On Crocodiles, Cannibals and Corpses


I make this point to introduce the idea that although my physical body of cells and molecules totally changes every seven years or so, there is nevertheless, another “body” which doesn’t change. There is a physical part of me that is always me despite the changes. That photograph of me as a child does not picture the same body, but it does picture the same person. This brings us to the meaning of the word “body”, In the Latin form of the creed, we do not profess belief in the Corporis Resurrectionem, but in CARNIS Resurrectionem. In other words, we don’t profess belief in the resurrection of the body, but the resurrection of the flesh. The theological definition of the word “flesh” comes from the Hebrews, who blessed the whole human race with a wonderfully sophisticated religious idea. They rejected the obvious idea that our bodies are shells or vehicles for our souls. Instead they thought that the flesh and the soul were permanently integrated and united.  For them “flesh” means much more than just the physical body. It means the whole person with all the gifts of body, mind and spirit fused into one physico-spiritual being.

If this is so, then rather than the soul living in the body as a person lives in a house; we should think of the soul dwelling in every cell of the body. Increasingly the biologists understand the mind in this way. So the mind does not seem to be limited only to the brain, but it is spread by the nervous system throughout the whole body. The soul, then, does not exist in one part of the body, but infuses the entire body down to the tiniest cell and molecule. Evidence of this is in the weird things which sometimes happen with organ transplants. The recipients of new organs are known to inexplicably assume character traits and tastes which they never had before, but which their donor had when they were alive.

So if the mind dwells in every cell, then maybe the soul does too. This is easy enough to suggest as a theory, but let us stand it on its head and say that if the soul dwells in every cell of the body, then maybe a bit of the body dwells in every part of the soul as well. After all, if we are a totally fused body and soul creation, then this would follow. We have all heard of the old soldier who still feels pain in his amputated leg even when it isn’t there. Sometimes he even reaches to scratch empty air because his absent leg itches so much. That indicates that just as the mind and soul inhabit the body, so the body (even when part of it has been cut off) inhabits the mind and the soul. If that is so, then there exists a kind of “soul body” which we could call the resurrection body. It has continuity with our mortal physical body, (like my boyhood body has continuity with the present fat and bald one) and it is derived from that body, but it is the soul version, and is not subject to decay and change.

This shouldn’t be so hard to imagine, because, as I’ve already pointed out, our bodies are changing all the time anyway. What if this “soul body” or resurrection body simply blossoms at the point of death? After all, our physical bodies have gone through lots of changes throughout the course of our lives. This may simply be the final one. As a seed falls into the ground and dies, in order to bring forth the flower, so our bodies fall into the ground and die to bring forth the resurrection body. And as the flower grows from the seed, but looks nothing like it, so it may be with our resurrection bodies. They are derived from these mortal bodies, but thrive and are alive with a new kind of life that has grown out of the old.

If the resurrection of Jesus Christ is anything to go by, then this seems to be precisely what does happen. He rose from the dead, but they didn’t recognize him at first. In a way it was like seeing a boy at his college graduation who you haven’t seen for ten or twelve years. You scarcely recognise him, and yet you know the handsome, proud twenty one-year-old is the same person as the gawky, buck-toothed nine year old with a snotty nose. So it will be in our own resurrection. We will have blossomed. We will have grown up to the full maturity of our years. We will be in our prime, and will have reached that potential for which we were created.

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