The Truth about the Bible » Bible Teachings » Hell and the Grave

Hell and the Grave

"For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer

thine Holy One to see corruption."
Psalm 16:10

"If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there."
Psalm 139:8


'Hell' is not a translation. It is a word that has been inserted by translators into the Bible because of their preconceived ideas about a place of eternal torment. This idea is fast losing ground today as modern translators realise that Hebrew words like 'sheol', simply meant the grave to the original inspired writers of the Scriptures. The translators are still very shy though, and in many instances have left the word 'sheol' untranslated in modern Bible versions. This is because they can see that this word obviously means 'the grave' and not the traditional meaning. Rather than admit this though, and the folly of using the inserted word 'hell' in the past, they have just left the Hebrew word 'sheol' untranslated many times, and left the readers to make up their own minds.


The following are two interesting examples of how translating has changed by comparing the King James Version (A.V.) and the New King James Version (N.K.J.V.) of Jonah 2:2, and Isaiah 5:14

Jonah 2:2

A.V. - "out of the belly of HELL cried I"

N.K.J.V. - "out of the belly of SHEOL I cried"

Isaiah 5:14 

A.V. - "Therefore HELL hath enlarged herself"

N.K.J.V. - "Therefore SHEOL has enlarged itself"

You will notice the same situation with Psalm 16:10 quoted as a key verse above.


'Gehenna' or 'The valley of the son of Hinnom' which is what the Greek word means, was the rubbish tip outside of Jerusalem in the time of Jesus which was also used to burn the bodies of criminals who had suffered capital punishment. Most of the occurrences of the word 'hell' in the New Testament refer to this 'place of burning' outside of Jerusalem.


The word Hades comes from two words: 'A', which is 'Alpha', the first letter of the Greek alphabet and is a negative letter which simply means 'without'. The equivalent in English would be the word 'un'. The other word is 'eido' which means 'to see'. So 'Hades' simply means, 'unseen'. Is the 'hades' of the Bible the same place as that described in Greek Mythology? Websters Dictionary describes Hades as, "the grim god of the lower world dwelling in the abode of the dead conceived as either a dark and gloomy subterranean realm or a remote island beyond the western sea."


If we can accept the words quoted from Psalm 16 which prophetically teach that Jesus went to 'sheol' (ie. the grave) when He died, then to be consistent with Bible teaching, we must accept that Peter meant the grave as well when He said that Jesus went to hades when he quotes Psalm 16 in Acts 2:27. Any other explanation would have Old Testament teaching contradicting the New Testament. The fact that the New Testament was written in Greek does not mean that we have to use Greek mythology to interpret Scripture. Today we use words like "lunatic", but this does not mean that we accept that somebody's mental health depends on the phases of the Moon.


'Hell' is a word that was added (interpolated) to our Bibles and is not a translation of the original language. When we see this word in scripture its true meaning is 'the grave' or 'the pit' in the Old Testament. In the New Testament this word is used with reference to the burning 'rubbish tip' that was outside of Jerusalem, known as 'the valley of the son of Hinnom' or 'gehenna'.

  • 'sheol' in the Hebrew is interpolated 'hell' or translated 'grave' or 'pit' in the Old Testament. Psalm 6:5; 9:17; 30:3; Numbers 16:30, 33
  • 'hades' in the Greek is translated 'grave' or interpolated 'hell' in the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 15:55; Matthew 11:21; 16:18
  • 'gehenna' in the Greek is interpolated 'hell' in the New Testament. Matthew 5:22; 23:15; Luke 12:5