Q37: What do you understand by the word “suffered”?
A37: That all the time He lived on earth, but especially at the end of His life, He bore, in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race; in order that by His suffering, as the only atoning sacrifice, He might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the grace of God, righteousness and eternal life. [Lord’s Day 15, Q 37.]
[Note: there are two interpretations of this passage. There is the one side which Nicole outlines in his “The Doctrine of Definite Atonement in the Heidelberg Catechism,” in The Gordon Review 8 (1964) 138-144. This school might suggest such things as: by “the whole human race” Ursinus meant “all sorts of men;” or, that ‘the wrath of God is against the whole range of sin,’ and so does not refer to “the range of the substitutionary sin bearing of Christ,” (Voetius, cited by Nicole; 142). One can scan the commentaries on the HC by De Witte, VanderKemp (and others), down to G.I. Williamson saying similar things. What is unfortunate, is that Nicole in this article, never takes the time to analyze Ursinus’ own explanation of this Catechism, or to analyze the phrase as found in many of Usinus’ contemporaries or teachers. For nowhere can one find either of these glosses in Ursinus, Paraeus or in anyone of this generation or the Reformers. Some of us, however, prefer to take Ursinus‘ own explanation (see entry #6) of this question, in conjunction with the other instances where Ursinus expresses the same language and idea, along with David Paraeus’ comment on Question 40 as being a surer guide to the meaning of Question 37. Of David Paraeus, Nicole in this article admits: “It is very likely indeed that Paraeus understood rightly the teaching of Ursinus,” (144). Nicole says this, all the while ignoring Paraeus’ own explanations.]