Sunday, February 19, 2006

Word Study: Hades

Bible Study: Versions (part 3)

LUKE 16:23 (NKJV) “And being in torments in Hades…” (Emphasis added)

LUKE 16:23 (KJV) “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments…” (Emphasis added)

Hades n. Class. Myth. 1. a. the underworld inhabited by departed souls b. the god ruling the underworld; Pluto 2. (In the RV of the New Testament) the abode or state of the dead.
--Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (1996)

-- Not Listed

Webster’s New World Dictionary (1990) -- Definition 1.

HELL n. 1. the place or state of punishment for the wicked after death.

hell n. 1. (often H-) Theol. the state or place of place and final separation from God and so of eternal misery and suffering arrived at by those who die unrepentant in grave sin.
--Webster’s New World Dictionary (1990)

Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (1996)--Same as NOAH WEBSTER 1828

Note: Hades is a transliteration of a Greek word, not an actual English word, explaining why the 1828 Dictionary does not have an entry. It has been adopted into our language.

This study was a real challenge. It was very hard to find a resource that wasn’t opinionated and didn’t present opinion as fact. Actually, I never did find an un-opinionated resource.

The only thing that was agreed upon in most of the books and bibles I looked at was that we really aren’t sure what Hades is.

The vast majority of those books and bibles put forth one of these two opinions:
I. Hades is hell
Hades is not hell
If Hades is hell, then why don’t we just call it that?
And if Hades isn’t hell, then what is it?

First I turned to the Vine’s Concise Dictionary of the Bible. It said… very little. The entry was short and confusing, but appeared to support opinion II. Their explanation of Hades was (or seemed to be), that it is an abode of the dead for unbelievers till they are judged and sent to the ultimate hell (Gehenna).

Because of this confusion I searched for, and found a Greek/English dictionary at my local library. The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament was, for the most part, a good Greek/English dictionary. But once again when I looked up the word Hades, there was more opinion than fact. This dictionary held to view II. It said Hades is an intermediate place between death and ultimate hell (Gehenna).

While I was at a friend’s house, telling them about my word study, they pulled out their Vine’s Dictionary. It was much older than mine. I looked up Hades in it and I was very surprised. Their Vine’s Dictionary entry was over twice as long and much clearer. It still had plenty of opinion, but the opinion was of the I. view. It stated that Hades was just as good (or in this case, as bad) as hell (Gehenna), which is the final, eternal, lake of fire meant for the devil, the fallen angels and unbelievers.

And now… my opinion. I believe that Hades is hell (or as good… er, as bad as). The bible seems to indicate in REV. 20:12-15, that Hades and hell are not the exact same (the biggest difference I see is that Hades-hell does not hold the devil or his fallen angels)

At any rate, LUKE 16:23 appears to denote that there are torments in Hades. That makes it a fairly unpleasant place to be, in my opinion. Many of the books that hold to view II., say that the Hades spoken of by Jesus here is “obviously figurative”. I have trouble with an author who says something is obvious when it doesn’t seem to be. The greatest evidence they give is that this is a parable, but Jesus told many parables that weren’t entirely figurative. If anyone should know that the Hades-hell has torments, Jesus should.

Another note about the Word Study Dictionary’s explanation, it sounds a lot like the New Age Religion’s view of Hades, which is that Hades is a place of purification between death and paradise.

Finally, in the least, Hades is a confusing term. The Encyclopedia Britannica (1955) list Hades as only the Greek mythological place of the dead, no mention of hell or the bible. Most dictionaries’ mention hell, but don’t specify that it is punishment. I already stated what the New Ager’s believe. In fact, the Assyrian Hades is an abode of blessedness with silver skies, called Happy Fields.

More (unrelated) verses to consider:
1. MATTHEW 20:20 (KJV) “Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him (Jesus)…”
Many other version say “kneeling down” or “kneeling before” instead of “worshipping him, kneeling isn’t worship

2. 1 COR. 1:21 (KJV) “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

Other versions read “foolishness of the message preached” in the place of “foolishness of preaching”. The message is foolishness, only to those who perish (1 Cor. 1:18)


Elizabeth Ellen Moore said...

I commend you for using such a strong translation of the Bible. There are a lot of versions out there. I counted 36 on one list! It is very important to read God's word in the most accurate form. Question: Do you believe the King James Version is completely without any fault? Are there any words in the entire KJV that could be translated more precisely into our modern English? If not, what source do you base this belief on? Thanks for another deeply researched post!

Sparky said...

Wow, man, this is great. I always thought Hades was hell, but have never been sure. Thanks for voting, and next contest, I will be sure to notify you. Do you still play bass at Miss Suzi's? I wish I still had a bass, but they are a little hard to find and are expensive.

Wholesome Works said...


Thank you for the encouragement.

This is my own study. I do not follow any single person or opinion. I have included all of my research sources in each post. I presented what I have found, and encourage everyone to do their own research, and draw their own conclusions. I am not saying I'm right and anyone else is wrong.

In answer to your questions:

1. I don't know at this point, I am still studying. But if by fault, you mean contradictions, no, I don't think the KJV has any contradictions.

2. I'm sure there are words in the KJV that could be translated more precisely. I haven't read all of it, and I'm not saying we shouldn't read from other translations.

I realize the English language is a living language, and God's word, a living word. The KJV is not considered hard to read. In fact, in a Flecsh-Kincaid Grade Level Research Study using the top 7 bible translations (KJV, NKJV, NASV, NIV, RSV, NRSV, and NCV), the KJV came out easiest to read in 23 of 26 categories and received an average grade level of 5.8.


Wholesome Works said...


Thanks for your encouraging words.

I no longer go to Miss Suzi's, and I sold my bass recorder.


Elizabeth Ellen Moore said...

I agree that the Bible has no contradictions. It shows the greatness of God that over thousands of years His word has remained the same and consistent. He is an amazing God.

It is sad that the "grade level" needed for the KJV has spiked. It used to be elementary and necessary reading for young children.

Speaking of Miss Suzi's, the festival is this Saturday. I would appreciate your prayers, Markus. I mostly need help in my piano and violin.


Sparky said...


Sorry to hear you sold your bass, but people must pursue their best interests, so I don't blame you. I don't think I'd have time if I was still in OK anyway. Well, what are you currently pursuing then? I am in piano still, and baseball, but my newest addition is tennis. I wish I was good enough to turn pro, but it is fun anyway.

Wholesome Works said...


I've sent you an email. :)