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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Is Tartarus?

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Don Stewart
One of the Greek words translated "hell" in the English versions is "tartarus." Peter uses the word in referring to the place of judgment for evil angels.

For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell [tartarus] and delivered them into chains of darkness reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example in those who afterward would live ungodly (2 Peter 2:4-6).

This is the only New Testament use of the term. It is a temporary place where certain fallen angels who sinned are now confined.


Jude also speaks about this place for sinning angels. He calls it a place of everlasting chains.

And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home - these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day (Jude 6)

It is possible that tartarus is the same place as the abyss, or the pit. It should not be understood as any place of judgment for wicked humans. Therefore, "hell" is an unfortunate translation.


Tartarus is the place where certain sinful angels are presently kept bound. This specific Greek word is only used once in the New Testament. It has no reference to the final destination of the wicked, or hell. Tartarus is not even the final destination of angels. It is, therefore, unfortunate that some English versions translate the term as "hell" because it confuses this place with the place of final judgment of the wicked.
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