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Re: Bodies & Religions



>  "Certain Christian denominations and other religions believe that the
actual body
> will be used in the afterlife.  If the body is cut up or parts are
> removed, you'd spend eternity in poor condition or maybe not make it
> all." I'd not heard such an opinion in Christendom, though my experience
> and reading is primarily with the English-speaking, post reformation
> branch... Puritans, etc.

As I remember - and I can't promise accuracy from the top of my head - this
was very much a part of the Mediaeval Church's view of Doomsday.  The idea
was that the "sleepers" would literally burst out of their graves at the
"last trumpet" and that resurrection would begin on Earth.

> The Scriptures, Jewish or Christian,  do not hint of it...

They certainly offer the seeds on which the Christian form of this belief
grew.

Try John 5.28-29 - "for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the
graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good,
unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the
resurrection of damnation".

They assumed that they would "come forth" by simply stepping out of the
graves.  An image that appears repeatedly in Mediaeval art.

And Revelation implies that at least the first stages of the Christian
afterlife, including the judgement, would take place in the physical world.

I don't remember the exact time that this belief began to be downgraded to a
less explicitly physical version - although I suspect that it was a part of
the rationalisation of old Christian beliefs which went on to produce the
Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

My own interests in religion are strictly historical, so I was actually very
surprised to find - glancing through - no obvious signs of bodies bursting
out of graves in Revelation's account of the Judgement Day.  My own view of
this legend has obviously been filtered through the Mediaeval and (perhaps)
Renaissance accounts of it that I have read.

If you want me to do some digging around, I may be able to find some more
exact sources for you (contact me off-list), but I may not currently have
access to the books that I originally read this in.

Of course the origins of the belief must be similar to those which caused
other religions to pile their graves high with grave-goods, so that the dead
person would have everything necessary to make their physical journey into
the afterlife.

I believe that there are some current religious groupings (including, I
suspect, at least one Christian denomination) which still has moral
objections to cremation on these grounds, but I am afraid that I can't name
them - and my mind may be playing tricks on me.

Thomas.


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