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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
The subject of immortality may be treated from many points of view-doctrinal, metaphysical, biological. But the scope of this article is necessarily limited to the historical method of treatment, and is further confined to a definite portion of the historical field-the 1st cent. of Christianity. Hence many aspects of the subject are excluded. For the previous development of the belief in immortality the reader is referred to the articles dealing with this and the related subjects in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) , Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , and Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics . The following is the outline of the treatment of the subject in this article:
I. General discussion of the place occupied in religious thought at the beginning of the Apostolic Age by the belief in immortality.
II. Particular history of the development of the belief during the Apostolic Age:
1. Pauline doctrine of immortality.
2. Petrine doctrine of immortality.
3. Johannine doctrine of immortality.
4. Apostolic Fathers’ doctrine of immortality.
III. Conclusion. Literature.
I. General Discussion
At the beginning of the Apostolic Age the Graeco-Roman world might almost be compared to the Pool of Bethesda at the critical moment of the angelic visitation. There was a troubling of the waters, and a steadily increasing number of seekers after spiritual health. The subject of immortality was, so to speak, in the air. The various Mystery-cults, with varying forms of ritual, all agreed in offering to the initiate the hope of a future life of bliss after death. Abundant evidence for this may be found in books and monographs dealing with the subject of the Mystery-cults in the Roman Empire. At the same time, along a totally different line of development, the Jew had arrived at a conception of immortality which was bound up with a spiritual conception of God and man’s relation to God. In communion with God lay both the essence of immortality and its guarantee for faith. In Alexandrian Judaism, as represented by Philo, we have the blending of the Platonic doctrine of immortality, based on the distinction between the higher and the lower elements in man, with the Pharisaic assertion of the value of the individual to God and its grasp of the eternal character of the soul’s communion with God. Hence we can discern at least three distinct elements at work in the formation of current ideas about immortality.
(1) The view of a future life which rested upon the Eastern dualistic attitude towards matter and spirit. This Eastern, and especially Persian, element which entered so largely into the Mystery-cults of the century before and the century following the birth of Christ, laid stress upon the deliverance of the soul, by purificatory rites and by asceticism, from the bondage of the body, and thus pointed a way to ultimate salvation and immortality by union with the god. The resemblance of the rites of the Mystery-cults to various elements in the Christian sacraments has led many scholars to trace the influence of these cults of the Graeco-Roman world upon the form which Christianity assumed as it developed a system of ritual and doctrine. This point will be discussed briefly in dealing with St. Paul’s doctrine of immortality.
(2) The Platonic element in Alexandrian Judaism, modified by Stoic influence, laying stress on the eternity of Reason, and hence offering an abstract form of immortality in which the continuance of personal identity was not involved.
(3) The Pharisaic doctrine of immortality with its insistence on the permanence of personal identity preserved in communion with God. The place of the body was not clearly defined, as Pharisaic Judaism held the immortality of the soul in combination with various forms of eschatological expectation, in which a body, spiritual or quasi-spiritual, was involved.
The Jewish view was, of course, not confined to Palestine, but, as we know, was spread throughout Egypt, Asia Minor, and all the Mediterranean coasts by means of the synagogue. All these elements intermingled and formed the basis of the popular attitude towards the future life, in the 1st cent. of Christianity.
But the form which the doctrine of immortality took in primitive Christianity is by no means explained when we have examined the conditions of thought under which it grew up. It certainly cannot be explained without them, but neither can it be explained wholly by them. Christianity gave its own definite form to all that it took up from the current thought of its time, and the outstanding factor in the form which the primitive Christian hope assumed is the Resurrection of Christ. It has been argued that the form which the belief in the Resurrection took, especially in St. Paul, was determined by these external influences, especially by the existence in various Mystery-cults of the idea of the death of the god and his resurrection. But these offer no true parallel to the belief in a historic Resurrection and do not explain either its existence or the peculiar moral value attached to the Resurrection of Christ by the primitive Church.
When we come to the historical account of the doctrine of immortality in the 1st cent. of Christianity, we find, in the first place, that it is inseparably connected with the Resurrection of Christ, and, secondly, that it is also inseparable from primitive Christian eschatology. ‘The resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come’ is the phrase which crystallizes the growth of the idea of immortality for the popular mind during the early stages of Christianity. We shall find, however, in both Pauline and Johannine teaching, much that transcends the form of belief as crystallized in the credal phrase.
II. Particular Historical Development
1. Pauline.-It is impossible to work through the Pauline treatment of the subject without discovering that St. Paul had no doctrine of immortality. He deals with the subject only so far as it arises out of the question of salvation through Christ and the implications of salvation. Hence the most illuminating method of understanding St. Paul’s attitude towards immortality will be to trace the bearings of his theory of salvation as it is worked out in Romans, the most definitely soteriological of his Epistles. The following are the principal points that arise from the examination of the Epistle.
(1) Eschatological background.-There is an eschatological background to the whole of St. Paul’s thinking on the subject of salvation. This is not to say that the ethical nature of the salvation is excluded; on the contrary, the ethical is inseparable from the eschatological, the connexion between life and righteousness being of the very essence of St. Paul’s thought. But from the outset and right through, the eschatological outlook is apparent. In Romans 2:7, one of the most general statements on the subject, St. Paul says that in the revelation of God’s righteous judgment He will render eternal life to all those who are seeking glory and honour and immortality (ἀφθαρσία); in Romans 5:2, there is the justified boast in the hope of the glory of God; in Romans 5:17, those who receive the gift of righteousness shall reign in life; in Romans 8:11, the mortal bodies of those indwelt by the Spirit are to be quickened.
This eschatological colouring is more apparent in the earlier Epistles, e.g. 1 and 2 Thessalonians, than in the later. But even in the later Epistles, e.g. in Philippians, it appears: Philippians 3:20-21, ‘for our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself.’
Thus the eschatological element in the belief is not secondary or non-essential; it shows in the first place that St. Paul’s sense of the necessity of a future glorified life is part of a larger scheme of things-the future Kingdom of God and its manifestation on earth.
(2) Christ as an earnest of the future life.-The present condition of Christ’s existence is both the pattern and the guarantee of the believer’s future state of existence. This is perhaps the most characteristic and original part of St. Paul’s thinking on this subject, and requires the most careful study. It is true that various elements existed in Apocalyptic and Rabbinical systems of thought in St. Paul’s time which may have suggested in details the form of his thought. For example, the idea of a spiritual body was not new; it occurs in Midr. Rab. and in the Gnostic Hymn of the Soul (see Rendel Harris’s edition of the Odes and Psalms of Solomon, 1909, Introduction, p. 67f.) and the conception of the transformation of the righteous into the likeness of Messiah occurs first in Enoch xc. 38.
But the Death and Resurrection of Christ as historical facts are the decisive elements which St. Paul lays hold of and works out in their relation to the Kingdom of God, making new combinations of old ideas, throwing fresh light on the purpose of God, and filling the old categories of thought with a new vital force. No apocalyptic scheme offered any such conception as the Death and Resurrection of Messiah, and the acceptance by St. Paul of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus as historical facts, together with his identification of Jesus with the Messiah, set a train of thought working in his mind which yielded entirely new forms, not to be explained by any patch-work of older elements to be found in them. There are certain essential points of St. Paul’s scheme of things which were never grasped by the Apologists and the early interpreters of Apostolic Christianity. This was partly because the eschatological element was not understood, and perhaps still more because St. Paul’s attitude towards the human side of the Incarnation was not understood. The side upon which Irenaeus lays stress, the answer to the question Cur Deus Homo? was fully grasped and developed, viz. the ‘deification’ of man through the Incarnation of the Son of God. But owing to the rise of christological controversies the emphasis laid by St. Paul and the primitive Church on the ethical value of the Resurrection of Christ and its implications dropped out of sight.
(a) First of all, then, for St. Paul the Resurrection of Christ has an ethical value which is of great importance in his view of the future life of believers. The Resurrection of Christ was not a foregone conclusion resulting from His Divinity, but it was intimately connected with Christ’s faith and holiness as man. His Resurrection was according to the Spirit of holiness; He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. In His Resurrection the full working of the law of the Spirit of life was displayed. ‘He lives to God.’ The word ‘glory’ which St. Paul uses to describe the present state of the risen Christ as well as His future manifestation has both an ethical and a quasi-material significance. The full moral likeness to God which Christ displayed has its counter-part in His present state of existence, ‘the glory of God in the face (ἐν προσώπῳ, possibly better rendered ‘in the person’ [cf. 2 Corinthians 2:10]) of Jesus Christ.’
(b) This resurrection state of Christ is spiritual. The historic Christ retaining His moral characteristics has passed into a spiritual condition, by the operation of a law made manifest for the first time in His case. Christ is identified with the Spirit. He is no longer limited in manifestation by time and space, but can dwell in those who receive Him by faith. It is the real Christ that St. Paul conceives of as dwelling in believers and thereby bringing into operation in them the same law that resulted in His own Resurrection and victory over ‘the law of sin and death.’
(c) The ultimate result of this indwelling of the Spirit of Christ is to assert the complete triumph of life over death even in the bodies of believers (Romans 8:11). The full manifestation of this life will bring deliverance for creation (Romans 8:21) from the bondage of corruption (φθορά). For St. Paul, then, immortality is not ἀθανασία, but ἀφθαρσία. It is an integral part of the triumph of the Kingdom of God, beginning with the Resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 : ἀπαρχὴ Χριστός).
(3) The corporate nature of the future life.-The last point that comes out from the study of St. Paul’s teaching on this subject is the corporate nature of the future existence, in strong contrast to the immortality presented by Plotinus and the later Neo-Platonists-an immortality of ‘the Alone with the Alone.’ The indwelling Spirit of Christ is the ground of unity, as well as the assurance of immortality; the future life of bliss is the life of a blessed community of glorified persons, united to Christ and like Him morally and spiritually, finding their joy in the activities of eternal life, doing the will of God.
The Pauline view of the subject is also bound up with the Parousia and with the closely allied subject of the resurrection of believers. Hence the reader is referred to the articles on these subjects in this Dictionary for supplementary discussion of the Pauline teaching.
2. Petrine and other primitive teaching.-For the sake of convenience, the general teaching of the Catholic Epistles and the Pastorals is taken together with the Petrine doctrine of immortality. The doctrine of 1 Peter may be said to represent the general standpoint of the primitive Apostolic Church on this matter, while the Pauline and the Johannine teaching contain developments which profoundly affected the thought of the Church but which were never wholly understood and accepted.
(1) The First Epistle of Peter shows the same eschatological background that we find in St. Paul and everywhere in the primitive Church, and the same view of the ethical value of the Resurrection of Christ: ‘who through him are believers in God, which raised him from the dead, and gave him glory; so that your faith and hope might be in God’ (1 Peter 1:21).
But there is nothing of the extraordinary development of the consequences of the Resurrection-life of Christ in the Spirit, and the resultant view of the Kingdom as already manifested in its working. The most important passage for our purpose is 1 Peter 3:18-20, the ‘Descent into Hell’ of the Creeds.
Rendel Harris (Side-lights on NT Research, 1908, p. 208) has proposed the emendation ἐν ᾦ καὶ Ἐνώχ on the supposition that Ἐνώχ has dropped out by haplography, and would refer the passage to a reminiscence of the visit of Enoch to the condemned watchers and his intercession for them (see Enoch xii., xiii.). But the interruption to the general sense of the passage is too serious, except on a very low estimate of the logical sequence of thought in the Epistle, to admit of the probability of this ingenious suggestion.
If the passage be interpreted to refer to the visit of Christ to the souls in Sheol during the interval between His Death and His Resurrection, then this is the only NT passage which supports such a conception, and it is a possible view that the Christian interpretation of the passage has been influenced by the strong belief which grew up in the primitive Church in the descent of Christ to Hades. But the passage requires fuller treatment than space allows of here (see, further, article Descent into Hades). If the credal interpretation be accepted, the passage is evidence rather for an intermediate state than for any clearly defined doctrine of the immortality of the soul. It does not necessarily imply more than is implied in the later Jewish view of Sheol. Still more perplexing Isaiah 4:6, if the same interpretation be attached to it. But it is possible to interpret both passages of the preaching of Noah to those who though dead now, were alive at the time when the Spirit of Christ in Noah preached to them. Then the last clause of Isaiah 4:6 may be evidence for the future state of the condemned. After judgment they continue to live in spirit in relation to God. Apart from this the writer’s attention is fixed on the coming ‘glory,’ ‘the crown of glory,’ to be revealed at the Parousia.
(2) Hebrews.-The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews retains the eschatological background common to the early Church, but adds to our inquiry one important new conception-that which is implied in the term τετελειωμένος. Christ in His present risen state is spoken of as τετελειωμένος (Hebrews 7:28); the spirits in the heavenly Jerusalem are called the spirits of ‘the perfected righteous,’ δικαίων τετελειωμένων (Hebrews 12:23; cf. also Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 11:40, Luke 13:32). It is difficult to find the Pauline conception of a glorified body here. It would rather seem to present the Alexandrian Judaistic point of view that the righteous immediately after death reach their perfected state of bliss in full communion with God. The writer undoubtedly believes in the Resurrection of Christ and also in the ethical aspect of it already mentioned, but he does not seem to carry on, as St. Paul does, the consequences of this to the bodily resurrection of believers. But he clearly looks forward to a σαββατισμός for the people of God, a heavenly city, and a corporate immortality, all based upon the present risen life of Christ.
(3) The Pastoral Epistles add one or two points. The dogmatic conception of abstract immortality-what Friedrich von Hügel (Eternal Life) calls ‘quantitative immortality’-perhaps appears in 1 Timothy 6:16 : ὁ μόνος ἔχων ἀθανασίαν. In 1 Timothy 4:8 a sharp distinction is drawn between ‘the life that now is and that which is to come,’ a sign of the passing of the eschatological form of the distinction between ‘the present age’ and ‘the coming age.’ The rich are charged to lay hold on what is truly life (τῆς ὄντως ζωῆς, 1 Timothy 6:19).
In 2 Timothy 1:1 we have the Pauline conception, ‘the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus’; 2 Timothy 2:11, ‘if we suffer with him we shall reign with him’; 2 Timothy 4:1, living and dead are to be judged by Christ at His appearing; 2 Timothy 4:18, ‘shall save me unto his heavenly kingdom.’ But the two most characteristic passages in this Epistle are 2 Timothy 1:10, where our Saviour Jesus Christ has annulled death and brought life and immortality (ἀφθαρσίαν) to light, through the gospel; and 2 Timothy 2:10, where speaking of ‘the elect’ the writer says ‘that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.’ Titus 1:1-2 echoes the phrase of 2 Timothy 1:1, the hope of eternal life, still reflecting the eschatological colouring. In Titus 2:12-13 ‘the present age’ is contrasted with ‘the appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Christ Jesus,’ also spoken of as ‘the blessed hope’; in Titus 3:5 ff. the bath of regeneration (παλινγενεσία) and the renewing of the Holy Ghost are connected with righteousness and the hope of eternal life after the Pauline manner.
3. Johannine.-The three groups of Johannine literature are here treated separately.
(1) The Apocalypse.-The phrase which is so characteristic of the Fourth Gospel, ‘eternal life,’ does not occur in the Apocalypse. For our subject we have the following passages: Revelation 2:11, the overcomer ‘shall not be hurt of the second death’; Revelation 3:5, the overcomer’s name will not be blotted out of the book of life. In Revelation 4:4 the ‘elders’ (who may possibly represent those who have attained-the ‘elders’ of Hebrews 11) are seen in the symbolic garb of victors. In Hebrews 6:9 the souls of the martyrs are seen under the altar, crying for vengeance. In Hebrews 7:13-17 there is a description of those who have come out of great tribulation and who enjoy perpetual bliss before the throne of God. In Revelation 20:4 those who are slain during the great tribulation are raised for the millennial kingdom, and reign with Christ for a thousand years. Revelation 20:5 adds ‘the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were ended.’ Then in Revelation 20:11-15 ‘the dead small and great,’ i.e. apparently ‘the rest of the dead,’ are raised and judged according to their works, and all not found written in the Book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire.
Here again the eschatological interest is paramount. The future existence of individuals is not a question of psychological or philosophical interest, but is determined by the view of the future Kingdom of God. Hence ‘quantitative immortality’ does not appear. The righteous receive the reward of their works and patience, and enter on a blessing which appears to extend beyond the millennial kingdom, and at any rate reaches its climax there. The writer is not so interested in anything after that. But the future fate of the wicked is indeterminate. The view taken as to this depends upon our interpretation of the writer’s symbolism. The fire may be destructive, purgative, or penal. The torment of the beast and the false prophet is spoken of, but the final end of the wicked is not explicitly stated. They are cast into the Lake of Fire.
(2) The Epistles.-In the Johannine Epistles the Parousia still forms the background of Christian hope, but the precise form of the hope is vague, and shows signs of transformation into a purely spiritual expectation. The contribution of the Epistles belongs rather to the subject of the Parousia (q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ). The term ‘eternal life’ occurs frequently, but never with the eschatological sense in which it is used in St. Paul’s Epistles and the Pastorals. But the profound ethical implication of likeness to God and to Christ fills the term with a new meaning. ‘The life of the coming age,’ the original sense of the term חַיֵי עֹלָם, has become the life of God, expressed in Christ, imparted to the believer, working itself out in moral likeness to God, and perfected when Christ appears. He who dwells in God and God in him can never die, and he who loves dwells in God, and partakes of God’s eternal life. Immortality is ‘qualitative’ wholly here, with no thought of duration.
(3) The Fourth Gospel.-Here the transformation of the eschatological background is practically complete. Subsequent developments really consisted, not in a deeper and richer spiritualization of the eschatological view-point, with all its stimulus and insistent pressure of the real world surrounding and penetrating the phenomenal world, but in the total abandonment of eschatology and consequent impoverishment of the Church’s life. But in the Fourth Gospel the intensity and reality of the hope are retained, while the particular Jewish colouring and schemes of thought are quietly dropped, with a few exceptions.
In this Gospel ‘eternal life’ is the principal category under which the subject of immortality falls to be considered. The most important group of passages is in the 6th chapter. Here our Lord, after the miracle of the loaves, and evidently, in the mind of the author of the Gospel, explaining the significance of the miracle, claims that He is the living bread come down from heaven. Those who eat of this bread live for ever. Continuing to explain the saying, our Lord adds that the bread is His flesh and His blood, and that he who eats the flesh and drinks the blood of the Son of Man has eternal life, and will be raised by Christ at the last day. Again, ‘he that eateth this bread shall live for ever’. It is possible that we must accept the predestinarianism of John 6:36-37 as part of the older eschatological colouring. But evidently a difficult point is involved here. Schweitzer would explain the passage as the expression of ‘a speculative religious materialism which concerns itself with the problem of matter and spirit, and the permeation of matter by Spirit, and endeavours to interpret the manifestation and the personality of Jesus, the action of the sacraments and the possibility of the resurrection of the elect, all on the basis of one and the same fundamental conception’ (Paul and his Interpreters, p. 202f.). That is, broadly speaking, the immortality described in the Fourth Gospel is sacramental, conditioned entirely by participation in the sacraments which, through the communication to them of the Spirit of the Risen Christ, have received this potency.
Like so much of Schweitzer’s exegesis, this is brilliant and stimulating, but not wholly sound. Throughout the Gospel the possession of eternal life is independent of sacraments and connected simply with faith in Christ: ‘he that believeth on me hath everlasting life,’ ‘he that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and he that liveth and believeth on me shall never die.’ The charge of ‘unintelligent spiritualizing’ is hasty and unfounded. As in the Synoptic Gospels, so also in the Fourth Gospel, Schweitzer has not recognized the peculiar ethical element which is the real basis of the primitive Church’s view of the Resurrection of Christ, and of the resurrection and future state of believers.
So in the Fourth Gospel the immortality implied is at bottom ethical; it is the life of God which Christ is in Himself and has come to earth to reveal, and in order to impart it in its fullness He must enter upon the spiritual state. It is expedient for them that He should go away. After His departure they will know that He is in the Father, they in Him, and He in them.
Hence, while in St. Paul we have the eager movement of the new life towards its glorious consummation, in the Fourth Gospel we have rather the steady contemplation of the fully revealed nature of the life of God in this world now. In both cases all the interest is centred on the purpose of God in its realization, rather than on the individual man and his ultimate fate. So that we have the appearance of the conditional immortality which is found in Athanasius, really only apparent, because the nature of immortality as a dogma was not in question, but the wider issue of the coming in of the Kingdom of God. In the Fourth Gospel we have also the corporate nature of the life insisted on. In St. Paul, spirit, soul, and body are to be preserved to the day of Christ; there is no immortality of the soul conceived of as a mere abstraction, but the eternal gain for the Kingdom of God of a person, whole and entire. In the Fourth Gospel there is not the same prominence given to the resurrection of the body, but ultimately the body of him who possesses the life of God must pass under the law of eternal life, although the author of the Fourth Gospel never states the expectation in the same way; it is not ‘your mortal bodies,’ but ‘I will raise him up.’ The incident of the grave clothes also shows that the writer’s conception of the Resurrection was purely spiritual: the Lard had become a Spirit, although capable of revealing His continued personal existence to His disciples. So for the Fourth Gospel the ultimate thing also is the gain of the individual: ‘no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.’
4. The Apostolic Fathers.-Here we have much less of vital importance. The creative impulse has died away, and we can trace the process, already mentioned, of the gradual abandonment of much that was most characteristic of the teaching of St. Paul. Ignatius offers the closest affinities with the point of view of the Fourth Gospel, as is well enough known. The following are the principal relevant passages:
(1) 1 Clement.-The principal passage in this Epistle is in chs. xxiv-xxvi. The future resurrection is based on the Resurrection of Christ, and the simile of the seed is used. Ch. xxvi. seems to limit the resurrection to the faithful, ‘those who served Him in holiness, in the confidence of a good faith.’ Those who have died as martyrs or in the faith are spoken of as having obtained the inheritance of glory and honour (cf. v. 3, 7, 45:7). In i. 3 ‘those who were perfected in love by the grace of God have a place among the pious who shall be made manifest at the visitation of the Kingdom of Christ.’
(2) 2 Clement has several interesting passages: v. 5, ‘our sojourning in this world in the flesh is a little thing and lasts a short time, but the promise of Christ is great and wonderful, and brings us rest, in the kingdom which is to come, and in everlasting life.’ In vi. 7 rest is contrasted with eternal punishment (αἰωνίου κολάσεως). The future existence depends on the keeping of the baptism undefiled; the first occurrence of this conception is in vi. 9, vii. 6, viii. 6. In ch. ix. there is the assertion of the resurrection of the flesh to judgment, based on the Incarnation and not on the Resurrection of Christ. Ch. xii contains the curious Agraphon possibly from the Gospel of the Egyptians, ‘When the two shall be one, and the outside as the inside, and the male with the female, neither male nor female.’ It is interpreted by the author as referring to the moral perfection and asceticism suited to the kingdom.
In xiv. 5 we have an important passage. After a somewhat strained analogy of the flesh as the Church, referring to the Church as pre-existent and possessing the Spirit, the author says: ‘So great a gift of life and immortality (ἀθανασίαν) has this flesh the power to receive if the Holy Spirit be joined to it.’ In xix. 3, 4 we have a statement of immortality in fairly quantitative terms, and the expression ‘the immortal fruit of the resurrection’ (τὸν ἀθάνατον τῆς ἀναστάσεως καρπόν). In xx. 5 Christ is the Saviour and Leader of immortality (ἀρχηγὸν τῆς ἀφθαρσίας).
(3) Ignatius.-We owe to Ignatius the famous phrase ‘the medicine of immortality,’ φάρμακον ἀθανασίας (Eph. xx. 2), which is so often repeated by later patristic writers. Ignatius frequently uses the word ‘immortality,’ but as frequently shows that his conception is ethical-qualitative, not quantitative. What he seeks is not mere duration of bliss, but true life (τὸ ἀληθινὸν ζῆν, xi. 1). Faith and love constitute this true life, the life of God (xiv. 1). Christ has breathed immortality on the Church (ἀφθαρσίαν, xvii. 1). At the Incarnation ‘God was manifest as Man, for the newness of eternal life’ (εἰς καινότητα ἀΐδιον ζωῆς), a reminiscence of Romans 6:4, but ἀΐδιον is never used of life in the NT. In xx. 2 it is the Sacrament, the bread, which is the medicine of immortality.
Other passages are Magn. i. 2, ix. 2: a reference to the Descensus; Trall. ii. 1, ix. 2; Rom. vi. 2; Phil. 9:2: the gospel is ‘the perfecting of immortality’ (ἀπάρτισμα ἀφθαρσίας); Smyrn. 12:2, ‘resurrection both fleshly and spiritual’; ad Polyc. ii. 3, ‘the prize is immortality and eternal life.’
The remaining literature of our period adds nothing of importance.
III. Conclusion.-The principal trend of the teaching of the NT lies mainly along the lines laid down by our Lord, and expanded by the original thinking of St. Paul and St. John, if we may assume a name for the author of the Fourth Gospel for convenience’ sake. The expansion followed lines which were principally determined by the acceptance of the Resurrection of Christ as a historical fact. The emphasis thus lies on the value of complete personality brought into the sphere of the operation of the Kingdom of God. Those operations take on the form of eschatological expectations, but express fundamental and eternal realities of religion. The pale and thin conception of mere duration of existence is of no interest to the apostolic writers. It was of fundamental importance to possess true life, the life of God; and as the meaning of the Incarnation was explored, the conception of eternal life grew in depth and breadth and height.
Literature.-Sanday-Headlam, Romans 5 (International Critical Commentary , 1902); Robertson-Plummer, Corinthians (International Critical Commentary , 1911); J. Armitage Robinson, Ephesians, 1903; F. J. A. Hort, 1 Peter, 1898; B. F. Westcott, St. John , 2 vols., 1908, and The Epistles of St. John, 1883; H. B. Swete, The Apocalypse2, 1907. See also A. Sabatier, The Apostle Paul, Eng. translation , 1891; P. Gardner, The Religious Experience of St. Paul, 1911; A. Schweitzer, Paul and his Interpreters, Eng. translation , 1912; E. Underhill, The Mystic Way, 1913; F. von Hügel, Eternal Life, 1912; S. D. F. Salmond, The Christian Doctrine of Immortality4, 1901; E. F. Scott, The Kingdom and the Messiah, 1911, also The Fourth Gospel, 1906; W. Sanday, Christologies, Ancient and Modern, 1910; C. Bigg, The Christian Platonists of Alexandria, rep. 1913; J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 1891; J. Drummond, Philo Judaeus, 2 vols., 1888; H. J. Holtzmann, NT Theologie, 2 vols., 1911; A. Harnack, History of Dogma, Eng. translation 3, 7 vols., 1894-99, also The Mission and Expansion of Christianity, Eng. translation 2, 2 vols., 1908; R. H. Charles, Eschatology-Hebrew, Jewish and Christian, 1899; G. Dalman, The Words of Jesus, Eng. translation , 1902; F. Cumont, The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism, 1911; S. Reinach, Orpheus, Eng. translation , 1909.
S. H. Hooke.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Immortality'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/i/immortality.html. 1906-1918.