The Cadbury Lectures 2017: Heavenly bodies: resurrecting perfection in the New Testament and early church

Image of an angel with outstretched wings

6 March - 10 March 2017

Hosted by the Department of Theology and Religion, the 2017 series consisted of four lectures given by Professor Candida Moss (University of Notre Dame).

The resurrection of the body is one of the foundational statements of Christian theology; the resurrection of Jesus was the event upon which Christianity was founded and belief in the resurrection of everyone else was — in the early Church --  a litmus test for orthodoxy and membership in the community. But what will the resurrection be like? Paul tell us we will be glorified but does not go into specifics about what glorified actually means. As a result, most theological discussions of what the resurrection will be like are grounded in assumptions about the kinds of earthly bodies that are more desirable. At various points in time the perceived undesirability or female, disabled, and non-caucasian bodies has affected both how the Bible is read and how heavenly bodies are imagined. This lecture series attempted to put aside these assumptions and reconsider what the New Testament actually has to say about the resurrection of the body, and also to show how failing to recognize reading our cultural assumptions into the text can marginalize members of our own communities.

Programme and videos of talks

  • Monday 6 March: Talking corpse or resurrected body: What can we know about the resurrection of Jesus in John?

    For Christians the resurrection of Jesus is the single most important event in human history. Apologists say that the event is unique and that no other religious tradition has claimed resurrection, rather than reanimation. Sceptics say that the Apostles were hallucinating or inventing stories using cultural tropes. This talk will use ancient medicine and archeology to examine what the resurrected body of Jesus is actually like and why it matters for claims about the resurrection. 
    Location: Birmingham Cathedral
    Watch video of lecture
  • Tuesday 7 March: The righteous amputees in Mark 9

    In Mark 9 Jesus chillingly prescribes that if a part of the body causes a person to sin that they should cut it off, because it is better to enter the Kingdom of Heaven ‘deformed’ than to be thrown into hell. Modern Biblical Interpreters tend to read this passage figuratively, but ancient medicine, imagery, and practice suggest that Jesus may have meant and many people read this passage literally. This talk will discuss the politics of ability and disability in the reading of texts about the body and discuss how cultural bias has affected the interpretation of this passage.
    Location: University of Birmingham, Aston Webb Building WG5
    Watch video of lecture

  • Thursday 9 March: Like the angels? gender and procreation in Mark 12

    For many modern readers it is critical that the resurrection preserves essential aspects of who we are. Yet a number of passages of the New Testament and some central interpreters of those passages questioned the role of gender, sex, and procreation in the resurrected life. This talk will discuss how infertility was thought about with respects to the life to come and how the idea of heavenly infertility subverted ancient cultural norms about women and child-bearing.
    Location: University of Birmingham, Muirhead Tower G15
    Watch video of lecture

  • Friday 10 March: Heavenly bodies: with what kind of bodies will we come?

    The apostle Paul tells us that in the resurrection our bodies will be glorified but never tells us what glorified means. Into this empty space generations of Christians, including priests and Biblical scholars, have read their own cultural standards about the kinds of bodies that are preferable. Drawing together some of the themes discussed over the course of the week, this lecture will show how bias and conceptions about ideal bodies have caused us to misunderstand Biblical and early church teachings about the resurrection. It will further examine how these misconceptions matter in modern conversations about race, gender, and ability.
    Location: Birmingham City Council House
    Watch video of lecture

BiographyProfessor Candida Moss

Candida Moss is a Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, where she is also a concurrent Professor of Classics. She holds a BA from the University of Oxford, an MAR in Biblical Studies from Yale Divinity School, and an Maria and PhD from Yale University. The award-winning author of six books and over thirty scholarly articles, including The Other Christs (Oxford, 2010), Ancient Christian Martyrdom (Yale, 2012), and Reconceiving Infertility (Princeton, 2015), she has held fellowships and won prizes from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation. A columnist for The Daily Beast she is a frequent contributor to, among others, The Atlantic, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Slate, the Washington Post, CNN, BBC, and Politico. She also serves as a CBS News Commentator for religious and Papal affairs, and comments on breaking news stories for CNN, Fox News, and NBC.

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