Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.50 Making of man Part 4

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.50 Making of man Part 4

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 25.01.50 Making of man Part 4

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XXII. To Those Who Say, "If the Resurrection is a Thing Excellent and Good, How is It that It Has Not Happened Already, But is Hoped Far in Some Periods of Time?"hyperlink

1. Let us give our attention, however, to the next point of our discussion. It may be that some one, giving his thought wings to soar towards the sweetness of our hope, deems it a burden and a loss that we are not more speedily placed in that good state which is above man's sense and knowledge, and is dissatisfied with the extension of the time that intervenes between him and the object of his desire. Let him cease to vex himself like a child that is discontented at the brief delay of something that gives him pleasure; for since all things are governed by reason and wisdom, we must by no means suppose that anything that happens is done without reason itself and the wisdom that is therein.

2. You will say then, What is this reason, in accordance with which the change of our painful life to that which we desire does not take place at once, but this heavy and corporeal existence of ours waits, extended to some determinate time, for the term of the consummation of all things, that then man's life may be set free as it were from the reins, and revert once more, released and free, to the life of blessedness and impassibility?

3. Well, whether our answer is near the truth of the matter, the Truth Itself may clearly know; but at all events what occurs to our intelligence is as follows. I take up then once more in my argument our first text:-God says, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and God created man, in the image of God created He himhyperlink ." Accordingly, the Image of God, which we behold in universal humanity, had its consummation thenhyperlink ; but Adam as yet was not; for the thing formed from the earth is called Adam, by etymological nomenclature, as those tell us who are acquainted with the Hebrew tongue-wherefore also the apostle, who was specially learned in his native tongue, the tongue of the Israelites, calls the man "of the earthhyperlink " xoi/koj, as though translating the name Adam into the Greek word.

4. Man, then, was made in the image of God; that is, the universal nature, the thing like God; not part of the whole, but all the fulness of the nature together was so made by omnipotent wisdom. He saw, Who holds all limits in His grasp, as the Scripture tells us which says, "in His hand are all the corners of the earthhyperlink ," He saw, "Who knoweth all things" even "before they behyperlink ," comprehending them in His knowledge, how great in number humanity will be in the sum of its individuals. But as He perceived in our created nature the bias towards evil, and the fact that after its voluntary fall from equality with the angels it would acquire a fellowship with the lower nature, He mingled, for this reason, with His own image, an element of the irrational (for the distinction of male and female does not exist in the Divine and blessed nature);-transferring, I say, to man the special attribute of the irrational formation, He bestowed increase upon our race not according to the lofty character of our creation; for it was not when He made that which was in His own image that He bestowed on man the power of increasing and multiplying; but when He divided it by sexual distinctions, then He said, "Increase and multiply, and replenish the earthhyperlink ." For this belongs not to the Divine, but to the irrational element, as the history indicates when it narrates that these words were first spoken by God in the case of the irrational creatures; since we may be sure that, if He had bestowed on man, before imprinting on our nature the distinction of male and female, the power for increase conveyed by this utterance, we should not have needed this form of generation by which the brutes are generated.

5. Now seeing that the full number of men pre-conceived by the operation of foreknowledge will come into life by means of this animal generation, God, Who governs all things in a certain order and sequence,-since the inclination of our nature to what was beneath it (which He Who beholds the future equally with the present saw before it existed) made some such form of generation absolutely necessary for mankind,-therefore also foreknew the time coextensive with the creation of men, so that the extent of time should be adapted for the entrances of the pre-determined souls, and that the flux and motion of time should halt at the moment when humanity is no longer produced by means of it; and that when the generation of men is completed, time should cease together with its completion, and then should take place the restitution of all things, and with the World-Reformation humanity also should be changed from the corruptible and earthly to the impassible and eternal.

6. And this it seems to me the Divine apostle considered when he declared in his epistle to the Corinthians the sudden stoppage of time, and the change of the things that are now moving on back to the opposite end where he says, "Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumphyperlink ." For when, as I suppose, the full complement of human nature has reached the limit of the pre-determined measure, because there is no longer anything to be made up in the way of increase to the number of souls, he teaches us that the change in existing things will take place in an instant of time, giving to that limit of time which has no parts or extension the names of "a moment," and "the twinkling of an eye"; so that it will no more be possible for one who reaches the verge of time (which is the last and extreme point, from the fact that nothing is lacking to the attainment of its extremity) to obtain by death this change which takes place at a fixed period, but only when the trumpet of the resurrection sounds, which awakens the dead, and transforms those who are left in life, after the likeness of those who have undergone the resurrection change, at once to incorruptibility; so that the weight of the flesh is no longer heavy, nor does its burden hold them down to earth, but they rise aloft through the air-for, "we shall be caught up," he tells us, "in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lordhyperlink ."

7. Let him therefore wait for that time which is necessarily made co-extensive with the development of humanity. For even Abraham and the patriarchs, while they had the desire to see the promised good things, and ceased not to seek the heavenly country, as the apostle says, are yet even now in the condition of hoping for that grace, "God having provided some better thing for us," according to the words of Paul, "that they without us should not be made perfecthyperlink ." If they, then, bear the delay who by faith only and by hope saw the good things "afar off" and "embraced themhyperlink ," as the apostle bears witness, placing their certainty of the enjoyment of the things for which they hoped in the fact that they "judged Him faithful Who has promisedhyperlink ," what ought most of us to do, who have not, it may be, a hold upon the better hope from the character of our lives? Even the prophet's soul fainted with desire, and in his psalm he confesses this passionate love, saying that his "soul hath a desire and longing to be in the courts of the Lordhyperlink ," even if he must needs be rejectedhyperlink to a place amongst the lowest, as it is a greater and more desirable thing to be last there than to be first among the ungodly tents of this life; nevertheless he was patient of the delay, deeming, indeed, the life there blessed, and accounting a brief participation in it more desirable than "thousands" of time-for he says, "one day in Thy courts is better than thousandshyperlink "-yet he did not repine at the necessary dispensation concerning existing things, and thought it sufficient bliss for man to have those good things even by way of hope; wherefore he says at the end of the Psalm, "O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that hopeth in Theehyperlink ."

8. Neither, then, should we be troubled at the brief delay of what we hope for, but give diligence that we may not be cast out from the object of our hopes; for just as though, if one were to tell some inexperienced person beforehand, "the gathering of the crops will take place in the season of summer, and the stores will be filled, and the table abundantly supplied with food at the time of plenty," it would be a foolish man who should seek to hurry on the coming of the fruit-time, when he ought to be sowing seeds and preparing the crops for himself by diligent care; for the fruit-time will surely come, whether he wishes or not, at the appointed time; and it will be looked on differently by him who has secured for himself beforehand abundance of crops, and by him who is found by the fruit-time destitute of all preparation. Even so I think it is one's duty, as the proclamation is clearly made to all that the time of change will come, not to trouble himself about times (for He said that "it is not for us to know the times and the seasonshyperlink "), nor to pursue calculations by which he will be sure to sap the hope of the resurrection in the soul; but to make his confidence in the things expected as a prop to lean on, and to purchase for himself, by good conversation, the grace that is to come.

XXIII. That He Who Confesses the Beginning of the World's Existence Must Necessarily Also Agree as to Its Endhyperlink .

But if some one, beholding the present course of the world, by which intervals of time are marked, going on in a certain order, should say that it is not possible that the predicted stoppage of these moving things should take place, such a man clearly also does not believe that in the beginning the heaven and the earth were made by God; for he who admits a beginning, of motion surely does not doubt as to its also having an end; and he who does not allow its end, does not admit its beginning either; but as it is by believing that "we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God," as the apostle says, "so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appearhyperlink ," we must use the same faith as to the word of God when He foretells the necessary stoppage of existing things.

2. The question of the "how" must, however, be put beyond the reach of our meddling; for even in the case mentioned it was "by faith" that we admitted that the thing seen was framed from things not yet apparent, omitting the search into things beyond our reach. And yet our reason suggests difficulties on many points, offering no small occasions for doubt as to the things which we believe.

3. For in that case too, argumentative men might by plausible reasoning upset our faith, so that we should not think that statement true which Holy Scripture delivers concerning the material creation, when it asserts that all existing things have their beginning of being from God. For those who abide by the contrary view maintain that matter is co-eternal with God, and employ in support of their own doctrine some such arguments as these. If God is in His nature simple and immaterial, without quantityhyperlink , or size, or combination, and removed from the idea of circumscription by way of figure, while all matter is apprehended in extension measured by intervals, and does not escape the apprehension of our senses, but becomes known to us in colour, and figure, and bulk, and size, and resistance, and the other attributes belonging to it, none of which it is possible to conceive in the Divine nature,-what method is there for the production of matter from the immaterial, or of the nature that has dimensions from that which is unextended? for if these things are believed to have their existence from that source, they clearly come into existence after being in Him in some mysterious way; but if material existence was in Him, how can He be immaterial while including matter in Himself? and similarly with all the other marks by which the material nature is differentiated; if quantity exists in God, how is God without quantity? if the compound nature exists in Him, how is He simple, without parts and without combination? so that the argument forces us to think either that He is material, because matter has its existence from Him as a source; or, if one avoids this, it is necessary to suppose that matter was imported by Him ab extra for the making of the universe.

4. If, then, it was external to God, something else surely existed besides God, conceived, in respect of eternity, together with Him Who exists ungenerately; so that the argument supposes two eternal and unbegotten existences, having their being concurrently with each other -that of Him Who operates as an artificer, and that of the thing which admits this skilled operation; and if any one under pressure of this argument should assume a material substratum for the Creator of all things, what a support will the Manichaean find for his special doctrine, who opposes by virtue of ungenerateness a material existence to a Good Being. Yet we do believe that all things are of God, as we hear the Scripture say so; and as to the question how they were in God, a question beyond our reason, we do not seek to pry into it, believing that all things are within the capacity of God's power-both to give existence to what is not, and to implant qualities at His pleasure in what is.

5. Consequently, as we suppose the power of the Divine will to be a sufficient cause to the things that are, for their coming into existence out of nothing, so too we shall not repose our belief on anything beyond probability in referring the World-Reformation to the same power. Moreover, it might perhaps be possible, by some skill in the use of words, to persuade those who raise frivolous objections on the subject of matter not to think that they can make an unanswerable attack on our statement.

XXIV. An Argument Against Those Who Say that Matter is Co-Eternal with Godhyperlink

1. For after all that opinion on the subject of matter does not turn out to be beyond what appears consistent, which declares that it has its existence from Him Who is intelligible and immaterial. For we shall find all matter to be composed of certain qualities, of which if it is divested it can, in itself, be by no means grasped by idea. Moreover in idea each kind of quality is separated from the substratum; but idea is an intellectual and not a corporeal method of examination. If, for instance, some animal or tree is presented to our notice, or any other of the things that have material existence, we perceive in our mental discussion of it many things concerning the substratum, the idea of each of which is clearly distinguished from the object we contemplate: for the idea of colour is one, of weight another; so again that of quantity and of such and such a peculiar quality of touch: for "softness," and "two cubits long," and the rest of the attributes we spoke of, are not connected in idea either with one another or with the body: each of them has conceived concerning it its own explanatory definition according to its being, having nothing in common with any other of the qualities that are contemplated in the substratum.

2.hyperlink If, then, colour is a thing intelligible, and resistance also is intelligible, and so with quantity and the rest of the like properties, while if each of these should be withdrawn from the substratum, the whole idea of the body is dissolved; it would seem to follow that we may suppose the concurrence of those things, the absence of which we found to be a cause of the dissolution of the body, to produce the material nature: for as that is not a body which has not colour, and figure, and resistance, and extension, and weight, and the other properties, while each of these in its proper existence is found to be not the body but something else besides the body, so, conversely, whenever the specified attributes concur they produce bodily existence. Yet if the perception of these properties is a matter of intellect, and the Divinity is also intellectual in nature, there is no incongruity in supposing that these intellectual occasions for the genesis of bodies have their existence from the incorporeal nature, the intellectual nature on the one hand giving being to the intellectual potentialities, and the mutual concurrence of these bringing to its genesis the material nature.

3. Let this discussion, however, be by way of digression: we must direct our discourse once more to the faith by which we accept the statement that the universe took being from nothing, and do not doubt, when we are taught by Scripture, that it will again be transformed into some other state.

XXV. How One Even of Those Who are Without May Be Brought to Believe the Scripture When Teaching of the Resurrectionhyperlink .

1. Some one, perhaps, having regard to the dissolution of bodies, and judging the Deity by the measure of his own power, asserts that the idea of the resurrection is impossible, saying that it cannot be that both those things which are now in motion should become stationary, and those things which are now without motion should rise again.

2. Let such an one, however, take as the first and greatest evidence of the truth touching the resurrection the credibility of the herald who proclaims it. Now the faith of what is said derives its certainty from the result of the other predictions: for as the Divine Scripture delivers statements many and various, it is possible by examining how the rest of the utterances stand in the matter of falsehood and truth to survey also, in the light of them, the doctrine concerning the resurrection. For if in the other matters the statements are found to be false and to have failed of true fulfilment, neither is this out of the region of falsehood; but if all the others have experience to vouch for their truth, it would seem logical to esteem as true, on their account, the prediction concerning the resurrection also. Let us therefore recall one or two of the predictions that have been made, and compare the result with what was foretold, so that we may know by means of them whether the idea has a truthful aspect.

3. Who knows not how the people of Israel flourished of old, raised up against all the powers of the world; what were the palaces in the city of Jerusalem, what the walls, the towers, the majestic structure of the Temple? things that seemed worthy of admiration even to the disciples of the Lord, so that they asked the Lord to take notice of them, in their disposition to marvel, as the Gospel history shows us, saying, "What works, and what buildingshyperlink !" But He indicates to those who wondered at its present state the future desolation of the place and the disappearance of that beauty, saying that after a little while nothing of what they saw should be left. And, again, at the time of His Passion, the women followed, bewailing the unjust sentence against Him,-for they could not yet see into the dispensation of what was being done:-but He bids them be silent as to what is befalling Him, for it does not demand their tears, but to reserve their wailing and lamentation for the true time for tears, when the city should be compassed by besiegers, and their sufferings reach so great a strait that they should deem him happy who had not been born: and herein He foretold also the horrid deed of her who devoured her child, when He said that in those days the womb should be accounted blest that never barehyperlink . Where then are those palaces? where is the Temple? where are the walls? where are the defences of the towers? where is the power of the Israelites? were not they scattered in different quarters over almost the whole world? and in their overthrow the palaces also were brought to ruin.

4. Now it seems to me that the Lord foretold these things and others like them not for the sake of the matters themselves-for what great advantage to the hearers, at any rate, was the prediction of what was about to happen? they would have known by experience, even if they had not previously learnt what would come;-but in order that by these means faith on their part might follow concerning more important matters: for the testimony of facts in the former cases is also a proof of truth in the latter.

5. For just as though, if a husbandman were explaining the virtue of seeds, it were to happen that some person inexperienced in husbandry should disbelieve him, it would be sufficient as proof of his statement for the agriculturist to show him the virtue existing in one seed of those in the bushel and make it a pledge of the rest-for he who should see the single grain of wheat or barley, or whatever might chance to be the contents of the bushel, grow into an ear after being cast into the ground, would by the means of the one cease also to disbelieve concerning the others-so the truthfulness which confessedly belongs to the other statements seems to me to be sufficient also for evidence of the mystery of the resurrection.

6. Still more, however, is this the case with the experience of actual resurrection which we have learnt not so much by words as by actual facts: for as the marvel of resurrection was great and passing belief, He begins gradually by inferior instances of His miraculous power, and accustoms our faith, as it were, for the reception of the greater.

7. For as a mother who nurses her babe with due care for a time supplies milk by her breast to its mouth while still tender and soft; and when it begins to grow and to have teeth she gives it bread, not hard or such as it cannot chew, so that the tender and unpractised gums may not be chafed by rough food; but softening it with her own teeth, she makes it suitable and convenient for the powers of the eater; and then as its power increases by growth she gradually leads on the babe, accustomed to tender food, to more solid nourishment; so the Lord, nourishing and fostering with miracles the weakness of the human mind, like some babe not fully grown, makes first of all a prelude of the power of the resurrection in the case of a desperate disease, which prelude, though it was great in its achievement, yet was not such a thing that the statement of it would be disbelieved: for by "rebuking the fever." which was fiercely consuming Simon's wife's mother, He produced so great a removal of the evil as to enable her who was already expected to be near death, to "ministerhyperlink " to those present.

8. Next He makes a slight addition to the power, and when the nobleman's son lies in acknowledged danger of death (for so the history tells us, that he was about to die, as his father cried, "come down, ere my child diehyperlink "), He again brings about the resurrection of one who was believed about to die; accomplishing the miracle with a greater act of power in that He did not even approach the place, but sent life from afar off by the force of His command.

9. Once more in what follows He ascends to higher wonders. For having set out on His way to the ruler of the synagogue's daughter, he voluntarily made a halt in His way, while making public the secret cure of the woman with an issue of blood, that in this time death might overcome the sick. When, then, the soul had just been parted from the body, and those who were wailing over the sorrow were making a tumult with their mournful cries, He raises the damsel to life again, as if from sleep, by His word of command, leading on human weakness, by a sort of path and sequence, to greater things.

10. Still in addition to these acts He exceeds them in wonder, and by a more exalted act of power prepares for men the way of faith in the resurrection. The Scripture tells us of a city called Nain in Judaea: a widow there had an only child, no longer a child in the sense of being among boys, but already passing from childhood to man's estate: the narrative calls him "a young man." The story conveys much in few words: the very recital is a real lamentation: the dead man's mother, it says, "was a widow." See you the weight of her misfortune, how the text briefly sets out the tragedy of her suffering? for what does the phrase mean? that she had no more hope of bearing sons, to cure the loss she had just sustained in him who had departed; for the woman was a widow: she had not in her power to look to another instead of to him who was gone; for he was her only child; and how great a grief is here expressed any one may easily see who is not an utter stranger to natural feeling. Him alone she had known in travail him alone she had nursed at her breast; he alone made her table cheerful, he alone was the cause of brightness in her home, in play, in work, in learning, in gaiety, at processions, at sports, at gatherings of youth; he alone was all that is sweet and precious in a mother's eyes. Now at the age of marriage, he was the stock of her race, the shoot of its succession, the staff of her old age. Moreover, even the additional detail of his time of life is another lament: for he who speaks of him as "a young man" tells of the flower of his faded beauty, speaks of him as just covering his face with down, not yet with a full thick beard, but still bright with the beauty of his cheeks. What then, think you, were his mother's sorrows for him? how would her heart be consumed as it were with a flame; how bitterly would she prolong her lament over him, embracing the corpse as it lay before her, lengthening out her mourning for him as far as possible, so as not to hasten the funeral of the dead, but to have her fill of sorrow! Nor does the narrative pass this by: for Jesus "when He saw her," it says, "had compassion"; "and He came and touched the bier; and they that bare him stood still;" and He said to the dead, "Young man, I say unto thee, arisehyperlink " "and He delivered him to his mother" alive. Observe that no short time had intervened since the dead man had entered upon that state, he was all but laid in the tomb; the miracle wrought by the Lord is greater, though the command is the same.

11. His miraculous power proceeds to a still more exalted act, that its display may more closely approach that miracle of the resurrection which men doubt. One of the Lord's companions and friends is ill (Lazarus is the sick man's name); and the Lord deprecates any visiting of His friend, though far away from the sick man, that in the absence of the Life, death might find room and power to do his own work by the agency of disease. The Lord informs His disciples in Galilee of what has befallen Lazarus, and also of his own setting out to him to raise him up when laid low. They, however, were exceedingly afraid on account of the fury of the Jews, thinking it a difficult and dangerous matter to turn again towards Judaea, in the midst of those who sought to slay Him: and thus, lingering and delaying, they return slowly from Galilee: but they do return, for His command prevailed, and the disciples were led by the Lord to be initiated at Bethany in the preliminary mysteries of the general resurrection. Four days had already passed since the event; all due rites had been performed for the departed; the body was hidden in the tomb: it was probably already swollen and beginning to dissolve into corruption, as the body mouldered in the dank earth and necessarily decayed: the thing was one to turn from, as the dissolved body under the constraint of nature changed to offensivenesshyperlink . At this point the doubted fact of the general resurrection is brought to proof by a more manifest miracle; for one is not raised from severe sickness, nor brought back to life when at the last breath-nor is a child just dead brought to life, nor a young man about to be conveyed to the tomb released from his bier; but a man past the prime of life, a corpse, decaying, swollen, yea already in a state of dissolution, so that even his own kinsfolk could not suffer that the Lord should draw near the tomb by reason of the offensiveness of the decayed body there enclosed, brought into life by a single call, confirms the proclamation of the resurrection, that is to say, that expectation of it as universal, which we learn by a particular experience to entertain. For as in the regeneration of the universe the Apostle tells us that "the Lord Himself will descend with a shout, with the voice of the archangelhyperlink ," and by a trumpet sound raise up the dead to incorruption-so now too he who is in the tomb, at the voice of command, shakes off death as if it were a sleep, and ridding himself from the corruption that had come upon his condition of a corpse, leaps forth from the tomb whole and sound, not even hindered in his egress by the bonds of the grave-cloths round his feet and hands.

12. Are these things too small to produce faith in the resurrection of the dead? or dost thou seek that thy judgment on this point should be confirmed by yet other proofs? In truth the Lord seems to me not to have spoken in vain to them of Capernaum, when He said to Himself, as in the person of men, "Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, `Physician, heal thyselfhyperlink .'" For it behoved Him, when He had accustomed men to the miracle of the resurrection in other bodies, to confirm His word in His own humanity. Thou sawest the thing proclaimed working in others-those who were about to die, the child which had just ceased to live, the young man at the edge of the grave, the putrefying corpse, all alike restored by one command to life. Dost thou seek for those who have come to death by wounds and bloodshed? does any feebleness of life-giving power hinder the grace in them? Behold Him Whose hands were pierced with nails: behold Him Whose side was transfixed with a spear; pass thy fingers through the print of the nails thrust thy hand into the spear-woundhyperlink ; thou canst surely guess how far within it is likely the point would reach, if thou reckonest the passage inwards by the breadth of the external scar; for the wound that gives admission to a man's hand, shows to what depth within the iron entered. If He then has been raised, well may we utter the Apostle's exclamation, "How say some that there is no resurrection of the deadhyperlink ?"

13. Since, then, every prediction of the Lord is shown to be true by the testimony of events, while we not only have learnt this by His words, but also received the proof of the promise in deed, from those very persons who returned to life by resurrection, what occasion is left to those who disbelieve? Shall we not bid farewell to those who pervert our simple faith by "philosophy and vain deceithyperlink ," and hold fast to our confession in its purity, learning briefly through the prophet the mode of the grace, by his words, "Thou shalt take away their breath and they shall fail, and turn to their dust. Thou shalt send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earthhyperlink ;" at which time also he says that the Lord rejoices in His works, sinners having perished from the earth: for how shall any one be called by the name of sin, when sin itself exists no longer?

XXVI. That the Resurrection is Not Beyond Probabilityhyperlink .

1. There are, however, some who, owing to the feebleness of human reasoning, judging the Divine power by the compass of our own, maintain that what is beyond our capacity is not possible even to God. They point to the disappearance of the dead of old time, and to the remains of those who have been reduced to ashes by fire; and further, besides these, they bring forward in idea the carnivorous beasts, and the fish that receives in its own body the flesh of the shipwrecked sailor, while this again in turn becomes food for men, and passes by digestion into the bulk of him who eats it: and they rehearse many such trivialities, unworthy of God's great power and authority, for the overthrow of the doctrine, arguing as though God were not able to restore to man his own, by returnhyperlink through the same ways.

2. But we briefly cut short their long circuits of logical folly by acknowledging that dissolution of the body into its component parts does take place, and not only does earth, according to the Divine word, return to earth, but air and moisture also revert to the kindred element, and there takes place a return of each of our components to that nature to which it is allied; and although the human body be dispersed among carnivorous birds, or among the most savage beasts by becoming their food, and although it pass beneath the teeth of fish, and although it be changed by fire into vapour and dust, wheresoever one may in argument suppose the man to be removed, he surely remains in the world; and the world, the voice of inspiration tells us, is held by the hand of God. If thou, then, art not ignorant of any of the things in thy hand, dost thou deem the knowledge of God to be feebler than thine own power, that it should fail to discover the most minute of the things that are within the compass of the Divine span?

XXVII. That It is Possible, When the Human Body is Dissolved into the Elements of the Universe, that Each Should Have His Own Body Restored from the Common Sourcehyperlink .

1. Yet it may be thou thinkest, having regard to the elements of the universe, that it is a hard thing when the air in us has been resolved into its kindred element, and the warmth, and moisture, and the earthy nature have likewise been mingled with their own kind, that from the common source there should return to the individual what belongs to itself.

2. Dost thou not then judge by human examples that even this does not surpass the limits of the Divine power? Thou hast seen surely somewhere among the habitations of men a common herd of some kind of animals collected from every quarter: yet when it is again divided among its owners, acquaintance with their homes and the marks put upon the cattle serve to restore to each his own. If thou conceivest of thyself also something like to this, thou wilt not be far from the right way: for as the soul is disposed to cling to and long for the body that has been wedded to it, there also attaches to it in secret a certain close relationship and power of recognition, in virtue of their commixture, as though some marks had been imprinted by nature, by the aid of which the community remains unconfused, separated by the distinctive signs. Now as the soul attracts again to itself that which is its own and properly belongs to it, what labour, I pray you, that is involved for the Divine power, could be a hindrance to concourse of kindred things when they are urged to their own place by the unspeakable attraction of nature, whatever it may be? For that some signs of our compound nature remain in the soul even after dissolution is shown by the dialogue in Hadeshyperlink , where the bodies had been conveyed to the tomb, but some bodily token still remained in the souls by which both Lazarus was recognized and the rich man was not unknown.

3. There is therefore nothing beyond probability in believing that in the bodies that rise again there will be a return from the common stock to the individual, especially for any one who examines our nature with careful attention. For neither does our being consist altogether in flux and change-for surely that which had by nature no stability would be absolutely incomprehensible-but according to the more accurate statement some one of our constituent parts is stationary while the rest goes through a process of alteration: for the body is on the one hand altered by way of growth and diminution, changing, like garments, the vesture of its successive statures, while the form, on the other hand, remains in itself unaltered through every change, not varying from the marks once imposed upon it by nature, but appearing with its own tokens of identity in all the changes which the body undergoes.

4. We must except, however, from this statement the change which happens to the form as the result of disease: for the deformity of sickness takes possession of the form like some strange mask, and when this is removed by the wordhyperlink , as in the case of Naaman the Syrian, or of those whose story is recorded in the Gospel, the form that had been hidden by disease is once more by means of health restored to sight again with its own marks of identity.

5. Now to the element of our soul which is in the likeness of God it is not that which is subject to flux and change by way of alteration, but this stable and unalterable element in our composition that is allied: and since various differences of combination produce varieties of forms (and combination is nothing else than the mixture of the elements-by elements we mean those which furnish the substratum for the making of the universe, of which the human body also is composed), while the form necessarily remains in the soul as in the impression of a seal, those things which have received from the seal the impression of its stamp do not fail to be recognized by the soul, but at the time of the World-Reformation, it receives back to itself all those things which correspond to the stamp of the form: and surely all those things would so correspond which in the beginning were stamped by the form; thus it is not beyond probability that what properly belongs to the individual should once more return to it from the common sourcehyperlink .

6. It is said also that quicksilver, if poured out from the vessel that contains it down a dusty slope, forms small globules and scatters itself over the ground, mingling with none of those bodies with which it meets: but if one should collect at one place the substance dispersed in many directions, it flows back to its kindred substance, if not hindered by anything intervening from mixing with its own kind. Something of the same sort, I think, we ought to understand also of the composite nature of man, that if only the power were given it of God, the proper parts would spontaneously unite with those belonging to them, without any obstruction on their account arising to Him Who reforms their nature.

7. Furthermore, in the case of plants that grow from the ground, we do not observe any labour on the part of nature spent on the wheat or millet or any other seed of grain or pulse, in changing it into stalk or spike or ears; for the proper nourishment passes spontaneously, without trouble, from the common source to the individuality of each of the seeds. If, then, while the moisture supplied to all the plants is common, each of those plants which is nourished by it draws the due supply for its own growth, what new thing is it if in the doctrine of the resurrection also, as in the case of the seeds, it happens that there is an attraction on the part of each of those who rise, of what belongs to himself?

8. So that we may learn on all hands, that the preaching of the resurrection contains nothing beyond those facts which are known to us experimentally.

9. And yet we have said nothing of the most notable point concerning ourselves; I mean the first beginning of our existence. Who knows not the miracle of nature, what the maternal womb receives-what it produces? Thou seest how that which is implanted in the womb to be the beginning of the formation of the body is in a manner simple and homogeneous: but what language can express the variety of the composite body that is framed? and who, if he did not learn such a thing in nature generally, would think that to be possible which does take place-that that small thing of no account is the beginning of a thing so great? Great, I say, not only with regard to the bodily formation, but to what is more marvellous than this, I mean the soul itself, and the attributes we behold in it.


102 Otherwise Chap. xxiii. The title in the Bodleian ms. of the Latin version is:-"That when the generation of man is finished, time also will come to an end." Some mss., of the Latin version make the first few words part of the preceding chapter.

103 Gen. i. 26, Gen. i. 27.

104 This Realism is expressed even more strongly in the De Anima et Resurrectione.

105 1 Cor. xv. 47.

106 Ps. xcv. 4.

107 Cf. Hist. Sus. 42.

108 Gen. i. 28.

109 1 Cor. xv. 51, 1 Cor. xv. 52.

110 1 Thess. iv. 17.

111 Heb. xi. 40.

112 Heb. xi. 13.

113 Heb. xi. 11.

114 Ps. lxxxiv. 3.

115 Ps. lxxxiv. 11 (LXX.).

116 Ps. lxxxiv. 10.

117 Ps. lxxxiv. 12.

118 Acts i. 7.

119 Otherwise Chap. xxiv. The Bodleian ms. of the Latin version has a title corresponding to that of the following chapter in the other mss.:-"Against those who say that matter is co-eternal with God."

120 Cf. Heb. xi. 3. The mss. give somewhat the same variations which are observable in the N. T. Codices. The reading which Forbes adopts coincides with the Textus Receptus.

121 Reading, with some of Forbes' mss., aposoj, which seems on the whole the better reading so far as sense is concerned. apoioj may be the result of a sense of the awkwardness of employing both aposoj and amegeqhj: but further on in the section we find aposoj where the mss. seem to agree. Further, the connecting particles seem to show a closer connection of sense between aposoj and amegeqhj than between amegeqhj and asunqetoj.

122 Otherwise Chap. xxv. The Bodleian ms. of the Latin version has the title:-"That all matter exists in certain quantities."

123 With this passage may be compared the idealistic doctrine of the De Anim. et Resurr.

124 Otherwise Chap. xxvi. The title in the Bodleian ms. of the Latin version is:-"Of faith in the resurrection, and of the three dead persons whom the Lord Jesus raised."

125 Cf. S. Mark xiii. 1.

126 Cf. S. Luke xxiii. 27-29.

127 S. Luke iv. 39.

128 S. John iv. 49.

129 Cf. S. Luke vii. 13-15.

130 Omitting, as several of Forbes' mss. do, and as the ms. employed by Dionysius seems to have done, the words apodidonai palin tw zhn. If these words are retained, biazomenhj must be taken passively, and the pragma feukton understood not of the condition of the corpse, but of the resurrection of Lazarus.

131 1 Thess. iv. 16.

132 S. Luke iv. 23.

133 Cf. S. John xx. 27.

134 1 Cor. xv. 12.

135 Col. ii. 8.

136 Ps. civ. 29, Ps. civ. 30 (LXX.). Cf. also with what follows vv. 31-35.

137 Otherwise Chap. xxvii. The Bodleian ms. of the Latin version has the title:-"That however much the human body may have been consumed, the Divine power can easily bring it together."

138 analusewj, in S. Gregory, seems to be frequently used in the sense of "return." Cf. Phil. i. 23, eij to analusai, kai oun Coistw einai, where Tertullian translates "cupio recipi", (De Patientia).

139 Otherwise Chap. xxviii. The title in the Bodleian ms. of the Latin version is:-"That although bodies rise together they will yet receive their own souls."

140 Cf. S. Luke xvi. 24-31.