For the next part of this paper on hell, we will be focusing on the word torment as it is used in scripture. It is important to understand the meaning of torment because the Christian church believes that God is going to literally and physically torment the wicked and unbelieving people in a literal fire burning hell. This belief exists because the truths of scripture aren’t being taught in the church. Before we can understand the truth about the word torment, we need to understand the original words in the Greek that have been translated as torment
Torment is defined as the cause of experiencing severe mental and/or physical suffering. So with this definition, we know that two types of torment exists: mental and physical.
There are several words in the Greek that the words “torment or tormented” were rendered from and they are;
1) Basanos (βάσανος) Strong’s Concordance G931– this word is used as torment (3x) times in the bible. The primary definition of this word in biblical use is:
- a touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal.
- the rack or instrument of torture by which one is forced to divulge the truth.
Let’s look at the 3 times this word is used in scripture to denote “torment”.
Matthew 4:24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and TORMENTS, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
Luke 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in TORMENTS, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. It should be noted that this verse is part of a parable.
Luke 16:28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of TORMENT. This verse is also a part of a parable.
2) Basanizō (βασανίζω) Strong’s Concordance G928 – which is used as torment (8x), pain (1x), toss (1x), vex (1x), toil (1x) in the bible. The primary definition of this word in biblical use is:
- to test (metals) by the touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal,
- to question by applying torture,
- to vex with grievous pains (of body or mind),
- to be harassed, distressed
Let’s look at some of the scriptures that illustrate its use:
Matthew 14:24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, TOSSED with waves: for the wind was contrary. How would this verse sound if it said tormented instead of tossed?
Mark 6:48 And he saw them TOILING in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. Think about the same thing here that we did above. Would tormented sound appropriate here instead of toiling?
Revelations 12:2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and PAINED to be delivered. What about here? Surely we can understand that childbirth can be like torment but even in childbirth, something wonderful is the product – the birth of a child. There is nothing wonderful about torment in the case of endless physical torture.
2 Peter 2:8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, VEXED his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) This verse is talking about the way Lot, who was the nephew of Abraham and a righteous man, felt when having to live around wicked people. Would we say that Lot was tormented physically or mentally? Would that be a better word than vexed? Is vexed a physical expression or a emotional (mental) expression?
Revelations 9:5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be TORMENTED five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. Out of all the words that basanizō, the King James translators decided to use the word torment. Why do you think this is so? Torment was used in this verse because you have to remember that the King James translators were all about the scary doom and gloom thinking about the bible as are modern day Christians. My question is why not translate torment here as toiling, pained, tossed, or vexed? All these words come from the same Greek word basanizō. It makes no sense for this word to be translated as different words with different meanings in other scriptures.
3) Basanismos (βασανισμός) Strong’s Concordance G929 – this word is used (6x) in the bible as torment. The primary definition of this word in biblical use is:
- to torture, a testing by the touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal,
- torment, torture.
Note that all 6 of the scriptures that use this Greek word are in the book of Revelation. This fact alone should let you know that this torment is not a literal physical torment as the book of Revelation is filled with symbols and figurative language. Let’s take a look at some of the scriptures that illustrate its use:
Revelations 9:5 And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their TORMENT was as the TORMENT of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. If you’ve read the whole chapter of Revelation 9, you should realize that this is symbolic language. It would be quite silly to think this is talking about literal locusts with the faces of men, hair like a woman, and the teeth of a lion that will be tormenting people like scorpions. The bible uses this type of figurative language all throughout the bible. This torment is also symbolic.
Revelations 14:11 And the smoke of their TORMENT ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Again, this is symbolic language including the word torment. Christians think that the smoke of their torment is the literal torment of souls burning in hell. If we apply this type of literal thinking to the word torment, then we must also apply the literal physical properties of smoke burning from fire. We only see literal smoke if there is literal fire and there is NO fire stated in this verse. Literal physical torment doesn’t produce literal smoke, only real fire produces real smoke. The smoke is figurative and the torment is equally figurative.
4) Basanistēs (βασανιστής) Strong’s Concordance G930 – this word is used in the bible 1x as tormentor. The primary definition of this word in biblical use is:
- one who elicits the truth by the use of the rack
This is the one scripture this word is used:
Matthew 18:34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the TORMENTORS, till he should pay all that was due unto him. Keep in mind that this verse is a part of a parable.
So at this point, we have these 4 words in the Greek that are translated as torment and they are basanizō, basanismos, basanistēs, and basanos. It is important to understand the etymology of these words. Etymology is the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history. Basanos is the primary word in this group of words and the other 3 words are variants of basanos. Let’s look at the definition for basanos again;
- the rack or instrument of torture by which one is forced to divulge the truth.
Before we go any further, you need to understand this important scriptural truth about the human heart.
Jeremiah 17:9 The HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS, and DESPERATELY WICKED: who can know it? The phrase “desperately wicked” is translated from the Hebrew word ‘anash and it is better defined as incurable, sick, or weak. The human heart is incurable, sick, and weak. In regards to our sinful nature, the human heart does what it does because of our sinful nature. If you don’t understand how evil the human heart is, you will never understand the true spiritual meaning as it is used in scripture. Throughout human history, one thing that is common in all cultures is death. Do any research on death throughout human history and you will learn just how desperately wicked or incurable the human heart is.
Flogging and crucifixion was a common practice for the Romans. Sometimes prisoners were flogged to death or as in the case with Christ, he was flogged before being crucified. Flogging was extremely inhumane and subjects would often have their internal organs exposed while still alive through the ferocious beating.
A common practice in England hundreds of years ago was the statutory penalty known as being hanged, drawn and quartered. Convicts were fastened to a hurdle, or wooden panel, and drawn by horse to the place of execution (this means they were dragged alive), where they were hanged (almost to the point of death), emasculated (the cutting off of a man’s genitals), disemboweled (cutting your stomach open and letting your guts spill out while alive), beheaded and quartered (chopped into four pieces). If all that wasn’t bad enough, all this was done in public display as a spectacle of entertainment and to put fear in to those who would go against the king.
To get familiar with the idea of torment, let’s go over some other forms of torture devices used on humans throughout human history.
Stoning was the process of being killed by having several people hurl rocks at you from varying sizes. A person could easily be struck with hundreds of rocks before receiving the death blow.
This execution method has been used by many authorities (including Christians) to punish criminals. In some cases, the condemned would be set ablaze at the feet as to increase the amount of pain and suffering as the person sucked in the smoke of their cooked flesh.
Impalement is a historical torture technique that involved impaling a person with a long sharp plank which is first inserted in the rectum and forced through the person until the plank exits through the persons mouth. It has been documented that some victims took 2-3 days to die during this excruciating process.
This torture technique involves placing a rat inside of an enclosure that is strapped around the victim. The top of the enclosure is heated causing the rat to seek an exit but due to the enclosure being made out of iron, the rat would be forced to gnaw right through the persons abdomen. Imagine how slow and painful this would be.
The Judas Cradle
This is probably one of sickest torture devices ever created. The Judas Cradles was a pyramid shaped device in which a person would be seated on top of it with the point inserted in the rectum. Ropes were tied to the victims arms and legs and held by hoists to hold the victim up while their rectum slowly tore apart.
The rack was a torture device used specifically to extract information. A person would be strapped to this device by their arms and legs and a crank was used to tighten the straps. With each crank, the popping and cracking of ligaments and bones could be heard and this was bad enough, the bed of the rack was fastened with spikes.
The Brazen Bull
The Brazen Bull was created for the specific purpose of causing the greatest amount of torture possible. A bull was made completely out of metal with the inside hollow. A person would be placed inside of the metal bull and the bull would be heated with hot coals under the belly. The person inside would scream in agony as they slowly roasted inside the metal bull. The bull was fastened with some special tubing in the mouth so that when the person began to scream, it actually sounded like the bellow of a real bull.
Trust me when I say that this is a small list of torture techniques employed on humans throughout our history. You really need to search these things because I want you to feel sick to your stomach. Think about the people that had to suffer these gruesome fates. Think about how you would feel if one of your children or a loved one had to experience torture as described above. Now considering all of these torture techniques, how would you compare them to the pagan hell of Christianity?
None of these human torture techniques even compare because Christians believe that the torment of hell is eternal. They would agree that hell is much worse than any of these human torture techniques. The human heart is so sick and Christians will have you believe that going to a literal fire burning hell where you can never die is a “just” punishment. If hell is real (I’m being sarcastic here, of course hell isn’t real) then that would make Christ and God the Father more evil, vile, and sadistic over any of the most disgusting humans of all time including Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Heinrich Himmler, Osama bin Laden, Joseph Stalin, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Vlad the Impaler COMBINED!!!! There is nothing good about torture and even humans have declared it to be off limits even when at war with other enemies. In war, death is eminent but torture is just insanely evil.
Now remember that the primary definition of basanos is a touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal. The other Greek words; basanizō, basanismos, and basanistēs are all derived from basanos. In the case of metals, the subject being tested would be gold or silver. In order to determine the purity of these precious metals, the metal would be rubbed against the touchstone to determine if it was indeed pure gold or silver or if it had been mixed together with other less-precious metals.
The spiritual meaning of this word “basanos” is the testing for purity. There is nothing significant about testing metals, however, the metal also represents something;
1 Peter 1:7 That THE TRIAL OF YOUR FAITH, being MUCH MORE PRECIOUS THAN OF GOLD THAT PERISHETH, though it be TRIED WITH FIRE, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
You see, the faith of the true believers in Christ is what is being tested. This is what the metal represents but your faith is more precious than gold. Gold perishes but your faith in Christ is a lasting virtue. The touchstone represents whatever is trying your faith to make your faith pure. Some of you don’t even know that your faith is being tested in this way. Some of you don’t even realize that you are being tormented for a very specific and spiritual reason; to be found worthy of the praise, honor, and glory at the appearing of Christ. These are those who overcome; overcome what you say – overcoming the world. Here is what is promised for those who overcome as proclaimed by none other than Jesus Christ himself;
|To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.|
He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Torment, as it is used in some scriptures has nothing to do with physical torture as it is believed by the depraved minds of men that have created this idea that God will torture us if we don’t listen to and obey him. Why do you think these Greek words were also translated as pained, toiling, tossed, and vexed in addition to torment? This literal physical torment in hell doctrine is absolute nonsense. I know that I’m going to lose many people here and many will not understand what I’m writing because of this scriptural truth;
1 Corinthians 2:14 But the NATURAL MAN RECEIVETH NOT THE THINGS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because THEY ARE SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED. Why do you think Paul said these words? If you are familiar with this passage of scripture in 1 Corinthians (I recommend you read the whole chapter), Paul is talking about God’s wisdom in comparison with the wisdom of men. The natural carnal man cannot understand the spiritual truths of God’s word because the natural man is spiritually discerned. If you do not understand the spiritual truths of God’s words on this site, then chances are, you are carnal and spiritually discerned and you will stay that way until your doubt and disbelief is destroyed.
Now continuing with the other words in scripture that are translated as torment;
5) Odynaō (ὀδυνάω) Strong’s Concordance G3600 – this word is used in the bible as sorrow (2x), torment (2x). The primary definition of this word in biblical use is:
- to cause intense pain
- to be in anguish, be tormented
- to torment or distress one’s self
Let’s look at some of the Scriptures that illustrate its use:
Luke 2:48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee SORROWING.
Luke 16:24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am TORMENTED in this flame.
In Luke 2:48, the parents of Jesus are described as “sorrowing” when they lost Jesus in Jerusalem after the feast of the Passover. His parent weren’t physically tormented but they rather felt internal misery as any parent would feel if they lost their child in the mall or at the park. This isn’t easy to understand if we pay attention to the usage of words in scripture.
Now let’s look again at Luke 16:24 that describe the rich man being “tormented” in this flame. First off, we need to understand that this verse is part of a parable. Parables are figurative and are never to be taken literally. So is the rich man really being physically tormented or is he emotionally sorrowing as described in Luke 2:48? Both words come from the same Greek word odynaō. Be sure to read my section on the Parable of the rich man and Lazarus Explained. I explain the true spiritual meaning of this parable which many people think is a literal story told by Jesus about the realities of hell and the destinations of the saved and lost. This parable has absolutely nothing to do with the pagan hell of Christianity.
Now, my purpose for showing you the differences between these words is to show you how some words are misused in translations to mean something in one scripture but mean something totally different in another scripture. Regardless of translation, one will never understand the spiritual meaning of scripture unless they are spiritually converted with the Spirit of Christ. When we think of a person being tormented, we naturally think that this experience involves physical pain and suffering. This goes along well with the terrible false doctrine of hell. However, the way words are used in scripture can help us determine the true meaning but remember, one must still be of a spiritual mind.
Torment never means literal physical torture in any bible verse. The King James Bible translators were notorious for making one Hebrew or Greek word mean several different English words. No wonder there is so much confusion with understanding the meaning of some of these words. Honestly, the word torment or tormented is not necessarily a mistranslated word but the problem exist primarily with the interpretation of its meaning. The word torment isn’t the best rendering of the Greek but the primary problem with this word is when it is combined with eternal or everlasting. There is no such thing as eternal or everlasting torment or punishment. I know that this is what you see in your bible but you must understand that most translations are poorly translated with unscriptural words and phrases like hell, torment, and eternal punishment. There is no such thing as an error free translation. What you must do when studying God’s Word is to first pray for spiritual guidance and second, use the scriptures as the guide. If your understanding of scripture creates a contradiction, that should be your first clue that you have misinterpreted the proper use of the scripture. Always remember that God’s Word does not ever contradict.
It Part 6, I will be discussing the word punishment as it is used in scripture erroneously used in conjunction with words like eternal and everlasting.
Click the link to go to Part 6: Punishment – God’s Way