The Creeds Explained — Part 6

This post continues a running series in which I’m attempting to explicate The Apostles’ Creed and The Nicene Creed, this time in reference to what the creeds have to say about Jesus’ suffering and death.

First, The Apostles’ Creed:

 [Jesus Christ] suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.”

And from The Nicene Creed:

 [Jesus Christ,] for our sake he was crucified under Pontiue Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.”

Both creeds are again covering the same ground. In response to some, the Docetics, who claimed that Jesus only appeared to have a body and thus did not really suffer and die, the creeds bluntly insist that he did. This is important because it affirms the essential goodness of God’s creation and that our salvation does not consist of an escape from creation, but rather is part of the renewal and recreation of all that is. Countering the claims of some modern biblical scholars that Jesus did not really die, but was only horribly injured by the crucifixion, recovered and thus inspired his followers to speak of a resurrection; the creeds (again bluntly) remind us that he truly died and was buried. The Apostle’s Creed goes a step farther and a states “he descended to the dead.” (The use of the word Hell in older English translations is misleading.) “The dead” is a more accurate translation of Hades (Greek) or Sheol (Hebrew) which was not a place of punishment like the use of the word hell would denote, but was instead a shadowy netherworld inhabited by the dead (though Psalm 139.8 affirms that even there, God is present).

Well, I’ve written a whole post without getting to the implications for our salvation. I’ll turn to that next time.