Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: The Old Man and the New Man of St. Paul Explained.
p. 578 Chapter XLV.—The Old Man and the New Man of St. Paul Explained.
But in their blindness they again impale themselves on the point of the old and the new man. When the apostle enjoins us “to put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and to be renewed in the spirit of our mind; and to put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” 7580 (they maintain) that by here also making a distinction between the two substances, and applying the old one to the flesh and the new one to the spirit, he ascribes to the old man—that is to say, the flesh—a permanent corruption. Now, if you follow the order of the substances, the soul cannot be the new man because it comes the later of the two; nor can the flesh be the old man because it is the former. For what fraction of time was it that intervened between the creative hand of God and His afflatus? I will venture to say, that even if the soul was a good deal prior to the flesh, by the very circumstance that the soul had to wait to be itself completed, it made the other 7581 really the former. For everything which gives the finishing stroke and perfection to a work, although it is subsequent in its mere order, yet has the priority in its effect. Much more is that prior, without which preceding things could have no existence. If the flesh be the old man, when did it become so? From the beginning? But Adam was wholly a new man, and of that new man there could be no part an old man. And from that time, ever since the blessing which was pronounced upon mans generation, 7582 the flesh and the soul have had a simultaneous birth, without any calculable difference in time; so that the two have been even generated together in the womb, as we have shown in our Treatise on the Soul. 7583 Contemporaneous in the womb, they are also temporally identical in their birth. The two are no doubt produced by human parents 7584 of two substances, but not at two different periods; rather they are so entirely one, that neither is before the other in point of time. It is more correct (to say), that we are either entirely the old man or entirely the new, for we cannot tell how we can possibly be anything else. But the apostle mentions a very clear mark of the old man. For “put off,” says he, “concerning the former conversation, the old man;” 7585 (he does) not say concerning the seniority of either substance. It is not indeed the flesh which he bids us to put off, but the works which he in another passage shows to be “works of the flesh.” 7586 He brings no accusation against mens bodies, of which he even writes as follows: “Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands (the thing which is good), that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good for the edification of faith, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: but be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ hath forgiven you.” 7587 Why, therefore, do not those who suppose the flesh to be the old man, hasten their own death, in order that by laying aside the old man they may satisfy the apostles precepts? As for ourselves, we believe that the whole of faith is to be administered in the flesh, nay more, by the flesh, which has both a mouth for the utterance of all holy words, and a tongue to refrain from blasphemy, and a heart to avoid all irritation, and hands to labour and to give; while we also maintain that as well the old man as the new has relation to the difference of moral conduct, and not to any discrepancy of nature. And just as we acknowledge that that which according to its former conversation was “the old man” was also corrupt, and received its very name in accordance with “its deceitful lusts,” so also (do we hold) that it is “the old man in reference to its former conversation,” 7588 and not in respect of the flesh through any permanent dissolution. Moreover, it is still unimpaired in the flesh, and identical in that nature, even when it has become “the new man;” since it is of its sinful course of life, and not of its corporeal substance, that it has been divested.
Eph. iv. 22-24.578:7581
Gen. i. 28.578:7583
See ch. xxvii.578:7584
We treat “homines” as a nominative, after Oehler.578:7585
Eph. iv. 22.578:7586
Gal. v. 19.578:7587
Eph. iv. 25-32.578:7588
Eph. iv. 22.
Next: It is the Works of the Flesh, Not the Substance of the Flesh, Which St. Paul Always Condemns.
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