Historical region of Country
Gregory’s interpretation clearly derives from Origen. Unlike Philo Quaest. in Gen. 1.53; Iren. AH 1.5.5 and the Valentinians Tert. Adv. Val. 24, and contrary to certain accusations brought against him, Origen did not identify the skin tunics with the body tout court. Already Clement had warned that such an identification, endorsed by the Encratite Cassian, was incorrect Strom. 3,14. Origen held that the skin tunics conceal a mystery that is deeper than that of the fall of the soul according to Plato C. Cels. 4,40. Procopius of Gaza Comm. in Gen. PG 871.221A likely attests to Origen’s interpretation of the skin tunics: these are not the body, since the human being in paradise already had a body, fine leptomere,j and luminous auvgoeide,j and immortal, but these are the mortal and heavy corporeality that was given to the anthropos after the sin. Boston Metro Map But after death, at the resurrection, all humans will recover immortality. An important confirmation to Procopius’s attestation is provided, to my mind, by his quasi-contemporary Simon Gobar ap. Phot. Bibl. cod. 232,287b-291b, who knew Origen and his admirers very well and often reports his thought. Concerning the skin tunics, he too reports their identification with mortality and heavy corporeality and liability to passions, which arrived after the fall, but which we shall lose at the resurrection oper kai. avpotiqe,meqa evn th avnasta,sei, 288a. The key term auvgoeide,j is used here, too, which confirms the identity of source with Procopius.
Gregory stresses that the skin tunics are not the body, but a fleshly mentality De virg. 12-13. The skin tunics are the dead and earthly kind of vision. Vit. Moys. GNO 71,39-40. Thus, they are directly linked to death. And in De mort. GNO 9,55-62 Gregory explains that God inflicted death upon the human being after the fall as a good: through the experience of evil peira, the human being would discover that it is finite and, since it is foreign to our nature, it cannot endure forever. The resurrected body will take off the skin tunics when it will be transformed at the resurrection, and death and fire have purified it from mortality and passions and all the scoriae dross of the present life, which are totally extraneous to life in the next world: The body will be transformed when it is created again at the resurrection into something more divine: death will have purified it qana,tou avpokaqa,rantoj from all that is useless and superfluous to the enjoyment of the future life. After purification in fire, it will take off all that is earthly and useless, what the experts call scoriae now the nature of our body has many qualities that are scoriae, which have some usefulness for the present life, but will be completely useless and alien to the blessedness we hope for.
Now, the very same idea of the deposition of the skin tunics at the resurrection was already set forth by Origen, as I have shown. Even the selfsame verb is used by Origen and by Gregory for this action of taking off : avpoti,qhmi. Death, Gregory maintains, is a good thing, because it destroys all that is superfluous to the next, blessed life: What happens to iron in fire, when the fusion destroys what is useless, will also happen when all that is superfluous will be destroyed through dissolution in death dia. thj evn th nekro,thti lu,sewj, and our body will be set right through death dia. tou qana,tou katorqoutai. Physical death is thus presented in a positive and providential light.
For it will free us from all passions and will direct our desires to what is really worthy of them: Dross will disappear, those things to which the impulses of our desires are now directed: pleasures, riches, love for glory, power, anger, haughtiness, and the like. Thus, our impulse, once liberated and purified from all this, will turn in its activity only to what is worth desiring and loving: it will not altogether extinguish our natural impulses toward those objects, but will transform them in view of the immaterial participation in the true blessings. Death is good because it destroys our present body, our earthly house, to give us our new house, not made by human hands but by God, for the other world: It is the purified body that we should love, not the scoriae that have been taken off. For what divine Scripture says is true: after the destruction of our earthly house, then we shall find the building made by God for us: a house not made by human hands, in the next world, in heaven, worthy of being itself the home of God in Spirit. All the properties of our body will be transformed into something more divine. So too, Gregory foresees the deposition of the skin tunics, these dead tunics taken from animals and symbolizing death De an. 148-149.
That death does not come from God, but derives from sin, and that Christ’s sacrifice was intended to liberate from death the whole of humanity is highlighted by Faustus of Riez or, of Lrins in his De gratia and commenting on Paul’s letter to the Romans in particular, Paul’s sentence stipendium peccati mors. Faustus polemicizes against predestinationism and insists that God’s grace is not reserved to some predestined human beings, but the effects of Christ’s victory over death is for all.