Really Dumb Question Again


Tonight during the Vigil Mass Father was talking about death and I remembered a comment a childhood friend’s mother, a lifetime Catholic, once said years ago.

She said something about how her deceased husband was no longer in the grave but in Heaven with Jesus.

Back in Jesus’ day and after His Resurrection, people did know that the dead decomposed in the grave didn’t they?
Or am I wrong and did early Catholics believe the body wasn’t in the grave?


Certainly. And before Jesus day, Jews had this custom of burying their dead twice, meaning one year after the burial in a cave, they would go in again and place the bones in a special stone box. So of course they knew about decomposition.


Jesus’s body was in the tomb for three days. That’s a significant point, since in the ancient world it was believed that decomposition started to set in on the fourth day (hence the statement made in the story of Lazarus). But when Jesus rose from the dead, he was no longer in the tomb, of course. That he rose before decay was supposed to have set in showed that he was really alive, and not just a reanimated corpse.



I wonder where my friend’s mother got that idea? Maybe I misunderstood her or am misremembering after all these years?


Perhaps show meant she believed his soul was in Heaven. At death, our soul separates from the body and is judged.


Yes, they knew that dead bodies decompose in the grave.


Yes, we live in hope of an afterlife where we are rejoined with the ones we love. The physical thing is mysterious, but the hope and faith are very real.


as other have said, the body is in the grave but his soul is NOT. The separation of body and soul happens at death

The last 4 things.

  1. death
  2. judgement
  3. heaven
  4. or hell


Read the account of Lazarus.

When Jesus asked for the grave to be opened, folks said “wait, Lazarus has been dead three days. He stinks!!” (I love the old English translations that say “he stinketh”.)

Of course they knew decomposition.


She was speaking in “romance language”.


Yes. That’s the whole point of Paul’s discussion in 1 Thessalonians 4. The people were beginning to despair, wondering how their loved ones would be able to participate in the Resurrection if they had been rotting in the grave! Paul’s answer isn’t about Rapture, but rather, about salvation for both living and dead!

In addition, keep in mind Jewish burial customs. After the body had decomposed, they’d gather up the bones and place them in an ossuary (a ‘bone box’) as a permanent resting place. So, yeah… they knew. :wink:


As others have already said, she was probably talking about his soul, not his body. Our bodies won’t be in Heaven (or in Hell) until the Resurrection of the Dead, at the end of the world. I think you might have misunderstood what she was saying. :wink:


This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit