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Tertullian: Part II: Scripture Phrases and Passages Clearly Assert “The Resurrection of the Dead.” The Force of This Very Phrase Explained as Indicating the Prominent Place of the Flesh in the General Resurrection.
Chapter XVIII.—Scripture Phrases and Passages Clearly Assert “The Resurrection of the Dead.” The Force of This Very Phrase Explained as Indicating the Prominent Place of the Flesh in the General Resurrection.
Thus far it has been my object by prefatory remarks to lay a foundation for the defence of all the Scriptures which promise a resurrection of the flesh. Now, inasmuch as this verity is supported by so many just and reasonable considerations—I mean the dignity of the flesh itself, 7381 the power and might of God, 7382 the analogous cases in which these are displayed, 7383 as well as the good reasons for the judgment, and the need thereof 7384 —it will of course be only right and proper that the Scriptures should be understood in the sense suggested by such authoritative considerations, and not after the conceits of the heretics, which arise from infidelity solely, because it is deemed incredible that the flesh should be recovered from death and restored to life; not because (such a restoration) is either unattainable by the flesh itself, or impossible for God to effect, or unsuitable to the final judgment. Incredible, no doubt, it might be, if it had not been revealed in the word of God; 7385 except that, even if it had not been thus first announced by God, it might have been fairly enough assumed, that the revelation of it had been withheld, simply because so many strong presumptions in its favour had been already furnished. Since, however, (the great fact) is proclaimed in so many inspired passages, that is so far a dissuasive against understanding it in a sense different from that which is attested by such arguments as persuade us to its reception, even irrespective of the testimonies of revelation. Let us see, then, first of all in what title this hope of ours is held out to our view. 7386 p. 558 There is, I imagine, one divine edict which is exposed to the gaze of all men: it is “The Resurrection of the Dead.” 7387 These words are prompt, decisive, clear. I mean to take these very terms, discuss them, and discover to what substance they apply. As to the word resurrectio, whenever I hear of its impending over a human being, I am forced to inquire what part of him has been destined to fall, since nothing can be expected to rise again, unless it has first been prostrated. It is only the man who is ignorant of the fact that the flesh falls by death, that can fail to discover that it stands erect by means of life. Nature pronounces Gods sentence: “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” 7388 Even the man who has not heard the sentence, sees the fact. No death but is the ruin of our limbs. This destiny of the body the Lord also described, when, clothed as He was in its very substance, He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” 7389 For He showed to what belongs (the incidents of) being destroyed, thrown down, and kept down—even to that to which it also appertains to be lifted and raised up again; although He was at the same time bearing about with Him “a soul that was trembling even unto death,” 7390 but which did not fall through death, because even the Scripture informs us that “He spoke of His body.” 7391 So that it is the flesh which falls by death; and accordingly it derives its name, cadaver, from cadendo. 7392 The soul, however, has no trace of a fall in its designation, as indeed there is no mortality in its condition. Nay it is the soul which communicates its ruin to the body when it is breathed out of it, just as it is also destined to raise it up again from the earth when it shall re-enter it. That cannot fall which by its entrance raises; nor can that droop which by its departure causes ruin. I will go further, and say that the soul does not even fall into sleep along with the body, nor does it with its companion even lie down in repose. For it is agitated in dreams, and disturbed: it might, however, rest, if it lay down; and lie down it certainly would, if it fell. Thus that which does not fall even into the likeness of death, does not succumb to the reality thereof. Passing now to the other word mortuorum, I wish you to look carefully, and see to what substance it is applicable. Were we to allow, under this head, as is sometimes held by the heretics, that the soul is mortal, so that being mortal it shall attain to a resurrection; this would afford a presumption that the flesh also, being no less mortal, would share in the same resurrection. But our present point is to derive from the proper signification of this word an idea of the destiny which it indicates. Now, just as the term resurrection is predicated of that which falls—that is, the flesh—so will there be the same application of the word dead, because what is called “the resurrection of the dead” indicates the rising up again of that which is fallen down. We learn this from the case of Abraham, the father of the faithful, a man who enjoyed close intercourse with God. For when he requested of the sons of Heth a spot to bury Sarah in, he said to them, “Give me the possession of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead,” 7393 —meaning, of course, her flesh; for he could not have desired a place to bury her soul in, even if the soul is to be deemed mortal, and even if it could bear to be described by the word “dead.” Since, then, this word indicates the body, it follows that when “the resurrection of the dead” is spoken of, it is the rising again of mens bodies that is meant.
As stated in ch. v.–ix.557:7382
See ch. xi.557:7383
As stated in ch. xii. and xiii.557:7384
See ch. xiv.–xvii.557:7385
Gen. iii. 19.558:7389
John ii. 19.558:7390
Matt. xxvi. 38.558:7391
John ii. 21.558:7392
“Corpse from falling.” This, of course, does not show the connection of the words, like the Latin. [Elucidation I.]558:7393
Gen. xxiii. 4.
Next: The Sophistical Sense Put by Heretics on the Phrase “Resurrection of the Dead,” As If It Meant the Moral Change of a New Life.
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