Guest / Limited Access /

In the Apostles' Creed, there is a statement about Jesus descending into hell. Did he literally go there?—DEBRA BLACK, Alton, IllinoisEach Sunday, millions of Christians around the world recite the Apostles' Creed, including that statement:

"I believe that Jesus … descended into hell."

Yet a few years back at one Christian college, a series of chapel messages on the Apostles' Creed had to omit this item, because none of the 12 professors of Bible and theology believed it. Actually the statement is not found in the earliest form of the Apostles' Creed. It echoes Acts 2:31, and seems to be there simply to make the point that Jesus' death was real and complete. Jesus went to hades, which in the Greek signifies the world of the departed—paradise for some, pain for others. When the Apostles' Creed took its English form in the sixteenth century, "hell" meant hades as such, rather than the final state of the lost (which Jesus called gehenna), as it always is today. So, should those who accept the Bible as their supreme authority for belief hold to the Creed's doctrine on this point?

Scripture tells us very little about Jesus' state between his death and resurrection. The most commonly cited biblical passages are Acts 2:31 ; Ephesians 4:8-10 ; 1 Peter 4:6; and, most importantly, 1 Peter 3:18-20. Ephesians 4 is likely a reference to the Incarnation, and 1 Peter 4:6 could apply to any preaching of the gospel. But numerous interpretations of 1 Peter 3:18-20 exist. Some say the 1 Peter 3 passage should not be taken literally—that it is symbolic, conveying in graphic form the idea that redemption is universal in its extent. This, however, involves a more spiritualized hermeneutic than usually practiced by evangelicals.

Others contend that ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
TrendingCompassion International Sues Teen Mania over Acquire the Fire
Compassion International Sues Teen Mania over Acquire the Fire
Arrest warrant issued for Ron Luce, reports World magazine.
Editor's PickLeaving Patriarchy in the Past
Leaving Patriarchy in the Past
Scripture affirms sweeping male authority, says John Stackhouse—just not for all time.
Christianity Today
Did Jesus Really Descend to Hell?
hide thisFebruary 7 February 7

In the Magazine

February 7, 2000

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.