Tertullian- On Matthew 10: 28

(from On the Resurrection of the Flesh, c. 210 A.D.)


But He [Christ] also teaches us, that “He is rather to be feared, who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell,” that is, the Lord alone; “not those which kill the body, but are not able to hurt the soul,” that is to say, all bureau powers. Here, then, we have a recognition of the natural immortality of the soul, which cannot be killed by men; and of the mortality of the body, which may be killed: whence we learn that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of the flesh; for unless it were raised again, it would be impossible for the flesh to be “killed in hell.”

But as a question may be here captiously raised about the meaning of “the body” (or “the flesh “), I will at once state that I understand by the human body nothing else than that fabric of the flesh which, whatever be the kind of material of which it is constructed and modified, is seen and handled, and sometimes indeed killed, by men. In like manner, I should not admit that anything but cement and stones and bricks form the body of a wall. If any one imports into our argument some body of a subtle, secret nature, he must show, disclose, and prove to me that identical body is the very one which was slain by human violence, and then (I will grant) that it is of such a body that (our scripture) speaks.

If, again, the body or corporeal nature of the soul is cast in my teeth. it will only be an idle subterfuge! For since both substances are set before us (in this passage, which affirms) that “body and soul” are destroyed in hell, a distinction is obviously made between the two; and we are left to understand the body to be that which is tangible to us, that is, the flesh, which, as it will be destroyed in hell–since it did not “rather fear” being destroyed by God–so also will it be restored to life eternal, since it preferred to be killed by human hands.

If, therefore, any one shall violently suppose that the destruction of the soul and the flesh in hell amounts to a final annihilation of the two substances, and not to their penal treatment (as if they were to be consumed, not punished), let him recollect that the fire of hell is eternal–expressly announced as an everlasting penalty; and let him then admit that it is from this circumstance that this never-ending “killing” is more formidable than a merely human murder, which is only temporal. He will then come to the conclusion that substances must be eternal, when their penal “killing” is an eternal one.

Since, then, the body after the resurrection has to be killed by God in hell along with the soul, we surely have sufficient information in this fact respecting both the issues which await it, namely the resurrection of the flesh, and its eternal “killing.” Else it would be most absurd if the flesh should be raised up and destined to “the killing in hell,” in order to be put an end to, when it might suffer such an annihilation (more directly) if not raised again at all. A pretty paradox, to be sure, that an essence must be refitted with life, in order that it may receive that annihilation which has already in fact accrued to it!



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