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THE DEATH OF CHRIST IN THE THEOLOGY OF MATTHEW OF AQUASPARTA Would it have been necessary for Christ to die even if he had not been crucified? Many would be inclined to associate this sort of question with the work of twentieth-century theologian, Karl Rahner. It may come as a surprise, therefore, to find precisely this question asked by a thirteenth-century Franciscan theologian, Matthew of Aquasparta. He was not the only medieval theologian who asked this sort of question, but this essay will be limited to the exposition of his position with its roots in earlier theological tradition since his treatment brings together a number of important soteriological themes of the Western tradition in a helpful way. The question to which we refer appears in a collection of disputed questions by Matthew of Aquasparta which date to the year 1277 or 1278, a time during which he was active as regent master at the Franciscan Studium at Paris.1 This question, together with others, exists in both an autograph and in a version corrected by the master.2 In view of the current interest in such christological matters bearing on the understanding of the humanity of Christ, it is of some interest to see the form of the medieval question and the nature of its resolution, at least in this instance. In a quite literal translation, Aquasparta's question is: "Whether it would have been necessary for Christ to have died in some other way in the event that he had not been slain?"3 1G. Gal, "Matthew of Aquasparta," in Dictionary of the Middle Ages, vol. 8 (Scribners, N.Y., 1987) 227-228. 2Bibliotheca Franciscana Scholastica Medii Aevi (hereafter BFSMA), torn. 2, Quaestiones Dtsputatae de Incarnatione et de Lapsu Aliaeque Selectae, ed. 2 (Quaracchi, 1957) 6*. 1BFSMA, 217. "Quaestio est utrum Christus abas fuisset necessario mortuus, si non fuisset occisus." 189 Franciscan Studies, Vol. 56 (1998) 190Zachary Hayes, OFM I SOTERIOLOGICAL CONTEXT FOR THE QUESTION ABOUT NECESSITY The specific understanding of necessity in this question is best placed in the broader historical context of theology concerning the issue of the actual order of salvation as Christians believe it to have taken place in the incarnation, life, and death of the incarnate Word of God. St. Augustine, for example, had written emphatically that God could have saved us in ways other than through the order of an incarnation as we know it. Augustine's position is based on an understanding of the divine power to which all things are equally subordinate. Why, then, does the salvific will of God work itself out in the form in which we know it? Augustine's answer revolves around the conviction that, while other modes of salvation would have been possible, no other way would have been more fitting, since the present mode, which involves the incarnation and death of the divine Word in Jesus Christ, addresses itself so appropriately to humanity in its basic structure and needs; and it reveals the mystery of God's loving concern for humanity with exceptional, persuasive power.4 Hence, if one is to use the language of necessity in this context, it should not be taken in an absolute sense. Rather, any necessity in this context would be understood to flow from the will of God to pursue human salvation in this specific way rather than in some other way. It is, therefore, a form of consequent necessity that flows from the will of God to act in this way rather than in another. This position of Augustine sets the stage for Anselm's argument that God acts in a way that coheres with the nature of divine love and with the needs of humanity. This may be appropriately seen as the larger context for the famous Anselmian attempt to draw up necessary arguments for the fact of the incarnation.5 This can be seen, in turn, to provide the background for the position argued by Bonaventure that God is to be thought of akissime et piissime.6 That 4Dc trinitate, ??? 10, 13 (PL 42 1024). 5Cur Deus Homo (PL 158 361). Here Anselm describes his project in the following way. He will attempt to...


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