Page images
PDF
EPUB

2

We shall probably not be far wrong if we attribute to this appeal from the Bishop of Exeter the alteration introduced into the Article 1

Three subjects require to be considered in connection with this Article.

1. The meaning of the word Hell.

fathers before Christ; and that Christ did not descend into Hell, by Christopher Carlile. Appended to this is a memorandum: “This book exhibited and delivered the 20th day of August 1563, to the most Reverend Father in God, the Lord Matthu, Archbishop of Cant., by me, Thomas Tailor, etc. ... the doctrine whereof I neither allow nor approve." See Hook's Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, vol. ix. p. 510.

Was the dispute, referred to by Micronius, caused by Bishop Hooper's Brief and Clear Confession of the Christian Faith, which was published in the year 1550? The following extraordinary passage may well have given rise to any amount of discussion :-"I believe also that while He was upon the said cross dying, and giving up His spirit unto God His Father, He descended into hell; that is to say, He did verily taste and feel the great distress and heaviness of death, and likewise the pains and torments of hell, that is to say, the great wrath and severe judgment of God upon Him, even as if God had utterly forsaken Him, yea, as though God had been His extreme enemy ; so that He was constrained with loud voice to cry, ‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?' This is simply my understanding of Christ, His descending into hell. And besides, I know well that this article hath not from the beginning been in the creed, and that many others have otherwise both understanded and interpreted it; which esteem that Christ verily and indeed descended into hell, to the place of the damned, alleging the text of S. Peter ; the which I confess is yet covered and hid from me. The Lord vouchsafe to open the gate unto us, and to give us an entrance into such mysteries.” -Later Writings of Bishop Hooper (P.S.), p. 30.

1 Even so the article remained a subject of bitter controversy in some quarters. See Strype's Pa bk. iii. ch. xviii., where there is a notice of a controversy which arose at Cambridge in 1567, "what the true sense of Christ's descent into hell was; whether it were a local descent, as it was then commonly taken, or to be understood in some other meaning. This dispute was managed with so much heat, that it came to the secretary, who was that universities' Chancellor. And he sent unto the archbishop for his advice in this matter; who gave him his thoughts for the better stilling, and composing this difference. But what that was, I find not."

2. The scriptural grounds for the doctrine, and the object of the descent.

3. The history of the doctrine in the Church and of the clause in the creed referring to it.

I. The Meaning of the word Hell. The word used in the Latin of the Article is Inferi, which is also used in the Athanasian Creed, and in most of the later copies of the Apostles' Creed. The older ones usually have Inferna,' a few the singular Infernum. The difference in meaning is but slight. If the distinction of genders is to be pressed, we should have to say that while the neuter referred only to the place, the masculine was suggestive of the persons to whom He descended; and we actually find that in an Anglo-Saxon Psalter the clause is rendered, “He nither astah to hel-warum ”S_ i.e. to the inhabitants of hell. But it is not clear that any such distinction is intended to be drawn, for the words Inferi, Infernus, and Inferna are apparently used indiscriminately in the Vulgate, as the equivalents of the Hebrew Sheol (bixo) and the Greek Hades ("Aions), while they are never used to represent Gehenna or the place of torment. In order, therefore, to see the meaning of the word Hell in this Article, it is necessary to examine the belief of the Hebrews concerning the invisible world. Sheol occurs more than sixty times in the Old Testament, being in almost every instance rendered in the LXX. by "Aions. The word itself is a “neutral ” word, meaning the under-world or state of the departed in general—the “meeting-place for

1 So the Creed of Aquileia as given by Rufinus. There is some evidence that this was also the original reading in the Athanasian Creed.

The singular is found in the Creed of Venantius Fortunatus. • Lambeth Library, No. 427, of the ninth century. • The word bin is softened from byv, a root meaning to be hollow.

all living” (Job xxx. 23), where were the souls of the righteous, Jacob (Gen. xxxvii. 35), Samuel (1 Sam. xxviii. 15), David (2 Sam. xii. 23), as well as tyrants such as the King of Babylon (Isa. xiii. 9). In course of time, as Jewish belief developed, and the hope of a future life became clearer, it was recognised that there was a difference in the condition of the souls of the departed in the under-world, though there are but the faintest traces of this in the canonical books of the Old Testament? Our “main pre-Christian authority” for the belief of the Jews, shortly before the days of our Lord's ministry, is the Book of Enoch, dating from the first and second centuries, B.C. In this we read of a vision shown to Enoch by an angel, who showed him “beautiful places intended for this, that upon these may be assembled the spirits, the souls of the dead." 3 These are the restingplaces of the souls of the just, and elsewhere we read of a Garden of Righteousness and Garden of Life, which “appears to be the prototype of what was afterwards known as the Garden of Eden, or Paradise,” though its“ relation to the abodes just described is not distinctly indicated." 5

Enoch is also shown other places not far from the abodes of the righteous, where the souls of the wicked are separated in great affliction until the great day of judgment. While later on he is granted a vision of a “cursed valley” which “is for those who will be cursed to eternity,”' namely, the valley of Hinnom, better known in this connection in the Græcised form of the word, Gehenna ( = Diam x9).

Sien is not actually mentioned in this passage, but Josephus definitely speaks of Alons as the place from which the soul of Samuel was evoked. -Antiq. VI. xiv. & 2.

2 See on the whole subject R. H. Charles, A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life (1899). 3 Book of Enoch, ch. xxii.

• Ch. xxxii, lx. lxi. lxxvii. 5 Driver's Sermons on the Old Testament, p. 79. 6 Ch. xxii.

Ch. xxvii. olan'ı is used frequently in the Targums and the Talmud, e.g. Pirge

1

7

8

Sheol, then, according to the belief of the Jews, is the place where the souls of the departed await their final judgment, and is divided into two parts, in one of which are the souls of the faithful in peace and rest, in the other the souls of sinners, already in torment, though apparently not yet in Gehenna. And this is the belief which seems to have the direct sanction of the New Testament. Thus our Lord promises to the penitent thief that he shall be with Him “ to-day in Paradise" (= the garden of Eden, S. Luke xxiii. 43); and in the parable of Dives and Lazarus, Lazarus is carried by the angels to “ Abraham's bosom," seemingly another name for Paradise, while Dives is described as being "in Hades,” and “in torments" (S. Luke xvi. 22, 23). To Sheol or Hades, then, the English word Hell? in this Article corresponds, and like the Hebrew word it is a * neutral” term, in itself conveying no notion of the condition of the spirits detained in it, whether it be one of blessedness or the reverse.

Both the Greek and Latin terms, Hades and Inferi, are entirely free from the associations which have unfortunately grown up round our English word Hell, owing to the unfortunate accident that it has been adopted as the translation for Gehenna Aboth v. 29, where 77% ja also occurs. See Schürer, Jewish People in the Time of Christ, div. ii. vol. ii. p. 183, and cf. Charles, op. cit. p. 188, etc. as well as Hades, and thus denotes definitely the place of torments, as well as the intermediate state.

1 See Lightfoot, Horce Hebraicæ, on S. Luke xvi., where instances are quoted of the use of this term by Jewish writers.

2 Hell comes from the Anglo-Saxon Helan (German, Hüllen), to cover. It is, therefore, the unseen and covered place. “It is properly used both in the Old and New Testament to render the Hebrew word in the one and the Greek word in the other, which describe the invisible mansions of the disembodied souls, without any reference to sufferings.”—Bishop Horsley's Works, vol. ii. Serm. 20.

3 Hell is in the Authorised Version used as the translation of yłevva in S. Matt. v. 22, 29, 30, x. 28, xviii. 9, xxiii, 15, 33 ; S. Mark ix. 43, 45, 47; S. Luke xii. 5; S. James iii. 6. It represents "Acons in S. Matt. xi. 23, xvi. 18 ; 8. Luke x. 15, xvi. 23 ; Acts ii. 27, 31; 1 Cor. xv. 55 (marg.); Rev. i. 18, iii. 7, vi. 8, xx. 13, 14.

II. The Scriptural Grounds for the Doctrine and the Object

of the Descent. The passages of Scripture which require to be considered in connection with the subject of our Lord's descent into hell are four in number: (a) St. Luke xxii. 43; (6) Acts ü. 24–31, including the quotation of Ps. xvi. 10; (c) Eph. iv. 9; and (d) 1 Pet. iii. 18, iv. 6.

(a) St. Luke xxiii. 43. This verse gives us our Lord's promise to the penitent thief, “ Verily, I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” The words assume and sanction the current belief that Paradise, or the Garden of Eden, was the part of that unseen region to which the name of Sheol was given, in which the souls of the faithful departed were preserved. And thus the passage appeals to us with the weight of a direct statement from our Lord Himself that after His death He would pass into the region of departed souls, i.e. would “descend into hell."

It would seem, then, that on scriptural grounds, and apart from all historical considerations, we are justified in referring to these words in connection with the descent into hell. But it does not appear that they were ever appealed to by the Fathers as proof or illustration of the fact of the descent, and those who first inserted the clause into the creed can hardly be supposed to have had in view the promise to the penitent thief. Although it would seem that Jewish belief inclined to the inclusion of Paradise in Sheol, or Hades, yet some of the Christian Fathers, as Tertullian,' expressly distinguish between the

1 Tertullian (De Anima, 55) mentions a treatise that he had written, De Paradiso, in which he says that he had proved "omnem animam apud inferos sequestrari in diem Domini.” He carefully distinguishes between

« PreviousContinue »