On the Resurrection of the Dead

Chapter 14

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Athenagoras (fl. 177)

On the Resurrection of the Dead

Translated by B. P. Pratten

Chapter 14

The proof of the several doctrines of which the truth consists, or of any matter whatsoever proposed for examination, if it is to produce an unwavering confidence in what is said, must begin, not from anything without, nor from what certain persons think or have thought, but from the common and natural notion of the matter, or from the connection of secondary truths with primary ones. For the question relates either to primary beliefs, and then all that is necessary is reminiscence, so as to stir up the natural notion; or to things which naturally follow from the first and to their natural sequence. And in these things we must observe order, showing what strictly follows from the first truths, or from those which are placed first, so as neither to be unmindful of the truth, or of our certainty respecting it, nor to confound the things arranged by nature and distinguished from each other, or break up the natural order. Hence I think it behoves those who desire to handle the subject with fairness, and who wish to form an intelligent judgment whether there is a resurrection or not, first to consider attentively the force of the arguments contributing to the proof of this, and what place each of them holds—which is first, which second, which third, and which last. And in the arrangement of these they should place first the cause of the creation of men,—namely, the purpose of the Creator in making man; and then connect with this, as is suitable, the nature of the men so created; not as being second in order, but because we are unable to pass our judgment on both at the same time, although they have the closest natural connection with each other, and are of equal force in reference to the subject before us. But while from these proofs as the primary ones, and as being derived from the work of creation, the resurrection is clearly demonstrated, none the less can we gain conviction respecting it from the arguments taken from providence,—I mean from the reward or punishment due to each man in accordance with just judgment, and from the end of human existence. For many, in discussing the subject of the resurrection, have rested the whole cause on the third argument alone, deeming that the cause of the resurrection is the judgment. But the fallacy of this is very clearly shown, from the fact that, although all human beings who die rise again, yet not all who rise again are to be judged: for if only a just judgment were the cause of the resurrection, it would of course follow that those who had done neither evil nor good—namely, very young children—would not rise again; but seeing that all are to rise again, those who have died in infancy as well as others, they too justify our conclusion that the resurrection takes place not for the sake of the judgment as the primary reason, but in consequence of the purpose of God in forming men, and the nature of the beings so formed.

Chapter 13

Chapter 15