Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V/Novatian/A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity/Part 25
Chapter XXV. Argument.—And that It Does Not Follow Thence, that Because Christ Died It Must Also Be Received that God Died; For Scripture Sets Forth that Not Only Was Christ God, But Man Also.
Therefore, say they, if Christ is not man only, but God also—and Scripture tells us that He died for us, and was raised again—then Scripture teaches us to believe that God died; or if God does not die, and Christ is said to have died, then Christ will not be God, because God cannot be admitted to have died. If they ever could understand or had understood what they read, they would never speak after such a perilous fashion. But the folly of error is always hasty in its descent, and it is no new thing if those who have forsaken the lawful faith descend even to perilous results. For if Scripture were to set forth that Christ is God only, and that there was no association of human weakness mingled in His nature, this intricate argument of theirs might reasonably avail something. If Christ is God, and Christ died, then God died. But when Scripture determines, as we have frequently shown, that He is not only God, but man also, it follows that what is immortal may be held to have remained uncorrupted. For who cannot understand that the divinity is impassible, although the human weakness is liable to suffering? When, therefore, Christ is understood to be mingled and associated as well of that which God is, as of that which man is—for “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt in us”—who cannot easily apprehend of himself, without any teacher and interpreter, that it was not that in Christ that died which is God, but that in Him died which is man? For what if the divinity in Christ does not die, but the substance of the flesh only is destroyed, when in other men also, who are not flesh only, but flesh and soul, the flesh indeed alone suffers the inroads of wasting and death, while the soul is seen to be uncorrupted, and beyond the laws of destruction and death? For this also our Lord Himself said, exhorting us to martyrdom and to contempt of all human power: “Fear not those who slay the body, but cannot kill the soul.” But if the immortal soul cannot be killed or slain in any other, although the body and flesh by itself can be slain, how much rather assuredly could not the Word of God and God in Christ be put to death at all, although the flesh alone and the body was slain! For if in any man whatever, the soul has this excellence of immortality that it cannot be slain, much more has the nobility of the Word of God this power of not being slain. For if the power of men fails to slay the sacred power of God, and if the cruelty of man fails to destroy the soul, much more ought it to fail to slay the Word of God. For as the soul itself, which was made by the Word of God, is not killed by men, certainly much rather will it be believed that the Word of God cannot be destroyed. And if the sanguinary cruelty of men cannot do more against men than only to slay the body, how much more certainly it will not have power against Christ beyond in the same way slaying the body! So that, while from these considerations it is gathered that nothing but the human nature in Christ was put to death, it appears that the Word in Him was not drawn down into mortality. For if Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, who, it is admitted, were only men, are manifested to be alive—for all they, says He, “live unto God;” and death in them does not destroy the soul, although it dissolves the bodies themselves: for it could exercise its power on the bodies, it did not avail to exercise it on the souls: for the one in them was mortal, and therefore died; the other in them was immortal, and therefore is understood not to have been extinguished: for which reason they are affirmed and said to live unto God,—much rather death in Christ could have power against the material of His body alone, while against the divinity of the Word it could not bring itself to bear. For the power of death is broken when the authority of immortality intervenes.
- According to Pamelius, ch. xx.
- Matt. x. 28.
- [Luke xx. 38. A solemn admonition is found in the parallel Scripture, Matt. xxii. 29, which teaches us how much we ought to find beneath the surface of Holy Writ.]