Five SCG Chapters on Resurrected Bodies

tombstone cross

We will rise in bodies of the same nature as we have now, flesh and blood…

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 84

But with a different disposition: incorruptible and immortal…

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 85

…With perfect agility and freedom from suffering, for the blessed:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 86

With a place in the heavens:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 87

We will rise male and female, as we are now.

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 88


SCG: We Will Rise Immortal

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 82

In the last part of this chapter, St. Thomas presents two cosmological arguments about the impossibility of an endless cycle of life and death for human beings.

Contemporary cosmologists would no doubt consider St. Thomas’ scientific ideas quaint. But I think he actually achieves a more-profound insight.

St. Thomas includes the perceiving mind within his overall conception of the cosmos. The mind or soul, which can know and understand, exists as a greater being than any material thing in motion, including the earth, sun, and moon–whose motions relative to each other give rise to our conception of time passing.


Objections to Faith in the Resurrection, and Answers

The Resurrection by Signorelli, in the Brizio Chapel in the Duomo in Orvieto

First St. Thomas outlines reasonable objections to Christian faith in the resurrection of the body…

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 80

Then he explains how those objections do not, in fact, stand in the way of the Christian faith:

Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, chapter 81

How Seeing the Risen Christ Benefited the Disciples


After the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, He remained on earth for forty days. His disciples got to see Him again. When we get to heaven, please God, we will see Him, too. [Spanish]

In the meantime, let’s consider some of the things that ran through the minds and hearts of the disciples when they saw their Master risen from the dead.

First: When they saw the Lord, the disciples grasped some important, currently invisible facts.

Fact one: The death of the body does not mean that the soul is destroyed.  The soul lives on.

Two: The separation of the soul from the body which occurs at death is not permanent. The power of God united our souls and bodies in the first place. He will re-unite all human souls and bodies at the end of time.

Three: The disciples clearly saw that death is not the final state of mankind.  God did not make us to die; He made us to live.  Our hearts long for undying love, for a fullness of life that is stronger than death. We can have such a life, such a love.

There is more: Seeing Christ changed the way the disciples understood their own pilgrim lives on earth. Christ rose from the dead in His wounded Body. He proceeded to visit the places where He had lived and done His work. In other words, His glorious, undying life filled the familiar places—Jerusalem, Galilee.

st albans psalter road to emmaus

For the disciples, to see Christ in the world was to see the world redeemed. This world involves more than just death and taxes. It is the place where Christ, the conqueror of sin and death, walked, talked, and ate, during the time between His resurrection and His Ascension.

When the disciples saw Christ risen from the dead, they learned these truths which currently elude our eyes. They also experienced profound comfort. They were with their beloved teacher and friend again. Just to be with Him was the greatest comfort of all. But along with it came four other comforts, too.

One: When the Lord died, evil seemed to triumph over truth and goodness. But in fact the opposite happened. Good proved to be infinitely stronger than evil. God proved to be infinitely stronger than the devil. Satan had his day, but that day passed. In the end, God won.

Two: Christ had given His disciples many hopeful teachings about the loving care of the heavenly Father, about the sweetness of the kingdom of God, about the rewards that await everyone who strives to serve God faithfully.

When the Lord was killed, the disciples began to wonder if all these hopeful teachings were really true. Their hearts broke with the thought that their Teacher could have been wrong about all the enchanting things He said. As the disciples put it, on the road to Emmaus: “We hoped he would be the one who would redeem Israel. But…”

When Christ came back from the dead, He definitively dispelled these doubts. Lord Jesus was right all along. The heavenly Father is kind and merciful. His Kingdom does come, with all its peace and happiness. Faithfulness will be rewarded.

Third comfort: Christ had always been very good at showing His friends how much He loved them. But now He showed them in an altogether more wonderful way. To conquer death for them—to die, and then come back to them from the dead! What greater sign of love could there be?


A fourth consolation for the disciples had to do with the human body.  As it is for us now, the human body is magnificent, but it bears many marks of sin. There’s the fact that we all inevitably die, plus other signs of the mortality of the flesh, like: bad smells emanating from our bodies, rickety-ness of our bones and joints, getting tired, getting crabby, bleary eyes, bad hair (or no hair), illnesses, corns, acne, bad teeth, earwax buildup, athlete’s foot, etc.

When the disciples saw Christ’s glorious resurrected body, they realized that all these marks of human bodily mortality are temporary. When we rise again in the resurrection on the last day, please God, we will have no blisters, no postnasal drip, no food allergies, no cataracts—no bodily problems of any kind.

Last but not least, after He came back from the dead, the Lord Jesus gave His friends additional assurances about His love and care for them. He forgave them for abandoning Him. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to remain with them always. He gave them the power to forgive sins. He promised to prepare a place for them in heaven.

Some day, please God, we will see Christ like the disciples did and share in their clarity and their joy. In the meantime, we can share in the joy of the Resurrection by believing in it.

All-Souls I Corinthians 15 Reflection

Students of the New Testament know that I Corinthians 15 contains fundamental Christian doctrine of decisive importance.

st-paulThe apostle of Christ bears witness to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. He died on the cross, and He rose on the third day. People saw Him after He rose. Quite a few people, whose testimony establishes this particular fact of history.

The more-elderly among us know that the twentieth century (and the two centuries before it) saw some strange games played with this doctrine. But we have gotten past that now, thank God. We know that there is nothing “purely spiritual,” or “theoretical,” or “purely mysterious,” about the fundamental message of the Church of Christ. The son of Mary, the carpenter, the rabbi—He rose from the dead.

Bearing witness to that fact is the beginning of Christianity. “Christianity” as a term means nothing at all without our testimony to that simple, wonderful fact. He died; He rose.

What St. Paul blithely goes on to assert in I Corinthians 15 is this: The original fact—Jesus’ resurrection—establishes another equally certain fact: We, too, will rise. Our life is not a mere seventy or eighty years, or whatever it may be. No. We will rise from our graves on the last day, unto an eternal bodily life.

We may rise to glory. We may rise to condemnation. Which of those two fates awaits each of us individually? That remains to be seen. But the fact that we will all rise in the body—that fact, St. Paul insists, is as indubitable as the fact of Christ’s resurrection.

Jesus’ resurrection is a fact. The Incarnation is what makes it a mystery of faith. The mystery of the Incarnation opens before our minds like an inexhaustible light.

But in I Corinthians 15, St. Paul explains clearly: one certain aspect of the mystery of the Incarnation is this: Death came upon the human race not because God willed us to live only for a few decades. No, He made us to live with Him forever.

God becoming man means: The curse of death which began after the Fall of Man has ended. Not just for the one man, Jesus. But for the whole human race.

We Christians can, and we do, dare to propose to the whole world: This, friends, is what makes life make sense. There is no other way to make sense out of life. This is it. We will rise in the body like our Lord Jesus Christ. Unto an eternal life. An eternal life of either pure sorrow or pure joy.

Resurrection Known and Unknown

resurrectionThe resurrection—Christ’s and ours—a fact, and a mystery. [Spanish]

What do Sunday’s Scripture readings say? The shepherd of our souls laid down His life in order to take it up again, by rising from the dead, in His body. St. Peter declared the resurrection to the Sanhedrin: Jesus Christ, the Nazorean, whom you crucified–God raised Him from the dead. And St. John applies the mystery of Christ’s resurrection to us: We shall be like Him. But St. John adds a caveat to remind us that we deal here with a mystery of faith: “What we shall be has not yet been revealed.”

Jesus suffered and died. They laid Him in the tomb. A night and a day passed, then the sun set again. At some time during that subsequent night, before full dawn, He rose from the dead.

Many human eyes saw the Lord in the flesh after He rose. He appeared to many witnesses, as we have seen in our readings these past three Sundays. The testimony of these witnesses can leave us in no doubt about the simple fact: the resurrection of Christ did occur. They could not have sat and ate with Him, if he had not risen in the flesh.

But the testimonies all refer to events after the fact. No one actually saw Him rise—that is, no mortal human being saw it. No human being was in the tomb with Him as He rose. Christ’s act of rising from the dead lies shrouded in the mystery of that holiest of nights.

As a man, Jesus passed over from human life as we know it, burdened by a fundamental separation from God, to human life as God intended it, perfectly united with Himself. The true Passover: Christ passing over from a mortal life in the body to an immortal life in the body.

The disciples who saw Christ after the resurrection saw the evidence that the Passover had occurred in His flesh. But they did not see the Passover itself. It is not something that mortal eyes can see. It is a mystery of faith.

passover seder plateIn the same way, our own eventual bodily resurrection from the dead lies shrouded in the deepest clouds of divine mystery. Yes, on the one hand, it is a fact. We can’t really doubt that Christ rose in the body. So we can’t doubt that we, too, will rise. Christ rose from the dead, in the body: fact. All the dead will rise, in the body: fact.

But what our life will be like then: Mystery. We don’t know. It belongs to “the age to come.” Jesus, the Head of the mystical Body, Who passed over to immortal life 1,985 years ago—He will return to the earth with His divinity not hidden, but fully manifest. The Age to come.

The cynical world will say to us Christians: How can you possibly believe in such ethereal mysteries? Do you not know that the body is a chemical machine? It decays after death, unto dust.

To which we reply: It is precisely with reference to the facts of death and dusty graves that we speak. Would you cynics have us believe that the life of man as we know it—which, yes, does involve chemicals and the weight of mortality, but which also involves love and beauty and the longing for heaven—do you expect us to dismiss all the spiritual nobility in human life as some kind of chemical fluke?

After all, what real alternative do we have to faith in Christ’s bodily resurrection, and our own? Should we hope for real happiness from something else? Like facebook surfing, or good wine, or getting a lapel pin after 25 years of service on the job? Or can we hope for some purely spiritual eternity, with no body? What kind of heaven would that be for us, anyway?

No: We flesh-and-bone mortals have one solid hope, the hope that Christ has given us. The bonds of love we form by His grace during this pilgrim life will in fact last forever in His divine kingdom, when all the dead rise.

little last supperWe Christians who believe in Christ’s bodily resurrection and hope for our own, even though we can hardly understand it—we are no credulous fops living in a myth. To the contrary: We confront the reality of our inevitable death as it is, and we deal with it in the most reasonable way possible. By humbly trusting that the Word spoken by Almighty God is true.

We Christians never said that Christ’s bodily resurrection is something that we mortals can altogether understand. But nonetheless it is an intimate reality, which we touch by faith whenever we come to the holy altar of Christ’s Body and Blood. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it:

The ‘how’ of our bodily resurrection exceeds our imagination and understanding…Yet our participation in the Eucharist gives us a foretaste.

The mystery of immortal bodily life is close, familiar–a friend. Christ, already having passed over to immortal life in the body, does not dwell on some unreachable alien planet. He lives with us right here. He is always with us. He unites us with Himself when we receive Holy Communion.

The Faith

Resurrection tapestry Vatican Museums

We know that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead, because it is a verifiable fact of human history.

Let’s look at it this way. When we read the Scriptures during Holy Week, we encounter a number of unfamiliar names. Malchus, the Temple guard who lost an ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. Alexander and Rufus, the sons of Simon the Cyrenian, who helped Jesus on the way to Golgatha. Clopas, the husband of one of the women at the foot of the cross. Salome, who came to the tomb.

We might wonder why these names appear in the gospels. They appear without explanation. We hardly know anything at all about these individuals; to us they are “just names.” Why did the gospel writers throw those names in?

Simple explanation. Because the gospel writers knew them. St. Mark knew Alexander, Rufus, Clopas, and Salome. St. John knew Malchus. The gospel writers knew them personally. And the people for whom the gospel writers took the trouble to write their books—they knew Malchus, Alexander, Rufus, Clopas, and Salome, too.

So St. Mark and St. John didn’t explain who Malchus, Alexander, Rufus, Clopas, and Salome were for the same reason that I wouldn’t need to explain to you [the English-speaking people of St. Joseph’s parish, Martinsville, Virginia] who Bob Humkey, or John and Joseph Nguyen, are. You already know who they are. See what I mean?

The Holy Gospels put us right in the middle of the original Church–the living, breathing social network of the first Christians. The number of people who saw Jesus after He rose from the dead—not small. Five hundred plus. The number of ancient documents bearing witness to the widespread accounts of His appearances—not a small number of documents. The twenty-seven most reliable ones make up a familiar volume, namely…the New Testament. And there are many other documents attesting to the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.

st-peters-sunriseAncient history is not a science in which anything can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. But an honest historian of the ancient world would readily acknowledge: The evidence for the fact that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead vastly outweighs any evidence to the contrary. To make the case that He did rise, you can refer to these many documents. To make the case that He didn’t, you need a vivid imagination for conspiracy theories in order to explain away these documents.

So the man rose from the dead. Fact.

What we believe—what we hold by the divine gift of faith—is this: Jesus’ rising from the dead has something to do with us. What makes us Christians is: believing that the mystery of why we exist gets resolved by the fact that this man rose from the dead.

We believe that the mysterious power Who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs, and brought us forth into the light of day, and fills our lungs with air, and spreads the stars in the sky for us at night—God. We believe that He has revealed His plan. Namely, that Jesus’ eternal life would be our eternal life. That is our faith.

The New Testament, therefore, offers us two things at the same time. 1) An impressive collection of historical records from the ancient world. 2) The account of how our family began.

A reasonable person can’t doubt that it happened. What we believe, by the grace of God, is that when it happened, it happened to us.