Question re: Article 3 ("Of the going down of Christ in Hell") of the 39 Articles of Religion

Discussion in 'The Confession of Faith' started by Moses Costigan, Mar 26, 2018.

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  1. Moses Costigan

    Moses Costigan Puritan Board Freshman

    Dear Brethren,
    I hope that i have posted this in the correct sub-forum. I'm looking for any expository or explanatory works addressing the 3rd Article of the 39 Articles of Religion (the text of which states "As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also it is to be believed, that he went down into Hell"). I'm not aware of any scriptural support for such a statement and i haven't been able to locate any commentary upon the 39 Articles which addresses this. Can anyone help me with resources which would either confirm or refute this?

    [For context i probably should mention that I'm a reformed Anglican who would seek to lay claim to the Anglican origins of the Westminster confession, and am in agreement with the 39 Articles with the exception of article 3 mentioned above].


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  2. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Danny Hyde's "In Defense of the Descent" comes to mind.
    The Westminster Assembly approved the creed for use at the end of the shorter catechism (but not to be used in public worship) with the marginal note defining the descent as being under the power of death until the third day.

    In your bio which is what moderators go on when approving applicants for membership for the PB, you state your views are "fully consistent with the Westminster Standards. " So when you say your only exception to the 39 is to article 3 it sets up some cognitive dissonance. It would seem to me you also would take exception to Article 20. The Articles at 20 hold to what has been called the normative principle of worship (whatever is not contrary to the Word of God is permissible to the church by its authority to appoint, i.e. ceremonies, holy days, etc.) while Westminster and Puritan nonconformity hold to what has been in the last century called the Regulative Principle of Worship; short hand, whatever is not commanded is forbidden.
  3. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    I believe the Articles of Religion simply mirror the language of the Apostle's Creed. While the Westminster Standards do not explicitly include this language, or ever exposit the creed (as does the Heidelberg Catechism; this question is addressed in question 44), I don't think they contradict this language. From a Dutch Reformed tradition (mirroring question 44 of the HC) you can see the small book of Daniel Hyde: In Defense of the Descent.
  4. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    However, the WA did at the spot in contention add an explanatory note; see note above.
  5. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    Does not the correct Greek term translated though refer to hades, not hell?
  6. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    So Jesus went down into the abode of death to proclaim his victory, and set the saved waiting there for Him , free?
  7. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Danny's work first appeared in The Confessional Presbyterian journal vol. 3 in 2007. Below is a snippet on this. Get his book, an expansion of the article at the link above which is to the Ebook and it was less than $6 if I recall rightly.

    Psalm 16:8–10 speaks not of a descent into the literal place called hell, but of the descent into death, into the grave, from which David hoped for the resurrection of Christ , the first fruits of the final resurrection. For this reason Grudem’s description of the view of the Westminster Larger Catechism as being unpersuasive, awkward, and “an inaccurate attempt to salvage some theologically acceptable sense out of the words” misses the mark, since hell translates Hades, which can mean the place of the dead as Grudem acknowledges (106).

    In fact, Grudem bases his rejection of the WLC on the English meaning of word “hell” and not on the word of the Greek version of the Creed, Hades. Grudem goes on to argue against Acts 2:27 being a proof for a literal descent into hell based on the fact that the Greek Hades and Hebrew Sheol can mean “the grave” and “death” (107). Williams also confuses these words when he argues that “the Catechism’s interpretation of the descent is within the semantic reach of sheol and hades (see Acts 2:27), but not hell (gehenna)” (88). In contrast to the views of Rome, Lutheranism, and many Anglicans and evangelicals, this exegesis of Psalm 16 means that when Jesus’ body was buried, his human soul did not descend into hell, but actually ascended to His Father, as he said on the cross, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit”​
  8. Moses Costigan

    Moses Costigan Puritan Board Freshman

    You are indeed correct in regards to Article 20, I misspoke, it is my other point of disagreement with the 39 Articles which i spoke about in this thread ......

    Thank you for the suggested reading i will check it out.

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  9. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    Danny Hyde's book is good. I wish more Christians would read it.
  10. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Here's a link to John Calvin's take on [Christ] Descended Into Hell," from the Battles translation of the Institutes.

    Below is the first sentence:
    But we ought not to omit his descent into hell, a matter of no small moment in bringing about redemption. Now it appears from the ancient writers that this phrase which we read in the Creed was once not so much used in the churches. Nevertheless, in setting forth a summary of doctrine a place must be given to it, as it contains the useful and not-to-be-despised mystery of a most important matter, at least some of the old writers do not leave it out.​
  11. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    Vos discusses it in his Reformed Dogmatics.

    The link below details his lexplanation of various historical interpretations. See especially his defense of the Reformed position from an exegesis of 1 Peter 3:18-20, towards the bottom.
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