Cassiodorus’ Monks on 1 Cor 2:8 and God’s Suffering

In 1 Corinthians 2:8, the apostle Paul states that the “Lord of glory” was crucified. This led to certain difficulties on the part of interpreters, wondering how God – who is invincible and immortal – could be said to be crucified, and die. Here are the comments of monks from the monastery of Squillace in southern Italy, founded by Cassiodorus (d.c.580), writing toward the end of the sixth century. They profit from the clarity achieved on such matters by the councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451).

“For if they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory. . . .’” The Lord of glory – and both by merit and nature the Lord of every creature – was made the man Jesus, in whom God could in some way be crucified. “For this reason God also raised him up, and gave him the name that is above every name,” because of the unity of the person (Phil 2:9). God is said to be crucified and the Son of Man to be in the heavens, while when this one was called Lord he was bodily upon the earth. Seeing that Christ, therefore, is a true human being and true God, one person out of a twofold substance, and God a human being, and the same one is king of glory, the Lord of power was not crucified, due to his invincible divinity, yet he was crucified as a man, due to the unity of the person. And so, in a wondrous and unfathomable way God suffered, yet divinity did not suffer. (PL 68:511)

Schmaus on Christ’s Relationship to Creatures

I’m not sure I buy all the implications Michael Schmaus (1897-1993) wants to draw from this, writing soon after Vatican II on non-Christian religions, but there’s something very true and beautiful in the thought itself:

. . .Christ, the unsurpassable and universal self-revelation of God, exists for the sake of all [people]. Thus Christ is not, as the word ‘absolute’ taken literally seems to suggest, without relationships. On the contrary, in the whole of creation he is the figure who is richest in relationships and possesses the most intimate relationships.

— Dogma, vol. 1, God and Revelation (NY: Sheed & Ward, 1968), 161

A Christology of Love

And for love he made mankind, and for the same love himselfe wolde become man.
— Julian of Norwich, A Revelation of Love 57

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-born Son.
— John 3:16

[F]or everything that has been done through Christ has been done for our sake.
— Martin Luther, Four Sermons on the Resurrection of the Dead (LW58: 150)

[I]t pleased God to come to aid the lost world, that is, by the death of his Son, in which he allures us to love of God and calls us away from the love of the world.
— Sebastian Meyer, In utramque D. Pauli epistolam ad Corinthios commentarii (Frankfurt: Petrus Brubacchius, 1546), fol. 8r

In these four phrases are the seeds of a whole Christology written around the theme of love.


On Three Kinds of Resurrection

There are three kinds of resurrection. These are: resurrection in this age, the resurrection of Jesus Christ and resurrection in the age to come. Each can be distinguished by (i) the presence or absence of human mediation, (ii) the decomposition, or relative lack thereof, of the resurrected body, and (iii) the susceptibility or insusceptibility of the resurrected person to future death.

(1) Resurrection in this age. Into this category fall all the resurrections which have taken place so far, save the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead, which is a foretaste and pledge of resurrection in the age to come. These raisings are typically characterized by three things.

First, they usually take place by human mediation of God’s life-giving power (e.g., 1 Kgs. 17:17-24; 2 Kgs. 4:8-37), even where the mediator of divine power is no longer alive (see the unusual case of Elisha’s bones in 2 Kgs. 13:20-21). The miraculous raisings from the dead performed by Jesus in his earthly ministry also fall into this category (e.g., Mt. 9:18-26; Lk. 7:11-17; Jn. 11:1-45), as do those performed by the apostles (e.g., Acts 9:36-42, 20:9-12) and the contemporary Church. However, the mediation of these raisings by human persons is not the defining mark of this kind of resurrection. Some resurrections have taken place without any human mediation, as we see in Mt. 27:51-53.

Second, resurrections in this age are of those who are recently deceased. For this reason, they can be termed resipiscentia (‘coming back to one’s senses’) as much as resurrectio (‘standing up again’). Those raised in this age have not suffered severe or total decomposition of their bodies. Yet, there is nothing that prevents God from exercising his power to raise someone severely or totally decomposed back to life in this age, though we see no example of it in Scripture (cf. the vision of Ez. 37:1-14), or, as far as I am aware, in the history of the Church.

Rather, third, resurrections in this age are defined by the fact that the one raised will die again. This kind of resurrection is temporary. Those who are brought back from death in this age are raised again into a world where death still has power.

(2) The resurrection of Jesus Christ. The distinctive mark of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, by contrast, is that “death no longer has dominion over him (αὐτοῦ οὐκέτι κυριεύει)” (Rom. 6:9b). The raising of Jesus, unlike all the resurrections that preceded or have yet followed, was a resurrection to eternal life. “Christ, raised from the dead, will die no more” (Rom. 6:9a). He lives and reigns in victory over death. “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:18).

It is also distinguished from the great majority of resurrections in this age in that it was not accomplished by any human mediation; no disciple was sent to raise Christ from the dead. Rather, Scripture tells us that each of the Trinity raised Christ. With equal truth, one can say that the Father raised Christ (Rom. 6:4; Gal. 1:1), Christ took up his own life again (Jn. 10:17-18), and the Spirit raised him from the dead (Rom. 8:11). The resurrection of Jesus Christ was a singular divine action of the triune God, unmediated by human activity.

Again, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was similar to resurrections in this age in that Christ was raised as one recently deceased, after only three days. (Lazarus, note, was dead for four days before his resurrection: Jn. 11:17, 39.) Thus, his body was not subject to severe decomposition. This, along with their insusceptibility to future death, is the distinctive mark of all those resurrected in the age to come.

(3) Resurrection in the age to come. This is the great hope of Christian faith, enshrined as an article of faith in the Apostle’s Creed. It is this final victory of Christ that we await with longing: “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25-26). When Christ returns, death will be finally vanquished and all humanity will be raised to life: “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done” (Rev. 20:13). I hold it an open question whether this is a resurrection that will take place by human mediation; Christ will raise us, but whether this is in virtue of his humanity or his divinity is difficult to discern. It will certainly not take place through any human person other than Jesus Christ.

This kind of resurrection is unique in that involves all humanity, including many millions who have long since died, their bodies being severely or totally decomposed–even reduced to ash. It is an essential tenet of Christian faith that this poses no obstacle to divine power. As Augustine writes, “The earthly material, then, from which the flesh of mortals is created does not perish to God, but into whatever dust or ash it is released, into whatever vapours or breezes it is dispersed, into whatever substance of other bodies, or the elements themselves, it is turned, even into whatever flesh of animals or, it may be, human food it is changed–in an instant of time it returns to that human soul which at first animated it, that it may become, may grow, may live as a human being” (Enchiridion 23.88).

The great joy of this resurrection in the age to come is its finality. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4). Those resurrected to life, unlike those resurrected to judgment (Jn. 5:28-29), will then share in the eternal life of Christ. Like the Son of God, death will no longer have any dominion over them and they will die no more. Instead, they will share in the life of the Living One forever, their resurrection a mirror and image of Christ’s glorious resurrection and an incontrovertible, powerful work of God the Saviour.

The Word the Spirit Gives

Just as we read the Scripture figurally, the Spirit reads us figurally. That is to say, just as we read Scripture in light of the full revelation of divine truth in Jesus Christ, the Spirit reads us in light of our full and true reality ‘in Christ’ as well. This, however, is the important difference: the Spirit reads our lives and identities infallibly, in light of the divine Truth whose Spirit he is. The Spirit’s reading of our lives peels back layers of self-deception, conscious or otherwise; his word pierces through to the heart of what matters. This piercing truth, the Spirit’s reading of our lives, our identities and our purpose, is given to us in Spirit-given words, or better, in the Word the Spirit gives.

In 1 Cor. 12:8, Paul speaks of “a word of wisdom (λόγος σοφίας)” and “a word of knowledge (λόγος γνώσεως)” given by the Spirit. The “word of wisdom” generally reveals something of God’s purpose for a particular human life or church community, whereas the “word of knowledge” reveals something particular about a person or community, a significant fact the Spirit uses to convict or encourage. When the Spirit gives these “to one” or “to another,” in order for them to speak this word to a third, he is revealing — drawing back the veil on something hidden. It is a word whose significance is sometimes known only to God and the third person or community; the person delivering the word is a mere messenger.

The Spirit casts this light on our lives or the life of the Church (by means of this charismatic gift) by receiving a word from Christ and delivering it to us. As Jesus himself tells us, the Spirit “will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). The word the Spirit gives is from the Word himself. This is seen on a grand scale in the biblical “words” delivered to the seven churches of Revelation from Christ when John was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (1:10; 2:1-3:22). But it is also seen in each of our lives as the Spirit gives, “to one” or “to another,” words that reveal how we really stand ‘in Christ’ — words that lay us breathtakingly bare to ourselves, and reduce us to tears of joy, or of sorrow, before him.

Augustine on Christ as Wisdom

In light of the comments made recently by Amy Plantinga Pauw in her TF Torrance Lectures here at Aberdeen, I found the following from Augustine interesting:

The question then arises, why do the scriptures almost nowhere say anything about wisdom except to show it as either begotten or made by God? Begotten, that is to say, when it means the wisdom ‘through whom all things were made’; created or made as it is in men, when they turn to the wisdom which is not created or made but begotten, and are enlightened; then something is brought about in them which is called their wisdom…

Is it perhaps to commend to us for our imitation the wisdom by whose imitation we are formed, that wisdom in those books never speaks or has anything said about her but what presents her as born of God or made by him, although the Father too is wisdom itself? For the Father utters her to be his Word, not like a word spoken aloud from the mouth, or even thought of before it is pronounced–such a word is completed in a space of time, but this other Word is eternal; and she by enlightening us utters to us whatever needs to be uttered to men about herself and about the Father…

This then is the reason perhaps why it is the Son who is being introduced to us whenever mention is made of wisdom or description given of her in scripture, whether she herself is speaking or being spoken about. Let us copy the example of this divine image, the Son, and not draw away from God… For it does not imitate another going before it to the Father, since it is never by the least hair’s breadth separated from him, since it is the same thing as he is from whom it gets its being. But we by pressing on imitate him who abides motionless; we follow him who stands still, and by walking in him we move toward him, because for us he became a road or way in time by his humility, while being for us an eternal abode by his divinity…

Thus to conclude, it is not surprising that scripture should be speaking about the Son when it speaks about wisdom, on account of the model which the image who is equal to the Father provides us with that we may be refashioned to the image of God; for we follow the Son by living wisely. (On the Trinity, Book VII, §§4-5)

While it may be more difficult than the Church Fathers thought to identify Christ with the Wisdom of Proverbs 8, the New Testament and Augustine point us toward “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). Augustine here is interestingly paralleled by Calvin as well: “…as God he is the destination to which we move; as man, the path by which we go. Both are found in Christ alone” (Institutes, 3.2.1).

Von Balthasar on “God is Love”

John famously wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). What a beautiful and sweet truth this is. But we would not know that God is love unless he had given us his Son. John goes on to write, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (4:9-10).

For von Balthasar, this love explains the “care” that is evident in the creation. He writes, “Only love can explain this care; only love can explain the pledge he gives, guaranteeing the integrity of creation” (Theo-Drama, vol. 3, 518). And so, in the sending of his Son Jesus, the love that is revealed there is nothing other–though how infinitely more!–than what was already shown with the creation: “Thus the acceptance of his [Jesus’] mission, its implementation in obedience right up to its bloody end, cannot be anything other than the revelation of the Father’s primal, absolute love for his creatures” (ibid.).

This does not, however, mean that we are simply able to read the height of this divine love off the page of creation. The Son’s self-sacrifice at the behest of the Father is ingrained into the very fabric of creation. It was taken into account, so to speak, when God undertook to freely create the world. So von Balthasar: “[I]n view of God’s foreknowledge of what is to become of it, the world cannot be created without account being taken of this sending of the ‘beloved Son’. . . [Jesus’] readiness to accept the mission cannot have been elicited from him by persuasion, as it were; rather, it must be in him a priori, he must spontaneously have declared his readiness ‘before the foundation of the world’ [Rev. 13:8]” (516).

So in Jesus we see the love of the vineyard owner, who “had one left to send, a son, whom he loved” (Mark 12). His Father “takes the risk of sending him … to the murderers who killed all his previous messengers. . . By ‘not sparing’ his Son (Rom 8:32), by letting him be taken, by actually surrendering him…–because he foresees what they will do to him–the divine Sender manifests a disposition that, both in sublimity and in lowliness, is expressed in the serenity and surrender of his Ambassador” (515-516). Jesus, thus, on this earthly side of the mission of salvation, manifests the “serenity and surrender” that corresponds to the care of the Father, the vineyard’s caretaker.

And on this, everything depends: “What is at stake here is salvation (a total salvation that embraces the whole of existence and the world) or the forfeiting of it. . . What is at stake is his care for his vineyard … his care for the entire world created by God” (516). And in this care, the care that leads to the head of the hill called Golgotha, the meaning of all being is shown to be love.