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ANF04. Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second
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Chapter IV.—On Human Temptations.

1.  And now the subject of human temptations must not, in my opinion, be passed over in silence, which take their rise sometimes from flesh and blood, or from the wisdom of flesh and blood, which is said to be hostile to God.  And whether the statement be true which certain allege, viz., that each individual has as it were two souls, we shall determine after we have explained the nature of those temptations, which are said to be more powerful than any of human origin, i.e., which we sustain from principalities and powers, and from the rulers of the darkness of this world, and from spiritual wickedness in high places, or to which we are subjected from wicked spirits and unclean demons.  Now, in the investigation of this subject, we must, I think, inquire according to a logical method whether there be in us human beings, who are composed of soul and body and vital spirit, some other element, possessing an incitement of its own, and evoking a movement towards evil.  For a question of this kind is wont to be discussed by some in this way:  whether, viz., as two souls are said to co-exist within us, the one is more divine and heavenly and the other inferior; or whether, from the very fact that we inhere in bodily structures which according to their own proper nature are dead, and altogether devoid of life (seeing it is from us, i.e., from our souls, that the material body derives its life, it being contrary and hostile to the spirit), we are drawn on and enticed to the practice of those evils which are agreeable to the body; or whether, thirdly (which was the opinion of some of the Greek philosophers), although our soul is one in substance, it nevertheless consists of several elements, and one portion of it is called rational and another irrational, and that which is termed the irrational part is again separated into two affections—those of covetousness and passion.  These three opinions, then, regarding the soul, which we have stated above, we have found to be entertained by some, but that one of them, which we have mentioned as being adopted by certain Grecian philosophers, viz., that the soul is tripartite, I do not observe to be greatly confirmed by the authority of holy Scripture; while with respect to the remaining two there is found a considerable number of passages in the holy Scriptures which seem capable of application to them.

2.  Now, of these opinions, let us first discuss that which is maintained by some, that there is in us a good and heavenly soul, and another earthly and inferior; and that the better soul is implanted within us from heaven, such as was that which, while Jacob was still in the womb, gave him the prize of victory in supplanting his brother Esau, and which in the case of Jeremiah was sanctified from his birth, and in that of John was filled by the Holy Spirit from the womb.  Now, that which they term the inferior soul is produced, they allege, along with the body itself out of the seed of the body, whence they say it cannot live or subsist beyond the body, on which account also they say it is frequently termed flesh.  For the expression, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit,”26202620    Gal. v. 17. they take to be applicable not to the flesh, but to this soul, which is properly the soul of the flesh.  From these words, moreover, they endeavour notwithstanding to make good the declaration in Leviticus:  “The life of all flesh is the blood thereof.”26212621    Lev. xvii. 14.  For, from the circumstance that it is the diffusion of the blood throughout the whole flesh which produces life in the flesh, they assert that this soul, which is said to be the life of all flesh, is contained in the blood.  This statement, moreover, that the flesh struggles against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and the further statement, that “the life of all flesh is the blood thereof,” is, according to these writers, simply calling the wisdom of the flesh by another name, because it is a kind of material spirit, which is not subject to the law of God, nor can be so, because it has earthly wishes and bodily desires.  And it is with respect to this that they think the apostle uttered the words:  “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”26222622    Rom. vii. 23.  And if one were to object to them that these words were spoken of the nature of the body, which indeed, agreeably to the peculiarity of its nature, is dead, but is said to have sensibility, or wisdom26232623    Sensum vel sapientiam. which is hostile to God, or which struggles against the spirit; or if one were to say that, in a certain degree, the flesh itself was possessed of a voice, which should cry out against the endurance of hunger, or thirst, or cold, or of any discomfort arising either from abundance or poverty,—they would endeavour to weaken and impair the force of such (arguments), by showing that there were many other mental perturbations26242624    Passiones animæ. which derive their origin in no respect from the flesh, and yet against which the spirit struggles, such as ambition, avarice, emulation, envy, pride, and others like these; and seeing that with these the human mind or spirit wages a kind of contest, they lay down as the cause of all these evils, nothing else than this corporal soul, as it were, of which we have spoken above, and which is generated from the seed by a process of traducianism.  They are accustomed also to adduce, in support of their assertion, the declaration of the apostle, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, poisonings,26252625    Veneficia.  Φαρμακεία.  “Witchcraft” (Auth. Version). hatred, contentions, emulations, wrath, quarrelling, dissensions, heresies, sects, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and the like;”26262626    Gal. v. 19–21. asserting that all these do not derive their origin from the habits or pleasures of the flesh, so that all such movements are to be regarded as inherent in that substance which has not a soul, i.e., the flesh.  The declaration, moreover, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men among you according to the flesh are called,”26272627    1 Cor. i. 26. would seem to require to be understood as if there were one kind of wisdom, carnal and material, and another according to the spirit, the former of which cannot indeed be called wisdom, unless there be a soul of the flesh, which is wise in respect of what is called carnal wisdom.  And in addition to these passages they adduce the following:  “Since the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, so that we cannot do the things that we would.”26282628    Gal. v. 17.  What are these things now respecting which he says, “that we cannot do the things that we would?”  It is certain, they reply, that the spirit cannot be intended; for the will of the spirit suffers no hindrance.  But neither can the flesh be meant, because if it has not a soul of its own, neither can it assuredly possess a will.  It remains, then, that the will of this soul be intended which is capable of having a will of its own, and which certainly is opposed to the will of the spirit.  And if this be the case, it is established that the will of the soul is something intermediate between the flesh and the spirit, undoubtedly obeying and serving that one of the two which it has elected to obey.  And if it yield itself up to the pleasures of the flesh, it renders men carnal; but when it unites itself with the spirit, it produces men of the Spirit, and who on that account are termed spiritual.  And this seems to be the meaning of the apostle in the words, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.”26292629    Rom. viii. 9.

We have accordingly to ascertain what is this very will (intermediate) between flesh and spirit, besides that will which is said to belong to the flesh or the spirit.  For it is held as certain, that everything which is said to be a work of the spirit is (a product of) the will of the spirit, and everything that is called a work of the flesh (proceeds from) the will of the flesh.  What else then, besides these, is that will of the soul which receives a separate name,26302630    The text here is very obscure, and has given some trouble to commentators.  The words are:  “Quæ ergo ista est præter hæc voluntas animæ quæ extrinsecus nominatur,” etc.  Redepenning understands “extrinsecus” as meaning “seorsim,” “insuper,” and refers to a note of Origen upon the Epistle to the Romans (tom. i. p. 466):  “Et idcirco extrinsecus eam (animam, corporis et spiritus mentione factâ, Rom. i. 3, 4) apostolus non nominat, sed carnem tantum vel spiritum,” etc.  Schnitzer supposes that in the Greek the words were, Τῆς ἔξω καλουμένης, where ἔξω is to be taken in the sense of κάτω, so that the expression would mean “anima inferior.” and which will, the apostle being opposed to our executing, says:  “Ye cannot do the things that ye would?”  By this it would seem to be intended, that it ought to adhere to neither of these two, i.e., to neither flesh nor spirit.  But some one will say, that as it is better for the soul to execute its own will than that of the flesh; so, on the other hand, it is better to do the will of the spirit than its own will.  How, then, does the apostle say, “that ye cannot do the things that ye would?”  Because in that contest which is waged between flesh and spirit, the spirit is by no means certain of victory, it being manifest that in very many individuals the flesh has the mastery.

3.  But since the subject of discussion on which we have entered is one of great profundity, which it is necessary to consider in all its bearings,26312631    In quâ necesse est ex singulis quibusque partibus quæ possunt moveri discutere. let us see whether some such point as this may not be determined:  that as it is better for the soul to follow the spirit when the latter has overcome the flesh, so also, if it seem to be a worse course for the former to follow the flesh in its struggles against the spirit, when the latter would recall the soul to its influence, it may nevertheless appear a more advantageous procedure for the soul to be under the mastery of the flesh than to remain under the power of its own will.  For, since it is said to be neither hot nor cold, but to continue in a sort of tepid condition, it will find conversion a slow and somewhat difficult undertaking.  If indeed it clung to the flesh, then, satiated at length, and filled with those very evils which it suffers from the vices of the flesh, and wearied as it were by the heavy burdens of luxury and lust, it may sometimes be converted with greater ease and rapidity from the filthiness of matter to a desire for heavenly things, and (to a taste for) spiritual graces.  And the apostle must be supposed to have said, that “the Spirit contends against the flesh, and the flesh against the Spirit, so that we cannot do the things that we would” (those things, undoubtedly, which are designated as being beyond the will of the spirit, and the will of the flesh), meaning (as if we were to express it in other words) that it is better for a man to be either in a state of virtue or in one of wickedness, than in neither of these; but that the soul, before its conversion to the spirit, and its union with it,26322632    Priusquam—unum efficiatur cum eo. appears during its adherence to the body, and its meditation of carnal things, to be neither in a good condition nor in a manifestly bad one, but resembles, so to speak, an animal.  It is better, however, for it, if possible, to be rendered spiritual through adherence to the spirit; but if that cannot be done, it is more expedient for it to follow even the wickedness of the flesh, than, placed under the influence of its own will, to retain the position of an irrational animal.

These points we have now discussed, in our desire to consider each individual opinion, at greater length than we intended, that those views might not be supposed to have escaped our notice which are generally brought forward by those who inquire whether there is within us any other soul than this heavenly and rational one, which is naturally opposed to the latter, and is called either the flesh, or the wisdom of the flesh, or the soul of the flesh.

4.  Let us now see what answer is usually returned to these statements by those who maintain that there is in us one movement, and one life, proceeding from one and the same soul, both the salvation and the destruction of which are ascribed to itself as a result of its own actions.  And, in the first place, let us notice of what nature those commotions26332633    Passiones. of the soul are which we suffer, when we feel ourselves inwardly drawn in different directions; when there arises a kind of contest of thoughts in our hearts, and certain probabilities are suggested us, agreeably to which we lean now to this side, now to that, and by which we are sometimes convicted of error, and sometimes approve of our acts.26342634    Quibus nunc quidem arguimur, nunc vero nosmet ipsos amplectimur.  It is nothing remarkable, however, to say of wicked spirits, that they have a varying and conflicting judgment, and one out of harmony with itself, since such is found to be the case in all men, whenever, in deliberating upon an uncertain event, council is taken, and men consider and consult what is to be chosen as the better and more useful course.  It is not therefore surprising that, if two probabilities meet, and suggest opposite views, they should drag the mind in contrary directions.  For example, if a man be led by reflection to believe and to fear God, it cannot then be said that the flesh contends against the Spirit; but, amidst the uncertainty of what may be true and advantageous, the mind is drawn in opposite directions.  So, also, when it is supposed that the flesh provokes to the indulgence of lust, but better counsels oppose allurements of that kind, we are not to suppose that it is one life which is resisting another, but that it is the tendency of the nature of the body, which is eager to empty out and cleanse the places filled with seminal moisture; as, in like manner, it is not to be supposed that it is any opposing power, or the life of another soul, which excites within us the appetite of thirst, and impels us to drink, or which causes us to feel hunger, and drives us to satisfy it.  But as it is by the natural movements of the body that food and drink are either desired or rejected,26352635    Evacuantur. so also the natural seed, collected together in course of time in the various vessels, has an eager desire to be expelled and thrown away, and is so far from never being removed, save by the impulse of some exciting cause, that it is even sometimes spontaneously emitted.  When, therefore, it is said that “the flesh struggles against the Spirit,” these persons understand the expression to mean that habit or necessity, or the delights of the flesh, arouse a man, and withdraw him from divine and spiritual things.  For, owing to the necessity of the body being drawn away, we are not allowed to have leisure for divine things, which are to be eternally advantageous.  So again, the soul, devoting itself to divine and spiritual pursuits, and being united to the spirit, is said to fight against the flesh, by not permitting it to be relaxed by indulgence, and to become unsteady through the influence of those pleasures for which it feels a natural delight.  In this way, also, they claim to understand the words, “The wisdom of the flesh is hostile to God,”26362636    Cf. Rom. viii. 2. not that the flesh really has a soul, or a wisdom of its own.  But as we are accustomed to say, by an abuse26372637    Abusive = improperly used. of language, that the earth is thirsty, and wishes to drink in water, this use of the word “wishes” is not proper, but catachrestic,—as if we were to say again, that this house wants to be rebuilt,26382638    Recomponi vult. and many other similar expressions; so also is the wisdom of the flesh to be understood, or the expression, that “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit.”  They generally connect with these the expression, “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground.”26392639    Gen. iv. 10.  For what cries unto the Lord is not properly the blood which was shed; but the blood is said improperly to cry out, vengeance being demanded upon him who had shed it.  The declaration also of the apostle, “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind,”26402640    Rom. vii. 23. they so understand as if he had said, That he who wishes to devote himself to the word of God is, on account of his bodily necessities and habits, which like a sort of law are ingrained in the body, distracted, and divided, and impeded, lest, by devoting himself vigorously to the study of wisdom, he should be enabled to behold the divine mysteries.

5.  With respect, however, to the following being ranked among the works of the flesh, viz., heresies, and envyings, and contentions, or other (vices), they so understand the passage, that the mind, being rendered grosser in feeling, from its yielding itself to the passions of the body, and being oppressed by the mass of its vices, and having no refined or spiritual feelings, is said to be made flesh, and derives its name from that in which it exhibits more vigour and force of will.26412641    Plus studii vel propositi.  They also make this further inquiry, “Who will be found, or who will be said to be, the creator of this evil sense, called the sense of the flesh?”  Because they defend the opinion that there is no other creator of soul and flesh than God.  And if we were to assert that the good God created anything in His own creation that was hostile to Himself, it would appear to be a manifest absurdity.  If, then, it is written, that “carnal wisdom is enmity against God,”26422642    Rom. viii. 7. and if this be declared to be a result of creation, God Himself will appear to have formed a nature hostile to Himself, which cannot be subject to Him nor to His law, as if it were (supposed to be) an animal of which such qualities are predicated.  And if this view be admitted, in what respect will it appear to differ from that of those who maintain that souls of different natures are created, which, according to their natures,26432643    Naturaliter. are destined either to be lost or saved?  But this is an opinion of the heretics alone, who, not being able to maintain the justice of God on grounds of piety, compose impious inventions of this kind.  And now we have brought forward to the best of our ability, in the person of each of the parties, what might be advanced by way of argument regarding the several views, and let the reader choose out of them for himself that which he thinks ought to be preferred.


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