Chrysostom on 1Cor 4000
4000 if the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for the dead? (1Co 15,29-34)
4001 HE takes in hand again another topic, establishing what he said at one time from what God doeth, and at another from the very things which they practice. And this also is no small plea for the defence of any cause when a man brings forward the gainsayers themselves as witnessing by their own actions what he affirms. What then is that which he means? Or will ye that I should first mention how they who are infected with the Marcionite heresy pervert this expression? And I know indeed that I shall excite much laughter; nevertheless, even on this account most of all I will mention it that you may the more completely avoid this disease: viz., when any Catechumen departs among them, having concealed the living man under the couch of the dead, they approach the corpse and talk with him, and ask him if he wishes to receive baptism; then when he makes no answer, he that is concealed underneath saith in his stead that of course he should wish to be baptized; and so they baptize him instead of the departed, like men jesting upon the stage. So great power hath the devil over the souls of careless sinners. Then being called to account, they allege this expression, saying that even the Apostle hath said, “They who are baptized for the dead.” Seest thou their extreme ridiculousness? Is it meet then to answer these things? I trow not; unless it were necessary to discourse with madmen of what they in their frenzy utter. But that none of the more exceedingly simple folk may be led captive, one must needs submit to answer even these men. As thus, if this was Paul’s meaning wherefore did God threaten him that is not baptized? For it is impossible that any should not be baptized henceforth, this being once devised: and besides, the fault no longer lies with the dead, but with the living. But to whom spake he, “Unless ye eat My flesh, and drink My blood, ye have no life in yourselves?” (Jn 6,53) To the living, or to the dead, tell me? And again, “Unless a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3,5) For if this be permitted, and there be no need of the mind of the receiver nor of his assent while he lives, what hinders both Greeks and Jews thus to become believers, other men after their decease doing these things in their stead?
But not to prolong fruitless toil in cutting asunder their petty spiders’ webs, come let us unfold unto you the force of this expression. What then is Paul speaking of?
[2.] But first I wish to remind you who are initiated of the response, which on that evening they who introduce you to the mysteries bid you make; and then I will also explain the saying of Paul: so this likewise will be clearer to you; we after all the other things adding this which Paul now saith. And I desire indeed expressly to utter it, but I dare not on account of the uninitiated; for these add a difficulty to our exposition, compelling us either not to speak clearly or to declare unto them the ineffable mysteries. Nevertheless, as I may be able, I will speak as through a veil.
As thus: after the enunciation of those mystical and fearful words, and the awful rules of the doctrines which have come down from heaven, this also we add at the end when we are about to baptize, bidding them say, “I believe in the resurrection of the dead,” and upon this faith we are baptized. For after we have confessed this together with the rest, then at last are we let down into the fountain of those sacred streams. This therefore Paul recalling to their minds said, “if there be no resurrection, why art thou then baptized for the dead?”i. e., the dead bodies. For in fact with a view to this art thou baptized, the resurrection of thy dead body, believing that it no longer remains dead. And thou indeed in the words makest mention of a resurrection of the dead; but the priest, as in a kind of image, signifies to thee by very deed the things which thou hast believed and confessed in words. When without a sign thou believest, then he gives thee the sign also; when thou hast done thine own part, then also doth God fully assure thee. How and in what manner? By the water. For the being baptized and immersed and then emerging, is a symbol of the descent into Hades and return thence. Wherefore also Paul calls baptism a burial, saying, “Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death.” (Rm 6,4) By this he makes that also which is to come credible, I mean, the resurrection of our bodies. For the blotting out sins is a much greater thing than the raising up of a body. And this Christ declaring, said, “For whether is easier to say, Thy sins are forgiven, or to say, Take up thy bed, and walk?” (Mt 9,5) “The former is the more difficult,” saith He, “but since ye disbelieve it as being hidden, and make the easier instead of the more difficult the demonstration of my power, neither Will I refuse to afford you this proof.” Then saith He to the paralytic, “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thy house.”
4002 “And how is this difficult,” saith one, “when it is possible to kings also and rulers? For they too forgive adulterers and homicides.” Thou art jesting, O man, who sayest these things. For to forgive sins with God only is possible. But rulers and kings, whether it is adulterers whom they forgive or homicides, release them indeed from the present punishment; but their sin they do not purge out. Though they should advance to offices them that have been forgiven, though they should invest them with the purple itself, though they should set the diadem upon their heads, yet so they would only make them kings,but could not free them from their sin. It being God alone who doeth this; which accordingly in the Layer of Regeneration He will bring to pass. For His grace touches the very soul, and thence plucks up the sin by the root. Here is the reason why he that hath been forgiven by the king may be seen with his soul yet impure, but the soul of the baptized no longer so, but purer than the very sun-beams, and such as it was originally formed, nay rather much better than that. For it is blessed with a Spirit, on every side enkindling it and making its holiness intense. And as when thou art recasting iron or gold thou makest it pure and new once more, just so the Holy Ghost also, recasting the soul in baptism as in a furnace and consuming its sins, causes it to glisten with more purity than all purest gold.
Further, the credibility of the resurrection of our bodies he signifies to thee again from what follows: viz., that since sin brought in death, now that the root is dried up, one must not after that doubt of the destruction of the fruit.Therefore having first mentioned” the forgiveness of sins,” thou dost next confess also “the resurrection of the dead;” the one guides thee as by hand on to the other.
Yet again, because the term Resurrection is not sufficient to indicate the whole: for many after rising have again departed, as those in the Old Testament, as Lazarus, as they at the time of the crucifixion: one is bid to say, “and the life everlasting,” that none may any longer have a notion of death after that resurrection.
These words therefore Paul recalling to their minds, saith, “What shall they do which are baptized for the dead?” “For if there be no resurrection,” saith he, “these words are but scenery. If there be no resurrection, how persuade we them to believe things which we do not bestow?” Just as if a person bidding another to deliver a document to the effect that he had received so much, should never give the sum named therein, yet after the subscription should demand of him the specified monies. What then will remain for the subscriber to do, now that he hath made himself responsible, without having received what he admitted he had received? This then he here saith of those who are baptized also. “What shall they do which are baptized,” saith he, “having subscribed to the resurrection of dead bodies, and not receiving it, but suffering fraud? And what need was there at all of this confession, if the fact did not follow?”()
[3.] 1Co 15,30. “Why do we also stand in jeopardy every hour?”
1Co 15,31. “I protest by that glorying in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”
See again whence he endeavors to establish the doctrine, from his own suffrage: or rather not from his only, but from that also of the other apostles. And this too is no small thing; that the teachers whom you produce were full of vehement conviction and signified the same not by words only, but also by very deeds. Therefore, you see, he doth not say simply, “we are persuaded,” for this alone was not sufficient to persuade them, but he also furnishes the proof by facts; as if he should say, “in words to confess these things haply seems to you no marvel; but if we should also produce unto you the voice which deeds send forth, what can ye have to say against that? Hear ye then, how by our perils also day by day we confess these things?” And he said not “I,” but “we,” taking along with him all the apostles together, and thereby at once speaking modestly and adding credibility to his discourse.
For what can ye have to say? that we are deceiving you when we preach these things, and that our doctrines come of vain-glory? Nay, our perils suffer you not to pass such a sentence. For who would choose to be in continual jeopardy to no purpose and with no effect? Wherefore also he said, “Why do we also stand in jeopardy every hour?” For if one should even choose it through vain-glory, such his choice will be but for once and again, not all his life long, like ours. For we have assigned our whole life to this purpose.
“I protest by that glorying in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily: “by glorying here, meaning their advancement. Thus since he had intimated that his perils were many, lest he might seem to say this by way of lamentation, “far from grieving,” saith he, “I even glory in suffering this for your sake.” And doubly, he saith, he takes delight in it, both as being in jeopardy for their sakes and as beholding their proficiency. Then doing what is usual with him, because he had uttered great things, he refers both to Christ.
But how doth he “die daily?” by his readiness and preparation for that event. And wherefore saith he these words? Again by these also to establish the doctrine of the resurrection. “For who would choose,” saith he, “to undergo so many deaths, if there be no resurrection nor life after this? Yea, if they who believe in the resurrection would scarcely put themselves in jeopardy for it except they were very noble of heart: much more would not the unbeliever (so he speaks) choose to undergo so many deaths and so terrible.” Thus, see by degrees how very high he mounts up. He had said, “we stand in jeopardy,” he added, “every hour,” then, “daily,” then, “I not only ‘stand in jeopardy,’“saith he, but “I even ‘die:’“he concludes accordingly by pointing out also what kind of deaths they were; thus saying,
1Co 15,32. “If after the manner of men I fought with beasts at Ephesus, what doth it profit me?”
4003 What is, “if after the manner of men?” “As far as pertains to men I fought with beasts: for what if God snatched me out of those dangers?So that I am he who ought most to be in care about these things; I, who endure so great dangers and have not yet received any return. For if no time of recompense is at hand, but our reward is shut up in this present world, ours is the greater loss. For ye have believed without jeopardy, but we are slaughtered every day.”
But all these things he said, not because he had no advantage even in the very suffering, but on account of the weakness of the many, and to establish them in the doctrine of the resurrection: not because he himself was running for hire; for it was a sufficient recompense to him to do that which was pleasing to God. So that when he adds, “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable,” it is there again for their sakes, that he might by the fear of this misery overthrow their unbelief of the resurrection. And in condescension to their weakness, he thus speaks. Since in truth, the great reward is to please Christ at all times: and apart from the recompense, it is a very great requital to be in jeopardy for His sake.
[4.] “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink for to-morrow we die.”
This word, be sure, is spoken in mockery: wherefore neither did he bring it forward of himself, but summoned the prophet of loftiest sound, Isaiah, who discoursing of certain insensible and reprobate persons made use of these words, “Who slay oxen and kill sheep to eat flesh and drink wine; who say, Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. These things are revealed to the ears of the Lord of Hosts, and this iniquity shall not be forgiven you, till ye die.” (Is 22,13-14. LXX). Now if then they were deprived of pardon who spake thus, much more in the time of Grace.
Then that he might not make his discourse too rough, he dwells not long upon his “reductio ad absurdum,” but again turns his discourse to exhortation, saying,
1Co 15,33. “Be not deceived: evil company doth corrupt good manners.”
And this he said, both to rebuke them as without understanding, (for here he by a charitable expression, calls “good” that which is easily deceived,) and also, as far as he could, to make some allowance to them for the past with a view to their return, and to remove from them and transfer to others the greater part of his charges, and so by this way also to allure them to repentance. Which he doth likewise in the Epistle to the Galatians, saying, “But he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.” (Ga 5,10)
1Co 15,34. “Awake up righteously and sin not.”
As if he were speaking to drunkards and madmen. For suddenly to cast every thing out of their hands, was the part of drunkards and madmen, in not seeing any longer what they saw nor believing what they had before confessed. But what is, “righteously?” with a view to what is profitable and useful. For it is possible to awake up unrighteously, when a man is thoroughly roused up to the injury of his own soul. And well did he add, “sin not,” implying that hence were the sins of their unbelief. And in many places he covertly signifies this, that a corrupt life is the parent of evil doctrines; as when he saith, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, which some reaching after, have been led astray from the faith.” (1Tm 6,10) Yea, and many of those who are conscious of wickedness and would fain not pay its penalty are by this fear damaged also in their faith concerning the resurrection: even as they who do very virtuously desire even daily to behold it.
“For some have no knowledge of God; I speak this to move you to shame.”
See how again he transfers his accusations to others. For he said not, “Ye have no knowledge,” but, “some have no knowledge.” Because disbelieving the resurrection is the temper of one not fully aware that the power of God is irresistable and sufficient for all things. For if out of the things which are not He made the things that are, much more will He be able to raise again those which have been dissolved.
And because he had touched them to the quick and exceedingly mocked them, accusing them of gluttony, of folly, of madness; mitigating those expressions, he saith, “I speak to move you to shame,” that is, to set upright, to bring back, to make you better, by this shame of yours. For he feared lest if he cut too deep, he should cause them to start away.
4004 [5.] But let us not consider these things as spoken to them only, but as addressed now also to all who labor under the same disease, and live a corrupt life. Since in truth not they who hold corrupt doctrines only, but they too who are holden of grievous sins, are both drunken and frantic. Wherefore also to them may it be justly said, “Awake,” and especially to those who are weighed down by the lethargy of avarice; who rob wickedly. For there is a robbery which is good, the robbery of Heaven, which injures not. And although in respect of money it is impossible for one to become rich, unless another first become poor: yet in spiritual things this is not so, but wholly the reverse: it is impossible that any should become rich without making another’s store plentiful. For if thou help no one, thou wilt not be able to grow wealthy. Thus, whereas in temporal things imparting causes diminution: in spiritual things, on the contrary, imparting works increase, and the not imparting, this produces great poverty and brings on extreme punishment. And this is signified by him who buried the talent. Yea, and he too who hath a word of wisdom, by i imparting to another increases his own abundance, by making many wise: but he that buries it at home, deprives himself of his abundance by neglecting to win the profit of the many. Again, he that had other gifts, by healing many augmented his own gift: and was neither himself emptied by the imparting, and filled many others with his own spiritual gift. And in all spiritual things this rule abides unshaken. Thus also in the Kingdom, he that makes many partakers with himself of the Kingdom will hereby the more completely have the fruits of it in return: but he that studies not to have any partaker will himself be cast out of those many blessings. For if the wisdom of this world of sense is not spent, though ten thousand are forcibly seizing it; nor doth the artificer by making many artificers lose his own skill; much less doth he who seizes the Kingdom make it less, but then will our riches be increased when we call many to us for that purpose.
Let us seize then the things which cannot be spent but increase whilst we seize them: let us seize the things which admit of none to defraud us of them by false accusation, none to envy us for them. For so, if there were a place which had a fountain of gold gushing forth with continual flood, and flowing the more as more was drawn from it; and there were another place which had a treasure buried in the earth; from which wouldest thou desire to be enriched? Would it not be from the first? Plainly. But that this may not be a mere conception in words, consider the saying in reference to the air and the sun. For these are seized by all, and satisfy all. These, however, whether men enjoy or do not enjoy them, abide the same undiminished: but what I spake of is a much greater thing; for spiritual wisdom abides not the same distributed or not distributed: but it rather increases in the distribution.
But if any endure not what I have said, but still cleave to the poverty of worldly things, snatching at the things which endure diminution: even in respect of those again, let him call to mind the food of manna (Ex 16,20) and tremble at the example of that punishment. For what happened in that instance, this same result may one now also see in the case of covetous men. But what then happened in worms were bred from their covetousness. This also now happens in their case. For the measure of the food is the same for all; we having but one stomach to fill; only thou who feedest luxuriously hast more to get rid of. And as in that case they who in their houses gathered more than the lawful quantity, gathered not manna, but more worms and rottenness; just so both in luxury and in covetousness, the gluttonous and drunken gather not more dainties but more corruption.
[6.] Nevertheless, so much worse than they are the men of our time, in that they experienced this once for all and received correction; but these every day bringing into their own houses this worm much more grievous than that, neither perceive it nor are satiated. For that these things do resemble those in respect of our useless labor on them: (for in regard of punishment these are much worse:) here is the proof for thee to consider.
Wherein, I ask, differs the rich man from the poor? Hath he not one body to clothe? one belly to feed? In what then hath he the advantage? In cares, in spending himself, in disobeying God, in corrupting the flesh, in wasting the soul. Yea, these are the things in which he hath the advantage of the poor: since if he had many stomachs to fill, perhaps he might have somewhat to say, as that his need was more and the necessity of expense greater. But even “now they may,” saith one, “reply, that they fill many bellies, those of their domestics, those of their hand-maidens.” But this is done, not through need nor for humanity’s sake, but from mere pride: whence one cannot put up with their excuse.
For why hast thou many servants? Since as in our apparel we ought to follow our need only, and in our table, so also in our servants. What need is there then? None at all. For, in fact, one master need only employ one servant; or rather two or three masters one servant. But if this be grievous, consider them that have none and enjoy more prompt attendance. For God hath made men sufficient to minister unto themselves, or rather unto their neighbor also. And if thou believe it not, hear Paul saying, “Thesehands ministered unto my necessities, and tothem that were with me.” (Ac 20,34) After that he, the teacher of the world and worthy of heaven, disdained not to serve innumerable others; dost thou think it a disgrace, unless thou carriest about whole herds of slaves, not knowing that this in truth is what most of all brings shame upon thee? For to that end did God grant us both hands and feet, that we might not stand in need of servants. Since not at all for need’s sake was the class of slaves introduced, else even along with Adam had a slave been formed; but it is the penalty of sin and the punishment of disobedience. But when Christ came, He put an end also to this. “For in Christ Jesus there is. neither bond nor free.” (Ga 3,28) So that it is not necessary to have a slave: or if it be at all necessary, let it be about one only, or at the most two. What mean the swarms of servants? For as the sellers of sheep and the slave-dealers, so do our rich men take their round, in the baths and in the forum.
However, I will not be too exact. We will allow you to keep a second servant. But if thou collect many, thou dost it not for humanity’s sake, but in self-indulgence. Since if it be in care for them, I bid thee occupy none of them in ministering to thyself, but when thou hast purchased them and hast taught them trades whereby to support themselves, let them go free. But when thou scourgest, when thou puttest them in chains, it is no more a work of humanity.
And I know that I am giving disgust to my hearers. But what must I do? For this I am set, and I shall not cease to say these things, whether any thing come of them or not. For what means thy clearing the way before thee in the market place? Art thou walking then among wild beasts that thou drivest away them that meet thee? Be not afraid; none of these bite who approach thee and walk near thee. But dost thou consider it an insult to walk along side of other men? What madness is this, what prodigious folly, when a horse is following close after thee, to think not of his bringing on thee any insult; but if it be a man, unless he be driven an hundred miles off, to reckon that he disgraces thee. And why hast thou also servants to carry fasces, employing freemen as slaves, or rather thyself living more dishonorably than any slave? For, in truth, meaner thanany servant is he who bears about with him so much pride.
Therefore they shall not so much as have a sight of the real liberty, who have enslaved themselves to this grievous passion. Nay, if thou must drive and clear away, let it not be them that come nigh thee, but thine own pride which thou drivest away; not by thy servant, but by thyself: not with this scourge, but with that which is spiritual. Since now thy servant drives away them that walk by thy side, but thou art thyself driven from thine high place more disgracefully by thine own self-will than any servant can drive thy neighbor. But if, descending from thy horse, thou wilt drive away pride by humility, thou shalt sit higher and place thyself in greater honor, needing no servant to do this. I mean, that when thou art become modest and walkest on the ground, thou wilt be seated on the car of humility which bears thee up to the very heavens, that car which hath winged steeds: but if falling from it, thou pass into that of arrogance, thou wilt be in no better state than the beggars who are drawn along the ground, nay even much more wretched and pitiable than they: since them the imperfection of their bodies compels thus to be drawn, but thee the disease of thine own arrogance. “For every one that exalteth himself,” saith He, “shall be abused.” (Mt 23,12) That we then may not be abused but exalted, let us approach towards that exaltation. For thus also shall we “find rest for our souls” according to the divine oracle, and shall obtain the true and most exalted honor; the which may we all obtain, through the grace and mercy, &c. &c.
4100 How are the dead raised? andwith what manner of body do they come? Thou foolish one, that which thou thyself sowest is not quickened, except it die. (1Co 15,35-36)
4101 Gentle and lowly as the apostle is to a great degree every where, he here adopts a style rather pungent, because of the impiety of the gainsayers. He is nothowever content with this, but he also employsreasons and examples, subduing thereby even the very contentious. And above he saith, “Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead;” but here he solves an objection brought in by the Gentiles. And see how again he abates the vehemence of his censure; in that he said not, “but perhaps ye will say,” but he set down the objector indefinitely, in order that, although employing his impetuous style with all freedom, he might not too severely wound his hearers. And he states two difficulties, one touching the manner of the resurrection, the other, the kind of bodies. For of both they on their part made a question, saying, “How is that which hath been dissolved raised up?” and, “with what manner of body do they come?” But what means, “with what manner of body?” It is as if they had said, “with this which hath been wasted, which hath perished, or with some other?”
Then, to point out that the objects of their enquiry are not questionable but admitted points, he at once meets them more sharply, saying, “Thou foolish one, that which thou thyself sowest is not quickened, except it die.” Which we also are wont to do in the case of those who gainsay things acknowledged.
[2.] And wherefore did he not at once appeal to the power of God? Because he is discoursing with unbelievers. For when his discourse is addressed to believers, he hath not much need of reasons. Wherefore having said elsewhere, “He shall change the body of your humiliation, that it may be fashioned like to the body of his glory,” (Ph 3,2) and having indicated somewhat more than the resurrection, he stated no analogies, but instead of any demonstration, brought forward the power of God, going on to say, “according to the working whereby He is able to subject all things to Himself.” But here he also urges reasons. That is, having established it from the Scriptures, he adds also in what comes after, these things over and above, with an eye to them who do not obey the Scriptures; and he saith, “O foolish one, that which Thou sowest:” i.e., “from thyself thou hast the proof of these things, by what thou doest every day, and doubtest thou yet? Therefore do I call thee foolish because of the things daily done by thine own self thou art ignorant, and being thyself an artificer of a resurrection, thou doubtest concerning God.” Wherefore very emphatically he said, “what Thou sowest,” thou who art mortal and perishing).
And see how he uses expressions appropriate to the purpose he had in view: thus, “it is not quickened,” saith he, “except it die.” Leaving, you see, the terms appropriate to seed, as that “it buds,” and “grows,” and “is dissolved,” he adopts those which correspond to our flesh, viz. “it is quickened,” and, “except it die;” which do not properly belong to seeds, but to bodies.
And he said not, “after it is dead it lives,” but, which is a greater thing, “therefore it lives, because it dies.” Seest thou, what I am always observing, that he continually gives their argument the contrary turn? Thus what they made a sure sign of our not rising again, the same he makes a demonstration of our rising. For they said, “the body rises not again, because it is dead.” What then doth he, retorting their argument, say? “Nay, but unless it died, it could not rise again: and therefore it rises again, because it died.” For as Christ more clearly signifies this very thing, in the words, “Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth by itself alone: but if it die, it beareth much fruit:” (Jn 12,24) thence also Paul, drawing this example, said not, “it doth not live,” but, “is not quickened;” again assuming the power of God and showing that not the nature of the ground, but God Himself, brings it all to pass.
And what can be the reason that he did not bring that forward, which was more akin to the subject: I mean, the seed of mankind? (For our generation too begins from a sort of decay, even as that of the corn). Because it was not of equal force, but the latter was a more complete instance: for he wants a case of something that perished entirely, whereas this was but a part; wherefore he rather alleges the other. Besides, that proceeds from a living body and falls into a living womb; but here it is no flesh, but the earth into which the seed is cast, and into the same it is dissolved, like the body which is dead. Wherefore on this account too the example was more appropriate.
[3.] 1Co 15,37. “And he who soweth, soweth not that body that shall be.”
For the things before spoken meet the question, “how they are raised;” but this, the doubt, “with what manner of body they come.” But what is, “thou sowest not that body which shall be?” Not an entire ear of corn, nor new grain. For here his discourse no longer regards the resurrection, but the manner of the resurrection, what is the kind of body which shall rise again; as whether it be of the same kind, or better and more glorious. And he takes both from the same analogy, intimating that it will be much better.
But the heretics, considering none of these things, dart in upon us and say, “one body falls and another body rises again. How then is there a resurrection? For the resurrection is of that which was fallen. But where is that wonderful and surprising trophy over death, if one body fall and another rise again? For he will no longer appear to have given back that which he took captive. And how can the alleged analogy suit the things before mentioned?” Why, it is not one substance that is sown, and another that is raised, but the same substance improved. Else neither will Christ have resumed the same body when He became the first-fruits of them that rise again: but according to you He threw aside the former body, although it had not sinned, and took another. Whence then is that other? For this body was from the Virgin, but that, whence was it? Seest thou to what absurdity the argument hath come round? For wherefore shows He the very prints of the nails? Was it not to prove that it is that same body which was crucified, and the same again that rose from the dead? And what means also His type of Jonah? For surely it was not one Jonah that was swallowed up and another that was cast out upon dry land. And why did He also say, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up?” For that which was destroyed, the same clearly He raised again. Wherefore also the Evangelist added, that “He spake of the temple of His body.” (Jn 2,19 and Jn 2,21)
What is that then which he saith, “Thou sowest not the body that shall be?” i.e. not the ear of corn: for it is the same, and not the same; the same, because the substance is the same; but not the same, because this is more excellent, the substance remaining the same but its beauty becoming greater, and the same body rising up new. Since if this were not so, there were no need of a resurrection, I mean if it were not to rise again improved. For why did He at all pull down His house, except He were about to build it more glorious?
This now, you see, he said to them who think that it is utter corruption. Next, that none again might suspect from this place that another body is spoken of, he qualifies the dark saying, and himself interprets what he had spoken, not allowing the hearer to turn his thoughts from hence in any other direction. What need is there then of our reasonings? Hear himself speaking, and explaining the phrase, “Thou sowest not the body that shall be.” For he straightway adds, “but a bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other kind;” i.e., it is not the body that shall be; not so clothed, for instance; not having a stalk and beard, but “a bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other kind.”
1Co 15,38. “But God giveth it a body even as it pleased Him.”
“Yes,” saith one, “but in that case it is thework of nature.” Of what nature, tell me? For in that case likewise God surely doeth the whole; not nature, nor the earth, nor the rain. Wherefore also he making these things manifest, leaves out both earth and rain, atmosphere, sun, and hands of husbandmen, and subjoins, “God giveth it a body as it pleased Him.” Do not thou therefore curiously inquire, nor busy thyself with the how and in what manner, when thou hearest of the power and will of God.
“And to each seed a body of its own.” Where then is the alien matter which they speak of? For He giveth to each “his own.” So that when he saith, “Thou sowest not that which shall be,” he saith not this, that one substance is raised up instead of another, but that it is improved, that it is more glorious. For “to each of the seeds,” saith he, “a body of its own.”
[4.] From hence in what follows, he introducing also the difference of the resurrection which shall then be. For do not suppose, because grain is sown and all come up ears of corn, that therefore there is also in the resurrection an equality of honor. For in the first place, neither in seeds is there only one rank, but some are more valuable, and some inferior. Wherefore also he added, “to each seed a body of its own.”
However, he is not content with this, but seeks another difference greater and more manifest. For that thou mayest not, when hearing, as I said, that all rise again, suppose that all enjoy the same reward; he laid before even in the preceding verses the seeds of this thought, saying, “But each in his own order.” But he brings it out here also more clearly, saying,
1Co 15,39. “All flesh is not the same flesh.” For why speak I, saith he, in respect of seeds? In respect of bodies let us agitate this point, concerning which we are discoursing now. Wherefore also he addeth, and saith,
“But there is one flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of birds, and another of fishes.”
1Co 15,40.” There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.”
1Co 15,41. “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.”
And what means he by these expressions? Wherefore from the resurrection of the body did he throw himself into the discourse of the stars and the sun? He did not throw himself out, neither did he break off from his purpose; far from it: but he still keeps to it. For whereas he had established the doctrine concerning the resurrection, he intimates in what follows that great will be then the difference of glory, though there be but one resurrection. And for the present he divides the whole into two: into “bodies celestial,” and “bodies terrestrial.” For that the bodies are raised again, he signified by the corn: but that they are not all in the same glory, he signifies by this. For as the disbelief of the resurrection makes men supine, so again it makes them indolent to think that all are vouchsafed the same reward. Wherefore he corrects both. And the one in the preceeding verses he had completed; but this he begins now. And having made two ranks, of the righteous and of sinners, these same two he subdivides again into many parts, signifying that neither righteous nor sinners shall obtain the same; neither righteous men, all of them, alike with other righteous, nor sinners with other sinners.
Now he makes, you see, first, one separation between righteous and sinners, where he says, “bodies celestial, and bodies terrestrial:” by the “terrestrial” intimating the latter, and by the “celestial,” the former. Then farther he introduces a difference of sinners from sinners, saying, “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of fishes, another of birds, and another of beasts.” And yet all are bodies; but some are in more, and some in lesser vileness. And that in their manner of living too, and in their very constitution.
And having said this, he ascends again to the heaven, saying, “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon.” For as in the earthly bodies there is a difference, so also in the heavenly; and that difference no ordinary one, but reaching even to the uttermost: there being not only a difference between sun and moon, and stars, but also between stars and stars. For what though they be all in the heaven? yet some have a larger, others a less share of glory. What do we learn from hence? That although they be all in God’s kingdom, all shall not enjoy the same reward; and though all sinners be in hell, all shall not endure the same punishment. Wherefore he added,
1Co 15,42. “So also is the resurrection of the dead.”
“So,” How? with considerable difference. Then leaving this doctrine as sufficiently proved, he again comes to the proof itself of the resurrection and the manner of it, saying,
4102 [5.] “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.” And observe his consideration. As in the case of seeds, he used the term proper to bodies, saying, “it is not quickened, except it die:” so in the case of bodies, the expression belonging to seeds, saying, “it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.” He said not, “is produced,” that thou mightest not think it a work of the earth, but is “raised.” And by sowing here, he means not our generation in the womb, but the burial in the earth of our dead bodies, their dissolution, their ashes. Wherefore having said, “it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption,” he adds,
1Co 15,43. “It is sown in dishonor.” For what is more unsightly than a corpse in dissolution? “It is raised in glory.”
“It is sown in weakness.” For before thirty days the whole is gone, and the flesh cannot keep itself together nor hold out for one day. “It is raised in power.” For there shall nothing prevail against it for all the future.
Here is why he stood in need of those former analogies, lest many on hearing of these things, that they are “raised in incorruption and glory and power,” might suppose that there is no difference among those who rise again. For all indeed rise again, both in power and in incorruption; and in this glory of their incorruption yet are not all in the same state of honor and safety.
1Co 15,44. “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”
What sayest thou? Is not “this” body spiritual? It is indeed spiritual, but that will be much more so. For now oftentimes both the abundant grace of the Holy Ghost flies away on men’s committing great sins; and again, the Spirit continuing present, the life of the flesh depends on the soul: and the result in such a case is a void, without the Spirit. But in that day not so: rather he abides continually in the flesh of the righteous, and the victory shall be His, the natural soul also being present.
For either it was some such thing which he intimated by saying, “a spiritual body,” or that it shall be lighter and more subtle and such as even to be wafted upon air; or rather he meant both these. And if thou disbelieve the doctrine, behold the heavenly bodies which are so glorious and (for this time) so durable, and abide in undecaying tranquillity; and believe thou from hence, that God can also make these corruptible bodies incorruptible and much more excellent than those which are visible.
[6.] 1Co 15,45. “So also it is written, (Gn 2,7) the first man Adam became a living soul: the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.”
And yet the one indeed is written, but the other not written. How then said He, “it is written?” He modified the expression according to the issue of events: as he is wont continually to do: and indeed as it is the way of every prophet. For so Jerusalem, the prophet said, should be “called a city of righteousness;” (Is 1,26) yet it was not so called. What then? Did the prophet speak false? By no means. For he is speaking of the issue of events. And that Christ too should be called Immanuel; (Is 7,14) yet was he not so called. But the facts utter this voice; so also here, “the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.”
And these things he said that thou mayest learn that the signs and pledges both of the present life and of that which is to come have already come upon us; to wit, of the present life, Adam, and of the life to come, Christ. For since he sets down the better things as matters of hope, he signifies that their beginning hath already come to pass, and their root and their fountain been brought to light. But if the root and the fountain be evident to all, there is no need to doubt of the fruits. Wherefore he saith, “The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit.” And elsewhere too, He “shall quicken your mortal bodies through His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Rm 7,11) It is the Spirit’s work then to quicken.
Further, lest any should say, “why are the worse things the elder? and why hath the one sort, to wit, the natural, come to pass not merely as far as the first-fruits, but altogether; the other as far as the first-fruits only?”—he signifies that the principles also of each were so ordered.
1Co 15,46. “For that is not first,” saith he, “which is spiritual, but that which is natural, then that which is spiritual.”
And he saith not, why, but is content with the ordinance of God, having the evidence from the facts testifying to that most excellent oeconomy of God, and implying that our state is always going forward to the better; at the same time by this also adding credibility to his argument. For if the lesser have come to pass, much more ought we to expect the better.
[7.] Since then we are to enjoy so great blessings, let us take our station in this array, and bewail not the departed, but rather those that have ended their life ill. For so the husbandman, when he sees the grain dissolving, doth not mourn; rather, as long as he beholds it continuing solid in the ground he is in fear and trembling, but when he sees it dissolved rejoices. For the beginning of the future crop is its dissolving. So let us also then rejoice when the corruptible house falls, when the man is sown. And marvel not if he called the burial “a sowing;” for, in truth, this is the better sowing: inasmuch as that sowing is succeeded by deaths and labors and dangers and cares; but this, if we lived well, by crowns and rewards; and that, by corruption and death but this by incorruption and immortality, and those infinite blessings. To that kind of sowing there went embraces and pleasures and sleep: but to this, only a voice coming down from heaven, and all is at once brought to perfection. And he that rises again is no more led to a life full of toil, but to a place where anguish and sorrow and sighing are fled away.
If thou requirest protection and therefore mournest thy husband, betake thyself to God, the common Protector and Saviour and Benefactor of all, to that irresistible alliance, to that ready aid, to that abiding shelter which is every where present, and is as a wall unto us on every side.
“But your intercourse was a thing desirable and lovely.” I too know it. But if thou wilt trust sound reason with this grief, and wilt consider with thyself who hath taken him away, and that by nobly bearing it thou offerest thy mind as a sacrifice to our God, even this wave will not be too strong for thee to stem. And that which time brings to pass, the same do thou by thy self-command. But if thou shalt yield to weakness, thine emotion will cease indeed in time, but it will bring thee no reward.
And together with these reasons collect also examples, some in the present life, some in the Holy Scriptures. Consider that Abraham slew his own son, and neither shed a tear nor uttered a bitter word. “But he,” you say, “was Abraham.” Nay, thou surely hast been called to a nobler field of action. And Jb grieved indeed, but so much as was proper for a father who loved his children and was very solicitious for the departed; whereas what we now do, is surely the part of haters and enemies. For if when a man was taken up to court and crowned, thou wert smiting thyself and lamenting, I should not say that thou wast a friend of him who was crowned, but a great enemy and adversary. “Nay,” say you, “not even as it is do I mourn for him, but for myself.” Well, but this is not the part of an affectionate person, to wish for thine own sake that he were still in the conflict and subject to the uncertainty of the future, when he might be crowned and come to anchor; or that he should be tossed in mid ocean, when he might have been in port.
[8.] “But I know not whither he hath gone,” say you. Wherefore knowest thou not, tell me? For according as he lived well or otherwise, it is evident whither he will go. “Nay, on this very account I lament,” say you, “because he departed being a sinner.” This is a mere pretext and excuse. For if this were the reason of thy mourning for the departed, thou oughtest to have formed and corrected him, when he was alive. The fact is thou dost every where look to what concerns thyself, not him.
But grant that he departed with sin upon him, even on this account one ought to rejoice, that he was stopped short in his sins and added not to his iniquity; and help him as far as possible, not by tears, but by prayers and supplications and alms and offerings. For not unmeaningly have these things been devised, nor do we in vain make mention of the departed in the course of the divine mysteries, and approach God in their behalf, beseeching the Lamb Who is before us, Who taketh away the sin of the world;—not in vain, but that some refreshment may thereby ensue to them. Not in vain cloth he that standeth by the altar cry out when the tremendous mysteriesare celebrated, “For all that have fallen asleep in Christ, and for those who perform commemorations in their behalf.” For if there were no commemorations for them, these things would not have been spoken: since our service is not a mere stage show, God forbid! yea, it is by the ordinance of the Spirit that these things are done.
4103 Let us then give them aid and perform commemoration for them. For if the children of Job were purged by the sacrifice of their father, why dost thou doubt that when we too offer for the departed, some consolation arises to them? since God is wont to grant the petitions of those who ask for others. And this Paul signified saying, “that in a manifold Person your gift towards us bestowed by many may be acknowledged with thanksgiving on your behalf.” (2Co 1,11) Let us not then be weary in giving aid to the departed, both by offering on their behalf and obtaining prayers for them: for the common Expiation of the world is even before us. Therefore with boldness do we then intreat for the whole world, and name their names with those of martyrs, of confessors, of priests. For in truth one body are we all, though some members are more glorious than others; and it is possible from every source to gather pardon for them, from our prayers, from our gifts in their behalf, from those whose names are named with theirs. Why therefore dost thou grieve? Why mourn, when it is in thy power to gather so much pardon for the departed?
[9.] Is it then that thou art become desolate and hast lost a protector? Nay, never mention this. For thou hast not surely lost thy God. And so, as long as thou hast Him, He will be better to thee than husband and father and child and kinsman: since even when they were alive, He it was who did all things.
These things therefore think upon, and say with David, “The Lord is my light and my Saviour, whom shall I fear? (Ps 27,1) Say, Thou art a Father of the fatherless, and a Judge of the widows: “(Ps 68,5) and draw down His aid, and thou shalt have Him to care for thee now more than before, by how much thou art in a state of greater difficulty.
Or hast thou lost a child? Thou hast not lost it; say not so. This thing is sleep, not death; removal, not destruction; a journeying from the worse unto the better. Do not then provoke God to anger; but propitiate Him. For if thou bearest it nobly, there will thence accruesome relief both to the departed and to thyself; but if the contrary, thou dost the more kindleGod’s anger. For if when a servant was chastised by his master, thou didst stand by and complain, thou wouldest the more exasperate the master against thyself. Do not then so; but give thanks, that hereby also this cloud of sadness may be scattered from thee. Say with that blessed one, “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.” (Jb 1,21) Consider how many more well-pleasing in His sight have never received children at all, nor been called fathers. “Nor would I wish to have been so,” say you, “for surely it were better not to have had experience than after having tasted the pleasure to fall from it.” Nay, I beseech thee, say not so, provoke not thus also the Lord to wrath: but for what thou hast received, give Him thanks; and for what thou hast not to the end, give Him glory. Jb said not that which thou sayest un-thankfully, “it were better not to have received,” but both for the one he gave thanks, saying, “The Lord gave;” and for the other he blessed God, saying, “The Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord for ever.” And his wife he thus silenced, justifying himself against her, and uttering those admirable words, “Have we received good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?” And yet after this a fiercer temptation befel him: yet was he not even thus unnerved, but in like manner bore it nobly and glorified God.
This also do thou, and consider with thyself that man hath not taken him, but God who made him, who more than thyself cares for him and knows what is good for him: who is no enemy nor lier-in-wait. See how many, living, have made life intolerable to their parents. “But seest thou not the right-hearted ones?” say you. I see these too, but even these are not so safe as thy child is. For though they are now approved, yet it is uncertain what their end will be; but for him thou hast no longer any fear, nor dost thou tremble lest anything Should happen to him or he experience any change.
These things also do thou consider respecting a good wife and guardian of thine house, and for all things give thanks unto God. And even if thou shalt lose a wife, give thanks. Perhaps God’s will is to lead thee to continence, He calls thee to a nobler field of conflict, He was pleased to set thee free from this bond. If we thus command ourselves, we shall both gain the joy of this life and obtain the crowns which are to come, &c. &c).
Chrysostom on 1Cor 4000