Did Jesus suffer an infinite penalty?

I’m wondering if these thoughts are heretical, so I would appreciate any comments that clear up the issue.

Every time we sin, that sin is irreversible. It will always be in the past (it can’t be undone), so, in a sense, it causes infinite damage. So when Jesus died on the cross, not only was He “crushed for our iniquities,” (Isaiah 53), but He suffered an infinite price. As an infinite being, He was able to pay an infinite price in a finite duration of time.

God the Son died for our sins on the cross. He descended into Hell. Does this mean He suffered the infinite penalty of sin that we all deserve?

There’s also the cry on the cross – Matthew 27:46: “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).”

It’s a pretty confusing issue for me, especially because I just recently reverted back to the faith.

I think you’ve misunderstood two principles: first, Jesus did not descend into the Hell of the damned. The Baltimore Catechism explains in Question 86: Q. Did Christ’s soul descend into the hell of the damned?

A. The hell into which Christ’s soul descended was not the hell of the damned, but a place or state of rest called Limbo, where the souls of the just were waiting for Him. Therefore, Jesus did not suffer an infinite punishment. He merely suffered the pains inflicted on him by his torturers, especially the pain of the Cross, and death.

Second, the Father did not punish Jesus with the penalty due to our sins, that is a misunderstanding of the substitutionary atonement. The substitutionary atonement means that Jesus did something that finite humans cannot do: He offered to God an act that was infinitely good, and so it was able to balance the scales of justice which our sins had offset.

When we say that Jesus suffered the penalty for our sins, that means that we deserved death rather than Jesus. We do not mean He suffered the infinite penalty of Hell. As an innocent man, it would be unjust to inflict on Him our punishment. That is why it was a sin for the Romans to do that. Certainly God did not do what was a sin for the Romans to do.

For more details on the Catholic understanding of the atonement, I recommend you read the Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on the atonement. Among other things, note these remarks:

“The second mistake is the tendency to treat the Passion of Christ as being literally a case of vicarious punishment. This is at best a distorted view of the truth…”

I think this is where things diverge, causing the subsequent confusion.
A sin is irreversible in the sense of our time, but God is outside of time so the degree of damage can’t be assessed in His realm using any aspect of time.

We can still talk about degrees of damage from sin in other aspects, but if you equate “infinite” with “irreversible because it happened in the past,” then that isn’t a true statement.

Why do you feel the penalty is infinite? It is reparation for the sin of all mankind. That might be A LOT of sin, and it might seem “infinite” to us, but it is the sum of a finite series. As big as it might be, it is infinitely smaller than infinity.

The sins of mankind are finite. If every person who ever lived and ever would live sinned every second of every day (awake or sleeping), the summation would still be finite. Jesus is (as you pointed out) is infinite. Infinite prevails over finite every time.

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