Matter Without Form: The Ontological Status of Christ's Dead Body

Andrew J. Jaeger, Jeremy Sienkiewicz


In this paper, we provide an account of the ontological status of Christ’s dead body, which remained in the tomb during the three days after his crucifixion.  Our account holds that Christ’s dead body – during the time between his death and resurrection – was prime matter without a substantial form.  We defend this account by showing how it is metaphysically possible for prime matter to exist in actuality without substantial forms.  Our argument turns on the truth of two theses: (i) God is able to produce all acts of secondary causes without those secondary causes, and (ii) Substantial forms are secondary causes of the actuality of prime matter.  We argue that the metaphysical possibility of matter without form is perfectly consistent with holding both there is only one substantial form in a material substance and that prime matter is pure potentiality.  Moreover, we argue that the metaphysical possibility of matter without form does little-to-no damage to our natural understanding of material substances.

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The Journal of Analytic Theology is a publication of the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame.

ISSN 2330-2380 (online)