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Christ the Conqueror of Hell: The Descent into Hades from an Orthodox Perspective Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: St Vladimirs Seminary Pr (November 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881410616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881410617
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Archbishop Hilarion (Alfeyev), Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, is well known throughout the Orthodox Church as a leading theologian, writer, and musical composer. He holds a doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford University and a doctorate in theology from St Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris.

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Customer Reviews

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49 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Courtney on July 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book because it was the only book dedicated to the topic of what is commonly known as "The Harrowing of Hell", the belief that when Christ died on the Cross, His soul descended into Sheol, until His Resurrection.

This book was phenomenal for several reasons.

1. It deals with a subject matter that is often overlooked or ignored by the modern Church.

2. It traces the doctrine throughout the centuries, starting with the New Testament, the Apostolic Fathers, onward through the Church Fathers.

3. It points out the need for this doctrine, by showing us how Christ conquered Hades and death, and that now believers really don't need to fear death, because Christ has truly conquered it.

The Archbishop puts forward three possible theories as to who Christ saved from Hades (Sheol) when he descended.

1. The Old Testament Saints, which is the belief that the Western Church has commonly held (myself included).

2. That by His preaching, it gave those spirits listening the opportunity to repent and be saved (a view that I'm open to.).

3. That Christ saved everyone in Hades, and now it lies broken and empty, with only the devil and the demons as it's inhabitants. (I'm not too keen on this view for several reasons).

The book is fascinating, and really makes you think about the emplications of the Son of God entering Hades, and its consequences for the human race. I recomend this book to any serious student of the Scriptures and Church History. I was struck by just how many of the Fathers were united on this belief, and how prevalent it has been down through the ages.
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Format: Paperback
Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev takes on an extremely complex and often misunderstood topic of the central point of the Christian faith-- Christ's decent and conquering of Hades-- and breaks it down in a way that makes the subject easy to follow, even for the casual student of religion. By returning to the early centuries of the Church, Archbishop Hilarian lays the foundation for his topic using the writings of the ancient Church Fathers. Those who are not of the Orthodox Christian tradition may find it tedious reading through the extensive references to ancient Christian poetry and hymnography; but those who do make the effort will be rewarded with a deeper appreciation of the early Church's understanding of pivotal events that transpired between Christ's crucifixion and His resurrection, and the impact they have on our salvation. Archbishop Hilarian also makes an effort throughout the book to contrast the Eastern traditions against the Western understanding of various aspects of Christ's decent into Hades. He is also careful to point out which statements are part of Orthodox Church doctrine, which are a matter of accepted tradition and which are pious opinions. The final chapters of the book provide a concise summation of the topics covered in the previous chapters and should not be skipped. This book should be recommended reading for Christians of all faith traditions, as well as for anyone interested in learning more about the foundations of Christianity.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Lee Morgan on August 15, 2012
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Recently, I completed the Antiochian Orthodox Church's St Stephen's Program (a three-year theology course) designed to 'prepare' people for the diaconate. Having been raised as a Protestant, the concept of 'Christ entering Hell' was rather foreign and novel to me, and I wanted to know more. I bought the book, and upon first receiving it, put it aside for a while, somewhat intimidated by it. Once I finally made the decision to get into it, however, I found that, not only does the author speak in an authoritative voice on the subject, but the text is actually a rather 'easy' and enjoyable experience to read. Having 'been thru' the diaconate training course, I was more than familiar with the overarching themes of Orthodox theology, and so I was really looking for material which would specifically discuss that which is known as 'the harrowing of Hell,' and so forth. This book does that, in depth, and does contain a very good number of references and 'academic'-style supporting material. Nevertheless, the text itself if quite 'user-friendly,' and quite illuminating, discussing the Biblical and extra-biblical bases for Christ's journey thru Hell, its purpose -- and the book does not shy away from discussing the 'outcome' of this, if that is the proper term for it. I highly recommend the book, and offer this: Don't be afraid, it's a better reading experience than you might think at first; you can handle it! It will particularly expand the mind of converts to Orthodoxy, and aid the non-Orthodox in understanding the essence of Orthodox theology, and how we view the 'role of Christ,' if I can put it that way.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Patrick R. Novak on April 15, 2013
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In most Protestant hymnals and books of worship, the Nicene Creed has parentheses around "he descended into Hell". Most people in the pews have no idea of what that means, and not one in one hundred have ever heard a sermon on the subject. From the outset, Bishop Alfeyev lays out the biblical background for this doctrine. Many Protestants would be surprised at the amount of biblical teaching there is on the subject. For example, how many would know what Matthew has to say about Jesus entering into hell and setting the righteous free - so free, the Gospeler tells us, the dead rose and walked around Jerusalem? Now that must have been a sight indeed! The wise bishop goes on to demonstrate how worship and art helped shape this doctrine. Lest we become too concerned about this argument, we must recall that when most of the bishops of the church were Arians [some out of conviction, some out of fear of the emperor], it was the church at worship that held onto and insisted upon a Nicene christology. The Christ the early Christians met in Scripture and worship was not the the christ of the Arian bishops.

The other reviews on this book do an adequate job of discussing the strengths of this work. I would take a bit of a different slant on this work. Not only did Christ break down the "gates of Hades" once and for all, thus disarming the evil one, but also, as St. Ephrem said, when the Roman lance pierced the side of Jesus and the water and blood flowed from Christ's side, the angel with the flaming sword sent to guard the gates of Paradise was recalled, because the eternal living water flowed forth from the Savior. Hell was destroyed and Paradise reopened!
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