Monday, June 04, 2007

Jesus in Hell?: Part 4a

I would never want to try to refute the Scriptural evidence, but I would love to discuss those passages in light of their context and perhaps come to a better understanding as to what they are really saying. I do not believe they are teaching that Jesus went to hell.
What's the difference?
The Apostle's Creed is more likely referring to the grave rather than a place for the afterlife. Also keep in mind that the AC was not originally written in English and is from the Old Latin Creed. It is perfectly acceptable to translate the AC as "grave" or "death". As many churches have done. And this is consistent with the evidence from the New Testament.
First of all, you have yet to prove that "grave" is the understanding of the Apostles' Creed (AC) that is "more likely." Just because "grave" is a possible definition, that does not mean it is the "more likely" one. Secondly, the AC was originally written in Greek, not Latin, so if we want to know what was truly intended by the Creed, we need to go to the Greek (which I will do here shortly). Finally, my understanding is perfectly consistent with the NT evidence (as I hope to also show).

That said, on to your next post:
I have a couple of disagreements:
#1 Scriptural-
Before we get into that, what is your stance on the "It is finished" argument that you used earlier? You didn't say anything about my response to that argument. Does that mean that you realize now that it doesn't work? Also, what about the other Scriptural passages that I cited?
Eph. 4 is about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. What Paul is getting at here is very similar to what he is getting at in Colossians, Jesus is the Messiah expected and one way we know this is that he did indeed lead a battle against his enemies and has achieved victory. This was one of the major messianic expectations of the 2nd temple Jews. Paul disagrees with this expectation however in that he sees this battle and victory not through military and political means, but rather on the Cross (battle) and in his resurrection (victory).
I can agree with that. None of what you have said so far contradicts his descent into "hell."
I understand the temptation given the popular tradition to see "he had also descended into the lower regions" as referring to hell. But this does not make sense. Lower regions is exactly what it says it is, "the earth". Jesus descended into the earth (grave) in order to defeat sin and death itself.
Perhaps my interpretation is the popular tradition for a reason. At any rate, now's a good time to look at the actual Greek word, the same word used both in Scripture and in the Creed.

The Greek word in question is adou. It is found 10 times in the NT. Only once does the KJV translate adou as "grave" (in 1 Cor 15:55), but the biblical manuscripts that informed newer translations of the Bible have qanate for 1 Cor 15:55 instead of adou. Every other time, the KJV translates adou as "hell." The RSV and the ASV transliterate the word and just put "Hades." One translation of a verse who's Greek original differs in various manuscripts should hardly be considered the rule. In almost every instance, adou is either translated as "hell" or transliterated as "Hades."

Now, what is Hades? It is "the unseen world" and "the realm of the dead" (Nave's Topical Bible), "the state or place of the dead" (Easton's Bible Dictionary), "the place where the souls and the spirits of all humans went until the cross" (Dictionary of Prophecy Terms), "the unseen world" and "an intermediate state between death and resurrection" (Smith's Bible Dictionary). What's even more important is that adou (or "Hades") is the Greek word used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew lwaX, or "Sheol." And what is Sheol? It is the abode of the dead, where all souls went, a place thought to be down in the lowest regions of the earth (cf. "Sheol," Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology).

From all this, it should be easy to see that Hades was more than your little plot six feet under. It was the abode of the dead. Death meant entrace into this place. Jesus conquers death by conquering this place, by freeing the righteous there and leaving Hades (instead of being held captive like every other soul).
His resurrection is his victory over his enemies. The imagery here is of the Roman victory procession which would take place when Rome was victorious over her enemies. In his resurrection Jesus led a host of captives and gave gifts to men. Sin and death are defeated and we have the gift of freedom and an inheritance as sons. Also note that Paul is always concerned with the political climate...he is always exalting Jesus as the true Lord over that of Ceasar and the Kingdom Jesus has inaugurated at his resurrection as superior to that of the Roman Empire.
I think you're a little off on the imagery here. The image in Eph 4:8 is not one of a procession of enemies that you have captured in war. Jesus ascended with his friends, not his enemies! Look at the passage again:
Eph 4:4-10 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. 8 Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." 9 (In saying, "He ascended," what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
The image is actually one of the hero who enters into enemy territory and frees his captive comrades. As Baker's dictionary tells us: "The descent into Hades is a common motif in ancient religions. The heroes or the gods descend into Hades to perform a rescue, to triumph over death, or as part of the recurring seasons of the agricultural year." Hades is seen an adversarial kingdom, which is why Jesus says in Mt 16:18-19 that the gates of Hades will not prevail against the Church and the kingdom of heaven. He is ascending with "a host of captives," as in, those who were captive to death and Hades but are now freed by he who is "above all and through all and in all." Note that he "descended into the lower parts of the earth." The "lower parts of the earth" is a reference to Hades, as Baker's dictionary has already revealed. "To be buried, to go down to the grave, to descend into hades, are equivalent expressions" (Easton's Bible Dictionary).
Simply, it is a great leap to say that this text teaches that Jesus went to hell. Especially when we understand that Paul's main point is to show that the death and resurrection of Jesus was his great victory over sin and death. He is the warrior messiah expected by that culture.
Hopefully, the evidence I have offered shows that it is not that great of a leap after all. In fact, it is perfectly in line with eschatological belief up to and during the time of Christ. In my next post I'll address your theological disagreements. If you don't mind, please wait on me to post again before you address what I have written so far.

Sorry this is so long

Pax Christi,

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