Many people do not give much reflection to the exact details of their
view of an afterlife. Most give little consideration to the issue of
whether or not they will have a body for the afterlife and if so,
exactly what body will each person have for all eternity? For some Jews
and Christians it might even be a little shocking to learn that there is
this belief in the resurrection of the body.
that based on scriptural passages the members of the western religions
should hold for the resurrection of their bodies. How exactly that is to
work is a matter of critical concern.
Among the Jews the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the
physical body after death. "In classical Judaism, resurrection of the
dead was a central belief, essential to defining oneself as a Jew.
“Today,” writes Jon D. Levenson in Resurrection and the Restoration of
Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life (Yale University Press,
2006)., professor of Jewish studies at Harvard, that fact “comes as a
shock to most Jews and Christians alike.” (The
Case for What ‘Comes as a Shock to Most Jews and Christians Alike’
by Peter Steinfels.)
The Jewish people believed that God created the world. Our
physical world is God's creation, and it is good. The Pharisees, in
contrast to the Greco-Roman religious beliefs, vigorously affirmed the
doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees stressed a
literal resurrection of the physical body, which would be reunited with
the spirit of an individual. Their worldview embraced a future
restoration of God's original design for his world. The Pharisees
envisioned a time of redemption in which God would realign the physical
creation with the ethereal realm. -Brad H. Young, Paul, The Jewish
Theologian, at 123.
The early founder of the Christian tradition, Paul (the former Jew,
Saul), admits that he was "as to the law, a Pharisee" (Phil. 3:5).
Further in the writings of Paul:
1 Corinthians 15:50-54: Now I say this, brethren, that
flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the
perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we
will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound,
and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For
this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put
on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the
imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will
come about the saying that is written, Death is Swallowed up in victory.
The Bible clearly affirms the doctrine of the general resurrection of the
dead. Note, in brief, the following points.
Old Testament - (cf. 2 Tim. 1:10).
According to Jesus, God’s declaration to Moses regarding Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob was an indication of the eventual resurrection (Mt. 22:31,32).
Other Old Testament passages suggested that man’s body would be raised
(see Job 19:25-27; Psa. 17:15; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2; Hos. 13:14).
The New Testament (see Jn. 5:28-29;
6:39-40; Mk. 12:18-27; Acts 17:23; 26:8; Rom. 8:23; 1 Thes. 4:16; 1 Cor.
15; 2 Cor. 5:1-2; Phil. 3:21).
The Christian view is given here by A.J. Maas
He presents the Christian reasoning as to the congruity of the Christian
dogma with previous teachings as follow:
- As the soul has a natural propensity to the body, its perpetual
separation from the body would seem unnatural.
- As the body is the partner of the soul's crimes, and the companion
of her virtues, the justice of God seems to demand that the body be
the sharer in the soul's punishment and reward.
- As the soul separated from the body is naturally imperfect, the
consummation of its happiness, replete with every good, seems to
demand the resurrection of the body.
Here is material attesting to belief in the resurrection of the
physical bodies of the earliest Christians by Chris Price :
Here is material on the idea of Resurrection in early Judaism and in
Christianity by Robert M. Price: READ:
In Christianity there is no doubt that the faithful are to hold that
there will be a resurrection of the physical body. The Fourth
Lateran Council (1215), infallibly defined that at the second coming
Jesus "will judge the living and the dead, to render to every person
according to his works, both to the reprobate and to the elect. All of
them will rise with their own bodies, which they now wear, so as to
receive according to their deserts, whether these be good or bad [Rom.
2:6–11]" (constitution 1).
Most recently, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reiterated
this long-defined teaching, stating, "‘We believe in the true
resurrection of this flesh that we now possess’ (Council of Lyons II).
We sow a corruptible body in the tomb, but he raises up an incorruptible
body, a ‘spiritual body’ (cf. 1 Cor 15:42–44)" (CCC 1017).
See further a Catholic source:
For further overview of the belief in Resurrection in the
READ : Stephen T. Davis
Traditional Christian Belief in the Resurrection of the Body
Stephen T. Davis, Is Belief in the
Resurrection Rational? A Response to Michael Martin
in PHILO Volume 2, Number 1
This essay is a response to Michael Martin's "Why the Resurrection Is
Initially Improbable," Philo, Vol. 1, No. 1. I argue that
Martin has not succeeded in achieving his aim of showing that the
Resurrection is initially improbable and thus, by Bayes's Theorem,
implausible. I respond to five of Martin's arguments: (1) the
"particular time and place argument"; (2) the claim that there is no
plausible Christian theory of why Jesus should have been incarnated
and resurrected; (3) the claim that the Resurrection accounts in the
New Testament are unreliable; (4) Martin's assumptions about how one
establishes the initial probability of Resurrection; and (5) the use
Martin makes of Bayes's Theorem to discredit belief in the
It does come down to which is the best
argument and that is the position that is best defended with reasons and
evidence. The position is that : Humans will be resurrected after they die.
The Christian apologists defending
their claims about the resurrection, like Stephen Davis, admit that "So
given Christian theism, I think interventionist miracles are to be expected,
as is Resurrection." This reasoning that is offered admits that it is
based on a set of beliefs, namely Christian Theism, and not on
evidence or reasoning that would provide an argument that compels rational
human beings to accept the truth of the conclusion that the dead will be
resurrected and live in their bodies for all eternity.
No empirical evidence at all. The defenders of the position cite the sacred
scriptures or the BIBLE of the Christians. In doing so the stories they cite
tell of claims that one person was restored to life and not resurrected from
a body that was decayed and putrefied as would need to be the case for the
billions of humans the claim of resurrection includes..
PROBLEMS with the claim of Resurrection:
A. With factual claims
1)The story in the story book of the
Christians relates about one human only.
is no evidence to indicate that the events described are true as they
are reported other than claims made within the story book itself.
3) The story reported is not actually of
a resurrection from the grave of the decayed remains of a body that
would have been reassembled and restored to full functioning. It
is a story of a recently deceased body that was reported to have been
seen as alive once again. The body had not decayed, rotted or
To use that book alone as a source of
support would require an explanation and conclusive evidence of the
falsehood of the other stories reported in the other religious traditions.
Why is it that the story book or sacred scripture of the Christians is to be
cited? Why not cite the sacred texts of the Hindus or the Buddhists that
will indicate that when Nirvana is achieved there are no longer any bodies
and no individual souls? Why is it that the Christian stories are true but
Buddhist stories and Hindu stories and Taoist stories are false? What is
the basis for that claim of the falsehood of the other religious traditions
with regard to the description of the final state of humans and their
There are many people who are looking for
actual evidence in support of a claim that there are souls and that there is
a resurrection for all, and so the
survival of the soul and its unification with the body are matters of
concern to philosophers who examine belief systems.
B. with the concept of the resurrection itself.
1. Recycling Problem
Human bodies are made of cells and they are made of molecules and it
is very highly probable that some of the molecules in a person's body
that make up the cells of that body were once molecules that were in the
cells of other bodies, even human bodies, at the time of death of the
other beings. How then can the exact same dead bodies be
resurrected for everyone if over time the dead bodies shared molecules
while on earth?
2. Corrupted Body Problem
Many would like to think this as in many cases the body at the time
of death would not be a body that would be in good health. It
might be injured, diseased, or one with limbs and organs removed from
it. Many who hope for a resurrection want a younger and healthier
body than their own.
3. Maladjusted Problem
There are also people who have body image problems and those who are
transsexuals for whom to have their own bodies as they had on earth
would not at all be an enjoyable experience for all eternity.
4. One and Only One Body Problem
How is it thought to be a positive experience to have the exact same
physical body for all of eternity? Most people regard the prospect
as being one with a great potential for boredom. If the potential
boredom is overcome by some alternative experience such as the reported
joy of being in paradise then why is there even the need to have the
physical body at all? It is inconsistent to insist on the resurrection
of the body and at the same time make the infinite existence of the
resurrected body inconsequential to the experience of infinite survival.
The big issue is just how such a resurrection is possible? What
body would it be? If there is a uniting of the soul with a body
for all eternity there are two possibilities as to the nature of that
body. It would either be the exact same body as they had at the
moment of death or some other body, perhaps a very similar body.
Do people get a body similar to
their own body?
If people get a body similar to their own body but not the exact same
body that they had at the moment of their death then it is not
resurrection but the uniting of the soul with a facsimile or replica.
The body that died is not resurrected but another body is created by a
deity to unite with the soul for all eternity. This belief avoids
the recycling, corrupted and maladjusted body problems but it is not
strictly speaking a resurrection of the body and it does not get around
the one and only one body problem.
Do people get the exact same body
that they had at the moment of their death?
This is what some believe that
Western scripture assures. This is also
the option that presents all of the problems cited above.
Peter van Inwagen
Inwagen argues against the Aristotelian view of the dualism and
dichotomy of person/body. He
does not believe that the all powerful being collects the atoms of the
dead person’s body and reassembles them after death in another realm.
This would be a recreation and a replica but not the same person.
Instead he argues that :it is possible for the all powerful creator and Supreme Being to
restore an individual to life in the same
body. The deity could at least preserve the
brain in a new body replacing it with a replica. The all powerful being could replace the actual dead body with a
duplicate, a replica, instantaneously at the exact moment of death!!!
This theory provides the possibility that each human being could have
there own dead body to reoccupy after death for all eternity. However,
such a theory supports an outcome that most would find to be both undesirable
and rather silly when considering what the all powerful supreme being
would be doing. It is the result of an effort of the rational mind
to hold belief in the literal meaning of the doctrine supported by
“The Possibility of Resurrection” by
Peter van Inwagen
Summary by Meghan Ramsay (QCC, 2004)
In an attempt
to disprove the Aristotelian notion of reconstitution of a body as life
after death, Peter van Inwagen gives an analogy of a burned manuscript.
In his analogy, van Inwagen refers to monks claiming to have possession of
an authentic original manuscript that was written by St. Augustine, even
though they also claim that this very manuscript was destroyed by fire
many years ago. One of the monks in the analogy explains that although
the manuscript was burnt, God collected the matter (atoms) that had
originally constituted the manuscript and “reimpressed” it (caused the
atoms to assume the same spatial and chemical relationship as they
originally had). However, van Inwagen finds that this ideology is
imperfect, as the reconstituted “manuscript” is not the original, as the
atoms that make up the ink are not in place due to the actions of
Augustine, but rather are there due to the actions of God. Van Inwagen
likens this idea to a parent rebuilding a house of blocks identical to one
that his daughter had built which he had inadvertently knocked down.
Although similar (if not identical) in appearance, the new block house is
not the one that the child had built.
man who has been destroyed cannot be collected on the atomic level and
reassembled as the same man. Van Inwagen gives three arguments to further
back this claim against the Aristotelian idea of resurrection. The first
two arguments are directed towards Christians who are tempted to believe
in the Aristotelian theory, and the third one is set forth to show that
the consequences of the Aristotelian theory are impossible.
In his first
argument, van Inwagen asserts that the atoms which make up man can be
destroyed on the atomic and subatomic level. This would make it possible
for an evil man to ensure that the matter that constitutes his atomic
particles would be completely destroyed upon death, so as to escape God’s
fury. However, according to Christian doctrine, it is impossible to hide
from God’s wrath. Therefore, either we are incorrect as to the properties
of matter or the Aristotelian view of reconstitution is completely
inconsistent with Christianity.
In his second
argument, van Inwagen points out that the atoms that make up people might
be atoms that had previously made up another person. This idea of atoms
belonging to multiple people brings forth confusion as to who should be
reconstituted when the day of resurrection arrives. Van Inwagen points
out that an evil man could easily become a cannibal to ensure that he
possesses atoms of many men, so as to cause such confusion that he would
escape the wrath of God. However, once again, this idea is completely
incompatible with Christian beliefs.
Inwagen argues the total impossibility of Aristotelian resurrection by
pointing out that it is possible that an adult male might have a
completely different atomic makeup than he did as a boy. Thus, under the
Aristotelian theory, it would be possible for God to resurrect the boy
while the man is still living, which van Inwagen argues is a completely
maintains that resurrection is possible, van Inwagen completely dismisses
the Aristotelian concept of reconstitution as a plausible method to attain
life after death. He does not offer a concrete answer as to how God
accomplishes the feat of resurrection, stating only that perhaps at the
moment of death God replaces man’s corpse with some sort of a stunt
double, or perhaps God preserves the brain and central nervous system or
some other particular portion of the body while maintaining the outward
appearance of the corpse. The details, van Inwagen, asserts are not
important. What is essential, he argues, is that God is capable of
resurrecting the dead in some way or another.
Van Inwagen, Peter. “The Possibility of
Resurrection.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion.
(1978). READ: Peter van Inwagen:
5. The problem with infinity or eternity
Infinite survival in a limited physical
body involves continuation of human consciousness which is a conscious
that is finite and developed in awareness of the finitude of human
life. This infinite survival would lead to infinite BOREDOM and not
joy or bliss as humans would experience everything (even an infinite
number of things) an infinite number of times. So the infinite survival of
a soul which would continue human consciousness would continue a finite
consciousness for all eternity-infinite time. This leads to infinite
BOREDOM and not joy or bliss.
If infinite survival or eternal life is to be
desired it must be seen or thought about as involving joy or bliss or
eternal happiness. If a human is to have eternal happiness human
consciousness would need to be radically transformed so as to avoid the
eternal torment of eternal boredom. Such a transformation of consciousness
in the afterlife would change consciousness into one that is not human (not
finite and not of the physical realm) and is not the consciousness of the
person who lived life in the body as a human being.
- If this transformation takes place there
can not be a finite human body associated with that consciousness.
- If this transformation takes place there
can not be a consciousness that is identifiable as a human consciousness
because such a state is finite and formed by awareness of finitude.
So the concept of the resurrection of the physical body is beset with
difficulties. What of the concept of the soul itself? Is there
a non-physical or spiritual entity that makes us what we are and survives
the death of the physical body and lives on in some way for all eternity?