Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: The Sophistical Sense Put by Heretics on the Phrase “Resurrection of the Dead,” As If It Meant the Moral Change of a New Life.
Chapter XIX.—The Sophistical Sense Put by Heretics on the Phrase “Resurrection of the Dead,” As If It Meant the Moral Change of a New Life.
Now this consideration of the phrase in question, and its signification—besides maintaining, of course, the true meaning of the important words—must needs contribute to this further result, that whatever obscurity our adversaries throw over the subject under the pretence of figurative and allegorical language, the truth will stand out in clearer light, and out of uncertainties certain and definite rules will be prescribed. For some, when they have alighted on a very usual form of prophetic statement, generally expressed in figure and allegory, though not always, distort into some imaginary sense even the most clearly described doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, alleging that even death itself must be understood in a spiritual sense. They say that which is commonly supposed to be death is not really so,—namely, the separation of body and soul: it is rather the ignorance of God, by reason of which man is dead to God, and is not less buried in error than he would be in the grave. Wherefore that also must be held to be the resurrection, when a man is reanimated by access to the truth, and having dispersed the death of ignorance, and being endowed with new life p. 559 by God, has burst forth from the sepulchre of the old man, even as the Lord likened the scribes and Pharisees to “whited sepulchres.” 7394 Whence it follows that they who have by faith attained to the resurrection, are with the Lord after they have once put Him on in their baptism. By such subtlety, then, even in conversation have they often been in the habit of misleading our brethren, as if they held a resurrection of the dead as well as we. Woe, say they, to him who has not risen in the present body; for they fear that they might alarm their hearers if they at once denied the resurrection. Secretly, however, in their minds they think this: Woe betide the simpleton who during his present life fails to discover the mysteries of heresy; since this, in their view, is the resurrection. There are however, a great many also, who, claiming to hold a resurrection after the souls departure, maintain that going out of the sepulchre means escaping out of the world, since in their view the world is the habitation of the dead—that is, of those who know not God; or they will go so far as to say that it actually means escaping out of the body itself, since they imagine that the body detains the soul, when it is shut up in the death of a worldly life, as in a grave.
Matt. xxiii. 27.
Next: Figurative Senses Have Their Foundation in Literal Fact. Besides, the Allegorical Style is by No Means the Only One Found in the Prophetic Scriptures, as Alleged by the Heretics.
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