Use of the word Hell in the Bible


#1

In older and more literal translations, the word "Hell" appears in the Bible over 80 times. But the trend in modern translations has been to use other words, so that the word Hell is used much less often. The NABRE does not use the world Hell at all.

The Catholic doctrine on Hell is based in large part on Sacred Scripture. But it becomes harder to support that doctrine, and easier to water it down, when modern translations eschew using the word itself.


#2

There's two sides to every coin, and words also change meaning over time.

The modern Catholic meaning of the word Hell, is the Hell of the Dammed. An older English menaing of the word was simply the place of all the dead, without differentiating between the dammed and the saved.

The bible makes a clear distinction between multiple after death states:

There is the place of the Dead, into which Jesus descended after his death on the cross, when he "Preached to the souls in Prison". There is no doubt that this was not the "Hell of the dammed", as that is a place where God is not. It would not be Hell if Jesus, who is God, went there.

There is a place of the dead, referred to in 2 Maccabees, where the souls of the soldiers were, if they were in the place of the dammed there would have been no eternal resurrection, and no hope for them therefore no point in offering a sacrifice for their sins.

The assumption is that them must have been in a place of waiting, or a place of Purgatory.

Some older translations used the one word "Hell" to refer to any place of the dead that was not explicitly referred to as Heaven or Paradise. - including the new testament references to Gehenna and Hades, which are clearly 2 different places.

Where metaphor is used in the original why translate as an assumed literal: e.g.: "The Abyss"

I would argue, in fact, that the wider, more literal translations, coupled with better catechesis, should make it easier to argue the catholic teachings of Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, the First or Particular Judgement; and the Final Judgment at the time of the Second Coming, The theological possibility of a Limbo (not the preferred option for infants by today's theologians - but understanding the issues can be useful, as there was clearly a Limbo of the Fathers.... that is explicit in the bible.)

Words change. Language changes. understanding of the scriptures and the root languages can develop and improve.


#3

I think in explaining and understanding the Concept of Heaven and Hell, rather than looking just to direct references to each in the bible, and defending a belief in the Fire and Brimstone teaching of a Hell into which a vengefull god will cast us for the slightest unconfessed sin.... it is better to start with an understanding of what Heaven is:
Being fully in the presence and Love of God: who is Goodness and Love itself, and where no evil and noting that is not pure can exist.

What Hell is: The state of voluntarily leaving the presence of God. The total absence of Good and Love is the most terrible thin a human soul can experience.

The First / Particular Judgement is the moment when, after we die, we come face to face with our Creator. We are attached to our actions, our loved ones, our works, our sins, our hatreds, our weaknesses and our strengths.
If we enter that moment in a state of deliberate rebellion against God, in a state of choosing to reject him, our chance to say sorry and love him again may be gone. In that state are we able to accept the fire of His Love: A fire which will refine like a furnace, and burn away everything that is not Pure Love. Pure Good?
If we can accept that judgment, that Love, that fire, the pain: the experience of being purified is one that is accepted as His Judgment. it is Him washing us clean in the blood of His Son. - But it is the fiercest fire in all of existence.

If we through our own pride hate anger or pain reject that Love, we cast ourselves out of the presence of God. It's a one-time choice. Once dead you no longer have the ability to change your mind.

Being outside the presence of God is far less intense than the experience of having a lifetime of attachment to this world burned away.... it is no-where near as hot as the refiners fire. - But is is without end. It is without Love. It is without any hope or possibility of future Love or future Hope or relief. It is a choice made but it is one made voluntarily by the sinner himself.

Now to most protestants or evangelicals I have ever spoken to the above description is fine The Love it untill you put a name on the process of being Purged. being Cleaned.
Use the word "Purgatory" and instantly they retract their prior ascent to everything outlined.....
If this is part of your intention: defending the existance of purgatory as well as heaven and hell, the above description is one I find to be very usefull.... save the word purgatory to the end, and suddenly watch them do a 180° turn from what they said they agreed with (or reluctantly accept that Purgatory actually does exist and is 100% scriptural)

The existence of Hell, on the other hand is a basic tenet of Christianity. To reject that (by someone who claims to be Christian) is not just Heresy, it is Apostasy.
For there not to be a Hell, would make God, not a god of Love and Justice, but a God of massive injustice.
How can he pretend we have free will, only to take away the ultimate goal of that free will at the last moment? - it's totally illogical.


#4

Slang changes but basic truths do not. I refuse to use certain words because they are simply repackaging - nothing more.

guardian.co.uk/world/2007/mar/27/catholicism.religion

biblehub.com/matthew/25-41.htm

Peace,
Ed


#5

[BIBLEDRB]Matt 25:41[/BIBLEDRB]
Interestingly the quote you give is never translated as "Hell", but "Everlasting Fire" or Eternal or Of Ages or equivalent.

The concept is there all the same.

Perhaps the O.P. is referring more to a passage like
[BIBLEDRB]Matt 16:18[/BIBLEDRB] Where the reference to Hell gets translated variously as:
Powers of Death, The Underworld, Hell, Hades, Sheol, and is "Inferni" in the Vulgate.
As I understand it, the Greek word used here was Hades, (Aramaic would have been Sheol), This was "The place of the dead", and the modern meaning of the word "Hell" meaning the place of the Dammed, is not a accurate translation.... "The Power of Death" is far more accurate. (As found in the RSV, and the Christian COmmunity Bible). while the use of "Hades" as found in the NRSV and the NABRE is a transliteration rather than a translation, which requires the reader to make their own interpretation, which is difficult without some knowledge of greek culture (Classics.)

Some older translations like the DRC do use "Hell", but I referr back to my comments about the meaning of Hell having narrowed in modern english, compared to previous use.


#6

For those who may doubt, they can search here: usccb.org/search.cfm?num=10&sort=date%3AD%3AL%3Ad1&q=hell&start=0&btnG=++search++&site=oldtestament&as_filetype= Check both OT and NT in the box to the right side.

I have both an NAB as well as an NAB/RE - but only for very occasional reference. As a practical matter, it is far easier to defend Catholic doctrine using the King James Version, frankly. My problem with this translation begins with the cover. Sacred Scripture is neither new, nor is it American. I only recently took note of the fact that the USCCB holds the copyright on the NAB/RE and, although it is a 501(c3) organization, the USCCB earns operating cash from the sale of this translation.

In looking at the overall picture of the American Church since 1970, one can see that the NAB has had a seemingly profound impact.

This is not a compliment.


#7

Pope Benedict XII: "By this Constitution which is to remain in force for ever, we, with apostolic authority, define the following.... Moreover we define that according to the general disposition of God, the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin go down into hell immediately after death and there suffer the pain of Hell." (Benedictus Deus)

Pope Pius XII: “Above all, the state of grace is absolutely necessary at the moment of death; without it, salvation and supernatural happiness -- the beatific vision of God -- are impossible.” (Address to Midwives)

Everyone who dies unrepentant from actual mortal sin will have eternal punishment in Hell. Everyone who dies in a state of grace will have eternal life in Heaven, perhaps after a temporary stay in Purgatory.

These doctrines are based on Christ's teaching in Scripture, but when the word Hell is excised from the Bible, the teachings become much less clear. Jesus mentions Hell more than a dozen times in the Gospels. Changing the word to something else obscures its meaning.

This is a part of a larger trend in modern Bible translations. All the sharp edges of Biblical teachings are dulled by a word-choice that makes the meaning more vague and less in accord with doctrines of the Magisterium.


#8

[quote="Ron_Conte, post:7, topic:334216"]
Pope Benedict XII: "By this Constitution which is to remain in force for ever, we, with apostolic authority, define the following.... Moreover we define that according to the general disposition of God, the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin go down into hell immediately after death and there suffer the pain of Hell." (Benedictus Deus)

Pope Pius XII: “Above all, the state of grace is absolutely necessary at the moment of death; without it, salvation and supernatural happiness -- the beatific vision of God -- are impossible.” (Address to Midwives)

Everyone who dies unrepentant from actual mortal sin will have eternal punishment in Hell. Everyone who dies in a state of grace will have eternal life in Heaven, perhaps after a temporary stay in Purgatory.

These doctrines are based on Christ's teaching in Scripture, but when the word Hell is excised from the Bible, the teachings become much less clear. Jesus mentions Hell more than a dozen times in the Gospels. Changing the word to something else obscures its meaning.

This is a part of a larger trend in modern Bible translations. All the sharp edges of Biblical teachings are dulled by a word-choice that makes the meaning more vague and less in accord with doctrines of the Magisterium.

[/quote]

My personal favorite is the 1952 and earlier versions of the Confraternity Bible (1941-1969). The introductions and notes are solid and confidence inspiring. Set it down and compare it side-by-side with the NAB(RE), and one immediately sees blurriness, doubt and even confusion in the NAB intros and notes. We do not worship a God of doubt or confusion! It only becomes worse when you contemplate the identity of the silent and invisible one who sows these seeds.


#9

[quote="po18guy, post:8, topic:334216"]
My personal favorite is the 1952 and earlier versions of the Confraternity Bible (1941-1969). The introductions and notes are solid and confidence inspiring. Set it down and compare it side-by-side with the NAB(RE), and one immediately sees blurriness, doubt and even confusion in the NAB intros and notes. We do not worship a God of doubt or confusion! It only becomes worse when you contemplate the identity of the silent and invisible one who sows these seeds.

[/quote]

I absolutely agree! I remember when I was first discovering Catholicism I bought some Catholic resources, and the NAB was one, and another disasterous resources was a book called Catholicism, and both were set backs to me because I discovered the Church mainly through the Church Fathers, but started using sources that I thought were solid Catholic material but was left in doubt for a while because the NAB footnotes made it appear as if the Bible was one big forgery, while the book Catholicism was quoting feminists as an authority! Fortunately I was pointed to the Catechism, and then discovered much better Bibles like Challoner's DR, and the Haydock Bible, which pointed me towards the Catholic Church that I was in pursuit of!

Did not mean to get off track from the OP.


#10

[quote="Ron_Conte, post:7, topic:334216"]
These doctrines are based on Christ's teaching in Scripture, but when the word Hell is excised from the Bible, the teachings become much less clear. Jesus mentions Hell more than a dozen times in the Gospels. Changing the word to something else obscures its meaning.

[/quote]

Jesus didn't speak English or German, nor did the writers of the Gospels, so Hell wouldn't be what was said. What you have translated as Hell is actually the word Gehenna in the original Greek sources (and Gehennæ in the Latin Vulgate if you prefer to consider that more authoritative). I don't see how using the actual word Jesus did by saying Gehenna obscures the message. This doesn't water anything down, the NABRE still refers to it as fiery and doesn't change any of the doctrine, they just use the actual word to better convey the analogy that Jesus was using since Gehenna was an actual place that people took their trash to burn.


#11

[quote="bjh13, post:10, topic:334216"]
Jesus didn't speak English or German, nor did the writers of the Gospels, so Hell wouldn't be what was said. What you have translated as Hell is actually the word Gehenna in the original Greek sources (and Gehennæ in the Latin Vulgate if you prefer to consider that more authoritative). I don't see how using the actual word Jesus did by saying Gehenna obscures the message. This doesn't water anything down, the NABRE still refers to it as fiery and doesn't change any of the doctrine, they just use the actual word to better convey the analogy that Jesus was using since Gehenna was an actual place that people took their trash to burn.

[/quote]

So, those who die in their sins in Asia will be thrown into a trash heap in Israel?


#12

[quote="po18guy, post:11, topic:334216"]
So, those who die in their sins in Asia will be thrown into a trash heap in Israel?

[/quote]

That is no more an argument against using the word Gehenna (as Jesus did) than me saying "So, those who die in their sins in Asia will be thrown into the Norse afterlife?" since that is where the word Hell comes from. It's an analogy, as I already said, to draw a particular image of what happens.

If the official Bible of the Catholic church, the Latin Vulgate (all of them whether Stuttgart scholarly reconstruction, Clementine, or Nova) uses the word Gehenna I don't understand how it would be wrong for the English translation to use it as well.


#13

Gehenna is not defined in the Catechism. Hell is. Gehenna is not taught as a final repository for the damned - hell is. Gehenna is a metaphor. Hell is reality. In the Catechism, the name “Gehenna” appears only within the larger teaching on the subject of hell.

As I sse it, the faithful of all all ages are more poorly served should the Church rely for all time solely on the temporal metaphor of a physical location, known primarily to those in and around Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. The Church has deemed that the geographical name of Gehenna is not sufficient by itself to convey the eternal state of despair, torment and separation from God.

The Catechism does not have a section, not even a re-direct, naming Gehenna. It does, however, have several paragraphs and a defined teaching on the eternal state known as hell. The four “last things” in Church teaching are: death, judgment, heaven and hell. Why not call hell what it is? Particularly since the Church has taken great pains to explain it?

Practically speaking, has anyone ever told you to “go to Gehenna”?

The OP may not concur, but I believe that he is pointing out the glaring omission of the word hell (see Catechism sections 1033-1037) inasmuch as that omission coincides with various other apparent negligences of the past four to five decades. The NAB, while many seem content with it, is roundly criticized on numerous points. Perceived deficiencies in translation, as well as introductions and footnoting are well known and oft noted.

My bottom line: The NAB/RE is yet another fruit of the “spirit of Vatican II”, which in retrospect, appears to be a worldly spirit.


#14

[quote="po18guy, post:13, topic:334216"]
The Church has deemed that the geographical name of Gehenna is not sufficient by itself to convey the eternal state of despair, torment and separation from God.

[/quote]

Well, if that's true then why haven't they corrected the Latin? Has the Church deemed that English is the new Liturgical Language of the Church? My point isn't that it is wrong to use the word Hell, but that it is fully inline with Catholic doctrine to use the word Gehenna.

[quote="po18guy, post:13, topic:334216"]

My bottom line: The NAB/RE is yet another fruit of the "spirit of Vatican II", which in retrospect, appears to be a worldly spirit.

[/quote]

I understand where you are coming from, but it's important that we take into account that the Holy See is the ultimate authority in these matters, not us.


#15

[quote="bjh13, post:14, topic:334216"]
Well, if that's true then why haven't they corrected the Latin? Has the Church deemed that English is the new Liturgical Language of the Church? My point isn't that it is wrong to use the word Hell, but that it is fully inline with Catholic doctrine to use the word Gehenna.

[/quote]

The language is fine and needs correction only when the Church decides that it does. What we are talking about is at the practical level. There has been an overarching pattern of poor catechesis since V2, combined with a lukewarm bible that pointedly avoids the use of the doctrinal term "hell". That is the problem. The average Catholic, of which I am one, is not well served or well taught by such decisions. There is an identifiable trend, or tendency in recent Church preaching that tilts in the direction of universal salvation, the soft selling of judgment, the avoidance of the word hell - this is all part of a much greater pattern.

I quote French poet Charles Baudelaire: "The devil's greatest trick is to convince us that he does not exist."

I wish there were more poets in today's Church.

[quote="bjh13, post:14, topic:334216"]
I understand where you are coming from, but it's important that we take into account that the Holy See is the ultimate authority in these matters, not us.

[/quote]

Exactly! And the Magisterium of the Church has defined the doctrine of hell. Do we so fear that doctrine that we either ignore it or re-package it to make it more palatable?

Gehenna is analogy, while hell is de fide.


#16

Do you know who wants the word Hell taken out of the bible?

Satan!

Being afraid of Hell might prompt one to avoid going there.

Not being afraid of Hell might result in one going there.


#17

[quote="Jerry-Jet, post:16, topic:334216"]
Do you know who wants the word Hell taken out of the bible?

Satan!

Being afraid of Hell might prompt one to avoid going there.

Not being afraid of Hell might result in one going there.

[/quote]

The serpent, you see, was the most subtle of all the creatures in the garden.


#18

Might I interject and say "hell" is an Anglo-Saxon conflation. While indeed Jesus does speak of a place of fire (Gehenna, an actual physical locale used for burning garbage) and the house of the dead (Sheol, where Christ Himself descended), Hades, etc. I find it counterproductive to conflate all these places with a singular name. That's all I'll say - I just hope no one misconstrues this into I don't believe in damnation, etc.


#19

[quote="MorEphrem, post:18, topic:334216"]
Might I interject and say "hell" is an Anglo-Saxon conflation. While indeed Jesus does speak of a place of fire (Gehenna, an actual physical locale used for burning garbage) and the house of the dead (Sheol, where Christ Himself descended), Hades, etc. I find it counterproductive to conflate all these places with a singular name. That's all I'll say - I just hope no one misconstrues this into I don't believe in damnation, etc.

[/quote]

As you rightly mention, Gehenna was originally a place of child sacrifice and later of perpetual flame that burned refuse. Now, 2,000 years ago, to those in Palestine, this was a timely and meaningful reference. Fast forward to our day, and "hell" has much more meaning to contemporary believers.

The elimination of "hell", when added to all of the other peculiarities of the NAB, points to a disturbing pattern of bias or agenda on the part of the translators and editors of the book. And, that bias seems to be away from the content of the catechism.


#20

[quote="po18guy, post:19, topic:334216"]
As you rightly mention, Gehenna was originally a place of child sacrifice and later of perpetual flame that burned refuse. Now, 2,000 years ago, to those in Palestine, this was a timely and meaningful reference. Fast forward to our day, and "hell" has much more meaning to contemporary believers.

[/quote]

Much more meaning, true, but not near the accuracy in what Jesus is saying there. Perhaps the word should be changed to "pile of burning trash" or something, because there is a specific image Jesus is trying to invoke that is lost by calling it Hell and lumping it in with the references to Sheol and Hades. Gehenna is a more accurate translation, in line with Liturgiam Authenticam, plain and simple. If people don't understand the reference, that is what footnotes are for and the teachings of the Church, to educate us.

[quote="po18guy, post:19, topic:334216"]
The elimination of "hell", when added to all of the other peculiarities of the NAB, points to a disturbing pattern of bias or agenda on the part of the translators and editors of the book. And, that bias seems to be away from the content of the catechism.

[/quote]

All this talk about bias and agenda sounds a lot like things I hear from KJV-onlyist. Satan is not behind this Bible translation, just people that disagree with you regarding some matters of translation. Just because you don't like how they translated something doesn't mean they are trying to undermine the Catechism in service of the Devil.

I have a lot of disagreement with the NABRE, but not this. Jesus was saying something specific, there is a reason he used the word Gehenna rather than any number of epitaphs for the afterlife he could have used like Hades or Orcus. Instead, he used the term for a garbage dump where trash is burned. In my opinion, where the Bible says Hades, those are the places you put in Hell. Where Jesus says Gehenna, put Gehenna and a footnote stating what that means.

The Catechism is there to explain our understanding of the teachings of the Church and the Bible, not the other way around. If we start altering the language of the Bible to perpetuate inaccuracies so it is in better line with how we think our statement of faith should read, then that makes us no better than Martin Luther changing an important passage from "faith" to "faith alone", or Baptist who want to replace the word "baptized" with "immersed".


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