The Cause Op Christ’s Death -- By: William Southerland

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 088:352 (Oct 1931)
Article: The Cause Op Christ’s Death
Author: William Southerland


The Cause Op Christ’s Death

William Southerland

Two very interesting articles appeared in the Bibliotheca Sacra of January and April respectively. One by the pen of Lieut-Col. N. W. Sharpe, M.D., setting forth in a very able way, the “volitional exitus” theory of Christ’s death; i.e., that Christ did not die by the hands of man. That man was quite unable to wreak his wrath on Christ to this extent, but that the death of Christ was quite volitional: that He of His own accord yielded up His spirit. The other was by the Reverend G. L. Young and presented the other side of the question, that is, that Jesus Christ voluntarily gave His body into the hands of men that they might work their wrath out on Him and put Him to death. That He surrendered Himself to them, but that it was their hands that actually put Him to death.

Now which of these two views is the true one? Which will give us the deepest insight into the love and sacrifice of Christ? In raising this question it is not our intention to enter into controversy, but rather to exchange views and try to come to an understanding of the truth, for as Mr. Young rightly says, controversy in the form of one article discussing another is very definitely against the policy of the Bibliotheca Sacra. It will, however, be recognized by all that a certain amount of discussion, on such a very important subject, is good. We crave therefore the indulgence of the Editor to permit us still further to develop the matter. The importance of the subject will be realized when we remember that those who hold the “volitional exitus’’ theory, believe that, if the death of Christ had been a mere passive sufferance, it could have been no real atonement at all, nor could perpetuity, in any intelligible sense, have been predicted of it. As therefore, this is the point around which the investigation must take place, it is all-important that we come to a right understanding of the matter.

Now it is claimed on the other hand, in the article of April, 1931, that the words of Jesus on the cross as found in Matt. 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46, John 19:30, “He gave up the ghost,” do not in any sense indicate that the death of Christ was not brought about by natural means; that Christ volitionally died; that His life was not taken from Him by the tortures of the cross. It is claimed rather that the same words apply to the death of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5, 10), Herod (

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