Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Didymus on Hell

Didymus the Blind (c. 313 – 398) (aka Didymus of Alexandria) provided a number of commentaries, much of which seem to have been lost, largely because of his association with Origen. I happened to be reading his commentary on 1 Corinthians 15 (as translated by Alice Thompson Croft) and found the following:
Because some people in Corinth were saying that the soul was mortal and the resurrection of the body was superfluous, Paul had discussed their error, and he says: "The gospel, through which you were called from the error of polytheism to the knowledge of the true God, and through which you are sustained and have salvation, this gospel which is well-known to you, I brought and established." "I remind you of the gospel of God, in order that you might know that the recollection of the resurrection of the dead is not mine nor anyone else's."
(at 1 Corinthians 15:1-2)

It is not the bodies of all who rise that are like the glory of the luminaries and stars, but only the bodies of those who have lived well and been sober. For even the bodies of worthless people rise incorruptible, but they are deprived of the glory of the heavenly bodies. And it is to be noted that the glory of the bodies that are raised is real as is also that of the luminaries.
(at 1 Corinthians 15:41)

The dead will be raised, their body, which was formerly corruptible, becoming incorruptible. Now some say here "we shall be changed," in contrast to the statement some others make, whosoever they are, on the topic of the dead, namely "we are raised incorruptible in our bodies, whereas our souls are changed when they are altered to conform to a better and more divine quality." But another person says the dead who are sinners are raised incorruptible in order to endure eternal punishments but [those] who have lived virtuously [i.e., towards excellence] are changed from glory to glory. The mortal is therefore also corruptible, not indeed the reverse. Therefore the corruptible puts on incorruption, and the mortal puts on immortality in the crucial moment of the resurrection of the dead.
(at 1 Corinthians 15:52-53)

Didymus is right. The reason that the dead are resurrected is so that they can be eternally punished. What I had not noticed before reading Didymus is that the resurrection of the dead is one that is to incorruption.  In other words, if their bodies were corruptible, they would be able to return to their previous state, but because their bodies are raised incorruptible, they will endure the pains of hell forever.

What distinguishes the resurrection of the elect from the resurrection of the reprobate for Didymus is that the elect will be raised to glory:
1 Corinthians 15:42
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:

1 Corinthians 15:52
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
My primary concern about this particular point is that the grave is associated with corruption of the body.  Moreover, in several places, this seems to be the reward for evil-doers:
Galatians 6:8
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

2 Peter 2:12
But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
However, those verses could refer generically to death and more generally to the fact that the good things of this life are corruptible:
Matthew 6:19-20
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

1 Corinthians 9:25
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
So, perhaps Didymus' point is stronger than I thought. Moreover, the only verses that talk about post-resurrection bodies don't specifically differentiate between the elect and the reprobate. So, I may have been too cautious to accept his proposal.


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