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"He Descended Into Hell"
First Sunday in Lent

from the book
Lectionary Tales for the Pulpit
Series VI, Cycle B

David E. Leininger

1 Peter 3:18-22


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"I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell."

Familiar words from the Apostles' Creed, but words that not every church recites. "He descended into hell" was not in the earliest versions of the creed. In fact, we do not run into the statement at all until about 400 years after Christ. The other ancient statement of faith, the Nicene Creed, makes no mention of any descent into hell. Why not? Perhaps two reasons: 1) "Hell" is really a mistranslation of the original statement which only affirmed that Christ descended to the dead -- the early church made a distinction between the place where dead people went before judgment ... hades in Greek, sheol in Hebrew ... and this place of eternal punishment. ...

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