'Heart' of the earth, a compartment in hades?

Discussion in 'Exegetical Forum' started by monoergon, Apr 29, 2015.

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  1. monoergon

    monoergon Puritan Board Freshman

    Has anyone heard an interpretation that says that Jesus descended into hell or a compartment therein and utilized Matthew 12:40 to support it? They say that the expression "heart of the earth" cannot mean the grave because it is not the 'heart' of the earth and that the grave is too close to the surface. They stress that the 'heart' is an important part of the text that is ignored by many commentators.

    Furthermore, such adherents argue that Jonah 2:3, which says "For You had cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me", is evidence that the sea monster, after having swallowed Jonah, swam to a compartment in hell (located at the heart of the earth). They conclude by saying that Matthew 12:40 means that Jesus descended to a compartment in hell after His death.

    None of the commentaries I read focus or spend more than a couple of sentences addressing the "heart of the earth" expression. Usually, if they say anything at all, it is that "the heart of the earth" expression is the grave; no further explanation or defense is provided.

    Perhaps someone could refute the interpretation explained above or provide a source that does so. By the way, I believe dispensationalists believe the above-cited interpretation among others.

    I have researched other verses such adherents use and have found that it is easier to refute the idea of Christ's descent into hell based on them, except for this one, given that couldn't find at least one paragraph dedicated to explaining the 'heart' of the earth part of the verse.
  2. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    The fact is that the expression is idiomatic, a "turn of phrase," it is not a literal expression, but a figurative one.

    Here is an important linguistic/conceptual parallel:
    Ps.139:15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.​
    Here, those depths are a poetic parallel to the description of the body's formation in the womb; see also v13.

    "Heart of the earth" is synonymous with "depths of the earth." The language of Ps.139 borrows from the the grave the the unknown netherworld the concept of "hiddenness" (cf. Is.45:19, for another verbal parallel); in this case for the hidden chamber of the womb. It is absolutely certain, beyond all God-honoring conjecture, that the Bible does NOT teach a preformation or preexistence of the soul, least of all in the darkness of Sheol. Ps.139:15 is an unmistakable figurative use of this type of expression.

    Therefore, Ps.139:15 proves that these "depths" or "heart" of the earth are properly granted a figurative sense. Again, this will not stop or persuade a man determined to find him a way to explain particular texts conformable with his own ideas. But we do not have to accept such assertions, as if they were the best treatment.
  3. monoergon

    monoergon Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you Reverend. It is true that when a man is determined to interpret those passages literally, that the figurative explanation will not change his mind, as I personally know someone like that. Dispensational "literalness" doesn't do Scriptures any good.
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