Christians believe a few basic things:

  1. God exists as Three Persons in One Being
  2. Jesus died on the cross (and rose again)
  3. Jesus was God.

During #2, however, there seems to be a bit of a problem. How is that any part of God died on the Cross? For the period of time that Jesus was dead, was the Trinity actually a Trinity? And how is this reconciled with the fact that patripassianism is considered heresy by Nicene Christians?

Note, this question assumes that AffableGeek's answer in What is the basis of the view that Jesus was separated from the Father and Holy Spirit upon death? is understood as "true" for the parties in question. Given this understanding, a good answer should indicate how the Trinity is maintained in light of it.

  • I would love to answer, unfortunately you've created question that it is impossible to give an orthodox answer to because of your stated starting assumption based on AffableGeek's answer. His answer is severely flawed in its understanding of orthodox Christology. Therefore this question cannot be answered as it is. If that assumption is removed I will effort to answer.
    – Joshua
    Jul 7, 2016 at 11:36
  • Since death doesn't mean cessation of existence, I don't see why not. In God there is no variations or shadow of change. Jul 5, 2017 at 13:29
  • Was the Trinity still a Trinity before Jesus was born of Mary ?
    – user46876
    May 3, 2020 at 14:05

1 Answer 1


Jesus Christ, on earth, was the incarnate Word: the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son. His earthly body and the soul which animated it were both at once human and divine.

To say “God died” actually denies the human soul and its continued existence after the death of the body. Even though Jesus’ body died, his soul did not — or what hope is there for the rest of us?

His body died, but his soul — with its divine nature as well as human — continued its existence. The Word did not die. Indeed, not only did the Word not die, but he descended to hell. The gates of hell in Mt 16:18 are important because they could not contain him.

The Catholic Catechism puts meat on the bones of this answer:

625 Christ's stay in the tomb constitutes the real link between his passibleA state before Easter and his glorious and risen state today. The same person of the "Living One" can say, "I died, and behold I am alive for evermore":465

God [the Son] did not impede death from separating his soul from his body according to the necessary order of nature, but has reunited them to one another in the Resurrection, so that he himself might be, in his person, the meeting point for death and life, by arresting in himself the decomposition of nature produced by death and so becoming the source of reunion for the separated parts.466

626 Since the "Author of life" who was killed467 is the same "living one [who has] risen",468 The divine person of the Son of God necessarily continued to possess his human soul and body, separated from each other by death:

By the fact that at Christ's death his soul was separated from his flesh, his one person is not itself divided into two persons; for the human body and soul of Christ have existed in the same way from the beginning of his earthly existence, in the divine person of the Word; and in death, although separated from each other, both remained with one and the same person of the Word.469

627 Christ's death was a real death in that it put an end to his earthly human existence. But because of the union his body retained with the person of the Son, his was not a mortal corpse like others, for "divine power preserved Christ's body from corruption."470 Both of these statements can be said of Christ: "He was cut off out of the land of the living",471 and "My flesh will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let your Holy One see corruption."472 Jesus' Resurrection "on the third day" was the proof of this, for bodily decay was held [by the people of the time] to begin on the fourth day after death.473

A passible: able to suffer [from Latin passio, suffering]
465 Rev 1:18.
466 St. Gregory of Nyssa, Orat. catech. 16: PG 45, 52D.
467 Acts 3:15.
468 Lk 24:5-6.
469 St. John Damascene, De fide orth. 3, 27: PG 94, 1097.
470 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol. III, 51, 3.
471 Is 53:8.
472 Acts 2:26-27; cf. Ps 16:9-10.
473 Cf. I Cor 15:4; Lk 24:46; Mt 12:40; Jn 2:1; Hos 6:2; cf. Jn 11:39.

  • Just a follow up then - what is the nature of Jesus post resurrection? Considered only divine and no longer human? If so, how does that tie in with the Second Coming?
    – green4rrow
    Nov 30, 2013 at 1:41
  • @green4rrow At the resurrection, his soul and body were reunited. Dec 9, 2013 at 20:19
  • Are you sure you're not committing apollinarianism in your first two paragraphs? Catholic and mainstream Christianity's theology have bought into understandings of the Constitution of man and the intermediate state that make this question uncomfortable to answer when those things are applied to Christ's life and death. Maybe we should re-examine those beliefs rather than redoing orthodox christology?
    – Joshua
    Jul 7, 2016 at 11:52
  • 1
    @Joshua Absolutely not: the first paragraph explicitly refutes that accusation. Jul 7, 2016 at 12:01
  • 1
    @AndrewLeach OK understood, wasn't sure if you were implying the "lesser soul" of Jesus's humanity. I think the problem the other comments are seeing is you seem to equate dying as ceasing to exist and therefore conclude his soul didn't die. Well... Yes it did. But a state or existence in death can still be existent. So the entire human Jesus died. And the divine Jesus, being in union with the humanity (all of it, however you want to divide it), was affected by this death as well. But that didn't mean the divine Jesus ceased either.
    – Joshua
    Jul 7, 2016 at 12:22

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .