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Christ’s death on the Cross


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#1 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 10 December 2016 - 10:55 PM

In a few threads, there have been passing references to Christ’s voluntary passion and giving up His life for our salvation. In these references, it has been mentioned that Christ, as Perfect Man and Perfect God, would not have died as we die (of old age and disease) and did not die as a result of His crucifixion but chose to give up His life. This view is in contrast to the second view, which is perhaps popularly held, that Christ must have died as a result of the physical effects of His crucifixion.


Is the first view the teaching of the Church and if so which of the Holy Fathers gave this teaching?


Edited by Rdr Andreas, 10 December 2016 - 10:56 PM.


#2 Kosta

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Posted 11 December 2016 - 10:52 AM

hello Andreas,
Not sure I'm understanding the question. There were a few times the Jews wanted to attack and kill Jesus for preaching blasphemy. The gospels say Jesus miraculously passed through them without a scratch. Thus Christ voluntarily went to his death being only subject to a violent death, not a natural one. Canon 109 of the African Code (Carthage) anathemizes anyone who says Adam would still have died a natural death apart from his contraction of that original sin.

#3 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 11 December 2016 - 10:54 PM

The view I have received is that Christ willing gave up his life on the Cross. This is the opinion of the Holy Fathers* whom I have read on this matter and is based on the crucifixion account given by Saint John, that Christ bowed his head then gave up the spirit, whereas when men die they die first then their neck and limbs go limp. This does not contradict that Christ died as a result of His crucifixion, rather that whereas men die as a result of whatever means involuntary, Christ submitted voluntarily for the Author of Life had the power to sustain His flesh but willed rather that which was good for us. For this is what the Lord spoke to the Jews in the Gospel of Saint John, 'Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.'

 

* I'm not able to access all my patristic sources at this point, I can confirm this is the view given by St John Chrysostom (Commentary on the Gospel of Saint John),  Saint Ambrose (Exposition of the Gospel of Saint Luke), St Theophylact (Commentaries on the Gospels), St Cryil of Jerusalem (Catechetical Homilies), and St Jerome. I also feel it may be referenced to by Saint Cyril of Alexandria but I cannot remember where, though it is oddly absent from his commentary on the Gospel of Saint John.

 

In Christ.

Daniel,



#4 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 11 December 2016 - 11:33 PM

Thank you for your post, Kosta. What I am trying to ask is this: is it the Church's teaching that Christ did not die in the flesh because of the effect of the crucifixion as men (such as those crucified with Him) did but that He voluntarily died as Rdr Daniel says? In other words, Christ could not be killed: He chose to die in every sense of the word 'chose'. I hope that's clearer.


Edited by Rdr Andreas, 11 December 2016 - 11:34 PM.


#5 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 07:34 AM

Dear Andreas,

Father Florovsky mentions:

 

"It must be stressed that in the Incarnation the Word assumes the original human nature, innocent and free from original sin, without any stain. This does not violate the fullness of nature, nor does this affect the Savior’s likeness to us sinful people. For sin does not belong to human nature, but is a parasitic and abnormal growth. This point was vigorously stressed by St. Gregory of Nyssa and particularly by St.Maximus the Confessor in connection with their teaching of the will as the seat of sin.In the Incarnation the Word assumes the first-formed human nature, created "in the image of God," and thereby the image of God is again re-established in man. This was not yet the assumption of human suffering or of suffering humanity. It was an assumption of human life, but not yet of human death. Christ’s freedom from original sin constitutes also His freedom from death, which is the "wages of sin." Christ is unstained from corruption and mortality right from His birth. And like the First Adam before the Fall, He is able not to die at all, potens non mori, though obviously He can still die, potens autem mori. He was exempt from the necessity of death, because His humanity was pure and innocent. Therefore Christ’s death was and could not but be voluntary, not by the necessity of fallen nature, but by free choice and acceptance."

 

In fuller context though, it is also who he is, the crucifixion is part of his eternal disposition as St Gregory mentions, 'The Lamb crucified before the foundation of the world'.
 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin

Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 17 December 2016 - 07:38 AM.


#6 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 09:10 AM

Thank you. Could you cite the source for what St Gregory of Nyssa says, please?



#7 Lakis Papas

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Posted 17 December 2016 - 10:52 AM

The phrase 'The Lamb crucified before the foundation of the world' is from Revelation 13:8 and can also be translated from the Greek text as 'The Lamb was crucified since the foundation of the world'.  The Greek word is "από"  which has the meaning "a point in time marking the starting of a period" .
 
This same meaning of "since" is also used from St Paul in his letter Hebrews 9:24-26:
"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
 
The above can be combined with St Peter letter, 1 Peter 1:19-20 (where he clearly uses the word before - Greek word "πρό" ):
"But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,.."

Edited by Lakis Papas, 17 December 2016 - 10:55 AM.


#8 Anna Stickles

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Posted 20 December 2016 - 01:39 PM

In a few threads, there have been passing references to Christ’s voluntary passion and giving up His life for our salvation. In these references, it has been mentioned that Christ, as Perfect Man and Perfect God, would not have died as we die (of old age and disease) and did not die as a result of His crucifixion but chose to give up His life. This view is in contrast to the second view, which is perhaps popularly held, that Christ must have died as a result of the physical effects of His crucifixion.


Is the first view the teaching of the Church and if so which of the Holy Fathers gave this teaching?

The problematic Christology you mention is actually part of a larger drift in secular academic theology that has started to doubt and reformulate the doctrine of the impassibility of God, making even God the Father passible and also subject to human emotions.  It is worse, (has been around longer and is more entrenched as the new norm) there "across the pond" then here in the US, although it has also started to become more widespread here also. It is really a head back in the direction of the pagan Greek Gods who were just superhuman, not really God. I don't know though that very many people, would actually say that Christ died as a result of the physical effects of the crucifixion rather than voluntarily. Most of where things go wrong are more subtle then this.

 

"Passion" does not just mean to suffer pain, but rather the Greek word is often used in the context of being moved by something involuntarily, some force outside oneself, so for the Greeks, "voluntary passion" was a contradiction in terms - literally they had to rework the context for the word "passion" when speaking of Christ. "Passion" in Greek literature is often used of emotions, pain and death in the sense that we do not choose to suffer from some emotion, feel pain or die, but rather they come upon us involuntarily. Christ however as God and Lord of all creation was Lord of His own body also.

 

St John of Damascus (Orthodox Faith, Book 3, Chap.20) kind of sums up tradition when he says:
 

Moreover, we confess that He [ie Christ] assumed all the natural and blameless passions of man. This is because He assumed the whole man and everything that is his, except sin,-for this last is not natural and it was not implanted in us by the Creator. On the contrary, it grew up in our will from the oversowing of the Devil, freely and not prevailing over us by force.


Now, these passions are natural and blameless which are not under our control and have come into man's life as a result of the condemnation occasioned by his fall. Such, for example, were hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, the tears, the destruction, the shrinking from death, the fear, the agony from which came the sweating & drops of blood, the aid brought by the angels in deference to the weakness of His nature, and any other such things as are naturally inherent in all men.

So, He assumed all that He might sanctify all. He was put to the test and He conquered that He might gain for us the victory and to give to our nature the
power to conquer the Adversary, so that through the very assaults by which the nature had been conquered of old it might conquer its former victor.

Now, the Evil One attacked from the outside, just as he had with Adam, and not through thoughts- for it was not through thoughts that he attacked Adam, but through the serpent. The Lord, however, repelled the attack and it vanished like smoke, so that by being conquered the passions which had assailed Him might be easy for us to conquer and the new Adam thus be restored by the old.

Actually, our natural passions were in Christ according to nature and over and above nature. Thus, it was according to nature that they were aroused in Him, when He permitted the flesh to suffer what was proper to it; whereas it was over and above nature, because in the Lord the things of nature did not control the will. For with Him nothing is found to be done under compulsion; on the contrary, everything was done freely. Thus, it was by willing that He hungered and by willing that He thirsted, by willing that He was afraid and by willing that He died."

 


 


Edited by Anna Stickles, 20 December 2016 - 01:43 PM.


#9 Anna Stickles

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Posted 20 December 2016 - 02:04 PM

Just one other note - For the Greek philosophers passions were bad. They denoted a state of human nature that was not under control, and for the Stoics in particular and for many other non-Christian ascetic traditions the idea was to move toward dispassion such that man was no longer having these involuntary emotions running his life. They were trying to become God in how they were completely, in themselves, lord of their own body and soul.

 

We too recognize how grief, anger, desire and other emotions and involuntary impulses of the soul are often inappropriate or overly extreme and out of the natural order of things. There is need for control. But while God has given us some limited control and self-determination, this is in cooperation with and submission to Him.

“[The passions of the soul] are gifts from God, being moved  by the guidance and rule of the Logos.” St Gregory Nazianzius, On Anger

 

The difference between us and Christ is that the Logos had complete determination in regard what was his own, while we are limited and dependent on Him in regard what is ours. Death is the ultimate passion in that there is no human way to avoid this, though we understand that of course every aspect of Christ's own death was entirely under His Lordship. But we also see in the lives of the saints how they willing cooperated with Christ even in this and thus it was they they died not totally involuntarily, but voluntarily in Him.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 20 December 2016 - 02:09 PM.


#10 Anna Stickles

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 03:12 PM

Daniel,

I remember reading that St Cyril's Commentary on John was written primarily during the Arian debates, before the Nestorian controversy got heated. The only specific quote from Cyril that I know of is not in any of his extant writings but Severus does quote him on this topic. The cross is not specifically mentioned, but it is the same general understanding of the idea of a voluntary passion.  

 

"For, though it is said that he hungered and thirsted, and slept and grew weary after a journey, and wept and feared, these things did not happen to him just as they do to us in accordance with compulsory ordinances of nature; but he himself voluntarily permitted his flesh to walk according to the laws of nature, for he sometimes allowed it even to undergo its own passions" (Letters of Severus)

 

There is also this from his commentary on John 12:27


Moreover, just as death was brought to naught in no other way than by the death of the Saviour, so also with regard to each of the passions of the flesh. For unless [Christ] had felt cowardice  human nature could not be freed from cowardice; unless He had experienced grief there would never have been any deliverance from grief; unless He had been troubled and alarmed no escape from these feelings could have been found. And with regard to every human experience, you will find exactly the corresponding thing in Christ. The passions of His flesh were aroused, not that they might have the upper hand as they do in us, but in order that when aroused they might be thoroughly subdued by the power of the Word dwelling in the flesh, the nature thus undergoing a change for the better.
 

He could have subdued them immediately without allowing them to show, but his voluntary passion encompassed not just his coming as King and God and conquerer, but also as man and creature and servant. He was an example to us of the type of submission and obedience we are to have. He was "taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."
 




 
 


Edited by Anna Stickles, 21 December 2016 - 03:26 PM.


#11 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 05:31 PM

Anna, thank you for your very valuable input - I find it most helpful.



#12 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 08:10 PM

Dear Anna,

 

"And with regard to every human experience, you will find exactly the corresponding thing in Christ."

 

What you have posted sounds like recapitulation to me, even when human beings are in the womb.

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin



#13 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 09:57 PM

With regard to that extract from the commentary of St Cyril, it surely has to be understood with some limitations since clearly not every human experience was found in Christ. Many of our experiences are bound up with sin and the consequences of the Fall. Christ willed to experience the blameless passions and those emotions common to human nature.



#14 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 10:39 PM

Dear Andreas,

 

Sure we are aware of the limitations and the consequences of the fall. The notion that you presented in the other thread regarding the human embryo is simply not orthodox at, all to say the least.

 

It is actually the type of question that orthodox Christians don't even ask.

 

I'm wondering, what was your point with that strange new teaching? You hit upon something new as Saint Irenaeus actually warns people not to do.

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin



#15 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 22 December 2016 - 12:30 AM

Matthew, I cannot understand why you say what you say. What was put forward for discussion was what is said by St John of Damascus (who was fully quoted) and St Basil the Great as put forth by Metropolitan Hierotheos who presents it as Orthodox teaching. Father David accepted it as Orthodox teaching. (FWIIW, it is also Roman Catholic teaching.) St John of Damascus, St Basil the Great, Metropolitan Hierotheos - do you say what they write is not Orthodox?



#16 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 22 December 2016 - 02:25 AM

Dear Andreas,

 

You have misread much. I sure hope Father David does not accept it as Orthodox teaching. You should read the entire corpus by Saint Irenaeus to see which of the Gnostic groups that he rose up against most resembles your thinking on the matter. I don't think it possible for you and others then to hold on to your position.

 

In Christ,

 

Matthew Panchisin


Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 22 December 2016 - 02:26 AM.


#17 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 22 December 2016 - 09:27 AM

Matthew, you have not answered the question I put but I will try again. I do not have 'thinking on the matter'; I do not have a 'position'. I know that we do not form personal opinions about doctrine but have recourse to Holy Tradition which includes the writings of the Holy Fathers among whom St John of Damascus is a leading light: he is a pillar of Orthodoxy. What I did was to quote St John of Damascus and ask if what he writes is accepted as the teaching of the Church on the particular point, and the answer was 'yes'. The Church has no other teaching on the point.

 

It may be that moderators will think that these recent posts more properly belong in the relevant thread.



#18 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 12:01 AM


Dear Andreas,

I'm sure that part of the Orthodox tradition is not to take excerpts here and there and say here do you accept what is being said or not? One can create an emphasis on some point and say this is a dogma see what the Church Fathers have said etc. As far as Father David's supportive conclusion or proclamation, it is his, it certainly isn't within the ethos of any Orthodox Christians that I know or have known in my life thus far.

 

The way the Orthodox Church translates the writing of the Church Fathers is not in a completely scholastic manner, or by the secular migrating away of text. As you know, the Roman Catholic entity and other groups are notorious for that sort of thing. Hence we have often heard, 'see the Church Fathers text, the Pope is universal head - infallible and the new immaculate conception dogma is right there! Do you accept what the Church Fathers are saying or not!


Andreas, that even goes as far as exact word for word translations even from ancient text, the Orthodox Church can and actually does translate exact wording much differently on occasion.

Additionally, the citing of Roman Catholic acceptance of some things is not considered reliable evidence for support of Orthodox understandings, here anyway. I did notice your
for what it is worth disclaimer, but still why cite those that are in heresy for supportive evidence?

So to answer your question, no I don't accept your presentation of the text of the Church Fathers you have cited because you and others have removed and isolated them from their fuller context.
 
In Christ,
 
Matthew Panchisin

 

 



#19 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 06:39 AM

Are we never to quote excerpts? No one says the issue is one of dogma -  we must take care with that word. Since you reject what St Basil and St John of Damascus say about this, and reject what Metropolitan Hierotheos writes, and reject what Father David said, I can say no more to you about this.



#20 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 06:39 PM

Dear Andreas,

You need not respond to this, however it could be helpful to keep in mind that of course we are allowed to quote excerpts, but rightly.

Firstly, this is disappointing as well, you wrongly suggested that I reject the writings of St Basil and St John of Damascus say about this, I did not say that at all, I did say,

 

"no I don't accept your presentation of the text of the Church Fathers you have cited because you and others have removed and isolated them from their fuller context."


When Saint John of Damascus speaks of the incarnation in the text you presented he is expressing himself in terms of his limited capacity in that matter, putting words to that which is the fruit of or way in which he came to understand God and his ways. He is speaking of the perfection of the Lord God incarnate from different order as best as he can.

Here is a bit of a fuller context, his words, that you cited, are connected from that perspective.

Saint John of Damascus BOOK I CHAPTER II Concerning things utterable and things unutterable, and things knowable and things unknowable.

It is necessary, therefore, that one who wishes to speak or to hear of God should understand clearly that alike in the doctrine of Deity and in that of the Incarnation, neither are all things unutterable nor all utterable; neither all unknowable nor all knowable. But the knowable belongs to one order, and the utterable to another; just as it is one thing to speak and another thing to know. Many of the things relating to God, therefore, that are dimly understood cannot be put into fitting terms, but on things above us we cannot do else than express ourselves according to our limited capacity; as, for instance, when we speak of God we use the terms sleep, and wrath, and regardlessness, hands, too, and feet, land such like expressions.
 
In Christ,
 
Matthew Panchisin

Edited by Matthew Panchisin, 03 January 2017 - 06:46 PM.





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