Speaking Well of 
God Index


of Scripture (1)

of Scripture (2)

The Rich Man
and Lazarus

Hades and
Abraham's Bosom

Greek Thoughts on
the After-Life


Further Resources



APPENDIX II: Popular Concept of Hades
and Abrahamís Bosom

by Inge Anderson

The pharasaical teaching regarding eternal life is represented by Josephus in "An Extract out of Josephusís Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades." As in their teachings regarding the Sabbath, the Ten Commandments, the sanctuary rites, and the Messiah, the biblical teaching on this subject had become hopelessly corrupted by the Pharisees. (The first two paragraphs sound close to the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory. Note how closely the third and fourth paragraphs parallel the setting of Christís story about the Rich Man and Lazarus.) An excerpt follows (italics as printed in source):

    1. Now as to Hades, wherein the souls of the righteous and unrighteous are detained, it is necessary to speak of it. Hades is a place in the world not regularly finished; a subterraneous region where the light of this world does not shine; from which circumstance, that in this place the light does not shine, it cannot be but there must be in it perpetual darkness. This region is allowed as a place of custody for souls, in which angels are appointed as guardians to them who distribute to them temporary punishments, agreeable to every oneís behaviour and manners.

    2. In this region there is a certain place set apart, as a lake of unquenchable fire, wherein we suppose no one hath hitherto been cast; but it is prepared for a day afore-determined by God, in which one righteous sentence shall deservedly be passed upon all men; when the unjust and those that have been disobedient to God, and have given honour to such idols as have been the vain operations of the hands of men, as to God himself, shall be adjudged to this everlasting punishment, as having been the causes of defilement; while the just shall obtain an incorruptible and never-fading kingdom. These are now indeed confined in Hades but not in the same place wherein the unjust are confined.

    3. For there is one descent into this region, at whose gate we believe there stands an archangel with an host; which gate when those pass through that are conducted down by the angels appointed over souls, they do not go the same way; but the just are guided to the right hand, and are led with hymns sung by the angels appointed over that place, unto a region of light, in which the just have dwelt from the beginning of the world; not constrained by necessity, but ever enjoying the prospect of the good things they see, and rejoice in the expectation of those new enjoyments which will be peculiar to every one of them, and esteeming those things beyond what we have here; with whom there is no place of toil, no burning heat, no piercing cold, nor are any briers there; but the countenance of the fathers and of the just, which they see, always smiles upon them, while they wait for that rest and eternal new life in heaven, which is to succeed this region. This place we call The Bosom of Abraham.

    4. But as to the unjust, they are dragged by force to the left hand, by the angels allotted for punishment, no longer going with a good-will, but as prisoners driven by violence; to whom are sent the angels appointed over them to reproach them and to threaten them with their terrible looks, and to thrust them still downwards. Now those angels that are set over these souls, drag them into the neighbourhood of hell itself; who, when they are hard by it, continually hear the noise of it, and do not stand clear of the hot vapour itself; but when they have a nearer view of this spectacle, as of a terrible and exceeding great prospect of fire, they are struck with a fearful expectation of a future judgment, and in effect punished thereby; and not only so, but when they see the place [or choir] of the fathers and of the just, even hereby are they punished; for a chaos [other translations say chasm] deep and large is fixed between them; insomuch that a just man that hath compassion upon them, cannot be admitted, nor can one that is unjust, if he were bold enough to attempt it, pass over it.

    5. This is the discourse concerning Hades, wherein the souls of all men are confined until a proper season, which God hath determined, when he will make a resurrection of all men from the dead, not procuring a transmigration of souls from one body to another, but raising again those very bodies, which you Greeks, seeing to be dissolved, do not believe [their resurrection:] but learn not to disbelieve it; for while you believe that the souls is created, and yet is made immortal by God, according to the doctrine of Plato, and this in time, be not incredulous, but believe that God is able, when he hath raised to life that body which was made as a compound of the same elements, to make it immortal; for it must never be said of God that he is able to do some things, and unable to do others. We have therefore believed that the body will be raised again; for although it be dissolved, it is not perished; for the earth receives its remains, and preserves them; and while they are like seed, and are mixed among the more fruitful sown bare grain; but at the mighty sound of God the Creator, it will sprout up, and be raised in a clothed and glorious condition, though not before it has been dissolved, and mixed [with the earth].

    Ė "An Extract out of Josephusís Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades," Josephus: Complete Works, Trans. William Whiston (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1960), p. 637.

In Section 6 of his "Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades," Josephus goes on to detail what happens to the wicked and the righteous after the judgment:

    . . . To these [the wicked] belong the unquenchable fire, and that without end, and a certain fiery worm never dying, and not destroying the body, but continuing its eruption out of the body with never-ceasing grief; neither will sleep give ease to these men, nor will the night afford them comfort; death will not free them from their punishment, nor will the interceding prayers of their kindred profit them; for the just are no longer seen by them, nor are they thought worthy of remembrance; but the just shall remember only their righteous actions whereby they have attained the heavenly kingdom, in which there is not sleep, no sorrow, no corruption, no care, no night, no day measured by time, no sun driven in his course Ö
    Ė Josephus, p. 638

In regards to describing the horrors of hell, Josephus can hold his own beside Jonathan Edwards, it seems to me! However, the thoughtful reader will note that Josephusís belief is far removed from the Apostle Paulís regarding the grounds of salvation. To Josephus, the righteous are there because of "their righteous actions, whereby they have attained the heavenly kingdom." This contrasts sharply with Paulís teaching that "by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." By the evidence presented in the body of this paper, it is evident that his concept of hell is equally erroneous.