Chris Gousmett on Patristic Eschatology

The following Ph.D. thesis is now available on-line:

Chris Gousmett, “Shall the Body Strive and Not be Crowned? Unitary and instrumentalist anthropological models as keys to interpreting the structure of Patristic eschatology,” PhD. Thesis, University of Dunedin, NZ, 1993.

My thanks to Dr Gousmett for reformatting his thesis and allowing me to place it on-line.


It is possible to discern a structure underlying the myriad details of Patristic eschatology through the use of two anthropological models, a unitary model, which sees the person as a unity of body and soul, and an instrumentalist model, which locates the person in the soul, which uses the body as its instrument. This latter view makes possible a judgement and entry into the appropriate eschatological state immediately after death, while the unitary view requires the resurrection to occur first. Some who held a unitary view (notably but not exclusively the Syrians) thought that the soul slept until the resurrection, while others held that the soul experienced pleasure or pain in anticipation of their future rewards or punishments to be received after the judgement.

The unitary anthropology is correlated with a positive assessment of bodily life, including marriage and sexuality, and (particularly during the first few centuries) expectation of life on a renewed earth in the eschaton following a millennium of peace.

The decline in millennialism, rise of asceticism, and glorification of virginity and denigration of marriage, as well as an eclipse of the centrality and significance of the resurrection of the body, are correlated with an instrumentalist view. Bodily life was often seen negatively, as the occasion, if not the source, of sin, and even innocent bodily gratification was shunned as a hindrance to the communion of the soul with God.

There is no direct correlation with the frequent contrast between the “resurrection of the body” and the “immortality of the soul” and the structures of Patristic eschatology. Many who held to a unitary anthropological model thought the soul immortal (although earlier Patristic writers rejected this concept), but also stressed that eschatological life also required the immortalisation of the body through its resurrection.

Those who held to an instrumentalist anthropological model mostly thought the soul was innately immortal, and provided sophisticated philosophical arguments for this view. However, it was the idea that the person was located in the soul, with the body as its instrument, that is the determining characteristic for the structure of their eschatology.

These ideas provide the background to the interpretation of Psalm 1:5, which in conjunction with John 3:18 was taken to mean that neither the saints nor the obdurate wicked would face the judgement on the last day. Others took Psalm 1:5 to mean that the wicked would not be judges, as they were wont to do during life. While there is no direct correlation between these interpretations of Psalm 1:5 and the two anthropological models discussed, it is not possible to understand the reasons for these interpretations without considering the influence of these models on Patristic eschatology.

Patristic anthropology and eschatology was shaped by the synthesis between pagan thought and Christian thought. The negative assessment of bodily life can be traced to pagan influences, and the consequences are considerable even today. Only by repudiating the method of synthesis can an authentically Christian anthropology and eschatology be developed.

Gerald Bray on the Theology of Tertullian

The following book is now available online in PDF:

Gerald L. Bray, Holiness and the Will of God. Perspectives on the Theology of Tertullian. Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1979. Hbk. ISBN: 0551055936. pp.179.


1: Past and Present
2: The Man and his Times
3: The Nature of Holiness
4: The Pattern of Authority
5: The Holy Life
6: Epilogue
Notes [now included as footnotes in each chapter]
List of Tertullian’s Work’s

My thanks to Professor Bray for his kind permission,

Nigel Scotland on Signs and Wonders in the Early Church

The following article is now on-line in PDF:

Nigel Scotland, “Signs and Wonders in the Early Catholic Church 90-451 and their Implications for the Twenty-First Century,” European Journal of Theology 10.2 (2001): 155-168.

It is refreshing to find a good academic defense for the continuance of spiritual gifts after the Apostolic Age and this one is probably the best I have read. Given my own experience with Ellel Ministries I found myself agreeing heartily with Dr Scotland’s comments about its founder.

Those wanting to read further on this subject should look out for the following title when it appears:

G.L. Prestige’s 1940 Bampton Lecture on Origen

The following article is now online in PDF:

G.L. Prestige, “Lecture 3: Origen: or, The Claims of Religious Intelligence,” Fathers and Heretics. Bampton Lectures 1940. London: SPCK, 1940. Pbk. pp.43-66.

G.L. Prestige’s lecture is (in my opinion) one of the best short summaries of the life, works and significance of Origen. It should be required reading for anyone taking a course in early church history.

Images of Early Church Fathers Available on CD-ROM

Several years ago I purchased a number of images of the early church fathers and others) from André Thevet, Les Vrais Pourtraits et Vies Hommes Illustres, 1584 edition from the Special Collections Library, University of Michigan. I have permission from the Special Collections Library to sell scans of these images on CD-ROM to support my website. These images would of be of interest to anyone teaching a course on early church history, publishing a book on that subject – or who just wants a cool desktop for their computer. Full details and thumbnail images can be found here. The cost is £14.99 (post-free worldwide).

Proceeds from these sales go toward site development.

Francis Watson on Christians, Jews and Scripture in Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho

I have just uploaded the following lecture in PDF:

Prof. Francis Watson, “Have you not read…?” Christians, Jews and Scripture in Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho . The Ethel M. Wood Lecture, University of London, 3 March 2005.

My thanks to Professor Watson for providing me with the text of his lecture, which is published here for the first time.

A possible Ph.D. Thesis for someone

When studying the Montanists we have to recognise that the majority of the information we have comes from their opponents, who recycled the same accusations slightly different forms (See John De Soyres work []). These snippets hardly paint a balanced picture. For example:

1) Monatus was a recent convert [i.e. not grounded in the faith – bound to be led astray into error]

2) He was from Phrygia [They are all mad there]

3) His first converts were of the female gender [Weak-willed and easily deceived]

4) They left their husbands [Shame on them!]

5) He prophesied that the new Jerusalem would descend in Phrygia [the arrogant cheek!]

6) The Montanists introduce new fasts and forbid certain foods [Think that innovation is a sign of inspiration]

It appears to me that the opponents of Montanism may well be using stock accusations used of other heresies in their attacks. Is suspect that this article may be relevant here:

V. Burrus, “The Heretical Woman as Symbol in (bishop) Alexander, Athanasius, Epiphanius, and Jerome,” Harvard Theological Review 84 (1991): 229-48.

I think that it would make a good Ph.D thesis for someone to examine all the accusations made against the Montanists and see whether the same charges were made against other heresies in order to test this theory.

Please let me know if you take up the challenge.

W.H.C. Frend dies, aged 89

I was sorry to learn today of the death of Prof. W.H.C. Frend, whose works on early church history I have found invaluable. The Daily Telegraph today has a long obituary:

The Rev Prof William Frend, who has died aged 89, combined the roles of Early Christian historian, archaeologist and theologian in a career of such startling optimism and diversity that some were inclined to dismiss him as “a holy fool”.

Encouraged by his Low Church inclinations and experience of digs in North Africa, he genially denied papal claims to primacy in the first centuries AD, and retained strong sympathies with those who had fallen out with Rome. Before his pre-war Oxford thesis was published as The Donatist Church in 1952, patristic scholars had generally viewed Donatism, which appeared at Carthage early in the fourth century, as a heresy which prompted St Augustine to formulate aspects of Catholic sacramental theology… [read more]