Limbus Patrum,
Limbo of the Fathers,
Bosom of Abraham;
Also: Paradise,
Marriage Feast

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Descent of Christ to Limbo - by ANDREA DA FIRENZE - from Cappella Spagnuolo, Santa Maria Novella, Florence



The Apostles' Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell ; the third day He arose again from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the Resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.


He descended into Hell

by Father Pablo Straub


Limbus Patrum

from The Catholic Encyclopedia
and various other sources

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crucifixion3.jpg (1600 bytes)According to the Baltimore Catechism, "Hell" as used in the Creed, does not mean the place where the damned are, but a place called "Limbo". You know that when our first parents (Adam and Eve) sinned, Heaven was closed against them and us, and no human being could be admitted into it until after the death of Our Lord; for He, by His death, would redeem us, making amends for our Fall, and once more open for us, Heaven. Now from the time Adam sinned, until the time Christ died, is about four-thousand years. During that time there were at least some good men, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and others, in the world, who tried to serve God as best they could, keeping all the Divine Laws known to them, and believing that the Messiah would some day come to redeem them. When, therefore, they died they could not go to Heaven, because it was closed against them. They could not go to Hell, because they were good men. Neither could they go to Purgatory, because they would have to suffer there. Where could they go? God in His goodness provided a place for them, Limbo, where they could stay without suffering until Our Lord reopened Heaven. Therefore, while Our Lord's Body lay in the Sepulchre (tomb), His Soul and Divinity went down into Limbo, to tell these good men that Heaven was now opened for them, and that at His Ascension, He would take them there with Him. This 'Ascension-scene' is depicted below by GIOTTO di Bondone.




Limbus Patrum
(Limbo of the Fathers)
Originated with Saint Gregory the Great,
Pope and Bishop of Rome
Bosom of Abraham Luke 16:22
Paradise Luke 23:43
Banquet Matthew 8:11
Marriage Feast Matthew 25:10


Limbus Patrum

from the Catholic Encyclopedia

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Descent of Christ to Limbo

As stated in the Apostles' Creed, during the time between Jesus' burial and His rising from the dead on Easter Sunday, Jesus descended to a place which, according to Catholic Tradition is termed "Limbus Patrum", or Limbo of the Fathers. An excerpt from The Catholic Encyclopedia regarding this Tradition is provided below:

(Late Latin limbus) a word of Teutonic derivation, meaning literally "hem" or "border", as of a garment, or anything joined on (cf. Italian lembo or English limb).

In theological usage the name applied to (a) the temporary place or state of the souls of the Just who, although purified from sin, were excluded from the Beatific Vision until Christ's triumphant ascension into Heaven (the "Limbus Patrum"); or (b) to the permanent place or state of those unbaptized children and others who, dying without grievous personal sin, are excluded from the Beatific Vision on account of Original Sin alone (the "Limbus Infantium" or "Puerorum").

Though it can hardly be claimed, on the evidence of extant literature, that a definite or consistent belief in the Limbus Patrum of Christian Tradition was universal among the Jews, it cannot on the other hand be denied that, more especially in the extra-canonical writings of the second or first centuries B.C., some such belief finds repeated expression; and the New Testament references to the subject remove all doubt as to the current Jewish belief in the time of Christ. Whatever name may be used in Apocryphal Jewish literature to designate the abode of the Departed Just, the implication generally is:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) that their condition is one of happiness,

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) that it is temporary, and

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) that it is to be replaced by a condition of final and permanent bliss when the Messianic Kingdom is established.

In the New Testament, Christ refers, by various names and figures, to the place or state which Catholic Tradition has agreed to call Limbus Patrum. In Matthew 8:11, it is spoken of under the figure of a Banquet "with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven" (cf. Luke 8:29; 14:15), and in Matthew 25:10 under the figure of a Marriage Feast to which the prudent virgins are admitted, while in the Parable of Lazarus and Dives it is called "Abraham's Bosom" (Luke 16:22) and in Christ's words to the penitent thief on Calvary the name Paradise is used (Luke 23:43). Saint Paul teaches (Ephesians 4:9) that before ascending into Heaven, Christ "also descended first into the lower parts of the earth", and Saint Peter still more explicitly teaches that "being put to death indeed, in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit", Christ went and "preached to those souls that were in prison, which had been some time incredulous, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noah" (1Peter 3:18-20).


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The Ascension of Christ with the Just Fathers - by GIOTTO di Bondone - from Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua
(The 'Just Fathers' ascend from Limbus Patrum with Jesus during His Triumphant Ascension to the Father in Heaven on Ascension Thursday, forty days after His Resurrection.)


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The Triumph of the Cross. Jesus leads the 'Just Fathers' through the Gates of Heaven . . .


crucifixion3.jpg (1600 bytes) It is principally on the strength of these Scriptural texts, harmonized with the general Doctrine of the Fall and Redemption of Mankind, that Catholic Tradition has defended the existence of the Limbus Patrum as a temporary state or place of happiness distinct from Purgatory. As a result of the Fall, Heaven was closed against men. Actual possession of the Beatific Vision was postponed, even for those already purified from sin, until the Redemption should have been historically completed by Christ's visible ascendancy into Heaven. Consequently, the Just who had lived under the Old Dispensation, and who, either at death or after a course of purgatorial discipline, had attained the perfect holiness required for entrance into Glory, were obliged to wait the coming of the Incarnate Son of God and the full accomplishment of His visible earthly mission. Meanwhile they were "in prison" as Saint Peter says; but, as Christ's own words to the penitent thief and the Parable of Lazarus clearly imply, their condition was one of happiness, notwithstanding the postponement of the higher bliss to which they looked forward. And this, substantially, is all that Catholic Tradition teaches regarding Limbus Patrum.


The Orthodox Church

Eastern Orthodox depiction of the Resurrection of Jesus and the raising of the Just Fathers -
from The Chora Church/Museum, Istanbul


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