Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
ATHENAGORAS: Chapter XXXVI.—Bearing of the Doctrine of the Resurrection on the Practices of the Christians.
Chapter XXXVI.—Bearing of the Doctrine of the Resurrection on the Practices of the Christians.
Who, then, that believes in a resurrection, would make himself into a tomb for bodies that will rise again? For it is not the part of the same persons to believe that our bodies will rise again, and to eat them as if they would not; and to think that the earth will give back the bodies held by it, but that those which a man has entombed in himself will not be demanded back. On the contrary, it is reasonable to suppose, that those who think they shall have no account to give of the present life, ill or well spent, and that p. 148 there is no resurrection, but calculate on the soul perishing with the body, and being as it were quenched in it, will refrain from no deed of daring; but as for those who are persuaded that nothing will escape the scrutiny of God, but that even the body which has ministered to the irrational impulses of the soul, and to its desires, will be punished along with it, it is not likely that they will commit even the smallest sin. But if to any one it appears sheer nonsense that the body which has mouldered away, and been dissolved, and reduced to nothing, should be reconstructed, we certainly cannot with any reason be accused of wickedness with reference to those that believe not, but only of folly; for with the opinions by which we deceive ourselves we injure no one else. But that it is not our belief alone that bodies will rise again, but that many philosophers also hold the same view, it is out of place to show just now, lest we should be thought to introduce topics irrelevant to the matter in hand, either by speaking of the intelligible and the sensible, and the nature of these respectively, or by contending that the incorporeal is older than the corporeal, and that the intelligible precedes the sensible, although we become acquainted with the latter earliest, since the corporeal is formed from the incorporeal, by the combination with it of the intelligible, and that the sensible is formed from the intelligible; for nothing hinders, according to Pythagoras and Plato, that when the dissolution of bodies takes place, they should, from the very same elements of which they were constructed at first, be constructed again. 832 But let us defer the discourse concerning the resurrection. 833
[Comp. cap. xxxi., supra, p. 146. The science of their times lent itself to the notions of the Fathers necessarily; but neither Holy Scripture nor theology binds us to any theory of the how, in this great mystery; hence Plato and Pythagoras are only useful, as showing that even they saw nothing impossible in the resurrection of the dead. As to “the same elements,” identity does not consist in the same particles of material, but in the continuity of material, by which every seed reproduces “its own body.” 1 Cor. xv. 38.]148:833
[It is a fair inference that The Discourse was written after the Embassy. “In it,” says Kaye, “may be found nearly all the arguments which human reason has been able to advance in support of the resurrection.” p. 200.]
Next: Chapter XXXVII.—Entreaty to Be Fairly Judged.
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