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Tartarus : Kingdom of Darkness

Updated: May 8, 2022



Sometimes a word can change everything and this is the case here with a word that appears only once in the Bible but reveals so much about the powers of darkness, the influence of Greek literature on the first apostles and finally and more relative to our series "New Light" the intellectual dishonesty of the Watchtower when it comes to presenting information from extra Biblical sources.So if you like stories about the fallen angels and hollow earth stay tuned, and please like and subscribe.

This word is the word Tartarus, a strange ancient Greek word that appears in old Greek literature like Homer's Iliad and other extra Biblical texts. The word Tartarus appears only once in the Bible in 2 Peter 2:4:"Certainly God did not refrain from punishing the angels who sinned, but threw them into Tarʹta·rus, putting them in chains of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment" Unlike many other translations the NWT correctly renders the original word as Tartarus whereas other well known translations like the NIV render the word as hell.We read in the NIV version:" For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;" but when you read the original Greek text it clearly shows the word to be Tartarus and not hell.Now before I read it from the original text I just want to tell you a little bit about my qualifications.I'm Greek and I have 3 years college education in ancient Greek languages which includes the language of Homer and the Koini Greek of the 1st century ,that was part of our curriculum at the time.I can read with fluency straight out of the original text and understand maybe 80%-90% but I never got a degree at in English university or college in languages, I think I might pursue that soon.Anyway back in the text.So I'm reading straight out of the Interlenear in 2 Peter 2:4 and I just want you to notice the word,and there it says:"εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων οὐκ ἐφείσατο, ἀλλὰ σειροῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους" If you have the jw.org app you can click on this verse and see both renderings in Greek and English.

Now there is an article on jw.org about Tartarus , I will include the link below that appeared originally on the Insight on the Scriptures encyclopaedia, Volume 2 p. 1068 and it has this to say about Tartarus:

"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·roʹo and so includes within itself the word “Tartarus.”

This is correct because the word that we just read in the Interlinear was "ταρταρώσας" which is the verb form of the word "Tartarus",the article continues,

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.”

This is important because this is another verse where the same place is described but not in name and so Jude 6 is complimentary of 2 Peter 2:4.So again this is a PLACE where angels go, it speaks of disobedient angels that did not keep their original position and are kept imprisoned until the day of judgement.The article continues:

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)

Let's read these verses in their entirety 1 Peter 3:19,20 :"And in this state(=That is Jesus Christ) he went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who had formerly been disobedient when God was patiently waiting in Noah’s day, while the ark was being constructed, in which a few people, that is, eight souls, were carried safely through the water." It is quite clear from these verses that the angels that are being held in this prison called Tartarus are the disobedient angels that came down here on earth in Noah's days. So the article correctly surmises that:

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.

Let's go back then and read these verses in Genesis 6:1-4, there we read:"Now when men started to grow in number on the surface of the ground and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of the true God began to notice that the daughters of men were beautiful. So they began taking as wives all whom they chose. 3 Then Jehovah said: “My spirit will not tolerate man indefinitely, because he is only flesh. Accordingly, his days will amount to 120 years.” 4 The Nephʹi·lim were on the earth in those days and afterward. During that time the sons of the true God continued to have relations with the daughters of men, and these bore sons to them. They were the mighty ones of old times, the men of fame." So angels came here down on earth and create this abominable offspring half man half angel called Nephilim which prompted God to destroy the world with a Flood in Noah's days.

So far this article is spot-on and makes all the right connections but now thats where things will start going wrong.Let's read:

From these texts it is evident that Tartarus is a condition rather than a particular location, 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.

Up to this point we saw that this place Tartarus was a place but the writers of the Watchtower conclude that this is all symbolic, it is not a physical place after all it is a condition of spiritual darkness not literal.This is a classic example of many so called Bible scholars, when they come across a difficult text and it's hard to explain they make it all symbolic and walk away. But hold on a minute because the Insight to Scriptures Encyclopedia is making a valid point.I don't if you spotted that.

From these texts it is evident that Tartarus is a condition rather than a particular location, 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)

This is a logical argument, you can't have fallen angels in 2 places at the same time.You can't have angels imprisoned in a dark prison and at the same time having them roaming the heavenly places in Ephesians 6:10-12.So the Watchtower writers concluded that in order for all the verses to be in agreement this must be a symbolic state of darkness.Is this assumption correct? Lets do some more digging.

Let's go back where we started in 2 Peter 2:4 the only verse in the Bible where we find the word Tartarus, the big question is why would Peter a follower of Christ and a Jew use a term borrowed from Greek mythology,a pagan account, isn't that a big no-no? Apparently not, don't forget that Peter along with the other apostles grew up in a multicultural society where Greek and Roman influences were prevelant and as a Jew he came across these pagan accounts and recognised that instead of them being fantastical stories of silly pagans they were in fact accounts that contained valid information that in many cases compliments Jewish tradition and the Jewish version of human origins.As Joseph Campbell once said:"Mythology can be defined as the sacred history of humankind. " So 2 Peter 2:4 is a confirmstion that extra Biblical pagan sources of the origins of mankind should be treated not as fairytales but as history in disguise and should not be dismissed on pagan face value but be allowed like in this case to compliment the Biblical narrative.

So with this explanation in mind let's see what did the ancient Greeks believed about Tartarus.In Greek mythology, Tartarus is the deep abyss that is used as a dungeon of torment and suffering for the wicked and as the prison for the Titans.The ancient Greeks believed to be a physical location inside the earth with physical co-ordinates.

For example, Hesiod asserts that a bronze anvil falling from heaven would fall nine days before it reached the earth. The anvil would take nine more days to fall from earth to Tartarus.In the well known epic of Illiad written by Homer circa 8th century BC we are told that Zeus asserts that Tartarus is "as far beneath as heaven is above earth."Hades was the place of the dead souls of human beings whereas Tartarus the place of imprisoned Titans, or fallen angels.So you see they distinguise the two places and regard them as part of the Underworld.Similarly the mythographer Apollodorus, describes Tartarus as "a gloomy place in Hades as far distant from earth as earth is distant from the sky." There is no ancient document that describes this place as a condition of darkness this was a physical underground prison and that is why the following part from the Insight to Scriptures Encyclopedia is intellectually dishonest, there we read:

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.

They are trying to make out that there are 2 Tartarus, one from the pagan mythology and the other one from the Bible, which is simply not true.There is not a single mention in Jewish literature of Tartarus there has only been one reference and that comes from Greek mythology only where it is described as a physical place and not a condition of darkness.

Still the original argument that the Watchtower writers presented remains, how is possible for these fallen angels to be in two places at the same time ,the heavenly places and the underground prison.

For that we have to go back to the original argument that Satan raised with God in the book of Job regarding human kind in general. It is the question whether we are being loyal to God out of duty or out of love. This is an argument that Satan has raised with God since the begining of human history and God has allowed Satan time and resources to prove his claim. In fact God has allowed Satan a relative position of authority over mankind so he can prove his claims.We read in 1 John 5:19:"We know that we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one."So what accusation did Satan raise about Job and by extention for all mankind? We read in Job 1:10-12:

Have you not put up a protective hedge around him and his house and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock has spread out in the land. 11 But, for a change, stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your very face.” 12 Then Jehovah said to Satan: “Look! Everything that he has is in your hand. Only do not lay your hand on the man himself!”

So Immediately after the Flood Satan encountered a major problem, since all his fallen angels had now being locked up in Tartarus, the underground prison, he had no heavenly administration to carry on his relative control over mankind and here we come across another extra Biblical account that retells the amazing story of Satan approaching God immediately after the Flood asking him to allow him access to some of his fallen angels.I promise you that once I read you this account all the pieces will fall into place.It is from the book of Jubilees.Now before I read you this account , a little background on the book of Jubilees.The Book of Jubilees, also called the Little Genesis,in its final form, was likely written about 100 BC, though it incorporates much older accounts and traditions. It was used extensively by the Essenes the people that left behind the Dead Sea Scrolls and was we'll known and quoted by many early Christians.If you never read read it I strongly recommend that you do because it contains accounts that supplement the account of Genesis and in many cases fill in gaps and unanswered questions from thr book of Genesis. This is the case here too, because the Genesis account never tell us what happened to the fallen angels immediately after the Flood but the book of Jubilees does.In the following excerpt Satan that is named as Mastima makes a plea to the Creator immediately after the Flood, we read in Jubilees 10:8,9

When Mastema, the leader of the spirits, came, he said:  ‘Lord creator, leave some of them before me;  let them listen to me and do everything that I tell them, because if none of them is left for me I shall not be able to exercise the authority of my will mankind.  For they are meant for (the purposes of) destroying and misleading before my punishment because the evil of mankind is great.’  Then he said that a tenth of them should be left before him, while he would make nine parts descend to the place of judfment.” Jubilees 10:8,9

So in the Book of Jubilees, Mastima which is another name for Satan is asking God that some of his fallen angels be allowed to remain with him to do his will. God granted his request and allowed one tenth of the spirits to remain with Mastema, while the other nine parts were imprisoned in Tartarus.Now lets go back to the question the Insight Encyclopedia raised ,how is it possible for fallen angels to be into two different places at the same time.Now we know.One tenth of the fallen angels were allowed to become Satan's post Flood administration in the "heavenly places" whereas the rest 9/10 were imprisoned in this underground prison called Tartarus.

I hope this explanation is more satisfactory from the one the Watchtower has to offer and covers all verses around this subject.That of course raises many other questions.Does the Bible teach there is such a thing as Hollow Earth? Is this only subterranean compartment in Biblical theology?

These and other questions

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