To ask, “Of what is a resurrected human body made?” is to ask for a philosophical explanation of a revealed fact. I find the question fascinating because of the many answers that would seemingly be appropriate and because answering the question requires the elaboration of related philosophical facts, which are often misconstrued.
What Prompted This Essay?
I scan the daily list of online essays on a variety of topics of Catholic interest, which list is published by Catholic Stand’s founder, Tito Edwards, at BigPulpit.com. The listed essays express divergent viewpoints, thereby providing full current context. An excellent example of this is an essay, Return of the Pagans, by Helen Dale, who states, “I lack a religious orientation.”
In the list of July 20th was the essay, “What Was Christ’s Resurrected Body Made Of?” by Catholic Stand’s founding editor, Dr. Stacy Trasancos. Her essay was published by Catholic Answers Magazine online. I didn’t read it because I did not want my own philosophical answer to be influenced by her perspective. I will read her essay after this essay is published.
Currently Resurrected Human Bodies: Their Properties
Currently, there are only two resurrected human bodies, those of Jesus and Mary. However, at the end of time, the bodies of all humans, who have died will be resurrected. What we know of the characteristics of the resurrected human body, we know from the revelation of the acts of Jesus after his resurrection.
When His resurrected figure was observed by others in a temporal setting, it expressed the properties of an ordinary human body. These included (1) walking and conversing with others as on the road to Emmaus and at dinner with them in the inn (Luke 24:13-31), (2) eating with his disciples in their living quarters (Luke 24:41-43) and at a lakeside cookout (John 21:12-15), and (3) having flesh, not different from normal to the touch of another (Luke 24:39).
His body, as different from normal, was evident in one way. Although capable of a relationship of place to material, temporal entities, it was not a relationship of necessity. The relationship could occur (John 20:26) or cease (Luke 24:31) without transitioning respectively from or to another relationship of place. In contrast, the relationship of place of an ordinary human body with respect to other material entities is singular and necessary in the moment, and subject to continuous transition.
The resurrected body is immutable though capable of a relationship of place with mutable material things. The non-resurrected human body is mutable and has a unique and necessary, but continually transitioning relationship of place with other mutable material things.
Several Answers: Of What Is a Natural Human Body Made?
Several answers are:
- A head, torso, and four limbs
- Flesh and bone
- Tissues and organs
- Various physiological systems, including the skeletal, the muscular, the nervous, and the digestive.
- Biological cells
- A variety of organic and inorganic compounds, mostly water.
- Several elements of the periodic table, predominately oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen.
- Informed matter.
Notice that all but the last answer are parts lists. However, the natural human figure as a living entity does not consist in the sum of its parts. The answers, except the last, are appropriate to a rephrasing of the question; namely, “Of what is a natural human body composed?” It is the last answer, informed matter, which alone answers the original question. It does so by identifying the human body as an integral whole.
It is the fact of death and the difference between a living human body and a corpse, which further justifies the last answer as definitive. Death occurs when the matter of the body is damaged or deteriorates to such an extent that the soul can no longer inform the body. Immediately after death, before decay, the answers that are parts lists are true of a corpse as they are of a living human body. Immediately after death, the forms of the parts are still recognizable, but the body as a unit is no longer informed by that integrating form which is its soul.
Of What is a Resurrected and Glorified Body Made?
The answer is informed matter. Although the natural human body and the resurrected human body are both made of informed matter, the mode of informing is different in the same way that the mutable differs from the immutable. To us in our mutable state, the most obvious difference between a natural and a resurrected body is in its relationship of place to other material entities. The natural body has a singular and necessary relationship of place to other material entities, although the relationship is transitional. The resurrected body may have a relationship of place to other material entities, but it is not of necessity. The relationship of place of the resurrected body is not necessarily transitional. It can be abrupt in its initiation and in its termination of a relationship of place. It can appear and vanish.
Confounding the Two Disparate Relationships of Place
It is easy to confound the two disparate relationships of place characteristic of a natural and of a resurrected body. This is seen in the common supposition that the resurrected body of Jesus had to pass through a wall or the closed door of the room in order for Jesus to appear in that closed room to the disciples after the resurrection (John 20:26). This supposition could then lead to proposing an explanation of how a resurrected body could pass through a solid.
A natural adult human body due to its singular and necessary relationship of place to other material entities must have been in place outside of a room, prior to its entering and prior to its being in the room. The natural body could not enter the room by passing through a solid barrier due to the body’s nature of a singular and necessary relationship of place and the impenetrability of solids by one another.
It should be noted that it is at the level of observation of the human senses that solids are identified as solids. A physical property of solids is their mutual impenetrability at the level of observation at which a solid is defined. It is nonsense to propose that our visual imagination of atoms, used as a crutch to the understanding of instrumental measurements at the atomic level, can serve as an explanation of how solids could penetrate one another at the visual level, something which has never been observed. It is a consistently observed fact that solids cannot penetrate one another. This is of the very definition and identification of a solid.
In contrast to a natural human body, the resurrected and glorious body of Jesus has no necessary relationship of place to natural material entities. That his body had a relationship of place with the disciples within the closed room at some time, does not necessitate his body’s having a prior relationship of place outside the room from which it would transition (in any sense) into the room.
By faith, we believe that Jesus’ body, through his immutable divinity, was able at the Last Supper and is now able to maintain multiple relationships of place with natural material entities under the appearance of bread and wine. From the fact that the nature of a material entity does not consist in the sum of its properties, we know that it is not a self-contradiction to maintain that Jesus’ body and blood can have the appearance of bread and wine.
Both natural as well as resurrected, glorified human bodies are made of informed matter. The difference lies in that a natural body is informed in a mutable state, while a resurrected, glorified body is informed, due to a supernatural gift, in an immutable state. A prominent manifestation of this difference is the two bodies’ different relationships of place with respect to other material entities. A natural body has a singular and necessary relationship of place with other natural material entities, whose relationship is continuously transitional. The resurrected body may have a relationship of place with other material entities, but it is not necessary. This lack of necessity can render the relationship of place as one involving sudden appearance and vanishing from our perspective, which is natural human observation.
The soul is the principle which informs matter rendering the human body an integral unit, a single existent substance. It also is the cause of the forms of the parts of the body. In contrast to the substantial unity of a living natural body, a fresh corpse is merely a set of body parts, a source of parts for transplant surgery.