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Enchiridion On Faith, Hope and Love
by Saint Augustine


CHAPTER XXIII

THE REALITY OF THE RESURRECTION

84. Now, with respect to the resurrection of the body--and by this I do not

mean the cases of resuscitation after which people died again, but a resurrection to

eternal life after the fashion of Christ's own body--I have not found a way to discuss

it briefly and still give satisfactory answers to all the questions usually raised about

it. Yet no Christian should have the slightest doubt as to the fact that the bodies of

all men, whether already or yet to be born, whether dead or still to die, will be

resurrected.

85. Once this fact is established, then, first of all, comes the question about

abortive fetuses, which are indeed "born" in the mother's womb, but are never so

that they could be "reborn." For, if we say that there is a resurrection for them, then

we can agree that at least as much is true of fetuses that are fully formed. But, with

regard to undeveloped fetuses, who would not more readily think that they perish,

like seeds that did not germinate?192

But who, then, would dare to deny--though he would not dare to affirm it

either--that in the resurrection day what is lacking in the forms of things will be

filled out? Thus, the perfection which time would have accomplished will not be

lacking, any more than the blemishes wrought by time will still be present. Nature,

then, will be cheated of nothing apt and fitting which time's passage would have

187Ps. 27:1.

188II Tim. 2:25 (mixed text).

189Cf. Luke 22:61.

190Cf. John 20:22, 23.

191This libellus is included in Augustine's Sermons (LXXI, PL, 38, col. 445-467), to which Possidius

gave the title De blasphemia in Spiritum Sanctum. English translation in N-PNF, 1st Series, Vol. VI,

Sermon XXI, pp. 318-332.

192Sicut semina quae concepta non fuerint.


brought, nor will anything remain disfigured by anything adverse and contrary

which time has wrought. But what is not yet a whole will become whole, just as

what has been disfigured will be restored to its full figure.

86. On this score, a corollary question may be most carefully discussed by the

most learned men, and still I do not know that any man can answer it, namely:

When does a human being begin to live in the womb? Is there some form of hidden

life, not yet apparent in the motions of a living thing? To deny, for example, that

those fetuses ever lived at all which are cut away limb by limb and cast out of the

wombs of pregnant women, lest the mothers die also if the fetuses were left there

dead, would seem much too rash. But, in any case, once a man begins to live, it is

thereafter possible for him to die. And, once dead, wheresoever death overtook him,

I cannot find the basis on which he would not have a share in the resurrection of the

dead.

87. By the same token, the resurrection is not to be denied in the cases of

monsters which are born and live, even if they quickly die, nor should we believe

that they will be raised as they were, but rather in an amended nature and free

from faults. Far be it from us to say of that double-limbed man recently born in the

Orient--about whom most reliable brethren have given eyewitness reports and the

presbyter Jerome, of holy memory, has left a written account193--far be it from us, I

say, to suppose that at the resurrection there will be one double man, and not rather

two men, as there would have been if they had actually been born twins. So also in

other cases, which, because of some excess or defect or gross deformity, are called

monsters: at the resurrection they will be restored to the normal human

physiognomy, so that every soul will have its own body and not two bodies joined

together, even though they were born this way. Every soul will have, as its own, all

that is required to complete a whole human body.

88. Moreover, with God, the earthly substance from which the flesh of mortal

man is produced does not perish. Instead, whether it be dissolved into dust or ashes,

or dispersed into vapors and the winds, or converted into the substance of other

bodies (or even back into the basic elements themselves), or has served as food for

beasts or even men and been turned into their flesh--in an instant of time this

matter returns to the soul that first animated it, and that caused it to become a

man, to live and to grow.

89. This earthly matter which becomes a corpse upon the soul's departure

will not, at the resurrection, be so restored that the parts into which it was

separated and which have become parts of other things must necessarily return to

the same parts of the body in which they were situated--though they do return to

the body from which they were separated. Otherwise, to suppose that the hair

recovers what frequent clippings have taken off, or the nails get back what

trimming has pared off, makes for a wild and wholly unbecoming image in the

minds of those who speculate this way and leads them thus to disbelieve in the

resurrection. But take the example of a statue made of fusible metal: if it were

melted by heat or pounded into dust, or reduced to a shapeless mass, and an artist

wished to restore it again from the mass of the same material, it would make no

difference to the wholeness of the restored statue which part of it was remade of

what part of the metal, so long as the statue, as restored, had been given all the

material of which it was originally composed. Just so, God--an artist who works in

marvelous and mysterious ways--will restore our bodies, with marvelous and

mysterious celerity, out of the whole of the matter of which it was originally

composed. And it will make no difference, in the restoration, whether hair returns

to hair and nails to nails, or whether the part of this original matter that had

perished is turned back into flesh and restored to other parts of the body. The main

thing is that the providence of the [divine] Artist takes care that nothing

unbecoming will result.

193Jerome, Epistle to Vitalis, Ep. LXXII, 2; PL, 22, 674. Augustine also refers to similar phenomena

in The City of God, XVI. viii, 2.


90. Nor does it follow that the stature of each person will be different when

brought to life anew because there were differences in stature when first alive, nor

that the lean will be raised lean or the fat come back to life in their former obesity.

But if this is in the Creator's plan, that each shall retain his special features and

the proper and recognizable likeness of his former self--while an equality of physical

endowment will be preserved--then the matter of which each resurrection body is

composed will be so disposed that none shall be lost, and any defect will be supplied

by Him who can create out of nothing as he wills.

But if in the bodies of those rising again there is to be an intelligible

inequality, such as between voices that fill out a chorus, this will be managed by

disposing the matter of each body so to bring men into their place in the angelic

band and impose nothing on their senses that is inharmonious. For surely nothing

unseemly will be there, and whatever is there will be fitting, and this because the

unfitting will simply not be.

91. The bodies of the saints, then, shall rise again free from blemish and

deformity, just as they will be also free from corruption, encumbrance, or handicap.

Their facility [facilitas] will be as complete as their felicity [felicitas]. This is why

their bodies are called "spiritual," though undoubtedly they will be bodies and not

spirits. For just as now the body is called "animate" [animale], though it is a body

and not a "spirit" [anima], so then it will be a "spiritual body," but still a body and

not a spirit.

Accordingly, then, as far as the corruption which weighs down the soul and

the vices through which "the flesh lusts against the spirit"194 are concerned, there

will be no "flesh," but only body, since there are bodies that are called "heavenly

bodies."195 This is why it is said, "Flesh and blood shall not inherit the Kingdom of

God," and then, as if to expound what was said, it adds, "Neither shall corruption

inherit incorruption."196 What the writer first called "flesh and blood" he later called

"corruption," and what he first called "the Kingdom of God" he then later called

"incorruption."

But, as far as the substance of the resurrection body is concerned, it will even

then still be "flesh." This is why the body of Christ is called "flesh" even after the

resurrection. Wherefore the apostle also says, "What is sown a natural body [corpus

animale] rises as a spiritual body [corpus spirituale]."197 For there will then be such

a concord between flesh and spirit--the spirit quickening the servant flesh without

any need of sustenance therefrom--that there will be no further conflict within

ourselves. And just as there will be no more external enemies to bear with, so

neither shall we have to bear with ourselves as enemies within.

92. But whoever are not liberated from that mass of perdition (brought to

pass through the first man) by the one Mediator between God and man, they will

also rise again, each in his own flesh, but only that they may be punished together

with the devil and his angels. Whether these men will rise again with all their

faults and deformities, with their diseased and deformed members--is there any

reason for us to labor such a question? For obviously the uncertainty about their

bodily form and beauty need not weary us, since their damnation is certain and

eternal. And let us not be moved to inquire how their body can be incorruptible if it

can suffer--or corruptible if it cannot die. For there is no true life unless it be lived

in happiness; no true incorruptibility save where health is unscathed by pain. But

where an unhappy being is not allowed to die, then death itself, so to say, dies not;

and where pain perpetually afflicts but never destroys, corruption goes on endlessly.

This state is called, in the Scripture, "the second death."198

93. Yet neither the first death, in which the soul is compelled to leave its

194Gal. 5:17.

195I Cor. 15:40.

196I Cor. 15:50.

197I Cor. 15:44.

198Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 14.


body, nor the second death, in which it is not allowed to leave the body undergoing

punishment, would have befallen man if no one had sinned. Surely, the lightest of

all punishments will be laid on those who have added no further sin to that

originally contracted. Among the rest, who have added further Sins to that one, they

will suffer a damnation somewhat more tolerable in proportion to the lesser degree

of their iniquity.









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