Those two words are basically the same concept, in two different languages. They convey the concept that men are held in a place or state of sleep where they await the day of judgment. At which point they will be released from death and its confines to face recompense for the deeds done during their earthly life. That word is Tartarus. It is used only one time in the Bible. In 2 Peter ,5…. Tartarus is not used anywhere else in the Bible, this is the only Scriptural context that we have to discern its intended meaning.
The concept of Tartarus however, is found in detail outside of Scripture. It comes from Greek Mythology, and as we will see, designates a very similar concept as it is employed here in 2 Peter. So lets examine some Greek Mythology. This interior of the earth the Greeks named Tartarus.
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Tartarus was a place of confinement for disobedient gods. They believed that it was located below Hades and that it was reserved for only the worst and most wicked of beings. According to Greek Mythology the gods lived in two places, the good or superior gods dwelt in heaven where Mount Olympus was and Zeus ruled as king while the inferior or rebellious gods the Titans were confined to the realm under the earth — Tartarus. As Virgil says in his epic poem Aeneid. The gaping gulf low to the center lies, And twice as deep as earth is from the skies, The rivals of the gods, the Titan race, Here, singed with lightening, roll within the unfathomed space.
This mythology further held that while those who live on the outer crust of earth enjoy the cool breezes of the wind and the warm light of the sun, those banished to live under the earth, or inside of it, were confined to total darkness and still air as is also referenced in the poem. This is what Peter is speaking of when he says,. We cannot begin to assume that all Mythology is true, this instance is definitely out of the ordinary.
However, there is mention of these angels and their banishment to a place of darkness in other Jewish writings.
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This is found in a book called the Book of Enoch. The book of Enoch is part of the Apocrypha; which is a collection of books that the Jews did not consider inspired by God and therefore were not canonized with the Old Testament. However, they did consider them historical and were very familiar with them. In fact Jude, the last epistle before the book of Revelation, actually names Enoch and quotes one of these prophecies from the book of Enoch Jude 14, This makes sense because the context of the passage that we are looking at in 2 Peter directly connects those angels that sinned with the ancient world that Noah lived in.
He wanted to remove their twisted dna from the earth. These watchers in the Book of Enoch are the angels that sinned during the time of Noah. And thus, just as the disobedient gods were confined to a pit of darkness under the earth — Tartarus; so these disobedient angels were confined to the pits of darkness comparable to Tartarus.
Peter thus found no problem in using this term, for it already fit perfectly with his Jewish understanding of this issue. It is as if he considered the Greek Mythology about rebellious gods as a sort of secularized version of the truth about the rebellious angels. So to reiterate, Peter is referencing the Book of Enoch, concerning angels who were disobedient.
Tartarus, therefore, has to do with disobedient angelic, or spiritual beings — not human beings. Even so, the language used in no way expresses endless duration.
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It is the exact same imagery that Peter employs, disobedient angels who are confined in darkness until a day of judgment. Furthermore we saw that there are words in the Greek language that do mean endless, which the Bible employs, but almost never in the context of hell or judgment. This verse is the ONLY instance where a Greek word meaning endless is used in connection with judgment.
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