I know some lay Christians will be baulking at the title but they should rest assured that orthodox Christians do believe Jesus went to Hell (for ‘proclamation’ purposes), just consult their creeds:
The Apostles’ Creed reads: ‘He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried, descended to hell, rose from the dead on the third day’
The Athanasian Creed, in turn, declares: ‘Who suffered for our salvation, descended to hell, rose from the dead on the third day’
Of course, these creeds do not specifically state the length of time Jesus spent in hell though the period of three days has been banded about.
Does Luke contradict the Christian Creed?
The Gospels have nothing about Jesus descending to hell. Luke has Jesus stating he will be in paradise on the SAME day of his alleged death along with the ‘criminal’ whom Jesus addresses immediately prior to his alleged death:
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” [Luke 23:43 – NIV]
How do serious Trinitarian Christians reconcile this? It’s a serious question.
Reasoning behind the ‘Jesus going to Hell’ story…
Now, if I recall correctly, Geza Vermes (The Resurrection) touches on this issue and intimates the idea of Jesus going into Sheol (the underworld) was designed to appease Pauline Christianity’s target audience, the Graeco-Roman pagans, who would have been concerned about their forefathers and past greats who never knew of Christ. Hence the introduction of the belief in their man god (Christians like to use a subtle variation, ‘god man’) going down to ‘the depths of the earth’ and proclaiming to those ‘imprisoned spirits’ [Ref 1 Peter 3:19 and Ephesians 4:9]
A Faith Questioning Synopsis?
Christian creeds advance the belief in Jesus descending to Hell. Yet, the more discerning will notice in the entire New Testament, Jesus makes no mention of this mission to Hell, nor do any of the Gospel writers. In fact, Luke, in his version of the story, seemingly contradicts the idea of Jesus going to hell as he depicts Jesus as ascending to paradise!
Our Christian friends may offer some form of reconciliation but the real test is to check whether their reconciliation is Biblically and logically sound or simply foreign philosophy interjected into obscure texts to strengthen the already convicted…
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