Regarding Responsible Reformation
by Al Maxey -------
Issue #44 ------- May 30, 2003
After the game has ended, the king
and pawn go into the same box.

--- Italian Proverb

The Hadean Realm
Truth or Tradition?

There are eleven occurrences of the Greek word Hades in the New Covenant documents, although one of them (1 Corinthians 15:55) is contested. "The word Hades is used only ten times in the NT -- eleven times if one includes 1 Cor. 15:55, which had the word Hades in the TR but which probably should be 'thanate' (death), as in the more reliable MSS" (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 3, p. 7). It is interesting to note, however, that the KJV, which accepts the less reliable use of Hades in the Corinthian passage (although this word is never used elsewhere by Paul), translates it "grave" in that passage. Unfortunately, the KJV translates this word "Hell" in the other ten references (a most regrettable rendering, and one that has contributed much to subsequent theological confusion. For example, one is left wondering how "hell" can be cast into the "lake of fire" -- Revelation 20:14, KJV). It should also be noted that the KJV further confuses the issue by using the word "Hell" to translate other key biblical words (Sheol, Gehenna, Tartarus), each of which have significantly different meanings and applications.

As to the etymology of Hades, most scholars recognize that it is at best uncertain. It is thought to perhaps come from the negation of a word meaning, "to see, perceive" (Greek: a + idein), thus implying "that which is unseen or beyond human perception." It has its popular roots in paganism, and, according to Homer, was the name both of the "underworld" and the god of that realm (also known as Pluto). "Hades is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol, it being the translation for Sheol in the LXX sixty-one times (in every instance except in 2 Samuel 22:6)" (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 3, p. 7).

"The Greek word 'hades' came into biblical use when the translators of the Septuagint chose it to render the Hebrew 'sheol.' The problem is that hades was used in the Greek world in a vastly different way than sheol. ... Hades in Greek mythology is the underworld, where the conscious souls of the dead are divided in two major regions, one a place of torment and the other of blessedness. ... This Greek conception of hades influenced Hellenistic Jews, during the intertestamental period, to adopt the belief in the immortality of the soul and the idea of a spatial separation in the underworld between the righteous and the godless" (Dr. Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? -- A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, p. 170).

"The literature of the intertestamental period reflects the growth of the idea of the division of Hades into separate compartments for the godly and the ungodly. This aspect of eschatology was a popular subject in the apocalyptic literature that flourished in this period. Notable is the pseudepigraphical Enoch (written c. 200 B.C.), which includes the description of a tour supposedly taken by Enoch into the center of the earth. ... In another passage in Enoch, he sees at the center of the earth two places -- Paradise, the place of bliss, and the valley of Gehinnom, the place of punishment. The above illustrates that there was a general notion of compartments in Hades that developed in the intertestamental period" (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 3, p. 7).

"In the intertestamental period the idea of the afterlife underwent some development. In Jewish apocalyptic literature Hades was an intermediate place (1 Enoch 51:1) where all the souls of the dead awaited judgment (22:3f). The dead were separated into compartments, the righteous staying in an apparently pleasant place (vs. 9) and various classes of sinners undergoing punishments in other compartments (vv. 10-13)" (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 591).

"Under the influence of Persian and Hellenistic ideas concerning retribution after death the belief arose that the righteous and the godless would have very different fates, and we thus have the development of the idea of spatial separation in the underworld, the first instance being found in Enoch" (Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 147). "Nowhere in the Old Testament is the abode of the dead regarded as a place of punishment or torment. The concept of an infernal 'hell' developed in Israel only during the Hellenistic period" (The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, p. 788).

Most scholars freely admit that the compartmental concept of Hades popular during the time of Christ was a development of the so-called "intertestamental period," and was largely influenced by pagan notions. The basic OT concept promoted in the word Sheol was simply "the grave." In fact, the KJV translates Sheol with the word "grave" in 31 of its 65 occurrences in the OT writings (it renders it "pit" 3 times, and unfortunately calls it "Hell" in the remaining 31).

"These interpretations of 'sheol' as the dwelling place of souls (rather than the resting place of the body in the grave) or the place of punishment for the wicked, known as hell, do not stand up under the light of the Biblical usage of 'sheol'" (Dr. Bacchiocchi, p. 158). In his classic study, Johannes Pedersen writes, "Sheol is the entirety into which all graves are merged; ... where there is grave, there is sheol, and where there is sheol, there is grave" (Israel: Its Life and Culture, vol. 1, p. 462). "Any attempt to turn sheol into the place of torment of the wicked or into the abode of spirits/souls clearly contradicts the Biblical characterization of sheol as the underground depository of the dead" (Dr. Bacchiocchi, p. 161).

The late editor of Gospel Minutes, brother Dillard Thurman, devoted an entire issue of his publication (vol. 34, no. 5, Feb. 1, 1985) to the false notion of the "Intermediate State of the Dead." A person had asked him to set forth the views of the churches of Christ with respect to what occurs after death. Dillard wrote, "I can only state what I have found in over half a century of studying God's Word, and THAT MAY NOT BE WHAT HE EXPECTED TO RECEIVE!" (emphasis mine). Brother Thurman stated, "I have heard funeral orations extol the happiness and bliss the departed has instantly with death: but on checking the New Testament assiduously, I have yet to find a single promise where the dead go into heaven on an instant pass, or have immediate conscious happiness!" He pointed out that man "is mortal," and thus is simply going to die and return to the dust. The hope of the Christian is the resurrection, not some false doctrine of "immortal soulism." Dillard reflected, "The hope and aspiration of many has been shifted from His coming again to receive His own, to an immediate immortality and heavenly bliss immediately at death! Jesus DID NOT (emphasis his) promise that!"

William Tyndale (1484-1536), an English Bible translator and martyr, wrote, "And ye, in putting them (the departed souls) in heaven, hell and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection." Tyndale argued that if souls were already in either bliss or misery, "then what cause is there of the resurrection?" And what cause is there even of judgment? In another part of this same writing, Tyndale said -- "The true faith putteth forth the resurrection, which we be warned to look for every hour. The heathen philosophers, denying that, did put that the soul did ever live. And the Pope joineth the spiritual doctrine of Christ and the fleshly doctrine of philosophers together; things so contrary that they cannot agree. And because the fleshly-minded Pope consenteth unto heathen doctrine, therefore he corrupteth the Scripture to stablish it. If the soul be in heaven, tell me what cause is there for the resurrection?"

Justyn Martyr, who wrote around 150 AD, stated -- "If you meet some who say that their souls go to Heaven when they die, do not believe that they are Christians!" (Dialogue With Trypho). Martin Luther wrote in his Table Talk -- "Now if one should say that Abraham's soul lives with God but his body is dead, this distinction is rubbish. I will attack it. That would be a silly soul if it were in heaven and desired its body!!" In his Defense, Luther declared that it was the Pope, not the Bible, who taught "the soul is immortal." In his exposition of Ecclesiastes he wrote, "Solomon judgeth that the dead are asleep and feel nothing at all. For the dead lie there counting neither days nor years, but when they are awaked they shall seem to have slept scarce one minute."

John Milton (1608-1674), once called the "greatest of the sacred poets," declared, "Inasmuch as the whole man is uniformly said to consist of body and soul ... I will show that in death, first, the whole man, and secondly each component part, suffers privation of life ... the grave is the common guardian of all till the day of judgment."

In short, I must simply reject, as countless giants of faith before me have rejected, the traditional teaching that Hades is some intermediate holding place for disembodied immortal spirit beings previously trapped in our bodies and longing for release by physical death of the body from their imprisonment. Such a pagan notion is simply NOT the teaching of Scripture. The terms Hades and Sheol merely denote the GRAVE. The dead "descend into the earth" (the grave), dust returning to dust. "For there is no activity or planning or wisdom in Sheol where you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). "There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked ... There is one fate for all men ... They go to the dead ... The dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward" (Ecclesiastes 9:2-5). When we die we are DEAD. The whole man, not just the so-called "physical part" of him while some immortal spirit being trapped within him flies off to even greater life than before. Our hope and promise of life is Jesus and the resurrection.

Reflections from Readers

From a Minister in Donetsk, Ukraine:

Dear brother Al, Great study on Reflective Openness! You were reading my mind! May God lead you and bless you abundantly. Your co-servant in the Lord's Kingdom.

From a Minister/Editor in Manila, Philippines:

Bro. Maxey, I am your brother in the Lord from the Philippines. I read your Maxey - Thrasher Debate on the Internet. I believe we have one mind and judgment concerning the future things -- the conditional immortality. Bro. Curtis Dickinson, whom you have mentioned many times, knew me personally. I was for years distributing his publication The Witness in the Philippines. Please mention my name to Bro. Curtis when you communicate with him. God bless you.

From a Reader in California:

Bro. Maxey, I just discovered your web page. Thanks for the insightful items you have posted, especially your Reflections on silence and specificity. Strange what we learn when we clear the air of traditions and preconceived notions, isn't it? Thanks for the perceptive insights.

From a Reader in Alabama:

Dear Brother Al, Thank you for your Reflections. You have been articulating things I have been thinking for a long time, in a way in which I would never be able to do. It is good to see that there are men who are not afraid to question or challenge the (unwritten, of course) CofC creed. Without a prothumian spirit we will continue to isolate ourselves from the rest of God's people, both the saved and the unsaved. It is a shame that we are primarily known for our closed mindedness and isolationist spirit, and not for our love for one another and a prothumian spirit.

If you know anything about Limestone County Alabama, you can only imagine what an inspiration your Reflections have been for me. Thanks for challenging me to think and to search for the truth. Keep up the good work.

From a Reader in Nevada:

Your Reflections have been a real blessing to me. I hope you got LOTS of subscriptions from my "plug."

From a Reader in Alabama:

I just finished up one of your older Reflections where you talked about the phrase "God added those to the church who were being saved." You are right on about us really being added to the Lord. A number of years back, as a result of my own seeking and study, I began to realize that folks in the Church of Christ spoke willingly and often about "the church." It is common to hear phrases like: "They are good folks; they're members of the church." "Are you a member of the church?" "When are you going to become a member of the church?"

I began to fear that I was associated with a group of church worshippers rather than Christ lovers. It was the system, not the person, that was important. I still see a lot of articles by people that focus on issues and the organization, and never really mention Jesus at all. This is idolatry! Press on with the good fight!

If you would like to be removed from or added to this
mailing list, contact me and I will immediately comply.
If you are challenged by these Reflections, then feel
free to send them on to others and encourage them
to write for a free subscription. I would also welcome
any questions or comments from the readers.
The Archives for past issues of Reflections is: