Sunday, 3 May 2015

Thomas McGlothlin: Why Are All These Damned People Rising? Paul and the Generality of the Resurrection in Irenaeus and Tertullian

Irenaeus and Tertullian are well known for their vigorous defense of the eschatological resurrection of the flesh, but their respective appropriations of Paul towards this end are strikingly different. This paper seeks to elucidate that difference by focusing on the relationship between the resurrections of the righteous and the wicked. In contrast to John and Revelation, the Pauline epistles never explicitly affirm the resurrection of the wicked; instead, they integrate resurrection into the economy of salvation through union with the resurrected Christ in the Spirit. (Interestingly, Josephus claims that Pharisees affirmed the resurrection of the righteous only.) Irenaeus, drawing heavily on Paul, articulates a highly-developed account of the bodily resurrection of Christians as an effect of their reception of the life-giving Spirit of God. Consequently, many of his arguments for the resurrection of the flesh, such as its reception of the Word in the Eucharist, apply only to Christians. But when he insists that the wicked, too, will be resurrected, he gives no account of how this can happen to those who have not received the Spirit. The struggles of John Behr and Anthony Briggman to explain how for Irenaeus non-Christians can be alive at all become only more acute in explaining the resurrection. Tertullian solves this problem by disconnecting the resurrection of the flesh from reception of the Spirit, correspondingly omitting the Irenaean arguments for the resurrection that only apply to Christians. He thus easily explains the generality of the resurrection but is forced into strained exegesis of Paul.

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