Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Incarnation of the Word.: Why the Cross, of all deaths? (1) He had to bear the curse for us. (2) On it He held out His hands to unite all, Jews and Gentiles, in Himself. (3) He defeated the “Prince of the powers of the air” in His own region, clearing the way to heaven and opening for us the everlasting doors.
§25. Why the Cross, of all deaths? (1) He had to bear the curse for us. (2) On it He held out His hands to unite all, Jews and Gentiles, in Himself. (3) He defeated the “Prince of the powers of the air” in His own region, clearing the way to heaven and opening for us the everlasting doors.
And thus much in reply to those without who pile up arguments for themselves. But if any of our own people also inquire, not from love of debate, but from love of learning, why He suffered death in none other way save on the Cross, let him also be told that no other way than this was good for us, and that it was well that the Lord suffered this for our sakes. 2. For if He came Himself to bear the curse laid upon us, how else could He have “become 266 a curse,” unless He received the death set for a curse? and that is the Cross. For this is exactly what is written: “Cursed 267 is he that hangeth on a tree.” 3. Again, if the Lords death is the ransom of all, and by His death “the middle 268 wall of partition” is broken down, and the calling of the nations is brought about, how would He have called us to Him, had He not been crucified? For it is only on the cross that a man dies with his hands spread out. Whence it was fitting for the Lord to bear this also and to spread out His hands, that with the one He might draw the ancient people, and with the other those from the Gentiles, and unite both in Himself. 4. For this is what He Himself has said, signifying by what manner of death p. 50 He was to ransom all: “I, when 269 I am lifted up,” He saith, “shall draw all men unto Me.” 5. And once more, if the devil, the enemy of our race, having fallen from heaven, wanders about our lower atmosphere, and there bearing rule over his fellow-spirits, as his peers in disobedience, not only works illusions by their means in them that are deceived, but tries to hinder them that are going up (and about this 270 the Apostle says: “According to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience”); while the Lord came to cast down the devil, and clear the air and prepare the way for us up into heaven, as said the Apostle: “Through 271 the veil, that is to say, His flesh”—and this must needs be by death—well, by what other kind of death could this have come to pass, than by one which took place in the air, I mean the cross? for only he that is perfected on the cross dies in the air. Whence it was quite fitting that the Lord suffered this death. 6. For thus being lifted up He cleared the air 272 of the malignity both of the devil and of demons of all kinds, as He says: “I beheld 273 Satan as lightning fall from heaven;” and made a new opening of the way up into heaven as He says once more: “Lift 274 up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors.” For it was not the Word Himself that needed an opening of the gates, being Lord of all; nor were any of His works closed to their Maker; but we it was that needed it whom He carried up by His own body. For as He offered it to death on behalf of all, so by it He once more made ready the way up into the heavens.
Gal. iii. 13.49:267
Deut. xxi. 23.49:268
Eph. ii. 14.50:269
John xii. 32.50:270
Eph. ii. 2, and see the curious visions of Antony, Vit. Ant., 65, 66.50:271
Heb. x. 20.50:272
Cf. Lightfoot on Coloss. ii. 15, also the fragment of Letter 22, and Letter 60. 7.50:273
Luc. x. 18.50:274
Ps. xxiv. 7, [LXX.]
Next: Reasons for His rising on the Third Day. (1) Not sooner for else His real death would be denied, nor (2) later; to (a) guard the identity of His body, (b) not to keep His disciples too long in suspense, nor (c) to wait till the witnesses of His death were dispersed, or its memory faded.
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