...

Hope Alexander profile image

Hope Alexander 8 years ago

Touche... for where you have gone, I canst not follow...

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

I was going to say we have gone a little off topic, but given that the topic was Hell, perhaps not ;)

Oh, wait, it was that there is no Hell.

I wonder how different the world would be if this idea of eternal damnation in a flaming pit for the naughty people had never been invented in the first place ...

Misha profile image

Misha 8 years ago from DC Area

Well, coming back to the topic I have one more observation to make - and this one seem to question the validity of your conclusion. How do we go about other branches of Christianity, like Russian Orthodox, that has nothing to do with King James translation - and has pretty developed concept of hell?

This tells me that hell is probably not just a result of poor/manipulative translation, but rather has deeper roots either in human psychology or in Christianity/Judaism... The fact that Eastern religions do not have hell makes me thinking that human psychology is not he case :D

Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 8 years ago from Pennsylvania

Inspirepub, first of all, GREAT etymology research! You worked hard and it shows!

Reactions to other comments along the way:

There are as many interpretations of what a "christian" is as there are people. I am sure that some hold a definition which does not require church attendance.

Need to control and convenience of hell - I agree with that.

However, the existence of Hell was proved beyond doubt when Dubuya stole the U.S. presidency from the winner of the popular vote. :P

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Misha, you are right that the notion of Hell must have existed prior to the King James version - the standard Bible had been translated from the original languages into Latin, and the King James translators went back to the originals, rather than translating the Latin version.

It is possible that some of these issues arose in the Latin translation - both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches developed from a single Latin church after the fall of the Eastern Roman empire in the 400s AD, so they would have shared a Latin version of the Bible at that point.

It is also possible that ideas about Hell were developed gradually as an oral tradition by priests - the Romans were big on syncretisation, importing the religious concepts of conquered peoples and combining them with their existing religion. It may have been a particularly useful folk belief which spread orally throughout the Latin churches over a few hundred years.

Either way, the idea certainly existed in the minds of the translators when they set to work on the King James version of the Bible, so it was obviously floating around in sermons before that, even if it wasn't written anywhere.

You're right - it was more than a simple "slip of the pen", and it started much earlier than the King James version of the Bible.

Misha profile image

Misha 8 years ago from DC Area

OK, just a wild guess, cause I'm by any means not a specialist in neither Christianity or its history nor Judaism. Assuming the hell did not exist in Judaism (which I'm not sure), could it be emperor Constantin who introduced this concept into Christianity? Along with all other changes?

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

The fiery Hell certainly didn't exist in Judaism.

It may have been Constantine, or subsequent Roman Emperors - remember that religion was by no means uniform across the far-flung Roman empire. It adapted - a LOT - to local customs and local godlets.

All the Irish saints, for example, were originally Gods in their own right, and the Romans appropriated them, but said they were lesser deities, "saints", because they knew if they tried to stamp them out there would be riots. Better to adopt them than to fight them, was the Roman philosophy, before and after Christianisation.

The doctrines of the Roman Catholic church (and the separate Orthodox Churches) were agreed upon centuries later.

Misha profile image

Misha 8 years ago from DC Area

LOL yeah, Christianity was really good at adopting everything pagan, including Gods and holidays :D Why don't you write a hub on "Christian" holidays? It may be entertaining ;)

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

I just might, LOL.

And one about how wrong the modern Wiccans have theirs, too.

Tellicoslim profile image

Tellicoslim 8 years ago from Madisonville TN


If you are wrong? You may be somewhat embarassed at the Judgment.

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Ah, well, if the Biblical Scholars I am quoting here are wrong, embarassment will be the least of my worries.

At least I will be in good company, as I will have all but 144,000 of all the people who ever lived to keep me company (since it says in Revelations that only 144,000 people are going to Heaven).

teeray profile image

teeray 8 years ago from Canada

This is an awesome hub! I particularly liked your concentration on specific words. I didn't realize the concept of 'damn' had been so misconstrued. Damn! What's up with that?

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

It's wlways fascinating to know where things come from, isn't it?

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Pretty interesting stuff you've written here Jenny. And I think people will debate over this issue for years. LOL I've been raised as a Catholic and I grew up believing there was a hell. But then over the years, my views have radically changed. I no longer believe there is one. (My Catholic friends will now think the devil has gotten hold of my mind gasp) But it is possible to believe in a loving, wondrous God and not the devil.

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Yes, I think you're right, Ripplemaker.

People fear the Devil and going to Hell, but God is Love, and perfect love casteth out fear, so how can anyone fear the Devil when they are in communion with perfect love?

Quite apart from the emotional sense of wrongness about it, it's just not logical.

sandra rinck 8 years ago

Hey Jenny, I was wondering if you could write a hub on the origins of where the actual idea of the Messiah came from?

I think I read a post somewhere that you said the idea came from a long time ago, so I was wondering what it's actual origins are, maybe Sumayrian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman...I have no idea, but I don't believe it came from the writtings of the old testament. And I don't think it was fullfilled by Jesus either.

Sounds more like he was a Jewish Rabbi who was rooted in agnostic views that everyone has a devine connection to God, which Jesus calls the Father, but even with that and what you said above, that perfect love caste out fear, so how can anyone fear teh Devil when they are in communion with perfect love? So I would wonder why Jesus would even talk about Satan.

That makes perfect sense to me, though when I try to convey that, it doesn't come out quite as elegent and clear.

Cause I really don't believe in Hell or the Devil being a guy with horns, I don't even view God as a man wearing a white robe sitting in the clouds either. But I do find myself in love with something and whatever that something happens to be, I call it God.

I hope you say yes. :)

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Hooley dooley, what a challenge! Couldn't you ask for a chocolate fudge recipe or something?

Yes, OK, I will do this for you Sandra - possibly over Easter, when I have a bit of time. Appropriate timing, eh?

If not Easter, then some time this month.

sandra rinck 8 years ago

ok, thanks!

bazer49 profile image

bazer49 8 years ago from Bolton, England

great hub-love discussions like this--before you write your hub on the Messiah I think you should read "Stranger in a Strange Land" by R.Heinlein--gives an interesting take on it

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Oh, yes, I am VERY familiar with that book!


Blogger Mom profile image

Blogger Mom 8 years ago from Northeast, US

Wow, great great hub - so well written! Even the comments are a great read! =)

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Thanks, Blogger Mom! Don't we have a great community here?

tinyteddy profile image

tinyteddy 8 years ago from INDIA

jenny what a wonderful hub this is

the same thing has happened in hinduism everything was written in sanskrit to avoid the masses know what it is and to bring in the mantra mystery

salutes to you

funride profile image

funride 8 years ago from Portugal

Great hub! Great comments!

I always thought that Hell was the place where I grew up (city) and so I move to Heaven (countryside) :)

About Devil and God, maybe they really exist :rolleyes: but only inside each and everyone of us, and we only "see" them through all our actions.

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

I think you're right, funride - "evil" actions are driven by fear, and "good" actions are inspired by love.

Life is a constant choice between love-based and fear-based thoughts and actions.

Therefore, to the extent that one chooses fear, one lives in Hell, and to the extent that one chooses love, one lives in Heaven.

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Inspirepub, this is a great article! I can only imagine how long it took you to do the research.

Just to throw in my two cents, I don't believe in hell, I think it's a man-made intimidation. My definition of hell is something akin to a dark night of the soul, or our own inner demons. Those are enough, without fire and brimstone.

I may find out one day that I'm wrong, but so far, I have never been able to bring myself to accept it, unless it's a Hallowe'en set up.

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Indeed, Shirley, few religions have managed to avoid getting caught up in social control and intimidation, and I agree with you that this is most likely just another example of spiritual truths being distorted for political purposes.

I have a few more in my Hub on Religion and Politics, if you're interested ...


Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Thx, Inspirepub. I'm going to check it out now.

dlarson profile image

dlarson 8 years ago from Priest River, ID

Excellent Hub! I am one of those Christians who believes in God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit but have never believed there is or will be a Hell. I'm very glad I'm not the only one! ;)

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

As far as I can ascertain so far, the idea of Hell was invented by (or revealed to) Zoroaster, in Persia (Iran), over 1000 years BC, and migrated with Zoroastrianism and its derivatives, Manicheism and Mithraism, throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Jewish prophets did pick up on some of his ideas and write them into the Bible - see the Hub The Risen God for more details - but not the idea of Hell.


Misha profile image

Misha 8 years ago from DC Area

Umm, looks like I have to go back to Zoroaster teachings and re-read them. I just don't remember hell over there...

deepthinkin profile image

deepthinkin 8 years ago from California

Let me throw one more factual tidbit into the mix...once upon a time there was a Norse goddess by the name of Hel. She was the goddess of death and the underworld. Underworld in this context refers more to the sleep before renewal, part of the cycle of life as opposed to devils, demons and damnation.

If a patriarchial society were trying to oppress a matriarchial society, they would begin by discrediting it's leaders or symbols of power by changing the meaning of their belief system.

An example of a change in meaning is coming up this Sunday, Easter. Originally Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre) was the goddess of fertility. It's not a coincidence that the Christian holiday coincides with the traditional pagan rites of spring. Early Christian leaders were looking for followers and to get buy-in from the goddess worshipers they had to incorporate old traditions with the old.

One doesn't have to look deeply to find that many Christian traditions are steeped in ancient goddess origins.

deepthinkin profile image

deepthinkin 8 years ago from California

Correction to the above post: "...they had to incorporate old traditions with the NEW."

G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

Good Hub and surely makes one think..My thought is God forgives us all..even the thieves...Heaven is our goal and so maybe some are still waitng till He returns..for their gates to open. We have no idea when a person dies if their last thought was forgiveness or not. I have a difficult time believing there truly is a Hell..It's right here on earth which seems to be our testing grounds.. HAPPY EASTER... G-Ma :o) hugs

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

You're right, deepthinkin - and the empowered women in the pagan stories became mere passive presences in the particarchal version of the myth.

I have a lot more detail about this in my Hub "The Risen God":


It looks at lots of myths that have elements in common with the Christian story.

And there is lots about the incorporation of pagan rituals into Christianity in my "Religionand Politics" Hub:


You know, I think I need to add some links to this Hub ... LOL

dlarson profile image

dlarson 8 years ago from Priest River, ID

Excellent points deepthinkin and Inspirepub. Almost all of our modern "Christian" traditions are steeped in paganism and other ancient religious traditions. Everything from our church services to our holidays. Every follower of Christ owes it to their maker to look into the traditions you follow.

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Thanks, dlarson.

I think there would be a lot more tolerance and brotherly love if everyone understood our history and where our culture comes from.

Neil Sperling profile image

Neil Sperling 8 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

Great Hub - I find the more one opens to spirituality without any connection to a dogma, the truth is found interwoven in all. Light came not from darkness, for darkness is the absence of light. To me - "Hell is not a place, rather it is a state of mind where light and love are absent." One can not add darkness in a room of light, there is no way of turning on darkness. We can however add light to darkness and watch the darkness dissappear. I love the thought and research that is obvious in this thread and the comments as well. I "just" got introduced to hub - glad I did! Nice to meet you all! Neil

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Thanks, Neil - it's a great community here, and the discussions are usually of very high quality. You'll probably like the Religion forum, too!

zbnet 8 years ago

Sorry, I don't agree with your conclusion - your review of the Scriptures is very scant. For instance, Jesus' teaching in Matt 13:24-30 indicates that the fate of the wicked is to be burnt. Then there's the parable in Luke 16:19-31, which indicates that the rich man is in tormet in Hades (Jesus uses this word in v23). These are just 2 references to Jesus teaching that contradict the conclusions you promote - there are others.

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

zbnet - as I said above, the fate of the wicked is to be burnt in Gehenna, where the corpses of criminals are thrown with the rest of the garbage.

Luke 16:19-31 is a more complex issue.

Luke 16:24 uses the word "torment" as a translation for the Greek "odunao", which is actually better translated as "grief" or "sorrow". The rich man calls for Abraham to send Lazarus to rain down (and this is a word which means a figurative rain as much as a literal one) a baptism (bapto - complete immersion in water) to relieve his sorrow. The translation of "bapto" as "drip" is a peculiarity which only occurs in New Testament verses, and nowhere else. Basically, the rich man wants someone to throw a bucket of water over him to shock him out of his funk.

The danger in working from the Greek, of course, is that the original New Testaments were most probably written in Hebrew.


We have no way, at this time, to pinpoint all the translation errors made between Hebrew and Greek.

The problems with interpreting Luke 16:24 as demonstrating that souls are tormented in Hell after death are ennumerated here:


But I will quote one of the fourteen problems listed there in full to save people looking it up:

Since this passage is cited as a literal description of actual events (and not as a parable) it is helpful to show that even the immortal soulist cannot take this passage as a literal description. The following is the evidence: The passage speaks about bodies not souls. E.g., eyes, bosom (vs. 23) tip of finger and tongue (vs. 24). Souls are said to be immaterial (the material body being left in the grave), how then could Lazarus (if really a soul) be carried by angels? (vs. 22). The passage states that there was a great gulf fixed between Abraham and the rich man, yet they could both see and converse with each other (vs. 26). Is the great gulf to be taken literally? Is heaven literally a place where conversations can be carried on between those enjoying bliss and those agonizing in hell? How could Lazarus go literally to Abraham's bosom? Abraham (as now) was unquestionably dead and without his reward. (Heb. 11:8, 13, 39, 40).

Thanks for making such a good, material contribution to the discussion, zbnet - I hope we see more of you!

Smarticus profile image

Smarticus 8 years ago from North Carolina

Good hub in provoking thought, but some of the historical and hermaneutical work is a little thin.

Recall that Ancient Greek, Aramaic, and Roman Latin were all from quite different language families. When considering culturally embedded ideas you must be conversant not only etymological disparities between cutures that spring from differing cultural matrices, but also the contextual influenceof the language behind the culture.

Aramaic, for instance, was the most widely spoken language in that region. The Aramaean people were traders, much like their Bedouin cutural antecedents, and their langauge was straight forward, and descriptive, but not sophisticated, or difficult to learn, That is why Aramaic was the trade language of the region. There was little in Aramaic to describe things of supernatural import in a graphic or flowery fashion.

The idea of Hell as a place of torment and punishment predates Zoroaster in the Jewish tradition by more than 1,000 years. Many scholars believe that Zoroaster actually borrowed a lot of his teachings from basic Jewish doctrine of the time.

In the event anyone is not familiar, Zoroaster posited that man was created by the one god Ahura Mazda, the supreme being, and he struggled against the machinations of a lesser being who was a deceiver, trying to trick men into sacrificing their souls.

The connotation of punishment after death is present intact in Old Testament scriptures, though without so much of the fire, not only in King James versions, but also in Ancient Greek, Aramaic, and Latin translations. So the idea of Hell as a place of punishment for the disobedience to God exists from early in these traditions.

When you speak of Hades, the place of the dead, you are failing to mention that ,to the Greeks, Hades is a place of desolation and suffering. No spirit can navigate Hades in peace. Their impression is of a place of endless cold, damp caves full of misery. Only if you were "good" enough in life to warrant reaching the Fields of Elysium could you hope for a peaceful afrerlife.

The Caesar Constantine (emperor of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire from 312 CE) did convert to Christianity. He was on his way to a battle against numerically superior forces at the behest of the Augustus Maximian (the main Emperor). He saw a vision in the sky which prompted him to have his men paint the Christian cross on their shields. He won. He was shortly afterwards named the Caesar of the Eastern part of the empire, converting Byzantium on the Straight of Mamara, to his capital city of Constantinople. That main thing he did was make it legal to be a Christian. Christianity was not adopted as an official religion of the empire until Empreror Theodosius, around 395 CE.

In short, the idea of Hell as a place of punishment is not an invention of mistranslation. It does exist intact in scriptures prior to the 17th century translations of the King James version of the Bible.

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Thanks for adding the historical detail, Smarticus. I think you are drawing a long bow to equate the Greek notion of Hades with an active "punishment", though. The equation of life with joy, color and movement, and the equation of death with emotionlessness (as in depression), greyness and isolation are symbols which have been embedded in the human psyche since we became capable of symbolic thought.

Those symbols do not automatically equate to an active being meting out "judgement", although they are readily appropriated in service of that notion.

maestrowhit profile image

maestrowhit 8 years ago from Virginia

great hub! it certainly proved useful to me. I was directed to it by a commenter on my forum: http://hubpages.com/forum/topic/8972

This brings to my mind a biblical passage that I can't quite place. It says something about Satan becoming like an angel of light. Could the progression of God's word with the advance of the English language be what that is talking about? I think so maybe. What so many people think the Bible means by Hell now is actually very contrary and debilitating to the real truth. I really want to learn the original languages of the scriptures now.

Inspirepub profile image

Inspirepub 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Thanks, maestrowhit - I completely agree with you, and for much the same reasons you outline in your forum thread.

I express it thusly - God is Love. Perfect Love casteth out fear. Therefore, anything which generates fear is not of God.

Tom Cornett profile image

Tom Cornett 7 years ago from Ohio

As for Me...I worship the Great Colonel of Chicken. The evil Gumby crawled under his beard, bit him and turned him into an eraser! Than dammnated Gumby was a spy for Lee's Famous Recipe! The Colonel is a rubber head now but his power is still present in his 34 million chicken eating followers.

We all know where those Lee's people go when they die...don't we. Chicken HELL!

Davinagirl3 profile image

Davinagirl3 7 years ago


mindmatters profile image

mindmatters 6 years ago from South Africa

Only time will sort out this whole mess. Those who believe will carry on their existence in heaven and those who don't believe will have eternity in hell to weigh up the merits of their debate about the place they find themselves in - a real heated debate.

Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi Inspirepub :)

Just found this, and, though I didn't believe in 'Hell' and 'damnation', anyway, I hadn't got around, yet, to checking the origins of these words.

Thanks for helping me out ~ brilliant! :)

davidkaluge profile image

davidkaluge 5 years ago

It will be wrong for anyone to accept your hub as fact because it is one of the various arguments for or against hell. This is because others have claims/proves to support the existence of hell. I can say that the old testament did not point much to hell. It started with new testament. I wrote a hub " why the need for hell" This is because some people are already suffering and are in hell here,on earth, while they may go to hell except they accept Jesus.If the bible wrongly translated, why not correct it.

davidkaluge profile image

davidkaluge 5 years ago

Its a shame that while atheist say there is no God. Those that belief in God are not certain of his ways, laws, desires among others. It will be lovely if all Religion will speak with one voice for or against hell but it may never happen. I think the hell theory was invented to balance the theory of reward/heaven. It now seems sinners will only have to sleep forever without any punishment. People say the bible was just designed to control the masses. I think humanity have to learn to reason for themselves.

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