Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: The Change of a Thing's Condition is Not the Destruction of Its Substance. The Application of This Principle to Our Subject.
Chapter LV.—The Change of a Things Condition is Not the Destruction of Its Substance. The Application of This Principle to Our Subject.
Now although, in proving that the flesh shall rise again we ipso facto prove that no other flesh will partake of that resurrection than that which is in question, yet insulated questions and their occasions do require even discussions of their own, even if they have been already sufficiently met. We will therefore give a fuller explanation of the force and the reason of a change which (is so great, that it) almost suggests the presumption that it is a different flesh which is to rise again; as if, indeed, so great a change amounted to utter cessation, and a complete destruction of the former self. A distinction, however, must be made between a change, however great, and everything which has the character of destruction. For undergoing change is one thing, but being destroyed is another thing. Now this distinction would no longer exist, if the flesh were to suffer such a change as amounts to destruction. Destroyed, however, it must be by the change, unless it shall itself persistently remain throughout the altered condition which shall be exhibited in the resurrection. For precisely as it perishes, if it does not rise again, so also does it equally perish even if it does rise again, on the supposition that it is lost 7705 in the change. It will as much fail of a future existence, as if it did not rise again at all. And how absurd is it to rise again for the purpose of not having a being, when it had it in its power not to rise again, and so lose its being—because it had already begun its non-existence! Now, things which are absolutely different, as mutation and destruction are, will not admit of mixture and confusion; in their operations, too, they differ. One destroys, the other changes. Therefore, as that which is destroyed is not changed, so that which is changed is not destroyed. To perish is altogether to cease to be what a thing once was, whereas to be changed is to exist in another condition. Now, if a thing exists in another condition, it can still be the same thing itself; for since it does not perish, it has its existence still. A change, indeed, it has experienced, but not a destruction. A thing may undergo a complete change, and yet remain still the same thing. In like manner, a man also may be quite himself in substance even in the present life, and for all that undergo various changes—in habit, in bodily bulk, in health, in condition, in dignity, and in age—in taste, business, means, houses, laws and customs—and still lose nothing of his human nature, nor so to be made another man as to cease to be the same; indeed, I ought hardly to say another man, but another thing. This form of change even the Holy Scriptures give us instances of. The hand of Moses is changed, and it becomes like a dead one, bloodless, colourless, and stiff with cold; but on the recovery of heat, and on the restoration of its natural colour, it is again the same flesh and blood. 7706 Afterwards the face of the same Moses is changed, 7707 with a brightness which eye could not bear. But he was Moses still, even when he was not visible. So also Stephen had already put on the appearance of an angel, 7708 although they were none other p. 589 than his human knees 7709 which bent beneath the stoning. The Lord, again, in the retirement of the mount, had changed His raiment for a robe of light; but He still retained features which Peter could recognise. 7710 In that same scene Moses also and Elias gave proof that the same condition of bodily existence may continue even in glory—the one in the likeness of a flesh which he had not yet recovered, the other in the reality of one which he had not yet put off. 7711 It was as full of this splendid example that Paul said: “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body.” 7712 But if you maintain that a transfiguration and a conversion amounts to the annihilation of any substance, then it follows that “Saul, when changed into another man,” 7713 passed away from his own bodily substance; and that Satan himself, when “transformed into an angel of light,” 7714 loses his own proper character. Such is not my opinion. So likewise changes, conversions and reformations will necessarily take place to bring about the resurrection, but the substance of the flesh will still be preserved safe.
Exod. 4:6, 7.588:7707
Exod. 34:29, 35.588:7708
Acts vi. 15.589:7709
Acts 7:59, 60.589:7710
Matt. xvii. 2-4.589:7711
Phil. iii. 21.589:7713
1 Sam. x. 6.589:7714
2 Cor. xi. 14.
Next: The Procedure of the Last Judgment, and Its Awards, Only Possible on the Identity of the Risen Body with Our Present Flesh.
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