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Did God die on Good Friday?

"Who died on the cross? Was it God or was it man? If it was God, I cannot understand how a God can die" - Jose Rizal, Philippine national hero

For those who believe that Jesus is both God and man, the question who or what died on the cross is a very difficult one.  This is demonstrated by the conflicting answers various Trinitarian groups give.  Some Trinitarians claim that only the Second person of the Trinity died while others believe that all of God died (1).  Some believe that the second person died completely while others believe that only the human nature of Jesus died.  No wonder Karl Keating, a prominent Catholic apologist, included this question in his article "The World's Toughest Catholic Quiz".

The Catholic Belief

As Keating shows in his article, Catholics believe that "God died on the cross" (2).  He explains that it is wrong to say that "Jesus' human nature died on the cross" because "when you die, it is not your human nature which dies, but you as a distinct person."  The Catholic belief is not surprising at all if you consider their arguments for their belief that Mary is the mother of God which use the same line of reasoning.

The problem with the belief that God died on the cross is that it directly contradicts the scriptures.  The bible teaches that God is immortal or cannot die. (3)

Other Trinitarian Explanation

To avoid directly contradicting the teaching of the Bible that God cannot die, others explain that Jesus only died in his human nature, that is, his physical body died but his soul or spirit remained alive.  

The problem with this alternative answer is that it is still not biblical.  Rather, it is based on ideas about immortal souls  popularized by  early Greek philosophers such as Plato.  According to the bible, when a man dies, he "does not continue" and his "thoughts perish" (4). The bible doesn't describe the death of Jesus differently with the death of  other men.  Instead, it states that "in all things he had to be made like his brethren". (5)  Therefore, when Jesus died on the cross, it was not only his physical body that died.  His thoughts perished and he completely died like the rest of us.

The Apostle Paul confirmed that Christ didn't continue to live as a disembodied soul or spirit after he died.   He said that Christ "rose again the third day" and that "if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen".   He continued, if the dead is not resurrected, "then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished".   Therefore, had Christ not risen on the third day,  he would have remained completely dead, like all men who perish during death.    For Paul, death is the end of man's existence and "if the dead rise not at all" then "let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die".   Paul's arguments would make no sense at all if man continues to live upon death. (6)

Undying on the cross

Even if we grant for the sake of argument that the soul of Jesus continued to live when his body died on the cross, Trinitarians would  still be left with many  difficulties.  If only the physical body of Jesus died on the cross, it would follow that no person really died on the cross.  To say that only the body of Jesus died but his soul remained alive is to say that the person Jesus didn't really die.  He just lost his body but he was still alive.  Something died but no one died on the Cross. Had no one died on the cross,  no one would have died for our sins.  There could be no hope of any life after death and our faith would be in vain. Christianity would be a fraud.

If Jesus had only lost his body but had remained alive in some way or another, it would appear that Christ's love isn't that great.  Christ taught that the greatest love a man can give is to lay down his life for others (7).  Yet, with the belief that only the body of Jesus died, it would appear that he didn't really give up his life.

Inconsistency with the creeds

Another difficulty for Trinitarians with the claim that Jesus died only in his human nature is that it squarely contradicts Trinitarian creeds like the Chalcedonian Creed which confess of "one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably;"      The belief that only the man Jesus died but not Jesus the God splits the human and divine natures such that Jesus can no longer be considered one person.  It is a denial of the Trinitarian incarnation doctrine. 

Atonement problem

It is asserted by most Trinitarians that Jesus had to be God in order for his sacrifice to be sufficient to secure our forgiveness.  A finite being, like  man,  cannot atone for an infinite offense against an infinite God, they claim.  However, with the belief that only the human nature of Jesus died on the cross and not his divine nature, it appears after all that the death of a finite human  flesh was enough to atone for all the sins of humanity.

Fleeing mysticism

The issues I have mentioned above are just some of the problems regarding the Trinitarian doctrine that I as a former Trinitarian have tried to find answers for a very long time.  Most Trinitarians do not care about these issues though.  They have entrusted the priesthood, the keeper of the mysteries, to handle everything for them.  

I sincerely believe however that there are still some of you who would like to love the Lord not just with all your heart and with all your soul but also with all your mind.   May you find comfort in the fact that God is not the author of confusion and mysteries and that Jesus,  a man who has told us the truth, actually came to "reveal the Father" (8) as the "only true God" (9) and as the one "who alone has immortality" (10).

  1. http://www.reclaimingwalther.org/articles/700/741.htm
  2. This Rock (The Magazine of Catholic Apologetics and Evangelization) Volume 4, Number 2, February 1993
  3. Deut. 32:40, I Tim. 1:17
  4. Job 14:2, Psalms 146:4
  5. Heb. 2:17, 18
  6. I Cor. 15
  7. John 15:13
  8. Matthew 11:27
  9. John 17:1,3
  10. I Timothy 6:16

Comments

More power! Godbless!

I hope this site would be an eye opener for the nonmembers.

from readme

good one brother! more power, and god bless you!

"converttoinc"

but did you forget that He rose on the 3rd day? Just askin.

Nice article bro! I hope you'll continue to make more articles in your blogs to spread the truth and doctrines of INC. God bless you! :)