Larry J. Kreitzer, «The Plutonium of Hierapolis and the Descent of Christ into the 'Lowermost Parts of the Earth' (Ephesians 4,9)», Vol. 79 (1998) 381-393
After a general discussion of the myth regarding Demeter, Persephone and Hades/Pluto, the author discusses, in the light of coins of the early Neronian period (54-59 AD), the likelihood that the Plutonium of Hierapolis is the geographical spot the author wants his readers to imagine when they read in the Letter to the Colossians that Christ entered the lowermost parts of the earth.
In a recent commentary on the epistle to the Ephesians I suggested that
the letter was originally intended for the Christian congregation at Hierapolis within the
region of Phrygia in Asia Minor and that it was written by an unnamed disciple of Paul who
was a member of the church at Colossae 1.
It may well be that this disciple was given special responsibility for the neighbouring
congregation of Hierapolis by his home church in Colossae 2. This proposed scenario offers a new way of
reading the epistle as a whole, and opens up the possibility of interpreting the letter as
one in which the inter-church relationships between the three congregations in the Lycus
valley (those in Hierapolis, Colossae, and Laodicea) are all being addressed by the
Writer. In short, the suggestion is that the church at Hierapolis is a daughter-church of
the church at Colossae, a scenario which means that many of the other perplexing features
of the letter we now know as Ephesians can be explained. One such passage on which this
proposed scenario may throw some light is the curious declaration contained in 4,9-10.
This parenthetical aside is one of the most enigmatic passages in Ephesians; it is
generally agreed that the couplet is intended to explain the quotation of Psalm 68,18 (LXX
67,19) which appears in 4,8. In the commentary I suggested that 4,9-10 is a veiled
reference to the Plutonium of Hierapolis, a small subterranean cavern situated next to the
temple of Apollo in the centre of the city and commonly regarded as a passageway to the
underworld. In other words, I take it that the reference to Christ descending into
the lowermost parts of the earth (ei0j ta_ katw/tera