He Descended into Hell?


Something called The Apostle's Creed has this curious statement in it, "he descended into hell":

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;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will 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.

This is from the Catholic Church version.  The word, hell, is also found in some other versions, but not all.

Other versions of the Apostle's Creed solve the problem by writing, "He descended to the dead".

What is "The Apostle's Creed"?

From Wikipedia:
The Apostles' Creed (Latin: Symbolum Apostolorum or Symbolum Apostolicum), sometimes titled the Apostolic Creed or the Symbol of the Apostles, is an early statement of Christian belief—a creed or "symbol". It is widely used by a number of Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes, most visibly by liturgical Churches of Western tradition, including the Catholic Church, Lutheranism and Anglicanism. It is also used by Presbyterians, Moravians, Methodists and Congregationalists.

Are there other creeds?  Yes.

In the Catholic Church the Nicene Creed is primarily used during Mass. However, the Apostles' Creed is sometimes substituted, especially for a children's Mass. The Apostles' Creed is used most frequently in daily prayers, such as the rosary.
The Athanasian Creed is extremely long and almost never used except as an historical reference.

Why, what, and how; explain again please:

Philip Kosloski, What's the Difference Between The Apostle's and Nicene Creeds?

The Creed is a much longer “Amen” to everything that was said in the Liturgy of the Word and an affirmation of what is about to unfold in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It is a personal and collective assent, proclaiming to all present that you believe in the foundational beliefs of the Catholic faith.
The Church, in her wisdom, has selected two different Creeds that can be recited during the Mass: the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. The instruction in the Missal states, “Instead of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, especially during Lent and Easter time, the baptismal Symbol of the Roman Church, known as the Apostles’ Creed, may be used.” The decision of which Creed to use is up to the priest and local bishop.
Both Creeds are ancient and have roots that can be traced to the very beginnings of the Church.
The Nicene Creed is strictly speaking the “Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed” and was first developed following the First Council of Nicaea in 325. It was held to combat a theological error called Arianism (from its principal proponent, a priest named Arius) that denied the divinity of Christ. A Creed was developed to affirm the teachings of the Church and was further refined at the First Council of Constantinople in 381. It expanded on previous Creeds in order to be more precise in what the Church believed.

 Back to the question

He descended into Hell, James Richardson:

The most controversial part of the Apostles Creed is the statement “He descended into Hell.” It’s amazing how much hate this statement gets from Christians; but, I am hear to tell you that it is crucial to the understanding of the nature of Christ, the atonement, and the resurrection of the dead.
In Christian theology, the belief in Heaven and Hell is crucial. While there are many that deny Heaven, Hell, or both, the Bible teaches that the righteous go to eternal life and the unrighteous to eternal destruction (2 Thess 1:9). The belief that God has no wrath or punishment upon the sinner is not found in the Bible. Christ paid the price of dying, death, hell, and God’s wrath in our place. Not only that, Christ redeemed many of the dead that were in Hell and saved them from eternal destruction.
The basic teaching of “He descended into Hell”
The simplest explanation can be found in the Westminster Larger Catechism.
Christ’s humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day; which hath been otherwise expressed in these words, He descended into hell.
Westminster Larger Catechism Question 50
Simply put, Christ died and stayed dead for 3 days.
But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
(Mat 12:39-40 NAS)

What about John Wesley?

Heather Hahn wrote:

Did Jesus descend into hell or to the dead?

John Wesley sent mixed signals about the creed to American Methodists, Bryant said. Wesley removed Article III from the Anglican Articles of Religion, which read, "As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also is it to be believed, that he went down into Hell."
Yet he kept "he descended into hell" as part of morning and evening prayers, and "he went down into hell" as a part of the baptismal liturgy, Bryant (associate professor of Wesleyan and United Methodist studies at United Methodist-related Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Chicago) said.
John Deschner's book "Wesley's Christology" says that because Jesus told the thief on the cross that the thief would be with Jesus in paradise (Luke 23:43), Wesley's view was that Jesus was in "paradise" between his death and his Resurrection.
By 1792, American Methodists dropped the phrase altogether from worship. The phrase "descended to the dead" returned in the 20th century. The ecumenical movement among Protestants and Catholics encouraged United Methodists and others to re-embrace traditions of the early church.


From the Zondervan Academic blog:

Did Jesus Really Descend into Hell?

Where did the phrase come from?
A murky background lies behind much of the history of the phrase itself. Its origins, where they can be found, are far from praiseworthy.
It is surprising to find that the phrase “he descended into hell” was not found in any of the early versions of the Creed (in the versions used in Rome, in the rest of Italy, and in Africa) until it appeared in one of two versions from Rufinus in A.D. 390.
Then it was not included again in any version of the Creed until A.D. 650.
Moreover, Rufinus, the only person who included it before A.D. 650, did not think that it meant that Christ descended into hell, but understood the phrase simply to mean that Christ was “buried.” In other words, he took it to mean that Christ “descended into the grave.” (The Greek form has hadēs, which can mean just “grave,” not geenna, “hell, place of punishment.”).
We should also note that the phrase only appears in one of the two versions of the Creed that we have from Rufinus: it was not in the Roman form of the Creed that he preserved.
This means, therefore, that until A.D. 650 no version of the Creed included this phrase with the intention of saying that Christ “descended into hell”—and the only version to include the phrase before A.D. 650 gives it a different meaning.
Later when the phrase was incorporated into different versions of the Creed that already had the phrase “and buried,” some other explanation had to be given to it.
There have been three possible meanings proposed throughout church history:
1. Some take this phrase to mean that Christ suffered the pains of hell while on the cross. Calvin takes this approach, as does the Heidelberg Catechism.
2. Others have understood it to mean that Christ continued in the “state of death” until his resurrection. The Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 50 takes this approach: “Christ’s humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day; which hath been otherwise expressed in these words, He descended into hell.”
3. Finally, some have argued that the phrase means just what it appears to mean on first reading: that Christ actually did descend into hell after his death on the cross.




Michael Patton gives his take in less that 3 minutes




Jeff Pallansch on why many evangelicals prefer to omit the phrase "He descended into Hell":

The Apostles’ Creed: Did Jesus Descend into Hell?

The Apostles’ Creed is one of the church’s oldest and most widely affirmed creeds outside of Scripture. That is, with the exception of one line: “He [Jesus] descended into hell.” Below are four reasons why many Evangelicals prefer to omit this phrase.
Reason 1: It is not original.

Reason 2: It is not biblical.

Reason 3: It is not clear.

Reason 4: It is not essential.



 Alan Shlemon, Did Christ Descend into Hell?

The bottom line is that the Apostles’ Creed didn’t originally include the phrase “He descended into hell.”
There seems to be at least three options for Christians today. One, they can recite the creed in its current form and simply remember in their mind that the phrase “He descended into hell” is a figure of speech for Christ descending into the grave. Two, they can recite the creed by changing the words to “He descended into the grave.” And three, they can simply omit the phrase.

Wayne Grudem, He Did Not Descend Into Hell (Journal of  The Evangelical Theological Society)

It is a pdf, so I can not post quotes here.  But here is a short video from Wayne:





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Art at the top by © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro, CC BY-SA 3.0

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