Why do Christians use ancient Greek polytheistic connotations when defining the literal meaning of Hell?
I would venture to say that the Apostles employed phrases in their writings that were understood (Greek culture) by the people of their day. They used Greek expressions and terms that were understood back then. Christians today try to understand these Scriptural nuances, sometimes translating then into other expressions, sometimes leaving the Greek word as a literal translation.
The Apostles simply tried to use expressions that would make sense others of their day. Sometimes imagery is an awesome tool and the Apostles knew that. Thus Greek connotations is still used as a tool to aid Christians in explaining Hell!
The Greek culture was very prevalent in the Apostolic Times. They wrote in Greek with some imagery that might help with converts from Greek/Roman paganism. Converts from these two cultures soon outpaced those of Hebrew descent.
Five different Greek gods are mentioned by name In the New Testament alone! There are several allusions to the names of other gods. Ancient Greek culture had it’s influence on the Sacred Authors. The Greek verb ταρταρῶ, which occurs once in the New Testament (in 2 Peter 2:4), is almost always translated by a phrase such as "thrown down to hell". A few translations render it as "Tartarus"; of this term, the Holman Christian Standard Bible states: "Tartarus is a Greek name for a subterranean place of divine punishment lower than Hades." (2 Peter 2:4) Greek connotations!
In Greek mythology, Tartarus was the lowest point of the universe, below the underworld but separate from it. Tartarus is best known from Hesiod's Theogony as one of the first beings to come into existence in the universe and also as the place of entombment for the monsters, the Titans, and in later myths, for mortals who committed unforgivable sins. The punishments for each mortal was different and depended on the crime they committed. Although, as a deity, he is the father of Typhon, Tartarus is not depicted any other way than a dark abyss used as a prison, therefore there are not many myths or stories of the primordial god. - Tartarus
The New Testament played out against the backdrop of Greek and Roman culture, so it’s not surprising that some of the gods of the Greeks and Romans are mentioned in the Bible.
Events in the New Testament play out against the backdrop of Greek and Roman culture, so it’s not surprising that some of the gods of the Greeks and Romans are mentioned in the Bible. Five different Greek gods are mentioned by name, and there are several allusions to the names of other gods.
One of the Greek gods mentioned in the Bible is Hermes, whom the Romans called Mercury. Hermes acted as a messenger for the gods and was honored for his diplomacy, cleverness, and social skills. The Bible mentions Hermes in the account of Paul’s first missionary journey. When Paul and Barnabas came to Lystra in Asia Minor, they healed a paralyzed man, an act that attracted the attention of the townspeople. “When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in human form!’ . . . Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker” (Acts 14:11–12). A priest arrived on the scene, bringing bulls and wreaths in order to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas (verse 13).
Of course, the missionaries could not allow themselves to be honored as pagan gods, and they shouted, “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them” (Acts 14:15). Eventually, Paul and Barnabas were able to cool the pagan fervor and with difficulty kept the crowd from sacrificing to them (verse 18).
On the same occasion, the Greek god Zeus (Jupiter to the Romans) is also mentioned. As the people of Lystra were honoring Paul as Hermes, “Barnabas they called Zeus” (Acts 14:12), believing him to be an incarnation of the chief god. Zeus was the god of lightning, thunder, rain, and the heavens, and he ruled over the other gods. Lystra had a temple to Zeus just outside the city (verse 13).
Two other Greek gods are mentioned in the context of Paul’s journey to Rome. The apostle Paul had been arrested and was under guard in transit to Rome across the Mediterranean Sea. After a stay in Malta, Paul was put on “a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux” (Acts 28:11). Castor and Pollux were twin brothers (although they somehow had different fathers). They were thought to bring good luck and protection for sailors and were associated with the phenomenon known as St. Elmo’s fire. Today, these twin gods of ancient myth are often called the Gemini.
The goddess mentioned in Acts 19 is called Artemis of the Ephesians. The Greek goddess Artemis (Diana to the Romans) was the goddess of the moon and hunting. The goddess worshiped in Ephesus as “Artemis” seems to have been a local deity, distinct from the Greek moon goddess with whom she shared a name.
We will mention here that the Bible also uses the words thanatos (“death”) in John 8:52, hades (“place of the dead”) in Luke 10:15, and a cognate of tartarus (“hell”) in 2 Peter 2:4. In Greek mythology, Thanatos, Hades, and Tartarus are all gods associated with death and the underworld, but the Bible uses the words in a different context without sanctioning the idea that they are gods.
What Greek gods are mentioned in the Bible?
If the Apostles were not afraid to use Greek connotations in Sacred Scriptures, Christians of our day should be able to explain these ideas without fear of being misunderstood either while employing Greek term and connotations.
We must also remember that Greek was the language of commerce in Apostolic Times. Greek was also the language of the liturgy in the Early Church, even in Rome for the first three (3) or four (4) centuries.