Dear Fr. Christopher Klitou
Thanks for your website on the Hieratikon.
I am sorry to trouble you with
requests for info, but I cannot think where else to turn.
The typical translation of the
Hieratikon says, as you say "He plundered Hades when He descended into
Hades. He embittered it, when it tasted of His flesh, and this being
foretold by Isaiah when he cried: Hades said it was embittered, when it
encountered Thee below." Or says "Isaiah, foreseeing this did cry:
'Hell, said he, was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower
The Hieratikon stands on its own, and needs no justification of any
sort, and certainly none other than the authority of John Chrystostom,
and the place that this Pascal Homily has been given in Orthodox liturgy
and tradition. (And thanks again for having a page on it!!)
However, I am puzzled by this
quotation, St John Chrystostom's quotation from Isaiah. I have searched
and searched -- on Hell, Hades, Sheol, bitter, and various Hebrew words
for bitter -- (in Bible search engines, and places that had the
Septuagint on line as well, and in orthodox discussion loci) and cannot
find any passage that seems to me (I am not a scholar in these things,
and may well be missing the point) to be the passage in Isaiah that St.
John Chrystostom is referring to here.
Can you tell me what passage in
Isaiah St. John had in mind, or refer me to a source (preferably online)
that discusses this matter?
Thank you very much, for your kindness in this matter, and for your many
Answer to Question 85.
The difficulty is finding the passage is due to the mistranslation of
the Greek word επικράνθη = embittered. Most English translations
of the Old Testament, even modern translations, have all used the Old
King James Translation of the Hebrew text as the bases of their
translation. The Septuagint in English is no exception. Supposedly the
translations are directly from the Greek, but again the KJV was used for
the bases of these translations and we see that certain passages have
kept the Hebrew rendering and thus losing the meaning as found in the
The passage John Chrysostom is referring to is Isaiah 14: 9.
The KJV has the translation "Hell from beneath is moved for thee
to meet thee at thy coming:"
The Septuagint version by Sir Lancelot. C. L. Brenton has the passage
as: "Hell from beneath is provoked to meet thee"
A better Septuagint translation can be found online from the Orthodox
Here the Greek επικράνθη is
retained as embittered and the passage reads: "Hades from beneath
is embittered to meet thee:"
There you can also read about how the Septuagint is older and therefore
more authoritative than the Hebrew version that exists today.
On reading your email and where you say (And thanks again for having a
page on it!!), I originally thought that you were referring to a talk I
gave on St. John's Paschal Homily, but then realized this couldn't be
because in the talk I give the reference Isaiah 14: 9. from where the
word embittered is taken. The talk is on the Paschal Homily and its
connection with Holy Communion, but it might help you understand the
Orthodox interpretation of the Homily.
Hope this has been of some
With love in Christ