HADES (hā'dēz, Gr. Hadēs, haidēs, not to be seen). The place or state of the dead, as contrasted with the final punishment of the wicked. In the NT Greek the word occurs ten times and is uniformly translated “hell” in KJV. In the TR, from which KJV was translated, the word occurs also in
HADES hā’ dez (ἅδης, etymology uncertain. It is thought to come from the negative α, G1, +ἰδει̂ν, to see; that is, that which is not seen, abode of the dead).
According to Homer, Hades was the name of both the underworld where the departed spirits dwell and the god of that underworld, also called Pluto, the son of Chronas and Rhea. Its original genitive form, Haidou, that is, “of Hades,” may reflect the idea that the underworld belongs to the god Hades. This place, according to Gr. mythology, was approached by crossing the River Styx and at its entrance three judges decided the fate of the soul.
Hades is the Gr. equivalent of the Heb. Sheol (see Sheol), it being the tr. for Sheol in the LXX sixty-one times (in every instance except in
The lit. 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 lit. 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. There Enoch sees four hollow places, one is for the saintly martyrs, the next for ordinary righteous people, a third is for the wicked who were insufficiently punished in this life, and the final compartment is for sinners who suffered a violent death, which apparently was a sufficient punishment for leaving them in this intermediate state forever. 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, but that there was diversity of details regarding these compartments. Some scholars interpret this division into compartments as the result of foreign influences, such as that of Pers. Zoroastrianism with its pronounced dualism; but a more likely explanation is that the OT faith (with its strong emphasis on the justice of God leading to the blessings of the godly and the punishment of the ungodly, and with its teaching that the true meaning of life is fellowship with God) could not conceive of a common fate for the wicked and the righteous as the final word on the subject.
Whatever the original sources of this development of distinct sections in Hades, it was confirmed by the teachings of Christ. The apocalyptic lit., however, included detailed and grotesque descriptions of the nature of the existence in the compartments of Hades inhabited by the damned which go far beyond a legitimate development of the faith of the OT. For example, the Fourth Book of the(prob. the work of Alexandrian Essenes) says, “His angels will scourge them with fiery chains, and cast them before the fierce monsters of hell, and fiery wheels will turn them round about.”
The word Hades is used only ten times in the NT (eleven times if one includes
2. Christ promises that the “gates of Hades” will not prevail against His Church. Although this text has usually been interpreted otherwise, prob. because of the influence of the tr. “hell” for Hades, the promise prob. means that even death itself will not be able to prevent God’s people from sharing in the victory of Christ.
3. Hades is the place to which the rich man went when he was buried, in contrast to “Abraham’s bosom,” to which poor Lazarus was transported by angels when he died (
4. Hades is mentioned twice by Peter in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (
5. The word Hades is used four times in the
As one considers these instances of NT usage, there appears to be some variation in the way the term Hades is used. Sometimes it seems almost to be equated with death itself, and therefore to be the condition into which both the godly and the ungodly enter. Elsewhere it appears to be the temporary abode of the ungodly prior to the final judgment, whereas the godly go immediately to be with the Lord in glory. G. Vos seeks to solve this problem by distinguishing between Hades as a place and as a state. According to him, only the ungodly go to the place called Hades, whereas the godly and Christ Himself went into the state of disembodied existence, which is also designated by the word Hades.
Other passages of the NT are sometimes interpreted as referring to Hades, although they do not mention the word itself.
The Early Church.
Whereas the ante-Nicene fathers were somewhat vague in their statements on the subject, the post-Nicene fathers were in rather general agreement that believers who died before Christ were kept in Hades until Christ, after His crucifixion, descended to their abodes and brought them up to Paradise, which was considered to be either a higher part of Hades or the lower regions of heaven. That part of Hades where the OT believers dwelt before Christ rescued them was later named the Limbus Patrum. According to the fathers, after Christ’s descent into Hades, believers at death went directly to Paradise, which was, however, not the highest heaven where the vision of God could be enjoyed, but was rather a place of preparation and further development which in later Roman Catholic theology became “purgatory.”
In the phrase of the Apostles’ Creed, “he descended into hell,” hell is a tr. of the Gr. Hades, the Lat. creeds using the term “infernos.” The article about the descent into hell was the last to be added to the Creed, being found in Arian creeds about a.d. 360, in the Creed of Aquileja about a.d. 390, and not being added to the final form of the Apostles’ Creed until about a.d. 750. See Hell.
W. Whiston, The Complete Works of ἅδης,” TDNT, I (1964), 146-149.(n.d.), 743-745; G. Bartle, The Scriptural Doctrine of Hades (1869); J. P. Lange, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, (1874), 364-377; W. O. E. Oesterley, Immortality and the Unseen World (1921); J. Jeremias, “
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
1. In: Sheol:
In the Septuagint Hades is the standing equivalent for Sheol, but also translates other terms associated with death and the state after it. The Greek conception of Hades was that of a locality receiving into itself all the dead, but divided into two regions, one a place of torment, the other of blessedness. This conception should not be rashly transferred to the New Testament, for the latter stands not under the influence of Greek pagan belief, but gives a teaching and reflects a belief which model their idea of Hades upon the Old Testament through the Septuagint. The Old Testament Sheol, while formally resembling the Greek Hades in that it is the common receptacle of all the dead, differs from it, on the one hand, by the absence of a clearly defined division into two parts, and, on the other hand, by the emphasis placed on its association with death and the grave as abnormal facts following in the wake of sin. The Old Testament thus concentrates the partial light it throws on the state after death on the negative, undesirable side of the prospect apart from redemption. When in the progress of Old Testament revelation the state after death begins to assume more definite features, and becomes more sharply differentiated in dependence on the religious and moral issue of the present life this is not accomplished in the canonical writings (otherwise in the apocalyptic literature) by dividing Sheol into two compartments, but by holding forth to the righteous the promise of deliverance from Sheol, so that the latter becomes more definitely outlined as a place of evil and punishment.
2. In the New Testament: Hades:
The New Testament passages mark a distinct stage in this process, and there is, accordingly, a true basis in Scripture for the identification in a certain aspect of Sheol--Hades--with hell as reflected in the King James Version. The theory according to which Hades is still in the New Testament the undifferentiated provisional abode of all the dead until the day of judgment, with the possibility of ultimate salvation even for those of its inmates who have not been saved in this life, is neither in harmony with the above development nor borne out by the facts of New Testament usage. That dead believers abide in a local Hades cannot be proven from
It is, of course, a different matter, when Hades, as not infrequently already the Old Testament Sheol, designates not the place of the dead but the state of death or disembodied existence. In this sense even the soul of Jesus was in Hades according’ to Peter’s statement (
The same abstract meaning is indicated for
In distinction from these passages when the abstract meaning prevails and the local conception is in abeyance, the remaining references are more or less locally conceived. Of these
The two other passages where Hades occurs in the teaching of our Lord (
In the other passage,
The above survey of the passages tends to show that Hades, where it is locally conceived, is not a provisional receptacle for all the dead, but plainly associated with the punishment of the wicked. Where it comes under consideration for the righteous there is nothing to indicate a local sense. On
8. Not a Final State:
The element of truth in theory of the provisional character of Hades lies in this, that the New Testament never employs it in connection with the final state of punishment, as subsequent to the last judgment. For this GEHENNA (which see) and other terms are used. Dives is represented as being in Hades immediately after his death and while his brethren are still in this present life. Whether the implied differentiation between stages of punishment, depending obviously on the difference between the disembodied and reembodied state of the lost, also carries with itself a distinction between two places of punishment, in other words whether Hades and Gehenna are locally distinct, the evidence is scarcely sufficient to determine. The New Testament places the emphasis on the eschatological developments at the end, and leaves many things connected with the intermediate state in darkness.