Is Tartarus a place ?

“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 judgement.”

2 Peter 2:4

The word Tartarus appears only once in the Bible, at 2 Peter 2:4. The apostle Peter said this about Tartarus: “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” comes from the Greek verb tar·ta·roʹo and so includes within itself the word “Tartarus.”

Although the word never again appears in the Bible, Jude 6: describes the same place in similar terms:  “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 judgement of the great day.” The Bible explains who were these angels and when it was that they were punished.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.” (1 Peter 3:19,20)Most commentators agree that this links back 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 antediluvian times and bore children by them, this hybrid offspring came to be known as the infamous Nephilim.

Tartarus as a place was well known outside the Bible to the ancient Greeks.We see it appearing for the first time in the Homer’s Iliad, a poem written about 800 B.C.E almost 900 years before Peter’s words were penned.We see in Iliad, Jove gathering the gods of Olympus for a council of the gods, and this is his address to them  “Now when Morning, clad in her robe of saffron, had begun to suffuse light over the earth, Jove called the gods in council on the topmost crest of serrated Olympus. Then he spoke and all the other gods gave ear. “Hear me,” said he, “gods and goddesses, that I may speak even as I am minded. Let none of you neither goddess nor god try to cross me, but obey me every one of you that I may bring this matter to an end. If I see anyone acting apart and helping either Trojans or Danaans, he shall be beaten inordinately ere he come back again to Olympus; or I will hurl him down into dark Tartarus far into the deepest pit under the earth, where the gates are iron and the floor bronze, as far beneath Hades as heaven is high above the earth, that you may learn how much the mightiest I am among you.” According to the Greek Cosmology, the land of the dead humans was Hades and the realm of the dead spirits along with the Titans was Tartarus. These two were separated by a deep ravine.

Although Tartarus is described as a place both in the Bible but also in Greek mythology, the Watchtower along with other commentators teaches that Tartarus is a condition.The Insight to Scriptures Encyclopedia under the entry “Tartarus” has this to say :

 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.

 The problem is that in one place the Bible describes these angels as being in a prison (2 Peter 2:4) whereas in another they are seeing roaming about in heavenly places(Eph. 6:10-12) .Writing to the congregation of Ephesus Paul warned: “Because we have a struggle, not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” In order to resolve this seeming contradiction and at the same time remove any connotations of a physical prison deep within the earth most commentators including the Watchtower decided that there can only be one solution: Tartarus is not a place, it is a condition.A debased state of existence that fallen angels have been subjected since the days of Noah away from the light of God their creator.You see this is not based on solid grounds it is only a coping mechanism that resolves all contradictions between verses involved.Is it true though ? and is this what the verses say? Let’s examine each verse carefully and see what does the Bible really teach about Tartarus.

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