Thursday, November 18

Say What?????

Apparently some of you actually read the creeds I've been posting, and then have the audacity to question them, to boot. The good thing about this is that I get to look things up and find answers to questions, which, in case you haven't noticed, is one of my favorite activities.

So, here we go. About the Apostles Creed posted yesterday, the audacious Doug asks:
I'm a bit sketchy on that "descended into Hell" part. I haven't been able to locate that in the Bible. Can you provide any references on that line?

To answer the question about a scriptural reference for Jesus descending into Hell, there's Peter's sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2), which quotes from Psalm 16:
For David says concerning him,

"'I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.'

"Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (verses 25-32).

You'll notice the part that says Christ was "not abandoned to Hades". (It's in both the quote from Psalms and in Peter's own remarks.) The King James Version, along with many older versions, translates Hades as hell here. The NET Bible translational notes suggest that it just means "place of the dead", and that Hades is often used as the equivalent of the Hebrew term Sheol.

There are theories as to what exactly it means that Jesus "was not abandoned to Hades". Some do teach that Jesus suffered in the place of punishment for the wicked for three days, and others teach that Jesus descended to the place where the faithful Old Testament saints were kept and brought them into the presence of God.

The point of using it in the Apostles' Creed is to affirm that Jesus really died. He had a real body that really died, and he died in every sense of the word: his body was in the grave, and his spirit went to wherever it was that spirits went at that time.

The Apostles' creed was drawn up with the particular heresies that existed at that time in mind, and was meant to reaffirm the truth in opposition to the false teachings being bandied about--like Gnosticism, for instance. So the creed emphasises Jesus's full humanity, and this particular phrase is meant to affirm that Jesus had a real body and that he really died.

If you want to know more about this creed, with a section by section look at what particular heresies were being opposed in it's statements, you'll find that here.

(While researching this, I also found a page with Calvin's remarks on Christ's descent into hell, in case you might find that of interest.)