National Catholic Register

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Why Do Catholics ...?

"He rose again" (in reference to April 20 issue question) in the Creed: I never thought about the verse, but often think about the verse before that: "He descended into hell." I have always had a difficult time with that. I don’t believe Jesus ever went into hell unless he went to save all souls. He gave up his soul to the Father at his death, so I am just wondering, what does the phrase mean?

BY The Editors

June 1-14, 2014 Issue | Posted 5/27/14 at 9:48 AM


The Latin in the Creed line is infernum, referring to the lower (inferior) regions, which the Jewish people called sheol and the Greeks hades. "Hell" is our equivalent word, even though most people think of it only as the place of the damned and not just of the dead. Remember, before Christ, no human being had yet gone to heaven. Christ descending into hell, or as the British version puts it, "to the dead," means that he visited the just of the Old Law who were awaiting him as the Messiah. That place, which the Fathers of the Church called the "Limbo of the Patriarchs," is referred to in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke as "the bosom of Abraham." The damned went to the most inferior place, hell, strictly speaking. When Christ ascended into heaven, the just of the Old Law went with him.

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