Spirit of the Word - Covenant Eschatology - Introductory Note - New Stuff
The Bible Hell
The Book Of Enoch
What Did Peter Mean
We now consider the word Tartarus: "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Hell (Tartarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." II Peter 2:4. The word in the Greek is Tartarus, or rather it is a very from that noun. "Cast down to hell" should be tartarused, (tartarosas). The Greeks held Tartarus, says Anthon, in his Classical Dictionary to be "the fabled place of punishment in the lower world." "According to the ideas of the Homeric and Hesiodic ages, it would seem that the world or universe was a hollow globe, divided into two equal portions by the flat disk of the earth. The external shell of this globe is called by the poets brazen and iron, probably only to express its solidity. The superior hemisphere was called Heaven, and the inferior one Tartarus. The length of the diameter of the hollow sphere is given thus by Hesiod. It would take, he says, nine days for an anvil to fall from Heaven to Earth; and an equal space of time would be occupied by its fall from Earth to the bottom of Tartarus. The luminaries which give light to gods and men, shed their radiance through all the interior of the upper hemisphere, while that of the inferior one was filled with eternal darkness, and its still air was unmoved by any wind. Tartarus was regarded at this period as the prison of the gods and not as the place of torment for wicked men; being to the gods, what Erebus was to men, the abode of those who were driven from the celestial world. The Titans, when conquered were shut up in it and Jupiter menaces the gods with banishment to its murky regions. The Oceanus of Homer encompassed the whole earth, and beyond it was a region unvisited by the sun, and therefore shrouded in perpetual darkness, the abode of a people whom he names Cimmerians. Here the poet of the Odyssey also places Erebus, the realm of Pluto and Proserpina, the final dwelling place of all the race of men, a place which the pet of the Iliad describes as lying within the bosom of the earth. At a later period the change of religions gradually affected Erebus, the place of the reward of the good; and Tartarus was raised up to form the prison in which the wicked suffered the punishment due to their crimes." Virgil illustrates this view, (Dryden's Virgil, Encid, 6): 'Tis here, in different paths, the way divides: -- The right to Pluto's golden palace guides, The left to that unhappy region tends. Which to the depths of Tartarus descends - The scat of night profound and punished fiends.
The gaping gulf low to the centre lies,Now it is not to be supposed that Peter endorses and teaches this monstrous nonsense of paganism. If he did, then we must accept all the absurdities that went with it, in the pagan mythology. And if this is an item of Christian faith, why is it never referred to, in the Old or New Testament? Why have we no descriptions of it such as abound in classic literature?
And twice as deep as earth is from the skies.
The rivals of the gods, the Titan race,
Here, singed with lightning, roll within th'unfathomed space.
Peter alludes to the subject just as though it were well-known and understood by his correspondents. "If the angels that sinned."-what angels? "were cast down to Tartarus," where is the story related? Not in the Bible, but in a book well-known at the time, called the Book of Enoch. It was written some time before the Christian Era, and is often quoted by the Christian fathers. It embodies a tradition, to which Josephus alludes, (Ant. 1:3) of certain angels who had fallen. (Dr. T. J. Sawyer, in Univ. Quart.) From this apocryphal book, Peter quoted the verse referring to Tartarus Dr. Sawyer says: "Not only the moderns are forced to this opinion, but it seems to have been universally adopted by the ancients. 'Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Hilary,' say Professor Stuart, 'all of whom refer to the book before us, and quote from it, say nothing which goes to establish the idea that any Christians of their day denied or doubted that a quotation was made by the apostle Jude from the Book of Enoch. Several and in fact most of these writers do indeed call in question the canonical rank or authority of the Book of Enoch; but the apologies which they make for the quotation of it in Jude, show that the quotation itself was, as a matter of fact, generally conceded among them.' There are it is true some individuals who still doubt whether Jude quoted the Book of Enoch; but while as Professor Stuart suggests, this doubt is incapable of being confirmed by any satisfactory proof, it avails nothing to deny the quotation; for it is evident if Jude did not quote the Book of Enoch, he did quote a tradition of no better authority." This Book of Enoch is full of absurd legends, which no sensible man can accept.
THE BOOK OF ENOCH
Why did Peter quote from it? Just as men now quote from the classics not sanctioning the truth of the quotation but to illustrate and enforce a proposition. Nothing is more common than for writers to quote fables: "As the tortoise said to the hare," in Aesop. "As the sun said to the wind," etc. We have the same practice illustrated in the Bible. Joshua, after a poetical quotation adorning his narrative, says: "Is not this written in the Book of Jasher? Josh. 10:13 and Jeremiah 48:45 says: "A fire shall come forth out of Heshbon," quoting from an ancient poet, says Dr. Adam Clarke. Peter alludes to this ancient legend to illustrate the certainty of retribution without any intention of teaching the silly notions of angels falling from heaven and certainly not meaning to sanction the then prevalent notions concerning the heathen Tartarus. There is this alternative only: either the pagan doctrine is true and the heathen got ahead of inspiration by ascertaining the facts before the authors of the Bible learned it-for it was currently accepted centuries before Christ and is certainly not taught in the Old Testament - or Peter quotes it as Jesus refers to Mammon rhetorically to illustrate the great fact of retribution he was instilling. If true, how can anyone account for the fact that it is never referred to in the Bible, before or after this once? Besides, these angels are not to be detained always in Tartarus, they are to be released. The language is, "delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." When their judgment comes, they emerge from duress. They only remain in Tartarus "unto judgment." Their imprisonment is not endless so that the language gives no proof of endless punishment even if it be a literal description.
WHAT DID PETER MEAN?
But no one can fail to see that the apostle employs the legend from the Book of Enoch to illustrate and enforce his doctrine of retribution. As though he had said: "If, as is believed by some, God spared not the angels that sinned, do not let us who sin, mortal men, expect to escape." If this view is denied, there is no escape from the gross doctrine of Tartarus as taught by the pagans and that, too, on the testimony of a solitary sentence of Scripture! But whatever may be the intent of the words, they do not teach endless torment, for the chains referred to only last unto the judgment.
Contents - Part 6 - Gehenna
Spirit of the Word - Covenant Eschatology - Introductory Note - New Stuff
Part 1 - INTRODUCTION
Part 2 - SHEOL AND HADEES IN O.T.
Part 3 - THE CHRISTIAN IDEA OF HELL
Part 4 - HADEES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Part 5 - TARTARUS
Part 6 - GEHENNA
Part 7 - CONCLUSION