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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • THE FOURTH ARTICLE: "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and
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THE FOURTH ARTICLE: "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and

was buried."


It is just as necessary for the Christian to believe in the passion and

death of the Son of God as it is to believe in His Incarnation. For, as St.

Gregory says, "there would have been no advantage in His having been born

for us unless we had profited by His Redemption." That Christ died for us

is so tremendous a fact that our intellect can scarcely grasp it; for in no

way does it fall in the natural way of our understanding. This is what the

Apostle says: "I work in your days, a work which you will not believe, if

any man shall tell it to you."1 The grace of God is so great and His love

for us is such that we cannot understand what He has done for us. Now, we

must believe that, although Christ suffered death, yet His Godhead did not

die; it was the human nature in Christ that died. For He did not die as

God, but as man.2


This will be clear from two examples, one of which is taken from himself.

Now, when a man dies, in the separation of the soul from the body the soul

does not die but the body or flesh does die. So also in the death of

Christ, His Divinity did not die, but His man nature suffered death. But if

the Jews did not slay the Divinity of Christ, it would seem that their sin

was not any greater than if they killed any ordinary man. In answering this

we say that it is as if a king were clothed only in one garment, and if

someone befouled this garment, such a one has committed as grave a crime as

if he had defiled the king himself. Likewise, although the Jews could not

slay God, yet in putting to death the human nature which Christ assumed,

they were as severely punished as if they had put the Godhead itself to

death. Another example is had from what we said before, viz., that the Son

of God is the Word of God, and the Word of God made flesh is like the word

of a king written on paper.3 So if one should tear this royal paper in

pieces, it would be considered that he had rent apart the word of the king.

Thus, the sin of the Jews was as grievous as if they had slain the Word of



But what need was there that the Son of God should suffer for us? There was

a great need; and indeed it can be assigned to two reasons. The first is

that it was a remedy against sin, and the second is for an example of what

we ought to do. It was a remedy to such an extent that in the passion of

Christ we find a remedy against all the evils which we incur by our sins.

And by our sins we incur five different evils.


1. Acts, xiii. 41 (quoting Hab., i. 5).


2. "As Christ was true and perfect man, He was capable of truly dying. Now,

man dies when the soul is separated from the body. When, therefore, we say

that Jesus died, we mean this, that His soul was disunited from His body.

We do not admit, however, that the Divinity was separated from His Body. On

the contrary, we firmly believe and profess that when His soul was

dissociated from His body, His Divinity continued always united both to His

body in the sepulchre and to His soul in limbo" ("Roman Catechism," Fourth

Article, 6).


3. See above, p. 6.


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