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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Physis : World Creation  

Gregory of Nyssa : THE MAKING OF MAN

To Those Who Say that Souls Existed Before Bodies, or that Bodies Were Formed Before Souls; Wherein There is Also a Refutation of the Fables Concerning Transmigration of Souls

Patrologia Graeca 44.229-233  * Greek Fonts


OR it is perhaps not beyond our present subject to discuss the question which has been raised in the churches touching soul and body. Some of those before our time who have dealt with the question of "principles" think it right to say that souls have a previous existence as a people in a society of their own, and that among them also there are standards of vice and of virtue, and that the soul there, which abides in goodness, remains without experience of conjunction with the body; but if it does depart from its communion with good, it falls down to this lower life, and so comes to be in a body. Others, on the contrary, marking the order of the making of man as stated by Moses, say, that the soul second to the body in order of time, since God first took dust from the earth and formed man, and then animated the being thus formed by His breath : and by this argument they prove that the flesh is more noble than the soul; that which was previously formed than that which was afterwards infused into it: for they say that the soul was made for the body, that the thing formed might not be without breath and motion; and that everything that is made for something else is surely less precious than that for which it is made, as the Gospel tells us that "the soul is more than meat and the body than raiment ," because the latter things exist for the sake of the former-for the soul was not made for meat nor our bodies for raiment, but when the former things were already in being the latter were provided for their needs.


Πρὸς τοὺς λέγοντας προϋφεστάναι τὰς ψυχὰς τῶν σωμάτων ἢ τὸ ἔμπαλιν πρὸ τῶν ψυχῶν διαπεπλᾶσθαι τὰ σώματα. Ἐν ᾧ τις καὶ ἀνατροπὴ τῆς κατὰ τὰς μετεμψυχώσεις μυθοποιίας

Τάχα γὰρ οὐκ ἔξω τῆς προκειμένης ἡμῖν πραγματείας ἐστὶ τὸ διεξετάσαι τὸ ἀμφιβαλλόμενον ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις περὶ ψυχῆς τε καὶ σώματος. Τοῖς μὲν γὰρ τῶν πρὸ ἡμῶν δοκεῖ͵ οἷς ὁ Περὶ τῶν ἀρχῶν ἐπραγματεύθη λόγος͵ καθάπερ τινὰ δῆμον ἐν ἰδιαζούσῃ πολιτείᾳ τὰς ψυχὰς προϋφεστάναι λέγειν. Προκεῖσθαι δὲ κἀκεῖ τά τε τῆς κακίας καὶ τῆς ἀρετῆς ὑποδείγματα. Καὶ παραμένουσαν μὲν ἐν τῷ καλῷ τὴν ψυχήν͵ τῆς πρὸς τὸ σῶμα συμπλοκῆς μένειν ἀπείρατον, εἰ δὲ καὶ ἀποῤῥυῇ τῆς τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ μετουσίας͵ πρὸς τὸν τῇδε βίον κατολισθαίνειν καὶ οὕτως ἐν σώματι γίνεσθαι. Ἕτεροι δὲ τῇ κατὰ τὸν Μωσέα τάξει τῆς κατασκευῆς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου προσέχοντες͵ δευτέραν εἶναι τὴν ψυχὴν τοῦ σώματος κατὰ τὸν χρόνον φασίν. Ἐπειδὴ πρῶτον λαβὼν ὁ Θεὸς χοῦν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς, ἔπλασε τὸν ἄνθρωπον, εἶθ' οὕτως ἐψύχωσε διὰ τοῦ ἐμφυσήματος. Καὶ τούτῳ τῷ λόγῳ προτιμοτέραν ἀποδεικνύουσι τῆς ψυχῆς τὴν σάρκα͵ τῆς ἐπεισκρινομένης τὴν προδιαπεπλασμένην. Λέγουσι γὰρ διὰ τὸ σῶμα τὴν ψυχὴν γενέσθαι͵ ὡς ἂν μὴ ἄπνουν τε καὶ ἀκίνητον εἴη τὸ πλάσμα. Πᾶν δὲ τὸ διά τι γινόμενον͵ ἀτιμότερον πάντως ἐστὶ τοῦ δι' ὃ γίνεται. Καθὼς τὸ Εὐαγγέλιον λέγει͵ ὅτι πλεῖόν ἐστι τῆς τροφῆς ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ τὸ σῶμα τοῦ ἐνδύματος͵ διότι τούτων ἕνεκεν ἐκεῖνα. Οὐ γὰρ διὰ τὴν τροφὴν ἡ ψυχὴ οὐδὲ τοῦ ἐνδύματος χάριν κατεσκευάσθη τὰ σώματα.

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