Christian Reconciliation
Holy Bible Jesus Christ

The Myths of Hell
by Mark Sanguinetti

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There are three Greek words that are sometimes translated as hell in the New Testament. And one Hebrew word which mostly only is translated as hell in the Old Testament in the King James or New King James Versions. From the Old Testament ancient Hebrew language, the word “hell” in English is translated from the Hebrew word “sheowl” or “sheol”. Since the actual ancient Hebrew letters were each written with picture or graphic imagery they would need to be drawn or hand written for its 22 characters. They are all consonants written from right to left. This language is therefore challenging and reference using translated to English letters to sound like Hebrew words along with the Strong’s Hebrew dictionary or concordance using numbers to represent words for this Hebrew Old Testament language is needed. For “sheowl” this is Strong’s number 7585. Even in the KJV, this is often translated in agreement with the Hebrew definition of “the grave”. Other than the KJV version, other translations have a very high majority of “the grave” used as the translation of the Hebrew word “sheowl”. The grave is where the dead are often buried. Either that or the dead are cremated or burned into ashes. Next is the first usage of “sheowl” from Genesis.

Gen 37:35
35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave (sheowl) unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. (KJV)

“Sheowl” in the Old Testament was not seen as eternal torment. It was seen as the grave or the place of the dead. Using the King James Version the Hebrew word “sheowl” is translated as “the grave” 31 times. It is also translated as “hell” 31 times and “the pit” 4 times. In all usages in looking at the context this can be seen as the grave or a word describing the place of dead. And “the grave” is the primary translation of other biblical versions. For example, the New International Version (NIV) does not have any usages of the word “hell” in the entire Old Testament. It almost always translates “sheowl” or "sheol" as “the grave”. Of the 66 usages for “sheowl”, 62 are translated as “the grave” in the NIV. One usage is translated as “dead” from Deuteronomy 32:22. One usage as “the depth below” from Job 11:8. One usage as “of the realm of the dead” from Job 26:6. One usage is translated as “death” from Proverbs 15:11.

Here is the first half of the definition of "sheowl" from Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, which is in harmony with the improved New International Version compared to the 17th century King James Version. However, their might be a very small math error in this truthful defintion. In using the very good Biblesoft software program, it has 66 usages of this Hebrew word for the Old Testament. Perhaps this is an example of no one is perfect on the planet today.
Sheowl or sheol: "place of the dead." Sha°al seems to be the basis for an important noun in the Old Testament, she°ol. Found 65 times in the Hebrew Bible, she°ol refers to the netherworld or the underground cavern to which all buried dead go. Often incorrectly translated "hell" in the KJV, she°ol was not understood to be a place of punishment, but simply the ultimate resting place of all mankind, Genesis 37:35. Thus, it was also thought to be the land of no return, Job 16:22; 17:14-16.

In contrast to the more correct Vine's definition, here is this definition from Strong’s Hebrew dictionary of “sheowl” using Strong’s number 7585.
"she'owl (sheh-ole'); or sheol (sheh-ole'); Hades or the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat), including its accessories and inmates:"
Unfortunately for our minds and thoughts, we also have Greek mythology that has crept into the New Testament for biblical doctrine. However, this Old Testament definition at least correctly relates the Hebrew word "sheowl" with the same definition or at least a similar definition as the New Testament Greek word "hades. However, the Greek word "hades" was used for the mythology of “hades”, the pagan Greek myth of the god of the underworld. And from this Strong’s word definition for "sheowl" with #7585 we see the Greek word “hades” even added to the Hebrew word “sheol”. Even though unlike the Greek word for “hades” this Old Testament word “sheol” with 66 usages in the Old Testament is more often stated as “the grave” with death.

From the New Testament here is the definition from the Thayer's Greek dictionary for “hades” with Strong’s # 86. There are ten usages of this Greek word in the New Testament.

  1. a proper name, Hades, Pluto, the god of the lower regions;
  2. an appellative (name), Orcus, the nether world, the realm of the dead
  3. (from Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 2000 by Biblesoft)

Some ancient Greek and Roman mythology was added to the above Thayer’s Greek definition. For example, Orcus was a god of the underworld, punisher of broken oaths in Roman mythology. In Roman mythology his name came to be used for demons and the underworld monsters. As the god who punished evildoers in the afterlife. In addition Pluto was seen as the Roman god of the underworld and the judge of the dead. Should Christians today learn from mystic Roman theology and see this as truth? With no usages of the words “Orcus” or “Pluto” in even the King James Version of the bible this would mean replacing some of the bible with Roman religious myths. A myth is a traditional story, especially concerning the early history of people that typically involves supernatural beings or events. A myth is also a widely held but false belief or idea.

The Greek word “hades” began with Ancient Greek religious mythology and not Christianity with Jesus Christ. In prior years before Christ’s birth, according to ancient Greek mythology, Hades was someone who was born as a son, but later became the lord of the underworld. Hades drew lots with his brothers Zeus and Poseidon to decide which part of the world each would rule. Zeus received the sky, Poseidon the seas, and Hades the underworld. Hades ruled the dead, assisted by others over whom he had complete authority. He cared little about what happened in the upper world, as his primary attention was ensuring that none of his subjects ever left his rulership. He strictly forbade his subjects from leaving his domain and would become very angry when anyone tried to leave death that was under his control. If they did he would punish them as he did with a mystical character named Pirithous.