Debates among Christians concerning the composition of man date back to early Christianity. Broadly speaking, there have been two major models on the relationship between the material and immaterial aspects of man. These are, first, the instrumentality model of anthropology, which locates the person in the soul with the body serving as its instrument, and, second, the unitary model which sees the person as a unity of the body and the soul.
The thesis of this paper is that, for the early church fathers who held the unitary model of anthropology, it provided them with a better arsenal to defend the doctrines of creation and resurrection against the views of Gnosticism because it viewed the body (and matter at large) positively. In other words, those who held to the unitary model of anthropology insisted on the indispensability of the body with the corollary doctrine of bodily (perhaps sometimes overly materialistic) resurrection and the enjoyment of life in a literal millennium and the new heaven and earth thereafter. The thesis will be defended through a close examination of the pertinent sections of the writings of the fathers who held the unitary model of anthropology. These include Irenaeus (Adv. haer. 2.29.1–2), Tertullian (Adv. Prax. 16), and Theodore of Mopsuestia (Adv. Apoll.)