Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Minucius Felix/The Octavius of Minucius Felix/Chapter 34
Chapter XXXIV.—Argument: Moreover, It is Not at All to Be Wondered at If This World is to Be Consumed by Fire, Since Everything Which Has a Beginning Has Also an End. And the Ancient Philosophers are Not Averse from the Opinion of the Probable Burning Up of the World. Yet It is Evident that God, Having Made Man from Nothing, Can Raise Him Up from Death into Life. And All Nature Suggests a Future Resurrection.
“Further, in respect of the burning up of the world, it is a vulgar error not to believe either that fire will fall upon it in an unforeseen way, or that the world will be destroyed by it. For who of wise men doubts, who is ignorant, that all things which have had a beginning perish, all things which are made come to an end? The heaven also, with all things which are contained in heaven, will cease even as it began. The nourishment of the seas by the sweet waters of the springs shall pass away into the power of fire. The Stoics have a constant belief that, the moisture being dried up, all this world will take fire; and the Epicureans have the very same opinion concerning the conflagration of the elements and the destruction of the world. Plato speaks, saying that parts of the world are now inundated, and are now burnt up by alternate changes; and although he says that the world itself is constructed perpetual and indissoluble, yet he adds that to God Himself, the only artificer, it is both dissoluble and mortal. Thus it is no wonder if that mass be destroyed by Him by whom it was reared. You observe that philosophers dispute of the same things that we are saying, not that we are following up their tracks, but that they, from the divine announcements of the prophets, imitated the shadow of the corrupted truth. Thus also the most illustrious of the wise men, Pythagoras first, and Plato chiefly, have delivered the doctrine of resurrection with a corrupt and divided faith; for they will have it, that the bodies being dissolved, the souls alone both abide for ever, and very often pass into other new bodies. To these things they add also this, by way of misrepresenting the truth, that the souls of men return into cattle, birds, and beasts. Assuredly such an opinion as that is not worthy of a philosopher’s inquiry, but of the ribaldry of a buffoon. But for our argument it is sufficient, that even in this your wise men do in some measure harmonize with us. But who is so foolish or so brutish as to dare to deny that man, as he could first of all be formed by God, so can again be re-formed; that he is nothing after death, and that he was nothing before he began to exist; and as from nothing it was possible for him to be born, so from nothing it may be possible for him to be restored? Moreover, it is more difficult to begin that which is not, than to repeat that which has been. Do you think that, if anything is withdrawn from our feeble eyes, it perishes to God? Every body, whether it is dried up into dust, or is dissolved into moisture, or is compressed into ashes, or is attenuated into smoke, is withdrawn from us, but it is reserved for God in the custody of the elements. Nor, as you believe, do we fear any loss from sepulture, but we adopt the ancient and better custom of burying in the earth. See, therefore, how for our consolation all nature suggests a future resurrection. The sun sinks down and arises, the stars pass away and return, the flowers die and revive again, after their wintry decay the shrubs resume their leaves, seeds do not flourish again. unless they are rotted: thus the body in the sepulchre is like the trees which in winter hide their verdure with a deceptive dryness. Why are you in haste for it to revive and return, while the winter is still raw? We must wait also for the spring-time of the body. And I am not ignorant that many, in the consciousness of what they deserve, rather desire than believe that they shall be nothing after death; for they would prefer to be altogether extinguished, rather than to be restored for the purpose of punishment. And their error also is enhanced, both by the liberty granted them in this life, and by God’s very great patience, whose judgment, the more tardy it is, is so much the more just.
- This passage is very indefinite, and probably corrupt; the meaning is anything but satisfactory. The general meaning is given freely thus: “Further, it is a vulgar error to doubt or disbelieve a future conflagration of the world.”
- This passage is very variously read, without substantial alteration of the sense.
- Otherwise, “to God Himself alone, the artificer.”
- This is otherwise read, “the work of the mimic or buffoon.”
- Scil. “by burning.”
- [1 Cor. xv. 36, Job xiv. 7–15.]