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ANF07. Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily
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Chap. XIII.—Why Man is of Two Sexes; What is His First Death, and What the Second and of the Fault and Punishment of Our First Parents.

When, therefore, He had first formed the male after His own likeness, then He also fashioned woman after the image of the man himself, that the two by their union might be able to perpetuate their race, and to fill the whole earth with a multitude. But in the making of man himself He concluded and completed the nature of those two materials which we have spoken of as contrary to each other, fire and water. For having made the body, He breathed into it a soul from the vital source of His own Spirit, which is everlasting, that it might bear the similitude of the world itself, which is composed of opposing elements. For he288288     i.e., man.   consists of soul and body, that is, as it were, of heaven and earth: since the soul by which we live, has its origin, as it were, out of heaven from God, the body out of the earth, of the dust of which we have said that it was formed. Empedocles—whom you cannot tell whether to reckon among poets or philosophers, for he wrote in verse respecting the nature of things, as did Lucretius and Varro among the Romans—determined that there were four elements, that is, fire, air, water, and earth; perhaps following Trismegistus, who said that our bodies were composed of these four elements by God, for he said that they contained in themselves something of fire, something of air, something of water, and something of earth, and yet that they were neither fire, nor air, nor water, nor earth. And these things indeed are not false; for the nature of earth is contained in the flesh, that of moisture in the blood, that of air in the breath, that of fire in the vital heat. But neither can the blood be separated from the body, as moisture is from the earth; nor the vital heat from the breath, as fire from the air: so that of all things only two elements are found, the whole nature of which is included in the formation of our body. Man, therefore, was made from different and opposite substances, as the world itself was made from light and darkness, from life and death; and he has admonished us that these two things contend against each other in man: so that if the soul, which has its origin from God, gains the mastery, it is immortal, and lives in perpetual light; if, on the other hand, the body shall overpower the soul, and subject it to its dominion, it is in everlasting darkness and death.289289     It was necessary to remove ambiguity from the heathen, to whom the word death conveys no such meaning. In the sacred writings the departure of the soul from the body is often spoken of as sleep, or rest. Thus Lazarus is said to sleep. 1 Thess. iv. 14, “Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him,”—an expression of great beauty and propriety as applied to Christians. On the other hand, the prophets speak of “the shadow of death.”   And the force of this is not that it altogether annihilates290290     Extinguishes. Compare the words of Christ Himself, John v. 29; Acts xxiv. 15.   the souls of the unrighteous, but subjects them to everlasting punishment.291291     [Must not be overlooked. See vol. iv. p. 495, and elucidation (after book. iv.) on p. 542.]    

We term that punishment the second death, which is itself also perpetual, as also is immortality. We thus define the first death: Death is the dissolution of the nature of living beings; or thus: Death is the separation of body and soul. But we thus define the second death: Death is the suffering of eternal pain; or thus: Death is the condemnation of souls for their deserts to eternal punishments. This does not extend to the dumb cattle, whose spirits, not being composed of God,292292     [Eccles. iii. 18–21. Answered, Eccles. xii. 7.]   but of the common air, are dissolved by death. Therefore in this union of heaven and earth, the image of which is developed293293     Portrayed or expressed.   in man, those things which belong to God occupy the higher part, namely the soul, which has dominion over the body; but those which belong to the devil occupy the lower294294     It is not to be supposed that Lactantius, following the error of Marcion, believed that the body of man had been formed by the devil, for he has already described its creation by God. He rather speaks of the devil as exercising a power permitted to him over the earth and the bodies of men. Compare 2 Cor. iv. 4.   part, manifestly the body: for this, being earthly, ought to be subject to the soul, as the earth is to heaven. For it is, as it were, a vessel which this heavenly spirit may employ as a temporary dwelling. The duties of both are—for the latter, which is from heaven and from God, to command; but for the former, which is from the earth and the devil, to obey. And this, indeed, did not escape the notice of a dissolute man, Sallust,295295     Preface to Catiline   who says: “But all our power consists in the soul and body; we use the soul to command, the body rather to obey.” It had been well if he had lived in accordance with his words; for he was a slave to the most degrading pleasures, and he destroyed the efficacy of his sentiment by the depravity of his life. But if the soul is fire, as we have shown, it ought to mount up to heaven as fire, that it may not be extinguished; that is, it ought to rise to the immortality which is in heaven. And as fire cannot burn and be kept alive unless it be nourished296296     The word teneo is used in this sense by Cicero (De Nat. Deor., 11. 54): “Tribus rebus animantium vita tenetur, cibo, potione, spiritu.”   by some rich fuel297297     Material.   in which it may have sustenance, so the fuel and food of the soul is righteousness alone, by which it is nourished unto life. After these things, God, having made man in the manner in which I have pointed out, placed him in paradise,298298     Gen. ii.   that is, in a most fruitful and pleasant garden, which He planted in the regions of the East with every kind of wood and tree, that he might be nourished by their various fruits; and being free from all labours,299299     We are not to understand this as asserting that the man lived in idleness, and without any employment in paradise; for this would be inconsistent with the Scripture narrative, which tells us that Adam was placed there to keep the garden and dress it. It is intended to exclude painful and anxious labour, which is the punishment of sin. See Gen. iii. 17.   might devote himself entirely to the service of God his Father.  

Then He gave to him fixed commands, by the observance of which he might continue immortal; or if he transgressed them, be punished with death. It was enjoined that he should not taste of one tree only which was in the midst of the garden,300300     Paradise.   in which He had placed the knowledge of good and evil. Then the accuser, envying the works of God, applied all his deceits and artifices to beguile301301     Another reading is, ad dejiciendum hominem, “to overthrow the man.”   the man, that he might deprive him of immortality. And first he enticed the woman by fraud to take the forbidden fruit, and through her instrumentality he also persuaded the man himself to transgress the law of God. Therefore, having obtained the knowledge of good and evil, he began to be ashamed of his nakedness, and hid himself from the face of God, which he was not before accustomed to do. Then God drove out the man from the garden, having passed sentence upon the sinner, that he might seek support for himself by labour. And He surrounded302302     Circumvallavit, “placed a barrier round.” See Gen. iii. 24: “He placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword, which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.”   the garden itself with fire, to prevent the approach of the man until He execute the last judgment on earth; and having removed death, recall righteous men, His worshippers, to the same place; as the sacred writers teach, and the Erythræan Sibyl, when she says: “But they who honour the true God inherit everlasting life, themselves inhabiting together paradise, the beautiful garden, for ever.” But since these are the last things,303303     [Not novissima, but extrema here. He refers to book vii. cap. 11, etc.]   we will treat of them in the last part of this work. Now let us explain those which are first. Death therefore followed man, according to the sentence of God, which even the Sibyl teaches in her verse, saying: “Man made by the very hands of God, whom the serpent treacherously beguiled that he might come to the fate of death, and receive the knowledge of good and evil.” Thus the life of man became limited in duration;304304     Temporary. The word is opposed to everlasting.   but still, however, long, inasmuch as it was extended to a thousand305305     No one actually lived a thousand years. They who approached nearest to it were Methuselah, who lived 969 years, Jared 962, and Noah 950.   years. And when Varro was not ignorant of this, handed down as it is in the sacred writings, and spread abroad by the knowledge of all, he endeavoured to give reasons why the ancients were supposed to have lived a thousand years. For he says that among the Egyptians months are accounted306306     It appears that the practise of the Egyptians varied as to the computation of the year.   as years: so that the circuit of the sun through the twelve signs of the zodiac does not make a year, but the moon, which traverses that sign-bearing circle in the space of thirty days; which argument is manifestly false. For no one then exceeded the thousandth year. But now they who attain to the hundredth year, which frequently happens, undoubtedly live a thousand and two hundred months. And competent307307     Philo and Josephus.   authorities report that men are accustomed to reach one hundred and twenty years.308308     [“Old Parr,” born in Shropshire, a.d. 1483, died in 1635: i.e., born before the discovery of America, he lived to the beginning of Hampden’s career in England.]   But because Varro did not know why or when the life of man was shortened, he himself shortened it, since he knew that it was possible for man to live a thousand and four hundred months.  


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