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Tertullian says that ONLY Martyrs are in Paradise. Why?


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#21 Jack R.

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 02:16 PM

I find it very odd and disheartening that some Eastern Orthodox clergy that I have spoken to are themselves are very unclear about the intermediate state of Christians. The Oriental Orthodox, particularly the Coptic Orthodox, seem much stronger in this respect in their conviction that in Christ, there is no death, but a departure that we look forward to as a bridge to a truly BETTER conscious existence in Paradise while waiting for the BEST and ULTIMATE Purpose of the glrorious bodily resurrection. The intermediate state seems very shadowy and depressing and fearful and unknown in a negative way when some (not all) of the Eastern Orthodox clergy are asked about this. I find life much more joyful, hopeful, courageous when one contemplates about desiring to depart and be with Christ, which is, as St. Paul says, FAR better. And it is understood that St. Paul here is speaking specifically of the intermediate state and not yet the resurrection. This is something to look forward to, but not in Hades, but in Paradise where the right hand theif went at his departure.


If we are to spend the intermediate state in Hades, then death is still to be feared and it is better to stay here and it is not far better to depart. It is only far better to depart and be with Christ in Paradise.

But what of the reports of St. Perpetua? Was she misunderstood? She may have seen her fellow martyrs in Paradise, but did she state that No other Christians were there?

#22 Jack R.

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 02:22 PM

Some, I think, misunderstand the iconography of Christ's descend into Hades and releasing Adam and Eve and all the rest into Paradise as ONLY symbolic, as meaning only that he opened the way for them to come out of Hades LATER, at the Resurrection, not now. Others, I believe heretically, misunderstand Jesus' words on the cross to the right hand theif as meaning, "Most assuredly I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise" wherein the theif is today being told that he will be in Paradise. But at a future date. This is also, I think a depressing interpretation that robs one of the Joy of departing and being with Christ, because it means there is still death, hades for thousands of years until the resurrection.

I can not accept such an understanding. I have even heard it reported that some Eastern Bishops today claiming that the dead still wait in HAdes, but in a different place there than the condemned. I find this confusion disheartening.

#23 Anna Stickles

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 06:31 PM

Tertullian presents Hades as a place where the dead are experiencing a foretaste of what will be finalized in the resurrection, a foretaste of either heaven or helll. (This is stated specifically in "On the Soul") Hades, then in his understanding, is not just some dark prison or something, but simply the general state of the soul awaiting the final resurrection.

Paradise though for him seems to represent a more fully formed and substantial experience of heaven. This does not seem in any way depressing to me, just realistic in that to the degree we love and suffer for Christ, to that degree we will be closer and more united to Him and be receiving more of his loving grace and glory in return. But this does not mean that those who have not reached this degree are somehow forgotten or neglected by God and do not still experience true happiness and love while awaiting the resurrection.

#24 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 10:00 PM

To get back to the point, there are many accounts of visions of the souls of saints who were not martyrs being carried by angels to heaven. As for Hades, is its despoiling by Christ on the first Holy Saturday in doubt?

#25 Olga

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 10:41 PM

To get back to the point, there are many accounts of visions of the souls of saints who were not martyrs being carried by angels to heaven.


Indeed, and this is expressed in the iconography of the dormitions of these saints, such as of St Anna the mother of the Mother of God, and St Ephraim the Syrian, neither of whom died a martyr's death.

Icon of the Dormition of St Anna - in the uppermost part of the icon, there is an angel taking her soul, represented by a babe in swaddling-clothes, to heaven.

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#26 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 05:01 AM

As further examples, St Bede recounts how St Herbert of Derwentwater saw the soul of his spiritual father St Aidan borne aloft by angels, and how the virgin nun Begu saw the soul of St Hilda, abbes of Whitby, likewise taken up by angels. There are similar accounts from the lives of the desert Fathers. Thus there are ample reasons why Tertullian was in error.

#27 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 10:03 AM

For liturgical authority for the passage of St Hilda's soul to heaven, we have this from Ode IX of the Canon for St Hilda at Matins:


Dying, the blessed one enjoined her flock ever to keep the peace of Christ, and thus passed on to the mansions of paradise.


Hearing a sound as of the bell marking the passage of a soul into eternal life, a disciple of the holy one saw as it were the roof of her dwelling removed and splendour from heaven streaming forth, wherein she beheld the soul of Hilda borne aloft by angels into eternal bliss.



#28 Olga

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 11:11 AM

A few examples of hymnography for saints who did not suffer a martyric end, which proclaims that they are in heaven:

Purified in body, soul and mind, you proclaimed the heavenly Gospel of Christ, and having become a companion of the Angels, you now cry out: All you works, bless the Lord! (Apostle John the Evangelist)

They spurned all perishable matter on earth, while like Angels in the flesh they were declared citizens of heaven, the united comradeship, the like-minded and harmonious pair of saints. And so to all who suffer they award healings, granting their kindness without payment for the needy. Let us worthily sing their praise with yearly feasts as they intercede with confidence on behalf of our souls. (Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian of Asia Minor)

Opening your mouth with God’s word, you uttered wisdom, Herald of light, and sowed in the inhabited world thought inspired by God; You truly confirmed the doctrines of the Fathers and appeared in the manner of Paul a champion of the faith. Therefore you are a fellow citizen of the Angels, and have been declared their companion, blessed Saint. Basil, revealer of heaven, intercede with Christ our God to grant forgiveness of offences to those who feast with love your holy memory. (St Basil the Great)

Pure in soul and heart, an Angel on earth, a heavenly mortal, teacher of virginity, accurate measure of self-mastery, blessed Antony, united to your Master and bringing to Him with the Angels, all the holy Ascetics and Martyrs the never-silent hymn of glory, free from dread dangers and faults all those who ever celebrate your sacred memory. (St Anthony the Great)

Ephraim, the Syrian by tongue, once heard in psalms
a tongue he knew not calling him on high.
And on the twenty eighth day Ephraim’s spirit was taken by Angels.
(Synaxarion verse, Venerable Ephraim the Syrian)

Living as man on earth you truly gained the commonwealth of heaven, revealed as a companion of Angels and living their way of life; with them you now sing out: Priests bless, people highly exalt Christ to the ages. (Venerable Athanasius of Athos)

Your way of life, O Magdalen, was resplendent blazing with the beams of virtuous actions, of the divine proclamation and your inclination to the divine, and with the bright rays of love for the Creator, to whom you sing with the Angels: You priests, bless; you people, highly exalt to all the ages. (St Mary Magdalen)

And there is also the example of Prophet Elijah, who was taken bodily to heaven in a fiery chariot.

#29 Olga

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 11:37 AM

Selections from the Paschal services, on the despoiling of hades:

Lord, my God, I will sing a song for Your departure, a funeral hymn for You who by Your burial opened up for me the entrances to life, and by Your death put death and hades to death.

By Your greater strength You gained the victory; Your soul was parted from your body, shattering the bonds of both death and hades, O Word, by Your might.

Hades, when it met You, O Word, was embittered, seeing a mortal made divine, marked by wounds and all-powerful, and it shrank back in terror at the sight.

Let creation rejoice, let all born of earth be glad; for hades, the enemy, has been despoiled; let women come to meet Me with sweet spices; for I am rescuing Adam and Eve with all their race, and on the third day I shall rise again.

When You went down to death, O immortal Life, You slew hades with the blaze of your Godhead; but when from the infernal regions You raised the dead, all the Powers of heaven cried out to You: Giver of life, glory to You.

We feast death’s slaughter, the overthrow of hades, the first-fruits of a new eternal life: and dancing we hymn the cause: the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.

Having despoiled hades and raised humanity by Your Resurrection, O Christ, grant that with pure hearts we may praise and glorify You.

And, this excerpt from the famous Easter Homily of St John Chrysostom, which also draws from OT prophecy:

Let no one fear death: for the Saviour’s death has freed us. By enduring it He quenched it. He who descended into hades has despoiled hades. He embittered it when it tasted His flesh as Isaiah proclaimed in prophecy: ‘Death’, he said, ‘was embittered when it met You there below’. Embittered, for it was destroyed. Embittered, for it was mocked. Embittered, for it was slain. Embittered, for it was reduced to nought. Embittered, for it was bound fast. It received a body, and came face to face with God. It received earth, and met heaven. It received what it saw, and fell through what it did not see. O death, where is your sting? O hades, where is your victory? Christ has risen and you are abolished! Christ has risen and the demons have fallen! Christ has risen, and Angels rejoice! Christ has risen, and life has found freedom! Christ has risen, and there is no corpse in the grave! For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of those who sleep. To Him be glory and might to the ages of ages. Amen.


#30 Anna Stickles

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 05:28 PM

Yes, but doesn't the Church recognize both martyrs by blood and martyrs through other means of sacrificial service to the church?

Also I don't think the articulation of these things had really reached that level of detail in Tertullian's time. What I think we can say about Tertullian though is that the basic shape of his theology seems to me to not out of line.

As for the Paschal services, these are obviously celebrating the fullness of the final restoration in Christ of all things, but does the Church teach that hades no longer exists? Or is it teaching that it will no longer exist at the final restoration of all things? Is what is being said in reference to Christ's descent into Hades and his overcoming of it something that has already happened in full, or is one of those things that is still in process? Kind of like how we talk about the fact that humanity is saved, is being saved, and will be fully saved. From what little I know, my thought is that the overcoming of Hades is still in process.

The hymns you quote also say, We feast death’s slaughter... and yet we know that though Christ has overcome death, this work is not finished yet. Death still has its way with us, and while Christ's victory over it is certain and finished, it is not fully accomplished.

#31 John Konstantin

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 08:56 PM

Is not part of the problem that we are discussing eternal mysteries that stand outside of linear time as we experience it? For example: Although the Crucifixion can be viewed as a past historical event, it can also be experienced as a real present event during the Liturgy. Is this not also true of the Resurrection, the abolition of Hades and other mysteries of our faith?

#32 Olga

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 01:54 AM

The general or common festal troparion for a female monastic or laywoman who lived to old age and did not suffer a martyric death, used when no specific troparion has been written for that saint:

That which was created in the image of God
Was preserved in you, O Mother;
For taking up the cross you followed after Christ.
By your deeds you have taught us to reject the flesh
For it passes away,
But to care for the soul as a thing immortal.
Therefore, O venerable (name), your soul rejoices with the angels.

Surely in light of this, Tertullian's proposition simply cannot stand.

#33 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 06:40 AM

Christ's victory over [deth] is certain and finished, it is not fully accomplished.


Because we have to play our role in it - synergy.

#34 Anna Stickles

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 05:30 PM

Because we have to play our role in it - synergy.


Exactly, and do we also have a part to play in the overcoming of hades? Elder Sophrony talks about his journey in terms of an initial descent into hell. And that there was then a subsequent struggle by grace toward the resurrection.

#35 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 05:52 PM

I think we need to distinguish hades, which Christ despoiled, and hell (gehenna) which is where St Silouan was told by Christ to keep his mind and yet not to despair. As Fr Zacharias says so often, 'we descend in order to ascend.'

#36 Mary Lanser

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 06:28 PM

Psalm 109: 7 He shall drink of the torrent in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.

I think Anna is right and Tertullian can aptly be read in terms of participation in the divine life, here and hereafter. Not all participation is equal, as we tend to enviously understand equality in a fallen world.

M.

#37 Jack R.

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 02:51 PM

I believe the concensus of the Fathers is that Christians depart to be with Christ in Paradise, waiting happily and consciously for the resurrection, having a foretaste of that future life.

I think Tertullian is wrong in this regard. Christians do not descend into Hades, where the damned are now kept for the resurrection unto damnation. Christ destroyed its power so that we no longer have to go there or wait there.

Individual visions to certain fathers or monks should not be used to make doctrine out of such matters but may only be for the benefit of that specific monk or father. Doctrine is derived primarily from the scriptures and there is nothing therein to indicate that those saved by Christ depart to any other state than that of Paradise.

If we descend into Hades, as was the case in the Old Testament, then where is the effect of Christ's victory over death for us? Then all of our prayers during the Divine Liturgy to repose the souls of those God has taken into "the Pardise of Joy, where sorrow and grief... have fled away..." are directed toward some future time at the general resurrection and not during the intermediate state. This is very clearly NOT why we pray for the departed becasue we also say, "... and raise their bodies also." According to the Liturgy, then, Paradise is BEFORE the resurrection.

According to the Bible, the concensus of the Fathers, and the Divine Liturgy, Tertullian is wrong on this issue. By Christ's mercy and grace, we do not have to see death or Hades.

#38 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 05:02 PM

Hades, where the damned are now kept for the resurrection unto damnation. Christ destroyed its power so that we no longer have to go there or wait there.


I know of no authority for the idea that Hades still exists for the keeping of any.

#39 Kosta

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 08:20 PM

Tertulllian's belief in the OP is not far from the Orthodox position. The Orthodox Church does indeed believe that no one enters the fullness of bliss till the second judgement, till then we only recieve a foretaste of what is to come. Ironically the passage Tertullian quotes from Rev that only martyrs ebter paradise is the same passage Orthodox doctrine uses to show that we do not enter the fullness till the second coming.

That martyrs are the only ones entering the fullness of paradise would be consistent with his day and age. Martyrs were the only rank of saint to be recognized at his time. Infact some of the 9 ranks of saints emerged because of their defense of the faith when christianity was free to develop its theology after Constantine.

There is still an open question in Orthodoxy today, whether saints enter the fullness of bliss upon their death or whether they too have to wait till the second coming.




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