Jesus – Birth and Death

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary

Justo Gonzalez, a noted church historian, highlights two important facets of this phrase of the Creed in his book, The Apostles’ Creed for Today. First, it was a special birth. Consider the miraculous births that the Scriptures record from the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, to the birth of Samuel to Hannah, to the birth of John to Zechariah and Elizabeth. All of these miracle births anticipate the miracle birth of Jesus. Just as God had a special plan laid out for each of those miracle babies, so also God had a special plan for the baby born to Mary.

Second, notes Gonzalez, Jesus was born. It was a special birth…but it was also a real birth. Jesus was a real baby born to a real mother in a real place and at a real time in history. As we saw previously, there were some, including Marcion, who taught that Jesus had not really been born. The emphasis on his birth in the Creed serves to emphasize his humanity, for it was that little baby who would grow to be the man who would save us from our sins. Yes, Jesus was fully God. And yes, he was also fully man (Gonzalez, 2007).

Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified dead and buried

Just as the Apostles’ Creed is very explicit to make sure we do not miss the humanity of Jesus as demonstrated by his birth, so also the Creed ensures that we do not miss the death of Jesus. At the hands of Pilate, he was beaten, spat upon, humiliated and then, ultimately, crucified. This is not a good religious myth about a deity rising from death, but the factual, historical account of the death of God. Truly, this is a strange thing for a religion to claim the death of its own deity. As Paul writes of Jesus, “He humbled himself and become obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Descended into hell

As if, again to make sure that the point of his death does not escape us, the Creed goes on to say that Jesus descended into hell. Now, much can be made of what, exactly, this means. Did Jesus really go into hell? Though an interesting question, it is not really the primary concern of this phrase.  Instead, this phrase intends to reaffirm that Jesus was really dead. Ok, so Jesus really was crucified on a cross. He really died. They really stabbed him in the side to make sure he was dead. Then, they really pulled down his dead body and buried him. Get it? That is the point. Jesus was dead. Really, really dead!

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2 Responses

  1. “As if, again to make sure that the point of his death does not escape us, the Creed goes on to say that Jesus descended into hell. Now, much can be made of what, exactly, this means…this phrase intends to reaffirm that Jesus was really dead….That is the point. Jesus was dead. Really, really dead!”

    The descent into HADES is mentioned in the creed to ensure that you accept the belief that Jesus had an actual human soul, just as the burial is mentioned to ensure that you accept the reality of his body.

    That same emphasis on body and soul is found in Acts 2:31 “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hades, neither his flesh did see corruption.”

  2. “As we saw previously, there were some, including Marcion, who taught that Jesus had not really been born.”

    Following Jesus himself as found in Matt 11:11 and John 6:51.

    Matthew 11:11 “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

    John 6:51 “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

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