st-irenaeus-of-lyonAs the flesh is capable of corruption, so is it also of incorruption; and as it is of death, so is it also of life.

These two do mutually give way to each other; and both cannot remain in the same place.

One is driven out by the other, and the presence of the one destroys that of the other.

When death takes possession of a man, it drives life away from him, and proves him to be dead.

Much more, then, does life, when it has obtained power over the man, drive out death, and restore him as living unto God.

For if death brings mortality, why should not life, when it comes, vivify man?

Just as Isaiah the prophet says, “Death devoured when it had prevailed” (Isaiah 25:8 LXX). And again, “God has wiped away every tear from every face.”

Thus that former life is expelled, because it was not given by the Spirit, but by the breath.

For the breath of life, which also rendered man an animated being, is one thing, and the vivifying Spirit another, which also caused him to become spiritual.

And for this reason Isaiah said, “Thus saith the Lord, who made heaven and established it, who founded the earth and the things therein, and gave breath to the people upon it, and Spirit to those walking upon it” (Isaiah 42:5).

Isaiah tells us that breath is indeed given in common to all people upon earth, but that the Spirit is theirs alone who tread down earthly desires.

And therefore Isaiah himself, distinguishing the things already mentioned, again exclaims, “For the Spirit shall go forth from Me, and I have made every breath” (Isaiah 57:16).

Thus does he attribute the Spirit as peculiar to God which in the last times He pours forth upon the human race by the adoption of sons; but he shows that breath was common throughout the creation, and points it out as something created.

Now what has been made is a different thing from him who makes it. The breath, then, is temporal, but the Spirit eternal.

The breath, too, increases in strength for a short period, and continues for a certain time; after that it takes its departure, leaving its former abode destitute of breath. But when the Spirit pervades the man within and without, inasmuch as it continues there, it never leaves him.

“But that is not first which is spiritual,” says the apostle, speaking this as if with reference to us human beings; “but that is first which is animal, afterwards that which is spiritual” (1 Cor. 15:46).

Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD – c. 202): Adversus Haereses 5,12,1-2 (slightly adapted).

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