The Harrowing: Jesus's body and soul, or just his soul?


#1

When Jesus descended into Hell (Hades) to preach to those in Abraham’s Bosom, did Jesus go down there in his complete self, or just as the Word? In other words, was Jesus’ body inside the tomb during those three days, or was it down in Hades? I’m not sure if Jesus had a human soul, since He was divine, too. But you get the picture: did Jesus split himself away from the incarnated flesh at any time during the three days in the tomb?

Also, how might this affect an understanding of the good thief and how Jesus tells him that he’ll be with him on paradise that day? Is it possible that Jesus’ as Word could have gone to heaven with the good thief, while Jesus’ body rest in the tomb on earth? I’m trying to think how Jesus in Jn 20.17 might fit with this. Thanks!


#2

[list=1]*] “In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 637).

*] “[W]e profess that immediately after the death of Christ His soul descended into hell, and dwelt there as long as His body remained in the tomb; and also that the one Person of Christ was at the same time in hell and in the sepulchre. Nor should this excite surprise; for, as we have already frequently said, although His soul was separated from His body, His Divinity was never parted from either His soul or His body” (Roman Catechism, Article V).[/list]


#3

Ok, now that it has been established that Christ preached in Hell both in His human soul and in His divine person, while leaving His body to remain inside the tomb and on earth, and while remaining in the tomb in person simultaneously, I must ask a second question: How might this fact affect the meaning of Jn 20.17, when Jesus tells his mother that he has yet to ascend to the Father? According to Catholic belief, Jesus ascends to heaven in His complete body, human soul and divinity. Is it possible that Jesus could have still entered heaven (albeit only in human soul and divinity) during the three days before His ressurection and then still be truthful when He later tells His Mother that He has yet to ascend to the Father? If so, is it possible that the repentant thief could really have entered heaven with Christ on the day of crucifixion?


#4

p.s. for some reason I was thinking that the Mary in Jn 20.17 was the Virgin Mary. It’s actually Mary Mag. Sorry about the confusion.


#5

Just a slight correction, the Mary Jesus spoke to on Easter is Mary Magdalene, not His Mother–the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I am not sure about this but I think that the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, while He was our Lord living, breathing and walking on Earth–the same Person who went down into the dead and at the same time remained in the tomb for three days, was also present with the other two Persons all this time. I mean in His kenosis, He set aside His glory to became human. But this glory that He had with the Father and the Spirit in eternity has always been with the Father and the Spirit. Perhaps, this will explain why he promised the good thief, “I tell you most solemnly, today you are with me in Paradise.”

Peace, so be it.


#6

Madaglan,

Can you number your questions so we can respond to it one by one? Please.

Thanks.

Pio


#7

Sure:

  1. Did Jesus go to heaven at all during the three days before His ressurrection (even though he was not in bodily form; and even though he went down to Hell at first)?

  2. If Jesus did go to heaven during these three days, did He take the good thief and those men in “Abraham’s Bosom” with Him?

  3. If Jesus went to heaven during these three days, did He go to heaven with the thief on that same day of the crucifixion? In other words, did Jesus die, preach to the dead for a few minutes, and then take the thief to heaven?

I know this sounds like a ridiculous question. Since Jesus had told the thief right before sundown (the end of the Jewish day) that he would be with Him in paradise that day (according to one reading of the Greek text), and since Jesus also is known to have descended to the dead immediately after his death, there seems liittle room for taking the thief to heaven that same day. However, I came across some sites online which basically say there are two ways of translating the famous line in which Jesus promises the thief “paradise.” It can be either 1) I tell you today that you will be with me in paradise, or 2) I tell you that today you will be with me in paradise. There have been critics of the first translation because of its awkwardness. Why would Jesus add the superfluous word “today”? Anyhow, I’d like to hear what people have to say on this passage.

  1. When Jesus tells Mary in Jn 20.17 that He has yet to ascend to the Father, is it possible that He means a complete ascension (Body, soul and divinity) as opposed to any sojourn in heaven as human soul and divinity during the three days before the ressurrection?

#8

Well I think this is a tricky question, because once you start talking about heaven and hell the notion of “days” (and of time in general) becomes pretty iffy.

My inclination is to say that no, Jesus ascended to the Father on the thrid day (of our time), and that correspondingly he didn’t take the theif and Abraham’s people until then. But that’s our time, not eternal time.

I feel like I could give a better answer to the questions if I could resolve the problem of how someone can leave hell-- aren’t we saying that Jesus did that? Because hell is supposed to be eternal, so it doesn’t seem possible that anyone could really leave. However, I’m not sure that when we say “descended to hell” we really mean the eternal abode of Satan. Can anyone clear this up?


#9

The paradise that Jesus took good thief to was the Limbus Patrum (the limbo of the Fathers, i.e. Abraham’s Bosom - a place in Sheol where the righteous dead waited for their Savior). The soul of St. Dismas decended with the soul of Jesus to Sheol (Hades, the abode of the dead) . LIMBUS PATRUM

In the New Testament, Christ refers by various names and figures to the place or state which Catholic tradition has agreed to call the limbus patrum. In Matt. 8:11, it is spoken of under the figure of a banquet “with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven” (cf. Luke 8:29; 14:15), and in Matt. 25:10 under the figure of a marriage feast to which the prudent virgins are admitted, while in the parable of Lazarus and Dives it is called “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22) and **in Christ’s words to the penitent thief on Calvary the name paradise is used ** (Luke 23:43). St. Paul teaches (Eph. 4:9) that before ascending into Heaven Christ “also descended first into the lower parts of the earth,” and St. Peter still more explicitly teaches that “being put to death indeed, in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit,” Christ went and “preached to those souls that were in prison, which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noah” (I Pet 3:18-20).

It is principally on the strength of these Scriptural texts, harmonized with the general doctrine of the Fall and Redemption of mankind, that Catholic tradition has defended the existence of the limbus patrum as a temporary state or place of happiness distinct from Purgatory. As a result of the Fall, Heaven was closed against men. Actual possession of the beatific vision was postponed, even for those already purified from sin, until the Redemption should have been historically completed by Christ’s visible ascendancy into Heaven. Consequently, the just who had lived under the Old Dispensation, and who, either at death or after a course of purgatorial discipline, had attained the perfect holiness required for entrance into glory, were obliged to await the coming of the Incarnate Son of God and the full accomplishment of His visible earthly mission. Meanwhile they were “in prison,” as St. Peter says; but, as Christ’s own words to the penitent thief and in the parable of Lazarus clearly imply, their condition was one of happiness, notwithstanding the postponement of the higher bliss to which they looked forward. And this, substantially, is all that Catholic tradition teaches regarding the limbus patrum.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX


#10

Death is the separation of body and (human) soul. After he died, Jesus descended into “hell” which means the abode of the dead, not the place of eternal punishment. We can call it the limbo of the Fathers (or even purgatory). It was a place for the “just” who could not yet enter heaven until the coming of Christ.

To the extent that heaven consists in the Beatific Vision–being joined to God–Jesus always had the Beatific Vision. In this sense we can say that he was “in” heaven, even while in the tomb, but not in a perfected way, since his human body and soul were still separated by death. This would also apply after he rose but had not yet ascended.

While the good thief, having repented on the cross, and being saved by Jesus’ atonement, could have gone to heaven the same day, it’s possible he might also have gone to the “abode of the dead” to await the completion of Christ’s preaching there and rising from the dead. (The abode of the dead is not, after all, a place where “time” elapses.) Keep in mind that “this day” has little meaning when applied to heaven. Eternity is ‘now’, not a succession of moments.

At the resurrection, Jesus soul was reunited with his body which was transformed into the glorified body which we shall have at the end of time. Later he ascended into heaven, body and soul, having completed his mission to both the living and the dead.

So, I’m inclined to answer the questions this way:

  1. No, he didn’t ‘enter’ heaven physically in the sense you mean before the Ascension.

  2. Maybe. He doesn’t tell us. We’ll find out when we get there.

  3. Maybe. But “the same day as the crucifixion” is meaningless in the context of heaven.

  4. Yes. When Jesus spoke to Mary I think he DID mean a complete ascension–body and soul. In fact, he had NOT yet ascended into heaven at that point.


#11

Actual possession of the beatific vision was postponed, even for those already purified from sin, until the Redemption should have been historically completed by Christ’s visible ascendancy into Heaven.

Based on Matt 16_18’s posting of the above from the Catholic Encyclopedia, it seems apparent that NOBODY got into heaven until Christ’s ascension! Thanks!


#12

Ah ok. Good explanation Matt and Jim :slight_smile:

That makes a lot more sense now. It’s a really complicated scene (that is, the scene when the thief repents on the cross). I know that many Protestants use this scene as support for their doctrines of baptism, justification, etc. Didn’t some Catholic priest write a book just on this one scene???


#13
  1. Did Jesus go to heaven at all during the three days before His ressurrection (even though he was not in bodily form; and even though he went down to Hell at first)?

Before His resurrection? No, he didn’t. After His resurrection, Yes.

  1. If Jesus did go to heaven during these three days, did He take the good thief and those men in “Abraham’s Bosom” with Him?

No. The gates of heaven was still closed during that time. It was when Jesus ascended into heaven that souls were able to enter heaven. It was Jesus Body and Soul that entered first the gates of heaven.

  1. If Jesus went to heaven during these three days, did He go to heaven with the thief on that same day of the crucifixion? In other words, did Jesus die, preach to the dead for a few minutes, and then take the thief to heaven?

When Jesus told the thief that he will be with him in paradise, IMO, Jesus was telling the thief that he just entered the loving embrace of the Father and was saved and that moment. Being saved by the grace of God is “heaven.”

Besides, in the next life, we are not bound to time.

  1. When Jesus tells Mary in Jn 20.17 that He has yet to ascend to the Father, is it possible that He means a complete ascension (Body, soul and divinity) as opposed to any sojourn in heaven as human soul and divinity during the three days before the ressurrection?

Jesus means a complete ascension. Because if you just say His Body and Soul and not including His Divinity, you are trying to separate the Person.

Pio


#14

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.