Question : Was Jesus totally dead, or just his body?
On the face of it this question is so simple, and so important, and so basic.
And yet answers to this question will depend on what someone first believes about death, and also secondly on what someone believes about who Christ is. Therefore, broadly speaking, among Christians that will produce three possible conclusions:
- If someone believes that men and women don’t actually die (i.e. that only their body dies, while the spirit or ghost lives on), then naturally they’ll also believe that Jesus spirit or ghost was conscious and active during the three days that his body was dead. Why wouldn’t they?
- In the same way if someone believes that men are mortal, the “the dead know nothing” (Ecc. 9:5), that men like Abel and Abraham sleep in the dust till resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20-23, Heb. 11:39-40 etc), then logically they should also believe that Jesus likewise was totally dead.
- However, this doesn’t always follow. In recent years many churches and individuals have moved to a more biblical understanding of the death of man, but to apply that to Christ is an extra step – particular when most Christians have been taught that Christ is God, as the Third Person of the Trinity.
The view presented across the answers on BibleQ fall under 2. above. So if we are to answer this question simply then the answer is Yes. Christ was totally dead. As the resurrected Lord himself says “I was dead” (Revelation 1:18 in Greek, not merely “I died for a moment”).
But for those either with questions about the nature of death – dust or spirit, or with questions on the nature of Christ – man or God, then for them those assumptions need to be unpacked separately. Below are some suggestions for other links on BibleQ.
Other related questions and answers:
Does Jesus say he can raise himself “I have the power to give it up and the power to receive it back again” (John 10:18)
Harrowing hell – What does it mean that Jesus preached to the “spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:19)
Harrowing hell – What does “he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive” mean? (Ephesians 4:8)