Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart has written an essay on the Pauline terms “spirit,” (πνευμα) “soul,” (ψυχη), and “flesh” (σαρξ), maintaining that modern readers are greatly (or perhaps completely) hindered in their understanding of them. He lays blame on a kind of “Protestant biblical scholarship” that is allegedly weighed down with all sorts of wrong-headed theological predispositions—presuppositions that preclude any genuine understanding of the “intellectual and spiritual environment of the apostolic church.” He is indicting an entire tradition of biblical interpretation, so his lone example (N.T. Wright) is but an incidental detail, a mere straw placeholder for what turns out to be a much more sweeping agenda.
Hart is here to enlighten us, to lift us out of the lower depths, to scrape off the encrusted barnacles of received-yet-misguided tradition, and to give unique insight into how ancient people certainly “would have” understood Paul. If all that sounds rather gnostic, that is because it is. More on that anon. For the present, he claims there is one main source for our darkened intellectual confusion.
Modern scholarship assumes that Judaism and paganism in late antiquity are essentially distinguishable. That is, as he puts it, that there is an “impermeable cultural partition between them—that is, between the ‘philosophy’ of the Greeks and the ‘pure’ covenantal piety of the Jews.” The results of this kind of predisposition are “sometimes comic,” he writes, but at other times they are “positively disastrous”—nowhere more disastrous than in our reception of Paul’s terms πνευμα, ψυχη, and σαρξ—spirit, soul, and flesh, respectively.
What he means is that “Protestant” biblical scholarship wrongly sets the Hebrew Bible as the background interpretive context for the New Testament. Instead, we should understand the proper backdrop to include the great, wide, dizzying world of intertestamental apocalyptic literature with its “shining hierarchies of spirits and powers and morally ambiguous angels and demi-angelic nefilim.” In other words, the fusion of Jewish apocalyptic speculation and Platonism so amply evidenced in the intertestamental literature is, in fact, the real context for the New Testament’s conceptual world. He writes,
[For] us today, even such words as ‘heavenly’ (ἐπουράνιος) and ‘earthly’ (χοϊκός) convey practically nothing of the exquisite cosmology—at once concretely physical and vibrantly spiritual—in which the authors of the New Testament lived. And inevitably when we read of ‘spirit,’ ‘soul,’ and ‘flesh’ in the New Testament, the specter of Descartes (even if unnoticed by us) imposes itself between us and the conceptual world those terms reflect: we have next to no sense of the implications, physical and metaphysical, that such words had in the age of the early church.
His repeated use of the first person plural shouldn’t be taken literally: in no way does he intend to include himself in these critiques. What he really means is that everyone other than David Bentley Hart is doubly hampered in their interpretations: not only do they exclude the real conceptual world in which these terms are to be understood, but they are also apparently burdened by an invisible allegiance to 17th century philosopher Rene Descartes, with his “ghost in the machine” dualism. It is this, apparently, that serves to explain the tenacious belief that resurrection involves the reanimation of fleshly bodies.
He explains the dynamics by which “we” misunderstand:
Even ‘flesh’ becomes an almost imperfect cipher for us, not only because of the drastic oversimplifications of Christian tradition with which we have been burdened; we think we know—just know in our bones—that the early Christians unambiguously affirmed the inherent goodness of the material body, and that surely, then, Christian scripture could never have meant to employ the word ‘flesh’ with its literal acceptation in order to designate something bad. Thus, as we read along, either we convince ourselves not to notice that almost every use of the word is openly opprobrious, and that the very few that are not are still for the most part merely neutral in intonation, or we acknowledge this fact but nevertheless still insist to ourselves that the word is being used metaphorically or as a lexical synecdoche for some larger conceptual construct like ‘the mortal life in the flesh, stained with sin and lying under divine judgment.’
He holds up as the “cartoonish climax” of this latter strategy the New International Version of the Bible, which translated (over many editions) σαρξ (flesh) as “sinful nature.” Hart adds a dash of snark: “I would check the exact wording, but that would involve picking up a copy of the NIV.” This translation is, he declares, “utter twaddle.” The word “flesh” emphatically does not mean “sinful nature” or “humanity under judgment” or “fallen flesh.” In fact,
it just means ‘flesh,’ in the bluntly physical sense, and it often has a negative connotation because flesh is essentially a bad condition to be in; belonging to the realm of mutability and mortality, it can form only a body of death. Hence, according to Paul, the body of the resurrection is not one of flesh and blood animated by ‘soul,’ but is rather a new reality altogether, an entirely spiritual body beyond comprehension or dissolution. And this is how his language would have been understood by his contemporaries.
Hart leaves us to wonder how he himself is able to “listen with antique ears” and to divine what the interpretive minds of Paul’s contemporaries “would have” understood. He provides no evidence for it. Missing is any exploration of “the implications, physical and metaphysical, that such words had in the age of the early church.” He doesn’t mention, much less cite, any extant work of anyone in the early post-apostolic church. He simply announces that the reason anyone might bristle at his suggestion is because he or she is captive to “the Cartesian picture of things.” You see, “spiritual” does not mean something lacking all extension or consistency, as we imagine. On the contrary, the spiritual in the ancient world is something of ultimate substance; it represents a “kind of life not bound to death or to the irrational faculties of brute nature, inherently indestructible and incorruptible, and not confined to any single cosmic sphere.” And so it is “stronger, more vital, more glorious than the worldly elements of a coarse corruptible body compounded of earthly soul and material flesh.” He has poetic flair, to be sure.
After all, Hart observes, Paul himself says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither does perishability inherit imperishability.” Thus, the resurrection involves “nothing less than the transformation of the psychical composite into spiritual complex—the metamorphosis of the mortal fleshly body that belongs to soul into the immortal fleshless body that belongs to spirit.” In sum, in the resurrection the “flesh” (and, he says, possibly the soul) is left behind. There is no “reanimation” of our fleshly body, with its blood and bones. This is true, he argues, of Christ himself, who was able to journey to hidden regions, walk through doors, and so forth “precisely because he was no longer hindered by a carnal frame, but instead now possessed the boundless liberty of spirit.”
Hart criticizes those who refuse to hear the “plain meaning” of Paul’s words: “No matter how clear Paul’s pronouncements are, the plain meaning of his words still seems so terribly ‘pagan’ or ‘Platonic’ or ‘semi-gnostic’ to modern Christian ears, and of course all of those things are usually regarded as being very bad.” And this is why people still cling to the idea that resurrection is “something along the lines of a reconstruction and reanimation of the earthly body.”
Here is what we have thus far: because of modern “Protestant” biblical studies, people refuse to enter the real conceptual world of the ancients (archons, emanations, spiritual hierarchies, etc.) and thus fail to understand the terms. We do not understand that “spirit,” “soul,” and “flesh” describe three distinct and separable principles of human life, arranged in a specific hierarchy from lowest (flesh) to highest (spirit). Indeed, we insist on the “utter twaddle” of reading Paul’s “flesh” as “mortal flesh in its sinful condition” because we refuse to see it as it intrinsically is: lower, base, corruptible, and temporary. Moreover, because we come to the question with invisible “Cartesian” commitments we assume the resurrection involves the reanimation of our fleshly bodies: blood, bones, and all. We just don’t “get” that the resurrection involves an entirely new body—one of spiritual, “heavenly,” “angelic” substance.
Reflecting on John’s language of πνευμα (“spirit”) in John 3, Hart writes: “[T]his much is certain: it was widely believed in late antiquity that, in human beings, flesh and soul and spirit were all present in some degree; ‘spirit’ was merely the element that was imperishable by nature and constitution.” The rest is perishable, and thus destined to perish even in the resurrection.
There is one thing we should concede: there were, in fact, ancients who understood these words precisely as Hart insists they must be understood. Most—if not all—of these ancients were gnostics of the Valentinian variety, which means he is quite mistaken when he says “it was widely believed.” These were the very outer fringes of the nominally Christian community, and in the course of time were excluded from that community altogether.
Einar Thomassen writes in his introduction to the 2nd century Valentinian text, The Treatise on Resurrection: “The fact that [the Savior] entered this world and assumed a human body means that he accepted death. When the Savior later rose from the dead, he also freed himself from the body he had put on when he descended into the world and became once more a purely spiritual being.” 1 This is a good summary of what we find in the Treatise itself:
Since we are visibly present in this world, we wear the garment of the world. From the Savior we radiate like beams of light and we are sustained by him until our sunset, our death in this life. We are drawn upward by him, like rays by the sun, and nothing holds us down. This is the resurrection of the spirit, which swallows the resurrection of the soul and the resurrection of the flesh. (The Treatise on Resurrection, 45,23-46,2)
The author (whom many believe to be Valentinus himself) continues with an exhortation:
So never doubt the resurrection, Rheginus my son […] Why is it, then, that you will not take your flesh with you when you ascend into the eternal realm? What is better than flesh is what animates the flesh. [….] Some inquire further and want to know whether one will be saved immediately, if the body is left behind. Let there be no doubt about this. Surely, the visible parts of the body are dead and will not be saved. Only the living parts that are within will arise. (47,1-30)
The sense is that the lower, fleshly, corruptible, and mortal aspect of human nature will be left behind in the resurrection, and humanity’s higher, spiritual identity will arise and ascend to the Father. This happens to be very similar to Hart’s own explicit view: “The Logos of John’s gospel does, of course, ‘become flesh’ and ‘tabernacle’ among his creatures, but this involves no particular affirmation of the goodness of fleshly life; the Logos descends to us that we might ascend with him, and in so doing, presumably, shed the flesh.”
Shed the flesh. Presumably. Why is this presumable? Is this just naturally what enlightened people unencumbered by the “narrow” scope of the Hebrew Bible and the philosophical musings of Rene Descartes would presume? I suppose it is to Hart’s faint credit that he is only at the stage of “presumably.” The author of the Treatise wanted there to be “no doubt” about it.
The Valentinian Tripartite Tractate explains at great length the distinction between the three “orders” of creation that Hart is emphatically endorsing here: the “spiritual,” the “psychical” (“soul-ish”), and the “fleshly.” Human beings were created as a composite of the three: “The first human, then, is a mixed molding and a mixed creation, and a depository of those on the left [I.e., “material,” “darknesses,” “last ones”] and those on the right [I.e., “psychical,” “fires,” “middle ones”], as well as of a spiritual Word, and his sentiments are divided between each of the two substances to which he owes his existence” (Tripartite Tractate, 106, 25).
This, indeed, is Hart’s own understanding: “[T]his much is certain: it was widely believed in late antiquity that, in human beings, flesh and soul and spirit were all present in some degree; ‘spirit’ was merely the element that was imperishable by nature and constitution.” And the doctrine of salvation in the Tractate involves the dissolution of the lower aspects of “flesh” and (perhaps) “soul,” in favor of a higher “spiritual” substance. I say “perhaps” because the psychical person is the “in between” person, and there are various destinies described in the Tractate for this aspect of the human person. Hart’s own soteriology mimics this, even down to the uncertainty:
In speaking of the body of the resurrection as a ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘psychical’ body, Paul is saying that, in the Age to come, when the whole cosmos will be transfigured into a reality appropriate to spirit, beyond birth and death, the terrestrial bodies of those raised to new life will be transfigured into the sort of celestial bodies that now belong to the angels: incorruptible, immortal, purged of every element of flesh and blood and (perhaps) soul.
There were, of course, many other ancients who were close students of the Apostle Paul, but Hart neglects to call any of them as actual witnesses for his case. We do well to call them forward and hear their testimony, as they themselves were able, as we are not, to listen “with antique ears.”
Not very much time elapses from the close of the Apostolic age before Christians begin defending the doctrine of resurrection from its various detractors. Even the Shepherd of Hermas, a late 1st century document, exhorts the believer to keep their “flesh” pure and stainless so that it may be “justified,” and even admonishes: “See that the thought never arises in your mind that this flesh of yours is corruptible” (Shepherd of Hermas, 5.7).
To Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165) is attributed an entire treatise on the subject, now known as Fragments of the Lost Work of Justin on the Resurrection. There is some doubt of Justin’s authorship—other candidates are Athenagoras (late 2nd c.) or Hippolytus (AD 170-235)—but the Fragments are nevertheless of ancient provenance. And there is no mystery with whom the author is arguing:
They who maintain the wrong opinion say that there is no resurrection of the flesh; giving as their reason that it is impossible that what is corrupted and dissolved should be restored to the same as it had been. And besides the impossibility, they say that the salvation of the flesh is disadvantageous; and they abuse the flesh, adducing its infirmities, and declare that it only is the cause of our sins, so that if the flesh, say they, rise again, our infirmities also rise with it. (Fragments, 2)
[O]f those who maintain that the flesh has no resurrection, some assert that it is impossible; others that, considering how vile and despicable the flesh is, it is not fit that God should raise it; and others, that it did not at the first receive the promise. (Fragments, 5)
The author engages all of these detractors in a lengthy and subtle discourse, even addressing the matter of Jesus’ words that we will be “like the angels in heaven.” But lest we simply quote the whole of the work, we should just note how Pseudo-Justin understood the character and nature of “flesh”:
But following our order, we must now speak with respect to those who think meanly of the flesh, and say that it is not worthy of the resurrection nor of the heavenly economy, because, first, its substance is earth; and besides, because it is full of all wickedness, so that it forces the soul to sin along with it. But these persons seem to be ignorant of the whole work of God, both of the genesis and formation of man at the first, and why the things in the world were made. For does not the word say, ‘Let Us make man in our image, and after our likeness?’ What kind of man? Manifestly He means fleshly man. For the word says, ‘And God took dust of the earth, and made man.’ It is evident, therefore, that man made in the image of God was of flesh. Is it not, then, absurd to say, that the flesh made by God in his own image is contemptible, and worthy of nothing? (Fragments, 7)
That is a good question. But it is clear that this ancient writer was somehow sadly encumbered with the tradition of Protestant biblical studies.
And so was Tertullian (AD 160-220), for that matter:
You hold to the scriptures in which the flesh is disparaged; receive also those in which it is ennobled [….] Even the apostle [Paul] ought not to be known for any one statement in which he is wont to reproach the flesh. For although he says that ‘in his flesh dwelleth no good thing;’ although he affirms that ‘they who are in the flesh cannot please God,’ because ‘the flesh lusteth against the Spirit;’ yet in these and similar assertions which he makes, it is not the substance of the flesh, but its actions, which are censured. (On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 10.)
He even devotes an entire chapter (inspired, no doubt, by accidentally picking up the New International Version) on the topic: “It is the works of the flesh, not the substance of the flesh, which St. Paul always condemns” (Ch. 46). It would be entirely tedious to provide lengthy quotations of Tertullian: that he defended, in the most full-throated way possible, the resurrection of our mortal flesh—body, blood, bones and all—is not in doubt.
Perhaps Irenaeus (AD 130-202) was one of the ancients who surely understood the “plain meaning” of Paul’s words:
Those who reject the whole ‘economy’ of God, deny the salvation of the flesh, and reject its regeneration, saying that it is not capable of receiving imperishability, are absolutely vain. (Against Heresies, 5.2.2) 2
Again, there is no need to trace all of his arguments in this regard, some of which are brilliant and subtle (like asking the pertinent question what the denial of the resurrection of the flesh means for eucharistic theology—the “flesh” and “blood” of our Savior?). Suffice it to say, he marshals veritable mountains of exegetical evidence that Paul’s negative assessment of the flesh is an ethical, not ontological assessment:
What was dead? Evidently the substance of the flesh, which had lost the breath of life and became without breath and dead. This is what the Lord came to make alive so that as we all die in Adam because psychic, so we all live in Christ because spiritual, after having put off not the work shaped by God but the desires of the flesh, and put on the Holy Spirit. (Against Heresies, 5.12.3, italics added)
He even responds directly to the predictable wheeling out of 1 Corinthians 15:30, which, of course, is precisely what Hart does:
Thus when the heretics take two expressions from Paul, ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,’ they have not understood the mind of the Apostle or studied the meaning of his expressions [….] What proves that the Apostle does not speak of some other body, but of the body of flesh, is that he says to the Corinthians plainly, indubitably, and without any ambiguity: ‘Always bearing about the death of Jesus in our body, that the life of Jesus Christ may also be manifest in our body. For, if we the living are delivered to death because of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may also be manifest in our mortal flesh… (Against Heresies, 5, 13.2,4)
Irenaeus is here using a perhaps dubious textual variant at the end of the verse when it says “mortal flesh.” But think about what that implies: some copyist or scribe earlier, more ancient, and even closer to the “intellectual and spiritual world of the apostolic church” did not himself understand that “flesh” is, in itself, a bad thing. We are to suppose he was deaf to the “plain meaning” of Paul’s words. Whether Irenaeus is right or wrong on the merits is not the pressing matter; what is undeniable is that he shared the theological views and exegetical results of clueless Protestant biblical scholars two millennia down the road.
Perhaps Irenaeus, ministering as he did in far western reaches of Gaul, is some kind of western outlier. Let us move east, say, to Antioch, and hear Theophilus (circa AD 120-190):
When thou shalt have put off the mortal, and put on incorruption, then shall thou see God worthily. For God will raise thy flesh immortal with thy soul; and then, having become immortal, thou shalt see the Immortal. (To Autolycus, 7)
Or perhaps Athenagoras of Athens (circa, latter 2nd century), believed to be an Athenian convert and former philosopher. Surely the Platonic hierarchies were a central part of his conceptual world:
Moreover also, that His power is sufficient for the raising of dead bodies, is shown by the creation of these same bodies. For if, when they did not exist, He made at their first formation the bodies of men, and their original elements, He will, when they are dissolved, in whatever manner that may take place, raise them again with equal ease: for this, too, is equally possible to Him [….] [T]hat same power can reunite what is dissolved, and raise up what is prostrate, and restore the dead to life again, and put the corruptible into a state of incorruption. (On the Resurrection, 3)
Athenagoras is very clear that the fleshly body that dissolves is the very body God will raise, as he deals at length with the problem of some bodies having been consumed by others or scattered far and wide. It is the flesh and bones that are the subject of resurrection: the fleshly body is not put aside, shed, or transcended. To be sure, he (and every other early father) affirmed that the resurrection body has a new and glorified character, having been made incorruptible—not substituted for—but he resolutely denied that it is a different body.
Perhaps Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215), lover of all things Hellenic, expert in the conceptual world of Platonic philosophy, might provide us a divergent witness. Alas:
Those, then, who run down created existence and vilify the body are wrong; not considering that the frame of man was formed erect for the contemplation of heaven, and that the organization of the senses tends to knowledge; and that the members and parts are arranged for good, not for pleasure. Whence this abode becomes receptive of the soul which is most precious to God; and is dignified with the Holy Spirit through the sanctification of soul and body, perfected with the perfection of the Savior. (Miscellanies, 4.26).
Clement entertains the objection that scripture itself disparages the flesh. He responds with his own explicit understanding of what Paul meant: “For ‘the flower of grass,’ and ‘walking after the flesh,’ and ‘being carnal,’ according to the apostle, are those who are in their sins” (4.26). This is, we should note, the very thing we have been told is “utter twaddle.” Nevertheless, for Clement (as with Irenaeus) the issue is one of ethics, not ontology. With respect to the actual ontological issue, Clement (a Christian Platonist, to be sure) believes that the soul is the “better” part of man, and the body “inferior.” “But,” he says, “neither is the soul of man good by nature, nor, on the other hand, is the body bad by nature. Nor is that which is not good straightaway bad” (4.26). These things occupy a “middle place,” and it is actions that determine their goodness or badness: “Always therefore the good actions, as better, attach to the better and ruling spirit; and voluptuous and sinful actions are attributed to the worse, the sinful one” (4.26).
Quoting the Apostle Paul, Clement writes: “For the wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. The assertion, then, may be hazarded, that it has been shown that death is the fellowship of the soul in a state of sin with the body; and life the separation from sin” (Miscellanies, 4.3). Note well: life is not separation from the body, but separation from sin.
It is abundantly clear from these 2nd century witnesses that, in fact, ancient Christian readers and interpreters of Paul did not share David Bentley Hart’s enlightened understanding. Indeed, surveying their writings it seems that arguing against his very understanding was of paramount importance for these church fathers, since the notion of “shedding” the flesh was a—perhaps even the—characteristic “tell” or “calling card” of Valentinian heretics.
At the risk of tedium, we should take a brief sounding from later history, where we discover that there is simply no credible case that any of the later fathers—East or West—shared Hart’s interpretation of Paul.
Gregory of Nyssa (AD 335-394):
For if the identical individual particle does not return and only something homogeneous but not identical is fetched, you will have something else in the place of that first thing, and such a process will cease to be a resurrection and will be merely the creation of a new man. But if the same man is to return to himself, he must be the same entirely, and regain his original formation in every single atom of his elements. (On the Soul and Resurrection, NPNF 2.5: 446)
And there is no doubt that Gregory’s notion of the resurrection is, in fact, the reanimation of the body. His consistent and repeated definition of resurrection is “the reconstitution of our nature in its original form” (464). Either the “specter of Descartes” is a time-traveling daemon, or this is what the scriptures, in fact, demand:
[O]ur Lord does not declare in word alone that the bodies of the dead shall be raised up again; but He shows in action the Resurrection itself, making a beginning of this work of wonder from things more within our reach and less capable of being doubted. First, that is, He displays His life-giving power in the case of the deadly forms of disease, and chases those maladies by one word of command; then He raises a little girl just dead; then He makes a young man, who is already being carried out, sit up on his bier, and delivers him to his mother; after that He calls forth from his tomb the four-days-dead and already decomposed Lazarus, vivifying the prostrate body with His commanding voice; then after three days He raises from the dead His own human body, pierced through it was with the nails and spear, and brings the print of those nails and the spear-wound to witness to the Resurrection. (On the Soul and Resurrection, NPNF 2.5: 461)
One will find no divergence among the Cappadocians on this matter, so let us close with the opinion of one the greatest Eastern fathers, whose Exposition of the Orthodox Faith was itself intended as a doctrinal compendium of the thoughts of the early church: John of Damascus (AD 676-749).
It is, then, this very body, which is corruptible and liable to dissolution, that will rise again incorruptible. For He, who made it in the beginning of the sand of the earth, does not lack the power to raise it up again after it has been dissolved again and returned to the earth from which it was taken, in accordance with the reversal of the Creator’s judgment. (Orthodox Faith, 4.27)
He then reflects on Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians 15:
Again the divine apostle says, For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. And again: It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power: it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory: it is sown a natural body (that is to say, crass and mortal), it is raised a spiritual body, such as was our Lord’s body after the resurrection which passed through closed doors, was unwearying, had no need of food, or sleep, or drink. For they will be, saith the Lord, as the angels of God: there will no longer be marriage nor procreation of children. The divine apostle, in truth, says, For our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus, Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body: not meaning change into another form (God forbid!), but rather the change from corruption into incorruption. (Orthodox Faith, 4.27)
It is quite remarkable, actually, how the church fathers manage to retain all the substance of what Hart wishes (the “spiritual” character of the resurrection body involving a more “solid” mastery of the material world), anticipate all the objections he raises (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15), yet affirm, in no uncertain terms, the created goodness of the material, fleshly body, its corruption by sin, and its future revivification. “We shall therefore rise again,” writes John, “our souls being once more united with our bodies, now made incorruptible and having put off corruption, and we shall stand beside the awful judgment-seat of Christ.” Whereas Hart would turn our transformation into a “transfiguration,” involving a “completely new reality,” John of Damascus replies, literally: “God forbid.”
Hart is obviously putting his fertile mind to free-wheeling use, declaring with absolute certainty how the ancients “must have” understood Paul. The results are, as is typical with this sort of endeavor, exactly how Hart himself understands Paul. One might sympathize with being too lazy, snobbish, or uninterested to pick up a copy of the New International Version. But perhaps it isn’t too much to ask that before dogmatically declaring how the ancients understood Paul he might actually pick up a book and check beforehand how they actually, well, understood Paul.
And about that “cartoonish” New International Version: we might well agree with Hart that, as a matter of translation, rendering σαρξ as “sinful nature” is at least arguably “utter twaddle.” As a matter of interpretation, however, it captures remarkably well the uniform testimony of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. If David Bentley Hart wants to step outside with the Valentinians, he should let his ecclesiastical superiors know.