Was Jonah In Hell?

Ralph D. Gentry
Dayton, Ohio

Efforts made by Jehovah's Witnesses to deny the Bible doctrine of eternal punishment in hell admit of many extreme and radical positions of deceitful practices. Secondary meanings, materialistic interpretations and sundry translations are employed at will when most convenient and needful to sustain the adopted theory, and all of this without regard for the context of said passage. Because a word is susceptible of one meaning in a given place, they assume this must be the meaning of the word in every usage, especially if such a meaning is needful to uphold the theory espoused. Such a mis-use of language is often made of the words,

Soul, death and life." Only one verse is sufficient to illustrate their contention to be either ignorance blatantly manifest or dishonesty taught in private places denying public and honorable discussion of the same. HEAR JESUS: "Let the dead bury the dead." That the word the word "dead" does not refer to annihilation is here clearly shown by Christ, lest his teaching be condemned as the irrational ravings of a demoniac. But to the subject at hand, "Was Jonah in Hell?"

A recent issue of "Awake," a publication of the "materialistic persuasion," directs our attention to Jon. 2:2 which reads as follows: "And Jonah prayed to God out of the fish's belly, out of the belly of hell cried 1, and thou hearest my voice." Thus we are told that hell is a place of burial, therefore no deeper than the grave as illustrated by the word "grave" in the marginal reading.

Comment: Then, as per their definition, here is a man in hell and consciously miserable. Their unconsciousness after death theory is destroyed by their own admission! Now they tell us that hell is not eternal punishment for Jonah got out and one couldn't get out of hell, which he did, if it be such. Our friends would do well to consider the consequences of such a conclusion for it will work both ways. And what proves too much, proves nothing. Notice: If hell is the grave and one can't get out of the grave, being annihilated per J's W., then Jonah's getting out proves it wasn't the grave! If not, why not? The legs of the lame are not equal!

But of course, showing an inconsistency of the opposition doesn't necessarily answer his argument. So in all fairness, let us notice the basic error of reasoning in the contention. The English word "hell" here rendered erroneously by the King James version and the original word "Sheol" are different words with entirely different meanings. The. Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Sheol" is "Hades", both of which mean, the unseen state. Jonah was "unseen." The opposition assumes that Sheol means grave (an unwarranted assumption lacking the testimony of authoritative lexicographers) therefore "hell" (conveniently adapted from the KJV and Catholic D.V. and imposed upon the unsuspecting readers) is nothing more or less than the grave. What they do not tell the public is that when those words were placed in the texts in those versions that the translators used them by metonymy and were figuratively employed and this is keeping with the original creeds of men containing the prevalent religious concept of spiritual destination. But what they will do is: select the translation that best suits the theory, that from all appearance upholds the doctrine and this irrespective of whether or not they accept that particular rendition as correct in translation.

Now why not just accept the infallible definition of the word "hell" as given by Jesus and recorded in Luke 12:4,5 ? If not settled by Christ then to whom can we go? Truly the doctrine of "no hell" is born of evil desire without restraint and is but the offspring of a false concept of the nature of God, his goodness and his severity as related in Romans 11 :22. If hell is but the grave then how could the grave hold any terror for us after death when we have ceased to exist as per Jehovah's Witness doctrine? Believe them not!

Truth Magazine IV:10, pp. 238-239
July 1960