Did Jesus Have to Die on a Cross? Athanasius’ Response (Pt. 2)

Last time we looked at Athansius’ Four Reasons why Jesus died on a cross as opposed to some other way. Those responses were directed primarily at non-Christians and skeptics. Today we take a look at his response to “anyone from among us (who) asks, not as a lover of contention but as a lover of learning, why he endured the cross rather than some other way…”

Three Reasons Why Jesus Died on the Cross as Opposed to Some Other Way (Athanasius Response to Christians)

  1. He came to bear the curse which lay upon us. (Section 25) Scripture says that Jesus “became a curse” for us. How could he become a curse for us if he had not accepted the death which was occasioned by the curse? The OT tells us “cursed is he who hangs from the tree.” Jesus became accursed for us.
  2. He had to break down the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles. (Section 25) “Only upon the cross does one die with hands stretched out.” In dying with his hands stretched out he is drawing Gentiles and Jews together to himself. As John says “When I am lifted up, I shall draw all to myself”
  3. He defeated the prince of the power of the air (Section 25).  In order for Christ to defeat Satan and his demons, who rule the air, Christ had to “purify the air, and open up for us the way to heaven.” Athansius says that “this must have been by death and by what other death would these things have happened except that which takes place in the air, I mean the cross? For only he that completes his life on the cross dies in the air.”

Once again some of these reasons are more convincing than other. I think reason one is a really good point. Reason two is a bit shaky, I think it reads a bit too much into the physical posture of Jesus and spells out metaphysical implications that might be a bit too big. But then again if we take seriously the metaphysical notion of being “in Christ” one might be inclined to believe reason two. Reason three seems too allegorical to be true, and it relies upon an ancient cosmology, namely one in which the devil literally lives in the air….

Nevertheless, Athanasius thinks that these “are solid arguments that the salvation of all had to take place in no other way than by the cross.”

Do you agree with this statement? If not, why?


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

2 thoughts on “Did Jesus Have to Die on a Cross? Athanasius’ Response (Pt. 2)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: