Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 7-15-08

"The resurrection of the souls of the dead takes place even now in the time of death. But the resurrection of the bodies will take place in that (last) day."

Macarius, Homily 36.1 (Syrian father from fourth century)

Commentary: this quotation represents the problem that one faces when the Jewish concept of bodily resurrection (that is, the resurrection of the whole person) encounters the dualistic Platonic anthropology (that is, the soul and body). Pagans believed in the immortality of the soul, that it could be released to return to its divine origins at death if the person had been pious. So what benefit was Jesus' death, the pagans asked? Part of that answer appears to be that Jesus' body was restored, and so will yours if you become Christian. Eventually the type of view develops that Macarius suggests: that at personal death, the soul journeys onward, and at the last day the body will follow.

The illustration depicts Ezekiel 37, 3rd-century fresco, Dura Europas synagogue in Syria.

5 comments:

José Solano said...

I suspect that what Macarius is talking about is the rebirth that the unregenerate (the dead) must undergo followed by a sanctification process in this life before the physical resurrection after the physical death. The physical resurrection is facilitated by the grace of God that has awakened a formerly slumbering soul. The physical resurrection of the “resurrected” soul obtains salvation. The physical resurrection of the unregenerate does not. This would be consistent with Catholic and Orthodox thought.

We often find the concepts of “rebirth” and “resurrection” conflated.

Geoff Hudson said...

I doubt that bodily resurrection was always the Jewish view.

Geoff Hudson said...

I suggest that 1 Cor.15 was not originally about resurrection of the body, but was about whether or not spirits can rise from bodies to glory. So 15.13 would have been: "If there is no RISING of SPIRITS ..." In the Jewish mindset, God sowed spirits into bodies. Thus 15.38 would have been:"God gives the body (not 'it') a spirit (not 'a body') as he has determined.." We know this from the DSS: "He created man to rule the world, and placed within him two spirits so that he would walk with them until the moment of his visitation; they are the spirits of truth and deceit." (1QS.3.18,19, Martinez). So the sowing of bodies in the extant text of 15:42 is utter nonsense. It should have been: "The [body] {SPIRIT} that is sown, is [perishable] {ONE KIND};
it is raised [imperishable] {ANOTHER} - the context was different kinds of spirits not bodies.

JMS Providence said...

Resurrecting in the "(last) day" concerns (IMHO) the enormous chasm between people's thoughts (words) vs. people actions (behaviors) that MUST be dealt with.

In other words, "the faithful" easily follow the 1st of the greatest commandment(s), but fail miserably at the 2nd.

Thus, it's about time "the faithful" deal with this most critical matter in human development/history OR scrap the whole thing, go home, and perhaps welcome the Paleiadians.

José Solano said...

Although Dr. DeConick is correct in differentiating between the Helenistic concept of the immortality of the soul and the Jewish (and Christian) understanding of resurrection, I’m not convinced that this Makarios quotation exemplifies a blending of the two. Such a blending does occur in early Catholic teaching and later Protestantism.

Oscar Cullmann in his Immortality of the Soul and the Resurrection of the Dead (1956) demonstrated the essential incompatibility of primitive Christianity’s belief in the Resurrection and Greek thought concerning the immortality of the soul. (To be sure there were diverse Jewish thoughts on the resurrection and already in Qumran I understand there is evidence of Helenization.) If I recall correctly Cullmann proposes an interim after physical death “sleep” state for the soul till the “last day” when the resurrection occurs and the world is reconstituted. But as I mentioned above, Makarios I suspect is referring to a transformation of the soul occurring while we are alive and not some disembodied migration of the soul occurring after death which will be later joined by a resurrected physical body on the “last day.”

In the introduction to the Philokalia chapter “St. Symeon Metaphastis Paraphrase of the Homilies of St. Makarios of Egypt” we read, “Much is said about the resurrection glory of the human body at the last day, . . . but it is also insisted that the saints experience here and now a genuine foretaste of the glory of the age to come: the final resurrection is simply the outward and bodily manifestation of what is already hidden during this present life in the souls of the righteous.” St. Symeon’s paraphrasing of the Makarios Homilies clarifies this Orthodox understanding.

Thank you Dr.DeConick for the opportunity to contemplate these words. My approach here is to try and understand what the author (Makarios) is saying rather than take the opportunity to offer my own opinions on immortality and resurrection.