Descent into hell

The belief that Christ descended into hell is an affirmation of faith in the Apostles’ Creed. An uncertainty surrounds the belief which is Biblically based on:

«And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints that slept were raised, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city and appeared unto many»

(Matthew 27:62-53).

And «For Christ also once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he mist bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit; by whom also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, who at one time were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, in which few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water» (1 Peter 3:18-20).

There appears to be two general interpretations of this belief according to the scriptures associated with it. The first interpretation is this phrase affirms Christ’s victory over evil, particularly the evils of hell, or death which coincides with medieval thought.

The second interpretation relates to pre-Christian attitudes towards, namely references to Hades and Sheol, places inhabited by the dead; of course, there are some who completely disagree with this concept, saying that the idea that Christ after his crucifixion preached to the unsaved dead giving them another chance is scripturally unfounded. A.G.H.


Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 270