"Rise Up and Walk": Healed Bodies and the Performance of the Resurrection

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The American Academy of Religion


If we wish to plumb the implications of the resurrection for materiality, one small but necessary place to start is with bodies in the New Testament that have been or will be "raised up" (egeirein). One of the earliest such references in the New Testament (per Luke Timothy Johnson) is found in the Letter of James. Here, in verse 5:15, James counsels: "And the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up." James is not alone in connecting bodies of the sick (and others) to language used for the resurrection. Such connections occur dozens of times within the gospels and Acts, strongly suggesting that this connection is neither coincidence nor merely "metaphoric" or "symbolic" (in the narrowest of senses).

Clearly such bodies are being read in light of the resurrection of Jesus. This paper will focus on these healed bodies, those that are simultaneously "saved" (sozein) and "raised up." It will push beyond the standard binary of "material" versus "eschatological" meanings, arguing that such categories presume theologically faulty conceptions of creation, eschatology, and heaven. The healing stories affirm and echo (a) the bodiliness of God’s recreative presence in the Kingdom; (b) that this Kingdom has broken in, comes to us in time and space; (c) that "raised up" bodies are performative bodies, bodies that perform the resurrection; (d) that the primary agent of this performativity is the body of the church; and (e) that the starting point for understanding materiality and embodiment in light of the resurrection is the liturgical nexus for these realities, namely, transubstantiation.


Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, November 2007, San Diego, California

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