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.
me/rhth=j gh=j) is a remark which builds upon this well-known geological feature of Hierapolis and as such would have been perfectly understandable to the members of the congregation to whom the letter was addressed, even if it is something of a puzzle for us today 3. The declaration in 4,9-10 that Christ descended into the underworld and then ascended far above the heavens therefore stands as a powerful expression of his conquering the forces of death and triumphantly claiming the city of Hierapolis as his own.
The suggestion that something as obscure as the Plutonium in Hierapolis may provide us with the hermeneutical key to unlock the mystery surrounding the original setting of the epistle is admittedly a novel idea, but it is not as far-fetched as it may at first appear. The site was a well-known tourist attraction within the ancient world 4, and it is mentioned by several writers of antiquity including Strabo, Pliny the Elder, Dio Cassius, Ammianus Marcellinus, and Damascius of Alexandria 5. Within this short study I would like to add one small piece of evidence in support of this proposed way of reading the passage in Ephesians, evidence which to my knowledge has not been marshalled before in any discussion of the provenance of the epistle 6. I speak of numismatic issues from the city of Hierapolis itself. These coins depict a well-known story from Graeco-Roman mythology, namely the abduction of Persephone by Hades, the god of the underworld. They are clearly associated with the Plutonium insofar as it was taken to be an entrance to Hades realm. However, before we proceed to examine the coin evidence,