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Flesh is the soft substance of the body of a living thing.


  • FLESH, n. The Second Person of the secular Trinity.
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Dictionary (1906); republished as The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
  • Any kind of material form whatever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all material form should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: “This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.”
    • Gautama Buddha, Majjhima Nikaya, B. Nanamoli and B. Bodhi, trans. (1995), Sutta 62, verse 3, p. 527
  • Rahula, whatever internally, belonging to oneself, is solid, solidified, and clung-to, that is, head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, contents of the stomach, feces, or whatever else internally, belonging to oneself, is solid, solidified, and clung-to: this is called the internal earth element. Now both the internal earth element and the external earth element are simply earth element. And that should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: “This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.” When one sees it thus as it actually is with proper wisdom, one becomes disenchanted with the earth element and makes the mind dispassionate towards the earth element.
    • Gautama Buddha, Majjhima Nikaya, B. Nanamoli and B. Bodhi, trans. (1995), Sutta 62, verse 8, p. 528
  • But what is meant by “flesh” (σάρξ)? It is not what is corporal or sensual but rather the whole sphere of what is visible, available, disposable, and measurable, and as such the sphere of what is transient. This sphere becomes a power over us insofar as we make it the foundation of our lives by living “according to it,” that is, by succumbing to the temptation to live out of what is visible and disposable instead of out of what is invisible and nondisposable—regardless of whether we give ourselves to the alluring possibilities of such a life imprudently and with desire or whether we lead our lives reflectively and with calculation on the basis of our own accomplishments, “the works of the law.” “Flesh” embraces not only material things but also all of our creating and accomplishing insofar as it is concerned with achieving something demonstrable such as fulfilling the demands of the law (Gal. 3:3); to “flesh” belongs every achieved quality and every advantage that we can have within the sphere of what can be seen and disposed of (Phil. 3:4ff.).
    • Rudolf Bultmann, New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings (1984), p. 16
  • From my youth upwards
    My Spirit walked not with the souls of men,
    Nor looked upon the earth with human eyes;
    The thirst of their ambition was not mine,
    The aim of their existence was not mine;
    My joys—my griefs—my passions—and my powers,
    Made me a stranger; though I wore the form,
    I had no sympathy with breathing flesh.
    • Byron, Manfred in Manfred, Act 2, Scene 2, lines 50-58
  • All those men and women … who in their body serve the world through the desires of the flesh, the concerns of the world and the cares of this life: They are held captive by the devil, whose children they are, and whose works they do.
    • Francis of Assisi, “Earlier Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance,” Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Volume 1, p. 43
  • When the spirit is lukewarm, and gradually growing cold as it moves from grace, flesh and blood inevitably seek their own interests. When the soul finds no delight, what is left except for the flesh to look for some? Then the base instinct covers itself with the excuse of necessity, and the mind of the flesh forms the conscience.
    • Francis of Assisi, as reported in The Life of Saint Francis, Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Volume 2, p. 293
  • In after ages, when humanity will have regained robust health, when peace will have been once more established between body and soul, and they again live together in primal harmony, it will scarcely be possible for men to comprehend the unnatural enmity Christianity has set between them. Happier and fairer generations, born of free unions, and nurtured in a religion of joy, will smile with pity at their poor ancestors, who passed their lives in melancholy abstinence from all the enjoyments of this beautiful world, and who mortified the warm, rosy-hued flesh till they became mere pale cold ghosts.
    • Heinrich Heine, Religion and Philosophy in Germany, in Heine’s Wit, Wisdom and Pathos (1888), pp. 97-98
  • We are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,-through sanctification of the Spirit;” and this sanctification, it is a comfort to know, is a sanctification we may safely confide in; because it is widely different from the self-sanctification, the fleshly holiness, or wilful separation, to which “he that runneth,” and “he that willeth,” addicts himself, in order that the idol self may be magnified and worshipped.
  • When speaking of the spiritual nature or the soul, we are referring to that which is “inner” or “new.” When speaking of the bodily nature, or that which is flesh and blood, we are referring to that which is called “sensual,” “outward,” or “old.” Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16: “Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”
    • Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (1520), M. Tranvik, trans. (Minneapolis: 2008), p. 51
  • When you see a person squirming in the clutches of the Law, say to him: “Brother, get things straight. You let the Law talk to your conscience. Make it talk to your flesh.
    • Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535), Chapter 2, Verse 19
  • Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. ... Following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. ... They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all.
  • The natural gravitation of the body pulls down with it those of little mind, strangling and overwhelming them with the multitude of the fleshly elements. Blessed are they to whom it is given to resist with superior strength the weight that would pull them down, taught by the guiding lines of right instruction to leap upward from earth and earth-bound things into the ether and the revolving heavens.
    • Philo, On The Special Laws, Part IV, p. 79
  • How can you desire flesh, which by nature is devoid of consciousness? The mind you desire cannot be seen or touched; and that which can be is not conscious. Why do you embrace it in vain?
    • Santideva, A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life, V. Wallace and B. Wallace, trans. (1997), § 8.54
The Bible at Wikisource
  • That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.
  • Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
  • τὸ γὰρ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς θάνατος, τὸ δὲ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος ζωὴ καὶ εἰρήνη.
    • Nam prudentia carnis mors prudentia autem Spiritus vita et pax.
      • The mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the spirit is life and peace.
  • You were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.
  • All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.
  • For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

See also

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