Talk:Harrowing of Hell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Christianity / Jesus / Theology / Catholicism / Eastern / Lutheranism / Calvinism / Latter Day Saints (Rated C-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Christianity, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Christianity on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by Jesus work group (marked as Mid-importance).
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by theology work group (marked as Mid-importance).
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by WikiProject Catholicism (marked as Mid-importance).
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by WikiProject Eastern Orthodoxy (marked as Mid-importance).
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by WikiProject Lutheranism (marked as Mid-importance).
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by WikiProject Calvinism (marked as Mid-importance).
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by WikiProject Latter Day Saint movement (marked as Low-importance).

Into Hell[edit]

The phrase "he descended into Hell" was interpolated into the so-called "Apostles' Creed, the old Roman creed mentioned by Tertullian. Look at the three early versions quoted at the Catholic Encyclopedia website: Someone with more interest than I might sketch the late invention of this "Harrowing of Hell' and its medieval flowering. It is part of Christian mythology, not of Scripture, save the author of Peter saying that Christ preached to them that were dead. (1 Peter 4:6), a solipsistic divagation unsupported by any similar concept anywhere else in the New Testament. Wetman 05:53, 29 Mar 2004 (UTC)

Well, actually, the myth/belief goes back awfully far -- there's a book coming out by Georgia Frank, a professor at Colgate University, about the early Coptic versions of the Harrowing of Hell. Here's her web cv: What I mean by "awfully far" and what you mean by "late" might be the same thing, of course. Religious controversy tends to do that. The dates I'm talking about are 3rd-4th century, but that's certainly earlier than the "medieval flowering" -- and, in fact, Prof. Frank would say the belief was in full-bloom in the Patristic period. (Anonymous)
No reference to Dr Frank's book is yet given in the article, nor has the above website been linked. In fact, there is no References section at all. Could some knowledgeable editor add some printed discussions of the "Harrowing of Hell"? --Wetman 21:51, 6 August 2006 (UTC)


it disturbs the conscience of some believers to imagine that when he died, Jesus went to Hell Is "conscience" really meant here? Why does this disturb the Christian conscience? Wetman 21:08, 4 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Perhaps not the best choice of words; I changed it to "sensibilities," which may not be any happier. Smerdis of Tlön 00:30, 5 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Precisely! Wetman 05:32, 5 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Meelar suggested beliefs, which seems no better. I rephrased it to say that "some believers are disturbed by the doctrine's assertion. . . ." Smerdis of Tlön 15:16, 5 Apr 2004 (UTC)

"Today, you will be with me in paradise"[edit]

Quick question: how is the doctrine of the harrowing of hell reconciled with Jesus' statement "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:41)?

He didn't spend a full day there? or Dismas didn't come with? Smerdis of Tlön 11:40, 19 Apr 2004 (UTC)
Challoner's explanation is that the word paradise as used in that context was a euphemism; both Jesus and the thief would go to "Abraham's bosom" (Limbo/Sheol) pending the Resurrection of Jesus, which would be transformed into a paradise by Jesus being there. Ellsworth 16:28, 17 Feb 2005 (UTC)
The simpler historicist explanation is that at the time of the writing of Luke the Second Coming and End Times were thought to be immanent, a PoV revived by Millenarianism from time to time. This is to take the meaning of the reported words at their plainest sense, without any layers of special constructions. The Harrowing of Hell is a later development, unrelated to anything in Luke whatsoever, but with rich developments in apocrypha. --Wetman 17:01, 17 Feb 2005 (UTC)
I'm not saying I agree with Challoner. I'm just recapitulating the comment he made in his note on that verse in his edition of the Douai-Rheims translation. Ellsworth 19:12, 17 Feb 2005 (UTC)
Precisely. "Simpler than Challoner's explanation" was understood, I imagined. No offense intended. --Wetman 19:30, 17 Feb 2005 (UTC)

This isn't a difficult question ... At first it might appear so, but in fact, when put logically, it works out quite easily. Christ descended into Hell, right? (If the Harrowing of Hell is true; I personally am not sure whether or not I believe in it; many at my church do, but it is far from Baptist "dogma.") Well, remembering the words of the psalmist in Psalm 139, God is not merely in Heaeven, but also in Sheol--in the Grave. He is, after all, omnipresent. Now, since Jesus is God (I am fully convicted of this), He too must be omnipresent; therefore, He can be both in Heaven as the Father with Dismas, while simultaneously in the depths of Hell as the Son with Adam, Eve, etc.

None taken. Ellsworth
Maybe we should check the oldest available source... what is the original of "today"... the easiest explanation may be one of euphemism or hyperbole. By the way, I have that as Luke 23:43, not 23:41. --Dante Alighieri | Talk 23:04, Mar 14, 2005 (UTC)
Here's even another possible answer, regarding ambiguities in the Greek: link. --Dante Alighieri | Talk 23:14, Mar 14, 2005 (UTC)

Additional Protestant Views[edit]

Though I hate the division denominalization causes, I attend a Baptist (Protestant) church. I am very fond of the Baptist branch of theology as well as its open-mindedness. One of the people in my youth ministry believes in the Harrowing of Hell; and in a very interesting conversation with my future high school minister, he revealed that he, too, gave the HoH much plausibility, though both arguments have their strengths and weaknesses. Because beliefs of this sort are quite commonplace within many Protestant churches, isn't it only right for them to be represented ... well, by more than just a short paragraph implying ALL Protestant groups view the HoH as "figurative"? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 20:24, 11 February 2007 (UTC).

Caption for the illustration[edit]

The excellent image is from a 14th century illuminated manuscript. Without a caption it's just a pretty postage stamp. I feel that the source of an image is part of the information it conveys. How about the implied contrast to the City of God in this image? Would it spoil the look to give it a caption? --Wetman 11:12, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

I unfortunately don't have much more information about the provenance of the manuscript that was from, but a caption no doubt would improve it, especially if it's going to keep getting moved to the right. (I think it looks much better on the left, myself.) -- Smerdis of Tlön 21:05, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
It was most certainly on the left on its ms leaf. We have a couple of visually-impaired administrators who officiously stack all illustrations down the right margin. It seems to be French, 14th century. Bibliotheque Nationale? --Wetman 21:26, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
Bibliothèque Nationale indeed; specifically, the Petites Heures de Jean de Berry, a 14th-century Book of Hours. I ran across this very image a few days ago while searching for an illustration for seraph. —Charles P. (Mirv) 05:17, 2 May 2005 (UTC)
Too famous: I shoulda nailed it! --Wetman 06:17, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

New image[edit]

I found a Greek Orthodox icon depicting the Harrowing of Hell, but perhaps someone cqan scale it down for use in the article? -> --BirgerLangkjer 13:20, 22 August 2005 (UTC)

I resized it. It should fit now--Guthrie 13:54, 16 November 2005 (UTC)
Very nice. I added a thumb to the article. FWIW, the thumb directive will display an automatically scaled down version of any image. Smerdis of Tlön 16:21, 16 November 2005 (UTC)


Shouldn't there be some mention of Dante's Divine Comedy? Isn't the first part basically about the Harrowing of Hell? Or am I completely off-track here? The Disco King 17:05, 27 February 2006 (UTC)

No, the Inferno is about Dante's tour of Hell in the company of the ghost of the poet Virgil. The Harrowing of Hell had not taken place by that time, and the Paradiso concludes with the vision of Christ and the Heavenly Host. Smerdis of Tlön 17:29, 27 February 2006 (UTC)
Hello; I'll grant that I haven't finished the Inferno yet, but I'm fairly certain Dante affirms the Harrowing of Hell in the Inferno. For instance, during Dante's tour of Hell, he keeps noticing piles of rock, a broken bridge, etc., that were caused by Christ's descent into Hell - it is also mentioned that Christ rescued the Patriarchs and the other devout Jews from the First Circle/Limbo. If I were confident that I could do a good job explaining the Inferno I'd add a section on it myself, but since I'm not, I figured the best I could do was re-open the debate. Vespers 03:42, 15 April 2006 (UTC)

Bible Translations[edit]

Can anyone tell me what translation the passage from Psalm 68:18-19 is taken? The NSRV is referenced with some of the other scripture passages, but this passage doesn't adhere to any translation I compared it with--and it seems to be saying something a bit different than the others. GnatsFriend 23:23, 06 March 2006


Should there be some mention of those religious scholars who tie in the myth of Orpheus to that of the Harrowing of Hell? --ScienceApologist 07:07, 22 April 2006 (UTC)

...if they can be identified, perhaps even with a reference. --Wetman 09:26, 22 April 2006 (UTC)
This useful parallel has not been pursued; there must be an extensive literature. --Wetman 21:51, 6 August 2006 (UTC)


The Greek in this article needs diacritics! - (), 11:08, 27 July 2006 (UTC)

The Biblical manuscripts usually relied on by scholars don't have them; they are a later, Byzantine invention. I don't think they are necessary. Smerdis of Tlön 14:46, 27 July 2006 (UTC)
Should we print them in all caps as well? The Biblical editions usually relied on by scholars do have diacritics. They also attempt to derive the original text from thousands of corrupted manuscripts -- I don't think you would argue that we should use any particular MS, errors and all, would you? -leigh (φθόγγος) 01:56, 25 December 2006 (UTC)

Additionally, I am skeptical about the necessity of so much Greek text in this article. I love Greek as much as anybody, but this is an English-language encyclopedia, and Greek should be quoted only when the issue at hand depends on the specific phrasing of the original text -- which is certainly true for certain parts of this article and less true for others. The article on The Myth of Sisyphus doesn't have long passages in French; English translations are sufficient to convey the relevant meaning. Huge blocks of Greek aren't going to mean very much to many people. -leigh (φθόγγος) 01:56, 25 December 2006 (UTC)

"Every place"[edit]

The following is doubletalk: "By insisting that "every place" would have to include Hell, a parallel is affirmed." No "parallel" is discoverable, let alone "affirmed". The following was previously suppressed: "Yet no scholiast has affirmed that Christ preached at the bottom of the sea, thus the extension of "every place" is selective." The simple logic that the assertion "every place" incudes Hell is a selective application needs to be addressed. This article needs a neutral and logical analysis of this equivocation, and especially needs to pinpoint the origin of the Patristic assertion that "every place" would have to include Hell—though not the bottom of the sea, which is equally unreachable to any critical reader who pauses over ths assertion. This slender connection is an important thread in the history of this idea. Could it be discussed outside an RC viewpoint, without disallowing the RC view, nts, but identifying it as such? --Wetman 21:51, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

"Hymns proper to the weekend"[edit]

Quotes from the hymns and the approximate dates of their composition would give this reference more substance in the context of the history of the idea. --Wetman 21:51, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

Removed a number of {{fact}} tags[edit]

I removed a number of {{fact}} tags that had been added to the headings in this article. These had been apparently added in Feb. 2007. Wherever they belong, they do not belong on the headings. There wasn't really anything that I saw in the edit history that indicated what further referencing might be sought by them, and no contemporary discussion here, either. These requests belong in text, not in the headings of the paragraphs, by my understanding. - Smerdis of Tlön 18:12, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Roman Catholic[edit]

I have removed the following from the article as only indirectly relevant and also unsourced. I place it here to enable discussion on the possible return to the article of some or all of it, with appropriate citations.

According to the topology of the Underworld developed by Catholic thinkers in the middle ages, Sheol consists of different areas, or levels:

  • Infernus (Latin, "underworld"): Gehenna, purgatory, and each limbo was termed an infernus, often translated as "hell."
  • Gehenna: the place of eternal torment for the unrighteous damned and the demons. This is the place one most often thinks of when one hears the word "Hell."
  • Purgatory: where the saved souls go to be purged of the temporal effects of their sins in preparation for Heaven; it is not actual part of Hell, but not Heaven either
  • the Limbo of the Infants (Limbus Infantium): a place of perfect, natural subjective happiness to which those who died before Baptism (and so are denied the Beatific Vision) but who have not committed personal sins (so don't warrant punishment) go. The existence of the Limbo of the Infants is not a matter of dogma, but a theological conclusion that derives from and preserves understanding of both the justice and mercy of God (note that current Roman Catholic theology teaches that unbaptised infants still receive the sacrament of baptism through the Baptism of Desire, and that the concept of Limbo is not part of the doctrine);
  • the Limbo of the Patriarchs (Limbus Patrum): where the righteous who lived before Jesus came to earth went. It is this part of "Hell" that Christ descended into. Repeating the teaching of the Roman Catechism issued by the Council of Trent, the Catechism of the Catholic Church maintains: "It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.[1] Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him."[1]. Thomas Aquinas affirms the same teaching in the Summa Theologiae, III, Q52, A5. [2]

Early church father Ambrose believed that if Christ could not have suffered in Hell, then Christ could not have suffered on the Cross. For St. John Chrysostom, the harrowing of Hell was a paradox that was an essential part of the Christian mystery of faith: "Hell took a body, and discovered God; it took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see" (from John Chrysostom's Paschal homily). Much later, St. Thomas Aquinas explained the doctrine, saying that "when Christ descended into hell, by the power of his Passion he delivered the saints from this penalty whereby they were excluded from the life of glory...."

There is an ancient homily on the subject, of unknown authorship, usually entitled The Lord's Descent into Hell that is the second reading at Matins on Holy Saturday in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, in his innovative book Mysterium Paschale (especially pp. 148-188 in 1990 English edition), explores the theological meaning of Holy Saturday, where the Son Jesus Christ dies and descends to the dead, to be resurrected by God the Father, thus revealing that God can endure and conquer godlessness, abandonment, and death. God, in Jesus Christ, goes as far from God as one can go (Hell), and still is God, the Son Himself—even there—living utterly for the Father. Lima 20:09, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Pistis Sophia[edit]

The first part of Pistis Sophia describes Christ's activities in the underworld extensively. I think it should be mentioned. - tSR - Nth Man (talk) 06:15, 18 February 2012 (UTC)

"However, there are no explicit New Testament references to Christ having descended to the underworld"[edit]

This statement appears to be false. Acts 2 has many references to Jesus descending into and being in the realm of the dead / Hell (depending on translation), ex. Acts 2:31 "... he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead" NIV (Stan Burton) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2602:306:31B8:F550:0:0:0:45 (talk) 12:54, 17 May 2014 (UTC)

Looking at that quote in context (Acts 2), it's actually referring to David, not Jesus. DoctorKubla (talk) 18:21, 17 May 2014 (UTC)
    • ^ Roman Catechism I, 6, 3.