Hymnus Deo

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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Charles Hodge on the Limbus Patrum

Interesting thoughts from Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology (Volume III) on the Limbus Patrum, from some study I was doing on the subject recently. He tries hard to distance himself from it. But the things which he does allow for were surprising to me:

"The dead in the Old Testament are always spoken of as going to their fathers, as descending into 'Sheol,' i.e., into the invisible state, which the Greeks called Hades. Sheol is represeated as the general receptacle or abode of departed spirits, who were there in a state of consciousness; some in a state of misery, others in a state of happiness. In all these points the pagan idea of Hades corresponds to the Scriptural idea of Sheol. All souls went into Hades, some dwelling in Tartarus, others in Elysium. That the Hebrews regarded the souls of the dead as retaining their consciousness and activity is obvious from the practice of necromancy, and is confirmed by the fact of the appearance of Samuel to Saul, as recorded in 1 Samuel xxviii. The representation given in Isaiah xiv. of the descent of the King of Babylon, when all the dead rose to meet and to reproach him, takes for granted and authenticates the popular belief in the continued conscious existence of departed spirits." (pg. 717)

"Men may doubt and differ as to what Christ did during the three days of his sojourn in the invisible world. They may differ as to who the spirits in prison were to whom he preached, or, rather, made proclamation (ἐκήρυξεν); whether they were the antediluvians; or, the souls of the people of God detained in Sheol; or, the mass of the dead of all antecedent generations and of all nations, which is the favorite hypothesis of modern interpreters. They may differ also as to what the proclamation was which Christ made to those imprisoned spirits; whether it was the gospel; or his own triumph; or deliverance from Sheol; or the coming judgment. However these subordinate questions may be decided, all that remains certain is that Christ, after his death upon the cross, entered the invisible world, and there, in some way, made proclamation of what He had done on earth. All this is very far from teaching the doctrine of a 'Limbus Patrum,' as taught by the Jews, the Fathers, or the Romanists." (pg. 737)