#54 – St. Paul’s Teaching on the Respect and Sanctity of the Human Body

by Pope John Paul II in “The Theology of the Body”

Pope John Paul II
January 28, 1981

About the human body

5. To grasp better the thought of the author of First Thessalonians, it
will be a good thing to keep in mind also another text, which we find in
First Corinthians. Paul sets forth in it his great ecclesiological
doctrine, according to which the Church is the Body of Christ. Paul takes
the opportunity to formulate the following argumentation about the human
body: “…God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he
chose” (1 Cor 12:18). Further on he said: “On the contrary, the parts of
the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of
the body which we think less honour able we invest with the greater
honour , and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,
which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed
the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior part, that there may
be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care
for one another” (ibid. 12:22-25).

Worthy of honour

6. The specific subject of the text in question is the theology of the
Church as the Body of Christ. However, in connection with this passage it
can be said that Paul, by means of his great ecclesiological analogy
(which recurs in other letters, and which we will take up again in due
time), contributes, at the same time, to deepening the theology of the
body. While in First Thessalonians he writes about control of the body in
holiness and honour, in the passage now quoted from First Corinthians he
wishes to show this human body as worthy of honour. It could also be
said that he wishes to teach the receivers of his letter the correct
concept of the human body.

Therefore, this Pauline description of the human body in First
Corinthians seems to be closely connected with the recommendations of the
First Letter to the Thessalonians: “…that each one of you know how to
control his own body in holiness and honour ” (1 Th 4:4). This is an
important thread, perhaps the essential one, of the Pauline doctrine on

Found at: http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2TBIND.HTM