The HyperTexts

Is the word "hell" in the Bible?

by Michael R. Burch

Is there a "hell" in the Bible. I think the answer is a resounding "No!" While the word "hell" does appear in the King James Version (KJV), that version was produced by translators who didn't have access to the earliest and best original Greek manuscripts. As the Preface to the Revised Standard Version (RSV) pointed out: "the King James Version has grave defects. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the development of Biblical studies and the discovery of many manuscripts more ancient than those upon which the King James Version was based, made it manifest that these defects are so many and so serious as to call for revision of the English translation."

Perhaps the KJV's "gravest" error (if you will allow the pun) was the translation of Sheol and Hades as "hell" when both words obviously mean "the grave." Everyone went to Sheol/Hades when they died, not just the wicked. King David said that God would be with him when he made his bed in Sheol. Other psalmists, the sons of Korah, said that God would redeem their souls from Sheol. Job asked to be hidden from suffering in Sheol. Ezekiel prophesied that all Israel would be resurrected and saved, but Israel himself said that he would be reunited with his son Joseph in Sheol. It is more than obvious that they were speaking of going to the grave, not hell. And Hades was not "hell" either, because it contained heavenly regions such as the Elysian Fields and the Blessed Isles. The Greek hell was not Hades, but Tartarus. But by the time the KJV was produced, the English word "hell" (which has connotations of a place that is hidden) had become confused with Sheol/Hades (which were also hidden places, but not places where everyone suffered). In the original texts, to say that someone was in danger of Sheol/Hades if they sinned was like me saying that someone risks death if they drink and drive.

According to modern Bible scholars the word "hell" did not appear even once in the original Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament (OT). Furthermore the word "hell" is very hard to find in the New Testament (NT) as well. You can confirm this 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 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. 

If this subject interests you, 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.

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 (in progress)

0

0

0

Orthodox Jewish Brit Chadasha [NT Only]

0

0

0

Original Bible Project (Dr. James Tabor, still in translation)

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


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