He Descended Into Hell

The doctrine of Christ Jesus' descent into hell is emphatically part of

the Christian belief, although not alluded to by Christian divines

excepting when unavoidable.

In the first place, it is taught in the Creed of the Christians,

wherein it says:

"He descended into hell, and on the third day he rose again

from the dead."

The doctrine was also taught by
he Fathers of the Church. St.

Chrysostom (born 347 A. D.) asks:

"Who but an infidel would deny that Christ was in


And St. Clement of Alexandria, who flourished at the beginning of the

third century, is equally clear and emphatic as to Jesus' descent into

hell. He says:

"The Lord preached the gospel to those in Hades, as well as to

all in earth, in order that all might believe and be saved,

wherever they were. If, then, the Lord descended to Hades for

no other end but to preach the gospel, as He did descend, it

was either to preach the gospel to all, or to the Hebrews

only. If accordingly to all, then all who believe shall be

saved, although they may be of the Gentiles, on making their

profession there."[211:2]

Origen, who flourished during the latter part of the second, and

beginning of the third centuries, also emphatically declares that Christ

Jesus descended into hell.[211:3]

Ancient Christian works of art represent his descent into hell.[211:4]

The apocryphal gospels teach the doctrine of Christ Jesus' descent into

hell, the object of which was to preach to those in bondage there, and

to liberate the saints who had died before his advent on earth.

On account of the sin committed by Adam in the Garden of Eden, all

mankind were doomed, all had gone to hell--excepting those who had been

translated to heaven--even those persons who were "after God's own

heart," and who had belonged to his "chosen people." The coming of

Christ Jesus into the world, however, made a change in the affairs of

man. The saints were then liberated from their prison, and all those

who believe in the efficacy of his name, shall escape hereafter the

tortures of hell. This is the doctrine to be found in the apocryphal

gospels, and was taught by the Fathers of the Church.[212:1]

In the "Gospel of Nicodemus" (apoc.) is to be found the whole story of

Christ Jesus' descent into hell, and of his liberating the saints.

Satan, and the Prince of Hell, having heard that Jesus of Nazareth was

about to descend to their domain, began to talk the matter over, as to

what they should do, &c. While thus engaged, on a sudden, there was a

voice as of thunder and the rushing of winds, saying: "Lift up your

gates, O ye Princes, and be ye lifted up, O ye everlasting gates, and

the King of Glory shall come in."

When the Prince of Hell heard this, he said to his impious officers:

"Shut the brass gates . . . and make them fast with iron bars, and fight


The saints having heard what had been said on both sides, immediately

spoke with a loud voice, saying: "Open thy gates, that the King of Glory

may come in." The divine prophets, David and Isaiah, were

particularly conspicuous in this protest against the intentions of the

Prince of Hell.

Again the voice of Jesus was heard saying: "Lift up your gates, O

Prince; and be ye lifted up, ye gates of hell, and the King of Glory

will enter in." The Prince of Hell then cried out: "Who is the King of

Glory?" upon which the prophet David commenced to reply to him, but

while he was speaking, the mighty Lord Jesus appeared in the form of a

man, and broke asunder the fetters which before could not be broken, and

crying aloud, said: "Come to me, all ye saints, who were created in my

image, who were condemned by the tree of the forbidden fruit . . . live

now by the word of my cross."

Then presently all the saints were joined together, hand in hand, and

the Lord Jesus laid hold on Adam's hand, and ascended from hell, and all

the saints of God followed him.[212:2]

When the saints arrived in paradise, two "very ancient men" met them,

and were asked by the saints: "Who are ye, who have not been with us in

hell, and have had your bodies placed in paradise?" One of these "very

ancient men" answered and said: "I am Enoch, who was translated by the

word of God, and this man who is with me is Elijah the Tishbite, who was

translated in a fiery chariot."[213:1]

The doctrine of the descent into hell may be found alluded to in the

canonical books; thus, for instance, in I. Peter:

"It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for

well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath suffered

for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to

God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the

spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits

in prison."[213:2]

Again, in "Acts," where the writer is speaking of David as a prophet,

he says:

"He, seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ,

that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did

see corruption."[213:3]

The reason why Christ Jesus has been made to descend into hell, is

because it is a part of the universal mythos, even the three days'

duration. The Saviours of mankind had all done so, he must therefore

do likewise.

Crishna, the Hindoo Saviour, descended into hell, for the purpose of

raising the dead (the doomed),[213:4] before he returned to his heavenly


Zoroaster, of the Persians, descended into hell.[213:5]

Osiris, the Egyptian Saviour, descended into hell.[213:6]

Horus, the virgin-born Saviour, descended into hell.[213:7]

Adonis, the virgin-born Saviour, descended into hell.[213:8]

Bacchus, the virgin-born Saviour, descended into hell.[213:9]

Hercules, the virgin-born Saviour, descended into hell.[213:10]

Mercury, the Word and Messenger of God, descended into


Baldur, the Scandinavian god, after being killed, descended into


Quetzalcoatle, the Mexican crucified Saviour, descended into


All these gods, and many others that might be mentioned, remained in

hell for the space of three days and three nights. "They descended into

hell, and on the third day rose again."[214:3]


[211:1] Quoted by Bonwick: Egyptian Belief, p. 46.

[211:2] Strom, vi. c. 6.

[211:3] Contra Celsus, bk. ii. c. 43.

[211:4] See Jameson's Hist. of Our Lord in Art, vol. ii. pp. 354, 355.

[212:1] See Jameson's Hist. of Our Lord in Art, vol. ii. pp. 250, 251.

[212:2] Nicodemus: Apoc. ch. xvi. and xix.

[213:1] Nicodemus: Apoc. ch. xx.

[213:2] I. Peter, iii. 17-19.

[213:3] Acts, ii. 31.

[213:4] See Asiatic Researches, vol. i. p. 237. Bonwick's Egyptian

Belief, p. 168, and Maurice: Indian Antiquities, vol. ii. p. 85.

[213:5] See Monumental Christianity, p. 286.

[213:6] See Dupuis: Origin of Religious Belief, p. 256, Bonwick's

Egyptian Belief, and Dunlap's Mysteries of Adoni, pp. 125, 152.

[213:7] See Chap. XXXIX.

[213:8] See Bell's Pantheon, vol. i. p. 12.

[213:9] See Higgins: Anacalypsis, vol. i. p. 322. Dupuis: Origin of

Religious Belief, p. 257, and Dunlap's Mysteries of Adoni, p. 33.

[213:10] See Taylor's Mysteries, p. 40, and Mysteries of Adoni, pp.


[213:11] See Bell's Pantheon, vol. ii. p. 72. Our Christian writers

discover considerable apprehension, and a jealous caution in their

language, when the resemblance between Paganism and Christianity

might be apt to strike the mind too cogently. In quoting Horace's

account of Mercury's descent into hell, and his causing a cessation of

the sufferings there, Mr. Spence, in "Bell's Pantheon," says: "As this,

perhaps, may be a mythical part of his character, we had better let it


[214:1] See Bonwick: Egyptian Belief, p. 169, and Mallet, p. 448.

[214:2] See Mexican Antiquities, vol. vi. p. 166.

[214:3] See the chapter on Explanation.