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Home > Summa Theologiae > Supplement > Question 75

Question 75. The resurrection

  1. Is there to be a resurrection of the body?
  2. Is it universally of all bodies?
  3. Is it natural or miraculous?

Article 1. Whether there is to be a resurrection of the body?

Objection 1. It would seem that there is not to be a resurrection of the body: for it is written (Job 14:12): "Man, when he is fallen asleep, shall not rise again till the heavens be broken." But the heavens shall never be broken, since the earth, to which seemingly this is still less applicable, "standeth for ever" (Ecclesiastes 1:4). Therefore the man that is dead shall never rise again.

Objection 2. Further, Our Lord proves the resurrection by quoting the words: "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead but of the living" (Matthew 22:32; Exodus 3:6). But it is clear that when those words were uttered, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived not in body, but only in the soul. Therefore there will be no resurrection of bodies but only of souls.

Objection 3. Further, the Apostle (1 Corinthians 15) seemingly proves the resurrection from the reward for labors endured by the saints in this life. For if they trusted in this life alone, they would be the most unhappy of all men. Now there can be sufficient reward for labor in the soul alone: since it is not necessary for the instrument to be repaid together with the worker, and the body is the soul's instrument. Wherefore even in purgatory, where souls will be punished for what they did in the body, the soul is punished without the body. Therefore there is no need to hold a resurrection of the body, but it is enough to hold a resurrection of souls, which consists in their being taken from the death of sin and unhappiness to the life of grace and glory.

Objection 4. Further, the last state of a thing is the most perfect, since thereby it attains its end. Now the most perfect state of the soul is to be separated from the body, since in that state it is more conformed to God and the angels, and is more pure, as being separated from any extraneous nature. Therefore separation from the body is its final state, and consequently it returns not from this state to the body, as neither does a man end in becoming a boy.

Objection 5. Further, bodily death is the punishment inflicted on man for his own transgression, as appears from Genesis 2, even as spiritual death, which is the separation of the soul from God, is inflicted on man for mortal sin. Now man never returns to life from spiritual death after receiving the sentence of his damnation. Therefore neither will there be any return from bodily death to bodily life, and so there will be no resurrection.

On the contrary, It is written (Job 19:25-26): "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth, and I shall be clothed again with my skin," etc. Therefore there will be a resurrection of the body.

Further, the gift of Christ is greater than the sin of Adam, as appears from Romans 5:15. Now death was brought in by sin, for if sin had not been, there had been no death. Therefore by the gift of Christ man will be restored from death to life.

Further, the members should be conformed to the head. Now our Head lives and will live eternally in body and soul, since "Christ rising again from the dead dieth now no more" (Romans 6:8). Therefore men who are His members will live in body and soul; and consequently there must needs be a resurrection of the body.

I answer that, According to the various opinions about man's last end there have been various opinions holding or denying the resurrection. For man's last end which all men desire naturally is happiness. Some have held that man is able to attain this end in this life: wherefore they had no need to admit another life after this, wherein man would be able to attain to his perfection: and so they denied the resurrection.

This opinion is confuted with sufficient probability by the changeableness of fortune, the weakness of the human body, the imperfection and instability of knowledge and virtue, all of which are hindrances to the perfection of happiness, as Augustine argues at the end of De Civ. Dei (xxii, 22).

Hence others maintained that after this there is another life wherein, after death, man lives according to the soul only, and they held that such a life sufficed to satisfy the natural desire to obtain happiness: wherefore Porphyrius said as Augustine states (De Civ. De. xxii, 26): "The soul, to be happy, must avoid all bodies": and consequently these did not hold the resurrection.

This opinion was based by various people on various false foundations. For certain heretics asserted that all bodily things are from the evil principle, but that spiritual things are from the good principle: and from this it follows that the soul cannot reach the height of its perfection unless it be separated from the body, since the latter withdraws it from its principle, the participation of which makes it happy. Hence all those heretical sects that hold corporeal things to have been created or fashioned by the devil deny the resurrection of the body. The falsehood of this principle has been shown at the beginning of the Second Book (Sent. ii, D, 4, qu. 1, 3; * [Cf. I:49:3]).

Others said that the entire nature of man is seated in the soul, so that the soul makes use of the body as an instrument, or as a sailor uses his ship: wherefore according to this opinion, it follows that if happiness is attained by the soul alone, man would not be balked in his natural desire for happiness, and so there is no need to hold the resurrection. But the Philosopher sufficiently destroys this foundation (De Anima ii, 2), where he shows that the soul is united to the body as form to matter. Hence it is clear that if man cannot be happy in this life, we must of necessity hold the resurrection.

Reply to Objection 1. The heavens will never be broken as to their substance, but as to the effect of their power whereby their movement is the cause of generation and corruption of lower things: for this reason the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 7:31): "The fashion of this world passeth away."

Reply to Objection 2. Abraham's soul, properly speaking, is not Abraham himself, but a part of him (and the same as regards the others). Hence life in Abraham's soul does not suffice to make Abraham a living being, or to make the God of Abraham the God of a living man. But there needs to be life in the whole composite, i.e. the soul and body: and although this life were not actually when these words were uttered, it was in each part as ordained to the resurrection. Wherefore our Lord proves the resurrection with the greatest subtlety and efficacy.

Reply to Objection 3. The soul is compared to the body, not only as a worker to the instrument with which he works, but also as form to matter: wherefore the work belongs to the composite and not to the soul alone, as the Philosopher shows (De Anima i, 4). And since to the worker is due the reward of the work, it behooves man himself, who is composed of soul and body, to receive the reward of his work. Now as venial offenses are called sins as being dispositions to sin, and not as having simply and perfectly the character of sin, so the punishment which is awarded to them in purgatory is not a retribution simply, but rather a cleansing, which is wrought separately in the body, by death and by its being reduced to ashes, and in the soul by the fire of purgatory.

Reply to Objection 4. Other things being equal, the state of the soul in the body is more perfect than outside the body, because it is a part of the whole composite; and every integral part is material in comparison to the whole: and though it were conformed to God in one respect, it is not simply. Because, strictly speaking, a thing is more conformed to God when it has all that the condition of its nature requires, since then most of all it imitates the Divine perfection. Hence the heart of an animal is more conformed to an immovable God when it is in movement than when it is at rest, because the perfection of the heart is in its movement, and its rest is its undoing.

Reply to Objection 5. Bodily death was brought about by Adam's sin which was blotted out by Christ's death: hence its punishment lasts not for ever. But mortal sin which causes everlasting death through impenitence will not be expiated hereafter. Hence that death will be everlasting.

Article 2. Whether the resurrection will be for all without exception?

Objection 1. It would seem that the resurrection will not be for all without exception. For it is written (Psalm 1:5): "The wicked shall not rise again in judgment." Now men will not rise again except at the time of the general judgment. Therefore the wicked shall in no way rise again.

Objection 2. Further, it is written (Daniel 12:2): "Many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake." But these words imply a restriction. Therefore all will not rise again.

Objection 3. Further, by the resurrection men are conformed to Christ rising again; wherefore the Apostle argues (1 Corinthians 15:12, seqq.) that if Christ rose again, we also shall rise again. Now those alone should be conformed to Christ rising again who have borne His image, and this belongs to the good alone. Therefore they alone shall rise again.

Objection 4. Further, punishment is not remitted unless the fault be condoned. Now bodily death is the punishment of original sin. Therefore, as original sin is not forgiven to all, all will not rise again.

Objection 5. Further, as we are born again by the grace of Christ, even so shall we rise again by His grace. Now those who die in their mother's womb can never be born again: therefore neither can they rise again, and consequently all will not rise again.

On the contrary, It is said (John 5:28,35): "All that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God . . . and they that hear shall live." Therefore the dead shall all rise again.

Further, it is written (1 Corinthians 15:51): "We shall all indeed rise again," etc.

Further, the resurrection is necessary in order that those who rise again may receive punishment or reward according to their merits. Now either punishment or reward is due to all, either for their own merits, as to adults, or for others' merits, as to children. Therefore all will rise again.

I answer that, Those things, the reason of which comes from the nature of a species, must needs be found likewise in all the members of that same species. Now such is the resurrection: because the reason thereof, as stated above (Article 1), is that the soul cannot have the final perfection of the human species, so long as it is separated from the body. Hence no soul will remain for ever separated from the body. Therefore it is necessary for all, as well as for one, to rise again.

Reply to Objection 1. As a gloss expounds these words, they refer to the spiritual resurrection whereby the wicked shall not rise again in the particular judgment. or else they refer to the wicked who are altogether unbelievers, who will not rise again to be judged, since they are already judged [John 3:18].

Reply to Objection 2. Augustine (De Civ. Dei xx, 23) explains "many" as meaning "all": in fact, this way of speaking is often met with in Holy Writ. Or else the restriction may refer to the children consigned to limbo who, although they shall rise again, are not properly said to awake, since they will have no sense either of pain or of glory, and waking is the unchaining of the senses.

Reply to Objection 3. All, both good and wicked, are conformed to Christ, while living in this life, as regards things pertaining to the nature of the species, but not as regards matters pertaining to grace. Hence all will be conformed to Him in the restoration of natural life, but not in the likeness of glory, except the good alone.

Reply to Objection 4. Those who have died in original sin have, by dying, discharged the obligation of death which is the punishment of original sin. Hence, notwithstanding original sin, they can rise again from death: for the punishment of original sin is to die, rather than to be detained by death.

Reply to Objection 5. We are born again by the grace of Christ that is given to us, but we rise again by the grace of Christ whereby it came about that He took our nature, since it is by this that we are conformed to Him in natural things. Hence those who die in their mother's womb, although they are not born again by receiving grace, will nevertheless rise again on account of the conformity of their nature with Him, which conformity they acquired by attaining to the perfection of the human species.

Article 3. Whether the resurrection is natural?

Objection 1. It would seem that the resurrection is natural. For, as the Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iii, 14), "that which is commonly observed in all, marks the nature of the individuals contained under it." Now resurrection applies commonly to all. Therefore it is natural.

Objection 2. Further, Gregory says (Moral. xiv, 55): "Those who do not hold the resurrection on the principle of obedience ought certainly to hold it on the principle of reason. For what does the world every day but imitate, in its elements, our resurrection?" And he offers as examples the light which "as it were dies . . . and is withdrawn from our sight . . . and again rises anew, as it were, and is recalled—the shrubs which lose their greenery, and again by a kind of resurrection are renewed—and the seeds which rot and die and then sprout and rise again as it were": which same example is adduced by the Apostle (1 Corinthians 15:36). Now from the works of nature nothing can be known save what is natural. Therefore the resurrection is natural.

Objection 3. Further, things that are against nature abide not for long, because they are violent, so to speak. But the life that is restored by the resurrection will last for ever. Therefore the resurrection will be natural.

Objection 4. Further, that to which the entire expectation of nature looks forward would seem to be natural. Now such a thing is the resurrection and the glorification of the saints according to Romans 8:19. Therefore the resurrection will be natural.

Objection 5. Further, the resurrection is a kind of movement towards the everlasting union of soul and body. Now movement is natural if it terminate in a natural rest (Phys. v, 6): and the everlasting union of soul and body will be natural, for since the soul is the body's proper mover, it has a body proportionate to it: so that the body is likewise for ever capable of being quickened by it, even as the soul lives for ever. Therefore the resurrection will be natural.

On the contrary, There is no natural return from privation to habit. But death is privation of life. Therefore the resurrection whereby one returns from death to life is not natural.

Further, things of the one species have one fixed way of origin: wherefore animals begotten of putrefaction are never of the same species as those begotten of seed, as the Commentator says on Phys. viii. Now the natural way of man's origin is for him to be begotten of a like in species: and such is not the case in the resurrection. Therefore it will not be natural.

I answer that, A movement or an action stands related to nature in three ways. For there is a movement or action whereof nature is neither the principle nor the term: and such a movement is sometimes from a principle above nature as in the case of a glorified body; and sometimes from any other principle whatever; for instance, the violent upward movement of a stone which terminates in a violent rest. Again, there is a movement whereof nature is both principle and term: for instance, the downward movement of a stone. And there is another movement whereof nature is the term, but not the principle, the latter being sometimes something above nature (as in giving sight to a blind man, for sight is natural, but the principle of the sight-giving is above nature), and sometimes something else, as in the forcing of flowers or fruit by artificial process. It is impossible for nature to be the principle and not the term, because natural principles are appointed to definite effects, beyond which they cannot extend.

Accordingly the action or movement that is related to nature in the first way can nowise be natural, but is either miraculous if it come from a principle above nature, or violent if from any other principle. The action or movement that is related to nature in the second way is simply natural: but the action that is related to nature in the third way cannot be described as natural simply, but as natural in a restricted sense, in so far, to wit, as it leads to that which is according to nature: but it is called either miraculous or artificial or violent. For, properly speaking, natural is that which is according to nature, and a thing is according to nature if it has that nature and whatever results from that nature (Phys. ii, 1). Consequently, speaking simply, movement cannot be described as natural unless its principle be natural.

Now nature cannot be the principle of resurrection, although resurrection terminates in the life of nature. For nature is the principle of movement in the thing wherein nature is—either the active principle, as in the movement of heavy and light bodies and in the natural alterations of animals—or the passive principle, as in the generation of simple bodies. The passive principle of natural generation is the natural passive potentiality which always has an active principle corresponding to it in nature, according to Metaphysics viii, 1: nor as to this does it matter whether the active principle in nature correspond to the passive principle in respect of its ultimate perfection, namely the form; or in respect of a disposition in virtue of which it demands the ultimate form, as in the generation of a man according to the teaching of faith, or in all other generations according to the opinions of Plato and Avicenna. But in nature there is no active principle of the resurrection, neither as regards the union of the soul with the body, nor as regards the disposition which is the demand for that union: since such a disposition cannot be produced by nature, except in a definite way by the process of generation from seed. Wherefore even granted a passive potentiality on the part of the body, or any kind of inclination to its union with the soul, it is not such as to suffice for the conditions of natural movement. Therefore the resurrection, strictly speaking, is miraculous and not natural except in a restricted sense, as we have explained.

Reply to Objection 1. Damascene is speaking of those things that are found in all individuals and are caused by the principles of nature. For supposing by a divine operation all men to be made white, or to be gathered together in one place, as happened at the time of the deluge, it would not follow that whiteness or existence in some particular place is a natural property of man.

Reply to Objection 2. From natural things one does not come by a demonstration of reason to know non-natural things, but by the induction of reason one may know something above nature, since the natural bears a certain resemblance to the supernatural. Thus the union of soul and body resembles the union of the soul with God by the glory of fruition, as the Master says (Sent. ii, D, 1): and in like manner the examples, quoted by the Apostle and Gregory, are confirmatory evidences of our faith in the resurrection.

Reply to Objection 3. This argument regards an operation which terminates in something that is not natural but contrary to nature. Such is not the resurrection, and hence the argument is not to the point.

Reply to Objection 4. The entire operation of nature is subordinate to the Divine operation, just as the working of a lower art is subordinate to the working of a higher art. Hence just as all the work of a lower art has in view an end unattainable save by the operation of the higher art that produces the form, or makes use of what has been made by art: so the last end which the whole expectation of nature has in view is unattainable by the operation of nature, and for which reason the attaining thereto is not natural.

Reply to Objection 5. Although there can be no natural movement terminating in a violent rest, there can be a non-natural movement terminating in a natural rest, as explained above.

The Summa Theologiæ of St. Thomas Aquinas
Second and Revised Edition, 1920
Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province
Online Edition Copyright © 2017 by Kevin Knight
Nihil Obstat. F. Innocentius Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor. Theol.
Imprimatur. Edus. Canonicus Surmont, Vicarius Generalis. Westmonasterii.
Nihil Obstat. F. Raphael Moss, O.P., S.T.L. and F. Leo Moore, O.P., S.T.L.
Imprimatur. F. Beda Jarrett, O.P., S.T.L., A.M., Prior Provincialis Angliæ


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