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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 26

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 26.—That the Opinion of Porphyry, that the Soul, in Order to Be Blessed, Must Be Separated from Every Kind of Body, is Demolished by Plato, Who Says that the Supreme God Promised the Gods that They Should Never Be Ousted from Their Bodies.

But, say they, Porphyry tells us that the soul, in order to be blessed, must escape connection with every kind of body.  It does not avail, therefore, to say that the future body shall be incorruptible, if the soul cannot be blessed till delivered from every kind of body.  But in the book above mentioned I have already sufficiently discussed this.  This one thing only will I repeat,—let Plato, their master, correct his writings, and say that their gods, in order to be blessed, must quit their bodies, or, in other words, die; for he said that they were shut up in celestial bodies, and that, nevertheless, the God who made them promised them immortality,—that is to say, an eternal tenure of these same bodies, such as was not provided for them naturally, but only by the further intervention of His will, that thus they might be assured of felicity.  In this he obviously overturns their assertion that the resurrection of the body cannot be believed because it is impossible; for, according to him, when the uncreated God promised immortality to the created gods, He expressly said that He would do what was impossible.  For Plato tells us that He said, “As ye have had a beginning, so you cannot be immortal and incorruptible; yet ye shall not decay, nor shall any fate destroy you or prove stronger than my will, which more effectually binds you to immortality than the bond of your nature keeps you from it.”  If they who hear these words have, we do not say understanding, but ears, they cannot doubt that Plato believed that God promised to the gods He had made that He would effect an impossibility.  For He who says, “Ye cannot be immortal, but by my will ye shall be immortal,” what else does He say than this, “I shall make you what ye cannot be?”  The body, therefore, shall be raised incorruptible, immortal, spiritual, by Him who, according to Plato, has promised to do that which is p. 506 impossible.  Why then do they still exclaim that this which God has promised, which the world has believed on God’s promise as was predicted, is an impossibility?  For what we say is, that the God who, even according to Plato, does impossible things, will do this.  It is not, then, necessary to the blessedness of the soul that it be detached from a body of any kind whatever, but that it receive an incorruptible body.  And in what incorruptible body will they more suitably rejoice than in that in which they groaned when it was corruptible?  For thus they shall not feel that dire craving which Virgil, in imitation of Plato, has ascribed to them when he says that they wish to return again to their bodies. 1667   They shall not, I say, feel this desire to return to their bodies, since they shall have those bodies to which a return was desired, and shall, indeed, be in such thorough possession of them, that they shall never lose them even for the briefest moment, nor ever lay them down in death.



Virg. Æn. vi. 751.

Next: Chapter 27

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