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Re: Descent into Hell?
To the response from Seth Sanders dealing with infernal descents, let
me add one observation: the passage in the creed may well reflect 1 Peter
3:19-20 which probably reflects 1 Enoch 6-16, a section of Aramaic Enoch
found at Qumran (although probably antedating the distinctive sectarian
literature). There the Watchers (angels or "spirits") are imprisoned
in the valleys of the earth for punishment. They employ Enoch as their
scribe (attorney), who goes through an incubation ritual at the "waters
of Dan" leading to a heavenly ascent to the throne of God, where he is
given a judgment against the angels, which he returns to deliver to
them. There are other allusions to this passage in Enoch and Jubilees,
where Enoch becomes the one to deliver a testimony to the angels. The
"valleys of the earth" should be taken as a primitive sort of "hell"
(note the etymology of Gehenna). In 1 Peter, the tradition about Enoch is
being transferred to Jesus. All the information about infernal descents is
relevant and helpful here, but I think there is a more specific traditional
"peg" to hang this one on.
Saint Martin's College