The difference between Resurrection and Resuscitation


Happy Easter! Christ is risen, Alleluia!

The Catholic Faith holds that Christ did not merely come back to life after being dead. If this were the case, Christ’s body would be subject to yet another death. Rather, the resurrection of Christ transformed his body rendering it perfect and immortal. The beatific vision enjoyed by Christ soul redounded to his body so that he manifested the bodily gifts of impassibility, subtlety, agility, and clarity.

Thomas Aquinas explains how Christ’s resurrection differed from other biblical miracles in which the dead were raised to life:

Resurrection is a restoring from death to life. Now a man is snatched from death in two ways: first of all, from actual death, so that he begins in any way to live anew after being actually dead: in another way, so that he is not only rescued from death, but from the necessity, nay more, from the possibility of dying again. Such is a true and perfect resurrection, because so long as a man lives, subject to the necessity of dying, death has dominion over him in a measure, according to Romans 8:10: “The body indeed is dead because of sin.” Furthermore, what has the possibility of existence, is said to exist in some respect, that is, in potentiality. Thus it is evident that the resurrection, whereby one is rescued from actual death only, is but an imperfect one.

Consequently, speaking of perfect resurrection, Christ is the first of them who rise, because by rising He was the first to attain life utterly immortal, according to Romans 6:9: “Christ rising from the dead dieth now no more.” But by an imperfect resurrection, some others have risen before Christ, so as to be a kind of figure of His Resurrection.

And thus the answer to the first objection is clear: because both those raised from the dead in the Old Testament, and those raised by Christ, so returned to life that they had to die again.

Summa theologiae III, q. 53, a. 3

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