This article is based and built on and around, the work in the of E.W. Bullinger in “The Companion Bible“, appendix 131.
The bible texts used are from the Modern King James Version.
As Bullinger says: “Hell” is the English rendering of two different Greek words in the New Testament.
The English word is form the Anglo-Saxon hel, Genitive case, helle=a hidden place, from the Anglo-Saxon helan=to hide. It is in the New Testament used as the Greek translation of two Greek words:
Greek geenna γέεννα, this is the transliteration of the Hebrew Gai’ Hinnõm הנּם גּיא, i.e. the Valley of Hinnõm or “the valley” of [the sons of ] Hinnõm, where there were fires through which children were passed in the worship of Moloch. In the Old Testament, Tophet תּפת, was the Hebrew word used, because it was a place in this valley.
In the Lord’s day the idolatry had ceased, but the fires were still continually burning there for the destruction of the refuse of Jerusalem.
Hence geenna was used for the fires of destruction associated with the judgement of God.
Sometimes, “geenna of fire”. See 2 Kings 23:10; Isaiah 30:33; Jeremiah 7:31,33; 19:11-14. Geenna occurs 12 times, and is always rendered “hell”, viz. Matthew 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,23; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6.
Greek hadēs ᾅδης, from a (privative) and idein, to see; used by the Greeks for the unseen world.
The meaning which the Greeks put upon it does not concern us; nor have we anything to do with the imaginations of the heathens, or of the traditions of the Jews or the Romanists, or the teachings of demons or evil spirits, or any who still cling to them.
The Holy Spirit has used it as one of the “words pertaining to the earth”, and in doing so has “purified” it, “as silver tried in a furnace” (Psalm 12:6).
From the we learn that His own words “are pure”, but words belonging to the earth have to be “purified”. The Old testament is the fountain-head of the Hebrew language.
It has no literature behind it. But the case is entirely different with the Greek language. The Hebrew Shᵉ’ôl שׁאל שׁאול, is a word divine in its origin and usage.
The Greek Hades is human in its origin and comes down to us laden with centuries of development, in which it has acquired new senses, meanings and usages. Seeing that the Holy Spirit has used it in Acts 2:27,31 as His own equivalent of Shᵉ‘ôl in Psalm 16:10, He has settled, once for all, the sense in which we are to understand it.
The meaning He has given to Shᵉ‘ôl in Psalm 16:10, is the one meaning we are to give it wherever it occurs in the New Testament, whether we transliterate it or translate it. We have no liberty to do otherwise, and must discard everything outside the Word of God.
The word occurs 11 times (Matthew 11:23,16:18; Luke 10:15,16:23; Acts 2:27,31; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 1;18, 6:8, 20:13-14); and is rendered and is rendered “hell” in every passage except one, where it is rendered “grave” (1 Corinthians 15:55 margin “hell”).
In the Revised Version of the Bible, the word is always transliterated “Hades” except in 1 Corinthians 15:55 (where “death” is substituted because of the reading, in all of the texts of thanate for hadēs), and in the American Revised Version also.
As Hades is the divine scriptural equivalent of Shᵉ‘ôl, further light may be gained in Ap. 35 and a reference to the 65 passages there given.
It may be well to note that while “Hades” is rendered “hell” in the New Testament (except once where the rendering ‘the grave” could not be avoided), She’ôl it Hebrew equivalent occurs 65 times and is rendered “the grave” 31 times (or 54%); “hell” 31 times (4 times with margin “the grave”, reducing it to 45.1%); and “pit” only 3 times (or 4.5%).
“The grave“, therefore, is obviously the best rendering, meaning the state of death (German sterbend, for which we have no English equivalent); not the act of dying, as an examination of all the occurrences of both words will show.
1. The rendering “pit” so evidently means “the grave” that it may be at once substituted for it (Numbers 16:30,33; Job 17:16).
2. Rendering “the grave”, (not “a grave”, which is Hebrew keber or bor) exactly expresses the meaning of both Shᵉ‘ôl and Hades. for, as to direction it is always down: as to place, it is in the earth: as to relation, it is always in contrast to the state of the living (Deuteronomy 32:22-25 and 1 Samuel 2:6-8): as to association, it is connected to:
Mourning (Genesis 37:34-35), Sorrow (Genesis 42:38; 2 Samuel 22:6; Psalm 18:5, 116:3), Fright and Terror (Numbers 16:27,34), Mourning (Isaiah 38:3,10,17,18), Silence (Psalm 6:5; 31:17; Ecclesiastes 9:10), No Knowledge (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6,10), Punishment (Numbers 16:29,34; 1 Kings 2:6,9; Job 24:10; Psalm 9:17 (R.V=re-turned)), Corruption (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27,31); and as to duration, resurrection is the only exit from it (Psalm 16:11; Acts 2:27,31; 13:33-37; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 1:18; 20:5,13-14).
Occurs only in 2 Peter 2:4 = to thrust down to Tartarus, Tartarus ταρταρόω, being a Greek word, not used elsewhere, or in the Septuagint. Homer describes it as subterranean (see Deuteronomy 32:22 which may refer to this).
The Homeric Tartarus is the prison of the Titans, or giants (see Hebrew rephaim רפה / רפא Genesis 14:15) who rebelled against Zeus.”