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 “Hypostatic Union.”
So what is “Hypostatic Union”? By Hypostatic Union, we mean the union of divine and human 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 two natures are joined but not mixed in one divine person of Christ. The fundamental teaching of the Church on the subject is clear. “The Latin Fathers, principally under the influence of Tertullian, came to a clear Trinitarian and Christological terminology as follows:
‘Videmus duplicem statum (=naturam), non confusum, sed conjunctum in una persona, 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 and man Jesus (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Dr. Ludwig Ott, p. 144).
Jesus redeemed us through his sacrifice on the cross as Divine Person, not only as man, but His Divinity, as well. But while His Divinity concomitantly joined in the sacrifice as the essence for the mystery of salvation, the same was not subjected to death. The reason is simple. According to St. Paul, “That thou keep the commandment unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Blessed and only Mighty, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; WHO ONLY HATH IMMORTALITY (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 stated more clearly when it said, “It follows from the essence of the Hypostatic Union, that while on the one hand things pertaining to both the Divine and the human nature can be attributed to the person of Christ, on the other hand, things specifically belonging to one nature (as man) cannot be predicated to the other nature (as God). The rule is not valid if there be reduplication. By reduplication the concrete term is limited to one nature. Thus, it is false to say that ‘Christ has suffered as God.’ (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Dr. Ludwig Ott, p. 159).
Finally, “the 3rd General Council of Ephesus (year 431) confirmed the Twelve Anathematism of St. Cyril of Alexandria… They were later recognized by Popes and Councils as the expression of the Church doctrine of Faith. The main content is the following:
a) x x x
b) x x x
c) The human and Divine activities predicated of Christ… may not be divided between two persons or hypostases, the man-Christ and the God-Logos, but must be attributed to the one Christ, the Logos become Flesh. It is the Divine Logos, who suffered in the FLESH, was crucified, died, and rose again” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Dr. Ludwig Ott, p. 142).
To this, St. Peter has confirmed the above truth when he said, “Because Christ also died once for our sins: that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, 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 it be false and erroneous to say that Christ has died as God.
Note: Scripture citations are quoted from the Douay & Rheims Version of 1935.