Tartarus occurs as ‘the deep’ in the Septuagint of Job 40:20 about the mythical beast Behemoth, and again in 41:32 (numbered 41:24 in LXX) about the lair of another mythical beast Leviathan.
20 And when he has gone up to a steep mountain, he causes joy to the quadrupeds in the deep. (Job 40:20 LXX ἐν τῷ ταρτάρῳ, Benton translation).
The noun Tartarus does not occur in the New Testament, but the verb form tartaro, throw down to Tartarus, does in 2 Peter 2:4. The verb is known from Greek classical texts about the fall of the Titans, but here context shows that Peter is dealing with the Jewish myth of the angels that married women which – based on a reading of Genesis 6:4 – was very popular among Jews in the First Century. The Greek noun Tartaros is only known in Hellenistic Jewish literature from the Greek text of 1 Enoch 20:2 where the angel Uriel is the jailer of 200 angels that sinned.
The entry for this verb in LSJ is online here. ταρταρόω , A. cast into Tartarus or hell, Acus.8 J., 2 Ep.Pet.2.4, Lyd.Mens.4.158 (Pass.), Sch.T Il.14.296.
The reference to Greek myth, from Homer and Hesiod onward is to the subterranean prison of the Titans, so it makes perfect sense that in the Jewish rabbinical adaptions of the fall of the Titans myth the same Greek place – Tartarus – should be used.
So that answers the question what is Tartarus. But it doesn’t answer the question about Peter’s attitude to Jewish myths about Tartarus. For that please see other entries on this website:
- Bible Q | Who are “the angels that sinned”?