Hell doesn't exist in the bible
If you've read a bible translated into English, you may be surprised to learn that hell doesn't exist in the bible. While you will find the word "hell" scattered all throughout English translations of the various books, when you read the books in their original languages, you will find that none of them actually refer to hell. Instead, you will find the words sheol, gehenna, hades, and tartarus.
Each of these words has their own cultural history, but none of them fit the Christian depiction of hell. The word Sheol comes from Hebrew mythology dating back to around 3,000 years ago and was used to refer to their underworld within the earth where everyone goes when they die, regardless of whether they're good or bad. The word Gehenna means "Valley of Hinnom" and refers to an actual valley in Jerusalem where, around 2,700 years ago, human sacrifices were made to various gods (possibly even Yahweh), so the valley was later believed to be cursed. The word Hades is around 5,000 years old, and is the name of a god in ancient Greek mythology who resides in the underworld, and so the underworld is often named after him. Tartarus, a Greek word from around 2,500 years ago, is another god in ancient Greek mythology, but also the name of a deep abyss in the underworld where the titans were imprisoned. To put the word "hell" in context, is has Germanic paganism origins and dates back only around 1,300 years. This means that none of the people mentioned in any of the books of any bible would have ever heard the word, or even knew the language or culture the word would eventually come from, and neither would their great-grandchildren.
English translators have done Christians a great disservice, not just because they translate four different words into the same English word, but because each of these different words has a different meaning with a different cultural context, none of which match the English word. Older translations like the King James Version simply translate all four words to "hell," while the New International Version at least attempts to show some difference by using "realm of the dead" for sheol and hades. Some less-known translations, like the World English Bible, actually keep the words untranslated which makes it much easier for the reader to get the proper context.
Here is an example of each of the four words that are often translated to "hell."
|Example||Language||Text||Transliteration||Literal English||Implied English||KJV||NIV||WEB|
|Psalms 16:10||Biblical Hebrew||שאול||sheol||underworld||realm of the dead||hell||realm of the dead||Sheol|
|Matthew 5:29||Ancient Greek||γέενναν||Gehenna||Valley of Hinnom||cursed valley||hell||hell||Gehenna|
|Acts 2:31||Ancient Greek||ᾅδου||hades||unseen||realm of the dead||hell||realm of the dead||Hades|
|II Peter 2:4||Ancient Greek||ταρταρόω||tartaroo||throw to Tartarus||place in the underworld||hell||hell||Tartarus|