Skip to comments.Article III: Of the going down of Christ into Hell [Anglican]
Posted on 08/03/2006 7:31:33 PM PDT by sionnsar
"As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also is it to be believed, that he went down into Hell."
See the First Epistle of St. Peter, chapter 3, verses 18-20: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit, by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison, who one time were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared, wherein few, (that is, eight souls) were saved by water."
What the Article affirms is again quite minimalist. The reason for this simplicity was to affirm only that which could be shown from the Scriptures, without giving a definitive interpretation. Theological arguments raged between clergy in England at the time of the Reformation over this issue. There are several lines that this Article of belief could take, including 1) that it means that Christ battled Satan while in "Hades" (which could simply mean the place of the dead) and this was the beginning of His exaltation (the Lutheran scholastic view), or 2) that Christ felt the loss of the body in the same way other humans do, in essence continuing His humiliation (the Calvinist scholastic view). It could also be a combination of these views, for we do have biblical support for the view that while He was He dead preached to those who "were in prison."
What this Article affirms primarily is that as Christ died a human death, so was His soul (the noncorporeal component of His humanity; man during life being composed of both bodysomaand a nature which informs the body, that being the soul--psuche) was still joined with the Godhead in the gravethe Person of Christ underwent all that humans undergo at the time of death until the Resurrection. The Second Person of the Trinity continued His existence as the Christ between the Crucifixion and Easter Sunday. Those Christians who desire to deny the reality of the soul are left with the question of what became of Christ Jesus while He was dead; without His soul going into Hades we are left with an annihilation of the Person of Christ between His bodily death and Resurrection, or else for those three days the Logos was not in any way joined to human nature in the Person of the Messiah, creating the only break in the existence of the Person of Jesus between the virginal conception and the Ascension.
From Hippolytus (c. 205): "The jailer of Hades trembled when they saw Him. And the gates of brass and the bolts of iron were broken. For, look! The Only Begotten, God the Word, had entered Hades with a soul--a soul among souls!"
Origen (c. 248): "When Christ became a soul, without the covering of the body, He dwelled among those souls who were also without bodily covering. And He converted those of them who were willing."
I have been wondering about 'He descended into Hell' which I learned as a child (Lutheran) but appears nowhere in the Nicene Creed (Catholic today). Was it ever part of the Catholic creed? Where'd it go?
A Christian with a God-given mind that questions, I've always interpreted this differently than most (and perhaps it borders on heresy). Could this also mean that there is indeed a "second chance" for some in hell? Repent and forgiven? And whom wouldn't want to repent in hell?
This passage from Peter, and the accompanying part of the Apostles' Creed, have caused much confusion. Peter says Christ went to "Hades" to preach to the imprisoned souls there. That seems pretty simple. Who were they? It doesn't say. There are some theories, but none which really impact any Christian doctrine.
I like that the Apostles' Creed is now often recited without "he descended into Hell." It adds nothing in terms of doctrine, but has given cause for many to assert that Christ died spiritually, and was tortured in Hell for our salvation. That is not supported by Scripture at all, and is often contradicted by it. It allows confusion over whether the Cross was sufficient. The Author of Confusion must love it.
Here's a section of the Paschal Sermon of +John Chrysostomos which addresses the issue at hand:
"Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it. He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaiah foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below." Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive. Hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see. O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
It's in the Apostles' Creed, and still is. It was never in the Nicene Creed.
Oh, AMEN and AMEN. Thanks for posting that.
Begging to differ with you, but it is currently NOT in the Apostle's Creed (which I double-checked again this morning, just to make sure). It reads, "He descended to the dead," although the Spanish translation reads 'infierno.' The way I know is -- if I don't READ the NC word for word, I end up reciting the AC the way I learned it as a kid, and I am THE ONLY ONE saying "He descended into Hell." Which starts me wondering all over again.
I think it is a Vat 2 thing.
I guess that depends on where you're doing your checking. Translating it as "dead" rather than "hell" is exactly that, a translation decision. The Latin says "ad infernum," which would literally be something like "to the nether regions".
My point was that there's nothing about Christ descending anywhere in the Nicene creed; the "descendit ad infernum" is in the Apostles' creed.
Right. I just think it is a Pablum-y translation and remember it being quite a bit more meaty earlier, that's all. And I am offended (small on the list of things).
The Greek katelqonta eiV ta katwtata means essentially the same thing and to my understanding is or should be the correct English translation since the Fathers taught that the souls of the pre-Resurrection righteous dead were not in a place of torment, but rather a Hades-like place of "shades" awaiting the Resurrection; imprisoned by death.
I always appreciate your ability to interpret the original Greek for us. Maybe someday I'll have to learn some Greek myself (tough for an old guy like me ;-)). Thanks!
You are as always very welcome. You know, this distinction is hardly a fine one since it speaks to what is going on with souls in this age as opposed to what will become of them after the Final Judgment. As a practical matter, and assuming that at least in the West people think that the Patristic "Hades" equals a Hell of torment, saying in English that Christ descended to Hell creates a wrong theological impression. On the other hand, speaking of Hades, or "nether regions" or "the furthest down place" likely would only create confusion. Saying that Christ descended to "the dead", though not a literal translation, does in fact say what the Fathers meant without the baggage of the word "Hell" or the arcane nature of a literal translation of the Latin or the Greek.
You know, I have always wondered why the Nicene Creed does not speak of the descent into Hades. You wouldn't happen to know why, would you?
No 2nd chances (see the story of Lazarus and the rich man)...He descended to hell to proclaim His Victory!!! He told them of what He had done and how it ended death and damnation to those who trust in Him...
Nope. If you get to heaven first, wait for me and we'll ring up St. Athanasius together and ask him. ;-)
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