For Christ also hath once suffered for our sins. He, the just, suffered for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. In the body, He was put to death; in the spirit, He was brought to life. And in the spirit He went and preached to the spirits that were imprisoned, who formerly had not obeyed…. (I Peter 3:18-20)
Furthermore, this event is also clearly prophesied in the Old Testament. In the Church’s services, one prominent element is the “Polyeleos” of Matins. One portion of the Polyeleos is a selection of verses from the Psalms of the Prophet David appropriate for each major feast. For the Feast of Thomas Sunday, the Resurrection of Christ is the major event being celebrated, of course, and these are some of the Psalmic verses that we hear in the Polyeleos:
As for them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
Fettered with beggary and iron.
They cried unto the Lord in their affliction.
And out of their distresses He saved them.
And He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death.
For He shattered the gates of brass.
And brake the bars of iron.
And He delivered them from their corruption.
And their bonds He brake asunder.
To hear the groaning of them that be in fetters.
To loose the sons of the slain.
“He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death.” All these Old Testament verses refer to our Savior, “the fierce Man of war” spoken of in the Wisdom of Solomon, who “leaped out of Heaven” into a “land of destruction” to redeem mankind and lead the captive souls in Hades “out of darkness and the shadow of death.”
In the Book of Job, God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind and asks him:
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? tell me now, if thou hast knowledge, who set the measures of it, if thou knowest? Or who stretched a line upon it? Or did I order the morning light in thy time?Or didst thou take clay of the earth, and form a living creature, and set it with the power of speech upon theearth? And do the gates of death open to thee for fear; and did the gate-keepers of Hades quake when they saw thee? (Job 38:4-16)
The text is vivid and striking. But there is a problem here: this last portion of the quotation from the Book of Job is quite different in the Protestant text. In the Revised Standard Version, for example, it reads as follows: “Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?” Very different indeed, and not much of a “prophecy” of the actual event. One might say that, as a prophecy of our Saviour’s descent into and destruction of Sheol, it has all the vigor and verve of an overcooked noodle.
Even within the books that we share in common with the non-Orthodox, the texts are different, as we can see, for example, in the above mentioned quotation from the Book of Job. One of the major reasons for these differences is that the Orthodox Church uses the Septuagint text of the Old Testament, which was also the text used by the holy Apostles in the time of our Saviour.