Resurrection! Part 1: Earthly

Luca Signorelli’s medieval Resurrection of the Flesh

The Watchtower Teaching

Unlike the Signorelli painting above, the Watchtower describes the earthly resurrection as the injecting of a dead person’s memories and personality into a newly created body.

They teach that the vast majority of humankind will be resurrected to life on earth: both the “righteous and the unrighteous.” This includes “billions of ‘unrighteous’ ones.” These are said to have gone to Sheol.

But not everyone will be resurrected. Those excluded are said to have gone to Gehanna instead of Sheol. Included in this group are:

In the past, the Watchtower has taught that resurrected ones will not be permitted to marry, or to reunite with their spouse as a married couple. In 2014, however, this understanding was revised to “we don’t know.”

A Thought About the Teaching

A question arises in my mind regarding the resurrected individual:
Is this the same person who died?

Since we have no way to test this, the best we can do is to engage in some thought experiments.

What if it were possible to inject your memories (and whatever we might mean by “personality”) into a computer, android, or living clone? Would it be you?

In Disneyland men have created an “animatronic” of Abraham Lincoln. You can watch “him” move around, gesture, and recite Lincoln’s speeches. It looks and sounds very much like the real thing.

Despite this marvelous creation though, I don’t think anyone would point to it as evidence that Abraham Lincoln literally lives. Lincoln is still very much dead.

Blade Runner was a great sci-fi movie from 1982. In the film, the character of  Rachael is of interest. She is a human-like robot injected with the memories of her creator’s niece, causing her to believe she is his niece, and that the memories are hers. However, the real niece (of course) does not believe that the robot is in fact herself.

On a lighter note, the 1996 comedy Multiplicity can aid our thought-experiment when it comes to clones. In this film, the main character (Doug) has himself cloned. The clone (dubbed “Two”) turns out to be an exact adult replica of Doug. Two has all the memories of Doug, and initially assumes that Doug is the clone! Naturally; Two thinks that he himself is Doug; he possesses all of Doug’s memories and personality. However, there is no doubt in Doug’s mind that Two is not him.

Dali Lives! On an AI interactive screen

At the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, they have used artificial intelligence and an interactive screen to “bring to life” the deceased artist in a presentation called Dali Lives! Visitors to the museum can experience what it would have been like to talk directly with Dali when he was still alive, and can even have their picture taken with him! But all of this cutting-edge technology does Dali just as much good as the Disneyland animatronic does for Lincoln: zilch. Both men are still very much dead.

For our final thought-experiment, please consider this. What if Jehovah were to create a new body right now, in front of your eyes, and place your memories and personality into it. You stand there looking at it. Do you think it is you? Or are you the one looking at this new body? What if you were to now suddenly die. Does the new body now somehow magically become you? Or are you dead?

Injecting your memories and personality into a newly create being in the New Order, seemingly will not do anything for you. It will be just like “Two” in Multiplicity and just like the android in Blade Runner. Oh yes, this new being on this new earth will think that they’re you. But is that any consolation? Can you take comfort in knowing that you will have a surrogate sincerely posing as you for eternity?

It’s not you that will be resurrected.

You will still be dead. As dead as Lincoln and Dali.


Don’t miss Part 2: The Resurrection of the “Unrighteous”!

8 thoughts on “Resurrection! Part 1: Earthly

  1. Would this be any different as saying you will be resurrected but given a newly restored body because your old one was eaten by a tiger/ hit by a car/ blew up in an explosion/ came apart one piece at a time in old age/ fell off a cliff and is now 2″ high/ decomposed and is now part of the surrounding forest?
    I guess it brings out the thought: exactly what are we? Our spirit, our soul, our body combined? Because the bodies we have in old age are composed of completely different cells from our youth; they’ve all been replaced. But they have come from our previous cells, not a completely foreign body, or android, or AI production.

    1. Our brain cells don’t get replaced, as happens with the rest of our body (except for tooth enamel and the lenses of our eyes) — see:

      Other religions have an out: the immaterial soul, which they claim is the real person (temporarily housed in a material body). Though it’s far-fetched, this notion of a soul does sidestep the issue that this article points out.

      1. I guess I shouldn’t have said “completely different cells from our youth,” noting the exceptions you mentioned. However, as the article you linked pointed out, we do have stem cells throughout our body which can form specialized cells, including nerve cells. And studies have shown cells in your hippocampus, the part responsible for memory, can regrow. So in those particular cases, our brain cells can be replaced.

        The additional paragraph added since my first comment doesn’t really describe the way Jehovah would resurrect someone: “What if Jehovah were to create a new body right now, in front of your eyes, and place your memories and personality into it. You stand there looking at it. Do you think it is you? Or are you the one looking at this new body? What if you were to now suddenly die. Does the new body now somehow magically become you? Or are you dead?”

        If Jehovah created a new body and put my memories and personality into it, I wouldn’t be looking at it, I would be looking back at my former body which now is devoid of the memories and personality which have just been removed. Nowhere is the teaching that he will create a new body for us while we’re still alive. The new body will miraculously be us, not magically. This idea of looking at our duplicate while still alive has as much bearing to the JW teaching as the teachings of the soul inhabiting our physical body.

        1. This is why it is called a “thought experiment”; it allows us to see things from a different perspective.

          IF Jehovah were to do what he is expected to do in the New Order, right now, in front of our eyes, then we could clearly see, from this perspective, that this new being would not be us. All we’ve done in our experiment is to shift our death from before the new creature’s appearance to after it. Why would moving it beforehand make any difference? It is still the same creature, with the same mindset.

          Your solution is to make US different: minus our memories/personality: essentially dead. But “Removing” our memories/personality from our existing body is a different thought experiment: one which would be more akin to a brain transplant. A brain transplant, if such were possible, would indeed result in your looking out through the eyes of the new body. But this is far more than implanting a surrogate with your memories/personality, as the Watchtower doctrine entails.

          Something is missing in the Watchtower’s doctrine: the concept of identity: the “I” we conceive ourselves to be. This is where the “magical” thinking comes into play: to somehow fill in that missing piece. Other religions have a work-around in the immoral soul, which can be handily transferred to a new body. But there is no continuity in the Watchtower doctrine: they leave us non-existent between death and “resurrection,” and thus lose the “I.”

          Science has the concept of the mind, housed inside, and totally dependent upon the material brain. When the brain dies, WE die, because that is where our concept of “I” exists. Any replication of our thoughts in another being (organic or inorganic) can never be us, even if it THINKS it is.

          1. Well, yes, the whole purpose of RESURRECTING a person is to bring them back from death. If Jehovah duplicated our memories, personality, and thoughts and put them into a new body NOW, while we’re still here, of course it would be a different person. So whether this occurs before or after our death definitely does make a difference. It is the whole point.

            So you feel a person would need their original physical body, even if it were completely burned to ashes, otherwise they would be a different “creature.” Perhaps Jehovah would restore our perfected bodies from the ashes that originally composed them. Seems entirely within his power to do so if he wanted.

            Or you could view it from the perspective that if Jehovah did now, while you were still alive, what he is going to do in the future, you could look down and see a new perfect body that your mind & personality were instantly put into. Whatever body you inhabit will be the point of view of yourself. What does it matter if your mind is in your original body, your original restored-to-perfection body, or a new perfect body? What matters is your mind, thoughts, personality, and memories, no matter what the physical container is. So it actually might be like a brain transplant.

            Which brings me to another interesting thought: what about people with multiple personalities inhabiting one physical body? Is each personality a separate individual? Or do they count them as one person because they’re all in one body? Maybe they’ll each be given their own separate bodies in the future?

            Speaking of not existing between dying and resurrection, why did Jesus descend into hell, or the grave, to preach to those who had died if there is no existence after death?

          2. The article is not disputing that a new body would be needed. The focus of this article is on the contents of that new body. Merely injecting it with a person’s “memories and personality” would not make it the same person (whether that original person was alive or dead at the time).

            Your reasoning is begging the question; it requires that something from the original person is preserved and transplanted from an old body to a new body. But this is the very issue where the Watchtower doctrine is flawed: there is nothing from the original person that survives death:

            When a person dies, he ceases to exist. Death is the opposite of life. The dead do not see or hear or think. Not even one part of us survives the death of the body.”
            What Does the Bible Really Teach (WBTS, 2005), p. 58, parg. 5, emphasis added

            A memory of a person is not a person. I have memories of dead loved ones, but those memories are not them. So too, Jehovah’s memories of dead people [or memories of dead people’s memories] are not the people themselves.

            A brain-transplant won’t do you any good after brain-death. What you require to make your resurrection scenario work, is something like an immortal soul. That is how you could “inhabit” a new body. But the Watchtower doesn’t believe that the soul [or anything else, other than Jehovah’s memory] survives death. The continuity of the self has been lost. Thus, the Watchtower has boxed themselves into a doctrinal corner that they can’t extricate themselves from.

            Perhaps a simple analogy will make the point better. The original Declaration of Independence of the United States, written in 1776, is preserved at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. It is well protected, but let’s assume for a moment that it was burned to ashes in a fire. Fortunately, the curator, Joe Hova, had memorized it. He takes a new piece of parchment and proceeds to write down all the words exactly as in the original document. He even does a good job of forging the signatures.

            Now, applying the Watchtower reasoning to this analogy, the new piece of parchment is the original document from 1776. The curator doesn’t need to change the placard next to the display to read “copy of the original, which burned in a fire in 2021”. He can leave it alone to read: “Original document, from 1776,” because its memory was preserved by Joe Hova, and the new “copy” is therefore the original document. To include your argument: it is a copy only if the curator made it before the original burned. If he made it after it burned, then it is the original.

            But, to the rest of the world of non-subscribers to the Watchtower, a copy is not an original. To them, the original document is gone forever.

            You bring up a good point about multiple-personality disorder. I guess the Watchtower would say that this is a mental disease, and so would be cured upon resurrection (or maybe during the millennium). But where, then, do we draw the line? Most people have at least some neurosis, and that may be a large part of what makes them who they are. If all mental aberrations are wiped out, there might not be much “personality” left. How boring would be a world filled with one perfect personality type!

    1. Very interesting article.
      You’ll notice that they ask the same question as this article:

      “…even if the ‘new you’ were to be a complete, conscious emulation with the same memories, identity, feelings and subjective self, there remains the striking possibility that it wouldn’t actually be you. Rather, a doppelgänger: a duplicate, identical in all respects. After all, it should be just as possible to create multiple instances of a new you; then, which would be you? All?”

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