Christian views on Hades
- 1 Hades in the Bible
- 2 The word "Hades" in Christian usage in English
- 3 Church teachings
- 4 Views of some early third-century writers
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Hades in the Bible
Hades in the Old Testament
In the Septuagint (the ancient translation of the Old Testament into Greek), the Greek term "ᾅδης" (Hades) is used to translate the Hebrew term "שׁאול" (Sheol) in, for example, Isaiah 38:18. This use refers the term hades to the abode of the dead in general, rather than the abode of the wicked.
Hades in the Intertestamental Period
- See entry for Sheol concerning use of Hades in Second Temple Judaism, and in the Christian Intertestamental period, such as Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, and also Hellenistic Jewish authors such as Josephus and Philo.
Hades in the New Testament
Thus too, in New Testament Greek, the Hebrew phrase "לא־תעזב נפשׁי לשׁאול" (you will not abandon my soul to Sheol) in Psalm 16:10 is quoted in Acts 2:27 as "οὐκ ἐγκαταλείψεις τὴν ψυχήν μου εἰς ᾅδου" (you will not abandon my soul to Hades).
In the textus receptus version of the New Testament, on which the English King James Version is based, the word "ᾅδης" (Hades), appears 11 times; but critical editions of the text of 1 Corinthians 15:55 have "θάνατος" (death) in place of "ᾅδης". Except in this verse of 1 Corinthians, where it uses "grave", the King James Version translates "ᾅδης" as "hell". Modern translations, for which there are only 10 instances of the word "ᾅδης" in the New Testament, generally transliterate it as "Hades".
In all appearances but one, "ᾅδης" has little if any relation to afterlife rewards or punishments. The one exception is Luke's parable of Lazarus and the rich man, in which the rich man finds himself, after death, in Hades, and "in anguish in this flame", while in contrast the angels take Lazarus to "the bosom of Abraham", described as a state of comfort.
Death and Hades are repeatedly associated in the Book of Revelation. The word "Hades" appears in Jesus' promise to Peter: "And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it", and in the warning to Capernaum: "And thou, Capernaum, shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? thou shalt go down unto Hades."
The word "Hades" in Christian usage in English
In English usage the word "Hades" first appears around 1600, as a term used to explain the article in the Apostles' Creed, "He descended into hell", where the place of waiting (the place of "the spirits in prison" 1 Peter 3:19) into which Jesus is there affirmed to have gone after the Crucifixion, known as the Harrowing of Hell, needed to be distinguished from what had come to be more usually called "hell", i.e. the place or state of those finally damned.
This development whereby "hell" came to be used to mean only the "hell of the damned" affected also the Latin word "infernum" and the corresponding words in Latin-derived languages, as in the name "Inferno" given to the first part of Dante's Divina Commedia. Greek, on the other hand, has kept the original meaning of "ᾅδης" (Hades) and uses the word "κόλασις" (kolasis – literally, "punishment"; cf. Matthew 25:46, which speaks of "everlasting kolasis") to refer to what nowadays is usually meant by "hell" in English.
The dead as conscious
The teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church is that, "after the soul leaves the body, it journeys to the abode of the dead (Hades). There are exceptions, such as the Theotokos, who was borne by the angels directly into heaven. As for the rest, we must remain in this condition of waiting. Because some have a prevision of the glory to come and others foretaste their suffering, the state of waiting is called "Particular Judgment". When Christ returns, the soul rejoins its risen body to be judged by Him in the Last judgment. The 'good and faithful servant' will inherit eternal life, the unfaithful with the unbeliever will spend eternity in hell. Their sins and their unbelief will torture them as fire."
The Assyrian Church of the East, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, hold that a final Universal Judgment will be pronounced on all human beings when soul and body are reunited in the resurrection of the dead. They also believe that the fate of those in the abode of the dead differs, even while awaiting resurrection: "The souls of the righteous are in light and rest, with a foretaste of eternal happiness; but the souls of the wicked are in a state the reverse of this."
The Latin word infernus or "infernum" (underworld) indicated the abode of the dead and so was used as the equivalent of the Greek word "ᾅδης" (hades). It appears in both the documents quoted above, and pointed more obviously than the Greek word to an existence beneath the earth. Later, the transliteration "hades" of the Greek word ceased to be used in Latin and "infernum" became the normal way of expressing the idea of Hades. Though "infernus" is usually translated into English as "hell", it did not have the narrow sense that the English word has now acquired. It continued to have the generic meaning of "abode of the dead". For the modern narrow sense the term "infernum damnatorum" (hell of the damned) was used, as in question 69, article 7 of the Supplement of the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, which distinguishes five states or abodes of the dead: paradise, hell of the damned, limbo of children, purgatory, and limbo of the Fathers: "The soul separated from the body is in the state of receiving good or evil for its merits; so that after death it is either in the state of receiving its final reward, or in the state of being hindered from receiving it. If it is in the state of receiving its final retribution, this happens in two ways: either in the respect of good, and then it is paradise; or in respect of evil, and thus as regards actual sin it is hell, and as regards original sin it is the limbo of children. On the other hand, if it be in the state where it is hindered from receiving its final reward, this is either on account of a defect of the person, and thus we have purgatory where souls are detained from receiving their reward at once on account of the sins they have committed, or else it is on account of a defect of nature, and thus we have the limbo of the Fathers, where the Fathers were detained from obtaining glory on account of the guilt of human nature which could not yet be expiated."
The dead as unconscious
Denominations that see the dead in the intermediate state as not having consciousness include early Unitarians, Christadelphians, Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. These churches also believe that Christ too was dead, unconscious and "asleep" during his three days in the grave.
The views of Lutherans and Anglicans vary. Martin Luther considered Hades to be a place of sleep:
- "It is enough for us to know that souls do not leave their bodies to be threatened by the torments and punishments of hell, but enter a prepared bedchamber in which they sleep in peace".
The Church of England has a variety of views on the death state. Some, such as N. T. Wright have proposed a view of the grave which considers Hades to be a place where the dead sleep, and E. W. Bullinger argued for the cessation of the soul between death and resurrection.
Views of some early third-century writers
Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225), making an exception only for the martyrs, argued that the souls of the dead go down beneath the earth, and will go up to the sky (heaven) only at the end of the world: "You must suppose Hades to be a subterranean region, and keep at arm's length those who are too proud to believe that the souls of the faithful deserve a place in the lower regions … How, indeed, shall the soul mount up to heaven, where Christ is already sitting at the Father's right hand, when as yet the archangel's trumpet has not been heard by the command of God, when as yet those whom the coming of the Lord is to find on the earth, have not been caught up into the air to meet Him at His coming, in company with the dead in Christ, who shall be the first to arise? … The sole key to unlock Paradise is your own life's blood.".
The variously titled fragment "Against Plato" or "De Universo", attributed to Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170 – c. 236), has the following: "And this is the passage regarding demons. But now we must speak of Hades, in which the souls both of the righteous and the unrighteous are detained. Hades is a place in the created system, rude, a locality beneath the earth, in which the light of the world does not shine; and as the sun does not shine in this locality, there must necessarily be perpetual darkness there. This locality has been destined to be as it were a guard-house for souls, at which the angels are stationed as guards, distributing according to each one's deeds the temporary punishments for characters.And in this locality there is a certain place set apart by itself, a lake of unquenchable fire, into which we suppose no one has ever yet been cast; for it is prepared against the day determined by God, in which one sentence of righteous judgment shall be justly applied to all. And the unrighteous, and those who believed not God, who have honoured as God the vain works of the hands of men, idols fashioned, shall be sentenced to this endless punishment. But the righteous shall obtain the incorruptible and un-fading kingdom, who indeed are at present detained in Hades, but not in the same place with the unrighteous."
In his study, "Hades of Hippolytus or Tartarus of Tertullian? The Authorship of the Fragment De Universo", C. E. Hill argues that the depiction of the intermediate state of the righteous expounded in this text is radically opposed to that found in the authentic works of Hippolytus and must have been written by Tertullian.
- Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3): Hades
- Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for hadēs (Strong's 86)"
- Greek New Testament; cf. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. II:1314-1315. [1915.
- Luke 16:23
- Luke 16:25
- Luke 16:22
- Luke 16:25-31
- Revelation 1:18, 6:8, Rev-nb 20:13–14
- Matthew 16:18
- Matthew 11:23; Luke 10:15
- Michael Azkoul What Are the Differences Between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism?
- The Longer Catechism of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church, 372
- Question 69. Matters concerning the resurrection, and first of the place where souls are after death
- Fundamental Belief # 26 of the Seventh-day Adventist Church states "The wages of sin is death. But God, who alone is immortal, will grant eternal life to His redeemed. Until that day death is an unconscious state for all people. When Christ, who is our life, appears, the resurrected righteous and the living righteous will be glorified and caught up to meet their Lord. The second resurrection, the resurrection of the unrighteous, will take place a thousand years later. (Rom. 6:23; 1 Tim. 6:15, 16; Eccl. 9:5, 6; Ps. 146:3, 4; John 11:11-14; Col. 3:4; 1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Thess. 4:13-17; John 5:28, 29; Rev. 20:1-10.)" >Fundamental Belief # 26 of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
- Russell-White Debate: A Public Discussion p41 "Let us have a word from Job on this subject of man's condition and death as sleep. Job says, "So nun lieth down, ... It would have been destruction to us, dear friends; our death would have made us as much dead as the brute beast."
- The Watchtower Vol. 124 Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania - 2003 "(John 11:11) From a human standpoint, Lazarus was dead, but to Jehovah and Jesus, Lazarus was sleeping. Under Jesus' Kingdom rule, there will be "a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous." (Acts 24:15)"
- "The dead are conscious of nothing." Beliefs — Death and sin
- Weimarer Ausgabe 43, 360,21-23 (to Genesis 25,7-10): also Exegetica opera latina Vol 5-6 1833 p120; "Sufficit igitur nobis haec cognitio, non egredi animas ex corporibus in periculum cruciatum et paenarum inferni, sed esse eis paratum cubiculum, in quo dormiant in pace."
- A Treatise on the Soul, chapter 55
- Vigiliae Christianae, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Jun., 1989), pp. 105-126
- The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia: Hades
- The afterlife: Bible references & beliefs of Americans
- The Truth About Death - Comprehensive site covering death in Christian beliefs.