DID JESUS‟ GODHEAD DIE ON THE CROSS? By: Atty. Miguel L. Abas CFD National President Not few Christians believed and taught that Christ’s Godhead died on the cross.This belief may be attributed to their failure to grasp fully the doctrine on “HypostaticUnion.” So what is “Hypostatic Union”? By Hypostatic Union, we mean the union of divine andhuman natures in the second person of the Holy Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ. As such,Jesus possesses two natures, human and divine. He is both God and man. These twonatures are joined but not mixed in one divine person of Christ. The fundamentalteaching of the Church on the subject is clear. “The Latin Fathers, principally under theinfluence of Tertullian, came to a clear Trinitarian and Christological terminology asfollows:„Videmus duplicem statum (=naturam), non confusum, sed conjunctum in unapersona, Deum et hominem Jesum‟, which means, “We hold a double state(nature), not mixed with one another but joined in the one person, the God andman Jesus (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Dr. Ludwig Ott, p. 144). Jesus redeemed us through his sacrifice on the cross as Divine Person, not onlyas man, but His Divinity, as well. But while His Divinity concomitantly joined in thesacrifice as the essence for the mystery of salvation, the same was not subjected todeath. The reason is simple. According to St. Paul, “That thou keep thecommandment unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Blessedand only Mighty, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; WHO ONLY HATHIMMORTALITY (emphasis supplied), and inhabiteth light inaccessible…” (1 Tim.4: 14-16). So there is a nature in Christ which is immortal and that is His Divinity. Further, the Church teaching in regard to these two natures in Christ, is statedmore clearly when it said, “It follows from the essence of the Hypostatic Union, thatwhile on the one hand things pertaining to both the Divine and the human nature can beattributed to the person of Christ, on the other hand, things specifically belonging to onenature (as man) cannot be predicated to the other nature (as God). The rule is not validif there be reduplication. By reduplication the concrete term is limited to onenature. Thus, it is false to say that „Christ has suffered as God.‟ (Fundamentalsof Catholic Dogma, by Dr. Ludwig Ott, p. 159). Finally, “the 3rd General Council of Ephesus (year 431) confirmed the TwelveAnathematism of St. Cyril of Alexandria… They were later recognized by Popes andCouncils as the expression of theChurch doctrine of Faith. The main content is thefollowing:a) xxxb) xxxc) The human and Divine activities predicated of Christ… may not be divided betweentwo persons or hypostases, the man-Christ and the God-Logos, but must be attributedto the one Christ, the Logos become Flesh. It is the Divine Logos, who suffered inthe FLESH, was crucified, died, and rose again” (Fundamentals of CatholicDogma, by Dr. Ludwig Ott, p. 142).To this, St. Peter has confirmed the above truth when he said, “Because Christ also diedonce for our sins: that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in theflesh, but enlivened in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). So, the official teaching of the Catholic Church is, that Christ through His flesh(human nature), suffered and died on the cross, not his Divinity. Thus as quoted above,if it is false and erroneous to say that Christ has suffered as God, more so, would itbe false and erroneous to say thatChrist has died as God.
“Justification that God died in the context of Incarnation”This is a very controversial topic, even great theologians of the church stumbled whenconfronted with the question did God die on the cross? To further our understanding ofthis issue it is necessary to define the terms that we used in order to avoidmisconceptions and confusions during our in depth discussion whether God died onthe cross. The most important terms that we have to define is Person and Nature wehave to know its distinction and how they are applied in the Incarnate Word. In F. J.Sheed’s book Theology for Beginners he defined Person and Nature in this way,Nature is the source of operation which implies that the nature dictates what theperson can or can not do, take for example a person can walk, run, get tired, suffer anddie because it is what his nature allows him to do, however the person can not liveunder water because his nature does not provide such action to the human person.Person is the doer of the nature or in other words it is the Person who acts what thenature can provide, being born, suffer and die is all attributed to the person, thus wesay Frank died not Frank’s human nature died, or Frank suffered not Frank in hishuman nature died. Nature is incapable of dying or suffering because it is the Personwho dies and suffers, Nature can not die it only ceases to exist once the Person whopossesses the Nature died. The second terms that we must define is the two types ofchange Fundamental Change and Accidental Change, Fundamental change is achange in essence, for example if you burn a wood it is no longer a wood but ashes.The molecular composition of the wood after it was burn is no longer the samemolecular composition before it was burned therefore there is Fundamental Change achange in essence, while Accidental Change is change that happens only in itsphysical appearance for instance to break the wood in half there is a change inappearance, before the wood was broken in half it is about 3ft. long, after the woodwas broken in half it is no longer 3ft. long but 1.5ft. Feet long, the molecularcomposition did not change it is still wood, but the appearance change which is calledAccidental Change. When the Council of Ephesus define and proclaim that Mary isthe Theotokos they appealed to the Church understanding in the three mostfundamental teachings about Christ the Incarnation, Hypostatic Union andCommunication of Idioms, through the application of these dogma of faith they wereable to justify that God who has no beginning and end, incapable of being bornthrough the Second Person of the Trinity has a mother. By this pre-existing knowledgeof the Church we may also apply the theological implications contained in the dogmaof Theotokos to justify that God in the context of Incarnation truly died not in thenature but in the person. The Word before Incarnation is inviolable, the Second Personof the Trinity before the act of Incarnation can not die and suffer because he does notshare the finite nature of man. After the Incarnation the Divine Word assumed thenature of man which means that the Second Divine Person of the Trinity added to hisDivine nature the finite human nature thus he shared in our limitedness. The dogmaabout Incarnation is the starting point of our discussion the Catechism of the CatholicChurch define Incarnations as; The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of Goddoes not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he isthe result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly manwhile remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. CCC 464
The Catechism attested that the Word Incarnate is true God and true mantherefore it is fitting to believe that in Christ there are two natures Divine and Humanthat is hypostatically united in one hypostasis or Person. The dogma of Incarnationmade the impossible, possible as explained previously. Nestorius propagate theheretical idea that after the Incarnation there are two persons not nature in Christ, thisdistorted idea lead to Nestorius denial that Mary is the Theotokos and called themother of God, Christotokos which give birth to Nestorian heresy and Nestoriusexcommunication. Following the theology of Nestorius he did not only deny Mary asthe Mother of God but also the orthodox truth that God died on the cross, the Councilof Ephesus has this to say about the Incarnation; For we do not say that the nature of the Word was changed and made flesh, noryet that it was changed into the whole man (composed) of soul and body but rather(we say) that the Word, in an ineffable and inconceivable manner, havinghypostatically united to Himself flesh animated by a rational soul, became Man andwas called the Son of Man, not according to the will alone or by the assumption of aperson alone, and that the different natures were brought together in a real union, butthat out of both in one Christ and Son, not because the distinction of natures wasdestroyed by the union, but rather because the divine nature and the human natureformed one Lord and Christ and Son for us, through a marvelous and mysticalconcurrence in unity. . . . For it was no ordinary man who was first born of the HolyVirgin and upon whom the Word afterwards descended; but being united from thewomb itself He is said to have undergone flesh birth, claiming as His own the birth ofHis own flesh. Thus [the holy Fathers] did not hesitate to speak of the holy Virgin asthe Mother of God. Ecumenical III (against the Nestorians) The Incarnation[From the epistle II of St. Cyril of Alexandria toNestorius, read and approved in action I]The Council of Ephesus affirms that the unity of the two natures of Christ takes placein the Person of Christ which is an explicit proof that in Christ there are two source ofoperation a Divine source in His Divine Nature and a Human source in His HumanNature. To prevent another drastic error which Nestorius succumb, the Churchclarified the indissolubility and inseparability of the union of Christ’s natures in HisDivine Person, therefore we cannot divide the actions of Christ between His Divineand Human nature, The fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople II excommunicatewhosoever divide the actions of Christ between His Divine and Human nature;Can. 3. If anyone says that one [person] is the Word of God who performed miracles,and another the Christ who suffered, or says that God the Word was with Christ whenIle was born of a woman, or was with Him as one in another, but not that the same[person] is our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, incarnate and made man, andthat both the miracles and the sufferings which He voluntarily endured in the fleshwere of the same person, let such a one be anathema. Anathemas of Council ofConstantinople
The Council will not hesitate to excommunicate those who will disobey the canonsand decrees of the Council. One violation of this decree is when modernist hereticswill say that when Christ died on the cross, the one who died is not a Divine Personbut his human nature. Aside from this a certain approach in Christology which isrampant in some University and theological studies the so called Christ of faith andChrist of history or also known as Christology from Above (high) and Christologyfrom below (low), this approach in Christology is contrary to the approach used by theChurch, the Christo centric approach. If the actions of Christ should not be dividedbetween His natures, then to where should we attribute his actions? According to Dr.Ludwig Ott in his book Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma he states Christs Divineand Human characteristics and activities are to be predicated of the one WordIncarnate. (De fide.) to simplify the explanation of this dogma it means that theactions of Christ whether done by his Divine or Human nature is predicated orattributed to his Divine Person, therefore since Christ is the second Person of theTrinity, a Divine person we can boldly proclaim and profess that Mary is the Motherof God and God died on the cross this is the two most impregnable truth that God whois Divine through the second Person of the Trinity was Incarnated, whose Divine andHuman nature inseparably united in one hypostasis and activities of both nature iscommunicated, predicated and attributed to Christ a Divine person.After the Council of Chalcedon, some made of Christs human nature a kind ofpersonal subject. Against them, the fifth ecumenical council, at Constantinople in 553,confessed that "there is but one hypostasis [or person], which is our Lord JesusChrist, one of the Trinity." Thus everything in Christs human nature is to beattributed to his divine person as its proper subject, not only his miracles but also hissufferings and even his death: "He who was crucified in the flesh, our Lord JesusChrist, is true God, Lord of glory, and one of the Holy Trinity." CCC 468This dogma of predication of idioms is termed by the Church CommunicatioIdiomatum (Communication of Idioms). The sacred Scripture make use ofCommunication of Idioms in some of its passages. In Acts 20:28 it speaks of thechurch being purchase by God’s blood, as we notice blood belongs to the humannature yet it was attributed to the Divine Person, God’s blood. In 1 Cor.2:8 it speaksthat God was crucified, yet being crucified belongs to the human nature but thescripture did not classify it as “crucified in human nature” but crucified the Lord ofGlory, in which the Lord of Glory is a title which belongs to God therefore in 1Cor.2:8 if taken so literally by applying the meaning of the title it would mean tocrucify God.Therefore following the teachings of the Catechism of Council of Trent by the reasonspresented above it is therefore safe to say the God died, God suffered and God wasburied.