On Thursday I’m presenting my paper, “Tartarus in Classical Greco-Roman Mythology, Apocalyptic Judaism, and Early Christianity” at the second BYU Eta Sigma Phi Symposium. In my presentation, I’ll explore (as the title suggests) the common themes of Tartarus, the cosmic prison, in Greco-Roman mythology, Judaism, early Christianity, and early Christian Gnosticism.
Ultimately derived from Greek mythology as the place where Zeus cast down and imprisoned the Titans in the Titanomachy (first mentioned in the works of Hesiod and Homer), apocalyptic Jews incorporated the concept of Tartarus into their own mythology as the prison-house for the fallen angels, featured extensively in the Enochian literature. They used the same motifs of Tartarus’ inhabitants being in “chains” and “bindings,” the realm’s tangible darkness, and its place in the cosmos as being beneath the earth and Hades. When Hellenism spread during the Second Temple period, Tartarus was an effective mythological device to be employed by Jews and Christians.