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Tertullian: Part II: Explanation of What is Meant by the Body, Which is to Be Raised Again. Not the Corporeality of the Soul.
Chapter XXXV.—Explanation of What is Meant by the Body, Which is to Be Raised Again. Not the Corporeality of the Soul.
But He also teaches us, that “He is rather to be feared, who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell,” that is, the Lord alone; “not those which kill the body, but are not able to hurt the soul,” 7512 that is to say, all human powers. Here, then, we have a recognition of the natural immortality of the soul, which cannot be killed by men; and of the mortality of the body, which may be killed: whence we learn that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of the flesh; for unless it were raised again, it would be impossible for the flesh to be “killed in hell.” But as a question may be here captiously raised about the meaning of “the body” (or “the flesh”), I will at once state that I understand by the human body nothing else than that fabric of the flesh which, whatever be the kind of material of which it is constructed and modified, is seen and handled, and sometimes indeed killed, by men. In like manner, I should not admit that anything but cement and stones and bricks form the body of a wall. If any one imports into our argument some body of a subtle, secret nature, he must show, disclose, and prove to me that that identical body is the very one which was slain by human violence, and then (I will grant) that it is of such a body that (our scripture) speaks. If, again, the body or corporeal nature of the soul 7513 is cast in my teeth, it will only be an idle subterfuge! For since both substances are set before us (in this passage, which affirms) that “body and soul” are destroyed in hell, a distinction is obviously made between the two; and we are left to understand the body to be that which is tangible to us, that is, the flesh, which, as it will be destroyed in hell—since it did not “rather fear” being destroyed by God—so also will it be restored to life eternal, since it preferred to be killed by human hands. If, therefore, any one shall violently suppose that the destruction of the soul and the flesh in hell amounts to a final annihilation of the two substances, and not to their penal treatment (as if they were to be consumed, not punished), let him recollect that the fire of hell is eternal—expressly announced as an everlasting penalty; and let him then admit that it is from this circumstance that this never-ending “killing” is more formidable than a merely human murder, which is only temporal. He will then p. 571 come to the conclusion that substances must be eternal, when their penal “killing” is an eternal one. Since, then, the body after the resurrection has to be killed by God in hell along with the soul, we surely have sufficient information in this fact respecting both the issues which await it, namely the resurrection of the flesh, and its eternal “killing.” Else it would be most absurd if the flesh should be raised up and destined to “the killing in hell,” in order to be put an end to, when it might suffer such an annihilation (more directly) if not raised again at all. A pretty paradox, 7514 to be sure, that an essence must be refitted with life, in order that it may receive that annihilation which has already in fact accrued to it! But Christ, whilst confirming us in the selfsame hope, adds the example of “the sparrows”—how that “not one of them falls to the ground without the will of God.” 7515 He says this, that you may believe that the flesh which has been consigned to the ground, is able in like manner to rise again by the will of the same God. For although this is not allowed to the sparrows, yet “we are of more value than many sparrows,” 7516 for the very reason that, when fallen, we rise again. He affirms, lastly, that “the very hairs of our head are all numbered,” 7517 and in the affirmation He of course includes the promise of their safety; for if they were to be lost, where would be the use of having taken such a numerical care of them? Surely the only use lies (in this truth): “That of all which the Father hath given to me, I should lose none,” 7518 —not even a hair, as also not an eye nor a tooth. And yet whence shall come that “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” 7519 if not from eyes and teeth?—even at that time when the body shall be slain in hell, and thrust out into that outer darkness which shall be the suitable torment of the eyes. He also who shall not be clothed at the marriage feast in the raiment of good works, will have to be “bound hand and foot,”—as being, of course, raised in his body. So, again, the very reclining at the feast in the kingdom of God, and sitting on Christs thrones, and standing at last on His right hand and His left, and eating of the tree of life: what are all these but most certain proofs of a bodily appointment and destination?
Matt. x. 28.570:7513
Tertullian supposed that even the soul was in a certain sense of a corporeal essence. [Compare the speculations of Crusius in Auberlen, Divine Revelation, (Translation of A.B. Paton, Edinburgh, Clarks, 1867).]571:7514
Matt. x. 29.571:7516
Matt. x. 30.571:7518
John vi. 39.571:7519
Matt. 8:12, Matt. 13:42, Matt. 22:13, Matt. 25:30.
Next: Christ's Refutation of the Sadducees, and Affirmation of Catholic Doctrine.
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