Monday, July 30, 2007

Question of the Day

After his death and before his resurrection, did Christ descend into Hell?


Stresspenguin said...

If you learned the Apostle's Creed in a PCUSA church in the eighties, then yes, yes he did. I still have to struggle with not saying that line when we do that Creed during worship.

This would be my cop-out answer.

BruceA said...

It's a tough call. Acts 2:31 and 1 Peter 3:19 may allude to Christ going into hell during that time, but Luke 23:43 argues against it. Perhaps the way to reconcile these three verses is to say that until judgement day all dead people go Hades, which has two parts separated by a chasm (Luke 16:26), and that only Jesus can cross this chasm. That would let Jesus be in Paradise and Hades at the same time.

But I could be completely wrong.

Stephen said...

It is interesting because the clause from the Apostle's Creed "descended into hell" is not in the Old Roman Symbol of which the Apostle's Creed is either derived from or attributed to.

Its also interesting that all the other creeds "Nicea, Constantinople, Old Roman Symbol" do not contain this phrase which leads me to speculate over whether the church thought it really mattered or not for the faith.

Matt said...

Sheol-Hell or Gehenna-Hell?

JD said...

This is a more intellextual way to say what I wanted to say:


But we must seek a surer explanation, apart from the Creed, of Christ’s descent into hell. The explanation given to us in God’s Word is not only holy and pious, but also full of wonderful consolation. If Christ had died only a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual. No — it was expedient at the same time for him to undergo the severity of God’s vengeance, to appease his wrath and satisfy his just judgment. For this reason, he must also grapple hand to hand with the armies of hell and the dread of everlasting death. A little while ago we referred to the prophet’s statement that "the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him," "he was wounded for our transgressions" by the Father, "he was bruised for our infirmities" [Isaiah 53:5 p.]. By these words he means that Christ was put in place of evildoers as surety and pledge — submitting himself even as the accused — to bear and suffer all the punishments that they ought to have sustained. All — with this one exception: "He could not be held by the pangs of death" [Acts 2:24 p.]. No wonder, then, if he is said to have descended into hell, for he suffered the death that, God in his wrath had inflicted upon the wicked! Those who — on the ground that it is absurd to put after his burial what preceded it — say that the order is reversed in this way are making a very trifling and ridiculous objection. The point is that the Creed sets forth what Christ suffered in the sight of men, and then appositely speaks of that invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he underwent in the sight of God in order that we might know not only that Christ’s body was given as the price of our redemption, but that he paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in his soul the terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man."

Auburn Professor Emeritus of Church History Union Theological Seminary New York

So in one word, yes...but, as Thomas Aquinas taught, did he liberate the Old Testament fathers and other pious men from their imprisonment in limbo due to their death before His coming? That is an even tougher question.


rocksalive777 said...

The interpretation of "He descended into Hell" I've always heard is that it is more appropriately phrased as "He descended to the Dead" or in a more modern sense, "He was truly dead". This is, though, just what I was taught by my father. If it has any scriptural backing, I don't know (if I recall correctly, this was specified as his speculation when I asked - imagine trying to explain this phrase to a middle schooler).

Dan Trabue said...

"Did Jesus descend into hell?"

Yes, but only because Disneyland wasn't invented yet.

The Ironic Catholic said...

Hans Urs von Balthasar (Catholic theologian, friend of Barth's) thought so. He gets accused/lauded as being a universalist for this reason.

I say, who knows. But I like the idea of Christ evangelizing the damned.

gavin richardson said...

it's a question i have never settled on an answer personally. death or hell, the absence of God's presence whatever we call those days after crucifixion. i know there are a few orthodox icons that depict Christ coming out of hell, and taking people with him..

T Michael W Halcomb said...


Christ descended into the lower regions of the earth (that is, the ground) when He was buried but not into hell.

Another way to look at "lower regions of the earth" is that it is a reference to how the ancients understood the "level" where demons dwelt. This, of course, was the lowest level of the "sky". So, on His way up, He preached these lost souls (He didn't go underground to do it). Was He evangelizing, well, that's a whole other issue. I'd say not.

It is interesting to see how Paul exegetes the psalm in eph. 4. He kind of flips it on its head! Even here, though, Paul is not alluding to hell. Probably just the "bowels of the earth" or again, the tomb.

I think that either of these explanations are the best.

MethoDeist said...

By Hell, do you mean that he had to eat those horrible flavors of ice cream from the other post because that would be my definition of Hell.


JD said...

I am amazed as I sit and read these responses that there are so many people that are "splitting hairs" in regards to hell. I mean, I can do that. Bruce commented Luke 23:43, but what does the original text actually say? “…today you will be with me in paradise.” or ”…you will be with me in paradise.”? Why would Jesus have not actually descended into Hell? Where was He for 3 days before the resurrection? Separated from God! Isn’t separation from God truly hell in our understanding? There is too much focus on the physical place of hell and not enough focus on the actuality of it’s being.

- We can all agree that Christ died for ALL of OUR sins so we would not have to suffer.

- We can also agree that the wages of sin is death.

If Christ came to bear the burden of our sins, and as previously posted, He "was put in place of evildoers as surety and pledge — submitting himself even as the accused — to bear and suffer all the punishments that they ought to have sustained," how can one not logically say that He descended into hell.

I do not want to open a huge can of worms, but I continue to be amazed at some of the discussions that we, as Christians, have about our faith. Disagreements on tradition between denominations is one thing, but disagreements about faith tennets are just wacky.

I better duck, here come the “slings and arrows.” :)


John said...

Yes, but only because Disneyland wasn't invented yet.

Hell includes a "Lake of Fire", which is clearly a reference to Cleveland.