Did Jesus go to hell?

I started praying the Rosary a few days back. I noticed with the Apostles Creed it says Jesus went to hell. In the Apostles Creed that I am use to does not say that. I don’t know if it is all protestant denominations, but the ones I have been in don’t say it. In the protestant Bibles it says He went to Hades/Sheol. In protestant Bibles that is not hell but a place of departed souls. At this point I am very confused on the the whole matter.


The hell into which He descended is not the hell of the damned. Rather it is the place where the souls of those Godly persons who never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel were, such as those persons in the Old Testament and He went to minister to them. I find this to be such a beautiful doctrine and I’m sure someone much smarter than I will be able to explain it in a better way.

From an Ancient Sermon for Holy Saturday:
Something strange is happening –there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden. See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree. I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you. Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.


Thank you both very much :slight_smile:

Yes indeed! This sermon would make pentecostals shout in the aisles!

Reading all this, as I used to tell candidates in RCIA, everything in the OT is made better in the NT through a new example. Although not verbatim with the Gospel of Nicodemus, this was good. How I wish the early church fathers would’ve declared GON as canonical but maybe the Holy Spirit had other plans?

Oh, Hazcompat, that is beautiful. Thank you so much for posting it.

It is a language use, translation issue. Hell meant something different when the Creed was written to what hell today means.

This is where that portion of the Creed is based:

1 Peter 3:19

19 in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison,


In the Holy Bible, the expression “the Bosom of Abraham” is found only in two verses of St. Luke’s Gospel (16:22-23). It occurs in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus the imagery of which is plainly drawn from the popular representations of the unseen world of the dead which were current in Our Lord’s time. According to the Jewish conceptions of that day, the souls of the dead were gathered into a general tarrying-place the Sheol of the Old Testament literature, and the Hades of the New Testament writings (cf. Luke 16:22; in the Greek 16:23). A local discrimination, however, existed among them, according to their deeds during their mortal life. In the unseen world of the dead the souls of the righteous occupied an abode or compartment of their own which was distinctly separated by a wall or a chasm from the abode or compartment to which the souls of the wicked were consigned. The latter was a place of torments usually spoken of as Gehenna (cf. Matthew 5:29, 30; 18:9; Mark 9:42 sqq. in the Latin Vulgate) — the other, a place of bliss and security known under the names of “Paradise” (cf. Luke 23:43) and “the Bosom of Abraham” (Luke 16:22-23).

The Catechism explains,…catholic.com/magazine/articles/hell-yes-part-i

Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell”— Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek—because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical. (CCC 633)

A good example of this general rendering of the word “hell” is found in the Apostles’ Creed which states that, after Jesus’ crucifixion and death, “he descended into hell.” How are we to understand this?

He Descended into Hell

St. Peter tells us that Jesus “went and preached to the spirits in prison” (1 Pet. 3:19). “Prison” (Greek, Phulake) here refers to hell in the general sense of the place where departed souls rested prior to Jesus’ opening the gates of heaven. The Catechism explains that “he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there” (CCC 632).

Thank you and thank you for the links. I am learning so much from so many wonderful people here.

The image of Jesus knocking down the gates of Hell to free the souls imprisoned there on Holy Saturday (known as the Harrowing of Hell) is frequently depicted in medieval and Byzantine art. Here are some examples:


There is also Ephesians 4, chiefly Ephesians 4:9.

"Now that [Christ] ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

The Roman Catechism teaches Christ descended into a particular abode of Hell known as the Bosom of Abraham in order to liberate the souls of the just had so far been received there. St. Thomas Aquinas follows the same line and says in essence Christ descended to the just while in effect He influenced each part of Hell. Moreover it is emphasized that only those free of mortal sin were liberated.

The Roman Catechism I:5:

These abodes are not all of the same nature, for among them is that most loathsome and dark prison in which the souls of the damned are tormented with the unclean spirits in eternal and inextinguishable fire. This place is called gehenna, the bottomless pit, and is hell strictly so called.

Among them is also the fire of purgatory, in which the souls of just men are cleansed by a temporary punishment, in order to be admitted into their eternal country, into which nothing defiled entereth. The truth of this doctrine, founded, as holy Councils declare,’ on Scripture, and confirmed by Apostolic tradition, demands exposition from the pastor, all the more diligent and frequent, because we live in times when men endure not sound doctrine.

Lastly, the third kind of abode is that into which the souls of the just before the coming of Christ the Lord, were received, and where, without experiencing any sort of pain, but supported by the blessed hope of redemption, they enjoyed peaceful repose. To liberate these holy souls, who, in the bosom of Abraham were expecting the Saviour, Christ the Lord descended into hell.

Summa Theologica III:52:2:

I answer that, A thing is said to be in a place in two ways. First of all, through its effect, and in this way Christ descended into each of the hells, but in different manner. For going down into the hell of the lost He wrought this effect, that by descending thither He put them to shame for their unbelief and wickedness: but to them who were detained in Purgatory He gave hope of attaining to glory: while upon the holy Fathers detained in hell solely on account of original sin, He shed the light of glory everlasting.

In another way a thing is said to be in a place through its essence: and in this way Christ’s soul descended only into that part of hell wherein the just were detained. so that He visited them “in place,” according to His soul, whom He visited “interiorly by grace,” according to His Godhead. Accordingly, while remaining in one part of hell, He wrought this effect in a measure in every part of hell, just as while suffering in one part of the earth He delivered the whole world by His Passion.

Commentary on the Creed:

We ought to conceive a fear of God and avoid all presumption. We have already seen that Christ suffered for sinners and descended into the underworld for them. However, He did not deliver all sinners, but only those who were free from mortal sin. He left there those who departed this life in mortal sin. Hence, anyone who descends into hell in mortal sin has no hope of deliverance; and he will remain in hell as long as the holy fathers remain in paradise, that is, for all eternity: “And these shall go into everlasting punishment; but the just, into life everlasting” [Mt 25:46].

Those are beautiful!

Thank you. Will be reading up :slight_smile:

Hell is an English translation of hades. The Apostle’s Creed in the original Latin says: “descendit ad inferos”. This means, “descended into hell”. This translation is more accurate then saying “descended to the dead”. Here is a Byzantine hymn that beautifully portrays Christ’s descent:

“Wishing to save Adam, you came down to earth. Not finding him on earth, O Master, you descended to hades seeking him. …] Adam was greatly afraid when God walked in paradise. Now, with joy he sees God stalking hades’ depths. There he fell, but here he is raised up.” - Ainoi (The Praises) for Holy Saturday


What a great thread with excellent answers?

I have also wondered myself what this part of the Apostles Creed meant. I had assumed that it meant that Jesus descended into Hell as a continuation of his suffering for our sins (sharing in the pain of human sinners) before rising on the 3rd day.

Thanks to all those who have given such clear answers on here.

St Paul speak of Christ descending into the lower parts [hades] of the earth and took the Old Testament Saints out:

Ephesians 4:8-10 Wherefore he saith: Ascending on high, he led captivity captive: he gave gifts to men. 9 Now that he ascended, what is it, but because he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens: that he might fill all things.

Christ speaks of hades as being divided by gulf into two sections. One section is paradise (also called Limbo of the Fathers) and the other is torment. It is shown well here:

Luke 16:22-26 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 'In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. 24 So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames”. 25 “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. 26 But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.

And, as you might guess, this is used in the theory that Limbo of Infants might exist for unbaptized infants (a state of natural paradise, yet, separated from God).

The way I learned the Apostles Creed reads at that point “he descended to the dead.” I can’t feel right about saying Christ “descended into Hell” as a result I can’t say it.:shrug:

Hell is the English word for the Greek word “Hades” which is the name of the abode of the dead. Before the death of Christ, Hell/Hades was divided into two section: paradise for the righteous and torment for the wicked. Currently, since Christ, through his death and resurrection, has taken the righteous into Heaven, Hell/Hades only contains the wicked who reside in the torment section. :slight_smile:

You sure about that section being closed? I would like to think that there are people going there who were not necessarily bad people, but didn’t know about Jesus or perhaps they did and just didn’t quite believe in Him yet, and that they are waiting for Christs return when they will be freed during the final judgement and judged according to their deeds…I sure hope that section hasn’t been roped off entirely :wink:

That is where the theory of Limbo of Infants comes from (paradise being Limbo of the Old Testament Fathers). The theory is that all unbaptized infants are unable to be in the presence of God do to original sin, therefore, they remain in Limbo/paradise. The paradise section isn’t necessarily roped up. :slight_smile:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.