Thursday, May 12, 2022

Epiphanios of Salamis and the Doctrine of the Bodily Resurrection


In his polemic with pagans and heretics (especially with Origen), Epiphanios reveals the Church teaching about bodily resurrection: “Our holy Mother Church believes, as she herself truly preached and truly prescribed, that we shall all die and be resurrected with this very body and with this very soul (σὺν σώματι τούτῳ, σὺν ψυχῇ ταύτῃ), with all our members, so that each one may receive according to what he has done" (Ancor. 119.11).

Against the pagans, Epiphanios proves the possibility of resurrection with examples from nature: day follows night, awakening follows sleep; seeds planted into the ground, as if dead, germinate and are reborn into a new plant, etc. (Ancor. 833-5). Pagan writers also knew and cited stories about the resurrection of people or their return from the underworld - for example, Alcestis, Pelops, Amphiaraus, Glaucus, Castor, etc. (Ibid. 85.2-4).

Holy Scripture repeatedly speaks of the resurrection (Ibid. 94.3-98.1). But Epiphanios sees the main proof of the possibility of the resurrection of bodies in the omnipotence of God, Who, if at the beginning could create a non-existent body and give it existence, then, of course, He can resurrect it again and give it its soul (Ibid. 88.1-6; Pan. 64.71). No less proof lies in the fact of the resurrection of Christ, which is "the prototype of our resurrection" (Pan. 64.68).

Epiphanios criticizes the absurd opinion of heretics (in particular, the Manicheans, Marcionites and Hierakites) about the resurrection of the soul, not the body, since the immortal soul can neither die nor rise (Ancor. 86.1; Pan. 42.5; 64.63; 67.5). According to Epiphanios, the souls of the dead before the resurrection of their bodies do not stay in the graves, but in “some repositories appointed by God for each soul (ἐν ταμιείοις τισίν), in accordance with the dignity of what they have done in their lives” (Ancor. 86.8; cf. 99.5).

Epiphanios pays special attention to the criticism of Origen's doctrine of the resurrection (Ancor. 87-100; Pan. 64. 63-72); at the same time, in his reasoning, he relies not on the works of Origen himself, but on the writings of previous critics of Origen - St. Peter of Alexandria, St. Eustathios of Antioch and especially St. Methodios of Olympus, which is why his criticism is not always fair. According to Epiphanios, Origen and his followers taught that not the same body that had died would resurrect, but some other body that had become intangible and had lost those members and functions that were not needed for life. However, as Epiphanios notes, in this case “the Judgment of God will be unjust, judging other flesh instead of the one who has sinned, or another body leading to the glory of the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven instead of the body that labored in fasts, vigils and persecutions for the name of God.” It is also impossible that the soul alone should be judged without union with the body that sinned with it (Ancor. 87.3-4). In contrast to this, Epiphanios teaches that “just as the body and soul were one person created by God, so the just Judge will resurrect each body and give it its own soul. And thus the Judgment of God will be just, when both are joined together by punishment for sins or recompense for the virtue of godliness, which will be rendered to the saints” (Ancor. 88.8; Pan. 64.70-71).

The whole body will be resurrected, with all its members, since some members in the body cannot be resurrected, while others cannot be resurrected (Ancor. 98.3-8; Pan. 64.63, 67). As evidenced by the examples of Enoch, Prophet Elijah and the resurrected Christ Himself, the resurrected body will be the same that lived on earth (Ancor. 90.6-91.1; 98.6-8; Pan. 64.63-65, 67). Epiphanios notices that the resurrected body, although it will be identical to the earthly body, will come to a different perfect state and acquire new qualities - it will become “spiritual” (πνευματικόν), will be adorned with “glory” (δόξα), “radiance” (φαιδρότης), "imperishability" (ἀφθαρσία), "immortality" (ἀθανασία), "passionlessness" (ἀπαθές) and "spiritual subtlety" (λεπτότης πνεύματος), allowing it to freely penetrate other bodies (Ancor. 90.2-3; 91.1 -4, cf. Pan. 64.63, 68). During His Second Coming, Christ "in an instant" (ὑπὸ θῆξιν) will bring about the "general resurrection" (τὴν καθολικὴν ἀνάστασιν), for He Himself is the "resurrection of the dead" and "the firstfruits of the dead" (Ancor. 95.4; 100.100; Pan. 64.65, 69).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.