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I. The originally Jewish and Christian Character of Resurrection Belief - II. Resurrection in Sacred Scripture. 1. Theological and Literary Foundations. 2. Old Testament Teaching on Personal Resurrection of the Dead. 3. New Testament Teaching on Final Resurrection. - III. The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth: Historical and Transcendental Dimensions of the Event. - IV. Christian Belief in Resurrection: Anthropogical and Ethical Aspects involved in Early Christian Thought. 1. The Originality of the Doctrine on the Resurrection of the Body. 2. The Novelty of the Risen Body . 3. The Identity and Individuality of the Risen Body . 4. Resurrection and the Physical Cosmos. - V. Recent Philosophical and Theological Views on the Resurrection - VI. Resurrection, Matter and Cosmos.

Belief in the resurrection of the dead by the power of God is central to Judaeo-Christian teaching. "The hope of Christians is the resurrection of the flesh," said Tertullian (160-220) (De resurrectione, 1). But it is probably true that this doctrine is not only central but also unique to Judaism and Christianity. On the face of things this might seem to preclude any possibility of establishing meaningful dialogue between resurrection belief and strictly scientific discourse. As we shall see, however, this is not the case. Differently from the "immortality of the soul", the notion of "resurrection of the body" necessarily refers to corporality, and thus matter, so implicating a meaningful dialogue with science.

I. The Originally Jewish and Christian Character of Resurrection Belief

Though ancient authors such as Aesclypius sporadically spoke of the possibility of resurrection from the dead, for the most part such a possibility was considered unthinkable by Greek philosophers and poets (Homer, Eschilius and Sophocles, for example), and certainly a universal resurrection was completely excluded. Traces of belief in resurrection detected in ancient Egyptian fertility rites are not in keeping with Jewish thought, because for the Egyptians resurrection is taken to be a purely natural process, reserved in any case to those who had been mummified. Sometimes it has been suggested that the doctrine derives from Persian teaching of salvation in terms of resurrection. However, Jewish and Persian understandings of resurrection are also clearly distinct. For the Jews, resurrection is considered as an awakening from the dust of the earth of buried corpses by the power of God, whereas for the Persians, who exposed corpses to dissolution by the elements, resurrection is taken to be a restitution to life through the agency of the selfsame elements, and a selective one at that. A certain continuity may be detected between Jewish and Persian teaching in respect of reward and punishment after death, but not as regards their mode and origin, that is, respectively, resurrection and the power of God.

Some authors, taking up a suggestion of Tertullian (cf. De resurrectione, 1, 5), have detected a close parallel between resurrection and the Orphic and Pythagorean doctrine of the "transmigration" of souls (Gr. metempsychosis), which led to the popular and recurrent doctrine of reincarnation. In effect, both doctrines underline the fact that the plenitude and immortality of the human being can only be understood in the context of corporeity. It is quite clear however that the doctrine is far removed from Christian and Jewish belief (cf. Scheffczyk, 1980; Schönborn, 1992): a) because the purpose of transmigration is the perfect purification of the soul by eventual separation from matter, whereas that of resurrection is the perpetual reunification of soul and body, of spirit and matter; b) because the process of transmigration may occur many times on a particular soul (until purification is complete), whereas resurrection (and human life for that matter) takes place only once, "in the last day," and for all at the same time, "at the end of the time"; c) because transmigration is a natural process, as it were, as souls pass from one body to another, whereas resurrection depends on the re-creating power of God.

II. Resurrection in Sacred Scripture

It should be noted that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is not to found in the early stages of the Old Testament. Indeed, since cult of the dead might easily occasion idolatrous practices opposed to the "exclusivism" of Yahweh, the notion of meaningful human life after death is virtually absent in the first books of Sacred Scripture. Human immortality, such as it is, is understood in terms of the survival of languid shades (the dead; Heb. repa'îm ) which subsist in a collective, semi-conscious state, inhabiting the underworld (Heb. se'ol); and as the immortality or perpetual memory of one's name, through descendants or reputation. The doctrine of individual resurrection of the body makes an appearance only in later books of the Old Testament, especially those of an apocalyptic kind. It can be seen to develop in three stages (cf. Hoffmann, 1966; Pozo, 1980; Becker, 1976; Coenen, 1978; Puech, 1993).

1. Theological and Literary Foundations. In the Old Testament the groundwork for the doctrine of resurrection is prepared in a variety of ways, both theological and literary, over an extended period of time. The Old Testament teaches that the supreme, liberating power of Yahweh is present everywhere, even over se'ol , the resting place of the dead (1Sm 2:6; Am 9:1-2; Ps 16:9 ff ; Wis 16:13 ff ). As a result, no-one can escape divine justice (cf. Ps 88:11; 139:8-12; Job 14:13 ff ). Yahweh is distinguished from the pagan gods (who jealously grasp at life and attempt to dominate it) as he is "the Living God" (1Sm 17:26.36; Ps 18:47), the fountain that gives life incessantly and without measure (cf. Ps 36:10; Jer 2:13; Dn 14:25). A clear continuity may generally be detected between the doctrine of creation and that of resurrection. As a result, death and definitive corruption do not belong to God's original plan, who has created everything for life. In fact historically speaking death came into the world through human sin (cf. Gn 3:17-19; Wis 1:13-14; 2:23-24; Rom 5:21; 3:23; Jas 1:15); accordingly, the overcoming of sin is linked with the overcoming of death, or resurrection, which becomes an important manifestation of salvation. It is taken that those who live in union with God will be freed from death (cf. Job 14:10-21; Sir 14:16).

Literary material to describe the resurrection is provided in the Book of Kings which explains how the prophets Elijah and Eliseus performed resurrection miracles (cf. 1Kgs 17:17-24; 2Kgs 2:9 ff ; 4:31-37; Sir 48:5.14). Likewise, the "assumption" into heaven of Enoch (cf. Gn 5:24; Sir 44:16 and 49:14) and Elijah (cf. 2Kgs 2:1-11; Sir 48:9) provides a clear indication of a generalised acceptance of the possibility of a restitution after death of full bodily life, albeit in a transitory and earthly context. Many prophetic texts —particularly belonging to the post-exilic period— speak of the falling away and rising up of the Israelite nation in terms of a process of bodily death and resurrection. The idea is to be found in Is 25:8, a text St. Paul later applies to the resurrection (cf. 1Cor 15:54 ff ), as well as in Is 26:19: "But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise! Awake and sing, you who lie in the dust! For your dew is a dew of light, and you cause the land of shades to give birth." The best example of this motif is to be found in the prophet Ezekiel who speaks of the rising up of the people of Israel from prostration in terms of the raising up and enlivening of a field of dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14; cf. also Hos 6:1 ff). It is clear that collective, world-based fulfilment rather than individual, transcendental salvation is what these texts principally envisage.

2. Old Testament Teaching on Personal Resurrection of the Dead . Personal resurrection in the Old Testament is proclaimed tacitly in the Book of Job (cf. 19:25 ff), and openly in the Book of Daniel, which was written about 165 B.C. This canonical work, belonging to the corpus of apocalyptic literature, says that: "At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since the nation began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; Some to everlasting life, others to reproach and everlasting disgrace." (Dn 12:1-2). The same teaching is to be found in the second Book of Maccabees (cf. 7,1-29), which develops the teaching of Daniel and considers resurrection in terms of a reward for heroic obedience to the law of God, that is of faith in God even to the point of martyrdom (cf. 2Mc 7). It is made clear that God's saving and vivifying power is no longer to be experienced or expected in a national, exclusively worldly context, as the prophets had taught, but beyond death and in principle for the whole of humanity. It should be added that Wisdom literature, though dealing extensively with immortality in general, and especially with that of the human soul, does not speak of resurrection as such (cf. Beauchamp, 1964; Fabbri, 1998). Apocalyptic texts of the intertestamentary period generally accept the doctrine of resurrection (cf. Nickelsburg, 1972), though the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls were hesitant about it.

3. New Testament Teaching on Final Resurrection . In the time of the New Testament, the Saducee party denied the doctrine of the resurrection, and any kind of after-life for that matter, whereas the Pharisees openly taught it, though in strongly realistic and worldly terms, devoid of apocalyptic overtones. However it is probably true to say that in the time of Our Lord the doctrine of resurrection was accepted by the Jewish people as a whole (cf. Schürer, 1979, pp. 462-500). Significantly, Martha said to Jesus of her brother Lazarus: "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day." (Jn 11:24). The following five elements of Christian teaching on the resurrection should be noted on the basis of New Testament texts. First, against the denial of resurrection by the Saducees, who accepted only the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch), Jesus taught that final resurrection would take place through the power of God, the God of the living, "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (cf. Mt 22:32; Ex 3:6). In doing so, Our Lord traced the roots of resurrection belief (that is, the power and sovereignty of God over the entire created order) to the book of Exodus which the Saducees claimed to accept. Against the teaching of the Pharisees, however, Jesus proclaimed that the risen would not return to an earthly, corruptible state, but to a transformed, glorified one: "At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven." (Mt 22:30).

Second, and this is the most specific element of New Testament teaching, resurrection will take place not only through God's enlivening power, but in virtue of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Thus Jesus' rising from the dead provides the promise, guarantee, exemplar and foretaste of universal resurrection, which may be considered as an extension of Jesus' resurrection to the whole human genus (cf. CDF, Letter on Certain Questions concerning Eschatology, May 17, 1979, n. 2). More specifically, according to St. John, Jesus in person is "Resurrection and life" (Jn 11:25). And he explains: "for just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself [...]. The hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation" (Jn 5:26.28-29).

Likewise St Paul forcefully insists on the doctrine of final resurrection (cf. Acts 24:14 ff; 1Thes 4:14-17; Eph 2:5 ff; 3:1-4; Phil 3:10 ff; 1Cor 15). Christ is "firstborn among many brothers" (Rom 8:29; cf. Col 1:18). In chapter 15 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians he develops the notion that final resurrection depends entirely on that of Christ, and places this belief at the very centre of Christian faith: "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. [...] Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (vv. 13-14 and 20). And also: "as we have borne the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one" (v. 15:49). Paul also considers that resurrection is anticipated in the present life for those who partake in the death and resurrection of Christ by Baptism (cf. Rom 6:3-11; Eph 2:6).

Third, as a result, both the truth and tangible quality of final resurrection draws on the objectivity and realism of Christ's own resurrection, as witnessed by the Apostles and handed on to all believers. Four elements attest to the historical and objective value of their testimony. a)  The empty tomb: the historical reality of the empty tomb of Jesus indicates the corporeal identity between the one that was crucified and the one that rose; in fact both 1Cor 15,3-4 and Acts 2,31 clearly suggest the same subject (cf. Mussner, 1969, pp. 133-134); the possibilities of a miraculously accelerated decomposition of the buried body before the third day, or of Jesus' body being consumed by wild animals, do not seem likely. b) Apparition terminology: in expressing Jesus' apparitions it is most frequently said that "appeared to them" or "was seen by them" (cf. Lk 24:34; 1Cor 15:3-8; 1Tm 3,16; Acts 9:17; 13:31; 26:16). The use of the aorist, passive form (Gr. ophthe ), seems to favour a real sight-encounter with the physical body of Christ, as distinct from a vision. c) Recognition: in spite of the Apostles' fear and apprehension, Jesus brought them to recognise him by inviting them "to touch and see" (Lk 24:39), by eating a piece of fried fish in their company (cf. Lk 24:42 f); specifically he instructed the Apostles not to look at his face but at "his hands and his feet" (Lk 24:39), because the latter carried the marks of crucifixion and proved his identity with the one who had been crucified (cf. Jn 20:20-27; cf. Mussner, 1969, pp. 102-106). d) Glorious resurrection: the difficulties the Apostles experienced in recognising Jesus (he appeared "in another form": Mk 16:12) stemmed from the fact that Our Lord rose not in the same way as Lazarus did, but with a glorious body (cf. Phil 3:21) that will die no more (cf. Rom 6:9); although at first the Apostles did not recognise him as the same subject, later on they did (Lk 24:16.31; Jn 20:15-16); though still in space and acting on the world, the risen Christ no longer belongs to or depends on this world.

Fourth, the New Testament teaches that since the power of God over creation is unlimited and the salvation won by Christ is destined for all, resurrection will be universal. Clearly referring to Dan 12:2, a passage from the Gospel according to John says: "the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation" (Jn 5:28-29). Paul, speaking before the pagans, taught the same thing (Acts 24:15). When addressing Christians, however, both John and Paul pay special attention to the "resurrection of the living," that is of Christians, in virtue of the resurrection of Christ in whom they believe (cf. Jn 6:54-57 1Cor 15:14 ff).

Fifth, the New Testament clearly attributes eschatological resurrection to the action of the Holy Spirit (cf. O'Callaghan 1998) and to the Eucharist (cf. Martelet, 1972). "If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you" (Rom 8:11). Irenaeus of Lyon (130-200) speaks very openly of the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing about final resurrection (cf. Adversus Haereses,  V, 9, 4). Christ will raise up those who are nourished on the his risen body, the Eucharist: ( Jn 6,54). Irenaeus, following the Gospel of John, insists on the role of the Eucharist in a cosmic context as a guarantee and preparation for resurrection. "Just as the bread which is the fruit of the earth, once the divine blessing has been invoked over it, is no longer common bread, but Eucharist, composed of two realities, one earthly, the other heavenly, so also our bodies that receive the Eucharist are no longer corruptible, from the moment they carry within the seed of resurrection" (Adversus Haereses, IV, 18, 4-5). Ignatius of Antioch (d. 110), on his way to Rome to receive the crown of martyrdom, termed the Eucharist the "medicine of immortality" (Ad Ephesios, 20, 2).

III. The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth: Historical and Transcendental Dimensions of the Event

In relation to scientific thought, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth gives rise to two major questions. The first one is what kind of "event" the resurrection is; the second concerns the criticisms that Enlightenment and Rationalist thought addressed against the historical and truthful character of the event itself. "Psychological" or "existential" readings of the doctrine of resurrection, and the possible answers to such interpretations, will be discussed below (cf. Section V).

Christian faith confesses that the resurrection of Jesus Christ, took place "the third day", that is, on the Sunday after the Friday on which Jesus died crucified (probably on the 14th of the month Nisan, around 30 A .D.), is an historical event, but one that transcends history. Strictly speaking, the very moment of resurrection had no eye-witnesses. The earliest groups of records about the empty tomb situate Christ's resurrection early on Sunday morning (cf. Mt 28:1; Mk 16:2; Jn 20:1) and the first appearances to non-isolated witnesses (cf. Jn 20,15-17) took place on the evening of that same Sunday (cf. Lk 24,34-36; Jn , 20,19). The cosmic implications of resurrection (see below, VI) and the biblical teaching that the Incarnation of Son of God and his earthly life occurred in the fullness of time (cf. Gal 4:4; Mk 1:14; Eph 1:10; Heb 13:8), imply that Christian belief in Jesus' resurrection is the belief in an event that, while taking place within history, goes beyond it. Moreover, the event possesses the first-fruits of a renewed creation, whose potentialities are already given in the mystery of Christ, dead and risen, but not yet "accomplished in the course of history. These first-fruits will mature "on the last day," that is, "at the end of time.

Nevertheless, Christianity asserts that resurrection "intersected" human history, and its visible effects were the empty tomb and the fact that a number of appearances of the Risen One had been witnessed. The Sunday liturgical celebration of the first Christian community, who begin to gather on "the day of the Lord" (cf. St. Justin, Apologiae, I, 67), constitutes one of the most important "records" that Jesus' resurrection left in the human history. The Eucharist will not be celebrated on Thursday, the day on which the Last Supper, and thus the Eucharist itself, was instituted; neither was it on Friday, the day of Jesus' death, or on Saturday, which was the feast day of the Hebrew community. Sunday Eucharist initiates a new tradition whose grounds can be found only in the facts occurred on Sunday Easter, that is "on the third day." Christians gather in a festive and joyful attitude, giving thanks, but celebrating Christ's sacramental signs of sacrifice and death, something that can be understood only assuming that Jesus' death on the Cross was not the "last word" received by his disciples (cf. Dies Domini, nn. 19-21). To indicate this twofold dimension of resurrection, as something that is historical and transcends history, theology speaks of Jesus Christ's resurrection as both an "event" and a "mystery."

Both the experiences of those who were witnesses of the Risen One and the criticisms of their adversaries, have the empty tomb as their starting point (cf. Mt 28:11-15). Were this not the case, the disciples would have had no basis for proclaiming the resurrection in a public way. Starting with Reimarus (1694-1768), Rationalism set forth diverse hypotheses to explain what happened. The most common one was to assume that the disciples moved away Jesus' corpse in order to simulate his resurrection and acclaim him as a god. Other typically rationalist explanations include illusory death, local earthquakes or other natural causes for the corpse disappearing, followed by collective hallucinations. From a theological point of view, especially with Rudolph Bultmann (see below, V), we will find later the proposal to separate the Jesus of history (about whom very little can be said) and the Christ of faith (who resurrected in the faith of his disciples, not in history).

Answers for the above objections have been provided by several authors. In opposition to Rationalism, Karl Adam (1933) first presented a historical as well as psychological analysis of Jesus of Nazareth which is still convincing in our days. The German theologian emphasizes that the most common criticisms require hypotheses that are as extraordinary and difficult to accept as is the belief in the resurrection from the dead. The hypotesis of the fraudolent stealing of the corpse must be evaluated in the context of the witness of sincerity and moral integrity of Jesus' disciples, a witness that is prepared to go as far as martyrdom historically confirmed. Their martyrdom and self-sacrifice do not seem to be the obstinate expression of political aims, since the message of Jesus of Nazareth precisely upset all political expectations of their disciples. The natural reluctance of Jewish people to come in contact with a corpse and violate a tomb must be taken also into account. The idea of a illusory death must take the tortures inflicted to Jesus into account, soberly and realisticly described by the Gospels, including the lance hit. Collective hallucinations are hardly convincing if we think at the difficulties the disciples found in accepting the resurrection, and of the psychology and environment proper to fishermen. Hallucinations could be invoked to explain the isolated appearances on Sunday morning, but we should also consider what Jesus himself is reported to have said: "a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have" (Lk 24:39). He offers himself to the sense experience of the apostoles, through direct contact (cf. Jn 20:27-29), and having meals together (Lk 24:41-43; Jn 21:5). Indeed, the narrations on the resurrection reported by the written Gospels seem to contain answers to objections probably raised before, when the Gospel was preached orally.

In principle, the differences we find in the four Gospels' various accounts of the appearances of the Risen One, do not weaken the historicity of the episodes, though some of them could have been clothed by a specific literary form. They are not necessarily chronological accounts, for each Evangelist tells and emphasizes some aspects instead of others, according to his personal style. Luke develops what Mark recounts in a more concise way. Matthew underscores the facts that are more meaningful for Jewish hearers. John elaborates according to a theological perspective what historically happened. The differences existing among the Gospels' narration (Lat. discordia ) do not alter the core of the reported facts; rather, they may even reinforce it, if one thinks that writers' intention was not to relate a pre-established account, but trasmit and reproduce living experiences and memories in the minds and hearts of their hearers and readers (Lat. concordia discors). The state of affairs is analogous to what happens when different witnesses or writers report a one and same event occurred several years earlier: it is common to note the presence of both differences and similarities.

One of the most meaningful and paradigmatic accounts of Jesus' resurrection is that reported by the eye-witness St. John, who saw the burial cloths lying in the tomb, as if they were no longer occupied, in the very place in which the corpse was left down. The account is sober and concise, and it seems to communicate a phisically experienced, rather than a psychological, content, one capable of generating in the eye-witness a "new" knowledge of what had really happened (cf. Jn 20:6-8).

IV. Christian Belief in Resurrection: Anthropogical and Ethical Aspects involved in Early Christian Thought

1. The Originality of the Doctrine on the Resurrection of the Body . The doctrine of final resurrection was taught openly by Christians from the very beginning (cf. Boliek, 1962; Bynum, 1995; Greshake and Kremer, 1992; O'Callaghan 1989a; van Eijk, 1974). In fact, no aspect of Christian eschatology was dealt with in greater detail by the Fathers of the Church and ecclesiastical writers than that of the resurrection of the dead. Justin, Athenagoras, Ireneus, Tertullian, Origen, Methodius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, John Chrysostom and others, keenly aware as they were of the novelty of the message, all wrote ex professo works on final resurrection. The reason for this was simple. Not only did they perceive that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the living centre of Christian faith, and that the promise of final resurrection was its necessary complement, but also they realised that this teaching came into sharp conflict with the prevailing (Neoplatonic and Gnostic) anthropology and cosmology.

From the very outset of Christian preaching, the perplexity of pagans (cf. Acts 17:16-34 and 26:25) and of Christians themselves (cf. 1Cor 15:12; 2Tm 2:17), in the face of this new teaching, was palpable. Early Christian writers were keenly aware of the difficulties. Origen (185-253) stated that "the mystery of resurrection in on the lips of unfaithful, causing them irony, as they do not understand it" (Contra Celsum, 1,7). "No article of faith is rejected more strongly than the resurrection of the flesh," Augustine said (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 88, 2). And Gregory the Great (540-604) had it that "many doubt the resurrection, as we didi in the past" (Homiliae in Evangelia, II, 26, 12). Two principal difficulties were suggested by pagan opponents.

In the first place, the doctrine of final resurrection was questioned because it seemed to go completely against common sense and the laws of nature. Matter and the cosmos, according to the Greek world-view marked by cosmic determinism, are invariably linked with time and corruption, and can on no account share in the glory and immortality that belongs to the gods. The pagan Porphirius (233-305), for example, in criticising the Christian doctrine of resurrection, spares neither satire nor cynicism (cf. Contra christianos, fr. 94). Second, and on a more philosophical plane, the doctrine of resurrection was commonly rejected in the context of the Platonic cosmology and anthropology then in vogue. In Greek cosmology, matter was considered as inherently impervious or extraneous to spirit. As a result, the human soul could only be considered as a prisoner of the body, or at best, its pilot, bound to it externally. For the Platonic mindset resurrection would constitute a shameful return to the prison of the body, which is considered to be the source of all evil, disgrace, limitation, the epitomé of non-salvation; after all man is his soul and the body is an accidental adjunct.

Christian authors replied in a variety of ways to the challenge of the pagan philosophers. The main argument they offered, however, was a strictly theological one: God is the sovereign, all-powerful and faithful Creator of the earth and of humankind; therefore he is capable of raising up humans from the dead and has promised to do by the miracles he worked through Christ, and in particular by raising Him up from the dead (cf. Tertullian, De resurrectione, 11, 3; Augustine, De cura pro mortuis gerenda, 2, 4; Gregory the Great, Homiliae in Evangelia, II, 26). Besides, by referring to semblances taken from nature —the rising and setting of the sun, the blossoming of seeds and flowers, the Phoenix rising from its own ashes— Christian authors explained how the doctrine of resurrection is not out of keeping with nature and the cosmos. The power of God in raising from the dead does not contradict the laws of nature, but rather brings them to fullness, and gives them a new, definitive lease of life. In fact purely cosmological and anthropological arguments against resurrection are deeply challenged by the divine promise of resurrection. Matter and the human body, though created and corruptible, in the light of God's eternal design, expressed in the doctrine of the Incarnation, death and Resurrection of the Eternal Word, come to be considered as having a true vocation to eternity.

In the face of the Platonising tendency that re-emerged during the early Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas, taking his cue from Aristotle's theory of the substantial unity of the human composite, insisted on the centrality of the doctrine of resurrection of the dead not only as a doctrine of faith but as one that is open to strictly philosophical reflection (cf. Brown, 1992). He taught that the soul separated from the body is in a state "contrary to nature" (Summa Contra Gentiles, book IV, ch. 79), and that it always retains what he calls a commensuratio , that is, a  proportion or a natural disposition, towards its own body (cf. ibidem, ch. 80) with which it will be united anew at the end of time by the power of God. As a result, Aquinas says, (ibidem , ch. 81; cf. also Summa Theologiae, Suppl. q. 75, a. 3). In brief terms it may be said that the final cause of resurrection is human nature, while its efficient cause is God (cf. Brown, 1992, p. 186).

Two specific aspects of the Christian doctrine of final resurrection should be referred to: the novelty of the risen, glorified body, and its identity with the earthly body. Needless to say, both aspects relate directly to the nature of the Christ's resurrection: the historical Jesus Christ who lived in Palestine and died in Jerusalem is identical with the one who rose from the dead to a state of glory.

2. The Novelty of the Risen Body. The risen body is clearly distinct from the earthly body in that it is will be glorified, incorruptible, impassable and immortal (cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, book IV, chps. 84 ff). Jesus said that the risen will be "like angels in the heaven" (Mk 12:25), a text interpreted almost literally by Origen (who says that the risen body will no longer be crass and earthly, but heavenly, subtle, ethereal, luminous and spiritual), though figuratively by Tertullian and other early Christian writers. In his extended reflection on resurrection in 1Cor , ch. 15, St Paul states openly that the risen will have a "spiritual body" (1Cor 15:44), a reality going beyond the bounds of human imagination. This conviction is clearly based on the experiences Christians had of Jesus risen from the dead. "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself." (Phil 3:20-21). According to St. Augustine, in the Apostles' Creed the term "I believe the resurrection of the flesh" was added to in order to ensure that the latter would not be understood in terms of a temporary, earth-bound resurrection like that of Lazarus, but a truly eternal one (cf. Enchiridion, 84; cf. also Tertullian, De resurrectione, 38, 7; John Chrysostom, Homiliae, 40, 2; Cyril of Alexandria, Catechesis, 18).

3. The Identity and Individuality of the Risen Body. In spite of being immortal and glorious, the risen body will be identical to the earthly body. This basic truth is contained in the Apostles' joyful exclamation in the presence of the risen Jesus, "It is the Lord" (Jn 21:7), and indeed the Church has insistently taught not only the resurrection of the dead in general, but the resurrection "of this body (or flesh)" (cf. O'Callaghan, 1989a). Indeed the very term "resurrection" indicates this, referring as it does to a previous, fallen reality which takes on new, definitive life. This gives a strongly realistic tone to patristic statements about final resurrection. St Jerome has it that "the truth of resurrection cannot be understood without flesh and bones, without blood and arms" (Contra Iohannem Hierosolymitanum, 31).

Affirmation of the identity of the risen body with the earthly body, however, does not require a strict material identity between the physical elements of our earthly condition and those of the risen state, as Theophilus of Antioch, Tatian, Athenagoras  and Hillary of Poitiers seemed to suggest. In effect, as Origen explained in his commentary on Jeremiah's image of the potter (cf. Jer 18:1-10), the matter of our risen bodies cannot be identical to that of our earthly body, and in any case, resurrection takes place by the power of God (cf. Homiliae in Jeremiam, 18, 4). Besides, it is well known that human metabolism is such that the physical and chemical elements of the human composite are cyclically replaced over a limited span of years.

Some medieval authors, such as Durandus of St Portianus (1270-1334) suggested that formal identity, involving only the identity of the human soul (the "only form of the body"), would be sufficient to ensure human integrity at resurrection (In IV Sent. , d. 44, q. 1). This hypothesis has been followed in recent times by neo-Thomists such as Hettinger, Schell, Billot, A. Michel and D. Feuling. Their position is not far from Origen's theory, based on Paul's representation of resurrection in terms of a sprouting seed (cf. 1Cor 15,35), of a spiritual image (gr. eîdos ) in humans which remains unchanged throughout all the mutations of life and after glorification. This view, however, does not give sufficient weight to the realism of Jesus' resurrection, which took place "on the third day." Neither does it take sufficiently into account the eschatological implications of the liturgical praxis of venerating bodily relics of the saints (cf. DH 1822; Ratzinger, 1957), and the Catholic dogma of the Assumption of Mary, mother of Jesus, into heaven (cf. Ratzinger 1988, pp. 95-97). Besides, in Patristic times, it should be noted that Origen's somewhat spiritualist understanding of resurrection was opposed by Methodius of Olympus (d. 310), Gregory of Nyssa (335-395) and others (cf. Crouzel, 1972; Chadwick, 1948; Daniélou, 1953).

Of particular interest in the patristic period is the attention that is paid to the expression . It is fundamentally anti-Gnostic in character (cf. Van Eijk, 1974) not only insofar as it intends to affirm the inherent value of matter and the human body theologically, but also because it links directly with the Aramaic expression "all flesh" (Heb. kol-basar ) and hence with the universality of final resurrection. Indeed the Valentinian Gnostics wished to restrict the number of those destined for resurrection, because, in making resurrection synonymous with salvation, they took it that only the "spiritual ones" (Gr. pneumatakói ), who are not subject to judgement, were eligible for it.

Specifically the formula "resurrection of this body" arose in an attempt to express the ethical continuity between this life and the next, and hence the eternal projection and value of historical human actions though they be executed in a limited, temporal context (cf. O'Callaghan, 1989a; van Eijk, 1974). Tertullian succinctly summarised the position of the Gnostics by saying that: "No one lives so immersed in the flesh, as those who deny the resurection of the flesh" (De resurrectione 11, 1). The position of many early Christian writers is summarised by the following declaration of the medieval Lateran Council IV: "[He will] come at the end of time, to judge the living and the dead, and to render to each according to his works, to the wicked as well as to the elect, all of whom will rise with their bodies which they now bear, that they may receive according to their works, whether these works have been good or evil, the latter everlasting punishment with the devil, and the former everlasting glory with Christ" (DH 801). As a result, it is clear that final resurrection is distinct neither from the return of the risen Lord Jesus in glory (the Parusia ), nor from general judgement, but is the first fruit of the Parusia and precondition for universal judgement for both saints and sinners. According to Tertullian, judgement is precisely what renders final resurrection necessary (cf. De resurrectione, 14, 8). From what we have just seen it should be clear that resurrection cannot be considered, as Valentinian Gnostics thought, as synonymous with salvation (the New Testament teaches that whereas salvation is not necessarily universal, resurrection is), but responds to the God's will to be faithful to his decision to create humans, in body and soul, as immortal beings.

4. Resurrection and the Physical cosmos. In continuity with the doctrine of final resurrection, the Church has considered that the return of the risen Lord Jesus Christ in glory will involve not only the universal resurrection and judgement of humans, but also the purification and renewal of the material cosmos of which man is the head "The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, "so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just," sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ" (CCC, 1047; cf. also Lumen gentium, n. 48; Gaudium et spes, n. 39). Scripture does speak openly of the discontinuity between the present cosmos and the future glorified world (cf. Rom 8:19-21; 2Pt 3:10-13; Rev 21:1-2), but not of the former's permanent destruction, for there is also a true continuity between the two. Insisting on the continuity between creation and salvation against Marcion's Gnosticism, Tertullian acutely observes that God judges because he is the Lord, and he is the Lord because the Creator, and he is the Creator because he is God (cf. De resurrectione, 14, 6). Judgement could hardly be considered as fully just were resurrection understood in terms of a violent intrusion into existing, created reality, for the same God who judges is the unique Creator and Lord of the universe and of everything it contains.

V. Recent Philosophical and Theological Views on the Resurrection

The doctrine of resurrection, both that of Christ and of humans, though not generally denied throughout the later Middle Ages, by the Reformers and in modern times, gradually came to lose its capacity to challenge and fire scientific, philosophical and theological reflection. This was due to a number of factors. First, a certain individualism in ethics and ultimate salvation robbed final resurrection of the centrality it once enjoyed; besides, the teaching of Benedict XII (1334-1342) which spoke of the definitiveness of salvation immediately after death was seen by some to move in the same direction (cf. Const. Benedictus Deus , DH 1000). Second, in a pervasive return to the basic tenets, if not the terminology, of Platonism, philosophy and spirituality came to turn its attention more and more to human spirit and subjectivity, the res cogitans, and away from the body, res extensa. Gradually, philosophers came to accord it little or no value. In his work Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793) Kant declared that he saw no reason in bearing with us a body for all the eternity, a body that, though purified, was always made by "matter."

The result was that final judgement and eschatological salvation came to be linked principally with the ethical behaviour of the individual immortal soul, and no longer with final resurrection, which of its very nature involved the manifestation —and thus judgement— of the true state of the individual not only before God, but also before the rest of humanity. Final judgement divorced from resurrection easily lent itself to an ethical vision that was individualistic, interior, subjective and unheeding of nature, both human and cosmic. This ethical approach coupled with a somewhat Platonic view of the human subject typical of the modern period, led gradually to a merely symbolic understanding of resurrection (that of Christ and that of humanity) which became quite common throughout the twentieth century. The Good News of the Resurrection of Christ and (in him) of humanity would refer only to one's personal or interior life, but would have little or nothing to say to the material world or to human corporeity as such, in respect of their origin, meaning and destiny. Matter with its laws and properties would, as a result, become the exclusive domain of science. Marxist philosophers and scientists such as Ernst Bloch (1885-1977) developed theories about the origin and development of matter, life and cosmos that with time came to be completely divorced from transcendence (cf. O'Callaghan, 1989b).

Certainly Reformed theologians of the 20th century, such as Karl Barth, Paul Althaus and Oscar Cullmann, attempted to recuperate the doctrine of resurrection as the central point of Christian anthropology and of theology in general, mainly on account of the importance Scripture gives to resurrection, and of the Hellenic overtones of the eschatological doctrine that had seemed to have taken its place: the immortal soul and its individual salvation. In spite of this renewal, however, a somewhat anti-cosmological view of salvation and resurrection developed and consolidated among many authors, among them Catholics such as François-Xavier Durrwell and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Of particular importance and influence in this regard is the thought of the Lutheran exegete Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976). Among Catholics we should mention Durwell and von Balthasar.

Bultmann interpreted New Testament and early Christian texts speaking of resurrection (that of Christ and of humanity) in terms of a personal faith decision of an individualistic and existentialist kind. Christ's resurrection can be considered an event, a true event, he said, for the Christian. Through their faith in him, Christians have already risen from the dead; believers are already alive and saved. However, according to Bultmann, the physical universe as such is impermeable to the power of grace: "It is impossible to use electric light and the wireless and to avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries, and at the same time to believe in the New Testament world of spirits and miracles. We may think we can manage it in our own lives, but to expect others to do so is to make the Christian faith unintelligible and unacceptable to the modern world" ("New Testament and Mythology," in Kerygma and Myth: A Theological Debate, edited by H.W. Bartsch, trans. by R.H. Fuller [New York: Harper & Row, 1961], p. 5). Thus New Testament miracles, and especially resurrection accounts, should not be considered as literal accounts or real events, he says. "Mythical eschatology," the term Bultmann gives to apocalyptic texts which invariably offer a very realistic account of final resurrection. Mythical, and not realistic eschatology, simply because Parusia did not occur as first Christians expected: history did nor end, but it continues, as everyone can see (cf. ibidem, p. 18).

The term "resurrection of the flesh" is considered by followers of Bultmann as a Hellenisation of true Hebrew theology which is personal and not substantial or objective in character (cf. Beider, 1945). It is understandable therefore that Bultmann would hold, in line with Heidegger's (1889-1976) description of man as a "being destined for death," that talk about the Last Day must be replaced by talk about the "death of the individual" (Gr. thánatos ). The position of Bultmann, in spite of the meaningfulness and centrality he attempted to restore to the Christian doctrine of resurrection, deeply undermines this teaching by reducing it to a symbol that liberates from matter and cosmos, instead considering it as an event or divine in-breaking which, in the power of the Spirit, beckons matter and the cosmos to eschatological perfection and confers on them a dignity that philosophers and scientists could hardly have considered possible.

VI. Resurrection, Matter and Cosmos

Undoubtedly the classical cosmology of Plato and Aristotle, and up as far as Newton , considered the world in ultimately fixed or mechanical terms. The gods, faithful to their immortal, immobile nature, left an infinite cosmos more or less as it had been made, with its eternal, unchangeable laws, and gradual, regular fluctuations and modulations. Likewise, human souls were considered to interact with their bodies in a somewhat extrinsic way. The problem areas relating science and religion generally involved describing the diverse mediations between the worlds of spirit and matter. As a result special divine action over the cosmos, such as it was, tended perforce to be considered "interventionist," or even catastrophic and destructive. Indeed divine intervention of a physical kind was considered unthinkable by many authors any such descriptions would clearly belong to the language of myth. Such would be the case, for example, of resurrection belief, originating as it does in the context of apocalyptic literature.

The following dilemma should be posed at this stage. Should the promise of resurrection be looked upon as a phenomenon that accords with the possibilities of nature, a potentiality in some way or another already written into its established laws and evolution, as Egyptian fertility rites, for example, understood it? Or alternatively, will resurrection be the result a divine intervention which has no choice but to ignore, bypass or substantially alter the laws of nature, that is a kind of second creation inevitably involving a two-tier or even dualistic vision of reality?

Many authors realised that any ethical or spiritual system, no matter how much dignity it may confer on humans, if not rooted in the reality and dynamism of the universe, in matter and in human corporeity, runs the risk of becoming meaningless, impracticable or escapist. In addition, progress in the field of physics has brought about a general awareness that matter and its laws by no means come under the sway of implacable laws and fixed, predictable rules. Physical reality is commonly perceived to involve a dynamic process moving between increasing entropy (involving an ever increasing destructuring or dissolution) on the one hand, and on the other, ever higher structuring, insofar as physical processes take place in open rather than closed systems, processes that may not be impermeable even to factors of a personal or spiritual kind. Likewise, developments in modern philosophical anthropology are based, to a very significant degree, on studies of the phenomenology of the human body, as those proposed by Bruaire, Henry, Merleau-Ponty and Welte; this goes against the spirit-centred anthropologies and psychologising tendencies typical of recent centuries, at least from Descartes onwards.

An awareness of the preceding factors brought many authors throughout the 20th century to attempt a rediscovery of the strictly cosmological and anthropological implications of Christian salvation, and specifically of the resurrection. Indeed the work of salvation worked by Christ involves not only overcoming the disharmony of sin and death that stems from the primordial disobedience of humans, but also the definitive glorification of the cosmos created by God. In this sense the resurrection of Christ from the dead (and our promised resurrection in Him) is not only the tangible sign of the Father's joyful love towards his Son for having becoming (Phil 2:7) and of his disposition to pardon all the transgressions humans repent of. It also constitutes the Father's supreme and perpetual affirmation of the created universe, of his wish to express sovereignty over creation not by destroying or humiliating it, but by adopting and confirming its inner reality, and by raising it in Christ to the fullness of glory and splendour.

One of the authors who spoke most forcefully in this way was P. Teilhard de Chardin in his doctrine of the "Cosmic Christ." Looking at things from the scientific standpoint, Teilhard considered the process of evolution of the universe as one of convergence of all phenomena towards an 'Omega Point' of ultimate perfection. Teilhard in speaking of the cosmic Christ gave expression to an important element of the Christian understanding of the world that many have been neglected previously. Many other authors, such as Martelet, Mersch, Maldamé, and also the Orthodox theologian Clément, followed through on his intuition some with more success than others. His exclusively eschatological understanding of cosmic "christification", however, tends either towards an extension of the hypostatic union to the whole of reality —a kind of "panchristism" Pope Pius XII may have referred in his Encyclical Mystici corporis (1943) (cf. DH 3816)—, or towards an extrinsic understanding of God's intervention in nature. The fact is that an adequate Christian comprehension of the universe and of matter in the light of final resurrection may be founded only on a full Christological vision of creation as such (cf. O'Callaghan, 1985)

Indeed according to Platonic and Neoplatonic thought God is said to have created (or formed) the universe, once and for all, in a static way, through the external and temporary agency of a Demiurge or Logos serving as an intermediary between the eternity and transcendence of the Divine, and the intractable corruptibility of matter. Expressions of a similar kind are to be found throughout the New Testament: God creates the world through the Word (cf. Jn 1:3), or through Christ (cf. 1Cor 8:6; Col 1:16). But the New Testament goes further than that, in employing two other ways of considering the relationship between the Word (Christ) and the cosmos.

First, in the letter to the Colossians, it is made clear that the universe was created not only through Christ, but also for Christ (Col 1:16). This text makes it clear that the Word is not merely a means or instrument for the creation and perfection of the world to take place, a means that would be subordinate to a distinct ultimate end (such as the goodness or beautification of the universe), and therefore ultimately discardable. Thus, if the creating "Word" is ultimately subordinate to the existence and perfection of creation, it is therefore contingent and not fully divine, as Arius (256-336) in his Neoplatonic reading of the New Testament held. But according to Christian faith, Christ —God's Word destined to become incarnate— is himself (and no other) the end and supreme purpose of the universe. In other words, the universe from its very inception strains towards nothing other than its ultimate perfection, Jesus Christ, God's Eternal Word made flesh, the Risen Lord of all creation. This finalistic role of Christ further specifies the expression that creation took place "through" the Word.

Second, St Paul often states that we are not only saved but also created in Christ: "in Him all things hold together" (Col 1:17); He "who sustains all things by his mighty word" (Heb 1:3). Christ, in other words, is not limited to being the "instrumental" cause of creation in the sense of giving shape to it once and for all when the world was formed, nor its "final" cause in the sense that all creation points to him. Christ is not, in other words, the mere "extrinsic" cause of a creation that aspires to a perfection beyond itself. Rather, as a creating divinity, he is continually present to creation, keeping it in existence, moving created beings to act according to their nature, bringing them to their ultimate end, for "in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). If in the Old Testament Yahweh is considered as the fountain of life, in the New, Jesus is the one who gives life (cf. Jn 4:10). This he is able to do because "just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself" (Jn 5:26). It can be said therefore that all created things receive existence, subsistence, vitality, intelligibility and consistency from the inexhaustible source of Vitality that is the Word. The universe as a whole may be considered as a kind of living being, created, enlivened, conserved and eventually brought to eschatological perfection from within through the agency of God's own Word made man. The culmination of that process, in the human and cosmic sphere, is final resurrection, carried out through the power of the one who was always "the resurrection and the life" (Jn 11:25).

Belief in final resurrection by the power of God, based on the witness of the Apostles who had "seen" the risen Lord Jesus Christ, acted as a powerful catalyst throughout history for the development and consolidation of Christian anthropology and ethics. Besides, it taught something the ancient world had never suspected: that corruptible matter had been created by God with a vocation to eternity. However, classical cosmology, by considering the universe in a fixist and mechanical way, made it difficult for the doctrine of the resurrection to be understood in anything but discontinuous and interventionist terms, or even in purely symbolic ones. It is understandable therefore that in modern times it tended to become both meaningless and superfluous for scientists and even for Christian philosophers. However, a renewed theology of creation "through" Christ, "for" Christ and "in Christ," as well as a more dynamic and open understanding of the physical universe, have made it possible to clarify and recuperate the fully cosmological side of resurrection belief, which of course had never been absent from Church praxis, liturgy, art and eucharistic devotion.

Documents of the Catholic Church related to the subject: 

Abbreviations and complete titles of the documents

Traditio apostolica, DH 10; Constitutiones apostolorum, DH 60; Council of Nicea, DH 125; Council of Costantinople, DH 150; DH 325; Anastasius II, DH 358-359; Synod XI of Toledo, DH 539; Lateran Council IV, DH 801; Second Council of Lyons, DH 854; Lumen gentium, 48-49; PBC, The Historicity of the Gospel, 21.4.1961, DH 4405; CDF, Decisions on the translation of the article of the Apostolic Symbol, 14.12.1983, EV 9, 559-565; ICT, Contemporary Questions on Eschatology, 16.11.1991, EV 13, 448-572; Dies Domini, 19-30.


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