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century, but it had gained currency in the ancient church from an early period. period. It was in the Creed of Acquileja from the fourth century, and is interpreted by Rufinus as meaning a descent into the place of punishment. On this point there was no difference of opinion in the ancient church Christ had descended into hell, for the purpose of meeting and overcoming Satan, and also of delivering the souls of those who trusted in Him. This was the prevailing interpretation still in the sixteenth century, both before and after the reign of Henry VIII.
"He descended immediately in his soul down into hell . . . and at his said entry into hell first he conquered and oppressed both the devil and hell and also death itself. . . . The devil with all his power, craft and subtilty and malice is now subdued and made captive, not only unto me but unto all the other faithful people.
"He spoiled hell and delivered and brought with him from thence all the souls. of those righteous and good men which from the fall of Adam died in the favor of God,' etc. ("The Institution of a Christian Man," 1537, p. 41, Oxford ed., 1856.)
In the "Catechism of Faith," by Thomas Becon, who was prebendary of Canterbury and chaplain to Archbishop Cranmer, in the reign of Edward VI, is a similar statement, given in answer to the question, "What profit have we by Christ's descension and going down into hell?"
"By this means we are well assured that Christ hath overcome the devil, broken the serpent's head, destroyed the gates of hell, vanquished the infernal army, and utterly delivered us from everlasting damnation.” ("Works," Parker Soc. ed., p. 93.)
To the same conclusion, though with some apparent reluctance, came Bishop Pearson, who criticises, however, and rejects patristic interpretation, such as that of St. Jerome, St. Athanasius, and others, who taught the triumph of Christ over Satan and His spoiling of hell-a teaching, in Pearson's view, not confirmed by Scripture. But the descent into hell he seems to admit as the true interpretation:
"He passed to those habitations where Satan had taken up his possession and exerciseth his dominion.
he died in the similitude of a sinner, his soul went to the place where are the souls of men who died for their sins and so did wholly undergo the law of death.” (“Exposition of the Creed," Oxford ed., pp. 449, 450.)
Pearson broke the long uniform catena of opinion in regard to the descent into hell. It was no longer part of the triumphal march of the victorious Christ in the supernatural sphere, which had included the under world, with its victory over Satan and hell, as well as the upper world of light and glory, and the session at the right hand of the Father. The way was thus prepared for other modifications of that imposing process which the original structure of the Creed involved; for these later changes, Pearson's innovation was a precedent and justification. When the American Prayer Book was put forth in 1789, permission was given to omit the words, "He descended into hell," or to substitute for them the words, "He went into the place of departed spirits."
"And any churches may omit the words, 'He descended into hell,' or may instead of them use the words, 'He went into the
place of departed spirits,' which are con-
The popular interpretation now placed on the phrase, "He descended into hell," is that Christ went to Paradise, in accordance with His words to the thief on the cross, "This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." 1
THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN FROM THE
Opinion has been divided in regard to the nature of the resurrection, as it is approached, on the one hand, from the physical point of view; according to which matter in its essence is so endowed with potency that it may be considered capable of spiritual transformation; or, on the other hand, from a spiritual point of view, when it becomes the adaptation of spirit to the requirements of the material senses of touch and vision. Either a material body spiritualized or a spiritual body materialized.
1 Cf. E. H. Plumtre, "The Spirits in Prison and other Studies of the Life after Death," for a discussion of this clause, "He descended into hell."
HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN
The literal sense would imply that He went upwards before the eyes of His disciples, taking with him His body, - flesh and bones. But the Copernican theory has made it evident that there is no up or down in space. It is only a way of speaking.
Hence the spiritual interpretation that the ascension is the final transition from the sphere of the visible and tangible into the realm of invisible and spiritual activity.1
AND SITTETH ON THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER
Again there are two interpretations. If God is conceived as outside the world and located in space, the session of Christ is construed literally as at the right hand of anthropomorphic Deity. This view has been amply illustrated in ecclesiastical art.
The spiritual view, which regards Deity as
1 In the larger Catechism of the Eastern Church this explanation of the statement, "He came down from heaven," is offered: "It is true that He is everywhere; and so He is always in heaven and always on earth; but on earth, he was before invisible; afterwards He appeared in the flesh. In this sense it is said that He came down from heaven."