Thursday, December 14, 2017

Does Having a Physical Body Place Limitations on Christ?

It's been a long time since I read some of the early fathers regarding this question, but I'm inclined to think some post-Nicenes might argue that Christ qua his humanity has limitations, but not qua his divinity. Indeed, it's hard to see how Trinitarians avoid the implication that the risen Lord, if he still has a body, must also have limitations associated with that body.

1. All human bodies have limitations.
2. Jesus has a human body.
3. Therefore, Jesus' body has limitations.

If Jesus Christ possesses a human body, then he has limitations by virtue of his corporeality just as I have limitations by virtue of mine. For instance, I can only inhabit one region of space-time moment by moment, not more than one region.

Now someone might insist that Christ has a glorified material body which is suitable for the heavenly sphere. This glorified body likewise is supposed to be free of the limitations that those of us with mundane (non-glorified) bodies now experience. However, granting that assumption/belief, it's still hard to understand how a human body becomes divested of all limitations since body by its very nature (analytically) implies limitation because a body by definition is what occupies space-time. Hence, why would a glorified body be immune to this general feature of all human/animal bodies?

I have not even dealt with the question of how the Incarnation assumes many things without proving them. Nor have I broached the question of how we know that the body Christ allegedly now has is the same body he sacrificed for our sins. Those questions will be saved for another day.


JimSpace said...

My question is, why does Jesus even need a physical body in heaven, much less his Jewish, Nazarene body? What good are feet if he’s not using them to stand on anything? It’s simply beyond ridiculous, which is probably why some Trinitarians have abandoned the whole “glorified flesh” doctrine altogether for various alternatives.

Edgar Foster said...

Good question, Jim, and I can think of other parts the risen Lord probably would not use including bowels and kidneys and a heart, but that never seems to have troubled advocates of the Incarnation doctrine. I have only read a few books in recent years about the glorified body (flesh) idea, but last time I checked, the belief seemed to be thriving. The classical statement of resurrected flesh can be found in Tertullian, but Aquinas seems to perpetuate the idea too. Maybe Protestants are trying to distant themselves from the concept of resurrected and glorified bodies? Thanks!

Edgar Foster said...

Aquinas writes: "Consequently all the members that are now in man's body must needs be restored at the resurrection" (ST XP, 80, Article 1).

See also

JimSpace said...

Thank you for that link to that insightful explanation. It said in part:

It means that a glorified body is still a body, but it is not subject to corruption.
As we would say in modern scientific terminology, the glorified body is not subject to the forces and laws of physics and chemistry. Human bodies, made of the elements on the periodic table, belong to rational souls. [end quote]

It seems like to me then, that while starting with glorified physical bodies, ended up speaking about spiritual bodies. Thus their glorified body is actually a spirit body.

Lastly, Dr. WLC said that Jesus' human nature is dependent on it being in our space-time. He said that "his human nature does not now manifest itself corporeally. ... Christ's human nature, no longer immersed in spacetime, does not manifest itself as a body. But someday Christ will return and re-enter our four-dimensional space-time continuum, and then his body will become manifest ... Christ, then, has a human nature which is manifested as his physical resurrection body when he exists in a spatio-temporal universe." So according to him, Jesus is not in our universe now so does not have any glorified body parts.

Edgar Foster said...


A couple of quick remarks for now. I will have to read that website again, but I think Catholics believe that glorified bodies are still human bodies. Even when they speak of spiritual bodies, they still have glorified human bodies in mind. Catholicism views the resurrection as a uniting of the body and the rational soul.

WLC has constructed a novel ad hoc explanation. His view probably bugs many traditional trinitarians.

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Jim,

The discussion here makes it clear that Catholics believe a spiritual body is a glorified human body.

"Those who have been faithful to Christ will rise glorious, their bodies transformed on the model of the risen body of Christ, who could travel instantly at will, could ignore closed doors and come through anyway, but yet had real flesh. St. Paul says the risen body is 'spiritual' (15:44). It is still flesh, but such that the flesh is completely dominated by the soul, so that it can no longer suffer or die."

JimSpace said...

Thank you Edgar. I like how that article say that this doctrine was solidified “in the pre-periodic table days,” before the scientific revolution. It reminds me of how the Mormon founder Joseph Smith claimed to have translated Egyptian Hieratic before that knowledge was available to him. One cannot make credible claims before the scientific knowledge is available.

Edgar Foster said...

Good point. Jains claim the same thing about microorganisms. How could their founder, Mahavira, know about microorganisms some 2400 years ago unless he had special insight?