Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Practical Theology

First Advisor

Glenn Nielsen

Scripture References in this Resource

Psalm 23:4; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 73:24; Isaiah 43:2; Luke 2:29; 1 Corinthians 15:15; Romans 6:3-5; Revelation 21:21; Romans 8:23; Genesis 1:7–8a; Joshua 10:13; 1 Kings 8:30; Matthew 3:17; 1 Corinthians 15:15; 1 Corinthians 3:21–23; 1 Corinthians 15:26


McDonnell, Ruth E. “Whither the Body: Using the Church’s Hymnody to Reassert the Hope of the Bodily Resurrection.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2019. 216 pp.

Contemporary American cultural narratives of death and life after death are often inconsistent with the biblical doctrine of the resurrection. Indeed, the biblical message can be missed or distorted by these contemporary narratives and the ways metaphor is used to express them. This dissertation asserts that the evocative power of metaphor can be guided by the use of narrative. By applying the biblical narrative, rather than some other narrative, and by connecting the salvation story with the hymnic metaphors, scripture texts, and the Funeral Rite, the church will be better able to use the rich resource of its hymnody to support, teach, and reinforce the doctrine of the resurrection in the Funeral Rite. Further, a more intentional use of these hymns can make better use of the formative power of narrative and can allow the power of these biblical metaphors and narratives to counter the cultural narratives.

The dissertation uses two metaphors which are commonly employed to talk about death and life after death as examples—LIFE IS A JOURNEY and LIFE IS A BATTLE. In particular, the biblical metaphor LIFE IS A JOURNEY emphasizes that, in death, one does not go on to a disembodied spiritual existence, but the body awaits departure for resurrection and the new creation. Unlike typical cultural narratives, the Bible’s battle metaphor represents not simply the trials of this life, but Christ’s defeat of death and the grave—a victory that results in the resurrection of the body at the return of Christ and eternal life in the new heavens and new earth. A thoughtful consideration of hymns can be used to bolster the proclamation of Christian eschatology in pastoral counseling, funeral planning, and within the Funeral Rite. This study assists pastors and worship planners in their tasks by providing guidance for the use of funeral hymns (within the context of the Funeral Rite, scripture readings, and prayers) by giving greater attention to the way they express the doctrine of the resurrection. In this way the formative nature of these narratives will be better appropriated to counter the contradictory cultural narratives and support the church’s preaching and teaching of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.