QUESTION 53: OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION
We have now to consider those things that concern Christ's Exaltation;
and we shall deal with (1) His Resurrection; (2) His Ascension; (3) His
sitting at the right hand of God the Father; (4) His Judiciary Power.
Under the first heading there is a fourfold consideration: (1) Christ's
Resurrection in itself; (2) the quality of the Person rising; (3) the
manifestation of the Resurrection; (4) its causality. Concerning the
first there are four points of inquiry:
(1) The necessity of His Resurrection;
(2) The time of the Resurrection;
(3) Its order;
(4) Its cause.
Article 1: Whether it was necessary for Christ to rise again?
Objection 1: It would seem that it was not necessary for Christ to rise again.
For Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iv): "Resurrection is the rising again
of an animate being, which was disintegrated and fallen." But Christ did
not fall by sinning, nor was His body dissolved, as is manifest from what
was stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore, it does not properly belong to
Him to rise again.
Objection 2: Further, whoever rises again is promoted to a higher state, since
to rise is to be uplifted. But after death Christ's body continued to be
united with the Godhead, hence it could not be uplifted to any higher
condition. Therefore, it was not due to it to rise again.
Objection 3: Further, all that befell Christ's humanity was ordained for our
salvation. But Christ's Passion sufficed for our salvation, since by it
we were loosed from guilt and punishment, as is clear from what was said
above (Question , Article ,3). Consequently, it was not necessary for Christ to
rise again from the dead.
On the contrary, It is written (Lk. 24:46): "It behooved Christ to
suffer and to rise again from the dead."
I answer that, It behooved Christ to rise again, for five reasons. First
of all; for the commendation of Divine Justice, to which it belongs to
exalt them who humble themselves for God's sake, according to Lk. 1:52:
"He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the
humble." Consequently, because Christ humbled Himself even to the death
of the Cross, from love and obedience to God, it behooved Him to be
uplifted by God to a glorious resurrection; hence it is said in His
Person (Ps. 138:2): "Thou hast known," i.e. approved, "my sitting down,"
i.e. My humiliation and Passion, "and my rising up," i.e. My
glorification in the resurrection; as the gloss expounds.
Secondly, for our instruction in the faith, since our belief in Christ's Godhead is confirmed by His rising again, because, according to 2 Cor. 13:4, "although He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God." And therefore it is written (1 Cor. 15:14): "If Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and our [Vulg.: 'your'] faith is also vain": and (Ps. 29:10): "What profit is there in my blood?" that is, in the shedding of My blood, "while I go down," as by various degrees of evils, "into corruption?" As though He were to answer: "None. 'For if I do not at once rise again but My body be corrupted, I shall preach to no one, I shall gain no one,'" as the gloss expounds.
Thirdly, for the raising of our hope, since through seeing Christ, who
is our head, rise again, we hope that we likewise shall rise again. Hence
it is written (1 Cor. 15:12): "Now if Christ be preached that He rose
from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection
of the dead?" And (Job 19:25,27): "I know," that is with certainty of
faith, "that my Redeemer," i.e. Christ, "liveth," having risen from the
dead; "and" therefore "in the last day I shall rise out of the earth . .
. this my hope is laid up in my bosom."
Fourthly, to set in order the lives of the faithful: according to Rm.
6:4: "As Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we
also may walk in newness of life": and further on; "Christ rising from
the dead dieth now no more; so do you also reckon that you are dead to
sin, but alive to God."
Fifthly, in order to complete the work of our salvation: because, just
as for this reason did He endure evil things in dying that He might
deliver us from evil, so was He glorified in rising again in order to
advance us towards good things; according to Rm. 4:25: "He was delivered
up for our sins, and rose again for our justification."
Reply to Objection 1: Although Christ did not fall by sin, yet He fell by death,
because as sin is a fall from righteousness, so death is a fall from
life: hence the words of Micheas 7:8 can be taken as though spoken by
Christ: "Rejoice not thou, my enemy, over me, because I am fallen: I
shall rise again." Likewise, although Christ's body was not disintegrated
by returning to dust, yet the separation of His soul and body was a kind
Reply to Objection 2: The Godhead was united with Christ's flesh after death by
personal union, but not by natural union; thus the soul is united with
the body as its form, so as to constitute human nature. Consequently, by
the union of the body and soul, the body was uplifted to a higher
condition of nature, but not to a higher personal state.
Reply to Objection 3: Christ's Passion wrought our salvation, properly speaking,
by removing evils; but the Resurrection did so as the beginning and
exemplar of all good things.
Article 2: Whether it was fitting for Christ to rise again on the third day?
Objection 1: It would seem unfitting that Christ should have risen again on
the third day. For the members ought to be in conformity with their head.
But we who are His members do not rise from death on the third day, since
our rising is put off until the end of the world. Therefore, it seems
that Christ, who is our head, should not have risen on the third day, but
that His Resurrection ought to have been deferred until the end of the
Objection 2: Further, Peter said (Acts 2:24) that "it was impossible for
Christ to be held fast by hell" and death. Therefore it seems that
Christ's rising ought not to have been deferred until the third day, but
that He ought to have risen at once on the same day; especially since the
gloss quoted above (Article ) says that "there is no profit in the shedding
of Christ's blood, if He did not rise at once."
Objection 3: The day seems to start with the rising of the sun, the presence
of which causes the day. But Christ rose before sunrise: for it is
related (Jn. 20:1) that "Mary Magdalen cometh early, when it was yet
dark, unto the sepulchre": but Christ was already risen, for it goes on
to say: "And she saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre." Therefore
Christ did not rise on the third day.
On the contrary, It is written (Mt. 20:19): "They shall deliver Him to
the Gentiles to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified, and the third day
He shall rise again."
I answer that, As stated above (Article ) Christ's Resurrection was
necessary for the instruction of our faith. But our faith regards
Christ's Godhead and humanity, for it is not enough to believe the one
without the other, as is evident from what has been said (Question , Article ; cf. SS, Question , Articles ,8). Consequently, in order that our faith in the
truth of His Godhead might be confirmed it was necessary that He should
rise speedily, and that His Resurrection should not be deferred until the
end of the world. But to confirm our faith regarding the truth of His
humanity and death, it was needful that there should be some interval
between His death and rising. For if He had risen directly after death,
it might seem that His death was not genuine and consequently neither
would His Resurrection be true. But to establish the truth of Christ's
death, it was enough for His rising to be deferred until the third day,
for within that time some signs of life always appear in one who appears
to be dead whereas he is alive.
Furthermore, by His rising on the third day, the perfection of the
number "three" is commended, which is "the number of everything," as
having "beginning, middle, and end," as is said in De Coelo i. Again in
the mystical sense we are taught that Christ by "His one death" (i.e. of
the body) which was light, by reason of His righteousness, "destroyed our
two deaths" (i.e. of soul and body), which are as darkness on account of
sin; consequently, He remained in death for one day and two nights, as
Augustine observes (De Trin. iv).
And thereby is also signified that a third epoch began with the
Resurrection: for the first was before the Law; the second under the Law;
and the third under grace. Moreover the third state of the saints began
with the Resurrection of Christ: for, the first was under figures of the
Law; the second under the truth of faith; while the third will be in the
eternity of glory, which Christ inaugurated by rising again.
Reply to Objection 1: The head and members are likened in nature, but not in
power; because the power of the head is more excellent than that of the
members. Accordingly, to show forth the excellence of Christ's power, it
was fitting that He should rise on the third day, while the resurrection
of the rest is put off until the end of the world.
Reply to Objection 2: Detention implies a certain compulsion. But Christ was not
held fast by any necessity of death, but was "free among the dead": and
therefore He abode a while in death, not as one held fast, but of His own
will, just so long as He deemed necessary for the instruction of our
faith. And a task is said to be done "at once" which is performed within
a short space of time.
Reply to Objection 3: As stated above (Question , Article , ad 1,2), Christ rose early
when the day was beginning to dawn, to denote that by His Resurrection He
brought us to the light of glory; just as He died when the day was
drawing to its close, and nearing to darkness, in order to signify that
by His death He would destroy the darkness of sin and its punishment.
Nevertheless He is said to have risen on the third day, taking day as a
natural day which contains twenty-four hours. And as Augustine says (De
Trin. iv): "The night until the dawn, when the Lord's Resurrection was
proclaimed, belongs to the third day. Because God, who made the light to
shine forth from darkness, in order that by the grace of the New
Testament and partaking of Christ's rising we might hear this---'once ye
were darkness, but now light in the Lord'---insinuates in a measure to us
that day draws its origin from night: for, as the first days are computed
from light to darkness on account of man's coming fall, so these days are
reckoned from darkness to light owing to man's restoration." And so it is
evident that even if He had risen at midnight, He could be said to have
risen on the third day, taking it as a natural day. But now that He rose
early, it can be affirmed that He rose on the third day, even taking the
artificial day which is caused by the sun's presence, because the sun had
already begun to brighten the sky. Hence it is written (Mk. 16:2) that
"the women come to the sepulchre, the sun being now risen"; which is not
contrary to John's statement "when it was yet dark," as Augustine says
(De Cons. Evang. iii), "because, as the day advances the more the light
rises, the more are the remaining shadows dispelled." But when Mark says
"'the sun being now risen,' it is not to be taken as if the sun were
already apparent over the horizon, but as coming presently into those
Article 3: Whether Christ was the first to rise from the dead?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ was not the first to rise from the dead, because we read in the Old Testament of some persons raised to life by Elias and Eliseus, according to Heb. 11:35: "Women received their dead raised to life again": also Christ before His Passion raised three dead persons to life. Therefore Christ was not the first to rise from the dead.
Objection 2: Further, among the other miracles which happened during the
Passion, it is narrated (Mt. 27:52) that "the monuments were opened, and
many bodies of the saints who had slept rose again." Therefore Christ was
not the first to rise from the dead.
Objection 3: Further, as Christ by His own rising is the cause of our
resurrection, so by His grace He is the cause of our grace, according to
Jn. 1:16: "Of His fulness we all have received." But in point of time
some others had grace previous to Christ---for instance all the fathers
of the Old Testament. Therefore some others came to the resurrection of
the body before Christ.
On the contrary, It is written (1 Cor. 15:20): "Christ is risen from the
dead, the first fruits of them that sleep---because," says the gloss, "He
rose first in point of time and dignity."
I answer that, Resurrection is a restoring from death to life. Now a man
is snatched from death in two ways: first of all, from actual death, so
that he begins in any way to live anew after being actually dead: in
another way, so that he is not only rescued from death, but from the
necessity, nay more, from the possibility of dying again. Such is a true
and perfect resurrection, because so long as a man lives, subject to the
necessity of dying, death has dominion over him in a measure, according
to Rm. 8:10: "The body indeed is dead because of sin." Furthermore, what
has the possibility of existence, is said to exist in some respect, that
is, in potentiality. Thus it is evident that the resurrection, whereby
one is rescued from actual death only, is but an imperfect one.
Consequently, speaking of perfect resurrection, Christ is the first of
them who rise, because by rising He was the first to attain life utterly
immortal, according to Rm. 6:9: "Christ rising from the dead dieth now no
more." But by an imperfect resurrection, some others have risen before
Christ, so as to be a kind of figure of His Resurrection.
And thus the answer to the first objection is clear: because both those
raised from the dead in the old Testament, and those raised by Christ, so
returned to life that they had to die again.
Reply to Objection 2: There are two opinions regarding them who rose with Christ.
Some hold that they rose to life so as to die no more, because it would
be a greater torment for them to die a second time than not to rise at
all. According to this view, as Jerome observes on Mt. 27:52,53, we must
understand that "they had not risen before our Lord rose." Hence the
Evangelist says that "coming out of the tombs after His Resurrection,
they came into the holy city, and appeared to many." But Augustine (Ep.
ad Evod. clxiv) while giving this opinion, says: "I know that it appears
some, that by the death of Christ the Lord the same resurrection was
bestowed upon the righteous as is promised to us in the end; and if they
slept not again by laying aside their bodies, it remains to be seen how
Christ can be understood to be 'the first-born of the dead,' if so many
preceded Him unto that resurrection. Now if reply be made that this is
said by anticipation, so that the monuments be understood to have been
opened by the earthquake while Christ was still hanging on the cross, but
that the bodies of the just did not rise then but after He had risen, the
difficulty still arises---how is it that Peter asserts that it was
predicted not of David but of Christ, that His body would not see
corruption, since David's tomb was in their midst; and thus he did not
convince them, if David's body was no longer there; for even if he had
risen soon after his death, and his flesh had not seen corruption, his
tomb might nevertheless remain. Now it seems hard that David from whose
seed Christ is descended, was not in that rising of the just, if an
eternal rising was conferred upon them. Also that saying in the Epistle
to the Hebrews (11:40) regarding the ancient just would be hard to
explain, 'that they should not be perfected without us,' if they were
already established in that incorruption of the resurrection which is
promised at the end when we shall be made perfect": so that Augustine
would seem to think that they rose to die again. In this sense Jerome
also in commenting on Matthew (27:52,53) says: "As Lazarus rose, so also
many of the bodies of the saints rose, that they might bear witness to
the risen Christ." Nevertheless in a sermon for the Assumption [*Ep. ix
ad Paul. et Eustoch.; among the supposititious works ascribed to St.
Jerome] he seems to leave the matter doubtful. But Augustine's reasons
seem to be much more cogent.
Reply to Objection 3: As everything preceding Christ's coming was preparatory for
Christ, so is grace a disposition for glory. Consequently, it behooved
all things appertaining to glory, whether they regard the soul, as the
perfect fruition of God, or whether they regard the body, as the glorious
resurrection, to be first in Christ as the author of glory: but that
grace should be first in those that were ordained unto Christ.
Article 4: Whether Christ was the cause of His own Resurrection?
Objection 1: It seems that Christ was not the cause of His own Resurrection.
For whoever is raised up by another is not the cause of his own rising.
But Christ was raised up by another, according to Acts 2:24: "Whom God
hath raised up, having loosed the sorrows of hell": and Rm. 8:11: "He
that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead, shall quicken also your mortal
bodies." Therefore Christ is not the cause of His own Resurrection.
Objection 2: Further, no one is said to merit, or ask from another, that of
which he is himself the cause. But Christ by His Passion merited the
Resurrection, as Augustine says (Tract. civ in Joan.): "The lowliness of
the Passion is the meritorious cause of the glory of the Resurrection."
Moreover He asked the Father that He might be raised up again, according
to Ps. 40:11: "But thou, O Lord, have mercy on me, and raise me up
again." Therefore He was not the cause of His rising again.
Objection 3: Further, as Damascene proves (De Fide Orth. iv), it is not the
soul that rises again, but the body, which is stricken by death. But the
body could not unite the soul with itself, since the soul is nobler.
Therefore what rose in Christ could not be the cause of His Resurrection.
On the contrary, Our Lord says (Jn. 10:18): "No one taketh My soul from
Me, but I lay it down, and I take it up again." But to rise is nothing
else than to take the soul up again. Consequently, it appears that Christ
rose again of His own power.
I answer that, As stated above (Question , Articles ,3) in consequence of death
Christ's Godhead was not separated from His soul, nor from His flesh.
Consequently, both the soul and the flesh of the dead Christ can be
considered in two respects: first, in respect of His Godhead; secondly,
in respect of His created nature. Therefore, according to the virtue of
the Godhead united to it, the body took back again the soul which it had
laid aside, and the soul took back again the body which it had abandoned:
and thus Christ rose by His own power. And this is precisely what is
written (2 Cor. 13:4): "For although He was crucified through" our
"weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God." But if we consider the
body and soul of the dead Christ according to the power of created
nature, they could not thus be reunited, but it was necessary for Christ
to be raised up by God.
Reply to Objection 1: The Divine power is the same thing as the operation of the
Father and the Son; accordingly these two things are mutually consequent,
that Christ was raised up by the Divine power of the Father, and by His
Reply to Objection 2: Christ by praying besought and merited His Resurrection, as
man and not as God.
Reply to Objection 3: According to its created nature Christ's body is not more
powerful than His soul; yet according to its Divine power it is more
powerful. Again the soul by reason of the Godhead united to it is more
powerful than the body in respect of its created nature. Consequently, it
was by the Divine power that the body and soul mutually resumed each
other, but not by the power of their created nature.