Thursday, April 2, 2009

"Descended into hell"

Nancy Guthrie quotes J.I. Packer to explain that "hell" isn't "Hell" in the Apostles' Creed:
Whenever I recite the Apostle’s Creed in a congregation, I tend to hold my breath to see how the person who typed in the PowerPoint will handle the “I believe in...the holy catholic church.” Too many times it is mistakenly capitalized and I cringe. And it is obvious why the mistake is so often made. The term “catholic” in our day has come to denote a denomination rather than it’s true meaning describing the universal nature of the church of Jesus Christ.

I have to admit that I have often wondered exactly what the creed means when we say that Jesus, “descended into hell.” And I’m guessing I am not alone. .... Packer helps us understand.
The English is misleading, for “hell” has changed its sense since the English form of the Creed was fixed. Originally, “hell” meant the place of the departed as such, corresponding to the Greek Hades and the Hebrew Sheol. That is what it means here, where the Creed echoes Peter’s statement that Psalm 16:10, “thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades” (so RSV: AV has “hell”), was a prophecy fulfilled when Jesus rose (see Acts 2:27–31). But since the seventeenth century, “hell” has been used to signify only the state of final retribution for the godless, for which the New Testament name is Gehenna.

What the Creed means, however, is that Jesus entered, not Gehenna, but Hades—that is, that he really died, and that it was from a genuine death, not a simulated one, that he rose. .... (more) » He “Descended Into Hell”

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