19th-century interpretation of Charon's crossing by Alexander
the Bible there are five different words used to designate the
prison houses of the
Old Testament Hebrew word
Testament Greek word
New Testament word
New Testament Greek word
Testament Greek word
Sheol is used sixty-five times in the Old Testament. It is
translated as “hell” thirty-one times in the Bible, thirty-one
times as “grave,” and three times as "pit." The word
Hades is translated as “hell“ ten times in the New Testament.
It is also found in 1 Corinthians 15:15, where the English word is
grave. The only exception is Revelation 6:8. In that passage the
pale rider is Death, and hell (Hades) follows him.
the word Hades is “the region of departed spirits of the lost
(but including the blessed dead in periods preceding the ascension
word, tartaroo, is a Greek word translated as “hell“ and found
in only one place:
2 Peter 2:3-4
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down
to hell and delivered them into the chains of darkness, to be
reserved for judgment.
in the Hebrew Bible, is called "Hades" in the New
Testament since the New Testament is written in Greek.
The Hebrew phrase
will not abandon my soul to Sheol) in Psalm 16:10 is quoted in
Acts 2:27 as
will not abandon my soul to Hades)
translated as "grave", "pit", or "abode
of the dead", is the underworld of the Old Testament/Hebrew
Bible. It is a place of darkness to which all the dead go, both
the righteous and the unrighteous, regardless of the moral choices
made in life, a place of stillness and darkness cut off from God.
inhabitants of Sheol were the "shades" (rephaim),
entities without personality or strength. Under some circumstances
they could be contacted by the living, as the Witch of Endor
contacts the shade of Samuel for Saul, but such practices are
forbidden (Deuteronomy 18:10).
While the Old
Testament writings describe Sheol as the permanent place of the
dead, in the Second Temple period (roughly 500 BCE-70 CE) a more
diverse set of ideas developed:
In some texts, Sheol
is the home of both the righteous and the wicked, separated into
others, it was a place of punishment, meant for the wicked dead
confusion can be removed when we understand that the righteous who
accepted Jesus during Jesus’ visit to Sheol, were taken to
Paradise from Abraham’s bosom leaving it empty. From then on
those saved through faith in Christ went directly to Paradise
while those who are unsaved but righteous in accordance with the
law went to this compartment and still remains there awaiting
resurrection and judgment.
Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek in ancient Alexandria
around 200 BC the word "Hades" (the Greek underworld)
was substituted for Sheol, and this is reflected in the New
Testament where Hades is both the underworld of the dead and the
personification of the evil it represents.
English versions, such as the New International Version, translate
Sheol as "grave" or simply transliterate
"Hades". It is generally agreed that both Sheol and
Hades do not typically refer to the place of eternal punishment,
but to the grave, the temporary abode of the dead, the underworld.
It is not hell since hell denotes the place of punishment after
the judgment. Greek, uses the word
(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 the obolus
mythology, Charon or Kharon (Xdpwv) is the ferryman of Hades who
carries souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Styx and
Acheron that divided the world of the living from the world of the
dead. Styx is said winds around Hades nine times. Its name comes
from the Greek word stugein which means hate.
A coin to pay
Charon for passage, usually an obolus or danake, was sometimes
placed in or on the mouth of a dead person. Some authors say that
those who could not pay the fee, or those whose bodies were left
unburied, had to wander the shores for one hundred years. In the
catabasis mytheme, heroes —such as Heracles, Orpheus, Aeneas,
Dante, Dionysus and Psyche — journey to the underworld and
return, still alive, conveyed by the boat of Charon.
and Psyche (1883), a pre-Raphaelite interpretation of the myth by
John Roddam Spencer Starihope
Jewish works adapt the Greek mythical picture of Hades to identify
the righteous dead as being separated from unrighteous in the
fires by a river or chasm. In the pseudo- epigraphical Apocalypse
of Zephaniah the river has a ferryman equivalent to Charon in
Greek myth, but replaced by an angel. On the other side in the
Bosom of Abraham: "You have escaped from the Abyss and Hades,
now you will cross over the crossing place... to all the righteous
ones, namely Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Enoch, Elijah and David".
in this myth
not idle in the Bosom of Abraham; he acted as intercessor for
those in the fiery part of Hades.
analogy of the redemption of Israel into Canaan this abyss can be
compared to the river Jordan.
as depicted by Michelangelo in his fresco in the Last Judgment in
the Sistine Chapel
obol as viaticum
Charon’s obol is sometimes called a viaticum, which in everyday
usage means “provision for a journey” (from via, “way, road,
journey”), encompassing food, money and other supplies. The same
word can refer to the living allowance granted to those stripped
of their property and condemned to exile, and by metaphorical
extension to preparing for death at the end of life's journey.
this metaphorical sense of “provision for the journey into
death,“ ecclesiastical Latin borrowed the term viaticum for the
form of Eucharist that is placed in the mouth of the believer at
the point of death as provision for the soul's passage to eternal
literary evidence of this Christian usage for viaticum appears in
Paulinus’s account of the death of St. Ambrose in 397 A.D. The
7th-century Synodus Hibernensis offers an etymological
explanation: “This word ‘viaticum’ is the name of communion,
that is to say, ‘the guardianship of the way,’ for it guards
the soul until it shall stand before the judgment-seat of
Christ.“(Synodus Hibernensis preserved in the 8th-century
Collectio canonum Hibernensis), book 2, chapter 16 p. 20 in the
edition of Wasserschleben, cited in Smith, A Dictionary of
Christian Antiquities, p. 2014.)
Aquinas explained the term as “a prefiguration of the fruit of
God, which will be in the promised land. And because of this it is
called the viaticum, since it provides us with the way of getting
there"; the idea of Christians as “travelers in search of
salvation" finds early expression in the Confessions of St.