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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 9

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 9.—Whether We Should Say that The Moment of Death, in Which Sensation Ceases, Occurs in the Experience of the Dying or in that of the Dead.

The point of time in which the souls of the good and evil are separated from the body, are we to say it is after death, or in death rather?  If it is after death, then it is not death which is good or evil, since death is done with and past, but it is the life which the soul has now entered on.  Death was an evil when it was present, that is to say, when it was being suffered by the dying; for to them it brought with it a severe and grievous experience, which the good make a good use of.  But when death is past, how can that which no longer is be either good or evil?  Still further, if we examine the matter more closely, we shall see that even that sore and grievous pain which the dying experience is not death itself.  For so long as they have any sensation, they are certainly still alive; and, if still alive, must rather be said to be in a state previous to death than in death.  For when death actually comes, it robs us of all bodily sensation, p. 249 which, while death is only approaching is painful.  And thus it is difficult to explain how we speak of those who are not yet dead, but are agonized in their last and mortal extremity, as being in the article of death.  Yet what else can we call them than dying persons? for when death which was imminent shall have actually come, we can no longer call them dying but dead.  No one, therefore, is dying unless living; since even he who is in the last extremity of life, and, as we say, giving up the ghost, yet lives.  The same person is therefore at once dying and living, but drawing near to death, departing from life; yet in life, because his spirit yet abides in the body; not yet in death, because not yet has his spirit forsaken the body.  But if, when it has forsaken it, the man is not even then in death, but after death, who shall say when he is in death?  On the one hand, no one can be called dying, if a man cannot be dying and living at the same time; and as long as the soul is in the body, we cannot deny that he is living.  On the other hand, if the man who is approaching death be rather called dying, I know not who is living.

Next: Chapter 10

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