In Roman Catholic theology, Limbo (Latin "", edge or boundary, referring to the "edge" of
Hell) is a hypothesis about the afterlifecondition of those who die in original sinwithout being assigned to the Hell of the damned (gehenna). Limbo is not an official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Churchor any other. Medieval theologians described the underworld ("hell", " hades", "infernum") as divided into four distinct underworlds: hell of the damned (which some call gehenna), purgatory, limbo of the fathers, and limbo of infants.
*The Limbo of the Patriarchs or Limbo of the Fathers (Latin "Limbus Patrum"), also the
Bosom of Abrahamor Paradise, is seen as the temporary state of those who, in spite of the personal sins they may have committed, died in the friendship of God, but could not enter Heaven until redemption by Jesus Christmade it possible. The term "Limbo of the Fathers" was a medieval name for the part of the underworld (Hades) where the patriarchs of the Old Testament were believed to be kept until Christ's soul descended into it by his death ["Christ's soul descended only into that part of hell wherein the just were detained." Thomas Aquinas, [http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4052.htm#2] ] through crucifixion and freed them (see Harrowing of hell). The Catechism of the Catholic Churchdescribes Christ's descent into "hell" as meaning primarily that "the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection. This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ's descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead." It adds: "But he descended there as Saviour, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there." It does not use the word "Limbo". [ [http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P1R.HTM Catechism of the Catholic Church, 633] ]
*The Limbo of Infants is a hypothesis about the permanent status of the unbaptized who die in
infancy, too young to have committed personal sins, but not having been freed from original sin. Since at least the time of Augustine, theologians, considering baptism to be necessary for the salvation of those to whom it can be administered have debated the fate of unbaptized innocents, and the theory of the Limbo of Infants is one of the hypotheses that have been formulated as a proposed solution. Some who hold this theory regard the Limbo of Infants as a state of maximum natural happiness, others as one of "mildest punishment" consisting at least of privation of the beatific visionand of any hope of obtaining it. This theory, in any of its forms, has never been dogmatically defined by the Church, but it is permissible to hold it. Recent Catholic theological speculation tends to stress the hope that these infants may attain heaven instead of the supposed state of Limbo; however, the directly opposed theological opinion also exists, namely that there is no afterlife state intermediate between salvation and damnation, and that all the unbaptized are damned. [ [http://www.romancatholicism.org/jansenism/limbo-pelagianism.htm Unbaptized Infants Suffer Fire and Limbo is a Heretical Pelagian Fable] ]
Limbo of the Patriarchs
The Limbo of the Fathers ("limbus patrum") was the abode of people who, before Jesus' Resurrection, had died in the friendship of God, but had to wait for Christ to open heaven's gates. This concept of Limbo affirms that one can get into heaven only through Jesus Christ but does not portray
Moses, etc., as being punished eternally in Hell.
Like other religious terms such as "
Trinity", the term "Limbo" does not appear in the Bible. And like other religious concepts, that of the Limbo of the Patriarchs is not spelt out in Scripture, but is seen by some as implicit in various references.
); but between his
Resurrectionand Ascension, Jesus told his followers that he had "not yet ascended to the Father" ()." [ [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/15011.htm On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants] , ; cf. [http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=7529 Study by International Theological Commission] , 19 January 2007, 15-18]
The Council of North African bishops, including Augustine, held at Carthage in 418 did not explicitly endorse all aspects of Augustine's stern view about the destiny of infants who die without baptism, but the Latin Fathers of the fifth and sixth centuries did adopt his position, and it became a point of reference for Latin theologians in the Middle Ages. [ [http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=7529 Study by International Theological Commission, 19 January 2007] , 19-21]
In the later medieval period, some theologians continued to hold Augustine's view. In the 1100s,
Peter Abelard(1079 - 1142) said that these infants suffered no material torment or positive punishment, just the pain of loss at being denied the beatific vision. Others held that unbaptized infants suffered no pain at all: unaware of being deprived of the beatific vision, they enjoyed a state of natural, not supernatural happiness. This theory was associated with but independent of the term "Limbo of Infants", which was forged about the year 1300. [ [http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=7529 Study by International Theological Commission] , 19 January 2007, 22-25]
If heaven is a state of supernatural happiness and union with
God, and hell is understood as a state of torture and separation from God then, in this view, the Limbo of Infants, although technically part of hell (the outermost part, "limbo" meaning "outer edge" or "hem") is seen as a sort of intermediate state.
Thomas Aquinasdescribed the Limbo of Infants as an eternal state of natural joy, untempered by any sense of loss at how much greater their joy might have been had they been baptized. He argued that this was a reward of natural happiness for natural virtue; a reward of supernatural happiness for merely natural virtue would be inappropriate since, due to original sin, unbaptized children lack the necessary supernatural grace. In regards to baptism of desire, St Thomas Aquinasstated that only adults were capable of this, [ [http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4068.htm Summa Theologica Question 68, Article 3] "I answer that, In this matter we must make a distinction and see whether those who are to be baptized are children or adults. For if they be children, Baptism should not be deferred. First, because in them we do not look for better instruction or fuller conversion. Secondly, because of the danger of death, for no other remedy is available for them besides the sacrament of Baptism. On the other hand, adults have a remedy in the mere desire for Baptism, as stated above (A  )."] and this view seemed to be accepted by the Council of Florence, which quotes St Thomas Aquinasin its Eleventh Session concerning baptism of infants.
The teaching of the
Roman Catholic Churchexpressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Churchis that "Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament" and that, since "God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments," "Baptism of blood" (as in the case of the martyrs, who are understood to include the Holy Innocents) and, for catechumens at least, the explicit desire for Baptism, "together with repentance for their sins, and charity," ("Baptism of Desire") ensure salvation for those unable to receive Baptism by water. [ [http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt2sect2.htm#chpt1 "Catechism of the Catholic Church", 1257-1261] ]
Council of Florence(1442) spoke of baptism as necessary even for children and required that they be baptised soon after birth. [ [http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/FLORENCE.HTM#5 Council of Florence Session 11 (Bull "Cantate Domino"):] "With regard to children, since the danger of death is often present and the only remedy available to them is the sacrament of baptism by which they are snatched away from the dominion of the devil and adopted as children of God, it admonishes that sacred baptism is not to be deferred for forty or eighty days or any other period of time..."] This had earlier been affirmed at the local Council of Carthagein 417. The Council of Florence also stated that those who die in original sin alone go to hell. [ [http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/FLORENCE.HTM#3 Council of Florence Session 6] "..the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains."] John Wycliffe's attack on the necessity of infant baptism was condemned by another general council, the Council of Constance. [ Session 15, 6 July 1415] The Council of Trentin 1547 explicitly stated that baptism (or desire for baptism) was the means by which one is transferred "from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. [ [http://history.hanover.edu/early/trent/ct06d1.htm Council of Trent, Session 6] ]
If adults could effectively be baptised through a desire for the sacrament when prevented from actually receiving it, some speculated that perhaps sacramentally unbaptised infants too might be saved by some waterless equivalent of ordinary baptism when prevented. Cajetan, a major 16th-century theologian, suggested that infants dying in the womb before birth, and so before ordinary sacramental baptism could be administered, might be saved through their mother's wish for their baptism. Thus, there was no clear consensus that the Council of Florence had excluded salvation of infants by such extra-sacramental equivalents of baptism.
Through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries individual theologians (Bianchi in 1768, H. Klee in 1835, Caron in 1855, H. Schell in 1893) continued to formulate theories of how children who died unbaptised might still be saved. By 1952 a theologian such as
Ludwig Ottcould, in a widely used and well-regarded manual, openly teach the possibility that children who die unbaptised might be saved for heaven ["Other emergency means of baptism for children dying without sacramental baptism, such as prayer and the desire of the parents or the Church (vicarious baptism of desire - Cajetan), or the attainment of the use of reason in the moment of death, so that the dying child can decide for or against God (baptism of desire - H. Klee), or suffering and death of the child as quasi-Sacrament (baptism of suffering - H. Schell), are indeed possible, but their actuality cannot be proved from Revelation. Cf. Denzinger712." Ludwig Ott, "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma", Book 2, Section 2, § 25 (p. 114 of the 1963 edition)] — though he still represented their going to limbo as the commonly taught opinion. In its 1980 instruction on children's baptism the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faithreaffirmed that "with regard to children who die without having received baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as indeed she does in the funeral rite established for them." [ [http://www.catholicculture.org/docs/doc_view.cfm?recnum=7521#1c "Pastoralis Actio", 13] ] And in 1984, when Joseph Ratzinger, then Cardinal Prefect of that Congregation, stated that, as a private theologian, he rejected the claim that children who die unbaptised cannot attain salvation, he was speaking for many academic theologians of his background and training.
Thus in 1992, the
Catechism of the Catholic Church, while affirming that "the Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude", but also stating that "God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments", [ [http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a1.htm#VI "Catechism of the Catholic Church", 1257] ] stated: "As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: 'Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,'  We live by faith and hope in the God of mercy and love who has been revealed to us in Christ, and the Spirit moves us to pray in constant thankfulness and joy. [cf. bibleverse|1|Thes|5:18]
:What has been revealed to us is that the ordinary way of salvation is by the sacrament of baptism. None of the above considerations should be taken as qualifying the necessity of baptism or justifying delay in administering the sacrament. Rather, as we want to reaffirm in conclusion, they provide strong grounds for hope that God will save infants when we have not been able to do for them what we would have wished to do, namely, to baptize them into the faith and life of the Church.
Pope Benedict XVIauthorized publication of this document, indicating that it is considered consonant with the Church's teaching, though it is not an official expression of that teaching. Catholic News Service(April 20, 2007). [http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0702216.htm "Vatican commission: Limbo reflects 'restrictive view of salvation'"] . Retrieved 2007-04-20.] Media reports that by the document "the Pope closed Limbo" [ New York Times(April 21, 2007) [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/21/world/europe/21briefs-limbo.html "Vatican City: Pope Closes Limbo"] ] are thus without foundation. In fact, the document explicitly states that "the theory of "limbo", understood as a state which includes the souls of infants who die subject to original sin and without baptism, and who, therefore, neither merit the beatific vision, nor yet are subjected to any punishment, because they are not guilty of any personal sin. This theory, elaborated by theologians beginning in the Middle Ages, never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium, even if that same Magisterium did at times mention the theory in its ordinary teaching up until the Second Vatican Council. It remains therefore a possible theological hypothesis" (second preliminary paragraph); and in paragraph 41 it repeats that the theory of Limbo "remains a possible theological opinion". The document thus allows the hypothesis of a limbo of infants to be held as one of the existing theories about the fate of children who die without being baptised, a question on which there is "no explicit answer" from Scripture or tradition. These theories are not official teaching of the Catholic Church, but are only opinions that the Church does not condemn, permitting them to be held by its members.
Limbo in other denominations and religions
Eastern Orthodox Churchnor Protestantismaccept the concept of a limbo of infants; [ [http://www.religioustolerance.org/limbo3.htm Limbo: Recent statements by the Catholic church, and Protestant views] at Religioustolerance.org] but, while not using the expression "Limbo of the Patriarchs", the Eastern Orthodox Church lays much stress on the resurrected Christ's action of liberating Adam and Eveand other righteous figures of the Old Testament, such as Abrahamand David, from Hades(see Harrowing of Hell). Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, and others have taught that the dead are unconscious (or even nonexistent), awaiting their destiny on Judgment Day.
Zoroastrianconcept of hamistaganis similar to limbo. Hamistagan is a neutral state in which a soul that was neither good nor evil awaits Judgment Day.
Limbo in literature
In the "
Divine Comedy", Dantedepicts Limbo as the first circle of Hell, located beyond the river Acheronbut before the judgment seat of Minos. The virtuous pagans of classical history and mythology inhabit a brightly lit and beautiful — but somber — castle which is seemingly a medieval version of Elysium. In the same work, a semi-infernal region, above Limbo on the other side of Acheron, but inside the Gate of Hell, also exists — it is the "vestibule" of Hell and houses so-called "neutralists" or "opportunists," who devoted their lives neither to good nor to evil; its residents include those angels who did not fight at all in the war that resulted in the expulsion of Luciferfrom Heaven, and also either Pope Celestine Vor Pontius Pilate, the text is ambiguous.
One of Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney's best known works is entitled "Limbo". Rich with allusions to Christian teaching, the poem describes a mother drowning her illegitimate infant and its being netted by fishermen.
Eoin Colfer's book, "Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony" (The 5th book in the series), contains demons who escape from Limbo and mess with the other time periods.Another book of Colfer's, "The Wish List" has brief moments in which Limbo is mentioned.
Use of term "Limbo" in pop culture
* The band
Radioheadhave a song titled In Limboon their 2000 album Kid A.
* In "
The Matrix Revolutions", the main character, Neo, finds himself in a state of limbo in the form of a subway station named "Mobil Avenue" that is between the Matrix and the Source. "Mobil" is an anagram of "limbo."
* In the book "
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", after Harry is struck with the Killing Curse, the Horcrux that Voldemort put inside him saves him from death and he winds up in a limbo-like world, in between life and death. The image of Albus Dumbledore gives him a choice between life and death and Harry chooses life.
* In the season seven conclusion of "
Magnum, PI", Thomas is shot and winds up in Limbo, trying to protect his wife Michelle from agents trying to murder her. At the end, her safety assured, Magnum dies. Or not (depending on the version of the episode).
* In the British Comedy Series "
The Mighty Boosh", one of the episodes is called Limbo, in which a character, Howard Moonis accidentally sent to Monkey Hell and has to stay in Limbo until the problem is rectified.
* The band Rush have a song titled Limbo on their 1996 album
Test For Echo.
* In an episode of
The Twilight Zone, a dancer, a hobo, a Scotsman, a clown, and a soldier are stuck in a box and cannot get out. As they are trying to figure out how they got there, one of them realizes they died and went to limbo.
* In director
John Sayles' 1999 movie, " Limbo (film)", a man, woman and child are figuratively in limbo, stranded on an Alaskan island where they form a sort of surrogate family. A seaplane approaching at the very end of the movie may contain rescuers or hitmen come to kill them--and the movie ends without our discovering which is true.
*In the 1997 film " Toothless", Dr. Katherine Lewis who is played by
Kirstie Alleywas hit by a bike messenger and is stuck in Limbo where she must preform good deeds on Earthto go to Heaven.
*In Bones, a television show on FOX, the room where they store unidentified bones is called "Limbo".
Limbo as a colloquialism
Differing slightly from the original meaning, in
colloquial speech, "limbo" is any status where a person or project is held up, and nothing can be done until another action happens. For example, a constructionproject might be described as "in limbo" if political considerations delay its permit.
A "legal limbo" may occur when varying
laws or court rulings leave a person without recourse. For example, a person may earn "too much" to receive public assistance from the government, but not enough to actually pay for basic necessities. Likewise, various parties in a dispute may be pointing blameat each other, rather than fixing the problem, and leaving the person or group suffering from the problem to continue to suffer in limbo.
Amstrad PCW's bundled word processing software, LocoScript, used the term "in limbo" to refer to files which had been deleted but which could still be restored, a concept similar to that later implemented by the Trashin the Apple Macintoshand the Recycle Bin in Microsoft Windows 95. On the PCW, the files "in limbo" were marked as belonging to CP/M Plususers 8 to 15. These files were deleted automatically when the space they occupied was needed. It could therefore be dangerous to access a disk containing files created with CP/M Plus using LocoScript, since LocoScript could decide to delete anything in users 8 to 15.
In the licensing of
houses in multiple occupation(HMOs), properties registered under a previous scheme, but would not be licensable under mandatory arrangements, would go into a state of limbo when they expire, until the status of any potential additional licensing scheme is fully resolved.
Hell in Christian beliefs
Spirit world (Latter Day Saints)
* ( [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09256a.htm Limbo] )
* [http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070419_un-baptised-infants_en.html "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized"] (document of the International Theological Commission)
* [http://www.romancatholicism.org/jansenism/limbo-pelagianism.htm "Unbaptized Infants Cannot Be Saved"] (a
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