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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Soul and its Origin.: Chapter 28

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 28.—A Natural Figure of Speech Must Not Be Literally Pressed.

He goes on to remark: “But the apostle, by saying, ‘And He Himself giveth life and spirit to all,’ and then by adding the words, ‘And hath made the whole race of men of one blood,’ 2382 has referred this soul and spirit to the Creator in respect of their origin, and the body to propagation.” Now, certainly any one who does not wish to deny at random the propagation of souls, before ascertaining clearly whether the opinion is correct or not, has ground for understanding, from the apostle’s words, that he meant the expression, of one blood, to be equivalent to of one man, by the figure of speech which understands the whole from its part. Well, then, if it be allowable for this man to take the whole from a part in the passage, “And man became a living soul,” 2383 as if the spirit also was understood to be implied, about which the Scripture there said nothing, why is it not allowable to others to attribute an equally comprehensive sense to the expression, of one blood, so that the soul and spirit may be considered as included in it, on the ground that the human being who is signified by the term “blood” consists not of body alone, but also of soul and spirit? For just as the controversialist who maintains the propagation of souls, ought not, on the one hand, to press this man too hard, because the Scripture says concerning the first man, “In whom all have sinned” 2384 (for the expression is not, In whom the flesh of all has sinned, but “all,” that is, “all men,” seeing that man is not flesh only);—as, I repeat, he ought not to be too hard pressed himself, because it happens to be written “all men,” in such a way that they might be understood simply in respect of the flesh; so, on the other hand, he ought not to bear too hard on those who hold the propagation of souls, on the ground of the phrase, “The whole race of men of one blood,” as if this passage proved that flesh alone was transmitted by propagation. For if it is true, as they 2385 assert, that soul does not descend from soul, but flesh only from flesh, then the expression, “of one blood,” does not signify the entire human being, on the principle of a part for the whole, but merely the flesh of one person alone; while that other expression, “In whom all have sinned,” must be so understood as to indicate merely the flesh of all men, which has been handed on from the first man, the Scripture signifying a part by the whole. If, on the other hand, it is true that the entire human being is propagated of each man, himself also entire, consisting of body, soul, and spirit, then the passage, “In whom all have sinned,” must be taken in its proper literal sense; and the other phrase, “of one blood,” is used metaphorically, the whole being signified by a part, that is to say, the whole man who consists of soul and flesh; or rather (as this person is fond of putting it) of soul, and spirit, and flesh. For both modes of expression the Holy Scriptures are in the habit of employing, putting both a part for the whole and the whole for a part. A part, for instance, implies the whole, in the place where it is said, “Unto Thee shall all flesh come;” 2386 the whole man being understood by the term flesh. And the whole sometimes implies a part, as when it is said that Christ was buried, whereas it was only His flesh that was buried. Now as regards the statement which is made in the apostle’s testimony, to the effect that “He giveth life and spirit to all,” I suppose that nobody, after the foregoing discussion, will be moved by it. No doubt “He giveth;” the fact is not in dispute; our question is, How does He give it? By fresh inbreathing in every instance, or by propagation? For with perfect propriety is He said to give the substance of the flesh to the p. 328 human being, though at the same time it is not denied that He gives it by means of propagation.



Acts xvii. 25.


Gen. ii. 7.


Rom. v. 12.


Another reading has “he asserts,” i.e. Augustin’s opponent, Victor.


Ps. lxv. 2.

Next: Chapter 29