On Flesh and Spirit

Gal. 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

St. Theophylact of Ohrid ca. 1055-1107

Here the Manicheans, and all likeminded heretics, make their attack. They claim that man consists of two opposing essences and that this statement of the Apostle supports their claim. But it is not so; Paul is not speaking of essences. By flesh he does not mean the body, but rather, earthly, negligent, and lax thoughts. And by spirit he does not mean the soul, but a spiritual attitude. The earthly attitude, he explains, is opposed to the spiritual, and the spiritual attitude to the earthly. What he is describing is not a battle between soul and body, but the contest between good and evil thoughts. To will or not to will something is a function of the rational soul. Then he adds, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. For the body is a co-worker with the soul, not an opponent. The soul clings to the body, striving mightily not to abandon it, and suffers when it is sundered from the body. How, then, can these two entities — which have such a close relationship, affinity, sympathy and familiarity — be opposed to one another? (Commentary on Galatians)

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