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#1 Evangelion

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Posted 01 January 2005 - 07:32 PM

Here follows an analysis of several citations from the 2nd Century AD which are frequently advanced in support of the widespread Christian belief in the immortality of the soul.

First, the citations themselves:
  • Clement of Rome

    Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him....Thus was he [Paul] removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience....Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure from this world; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them.
    First Clement 5:4-7; 44:5.

  • Papias

    As the presbyters say, then those who are deemed worthy of an abode in heaven shall go there, others shall enjoy the delights of Paradise, and others shall possess the splendour of the city; for everywhere the Saviour will be seen, according as they shall be worthy who see Him.

    But that there is this distinction between the habitation of those who produce an hundredfold, and that of those who produce sixty-fold, and that of those who produce thirty-fold; for the first will be taken up into the heavens, the second class will dwell in Paradise, and the last will inhabit the city; and that on this account the Lord said, "In my Father's house are many mansions", for all things belong to God, who supplies all with a suitable dwelling-place, even as His word says, that a share is given to all by the Father, according as each one is or shall be worthy.

    And this is the couch in which they shall recline who feast, being invited to the wedding.

    The presbyters, the disciples of the apostles, say that this is the gradation and arrangement of those who are saved, and that they advance through steps of this nature; and that, moreover, they ascend through the Spirit to the Son, and through the Son to the Father; and that in due time the Son will yield up His work to the Father, even as it is said by the apostle, "For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."

    For in the times of the kingdom the just man who is on the earth shall forget to die.

    But when He saith all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted which did put all things under Him. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
    Fragments of Papias

  • Polycarp

    I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as ye have seen set before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. This do in the assurance that all these have not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and that they are now in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered. For they loved not this present world, but Him who died for us, and for our sakes was raised again by God from the dead.
    The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians 9:1-2.
Next, the commentary.
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#2 Evangelion

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Posted 01 January 2005 - 07:40 PM

Clement of Rome

Of Clement, we have two works cited from his first epistle. Let's begin with chapter 5 verses 4-7 in context, with the "proof text" highlighted for clarity:5:4 Peter, through unjust envy, endured not one or two but many labours, and at last, having delivered his testimony, departed unto the place of glory due to him.5:5 Through envy Paul, too, showed by example the prize that is given to patience:5:6 seven times was he cast into chains; he was banished; he was stoned; having become a herald, both in the East and in the West, he obtained the noble renown due to his faith;5:7 and having preached righteousness to the whole world, and having come to the extremity of the West, and having borne witness before rulers, he departed at length out of the world, and went to the holy place, having become the greatest example of patience.I see no reference to heaven (or any form of afterlife) in these passages. I see only a reference to the reward of superlative rank that was promised to him (“…the place of glory due to him… the holy place”) with the word “place” here signifying not a literal abode but a position of authority The truth of this interpretation is confirmed by Clement’s use of the phrase “due to him”, which makes no sense in the context of a place to which one departs (how can a literal place be “due” to someone?) but perfect sense in the context of a glorious promotion to the heavenly host.It is also vindicated by the New Testament, which is replete with similar language; not least from the writings of Peter himself:
  • Matthew 19:28And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • I Corinthians 9:25 And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
  • II Timothy 4:8henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing.
  • James 1:12Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love him.
  • I Peter 5:4And when the chief Shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.
Next, chapter 44:5 in context:44:4 For it will be no small sin in us if we depose from the office of bishop those who blamelessly and piously have made the offerings.44:5 Happy are the presbyters who finished their course before, and died in mature age after they had borne fruit; for they do not fear lest any one should remove them from the place appointed for them.44:6 For we see that ye have removed some men of honest conversation from the ministry, which had been blamelessly and honourably performed by them.As in the passage which spoke of Peter’s reward, "the place appointed for them" here is clearly a reward of rank, as opposed to an actual location (such as heaven.) This is confirmed by the context, which makes repeated references to the presbyters' "office", "place" and "ministry." The meaning of the passage is that those who have been promised eternal life on the basis of faithful service, need not fear that they will be removed from their position in Christ's kingdom. This sure promise is contrasted against their present situation, in which they are vulnerable to unjustified demotion by unscrupulous members of the church. There is no mention of heaven; no mention of immortal souls; no mention of a disembodied afterlife.
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#3 Evangelion

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Posted 01 January 2005 - 08:04 PM

Papias



Of Papias, we have only a handful of attributed fragments which have come down to us via Eusebius.

The case for immortal souls is argued from one of them:As the presbyters say, then those who are deemed worthy of an abode in heaven shall go there, others shall enjoy the delights of Paradise, and others shall possess the splendour of the city; for everywhere the Saviour will be seen, according as they shall be worthy who see Him.

But that there is this distinction between the habitation of those who produce an hundredfold, and that of those who produce sixty-fold, and that of those who produce thirty-fold; for the first will be taken up into the heavens, the second class will dwell in Paradise, and the last will inhabit the city; and that on this account the Lord said, "In my Father's house are many mansions:" for all things belong to God, who supplies all with a suitable dwelling-place, even as His word says, that a share is given to all by the Father, according as each one is or shall be worthy.

And this is the couch in which they shall recline who feast, being invited to the wedding.

The presbyters, the disciples of the apostles, say that this is the gradation and arrangement of those who are saved, and that they advance through steps of this nature; and that, moreover, they ascend through the Spirit to the Son, and through the Son to the Father; and that in due time the Son will yield up His work to the Father, even as it is said by the apostle, "For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."

For in the times of the kingdom the just man who is on the earth shall forget to die.

But when He saith all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted which did put all things under Him. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
For the sake of objectivity, I must remind the readers that this is actually an excerpt from Eusebius, who merely attributes these words to Papias. The citation itself may be genuine; it may be interpolated; it may be a complete fraud. But it doesn’t present me with any difficulties, so I’ll accept it at face value for the sake of this discussion.

Let’s examine this tiered reward structure for ourselves and see if it really is talking about different degrees of reward in Heaven, or some form of supernatural afterlife.

Papias lists three separate abodes for the righteous:
  • The heavens.

  • Paradise.

  • “The city” (which can only be Jerusalem.)
The first thing we notice is that none of these places are actually said to be in heaven! Indeed, Paradise itself was understood by various Church fathers to be a literal place on earth.

Thus, Hippolytus:Now these things we are under the necessity of setting forth at length, in order to disprove the supposition of others. For some choose to maintain that paradise is in heaven, and forms no part of the system of creation.

But since we see with our eyes the rivers that go forth from it which are open, indeed, even in our day, to the inspection of any who choose, let every one conclude from this that it did not belong to heaven, but was in reality planted in the created system. And, in truth, it is a locality in the east, and a place select.
On the Hexameron.
The second thing we notice is that none of them are said to be the abode of disembodied immortal souls!

The third thing we notice is that this entire scenario is perfectly compatible with a belief in the resurrection of the dead and a millennial reign on Earth!

This last point is demonstrated by the words of Eusebius himself: We must now point out how Papias, who lived at the same time, relates that he had received a wonderful narrative from the daughters of Philip. For he relates that a dead man was raised to life in his day. He also mentions another miracle relating to Justus, surnamed Barsabas, how he swallowed a deadly poison, and received no harm, on account of the grace of the Lord.

The same person, moreover, has set down other things as coming to him from unwritten tradition, amongst these some strange parables and instructions of the Saviour, and some other things of a more fabulous nature.

Amongst these he says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth.
History of the Church 3:39.
No mention of a disembodied existence in heaven; no mention of an "immortal soul.” This is genuine “old time religion”, straight from the Bible.

There’s another quote from Eusebius which deserves a mention in this context. It exposes his prejudice against Papias’ beliefs, demonstrating that Eusebius actually rejected Papias’ millennial theology as the work of a foolish and unlearned man!

Thus:…he says there would be a certain millennium after the resurrection, and that there would be a corporeal reign of Christ on this very earth; which things he appears to have imagined, as if they were authorized by the apostolic narrations, not understanding correctly those matters which they propounded mystically in their representations.

For he was very limited in his comprehension, as is evident from his discourses; yet he was the cause why most of the ecclesiastical writers, urging the antiquity of the man, were carried away by a similar opinion; as, for instance, Irenaeus, or any other that adopted such sentiments.
History of the Church 3:39.
Yet for all his scoffing, Eusebius still proves my point: Papias did not believe the "afterlife" of an immortal soul "in the heavens" (or anywhere else) but in the bodily resurrection of the faithful, who would receive their reward in the literal, corporeal kingdom of Christ on Earth.

Note well his comment that Papias' belief was subsequently inherited by Irenaeus, who likewise rejected immortal soulism in favour of (a) bodily resurrection, (b) conditional immortality and © a literal millenial reign on Earth.

As Stuart G. Hall writes in his celebrated Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church (1994):But the cutting edge of Irenaeus' thought was precisely to defeat the view that mankind is saved spiritually by escape from the body. To him that was false. For the same reason, he was deeply committed to the view that at the second coming of Christ the dead would rise physically from their graves, and the righteous would reign on earth in a rich kingdom centering on a restored Jerusalem.

When God is all in all, some of the elect live in heaven, others on earth enjoying the lush fruits, others in the new Jerusalem; but it will be a new world, where death is no more. That hope flowed directly from Irenaeus' vision of God the Creator of this world, who would be vindicated in it - and his reading of the prophets and the Revelation to John.
You will doubtless recognise those elements of Irenaeus' theology which were inherited from Papias. References to the blissful existence of disembodied immortal souls in heaven are, of course, predictably notable by absence.

Observe also that this three-tiered system is one which exists at the end of the millennial reign – not before it, during it or as a replacement for it. This actually brings us into the realms of theological speculation to some extent (since we are given scant details about events subsequent to the Millennium), but there is still nothing here which contradicts Christadelphian teaching.
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#4 Evangelion

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Posted 01 January 2005 - 08:10 PM

Polycarp

In defence of the immortality of the soul, there is only one passage from Polycarp which might be pressed into service:I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as ye have seen set before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. This do in the assurance that all these have not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and that they are now in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered. For they loved not this present world, but Him who died for us, and for our sakes was raised again by God from the dead.The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, 9:1-2.This is a blatantly biased translation (probably Lightfoot’s) and immortal soulists will employ it for that very reason. I prefer the more objective work of Kirsopp Lake (a patristic scholar from the late 19th Century), from which I now quote:Now I beseech you all to obey the word of righteousness, and to endure with all the endurance which you also saw before your eyes, not only in the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and in the other Apostles;being persuaded that all of these "ran not in vain," but in faith and righteousness, and that they are with the Lord in the "place which is their due," with whom they also suffered. For they did not "love this present world" but him who died on our behalf, and was raised by God for our sakes.The phrase “with the Lord” is clearly symbolic; it signifies death, immediately after which the believer’s next conscious experience will be a meeting with the Lord Jesus at the Judgement Seat. Thus it is appropriate to say that they are “with the Lord”, for so it will appear to them.Kirsopp clearly understands the "place which is their due" as a reference to their status in the kingdom age (following the consistent Biblical language that we saw in this post) and for this reason encloses it in inverted commas, lest it be misconstrued.
In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas
Imago
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