Jesus separated from the Father?


Today I heard someone say that when Jesus cried out from the Cross " My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" that it was the moment that Jesus became separated from the Father so that He could taste and then conquer death. Not just physical death, but the spiritual death that we would all have were it not for His Sacrifice. Scriptures were given that seemingly support the view. Many of them are verses that speak of Jesus having to die and taking that in a spiritual sense in addition to the physical sense. Additionally, this person, a Catholic, said that without having done this, Jesus could not have descended into hell because hell is a place where God does not exist. I checked the catechism and it makes clear that Jesus’ descent was to what we know as the abode of the dead or the Bosom of Abraham to free the spirits. In other words, the hell referred to in the creed is not the place of the damned. I am very uncomfortable with the notion that in His descent to hell, Jesus somehow was separated from the Father.

In light of what I have been taught about the Trinity, I can’t see how Jesus as the Son of God could be “separated” from the Father. In light of the Incarnation, I can’t see Jesus Divinity being separated from His humanity. I had always thought that when Jesus said those words, He was giving us a message through Ps 22-- which contains the exact same words.

So, is this a Catholic teaching? If so, can anyone explain it in detail? If not, I really need as much solid teaching (Scripture, Catechism, etc) on this as possible. This lady is normally spot on with Catholic teaching, but something does not seem right to me.




He wasn’t. Your friend is in error.

So, is this a Catholic teaching? If so, can anyone explain it in detail? If not, I really need as much solid teaching (Scripture, Catechism, etc) on this as possible. This lady is normally spot on with Catholic teaching, but something does not seem right to me.

“***My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?***” (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34; cf. Ps 22:1).

Here’ Christ is praying the Psalms, specifically Ps 22. If you read Ps 22, it is not a psalm of despair, but one which begins with lament but ends in confidence in God. Christ no doubt was calling this psalm to our minds, so that we could know that what Ps 22 referred to has been fulfilled in Him.

According to the the commentary of Rev. Fr. Geo. Leo Haydock:
quote][size=2][FONT=Times New Roman,Times,serif][size=3]Here (ver. 46) he cried out with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani,[/size] i.e. my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? These words, out of Psalm xxi. 1, were to express his violent sufferings. The Arians objected them against the divinity of Christ; to whom the Fathers answer, that he spoke these words in the person of sinners, from whose sake he suffered, as they shew by the following words of the same Psalm: far from my salvation are the words of my sins: which cannot be applied to Christ, he being incapable of sinning. Besides, these words may be expounded as a prayer, by which he desires of his Father, not to be abandoned any longer, but that his sufferings may now have an end. In fine, that these words were uttered with an entire confidence, and an assurance in the presence and assistance of God, appears by what he presently added, recommending his spirit into the hands of his Father.
Comprehensive Catholic Commentary of the Douay-Rheims New Testament, Rev. Fr. Geo. Leo [/size][/FONT][size=2][FONT=Times New Roman,Times,serif][size=3] Haydock,[/size][/size][/FONT][size=2][FONT=Times New Roman,Times,serif][size=3] commentary on Mt 27:46]
[/size][/size][/FONT][size=2][FONT=Times New Roman,Times,serif][size=3]
According to A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture[/size] by Dom Bernarnd Orchard, et. al, p. 903:

[/FONT][size=2][FONT=Times New Roman,Times,serif][size=3]*
Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani *[/size][/size]are the opening words in Aramaic…of [Ps 22]. Doubtless our Lord continues the psalm in silence. The fact that the words are a quotation removes the dogmatic difficulty. The psalm is not a cry of despair but, on the contrary, [/FONT][size=2][FONT=Times New Roman,Times,serif][size=3]a hymn of supreme confidence in God despite profound suffering. As in our Lord’s case the divine ‘foresaking’ in the psalm is no more than a poetical expression of acute physical and mental pain to which God has ‘abandoned’ the psalmist without, however, having ‘turned his face away’, Ps [22], 2, 25. In our Lord’s mouth, indeed, the words are not even a complaint because his intention is simply to show that the fruitful martyrdom of the innocent psalmist was a shadow of his own."



You are correct, the Son of God was never separated from the Father - or the Holy Spirit. God is a triune God - immutable/unchangeable. If people would take the time to examine what their words imply, it would become a little more obvious that such an allegation (separation of Son from Father) is false. For example, that would mean that temporarily the Triune God ceased to exist, and instead there were two different Gods (one consisting of one Person, the other consisting of two Persons. :nope:

Our Lord’s words on the cross are understood to mean that in His humanity (body & soul) what He was experiencing was the sense of being alone, of being abandoned. (Similar to what John of the Cross calls the dark night of the soul.)

Physical human death occurs when the human soul departs from the body. Our Lord’s human soul did separate from His body; He did physically die. But, regarding the presence of the Son’s divinity:

From “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” by Dr. Ludwig Ott
"…Christ’s death dissolved the connection between godey and soul–…but his death did not dissolve the attachment of Godhead and humanity, or of their parts. Even after their separation the body and the soul separately remained hypostatically united with the Divine Logos.

The teaching of the Church is opposed by the Gnostic-Manichaean teaching, according to which the Logos left the man before the Passion.

The continuance of the Hypostatic Union during the Passion also, is proved by 1 Cor. 2:8. “If they had known the concealed wisdom of God they would never have crucified the Lord of Glory (=God).”

The passage relied on by the Gnostics is Mt. 27:46.
"{My God My God why has thou forsaken me" is acutely explained by Hugo of St. Victor …He withdrew His protection but He did not separate the union…; similarly by St. Thomas (S. th. III 50, 2). Because of Mt 27:46, some Fathers, like St. Ambrose and St. hilary, wrongly thought that at Christ’s death the Godhead left the body."



If you have a Catechism of the Catholic Church, go to #624-627. You’ll find clear teaching there that refutes the idea that the Deity departed from Jesus’ human nature.

Eg. #624 …In his plan of salvation, God ordained that his Son should not only “die for our sins” (1 Cor 15:3) but should also “taste death,” experience the condition of death, the separation of his soul from his body, between the time he expired on the cross and the time he was raised from the dead. …

#627 Christ’s death was a real death in that it put an end to his earthly human existence. But because of the union which the person of the Son retained with his body, his was not a mortal corpse like others, for “it was not possible for death to hold him” (Acts 2:24) and therefore “divine power preserved Christ’s body from corruption”.



The above is antithetical to Catholic doctrine.

“***The Hypostatic Union was never interrupted (sent. certa.)***…***The Hypostatic Union will never cease (de fide)***” (Ott. L., Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 150-151)

The redeeming love of Jesus “always united him to the Father” (CCC 603).

With regard to the creedal affirmation “he descended into hell”…

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, an angel is said to be “in a place” by the application of his power to the place. Non-corporeal substances are not “contained” by the place they are in, but more correctly said to "virtually contain" the thing or place by their their angelic power. Similarly, St. Thomas taught that Christ’s soul is “in a place” by the application of His power to the place. His power virtually contains the thing or place by the power of His soul. But Christ’s soul can be said to apply power *per suum effectum *(through His effect) and *per suum essentiam *(through His essence).

St. Thomas taught:

"A thing is said to be in a place in two ways. First of all, through its effect, and in this way Christ descended into each of the hells, but in different manner. For going down into the hell of the lost He wrought this effect, that by descending thither He put them to shame for their unbelief and wickedness: but to them who were detained in Purgatory He gave hope of attaining to glory: while upon the holy Fathers detained in hell solely on account of original sin, He shed the light of glory everlasting.

In another way a thing is said to be in a place through its essence: and in this way Christ’s soul descended only into that part of hell wherein the just were detained. so that He visited them “in place,” according to His soul, whom He visited “interiorly by grace,” according to His Godhead. Accordingly, while remaining in one part of hell, He wrought this effect in a measure in every part of hell, just as while suffering in one part of the earth He delivered the whole world by His Passion."

                         "***Christ, who is the Wisdom of God, penetrated to*** *all the lower parts of the earth*, not passing through them locally with His soul, but by spreading the effects of His power *per suum effectum] in a measure to them all: yet so that He enlightened only the just* [per suum essentiam]: because the text quoted continues: "And I will enlighten all that hope in the Lord." 

(St. Thomas Aquinas, *Summa Theologica, *III, 52, 2)

St. Thomas contends that Christ’s soul, descended into hell by application of his power per suum effectum, to both the hell of the damned and the prison of the just. Yet, also asserted that Christ’s soul, *per suum essentum et effectiam *descended into the prison of the just. It was by the application of his essence and effective power, according to Christ’s soul, that “He visited ‘interiorly by grace,’ according to His Godhead.” (St. Thomas, ibid.).

He was never apart from the Godhead.

***Therefore, Christ soul after bodily death and before resurrection can rightly be said to be “in the place” of damned, the place of the limbo of the fathers, and the place of heaven, all simultaneously, but in a different sense.

…Not just physical death, but the spiritual death that we would all have were it not for His Sacrifice.

Incorrect. John Paul II affirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "**In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him. **(CCC 637).

In his General Audience teaching, John Paul II states, “***The Apostle [Peter] adds however: “<In spirit (Christ) went and preached to the spirits in prison>” (1 Pt 3:19). This seems to indicate metaphorically the extension of Christ’s salvation to the just men and women who had died before him.***”


Your responses are very helpful. Thank you so much. To be honest, I am a little confused by what she was trying to teach. On the one hand she made the clear statement that Christ had separated from the Father. But did not come right out and say that this “separation” caused Jesus to somehow “lose” His divinity. However, the very next statement this separation was necessary because Christ went to hell and God can’t be in hell—seemingly implying that Jesus was not God at that point in time. So it would seem that there are two heretical notions here. Thank you Dave for citing CCC 637 which completely shoots that Jesus was always united to His Divine person. I think now I just need to gather up info on the oneness of the Trinity.

I recalled after my original post that one of the scriptures she used was 2 Corinthians 5:21 "For our sake** he made him to be sin **who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. " I’ve bolded the part that she says would indicate that the Father had separated from the Son.

I am not a biblical scholar by any means, but I don’t see where this verse really shows a separation of Father and Son, unless the verse is taken completely literally. The Navarre Bible comments on this verse by saying:

According to the rite of atoning sacrifices the word “sin”, corresponding to the Hevrew asam, refers to the actual act of sacrifice or to the victime being offered. Therefore, this phrase means " he made him a victim for sin" or “a sacrifice for sin”.

This more closely resembles the understanding that I have always had. CCC 602 seems to confirm this as well when it says: By sending his own Son in the form of a slave, in the form of a fallen humanity, on account of sin, God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Thanks for your help, any more insights into this issue are helpful. Since we know there really is no new heresy under the sun, I’m wondering if this was one of those heresies fought by the Church so long ago. Any historical buffs are welcome to chime in.


I heard that Dodd, taught that when Jesus quoted part of an old testament text, the people would recall the full text being quoted. With that in mind those hearing Jesus quote Psalms 22:1 would also think of verse 24 which reads,

   For he has not despised or disdained 
   the suffering of the afflicted one; 
  ** he has not hidden his face from him 
   but has listened to his cry for help. **


Excellent Daniel! I had read over Ps 22 and did not catch verse 24. I am not sure who “Dodd” is, but if you have any links to share, I’d love to take a look. Thanks!


What Jesus experienced and what He expressed was the common suffering of humanity. When Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, He was no more separated from the Father than we are in our darkest moments, when we feel forsaken. In fact, it’s in those moment when God is closest to us.

With that in mind, the moment of Christ’s utter despair was therefore the paramount expression of His own divinity. If there were degrees of union within the Trinity, this was the ultimate moment of love within that union - the moment of sacrifice.

God poured Himself out to Man in three ways:

  1. In Creation - creating Adam
  2. In the Incarnation - becoming the new Adam
  3. In the sacrifice of the Cross - making appeasement for Adam.

Never, at any point, was He separated from any other member of the Trinity.


Prayer Warrior,

I have to admit that this one has had me thinking pretty heavy as well. And I feel like God has been helping me some. Yesterday’s daytime reading in the divine office was Psalm 22 believe it or not. Any here is my spin on this question.

When Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins, He took upon Himself all of our sins, but also according to Paul, He also took upon Himself all of our pain and suffering as well. What greater pain is there than dispair? Or worse yet dispair because we believe we are separated from God? If He took upon Himself all of our aflictions, pains, sufferings then dispair was one of the pains He felt.

So at that moment when He cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He felt the pain of dispair! He felt the pain of being separated from His Father! I do not believe that He was trully separated from His Father, like many of the posters have done a good job pointing out, I do not believe God could separate from God. But He felt the pain of dispair and separation from the Father even though He was not trully separated from Him. Hopefully I have explained myself well here, if not let me know.

Now concerning Jesus going to hell? Jesus entered into the realm of the dead as a victorious General not as a victim to death. Remember at Jesus’ death and resurrection was when the gates of heaven was opened up for the righteous to enter. Therefore the spirits of the righteous had to be somewhere waiting for the time that they would be set free and that is where Jesus went.

God Bless,



Despair means “to lose all hope.” The word derives from the Latin desperare, from de- + sperare to hope; akin to Latin spes hope. Jesus is God. You are asserting that God lost hope, is that right? Yet, Ps 22 is clearly not authored by someone who has lost hope.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The first commandment is also concerned with sins against hope, namely, despair and presumption.” (CCC 2091). So, is it really your thesis that Jesus sinned against hope through despair? I think “lament” or “sorrow” is a better word. Despair is a sin. Sorrow is not.

Jesus never had theological hope. He never had theological faith. He’s God. Faith and hope are virtuous responses toward God. They are not something God needs, nor can it be something God loses. All I can tell you is that what you’ve asserted makes no theological sense whatsoever to me.


No this is not my thesis. My statement is not that Jesus despaired but He felt the PAIN of despair. What greater pain is there than despair? What greater pain is there to loose something dear to you thinking that you will never get it back? Is this the pain that many theologians claimed will be the greatest pain suffered by those in hell? Despair that they will never-ever be close to God because they squandered that opportunity?

If you believe that Jesus put upon Himself not only our sins but also all the pain and suffering of this world, then he must have felt the pain of despair.


I am not comfortable with the notion that Jesus had to experience every conceivable degree and variation of the pain of sin to consumate the act of sacrifice in a way that would be fully pleasing to God and to satisfy God’s Justice. Similarly Jesus did not need to experience every or any sinful act of the flesh and personally “know” sin in order to have the capacity to satisfy and forgive it. I don’t think there is any precedence for this notion of experiencing pain in scripture nor tradition. Did the Jews make the sacrificed animals experience every pain and consequence of their sins before they let it die? No.

While existing in our fallen humanity we probably can’t ever fully understand the necessities for, nor the spiritual significance nor the transformational aspects of what really happened in Christ’s suffering and dieing. At Christ’s death there is a mysterious singularity where the 2nd Person of the Divine satisfies God The Father’s Holy Wrath for the sins of a fallen humanity by wounding Himself through an act of love; but in a way that does not seperate Himself From God nor from His perfect humanity. But that wound in love is more like a divine event of grafting a new humanity to God through Jesus than it is a mechanism for the simple expression of experiencing all of humanity’s pain. I am sure God felt the pain of asking Jesus’ to make the sacrifice in a way more intense than any sin could pain humanity - yet God knew that pain would bring a greater joy of a saved humanity. I note here also that Jesus was not the only one to suffer the pain of the crucifixion. Mary was at the foot of the cross and had a sword of sorrow pierce her soul as well (as prophesied by Simon).

My personal thoughts are that pain is not what satisfies God. Obedience and cooperation with God is what leads to our happiness. That is what satisfies God. Pain is only the consequence of a fallen humanities disobedience and especially why women suffer during child birth but have a greater joy for bringing a new life into the world.

What we have on the cross is a consequence of Sin taken together with the consequence of God’s Love. By cooperating with God through a self sacrifice of love we can now all literally be reborn into a new humanity. What Jesus is telling us is that we because of our sins must share in some suffering and pain in order to be reborn as God’s children and to have a share in His greater and eternal joy and glory.



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