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Source: (consider it) Thread: Purgatory: "He descended into Hell"
Alan Cresswell

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Over on the future of evangelicalism thread a tangent has developed regarding evangelical issues with the line in the Apostles Creed that Christ descended into Hell. I'm bringing the discussion to a seperate thread where it would be appropriate to discuss not just the issues of evangelicals but also the views of other traditions regarding this line in the Apostles Creed.

Some quotes from the discussion that has already started:
quote:
Originally posted by A.Pilgrim:
quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
...
"He descended into Hell (or Sheol)" is trickier, to be honest.

quote:
Originally posted by daronmedway:
Interestingly enough, Grudem has a problem with that line too.

And so do I. When taking part in a service which includes a recitation of the Apostles' Creed (and I'm very wide-ranging in the kinds of services I join in) I omit that phrase. I do take care to think about the words that I'm led into saying during liturgical services.

quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
Of all the lines in either Nicene or Apostles, that's the one that's hardest for evangelicals. Because, it's only tenuously supported by Scripture, and some of those supporting verses are among the most difficult to interpret. Even worse, it's a line that relates to an understanding of death most evangelicals don't share. Generally evangelicals will believe either that on death we are judged or we are unconscious and unaware until awakened for judgement at the Second Coming, and from there to Heaven or Hell with Hell being either a place of eternal torment in punishment for sins or oblivion. A Sheol where the dead wait around for judgement is something alien, with shades of that Purgatory nonsense that we Protestants rid ourselves of at the Reformation.

The times I've been at churches using the Apostles Creed generally the phrase has been translated to "he descended to the dead", which most can say as just a poetic statement "he was really, truly, totally dead". But, it is a phrase that many would read as saying something much more than that. I don't even know the circumstances of what was going on in the Church that caused that phrase to be included, what heresy were people falling into that needed a statement that Christ descended to Sheol to counter?

quote:
Originally posted by Martin PC not & Ship's Biohazard:
He certainly descended in to Hell. The grave. He certainly didn't harrow it. That's an absurdly entity proliferating misinterpretation. And not in the Nicene or Constantinopolitan creeds. Nor is any wild, mandatory extrapolation of the church beyond militant and metaphoric.

quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
I'd see myself as moderately evangelical in the English and CofE sense of the word rather than the American one, but I have to admit I'm puzzled by this questioning of the descent into hell. I haven't really picked this one up before.

Is it because there isn't enough mention of it in scripture (one, I think, but a fairly clear one) so that people feel it's a more optional belief, rather than one to be insisted upon, even if the vast majority of us do actually accept it? Or is there a significant constituency who think it's actually wrong?

It strikes me as fairly obvious that when Jesus died, as Son of Man, he went where we all go when we die, but as Son of God, the grave could not hold him. He harrowed hell, rose from the dead and led captivity captive. When light came into the ultimate place of darkness, the darkness could not 'comprehend' (in it's literal sense) it. What's the problem?

quote:
Originally posted by daronmedway:
He told the thief on the cross that thy would be together in paradise that very day.

Oh, and is seems to suggest that Jesus' saving work began before his resurrection thus driving a wedge between the cross and the resurrection and, implicitly, downplaying the soteriological significance of the resurrection.

quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
The resurrection, though, is the breaking of the power of death and hell. It is the moment of triumph, it is not the battle.

Using Christ's words to the thief to argue against the harrowing of hell implies that Jesus went for a quick jaunt to heaven between the crucifixion and resurrection which is a... pretty bizarre take.

quote:
Originally posted by daronmedway:
I'm not necessarily advocating the position. I'm just stating it out of interest in the conversation. It may be that Christ proclaimed his victory in hell "that day" and entered paradise. I don't think it's at all weird to think that Jesus went to heaven between his death and resurrection.

quote:
Originally posted by ken:
Eh? God the Son's saving work began before creation. That's as evangelical a doctrine as you like. Fully biblical.

Jesus's saving work on earth, (insofar as we can think of Jesus apart from God the Son, being good Chalcedonians) begins at his conception and birth. "For unto you is born this day a saviour, which is Christ the Lord". The baby Jesus was a worthy object of worship, before he had done anything yet. The angels sang it, so it must be true [Smile]

quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
I'd have thought that a good Calvinist like your good self, daronmedway, would emphasise that Christ's soteriological work started way before the crucifixion, way before the Incarnation even ... 'the lamb slain before the foundation of the earth.'

It's all there in eternity, before Abraham was I am and so on ... before anything that has been made was made ...

I agree with you and the other reformed, Reformed and evangelical or Evangelical posters on this thread that the cross should be central ... but it's not the cross in isolation.

The 'Christ event' encompasses the whole thing, as I'm sure we'd all agree - his pre-existence as the eternal Word, his glorious Incarnation, his life, ministry, teachings, his passion, death and resurrection, his ascension and seating at the right-hand of God the Father, his coming again in glory ...

It doesn't do to fillet out any of these things from the whole, whether the crucifixion, resurrection, the moral teachings or anything else - it's all of a piece.

But you knew that already.

quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
My take on "descended to the dead" may be unorthodox! The harrowing of Hell understanding, however "true" or "mythological" it might be, may point to a significant truth. The love of God which is seen in Christ Jesus our Lord and demonstrated on the cross, transcends both time and the flow of time.

I think folks may have been wrestling with the eternal fate of those born before the crucifixion, before the proclamation of the gospel in post-resurrection time. The BC dimension, if you like. The notion of a rescue mission may fit in with that. The light shone not just on those who walked in darkness but were imprisoned in it.

quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
That was also my first thought when thinking about this topic a few years ago.

Plus - if you want to build a theology around edge cases - take this together with the parable on Lazarus, and you get the idea that everyone is in Sheol at the moment, with some in the good bit (Paradise) and some in the other bit.

quote:
Originally posted by Martin PC not & Ship's Biohazard:
As I have explained many times here, the harrowing of hell is just bad hermeneutics based on Peter's arcane style.



[ 02. April 2014, 19:16: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Barnabas62
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Thanks, Alan. It is a fascinating topic, to me at least, and I would be interested to hear from different traditions as well.

Also, I'm not quite sure how descended to the dead got into the Apostles' creed and how that superseded the old Roman Creed. The phrase is not in the Nicene Creed either, nor is the Apostles' Creed used by the Eastern traditions. There's some history there that I'm not fully aware of.

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I've always liked the traditional understanding of this, especially in the iconography of the Church. We see the devil being bound and Christ leading Adam and Eve out of Hades. He defeated death and opened the gates to heaven which no man had entered until then.
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Gamaliel
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I can see the 'problems' with it but I'm with Ad Orientem - I love the Orthodox iconography on this one. I once attended an Orthodox service when they had the icon of the Harrowing of Hell out prominently - perhaps it was some liturgical season that celebrates that.

It's a fascinating icon. It'll do for me. The rest of you can say what you like.

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daronmedway
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quote:
Originally posted by ken:
quote:
Originally posted by daronmedway:
Oh, and it seems to suggest that Jesus' saving work began before his resurrection thus driving a wedge between the cross and the resurrection and, implicitly, downplaying the soteriological significance of the resurrection.

Eh? God the Son's saving work began before creation. That's as evangelical a doctrine as you like. Fully biblical.

Jesus's saving work on earth, (insofar as we can think of Jesus apart from God the Son, being good Chalcedonians) begins at his conception and birth. "For unto you is born this day a saviour, which is Christ the Lord". The baby Jesus was a worthy object of worship, before he had done anything yet. The angels sang it, so it must be true [Smile]

Quite. Let me rephrase. I should have said: it seems to suggest that the temporal completion Jesus' saving work was achieved before his resurrection thus driving a wedge between the cross and the resurrection and, implicitly, downplaying the soteriological significance of the resurrection.

Anyway, I wasn't stating my view in any case. I was just finking' aloud about an interesting tangent. I shall now join the conversation on the other thread.

[ 21. December 2013, 15:41: Message edited by: daronmedway ]

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Martin60
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Happy for the symbolism we create from what wasn't there in the first place, so I'm afraid I'm with you and Ad Orientem too Gamaliel.

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daronmedway
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I guess what I'm trying to get at is that our justification - and therefore our ability to stand faultless before the throne of the almighty - is explicitly linked by the Apostle Paul to the resurrection, and Abraham's presumptive faith in that resurrection. As Paul says in Romans 4:
quote:
22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness”. 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
In this sense, ISTM, that the objective reality of atonement for sin and justification by faith require a crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. This seems to cast a question mark over the harrowing of hell, unless I'm missing something of course.

[ 21. December 2013, 15:53: Message edited by: daronmedway ]

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Gamaliel
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Only if you read the Pauline and Abrahamic material you've referred to with Reformed spectacles on. Not everyone would read these verses in the same way as you have done.

People wearing different spectacles would read them differently.

None of us have 20/20 vision. We all wear specs when we approach the scriptures. You have Reformed specs on. Others have RC specs on, others Orthodox, others Wesleyan, Lutheran ...

quote:
In this sense, ISTM, that the objective reality of atonement for sin and justification by faith require a crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. This seems to cast a question mark over the harrowing of hell, unless I'm missing something of course.
I don't see why it should, necessarily. I don't pretend to understand the more medieval ideas of the 'harrowing of Hell' but it seems to me that the way the iconography - of both East and West - has it, those who are retrospectively redeemed - as it were - by Christ's passion and resurrection - are waiting to be let out of prison at the appointed time.

I saw some terrific frescoes in Florence on this theme back in the summer. The OT saints and Patriarchs were gleefully streaming out of their underground prisons whilst the demons cowered behind rocks and pillars with their hands over their mouths, shocked.

Then there's the wonderful Fr Angelico depiction in San Marco where Christ appears to burst through the prison door and a demon lies squashed beneath it ...

It's the symbolism of the whole thing ... I don't exercised about the 'literalness' of it. I don't imagine real underground chambers and dungeons, real doors any more than you do.

http://members.bib-arch.org/publication.asp?PubID=BSBR&Volume=19&Issue=3&ArticleID=16

[code hell]

[ 21. December 2013, 17:14: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Gamaliel
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And, of course, in the traditional view of the 'harrowing of hell', Christ descends to the grave/sheol/hell etc in between his death and resurrection ... it's his resurrection that makes the whole thing possible just as it does in any other handling/understanding of the Christ event.

I don't see the problem.

Christ didn't descend into Hell and remain there.

It seems to be that there's no disconnection between Christ's death on the cross and the resurrection in the traditional understanding of the Harrowing of Hell at all. They are two sides of the same coin.

I don't see the problem.

Unless I'm missing something of course ... [Biased]

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by daronmedway:
ISTM, that the objective reality of atonement for sin and justification by faith require a crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. This seems to cast a question mark over the harrowing of hell, unless I'm missing something of course.

With the same caveat (I may be missing something too) my read of it is that resurrection is the moment that the power of death and hell is broken. I think of the harrowing as being Christ bringing the good news to the dead, rallying the troops so to speak, before leading them out into life. Are you taking it to mean that Christ is getting people out of Sheol during those 3 days and hence is opening a box with the crowbar that is inside it?
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daronmedway
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I'm suggesting that before the resurrection of Christ no-one could stand justified in the presence of almighty God, so I can't see how the Lord Jesus could have harrowed hell until after he had ascended to the right hand of the Father.
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Mudfrog
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My view is that there is death in the heart of God and that the event on Calvary was a sacrament of the eternal sacrifice of Christ 'ever-crucified'.

When Jesus died he descended, IMO, into the place of the dead which has two 'sides'.

One side is called Paradise (which the thief also saw) and here the righteous dead went - these were specifically, though not exclusively of course, the parade of the faithful listed in Hebrews 11. These people were in Paradise - or the Bosom of Abraham - on account of the sacrificial death of Christ which was effectual for them because of this eternal principle of sacrificial atonement perfectly seen at Calvary. This place called Paradise is not Heaven.

The other side of Sheol, Hades or 'Death' was called Torment and was the place where the unrighteous dead went. This was a place of shadow and pain and was divided from Paradise.

When Jesus ascended he 'led captivity captive' and the righteous dead ascended with him into Heaven. From now on everyone who dies in the faith of Christ goes to 'be with Christ, which is far better.'
Paradise is now empty.
Sometime at the parousia, the dead (bodies) in Christ shall rise and the redeemed will be whole again, resurrected body, soul and spirit. They will return with Christ to the earth.

However, at present, the other side of Sheol - Torment - is still being populated and here the unrighteous dead wait for the Judgment.
According to John's vision of Judgment Day 'Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.' (Rev 20 v 13)

These, now resurrected to everlasting contempt and then judged at the throne of God, will enter Hell - a place entirely unoccupied until the day of Judgment and never intended for humans. Jesus said that the fire was prepared for the devil and his angels; the tragedy is that humans will follow them there.

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"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid."
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Enoch
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My suspicion is that we are seeing this through our temporal spectacles. Outside time, the crucifixion and resurrection are all part of one process. Certainly, it's my suspicion that once Jesus was crucified, the resurrection was inevitable - death would be unable to hold him.

I saw a nice take in this in a Mystery play earlier this year. A typical, rather luridly villainous Satan is manipulating everything to kill Jesus. He's exultant when he gets the chief priests, Pilate etc all lined up and the process past the point of no return. At that moment, when it's too late to stop the process, to his horror, one of the junior devils points out to him something that in his excitement, he has missed. This is that if Jesus is dead, 'he will come here' i.e. hell, split the place apart and destroy everything they have been trying to do.

The resurrection is soteriologically essential. I'd go further and say that an explanation of the atonement that does not recognise this, is lacking something.

I heard it put once, that if Jesus had simply died for our sins, and not risen, we could die forgiven, but that is all that could happen. We might be cleansed, but we would still be dead.

Here should be a google selection of ikons and other pictures from east and west of the harrowing.

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Pomona
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Sheol is quite different to Hell. The Sheol or 'the grave' that the Israelites believed in was not a place of pain and torment, but silence and sleep. Everybody went there, righteous and unrighteous - we know from the OT that David goes there when he dies. When I read 'He descended to the dead' in the Creed, this is where I think Christ went, and after His resurrection no longer exists. I do not believe in a Hell.

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Consider the work of God: Who is able to straighten what he has bent? [Ecclesiastes 7:13]

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
Sheol is quite different to Hell. The Sheol or 'the grave' that the Israelites believed in was not a place of pain and torment, but silence and sleep. Everybody went there, righteous and unrighteous - we know from the OT that David goes there when he dies. When I read 'He descended to the dead' in the Creed, this is where I think Christ went, and after His resurrection no longer exists. I do not believe in a Hell.

Yes, well that was all David knew. Jesus spoke a little clearer and revealed much more than they knew 1200 years beforehand. You have to do a lot of filleting of the New Testament to get rid of hell.

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"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid."
G.K. Chesterton

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Gamaliel
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What Enoch said.

I can understand daronmedway's temporal objections but can't see the problem ... if the Lamb of God was slain from before the foundation of the earth and God is somehow 'outside' of time then what's the problem?

I don't see the difficulty.

I'm going with the iconography even if it upsets the iconoclasts.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
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Pomona
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
Sheol is quite different to Hell. The Sheol or 'the grave' that the Israelites believed in was not a place of pain and torment, but silence and sleep. Everybody went there, righteous and unrighteous - we know from the OT that David goes there when he dies. When I read 'He descended to the dead' in the Creed, this is where I think Christ went, and after His resurrection no longer exists. I do not believe in a Hell.

Yes, well that was all David knew. Jesus spoke a little clearer and revealed much more than they knew 1200 years beforehand. You have to do a lot of filleting of the New Testament to get rid of hell.
Except that the NT doesn't speak of eternal torment. Some torment yes, but not a permanent Hell. I do believe in Purgatory but not Hell.

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Consider the work of God: Who is able to straighten what he has bent? [Ecclesiastes 7:13]

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
Except that the NT doesn't speak of eternal torment. Some torment yes, but not a permanent Hell. I do believe in Purgatory but not Hell.

Are you sure of that? We'd all like to persuade ourselves of that, but I'm not convinced I can. For a start, what about the lake of fire?

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
quote:
You have to do a lot of filleting of the New Testament to get rid of hell.

Except that the NT doesn't speak of eternal torment. Some torment yes, but not a permanent Hell. I do believe in Purgatory but not Hell.
You drove me to it because it seems you've already filleted your New Testament:


Matthew 25:41 ESV

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.


2 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.


Matthew 25:46 ESV

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


Mark 9:48 ESV

‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

[fixed start of confusing code hell]

[ 22. December 2013, 06:11: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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A.Pilgrim
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quote:
Originally posted by daronmedway:
I guess what I'm trying to get at is that our justification - and therefore our ability to stand faultless before the throne of the almighty - is explicitly linked by the Apostle Paul to the resurrection, and Abraham's presumptive faith in that resurrection. As Paul says in Romans 4:
quote:
22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness”. 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
In this sense, ISTM, that the objective reality of atonement for sin and justification by faith require a crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. This seems to cast a question mark over the harrowing of hell, unless I'm missing something of course.
I've always been intrigued by the observation that one of Jesus's last sayings on the cross was 'It is finished' (John 19:30) – ‘tetelestai’ of which a literal rendition is: ‘It has been finished’ – a cry of triumph and achievement: ‘I’ve done it!’ This has always suggested to me that at least some if not all of Jesus’s redemptive work was completed before he died and rose again. After all, if resurrection had been an essential part of his work, how could he say ‘finished’ if it hadn’t been? BTW, daron, I’m not seeking to contradict the quotation you gave from Romans 4, just add extra evidence that needs to be taken into account. (Having been thinking even as I write, perhaps one could say that as it was God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead, it wasn’t something that Jesus did himself, so he could rightly say that his work was finished, even if the whole ‘process’ wasn’t finalised yet.)

I’ll try to find the time to post more about the main theme of the thread, and explain why I don’t say this line of the Apostles’ Creed. What I’ve posted here is closely relevant to that topic as well, so it isn’t a tangent.

Angus

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LeRoc

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I've always found it interesting that at least some Portuguese (Brazilian) versions of the Apostle's Creed say "He descended into the world of the dead" (Desceu ao mundo dos mortos.)

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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
quote:

quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
[ You have to do a lot of filleting of the New Testament to get rid of hell.

Except that the NT doesn't speak of eternal torment. Some torment yes, but not a permanent Hell. I do believe in Purgatory but not Hell.
You drove me to it because it seems you've already filleted your New Testament:


Matthew 25:41 ESV

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.


2 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.


Matthew 25:46 ESV

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


Mark 9:48 ESV

‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

Well that is from the Evangelical Standard Version [Biased] Of course it's going to promote a belief in Hell since it benefits evangelicals.

Sorry, I believe in a loving and all-powerful God, which means a permanent Hell is impossible.

[descended into confusing code hell]

[ 22. December 2013, 06:08: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Pomona
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And before I get criticised for 'picking and choosing', everyone does this. I may as well pick and choose the acceptable bits, if I didn't discard some parts of the Bible I'd have to agree with rape victims being executed for not crying out loud enough.

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A.Pilgrim
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To the best of my knowledge, the creedal phrase under discussion is derived from 1 Pet.3:19-20. (Link gives fuller context.) If any shipmate knows of any other biblical source(s) I’d be glad to know of it.

I gained an understanding of this passage from an model exegesis by R T France published as part of chapter XIV of the book New Testament Interpretation : Essays on Principles and Methods / edited by I Howard Marshall. Paternoster, 1977, pp 264-278. All that I have time to say is that France puts a very good case for understanding this passage as referring to an action of Jesus that after his resurrection he didn’t go to the abode of the dead, but went to the prison of the fallen angels (who are also referred to in 2Pet 2:4 and Jude 6) to announce that through his death and resurrection he had been victorious over all spiritual powers, and that their judgement was assured. France refutes the doctrine of Christ ‘descending to hell’ – the place of people who have died (Sheol)- by pointing out that the dead are never referred to in the Bible as just ‘spirits’, and that hell or Sheol is never elsewhere referred to as ‘prison’ (phulakē). France also points out that the extra-biblical Book of Enoch says a good deal about the ‘imprisoned fallen angels’ and this would have been part of the background presuppositions of the NT writers and readers.

And while I'm passing...
quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
And before I get criticised for 'picking and choosing', everyone does this.
...

No, I don’t. Filletting out what one doesn’t like from what God wants to communicate seems to me to be a futile act of self-delusion. But the subject of the existence or otherwise of hell is a major tangent that has been gone over extensively on previous threads, so it would seem good to me not to divert down that route again.

Angus

[edit for typo]

[ 21. December 2013, 21:50: Message edited by: A.Pilgrim ]

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Gamaliel
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So, how do you know that you don't pick and choose, Angus?

You might not fillet over this particular issue, but how can you be so confident that you don't over other issues?

I wish I can be as confident, but I can't be.

Nor, I suggest, can anyone else.

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by A.Pilgrim:
To the best of my knowledge, the creedal phrase under discussion is derived from 1 Pet.3:19-20. (Link gives fuller context.) If any shipmate knows of any other biblical source(s) I’d be glad to know of it.

That's my understanding too. At least, the 1 Peter passage is the section of Scripture that best supports the phrase, I'm sure there's plenty in other early Christian writings that is also relevant.

In relation to 1 Peter 3:19-20, I find it a very difficult passage in many ways. It's quite a strange thing for Peter to write. The context is clearly about suffering for righteousness, with the example of Christ who suffered as the Righteous one placed in front of his readers with a "Christ suffered, don't be surprised that you suffer" message. Peter also makes a reference to Noah being saved through water (baptism) with the obvious message that if God save Noah he can save you too, and baptism is a sign of that.

But mixed in with that relatively straight forward message is a load of stuff about preaching to spirits in prison - which spirits, which prison, what message? And, if it's the spirits of the dead, why (apparently) only to those who died in the Flood?

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Gamaliel
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Yes, and there are similarly strange passages in Jude etc ... explicable with reference to the Book of Enoch etc.

All of which suggests that the canon was pretty fluid or that the NT writers weren't at all squeamish about using sources that Protestants often shy away from.

The NT writers weren't Protestants, of course.

Funny that ...

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:


The NT writers weren't Protestants, of course.

Funny that ...

That sentence really stood out for me!

I think that sometimes when we read the New Testament - the whole Bible as well - we forget to take into consideration the context in which they were written. We can be very good at bringing in the historical context to individual verses in order to explain a detail or a specific meaning, but what about the general world view or wider society?

The NT writers were not Protestants - indeed! Neither were they Christians - they were Jews! Neither were they facing the world that developed after the destruction of the Temple and especially the Second Century. Seems a bit obvious really!

What I am saying is that they wrote within their mid 1st century worldview that had not yet had to contend with Roman persecution, heresy, mystery religions, etc, etc.

An example of this is Luke's writings that were in response to a particular person's attitude to the Christians where he lived - Theophilus.

So the idea that the first Christians were 'not Protestants' is an important one; Protestants are the result of reaction to a situation.

The canon was a necessary reaction to an ongoing situation that developed.
The creeds were necessary reactions to situations that developed.

And they therefore reflect a wider context that we don't have anymore, they are summaries of what their compilers/composers thought necessary to write down in order to react to the prevailing situation.

If the creeds and the canon are seen as corrective rather than informative that will show why, as Gamaliel has said, the NT church may have been a little more fluid in the sources they used. The canon wasn't so important because they weren't being attacked on certain issues that they would be in 2 or 3 hundreds years hence.

The first Christians didn't need creeds. They didn't need a canon.

Creeds are not statements of belief, they are reactions to heresy; they are lines in the sand, they are fences around orthodoxy so that the faithful knew where they stood in the face of so many new ideas.

It seems to me that every single line of the creeds might be introduced with a phrase: 'People might say to you, but we believe that...'

Therefore 'he descended into hell' isn't just a neutral summary for information purposes, it's there because some people were teaching other that this and it needed to be written that contrary to what some were teaching, Christ did indeed descend to the place of the dead before he ascended to the right hand of the Father. I don't know what heresy , what controversy that was addressing, but the writer of the creed evidently found it necessary to write those 4 words to counteract what was being falsely taught.

All this reminds me that we should often take away the accretions of 2000 years of church tradition, philosophy,and teaching and reflect on why what we see in the letters and Gospels is actually there. If we can, on occasion, read without 'reading back' our ecclesiastical, Western Christian viewpoints into the texts we might understand more of what was written.

[ 22. December 2013, 05:37: Message edited by: Mudfrog ]

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by LeRoc:
I've always found it interesting that at least some Portuguese (Brazilian) versions of the Apostle's Creed say "He descended into the world of the dead" (Desceu ao mundo dos mortos.)

Yes, the French ones say aux enfers (literally "hells", usually understood as "the place of the dead").

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
Therefore 'he descended into hell' isn't just a neutral summary for information purposes, it's there because some people were teaching other that this and it needed to be written that contrary to what some were teaching, Christ did indeed descend to the place of the dead before he ascended to the right hand of the Father. I don't know what heresy , what controversy that was addressing, but the writer of the creed evidently found it necessary to write those 4 words to counteract what was being falsely taught.

I've been spending a bit of time trying to answer the question "what heresy does this phrase guard against?".

Historical background at creeds.net isn't very extensive or useful on this point
quote:
In Gaul, in the fifth century, the phrase "he descended into hell" came into the creed.
I found a quote attributed to Dr. Douglas Mar on a couple of sites (without full citation)
quote:
Without older versions to trace the historical development of the Creed, to determine whether there was an error of transmission or translation, the addition of this phrase to the Creed will continue to be a mystery
That seems to be a fair summary of my internet research!

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
Therefore 'he descended into hell' isn't just a neutral summary for information purposes, it's there because some people were teaching other that this and it needed to be written that contrary to what some were teaching, Christ did indeed descend to the place of the dead before he ascended to the right hand of the Father. I don't know what heresy , what controversy that was addressing, but the writer of the creed evidently found it necessary to write those 4 words to counteract what was being falsely taught.

I've been spending a bit of time trying to answer the question "what heresy does this phrase guard against?".

Historical background at creeds.net isn't very extensive or useful on this point
quote:
In Gaul, in the fifth century, the phrase "he descended into hell" came into the creed.
I found a quote attributed to Dr. Douglas Mar on a couple of sites (without full citation)
quote:
Without older versions to trace the historical development of the Creed, to determine whether there was an error of transmission or translation, the addition of this phrase to the Creed will continue to be a mystery
That seems to be a fair summary of my internet research!

I've just had a very brief skim through the relevant chapter in William Barclay's The Plain Man Looks at the Apostles' Creed' and I have 30 seconds in which to say that he feels that t simply means 'dead and buried' - a flowery way of saying that he was truly dead! It was a way of confirming and reiterating the phrase 'was crucified, dead and buried'.

I wonder therefore, because it is a later addition into the creeds that it was a phrase, echoing the Scripture, that in the face of some new teaching was simply placed there to show that Jesus died a fully human death and experienced what we all experience - we go to the place of the dead; that Jesus though the Son of God, was not exempt from the 'final' destiny of all human beings, that he too descended into the place of the dead like us.

Maybe there were those who said that he rather slept for the three days before his resurrection and didn't actually experience the realm of the dead like us 'mere mortals'.

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
quote:
Originally posted by LeRoc:
I've always found it interesting that at least some Portuguese (Brazilian) versions of the Apostle's Creed say "He descended into the world of the dead" (Desceu ao mundo dos mortos.)

Yes, the French ones say aux enfers (literally "hells", usually understood as "the place of the dead").
AIUI, the Latin word inferi, which is the derivation of enfers, has the sense of 'Underworld', and has the same root as 'inferior'.
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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
I've just had a very brief skim through the relevant chapter in William Barclay's The Plain Man Looks at the Apostles' Creed' and I have 30 seconds in which to say that he feels that t simply means 'dead and buried' - a flowery way of saying that he was truly dead! It was a way of confirming and reiterating the phrase 'was crucified, dead and buried'.

Certainly I've never been concerned over that understanding, and when I recite the Creed that's what I have in mind at that point and so can say it without feeling it's compromising my faith.

I'd expect that all though many people might want it to say more, at the very least we can probably all agree that it means that.

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
Maybe there were those who said that he rather slept for the three days before his resurrection and didn't actually experience the realm of the dead like us 'mere mortals'.

Or who claim that he went to heaven during that time, as daronmedway has done.

[ 22. December 2013, 08:21: Message edited by: Arethosemyfeet ]

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Barnabas62
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What is (or was) Sheol or Gehenna, and do either of those words equate to the traditional Christian understanding of Hell?

I think the earliest available form of the Apostles' Creed is in Latin and the term used "ad inferos" has been, somewhat loosely, translated as "Hell", rather than "the place of the dead". The Greek of 1 Peter 3 looks as though it means that after his death Jesus preached to "the spirits in prison".

As best I understand it, Catholic understandings of Limbo, Purgatory, Heaven and Hell are a development of some of these basic ideas.

Catholic Catechism

A particular Catholic view.

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Gamaliel
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@Mudfrog ... yep, completely agree with you on that one.

In fact, I may start a new thread on that topic as it's one that intrigues me. We all tend to 'read back' our own ecclesial/theological settings into the pages of the NT it seems to me ... and that's inevitable as you can find support for each and everyone of them there to a greater or lesser extent.

My own take on this particular issue, for what it's worth, is that 'he descended to the place of the dead' - however we understand that - is more of a poetic and theological statement rather than a literal one in the sense of underground dungeons, bars and cages and so on as we find in medieval iconography. Which doesn't 'invalidate' medieval iconography as it depicts a wonderful truth - that Death and Hell have been plundered and despoiled by Christ's life, death and glorious resurrection and ascension ... and his coming again in glory. The whole thing.

Christ 'tasted death' for everyone - with all that this implies.

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
What is (or was) Sheol or Gehenna, and do either of those words equate to the traditional Christian understanding of Hell?

I think the earliest available form of the Apostles' Creed is in Latin and the term used "ad inferos" has been, somewhat loosely, translated as "Hell", rather than "the place of the dead". The Greek of 1 Peter 3 looks as though it means that after his death Jesus preached to "the spirits in prison".

As best I understand it, Catholic understandings of Limbo, Purgatory, Heaven and Hell are a development of some of these basic ideas.

Catholic Catechism

A particular Catholic view.

Do you in fact mean the incorrect traditional understanding of Hell?

It seems to mew that the Church - especially the mediaeval Church has a lot to answer for when it comes to popular understanding about the Devil, Heaven, hell.

That Dante bloke must have been on something hallucinagenic to come up with his rubbish.

If only people would stick to the unadorned Scriptural imagery we would have a more accurate Gospel message and a more understandable way of salvation.

I for one do not believe in fiery flames, even though I do believe in a place called hell. The Bible is quite clear that no pone is there until the Judgment Day and it is NOT a place where Satan dwells and torments human souls - it's the place of his punishment and torment as well.

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Gamaliel
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You are far too literal, Mudfrog. Some scholars suggest that Dante himself probably didn't understand these things in as literal a sense as you've taken them here.

Dante's Inferno is a poem, in case you hadn't noticed. Are we saying that Milton was being literal when he had the Fallen Angels constructing cannon for their battle with the Unfallen Angels?

I take your point about medieval depictions and having climbed into the dome of the Duomo this summer and seen all the grotesque depictions of Hell at close quarters I can understand where you're coming from.

Dante, of course, was fascinated by the depictions of heaven and hell etc in the Baptistery just across the way ... and understandably so, they are terrific. Of course, the 'popular' medieval mind would have taken these things at face value but there's no evidence to suggest that Dante took them as literally as you suggest.

If anything, from my reading of Dante's Inferno this summer I came away with the impression that he had a highly developed and very refined and insightful approach to the problem of evil and the nature of it as some kind of negative 'anti-matter' type force rather than a positive or substantial attribute of some kind.

There's also a lot of humour in there.

So, sorry Mudfrog, do not Pass Go, do not collect your £200.

But then, what should I expect from someone who considers those competent but conventional SA lyrics as 'stunning poetry' ...

[Biased] [Razz]

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A.Pilgrim
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
quote:
Originally posted by A.Pilgrim:
To the best of my knowledge, the creedal phrase under discussion is derived from 1 Pet.3:19-20. (Link gives fuller context.) If any shipmate knows of any other biblical source(s) I’d be glad to know of it.

...
But mixed in with that relatively straight forward message is a load of stuff about preaching to spirits in prison - which spirits, which prison, what message? And, if it's the spirits of the dead, why (apparently) only to those who died in the Flood?

The answer to those questions can be found on pp.269-270 of the book I referred to (and I know that's fat use if you can't get hold of a copy [Smile] ). I might find the time to summarise the information, or perhaps the quickest solution would be to copy the passage. Would a 400 word attributed quotation (or perhaps I could edit it down to 300) be acceptable to the Hosts under the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act?
Angus

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LeRoc

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quote:
Gamaliel: Dante's Inferno is a poem, in case you hadn't noticed.
Sometimes I also have the suspicion that it was his way to settle some gripes he had with a bunch of people in Florence.

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daronmedway
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I wonder if Matthew 16:4 has something to say regarding the descent of Jesus to the dead?

quote:
"An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.
This would suggest that there are typological parallels between the Jonah "belly of the fish" narrative and the descent of Jesus to Sheol or the realm of the dead.

[ 22. December 2013, 13:21: Message edited by: daronmedway ]

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daronmedway
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Oops, I meant Matthew 12:40.

quote:
For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

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Gamaliel
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Yes, there are typological links and the NT makes it explicit that there are ...

@Gorpo, indeed, that too.

I'm not sure Mudfrog was suggesting that Dante 'invented' the more lurid medieval imagery. He wasn't. It was already there in the Baptistery at Florence which was built and decorated centuries before his time.

What he was doing, as you've identified, was to take cultural motifs that he and his readers would have been familiar with and went jiving off with them in terza-rima.

Milton did the same in Paradise Lost, only in blank verse of course. I, for one, wouldn't say that the speculation about similarities/parallels between Cromwell and Satan were that far-fetched and that Blake wasn't onto something when he said that 'Milton was of the Devil's party without knowing it.'

But it's easy to take all these things too far ...

As for Mudfrog's comment about the plain, unadorned meaning of scripture in this instance. There's no such thing.

As he recognises himself, the scriptures are using metaphors and figurative language at this point too ... all this talk of worms not dying and fire not being quenched ...

Would we say that Jesus must have been imbibing hallucinogenic substances in order to come up with that?

Of course not, he was utilising metaphor and figurative language too.

Which isn't to suggest that Hell isn't 'real' - but whatever it is and however we understand it I don't think any of us are imaginings some kind of Dantesque vision.

For my money, the most chilling description of Hell isn't in the cartoonish and knock-about Inferno but the terrifying sermon that Stephan Dedalus is subjected to in Joyce's 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.'

Not even Jonathan Edwards's 'Sinners in the hands of a angry God' comes close to that for terror ...

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Martin60
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1 Peter 3:18-20 (NIV)

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—

20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

well that's ONE way of translating it. Especially verse 19.

Here's another:

1 Peter 3:18-20

Young's Literal Translation (YLT)

18 because also Christ once for sin did suffer -- righteous for unrighteous -- that he might lead us to God, having been put to death indeed, in the flesh, and having been made alive in the spirit,

19 in which also to the spirits in prison having gone he did preach,

20 who sometime disbelieved, when once the long-suffering of God did wait, in days of Noah -- an ark being preparing -- in which few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water;

the first works fine once you've made your mind up that's what He did. And to whom He did it.

The second has a more Occamic interpretation.


1 Peter 3:18-20

Revised Standard Version (RSV - a more neutral interpretation)

18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit;

.......... 19 in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison,

............ (Who? Peter answers this in the identical context in his next epistle. Funny that. That nobody ever sees that. But me?! (a))

.................... 20 who formerly did not obey,

............ when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.


My indents take us back, further back and forward in time.


(a) 2 Peter 2:4-5 (YLT)

4 For if God messengers who sinned did not spare, but with chains of thick gloom, having cast [them] down to Tartarus, did deliver [them] to judgment, having been reserved,

5 and the old world did not spare, but the eighth person, Noah, of righteousness a preacher, did keep, a flood on the world of the impious having brought,

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Love wins

Posts: 17586 | From: Never Dobunni after all. Corieltauvi after all. Just moved to the capital. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mudfrog
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# 8116

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
You are far too literal, Mudfrog. Some scholars suggest that Dante himself probably didn't understand these things in as literal a sense as you've taken them here.

Dante's Inferno is a poem, in case you hadn't noticed. Are we saying that Milton was being literal when he had the Fallen Angels constructing cannon for their battle with the Unfallen Angels?

[Biased] [Razz]

[Razz] yourself re: the poetry [Smile]

Anyway, the point I was making was not whether I, Sante or the scholars take his visions of hell literally, but that the 'Christian' culture has taken on these medieval visions and pictures and has made them the template for what we popularly believe about hell - so we have red devils with pitchforks and Satan welcoming the damned people to his realm where he can torment them as if he were God's very own high executioner, doing His work for Him.

Similarly, those who deserve to go there - i.e. the young, the friendly and our grandmothers - are welcomed into a nice bright white-cloud Heaven with bewinged cherubs flitting around while we all play harps wearing hospital gowns and coathanger halos.

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"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid."
G.K. Chesterton

Posts: 8237 | From: North Yorkshire, UK | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
Barnabas62
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# 9110

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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
Do you in fact mean the incorrect traditional understanding of Hell?

When it comes to discussions of Hell, I'm not sure whether any of the views of its characteristics and purposes can really penetrate its mystery.

TBH, these days I think the issue of the quality of our lives before death is more important than after-life speculation . Whatever good news the gospel may be for the dead, is it good news for the living?

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

Posts: 21397 | From: Norfolk UK | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Pomona
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# 17175

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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
You are far too literal, Mudfrog. Some scholars suggest that Dante himself probably didn't understand these things in as literal a sense as you've taken them here.

Dante's Inferno is a poem, in case you hadn't noticed. Are we saying that Milton was being literal when he had the Fallen Angels constructing cannon for their battle with the Unfallen Angels?

[Biased] [Razz]

[Razz] yourself re: the poetry [Smile]

Anyway, the point I was making was not whether I, Sante or the scholars take his visions of hell literally, but that the 'Christian' culture has taken on these medieval visions and pictures and has made them the template for what we popularly believe about hell - so we have red devils with pitchforks and Satan welcoming the damned people to his realm where he can torment them as if he were God's very own high executioner, doing His work for Him.

Similarly, those who deserve to go there - i.e. the young, the friendly and our grandmothers - are welcomed into a nice bright white-cloud Heaven with bewinged cherubs flitting around while we all play harps wearing hospital gowns and coathanger halos.

Dante was influenced by medieval visions of Hell, not the other way around. Much of medieval folk-religion was influenced by local pagan religion, and sometimes even classical paganism. Non-Hell example - the fruit in the Garden of Eden is shown as an apple because it was an attribute of Aphrodite/Venus (you know, the golden apples of the Hesperides that started the Trojan War). Medieval depictions of Satan are famously based on Pan (I am surprised you didn't know that!). The earliest depictions of Satan by Christians show him as a human, most famously the mosaic of the Sheep and Goats at Ravenna.

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Consider the work of God: Who is able to straighten what he has bent? [Ecclesiastes 7:13]

Posts: 5319 | From: UK | Registered: Jun 2012  |  IP: Logged
Eutychus
From the edge
# 3081

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quote:
Originally posted by A.Pilgrim:
Would a 400 word attributed quotation (or perhaps I could edit it down to 300) be acceptable to the Hosts under the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act?
Angus

hosting/
Thanks for asking first [Smile]

The issue is not in fact whether a quotation's use complies with a specific law, but whether the hosts and admins feel comfortable with it being fair use. To me 300 words sounds too long - in fact, much too long. You could try looking on Google Books and adding a link, alternatively write a summary in your own words - which will doubtless be read more closely by more here.
/hosting

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

Posts: 17944 | From: 528491 | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged
A.Pilgrim
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# 15044

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quote:
Originally posted by Martin PC not & Ship's Biohazard:

...

.......... 19 in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison,

............ (Who? Peter answers this in the identical context in his next epistle. Funny that. That nobody ever sees that. But me?! (a))
...

Martin, sorry to puncture your hopes of originality, but in my earlier post I referred to chapter 2 of Peter's second letter as follows:
quote:
Originally posted by A.Pilgrim:
... Jesus ... went to the prison of the fallen angels (who are also referred to in 2Pet 2:4 and Jude 6) to announce that through his death and resurrection he had been victorious over all spiritual powers, and that their judgement was assured. ...

Angus
Posts: 434 | From: UK | Registered: Aug 2009  |  IP: Logged
Martin60
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# 368

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Thank GOD Angus! I've been saying it for years here to no response whatsoever. May be the time is right. You can have ALL the glory mate.

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Love wins

Posts: 17586 | From: Never Dobunni after all. Corieltauvi after all. Just moved to the capital. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged



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