Did you know?

The word “hell” does not occur anywhere in the Bible.

The modern English word “Hell” is derived from Old English hel, helle (about 725 AD to refer to a nether world of the dead) reaching into the Anglo-Saxon pagan period, and ultimately from Proto-Germanic halja, meaning "one who covers up or hides something". The word has cognates in related languages such as Old Frisian helle, hille, Old Saxon hellja, Middle Dutch helle (modern Dutch hel), Old High German helle (Modern German Hölle), Danish, Norwegian and Swedish"helvede"/helvete (hel + Old Norse vitti, "punishment").

Some intriguing words that you may not be familiar with!

שְׁאוֹל (Sheol)

The OLD TESTAMENT uses the term “Sheol” (Hebrew שְׁאוֹל) which means “The Place of the Dead” or “the grave.”

"Sheol” is translated in Greek First Testament as Hades, also meaning just the Place of the Dead.  “Hades” is then used in the New Testament with the same meaning.

γέεννα (Gehenna)

Jesus uses the word “Gehenna,” (Greek γέεννα) referring to the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom to the south of Jerusalem, a real place that was a trash dump.

Jesus uses the word Gehenna 11 times.  Gehenna γέεννα is a transliteration of an Old Testament Hebrew expression, “the valley of Hinnom,” which denoted a ravine on the southern side of Jerusalem. This valley was used by certain apostate Hebrews as a place where their children were offered into the fiery arms of the pagan god Molech (2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6). It was thus an area of suffering and weeping. When Josiah launched his reformation, this valley was regarded as a site of heinous abomination (2 Kgs. 23:10-14). It finally became the garbage depository of Jerusalem where there was a continual burning of refuse.

ἀποκατάστασις (Apokatastasis)

ἀποκατάστασις is a concept that there will be an ultimate return of all created beings to harmony with God.  The word, apokatastasis, appears once in the Bible in Acts 3:21: Peter heals a handicapped beggar and then addresses the astonished onlookers. His sermon sets Jesus in the Jewish context, the fulfiller of the Abrahamic Covenant, and says:

  • "He [Jesus] must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore (apocatastasis) everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets."

Many of the early church fathers wrote of the Biblical fire of judgment as being a “fire of purification,” not destruction or punishment. Though there was disagreement about specifics, there were discussions about the concept as implying ultimate salvation for all.  The idea was declared to be a heresy at the Synod of Constantinople in 543 AD and thereafter vanishes in theological writings. 

Published on  December 12th, 2012