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How many times is "hell" mentioned in the Bible?

How often does the word "hell" appear in the original Hebrew Bible, which constitutes the Old Testament of the Christian Bible? As the table below demonstrates, according to the consensus opinion of modern Bible scholars, the word "hell" as a place of eternal suffering was never mentioned, not even a single time, in the entire Old Testament! In fact, the Hebrew language lacks any word that means "hell." That's a very curious omission, don't you think, if an all-wise God gave the Bible to the ancient Hebrew prophets! And while some Christian Bible translations still contain a small handful of cryptic references to "hell" in the New Testament, those references raise a perplexing question: Why does "hell" suddenly pop up in a few stray verses here and there in the later-written books of the Bible, when in earlier biblical chronologies covering thousands of years there had never been any mention of "hell" or any possibility of suffering after death?

Other questions addressed here include: Where is hell located, according to the Bible? Is hell on earth, underground, or in some other dimension? Is hell eternal? Will human beings go to hell forever? Will Satan and other fallen angels go to hell forever? Since hell was not there originally, when was hell added to the Bible, and why? Why was hell added to the Bible, if God and the Hebrew prophets never mentioned it even once? Is there any proof of hell in the Bible? And why does it seem that only one writer of the Bible knew anything about a place called "hell"?

If these questions interest you, they are answered in the table below, and in the Q&A that follows, using the Bible itself as evidence. Also, I have created a simple, logical proof that there is No Hell in the Bible, which you read without annoying ads by clicking the hyperlinked title.

by Michael R. Burch

According to the consensus opinion of modern Bible scholars,
the word "hell" did not appear a single time, not even once, in the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament (OT). And the word "hell" is very hard to find in the New Testament (NT) as well. You can easily confirm this fact yourself, by using an online Bible search tool to scan various Bible translations for the word "hell." Or you can save time and effort by referring to the table below, which was produced by Gary Amirault, a Bible scholar who has extensively researched and written about the question of "hell" as a biblical teaching. I have added two translations to his original list: the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), sponsored by the famously literal and conservative Southern Baptist Convention, and the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE), produced by more than a hundred Bible scholars working for the Roman Catholic Church. The good news is that evangelical Protestant Bible experts and Catholic Bible experts agree: There never was a "hell" in the Bible!

The word "hell" does not appear in the Bible because:

(1) The Hebrew word Sheol clearly means "the grave," not "hell." Everyone went to Sheol when they died, not just the wicked. Sheol was not a place of suffering, because in Job 14:13, a much-beset Job asked to go to Sheol to escape suffering! He clearly meant that if he died, his suffering would end in the grave. Sheol was not a place where God was absent, because King David said in Psalm 139:8 that when he made his bed in Sheol (i.e., when he died and was laid in his grave), God would still be with him. And Sheol was not an eternal inescapable prison, because in Psalm 49:15 the Sons of Korah said that God would redeem them from Sheol, by which they meant that they would be resurrected from the grave to new life. Furthermore, the prophet Ezekiel and the apostle Paul agreed that all Israel would be saved, and yet in Genesis 37:35, Israel himself said that he would be reunited with his son Joseph in Sheol. How can all Israel be saved if Israel himself is in "hell"? In each case Sheol clearly means "the grave" or "the abode of all the dead, good and bad" and cannot be interpreted as "hell" unless "hell" is heaven!

(2) The Greek word Hades also clearly means "the grave" not "hell." Everyone went to Hades when they died, not just the wicked. Hades contained heavenly regions like the Elysian Fields and the Blessed Isles. The Greek hell was Tartarus, which is discussed below, in section 4.

(3) The place name Gehenna does not mean "hell" because Gehenna is a valley in Israel also known in Hebrew as Gehinnom, or the Valley of Hinnom. Today Gehenna is a lovely park and tourist attraction. Wonderful archeological discoveries have been made there, such as the healing pool of Siloam and the oldest Bible verses ever discovered, inscribed on small silver amulets. Those verses are the benediction "The LORD bless thee and keep thee; the LORD make his countenance to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee." Those are wonderfully comforting words to have been discovered in "hell," don't you think?

(4) The Greek hell was Tartarus. This is the only word in the Bible that actually means "hell" in either Greek or Hebrew. But the word Tartarus appears only once in the entire Bible, in 2 Peter 2:4. And that verse is about fallen angels awaiting judgment, so it is not eternal and is not for human beings. The only verse in the Bible that contains a word that actually means "hell" is about a place where Satan and other fallen angels will await judgement.

The bottom line is that only one major translation of the Bible, the King James Version, contains the word "hell" in the Old Testament. As you can see below, the New King James Version cuts the number of Old Testament references to "hell" almost in half. But all the remaining OT verses are mistranslations, according to the Bible scholars who produced the other translations. And if there really is a "hell," how is it possible that none of the Hebrew prophets knew anything about it, and never mentioned any possibility of suffering after death? Why were hell and the possibility of suffering after death never mentioned to Adam, Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Lot, the people of Sodom, Moses, the Pharaoh who defied God repeatedly, Job, Jonah, David, Solomon, Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, or any of the other Hebrew prophets? 

TIMES THE WORD "HELL" APPEARS IN THE BIBLE

OT

NT

Total

"Authorized" King James Version (KJV), based on corrupted texts

31

23

54

New King James Version (NKJV), still wrong about Sheol

19

13

32

New International Version (NIV) the best-selling English Bible

0

13

13

American Standard Version (ASV)

0

13

13

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

0

13

13

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) Southern Baptist

0

11

11

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

0

12

12

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

0

12

12

Revised English Bible (REB)

0

13

13

New Living Translation (NLT)

0

13

13

Amplified Bible (AMP)

0

13

13

Darby

0

12

12

New Century Version (NCV)

0

12

12

New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) Roman Catholic

0

0

0

Wesley's New Testament (1755)

0

0

0

Scarlett's N.T. (1798)

0

0

0

The New Testament in Greek and English (Kneeland, 1823)

0

0

0

Young's Literal Translation (1891)

0

0

0

Twentieth Century New Testament (1900)

0

0

0

Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (reprinted, 1902)

0

0

0

Fenton's Holy Bible in Modern English (1903)

0

0

0

Weymouth's New Testament in Modern Speech (1903)

0

0

0

Jewish Publication Society Bible Old Testament (1917)

0

0

0

Panin's Numeric English New Testament (1914)

0

0

0

The People's New Covenant (Overbury, 1925)

0

0

0

Hanson's New Covenant (1884)

0

0

0

Western N.T. (1926)

0

0

0

NT of our Lord and Savior Anointed (Tomanek, 1958)

0

0

0

Concordant Literal NT (1983)

0

0

0

The N.T., A Translation (Clementson, 1938)

0

0

0

Emphatic Diaglott, Greek/English Interlinear (Wilson, 1942)

0

0

0

New American Bible (1970)

0

0

0

Restoration of Original Sacred Name Bible (1976)

0

0

0

Tanakh, The Holy Scriptures, Old Testament (1985)

0

0

0

The New Testament, A New Translation (Greber, 1980)

0

0

0

Christian Bible (1991)

0

0

0

World English Bible

0

0

0

Orthodox Jewish Brit Chadasha [NT Only]

0

0

0

Original Bible Project (Dr. James Tabor)

0

0

0

Zondervan Parallel N.T. in Greek and English (1975)

0

0

0

Int. NASB-NIV Parallel N.T. in Greek and English (1993)

0

0

0

A Critical Paraphrase of the N.T. by Vincent T. Roth (1960)

0

0

0


Q: Where is hell located, according to the Bible?

A: The Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades were both located beneath the earth, because both words mean "the grave" or the "abode of the dead" and graves are underground. But as explained above, these words clearly do not mean "hell." The Hebrew Gehenna was a physical valley in Israel, and also does not mean "hell." The Greek Tartarus does appear to mean something like "hell" but, as explained above, was not eternal and was not for human beings. Its location would be underground, because it was part of Hades.

Q: Why do you say that only one Bible writer knew anything about a place called "hell"?

A: As I have explained on this page, the Hebrew word Sheol and the Greek word Hades clearly mean "the grave" not "hell." The word that actually means "hell" or something like "hell" appears in only one Bible verse (2 Peter 2:4), which refers to a sort of holding cell for Satan and other fallen angels, meaning that it is not eternal and not for human beings. This leaves us with only one word, Gehenna, which might possibly mean "hell." As I have also pointed out, this seems like an obvious mistranslation, and the table above confirms that most Bible translators agree. But let's play Devil's Advocate (pardon the pun) and suppose that Gehenna really does mean "hell." This raises a huge question mark (pardon the second pun) because the term Gehenna originates with the original gospel of Mark, which was clearly used as the primary source of the later gospels of Matthew and Luke. This would mean that only one writer whoever wrote the original gospel of Mark knew anything about a place called "hell." Does it seem likely that for 6,000 years or more, only one writer of the Bible would know about the most important thing of all for humanity if it actually exists: hell? Why were other writers of the Bible, such as Ezekiel, Isaiah, Zechariah, Peter and Paul, saying that everyone would be saved, if there was a place of infinite suffering? Why did Peter, in the first recorded Christian sermon after Pentecost, speak of the "RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS, WHICH GOD HATH SPOKEN BY THE MOUTH OF ALL HIS HOLY PROPHETS SINCE THE WORLD BEGAN." According to the Hebrew prophets, when they spoke of the resurrection, everyone was going to be resurrected and saved. According to Peter, this was the message of all the "holy prophets since the world began." I think Gehenna is yet another mistranslation, but if it isn't, how can anyone explain one writer knowing something that none of the major prophets knew anything about? Were they false prophets, to confidently declare that God would save everyone in the end? Or have mistranslations and horrendous theology led Christians to accuse their God of being capable of infinite evil? If God is good, and never said he would punish anyone for all eternity, what does that say about his disciples who accuse him of causing or allowing human beings to suffer for all eternity, meaning that he should never have created anything in the first place?

 Q: Is hell eternal?

A: According to the Bible, there is no reason to believe in an eternal hell, or in unremitting suffering after death.

Q: Will human beings go to hell forever?

A: Not according to the Bible when it is translated correctly.

Q: Will Satan and/or fallen angels go to hell forever?

A: Not according to the only Bible verse that contains a word that actually means "hell." The verse (2 Peter 2:4) says that fallen angels will await judgement in Tartarus. So even that hell is not eternal.

Q: When was hell added to the Bible?

A: Since there is no mention of "hell" or suffering after death in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament), the most likely source of the idea of "hell" is the silent period between the writing of the last books of the Old Testament, and the first books of the New Testament. During that silent period, Alexander the Great conquered the Middle East. According to the Greek philosopher Celsus, the ancient Greeks used the threat of "hell" to control the ignorant masses, but Celsus said that no wise man believed in "hell." Ironically, according to the Jewish historian Josephus, the only Jews who believed in "hell" were the Pharisees! Perhaps they saw how the Greeks and Romans used "hell" to control human behavior, and deliberately added "hell" to their warped religion (which Jesus Christ strongly, sternly and angrily criticized).

Q: Did Jesus believe in hell?

A: As explained above, "hell" was a belief of the Pharisees, probably adopted from the pagan Greeks. In his parable of Lazarus and the rich man (presumably a rich Pharisee), Jesus seems to have been ridiculing the pagan Greek vision of the afterlife. We can clearly see the Greek vision of Hades, with its heavenly regions separated from the hellish Tartarus by an impassable abyss. The "saved" and the "damned" could chat with each other across this abyss. Jesus mocked the Pharisees by putting a beggar they considered "unclean" in the "bosom of Abraham," because they claimed they would be saved by their relationship to Abraham. Jesus put the rich Pharisee who claimed he would be saved in the dark pit of Tartarus. But that doesn't mean Jesus believed in such an absurd afterlife. What he did would be like me telling a flat-earther: "Please be sure not to fall over the edge of the world when you get there!" If you read the parable, you can see how Jesus was mocking the Pharisees for their absurd belief in an absurd hell.

Q: Why was hell added to the Bible, if God and the Hebrew prophets never mentioned it at all?

A: Please see the answer immediately above. The most likely answer is that the Pharisees adopted the myth of hell because it suited their evil purposes. But it is also possible that they were foolish enough to fall for the ancient con game, and actually believed in hell, as many Christians do today.

Q: Is there any proof of hell in the Bible?

A: No, none at all. To confirm this, just start reading the Bible from the beginning, and you will see that no one was ever threatened with "hell" or any possibility of suffering after death, in thousands of years of Bible chronologies. If there really was a "hell," God and the prophets would have warned human beings about such a terrible place, and would have explained how to avoid it. They would also have warned human beings about the terrible risk of bringing children into the world, if the children could end up suffering in hell for all eternity when they grew up. But of course there are no such warnings anywhere in the Bible. And to be considered just, God would have had to have warned the entire planet about the existence of hell. But of course Native Americans and multitudes of other people never heard a word about "hell" because they never had a chance to read the Bible until 1,500 or more years after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. If any of those uninformed people woke up in hell after death, God could not claim to be loving, wise or just. Thus, the idea of "hell" has always been incompatible with the idea of a loving, wise, just God who is able to save. A God who is able to save does not need a "hell." Only a God who is unable to save would need such an infernal place.

Q: Is the Bible inerrant and infallible?

A: The Bible is not "inerrant" or "infallible." A true religion cannot be based on lies, so Christians should be honest about the Bible. The Bible contains obvious errors and contradictions. For example:

The Bible says plants and fruit-bearing trees were created before the sun (Genesis 1:11-19). That is obviously wrong.

The Bible says "No man hath seen God at any time" (John 1:18) but it also says "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" (Genesis 32:30). According to the Bible, God was seen by Adam, Eve, Abraham, Sarah and Moses.

The Bible says "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man" (James 1:13) but it also says "And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham" (Genesis 22:1).

The Bible says "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father" (Ezekiel 18:20) but it also says "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation" (Exodus 20:5).

Who was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary? Was Joseph's father Jacob (Matthew 1:16) or Hell (Luke 3:23)?

These are just a few of many examples that the Bible is not inerrant or infallible. And the greatest error of all has been a "hell" that Jehovah and his Hebrew prophets never mentioned once in biblical chronologies covering thousands of years.

Related Pages: No Hell in the Bible, Was Hell in the Original Hebrew Bible?, What did Jesus teach about Hell?, Is the Bible the Word of God?, Is the Bible Infallible?, Bible False Prophecies


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