Justin Martyr on the Resurrection of the Body

I’ve finished one section of my patristics reading, namely Justin Martyr.  Last week I posted a bit by him on worship in the early church.  This time, I’ll quote a bit of what he said concerning the resurrection of the body, which was a great read.  The piece (actually not the complete one) is called “Fragments of the Lost Work of Justin on the Resurrection” in ANF I.295.

To set the context, this was written in the early to mid 2nd Century AD.  Apparently, some then still said there was no resurrection of the body; others said that Christ never had a real body but “the appearance of flesh,” as Justin describes it.  He first contends with those heresies and then sets forth the biblical teaching on the resurrection of the body for believers.  He talks about the body’s relation to sin, saying that the body itself isn’t bad, as some philosophers suppose, but Christ loved his people in body and soul and came to save both.

“…He has even called the flesh to the resurrection, and promises to it everlasting life.  For where he promises to save man, there he gives the promise to the flesh.  For what is man but the reasonable animal composed of body and soul?  Is the soul by itself man?  No; but the soul of man.  Would the body be called man?  No, but it is called the body of man.  If then, neither of these is by itself man, but that which is made up of the two together is called man, and God has called man to life and resurrection, he has not called a part, but the whole, which is the soul and the body.  Since would it not be unquestionably absurd, if, while these two are in the same being and according to the same law, the one were saved and the other not?”

Here’s how he closes this treatise.

“But if our physician Christ, God, having rescued us from our desires, regulates our flesh with his own wise and temperate rule, it is evident that he guards it from sins because it possesses a hope of salvation, as physicians do not suffer men whom they have hope to save to indulge in what pleasures they please.”

This treatise is not too lengthy (7-10 pages or so); it would make for a great and edifying study when thinking upon 1 Corinthians 15 or those confessional references to Christ’s resurrection and ours.  It was my favorite work of Justin, right up there with his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew.  Next on my patristics list: Novatian (I’m skipping around a bit).

As a side note, I just noticed the relatively new five volume IVP set, Ancient Christian Doctrine, which is an edited patristic commentary on the Nicene Creed (actually, the church fathers included go up to the mid-8th century AD).  Bray and Oden are involved; the set looks promising.  Feel free to comment if you know more about it.

shane lems

sunnyside, wa

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