"He descended into hell"?


#1

In the apostles creed we say “He [Jesus] descended into hell.” This always seemed a bit strange to me until I read this in the Baltimore Cathechism

86 Question: Did Christ’s soul descend into the hell of the damned?
Anwser: The hell into which Christ’s soul descended was not the hell of the damned, but a place or state of rest called Limbo, where the souls of the just were waiting for Him.

87 Question: Why did Christ descend into Limbo?
Anwser: Christ descended into Limbo to preach to the souls who were in prison-that is, to announce to them the joyful tidings of their redemption.

So should we really say that “he descended into purgatory”? Is purgatory and Limbo the same thing? Because no one ever really explained this to me… a lot of people must still think that Jesus actually went to hell before his resurrection.
Why is this even in the Creed? Is it really that important for us to know?

Edit - sorry, had meant to post this in apologetics. Please move it if you are a mod.


#2

I always thought the beleif was (bare with me, second hand information from Catholics and non-Catholics)

That Hell is where the damned go. Except the first layer of it which was Limbo, where the unbaptized blameless are. That’s where Jesus went, to free the unbaptized blameless. Limbo is also where babies go when they die before baptism. Apparently a Saint lives in Limbo these days to baptize babies, and then send them on up to heaven.

While Purgatory is the place of cleansing where you “work off” your remaining sins. As it were.


#3

Read CCC 631-637. That explains it.


#4

We just watched an EWTN program called “What every Catholic needs to know about Hell”. It was very informative. According to the many people in this show the term “Hell” has been used to describe more than one place including that in which the souls of the worthy were waiting for him since no one was “saved” before Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.


#5

According to Fr William Saunders, sheol in the Hebrew texts (hades in Greek texts) referred to “the place of the dead.”

He says:

“This hell was for both the good and the bad, the just and the unjust. It was the nether world, a region of darkness. In the later writings of the Old Testament, a clear distinction is made between where the good resided in hell versus where the bad were, the two being separated by an impassable abyss. The section for the unjust was named Gehenna, where the souls would suffer eternal torment by fire.”

You can read more here catholicherald.com/saunders/04ws/ws040415.htm


#6

He descended to the abode of the dead to preach to them. Because none of the just and good people who followed God’s law could enter heaven until the coming of Christ. So while he spent his earthly ministry preaching to the living, he spent an indeterminate ministry following his death and descent to the dead preaching to those millions who had gone before. Otherwise, how could they enter heaven?


#7

I always thought the beleif was (bare with me, second hand information from Catholics and non-Catholics)

That Hell is where the damned go. Except the first layer of it which was Limbo, where the unbaptized blameless are. That’s where Jesus went, to free the unbaptized blameless. Limbo is also where babies go when they die before baptism. Apparently a Saint lives in Limbo these days to baptize babies, and then send them on up to heaven.

While Purgatory is the place of cleansing where you “work off” your remaining sins. As it were.

Rhubarb, I may be wrong but as far as I know, neither the concept of Limbo nor the idea that unbaptized babies can’t just be admitted into Heaven through God’s mercy is not an official doctrine of the Church, rather, it was an idea put forth and supported by certain theologians. Also, do you have any source for the claim that a Saint resides in Limbo these days (if it exists) to send souls to Heaven? As for the part of the Creed which states that Christ “descended into Hell,” I’ve always heard that being used as a defense for the doctrine of Purgatory.


#8

Flopfoot,

As ‘thistle’ directed above, the Catechism really is your best starting point with this question (and so many others).

Many people ask about this line in the Creed. The general POV of the questioning I encounter is, “how could ‘God’ go to hell?”

But ‘God going to Hell’ is not what is being put forward in the phrase.

I have pulled a couple of lines out of the CCC and added the emphasis to help my discussion.

CCC 636-637: By the expression “He descended into hell”, the Apostles’ Creed confesses that Jesus did really die and through his death for us conquered death and the devil “who has the power of death” (Heb 2:14). In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead.

A very important Christological situation comes to the surface in this line of the creed, the human Jesus and the divine Jesus, the two, ever-present, ever-united natures of Jesus.

So, it’s a very important item to profess, because it declares Jesus was truly human - his truly human soul ran the course of all truly human souls at and after death. That’s how truly human he was and that’s how truly dead he was. Jesus redeemed us as man and by dying. He became man and obeyed the Father as no man had, even to the point of death - real death. Questioning his humanity and/or the thoroughness of his dead-ness immediately calls into question **our **redemption. Also, to question the absolute-ness of his death necessarily questions the nature/complete-ness of his resurrection from the dead. (For example, you have probably heard secularists explaining away the miracle of the resurrection with “not really dead/comatose” theories)

Historically, in the development of the Creed in the early church, it may have become necessary to stress this point of ‘descent into hell’ to combat the rising tide of Arian heresy which generally held Jesus was not truly human, but a divine spirit with ‘a human appearance.’

However, Jesus was as human as you or I, and when he died his human soul experienced what your and my human souls will experience - in as much as departing the body and going* ‘somewhere’.* That’s how truly human and dead he was.

Now I am going to enter the waters of speculation. One might be correct in saying that the human soul of Jesus even experienced judgment, as we will, that’s how human he was. He, of course, was judged most worthy and alone merits* ‘sitting at the right hand of the Father’*.

Three days later we see how truly divine he is. Alleluia. :slight_smile:

agape,

Peter Kleine


#9

[quote=Flopfoot]In the apostles creed we say “He [Jesus] descended into hell.”
[/quote]

As a foreigner, there are some prayers whose English versions are unnecessarily confusing.

This one, I say "descended to the mansion of the dead" in my native Portuguese. Likewise, in the *Pater*, instead of "lead us not into temptation", "do not allow us to fall into temptation", which seems to me to be not only a better translation from the reference Latin, but one that doesn't betray the original meaning. To a lesser extent, the sign of peace in Portuguese is "peace of Christ", which relates better to Whose peace we give each other at mass.

:blessyou:


#10

As for how the “abode of the dead” relates to Purgatory, it’s important to remember that Purgatory refers to a process, not a place. One could experience Purgation in the “abode of the dead”, or possibly as an “instant” event as one’s soul is entering Heaven.

This is an important distinction because some Apostalic traditions hold that the “abode of the dead” is still in use as the waiting place for the dead before the Final Judgement. In the Latin tradition it’s the process, not the “location”, that’s important, and it’s the process that is defined for the whole Catholic Church.

Peace and God bless!


#11

CollegeKid: Like I said don’t rely on that. It’s a jumble of stuff I picked up through the media, talks with various people and friends of mine. (some Catholic and non-Catholic) and stuff like that. If I can, I’ll muster something about it. Especially “Limbo” which I thought was indeed Catholic Dogma, even if I didn’t understand quite right.


#12

When the Creed is read on EWTN radio, they don’t use the words “descended into Hell” they say “to the dead”. I was shocked when I first heard it. I had never heard it said that way before in a Caholic setting.

cheddar


#13

For a good article on Limbo see:

www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0145.html


#14

So does that mean Christ ascended into the dead that were waiting to go to Heaven? Like even though the Gates of Heaven were shut before Christ, they couldn’t get to Heaven but they weren’t bad enough to go to Hell and would wait until Christ came? Is that how I’m getting at it?


#15

No, he descended into the abode of the dead to claim the righteous. The word hell once simply meant “place of the dead”, so saying descended into hell would be the appropriate way to say it, as the righteous were in hell. Modern connotation applies hell to the place of damnation, however. In the Latin Vulgate, hell (inferus) still has the connotation of “place of the dead”. Here are the relevant passages from Revelation in Latin and in English:

20:12. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne. And the books were opened: and another book was opened, which was the book of life. And the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Et vidi mortuos magnos et pusillos stantes in conspectu throni et libri aperti sunt et alius liber apertus est qui est vitae et iudicati sunt mortui ex his quae scripta erant in libris secundum opera ipsorum

20:13. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it: and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them. And they were judged, every one according to their works.
Et dedit mare mortuos qui in eo erant et mors et inferus dederunt mortuos qui in ipsis erant et iudicatum est de singulis secundum opera ipsorum

20:14. And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. This is the second death.
Et inferus et mors missi sunt in stagnum ignis haec mors secunda est stagnum ignis 20:15. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the pool of fire.
Et qui non est inventus in libro vitae scriptus missus est in stagnum ignis

As you can see, the eternal Lake of Fire and hell are not the same things, though hell is cast into the Lake of Fire and becomes Hell in the modern connotation. One interpretation is that those who will experience a favorable Final Judgement are Purgated in this “abode of the dead” as they await the Beatific Vision.


#16

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