Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Harrowing of Hell

"The Harrowing of Hell is a doctrine in Christian theology referenced in the Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian Creed (Quicumque vult), which states that Jesus "descended into Hell". It has been termed the most controversial phrase in the Apostle's Creed.

The original Greek wording in the Apostles' Creed is κατελθόντα εἰς τὰ κατώτατα, ("katelthonta eis ta katôtata"), and in Latin descendit ad inferos. The Greek τὰ κατώτατα ("the lowest") and the Latin inferos ("those below") may also be translated as "underworld", "netherworld", or as "abode of the dead". Thus, sometimes this phrase is translated as "descended to the dead." The first use of the English "harrowing" in this context is in homilies of Aelfric, ca.1000. Harrow is a by-form of harry, a military term meaning to "make predatory raids or incursions". The term "Harrowing of Hell" refers not merely to the idea that Christ descended into Hell, as in the Creed, but to the rich tradition that developed later, asserting that he triumphed over inferos, releasing Hell's captives, particularly Adam and Eve, and the righteous men and women whose stories are recorded in the Septuagint." - quote source

Harrowing of Hell, Chiesa Matrice, Castelbuono

"Harrowing of Hell, and Christ, Thomas and Mary Magdalene, in The Winchester Psalter" Ink and pigments on vellum, 12th century. Sources for the following illuminations are unknown.

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