Jesus Went to Hell

The Apostles’ Creed creates a lot of discomfort with a little clause that is present in its lines of affirmations. This clause is the phrase “He descended into hell” and refers to Jesus. Some churches take this as a metaphor or avoid the topic. Some go so far to even omit the phrase from the creed. The claim for this omission of it is that it is not biblical, and, therefore, cannot be true. However, I will prove with logic and scripture that you have to say Jesus descended into to hell to have orthodox Christology and soteriology and it should not be omitted or taken as a metaphor for Jesus’s suffering.

Before I begin, I want you to see the apostle’s creed and the phrase for yourself.

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord,

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead;

He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

Amen.

Now to start my explanation, the word “hell” in the Apostles Creed is actually the Hebrew word “Sheol.” In Greek the word is translated into “hades.” They are the exact same thing in that the people there do not have any vision of God[1]. Therefore, to proceed in explaining the necessity of statement “he descended into hell,” it is essential that one understands Jewish culture, which should be an inherent concept that one should understand when reading the Old Testament to read it correctly. Not understanding Jewish culture may be a flaw with some church’s reading of scripture and why they omit the phrase from the creed. Anyone of any measure of scholarship and knowledge should use knowledge of Jewish culture in conjunction when reading the Old Testament.  In the beginning, the Jews, at first, did not seem to have a good concept of an afterlife. The afterlife in Jewish culture at the time did not relate anything of joy and happiness. In the book of Psalms there are references to this place called Sheol.[2] Psalm 8:5 states: “The cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me.” This scripture verse states that the act of dying is different from Sheol. There is the concept of Sheol and there is the concept of death in the Jewish culture at the time. Psalm 6:6 says, “For in death there is no remembrance of you. Who praises you in Sheol?” This states that death is what leads a person into Sheol. It shows this by the order in how death is mentioned first. Numbers 16:30 says, “But if the Lord brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the Lord.” Jewish tradition considered Sheol to be beneath the earth. Numbers 16:30 reflects this view that Sheol was beneath the earth. It also uses the word “descend” just like the Apostle’s Creed does. It is important to mention that it wasn’t until the book of Daniel that the idea of the resurrection is first mentioned.[3]  The righteous and the non-righteous did not have the same fate though in this concept of the afterlife. The righteous were held in Abraham’s Bosom, and these are the people Christ came to save from within Sheol.[4] Second temple Judaism had an eschatology that developed throughout the past and culminated into this eschatology.[5]

With establishing the existence of Sheol and how it is valid to the Jewish culture at the time, the idea of liberation for those souls by the death of Jesus and his descent is made to be more probable than not when one considers Jesus as the savior of all. Psalm 49:15-16 mentions the redemption of the just souls from Sheol. It says:

This is the way of those who trust in themselves, and the end of those who take pleasure in their own mouth. Like a herd of sheep they will be put into Sheol, and Death will shepherd them. Straight to the grave they descend, where their form will waste away, Sheol will be their palace. But God will redeem my life, will take me from the hand of Sheol.

It is presumed that David is writing this, and therefore we should consider the author to be a righteous and just person. The fact that the author knows that there will be redemption from Sheol for him suggests that the righteous will be redeemed. This also states that are awaiting Jesus’ descent into hell and that there is a place called Abraham’s bosom where the righteous go[6]. The purpose of the death of Jesus was to allow humanity to gain entrance into heaven. The people of humanity before Jesus did not have access to heaven and therefore there needed to be this place for the righteous. Therefore, those who came before Jesus were in another place and we have confirmed in Jewish tradition to be Sheol.  To deny Jesus’ descent becomes very problematic in that sense.

The concept of Jesus descending to Sheol when omitted or taken as a metaphor becomes very problematic. Not only does it become scripturally a problem because much of scripture is left with no meaning, but it creates a problem for one’s Christology and soteriology. When one denies that Jesus went Sheol, he is denying Jesus came to save all. He is, instead, asserting that Jesus came to save those people alive in his time period and afterward. This becomes problematic because the crucifixion can be seen as not totally fixing what humanity did in bringing death into the world. It’s claiming, essentially, that Jesus is not fully divine, and therefore, could not repay everything humanity owed.  On the other hand, one can also be asserting Jesus did not have enough humanity to be the repayment on behalf of humanity, nor was his humanity valid enough for him to go to Sheol just like other humans. This assertion would mean that man cannot be resurrected, due to the fact we can’t be the level of human Jesus was. Therefore, there would be no resurrection. You cannot say Jesus is fully human without saying He went to Sheol. Jesus faced death which was a design not part of God’s plan for creation, yet it was man’s fate. Therefore, Jesus in humanity should have also descended into Sheol because of the fact He was fully human. To deny the descent is to deny the resurrection is possible for humanity because it states Jesus is not fully human. The denial of the descent, at most, states Jesus is a mixture of Divine and human that make up this being of the Christ. This is idea of a mixture is condemned in some of the early creeds that came about within early Christianity. The mixture idea of divine and human would fall under the heresies by Apollinaris, Theodore of Mopsueste, or even Nestorius.

People object to Jesus’ descent into Sheol because they claim there is no narrative in gospels about the event. However, death is a solitary experience and two people cannot enter death together. Therefore, it is rather foolish to think an apostle could write about the account of Jesus going to Sheol.  However, it should not be misunderstood to be that the apostles did not know that Jesus was to descend into Sheol. It is revealed in the new testament Jesus was to descend into Sheol. There are New Testament references even if it is not a narrative of Jesus being in Sheol. Mathew 12: 40 says: “for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jews at the time believed Sheol was at the center of the earth. This verse corresponds with the place they knew Sheol was. The tomb Jesus’ body was put in was not at the center of the earth or under the earth. Matthew 12:40 could not possibly be referring to the tomb. Another aspect that further emphasizes the relation to Sheol with Matthew 12:40 is Jonah while in the belly of the whale uses a hyperbole to Sheol. This parallel further gives indication that Jesus descended into Sheol.[7] In the idea that Jesus rose from the dead is another example of a reference within the New Testament. The specific use of the word “rose” or “rise” is an indication of Sheol as well.[8] Jesus’ body was not placed at the center of earth, so it is wrong to say that he rose from the dead and to deny the descent into Sheol. In order for something to “rise” into life upon earth, it would have to have descended first. This descent gives the idea that there is a place below the earth and Jesus departed there because he had to “rise” from the dead. To deny the descent could be to deny the resurrection. To deny the resurrection becomes its own problem which unravels one’s Christology. The resurrection is arguably the most important event in Christendom.[9] Therefore as you can see scripturally it is an error to state that there is no scriptural evidence or to state that the clause in the Apostle’s creed is meant as a metaphor.

There is the a verse in 1st peter that Augustine talks, about but I find the passage too ambiguous and thus, have some doubts about what it is referring to and have not mentioned it for a reason. However, did you know when you go to the website biblegateway and select NASB translation and then type Sheol into the search 65 verses with that word come up? That is a big number and shows that it is not something that should be overlooked. In other translations, it is referred to it as Hades or as the realm of the dead. This little word is rooted in history and should not be ignored like it seems to be.

The lack of a straight forward narrative in the New Testament should not totally discount the concept in the Apostle’s Creed. The use of such an argument shows the lack of full knowledge of scripture within the Old Testament and an understanding of Jewish culture. Another reason this argument is invalid is because John 20:25 says, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” This verse states that not everything Jesus did was written in the bible. If everything was written down the bible would be much bigger than what we have today. It is a fallacy to believe that everything Jesus did was written down and contained within the bible. Therefore, one cannot cite that argument, especially because the argument proposed the idea of the Trinity would not stand up to that question. The Trinity is not specifically and straight forwardly mentioned in the bible.

In conclusion, the clause “descended into hell’ is an orthodox statement. It can be found in scripture and logically based on Jewish tradition is an event that took place. It is incorrect for the phrase to be omitted from the Apostles’ Creed or to be taken as a metaphor. Christology and soteriology would incompatible with scripture if the belief of the descent is not held. Without the belief of the descent Jesus cannot be named the savior of all. It leads to problems within ones theology and leaves a hole in Christianity itself. Therefore, it seems that one needs to say that Jesus descended into Hell in order to have orthodox Christology and to understand the salvific purpose Jesus came to fulfill.

References/footnotes:


[1] Catholic Church. 1994. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[2] Boadt, Lawrence. 1984. Reading the Old Testament: an introduction. New York, N.Y.: Paulist Press. 216-217.

[3] Boadt, Lawrence. 1984. Reading the Old Testament: an introduction. New York, N.Y.: Paulist Press. 217.

[4] Catholic Church. 1994. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[5] Levering, Matthew. 2012. Jesus and the Demise of Death : Resurrection, Afterlife, and the Fate of the Christian. Waco, Tex: Baylor University Press, 2012. eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed April 21, 2015). 15.

[6] Catholic Church. 1994. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[7] “Why Did Jesus Descend to Hell.” Catholic Answers. Accessed April 21, 2015. http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/why-did-christ-visit-hell-after-his-death-0.

[8] Matthew 28:7

[9] Ashwin-Siejkowski, Piotr. 2009. The Apostles’ Creed the Apostles’ Creed and its early Christian context. London: T & T Clark. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=601623. 63.

Who I Was and Who I Am

On this late night many things are on my mind. Things involving my past and the person I am today. Looking back at just two years ago, the change of my understanding of love is astounding to me. My aptitude to give love and love people despite the hurt they inflict on me is something I didn’t have before. The loving and sweet person, some of you know today, back then was a slightly different person two years ago. There are many things different about me today as compared to two years ago, but most of it boils down to truly learning what Love is. It’s incredible how I can still love the girl who spread rumors about me and would even likely take her back and be friends again if she would talk to me and try and reconcile with me. This is not something that just happened overnight this willingness to love someone like that. They say suffering teaches us lessons we have yet to learn and helps in our sanctification. And there is truth to that statement.

There is a quote by Mother Theresa which basically states love hurts. Loving someone is not easy, especially since we are called to love like God. This means loving when they hate you or are angry at you for stupid reasons. It means loving them and caring about them even when they ridicule you or make fun of you. God reconciles all people if they have a true heart and are guilty for what they have done. Love is painful because despite someone hurting you, you don’t harden your heart. Your heart is still open to love them. It’s still warm, and not ice cold to them. You haven’t turned away from them completely and still have hope in your heart for them.

They also say forgiving is hard, and I will be first to vouch for that statement. The more I reflected on forgiveness this semester and what makes, at times, some things easier to forgive than others, I found was if I had an understanding of why someone did what they did. Understanding in my perspective became key to forgiveness, because in the end everyone is just trying their best and most of the time trying to do what they think is right. I can’t say I have met a person who didn’t have a piece of goodness in them. I would even contend Adolf Hitler still had a shred of goodness in him after all the terrible things he did. There is some goodness in everyone and when you understand they are not doing the things they are doing, most of the time, because they are bad or evil then it makes it easier to forgive. You have this understanding of how a deed transpired and how the options were not black and white. Basically to restate my key point, forgiveness seems to be tied to understanding and understanding helps one forgive another.

I have found the person I am today tends to cherish the good in people and, sometimes to a fault, try and look for that good in a person and give the person the benefit of the doubt. Only more study of my faith and more guidance from God will tell me if I am on the right track in following Jesus and his steps. One thing I am learning at present is the reality of who I am is not contingent on others thoughts or words. I am what I am, and someone’s skewed perspective of me does not change who I am or what is true. What false things people think about me doesn’t matter. What people say or think doesn’t mean it’s who I actually am. This is especially true if the person is not my friend. Wounds and reproves from a friend can be trusted. And from my experience with rumors, I have learned to get to know a person and know the real them, before listening or giving heed to things being said about them.

To wrap this up, the only thing I can say for sure is there is more growing to come and I pray God gives me great patience on my journey to be what I am called to be.

What’s on my Mind…

The friends that matter are the ones who will get to know the real you and not listen to the rumors. My friend Jessica said this to me and the more I think about it the more I find it to be really true. With the case of the rumors and lies circulating about me, it has shown me again how a follower of Jesus should be.

Unfortunately, probably because of my illness, it’s hard for me to not think about the things the person said about me and whether there is any weight to what she is saying. However, I can’t find weight in what she says. My friends all fight me when I think I found maybe something she could be referring too as what she deemed to be “attention seeking.” My trust is really broken in people from what I have experienced. She most of all really broke my trust. It’s hard for me to open up to my boyfriend when I am not feeling well or to a few of my friends who want to be there for me. It’s hard to trust when your trust has been broken by so many people.

What this person did in spreading rumors is stigmatize my illness and made herself no better than those types of people who claim mental illness is a lie. People who are like that are part of the reason so many people do not seek help for major depression. It’s hard for me to understand how she can think I am faking it when she has witnessed times when I got really bad. She was the first one at the university I am attending I opened up that I was being tested for depression. In the end, I feel like I should have went with my intuition and not have trusted her.

It’s sad the lack of understanding and the ignorance that is pervasive in our culture on mental illness. There are times when I feel like no one understands and just feel very alone and misunderstood. The truth is most people don’t understand what one is going through when they have depression. Though I don’t think anyone can totally understand unless they have experienced it themselves, they can on some level have some level of compassion and understanding through education and knowledge.

In addition, I want to point out there is a difference between attention seeking and attention needing. Perhaps a better way to phrase it would be, there is a difference between attention seeking and asking for help. Considering I legitimately had a problem, and would reach out to my friends when I wasn’t feeling well or just needed someone to listen that is not attention seeking. In fact, if someone fakes a mental illness to get attention that is something only a sick person would do. If someone fakes a mental illness that is considered its own mental illness. Only someone who is sick would fake mental illness to get attention.

Anyway, this has what has been on my mind and writing a post about it helped a little.

Jacob and Esau

The bible story located in Genesis 27-36 is one of deceit and blessing. It is the story of Jacob and Esau. The story of Jacob and Esau is one that can seem to be rather confusing when looking at it through the Christian perspective. Jacob is the one favored by God, but he is very much a trickster. He tricks his brother out of his birth right and then tricks his sickly father to give him his older brother’s blessing. It does not seem very ethical at all. It is quite baffling as to why God chose Jacob when actions are deceitful.

The beginning of the story Jacob is announced to have his brother Esau serve him in the sorts of a prophecy. They are born to Isaac, Abraham’s promised child, and Rebekah, his wife. They were born at the sometime the two boys were, but Esau came out first. Esau grew into a hunter and Jacob just stayed home among the tents. Isaac loved the wild and therefore loved Esau, however, Jacob was loved most by his mother. The story line is where Jacob tricks his brother, Esau, the first born, out of his birthright and blessing. The first time Jacob something from Esau is when Esau was hungry after a hunt and in exchange for stew Esau gave Jacob his birthright. Another time Jacob cheats Esau with the help of his mother, Rebekah, so Jacob can receive Isaac’s blessing he was giving because Isaac was in bad health. These events obviously made animosity between the boys and started conflict. This can be seen later in the story, but later on they reconcile their differences. Later in the story God gives Jacob the name of Israel because he wrestled with God about seeing his brother Esau. Therefore, Jacob must be symbolic for the country of Israel (Senior, Collins, and Getty 112 – 114).

The important themes in this story line is the fact God does not go back on his promises. It should be considered that perhaps God did not intend for Jacob to get those things that way. In addition, God makes a covenant with Jacob to be his God and promises him offspring, land, and protection (Senior, Collins, and Getty 113). This covenant is a restating or renewal of the covenant with Abraham. Jacob is called to be the next, for a lack of a better word, covenant keeper. Therefore like Abraham, God shows that even though man himself is an obstacle at times, God will carry through his promise despite any obstacle (Senior, Collins, and Getty 113). The interesting thing about this story is that it uses literary devices that make God like a physical being. In the story Jacob grapples with a man and depending on the translation it can be considered God or one of God’s angels. This is obviously something based off old stories (Senior, Collins, and Getty 114).

The relevance’s of this story can be considered more of a sort of symbolic tale about Israel. Therefore Jacob and Esau is a story of nations and the tension between them. Therefore, the tension before Jacob and Esau worked it out are the symbolic event of Israel and another nation. Esau is called hairy and red, this is reference to Edom and Seir (Senior, Collins, and Getty 113). Another theme that is mentioned in the Catholic Study Bible is that God, with crooked lines, can write straight. Examples are how the mother’s judgment is favored over the fathers, and the victory of the younger son over the older son (Senior, Collins, and Getty 113). These stories based on the groupings that these stories were originally recited orally and meant to give glory to Israel’s past. The type of literature specifically to this type is story is more like a saga based on the symbolic elements (Senior, Collins, and Getty 113).

The relevancy of this passage to the people was to show Israel’s past and to also glorify it and pass it down to future generations. The story was made up of old folk tales, or also known as sagas. Therefore the stories were meant for the Israelites (Senior, Collins, and Getty 114). The story also to emphasize the key themes that were mentioned to the people and God’s faithfulness (Senior, Collins, and Getty 113). The modern reader, as mentioned in the beginning, when not taking into account the theme that God will make a promise come about despite man, himself, being obstacle can be really horrified at the lack of ethical actions that Jacob does and yet God still chooses him to have the covenant and to be higher than his older brother (Senior, Collins, and Getty 112 – 113).

In conclusion, this baffling and seemingly unethical story of deceit has been put more into focus. I learned that this story is more of a symbolic story. In addition, the theme that God can overcome any obstacle is more visible and in one’s face now. The theme is now seen as more of the central element and weaves the whole piece together.

Works Cited
Senior, Donald, John J. Collins, and Mary A. Getty, eds. The Catholic Study Bible. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Paulist, 2012. Print.

College Tuition and Following God’s Calling

Hi, guys!! I’m not sure if I ever made a personal post about myself, but here it goes. I’m Ashley Brown and I am a religion/theology major at Saint Leo Univeristy. I want to do some work in the feild of theology or ministry and unfortunately I am having financial trouble in sustaining my path toward that dream. I would really appreciate it if you took a look at this link and read part of my story on my faith in God:
http://www.gofundme.com/fiv4ro