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In the Confessional Presbyterian, Vol. 3, p. 104ff., Daniel Hyde wrote about several different views of the Descendit - the descent of Christ into Hell - in his article "In Defense of the Descendit: A Confessional Response to Contemporary Critics of Christ's Descent into Hell". I found the article helpful, but found myself a bit puzzled on what exactly each of the views thought concerning where Christ was at any point during the Descendit. According to the orthodox view, Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. His divine nature is God, and therefore omnipresent. But His human nature is the same as ours, yet without sin. So, for these different views of the Descendit, where is Jesus' human body, and where is His human soul during the events of the Crucifixion, Descent, Resurrection, and Ascension?

The four views about which Daniel Hyde wrote about are the following:

  1. The Punishment View (Christ's human soul undergoing more suffering in order to finish our redemption)
  2. The Second-Chance View (to give those who died before His first coming the chance to repent)
  3. Pronouncement of Triumph to Believers View
  4. Pronouncement of Triumph to Satan View

If you know a particular view's beliefs (it doesn't have to be in this list), I'd be happy to see them here.

What I'm looking for is a sort of chart that has the four events I mentioned above along the top for the columns, and Jesus' human body and human soul along the left for two different rows. So that's 8 table entries per view of the Descendit. Example:

Example Table

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I think this question should use the [hypostatic-union] tag, but I can't work out which of the others to sacrifice to fit only five. – Andrew Leach Jul 21 '13 at 21:35
@Andrew: Well, maybe, except that the vast majority of Christians would agree that God is everywhere. Hence, it seems clear where the divine nature of Jesus was during all this time (I know God is outside time, but still.) I like the apostles-creed tag: that makes sense. – Adrian Keister Jul 22 '13 at 3:13
I'm not sure that the divine nature of Christ could be anywhere other than where he was. Fully God,yes... but. But I'm not sure: while I don't have much of a problem with the Trinity, I've always found the hypostatic union to be mind-blowing. – Andrew Leach Jul 22 '13 at 6:21
@Andrew: Yes, that's a hard one. But if we say that God is everywhere, and God the Son is God, then He must be everywhere. Just like we have to say that the human nature of Jesus only died on the Cross. God cannot die. The Trinity and the hypostatic union are probably the two trickiest doctrines in orthodox Christianity. We have a general idea where the correct doctrine is, but there are mysteries surrounding both of those doctrines. – Adrian Keister Jul 22 '13 at 11:38
I'm not sure that you can say that. The Word may be everywhere, but the Incarnate Word can't be. And now I'm in severe danger of getting out of my depth. – Andrew Leach Jul 22 '13 at 11:41

1 Answer 1

This will take a bit of work...But thankfully, the work has already been done :)

If you go to Volume 2 of Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology, p 591, you will there see a pretty good treatment of Christ's Death and Burial. (Search for "Christ humbled Himself even unto death, and continued under the power of death for a time." minus the quotes in the pdf)

Because Hodge presents various historical views on the subject, I am not game to try and fill in the table for you, but would be very interested to see what others can make of Hodge's treatment of this. I think the table could be filled in from reading Hodge. It certainly helped me with your questions in mind.

Here is a snippet or two from Hodge.... That Christ died is universally admitted by all Christians. That His suffering finished when He died is also held firm for He cried “It is finished”. Hodge then goes on to say that what happened was Christ descended into Sheol (the place of the dead) or the invisible state. He then quotes from the Westminster Larger Catechism “Christ’s humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day, which hath been otherwise expressed in these words, He descended into hell.” This Hodge argues is the correct view of Scripture.

“Hence to be buried, to go down to the grave, to descend into hell, are in Scriptural language equivalent forms of expression”.

“In Scriptural language, therefore, to descend into Hades or Hell, means nothing more than to descend to the grave, to pass from the visible into the invisible world, as happens to all men when they die and are buried." (As an aside, Christ did not go to Hell (Gehenna - the place of torment) as His sufferings finished on the cross. )

“This view is confirmed by the fact that these words were not in the creed originally. They were introduced in the fourth century, and then not as a separate or distinct article, but as merely explanatory. “He was dead and buried,” i.e., he descended into hell. That the two clauses were at first considered equivalent is obvious, because some copies of the creed had the one form, some the other, and some both, though all were intended to say the same thing”.

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I will look it up - thanks for the reference! – Adrian Keister Aug 8 '13 at 11:27
This is a great start, I'd love to see you (or anyone else really) dig into that and pull out the relevant bits so we've got it here instead of having to jump off into a relatively thick text :) – wax eagle Aug 8 '13 at 13:23
So I've read pages 610-625 of Vol. II of Hodge, which deal with the humiliation of Christ. Alas, Hodge does not deal with any of the views I've outlined - indeed, he barely even addresses the Reformed view. He seems to address the Catholic and Lutheran views (which are interesting, though Hodge points out some major difficulties), but then Hodge does not seem to put forth his own view! A bit odd, I thought. – Adrian Keister Aug 10 '13 at 1:49
I take it back: Hodge does address the Westminster Larger Catechism view. However, I wonder if the views above were even formulated yet. – Adrian Keister Aug 10 '13 at 2:01

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