“In the English translation of the Creed we say that Christ rose again. There is no such Latin equivalent. Why, then, do we use the word ‘again’ in the Creed? It seems to imply that Christ rose from the dead at some point before Easter.”
Two issues. What the early church fathers Tertullian and Irenaeus said is of passing interest, but it does not answer the question at hand, which is “Why do we say He rose again?”
To answer this we must 1) Consider not so much what the early Church fathers said but what the Council of Nicea said. Note that both Irenaeus and Justin pre-date the Ecumenical Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) and neither carries the authority of that council. 2) We are dealing with a translation that comes from the Mass, which for Western Catholics means Latin, not Greek. In saying so, I do not mean to say that the Latin pre-dates the Greek Creed (it most certainly does not) or that the Greek Creed is in error or otherwise deficient in any way. Indeed, why we say “rose again” has everything in the world to do with what the Latin version of the Creed says. It says “resurrexit” and thus we say “He rose again” which is an accurate translation of the Latin. Why the Latin has “resurrexit” instead of “surrexit” is a different question altogether.
Well, lets keep in the mind that the Creed was probably first formulated in Greek, before the Latin text. Two of Denzinger’s Sources for the Creed, before Tertullian, are Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, both of whom wrote in Greek. That being said, the two (Greek and Latin) could have been formulate around the same time, especially as this seems to be a rule of faith used in the early Church. As mentioned above, the Greek term used is anastanta, which means to make to stand up, raise up. The verb just means to rise up (at least in the Greek), i.e. to awaken from the dead.
By “again,” the translators intend the original meaning of “again” as “back to the former state” (of living), rather than as “for yet another time.” Below are the four senses of “again” from Merriam-Webster. You will see that the first sense is the one being used, rather than the second one, which today predominates among American speakers. Interesting question! 1: in return : back (swore he would pay him again when he was able — Shakespeare) 2: another time : once more : anew (I shall not look upon his like again — Shakespeare) 3: on the other hand (he might go, and again he might not) 4: in addition : besides (again, there is another matter to consider)
The specific phrase is “On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the scriptures….” The word “again” does not change the meaning of much in my mind as it implies he “got up again” after death. Although we can see how it may imply he rose from the dead again rather than got up again. By “got up” it simply means the raising one does when one wakes in the morning. I was once on my back without senses, and now I am on my feet, and alert. In English, the death is not mentioned in that sentence, although it might be in the Latin version.
“The Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day” (Matt 17:22-23).
At the moment of Our Lord’s death His soul descended into that part of hell called otherwise known as the Limbo of the Patriarchs or Abraham’s Bosom – the place where the souls of the Just who died before Christ were detained: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40). Christ announced the glad tidings of Redemption to them, and their approaching admission into heaven with Him on Ascension Day: “he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison” (1Pet 3:19). Our Lord’s very presence transformed Limbo into a delightful paradise, as we gather from His words to the Good Thief: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43).
It is also an expressed opinion that Christ visited purgatory, to console and comfort the souls suffering there: “I will penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth, and will behold all that sleep, and will enlighten all that hope in the Lord” (Sir 24:45).
For three days Christ’s soul was separated from His body, yet His divinity was never for a moment separated from either. On the third day, Christ, by His own divine power, reunited His soul to His body and rose again immortal and impassable: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:19); “I lay down my life in order to take it up again” (Jn 10:17).
After His Resurrection, Christ retained in His body the marks of His sufferings: “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe” (Jn 20:27). These marks will ever remain to show that He rose again in the same body, and as tokens of His victory over sin and death.
Moreover, having risen with the same but glorified body Christ is no longer subject to death, as were those He miraculously raised to life. Further, He is the principle and cause of the future General Resurrection of all the dead: “for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” (1Cor 15:22).
On the fact of the Resurrection rests our belief in Christianity: “and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain…” (1Cor 15:14). There are ten accounts given in Sacred Scripture of Christ’s appearances after His Resurrection:
(i) To St. Mary Magdalene near the Sepulcher, while she was looking for Christ’s body (Jn 20:16);
(ii) To the holy women returning from the Sepulcher after being shown the empty tomb by the angel (Matt 28:9);
(iii) To Simon Peter alone as Head of the Apostles (Lk 24:34);
(iv) To the two disciples on the road to Emmaus to whom Christ expounded all the Scriptures concerning himself from Moses and the Prophets (Lk 24:25);
(v) To the Apostles assembled behind locked doors, excepting St. Thomas, on the first Easter Sunday (Jn 20:21);
(vi) A week later to all of the Apostles behind the same locked doors, including St. Thomas (Jn 20:28);
(vii) To St. Peter and six other Apostles while fishing fruitlessly upon the Sea of Galilee (Jn 21:7);
(viii) To the eleven Apostles in Galilee upon a mountain where Jesus had bidden them meet him (Matt 28:16);
(ix) To St. James the Less as recounted by St. Paul (1Cor 15:7);
(x) On the day of His Ascension from Mount Olivet in front of as many as five hundred people (Acts 1:9).
The Apostles were to go on and preach Christ’s Resurrection before the very Jewish leaders who put Him to death. They preached this truth to an incredulous world, filled with the unction of the Holy Spirit, braving persecution, imprisonment and death: “And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus” (Acts 13:32-33).
TRADITION — The Early Church Fathers
St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5, 31, 2 (180 AD): “For since the Lord went away into the midst of the shadow of death where the souls of the dead were, and afterwards arose in the body, and after the resurrection was taken up, it is clear that the souls also of His disciples, on account of which the Lord underwent these things, will go away into the place allotted them by God.”
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 4, 11 (350 AD): “(Christ) descended into the subterranean regions so that He might ransom from there the just… David was there, and Samuel, and all the Prophets; and John, the same who, through his messengers, said: ‘Are You the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ Would you not want Him to go down to free such men as these?”
St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism 1 (Post 383 AD): “God (the Son) did not impede death from separating His soul from His body according to the necessary order of nature, but has reunited them to one another in the resurrection, so that He Himself might be, in His person, the meeting point for death and life, by arresting in Himself the decomposition of nature produced by death and so becoming the source of reunion for the separated parts.”
St. Augustine of Hippo (+430 AD), Commentary on Psalm 120:4: “It is no great thing to believe that Christ died. This the pagans, Jews, and all the wicked believe; in a word, all believe that Christ died. But that He rose from the dead is the belief of Christians. To believe that He rose again, this we deem of great moment.”
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566): Finally, the Resurrection of our Lord, as the pastor should inculcate, was necessary to complete the mystery of our salvation and redemption. By His death Christ liberated us from sin; by His Resurrection, He restored to us the most important of those privileges, which we had forfeited by sin. Hence these words of the Apostle: He was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification. That nothing, therefore, may be wanting to the work of our salvation, it was necessary that as He died, He should also rise again.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 632: The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection. This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.
No. 639: The mystery of Christ’s resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness. In about AD 56, St. Paul could already write to the Corinthians: “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve…” The Apostle speaks here of the living tradition of the Resurrection which he had learned after his conversion at the gates of Damascus.
No. 655: Finally, 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…”