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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Even the Metaphorical Descriptions of This Subject in the Scriptures Point to the Bodily Resurrection, the Only Sense Which Secures Their Consistency and Dignity.

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Chapter XXVI.—Even the Metaphorical Descriptions of This Subject in the Scriptures Point to the Bodily Resurrection, the Only Sense Which Secures Their Consistency and Dignity.

To a preceding objection, that the Scriptures are allegorical, I have still one answer to make—that it is open to us also to defend the bodily character of the resurrection by means of the language of the prophets, which is equally figurative. For consider that primeval sentence which God spake when He called man earth; saying, “Earth thou art, and to earth shalt thou return.” 7461 In respect, of course, p. 564 to his fleshly substance, which had been taken out of the ground, and which was the first to receive the name of man, as we have already shown, 7462 does not this passage give one instruction to interpret in relation to the flesh also whatever of wrath or of grace God has determined for the earth, because, strictly speaking, the earth is not exposed to His judgment, since it has never done any good or evil? “Cursed,” no doubt, it was, for it drank the blood of man7463 but even this was as a figure of homicidal flesh. For if the earth has to suffer either joy or injury, it is simply on man’s account, that he may suffer the joy or the sorrow through the events which happen to his dwelling-place, whereby he will rather have to pay the penalty which, simply on his account, even the earth must suffer.  When, therefore, God even threatens the earth, I would prefer saying that He threatens the flesh: so likewise, when He makes a promise to the earth, I would rather understand Him as promising the flesh; as in that passage of David: “The Lord is King, let the earth be glad,” 7464 —meaning the flesh of the saints, to which appertains the enjoyment of the kingdom of God. Then he afterwards says: “The earth saw and trembled; the mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord,”—meaning, no doubt the flesh of the wicked; and (in a similar sense) it is written: “For they shall look on Him whom they pierced.” 7465 If indeed it will be thought that both these passages were pronounced simply of the element earth, how can it be consistent that it should shake and melt at the presence of the Lord, at whose royal dignity it before exulted? So again in Isaiah, “Ye shall eat the good of the land,” 7466 the expression means the blessings which await the flesh when in the kingdom of God it shall be renewed, and made like the angels, and waiting to obtain the things “which neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man.” 7467 Otherwise, how vain that God should invite men to obedience by the fruits of the field and the elements of this life, when He dispenses these to even irreligious men and blasphemers; on a general condition once for all made to man, “sending rain on the good and on the evil, and making His sun to shine on the just and on the unjust!” 7468 Happy, no doubt, is faith, if it is to obtain gifts which the enemies of God and Christ not only use, but even abuse, “worshipping the creature itself in opposition to the Creator!” 7469 You will reckon, (I suppose) onions and truffles among earth’s bounties, since the Lord declares that “man shall not live on bread alone!” 7470 In this way the Jews lose heavenly blessings, by confining their hopes to earthly ones, being ignorant of the promise of heavenly bread, and of the oil of God’s unction, and the wine of the Spirit, and of that water of life which has its vigour from the vine of Christ. On exactly the same principle, they consider the special soil of Judæa to be that very holy land, which ought rather to be interpreted of the Lord’s flesh, which, in all those who put on Christ, is thenceforward the holy land; holy indeed by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, truly flowing with milk and honey by the sweetness of His assurance, truly Judæan by reason of the friendship of God.  For “he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, but he who is one inwardly.” 7471 In the same way it is that both God’s temple and Jerusalem (must be understood) when it is said by Isaiah: “Awake, awake, O Jerusalem! put on the strength of thine arm; awake, as in thine earliest time,” 7472 that is to say, in that innocence which preceded the fall into sin. For how can words of this kind of exhortation and invitation be suitable for that Jerusalem which killed the prophets, and stoned those that were sent to them, and at last crucified its very Lord? Neither indeed is salvation promised to any one land at all, which must needs pass away with the fashion of the whole world. Even if anybody should venture strongly to contend that paradise is the holy land, which it may be possible to designate as the land of our first parents Adam and Eve, it will even then follow that the restoration of paradise will seem to be promised to the flesh, whose lot it was to inhabit and keep it, in order that man may be recalled thereto just such as he was driven from it.



Gen. iii. 19.


See above, ch. v.


Gen. iv. 11.


Ps. xcvii. 1.


Zech. xii. 10.


Isa. i. 19.


1 Cor. ii. 9.


Matt. v. 45.


Rom. i. 25.


Matt. iv. 4.


Rom. 2:28, 29.


Isa. li. 9, Sept.

Next: Certain Metaphorical Terms Explained of the Resurrection of the Flesh.

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