In the previous parts (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3), we explored the two primary views on this subject. The contemporary view takes the position that the Trinity was broken at the cross. The classical view on the other hand takes the position that there was never a fissure between the Father and Son, and that Jesus cries out on our behalf as an intercessor. In part 4 of this series, we finally look to the pages of scripture to see where the biblical evidence points.
Part 4: An Examination of Scripture
Up until this point, the various perspectives on Christ’s cry of dereliction have centered around philosophy and logic. Specifically, how one handles the doctrine of the Trinity. Patristic and medieval theologians attempted to understand the circumstances of the cross by being unyielding on the unity of the Trinity, while contemporary theologians are much more apt to consider a breaking of the Godhead. Scriptural evidence however seems to support the classical point of view, and this is based on two main arguments: (1) Christ’s forsakenness in the rest of the passion narratives and (2) the use of Psalm 22.
Scriptural evidence however seems to support the classical point of view, and this is based on two main arguments: (1) Christ’s forsakenness in the rest of the passion narratives and (2) the use of Psalm 22.
The Passion Narratives
The foundation of the broken-Trinity view is centered around the two Gospel accounts of Matthew and Mark. It is only in their accounts that Jesus’ cry of abandonment are recorded. However when seen in light of all four Gospel narratives, the notion of His abandonment and forsakenness are severely diminished if not eliminated completely. In Mark, Jesus gives another cry after His cry of abandonment, “with a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last” (Mark 15.37). Matthew records the moment in a similar way, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.” (Matthew 27.50)
The content of that cry is never revealed in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, but Luke and John give us further insight. John records a triumphal cry where Jesus says, “it is finished” (John 19.30). Luke is even more interesting, as his account records an interaction between Christ and the two thieves. One of the criminals jeers and mocks Jesus, but the other criminal comes to Jesus’ defense and rebukes the first criminal. To the second criminal Jesus says, “truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23.43). Those were hardly the words of a man who had just experienced a breaking of the Trinity. If none of that proves to be convincing, His final words in Luke 23.46 makes it hard to envision any broken relationship, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
“This is no statement of despair. This is no cry of utter and total abandonment. There is no hint here of a severed or even strained relationship. There is no sense here of a Father who has rejected his Son or who has turned his back on him” (McCall, Forsaken, 38). Therefore, while Mark and Matthew record His cry of abandonment and forsakenness, it is Luke and John who record His very final words, and they do not show evidence of someone who has been rejected by the Father. Rather, they point to someone who has confident trust and hope in the Father.
Therefore, while Mark and Matthew record His cry of abandonment and forsakenness, it is Luke and John who record His very final words, and they do not show evidence of someone who has been rejected by the Father. Rather, they point to someone who has confident trust and hope in the Father.
The evidence within the passion narratives of Luke and John seem to agree with the classical point of view, but there is one more piece of evidence we need to analyse. This is perhaps the most important passage when it comes to this topic. In Part 5, we will examine this passage and come to a final conclusion on this whole subject!