Resurrection, Part 2: The early church fathers; Asking better questions

Share This Post


The early church fathers actually considered a denial of a bodily resurrection as damning!

For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians, even as one, if he would rightly consider it, would not admit that the Sadducees, or similar sects of Genistæ, Meristæ, Galilæans, Hellenists, Pharisees, Baptists, are Jews (do not hear me impatiently when I tell you what I think), but are [only] called Jews and children of Abraham, worshipping God with the lips, as God Himself declared, but the heart was far from Him. But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, [as] the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.

(Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 80). Notice how Justin Martyr contrasts “resurrection” with souls going to heaven at death. To him, they are not only two different things, but to  him, the idea of disembodied souls going to heaven at death is a damning heresy.

The Third Century Didascalia Apostolorum says,

And by other false prophets beside was the enemy working. [vi. 10] And they all had one law upon earth, that they should not employ the Torah and the Prophets, and that they should blaspheme God Almighty, and should not believe in the resurrection.

(23: vi. 10).

The condemnation of those who deny the resurrection of the dead seems to have been taken straight from rabbinic teaching —

These are they that have no share in the world to come: he that says there is no resurrection of the dead prescribed in the Law … .

(Danby, Mishnah, p. 397).

As stated in the Wikipedia article on resurrection

The Apostles’ Creed explicitly ends with an affirmation of belief in “the resurrection of the body”.

The Christian writers Irenaeus and Justin Martyr, in the 2nd Century, wrote against the idea that only the soul survived. Justin insists that a man is both soul and body and Christ has promised to raise both, just as his own body was raised. He wrote:

Seeing as … the Saviour in the whole Gospel shows that there is salvation for the flesh, why do we any longer endure those unbelieving and dangerous arguments, and fail to see that we are retrograding when we listen to such an argument as this: that the soul is immortal, but the body mortal, and incapable of being revived? For this we used to hear from Pythagoras and Plato, even before we learned the truth. If then the Saviour said this, and proclaimed salvation to the soul alone, what new thing, beyond what we heard from Pythagoras and Plato and all their band, did He bring us? But now He has come proclaiming the glad tidings of a new and strange hope to men.”

As is true of many other errors that crept into the early church, the Grecian Platonic worldview was syncretically absorbed  into the church’s teachings. And as a result, we’ve been asking the wrong questions. For example,

We should ask, “How do we gain immortality?” rather than “How will we spend eternity?”

We should ask, “How does the resurrection prove that God will resurrect us?” rather than “How do we know that our souls go to heaven when we die?”

We should ask, “Since we’re resurrected with Spirit-empowered bodies, what does this tell us about the nature of the afterlife?” rather than “Since we float off as disembodied souls when we die, what does this tell us about the afterlife?”

We should ask, “If our bodies will survive the Second Coming, transformed into something far more glorious but embodied, what does this tell us about the fate of the heavens and the earth at the end of time?” rather than “Because our bodies will burned up and destroyed, what does this tell us about the fate of the heavens and the earth at the end of time?”

deadhomerDo you see the difference? Frankly, it takes some practice to even think this way, because the Platonic/Greek view of the afterlife has been taught to all of us since we were in diapers — even those of us who never once went to church.

Even in cartoons, when a character dies, his “soul” leaves his body. And there’s just no way to reconcile the soul departing the body to head off to heaven with a general resurrection occurring when Jesus returns. I mean, we can’t go to heaven but once. Right?


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore

Do You Want To Boost Your Business?

drop us a line and keep in touch

%d bloggers like this: