What Was Christ’s Resurrected Body Made Of?

The third day after his death, Christ rose gloriously from the dead. But did you ever wonder what Christ’s resurrected body was made of? This is not a question of incredulity, but one of unflinching, child-like trust that Christ’s resurrected body was real, not a figment of imagination, not an aberration, not a ghost, but actually there, walking, talking, eating, appearing, and vanishing among the disciples in exactly the way Christ intended it. The saints and Church have provided us with guidance that is just as relevant in terms of modern science as it was in antiquity.

The resurrected body is real

The reality of the resurrected body is a fundamental truth of Christianity. The Eleventh Synod of Toledo (A.D. 675) held that Christ experienced “a real death in the flesh” (veram carnis mortem) and was restored to life by his own power (57).

Some argued that because Christ appeared through shut doors to his disciples (John 20:26), and vanished before their eyes (Luke 24:31), and appeared in different shapes (Mark 16:12), that his body was only an image. However, Christ himself addressed these objections. When Christ appeared to the disciples and they thought they were seeing a spirit, he told them to “handle and see” his body (Luke 24:37-40). He was not just observable to the disciples, but also touchable and living. Scientifically speaking, there is no stronger proof that someone exists than to be able to touch the person and observe him living.

Hence the reason theologian Ludwig Ott notes that the resurrection of Christ is considered the strongest proof of the truth of Christ’s teaching (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma). As St. Paul put it, “If Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:10). Christianity is not true if the resurrection of Christ’s body was only apparent.

The resurrected body is glorified

St. Thomas Aquinas examines this idea in the Summa Theologiae (part III, question 54). Christ’s body, though real, was “glorified” (i.e. in a glorified condition). St. Thomas cites St. Gregory saying that “Christ’s body is shown to be of the same nature, but of different glory, after the Resurrection” (III, 54, article 2). What does that mean? It means that a glorified body is still a body, but it is not subject to corruption.

As we would say in modern scientific terminology, the glorified body is not subject to the forces and laws of physics and chemistry. Human bodies, made of the elements on the periodic table, belong to rational souls. Although our powers of intellect and will give us control over what our bodies do—we can smile, wave, wear our favorite color, or read a book—our bodies are still subject to the natural order. For example, all the wishing in the world cannot take away our wrinkles or un-grow our babies. Neither can the unglorified body avoid death. Bodies are highly organized physical systems, and like all physical systems they follow the laws of enthalpy and entropy. They need energy to remain alive, otherwise they will decompose, marching with the rest of the universe towards disorder.


This is not so with glorified bodies. While we cannot take samples of a glorified body into the lab to run a set of elemental analyses, we can reason through the question. St. Thomas maintains that all glorified bodies are still made of the elements (sup, 82). This was of course in the pre-periodic table days, but nevertheless element refers to matter and energy. St. Thomas asks whether the elements composing a body stay the same? Do they act the same? How can they really remain the same substance if they do not act according to their nature? St. Thomas concludes that matter does persist, does retain its properties, but becomes more perfected.

For they say that the elements will remain, then, as to substance, yet that they will be deprived of their active and passive qualities. But this does not seem to be true: because the active and passive qualities belong to the perfection of the elements, so that if the elements were restored without them in the body of the man that rises again, they would be less perfect than now. (sup, 82, 1)

The same principle that creates elements and forms bodies is the same principle that prefects them—that is, God. It makes sense that if real bodies are made of elements, then so are glorified bodies. It is possible that the electrons and all the other subatomic particles in glorified bodies are no longer governed by free energy, the energy that a thermodynamic system has available to do work, the driving force for stability that explains why atoms and molecules organize the way they do. In Christ’s resurrected body, the elements would be subject to the power of Christ, “that of the Word, which must be referred to the essence of God alone” (Synod of Toledo, 43). This fits with St. John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word. . . . All things were made by him. . . . In him was life” (John 1:1-4).

All creation is held in existence by God. Suffice it to say that a glorified body has living powers that an unglorified body does not have. Glorified bodies are incorruptible (incapable of decay) and impassible (incapable of suffering). They are stronger. In the hierarchy of creation, St. Thomas says, the “stronger is not passive to the weaker” (sup, 82, 1). We can, with St. Thomas, conclude that the elements retain their qualities but are perfected to a higher law. Glorified bodies, and all they contain, will be “perfectly subject to the rational soul, even as the soul will be perfectly subject to God” (sup, 82, 1).

Faith, science, and hope are united

Notice that when we affirm the resurrection of the Lord, we unite faith, science, and hope. The natural and the supernatural realms come from God, and everything is subject to divine providence. Miracles, glorification, and resurrection violate no laws of physics. These events have the same formal cause that makes rocks fall to the earth, but they are beyond physics.

The resurrection completed the work of redemption, and the glorified body of Christ is a model of the glorified bodies of the saints. Whatever we suffer, fear, or endure during our lives, the promise of Easter is hope for unity with Christ in heaven.

St. Paul is explicit about this hope. He tells the Romans that we are joint heirs with Christ.

Yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him. For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us. (Rom. 8:18-19, Douay-Rheims Bible)

He tells the Colossians that Christ is our life: “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:4).

He assures the Corinthians of the promise: “That which is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now he that maketh us for this very thing, is God, who hath given us the pledge of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 5:4-5, Douay-Rheims Bible).

And he is telling us. Christ is our life beyond suffering and death. When creation is redeemed, free from the tyranny of corruption down to every particle comprising the periodic table, we can hope to become who we were made to be. Alleluia, He is risen.

By Stacy Trasancos


1 comment

  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    This is a perfect example of why science and religion cannot peacefully coexist. The author makes all sorts of scientific claims, but ignores the scientific process that calls for compelling objective evidence, and essentially gives us the answer: It’s all magic. That is not an answer.
    To begin with, the NT has a lot of disagreement over whether Jesus was a historical person with a human body, or a celestial being with a spiritual body. Paul has no concept of a historical Jesus with a human body. He goes out of his way to make sure we understand that his understanding of Jesus comes from scriptures (some of which are not in the bible today), and mostly from his personal visions. Paul’s Jesus in not a worldly Jesus. Paul knows nothing of Jesus’ virgin birth, family, baptism, disciples, ministry, miracles or sermons. All he really knows is the crucifixion, and he only knows this through personal visions and old Jewish scriptures predicting it all. The gospels, Luke and John in particular, insist that the body is really human, in direct opposition to Paul.
    Some suggest that in the very early days, Paul’s celestial Jesus was the original understanding, but in order to make the story more palatable to the less sophisticated, (to put it politely), they historicized Jesus turning him into a mythical figure that the populace was better able to accept – like similar demigods popular at the time – Hercules, for example. Over time the myths were treated as a real historical Jesus. Today scholars are actively researching the historical vs mythological evidence, to see if we can figure out what really happened.
    Aside from that, the author is making unfounded and unsupported scientific claims. It is claimed that miracles occur. That means that these magical particles have to somehow interact with the real particles in our natural world. They would have to be capable of overcoming the strong nuclear force that binds our atoms together in order to get them to do things like healing. Particles in our natural world would have to be manipulated in order for a magical god force to heal us or make statues cry, etc. The problem is that there are no such forces, or we would have found them by now. For a particle to be strong enough to change our atoms, it would have had to have been discovered by now. There are no such particles or forces. We can explain everything that can and does happen to our particles, and there is no need for any magical unknown forces.
    You may recall the discussion back in 2012 when everyone was excited about the poorly named “God Particle” or the Higgs Boson. That was an unfortunate name because it has nothing to do with gods, but it was a very important discovery. It was the last thing we needed to confirm with evidence, in order to also confirm our Standard Model of physics which explains all the particles that make up our natural world – the things that matter to our existence. The Higgs field explained how elementary particles get their mass, and with that discovery, there was nothing else we needed to discover in order to fully understand how the particles in our lives work.
    The author has not a speck of evidence for his magical forces.
    Scientists didn’t run out proclaiming that they had proven God doesn’t exist, but essentially they did prove that. Religion is claiming the existence of this magical force – how does it act upon the particles in our world without us being able to see the effects of its work? We don’t have to be able to see all the other particles – because there are more to be found – but we can definitely see what those unknown particles do to the particles that make up you and me. There are no unexplained actions of this sort. There just aren’t. We would have found them by now.
    Think about this. We know that billions of neutrinos are flowing through us all the time, and they have no impact on the particles in your body. If we be aware of and “capture” particles that small, which have no effect on us, then surely we would have found particles with enough mass or energy to disrupt the strong nuclear forces that bind our atoms together.
    The author is making a scientific claim. Where is his peer-reviewed material? Where is his evidence? The author insists that you believe in magic. Does he think we still believe in magic like when we were 10 years old? You can bet that’s what he’s depending on!

Leave a Reply

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