Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: From St. Paul's Analogy of the Seed We Learn that the Body Which Died Will Rise Again, Garnished with the Appliances of Eternal Life.
Chapter LII.—From St. Pauls Analogy of the Seed We Learn that the Body Which Died Will Rise Again, Garnished with the Appliances of Eternal Life.
Let us now see in what body he asserts that the dead will come. And with a felicitous sally he proceeds at once to illustrate the point, as if an objector had plied him with some such question. “Thou fool,” says he, “that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.” 7674 From this example of the seed it is then evident that no other flesh is quickened than that which shall have undergone death, and therefore all the rest of the question will become clear enough. For nothing which is incompatible with the idea suggested by the example can possibly be understood; nor from the clause which follows, “That which thou sowest, thou sowest not the body which shall be,” 7675 are you permitted to suppose that in the resurrection a different body is to arise from that which is sown in death. Otherwise you have run away from the example. For if wheat be sown and dissolved in the ground, barley does not spring up. Still it is not 7676 the very same grain in kind; nor is its nature the same, or its quality and form. Then whence comes it, if it is not the very same? For even the decay is a proof of the thing itself, since it is the decay of the actual grain. Well, but does not the apostle himself suggest in what sense it is that “the body which shall be” is not the body which is sown, even when he says, “But bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain; but God giveth it a body as it pleaseth Him?” 7677 Gives it of course to the grain which he says is sown bare. No doubt, you say. Then the grain is safe enough, to which God has to assign a body. But how safe, if it is nowhere in existence, if it does not rise again if it rises not again its actual self? If it rises not again, it is not safe; and if it is not even safe, it cannot receive a body from God. But there is every possible proof that it is safe. For what purpose, therefore, will God give it “a body, as it pleases Him,” even when it already has its own “bare” body, unless it be that in its resurrection it may be no longer bare? That therefore will be additional matter which is placed over the bare body; nor is that at all destroyed on which the superimposed matter is put,—nay, it is increased. That, however, is safe which receives augmentation. The truth is, it is sown the barest grain, without a husk to cover it, without a spike even in germ, without the protection of a bearded top, without the glory of a stalk. It rises, however, out of the furrow enriched with a copious crop, built up in a compact fabric, constructed in a beautiful order, fortified by cultivation, and clothed around on every side. These are the circumstances which make it another body from God, to which it is changed not by abolition, but by amplification. And to every seed God has assigned its own body 7678 —not, indeed, its own in the sense of its primitive body—in order that what it acquires from God extrinsically may also at last be accounted its own. Cleave firmly then to the example, and keep it well in view, as a mirror of what happens to the flesh: believe that the very same flesh which was once sown in death will bear fruit in resurrection-life—the same in essence, only more full and perfect; not another, although reappearing in another form. For it shall receive in itself the grace and ornament which God shall please to spread over it, according to its merits. Unquestionably it is in this sense that he says, “All flesh is not the same flesh;” 7679 meaning not to deny a community of substance, but a parity of prerogative,—reducing the body to a difference of honour, not of nature. With this view he adds, in a figurative sense, certain examples of animals and heavenly bodies: “There is one flesh of man” (that is, servants of God, but really human), “another flesh of beasts” (that is, the heathen, of whom the prophet actually says, “Man is like the senseless cattle” 7680 ), “another flesh of birds” (that is, the martyrs which essay to mount up to heaven), “another of fishes” (that is, those whom the water of baptism has submerged). 7681 In like manner does he take examples from the heavenly p. 586 bodies: “There is one glory of the sun” (that is, of Christ), “and another glory of the moon” (that is, of the Church), “and another glory of the stars” (in other words, of the seed of Abraham). “For one star differeth from another star in glory: so there are bodies terrestrial as well as celestial” (Jews, that is, as well as Christians). 7682 Now, if this language is not to be construed figuratively, it was absurd enough for him to make a contrast between the flesh of mules and kites, as well as the heavenly bodies and human bodies; for they admit of no comparison as to their condition, nor in respect of their attainment of a resurrection. Then at last, having conclusively shown by his examples that the difference was one of glory, not of substance, he adds: “So also is the resurrection of the dead.” 7683 How so? In no other way than as differing in glory only. For again, predicating the resurrection of the same substance and returning once more to (his comparison of) the grain, he says: “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” 7684 Now, certainly nothing else is raised than that which is sown; and nothing else is sown than that which decays in the ground; and it is nothing else than the flesh which is decayed in the ground. For this was the substance which Gods decree demolished, “Earth thou art, and to earth shalt thou return;” 7685 because it was taken out of the earth. And it was from this circumstance that the apostle borrowed his phrase of the flesh being “sown,” since it returns to the ground, and the ground is the grand depository for seeds which are meant to be deposited in it, and again sought out of it. And therefore he confirms the passage afresh, by putting on it the impress (of his own inspired authority), saying, “For so it is written;” 7686 that you may not suppose that the “being sown” means anything else than “thou shalt return to the ground, out of which thou wast taken;” nor that the phrase “for so it is written” refers to any other thing that the flesh.
1 Cor. xv. 36.585:7675
1 Cor. 15.37.585:7676
An objection of the opponent.585:7677
1 Cor. 15:37, 38.585:7678
1 Cor. xv. 38.585:7679
1 Cor. 15.39.585:7680
Ps. xlix. 20, Sept.585:7681
1 Cor. xv. 39.586:7682
1 Cor. xv. 41.586:7683
1 Cor. 15.42.586:7684
1 Cor. 15.42-44.586:7685
Gen. iii. 19.586:7686
1 Cor. xv. 45.
Next: Not the Soul, But the Natural Body Which Died, is that Which is to Rise Again. The Resurrection of Lazarus Commented on. Christ's Resurrection, as the Second Adam, Guarantees Our Own.
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