Mysterious Bodies: Aristotelian Animal Generation and the Early Christian Doctrine of Bodily Resurrection
How does a living body come to be? What happens when it passes away? Questions like these captivated both Aristotle and St. Paul, despite their significantly different times and cultures. While it does not make any claim that Paul explicitly relied on Aristotle, this article does argue that each of them faced down parallel dilemmas and responded with the same conceptual move. Writing on animal generation, Aristotle rejected theories which overemphasize continuity through the developmental process or so stress the intelligibility of discrete stages that the process itself disintegrates without coherence. Likewise, Paul, writing on the plausibility of bodily resurrection, exhorts the Christian community in Corinth to reject overly continuous caricatures of resurrection while also urging them not to abandon hope for the bodies of those who have died – “what you sow,” he tells them, “come[s] to life.” Both Paul and Aristotle point their readers toward accounts of bodily development which refuse to collapse into either identity with the past or discontinuity between past and future – Paul and Aristotle insist on both. Such insistence is plausible on each of their accounts because they advance a shared conceptual shift away from prioritizing the temporal order of bodily change and toward a teleological order which privileges a greater whole.
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