Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336

Article excerpt

Caroline Walker Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 2001336, Lectures on the History of Religions sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies, new series, 15 (New York; Columbia University Press, 1995). xx + 368 pp. ISBN 0-231-01826-x. L29.95.

The body has become such an important consideration in feminist and cultural readings of medieval texts and contexts that it is particularly useful to have this considered and reflective account of attitudes towards its resurrection from the third century to the thirteenth. Caroline Walker Bynum's treatment is particularly concerned with the ways in which bodily resurrection - in its most literal sense - existed in association with a continuing distrust of biological process and with a related tendency to identify individuality with the physical person.

This is quite an interesting and new approach to the place of natural change implied or stated in, for example, the Bible, but Bynum argues ably that as influential a writer as Augustine felt 'discomfort' with natural process and, intellectually at least, distanced himself from it, rejecting `the Pauline seed metaphor with its attendant implication that body is fluid, dynamic, potential, open to infinite development' (p. 96). Men and women may have been, as the poetic philosophers argued, a part of Nature, whose purpose and design were central to theirs, but they were also, as other philosophers insisted, apart from it, indeed apart from all creation, and it was within the terms of that separation that human uniqueness resided.

Put thus, the argument of this ambitious and able book may seem less original than it is, but the force of the early tradition was deeply influential. …

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