1. From the words of Christ on the future resurrection of the body, reported by all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), we have passed to the Pauline anthropology of the resurrection. We are analyzing the First Letter to the Corinthians 15:42-49.
In the resurrection the human body, according to the words of the Apostle, is seen "incorruptible, glorious, full of dynamism, spiritual." The resurrection is not only a manifestation of the life that conquers death—almost a final return to the tree of life, from which man had been separated at the moment of original sin—but is also a revelation of the ultimate destiny of man in all the fullness of his psychosomatic nature and his personal subjectivity. Paul of Tarsus—who following in the footsteps of the other apostles, had experienced in his meeting with the risen Christ the state of his glorified body—basing himself on this experience, Paul announces in his Letter to the Romans "the redemption of the body" (Rom 8:23) and in his Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15:42-49) the completion of this redemption in the future resurrection.
In the perspective of an eternal destiny
2. The literary method Paul applies here perfectly corresponds to his style, which uses antitheses that simultaneously bring together those things which they contrast. In this way they are useful in having us understand Pauline thought about the resurrection. It concerns both its "cosmic" dimension and also the characteristic of the internal structure of the "earthly" and the "heavenly" man. The Apostle, in fact, in contrasting Adam and Christ (risen)—that is, the first Adam with the second Adam—in a certain way shows two poles between which, in the mystery of creation and redemption, man has been placed in the cosmos. One could say that man has been put in tension between these two poles in the perspective of his eternal destiny regarding, from beginning to end, his human nature itself. When Paul writes: "The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven" (1 Cor 15:47), he has in mind both Adam-man and also Christ as man. Between these two poles—between the first and the second Adam—the process takes place that he expresses in the following words: "As we have borne the image of the man of earth, so we will bear the image of the man of heaven" (1 Cor 15:49).
3. This "man of heaven"—the man of the resurrection whose prototype is the risen Christ—is not so much an antithesis and negation of the "man of earth" (whose prototype is the first Adam), but is above all his completion and confirmation. It is the completion and confirmation of what corresponds to the psychosomatic makeup of humanity, in the sphere of his eternal destiny, that is, in the thought and the plan of him who from the beginning created man in his own image and likeness. The humanity of the first Adam, the "man of earth," bears in itself a particular potential (which is a capacity and readiness) to receive all that became the second Adam, the man of heaven, namely, Christ, what he became in his resurrection. That humanity which all men, children of the first Adam, share, and which, along with the heritage of sin—being carnal—at the same time is corruptible, and bears in itself the potentiality of incorruptibility.
That humanity which, in all its psychosomatic makeup appears ignoble, and yet bears within itself the interior desire for glory, that is, the tendency and the capacity to become "glorious" in the image of the risen Christ. Finally, the same humanity about which the Apostle—in conformity with the experience of all men—says that it is "weak" and has an "animal body," bears in itself the aspiration to become full of dynamism and spiritual.
Potential to rise again
4. We are speaking here of human nature in its integrity, that is, of human nature in its psychosomatic makeup. However, Paul speaks of the body. Nevertheless we can admit, on the basis of the immediate context and the remote one, that for him it is not a question only of the body, but of the entire man in his corporeity, therefore also of his ontological complexity. There is no doubt here that precisely in the whole visible world (cosmos) that one body which is the human body bears in itself the potentiality for resurrection, that is, the aspiration and capacity to become definitively incorruptible, glorious, full of dynamism, spiritual. This happens because, persisting from the beginning in the psychosomatic unity of the personal being, he can receive and reproduce in this earthly image and likeness of God also the heavenly image of the second Adam, Christ.
The Pauline anthropology of the resurrection is cosmic and universal at the same time. Every man bears in himself the image of Adam and every man is also called to bear in himself the image of Christ, the image of the risen one. This image is the reality of the "other world," the eschatological reality (St. Paul writes, "We will bear"). But in the meantime it is already in a certain way a reality of this world, since it was revealed in this world through the resurrection of Christ. It is a reality ingrafted in the man of this world, a reality that is developing in him toward final completion.
The vision of God
5. All the antitheses that are suggested in Paul's text help to construct a valid sketch of the anthropology of the resurrection. This sketch is at the same time more detailed than the one which comes from the text of the synoptic Gospels (cf. Mt 22:30; Mk 12:25; Lk 20:34-35). But on the other hand it is in a certain sense more unilateral. The words of Christ which the synoptics report open before us the perspective of the eschatological perfection of the body, fully subject to the divinizing profundity of the vision of God face to face. In that vision it will find its inexhaustible source of perpetual virginity (united to the nuptial meaning of the body), and of the perpetual intersubjectivity of all men, who will become (as males and females) sharers in the resurrection. The Pauline sketch of the eschatological perfection of the glorified body seems to remain rather in the sphere of the interior structure of the man-person. His interpretation of the future resurrection would seem to link up again with body-spirit dualism which constitutes the source of the interior system of forces in man.
6. This system of forces will undergo a radical change in the resurrection. Paul's words, which explicitly suggest this, cannot however be understood or interpreted in the spirit of dualistic anthropology, (1) which we will try to show in the continuation of our analysis. In fact, it will be suitable to dedicate yet another reflection to the anthropology of the resurrection in the light of the First Letter to the Corinthians.
1. "Paul takes absolutely no account of the Greek dichotomy between 'soul and body'.... The Apostle resorts to a kind of trichotomy in which the totality of man is body, soul and spirit.... All these terms are alive and the division itself has no fixed limit. He insists on the fact that body and soul are capable of being 'pneumatic,' spiritual" (B. Rigaux, Dieu l'a ressuscité. Exégèse et Théologie biblique [Gembloux: Duculot, 1973], pp. 406-408).
Source: L'Osservatore Romano