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
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
Again, in "Acts," where the writer is speaking of David as a prophet,
"He, seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ,
that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did
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
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.