God formed the human body from the dust of the earth in his image and likeness (Gen 1.26; 2.7), and calls us to become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1.4). But in our fallen state, we find ourselves in a different condition, crying out, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7.24) For this reason, Christ—in whom “the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily” (Col 2.9)—came to save both our souls and our bodies. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1Pet 2.24). Because of this “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption…. And not only the creation, but we ourselves… groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8.21, 22).
Larchet traces the contours of this complex subject using Scripture and the Church Fathers. He situates the meaning and purpose of our bodies in the cosmic drama of salvation, without losing sight of the everyday activities that use and honor—or dishonor—the human body. We are created as an integral whole: body, soul, and spirit. From the ancient Gnostics to contemporary alternative views of the human person, this integrity of the human person has always been challenged. The holistic vision presented in these pages is a timely reminder of the eternal truths found in Scripture and tradition.
About the Author: Jean-Claude Larchet is an Orthodox layman and a professor of philosophy in a French lycee in Strasbourg.