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Bynum - Resurrection of the Body (Preface + Introduction)

(Text as at 12/02/2009 21:30:14)

This write-up is a review of "Bynum (Caroline) - Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity: Preface + Introduction - Seed Images, Ancient and Modern". Note – these comments are not intended as a complete abstract; they just pick out items I found interesting and worthy of further consideration in the light of my research.


p. xvi

  1. New concepts can be elaborated in response to intellectual deficiencies in old ones.
  2. Ideas are sometimes elaborated or betrayed by the metaphors that clothe them.
  3. Social and religious context of theology and philosophy: shown by the examples, limiting cases and images used by polemicists and theologians.
  4. Start from the texts themselves rather than imposing a modern context.

p. xvii
  1. The book is about body, not soul or eschatology.

p. xviii
  1. Shift of focus to purgatory and the moment of death, rather than the end of the world.
  2. Mediaeval Christianity is not dualistic, so why focus on the body to the exclusion of the soul? The understanding of the self is as a psychosomatic unity. Because the body rather than the soul raised philosophical questions of identity and personhood.


p. 2
  1. Resurrection of the body is always associated with the divine power to create and re-create.
  2. Sameness as numerical identity, retained through spatiotemporal continuity.

p. 3
  1. Sameness as similarity: materially and formally the same, with the same bits arranged in the same way.
  2. Reference to Bynum’s essay “Material Continuity …”. Note that the high middle ages recognise material continuity less than earlier or modern discussions. Yet mostly, embodiment is required for personhood.
  3. Refernce to Brown, “Resurrection”.
  4. The seed as the oldest Christian metaphor for the resurrection of the body. 1 Corinthians 15: 21-54. Sameness is in the sense of numerical identity, not of appearance. The question: How do the dead rise (with what sort of body)? Bare grain dies; it’s not the body that shall be; all flesh is not the same flesh; there are earthly and heavenly bodies, and exemplars of the latter “differ in glory”. Corruption versus incorruption, dishonour versus glory, weakness versus power, natural versus spiritual. Anything corruptible cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The raising of the dead and the “changing” of those alive at Christ’s return. Mortal putting on immortality.

p. 4
  1. Suggestion that these verses are “enigmatic” when taken with Romans 6-8 (resurrection occurred at Baptism – “rebirth of embodied person”) and 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, which (Bynum alleges) may be taken to mean we discard body when taking up our heavenly dwelling: this is incorrect exegesis of the “away from the body and at home with the Lord” passage, however. Paul claims that we don’t want to be “unclothed” but “clothed with our heavenly dwelling”, which will be the resurrection body. “The” body is “this” body, not any body.
  2. Accounts of Jesus resurrection follow the same spectrum – exaggeratedly physicalist (eating fish, Thomas instructed to touch) and exaggeratedly spiritualist (passing through closed doors, unrecognisable, “don’t touch me”).

p. 5
  1. Oscar Cullman – NT draws on Jewish ideas of resurrection of the person rather than alien imported Greek ideas of the immortality of the soul. 1 Corinthians 15 as “redemption of the person as a psychosomatic unity”.
  2. Cullman’s distinction is between
    • Seeing the human being as a person who dies (and then sleeps) until an end time and
    • Seeing the human being as a spirit (a nonmaterial and nondying element) housed in physicality.
    Bynum states that the high mediaeval view is neither of these alternatives.
  3. Suggestion that Cullman underestimates the diversity of Jewish thought.
  4. Counter-suggestion that for Paul soma doesn’t mean “body” but “self”, “community” or “disembodied person” – a view rejected by Robert Gundry who shows Paul uses soma to mean “morally neutral physical body” and not just “person”.
  5. 20th century philosophy rejected dualism. References to "Perry (John) - A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality" and "Shoemaker (Sydney) & Swinburne (Richard) - Personal Identity". This supports Cullman. Support for Cullman in accepting that the Pauline soma means “person” not “body”, and is related to Heb. nepheesh, “individual” (so, not “soul” as I’d thought, though there’s the contention that nephesh is something one is rather than has).
  6. Reference to "Penelhum (Terence), Ed. - Immortality".

p. 6

To be continued1

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Authors, Books & Papers Citing this Note

Author Title Medium Extra Links Read?
Bynum (Caroline) Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity: Preface + Introduction - Seed Images, Ancient and Modern Paper Medium Quality Abstract   Yes
Shoemaker (David) Personal Identity and Immortality Paper High Quality Abstract   Yes

References & Reading List

Author Title Medium Source Read?
Bynum (Caroline) Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200 - 1336 Book - Cited (via Paper Cited) Medium Quality Abstract Bibliographical details to be supplied 6%
Bynum (Caroline) Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity: Preface + Introduction - Seed Images, Ancient and Modern Paper - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Bynum (Caroline) - Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200 - 1336, Preface/Introduction Yes
Penelhum (Terence), Ed. Immortality Book - Cited Penelhum (Terence), Ed. - Immortality 8%
Perry (John) A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality Book - Cited Medium Quality Abstract Perry (John) - A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality Yes

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