TARTARUS - please explain why it is in the Bible

by Severus 13 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Severus

    Honest question here. Tartarus is mentioned once in 1 Peter 2:4:

    . . .Certainly if God did not hold back from punishing the angels that sinned, but, by throwing them into Tartarus, delivered them to pits of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment;. . .

    Now there is no question that Tartarus is a Greek concept (Wikipedia: Tartarus) predating Peter's writings. So why is a pagan concept that matches the Greek myth mentioned in the Bible??

    The official JW explanation is here. Bible believers and researchers please comment.

    Insight Book Vol 2 pp 1068-1069


    A prisonlike, abased condition into which God cast disobedient angels in Noah’s day.

    This word is found but once in the inspired Scriptures, at 2 Peter 2:4. The apostle writes: "God did not hold back from punishing the angels that sinned, but, by throwing them into Tartarus, delivered them to pits of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment." The expression "throwing them into Tartarus" is from the Greek verb tar·ta·ro´o and so includes within itself the word "Tartarus."

    A parallel text is found at Jude 6: "And the angels that did not keep their original position but forsook their own proper dwelling place he has reserved with eternal bonds under dense darkness for the judgment of the great day." Showing when it was that these angels "forsook their own proper dwelling place," Peter speaks of "the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient when the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed." (1Pe 3:19, 20) This directly links the matter to the account at Genesis 6:1-4 concerning "the sons of the true God" who abandoned their heavenly abode to cohabit with women in pre-Flood times and produced children by them, such offspring being designated as Nephilim.—See NEPHILIM; SON(S) OF GOD.

    From these texts it is evident that Tartarus is a condition rather than a particular location, (Is it really "evident"??) inasmuch as Peter, on the one hand, speaks of these disobedient spirits as being in "pits of dense darkness," while Paul speaks of them as being in "heavenly places" from which they exercise a rule of darkness as wicked spirit forces. (2Pe 2:4; Eph 6:10-12) The dense darkness similarly is not literally a lack of light but results from their being cut off from illumination by God as renegades and outcasts from his family, with only a dark outlook as to their eternal destiny.

    Tartarus is, therefore, not the same as the Hebrew Sheol or the Greek Hades, both of which refer to the common earthly grave of mankind. This is evident from the fact that, while the apostle Peter shows that Jesus Christ preached to these "spirits in prison," he also shows that Jesus did so, not during the three days while buried in Hades (Sheol), but after his resurrection out of Hades.—1Pe 3:18-20.

    Likewise the abased condition represented by Tartarus should not be confused with "the abyss" into which Satan and his demons are eventually to be cast for the thousand years of Christ’s rule. (Re 20:1-3) Apparently the disobedient angels were cast into Tartarus in "Noah’s days" (1Pe 3:20), but some 2,000 years later we find them entreating Jesus "not to order them to go away into the abyss."—Lu 8:26-31; see ABYSS.

    The word "Tartarus" is also used in pre-Christian heathen mythologies. In Homer’s Iliad this mythological Tartarus is represented as an underground prison ‘as far below Hades as earth is below heaven.’ In it were imprisoned the lesser gods, Cronus and the other Titan spirits. As we have seen, the Tartarus of the Bible is not a place but a condition and, therefore, is not the same as this Tartarus of Greek mythology. However, it is worth noting that the mythological Tartarus was presented not as a place for humans but as a place for superhuman creatures. So, in that regard there is a similarity, since the Scriptural Tartarus is clearly not for the detention of human souls (compare Mt 11:23) but is only for wicked superhuman spirits who are rebels against God.

    The condition of utter debasement represented by Tartarus is a precursor of the abyssing that Satan and his demons are to experience prior to the start of the Thousand Year Reign of Christ. This, in turn, is to be followed after the end of the thousand years by their utter destruction in "the second death."—Mt 25:41; Re 20:1-3, 7-10, 14.

  • minimus

    Actually, the Greek word is short for "tartar sauce" and Bible scholars have kept this particular understanding secret because Peter, the apostle, was a fisherman.

  • peacefulpete

    The same reason Hades is, or for that matter demons, mysteries, speaking in toungues, immortality, or for that matter a godman descending from heaven to be our advocate, Christianity is as much a child of Greek thought as Jewish.

  • Justin

    I would say that the writer here is aware of a relationship between some of the Bible stories and mythology. For example, he probably believes that the Genesis account is the original for the Greek myths of gods having offspring through women, fathering demigods. Hades itself is an appropriation from the Greek mythology as being a good approximation of the Hebrew Sheol. Both of these were considered to refer to the underworld, and as such they were mythological places, though Sheol can also be regarded as simply the grave. But it is the modern mind, which has to some extent been freed from mythology, which sees them as simply being conditions or the death state itself. Likewise, the writer here considered ("Peter") has appropriated another mythological category - Tartarus - because he thinks that there is a place quite like the Greek Tartarus in which the disobedient spirits have been imprisoned. It is as if the Greek myths are a shadow of something which is the real possession of the Judeo-Christian God.

  • Leolaia

    I have a thread devoted to this topic:


    Since 2 Peter 2:4 is interpreting and reusing Jude 6, the author of 2 Peter (who is elsewhere steeped in Hellenistic Stoic concepts) probably recognized that the phrase hupo zóphon "under darkness" when used in reference to the imprisoned fallen angels in Jude 6 is strikingly like Hesiod who referred to the Titans as imprisoned "under misty darkness" (hupo zóphó éroenti) in Tartarus (Theogony, 729). The author of 2 Peter did not recognize that Jude 6 was an allustion to 1 Enoch (just as he did not realize that Jude 9 was an allusion to the Assumption of Moses and thus rephrased it incoherently in 2 Peter 2:11), or he may have objected to the Enochic reference (just as Jude 14-15 was omitted in 2 Peter 2). In either case, the author overlooked the Enochic allusion and instead recognized the passage as an allusion of Hesiod and thus embellished the passage from Jude with an allusion to Hesiod's Tartarus.

  • under_believer

    If I was Fred Franz, I'd make something up. Let's see.
    Tartarus... is... ooh! It is a Biblical prophecy which predicted the state of spiritual darkness that those who spoke against the Faithful Slave (Rutherford) in 1919 suffered after they were disfellowshipped for murmuring.

  • Leolaia

    One other interesting point is that Tartarus is mentioned in the Greek version of 1 Enoch 20:1-2:

    "And these are the names of the holy angels who watch [over the angels]: Uriel, one of the holy angels, for he is over the world and Tartarus (ho epi tou kosmou kai tou tartarou)"

    Now, it is uncertain whether Tartarus was actually mentioned in the original version of 1 Enoch (the Aramaic is not extant here). This would be a unique and unusual use of the term in 1 Enoch, where Hades is otherwise used to refer to the Sheol or Gehenna of the original. R. H. Charles and George Nickelsburg regard "Tartarus" as original, while Matthew Black does not. The alternative is provided by the Ethiopic which has wazara'ad "tremors", which rests on an original Greek tromos "tremors". Charles' explanation then was that tromou would have been a copyist error for tartarou (rather than representing an original Aramaic rtyt' "earthquake"), but it is also possible that rtyt' was taken to be a place name by the Greek translator and thus was misread as trt'r. I myself am persuaded to believe that "Tartarus" was chosen by the Greek translator to represent an original Aramaic Sheol or some other name for the underworld. This is because it makes much better sense to say that the heavenly Uriel is over both the world and the underworld than to say that he is over the world and earthquakes. There would also be a connection to older Canaanite and Babylonian mythology which construed the sun god as having an heavenly course "over the earth" during the day and an infernal course through the underworld during the night (for the sun has to get to the east to rise after setting in the west). 1 Enoch is indebted to this cosmology and Uriel is generally accepted as a later reflex of the older sun god. The Ethiopic would have then been a misreading of the Greek.

    But despite the uncertainty over which form was original, the presence of Tartarus in the Greek version means that the author of 2 Peter could have also been influenced by this....had he actually known about the connection to 1 Enoch.

  • JosephMalik


    It is remarkable how something so simple can be exploded into meaning something so complex. The verse in question is talking about who and what? Do we know? Why not let Peter answer? If we stay with the verses and quit running all over the place or to other sources we should learn that it is the ungodly under discussion and the punishment that awaits them. So if Peter should use a word common to mythology, or some other familiarity of the time to make this point well then so what? And all this association with “spirit beings” or “demons;” whoooo scary stuff but it deflects the application away from ourselves or our churches to whom it may well be pointed.

    Pet 2: 4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

    Just who are we talking about here? Peter introduced them like this:

    1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

    Humans Beings, leaders in what we think is the faith or true worship of the time. Sure they are called angels as they conveyed their message to others but they were also called false prophets and false teachers. They are using you and making merchandise of those following them. But God has a plan for them and their existence in “tartaroo” a word that substitutes for “hell,” pre-identifies the judgment that awaits them when our Lord returns.

    It is the same judgment that awaits others such as the ungodly and wicked that exist along with such false teachers and the rest of us that are seemingly in the “faith.” So Peter adds them to this list well.

    5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) 9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

    As teachers here on this forum, what keeps us from being on this list of those found to be in “tataroo?” What is it that makes us more like Noah and Lot that puts us on the side of the godly? That is the point Peter is making and a question we should all ask ourselves.


  • greendawn

    Surprisngly it was not just the early Christians but also the Jews that got influenced by Greek culture and mythology. Here Tartarus is a symbol of a spiritually fallen, degraded, impotent and confined state so deep as to make escape from it impossible.

    That's a good point for the dubs who think that anytyhing pagan is strictly forbidden and wrong. Peter borrowed from the pagans a certain concept that had correspondences with Judaism.

  • Nathan Natas
    Nathan Natas

    Compare and contrast the AID book:


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