descent into Hades

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The Greek Hades (REB, NRSV, NJB, Luke 16: 23) replaces ‘*hell’ of AV, which is a translation of the Hebrew sheol (Ezek. 31: 15, NRSV, REB, NJB). In the OT (e.g. Jonah 2: 2–6) and in the Dead Sea scrolls there are hints of the idea of a descent into Hades. Such a journey is ascribed to Jesus by the NT in 1 Pet. 3: 19 f., 4: 6. See also Acts 2: 24–31 and Rom. 10: 7. It was known in the Middle Ages as Christ's ‘harrowing of hell’ and it was held that he was in combat there with Satan to liberate departed spirits. The belief is possibly found as early as the 5th–6th‐cent. apocryphal gospel of Nicodemus. There was a need to explain what the Lord was doing between Good Friday and Easter Day: it was declared that his redemptive love and power extends through the whole of time. A modern explanation is that Christ not only died on the cross but also shared the experience of being dead in solidarity with all sinful humanity and with the extremity of evil.

Subjects: Biblical Studies.

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