The Apostles’ Creed and 1 Pet 3:19–20

apostles creed 1 Pet 3 19 to 20 (2)

f) 1 Pet 3:19–20: In its current form, the Apostle’s Creed dates from the 7th–8th century. It asserts that Jesus, “Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead.”[1]

We have twelve creeds written in the 2nd through 4th centuries. None of them promote the concept of Christ in hell, including the earliest form of the Apostles’ Creed (340 AD).

The notion first appeared in an Arian creed dated to approximately 360 AD.[2]

Then, Rufinus of Aquileia (340–410 AD) inserted the Latin phrase “Descendit ad inferno” into the creed which he wrote. However, he understood that to mean “he was buried.”[3]

Not until 650 AD did the phrase “He descended into hell” appear in the Apostles’ Creed. Therefore, it stands as a later addition.[4]

Many modern commentators also contend that the vocabulary of 1 Pet 3:18–22 makes the notion that Christ descended into hell extremely difficult.[5]

Peter wrote about Christ’s resurrection in 1 Pet 3:18, and of his ascension in 1 Pet 3:22.

Typically, biblical authors employed the verb translated as “went” (poreuō) when referring to his return to God the Father (Acts 1:10–11; John 14:2–3, 28; John 16:7, 28).[6]

“Prison” (phylakē) refers to a place of punishment for people on earth. It never means torment after death (Acts 5:17–21; Acts 8:3; 2 Cor 11:23).[7]

The Old Testament refers to the place of the dead as Sheol, which means the underworld, rather than hell (Cf. Ps 16:10).[8] The Greek translation of the Old Testament always translates the word as “Hades” (e.g. Gen 37:35).[9]

In addition, all the activity in 1 Pet 3:19–22 took place after Jesus was made alive.[10]

Thus, Peter discussed three redemptive events in this passage: the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension of Christ.[11]

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Read 1 Pet 3:19–20. How did the phrase “he descended into hell” become part of the Apostles’ Creed? Why doesn’t it fit well into 1 Pet 3:18–22? List the pros and cons for this view in the Summary of 1 Pet 3:19–20.





Go to John Calvin’s View of 1 Pet 3:19–20


[Related posts include Overview of 1 Peter 3:18–22Death in the Flesh but Life in the Spirit (1 Pet 3:18); Interpretive Issues in 1 Pet 3:19–20; Early Church Fathers’ View of 1 Pet 3:19–20; Augustine’s View of 1 Pet 3:19–20; John Calvin’s View of 1 Pet 3:19–20; Ancient Jewish View Applied to 1 Pet 3:19–20; Modern Scholars’ View of 1 Pet 3:19–20; Summary of 1 Pet 3:19–20; Salvation through Water (1 Pet 3:20); An Appeal to God (1 Pet 3:21); Seated at God’s Right Hand (1 Pet 3:22); and Greek Translation of the Old Testament]

[Click here to go to Chapter 8: Safely Through (Gen 8:1–19)]


[1]Philip Schaff, The History of Creeds (vol. 1 of The Creeds of Christendom, 3 Vols.; rev Schaff David S.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1931), 21, Italics mine.

[2]Philip Schaff, The Greek and Latin Creeds (vol. 2 of The Creeds of Christendom, 3 Vols.; rev David S Schaff; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1931), 40–41, 46,,

[3]Schaff, The History of Creeds, 1:21 note 6,

[4]Wayne Grudem, “He Did not Descend into Hell: A Plea for Following Scripture Instead of the Apostles’ Creed,” JETS 34, no. 1 (1 March 1991): 103–13, 103,

[5]Marshall, 1 Peter, 1 Pet 3:19.

[6]Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, 186.

[7]Marshall, 1 Peter, 1 Pet 3:19.

[8]Brown,Driver, and Briggs, “שְׁאוֹל” (sheol), BDB, 982–3,

[9]L. Wächter, “שְׁאוֹל” (sheol) TDOT 14:239–48, 241.

[10]Marshall, 1 Peter, 1 Pet 3:19.

[11]Jobes, 1 Peter, 242.