Decent Links (1/8/2015)

I tend to be on the look out for articles and information about Christ’s Descent into Hades (as my blog posts may show). I doubt anyone else really is that interested in it, but who knows, someone may like to read these.

It seems the guys over at Reformation21 have been posted a lot about the Descent where most of my links come from.

Gerhardus Vos on the Descent, curtouesy of Nick Batzig (I haven’t read through all or any of this but being that it’s Vos, it’s worth bookmarking). (HT Reformation21).

A Plea by Mark Jones to keep the Descent in the Creed. Though I don’t agree with the reasoning (my thesis argues for a different understanding and keeping the line) I do agree with the sentiment of keeping it!

Eric Hutchinson’s Should We Ascent to the Descent, [Must Read] is a great little piece that condenses much of my thesis into a very readable article, while providing some interesting points of reference that I hadn’t know of before. This is the one I’d read if you are interested. I especially appreciate how Hutchen’s says that the Descent clause is found in both Arian and Orthodox alike, this was not something the two sides battled on (as I note in my thesis they battle on Christ’s ontology – who He is, not what he does).

H. B. Swete’s book The Apostles’ Creed in Primitive Christian has a chapter on the Descent that is proving to be very informative, from the 1900s. Being that the Descent may date back to the 2nd century, we aren’t finding that many new information on it!

Eusebius’s Church History, Book 1, Chapter 13 (in Schaff’s Nicene and Post-Nicene Father’s 2, volume 1). What is of note, is that Eusebius apparently found some epistle in Edessa that breezes right through the Descent into Hell. As the editors note, this is likely to be a true statement (though the epistle is not part of inspired Scripture). There is no mention of this being a novel idea (the Descent) and likely shows that this concept predates Eusebius (~260 – 340 AD).


Are the Old Testament Saints in Heaven … (Part 3)

Please review both of them first (in order mind you). First off, I write this at the behest of a friend, whose encouragement for these little articles makes me know at least one person is reading them.

What’s the New Testament say?

One argument that I hear is that Sheol in the OT means grave, because, look at its usage in context. That’s all fine and good, though I don’t think it accounts for the richness of the Hebrew language. But I think it begins to fall apart when one takes into account the New Testament usage of the word Hades.

When the OT was translated in the lingua franca of the day Greek, they made some curious editorial choices. One of those was to translate the word Sheol as Hades. Now if you know your Greek mythology (you can consult Disney’s Hercules if you need a quick refresher), you’ll notice that Hades has a lot of cultural baggage associated with it. It is the god of the underworld and the underworld (both named Hades). In Greek mythology it was the place that disembodied souls went. As an aside Greek has a word for grave tophos, which means the place where you put dead bodied.

It would be like today, translating a word we think means “grave” as “hell.” You’d probably be inclined to say – why don’t we use “grave” instead, since people often associate hell was some incorporeal afterlife motif. I’d agree with you. So when the Greek OT uses Hades for nearly all usages of the Hebrew that makes you wonder.

Well how does the NT use the word Hades? In nearly all cases it doesn’t seem to be “grave.” Matt 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13–14; and one use of Tartarus in 2 Pet. 2:4 (compare Jude 6). Also there is something “under the earth” (Rev. 5:3, 13; Phil 2:10).

So let’s walk through some of these:

Tartarus is not synonymous with Hades but it’s pretty close (and the ESV actually used the word “hell” when translating it in 2 Pet. 2:4). But the rich man ends up in Hades after he dies in a parable of Jesus (Luke 16). Hades has gates (Matt. 16:18); a key (Rev. 1:18; cf., Rev. 20:1 a key to the bottomless pit), houses the dead (Rev. 20:13-14), and even a personified rider who rides with death (Rev. 6:8).

Heaven is juxtaposed with Hades (Matt. 16:18; Luke 10:15; see also the Apostles’ Creed) and Jesus is “there” in Hades (Acts 2:27, 31) or rather, was there, but unlike David (Ps. 16) is now in heaven (Acts 1; cf., Rom. 10:6-8).

Evil angels are tossed into this bottomless pit called Tartarus (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6) and something exists “under the earth” to both bow down at the name of Jesus and not be found to be able to open the scroll of the book of life (Phil. 2:10 and Rev. 5:3, 13; respectively).


So the NT, when read in light of the Pseudepigrapha and the OT, seems to say that Hades is a real place. Hades looks to be very similar to Sheol and people exist there in some form. If the NT has any bearing on the OT, I don’t think it’s acceptable to read every instance of Sheol as grave, but rather a place disembodied souls went to. Now that brings to it a much bigger question – what happened to the OT saints after Jesus came…?

Update: By the way, you should see Hell, Hades, Gehenna and the Realm of the Dead (Acts 2:27) by Bill Mounce which goes into some difference between the Gehenna and Hades. He confirms most of what I think I’ve said above.