Who Died Upon the Cross?

Who Died on the Cross? Lord of Glory
The First and the Last The Blood of God
Ransom for Many Scandal of the Cross
Theos Apathes Patripassianism
His Love Is Death Extinction?
Pierced Testator's Death
Common Consent Nestorius

Return to Answering 'Oneness' Pentecostalism...
Giotto, Crucifixion

From the earliest proclamation of the gospel to the present day, the cross has been a stumbling block, a scandal, to unbelievers:

"For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucfied, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:22-24)

A scandal indeed. Is not Christ God incarnate? Can God die?:

  • “It was and should be impossble to think that God made Hiself into a baby and then let men kill Him on a cross!”
  • (Gwen Shamblin Lara, Remnant Fellowship website, retrieved 5/30/22).

This has historically been the argument from groups opposed to the Christian faith, such as the Muslims: God cannot die, but Jesus died, therefore Jesus is not God. Even a group like the 'Oneness' Pentecostals, whom some wistfully imagine as holding to, in an exaggerated form, the Christian belief that Jesus is God, rely on this time-worn argument. But it is really such a powerful argument as they think, or even an argument at all?:

  • “'God there is no God but He,' no associate is with Him in His authority. 'The Living the Ever-existent,' the living Who cannot die, whereas Jesus died and was crucified according to their doctrine. . .”
  • (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume, p. 272).

On the Cross

Who died on the cross? A mere man, as the Unitarians say? Certainly there is no difficulty in a man dying, men die all the time, one death to a customer. Or the 'Oneness' Pentecostal answer to this question, 'the Son'...which in 'Oneness'-speak means 'the humanity' of Jesus of Nazareth. Which is to say, the very same answer as the Unitarians give. But what does the Bible say?:

"And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life...'" (Revelation 2:8);

Who is the "First and the Last"?  A mere man?  No, He is the LORD God!:

"Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God.'" (Isaiah 44:6);
"Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last." (Isaiah 48:12).

This is precisely what the heretics say cannot be true: "Man cannot and did not kill the Alpha and the Omega on a cross. The God of the Universe did not die on the cross — Jesus Christ died on the cross." (Gail Shamblin Lara, Remnant Fellowship Website, retrieved 5/30/22). More:

"But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead." (Acts 3:14-15, NRSV).

It's God the Word who is the "Author of life" (John 1:4). (The KJV translates "archegos" as "prince"; the word literally derives from 'arche,' 'origin,' and 'ago,' 'lead.') It was precisely to taste death that the "author of life" took on our nature, becoming man in the incarnation: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone." (Hebrews 2:9).  The Bible's testimony is that the One who died on the cross was God incarnate, at the hour of His death just as well as at the hour of His birth.

The Incarnation

God or Man?

On the foundation stone of the Christian gospel — that God incarnate died upon the cross to save a world of lost sinners — the 'Oneness' Pentecostals part company with the Christian church and join the Jehovah's Witnesses and Unitarian Universalists in asserting that a mere man, called 'the Son', died.  They mock the very thought of the death of God: "In his nature God cannot die.  But now that God and man are united in one person, when the man dies, that is rightly called the death of God, for he is one thing or one person with God." (Martin Luther, quoted p. 234, The Crucified God, Jurgen Moltmann).

Scandalous as it may seem to unbelievers that God became man and died a tortured death on the cross, that conviction is at the heart of the Christian faith. Lest we rely on modern theologians, let us turn to the more reliable older ones: "'God crucified'!  That is what Gregory Nazianzen in an Easter oration once declaimed as a 'miracle'.  'We needed an incarnate God, a God put to death, that we might live.  We were put to death together with him, that we might be cleansed; we rose again with him, because we were put to death with him; we were glorified with him, because we rose again with him.'" (T.F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith, p. 142).  If a mere fellow creature died on earth, a spectacle to a distant God infinitely removed, where is the infinite loving-kindness of our Savior God? True, it is not characteristic of the divine nature to die; that is why He took on our mortal nature: ". . .and because he could not suffer in his own nature he assumed ours." (Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man, Kindle location 866).

Lord of Glory

"But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Corinthians 2:7-8);

The "Lord of glory" is a divine title and, as such, is ill-suited to a mere man fitfully and occasionally indwelt by deity. This divine title is all the more ill-suited referring to an occasion at which, to hear some tell it, He had no more than memories to treasure of having once been so indwelt.

The First and the Last

"And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, 'Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.  And I have the keys of Hades and of Death." (Revelation 1:17-18).

The Speaker, — the First and the Last,— says that He who is alive is also He who was dead, not someone else of whom He was fond.

The Blood of God

It was the blood of God that paid the ransom for a world of lost sinners: "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." (Acts 20:28). Whose blood? God's.

Washed in the Blood

The reproach of the cross has been a stumbling block, not only for 'Oneness' Pentecostals, but also for Muslims and free-thinkers, like Thomas Paine. They just don't 'get' it:

". . .but I well remember, when about seven or eight years of age, hearing a sermon read by a relation of mine, who was a great devotee of the church, upon the subject of what is called Redemption by the death of the Son of God. After the sermon was ended, I went into the garden, and as I was going down the garden steps (for I perfectly recollect the spot) I revolted at the recollection of what I had heard, and thought to myself that it was making God Almighty act like a passionate man, that killed his son, when he could not revenge himself any other way; and as I was sure a man would be hanged that did such a thing, I could not see for what purpose they preached such sermons." (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Part I, Chapter XIII).

This idea, that the atonement is somehow unworthy or disgraceful, is a common theme among today's 'New Atheists.'

Ransom for Many

How could even a righteous man's death, if he were but a mere man, have paid the penalty for a world of lost sinners, each of whom fully deserved death on his own account?  The debt we owed was infinitely beyond our ability to pay. No mere human being has the wherewithal to pay ransom, for himself or another: "Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him— for the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever— that he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit." (Psalm 49:7-9). What man cannot do, God has promised, He will do: "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me. (Psalm 49:15).

Only the God-man, Jesus Christ, could pay the price that was due.

Can a mere man save us from the grave?  The Bible testifies, no, only God:

"O Israel, you are destroyed, but your help is from Me. I will be your King; where is any other, that he may save you in all your cities?...I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes." (Hosea 13:9-14);
"Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies..." (Psalm 103:2-4).
"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another." (Job 19:25-27).

Only Jesus Christ, both God and man, can save us: "Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help...Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the LORD his God..." (Psalm 146:3-5).  We would hope in vain if we put our trust in the death of a mere man upon the cross.

Each and every human being fully deserved death on account of our own sins: "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die." (Ezekiel 18:4).  All have sinned: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God..." (Romans 3:23), and deserve death: "...who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them." (Romans 1:32). One righteous man, if he were no more than a righteous man, could save only himself, not a whole world of lost sinners: "'Or if I send a pestilence into that land and pour out My fury on it in blood, and cut off from it man and beast, even though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'they would deliver neither son nor daughter; they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness.'" (Ezekiel 14:19-20).

But the Bible says that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, paid the ransom for a world of lost sinners:

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29).
"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2).

Consequently, is it not apparent He was no mere man? The law never knew of any 'recyclable' sacrifices, where the victim was pulled from the fire, dusted off, and offered up again for another customer. The worth of this once-and-for-all sacrifice, the Lamb of God, had to exceed all the wrongs of an erring and rebellious world: "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Hebrews 9:28).  None but man owed the debt, so Jesus Christ had to be a man; and none but God had means to repay, so Jesus Christ had to be God.

A mere man cannot transmit his righteousness: "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Now, ask the priests concerning the law, saying, "If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?"' Then the priests answered and said, 'No.' And Haggai said, 'If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?' So the priests answered and said, “It shall be unclean.' Then Haggai answered and said, '"So is this people, and so is this nation before Me," says the LORD, "and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean."'" (Haggai 2:11-14).

But God can impute His righteousness to His people: "But to him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describes the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputes righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." (Romans 4:5-8). Thus only God can save: "But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen." (Hosea 1:7). We who put our faith in Him are saved, not by a mere man, but "by the LORD their God."

In what accounting ledger could the death of a man who was a mere man pay off the sin debt owed by the entire world?  The arithmetic will not work; only the God-man could pay the immeasurable debt we had incurred.  After counting up the debt humankind owed God as "something greater than all the universe besides God", Anselm concluded,

"Anselm. Therefore none but God can make this satisfaction.
"Boso. So it appears.
"Anselm. But none but a man ought to do this, otherwise man does not make the satisfaction."
"Boso. Nothing seems more just.
"Anselm. If it be necessary, therefore, as it appears, that the heavenly kingdom be made up of men, and this cannot be effected unless the aforesaid satisfaction be made, which none but God can make and none but man ought to make, it is necessary for the God-man to make it."
(Anselm, Cur Deus Homo, Book II, Chapter VI).

Some people say that Anselm repositioned the cross as a means of making feudal satisfaction, i.e., that his system is culture-bound and of no relevance today. But Anselm wrote at a time when no one within ear-shot had any living experience of temple sacrifice; the logic of that system was lost and needed to be recovered and explained, especially to Muslims who to this day find it incomprehensible. What the first generation of Jewish Christians understood quite naturally, thinking in categories of temple sacrifice, had become difficult and recondite. But to attack the logic of temple sacrifice is to attack God, who instituted that system, in order to foreshadow the final, once and for all sacrifice on the cross.

The Scandal of the Cross

That God condescended to become man and suffer a tortured death on the cross has always scandalized the pagan world: "To the humanism of antiquity the crucified Christ and the veneration of him were also an embarrassment.  Crucifixion, as the punishment of escaped slaves or rebels against the Roman empire, was regarded as 'the most degrading kind of punishment'.  Thus Roman humanism always felt the 'religion of the Cross' to be unaesthetic, unrespectable and perverse. 'Let even the name of the cross be kept away not only from the bodies of the citizens of Rome, but also from their thought, sight and hearing,' declared Cicero...The idea of a 'crucified God' to whom veneration and worship were due was regarded in the ancient world as totally inappropriate to God...Thus Christian belief in the crucified Christ was found to produce on Jews and Romans the effect of continued blasphemy.  The early Christians had constantly to defend themselves against the charge of 'irreligiositas' and 'sacrilegium'." (Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, Chapter 2, p. 34).

What shocked the world then still shocks today; thus, 'Oneness' Pentecostals employ the idea that 'God cannot die' as an argument against the Trinity.  But to those who love God, this shocking fact is priceless testimony of His love for us: "And can it be that I should gain An int'rest in the Savior's blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? Amazing love! How can it be That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?" (And Can it be That I should Gain?, Charles Wesley).

Boso. Infidels ridiculing our simplicity charge upon us that we do injustice and dishonor to God when we affirm that he descended into the womb of a virgin, that he was born of woman, that he grew on the nourishment of milk and the food of men; and, passing over many other things which seem incompatible with Deity, that he endured fatigue, hunger, thirst, stripes and crucifixion among thieves.
"Anselm. We do no injustice or dishonor to God, but give him thanks with all the heart, praising and proclaiming the ineffable height of his compassion.  For the more astonishing a thing it is and beyond expectation, that he has restored us from so great and unmerited blessings which we had forfeited; by so much the more has he shown his more exceeding love and tenderness towards us." (Anselm, Cur Deus Homo, Book I, Chapter III).

What the pagans mock and ridicule is just what we praise our God for all the day long!

Theos Apathes

The pagans taught the world about "theos apathes", the apathetic god, who is incapable of suffering. "We say therefore that God is a living being, eternal, most good, so that life and duration continuous and eternal belong to God; for this is God...But it has also been shown that it is impassive and unalterable..." (Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book XII, 1072b-1073a).

The 'Oneness' Pentecostals have borrowed a page from the pagan theologians. They tell us that God is incapable of suffering, and thus a mere man, called 'the Son', must have suffered and died upon the cross. But where did they learn that God is incapable of suffering? From the Bible? — No, that information's not found in the Bible. Rather, from pagan theologians like Aristotle.

Competent as the pagan theologians may have been, one should be careful about adopting their concepts wholesale.  The Bible, after all, teaches that God is love: "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." (1 John 4:8). The pagans were quite serious in denying passions to God, and they knew that love is a passion: "Friendship occurs where love is offered in return.  But in friendship with God there is no room for love to be offered in return, indeed there is not even room for love.  For it would be absurd if anyone were to assert that he loved Zeus." (Aristotle, Magna Moralia II, 1208b, quoted in Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, p. 268).  So if the pagan concept of the 'apathetic God' ends in denying He can love or be loved — yet we know from the Bible that He is love — should we perhaps hesitate to join the 'Oneness' Pentecostals in borrowing this concept from the generous pagans?

The closest one can come to finding 'theos apathes' in the Bible is Acts 14:15: "And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein..." Paul and Barnabas, modestly declining worship as gods, point out they are men "of like passions" with their would-be worshippers, implying if they really were gods they would not be "of like passions".  James also speaks of Elijah as a man of "like passions" with us: "Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months." (James 5:17).  By implication, God is not "subject to like passions as we are".  But does this mean He is subject to no passion or suffering?  Or is He subject to love...and "sympathy"?

Zeus had no friends, but the living God does: "And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God." (James 2:23). If we talk about 'love' and 'wrath' as transient emotions, passing moods, as they are for us, then plainly God is free from such changes in disposition. This is why we are such inconstant creatures: we love, but then that mood passes and is supplanted by annoyance; the next step is divorce court. God is love. But He also judges. He is not one thing one minute and something different the next; He perseveres and holds to His course, as we do not.

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15).  The verb translated "touched with the feeling" is Strong's 4834, 'sympatheo'.  It means what it says: to feel, or suffer (pascho) with (sym).  This is where our word 'sympathize' comes from. 'Theos apathes', meet the God of the Bible: who 'suffers with' His people!


Ancient modalists like Sabellius were called 'Patripassianists' because they taught that the Father suffered on the cross.  Some modern-day 'Oneness' Pentecostals, by contrast, hotly insist that 'God cannot die', and that thus 'the Son', a human shell occasionally inhabited by Deity, died instead.

But consider: the whole rationale for their novel baptismal formula is their claim that 'Jesus' is the name of 'the Father.' And the Bible authors are under the distinct impression a party by that name died upon the cross:

"And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last." (Mark 15:37);
"And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, 'Father, "into Your hands I commit My spirit."' Having said this, He breathed His last." (Luke 23:46);
"And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit." (Matthew 27:50);
"So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is finished!' And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit." (John 19:30).
"Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." (Romans 8:34).

So: the Bible tells us that Jesus died upon the cross, and the 'Oneness' Pentecostals tells us that Jesus is the name of the Father...but the 'Oneness' Pentecostals do not believe the Father hung upon the cross. You see, it's not the 'Jesus' who is the Father who hung upon the cross...but the other one!

"The Father didn't bleed, the Father didn't die -- [that happened] only in the person of Jesus Christ." (Bishop T. D. Jakes, Elephant Room).

Bishop T. D. Jakes

His Love

"By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." (1 John 3:16).  The KJV translates, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us..."  As Matthew Henry comments, "Here is the condescension, the miracle, the mystery of Divine love, that God would redeem the church with his own blood."

The 'Oneness' Pentecostals undo the incarnation by splitting Jesus Christ into His two component parts, Deity and humanity, and sending the two pieces thus sundered flying apart on separate trajectories, to experience differing and non-intersecting biographies.  One piece, the 'humanity', suffered a tortured death upon the cross, while the other piece, 'Deity', occupied Himself doing cross-word puzzles.  For the real incarnation taught in the Bible — "And the Word became flesh" (John 1:14) — they substitute the fitful, voluntary and occasional infilling of a mere man by God, much the way the Holy Spirit filled the prophets of old.  Instead of God become man, they teach God slipping into a 'robe' or 'tabernacle' of flesh — a man-suit equipped with a zipper, for easy egress in those difficult and embarrassing moments, like on the cross.

They split the One Jesus into two persons who carry on conversations with one another; two persons not even of like nature but of altogether different natures, human and Divine.  This deconstruction of the incarnation cannot be reconciled with the Bible evidence, that "the first and the last", "was dead, and is alive" (Revelation 2:8).  There is only One Jesus, not two...and He is both God and man!

Is Death Extinction?

'Oneness' Pentecostals indignantly demand, if, as Christians say, God incarnate had died upon the cross, how could the world keep on functioning during the three-day interval awaiting His resurrection?  Truly the Bible says all things hold together in Jesus Christ and we live through Him: "...yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live." (1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:17).  So how could the world get by without Him?

To make this argument against the Trinity, they must borrow another heresy from the Jehovah's Witnesses: the unbiblical idea that death means extinction.  We do not cease to exist when we die!  When Jesus Christ died, He died in just the same manner as every human being who has ever lived and died: His soul and spirit departed His body, which was left a lifeless corpse.  Had He died in some novel and unheard-of manner never before seen — to wit, annihilation, total cessation of existence — how could He have tasted death for us all? (Hebrews 2:9)?

Death is not annihilation for any of us.  The preacher wondered what becomes of our spirit when we die: "Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?" (Ecclesiastes 3:21).  Lazarus and Dives would find out — and it's not extinction!  An instructive ditty for the 'Oneness' Pentecostals to memorize is, "John Brown's body lies a-mould'ring in the grave, etc.,...but His soul goes marching on!...He's gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord! His soul is marching on...John Brown's knapsack is strapped upon his back...His soul is marching on."

The first-fruits of those who sleep, the Lord's spirit was not left in Hell, nor His body in the grave: "...he [David, Psalm 16], forseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption." (Acts 2:31).


"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced.  Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn." (Zechariah 12:10). The Speaker is the LORD God.

"And again another Scripture says, 'They shall look on Him whom they pierced.'" (John 19:37).

Testator's Death

The letter to Hebrews tells of a new "covenant": "Because finding fault with them, He says: 'Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant ['diatheke'] with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah...For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'" (Hebrews 8:8-10). This is a quote of Jeremiah 31:31-33:

"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."

Can there be any doubt in Chapter 8 that the testator, the party who undertakes to enter into the new testament, is the LORD God?

But we learn in Chapter 9 that that testator had to die before this new covenant could come into force: "For where there is a testament ['diatheke'], there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives." (Hebrews 9:16-17).  This is Jesus Christ: "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life...'" (Revelation 2:8).

Common Consent

'Oneness' Pentecostals and Jehovah's Witnesses act as if it were so far past being obvious that "God cannot die" that every thinking person must always have agreed with them that it was a man and not God who hung upon the cross.  This in the face of two millenia of Christian hymnody and preaching proclaiming Christ, and Him crucified!  A small sample:

“But answer me at once, you that murder truth: Was not God really crucified?  And, having been really crucified, did He not really die?  And, having indeed really died, did He not really rise again?  Falsely did Paul 'determine to know nothing amongst us but Jesus and Him crucified;' falsely has he impressed upon us that He was buried; falsely inculcated that He rose again.  False, therefore, is our faith also.  And all that we hope for from Christ will be a phantom.  O thou most infamous of men, who acquittest of all guilt the murderers of God!” (Tertullian, On the Flesh of Christ, Chapter 5).
“Fortunately, however, it is a part of the creed of Christians even to believe that God did die, and yet that He is alive for evermore.” (Tertullian, Five Books Against Marcion, Book 2, Chaper 16).
“Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most —
I sacrifice them to His blood.”
(When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Isaac Watts).
“Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man the creature's sin.” (At the Cross, Isaac Watts).
“Behold my God, who was crucified, behold the Judge.  This is He who whimpered as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a manger.” (Jerome, Letter 14, 11:2).
“Man unveils himself here as really and finally guilty.  But that this did happen, that man really and finally revealed himself as guilty before God by killing God, had to happen thus and not otherwise in the event in which God asserted His real lordship." (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Volume I The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 2, Section 14, Chapter 2, p. 92).
“It is better for me to die for Jesus Christ than to rule over the ends of the earth.  Him I seek, who died on our behalf; him I long for, who rose again for our sake...Allow me to be an imitator of the suffering of my God.” (Ignatius, Letter to the Romans, 6).
“If anyone does not confess that our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified in the flesh is true God and the Lord of Glory and one of the Holy Trinity: let him be anathema.” (10, The Capitula of the Council, Fifth Ecumenical Council, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 14, by Philip Schaff, editor, p. 606).
“It was men’s wickedness that laid the cross upon him to bear, and that nailed him to it, and put him to so cruel and ignominious a death...When it killed Christ, it appeared in its proper colors. Here Christ saw it in its true nature, which is the utmost hatred and contempt of God; in its ultimate tendency and desire, which is to kill God; and in its greatest aggravation and highest act, which is killing a person that was God.” (Jonathan Edwards, Christ's Agony).
“The earth shook, and its foundations trembled; the sun fled away, and the elements turned back, and the day was changed into night: for they could not endure the sight of their Lord hanging on a tree.  The whole creation was amazed, marveling and saying, 'What new mystery, then, is this? The Judge is judged, and holds his peace; the Invisible One is seen, and is not ashamed; the Incomprehensible is laid hold upon, and is not indignant; the Illimitable is circumscribed, and doth not resist; the Impassible suffereth, and doth not avenge; the Immortal dieth, and answereth not a word; the Celestial is laid in the grave, and endureth! What new mystery is this?' The whole creation, I say, was astonished; but, when our Lord arose from the place of the dead, and trampled death under foot, and bound the strong one, and set man free, then did the whole creation see clearly that for man’s sake the Judge was condemned, and the Invisible was seen, and the Illimitable was circumscribed, and the Impassible suffered, and the Immortal died, and the Celestial was laid in the gave.” (Melito of Sardis, From the Discourse on Soul and Body, 177 A.D.)
“Now is the Son of man glorified.  Not that He was without glory before: for He was glorified with the glory which was before the foundation of the world.  He was ever glorified as God; but now He was to be glorified in wearing the Crown of His patience...He came therefore of His own set purpose to His passion, rejoicing in His noble deed, smiling at the crown, cheered by the salvation of mankind; not ashamed of the Cross, for it was to save the world.  For it was no common man who suffered, but God in man's nature, striving for the prize of His patience...He stretched out His hands on the Cross, that He might embrace the ends of the world; for this Golgotha is the very center of the earth.  It is not my word, but it is a prophet who hath said, 'Thou hast wrought salvation in the midst of the earth' [Psalms 74:12].  He stretched forth human hands, who by His spiritual hands had established the heaven; and they were fastened with nails, that His manhood, which here the sins of men, having been nailed to the tree, and having died, sin might die with it, and we might rise again in righteousness.” (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 13:6 and 13.28).
“For Scripture had foretold that He Who is God should die; that the victory and triumph of them that trust in Him lay in the fact that He, Who is immortal and cannot be overcome by death, was to die that mortals might gain eternity.  These deeds of God, wrought in a manner beyond our comprehension, cannot, I repeat, be understood by our natural faculties, for the work of the Infinite and Eternal can only be grasped by an infinite intelligence.  Hence, just as the truths that God became man, that the Immortal died, that the Eternal was buried, do not belong to the rational order but are an unique work of power, so on the other hand it is an effect not of intellect but of omnipotence that He Who is man is also God, that He Who died is immortal, that He Who was buried is eternal.  We, then, are raised together by God in Christ through His death." (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 1, Chapter 13).
“For the Heaven put on darkness, all but a mourning dress, the sun no longer giving the brightness of its rays to them who had durst outrage the Lord and God of all, hath foresignified the darkness which they should have in mind and heart. ” (Cyril of Alexandria, Five Tomes Against Nestorius, Fifth Tome, §5, p. 176).
“Wherefore, he that preaches a God to me that died not for me the death on the cross, that God will I not receive.” (Martin Luther, Table Talk, Of Jesus Christ).
“Unbelievers could see nothing but a man in the one whom they crucified. And as a man they crucified him. They crucified the Son of God. They crucified God. My God suffered for me. For me was my God crucified.” (Beatus of Liebana, quoted in Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, p. 320).
“But turn aside and see this great sight!— an incarnate God upon the cross; a substitute atoning for mortal guilt; a sacrifice satisfying the vengeance of heaven; and delivering the rebellious sinner.” (C. H. Spurgeon, Christ Crucified, Sermon 7, 8, 2/11/1855).
"O sinners, flee ye to the sacrifices of Calvary, and there put your whole confidence and trust, for he who died for men is the Lord Jehovah." (Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Psalm 4, Exposition).
“Every change or passion, furthermore, proper to one's body can be ascribed to him whose body it is. So, if the body of Peter is wounded, scourged, or dies, it can be said that Peter is wounded, scourged, or dies...So it is right to say that the Word of God — and God — suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried. And this they used to deny.” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Four, Salvation, Chapter 34.11).
“The Apostle also says: 'It became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, who, had brought many children into glory, to perfect the author of their salvation, by His passion ' (Heb. 2:10). Thus one holds: He for whom all things are, through whom all things are, He who leads men to glory, and who is the Author of human salvation suffered and died. But these four are God's in a singular way; they are attributed to no other...It is, then, plainly right to say that 'God, God's Word, suffered and died.'" (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Four, Salvation, Chapter 34.12).
“God was made man and for men was crucified." (Girolamo Savonarola, An Exposition on the Fiftieth Psalm, translated by E. H. Perowne, p. 108).
“If any should not believe that He had perished by an unjust death, and that those who were beloved were saved by other laws, thence that life was suspended on the tree. . .God Himself is the life; He Himself was suspended for us." (Commodianus, Instructions, Section 40).
“Granted someone may be called a lord by sharing in lordship: no man at all, no creature in fact, can be called 'Lord of glory,' for God alone by His nature possesses the glory of the future beatitude...and so the Psalmist says: 'The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory' (Ps. 23:8-10). But the Apostle says the Lord of glory was crucified (1 Cor. 2:8). Then truly it can be said: God was crucified.” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Four, Salvation, 34:13).
“Trust, O man, in Him who is man and God; trust, O man, in Him who suffered and is adored. Trust, ye slaves, in the living God who was dead.” (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter X).
“But what are these points? Such as follow: That God became man, that He wrought miracles, that He was crucified, that He was buried, that He rose again, that He ascended, that He will judge...” (John Chrysostom, Homily 1, Section 6).
“But who is this that says that he has held his peace before, and will not hold his peace for ever? [Isaiah 42:14] Surely it is He who was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is without voice, so He opened not His mouth. Surely it is He who did not cry, nor was His voice heard in the streets. Surely He who was not rebellious, neither contradicted, when He offered His back to stripes, and His cheeks to the palms of the hands; neither turned away His face from the foulness of spitting. . .This is He who, although He was silent in His passion, yet by and by will not be silent in His vengeance. This is our God, that is, not the God of all, but of the faithful and believing; and He, when He shall come manifest in His second advent, will not be silent.” (Treatise on the Advantage of Patience, Chapter 23, Cyprian, Treatise IX, Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Volume XIII, The Treatises of Cyprian, p. 38).
“'I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I became dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades' (Rev. 1:17, 18, A.S.V. with marg.). The Lord Jesus is the first and the last, the eternal One whose being precedes all creature existence, and whose glory is all its goal. He is the One who has 'life in Himself,' not derived but His eternally. He is the inexhaustible fount of life for His people in all their frailty. He is the One who became dead. As John heard those words and recalled his memories of Calvary, the spear, and the wounded side, he must have marveled that the Living One could ever taste death. But that death was past, and the crucified One was alive for evermore, and John was bidden to look up and see the triumph of the resurrection in the person of his Lord.” (H. C. Hewlett, The Companion of the Way, pp. 156-157).
“When we look at what scapegoating did to Jesus, we repent of it. His innocent death shocks us into realizing we cannot participate in a system that can do that to a sinless man. If scapegoating is responsible for the greatest crime of all — the murder of God!— we must once and for all abandon our demonic practice of blame shifting.” (Brian Zahnd, A Farewell to Mars, Kindle location 776).
“Christianity stands out from all other faiths. It maintains that the living God has come to share our human situation, died an agonizing death in which He took responsibility for human wickedness and broke the last barrier, death, on the first Easter day, with incalculable consequences for His followers and the whole world. No other faith claims anything like that.” (Michael Green, But Don't All Religions Lead to God? p. 18).

Was a funeral held for God? So they say: "Thou dost undergo funeral obsequies, Thyself the author of life and framer of the world, Thou doth enter the paths of death, in giving the aid of salvation." (Poem of Venantius Honorius Clementianus Fortunatus, On Easter). Who could believe that? The church has always believed it.

Martin Luther in particular stressed this theme:

"For the one difference between a promise and a testament is that a testament is a promise which implies the death of him who makes it. . .This testament of Christ was foreshadowed in all the promises of God from the beginning of the world; nay, whatever value those olden promises possessed was altogether derived from this new promise that was to come in Christ. Hence the words 'covenant' and 'testament of the Lord' occur so frequently in the Scriptures, which words signified that God would one day die. For where there is a testament, the death of the testator must needs follow (Hebrews ix). Now God made a testament: therefore it was necessary that He should die. But God could not die unless He became man." (Martin Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Works of Martin Luther, Volume II, Kindle location 2773).

The opinion of these fallible authors carries no weight nor brings conviction; only the Bible does that. But who, in the habit of talking with devotees of the new religious movements, has not twirled on this merry-go-round: 'John Calvin and Martin Luther agree with the Jehovah's Witnesses that Jesus is a created being.' 'No, these authors explicitly address the issue and do not agree with you.' 'Why must you trust ignorant human authorities? Why is the Bible never enough for you?'

What Christian has not been cornered by an anti-trinitarian who insists that all Christian theologians agree with him that 'God cannot die?' While it is true that God was constrained to take on human nature in order to die, and while it would be strange and extravagant to say that God died as God, in fact their own conception of a mere man sometimes indwelt by God, who watched from far away as the mere man went the way of all flesh, is outside the Christian realm. The argument — their argument — is by form an argumentum ad verecundiam: a fallacious appeal to authority. Not only is the argument fallacious by construction: as is so often the case with 'cult quote technique,' the 'authorities' they cite do not, as it happens, agree with them.

Son of Man


The fifth century heretic Nestorius put forth a 'two-person in Christ' theory of the incarnation.  Though a trinitarian who realized Jesus was the Word, not the Father, incarnate, Nestorius shared some of the errors of the 'Oneness' Pentecostals regarding the incarnation: "For how great and unprecedented a thing it is — unique and incapable of repetition in any other age — that the nature of him who is God alone should come together with human nature which was entirely different from God and thus form from different natures by conjunction a single person!  But according to the opinion of Nestorius, what happens that is new?  'Humanity and divinity,' quoth he, 'keep their proper persons.'  Well, when had not divinity and humanity each its proper person?  And when will this not be so?  Or wherein is the birth of Jesus more significant than that of any other child, if, the two persons remaining distinct, the natures also were distinct?" (Boethius, Contra Eutychen, IV., 65-75).

'Oneness' Pentecostals simultaneously praise Nestorius, while denying they follow him in describing 'two persons' in Christ — when that is functionally just what they are describing.  The conversations between Father and Son, fellowship of mutual love, and other personal relations which trinitarians sum up under the internal trialogue within God, they situate rather within Christ.  Overhearing Christians situate the 'I-thou' relation between Father and Son within God, albeit conditioned by the 'humbling' of Philippians 2:5-8, they insist Christians worship 'three gods'.  Yet situating the very same 'I-thou' relation within Christ Himself, they deny they have split Him into two separate beings.

But it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that that is just what they have done.  Unlike the persons of the Trinity, who are of one being or substance, their 'two persons' in Christ, one human and one divine, are not even of like nature, but altogether unlike!  Nor do they share a common biography; one of their 'two Jesuses' suffers a tortured death upon the cross, while the other looks on unmoved.  Splitting Jesus into two separate beings, one merely human and one divine, undoes the incarnation — the very wonder of God's love which Christians cannot cease praising!


An early heresy called Docetism struggled with the same difficulty the 'Oneness' Pentecostals cannot reconcile: how can God die on a cross? Their solution was, not to dissever Jesus' humanity from His deity and send them off to different destinies, but to deny the reality of Jesus' humanity, thereby doing away with His tortured death. Oddly enough this perspective made it into the Koran, a random assemblage of things Mohammed ibn Abdallah had heard about religion. The Koran however is unclear on the details, and thus many modern Muslims believe the 'substitution' theory as taught in the Gospel of Barnabas:

Crucified Savior

Is Bishop Spong an Atheist?