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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: Conclusion. Points Postponed. All Souls are Kept in Hades Until the Resurrection, Anticipating Their Ultimate Misery or Bliss.

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Chapter LVIII.—Conclusion. Points Postponed. All Souls are Kept in Hades Until the Resurrection, Anticipating Their Ultimate Misery or Bliss.

All souls, therefore, are shut up within Hades: do you admit this? (It is true, whether) you say yes or no: moreover, there are already experienced there punishments and consolations; and there you have a poor man and a rich. And now, having postponed some stray questions 1834 for this part of my work, I will notice them in this suitable place, and then come to a close. Why, then, cannot you suppose that the soul undergoes punishment and consolation in Hades in the interval, while it awaits its alternative of judgment, in a certain anticipation either of gloom or of glory?  You reply: Because in the judgment of God its matter ought to be sure and safe, p. 235 nor should there be any inkling beforehand of the award of His sentence; and also because (the soul) ought to be covered first by its vestment 1835 of the restored flesh, which, as the partner of its actions, should be also a sharer in its recompense. What, then, is to take place in that interval? Shall we sleep? But souls do not sleep even when men are alive: it is indeed the business of bodies to sleep, to which also belongs death itself, no less than its mirror and counterfeit sleep. Or will you have it, that nothing is there done whither the whole human race is attracted, and whither all man’s expectation is postponed for safe keeping? Do you think this state is a foretaste of judgment, or its actual commencement? a premature encroachment on it, or the first course in its full ministration? Now really, would it not be the highest possible injustice, even 1836 in Hades, if all were to be still well with the guilty even there, and not well with the righteous even yet? What, would you have hope be still more confused after death? would you have it mock us still more with uncertain expectation? or shall it now become a review of past life, and an arranging of judgment, with the inevitable feeling of a trembling fear? But, again, must the soul always tarry for the body, in order to experience sorrow or joy? Is it not sufficient, even of itself, to suffer both one and the other of these sensations? How often, without any pain to the body, is the soul alone tortured by ill-temper, and anger, and fatigue, and very often unconsciously, even to itself? How often, too, on the other hand, amidst bodily suffering, does the soul seek out for itself some furtive joy, and withdraw for the moment from the body’s importunate society? I am mistaken if the soul is not in the habit, indeed, solitary and alone, of rejoicing and glorifying over the very tortures of the body.  Look for instance, at the soul of Mutius Scævola as he melts his right hand over the fire; look also at Zeno’s, as the torments of Dionysius pass over it. 1837 The bites of wild beasts are a glory to young heroes, as on Cyrus were the scars of the bear. 1838 Full well, then, does the soul even in Hades know how to joy and to sorrow even without the body; since when in the flesh it feels pain when it likes, though the body is unhurt; and when it likes it feels joy though the body is in pain. Now if such sensations occur at its will during life, how much rather may they not happen after death by the judicial appointment of God! Moreover, the soul executes not all its operations with the ministration of the flesh; for the judgment of God pursues even simple cogitations and the merest volitions. “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” 1839 Therefore, even for this cause it is most fitting that the soul, without at all waiting for the flesh, should be punished for what it has done without the partnership of the flesh. So, on the same principle, in return for the pious and kindly thoughts in which it shared not the help of the flesh, shall it without the flesh receive its consolation.  Nay more, 1840 even in matters done through the flesh the soul is the first to conceive them, the first to arrange them, the first to authorize them, the first to precipitate them into acts. And even if it is sometimes unwilling to act, it is still the first to treat the object which it means to effect by help of the body.  In no case, indeed, can an accomplished fact be prior to the mental conception 1841 thereof. It is therefore quite in keeping with this order of things, that that part of our nature should be the first to have the recompense and reward to which they are due on account of its priority. In short, inasmuch as we understand “the prison” pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades, 1842 and as we also interpret “the uttermost farthing” 1843 to mean the very smallest offence which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, 1844 no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection, when the recompense will be administered through the flesh besides. This point the Paraclete has also pressed home on our attention in most frequent admonitions, whenever any of us has admitted the force of His words from a knowledge of His promised spiritual disclosures. 1845 And now at last having, as I believe, encountered every human opinion concerning the soul, and tried its character by the teaching of (our holy faith,) we have satisfied the curiosity which is simply a reasonable and necessary one.  As for that which is extravagant and idle, there will evermore be as great a defect in its information, as there has been exaggeration and self-will in its researches.



Nescio quid.


“Operienda” is Oehler’s text; another reading gives “opperienda,” q.d., “the soul must wait for the restored body.”


This “etiam” is “otium” in the Agobardine ms., a good reading; q.d. “a most iniquitous indifference to justice,” etc.


Comp. The Apology, last chapter.


Xen. Cyropæd. p. 6.


Matt. v. 28.


Quid nunc si.




Matt. v. 25.


Matt. 5.26.


Morâ resurrectionis. See above, on this opinion of Tertullian, in ch. xxxv.


[A symptom of Montanism.]

Next: Part II

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