A Mistranslated Metaphor
The day I heard the original Hebrew Scriptures had no concept of eternal torment in Hell-fire, I googled the origin of this widely accepted doctrine and traced it to Greek, Egyptian and finally Mesopotamian/Babylonian mythology.
Ancient cultures used Folklore to pass down their fundamental beliefs. From generation to generation these stories spread to other geographical areas with different languages, and even though the names and details morphed to fit the individual cultures, they retained some telltale similarities.
How can anyone Know if their Beliefs are based on Mythology or Truth?
I never questioned my life long beliefs. It took some supernatural power to shake some of my opinions but somehow I got to the point of throwing everything out and starting over by seeking Truth from my Creator.
“But from there you will seek
the LORD YHVH your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29
Now I have my foundation set on the Rock and only what lines up with our Creator’s perfect Torah, the first five books of the Bible.
“YHVH is my Rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my Rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2
Before I began to study ancient Hebrew word meanings I believed all “mortals” became “immortal” when they died and were Judged immediately, depending on how naughty or nice one was during their temporary time on earth, they would then spend “eternity” up n Heaven or down in Hell-fire.
I’ve noticed religions around the world have similar variations of this same belief. Like many others I had never heard that our Creator gave mankind instructions defining man’s Mythology and Reality. We can know what is Straight, Right, Level and True.
Do Our Beliefs Match Up?
Our Creator says His Word Is Truth, Psalm 119:142; John 17:17. Truth is unchanging, it doesn’t vary, Malachi 3:6; James 1:17. Truth teaches us to observe what is evident in creation, Romans 1:20; https://biblehub.com/psalms/19-1.htm
Torah does not teach us to blindly believe what we are told or to decide what we think is true. We are instructed to test the words we hear to the Plumb-line of Truth, to search, ask, seek, knock, pray for Truth and it will be found; Deuteronomy 4:29; Psalm 119:10
Just like gravity doesn’t have to be seen to be proven, it is also possible to test words to the unchanging reality of Truth. Let’s see how the doctrine of eternal Hell-fire measures up to the original Hebrew Torah.
The Hebrew Word Sheol Simply means Grave
Why did the first Greek translators of the Hebrew Scriptures choose the word Hades, the abode of departed spirits? Wasn’t there a cognate word, like Taphos, that was a better match for Grave?
Translator bias enters with every translation. The Hebrew word Sheol is also synonymous with the Pit or Abyss. Used literally or figuratively it consistently describes the Place of the Dead, not an underworld where departed spirits go for eternal torment.
When St. Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate, in 380 A.D., from the Hebrew Scriptures, his Latin word choice for Sheol was Infernum. English derives its word Inferno from the Latin, as you can imagine, that added even more fuel to our Eternal Hell-fire doctrine.
Hades has routed its way from Greek to German to Old English. These translators would have been looking for an equivalent word for Hades, completely unaware of the original Hebrew meaning of Sheol.
The Old English/Germanic root, Hel, Helle was chosen, attached with its Teutonic and Scandinavian Norse mythology.
English Bible translators have substituted the word Hell for The Grave, Gehenna, Tartarus-The Pit, Abyss and The Lake of Fire, which is the Second Death.
An example of this can be seen by the differing number of times the word Hell is translated: 54 times in the KJV, 13 in the NIV yet not even once in the Complete Jewish Bible. (www.christianbiblereference.org/faq_WordCount.htm)
Compare today’s ideas of Hell=the place where bad people go, to the Hebrew word Sheol=a place where all people go, Ecclesiastes 9:10.
How Mythology Infiltrated The Bible
The Greek Hellenization of the Hebrews began around 4th Century B.C. The first Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was written between the 3rd to 2nd B.C. By the 1st Century A.D. Jesus/Yehoshua had made a clear distinction between the original Hebrew Scriptures and the additions and subtractions of the religious leaders, Matthew 23:2-4.
In His parable of the Rich man and Lazarus, we see the Rich man in a place of torment not Hell.
…for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of Torment, ( Basanos=Testing), Luke 16:28…
He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” Luke 16:31
In the first verse, Torment=Basanos is Testing. It is consistent with the ancient Hebrew metaphors of a refining process, as gold is purified in a crucible.
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and
the LORD YHVH tests hearts. Proverbs 17:3
The Greek Septuagint or The Hebrew TaNaK?
Moses, was called a Hebrew, like Abraham, (Hebrew means, Crossed Over). He was given the Torah in Hebrew. These five books along with the Prophets and Writings that line up with our Creator’s Torah were compiled into a book called TaNaK, a Hebrew acronym for Torah, Prophets and Writings.
The first Greek translation of the TaNaK was called the Septuagint, meaning seventy, because it was translated into Koine Greek by seventy men from the twelve tribes of Israel who could speak Greek, (See Septuagint-Wikipedia).
We are Called Out of Mythology to Walk in Truth
Remember when God called Israel “My First-born son?” Exodus 4:22. God prophesied to Abram/Abraham, his decedents would be oppressed four hundred years, Genesis 15:13; Acts 7:6. Then He called them out of Egypt, and from its mythological gods.
His Perfect, Unchanging Word reveals these connections and continues to call Israel, meaning those who contend with man and with God and prevail, Genesis 32:28, out of the world and its mythology, Exodus 4:22; 20:2; John 15:19; Matthew 10:22.
“You shall have no other gods before Me,” Exodus 20:3
Is Gehenna Hell?
Gehenna is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Ge Hinnom or Valley of Hinnom. Hinnom means Wailing or Lamenting. Synonymous with the Valley of Topheth, Gehenna is known as the Valley of Slaughter, Jeremiah 19:6.
YHVH (He Is, Was and Always Will Be) called this a Detestable place. Temple prostitution was also commonly practiced to appease the angry gods: 2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6; Jeremiah 19:4, Leviticus 18:20-22; Leviticus 20:1-32 ; 2 Kings 23:9-11; Isaiah 30:33; Jeremiah 32:34-36; Isaiah 66:23-2; Joshua 15:8, Matthew 5:22 & 29,30; 10;28; 18:9; 23:15 & 33; Mark 9:42-44 Luke 12:5; and James 3:6 all refer to the valley of Gehenna.
Gehenna Later Became the City Garbage Dump
Jesus/Yehoshua spoke in parables, using the physical example of Gehanna, the Garbage Dump, to describe Jerusalem’s coming destruction. It would be “Like” the garbage when it is Consumed by the fire and the worm, Matthew 13:34; Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:48-50.
40 Years Later Jerusalem Was Destroyed
Yehoshua began warning Jerusalem of its coming destruction in 30 A.D. It came to pass in 70 A.D.
*(Jeremiah the prophet had also warned the people prior to the first Temple destruction in 586 B.C.)
Jerusalem lay waste and not one stone of the Temple was left on the other. Everything combustible literally perished in the fire, Matthew 24:1-3.
Today, Gehenna, the place where trash was burned and maggots thrived on dead flesh is still called the Hinnom Valley.
Notice it is not burning Eternally and it is no longer a garbage dump.
The Refuse has forever perished in the fire.
Is Sodom and Gomorrah Burning Eternally?
“In like manner, Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, who indulged in sexual immorality and pursued strange flesh, are on display as an example of those who sustain the punishment of eternal fire.”Jude 1:7; Genesis 19:24
Anyone who visits the desert of Sodom and Gomorrah will notice it has perished forever… the Bible says it was a well watered garden before it became a waste land, Genesis 13:10.
*Remember the Hebrew word, Olam, and the Greek words, Aion, do not mean Eternal. They both refer to an age lasting, perpetual, from one point until the next or until death. What lies beyond that is Spiritual, L’Olam.
Tartarus is a Dark, Deep Pit or Abyss but is it Hell?
“O YHVH, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the Pit.” Psalm 30:3
The Hebrew word “Pit” is “Bor” and often used as a synonym for “Sheol,” “the Grave.”
“For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into Hell…” 2 Peter 2:4
The Greek word translated into English as Hell is Tartarus. An Egyptian word borrowed by the Greeks, also referred to as the darkest, deepest or bottomless pit. Below are two other references of a Dark Abyss or Grave.
“And the angels who did not stay within their own domain, but abandoned their proper dwelling, He keeps under darkness, in eternal, (from aei #104) chains for judgment on that great day.“ Jude 1:6.
The Abyss/Bottomless Pit/ Sheol/Grave, they are all referring to the place of the Destroyer Angel, Abaddon, the Beast, the Devil and his angels, Dragon, Serpent…all synonyms for satan. Satan is God’s Adversary, and that describes the majority of mankind, that will be bound for 1,000 years, Matthew 25:41; Revelation 9:1; Revelation 9:11; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 20.
“He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and satan,and bound him for a thousand years.“Revelation 20:2
Translators have taken the liberty of adding their mythical bias to God’s spiritual metaphors. Words like demon, dragon and devil do not exist in the original Hebrew. The serpent represented hasatan, the adversary, first noted in the garden of Eden.
The Outer Darkness
Yehoshua uses the phrase, Outer Darkness, in His parables describing those outside of God’s Kingdom, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, Matthew 8:12; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 25:30; Luke 13:28; Psalm 112:10.
“Weeping and gnashing teeth” describe some very upset and angry people. Not only are they cast outside the Kingdom, we see the same description linking the outer darkness to, “the blazing furnace.”
“Blazing Furnace/Fiery Oven” means to Consume/Devour, Psalm 21:9 “The Lake of Fire (describing the crucible) is the Second death,” Revelation 20:14 Did you notice Death and Hades/Hell are thrown into the Lake of Fire, The Second Death?
The Outer Darkness is Death, not Eternal Hell Fire.
What or Who is the Blazing Furnace?
The Torah and Prophets reveal the meanings of these ancient Hebrew metaphors and idioms by what they do. What does fire do? It cleanses away combustible material. YHVH is referred to as an All Consuming Fire, Hebrews 12:29, and a Blazing Torch/Furnace; Exodus 15:7; 24:17; Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; 2 Samuel 22:9; Psalm 97:3; Geneses 15:17…
“…for in doing so you will heap burning coals on his head,” Proverbs 25:22; Romans 12:20
When we repay our enemy with God’s Merciful Loving Kindness it is said to heap burning coals on his head. These figurative burning coals don’t burn, as I had once hoped, they spiritually convict and cleanse, like Isaiah describes in his vision, Isaiah 6:7
“For everyone will be salted with fire, salt is good…” Mark 9:49, 50
Is The Lake of Fire Hell?
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death” 1 Corinthians 15:26
The Lake of Fire Is The Second Death, and Death is the last enemy to be destroyed.
Death is separation from our Spiritual Creator, but death was never eternal. Death will be no more, it will pass away, it will be swallowed up, Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 21:4.
The Example of The Rich Man and Lazarus
If we re-read the story of Luke 16:19-31, without any eternal Hell-fire mythology, observe the physical examples, it’s a picture of the Second Death.
Lazarus and the Rich man reverse roles after they die. The poor, tormented beggar, who longed for the food that fell from the rich man’s table, is seated in a place of honor, (Abraham’s bossom) he is comforted while the Rich man is now tormented, Basanos.
Basanos #931 is the Greek word for Touchstone, a dark stone used to test metals for purity. This physical example reveals the word Torment is Testing.
The rich man is in the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. In the story he sees Abraham and Lazarus from afar and begs Abraham to have mercy and let Lazarus dip his finger in water and give him a drop to cool his tongue, he says, “I am suffering in this flame.”
Torah and Living Water are Hebrew similes. Just as Fiery trials produce repentance.
Abraham endearingly addresses the rich man as Child and explains the chasm/gulf/wide space cannot be crossed. The rich man refers to Abraham as Father and asks him to send Lazarus to his father’s house where he has 5 brothers, (the Pharisees were listening and Jesus may have wanted to make sure they knew who He was referring to, Judah had 5 brothers from their mother Leah).
Abraham replies, they have Moses/Torah, (Water) and the Prophets, let them hear.
The rich man’s final plea is if someone from the dead would go they will repent, but Abraham said, “if they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets they will not be persuaded if someone would rise from the dead.”
Many people believe this story supports their eternal Hell Fire doctrine but I believe we must view God’s Word with eyes and ears to perceive physical examples as revealing spiritual truth.
Physical Examples Reveal Spiritual Reality
For Those Who Have Eyes to See and ears to hear.
God’s Word does not teach the dead are tormented eternally in a flesh burning fire. There is a Second Death but not it is not eternal, it’s Aion, an age lasting separation from our Spiritual Creator.
“Where oh death is your victory, where oh death is your sting?” Hosea 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:55
Our Creator is victorious over Death and the Grave. The word Hell, along with the man-made concept of eternal, flesh burning fire and the god of the underworld, does not match up to the plum-line of the Original, Perfect, Unchanging Word of Truth, Psalm 18:30; Deuteronomy 4:24; Isaiah 33:14