Saturday, April 25, 2020

Theodore Abu Qurrah and an Origenist

Taken from: Theodore Abu Qurrah, translated by John C. Lamoreaux, pp. 248-249 and 254.

A Question to the Same Theodore

Origenist: For a person who has sinned for ten or fifty years, what manner of justice would it be if that person were to be punished for ten thousand eons, or rather, for an infinite number of eons?

Abu Qurrah: You tell me what you think justice would be.

Origenist: It would be to effec a punishment that accords with the sin-- that is, if a person sinned for fifty years, that person should be punished for the same number of years.

Abu Qurrah: From how many different sources do we learn what justice is? And where did you learn this?

Origenist: You tell me! How many?

Abu Qurrah: We know what every form of justice is either from the law of God or from the laws instituted by human beings or from the nature of material objects. Not one of these would suggest that justice effects a punishment that accords with time. For instance, let's imagine someone who fornicates, steals, or kills-- but does so for just one hour. Both the law of God and the laws of human beings, when they kill a killer and punish a transgressor, do so not just for a single hour; rather, by killing him, they punish him for eternity, and by beating him, they cause him to suffer from wounds for a very long time. You also, if someone committed adultery with your wife or raped your daughter, you wouldn't think that he should be punished for just a single hour, but that he should be handed over to death, which is an eternal punishment. The nature of material objects teaches the same. Suppose, for instance, that we're advised not to drink cold water or touch something harmful. If we do so anyway, are we not subject to a protracted punishment? Indeed, it's often the case that we're punished with a chronic illness if we drink cold water or touch fire or partake of vinegar-- and nature is most just. Tell me then, on what basis do you hold to your definition of justice? Where did you find it?

Abu Qurrah was Questioned by an Unbeliever

Unbeliever: Christ declared, "Whoever has not been begotten of water and Spirit will not enter the kingdom of heaven." What of the righteous who lived before his coming and were not baptized? How can they enter it?

Christian: Christ was baptized for them, even as he died for all. It is as he said, "I sanctify myself for them." At the same time, they too were baptized in a bodily manner.

Unbeliever: How can this be?

Christian: Don't you know that those who die are not completely destroyed? Rather, they are dissolved into their composite elements.

Unbeliever: That's true.

Christian: It is written that when he was pierced in the side by the lance, water and blood flowed from his side.

Unbeliever: Indeed.

Christian: Accordingly, when that water was dissolved into the elements, he sanctified all things and baptized those who had been dispersed and dissolved into the elements.

Unbeliever: On this account, unbelievers and absolutely all who died before his coming were baptized.

Christian: Not at all. Rather, only the bodies of believers, whose souls had faith in Christ when he (that is, his holy soul) descended into hell. Here's an analogy. Imagine an aqueduct or river of fresh water, one with many trees planted along its banks. Some of these trees are dead and totally desiccated; others are still alive. What do you think? When the water touches them, will all the trees benefit by drawing up water and life, or only those with the ability to receive and attract it? Those that are completely dry will benefit not in the least from the water. In the same way, unbelievers will benefit not in the least from the dissolution of that water into the elements.

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