Ante-Nicenes on the Soul After Death

Tertullian ca. 160-220

[I]ndeed, many times it happens that the soul in its actual separation is more powerfully agitated with a more anxious gaze, and a quickened loquacity; while from the loftier and freer position in which it is now placed, it enunciates, by means of its last remnant still lingering in the flesh, what it sees, what it hears, and what it is beginning to know. In Platonic phrase, indeed, the body is a prison, but in the apostle’s it is the temple of God, because it is in Christ. Still, (as must be admitted,) by reason of its enclosure it obstructs and obscures the soul, and sullies it by the concretion of the flesh; whence it happens that the light which illumines objects comes in upon the soul in a more confused manner, as if through a window of horn. Undoubtedly, when the soul, by the power of death, is released from its concretion with the flesh, it is by the very release cleansed and purified: it is, moreover, certain that it escapes from the veil of the flesh into open space, to its clear, and pure, and intrinsic light; and then finds itself enjoying its enfranchisement from matter, and by virtue of its liberty it recovers its divinity, as one who awakes out of sleep passes from images to verities. Then it tells out what it sees; then it exults or it fears, according as it finds what lodging is prepared for it, as soon as it sees the very angel’s face, that arraigner of souls, the Mercury of the poets. (A Treatise on the Soul 53)

St. Hippolytus of Rome ca. 170-235
And when those who are conducted by the angels appointed unto the souls have passed through this gate, they do not proceed on one and the same way; but the righteous, being conducted in the light toward the right, and being hymned by the angels stationed at the place, are brought to a locality full of light. And there the righteous from the beginning dwell, not ruled by necessity, but enjoying always the contemplation of the blessings which are in their view, and delighting themselves with the expectation of others ever new, and deeming those ever better than these. And that place brings no toils to them. There, there is neither fierce heat, nor cold, nor thorn; but the face of the fathers and the righteous is seen to be always smiling, as they wait for the rest and eternal revival in heaven which succeed this location. And we call it by the name Abraham’s bosom. But the unrighteous are dragged toward the left by angels who are ministers of punishment, and they go of their own accord no longer, but are dragged by force as prisoners. And the angels appointed over them send them along, reproaching them and threatening them with an eye of terror, forcing them down into the lower parts. And when they are brought there, those appointed to that service drag them on to the confines or hell. And those who are so near hear incessantly the agitation, and feel the hot smoke. And when that vision is so near, as they see the terrible and excessively glowing spectacle of the fire, they shudder in horror at the expectation of the future judgment, (as if they were) already feeling the power of their punishment. And again, where they see the place of the fathers and the righteous, they are also punished there. For a deep and vast abyss is set there in the midst, so that neither can any of the righteous in sympathy think to pass it, nor any of the unrighteous dare to cross it. (Against Plato, On the Cause of the Universe)
Origen of Alexandria ca. 185-254
Who could follow the soul of a martyr as it passes beyond all the powers of the air and makes its way toward the altar of heaven? Blessed is that soul which, by the crimson of its blood poured out in martyrdom, puts to rout the ranks of the demons of the air advancing toward it. Blessed is he of whom the angels shall sing the prophetic words as he enters into heaven: “Who is this that comes up from Bosra?”(Hom. in Judic., 7.2. excerpted from “The Angels and Their Mission” by Jean Danielou pg. 115)


  1. I didn’t really even have to look to know that it was you, Maximus. I think you should be given some kind of title as Patristic Authority Extrordinaire. You have this uncanny ability to find these amazing quotations, assemble them together thematically, and present them in a captivating way. You also source well.

    When are you going to do an article about that fresco in Italy you saw?

  2. Thank you brother. I would like to write up something about that fresco. Maybe you can help me…I’m certainly not a good writer.

  3. I have an interesting question for you Maximus. What do the Church Fathers say about the new heaven and new earth that are talked about by St. Peter and St. John?

    2 Peter 3:13
    New King James Version (NKJV)
    13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

    Revelation 21:1
    New King James Version (NKJV)
    All Things Made New
    1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

  4. Be patient with us brother, God willing, we will be posting more eschatology as time goes on. For now, here are a couple of the Father’s comments on “the new heavens and new earth”.

    Blessed Augustine ca. 354-430

    When we pray that ‘Thy Kingdom come’ will be fulfilled, what we are praying for is a new heaven and a new earth. (Retractions 1.3.2)

    St. Andrew of Caesarea 5th-6th cent.

    Here, too, it does not mean non-existence of creation but a renewal for the better, just as the Apostle says, This creation will be freed from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God, and the divine melodist, ‘You will turn them around and they will be changed’. (Ps. 102:26) For that which has grown old is being renewed, means not a disappearance from existence, but it means the stripping off of old age and wrinkles. It is our custom to say about people that they have become either better or worse. “One has become another.” One must note, that concerning heaven and earth it says that they passed away instead of “changed” and, just as we (do), he accepted death as some kind of altération from the former condition and into a better end. About the sea it says that the sea will be no longer. For what use (is there) of a sea, when people hâve no need to sail on it or to provide a cargo of agricultural products found in far away lands? After this also by the sea is signified the life of turbulence and many waves, then there will not be any need for it. For not even a remnant of turbulence or fear will be left behind in the saints. (Commentary on the Apocalypse)

    Bede the Venerable 673-735

    This is the order in which that will take place which has already spoken of by anticipation, that he “saw One sitting on a throne, from whose face heaven and earth fled away”; namely, when the ungodly were judged. Then the fashion of this world will pass away by the conflagaration of supernal fires, that when the heaven and earth are changed for the better, the incorruption and immortality of holy bodies may have a condition of existence corresponding with the twofold change. (Commentary on the Apocalypse)

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