Summary: Paul is writing this greatest of all chapters on the resurrection because of the questions of the Corinthians. Some of them were very strange questions. The saying is, there is no such thing as a foolish question, and that holds true even though Paul begins by calling their question foolish.
One of the strangest articles I have ever heard of was the one titled Who Ate Roger Williams. This
great fighter for religious liberty, and the founder of the first Baptist church in America in
Providence, R.I., died and was buried in a very insecure casket. The result was an apple tree broke in
and a large root went right through his body. This led to some very strange speculation. Since part
of the body of Roger Williams would have been absorbed by the root and taken up into that tree, it is
probable that some of these molecules became part of it's apples. Thus, the foolish question--who ate
Now this could hardly be a problem from even the most anti-cannibalistic perspective. The
problem is a theological one that men have been wrestling with for centuries. How is God going to
get the body of Roger Williams back together again for the resurrection? This gets enormously
complex if you think of how his molecules could end up scattered all over the world, and becoming
parts of many other bodies which will also be in the resurrection.
This may sound absurd, but it has been a serious theological issue since the early church.
Tertullian, one of the ancient church fathers, was a fighting fundamentalist on this issue. He insisted
that the very body that was buried is the body that will rise at the resurrection. Every hair and every
tooth of this body will be raised, and not a fraction will be lost. This may have been a great comfort
to those who died with a fine head of hair and a full set of teeth, but what about those who had lost
their hair and teeth? Are they to be stuck forever with the literal body that was buried, or can they
anticipate some improvement in their resurrection body? Even more perplexing were the questions
about the Christians that were fed to the lions, or those many who were burned at the stake.
More modern Christians have added their own examples of problems with the body. What of
those lost or buried at sea, and eaten by sharks or other predators? What about those who have died
in planes and various explosions where the body has disintegrated without a trace? There are just too
many seemingly hopeless cases where the body, for all practical purposes, ceases to exist. These
complex situations have led to much doubt about the doctrine of the resurrection of the body.
St. Augustine, way back in the 4th century, spent a good deal of his time writing answers to all
kinds of questions about the resurrection of the body. What about abortion? Will these little bodies
be raised, and if so, what kind of body will they have? Augustine said they were alive and they died,
and since all the dead will be raised, he saw no reason why they would not qualify. This has been the
general belief of Christians ever since. He said all will have equal bodies. All will be like Christ in
the prime of life, and so all children will have mature bodies, and all old people will have young
bodies. All defects will be done away with, and all that is lacking will be added so that none need
fear they will have a body they do not feel comfortable with.
Believe it or not, Augustine had to deal with questions like--will all of our body be resurrected?
Will all that was ever a part of us be a part of the resurrection body? What about all the hair the
barber has cut off over the years? If all of this is to be restored to us, Harry will be the only fitting
name in heaven, and the hippy style will be the style forever. Others asked about finger nails and
about over weight Christians, and still others asked about the deformed. You cannot think of a
question today that was not already asked in the fourth century. There are few theological issues that
have produced so many questions in people's minds, as this issue of the resurrection of the body.
Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica, the most famous theological work of the middle ages,
and the primary basis for Catholic theology, goes on and on, page after page, dealing with questions
about the resurrection body. Will the resurrection body have hair, nails, intestines, sex organs, sweat
glands, blood and other fluids of the body? He wrestled with problems most of us never lose any
sleep over. For example, if Adam rises with his full original body, Eve will not be able to rise at all,
for she was made from Adam's rib. If he gets it back in the resurrection, there is nothing left for Eve