Thursday, 26 March 2009

Can these dry bones live?

Henry Alexander Bowler 
The Doubt: Can these dry bones live? (1855)
Tate Gallery, London, UK

The context of this fascinating painting is the Christian belief that people would be bodily resurrected at the Last Trump (the Second Coming).

It appears that most Christians no longer believe this, since the Church of England is apparently happy for people to be cremated.

What it does illustrate is that when you look at bones, there's no-one home in there.  The person has gone.
Some cultures have specific beliefs about bones; others do not.  It would be difficult to guess how a culture might treat its dead from its theology; sometimes funeral practices arise from perceived economic or social necessities as much as from belief systems.  Also, of course, different individuals within cultures will have widely varying beliefs about what happens to body and soul after death.


Lee said...

i have been asking a lot of pagans recently about this matter; almost resoundingly they say that the spirit moves on to something else (whatever that may be) and hence the bones are an empty vessel, detritus. worth bearing in mind should discussion arise at some point :)

it would be nice to do a huge census of pagans in the UK to gauge opinions on all manner of issues.

Yewtree said...

Yes, that's an excellent idea.

Interesting results.