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Perfected Yet Still Disabled? Continuity of Embodied Identity in Resurrection Life

When the resurrected Christ appeared to the frightened disciples, they were in doubt as to his identity, wondering who he was and what he was (Luke 24:37).

In response, he offered his wounded body: “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself” (Luke 24:39),[1] and as the disciples saw and touched those wounds, they recognised their Lord (John 20:20, 27–28). In this instance at least, the evidence that Christ’s identity had persisted through the transformation of resurrection was located in his body, and more specifically in the wounds that remained.[2]

Christ’s resurrection provides the model for the Christian’s hope for the afterlife (1 Cor 15:20–23): we can expect personal survival through the miracle of resurrection. As a believer, I expect that it is I who will exist in the life promised after death, and that the resurrection life will be continuous with my life now.

Yet continuity of identity is somehow to be accompanied by radical transformation. In 1 Corinthians 15:51 Paul writes, “Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed.” But changed how? To what degree? The transformation Paul speaks of must preserve continuity of personal identity if the hope of eternal life is to be meaningful. How much change can a person undergo and still be the same person?

Our speculation about personal continuity through the transformation of resurrection can be informed by the range of theories within a Christian framework that explain what constitutes the human person and the continuity of personal identity over time. In this paper, I will briefly outline some of these relevant theories, highlighting the role of embodiment as the ground for personal identity, before moving to explore how the continuity and discontinuity of the pre- and post-resurrection bodies may be located in features other than those which at first seem best suited for heavenly life. On the basis that Christ’s resurrected body retains the wounds of crucifixion, it has been suggested that persons with disabilities in this life may retain those disabilities in their resurrection bodies in the new creation to come.[3] That is, the person with cerebral palsy in this life may, in the eschaton, have a glorious resurrection body that still has cerebral palsy. Similarly, the person with Down syndrome might live a fully flourishing life in the new creation, yet still have Down syndrome. I shall explore this confronting proposal in the second half of this paper and show how prospect of a perfected, yet still disabled, resurrection body challenges our underlying assumptions about what it means to be human and what human flourishing entails.

Continuity of Personal Identity over Time

Continuity of personal identity over time is a simple phenomenon in the realm of normal human experience, though the question of how person A at time t1 can be the same person at t2 remains stubbornly opaque to philosophical analysis. There are two main theories that philosophers have offered: the biological criterion and the psychological criterion. The biological criterion claims that the “sameness” of the person is constituted by the “sameness” of body. And historically this is how the continuity of the resurrection body with the earthly body was understood – it would be made up of the same “stuff” as God gathers up the various parts or atoms that constitute a person at their death and reassembles them to re-form the person. There are many practical problems with this, however, the particles that compose our bodies are continually being turned over, and there are particles in our bodies now that were part of someone else’s body in the past. This is not to say that our biological composition is not important to identity, but logically, continuity of corporeal identity must rely more upon the structure or pattern of the body rather than upon the preservation of particular material substance.[4]

With the Enlightenment came a shift of focus from bodies to minds. John Locke, and his contemporary followers locate personal identity in psychological continuity, particularly in memories that persist within certain logical constraints.[5] In addition to cognition and memory, we can flesh out the psychological criterion by also considering individual characteristics like personality, affections, virtues, and vices.

Now, in normal life, the biological and psychological criteria cohere: the one person persists with the same body and the same memories and character. However, in the thought experiments that philosophers commonly propose – experiments involving brain transplants, teleportations, and fissionings – the psychological criterion is pitted against the biological criterion, with the conclusion that personal identity is located in the former over the latter. But this conclusion is based on highly implausible scenarios, which, if true, would require us to reassess what we mean by the concept of a human person.

While the biological and psychological criteria are useful, they do not provide a full picture of the human person. For a more comprehensive view of personal identity we need to include two other perspectives informed by theological considerations. I have called these two further perspectives the relational view and the narrative view.

The relational view takes into account the social and cultural processes that shape the person and the inherently relational nature of the human person. Rather than viewing the self as a fixed entity that exists prior to social relationship, the self is regarded as an ongoing process.[6] We become who we are through relationship with God, with other people, and with our environment. The theological grounding for this view is apparent; human being as relational being is rooted in the relationship of the triune God to humanity.[7] The human person’s authentic self is not found within their self-constituted identity alone, but in the triune God’s active relation to them. In addition, the individual’s corporate ecclesial identity emerges through our incorporation by the Spirit in the life of Christ and in his body, expressing both personally and communally the redeemed and perfected sociality for which humanity was always intended.

The narrative view of personal identity explains how one’s diverse life experiences can be united in the continuation of a single self through the ongoing construction of a coherent story.[8] The unifying function of narrative identity also means that even great alterations in identity-forming characteristics can be causally connected and absorbed into a continuous personal identity. That is, a particular experience may have radically altered me as a person, but this flux in my personal identity is not a problem, because that experience fits into a story in my self-narrative. Again though, this narrative is not entirely self-constituted. The salvation narrative, God’s story, is the ultimate master narrative for our lives and we as individuals are drawn to participate in a narrative of covenant that is established by God.

That is, our self-narrative dictates what we could call our “lived identity,” but the divine narrative establishes our true identity in Christ. There is a distinction between our de facto identity, which is largely constituted by the self, and our de jure identity, which is established by God. This de jure identity includes the imago Dei and is held secure in Christ regardless of the events and transitions that might challenge our personal sense of identity; it holds even over the gap between death and resurrection when I have nothing with which to sustain my own identity.[9]

I propose that personal identity cannot be adequately accounted for within just one criterion or view but requires all of them. The four threads of identity – biological, psychological, relational, and narrative – are woven together into a mutually interdependent web of identity. As various life events transform and disturb the different threads – the replacement of molecules in my body, or the ending of a marriage, for example – personal identity is carried on without disruption because of the continuity of the other threads.

Personal Identity is Grounded in Embodiment

All of these threads of identity – biological, psychological, relational, and narrative – are grounded in embodiment. Continuity of memory and personality corresponds with, and depends on, the continuity of the body. It is through our bodies that we identify and engage with others. And our body or shape is not incidental to our story, but crucial to it.[10] Human beings are essentially embodied beings.

This emphasis on embodiment as crucial to continuity of identity is upheld by the description of the nature of the human person that we see in Scripture. While Christian anthropology is often identified with a typical Cartesian dualism that separates the mortal body and the immortal soul, the grand narrative of Scripture affirms human embodiment and the person as a metaphysical unity. Conventional body-soul dualism has fallen out of favour with many theologians, who instead affirm one of a variety of anthropological monisms.[11] Of course, we must on theological grounds reject reductive materialism, which proposes that everything is explained by physical processes, while mental capacities we might attribute to the “soul” are merely an illusionary construct fabricated by neural processes. However, we can conceive of a nonreductive variety of materialism, which leaves room for divine input and spiritual capacities by the action of downward causation.[12] This nonreductive materialism or physicalism coheres with the thrust of Scripture and takes seriously the scientific insight that the behaviour of the person depends upon and emerges from the functioning of the brain and body.[13]

Just as embodiment is essential to life both pre- and post-resurrection, the particularity of embodiment is essential to our individual identity. That is, there are things about my body that are fundamental to who I am. And so it may be that there are features of my particular body that are so crucial as to be, what we can call, identity-defining.

This idea is familiar from our present earthly life, where we closely identify with particular aspects of our bodies, so much so, that a change to them feels like a change to the self at a fundamental level. Consider the following range of transformations: I can easily dye the colour of my hair, and while it may make me feel reinvigorated and perhaps more feminine, I would not say that it changes who I am. But was I to awake one morning in a biologically male body, I would feel that my personal identity was significantly disrupted, though it would not be severed if my memories, character, relationships, and broader narrative were intact. In the middle somewhere, we could consider a double mastectomy in the case of breast cancer. I would know that I was still me, but I would have to readjust my understanding of what it means for me to be female and feminine, in terms of both my sexuality and how I function as a mother.

There are a variety of scenarios in earthly human life where changes to the body, whether from normal experiences like ageing, through injury or disease, or elective changes related to gender and body dysphorias, challenge our sense of personal identity. They cause people to ask, “who am I now?” or to exclaim, “I don’t feel like myself anymore.” Alternatively, some may profess, “now I feel like the person I’ve always known I am.” This reflexive nature of self-identity is a key feature of late modernity in which the body is no longer a given aspect of nature, but a project in which I can intervene and which I can revise in order to constitute my self.[14]

Continuity of Identity Through the Transformation of Resurrection

This leaves us with the key question: how much change can a body undergo and still carry the same personal identity? It may be that there are some transformations that are so drastic that they put one out of existence, creating a new person altogether. In the context of the resurrection of the body, I am here asking: how different can a person’s post-resurrection body be from their pre-resurrection body while still maintaining continuity of personal identity and so fulfilling the Christian hope for a fully personal afterlife?

Scripture is very clear that the afterlife involves the resurrection of the body, not mere soul survival, yet it presents a strange picture of resurrection. At times after his resurrection Jesus appears to function in a relatively normal physical human body – eating and being touched to prove his materiality[15] – while at other points his body has other-worldly characteristics – walking through walls and disappearing from sight.[16] There is both continuity and discontinuity between Jesus’ pre-resurrection and post-resurrection body, and we can expect the same for ours. Our bodies will not be abolished, but they will be transformed, as indeed will all creation, which waits in eager expectation for its redemption from decay (Rom 8:21).

There is little that we can say with confidence about the physicality of the post-resurrection body. We can speculate on how the laws of nature might be transformed, and whether matter will be transformed or replaced, yet the very prospect of these transformations means that the details of any physical processes post-resurrection are hazy.

It is possible that in my post-resurrection afterlife I shall be psychologically continuous with my pre-resurrection self, but my resurrection body will be so radically different as to be beyond comparison with my pre-resurrection body. This notion is easily embraced by the substance dualist who affirms that the soul separates from the body at death, carrying personal identity (possibly through an intermediate state), until it is united with a wholly new glorious body at the resurrection. But such a proposition is not so amenable to a physicalist anthropology, which I support, in which a wholly new body would entail a wholly new me.

If, as I have argued, our embodiment is crucial to our identity, then we must expect resurrection to include continuity of a person’s particular embodied identity in some form. The biological criterion of identity will persist post-resurrection in each individual, though the precise expression will be transformed from decay and weakness to flourishing and splendour in a manner about which we can only speculate.

A Glorious and Disabled Resurrection Body?

However, the nature of the transformation is quite probably not located in what we might initially think. The notion of a “perfect body” suggests one free from any weakness or flaw: smooth unblemished skin, toned muscles, never an ache or dysfunction, and certainly with all four limbs intact. But Christ’s glorious post-resurrection body still had scars, the wound in his side still open enough for Thomas to place his hand into it (John 20:24–27).[17] Christ’s resurrection body was still broken.[18] Some have even described it as disabled.

Nancy Eiesland argued for this in her seminal book, The Disabled God. She writes:

In presenting his impaired hands and feet to his startled friends, the resurrected Jesus is revealed as the disabled God. Jesus, the resurrected Savior, calls for his frightened companions to recognize in the marks of impairment their own connection with God, their own salvation. In so doing, this disabled God is also the revealer of a new humanity. The disabled God is not only the One from heaven but the revelation of true personhood, underscoring the reality that full personhood is fully compatible with the experience of disability.[19]

There are some difficulties with this interpretation of Jesus’ wounds remaining post-resurrection: as John Swinton points out, “Jesus' scars are marks of redemption and hope, not of oppression or disability.”[20] While this is true, his wounds do remain. His body is not perfect in our typical understanding of the word; his wounds are not negated or erased. Jesus lives in complete fullness of life while still retaining those wounds. It seems that in the context of resurrection life disabilities are simply not disabling. It may be more helpful to understand Christ’s wounds as impairments and distinguish them from the disadvantages – both social and physical – that such impairments entail in our present world, where such disadvantages equate to what we commonly understand as a disability.

And so perhaps the “problem” with a disabled body is not the body itself, but the world which it inhabits.[21] We look forward to God setting right everything that is wrong, but what is wrong is not the disabled body; instead it is everything that disables the experience of that body – both the physical and social environment of the old creation.[22] The body of a person with a disability here and now does not need to be “corrected” for resurrection life, because it does not fundamentally contradict the imago Dei in each of us. As Eiesland wrote, ”full personhood is fully compatible with the experience of disability.”[23] Seeing the resurrected Christ with wounds intact, illustrates this most fully. Furthermore, if Christ’s resurrection is the model for ours, then perhaps our resurrection bodies will still retain the injuries and defects of earthly life, whether they be an amputated leg, an intellectual disability, a hemiplegia, or a speech delay.

Here we do need to distinguish the kinds of disability that have been incorporated into the individual identity of a person from acquired diseases and injuries that are extrinsic to a person’s sense of self. While it is difficult to draw a sharp distinction between these two categories, they can be distinguished subjectively by reference to how these bodily features interact with the other threads of identity (biological, psychological, relational, and narrative) to inform the individual person’s identity. And so, for example, a person with cancer who is experiencing both pain and loss of function can look forward to a cancer-free resurrection life in which their pain is relieved and full bodily function restored (at the least). Whereas a person with cerebral palsy – though their pre-resurrection life has involved some pain and suffering from both physical and social origins – could reasonably expect that their post-resurrection body still has cerebral palsy, but without the pain, both physical and social. However, even a congenital disability may not be an identity-defining feature for one person, though it is for another.[24]

Impairment is Compatible with Fullness of Human Life

This is a confronting proposal. Too often we are accustomed to see the disability as something that is “wrong” with a person, and so assume that it must be fixed for that person to be suited for life in the new creation. This able-bodied paradigm limits our eschatological imagination. The reason why we find it difficult to imagine persons with disabilities in the new creation is based on some problematic assumptions that we commonly hold about what human flourishing entails and the construction of human community.

As I observed earlier, the notion of a perfected body often evokes images of a “normal” body free of all defects and impairments. We assume that resurrection entails healing, where healing means fixing bodies, which really means normalising bodies. This is a common perspective for the able-bodied, but it is ableist and it misses so much of what makes us truly human. Instead, I contend, fullness of life does not necessarily require healed, normalised bodies.

But how then can we explain the gospel accounts of Jesus healing the blind and the lame, and the command to the disciples in Luke 10:9 to heal the sick as a sign of the kingdom come? Surely these are evidence that salvation involves a healed body? In response, I argue that in these cases of identity-forming disabilities, physical healing was simply the most effective way for Jesus and his disciples to bring about a change for the whole person within the context of the old creation. There were practical limitations on how easy it would be to change the environment of the disabled person – the social attitudes, community supports, and architectural obstacles which make impairment disabling. This is not to say that Jesus didn’t try to alter social attitudes. In his preaching and in his behaviour towards the oppressed, Christ elevated them in a profoundly counter-cultural way. But social change is slow, and in this world it will always be incomplete. In addition, there is the physical environment of the old creation in which certain kinds of diverse embodiment inevitably produce physical impairment in a way that I suggest they will not be in the new creation. Christ’s aim was not simply to correct the body, but to heal the person as a whole. The limitations of working in the old creation meant that physically healing the individual was the most effective way to make that person more whole. However, the inbreaking of the kingdom is located in the holistic healing, not in the normalising of the body. And in the new creation I expect that complete wholeness and fullness of life is possible without physical healing of all disabilities.

For impairment and limitation are not incompatible with fullness of human life. Instead they are inherent in our creatureliness, and essential to perfected human community.[25] In the body of Christ, those parts that are weaker, less presentable, and with less to offer, are given special honour (1 Cor 12:22–24). Our weaknesses are not our shame, but our honour, and those weaknesses, when shared and accepted, build community.

Eiesland describes how her vision of the disabled God teaches that true interdependence is not something that is “willed from a position of power.”[26] We do not choose interrelation on our own terms, but depend on it from a position of need, because, for the disabled person, mutual care is often a matter of survival.

The able-bodied person might look at the profoundly disabled person and see everything that they can’t do, thinking, I must reach down to include and to help. In fact, however, the weak and the poor speak to us of the life of Christ, challenging our thinking where it is conformed to the pattern of this world which equates power, strength, and beauty with value. We learn to accept our own weaknesses, sharing them in community, and in doing so we become more human.

For the image of God is not located in being able-bodied or with a normal IQ. While being disabled in these ways may make it difficult to live a rich and full life in our current world, this will not necessarily be the case once the old order of things has passed away. In the new creation, physical limits will likely be changed, but, more importantly, each one of us will be perfected – our moral qualities and the character of society will be made new. Everything that makes disabilities painful and problematic here and now will be redeemed.

And so, we must examine what it is about the here and now that makes living with a disability difficult. While the biological limitations are real and not to be discounted, it is the social limitations that compound the struggle and which are amenable to change. The same ableist assumptions that cause us to expect a normalised resurrection body shape our perceptions of and relations with persons living with a disability here and now – on the level of personal relationships, community attitudes, and government priorities. These assumptions must be challenged. While consideration of the nature of the resurrection body offers only a limited challenge to these ableist assumptions, it may provoke in each of us, and in church communities, a greater level of awareness and a readiness to critically examine the attitudes and practices that make life difficult for persons with disabilities.

Continuity of Identity-defining Disabilities in Resurrection Life

And so, I suggest, the resurrection body may not be healed, in our normal understanding of the word. Instead it may retain disfigurements and disabilities while still being a glorious and fully perfected human body. This allows for the continuation of embodied identity-defining features, such as physical or intellectual disabilities. This is not to say that a particular disability is necessarily identity-defining. These features are probably person-specific, determined in particular by how they fit into the narrative of the person’s life and their first-person perspective. For example, the person born without a limb is likely to conceive of their essential identity without that limb: if it were to suddenly appear it would be alien, and “not-me.” But the person who loses a limb later in life may conceive of their true self in possession of that limb. In such cases, the lack of the limb is part of a narrative of loss awaiting restoration.

The person-specific nature of these identity-defining features means that we are unable to look forward from our third-person perspective and determine what form each individual’s resurrection body will take. Some persons may retain their disabilities and others might not. However, we can be reassured that in the case of our own resurrection, we will not be in doubt as to our identity or existence when the time comes.

As we have noted above, Paul contends in 1 Corinthians 15:51 that the resurrection transformation is a “mystery.” There comes a point, therefore, when we must consign ourselves to silence. My own explanation of what continuity of identity post-resurrection might entail is constrained, accordingly, by the depths of the mystery and the limits of our own understanding. But even with a modest agnosticism concerning the process and the particulars, we can confidently expect in faith – based on the revelation of Scripture – that God will recreate the person post-resurrection with the threads of identity sufficiently intact to ensure the continuity of meaningful personal life. That this continuity might involve the retention of disabilities is a controversial idea, and so is worthy of further consideration and conversation.

Maja Whitaker is a PhD candidate in Theology at the University of Otago. She lives in Timaru with her four daughters and husband, who pastors Equippers Church, Timaru. 

[1] Here and throughout Scripture citations are from the NRSV.

[2] Note that in other post-resurrection appearances the persistence of Christ’s identity is evidenced by relational connections (he calls Mary by name in John 20:16, he breaks bread with the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:30–31), and by continuity of narrative (he repeats the miraculous catch of fish in John 21:1–14 and locates himself within the grand story of Scripture in Luke 24:44–45).

[3] Amos Yong, Theology and Down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2007), 259–92; idem, "Disability, the Human Condition, and the Spirit of the Eschatological Long Run: Toward a Pneumatological Theology of Disability," Journal of Religion, Disability & Health 11 (2007): 5–25; Richard Cross, "Disability, Impairment, and Some Medieval Accounts of the Incarnation: Suggestions for a Theology of Personhood," Modern Theology 27 (2011): 639–58; Nancy L. Eiesland, The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), 98–100.

[4] See John Hick, Death and Eternal Life (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1976), 281–83. Polkinghorne suggests that we can think of the soul as an “information-bearing pattern” that provides the form of the body. John Polkinghorne, The Faith of a Physicist (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 163.

[5] See, for example, Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984).

[6] Alistair I. McFadyen, The Call to Personhood: A Christian Theory of the Individual in Social Relationships (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

[7] Christoph Schwöbel, "Human Being as Relational Being: Twelve Theses for a Christian Anthropology," in Persons, Divine and Human, ed. Christoph Schwöbel and Colin E. Gunton (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991).

[8] See, for example, Alistair I. McFadyen, The Call to Personhood: a Christian Theory of the Individual in Social Relationships (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Marya Schechtman, The Constitution of Selves (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996); Alasdair MacIntyre, "The Virtues, The Unity of a Human Life, and the Concept of a Tradition," in Why Narrative: Readings in Narrative Theology, ed. Stanley Hauerwas and L. Gregory Jones (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989).

[9] A variety of theories have been offered to explain how personal identity could be continuous across a gap between death and resurrection. For an overview, see Georg Gasser, Personal Identity and Resurrection: How Do We Survive Our Death? (Farnham, Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2010). Some of these theories involve degrees of metaphysical prestidigitation which stretch the imagination, but the best of them emphasise the safeguarding of our identity in Christ. However, because of the revelation of resurrection in the biblical witness, the believer can trust that his or her identity will be secure without needing to understand the metaphysical method.

[10] Caroline Walker Bynum, Metamorphosis and Identity (New York: Zone Books, 2001), 180.

[11] See John Polkinghorne, Science and Theology: An Introduction (London: SPCK, 1998); Lynne Rudder Baker, Persons and Bodies: A Constitution View (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000); Warren S. Brown, Nancey C. Murphy, and H. Newton Malony, Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998); William Hasker, The Emergent Self (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001); Philip Clayton, "Neuroscience, the Person, and God," in Neuroscience and the Person: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, ed. Robert John Russell, et al. (Vatican City: Vatican Observatory, 2002); Malcolm Jeeves, ed., From Cells to Souls and Beyond: Changing Portraits of Human Nature (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).

[12] Downward causation is the theory that the higher levels of a system can causally effect the lower levels of the system, that is, within a physical system causation can occur “downwards” from the whole to the parts. This allows for physicalism without reductionism. This nonreductive physicalism allows one to argue that consciousness, spiritual experiences, culture, and God, can have downward effects on the body and brain, where reductive materialism argues that they must be reduced to biological structures and events. See Nancey Murphy, George F. R. Ellis, and Timothy O’Connor, eds., Downward Causation and the Neurobiology of Free Will (Berlin and Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2009); Philip Clayton, Mind and Emergence: from Quantum to Consciousness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[13] For an explanation of nonreductive physicalism within a Christian context see Nancey Murphy, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Nancey Murphy and Warren S. Brown, Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will,ed. Warren S. Brown (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); Lynne Rudder Baker, "Christian Materialism in a Scientific Age," International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 70 (2011): 47–59; Kevin Corcoran, Rethinking Human Nature: A Christian Materialist Alternative to the Soul (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006).

[14] Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age (Cambridge: Polity, 1991); Chris Shilling, The Body and Social Theory (London: Sage, 2003).

[15] Luke 24:43; John 21:1–14.

[16] Luke 24:31, 36; John 20:19, 26.

[17] There is some disagreement about whether the risen Christ retained in his body the wounds of his crucifixion or only scars. In John 20:25 Thomas insists, “Unless I see the mark (typos) of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (NRSV). Typos is variously translated as a mark or print, which could refer to a scar, though it does have the sense of a blow having made an impression into the surface of a thing. In addition, Thomas insists that he must put his finger into the mark, the use of the verb ballein implying an energetic thrust which enters into the flesh rather than a placing upon the flesh. Moloney, Francis J. The Gospel of John (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998), 539. Ballein is used again as Thomas insists he must put his hand into Christ’s side (20:25) and Christ invites him to do so (ballo eis ho ego pleura). Accordingly, I contend that the wound on Christ’s side was very much still open, but it must have no longer caused him the same kind of physical pain for such an invitation to be made.

[18] While the concept of bodily resurrection is largely latent in the earlier texts of the Old Testament, the later doctrine of resurrection, seen in texts such as Daniel 12:1–3, is birthed out of themes found in the earlier texts. Jon Douglas Levenson, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: The Ultimate Victory of the God of Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006). There are some prophetic passages in the Old Testament that describe physical healing of disabilities in the eschaton (Isa 33:24; 35:5–6). However, there are also passages that indicate that eunuchs, the blind, and the lame will be accepted in the Day of YHWH (Isa 56:3–5; Jer 31:8; Mic 4:6; Zeph 3:19). It is unclear which of these passages are to be taken as referring literally to disability or metaphorically to sin. See Yong, Theology and Down Syndrome, 284; James Barton Gould, "The Hope of Heavenly Healing of Disability Part 1: Theological Issues," Journal of Disability & Religion 20 (2016): 317–34. The clearest description of resurrection is found in the gospel accounts of the risen Christ, and so this is the focus of this work.

[19] Eiesland, The Disabled God, 100.

[20] John Swinton, "Who is the God We Worship? Theologies of Disability; Challenges and New Possibilities," International Journal of Practical Theology 14 (2010): 273–307.

[21] The terminology around disability and impairment is loaded with meaning, and a range of formulations are in use. I prefer to use “diverse embodiment” to refer to the difference of bodily features that person with a disability possesses. Often this diverse embodiment limits flourishing in the physical experience of the person, and this I term “impairment”. Added to this is the experience of “disability”, which is the effect of a negative societal response to an impairment. I am indebted to Immanuel Koks for guiding my thinking in this area and providing the term “diverse embodiment”.

[22] While in the old creation diverse embodiment often produces impairment and disability, we can imagine that in the eschaton the laws of the new creation might remove physical impairment and the redeemed sociality would no longer produce disability. Thus the diverse embodiment of the person who now has a disability remains, while both impairment and disability are resolved.

[23] Eiesland, The Disabled God, 100.

[24] The impairments discussed in these categories here and below are illustrative only, the lived experience of each is more nuanced and different persons will identify with the same disability in different ways. To establish rigorous categories more comprehensive work would need to be done.

[25] Cross, "Disability, Impairment, and Some Medieval Accounts of the Incarnation."

[26] Eiesland, The Disabled God, 103.