Commentary on


by Robert Nguyen Cramer

In the KJV Old Testament, the English word hell is always a translation of the Hebrew word sheol <Strong's #7585>. (In other verses of the KJV Old Testament, sheol is also translated as "the grave" or "the pit.") Many modern translations do not use the word "hell" in the Old Testament; instead, they use "Sheol" (Goodspeed, JB, NASB, NJB, NRSV, REB) or "the grave" (NIV) or "death" (Moffatt, TEV) or "the world of the dead" (CEV).

In the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, more than 100 times the Hebrew word sheol is translated into the Greek word hades <Strong's #86>, which is translated 12 times in the KJV New Testament as "the grave" or "hell". (The Greek Septuagint was "the Bible" that was most often used by Paul and other early Christians.)

In the KJV New Testament, 12 times the English word hell is a translation of the Greek word gehenna <Strong's #1067>, 10 times it is a translation of the Greek word hades <Strong's #86>, and 1 time it is a translation of the Greek word tartaros <Strong's #5020>. Of these three Greek words, hades is used in the Greek Septuagint more than 100 times, and tartaros is used 3 times. The Greek word gehenna is not used at all in the Septuagint, but pharagga Ennom (Valley of Hinnom), from which gehenna is derived, is used several times.

Gehenna literally refers to the Valley of Hinnom, to which the Hebrew Old Testament refers 13 times -- including 4 times in the book of Joshua (written prior to the Jewish diaspora) and 5 times in the book of Jeremiah (written during the Jewish diaspora). The Valley of Hinnom is translated in Aramaic as Gehinnom, to which the New Testament Greek refers as "gehenna." In the KJV New Testament, gehenna is most often translated as "hell," but some modern translations (Goodspeed, Moffatt, NAB, and Schonfield) use the word "gehenna" in the text instead of "hell," and many others include references to "gehenna" in the footnotes. Harper's Bible Dictionary writes:

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Copyright 1998 Robert Nguyen Cramer