Summa Th. III EN Qu.50 a.3
Objection: 1. It would seem that there was a severance in death between Christ's Godhead and His soul, because our Lord said (Jn 10,18): "No man taketh away My soul from Me: but I lay it down of Myself, and I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again." But it does not appear that the body can set the soul aside, by separating the soul from itself, because the soul is not subject to the power of the body, but rather conversely: and so it appears that it belongs to Christ, as the Word of God, to lay down His soul: but this is to separate it from Himself. Consequently, by death His soul was severed from the Godhead.
2. Further, Athanasius [*Vigilius Tapsensis, De Trin. vi; Bardenhewer assigns it to St. Athanasius: 45, iii. The full title is De Trinitate et Spiritu Sancto] says that he "is accursed who does not confess that the entire man, whom the Son of God took to Himself, after being assumed once more or delivered by Him, rose again from the dead on the third day." But the entire man could not be assumed again, unless the entire man was at one time separated from the Word of God: and the entire man is made of soul and body. Therefore there was a separation made at one time of the Godhead from both the body and the soul.
3. Further, the Son of God is truly styled a man because of the union with the entire man. If then, when the union of the soul with the body was dissolved by death, the Word of God continued united with the soul, it would follow that the Son of God could be truly called a soul. But this is false, because since the soul is the form of the body, it would result in the Word of God being the form of the body; which is impossible. Therefore, in death the soul of Christ was separated from the Word of God.
4. Further, the separated soul and body are not one hypostasis, but two. Therefore, if the Word of God remained united with Christ's soul and body, then, when they were severed by Christ's death, it seems to follow that the Word of God was two hypostases during such time as Christ was dead; which cannot be admitted. Therefore after Christ's death His soul did not continue to be united with the Word.
On the contrary Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii): "Although Christ died as man, and His holy soul was separated from His spotless body, nevertheless His Godhead remained unseparated from both---from the soul, I mean, and from the body."
I answer that The soul is united with the Word of God more immediately and more primarily than the body is, because it is through the soul that the body is united with the Word of God, as stated above (Question , Article ). Since, then, the Word of God was not separated from the body at Christ's death, much less was He separated from the soul. Accordingly, since what regards the body severed from the soul is affirmed of the Son of God---namely, that "it was buried"---so is it said of Him in the Creed that "He descended into hell," because His soul when separated from the body did go down into hell.
Reply to Objection: 1. Augustine (Tract. xlvii in Joan.), in commenting on the text of John, asks, since Christ is Word and soul and body, "whether He putteth down His soul, for that He is the Word? Or, for that He is a soul?" Or, again, "for that He is flesh?" And he says that, "should we say that the Word of God laid down His soul" . . . it would follow that "there was a time when that soul was severed from the Word"---which is untrue. "For death severed the body and soul . . . but that the soul was severed from the Word I do not affirm . . . But should we say that the soul laid itself down," it follows "that it is severed from itself: which is most absurd." It remains, therefore, that "the flesh itself layeth down its soul and taketh it again, not by its own power, but by the power of the Word dwelling in the flesh": because, as stated above (Article ), the Godhead of the Word was not severed from the flesh in death.
2. In those words Athanasius never meant to say that the whole man was reassumed---that is, as to all his parts---as if the Word of God had laid aside the parts of human nature by His death; but that the totality of the assumed nature was restored once more in the resurrection by the resumed union of soul and body.
3. Through being united to human nature, the Word of God is not on that account called human nature: but He is called a man---that is, one having human nature. Now the soul and the body are essential parts of human nature. Hence it does not follow that the Word is a soul or a body through being united with both, but that He is one possessing a soul or a body.
4. As Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii): "In Christ's death the soul was separated from the flesh: not one hypostasis divided into two: because both soul and body in the same respect had their existence from the beginning in the hypostasis of the Word; and in death, though severed from one another, each one continued to have the one same hypostasis of the Word. Wherefore the one hypostasis of the Word was the hypostasis of the Word, of the soul, and of the body. For neither soul nor body ever had an hypostasis of its own, besides the hypostasis of the Word: for there was always one hypostasis of the Word, and never two."
Objection: 1. It would seem that Christ was a man during the three days of His death, because Augustine says (De Trin. iii): "Such was the assuming [of nature] as to make God to be man, and man to be God." But this assuming [of nature] did not cease at Christ's death. Therefore it seems that He did not cease to be a man in consequence of death.
2. Further, the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix) that "each man is his intellect"; consequently, when we address the soul of Peter after his death we say: "Saint Peter, pray for us." But the Son of God after death was not separated from His intellectual soul. Therefore, during those three days the Son of God was a man.
3. Further, every priest is a man. But during those three days of death Christ was a priest: otherwise what is said in Ps 109,4 would not be true: "Thou art a priest for ever." Therefore Christ was a man during those three days.
On the contrary When the higher [species] is removed, so is the lower. But the living or animated being is a higher species than animal and man, because an animal is a sensible animated substance. Now during those three days of death Christ's body was not living or animated. Therefore He was not a man.
I answer that It is an article of faith that Christ was truly dead: hence it is an error against faith to assert anything whereby the truth of Christ's death is destroyed. Accordingly it is said in the Synodal epistle of Cyril [*Act. Conc. Ephes. P. I, cap. xxvi]: "If any man does not acknowledge that the Word of God suffered in the flesh, and was crucified in the flesh and tasted death in the flesh, let him be anathema." Now it belongs to the truth of the death of man or animal that by death the subject ceases to be man or animal; because the death of the man or animal results from the separation of the soul, which is the formal complement of the man or animal. Consequently, to say that Christ was a man during the three days of His death simply and without qualification, is erroneous. Yet it can be said that He was "a dead man" during those three days.However, some writers have contended that Christ was a man during those three days, uttering words which are indeed erroneous, yet without intent of error in faith: as Hugh of Saint Victor, who (De Sacram. ii) contended that Christ, during the three days that followed His death, was a man, because he held that the soul is a man: but this is false, as was shown in the I 75,4. Likewise the Master of the Sentences (iii, D, 22) held Christ to be a man during the three days of His death for quite another reason. For he believed the union of soul and flesh not to be essential to a man, and that for anything to be a man it suffices if it have a soul and body, whether united or separated: and that this is likewise false is clear both from what has been said in the I 75,4, and from what has been said above regarding the mode of union (Question , Article ).
Reply to Objection: 1. The Word of God assumed a united soul and body: and the result of this assumption was that God is man, and man is God. But this assumption did not cease by the separation of the Word from the soul or from the flesh; yet the union of soul and flesh ceased.
2. Man is said to be his own intellect, not because the intellect is the entire man, but because the intellect is the chief part of man, in which man's whole disposition lies virtually; just as the ruler of the city may be called the whole city, since its entire disposal is vested in him.
3. That a man is competent to be a priest is by reason of the soul, which is the subject of the character of order: hence a man does not lose his priestly order by death, and much less does Christ, who is the fount of the entire priesthood.
Objection: 1. It would seem that Christ's was not identically the same body living and dead. For Christ truly died just as other men do. But the body of everyone else is not simply identically the same, dead and living, because there is an essential difference between them. Therefore neither is the body of Christ identically the same, dead and living.
2. Further, according to the Philosopher (Metaph. v, text. 12), things specifically diverse are also numerically diverse. But Christ's body, living and dead, was specifically diverse: because the eye or flesh of the dead is only called so equivocally, as is evident from the Philosopher (De Anima ii, text. 9; Metaph. vii). Therefore Christ's body was not simply identically the same, living and dead.
3. Further, death is a kind of corruption. But what is corrupted by substantial corruption after being corrupted, exists no longer, since corruption is change from being to non-being. Therefore, Christ's body, after it was dead, did not remain identically the same, because death is a substantial corruption.
On the contrary Athanasius says (Epist. ad Epict.): "In that body which was circumcised and carried, which ate, and toiled, and was nailed on the tree, there was the impassible and incorporeal Word of God: the same was laid in the tomb." But Christ's living body was circumcised and nailed on the tree; and Christ's dead body was laid in the tomb. Therefore it was the same body living and dead.
I answer that The expression "simply" can be taken in two senses. In the first instance by taking "simply" to be the same as "absolutely"; thus "that is said simply which is said without addition," as the Philosopher put it (Topic. ii): and in this way the dead and living body of Christ was simply identically the same: since a thing is said to be "simply" identically the same from the identity of the subject. But Christ's body living and dead was identical in its suppositum because alive and dead it had none other besides the Word of God, as was stated above (Article ). And it is in this sense that Athanasius is speaking in the passage quoted.In another way "simply" is the same as "altogether" or "totally": in which sense the body of Christ, dead and alive, was not "simply" the same identically, because it was not "totally" the same, since life is of the essence of a living body; for it is an essential and not an accidental predicate: hence it follows that a body which ceases to be living does not remain totally the same. Moreover, if it were to be said that Christ's dead body did continue "totally" the same, it would follow that it was not corrupted---I mean, by the corruption of death: which is the heresy of the Gaianites, as Isidore says (Etym. viii), and is to be found in the Decretals (xxiv, qu. iii). And Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii) that "the term 'corruption' denotes two things: in one way it is the separation of the soul from the body and other things of the sort; in another way, the complete dissolving into elements. Consequently it is impious to say with Julian and Gaian that the Lord's body was incorruptible after the first manner of corruption before the resurrection: because Christ's body would not be consubstantial with us, nor truly dead, nor would we have been saved in very truth. But in the second way Christ's body was incorrupt."
Reply to Objection: 1. The dead body of everyone else does not continue united to an abiding hypostasis, as Christ's dead body did; consequently the dead body of everyone else is not the same "simply," but only in some respect: because it is the same as to its matter, but not the same as to its form. But Christ's body remains the same simply, on account of the identity of the suppositum, as stated above.
2. Since a thing is said to be the same identically according to suppositum, but the same specifically according to form: wherever the suppositum subsists in only one nature, it follows of necessity that when the unity of species is taken away the unity of identity is also taken away. But the hypostasis of the Word of God subsists in two natures; and consequently, although in others the body does not remain the same according to the species of human nature, still it continues identically the same in Christ according to the suppositum of the Word of God.
3. Corruption and death do not belong to Christ by reason of the suppositum, from which suppositum follows the unity of identity; but by reason of the human nature, according to which is found the difference of death and of life in Christ's body.
Objection: 1. It would seem that Christ's death did not conduce in any way to our salvation. For death is a sort of privation, since it is the privation of life. But privation has not any power of activity, because it is nothing positive. Therefore it could not work anything for our salvation.
2. Further, Christ's Passion wrought our salvation by way of merit. But Christ's death could not operate in this way, because in death the body is separated from the soul, which is the principle of meriting. Consequently, Christ's death did not accomplish anything towards our salvation.
3. Further, what is corporeal is not the cause of what is spiritual. But Christ's death was corporeal. Therefore it could not be the cause of our salvation, which is something spiritual.
On the contrary Augustine says (De Trin. iv): "The one death of our Saviour," namely, that of the body, "saved us from our two deaths," that is, of the soul and the body.
I answer that We may speak of Christ's death in two ways, "in becoming" and "in fact." Death is said to be "in becoming" when anyone from natural or enforced suffering is tending towards death: and in this way it is the same thing to speak of Christ's death as of His Passion: so that in this sense Christ's death is the cause of our salvation, according to what has been already said of the Passion (Question ). But death is considered in fact, inasmuch as the separation of soul and body has already taken place: and it is in this sense that we are now speaking of Christ's death. In this way Christ's death cannot be the cause of our salvation by way of merit, but only by way of causality, that is to say, inasmuch as the Godhead was not separated from Christ's flesh by death; and therefore, whatever befell Christ's flesh, even when the soul was departed, was conducive to salvation in virtue of the Godhead united. But the effect of any cause is properly estimated according to its resemblance to the cause. Consequently, since death is a kind of privation of one's own life, the effect of Christ's death is considered in relation to the removal of the obstacles to our salvation: and these are the death of the soul and of the body. Hence Christ's death is said to have destroyed in us both the death of the soul, caused by sin, according to Rm 4,25: "He was delivered up [namely unto death] for our sins": and the death of the body, consisting in the separation of the soul, according to 1Co 15,54: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
Reply to Objection: 1. Christ's death wrought our salvation from the power of the Godhead united, and not consisted merely as His death.
2. Though Christ's death, considered "in fact" did not effect our salvation by way of merit, yet it did so by way of causality, as stated above.
3. Christ's death was indeed corporeal; but the body was the instrument of the Godhead united to Him, working by Its power, although dead.
We have now to consider Christ's burial, concerning which there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether it was fitting for Christ to be buried?
(2) Concerning the manner of His burial;
(3) Whether His body was decomposed in the tomb?
(4) Concerning the length of time He lay in the tomb.
Objection: 1. It would seem unfitting for Christ to have been buried, because it is said of Him (Ps 87,6): "He is [Vulg.: 'I am'] become as a man without help, free among the dead." But the bodies of the dead are enclosed in a tomb; which seems contrary to liberty. Therefore it does not seem fitting for Christ to have been buried.
2. Further, nothing should be done to Christ except it was helpful to our salvation. But Christ's burial seems in no way to be conducive to our salvation. Therefore, it was not fitting for Him to be buried.
3. Further, it seems out of place for God who is above the high heavens to be laid in the earth. But what befalls the dead body of Christ is attributed to God by reason of the union. Therefore it appears to be unbecoming for Christ to be buried.
On the contrary our Lord said (Mt 26,10) of the woman who anointed Him: "She has wrought a good work upon Me," and then He added (Mt 26,12)---"for she, in pouring this ointment upon My body, hath done it for My burial."
I answer that It was fitting for Christ to be buried. First of all, to establish the truth of His death; for no one is laid in the grave unless there be certainty of death. Hence we read (Mc 15,44-45), that Pilate by diligent inquiry assured himself of Christ's death before granting leave for His burial. Secondly, because by Christ's rising from the grave, to them who are in the grave, hope is given of rising again through Him, according to Jn 5,25 Jn 5,28: "All that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God . . . and they that hear shall live." Thirdly, as an example to them who dying spiritually to their sins are hidden away "from the disturbance of men" (Ps 30,21). Hence it is said (Col 3,3): "You are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Wherefore the baptized likewise who through Christ's death die to sins, are as it were buried with Christ by immersion, according to Rm 6,4: "We are buried together with Christ by baptism into death."
Reply to Objection: 1. Though buried, Christ proved Himself "free among the dead": since, although imprisoned in the tomb, He could not be hindered from going forth by rising again.
2. As Christ's death wrought our salvation, so likewise did His burial. Hence Jerome says (Super Marc. xiv): "By Christ's burial we rise again"; and on Is 53,9: "He shall give the ungodly for His burial," a gloss says: "He shall give to God and the Father the Gentiles who were without godliness, because He purchased them by His death and burial."
3. As is said in a discourse made at the Council of Ephesus [*P. iii, cap. 9], "Nothing that saves man is derogatory to God; showing Him to be not passible, but merciful": and in another discourse of the same Council [*P. iii, cap. 10]: "God does not repute anything as an injury which is an occasion of men's salvation. Thus thou shalt not deem God's Nature to be so vile, as though It may sometimes be subjected to injuries."
Objection: 1. It would seem that Christ was buried in an unbecoming manner. For His burial should be in keeping with His death. But Christ underwent a most shameful death, according to Sg 2,20: "Let us condemn Him to a most shameful death." It seems therefore unbecoming for honorable burial to be accorded to Christ, inasmuch as He was buried by men of position---namely, by Joseph of Arimathea, who was "a noble counselor," to use Mark's expression (Mc 15,43), and by Nicodemus, who was "a ruler of the Jews," as John states (Jn 3,1).
2. Further, nothing should be done to Christ which might set an example of wastefulness. But it seems to savor of waste that in order to bury Christ Nicodemus came "bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes about a hundred pounds weight," as recorded by John (19:39), especially since a woman came beforehand to anoint His body for the burial, as Mark relates (Mc 14,28). Consequently, this was not done becomingly with regard to Christ.
3. Further, it is not becoming for anything done to be inconsistent with itself. But Christ's burial on the one hand was simple, because "Joseph wrapped His body in a clean linen cloth," as is related by Matthew (27:59), "but not with gold or gems, or silk," as Jerome observes: yet on the other hand there appears to have been some display, inasmuch as they buried Him with fragrant spices (Jn 19,40). Consequently, the manner of Christ's burial does not seem to have been seemly.
4. Further, "What things soever were written," especially of Christ, "were written for our learning," according to Rm 15,4. But some of the things written in the Gospels touching Christ's burial in no wise seem to pertain to our instruction---as that He was buried "in a garden . . . "in a tomb which was not His own, which was "new," and "hewed out in a rock." Therefore the manner of Christ's burial was not becoming.
On the contrary It is written (Is 11,10): "And His sepulchre shall be glorious."
I answer that The manner of Christ's burial is shown to be seemly in three respects. First, to confirm faith in His death and resurrection. Secondly, to commend the devotion of those who gave Him burial. Hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i): "The Gospel mentions as praiseworthy the deed of those who received His body from the cross, and with due care and reverence wrapped it up and buried it." Thirdly, as to the mystery whereby those are molded who "are buried together with Christ into death" (Rm 6,4).
Reply to Objection: 1. With regard to Christ's death, His patience and constancy in enduring death are commended, and all the more that His death was the more despicable: but in His honorable burial we can see the power of the dying Man, who, even in death, frustrated the intent of His murderers, and was buried with honor: and thereby is foreshadowed the devotion of the faithful who in the time to come were to serve the dead Christ.
2. On that expression of the Evangelist (Jn 19,40) that they buried Him "as the manner of the Jews is to bury," Augustine says (Tract. in Joan. cxx): "He admonishes us that in offices of this kind which are rendered to the dead, the custom of each nation should be observed." Now it was the custom of this people to anoint bodies with various spices in order the longer to preserve them from corruption [*Cf. Catena Aurea in Joan. xix]. Accordingly it is said in De Doctr. Christ. iii that "in all such things, it is not the use thereof, but the luxury of the user that is at fault"; and, farther on: "what in other persons is frequently criminal, in a divine or prophetic person is a sign of something great." For myrrh and aloes by their bitterness denote penance, by which man keeps Christ within himself without the corruption of sin; while the odor of the ointments expresses good report.
3. Myrrh and aloes were used on Christ's body in order that it might be preserved from corruption, and this seemed to imply a certain need (in the body): hence the example is set us that we may lawfully use precious things medicinally, from the need of preserving our body. But the wrapping up of the body was merely a question of becoming propriety. And we ought to content ourselves with simplicity in such things. Yet, as Jerome observes, by this act was denoted that "he swathes Jesus in clean linen, who receives Him with a pure soul." Hence, as Bede says on Mark 15:46: "The Church's custom has prevailed for the sacrifice of the altar to be offered not upon silk, nor upon dyed cloth, but on linen of the earth; as the Lord's body was buried in a clean winding-sheet."
4. Christ was buried "in a garden" to express that by His death and burial we are delivered from the death which we incur through Adam's sin committed in the garden of paradise. But for this "was our Lord buried in the grave of a stranger," as Augustine says in a sermon (ccxlviii), "because He died for the salvation of others; and a sepulchre is the abode of death." Also the extent of the poverty endured for us can be thereby estimated: since He who while living had no home, after death was laid to rest in another's tomb, and being naked was clothed by Joseph. But He is laid in a "new" sepulchre, as Jerome observes on Mt 27,60, "lest after the resurrection it might be pretended that someone else had risen, while the other corpses remained. The new sepulchre can also denote Mary's virginal womb." And furthermore it may be understood that all of us are renewed by Christ's burial; death and corruption being destroyed. Moreover, He was buried in a monument "hewn out of a rock," as Jerome says on Mt 27,64, "lest, if it had been constructed of many stones, they might say that He was stolen away by digging away the foundations of the tomb." Hence the "great stone" which was set shows that "the tomb could not be opened except by the help of many hands. Again, if He had been buried in the earth, they might have said: They dug up the soil and stole Him away," as Augustine observes [*Cf. Catena Aurea]. Hilary (Comment. in Matth. cap. xxxiii) gives the mystical interpretation, saying that "by the teaching of the apostles, Christ is borne into the stony heart of the gentile; for it is hewn out by the process of teaching, unpolished and new, untenanted and open to the entrance of the fear of God. And since naught besides Him must enter into our hearts, a great stone is rolled against the door." Furthermore, as Origen says (Tract. xxxv in Matth.): "It was not written by hazard: 'Joseph wrapped Christ's body in a clean winding-sheet, and placed it in a new monument,'" and that "'he rolled a great stone,' because all things around the body of Jesus are clean, and new, and exceeding great."
Objection: 1. It would seem that Christ's body was reduced to dust in the tomb. For just as man dies in punishment of his first parent's sin, so also does he return to dust, since it was said to the first man after his sin: "Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return" (Gn 3,19). But Christ endured death in order to deliver us from death. Therefore His body ought to be made to return to dust, so as to free us from the same penalty.
2. Further, Christ's body was of the same nature as ours. But directly after death our bodies begin to dissolve into dust, and are disposed towards putrefaction, because when the natural heat departs, there supervenes heat from without which causes corruption. Therefore it seems that the same thing happened to Christ's body.
3. Further, as stated above (Article ), Christ willed to be buried in order to furnish men with the hope of rising likewise from the grave. Consequently, He sought likewise to return to dust so as to give to them who have returned to dust the hope of rising from the dust.
On the contrary It is written (Ps 15,10): "Nor wilt Thou suffer Thy holy one to see corruption": and Damascene (De Fide Orth. iii) expounds this of the corruption which comes of dissolving into elements.
I answer that It was not fitting for Christ's body to putrefy, or in any way be reduced to dust, since the putrefaction of any body comes of that body's infirmity of nature, which can no longer hold the body together. But as was said above (Question , Article , ad 2), Christ's death ought not to come from weakness of nature, lest it might not be believed to be voluntary: and therefore He willed to die, not from sickness, but from suffering inflicted on Him, to which He gave Himself up willingly. And therefore, lest His death might be ascribed to infirmity of nature, Christ did not wish His body to putrefy in any way or dissolve no matter how; but for the manifestation of His Divine power He willed that His body should continue incorrupt. Hence Chrysostom says (Cont. Jud. et Gent. quod 'Christus sit Deus') that "with other men, especially with such as have wrought strenuously, their deeds shine forth in their lifetime; but as soon as they die, their deeds go with them. But it is quite the contrary with Christ: because previous to the cross all is sadness and weakness, but as soon as He is crucified, everything comes to light, in order that you may learn it was not an ordinary man that was crucified."
Reply to Objection: 1. Since Christ was not subject to sin, neither was He prone to die or to return to dust. Yet of His own will He endured death for our salvation, for the reasons alleged above (Question , Article ). But had His body putrefied or dissolved, this fact would have been detrimental to man's salvation, for it would not have seemed credible that the Divine power was in Him. Hence it is on His behalf that it is written (Ps 19,10): "What profit is there in my blood, whilst I go down to corruption?" as if He were to say: "If My body corrupt, the profit of the blood shed will be lost."
2. Christ's body was a subject of corruption according to the condition of its passible nature, but not as to the deserving cause of putrefaction, which is sin: but the Divine power preserved Christ's body from putrefying, just as it raised it up from death.
3. Christ rose from the tomb by Divine power, which is not narrowed within bounds. Consequently, His rising from the grave was a sufficient argument to prove that men are to be raised up by Divine power, not only from their graves, but also from any dust whatever.
Objection: 1. It would seem that Christ was not in the tomb during only one day and two nights; because He said (Mt 12,40): "As Jonas was in the whale's belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights." But He was in the heart of the earth while He was in the grave. Therefore He was not in the tomb for only one day and two nights.
2. Gregory says in a Paschal Homily (Hom. xxi): "As Samson carried off the gates of Gaza during the night, even so Christ rose in the night, taking away the gates of hell." But after rising He was not in the tomb. Therefore He was not two whole nights in the grave.
3. Further, light prevailed over darkness by Christ's death. But night belongs to darkness, and day to light. Therefore it was more fitting for Christ's body to be in the tomb for two days and a night, rather than conversely.
On the contrary Augustine says (De Trin. iv): "There were thirty-six hours from the evening of His burial to the dawn of the resurrection, that is, a whole night with a whole day, and a whole night."
I answer that The very time during which Christ remained in the tomb shows forth the effect of His death. For it was said above (Question , Article ) that by Christ's death we were delivered from a twofold death, namely, from the death of the soul and of the body: and this is signified by the two nights during which He remained in the tomb. But since His death did not come of sin, but was endured from charity, it has not the semblance of night, but of day: consequently it is denoted by the whole day during which Christ was in the sepulchre. And so it was fitting for Christ to be in the sepulchre during one day and two nights.
Reply to Objection: 1. Augustine says (De Consens. Evang. iii): "Some men, ignorant of Scriptural language, wished to compute as night those three hours, from the sixth to the ninth hour, during which the sun was darkened, and as day those other three hours during which it was restored to the earth, that is, from the ninth hour until its setting: for the coming night of the Sabbath follows, and if this be reckoned with its day, there will be already two nights and two days. Now after the Sabbath there follows the night of the first day of the Sabbath, that is, of the dawning Sunday, on which the Lord rose. Even so, the reckoning of the three days and three nights will not stand. It remains then to find the solution in the customary usage of speech of the Scriptures, whereby the whole is understood from the part": so that we are able to take a day and a night as one natural day. And so the first day is computed from its ending, during which Christ died and was buried on the Friday; while the second. day is an entire day with twenty-four hours of night and day; while the night following belongs to the third day. "For as the primitive days were computed from light to night on account of man's future fall, so these days are computed from the darkness to the daylight on account of man's restoration" (De Trin. iv).
2. As Augustine says (De Trin. iv; cf. De Consens. Evang. iii), Christ rose with the dawn, when light appears in part, and still some part of the darkness of the night remains. Hence it is said of the women that "when it was yet dark" they came "to the sepulchre" (Jn 20,1). Therefore, in consequence of this darkness, Gregory says (Hom. xxi) that Christ rose in the middle of the night, not that night is divided into two equal parts, but during the night itself: for the expression "early" can be taken as partly night and partly day, from its fittingness with both.
3. The light prevailed so far in Christ's death (which is denoted by the one day) that it dispelled the darkness of the two nights, that is, of our twofold death, as stated above.
Summa Th. III EN Qu.50 a.3