May I ask for information about “Hell”?



El Cajon, CA 92020

August 17, 1999

May I ask for information about “Hell”?

I’ve been searching in vain for a thorough, exhaustive book on “hell” which covers the origin and etymological background of this word, and why and when it was first used in English translations of God’s original inspired Hebrew and Greek—or Aramaic?

It’s frequently said that Jesus spoke more about ”hell” than anyone else in the Bible, but isn’t it true that He did not use the English language, and that there is no record of the exact language He used?   Wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to the words which are used to support the “everlasting” aspect of “hell” – such as “eternal” and “forever and ever”? Without translating the Hebrew word, OLAM, and the Greek words, AION, AIONION, in the sense of sense of unending time, could the “hell” carry the sense of endless time?

Doesn’t it appear that the translators of God’s Word into English were uncertain whether Sheol-Hades mean “Grave/pit” or “hell”? Didn’t Hosea and Paul say that sheol-hades will be destroyed, together with death? Didn’t Jesus and Paul deny victory to “hell”? Didn’t Jesus go to “hell” and escape from “hell”? Doesn’t Matthew 16:18 seem to imply that even Christians go to “hell” but that it will not be able to hold them “forever and ever”? And didn’t Job pray that he might go to “hell” (sheol-hades)? Was Jonah in “hell” or in the belly of a great fish? Is God in “Hell”? … Questions!

Wouldn’t inerrant translations, or infallible pronouncements, call for God’s causal control over men’s minds, hands, and voices, and wouldn’t this militate against the freedom which “hell” seems to demand? Is it reasonable to think that God caused His Words to be written as infallible guide and then subjected their meaning to the fallible minds of men? Can we logically mix God’s causality with acausality and chance?

When we read a Bible, isn’t it clear that God often speaks paradoxically – as He seems to do when using the word “hell” within the context of His supposedly objective saying work in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? While “hell” seems to demand subjectivity and uncertainty, the cross seems to demand objectivity and certainty – if it is to be the basis genuine faith – I think.

Can you explain these things – or can you recommend a good book which does? I haven’t found such a boo after many years of searching.  I mean – a book which looks that Bible’s paradoxes in the eye and doesn’t try to pretend they’re not there. In my opinion, God deliberately makes us turn from our understanding and depend entirely on the efficacy of His work in the death and resurrection of Jesus – as Paul implied in I Corinthians 2:2.

I’ve knocked myself out for too many years trying to resolve all the theological confusion I see and hear around me – and I am sick of it all! If I can’t simply trust in what Jesus had done for me – 2,000 years ago – when He cried “It is finished!” then I’m about ready to give up and watch TV! Do you understand what I’m saying? I’ve made far too many mistakes in my life to trust anything I might try to “do” to please God! I’ve determined –as Paul said – to know nothing but what Jesus did for me—and my children—and my loved ones—when He died for us!

Please try to answer these heavy questions—or try to find a book which does. OK? I’ll appreciate your efforts—the churches around my area don’t seem to give a “damn” (if you’ll pardon my use of a word I never use)!

Confused, but trusting God,

Will Powell

Warrenville, IL

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