Re: Eph. 4:9 , A.T. Robertson & Blass-Debrunner-Funk

From: David Moore (
Date: Wed Oct 18 1995 - 17:11:30 EDT

"Calvin D. Redmond" <> wrote:

> Nonetheless, I agree with my former comments that one's understanding of
>the context and prior theological convictions (as well as the tradition out of
>which one comes) will ultimately determine the interpretation of this passage.

> Also, to add to the discussion, one might consult two opposing articles
>from recent years of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS):
> -Wayne Grudem, "He Did Not Descend into Hell: A Plea for Following
>Scripture Instead of the Apostles' Creed," JETS 34 (March 1991," 103-113.
> -David Scaer, "He Did Descend to Hell: In Defense of the Apostles'
>Creed," JES 35 (March 1992), 91-99.

        Thanks for the bibliographic entries on this matter. I'll have to
file them for future reference, since I don't have a complete theological
research library readily at hand.

        Your comment about "prior theological convictions" prompted me to
remember having recited many times, as a youngster, a version of the
Apostolic creed that omitted the phrase "He descended into hell." This
strikes me as somewhat ironic in view of the interpretation I've suggested
on this verse (Eph. 4:9).

        But relative to the context, there are some comments I would like
to make. Edgar Krentz pointed out that Phil. 2:10 and Rev. 20:3 support
the idea of an area under the earth. I don't think that the matter is so
much whether we can establish that there is such a place, physically
speaking, as Hades (although we could affirm that Christ was physically
beneath the earth at His burial). Rather, it is important to recognize
that the Apostle saw reality as hierarchically ordered with God at the top
and the unrighteous dead at the bottom.

        Christ's dying the death of the unrighteous by crucifixion (Cf.
Deut. 21:23) situated him among the unrighteous dead (although not
unrighteous Himself). His situation with them in His death is an
important element of the apostolic kerygma from the the very first. If we
can take Luke's report of Peter's message at Pentecost as reflecting the
substance of his preaching on that occasion, we find that both the Lord's
descent into "Hades" and His exaltation to the right hand of God are key
matters in Peter's proclamation (Acts 2:31-36). Peter also seems to find
it significant that these two extremes are united in the person of Christ
(v. 36).

        This same theme of the low and the high united in Christ is also
prominent in Paul's other epistles. Paul often explained his theology of
man's salvation in terms of union with Christ in His death, as we find in
Rom. 6:3 and 4 where Paul refers to baptism as a being buried together
with Christ in order to share, through Him, in God's glory. Eph. 2:4-6
develops this union with Him through His death to include a place with
Christ in the EPOURANIOIS in Him.

        Some of the other passages in Paul that touch on the theme of
Christ's humiliation into the unrighteous death on the cross and His
exaltation above all the heavens are the following:

(1) Phil. 2:5-11 where not only the incarnation is contemplated as
constituting Christ's descent, but His death - even death on the cross -
is the climactic final step downward before His exaltation which amounts
dominion is then expressed so as to indicate from the highest heavens to
the lowest hell, He is acknowledged as Lord to the glory of God the Father.

(2) Verses 19 and 20 of Colossians 1:15-20 indicate that Christ's ability
to reconcile all things in heaven and earth have to do with His
humiliation and death on the cross and His exalted position above all
the created order (vv. 15-17) and that both of these are united in Him in
one person.

(3) In Rom. 8:33-39, the reason for the believer in Christ's security is
that Christ has victory in everything from the depths of death to the
highest heaven (v. 34). It is because of this that Paul can say "Neither
death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to
come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all
creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus
our Lord."

        The Epistle to the Ephesians itself shows a theology of salvation
grounded in the humiliation of Christ into death by the cross and His
exaltation above the heavens. Ephesians 2:4-6, as mentioned above, draws
on this concept indicating that we, being dead in sins, find our union
with Him through His death. And in 1:18-23 it is Christ's span of
experience and victory from death to the highest glory that provides the
basis for the church's victory over all.

        Since the unity that Paul is discussing in Eph. 4:1-16 is
essentially the unity of those things brought together in Christ, isn't it
logical to suppose that v. 9 includes a reference to the death by which
this is accomplished. When, in v. 10, Paul says that Christ descended and
ascended "so that he might fill all things," don't these other passages,
discussed above, touching on the same theme, indicate Paul would have in
mind all things from the realm of the dead to the very realm of God.
Doesn't the superlative "far above all the heavens" imply that the
reference to Christ's descent should also include the superlative idea of
"beneath the earth" whether we understand that in the physical sense of
"burial" or in the hierarchical sense of beneath all the living.

        Carl Conrad and Edgar Krentz's emphasize an interpretation of this
passage according to Pagan world view. But we also find the concept of
various levels of the heavens current in later Jewish writings both before
and after the time of Christ (Tasker, _2 Cor._, p. 171; Barrett, _2 Cor._,
pp. 309-10), so this might appear in Paul's work as an influence from
Jewish rather than Pagan sources. It is a form of expression not at all
foreign to Paul (Cf. 2Cor. 12:2). It is obvious that Paul sometimes
couches his teachings in language that is familiar to his hearers -
sometimes even language used by his opponents. But I find no direct
indication of that here. IMO, Eph. 4:9 is cut from the same cloth as
references to the humiliation and exaltation of Christ that we find in
Paul's other writings, so I think it should be interpreted in light of the

David L. Moore Southeastern Spanish District
Miami, Florida of the Assemblies of God Department of Education

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