The Harrowing of Hell?


#1

I was recently reading about the Harrowing of Hell, when Christ descended to Hades to rescue the souls of the just:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrowing_of_Hell

Here is my question: Who were the souls of those Christ ransomed from Hell?

They were the “just” whoever those were. Were the just people who sincerely longed for God and were “saved” but could not ascend to heaven because Christ had not yet come?

These would include the patriarchs of the old testament, and would they perhaps include Confucius and the Greek philosophers?

I suppose I would appreciate a little more elaboration on the Harrowing of Hell. Thanks so much.


#2

No one got out of hell, at best it can be said that it was Abraham’s side. More or less like Purgatory. Those in hell cannot get out (Lazarus and the rich man)


#3

He means those in the upper part of sheol .


#4

I may be missing something but if heaven was once ‘closed’ or not open yet, and then after some point it was open/ ready to accept people, that doesnt seem like a place with no time…?


#5

newadvent.org/summa/4052.htm


#6

Closed from our perspective, not necessarily from heaven’s. I’m not sure that’s definitive though… God exists beyond time and space… but does heaven?


#7

An excellent link. !

:thumbsup:

I needed to read up on it again.

Thank you for posting it HobbitShoe .


#8

Ver. 19. In which (to wit, soul or spirit) also he came, and preached to those spirits who were in prison. The true and common interpretation of this place seems to be, that the soul of Christ, after the separation from the body and before the resurrection, descended to a place in the interior parts of the earth, called hell in that which we call the apostles’ creed, (sometimes called Abraham’s bosom, sometimes Limbus Patrum[Limbo of the Fathers], a place where were detained all the souls of the patriarchs, prophets, and just men, as it were in prison) and preached to these spirits in this prison; i.e. brought them this happy news, that he who was their Redeemer was now come to be their deliverer, and that at his glorious ascension they should enter with him into heaven, where none could enter before our Redeemer, who opened as it were heaven’s gates. Among these were many who had been formerly at first incredulous in the time of Noe[Noah], who would not take warning from his preparing and building the ark, but it may be reasonably supposed that many of them repented of their sins when they saw the danger approaching, and before they perished by the waters of the deluge, so that they died at least not guilty of eternal damnation; because, though they were sinners, yet they worshipped the true God, for we do not find any proofs of idolatry before the deluge. These then, and all the souls of the just, Christ descended to free from their captivity, from their prison, and to lead them at his ascension triumphant with him into heaven. See here a proof of a third place, or middle state of souls: for these spirits in prison, to whom Christ went to preach after his death, were not in heaven, nor yet in the hell of the damned; because heaven is no prison, and Christ did not go to preach to the damned. (Challoner) — St. Augustine, in his 99th epistle, confesses that this text is replete with difficulties. This he declares is clear, beyond all doubt, that Jesus Christ descended in soul after his death into the regions below, and concludes with these words: Quis ergo nisi infidelis negaverit fuisse apud inferos Christum? In this prison souls would not be detained unless they were indebted to divine justice, nor would salvation be preached to them unless they were in a state that was capable of receiving salvation.


#9

I’m no theologian, so the following may be safely ignored.

To my understanding, those in hell want to be in hell. They have cocooned themselves into self-aborption and choosing it even though they know it will be forever unsatisfactory. But in choosing themselves above all, they rejected God in full knowledge of what they were doing.

Before Christ opened heaven, where was everybody, from the prophets of old to Aristotle to the Indian who made the arrowhead I found not so very long ago near a creek bank?
Certainly, they were not in the direct presence of God; the beatific vision that satisfies all.

We do not think they were in hell in the sense that those who choose hell were. They had noplace to go other than within themselves and with others and perhaps observant of the earth. They were “in hell” in the sense that they were not united intimately with God.

Why would Christ “preach” to them? Possibly because they had not yet made the final, fateful decision to remain always within themselves or to accept the searing offer of forgiveness, love and acceptance from God that might be humbling almost beyond endurance. Possibly that choice was not yet “open” to them until the harrowing of hell. Did any of them remain in hell? Perhaps so if they chose to close off the “opening” to God and chose that as a final thing.


#10

The Church calls their ‘location’ (which is a bit of a misnomer, since they don’t have physical existence, right?) the “Bosom of Abraham” (or “limbo of the fathers”, although this term causes some confusion).

The idea is that, although they weren’t condemned eternally to hell, they weren’t in heaven, either. So, we could call this “sheol” or whatever, but the point is that they were awaiting their savior.

We do not think they were in hell in the sense that those who choose hell were. They had noplace to go other than within themselves and with others and perhaps observant of the earth. They were “in hell” in the sense that they were not united intimately with God.

That’s one way to look at it. “They weren’t in heaven” or “they weren’t in the Beatific Vision” is probably the best way to put it, and just leave it at that. :shrug:

Why would Christ “preach” to them? Possibly because they had not yet made the final, fateful decision to remain always within themselves or to accept the searing offer of forgiveness, love and acceptance from God that might be humbling almost beyond endurance. Possibly that choice was not yet “open” to them until the harrowing of hell. Did any of them remain in hell? Perhaps so if they chose to close off the “opening” to God and chose that as a final thing.

No. This is not what the Church teaches. Everything you’ve written in this post, up to that point, was OK. However, this paragraph kinda goes astray.

From what God has revealed to us, once a person dies, there is no longer any opportunity to repent.

So, that means that Jesus didn’t visit the afterworld in order to give “one last chance” to souls there. Those who were condemned to eternal punishment weren’t the object of Jesus’ “visit” – those who were awaiting Him in order to attain to heaven were.


#11

The Harrowing of Hell is one my most favourite readings of the Divine Office (for Holy Saturday).

The text can be found here:

covert.org/harrowing.html

“Rise, let us leave this place.”


#12

Then why did Jesus preach to them? Were they uniquely unable to know whether they were saved or damned, notwithstanding that, as you imply, all were saved? Why did Jesus think to preach to them if to no others since then? Why would they benefit from it if we don’t?

What is time to God? What is it to people who are no longer living in time? When is a person dead from a Divine perspective? Unless we know those things, we can’t know when a person’s consignment to heaven or hell occurs.

I don’t purport to know those things. But I don’t know that anyone does.


#13

There’s lots to talk about, in the context of this passage.

First, the word that’s translated “preach” is ἐκήρυξεν. This word means “herald” or “proclaim.” The implication is that Jesus made the proclamation of the Gospel – that His death and resurrection opens the gates of heaven – to those who were awaiting that good news.

There’s more here, though. The phrase in the Greek is τοῖς ἐν φυλακῇ πνεύμασιν. Literally, it means “to [the] in prison spirits”. In other words, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to look at this as meaning that Jesus, in the spirit, ‘journeyed’ to “the imprisoned spirits”. This would mean that the force of the phrase isn’t the location so much as it is the state of existence of the spirits to whom Jesus proclaimed the Good News.

There’s lots more good stuff here – words that have awesome meanings, but are translated in ways that we contemporary speakers of English completely miss! – but I’ll stick with your questions and stop here…

Were they uniquely unable to know whether they were saved or damned, notwithstanding that, as you imply, all were saved?

The Church doesn’t have a doctrinal teaching on this question. But, we can infer that, since they weren’t being punished, it wasn’t the “hell” of damnation. Those who lived in ancient times would not have expected ‘heaven’, but rather, merely ‘sheol’ (that is, “the abode of the dead”), so one might conjecture that they may have thought they got what they expected. Who knows?

Note, too, that I’m not implying universal salvation; rather, just that the ones to whom Jesus made His proclamation were those who were heaven-bound!

Why did Jesus think to preach to them if to no others since then? Why would they benefit from it if we don’t?

Again, it’s less “preaching a sermon” than it is “announcing the Good News of salvation.”

What is time to God? What is it to people who are no longer living in time? When is a person dead from a Divine perspective? Unless we know those things, we can’t know when a person’s consignment to heaven or hell occurs.

I’m not so sure about that. The Church teaches the particular judgment, at the time of a person’s death, at which point he knows his eternal destiny. At that point, the person immediately is consigned to hell, or attains to heaven (unless he first needs the cleansing of Purgation).

I don’t purport to know those things. But I don’t know that anyone does.

The Church does, and she teaches it. :wink:


#14

Bumping this thread because of some questions I had in regards to the Harrowing of Hell.

I’ve been doing some reading on the Aquinas teaching of the four layers of hell. I am aware that the pre-Christ saints would be freed from the Limbo of the Fathers, but were non-saintly souls also freed during the Harrowing?

To expand upon that question, would, say, a righteous follower of God even be a part of the Limbo of the Fathers? I guess it gets into the discussion of if purgatory existed crucifixion, but even if it did, it doesn’t seem like the righteous would be left to burn there undeservingly.

I’m also curious about non Jews, for example, who died without any real knowledge of God. Would they have been freed from hell in a “fate of the unlearned” type situation? Cause, again, would these souls be put in the same place as the righteous who were aware of God and lived according to His law?

Sorry for the lofty question, just some things I’ve been wondering about recently.


#15

I am pretty certain that any righteous soul would have been freed form the “limbo of the fathers”. I understand that many in the early Church considered Socrates to be such a man.


#16

Interesting about Socrates! I need to read more theological writings on the subject, but I’ve found in a lot of Renaissance writers discuss the fate of classical age philosophers. Interesting that the same discussion came up in the early church.


#17

All the heaven-bound who had passed on. In Catholic theology, that would not be restricted to Catholics or even Christians.


#18

Ah okay, that’s what I would assume, though the fact everything I’ve been reading only alludes to early saints and such made me raise the question. Thanks for clearing it up!


#19

Douay Catholic Bible
“Now that he ascended, what is it, but because he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?”
[Ephesians 4:9]

RSV Catholic Bible
Eph.4: [9] (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?

Haydock’s Catholic Bible commentary
Ver. 9. Into the lower parts of the earth. This cannot signify into the grave only, especially since in that which we look upon as the apostles’ creed, we first profess to believe that he was buried, and afterwards that he descended into hell. (Witham)

It would be well & informative to READ what St Thomas Aquinas has to say about Eph 4:9

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4052.htm

The FACT that Jesus visited the “Just” is an indication that He cannot of meant the very depths of HELL as we commonly understand it. No “Just” [Justified] Soul CAN be in HELL.

Luke 16:22-31 **
“[20] And at his gate lay a poor man named Laz’arus, full of sores,
[21] who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. [22] The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; [23] and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Laz’arus in his bosom. [24] And he called out, Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Laz'arus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' [25] But Abraham said,**Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Laz’arus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. [26] And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.
’ [27] And he said, Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, [28] for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' [29] But Abraham said,They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ [30] And he said, No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' [31] He said to him,If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’"

God Bless you
Patrick


#20

In REPLY to your “what about he Jews”

FYI:

God will, because as GOD, He MUST pass judgment upon each and every sol, NOT based on personal beliefs and practices RATHER it will be on what GOD has made possible for each Soul to know, to accept and to live.

The OT Jewish people were held to a different standard than the post Christ Church [singular: Mt 16:18]

GBY


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