That’s A Good Question

By Larry Ray Hafley


Form the U.S.S. Saratoga New York “What is hades?”


The King James Version (KJV) of the Scriptures has muddled the understanding of many regarding the words “hades” and “hell.” The KJV translates “hades” as “hell” and “grave” (Lk. 16:23; Acts 2:27; 1 Cor. 15:55). The word gehenna or “hell,” the place of everlasting punishment, the take of fire and brimstone, is not the same as hades, but the KJV uses the word “hell” to translate both. The American Standard Version (ASV) makes the distinction clear between “hades” and “hell.” A comparison of the texts which use “hell” in the KJV and the ASV will serve to clarify the issue.

“Terms Explained”

“Sheol is a Hebrew word which is used numerous times in the Old Testament and is translated hell 32 times in the KJV. The ASV translates it by the word hell 14 times. Contrary to popular opinion, this work does not refer to what we mean when we use the word hell. Tlie word sheol has reference to the unseen world where the dead above and is equivalent to the Greek word hades (ISBE). There is no idea of unconsciousness, punishment or “hell” in the word.

“Hades is transliterated in the ASV but is never translated hell, but it is translated Hell in the KJV which causes considerable confusion in the minds of people. Thayer (an eminent Greek scholar) defines the word to mean the unseen world which is the realm of the dead. It occurs four times in the gospels (Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Lk. 10:15; 16:23).

“The Greek word hades and the Hebrew word sheol are equivalent. A study of two passages will demonstrate this. The Psalmist predicts in Psalms 16:10 that the Christ’s soul would not be left in Sheol. This passage is quoted in Acts 2:27 and the sheol is rendered by the word hades. When Luke, the inspired writer of Acts, quoted the Old Testament word sheol, he used the word hades to translate it. (Another example is seen by comparing Hos 13:14 and 1 Cor. 15:55-LRH). Thus the two words have the same meaning.

“There is no idea of the punishment of hell in either term, though the wicked are tormented in hades (Luke 16:19-31). Christ now has the power over death and hades (Rev. 1:18) and will cast both of them into the lake of fire at the judgment (Rev. 20:14).

“The Term Gehenna”

“This word occurs some 12 times in the New Testament and is uniformly translated hell. It refers to the eternal punishment (Matt. 18:8,9; Lk. 9:47,48). This word is a transliteration from the Hebrew ‘Valley of Hinnom’ and refers to a place of refuse where once children had been burned to Moloch (2 Kings 23:10). It was a buring place of punishment. to Jews (Jeremiah 7:32).

“From this study of the words, one can easily see that there would not be so much confusion had the original words been uniformly translated by the appropriate words. The word gehenna occurs in the following passages: Mat. 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mk. 9:43,45,47; Lk. 12:5; Jas. 3:6. The word Hades occurs in the following passages and is translated hell and grave in the KJV: Matt. 11:23~ 16:18; Lk. 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; 1 Cor. 15:55; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13,t4” (Clinton D. Hamilton).

The Rich Man, Lazarus, Jesus, and Hades

The rich man in Luke 16:23 died. His body was buried in a grave on earth. Still. the sacred narrative says, “In hell (hades) lie lift up his eyes, being in torments.” Lazarus, the !)eggar, died, “and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom,” where he was “comforted” (Lk. 16:22,25). There was “a great gulf” which separated the rich man and Lazarus. It was “fixed,” impassable (Lk. 16:26).

When Jesus died, His body went to the grave of Joseph of Ariniathea (Matt. 27:57-60). Jesus’ soul went to hell, or hades (Acts 2:27, 31). Now, are we to suppose that Jesus was “tormented” in hades? The Bible says, according to the KJV, that He went to “hell” as did the rich man (Lk. 16:23; Acts 2:27). Remember that “hell” as hades, not gehenna-hell, the place of eternal punishment. See the ASV. Jesus had told one of the thieves on the cross, “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.” So, “paradise” is a section of hades. It is the place where Lazarus’ soul was located. It is a place of comfort and pleasure. The other compartment of hades is a place of torment. It is called tartarus (2 Pet. 2:4), which means “a place of punishment.” This is the segment of hades where the rich man’s soul was deposited.

“In Hades then, the receptacle of all the dead, there are rewards and punishments. There is a paradise or an Abraham’s Bosom, and there is a tartarus, in which the evil spirits are chained, and the spirits of wicked men engulfed. Hence, the rich man in tartarus, and Lazarus in Abraham’s Bosom, were both in Hades. Jesus and the converted thief were together in Hades, while they were together in Paradise” (Alexander Campbell).

Truth Magazine XX: 37, p. 587
September 16, 1976