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In talking about Hell, the passage of Mark 9:48 came up. Someone made a comment to me that "worms" in Mark 9:48 can also be translated as "anguish".

Mark 9:48 (NIV)
where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

However, when I look at all major translations, it translates this word as "worms". Is "anguish" a valid translation for this word or was the guy completely wrong?

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"The guy"'s sources for this are the following:,, and Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words - considering this is the word alone, I'd love some analysis of the passage itself. – Ian Pugsley Nov 11 '11 at 15:44
I am especially curious given the grammar - the αὐτῶν after σκώληξ reads something like "their worms" or "the worms of them". – Ian Pugsley Nov 11 '11 at 15:46
@IanPugsley What's really questionable about it is that this word is only used once in the Bible. Maybe the translation of this as "anguish" must come from some outside sources. – Richard Nov 12 '11 at 14:58
It's only used once; any translation of this must come from outside sources. – Ian Pugsley Dec 5 '11 at 19:35
Isaiah, last verse, is the LXX source for skolêx (worm). Anguish is (wrongfully) implied. – hannes Jun 7 '13 at 16:42
up vote 8 down vote accepted

σκώληξ (Strongs G4663) means "worm", specifically a grub or maggot. This passage in Mark is the only appearance of the Greek word in the New Testament. However, He appears to be quoting Isaiah 66:24, which uses the word תּוֹלָע (Strongs H8438), also translated "worm" or "maggot". (The only other definition of this word, besides "worm", refers to a dye made from a certain worm. So even it relates...) This is the word, for example, used in Exodus 16:20 in describing the result when people ignored Moses' command not to save any manna for the following day - it "bred [developed, attracted] worms and stank."

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So, "anguish" is not even close to a valid translation? – Richard Nov 10 '11 at 15:40
Signs point to 'no'. – GalacticCowboy Nov 10 '11 at 15:45
It makes me wonder if a thought-for-thought or a paraphrase would translate it that way. But at this point, even that seems a stretch. – Richard Nov 10 '11 at 15:55
The overall concept seems to be that of a hideous, horrifying place that nobody would want to visit, much less live in. But that still doesn't necessarily lead to "anguish". – GalacticCowboy Nov 10 '11 at 15:59

It is the same worm (skolex) of decomposition that Isaiah (end of the book) seems to be referring to.

Isaiah 66:24:

They will go out and observe the corpses of those who rebelled against me, for the maggots (LXX: ho skolêx autôn - the worm of them) that eat them will not die, and the fire that consumes them will not die out. All people will find the sight abhorrent.

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So is "anguish" not a valid translation? – Richard Jun 6 '13 at 2:17
If someone was eaten by worms alive and conscious (as many - even here - seem to assume) one might think of anguish as a suitable translation. (compare Judith 16:17) – hannes Jun 6 '13 at 5:02
@Richard, are you back? I hope so! – Jack Douglas Jun 6 '13 at 18:26

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