The Geography of Hades

In the last two posts (here and here), we looked at the ancient Greek picture of Hades, the abode of the dead, and what hell really was in Hebrew thinking. It wasn’t the immediate pit of flames upon death. We compared it with the Biblical picture which was both similar and very different. The Old Testament used the word Sheol for the abode of the dead, the New Testament used Hades, and Tartarus. Gehenna was a special valley in Jerusalem that was a metaphor for future judgement.

Hades in the Book of Enoch

Apart from Jesus’ parable of Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:19-31), there are no descriptions of the actual geography of the underworld in the New Testament. Rather than drawing from pagan Greek myths to depict Hades in Jesus Triumphant, I decided to draw from a respected Jewish source that did provide a “cosmic geography” or conceptual map of the universe that included the underworld. This geography of Hades can be found in the visions of  the ancient book of 1Enoch.[1]

Though 1Enoch is not Scripture, I have argued elsewhere for the high regard that the New Testament gives the ancient text as a source for some of its own theological concepts and language.[2] The book consists of several “books,” that recount an expanded version of the Genesis 6 story of the Watchers and Nephilim giants, as well as visions that the prophet Enoch allegedly experienced of angels taking him around the earth, up into the heights of heaven, and down into the depths of Hades (which are actually arrived at by going to the “ends of the earth” rather than descending down into the earth).

Unfortunately, these visions are obscure, overlapping, and at times contradictory, so scholars have disagreed over their interpretation as well as their actual cosmic geography. I have attempted to use my own reading of the text and integrate it with several of these scholarly viewpoints that can be found analyzed in the book, A Study of the Geography of 1 Enoch 17-19, by Kelley Coblentz Bautch.[3] Imagination is required!

Since Enoch’s “map” is cosmic, it includes Sheol/Hades as well as the heavens and the earth. But some scholars have argued that Enoch’s entire journey is to the realm of the dead.[4] So I decided to use the ancient Near Eastern (and Jewish) notion of  “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10) or “as above, so below,” to apply to the underworld as well.

In this way, the geography of Hades that Jesus follows on his underworld journey, is a reflection of the sacred geography of the earth above (“Sacred geography” means that it does not so much follow physical geography as it does theological meaning).

Since the underworld was believed by the Jews to be under the earth,[5] and accessed by the waters of the Abyss,[6] that was the source of the waters above,[7] I have those waters work as a kind of sky in the dome of the underworld (though not in all places).

The mountains below rise up from Hades to the earth above. So when Jesus is at Mount Zion in Hades, it rises up and penetrates the ceiling of Hades and becomes Mount Zion on earth above them. This fulfills the ancient Near Eastern notion of the cosmic mountains being an axis mundi, a connection between the heavens, the earth, and the underworld.[8]

The circle of Hades matches the circle of the earth above it and likewise has an ocean/river (the Great Sea or Abyss) at its outer reaches that extends beyond the “Four Winds” or “Four Corners” of the earth where the pillars of the earth support the heavens and the earth (1En. 17:5; Prov. 8:27, 29; 1Sam. 2:8; Mark 13:27).[9]

Ad300x250-BookofEnochIn this conceptual map, Jerusalem, or Mount Zion is at the center of the earth, and has “the accursed valley” (Gehenna) right next to it (Ezek. 5:5, 38:12; 1En. 26:1-2; 27:2).

North from that center resides Mount Hermon, the “rock” (mountain) that Jesus said God would build his new kingdom church upon.[10] This mountain is described as “reaching to the heavens” and as being the celestial storehouse of the luminaries and storms (1En. 17:3). Many rivers flow from it, including a river of fire and a river of “living waters” (17:4-8), and it is guarded by fiery beings who take human shape (17:1). This “source of the waters” is a reflection of the cosmic Mountain of Eden and it’s source of living waters (Ezek. 28:13-14).[11]

In the south are seven mountains of precious stones arranged in a perpendicular layout. The central mountain burns with fire day and night, and is called the “throne of God,” where God will come down at the final judgment.  These elements suggest it is Mount Sinai (1En. 24-25).

In the west are “wintery winds” and the “great darkness,” where another mountain hosts “hollow places” for the souls of all the dead. The righteous are separated from the sinners, much like the chasm separates the righteous in Abraham’s Bosom from the sinners in the parable of Lazarus. (Luke 16:19-26; 1En. 17:6; 22:1-14).

In the east are “great beasts and birds” at the ends of the earth (1En. 33:1). Tartarus is further “beyond the edge of the earth,” where the earth meets to uphold the vault of heaven (1En. 18:10).[12] This is where the angels who sinned in Genesis 6 are kept imprisoned in gloomy darkness (2Pet. 2:4; 1Pet. 3:18-20). They are in deep pits or chasms that are like fiery pillars. (1En. 18:10-16).

There is much more detail that can be quite confusing to follow, so I have included an illustrated map with some of the major elements adapted from Bautch and my own reading of 1Enoch.

Can We Trust This Ancient Cosmology?

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Where in Hell is Hell?

Last post, we looked at the ancient Greek picture of Hades, the abode of the dead. We compared it with the Biblical picture which was both similar and very different.

The Old Testament used the word Sheol for the abode of the dead, and it was a place where the dead “shades” went to wait for judgment. But it wasn’t a place of fire and torture like many people think of today.

Now, let’s look at what the New Testament adds to the picture.

Because the New Testament is in Greek, it does not use the word Sheol, but the Greek word, Hades. Jesus himself used the term Hades as the location of condemned spirits in contrast with heaven as the location of redeemed spirits (Matt. 11:23). Jesus referred to the “Gates of Hades” (Matt. 16:18), a well-known underworld concept in ancient Near Eastern and Western Greco-Roman mythology.

This was more than a metaphorical reference to the “power of death,” because the sacred grotto in Caesarea Philippi, where he spoke those words, was considered a gateway to Hades.[1] The location had a cave with a deep chasm believed to lead to the Abyss and Hades.[2] In the book of Revelation, Jesus claims to capture the “keys of Death and Hades,” which is a doublet separating the two words rather than identifying them (Rev. 1:18).

Hades was the location of departed spirits in Christ’s parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Hades (Luke 16:19-31). It was from this parable that the term “Abraham’s Bosom” came, that indicated the separated location of righteous souls in Hades from the eternally thirsty wicked by a large chasm. This parable has been convincingly proven by some scholars to be a subversive polemic against the common motif of Hellenistic pagan journeys to the underworld and communication from the dead, not a literal geography of Hades.[3] But if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Jesus Triumphant in its imaginative depiction of Hades.

In Greek mythology, Tartarus was another term for a location beneath the “roots of the earth” and beneath the waters where the warring giants called “Titans” were bound in chains because of their rebellion against the gods. Peter uses a derivative of that very Greek word Tartarus to describe a similar location and scenario of angels being bound during the time of Noah and the warring Titans called “Nephilim.”[4]

2Pet. 2:4-5
God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell [Tartarus] and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment.








From Sheol to Gehenna

Despite this claim of a realm for the dead in both the Old and New Testaments, there is very little specificity of description of its attributes beyond “darkness” (Job 17:13; Lam. 3:6) and “silence” (Psa. 31:17–18; 94:17; 115:17). The one clear certainty about Sheol/Hades is that “he who goes down to Sheol does not come up” (Job 7:9; 10:21; 2Sam. 12:23). As Papaioannou describes:

“First, Sheol/Hades is where everyone goes at death. There is no distinction between the righteous and the wicked… Second, Sheol/Hades is not a place of eschatological punishment, but rather the destiny of all human beings… Third, there is no life or consciousness in Sheol/Hades. In contrast to some cultures that envisioned meaningful existence in the afterlife, the Hebrew Bible portrays Sheol as a place of silence and lifelessness where human existence has come to an end… There is no memory in Hades (Isa 26:14); neither is there any longer a communion with God (Isa 38:18). It is a place of silence, darkness, and oblivion (Job 17:13). Thus, a person who dies in effect ceases to exist (Eccl. 9:6)… With a belief in a bodily resurrection, Sheol/Hades is only a temporary abode—the dead remain there until they are raised.”[5]

Richard Bauckham explains the change in understanding that occurred between the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures regarding the abode of the dead. He points out that the older view did not involve active punishment of souls in Sheol, but merely involved holding the wicked in detention until the last judgment. The newer view, driven by apocalyptic literature included descents to the underworld, where increasingly only the wicked were located:

“The older view allowed for visits to the place of detention in Sheol (1En. 22), visits to the hell which is already prepared for but not yet inhabited by the wicked (lEn. 26:3-27:4; 2En. 10; 40:12; 2Bar. 59:10),  and prophetic visions of the casting of the wicked into Gehenna at the last judgment (1En. 41:2; Bar 59: 11). But only the later view enabled a seer to see and to describe in detail the punishments actually being inflicted on the wicked in hell. The later view therefore spawned a long tradition of ‘tours of hell,’ in which a variety of different punishments appropriate to different categories of sinners is described.”[6]

By the time of the New Testament, some Second Temple Jewish literature began to increasingly evidence the notion of punishment for the wicked and reward for the righteous in Hades before the final judgment.

Bauckham suggests this new notion of immediate recompense upon death in both Jewish and Christian writings may have been the result of Greek influence,”[7] but the fact remains that after the advent of Christ and his spiritual mission, the change took place with the growth of Christianity.

In this sense, Christ’s descent into Hades, and his victorious triumph over spiritual principalities and the powers of Death and Hades marked the inauguration of God’s kingdom that may have included the beginning of rewards and punishment in Sheol/Hades.

The Greek word for “hell” used in New Testament translation is Gehenna. Some have believed that this was the name of a garbage dump outside Jerusalem that burned with perpetual flames, and Jesus used it as a metaphor for the fires of judgment. But recent scholarship tends to disregard this thesis as lacking both exegetical weight and hard archeological evidence.[8]

In fact, Gehenna is Greek for “Valley of Hinnom,” the valley that bordered the south and western sides of Jerusalem.[9] This valley had a dark history in Israel’s past as the location of tophets, or burning places for sacrifice to Molech, the underworld god. Israelites would “pass their children through the fire” as human sacrifice. God became so angry with this abomination that the prophet Jeremiah pronounced a fiery curse on the area destroyed by King Josiah around 632 B.C. (Jer. 7:29–34; 19:1–15). It would become known as the “Valley of Slaughter,” and a synonym for future judgment/destruction of people and nations in this life as well as the next.

Both Second Temple literature and Jesus’ teachings used Gehenna as a reference to the future final judgment (Matt. 13:42, 30; 25:41).[10] So, yes it was a metaphor for fiery punishment, but a far richer meaning than a burning garbage dump. It provided incarnate location for the belief in the eschatological judgment of God upon evil.

For additional Biblical and historical research related to this novel, go to under the menu listing, “Links” > Jesus Triumphant.

[1] Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm (Bellingham: WA, Lexham, 2005), 267-271; Jimmy R. Watson, The Religious History of Banias and Its Contribution to an Understanding of the Petrine Confession (Hardin-Simmons University, Master’s Thesis, 1989). 87; George W. E. Nicklesburg, “Enoch, Levi, and Peter: Recipients of Revelation in Upper Galilee,” Journal of Biblical Literature 100 (December 1981): 598.
[2] Wars of the Jews 1:405, Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987).
[3] Kim Papaioannou, The Geography of Hell in the Teaching of Jesus: Gehenna, Hades, the Abyss, the Outer Darkness Where There Is Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2013), 112. Richard Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead: Studies on the Jewish and Christian Apocalypses, (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1998), 101.
[4] 1.25 ταρταρόω [tartaroo] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains. electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. New York: United Bible societies, 1996. Bauckham, Richard J. Vol. 50, Word Biblical Commentary : 2 Peter, Jude. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002, p 248-249.
[5] Papaioannou, The Geography of Hell, 87-88.
[6] Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead, 34.
[7] Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead, 36.
[8] Papaioannou, The Geography of Hell, 80.
[9] Duane F. Watson, “Gehenna (Place),” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 926.
[10] See 1 En. 10:13; 48:8–10; 100:7–9; 108:4–7; Jdt 16:17; 2 Bar. 85:13.

What in Hell is Hades?

Last post on this topic, we looked at 1 Peter 3:18-22 only to discover it is all about Jesus Christ going down into Hades to proclaim his victory of triumph over the spirits of the Watchers imprisoned in Tartarus of Hades.

But isn’t Hades just a synonym for being dead? Oh, it’s Biblically so much more than that. Let’s take a few posts to explore this Abode of the Dead from a Scriptural perspective.

When reading the word, Hades or Underworld, most educated readers immediately conjure images of Greco-Roman myth taught in school: A misty and gloomy abode of the dead below the earth where all souls of mortals, both good and evil, went after death. It is ruled over by the god of the same name, Hades, and contains perilous landscapes and dangerous bizarre creatures. Though there is not perfect consistency of geography among the various Greek and Roman authors, some elements repeat.[1]

There are five rivers in the classical Hades. Styx is the most prominent one that circles the underworld. The second one, Acheron, is the one crossed by souls on a boat ferried by the ghostly boatman Charon to bring them to the gates of Hades. Each of the rivers represent what happens to the departed souls.

1) Styx: River of hatred.
2) Acheron: River of pain.
3) Lethe: River of forgetfulness.
4) Phlegethon: River of fire.
5) Cocytus: River of wailing.

The entrance to the underworld is guarded by the three-headed dog Cerberus and other chimeric creatures like centaurs. The rivers then divide the geography into multiple regions with different purposes.

1) Fields of Punishment: Where souls who committed sins against the gods are punished.
2) Fields of Asphodel: Where souls go who were insignificant, neither great nor wicked.
3) Vale of Mourning: Where souls go who were unloved.
4) Elysium: Where the spirits of heroes and the virtuous ended up.
5) Isles of the Blessed: For the most distinguished of souls for eternity.
6) Tartarus: The deepest pit of Hades where the rebel Titans were bound.

Most modern western pictures of the afterlife, or realm of the dead, come from the medieval punishments of Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost. Levels of torture for sinners meted out by angels or demons, with Lucifer reigning over hell as a more interesting character than God. Sadly, these unbiblical notions have influenced Christian theology in some ways more than the Scriptural text itself. They make for colorful stories, but are not true to Biblical theology.

What does the Bible itself say about the underworld? The Old Testament Hebrew equivalent to the Greek Hades was Sheol.[2] Sheol could be a metaphorical personification of death (Hos 13:14; Isa. 28:15; 38:18, Ps. 49:15) or the grave (Psa. 88:11; Isa. 14:9-11), but it could also refer to an actual conceived location beneath the earth that was the abode of the dead (Isa 14:9-15). The spirit of Samuel was called up from Sheol (1Sam. 28:13), and the sons of Korah went down alive into this underworld (Num. 16:33). People would not “fall alive” into death or the grave and then perish if Sheol was not a location to the ancient Hebrew mind.

When the prophet writes about Sheol in Isaiah 14, he combines the notion of the physical location of the dead body in the earth (v.11) with the location beneath the earth of the spirits of the dead (v.9). It’s really a both/and synthesis. The term includes several concepts of imagination.

Here are some verses that speak of Sheol geographically as a spiritual underworld below the earth in contrast with heaven as a spiritual overworld above the earth:

Amos 9:2
“If they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; if they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down.
Job 11:8
It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?
Psa. 139:8
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there![3]
These are not mere references to the body in the grave, but to locations of the soul as well. Sheol is a multi-layered term that describes both the grave for the body and the underworld location of the departed souls of the dead.[4]

In Old Testament times, Sheol did not include any kind of punishment beyond its power to hold souls captive to death (Psa. 18:4-5), separated in some sense from God’s presence (Psa. 115:17; 6:5), and one’s misery of lost power and glory (Psa. 7:5; Isa. 14:9-16). But fire and bodily torture are absent from this Old Testament worldview.


One biblical term used for departed souls in Sheol is rephaim. It is sometimes translated as “shades,” in English. As the ISBE puts it, “In Job 26:5 “the shades below” are the dead (cf. Ps. 88:10; Isa. 26:14). They dwell in “the depths of Sheol” (Prov. 9:18), where they live together in “the assembly of the dead” (Prov. 21:16).”[5]

Ad300x250-Gen2RevThat assembly is described in 1Enoch as “four hollows” or pits under the mountain of the dead, where they await their judgment in the last days. Though 1Enoch is not Scripture, it is a book highly regarded in the New Testament (read this article for the details), so it gives one picture of how the ancient Jews saw Sheol/Hades. One hollow is for the righteous; another hollow is for Abel and those unjustly murdered; a third is for the wicked unpunished in life; and a fourth for the wicked who were punished in life. The souls of the unrighteous dead thirst and are frightful of their future judgment (1En. 22:9), but they are not tortured by angels or demons. Righteous souls receive refreshment from a fountain of waters “with light upon them” (1En. 22:9; Luke 16:24).

Another Jewish text of the first century, 4Ezra, describes the departed soul’s entrance into Sheol as consisting of seven days to see the future results of their ways before being led to their habitation to wait for judgment. During this time period, the unrighteous…

4Ezra 7:80, 87, 101
…shall immediately wander about in torments, ever grieving and sad…they shall utterly waste away in confusion and be consumed with shame, and shall wither with fear at seeing the glory of the Most High before whom they sinned while they were alive, and before whom they are to be judged in the last times… and afterward they shall be gathered in their habitations.

Another ancient Christian text, The Apocalypse of Zephaniah, describes the angels who draw the shades to their destiny as beings whose “faces were like a leopard, their tusks being outside their mouth like the wild boars. Their eyes were mixed with blood. Their hair was loose like the hair of women, and fiery scourges were in their hands.”[6]

This ancient legendary depiction is behind the confused, wandering zombie-like shades in Jesus Triumphant who are animated by maggots and worms (Isa. 14:11; 66:24) while wailing and gnashing their teeth (Matt. 25:30), before being brought to the Mountain of the Dead by the long-haired gatherers. It’s all there in Jesus Triumphant.

In Isaiah 14, a prophetic rant against the arrogant king of Babylon, the “shades” take on an additional meaning…

Isaiah 14:9-11
Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come;
it rouses the shades (rephaim) to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations. All of them will answer and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!’ Your pomp is brought down to Sheol.
The Hebrew word for “shades” here is rephaim, a word with ties to the Canaanite giants of Joshua’s and David’s time (Josh. 13:12; 2Sam. 22:15-22), and mighty warrior kings of Canaanite literature also called rephaim.[7] Isaiah’s intent is to mock the pomp and vainglory of man, who will end up as humiliated as every other mighty being imprisoned in Sheol.[8] Thus, the appearance of the Rephaim guardians in Jesus Triumphant.

In the next post we’ll address the New Testament notion of the underworld along with Gehenna and Hell.

You can buy Jesus Triumphant in Kindle, Paperback or audiobook here at Amazon.

For additional Biblical and historical research related to this novel, go to under the menu listing, “Links” > Jesus Triumphant.

[1] For a brief introduction to Hades,
[2] “Sheol,” DDD, p 768.
[3] See also Isa. 7:11; Matt. 11:23; Phil 2:10; Rev. 5:3, 13; 1Pet 2:4-5.
[4] “The ideas of the grave and of Sheol cannot be separated…The dead are at the same time in the grave and in Sheol…Where there is grave, there is Sheol, and where there is Sheol, there is grave.” Theodore J. Lewis, “Dead, Abode of the,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 103.
[5] P. K. McCarter Jr., “Shades,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 440.
[6] James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1 (New York;  London: Yale University Press, 1983), 511.
[7] Mark S. Smith, “Rephaim,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 674-75.
[8] Philip S. Johnston, Shades of Sheol: Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament, (Downers Grove: IL, InterVarsity, 2002), 128-130.

Dead Reckoning TV Interviews Godawa on Jesus Triumphant and Demons

I have great respect for these guys. They are funny, smart and creative.

They do some comedy skits about current issues with sharp wit.
And I LOVE Jay’s News Bulletin in Haiku. Brilliant and Funny.

And one of the best interviews on my series Chronicles of the Nephilim and the new novel, Jesus Triumphant. We talk about the Cosmic War of the Seed, the Watchers, and how the gods of the nations are real beings who battle the messianic bloodline ending in Jesus, who then disinherits those gods and takes back the earth. Jesus demon exorcism was not a mere display of power over spirits, it was a very specific action that is related to the Nephilim of Genesis 6. Listen and you’ll see why. We talked a little about self publishing novels as well.

Watch them online here.


Christ’s Descent into Hell (Part 2)

In a previous post, we started looking at one of the most difficult and strange passages in the New Testament, 1 Peter 3:18-22. Many Christians avoid passages like this because they are difficult and hint at content that doesn’t fit well with their own theological views.

Let’s take another look at it with an attempt to clarify its meaning.

1 Peter 3:18–22
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

In the previous post, I explained the two main views that Christ either “went” somewhere in his spirit body during his death on the cross or he “went” after he resurrected BEFORE he ascended into heaven. Then I proved that the “spirits in prison” were not humans but the angelic powers who had fallen during the days of Noah, and were imprisoned much like the book of 1Enoch says. (And Peter is borrowing from 1Enoch)

The last two questions we now want to address are:
Where did he go to proclaim to the spirits? (v. 19)
What did he proclaim? (v. 19)

Where is the “Prison”?

One interpretation of the prison is that it is a metaphor for human beings on earth who are “imprisoned” in their sin. But the context of the passage mitigates against this view.

When the New Testament refers to preaching the Gospel to people on earth, the Greek term for “soul,” is used (psyche). But this is not a term about a ghost in a machine, but rather an expression of the life of an individual human, their inner being, their “person,” or their “self.” Thus, Peter writes in 3:20 that “eight persons (psyche) were brought safely through the waters” in the ark during the Flood.

When Peter preaches the Gospel in Acts 2, it says that “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls [psyche]… and awe came upon every soul [psyche]” (Acts 2:42-43). “Soul” could be used synonymously with “individuals” or “persons.”

But in 1 Peter 3, the distinct Greek term for “spirit” (pneuma), not “soul” (psyche), is used in contrast to the physical flesh. And these “spirits” are those who were disobedient in the days of Noah (v. 20), so they could not be people on earth at the time of Christ. Christ was proclaiming to spirits.

During the time of Christ, those who were around in the days of Noah could only be in one place according to the Old Testament: The underworld of Hades or Sheol.

What was Hades?

Hades was well known in the Greco-Roman world as the holding cell of the spirits of the dead until the judgment. Sheol was the Hebrew equivalent for Hades so the two could be used interchangeably.[1] Prisons in that time period were exactly that, holding cells for punishment. So when Peter refers to a prison for spirits, this view concludes that he is referring to Hades, just as he did in 2 Peter 2:4 when he said that the disobedient angels were cast into Tartarus, the lowest prison region in Hades.

There are orthodox traditions of Christian scholars who have supported this passage as referring to Christ’s proclamation as occurring at his physical ascension into heaven and others as referring to Christ’s spiritual descent into Hades. I take the position in Jesus Triumphant that Christ spiritually descended into Hades. So did early church fathers like Tertullian, Augustine, Jerome, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, Cyril, and Origen, as well as Medieval scholastics like Robert Bellarmine, John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, and modern scholars like Charles B. Cranfield, and Bo Reicke.[2] But I also incorporate the post-resurrection interpretation as well, with its fascinating possibilities.

Ad300x250-BookofEnoch1 Enoch, which seems to be the source of the Biblical text, does in fact depict Enoch as visiting the place of the condemned Watchers who were “formerly in heaven” (1 Enoch 16:2), and that place is described as a “deep pit,” in the bottom of a mountain, just like Tartarus of Hades (Sheol), “an empty place with neither heaven above nor an earth below” (1 Enoch 21:1-2).[5]

The descent of Christ in 1 Pet. 3:19 is poetically structured to counterbalance the ascent of Christ into heaven in verse 22. In the same way that Christ went down into Sheol, he later ascended up into heaven. But more importantly, if Christ makes a proclamation to the spirits in prison, those dead and bound prisoners are certainly not in heaven. They are most likely in Sheol.

Another passage, Ephesians 4:8 quotes Psalms 68:18 about Christ “ascending on high and leading a host of captives.” Paul then adds a parenthetical,

Ephesians 4:9-10
“In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.”
Christ “descending into the lower regions, the earth” can legitimately be interpreted as referring to Christ’s incarnation or even his descent in the Spirit on Pentecost.[6] But other scholarship argues that the phrase is better translated as “descending into the lowest parts of the earth,” in other words into Sheol.[7]

This underworld (Sheol) interpretation would seem to coincide with the memes presented in 1 Peter 3. The contrast of the heights of heaven with the depths of Sheol, and the tying of Christ’s death, descent into Sheol, resurrection, and ascension into the totality of his victory over the angelic principalities and powers.[8]

Psalm 68 says that after leading the host of captives, God “received gifts from men,” a reference to the notion of ancient victors receiving tribute from their conquered foes. Paul changes that “receiving of gifts” into “giving of gifts” as a expansion of that victory over foes into a sharing of victory with his army, the people of God. Perhaps this is the meaning of the Old Testament saints resurrected at the time of Christ’s resurrection (Matt. 27:52-53). They too were sharing in the long awaited victory train of Messiah to free them from Hades and ascend into heaven.

The context of conquest over the angelic powers is also apparent in Eph. 1:20-21, “when he raised [Jesus] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named.”

Christ’s death on the Cross becomes the apparent defeat by God’s enemies, led by angelic principalities and powers. But it turns around and becomes a disarming of those spiritual powers and the beginning of his triumph over them (Col. 2:15). In this view, Christ goes down into Sheol (in his spirit or later, in his resurrected body) to make a proclamation to the original minions of evil, now held captive. After he raises from the dead, he ascends into heaven to be coronated as king over all authority and powers of heaven and earth (Eph. 1:20-21). And that victory over spiritual powers brings us to the next element of 1 Peter 3:18-22.

What was the Proclamation?

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Kuyperian Commentary Interviews Godawa on Jesus Triumphant and the Nephilim

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Listen to it here.

Uri is a great interviewer. We talk about the storyline of the Cosmic War of the Seed in the Bible, which could also be referred to as the “Christus Victor” motif. We speak of the Tower of Babel, and the Alottment of the nations under the Watcher Sons of God. And how Jesus disinherits the nations from the gods and has victory over the heavenly principalities and powers. We talked about the Divine Council, and the Nephilim throughout the entire Bible, and how they even show up in the Gospels. I’m not kidding. It’s all orthodox and affirms a high view of the Bible as God’s Word.

Buy Jesus Triumphant on Kindle and paperback at Amazon here.


Christ’s Descent into Hell (Part 1)

One of the most difficult and strange passages in the New Testament is 1 Peter 3:18-22. It’s oddity approaches that of Genesis 6:1-4 that speaks of the Sons of God mating with the daughters of men in the days of Noah and breeding Nephilim giants that lead to the judgment of the Flood.

Perhaps its oddity is tied to the fact that it is most likely connected directly to Genesis 6 and therefore of particular importance for the Biblical Cosmic War of the Seed.This 1 Peter 3 passage is notorious for its difficult obscurity and lack of consensus among scholarly interpretation. Views are divided over it with a variety of speculative interpretations to pick from. So, let’s take a look at it more closely with an attempt to clarify its meaning.

 1 Peter 3:18–22
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

The context of this letter is the suffering of believers for their faith under the persecution of the Roman empire (3:13-17). Peter is encouraging them to persevere in doing good despite the evil done against them because they will be a witness to the watching world just as Christ was in his suffering. He then launches into this section as an analogy of what Christ did for us in his journey of suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension.The questions begin to pile up:
When did Christ go on this journey? (v. 18)
Who are the spirits? (v. 19)
Where did he go to proclaim to the spirits? (v. 19)
What did he proclaim? (v. 19)
Where is this prison that they are in? (v. 19)

I believe the answers to these questions are very much in line with the storyline of the War of the Seed. I will try to answer the first three in this post and tackle the last two in the next one.

When Did Christ Go on His Journey?

When Christ “went” to proclaim to the spirits in prison, it says he was “put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went…” In the original Greek, “he went” does not contain a notion of direction as in ascent to heaven or descent to hell. It can only be determined by the context.[1] So let’s look at that context.Some scholars interpret this being “made alive in the spirit” as a reference to the physical resurrection of Christ from the dead, repeated later in v. 21. As Bible commentator Ramsey Michaels says, “the distinction here indicated by “flesh” and “Spirit” is not between the material and immaterial parts of Christ’s person (i.e., his “body” and “soul”), but rather between his earthly existence and his risen state.”[2]

Scholar William Dalton argues that the idea of being made alive in the spirit was a New Testament reference to the resurrection of Christ’s physical body by the power of the Holy Spirit, not a reference to Christ’s disembodied soul.[3] He writes, “General New Testament anthropology insists on the unity of the human person. Terms such as “flesh” and “spirit” are aspects of human existence, not parts of a human compound. Bodily resurrection is stressed, not the immortality of the soul.”[4]This venerable interpretation sees Christ proclaiming to the spirits as a resurrected body, sometime before he ascended.

Another scholarly interpretation is that Christ’s journey of proclamation occurred in a disembodied state between his death and resurrection. While his body was dead for three days, his spirit was alive and in Sheol. This understands the flesh/spirit distinction as a conjunction of opposites. “Put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” is not talking about the fleshly death and fleshly resurrection, but a fleshly death and a spiritual life. The “spirit” in which he was made alive in this view is not the Holy Spirit, but rather his disembodied soul in the spiritual realm. That “spirit” then corresponds to the “spirits” to whom he proclaimed in the very next verse (v. 19).

This view that Christ’s soul or spirit went down into the underworld of Sheol between his death and resurrection is the most ancient and most traditional view, as attested in the Apostle’s Creed.[5] The Greek for “made alive” is never used of Christ’s physical resurrection in the New Testament, but it is used of the spiritual reality of the believer “being made alive” in Christ (Eph. 2:5-6).[6]Christ suffered the spiritual death of separation from the Father when he died on the cross (Isa. 53:4-6; 1 Pet. 2:24; Matt. 27:46). How the second person of the Trinity can experience separation from the Father remains a Biblical mystery. But in this interpretation, it is Christ’s disembodied spirit that makes the journey to proclaim to the spirits, not his resurrected body.

But whether Christ proclaims in his resurrected body or in his immaterial spirit, the next question arises, who are the spirits to which he proclaims and where are they?

This will be fascinating to you… Continue reading

A Giant and Some Zealots in Jesus Triumphant

Eleazar the Giant.

Eleazar the Giant.

There may not be mention of giants in the Gospels, but I did find a giant placed in the same time and approximate location of Christ’s ministry. One of my ancient resources has been the ancient Jewish historian Josephus. His rich text, Wars of the Jews, is the best ancient detailed source we have of the events that led up the destruction of Jerusalem and the holy temple in A.D. 70. Josephus is a non-Christian source that confirms Gospel details of Pontius Pilate, the Herods, John the Baptist, the apostle James, and even Jesus Christ.[1] Though his pro-Roman agenda is well-known, he nevertheless provides helpful factual information for the historical inquirer.

One of those interesting factoids is the reference to a 10 1/2 foot giant Jew named Eleazar who was presented as a gift to Tiberius Caesar in the presence of Herod Antipas, by the king of Parthia, Artabanus III in A.D. 33 or 34.[2]

“When Tiberius had heard of these things, he desired to have a league of friendship made between him and Artabanus… Artabanus and Vitellius went to Euphrates…And when they had agreed upon the terms of peace, Herod [Antipas] the tetrarch erected a rich tent on the midst of the passage, and made them a feast there. Artabanus also, not long afterwards, sent his son Darius as an hostage, with many presents, among which there was a man seven cubits tall [10 1/2 feet], a Jew he was by birth, and his name was Eleazar, who, for his tallness, was called a giant.”

Josephus doesn’t tell us if the Jewish giant was a servant or a captive, but he was certainly chattel of some kind to be traded as a means of diplomacy between the two empires. It occurred on the shores of the Euphrates in a tent constructed by Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee at the time. Antipas inserted himself into the negotiations in order to ingratiate himself to Caesar. All this, the reader will recognize occurring in Jesus Triumphant.

Vitellius, the king of Syria and representative of Caesar, brought the “gifts” of his son and the giant to Antioch, where they were presumably shipped to Rome.[4] But were they? Josephus doesn’t say. So, what if the giant Eleazar escaped? What if he found his short way down to Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus was during that last year of ministry? Thus the creative license of the novel applying to historical characters in a feasible scenario.


Jesus Bar Abbas. Zealot revolutionary leader of n insurrection in Jerusalem. Bet you didn't remember that.

Jesus Bar Abbas. Zealot revolutionary leader of an insurrection in Jerusalem. Bet you didn’t remember that.


But that is not all the novel drew from historical characters. Many Bible readers know the name of Barabbas as the one who the Jews chose to release at Pilate’s offer instead of Jesus (Matt. 27:15-26). But what many casual readers of the Bible do not know is that Barabbas was a leader of a failed insurrection around that time in Jerusalem (Luke 2:19). He was no ordinary criminal. He was a zealot warrior, as he is in Jesus Triumphant.







Demas Samaris. A bestiaries who fights wild animals in the arena. He joins the Zealots to save his brother

Demas Samaris. A bestiaries who fights wild animals in the arena. He joins the Zealots to save his brother

The Thieves on the Cross

The two “thieves on crosses” next to Jesus are another case of commonly misunderstood identity. “Thief” or “robber” makes one think of common criminals or kleptomaniacs caught stealing camels or jewelry. But the Greek word for “thief” used of the two on the cross is lestai, the same word used by Josephus to describe the zealous Jewish brigands in revolution against Rome. Crucifixion was the punishment for such organized sedition and insurrection. The “thieves” on the cross were actually revolutionaries in the tradition of the Zealots.[5]

Though the existence of bands of Jewish insurrectionists against Rome at the time of Christ is not in dispute, the exact nature and chronology of the infamous Zealots is. Some have argued they did not come into existence until around the fall of Jerusalem,[6] but others have shown that they originated in Judas of Galilee’s failed insurrection of A.D. 6.[7] He made famous the slogan “No king but God,” that came to mark the Zealot cause.[8] Judas of Galilee’s sons, James and Simon, went on to be executed as zealous rebels around A.D. 46.[9] Josephus also describes two Zealot-like leaders Eleazar ben Dinai and Amram, who were captured and banished around A.D. 45 by Roman procurator Fadus. Another brigand leader, Tholomy was executed.[10] Eleazar was captured again later and executed in Rome in A.D. 60.[11] This means that James, John, Amram, Tholomy and Eleazar had been rising within the ranks of the newly growing Zealot movement during the time of Christ. Thus, their presence in Jesus Triumphant.

For additional Biblical and historical research related to this novel, go to under the menu listing, “Links” > Jesus Triumphant.

[1] His infamous paragraph describing Jesus Christ (Antiquities of the Jews 18.63-64) is controversial and some have argued that it is a later Christian redaction. But there remains solid scholarship for its legitimacy. For a balanced scholarly assessment see Steve Mason, Josephus and the New Testament,  (Peabody, MA Hendrickson Publishers, 1992), 163-174.
[2] In Antiquities 18.106 Josephus places the trade around the time of the death of Herod’s brother, Philip, who died in A.D. 33/34: Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), footnote C.
[3] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.101-105. Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987).
[4] Josephus, Antiquities 18.105.
[5] N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1992), 178–180.
[6] Richard A. Horsley and John S. Hanson, Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs: Popular Movements at the Time of Jesus (New York: NY, Winston Press, 1985).
[7] Martin Hengel, The Zealots: investigations into the Jewish freedom movement in the period from Herod I until 70 A.D. (Edinburgh: U.K., T. & T. Clark, 1989).
[8] Hengel, The Zealots, 108.
[9] Josephus, Antiquities 20.102.
[10] Josephus, Antiquities 20.4-5.
[11] Josephus, Antiquities 20.161. Under the procurator Felix.

Brian Interviewed on Like Flint Radio: Jesus, Watchers, Nephilim, Demons


LikeFlint Radio Show 37: Brian Godawa: Chronicles of the Nephilim: Jesus Triumphant.

Join GK, Cliff & Brian Godawa as they discuss Brian’s latest work. This wide ranging interview discusses both the fictional and factual concepts in the book including; The Book of Enoch, The Nephilim, The Watchers, The Giants and spiritual warfare.

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