Saturday, February 25, 2006
Was "Hell" Made Up to Scare Us?
Sometime last year I found a web site that discussed where the concept of Hell came from, and whether or not it's consistent with what is actually written in the original languages of the Old and New Testament. I'm still not done analyzing the results, but I thought I'd share, and open up the discussion to those who read my blog. I'm not saying what my own beliefs are, I'm only reporting what I've found.
It appears that translation issues have given us the Hell we know today. When the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek, around 300 BCE, Sheol got translated into Hadees. These two concepts may have something in common, but they don't seem to be exactly the same. In any case, neither word denotes post-mortem retributive suffering; these words mean the state of being dead. 
If you look at the table found here, you will find that only very recent translations of the King James Version of the Bible use Hell in the Old Testament. That table also shows that only 12 out of 38 English translations of the New Testament even use the word.
So what's going on? Where did this idea of eternal torment come from? Did the Romans invent it to scare people into conversion? Are there errors in the materials I referenced below?
My mother is a Bible-thumping religion nut. I once told her that if she really wanted to know the truth, she should learn the languages of the Bible and read the original texts. That made her mad, but I'm pretty sure I was right.