The Embodied God: Corporeality in Acts and the Early Church

“… how Christians narrate corporeality in the early church and how Christians today can reclaim a more holistic faith that weds belief and practice. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Brittany E Wilson Duke University Divinity School Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

This project explores the question of Christian embodiment by focusing on the New Testament book of Acts, the earliest narrative account of the birth and growth of the church. According to Acts, members of the church ground their faith in Jesus and function as the body of Christ. Followers experience the divine through their physical senses, especially hearing and seeing, and they understand God’s will, not in their “minds,” but in revelatory, embodied encounters. Faithful response to divine revelation involves a life of discipleship formed through a variety of physical practices, such as baptism and prayer. The particular practice of witnessing, however, leads to the spectacle of persecution; indeed, many followers who proclaim Jesus, including Peter, Stephen, and Paul, endure public shame in a manner that recalls Jesus’ own public shame. Regardless, the persecuted church prepares for the final resurrection by practicing asceticism in anticipation of the time when death no longer prevails. Overall, the narrative arc of the church in Acts parallels Jesus’ life, including his birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. Representations of embodiment in Acts, therefore, not only generate later Christian discourse regarding the body, but point to Jesus, who according to Acts, is God in human flesh.