56. The Hope of Resurrection and the Hopelessness of Reincarnation

An icon portraying the doctrine of the Resurrection of Christ, giving us some hint of what might happen to the body in the afterlife.
An Icon of the Resurrection of Christ by Robert J. Andrews, “America’s Truly Byzantine Iconographer”

In the West, we have three main beliefs concerning the afterlife – materialistic annihilation, reincarnation, and resurrection. Before continuing with this post, stop briefly for a moment and consider what your view is of the afterlife, if indeed you have given it much thought. Please leave your comments below.

In Post 1, the very first post of this blog, I discussed how the Apostle Paul was doing well in his presentation of the Gospel to the Greeks in Athens until he mentioned the Resurrection of Christ, after which he lost most of his listeners. Why did that happen?

The Afterlife in Ancient Cultures

The ancient Greeks, like most ancient cultures, believed in some sort of afterlife. They had rather ill-defined and murky views for the most part. But, they all shared a common belief that the soul or spirit lived on in some capacity after death. Each culture, though, expressed this belief somewhat differently. All of their views tended to be rather pessimistic, viewing the afterlife as an existence characterized by pain and suffering at worst and meaninglessness and purposelessness at best.

Among the people of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and westward into Greece, the general theme seemed to consist of a shadowy underworld in which the soul lived on after death. An exception to the pessimistic view was that of the Egyptian Aaru, or “Field of Reeds,” which was an idealized vision of life on earth.1 The Egyptians preserved bodies—mummified them—because they believed that a soul could only be reborn in the afterlife if they preserved the body.2

If we travel eastward into India and the other parts of Asia, we find more of a belief in reincarnation. In Hinduism, for example, a soul experiences an endless cycle of reincarnations. The form a soul takes in the next life rests heavily on the doctrine of karma. Those who do good will improve in the next life but those who do evil will return in a worse state than they left, possibly as even an animal or a bug.

According to Hinduism, the ultimate goal is for individuals to achieve moksha, which literally means “release,” by leaving the perpetual and mundane wheel of reincarnation, samsara. This realization occurs when a person comprehends that the eternal core of the individual, atman, and the Absolute Reality, brahman, are one. The Beatles, in their embracing of the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, helped popularize these Hindu beliefs in the West in the 1960s.

The Greek View of the Afterlife

Socrates described three conditions of the afterlife which are strikingly similar to the Catholic doctrines of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory:

“Now when the dead have come to the place where each is led by his genius, first they are judged and sentenced, as they have lived well and piously, or not. And those who are found to have lived neither well nor ill, go to the Acheron and…there they dwell and are purified, and if they have done any wrong they are absolved by paying the penalty for their wrong doings, rewards, each according to his merits. But those who appear to be incurable…because they have committed many great deeds of sacrilege, or wicked and abominable murders, or any other such crimes, are cast by their fitting destiny into Tartarus, whence they never emerge…But those who are found to have excelled in holy living are freed from these regions within the earth and are released as from prisons; they mount upward into their pure abode and dwell upon the earth. And of these, all who have duly purified themselves by philosophy live henceforth altogether without bodies, and pass to still more beautiful abodes which it is not easy to describe, nor have we now time enough.”4

– Plato, Phaedo 113d-114c

I find this discourse of Socrates/Plato very remarkable to say the least. It surprises me that people haven’t written more about it. This is one of the most intriguing things that shows up in any Platonic dialogue.

Notice that those who have purified themselves and been absolved by “paying the penalty for their wrongs” are released from the lower regions of the earth and ascend to their “pure abode.” They dwell on the true surface of the earth, which is above the hollows of the earth.

Socrates has a very interesting account of what the earth is like. First of all, there are the hollows of the earth. This is what we lowly mortals know as the earth. At this level, the atmosphere and impurities are all around the inhabitants. Therefore, they do not see things as they truly are. But according to Socrates, there is an even more perfect and beautiful part of the earth that is above us. It is the true surface of the earth, surrounded by pure ether. In that existence, the senses and intellect are far more acute and perceptive. We truly see the heavens for what they are. This whole scenario bears a striking resemblance to Plato’s cave analogy. Perhaps this is where Plato got the idea.

If the “pure abode” is for those who have been purified below, then the “more pure abode” is for those who have “purified themselves by philosophy.” This is the highest level of existence in the afterlife. The inhabitants of the pure and more pure abodes live as pure spirits without bodies.

Socrates and Reincarnation

The above scenarios do not involve bodies. In fact, it appears that the ideal post-death existence is one that does not involve the body. You must leave the body behind as it is an obvious detriment. The exception is reincarnation, which the Greeks like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle incorporated into their belief systems. Consider the following reincarnation quote from Socrates about what happens when a soul that was overly enamored with the world dies:

“…when it departs from the body it is defiled and impure, because it was always with the body and cared for it and loved it and was fascinated by it and its desires and pleasures, so that it thought nothing was true except the corporeal, which one can touch and see and drink and eat and employ in the pleasures of love…And such a soul is weighed down by this and is dragged back into the visible world, through fear of the invisible and of the other world…And they flit about until through the desire of the corporeal which clings to them they are again imprisoned in a body. And they are likely to be imprisoned in natures which correspond to the practices of their former life…for example, that those who have indulged in gluttony and violence and drunkenness, and have taken no pains to avoid them, are likely to pass into the bodies of asses and other beasts of that sort.”5

– Plato, Phaedo 81b-81e

Unlike the previous scenario, in this scenario, Socrates describes reincarnation as for those who lived like beasts in this life. The obtaining of another body is for those who are concerned only with the body and nothing about the spiritual dimension of life. In other words, those on the lowest rung of the enlightenment ladder reserve a new body.

The Greek World at the Crossroads

Ancient Greece was located at the crossroads of the ancient world.
It constantly interacted with Mesopotamia and Asia as the gateway to Europe, and, as a result, the various beliefs from those parts of the world inevitably influenced its people. As a result, we would expect to see an amalgamation of these various ideas within ancient Greece, and certainly we do. To try to sort out all of the nuances of these beliefs would be far too complex and time-consuming; therefore, I will try to simplify.

Homer served as an example of earlier Greek thought from the Archaic era, which held that departed spirits ended up in Hades, the realm of the dead. Homer’s poetry describes Hades as a shadowy and gloomy place where departed souls exist as formless beings. People considered life on earth slightly better than life below, though both were seen as meaningless. Overall, there was no ultimate purpose to life. The idea of reincarnation is absent.

As we can see above, by the time we get to Socrates, the idea of reincarnation is an integral part of the belief system of the Greeks, although not exclusively. The Greeks, being at the crossroads of ancient civilizations, ended up with a hybrid of Eastern and Western ideas. They combined the idea of reincarnation with that of the dreary, bodiless existence of Hades.

A noteworthy point is that in neither case does the body ultimately factor in. In the views in Mesopotamia and the West, the soul lived on in perpetuity apart from the body. While in the East, the soul and body were perpetually joined until the soul was, once and for all, released from the body. In both scenarios, a bodiless existence is the end goal, but with consciousness in one and an absence of consciousness in the other. This also comports with the Eastern emphasis on the One and the Western emphasis on the Many that I discussed in previous articles. In the East, everything blends into one, whereas in the West, individual identity remains.

Origin of Reincarnation in the West

How did reincarnation, or metempsychosis, enter Greece from the East? 6 The answer is, at best, murky, but I will give my opinion on the matter. Greek teachings, like those of Socrates, on reincarnation are remarkably similar to Hindu teachings as found in the religious texts of the Vedas and Upanishads. Reincarnation is central to all Eastern religious teachings.

According to Iamblichus (250–325 A.D.), Pythagoras (born c. 570 B.C.) went to Egypt to study and stayed there for twenty-two years. During the Persian invasion of Egypt, they eventually captured him and brought him to Babylon, which was a Persian satrapy at the time.7 He spent about twelve years there and eventually made his way to Southern Italy, where he started a religious and philosophical school at the age of fifty-two. While in Persia, besides studying with the Chaldeans and Magi, I speculate that he could have picked up the belief of reincarnation that had possibly migrated to Persia from India.

By the fifth century A.D., Orphism was a well-established mystery religion in ancient Greece. Its followers were unique in that, compared to other cultic beliefs in that part of the world, they believed in reincarnation. Pythagoras being an initiate in this religion makes this more interesting. Whereas others, like Ion of Chios, state that he actually started the movement.8 Regardless of origin, the teachings of Orphism and the Pythagoreans were remarkably similar. This is a fascinating topic. If you have anything to add, please comment below.

St. Paul’s Failure in Athens

Around 50 A.D., the Apostle Paul made his way to Athens on one of his missionary journeys in order to preach the Gospel, even speaking at the Areopagus. Everything seemed to be going well until he spoke of the Resurrection. Many Greeks reacted negatively and he departed Athens with only a few converts. The account is as follows:

“God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, but now he commands people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world with justice by a man whom he has appointed. He has given public confirmation of this to all by raising him from the dead. When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed, but others said, ‘We should like to hear you speak further on this subject at another time.’ After that, Paul left them. However, some of them joined him and became believers.”

– Acts 17:30-34

Why did this happen? I have to admit that I never understood this passage until I learned the historical and cultural background that I discussed above. In Socrates’ belief in the afterlife, the highest levels of existence involved being free from the body and free from another cycle of reincarnation, which was reserved almost as a punishment for those who lived their lives on earth without any care for spiritual things. It was only after many purges that one could finally be freed from the body.

Socrates viewed reincarnation as considering a body to be a hindrance rather than a desired state, and this teaching is certainly one reason the Greeks were reluctant to accept the doctrine of Resurrection. To return to a body was not something, according to the Greeks, that was desirable, especially the same body. If returning to a new body was considered punishment at worst and a stepping stone at best, then returning to the same body was even less desirable. At least the reincarnated person got a new body.

Plato and the Afterlife

It was Plato’s teaching especially that biased the Greeks against the merits of a body. Like his teacher Socrates, Plato also believed in reincarnation, but his views changed over time. In his Republic, for example, the soul continued to reincarnate, never getting off the karmic wheel.9 The good souls went up to the heavens, where they could see the entire expanse of the heavens and the earth. The light then guided them to their reward for their good works. Later, they incarnated into another body. The evil departed spirits, on the other hand, were sent under the earth, where they received a punishment lasting 1000 years. Eventually, they too were reincarnated. This entire process continues ad infinitum.

The Republic was a middle dialogue of Plato. By the time we get to his later dialogues, like the Laws and Timaeus, the departed soul is now freed from the endless cycle of reincarnations. In regard to an incarnated soul, Plato said:

“Any soul which made good use of its allotted time would return to dwell once more on the star which it had been paired, to live a blessed life in keeping with its character.”

– Plato, Timaeus, 42b-c

It could be that Plato was getting older and reflecting on his life. He surmised that it would be much better for him to go to his star in the heavens once and for all than to continue to return time after time with no end.

Plato’s Dualism

If belief in reincarnation wasn’t enough to hinder the Athenians from receiving St. Paul’s message. Then, the final nail in the coffin most certainly was Plato’s Dualism. Plato’s mind-body dualism became an integral part of the thinking of the ancient Greeks, and eventually over Western civilization in general, influencing prominent figures such as St. Augustine.

Plato’s dualism of body and soul was not just a way of describing the relationship between body and soul but an entire metaphysical construct of which the nature of the body and soul were a part. In this dualism, Plato’s view was that the body and soul are two distinct and separable entities, which of course influenced his view of the afterlife. The traditional Christian view sees them as distinct but emphasizes their unity and dependency upon one another.

In Plato’s dualism, not only are the body and soul distinct, but the soul is far superior to the body. Even though Plato’s view of the body varied throughout his dialogues, overall he had a very pessimistic view of the body. He viewed the body as an impediment to true knowledge, virtue, or both, being either a positive evil or a cause of evil.10 In Gorgias (493a), Plato repeats what wise men have said – that the body is a tomb. In Phaedrus (250c), the body is simply a shell that the soul must drag around. I picture a mollusk dragging its shell around. The shell provides protection, but is also cumbersome and in many ways hinders the mollusk’s motility and view of the world.

But it is in the Phaedo where we find an in-depth discussion of Plato’s dualism. True knowledge is found in the Forms. Everything we see on earth is just a shadow of these Forms. Our intellect strives to be with and apprehend these Forms. It desires to be free of the body that greatly inhibits true knowledge. Consider the following excerpt from Phaedo:

“‘The lovers of knowledge,’ said he, ‘perceive that when philosophy first takes possession of their soul it is entirely fastened and welded to the body and is compelled to regard realities through the body as through prison bars…and is wallowing in utter ignorance. And philosophy sees the most dreadful thing about the imprisonment is the fact that it is caused by the lusts of the flesh, so that the prisoner is the chief assistant in his own imprisonment.'”

– Plato, Phaedo 82d-83a

This is a pessimistic portrait of the body indeed. Even though those of us who are Christians aren’t dualists, we have to admit that there is some overlap and similarities with the teachings of St. Paul regarding the “flesh.” But that is a topic for another time.

And finally, just as in Socrates’ view, those who have lived by the lusts of their bodies and did not seek the higher philosophical knowledge are doomed to reincarnation in another body. That is their punishment:

“For because it has the same beliefs and pleasures as the body it is compelled to adopt also the same habits and mode of life, and can never depart in purity to the other world, but must always go away contaminated with the body; and so it sinks quickly into another body again and grows into it, like seed that is sown. Therefore it has no part in the communion with the divine and pure and absolute.” (italics mine)

– Plato, Phaedo 83d-e

St. Paul and the Doctrine of Resurrection

Knowing this background, we can certainly see why some “more enlightened” Greeks would have scoffed at Paul’s teaching on the resurrection. As I stated above, the goal for the afterlife was to be freed from the body once and for all and not to return to one, especially the same one. At the very least, a soul on the karmic wheel should at least get a new body when he begins a new life.

I have to admit that if I were among the Greeks in Athens at the time, I would have pictured a beaten and bloody Christ coming out of the grave on that Sunday morning – not an appealing sight, to say the least, and certainly not a body that would be desired in one’s afterlife. Paul had to do some rethinking on how he presented this teaching on the doctrine of Resurrection. Maybe that is why when St. Paul arrived to Corinth, he desired to “know nothing but Christ crucified” when he was among them!11

About two years after he visited Athens, he visited the Church at Corinth and stayed with them for eighteen months. I’m sure that he was still smarting from his Athens debacle and spent a lot of time reflecting upon the doctrine of the Resurrection, comparing and contrasting the Greeks with the Corinthians. The Greeks were pagans, and the Corinthians were Christians who had just come out of paganism and in many ways were still acting like pagans. Corinth was his “lab,” so to speak, as he developed more deeply his ideas on the Resurrection and learned how to teach this doctrine to these newly minted Christians.

Out of this reflection came Paul’s rich treatise of the Resurrection as found in 1 Corinthians. He wrote this epistle to the Church at Corinth a year after he had left them. And a year after that, he wrote another letter to them – 2 Corinthians – in which he expands upon his earlier teaching and finally answers the question in Chapter 5 that the Greeks were implicitly asking: Why should I desire a new body in the afterlife?

He probably realized that he failed in Athens because he was trying to overlay a rich Christian doctrine on top of pagan presuppositions. This is a very important point for those of us who are Christian and seek to evangelize. What we think we are saying is, more often than not, not what people are hearing, especially in the milieu of the neo-pagan culture in which we live.

The Goodness of Matter

The Greeks’ view of the inferiority of matter is understandable considering their presuppositions. If there is evil in the created order and matter is eternal, then matter must be evil. This is a valid argument since the conclusion flows from the premises, but it is not sound since the second premise is false.

God brought His creation into being at one point in time and at that time, He saw all that He had made and declared it to be “good.”12 This is important for two reasons. Firstly, matter is intrinsically and morally good. There is an inherent goodness to creation, and bound up with that is a telos, or purpose to creation. Since creation is good, its purpose is to reflect the goodness of God. Because of man’s rebellion against God – termed “the Fall” – the good creation became corrupted. This corruption is profound, but not total. In other words, God’s goodness is still very apparent, albeit imperfectly.

If fallen creation is eternal, then it will always be fallen and therefore there is no hope. But if corrupted creation is fundamentally good, then it can be redeemed. Not only is this possible, but it is something to be desired and expected. St. Paul states:

“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

– St. Paul, Epistle to the Romans 8:19-21

The degradation of creation is not from too much carbon dioxide, but from the sinfulness of man. The most tragic consequence of man’s rebellion is not environmental, rather his own physical and spiritual death and destruction. If this is the case, then the ultimate solution is the redemption of man back to a state of perfection. Paul is saying something very profound here, that the state of the created order is directly tied to the spiritual and moral condition of man. So, there is a link between the two, but not in the way that climate change advocates think. It goes much deeper than they can even imagine.

The cause for any environmental problems is ultimately spiritual. With the resurrection of Christ, the old order passes away and a new order comes into being, which means not just the resurrection of individuals, but the resurrection of the heavens and the earth as well.

A Spiritual Body

Notice above that Paul says, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” When Christians are resurrected on the last day, all of creation will be renewed and perfected. One could say that the created order will be resurrected when we are resurrected.

The Christian hope of this resurrection goes far beyond any hope that reincarnation could ever give. It also provides the answer to the dismal nihilism and hopelessness of atheistic materialism in which the West has been marinating for over a century.

Concerning one’s new body in the afterlife, St. Paul states:

“The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;  it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”

– St. Paul, 1 Epistle to the Corinthians, 15:42-44

Maybe the Athenians would have responded to the above teaching, contrasting the natural body with the spiritual body. The natural being is subject to decay, disease, aging, sin, moral corruption, and weakness, the spiritual being immortal, imperishable, glorious, and powerful.

The natural body has its origin primarily in the earth, whereas the spiritual body has its origin from above. Theologically, we would say that the physical body is the image of the first earthly man, Adam, and the spiritual body is the image of Jesus Christ. God transforms the lowly heavenly body into a spiritual body, yet the body retains its physical nature after the Resurrection and into the afterlife.

After Jesus rose from the dead, he suddenly appeared and disappeared and was able to walk through walls. But at the same time, he ate food and retained his scars from the trauma of the Crucifixion. His disciples were able to touch his physical flesh. This is indeed a great mystery.

The Resurrection and St. Thomas Aquinas

If we want to truly understand the metaphysics surrounding the doctrine of Resurrection, we must turn to St. Thomas Aquinas. One thing Aquinas emphasized is the continuity of the same person throughout the resurrection process. He believed, like Aristotle, that the soul, being incorruptible and thus immortal, retained its identity.13 This is a very important aspect of the doctrine because the actual person lives on and is transformed through the process of resurrection, but throughout the entire process, the individual person remains the same.

In order to understand this better, since Aquinas was an Aristotelian, we need to review Aristotle’s four Causes, which are:

  1. Formal Cause = idea, essence, plan, or “blueprint”
  2. Material Cause = that out of which an object is made
  3. Efficient Cause = that responsible for “constructing” the object
  4. Final Cause = the purpose for which an object is made

We can apply this to a wooden dining table as such:

  1. The image in the carpenter’s mind or a drawing on a piece of paper
  2. The wood used to make the table
  3. The carpenter responsible for constructing the table
  4. To dine

Or to a human being:

  1. The soul
  2. The physical earthly elements comprising the body
  3. God and parents
  4. To behold, contemplate, and glorify God

Let’s concern ourselves with just the formal and material causes of a person, i.e., the soul and body. According to Aquinas, the soul is the form of the body; it animates and informs it. If one were to pour liquid gold into a mold shaped like a bull, then one would get a golden bull. When the materials of the earth are combined with a human soul, a complete human being is the result. As Thomas says:

“…one must maintain that the soul is entity, as being able to subsist per se but not as possessing in itself a complete specific nature, but rather as completing human nature insofar as it is the form of the body; and thus at one and the same time it is a form and an entity.14 (italics mine)

This is very important because it really is a refutation of both materialism and reincarnation. The body completes the soul. The soul is the form of the body, and as such is not complete without the body. Modern materialism has no concept of the soul. A practical outworking of this is to consider the patronizing and undignified way that we are all treated by the modern medical system. This is the natural outcome of being viewed as bodies without souls. And rather than treating the body as something to rid itself of as in reincarnation, the soul needs the body to be complete.

The Metaphysics of Death and Resurrection

Because of the Fall, the human body cannot sustain immortality along with the soul but continues to decay:

“A human body is matter that is proportioned to a human soul with respect to the soul’s operations; but it is subject to corruption and other defects because of the exigencies of matter…Or one can say that corruption befalls the body because of sin, not because of the original constitution of nature.”15

This eventually leads to death, according to Thomas:

“Although the soul, which is the cause of life, is incorruptible, still the body which receives its life from the soul is subject to change; and because of this the body loses that disposition by which it is suited to receive life. It is in this way that the corruption of the human being [i.e., death] takes place.” 16

According to Aquinas, when the body can no longer receive the life-giving powers of the soul, death occurs.17 This is where it get really interesting (if you have stayed with me for this long). We can rest the doctrine of Resurrection in church teachings, which includes both Scripture and tradition. But we can also derive the necessity of Resurrection on metaphysical principles as well. Consider the following two quotes from St. Thomas Aquinas:

“…a state wherein the soul is separated from the body is surely…contrary to nature, if natural and per se the soul has a longing for union with the body. So, since the soul’s substance is incorruptible…we conclude that the soul is to be reunited to the body.18 (italics mine)

Next is Thomas’ coup de grace concerning the proof of Resurrection from the natural light of reason against those who would deny such doctrine:

“The souls of men are immortal. But the soul is naturally united with the body, being essentially the form of the body. Therefore it is against the nature of the soul to be without the body. But nothing that is against nature can be lasting. Therefore the soul will not be forever without the body. Thus the immortality of the soul seems to require the resurrection of the body.”19

One Identity

Finally, Aquinas deals with the aspect of identity. Since the soul contains the “blueprint” for a particular person’s identity, then that identity remains intact in the soul that is separated from the body. The body, on the other hand, is not informed by the soul after death and thus becomes a series of individual chemical identities.

Nevertheless, at the Resurrection, God will again gather the matter comprising each body of each person and reunite it to the soul where it will be complete again. An intact body will be raised and animated again. But what about a designated body? Aquinas states that God can gather the elements that comprised that particular body so that it becomes the same person again. Concerning the resurrected body, he states that it “must be a human body made up of flesh and bones, and equipped with the same organs it now possesses.”20

Longing to be Clothed With Our Heavenly Dwelling

What came out of St. Paul’s failure at Athens was a deep, rich formulation of the doctrine of the Resurrection. If he could have gone back to Athens, he may have instructed the Athenians on the goodness and necessity of the body. Far from eschewing a body, he would have encouraged them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and yearn for the time when they would receive a new immortal and glorified body:

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”

– St. Paul, Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 5:1-4

On this Easter, I would like to invite any reader who is not a Christian to consider this great hope of Resurrection. Sin and disobedience to God has resulted in the evil that we see today. God requires that you put aside those things which displease Him and He invites you to believe in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, that you may have life. We can then look forward to one day being raised in glory with Him. This is our only hope and the only answer for death. Happy Easter!

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear the voice of the Son of God and come out—those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of damnation.”

– The Gospel of John 5:28-29

“Let me seek you that my soul shall live, for as my body draws its life from my soul, so does my soul draw its life from you.”

– St. Augustine, prayer in Confessions Book X, chapter 29

What is your view of the Resurrection or the afterlife in general? Please leave a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe. Thank you!

Deo Gratias

Featured Book

From Amazon: “As one of the unavoidable realities of human existence, death is also one of the oldest and most common themes in the history of art. From Egyptian tomb paintings and battle scenes on Greek vases by anonymous artists, to depictions of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus by the great Renaissance masters, to contemporary encounters with these subjects by such artists as Damien Hirst and Andres Serrano, the contents of this book highlight three thousand years of the iconography of death and resurrection. While focusing on the Western artistic tradition, the book also includes many artworks from Asia, Africa, and Oceania.”

“De Pascale explores depictions of these two subjects thematically, through chapters on violent death, ceremonial tributes to the departed, allegorical depictions of death, and the journey to the afterlife. The book concludes with an examination of symbolic representations of the victory of life over death.”

Footnotes and Endnotes

  1. Mark, Joshua J., “Field of Reeds (Aaru)”, Encyclopedia of World History, August 20, 2019
  2.  Budge, Wallis. Egyptian Religion: Egyptian Ideas of the Future Life. New York: Bell Publishing Company. pp. 188–189.
  3. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “reincarnation”Encyclopedia Britannica, 26 Mar. 2021. 
  4. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 1 translated by Harold North Fowler; Introduction by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1966.
  5. Ibid.
  6. The terms “reincarnation” and “metempsychosis” can be and are often used interchangeably, but can also be used to make a distinction. Reincarnation can be used to mean the rebirth of a soul into a body, as opposed to metempsychosis, which can be used to mean the transmigration of the same soul into a new body. It is beyond the scope of this article to deal with such nuances, although I invite any reader to make a comment on this topic if they so desire. In this article, I use them interchangeably.
  7. Iamblichus, Life of Protagoras, translated by Thomas Taylor, chapter 4, Inner Traditions; Original edition (December 1, 1986)
  8. Betegh, G., (2014), Pythagoreans, Orphism and Greek Religion. A History of Pythagoreans, 274-295
  9. Plato, The Republic, Book 10.614-10.621
  10. Wagoner, Robert, “Two Views of the Body in Plato’s Dialogues,” Journal of Ancient Philosophy, 13(1), 74-99, May 2019, ISSN 1981-9471,
  11. 1 Corinthians 2:2
  12. Genesis 1
  13. By “incorruptible,” Aquinas does not mean “sinless”; rather he means simply unable to undergo decay. Thomas certainly does believe that the soul can be stained or polluted by sin. See Summa Theologica: first part of the second part, question 86, Articles 1 and 2
  14. Aquinas. Questions de Anima [QDA]. Robb, J.H., trans. (Milwaukee: Marquette Press, 1984): Q. 1; p. 47 as quoted in Eberl, Jason T., “The metaphysics of resurrection: Issues of identity in Thomas Aquinas (Developing a metaphysical account of articles of Christian faith),” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 74:215-230, January 2000
  15. QDA: Q. 14, ad 13; p. 180 as quoted in Ibid.
  16. QDA: Q. 14, ad 20; p. 180 as quoted in Ibid.
  17. Eberl, Jason T., “The metaphysics of resurrection”
  18. Aquinas. Light of Faith: the Compendium of Theology [CT]. Vollert, C., trans. Rev. ed. (Manchester: Sophia Institute Press, 1993): 151; p. 170. as quoted in Ibid.
  19. Aquinas. Summa contra Gentiles [SCG]. Rickaby, J., trans. (Westminster: Carroll Press, 1950): BK. IV, Ch. 79; p. 403 as quoted in Ibid.
  20. CT: 153; p. 172 as quoted in Ibid.


Aquinas, Thomas, Questions on the Soul, translated by James H. Robb, Marquette Univ. Press (November 1, 1984)

Aquinas, St. Thomas, Shorter Summa: Saint Thomas’s Own Concise Version of His Summa Theologica, Sophia Inst Press; Revised edition (December 1, 2001)

Aquinas, Thomas, Summa Theologica, Thomas More Publishing; New edition (June 1, 1981)

Aristotle, On the Soul: and Other Psychological Works, Oxford University Press; Illustrated edition (July 24, 2018)

De Pascale, Enrico D., Death and Resurrection in Art (A Guide to Imagery), J. Paul Getty Museum; First edition (March 15, 2009)

Long, A.G., Death and Immortality in Ancient Philosophy, Cambridge University Press (July 18, 2019)

Plato, Complete Works, John M. Cooper and D.S. Hutchinson, editors, Hackett Publishing Co. (May 1, 1997)

Plato, The Republic, translated by Desmond Lee and Melissa Lane, Penguin Classics; New edition (September 14, 2007)

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2022 Ron Gaudio

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *