Hey, Father! In the Apostles’ Creed, it says, ‘… on the third day he (Jesus) rose again from the dead…’ Why do we say, ‘again’?

In the Apostles’ Creed, it says, “He descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead … .” The word again has always brought questions to my mind as again means “multiple times.” What is the meaning of “again” in this prayer? Did Jesus rise from the dead more than once?

Mike in Springfield

Hi, Mike! Thank you for an insightful question. I can tell you from experience that you are not the only person who struggles with this part of the Apostles’ Creed. It certainly sounds like we are professing that there was another time prior to the resurrection when Jesus rose from the dead. Any dictionary will tell you the most common meaning of “again” is “once more,” inferring repetition of an event. This prompts the question, “When did Jesus rise before the resurrection?”

Simply put, in the context of this profession of faith, “again” is unnecessary, and it can be argued it comes from a somewhat confusing translation, especially since words can have multiple meanings.

There is another acceptable meaning for “again,” and that is when it is used to say “anew.”  We say, “I was not able to finish my story, so I started again,” or “My vacation was cancelled, but I rescheduled and started again.” In this instance, “again” means “to return to a previous condition.”  When we profess the Apostles’ Creed, we affirm our belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To resurrect something means “to bring back to life after life has been ended.” Jesus was alive, He died, and then He was alive again.

So, when we say that Jesus “rose again from the dead” in professing the Apostles’ Creed, we are not saying that the resurrection was His second time rising from the dead. Instead, we are saying that He rose anew. He returned to life after having been dead and buried. He not only came back to life, but he did so with a glorified body, and thus came back anew.

Jesus rose only once, and that is celebrated on Easter. He lived, He died only once, and now He lives again forever. The new life in Christ is the confirmation of our own resurrection, as we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church

“Christ’s Resurrection — and the risen Christ himself is the principle and source of our future resurrection: ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep … . For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.’ The risen Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful while they await that fulfillment. In Christ, Christians have tasted … the powers of the age to come and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised”.

(CCC, 655)

We profess and believe that Jesus is not in the tomb. He has risen from the dead! What appears to be the downfall of a man is not the end of His life. By the power of God, He rose to a new life. As explained by one of my seminary professors, Father Paul Nord, OSB, “again” is unnecessary and confusing. 

So, when we come together on Sunday, especially on Easter Sunday, we do so to celebrate the resurrection of Christ Jesus. His resurrection is a message of hope for all of us because we know that in our own baptism, God has promised us something better. There is always a reason for hope. Jesus fell three times on His final journey to the cross, but He rose each time. Death and its allies do not and will not have the final say in our lives. Jesus Christ has conquered death and promised us eternal life with Him in heaven. He is alive in Scripture, in the Church, and most of all, alive in us who are his disciples. May Jesus Christ, He who rose anew from the dead, bless us and protect us!

Father Paul Lesupati is parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield.